The Dharma Bombs
The Hungry Sailor, Coconut Grove, FL • 5.31.98
Before joining/forming Dharma Bombs, bassist Matt West was a member of what I consider the greatest bad band of all time, Pretty Toasted.
Not that Matt is a bad bass player. I’d say all PT’s members had more than acceptable musical ability. When the five of them combined forces, however, their modest talent was somehow replaced by a satanic melange of NyQuil chugging, bong-hitting, tequila shooting, beer-goggling, tit-flashing, pantie-tossing, off-key, bar-fighting rock-and-roll insanity that can only be compared to pre-Smell the Glove Spinal Tap. Pretty Toasted only played six gigs — that is, if you can call it playing — and out of respect for the genre, twenty years from now I’m going to make it my life’s work to get them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When I bumped into Matt at the local pub, he showered me with bear hugs and urged (OK, practically begged) me to drive thirty-five miles the following night to see his new band, the Dharma Bombs. Being a friend, recently official music critic, and with the faith in the power of rock and roll to constantly better itself, I did.
I went to the Hungry Sailor expecting Pretty Toasted, but to my surprise, what I got was a cool little band with solid songs reminiscent of Matchbox 20 and the Counting Crows. So what if Matt blew a string in the middle of the gig and couldn’t get tuned up right for the rest of the set. So the guitarist’s hair caught on fire. So what if the lead singer has trouble hitting high notes. So what if the drummer was so busy hitting on me that he almost forgot to go on stage. You make music for the love of it. These guys love to play and actually have some good material; and that’s more than you can say for a lot of the stuff out there. Their straight blues cover of Portishead’s “So Cruel” was inventive, and frankly, kicked ass; and the fact that they even attempted “Shadows in the Rain” proved they have cojones.
During their set, the vacuous Ingrid Casares, snobbish South Beach I’m-important-because-I-know-famous-people club owner, was strutting around the legendary local haunt flanked by two of her beautiful boy flunkies, pointing at walls she was going to knock down when she buys it and turns it into yet another exclusive club with a velvet rope that wouldn’t in a million years let anyone who usually hangs at the Hungry Sailor into her inner sanctum. The kids playing pool. The questionable ladies of the evening. The old man sipping his beer who’s probably been coming there for fifty years.
And people wonder why there’s no scene in South Florida. It’s because we let the velvet rope take over.
Have faith in those who love to play music, flawed and flammable as they may be. Go see the Dharma Bombs if they’re in your neighborhood, and/or check their Web site, www.dharmabombs.com. Or go have a drink at the Hungry Sailor in Coconut Grove. While you still can.