with Even Them and Noah’s Red Tattoo

House of Blues, Orlando • 1.28.98

Flubbed notes, missed cues, equipment failure — it makes the people on-stage more real, the situation more risky. There’s the smell of danger in the air as young and unsigned bands drop their musical drawers for the good beer-swilling folk in Ye Olde Music Hall at the House of Blues. You never know what could go down — that’s part of the draw. Rock and roll without a net. A rhythmic rite of passage. The Threshold of Fucking Up. Even Them were the first to hit the stage tonight, and Murphy proved himself to be an unofficial sponsor of the evening.

The curtains parted to reveal lead singer Carmine LaPietra, wearing a blonde fright wig and sunglasses, standing near the center stage microphone and peering off into the wings. Guitarist Jerry Paulson rushed on-stage and plugged his guitar in as LaPietra and bassist Mike Dannhardt began to screw around with a spontaneous go at “Sweet Home Alabama.” Bill Warren, noting that the band was finally in place, began a count-in and the band launched into “Alone” from their EP “Alcoholic Pets.” Wielding pipes that may’ve been formerly shed by Kurt Cobain, Carmine’s thinly-sliced rasp has a snotty attack during lyrics like “we all die alone/you and all your money/buried in that hole.” Though not complex at all, the band wrapped themselves around buzzsaw guitar motifs and flippy-trippy drumbeats. On the brash sounding “Beautiful Pain,” LaPietra shook off the huge wig and allowed the emotions on his face to be seen; this helped punch the emotional buttons a bit — since the band didn’t jump around a whole bunch. They seemed sort of afraid to move, like the stage had been superglued as a practical joke. In any case, the guitars were wildly out of tune on this song, but this was remedied afterwards during an extended tuning session that put the brakes on the show temporarily.

Apologizing for the delay, LaPietra kicked the group into a hard-rocking cover of Seal’s “Crazy,” which begged comparisons but delivered nicely. The vaguely Doors-ish “My Homicide” straps on an insistent dual bass and guitar line that rattles as much as it rocks. The boys mellowed things out with the pensive “Destiny” featuring some coolly looping guitar work from Paulson. Dannhardt broke the low E-string on his bass at this point and was wildly seeking a backup when Heronymus bassist Josh Chiet shouted down from their second floor dressing room window (another scintillating plus to headlining the HoB) and dropped a package to the hard-pressed bassist. Way to be. The band managed to get through their final three songs, including a cover of the Violent Femmes “Blister in the Sun.” All of the attitude was in place, but the musical guts seemed to be lacking, perhaps due to the distractions of technical bullshit. For all that, they didn’t lose face and carried on. A good showing despite being toyed with by fate.

Right on time at 10:00 p.m. came Gainesville band Noah’s Red Tattoo. Fronted by the Adam Sandler-esque Jared Flamm, the group launched into “Teen Idol” which came off sounding like a 60’s British tune wrapped in barbed wire. Edgy and aggressive, lead guitarist Aaron Carr laid down clean and sweetly ringing chords with economical licks. More of the “southeastern sound” was evident on “Put The Damn Gun Down” and “New Jersey Highway Disaster,” both of which featured excellent harmonies from Carr, Flamm and bassist Devin Moore, who also switched off on lead vocals with Carr. Buddy Holly’s ghost floats over some of the peppy vocal arrangements on “Girls Like You,” which could have originated from the old Sun Studios in Nashville. Drummer Jeff Latouille kept things simple yet brutal — laying down a basic backbeat and then gracing it with extended snare breaks and acrobatic bass drum footwork.

Though they pull from many different styles, technically, the band resembles the Beatles after being dragged through broken glass. Yeah, I know, disturbing allegory, but it makes sense if you could hear the music — sweetly lyrical rants like “The Fifties Song,” a defiantly perky power punk number that brings out Flamm’s rambling and off-tempo vocalizations. With his short hair and slurred delivery, Flamm comes off like a youngish Lou Reed, he just needs a huge forehead and dark glasses. After breaking out with a cover of Concrete Blonde’s “Joey,” Moore inquired “another slow one Jerry?” before launching into the appropriately named “Slow Song” which featured Carr doling out thick shimmering waves of vibrato-ridden exclamations. The closer “Radio You” sealed the set with a signet of wax. Nice throw-down, boys.

11:15 p.m. and the sides of Da HoB leaked onto the dance floor and pressed against the stage. Fifteen minutes later, the curtains opened and Josh Chiet walked out, stroking a seductive groove out of his five-string bass. Guitarist Rob Houle strolled out shortly thereafter, dressed as an airline pilot and hoisting a martini glass. His ambient stylings dodged and threaded through Chiet’s web, urging the assembly into cheers. Drummer Augstin Frederic then walked out, followed by sax player Dan Boissey and trombonist Jaime Gonzalez. With a brassy, rising wave of sound — the groove came to life with Frederic’s percussion fills just as frontman Tim Williams showed up wearing a burgundy leisure suit. Crooning into the microphone and squeezing his eyes shut, Williams softly rocked with the band in a silky groove before snapping into the hardcore punk slam of “Skyscraper” and Frederic immediately sent a drum stick right through the head of his snare drum.

Murphy strikes again.

The show raged on as Williams’ acid-trip dance moves suggested a man out of control, but then the song kicked into a more sedate middle jam that found him subdued, even contemplative. When the song ended, drum problem solved, the band moved along with its ska-flavored dramatic rock, switching musical personalities like a snake sheds skin.

“We are Heronymus,” intoned Williams after slicing through the frenetic pulse of “Guru To You.” “Over a hundred times more talented than the Spice Girls and a hundred times more attractive,” he said slyly, accompanied by the screams of the audience. During the intensely-rockin’ “Baptista,” Chiet is all over the frets with the assurance of someone who knows their instrument. Sitting behind his huge kit, Frederic pulls out surprising rhythms of Latin and African flavors and spreads them all over intriguing new material like “Espuma” and “Captivate.” Perhaps the band’s most radio-friendly song, “Silver Dollar,” got a more subdued treatment than past shows, but the crowd knew the words and Williams let them take the lead a few times. Closing with the creepy Latin hump of “Spider’s Lullaby,” the band basked in the glow for a moment as the innards of HoB screamed and shouted their hosannas. These guys are sort of like Widespread Panic and Phish in that every show is radically different from the next — a good reason to follow them from venue to venue, but they seem to truly blow up at Da HoB. Maybe it’s the deli tray.

It was a night to sample the results of what goes down in rehearsal spaces and garages all over the state, and there are plenty more such nights to come. If there ever was a Moment of Truth, the moment that the patchwork curtains part could be defined as “it.” Far more daunting for the local than the national, it’s rare drama and great theater if you’re into that sort of humanity.

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