with Radio Flyer and the Marvelous Three
Covered Dish, Gainesville • 5.16.98
Some would say that, once again, rock and roll is dead. Modern rock is weighed down with techno excesses, super-sensitive Matchbox 20 clones, or mindlessly repetitive ska wannabes. In this day and age, it’s tough to find a band that rocks pure and simple, without strings or extraneous labels, and it’s damn near impossible to find two. However, that very thing happened May 16 at the Covered Dish in Gainesville, when Slack Season and the Marvelous Three took the stage and tore the joint down.
After a nifty set by the young Gainesville outfit Radio Flyer, the Marvelous Three took the stage with a vengeance. Formerly known as the Floyds, the Atlanta trio rocks with the same flair, ability and irreverence as Dash Rip Rock, but with a slightly metallic bent. Lead singer/guitarist Butch ripped through the set with a flair for the dramatic, a wild look in his eyes, and hell-on-wheels guitar playing, eschewing any sort of reserved demeanor that seems to be the standard for modern rock frontmen in favor of a loose-limbed, manic schoolboy with a cheap guitar and bad prescription drugs. Bassman Jayce was the perfect foil to his six-string compadre, egging Butch on while playing solid yet melodic lines. Behind the trap-kit, Slug kept a solid beat and locked in with Jayce for a tight-as-a-drum rhythm section. As a matter of fact, the whole band is one of the tightest live acts in recent memory, a refreshing change from the intentional sloppiness of most pop-punk outfits. Butch is a fabulous guitar player, mixing chunky chords and exciting leads, and the band as a whole seemed extremely comfortable on stage. Besides cutting tasteless jokes, mugging and flipping guitar picks, the band even relived some of the pop-metal theatrics of the ’80s with some synchronized strutting. Beyond all that, however, the songs hold their own, from the high school lesbian stalker “Katrina” to the teen drug anthem “Valium.” The Marvelous Three took us all back to a time when rock and roll could still rock and still would.
Of course, Slack Season are no slouches at rocking, either. The Gainesville-based quartet is known as one of the most energetic pop-rock outfits in town, and their shows always promise a good time. This time was no different, as the band gave fans the first glimpse of their upcoming release Highway Firecracker, in the form of a four-song EP. Manic guitarist Mike Hale always looks as if he’s having the time of his life, rattling off nifty leads and solid rhythm while shaking around his corner of the stage. Bill Youngman and Dino Fernandez on bass and drums, respectively, lock together for one of the best rhythm sections around, what with Fernandez’s impeccable timing and Young Bill’s offbeat basslines.
However, what really sets the Slackers apart is lead singer/songwriter John Youngman. Helping Hale out with the guitar chores, the elder Youngman writes incredibly catchy hooks and melodies with well thought-out lyrics, snarling them all in a pleasantly nasal voice and plenty of attitude. After allowing a wild-haired music journalist to play a little harmonica on the opener “Girl Like That,” Slack Season roared through a solid set of old favorites, songs from the upcoming release, and a new tune or two. Songs like “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and “S.V.P.” are immensely catchy with their upbeat ska-like rhythms and hooky choruses, and the pop-rock stylings of “Chief” and “Blue Canary” never fail to satisfy. Between Hale’s shaking and the Brothers Youngmen’s gyrations, Slack Season know how to enjoy the stage as much as any rock and roll band could. The band even roared through a manic cover of the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” rocking harder than Sting and the boys could ever imagine.
All in all, both bands satisfied that innate desire to rock uncontrollably we all have within us, despite modern rock’s attempts to suppress urges. Both bands are currently touring heavily and shouldn’t be missed. Hell, sometimes cutting loose and getting goofy is good for the soul.