with Friction Farm

Club More, Clearwater, FL • July 6, 2001

Two things are quickly becoming favorites in Tampa Bay. One is the downtown Clearwater live music venue, Club More. The second thing is rock-alternative radio station 97X. Combine these two elements on a Friday night with two of Florida’s top rock acts, and you have the makings of a great night of rock and roll.

Having missed most of Friction Farm’s set due to a late arrival, I was only able to see about one quarter of their performance. The few songs I did experience were laid back and folksy. Aidan Quinn’s skillful lead guitar licks gave Friction Farm an edge of tougher rock that made this band seem surprisingly professional. The band’s main attraction is lead singer and bassist, Christine Stay. Visually, Stay gave reminded me of a young Sheryl Crow, while vocally, she had the power of Melissa Etheridge and the tenderness of Natalie Merchant. Drummer Timothy Moss did not display the usual show-off mentality of most rock drummers, yet he held the trio intact and provided the necessary rhythms to compliment it all nicely. The thing that was most impressive about Friction Farm was what they did after their performance. The band came down into the audience and were actually promoting their act to the patrons of Club More! Stay graciously accepted drinks and roses from many adoring male fans, while Quinn bounced about the venue offering cupcakes and the opportunity to sign up for the band’s mailing list. No fear in getting the word spread from the members of Friction Farm!

Earl Foote and Archie Muise are no strangers to the Tampa area music scene. Most people simply refer to these two devoted musicians as “Earl and Arch.” The two gained recognition in the early ’90s with their rock band, Bleeding Hearts. When the glory days of rock and roll dressed up with big hair waned to the Seattle grunge trend, Bleeding Hearts slowly faded away into fond memories. Strobe is the newest full band endeavor for the duo. The two sought out their former Bleeding Hearts bassist, Sean Colpoys, and then added Marvin Hawkins (formerly of Freaks Rule) on second guitar and Royse Bassham on drums.

Strobe’s performance started out with two acoustic tunes by Earl and Arch, but then the whole band was called onstage, and things heated up quickly. The combination of Muise on lead guitar and Hawkins on second is enough to knock anyone backwards. Both are equally brilliant players with contrasting styles. Hawkins has a hardcore, razor sharp style that gets in your face like a drunken sailor. Muise adds finesse, and style that reeks with emotion. Putting the two players together in one band makes it quite hard to decide which of the two to watch! It was obvious that this audience was very excited and tuned into this band, because most of those in the club crowded the stage quickly. A new tune called “Champagne Taste” (which is a tongue-in-cheek turn around on the old saying, “Neiman Marcus taste on a K-Mart budget,”) added humor to the show as the fourth tune played. An old Bleeding Hearts song, “Eskimo,” brought cheers of approval from the crowd gathered at the bands feet, as well.

My personal favorite Strobe tune, “Second Chance,” was another ringer at this performance. This is not a tender, gentle ballad of heartache. It is a song with a slow and steady feel, but it also has edge and power behind it. The fact that you have the vocals of Foote (which have a tendency to rip your heart out of your chest and throw it on the floor anyway!) makes it even more attention grabbing. The tune receiving regular rotation on 97X, “Wise Man,” with its more modern personality and harder edge, was also wildly approved and was the ending song for the set.

The Club More audience was not about to let Strobe off that easy. They began chanting, “STROBE! STROBE! STROBE!” while stomping on the wooden floor, clapping and banging beer bottles on the tables and bar. Strobe returned to the stage and belted out another former Bleeding Hearts tune, “Ten Ways to Love Ya,” in a medley with the old classic Doors tune, “Riders On the Storm.” During this lengthy encore (running close to 15 minutes in length!), each member of the band displayed his own personal talents in solos of perfection. Considering Strobe has had only three live shows in the last two months, and the large crowds they are already bringing into the venues where they play, it is a pretty safe bet that everyone will be hearing even more about Strobe in the future.

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