A thousand years ago when I was a skinny punk, the radio was ruled by men in cheap suits who kept ready cash in their pockets. If you were a lucky band, they might smile upon your broke-ass selves and throw a few dollars your way. Book some studio time and see where you went with it.
I myself was way too not together to be in a band back then, but some in what we now refer to as the Hardcore Norfolk scene -- most of whom are a good ten or fifteen years older than I, were in the right place at the right time to spin the A&R wheel of fortune.
As a group, the Waxing Poetics stood apart from the punk roots that era is generally associated with, but they were probably one of the most successful rock bands in our history. I mean, yeah. Pharrell dwarfs all of us. But the only other rock group I can think of that came anywhere close to their record sales those days would be Combine, a group we'll be talking more about in a soon-to-come piece. (Note: Record sales equals an arcane measure of achievement that today most closely resembles Spotify streams.. You see kids, once upon a time you used to have to pay MONEY to listen to music.)
Alas, the industry gods were fickle. Major label support dwindled, and the band eventually called it a day back in 1991. And that was how the story of our heroes ended.
Except, this is the age of the internet. And no band stays broken up forever when you can reach your fan base through the magic tubes -- no matter how scattered to the four winds they might be. With the opening of this brand spanking new venue that feels like old times due to legendary impresario Bill Reid's investment? Toss in the resurrection of the Jewish Mother's hallowed name within its walls complete with Scotty Miller making a comeback? The Waxing Poetics are the perfect band to launch the space. Well.. Okay, technically this is the second show. Some bluegrass number opened things up the previous night, but why let facts get in the way of a good narrative -- for all intents and purposes, this is the first **real** show to take place here. And they packed the house to capacity. Totally sold out.
And that makes sense. It's not like there wasn't an audience for the kind of alt-laced, new-wave tinged, southern infused rock these guys were putting out back in the day. Off the top of my head, I can recall quite a few bands who formed a movement following in the footsteps of REM, a member of whom actually produced the Poetics debut record. Think of the Hoodoo Gurus. The Connells. Probably the most successful were the Smithereens. But the radio never seemed to know quite what to make of this sound, and it faded over time.
That's a damn shame, because the first thing you pick up on with their set tonight is how not dated these songs are. This is music with blood in its veins. Fresh and as urgent today as it was thirty years ago. Fucking hell.. Thirty years. It's hard to believe it's been that long. One wonders whether the band might not have had more luck today, given that they built their success without the ease of social media. But hey.. Who knows? Jeff Maisey of Veer Magazine lured them out with a lifetime achievement award last year. They got together for this. It'd be fantastic to see them play with some of the younger bands on a bill at Charlies. Get them back to their roots, yeah?
. . .
I recall the BoWeevils from back in the day. A rockabilly outfit that played around town between '86 and '91. I can't remember any of the finer details, I was a kid and doing the kind of stupid kid things that leave a nigh-impenetrable fog over the misty shores of memory. But the group put a more than solid show on tonight. Mark Lawrence is a formidable presence on the stage and the dynamics between he and Frank Springer are electric. The particulars of this group seem buried beyond the reach of my Google searching ability, but if I knew where to send you to buy an album, I would highly recommend it. If they ever even recorded an album? I've put some feelers out to gather more info and will update this space once I get something back like a bio or a link. Hell, check the facebook page for comments. Some insufferable know-it-all will be along shortly to lament how little I know about this band. (note: insufferable know-it-alls are invited to come write for me, I'm desperate for other pens here. Seriously, help a brother out, aye? Let's get a beer and talk.)
Electric Johnson -- the solo moniker for Paul Johnson of the Poetics, kicked in some newer tunes with the help of Lawrence, Peter Pope of the Rhondels (at least, I think that was him?) and former X-Raves member, Wade Mathias: click here for a history of the X-Raves).
All in all, it was a great start for a venue that's planning 12 to fifteen shows a month. And the Jewmo's food was exactly how I remember it. The only trouble is that all this means I'm going to have to make the trek out to Virginia Beach more often. And I **hate** crossing that border. It's a plastic city, overrun with Republicans. And I caught one too many beatdowns at the hands of Beach cops way back when to be anything but wary when I ride into town. Ah.. Hell. For the love of music. The things we do. But this place deserves support. If you missed tonight, the The Candy Snatchers are playing next weekend. And that's sure to be another great show.
-- end transmission --
The Waxing Poetics
The resurrection of Jewish Mothers. I recognized the cakes in the display on the way in. Made me feel fifteen again. You know.. If my joints had ached as much when I was 15.
Bill Reid says a few things before the Poetics kick off their set.