with Still and Rumbleseat

Common Grounds, Gainesville, FL • October 19, 2000

One month after the last Discount shows came the unveiling of Unitas. This is actually something that has been in the works for a while now. Unitas is comprised of Todd Rockhill and Bill Nesper of Discount on guitar and drums (respectively), Jason Black of Hot Water Music on bass, and Jason Rockhill on vocals. If you ever bought anything at a Discount show, Jason was most likely the guy behind the table.

Unitas opened and cut right to the chase. A drumbeat let the tension build for a moment before unleashing the song’s momentum, clearing a straight path. “Who’s They” is a damn fine first foot to put forward, and thankfully, the rest of the set proved just as strong. Musically, they seem to be at the crossroads of gritty, punchy stuff in the punk rock vein and southern-tinged rock with well-sung vocals. Or, as Jason Rockhill remarked onstage, “We can’t decide if we’re Son Volt or AC/DC.” It’s a step away from Discount, but not surprising, really, if you’ve noticed what they’re into musically. The Tom Petty cover wasn’t out of place at all.

Great lyrics as well, a bit cynical and dead-on. The aptly titled “The One About My Friends” gave me chills. Meanwhile “Unitas (Picks a) Fight Song” was appropriately anthemic: “The only thing dumber than you is your audience / And I’m getting older just sitting in the room / Get up off the floor, pretty boy / A catchy chorus won’t save you from this.”

I had some pretty high hopes for this band, seeing as how Discount is pretty close to my heart, but I still must say I was pleasantly surprised at how good this was, first show or no. They played nine songs, all right-on. It didn’t seem like a first show. They had lots of energy, good presence, and, most importantly, great songs. It’s a good sign to have songs stuck in your head after seeing a band once. Expect a release of some sort soon.

Still and Rumbleseat played as well. Still were very textural stuff with a cello and featured some people from Argentina and Hot Water Music. Sort of shoegazer-ish, kind of sparse and slow. It built up at times, but for the most part, they seemed very sleepy and lulling. I was already very sleepy, so I wandered around a bit. I liked what they were doing, but I think I would have liked it more on my stereo at home than at a show. Or at least not following something so driving.

Rumbleseat were awesome. I had never seen them live before. A very appropriate atmosphere, featuring good-natured heckling and the whole crowd singing along loudly. Some songs gave me chills. Some acoustic songs are meant to be sung along loudly by friends crowded around the guitar, and this definitely had that feel to it.

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