By Jason Keil   Published Dec 23, 2003 at 5:49 AM

{image1}The familiar beats of "The James Bond Theme" fill the room as the announcer introduces drummer Asti Spumanti (Matt Liban), guitarist Blake Tahoe (Jeff Benske), bassist and vocalist Reno Nevada (Paul Jonas), keyboardist Les Vegas (Matt Meixner), and singer (and ladies man) Cesar Palace (Chris Tischler), known collectively as The Five Card Studs, who promise to play music that is so big, it's alive!

Each Stud has a musical history that includes rubbing elbows with and kicking the crotches of musical greats (Ringo Starr was one of the victims of Spumanti's beatings). Somehow their paths crossed in 1995 when The Nomad was in need of a killer gig for their New Year's Eve party. Spumanti quickly got together the cheesiest musicians that Vegas had to offer and the Studs were born.

Nearly eight years later and just in time for the holidays, the band has finally decided to release its first album, titled "Christmas Wishes." The disk contains such tongue-in-cheek ditties as the WMSE favorite "My Favorite Drinks" and "Have Yourself A Merry Little XXX-Mas," which perfectly capture the flavor and excitement of a Five Card Studs show.

"Christmas Wishes" wasn't even supposed to be an album, according to Tahoe, but when the fans kept asking where they could get a copy of "My Favorite Drinks," the Studs felt it was finally time for them to unleash their unique Vegas-style lounge sound upon the masses.

"When we play songs from the '60s, '70s and sometimes the '80s, we will throw in our own brand of humor," explains Tahoe.

"We're all dorks because we think that stuff is really cool," says Palace, "Not only are the songs great in their own cheesy sort of way, it's the aura that comes with it. You can smell the cologne and picture chest hair flying all over the place when you hear tunes like that."

What began eight years ago now has become a local phenomenon. Audiences from all over southeastern Wisconsin, especially the ladies, have flocked to see the unique Studs' show, just so that they can tell their kids they were that close to greatness. It wasn't always that way, though. It has taken years of practice and thoughtfulness to bring the quintet to the this level.

"We've grown a little more into our characters," says Spumanti, "We now have more songs to choose from, and a lot more interaction with the audience and our musicianship has escalated."

"We're more comfortable being obnoxious," says Palace.

When the Studs aren't being the Studs, they are the alternative band Hudson. Though working with both bands, as well as each member's various side projects, keeps them busy, it never has them growing apart.

"We're a family, even though we're a cheesy lounge band," says Caesar, "We've been able to grow together as a band."

The Five Card Studs will be performing at The Cactus Club, located at 2496 S. Wentworth Ave. at 10 p.m. on Fri., Dec. 26. "Christmas Wishes" is available at Rush-Mor Records, Atomic Records, Farwell Music and Top Shelf Guitar Shop. For more information, visit