But on Saturday night, he transformed the Back Room of Cat’s Cradle into a spectacle of music and theater in the form of an original, vaudevillian comedic variety show.
“What I am selling to you this evening is a fantasy become reality, dreams realized, a vehicle to another dimension. Ladies and gentlemen, what I am selling to you this evening is quite simply another chance at this thing we call life,” Dyson said as his character, Mr. Medicimo.
“And all I need from you, ladies and gentlemen, are your eyes, your ears and your souls. Welcome to Mr. Medicimo’s Medicine Show.”
“Mr. Medicimo’s Medicine Show,” which was written by Dyson and performed by the band Ellis Dyson & the Shambles, included backup dancers, special guests and zany characters.
Ellis Dyson & the Shambles is a six-piece band that was formed when all of the members were UNC students. The band, which includes two current UNC students, is known for its self-described “swingin’ Dixie Jazz” music and audience-involved shows.
Their show on Saturday night wasn’t their only planned performance for the day.
They were scheduled to take the stage at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Hopscotch Day Party series — but they had to cancel the appearance due to a broken banjo.
It was run over by a car, the band said on its Facebook page.
Fortunately, they managed to get a new one in time for the variety show. They took the stage a little more than a year after celebrating an important milestone.
In August 2015, the band released their solo album to a sold-out crowd at Local 506.
Dyson, the lead vocalist and banjo player, said a lot has changed since they started out three years ago as a two-piece band playing on the corner of Franklin Street.
“It’s just good to look back and see how much we’ve progressed,” he said.
Dyson said he got the idea for the variety show from Bland Simpson, a UNC english professor and member of the band The Red Clay Ramblers.
“We sit down for coffee every few months or so, and he fills my head with all these crazy ideas,” Dyson said. “I just said I wanted to try the theater, and he said, ‘Why not?’ So we had a date booked at the Cat’s Cradle, and the whole thing really just came together so naturally.”
Dyson’s character, Mr. Medicimo, was inspired by a song on the band’s first record.
“Mr. Medicimo is the most conceptually intense song that we have, and that’s on our first record,” said Dyson. “There’s all sorts of other zany characters.”
Other characters in the show include “Al Kaseltzer” and “Mr. Trombone Man” — and UNC students, performing as themselves.
Molly Miller, a sophomore exercise and sport science and psychology double major, was one of the backup dancers in the show.
“During the practices we did with the band, they were really relaxed and energetic. It was a great environment to be in,” Miller said. “We had lots of fun on stage — I’m sure you could see it in our faces.”
For the newcomers, the show was a departure from what might be expected from a young local group — but for fans who have stuck with the band since their debut album a year ago, the show stayed true to the band’s roots.
Junior Rickie Eatherly is a long time fan of The Shambles’ jazzy music and interactive shows.
“They do a lot of call and response, and a lot of dancing,” she said. “You can tell that they love what they do.”
And they love their fans who allow them to continue to do it.
Dyson said that although the band has played shows up and down the East Coast, North Carolina is his favorite place to play.
“When you play hometown shows, the band and the audience curate the show, and they are both equally important,” Dyson said.
“That synchronicity is amazing.”