Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando • 6.1.98
I first saw Weedeater at the House Of Blues, and enjoyed the hell out of them, but I suppose my enthusiasm lost a few degrees Celsius when it hit the page for review. After that issue of Ink 19 went out, I phoned lead singer Scott Mahaney and asked him what he thought. He growled a little at me. It took a wee bit of convincing to assure him that I got “the point” of Weedeater. That point has to do with your gonads being prominently displayed at every waking moment.
Ballsout. I guess that’s the new word to describe Weedeater. Ballsout.
Bassist Ralph Ameduri and drummer Anthony Cole represent a quarter of the Orlando band population between them. As they set up their gear, Scott is desperately seeking a tuner of some sort. “Rule number one, when preparing to play a gig, bring your tuner,” he said into the mic. Spotting me at a table, he laughed and shook his head. “I’ll pay for this!” Hell, I just call it like I see it and hear it. And here it was, Weedeater fired up the evening with “Loved Ones,” a tidal wave of a southern rock ditty that steamrolled right into the Johnny Cash tune “Nine Pound Hammer.” If you were to take a hillbilly band and place them on an electrified mesh, you’d get the buzzing crackle of this Blue Ridge Mountain assault on the senses. Cole keeps the rattle-clack of a locomotive churning under the heavy layer of smoke emanating from Mahaney. As the conductor of each journey, his body alternately crumples and quakes — long hair sticking to his sweaty face. Ralph Ameduri balances the whole Hillbillies From Hell routine with maddeningly normal bass lines that seem to have leapt out from a 70’s Blackwood Brothers program. Weedeater could probably play the Grand Ol’ Opry unplugged and still give heart attacks to all the pensioners. Music that teeters on the edge of chaos.
They have other flavors too — funky and slinky, slipping into tight grooves of bass-heavy throb. Ameduri uses chords in dramatic fashion, lowering the basement on several songs. “Grandma” is a sweet tune that speaks about love of family and freedom from stress. In fact, much of Weedeater’s music — though surrounded by torrential downpourings of feedback and screaming — seems to seek solace in a time when things were better. Sensitivity and Ballsout. Raw and sometimes unnerving passion oozes out of these guys, along with songs by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Where else do you find that in O-Town?
From Nashville came The V-Roys, and didn’t they look just like a sequel to That Thing You Do? Wearing matching black Fab Four suits, the band slid into their first song, a rockabilly tune by Roger Miller. Vocalist/guitarist Scott Miller (no relation) cooled the room back to 1952, and suddenly, I really wanted a chocolate malt. Sapphire turned into a car hop. Without slowing, the band kicked into the lazy rock groove of “Look Out Your Window.” Guitarist Mike Harrison provides a snide and snotty vocal while tossing out embellishments and solos with apparent ease. Pounding drums from Jeff Bills punctuate a bouncy bass line by the coolly named Paxton Sellers (are these guys for real?) on “Sooner Or Later.” Miller kicks out with some Jerry Reed-style fretwork on “Mary.” Hoisting his whiskey glass during the first break of the evening, he remarked “you can tell we’re from Tennessee.” Taking a long, sweet sip — he adds, “tastes like Kentucky.”
There was little breathing room or banter between songs, the music sort of gushed out of them. Harrison’s grainy, washed-out solo on “Life I Lead” stands out as a spontaneous highlight in a set that played it close to the line. The explosive “What She Found” teases with a slow-stomp intro before erupting into a free flowing stream of straight-ahead rock with crazy little licks that spark like Roman candles. Tight, precise. The group closed with the Loudon Wainwright tune “Out Of This World” and raved it up proper.
An evening of opposites in excellence, any open-minded country-rock aficionado would have had their palette satisfied. First course — corrosive, unbounded, radical, expressive, Ballsout energy. Second course — spring-wound, dressed-down, sugar-coated, flame-baked, whiskey-soaked closure. Music that makes you want to holler.