It was time for some observable Berries activity last night, as we were paying another visit to Simpsonville’s Soundbox Tavern. The 80% of the band who live in or near to Mondoville gathered at the studio at 7 p.m., and Larry rode with me in the drum hauler as we made the 50-minute drive to the Upstate. We were first to arrive, and the other guys showed up a few minutes later, in time to load in.
Although we were the titular headliner, we were the second of the three bands to perform last night — which was actually at our request, as the other two bands were relatively local. First up were Streetfish, a recently formed band from Greenville. One thing that caught our attention was the band’s guitarist, an older, bearded fellow who happened to be wearing an outfit (dark vest, dark blue shirt, slacks) that was nearly identical to the ensemble that Larry (an older, bearded fellow) of the Berries was wearing. As we were introducing ourselves to the guys, the guitarist stepped up, “I’m Larry,” he said.
“So’s he,” I said. Holy doppelgangers, Batman. And then it was time for their set, so I settled onto a sofa by the soundboard and Justin and I shared a pizza as Streetfish powered their way through a set of original alt-rock with a strong 90s groove and a leavening of covers that fit the vibe quite nicely. They also brought a significant crowd to the show, and the fans gave the local heroes the support they earned. In fact, the response was warm enough to spark an encore, a cover of Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Streetfish appear to have a good thing going — and I expect they’ll only get stronger as they get more shows under their belts.
We were up next, and broke out a 16-song set that included a couple of new songs. We capped the set with our own encore, a cover of the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird.” Although we’ve played Soundbox several times now, we’re still the out-of-towners on the bill, and so we don’t really have a built-in audience there, which we do in Real City, for example. We meet new audiences every time we play Upstate. This means that every time we’re there, we see it as an opportunity to win the audience over, and judging from the kind words we got as we cleared the stage, I think we did a solid job last night.
People at our shows are often struck because four of us take lead vocals at different points in the set — and because I’m one of the four. But last night, members of both of the other bands asked how we decide who sings what. Basically, people sing the songs they wrote, and I also take most of the covers, possibly because I’m frequently the guy who finds them for the band. Meanwhile, I always get a few comments from people about the “singing drummer” bit, but it really doesn’t seem that hard to me — the voice just becomes one more limb to coordinate as I play. I sing more in this band than I have in other groups, but part of that also has historically been a function of microphone issues around the kit. Ultimately, though I think that as a singer, I’m a reasonably competent drummer.
Three-fifths of the band hit the road after our set, but Larry and I stuck around to see Finding Freedom, another Greenville band. They opened the set with a nice rendition of the Eagles’ version of “Seven Bridges Road”, including the a cappella sections. While I’m not an Eagles fan (indeed, I lean toward a “Dude from The Big Lebowski“ position), I respected FF’s willingness to open with a challenging vocal number like that. They also took what I thought was an unusual step by covering a song from Needtobreathe, an Upstate band that has made it to a higher level, having released several albums and doing the national tour thing.
Like Needtobreathe, Finding Freedom does bluesy, mainstream classic-sounding rock with a decidedly southern inflection, and could be played back-to-back with acts like Tom Petty or the Black Crowes without cognitive dissonance. An equally interesting point of comparison (to me, anyway) is that the band’s lyrics have a spiritual dimension without spilling into the preachiness that shows up in too much “Christian Contemporary Music.” The band offered a nice, tight mix of the spiritual and the secular, and the audience responded warmly.
We congratulated them on a nice set as Larry and I picked up our pay and got on the road. I dropped Larry off at his place, went home, had a few brownies that Mrs. M had thoughtfully left for me, and got to bed a few minutes before three this morning. As usual, it was a good time, meeting new people and hearing some new music. Our next scheduled gig is next month at our Art Bar home base, but I’m already looking forward to getting back Upstate as well.