with Von Ra and Weedeater
House Of Blues, Orlando • 1.6.98
Since it opened on September 15th, 1997, the House of Blues has been host to a good number of local acts. Just about all of them have stories about The Dressing Room. Better than a side booth and a broom closet at your local club, The Dressing Room often makes bands feel like newly-claimed members of a Musical Royal Family. Posh, showers — scenic view of Downtown Disney, view of the stage, close circuit monitors, intercom connection with the other dressing rooms. Well-stocked with your luncheon tray and the requisite beer that you have to beat the other bands away from. All of this splendor probably helps the shows to blow up at this classy establishment. The live concert experience often ascends to a rarely seen level of Mosh Karma.
Tonight’s triple-header kicked off with the acoustic-based rock of Von Ra. After years of doing Pearl Jam covers in bars like Chillers and Scruffy Murphy’s, lead singer and guitarist Vaughn Rhea got to shine mightily along with his band consisting of sibling bass player Dave Rhea, Dave Smith on lead guitar and Dave Tinney on drums. Vaughn’s solo act is lovingly known as “Dave’s Not Here.” But with Daves all solidly in place, the quartet rocks with a twangy groove on songs like “Loved You All Along,” with its upward-spiraling chord progressions. “Shot Down” featured capable harmonies from Smith and now freed from his chair on a small stage, Vaughn is able to dance, jerking his body to the rhythm of the music and providing a visual counterpoint to the proceedings. His voice is a reedy oboe or soprano sax — he dances delicately on phrasings during “Drinker’s Hour” and delivers ghostly near-falsetto callbacks that smoke in a subtle way. Brother Dave is all over his five-string, not too busy, but with care towards his notes, a thoughtful bass player — instead of your requisite chop-happy anarchist.
While delivering the rock, Von Ra offers up lyrics that challenge concepts of conventional living. During “Protest” he states “bought myself a Beemer, swore off ham and eggs/now if you’ll excuse me, I must go shave my legs.” This is delivered in a quick-burst, rockabilly grunge ala Social Distortion. Some kind of a contrast to the ebullient rock stylings of “Eyes On The Sky,” a country-rock flavored jam with clattering double beats and the drive of a locomotive. The band closed the set with their local radio hit “Just Wakin’ Up” — perhaps the definitive song for what I’d like to call “buoyant” rock — good feeling rhythms and jams with lyrics that hint at darker tones. Thoughtful music doesn’t have to be ponderous in spirit. Le Roque Journalist says, “they roqued like assholes.”
Please to explain. Tom, owner of The Iguana Cafe in North Hollywood, had a certain appreciation for talented performers. When he booked wild acts into his club, he’d sit in the back of the small venue and watch them with admiration.
“Man, look at that cat play the Stick,” he’d say, smiling in disbelief. “How dare he be so good? He’s an asshole!”
“Asshole” was an aesthetic evaluation, which translated into “too talented to be human.” It was giving props. “Look at that guy go. Man, what an asshole!” he’d say, shaking his head.
Weedeater took the stage at 10:00 p.m. with a yee-haw and a great smacking about of instruments in homage to Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. What the fuck?! Lead singer Scott Mahaney vomited forth great trenches of sound out of his guitar while burning through tunes like the rowdy “Sittin’ On Top of the World” and “Little Girl and the Snake.” Anthony Cole fired out rat-a-tat rhythms of blistering accuracy, hammering out the bottom on the Monroe standard “Y’all Come,” which was so earnest in its hillbilly delivery that the music hall momentarily became a sort of Grand Ol’ Hell Opry. Alternately bellowing somewhere at either end of his baritone range, Mahaney was frequently off key in his vocalizations, but squeezed sweat-dripping emotion out of phrases like “your summer’s gone” during the vaguely Psychedelic Furs sounding “Solstice.”
At the halfway mark, Mahaney peeked out into the thin crowd and regarded the stage floor with disgust. “Weedeater has no girl closure. We chased off all the betty’s.” Well, when you end your songs with feedback that delves into sublevels of self-loathing, yeah — you might clear a room. Bassist Ralph Ameduri rounds out these rough boys who followed up a set of Appalachian mountain rock and explosive distortion with the radio-friendly “Raindrop,” proving that a mainstream heart beats under the angry facade.
Headliners So Fluid have blown up, taking a five month existence and turning it into some wild sort of success story. Lead singer Gerry Williams has a loose and funky keyboard style that is not technically perfect, but always soulful and off-the-cuff. His vocoder work on the opener “Blackbird” brings to mind Stevie Wonder’s Secret Life of Plants. This Latin elemental jam segued into the sly sexy funk of “Red-Headed Lover” which benefits from the phat solid grooves of bassist Don Morgan. Showing himself to be a student of George Benson, guitarist Errol Windham puts the fluidity into the band’s moniker with rippling waves of sweetly dogfighting notes.
Drummer David Sheehan keeps a tight groove in the hip hop/R&B style of the band, occasionally stepping it up with a splash of Cuban workouts or swinging it into a fusion-infected swirl. The band threw down the funky kicks with Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” featuring Gerry grooving it out on a furiously soulful vibe solo. D’Angelo’s “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker” got the royal treatment in a labyrinth of slinky bass lines and keyboard improvisations. For a young ensemble, the group grooves sweet — further experience on the scene can only mean well for these nasty boys. They were total assholes.
House of Blues scores twice with not only lining up such evenings, but providing them for free to whomever is interested in checking out the burgeoning central Florida music scene. Guys like Johnny Love from Johnny’s Rockin Bistro and Adam Shipley from Da Hob believe in the scene enough to make events like this happen. It’s my job as Le Roque Journalist to support the scene and let you couch potatoes know that your town is blowing up, HUH?! Read your goddamn papers! Get your poor ass out to these free shows and catch these bands before you’re stuck three years later, loving them, and bitching about astronomical ticket prices!
Till next time.