Gainesville Summer Music Showcase
featuring Doug Jordan, Red Lester, Future Legend, Ithaca, Argentina, Pop Canon, the Mercury Program, Squeaky, Szechwan Pork, the Bill Perry Orchestra, Flight 121, Spike the Cat, Shermy D, Slow Motion Milkshake, Loyal Frisby, Slack Season, Noah’s Red Tattoo, As Friends Rust, and Grain
Gainesville, FL• July 28-29, 2000
Otherwise known as “Moefest” (after its ubiquitous promoter Moe Rodriguez), this two-day extravaganza included four different venues (one of those, the Florida Theatre, had three separate stages going simultaneously) on its first night, then settled into the Florida Theatre only on the second night. Despite my attempts at omnipresence, I concentrated on the Florida Theatre and Common Grounds the first night; hang on, here we go…
Upstairs in the High Note, Doug Jordan (formerly of Camp 7, his new rock/power pop band Jetsam will have debuted by the time you read this) did some very nice acoustic songs solo. These were mostly originals with earnest subjects and sometimes breathy vocal delivery in the quiet bits, but he also did a few covers to close, including the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” abetted by Ned and Dave from Pop Canon, and yours truly, singing the backing falsetto “hoo-hoo’s” from our seats on the couch. Nothing like a sing-along to get a weekend started.
Red Lester did some very nice art-folk, the first full band I saw, with female vocals, a conga player in addition to a kit drummer, and a banjo. Over at Common Grounds, Future Legend did a very Ziggy-era Bowie type set, the lead singer resembling a cross between the aforementioned Mr. Stardust and Peter Murphy in younger days. Not only good, but no one locally is currently mining this area of music. Ithaca followed, a fusion of mainly indie pop with a bit of emo, arty without being pretentious, noisy without being unlistenable.
Argentina were up next, another very fine band and not at all what I expected. This guitar-bass-drums trio plays mainly instrumental music (songs with vocals having long instrumental passages) with tastefully processed echoey psychedelic guitar reminiscent of the Church. Plus, the drummer plays keyboards while playing the drums! Wow.
After running through the rain back to the Florida Theatre, saw Pop Canon do a set in the Pub. As usual, these avant popsters put on a great show, even without their incredible bassist Michael Murphy (Ned ably switching over to bass for the show), in the process of moving to Cali. Geek dancing in epidemic proportions throughout the crowd.
After that I had every intention of returning to Common Grounds to catch the Mercury Program and Squeaky, but the bug I had picked up at the office finally caught up with me, and I had to call it a night.
On entry to the Florida Theatre on Saturday, Szechwan Pork was doing its skewed pop, reduced to a drum and guitar duo, on the Pub stage. Good, but of course, the full band version is better. Upstairs in the High Note, a new version of the Bill Perry Orchestra debuted, with typically unusual and varied instrumentation, definitely in the performance art ballpark, highlighted by Bill’s wry sense of humor. Examples: a song called (I’m guessing here) “Change” which almost entirely musically consists of a single chord until the very end, and “Library,” featuring Bill intently attempting to read as the rest of the band repeatedly builds to a crescendo only to be shushed by Bill. At one point one of the Florida Theatre security crew wandered through, the look on his face alone was well worth the price of admission.
Downstairs in the Pub, Flight 121, a mainly instrumental rock trio, caught and held my attention, sounding vaguely Fugazi-inspired. The bassist was wearing a Sonic Youth shirt, and I could hear some of that in there, too. Any band playing both bass and guitar through old Kustom cabs is OK in my book.
On the main stage, Spike the Cat did their rootsy pop/rock. One of the few bands in town doing originals not comprised of people still in their college-age years, these guys are probably the most tasteful band around – which should not be taken as meaning they don’t also rock out. You can hear bits of the Band and Mark Knopfler in the songs, the vocalist has a voice whose phrasing has always reminded me of Geddy Lee, but without the obnoxious nasal quality. The lead guitarist rocks without being overly wanky, and the rhythm section stays right in the pocket. All this and great backing vox, too. What more do you want?
Back to the Pub for Shermy D’s “rap calisthenics.” This guy is so funny, he cracks himself up. I thoroughly enjoyed his hilarious set. Even though I couldn’t give a toss for the whole hip hop genre, I bet people (those with a sense of humor anyhow) who do like rap would love it even more. Great costumes and backing dancers, too!
Soon thereafter, drum-guitar surf duo Slow Motion Milkshake returned from the dead (its guitarist moved to Pensacola a year or two ago) as a last minute fill-in. Very good stuff, originals and a cover of a Shadowy Men On a
Shadowy Planet song. And all on a borrowed guitar!
Back to the main stage for Loyal Frisby, who reminded me of kind of an artier R.E.M. Unless there were some doppelgangers running around, the bassist and guitarist from Fight 121 were in this band, too. The always appreciated sense of humor was present here, too., t
he singer (who in the past has reportedly performed wearing angel wings) encouraging the crowd to sing along “if you know the words,” to a song where the lyric at that particular point is “doodoodoodoo…”
Out on the main stage, rootsy rockers Slack Season played as a trio, with Aaron Carr playing bass, I much prefer them with him on lead guitar,
but a solid set anyhow. Followed by genre-sharers Noah’s Red Tattoo, with the aforementioned Mr. Carr on lead guitar and the old rhythm for bloom holding down the bottom.
Back to the Pub for the event’s virtually sole (in Moe’s defense, I know he asked at least one other punk band, whose name modesty does not allow I disclose, but we had a member out of town) punk rock entry, As Friends Rust. Whoa. Man, are these guys good, striding the line between hardcore and emo (the oldschool shout/whisper kind, not the newschool pop-emo), good songs, great stage presence, just flat fantastic.
About the only folks in town who could follow As Friends Rust were the band that closed the Pub, Grain. If you have read Ink 19 over the years, you know I am a huge fan. Rob McGregor writes some great roots-punk rock songs, and the band is just unstoppable – even
where, as here, they had technical problems with an ancient Marshall cab (kudos to the guy from another band who loaned them his) that delayed their start, followed by a broken string only minutes into their set. Not only was most of the crowd singing along on every song, when an over-zealous Florida Theatre staffer whisked away Rob’s beer, a fan went and bought him one at the bar, with Rob playing (sometimes with his teeth) until the staff turned the house lights on. What a great close to a great weekend.
Hats off to Moe!