Gainesville Summer Music Showcase 2001
featuring Vangard, Rad Beligion, Crash Pad. Lex Talion, Whoreculture, The Christopher Weingarten Basement Funk Allstars, Theatre Of Metal, Bracelet, DblWide, Jetsam, Allen Wrench, Grain, One Pump Chump, Breaking Up, and As Friends Rust
Various Gainesville Florida Venues • July 19-21, 2001
The Gainesville Summer Music Showcase was inaugurated in summer of 2000 by Moe Rodriguez, a local booking agent, former local music radio show host, and all-round scene supporter. In the wake of the closure of two of Gainesville’s flagship live music clubs and the then-continued demise of the previously existing major local music festival, Moefest, as it came to be known, was the shot in the arm that the Gainesville scene needed. Set up like South By Southwest and other showcase-style fests, Moefest runs three successive nights in numerous clubs all around Gainesville. Last year there were Summer and Fall versions, making the latest “Moefest III.”
The first night of Moefest, I stuck to the Florida Theatre (hey, my gear was backstage). The Thursday festivities began for me watching Vangard, newly expanded to a four-piece, on the main stage. They are frequently compared to Bad Religion, and while carving their own style, are certainly in that mold. They put on an entertaining set (but did nothing to dispel Bad Religion comparisons when they came out for a second set a few hours later as “Rad Beligion,” complete in goofy wigs and costumes, and did a set of covers).
My punk rock and roll band, Crash Pad, was up next on the Mainstage, and as soon as we finished and stowed our gear, I went out to the front room’s “Stage II” to catch the end of Lex Talion’s set. Predominately working in darkish post-grungey originals, this experienced four-piece showed a good sense of humor, covering AC/DC’s “Back In Black,” which the lead singer nailed spot-on, but with the guitarist leaving his sound a scooped-mids metal tone, which of course sounded nothing like Angus’ more traditional distortion.
Back to the main stage for Whoreculture, one of Gainesville’s longest-running bands. After great success for several years, they packed it in a few years ago, then more recently decided to come back and play several shows a year locally without trying to tour and do the “up and coming band” rat race. The result is that their local shows are always well attended. The two-guitar attack of this five-piece is reminiscent of a harder rocking Skynyrd with touches of metal and grunge thrown in. The guitars go anywhere from slide work to Zep-esque mideastern flourishes, always over a solid rhythm, and with strong vocals from their old-school belter. Covers included “Gimme Back My Bullets” and ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid.”
While “Rad Beligion” took the main stage, I checked out the band with the longest name in Gainesville on Stage II. The Christopher Weingarten Basement Funk Allstars is a four piece that has seen various guitarists, and tonight featured Ned Davis, formerly of the late great Pop Canon (and a host of other bands before that). The eponymous frontman is the former drummer for Honeygrind and the current drummer for Crash Pad, and well known locally for always being an “over-the top” character. The CWBFA set is peppered with Christopher’s often warped take on covers of seemingly disparate genres, from hip hop to punk to metal, which all somehow seem to make sense with Christopher running around like a maniac, hilariously insulting the audience, playing the roto-toms, keyboards, and yes, the theramin. Easily the most fun I had all weekend (with the exception of when onstage myself, of course).
The first night ended back on the main stage with Theatre Of Metal, an all-star conglomeration of local luminaries wearing big hair wigs and doing every ’80s metal standard you ever laughed at yourself for liking. We’re not just talking Def Leppard here, kids, we’re talking White freaking Lion! And Motley Crue’s “Doctor Feelgood,” Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” and “No More Tears,” Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me,” Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and closing with Kiss’s “God Gave Rock and Roll to You.”
Friday night was much more peripatetic. Early on, I caught a smidge of newish quartet Bracelet at The Down-Lo. They generally fit with the post-grunge alternative hard rock being featured at that venue for most of that night, but with slight glam and psychedelic nods that made the music more accessible. Watch for them.
Next I ran over to the Downtown Plaza outdoor stage where the combination of tweed amps, cowboy hats, bowling shirts and a big ol’ Gretsch guitar could only mean Gainesville’s only rockabilly/”y’allternative” band, DblWide. This quartet moved to Gainesville a year or so ago, and is appropriately campy for the genre, but backs up the showmanship with solid chops at all positions. Although the set is mostly originals that are true to their inspiration from a half-century ago, their lyrics are timeless, and the covers, which included Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and Commander Cody’s “Hot Rod Lincoln,” are combined in inventive ways. Strengthened by lead singing abilities by both guitarists, DblWide is hard to beat.
Jetsam was my next stop, over at the Sidebar. This quartet, although in its current line-up since early this year, had its origins years ago under other monikers, and the lead singer and drummer have been playing together for years. The lead guitarist is also a veteran of many a Gainesville band over the last couple decades, and one of the best and most versatile guitarists in Gainesville. Simply put, if you like hard rocking original power pop in a Beatles/Kinks/Stones/Smithereens vein, it doesn’t get any better than this.
For a total change of pace, I ran back over to The Down-Lo to see Allen Wrench. With its core of the Michael Brothers (guitar and drums) intact after some six or so years, this quartet blasts thick sonic assaults of post-grungey alternative rock, coupled with contemplative lyrics. Extra special kudos to the drummer who sat in that night for Danny Michael (touring with his other band, local pop punk quartet No More) on short notice.
Closing my Friday festivities were a band that goes even further back (if you include it’s previous incarnation as The Moles), Grain. This punkish Americana trio is the showcase for lead singer Rob McGregor’s great songs and oftentimes over-the-top guitar showmanship (it’s not uncommon for him to play with his teeth). They played a loose, fun set to the faithful who stayed to the end of the night.
Saturday was punk rock night for your author, at yet another venue, The Blowhole in The Purple Porpoise, right across the street from the UF campus. The first band I caught was One Pump Chump, a relative newcomer on the local ska-punk scene with whom my band has already had the pleasure of playing several shows. This septet (singer, guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, and two trombones) keeps things light and has fun, with the singer and bassist/backing vocalist jumping around non-stop, and that rarity of rarities, a horn section that can actually sing when it does backing vocals.
Another young up and comer on the local punk scene is quartet Breaking Up, technically from a few miles outside of Gainesville in Keystone Heights. As with OPC, I’ve had the pleasure of playing several shows with these guys, and over the last year or so their level of stage presence has expanded exponentially. They play pop punk with a bit of reflection in the lyrics, sort of a la Face To Face, and are strengthened by having two guitarists who sing lead.
Closing The Porpoise that night was As Friends Rust, a local emocore/hard rock quintet in the Gainesville tradition of Spoke, Radon, and Hot Water Music. They did several songs from their eponymous EP, including “Like Strings” and “Half Friend Town,” for an emotional closer to a great weekend.
And the above was only a fraction of the bands that played! If you want to quickly survey the Gainesville music scene, come see a Moefest. I wouldn’t miss one on a bet.
A version of this review also appears in the August issue of Gainesville’s Moon Magazine.