Friday, September 24, 2010

Sponge Worthy?

Last night, 90s rock band Sponge played the House of Bricks.  I think I may have seen them live at one of those big, outdoor, all day I had never really seen Sponge.  I've always enjoyed Sponge.  I remember when they first came out that there was a lot of comparisons between Sponge and Bush...and somehow you couldn't like both.  I never bought into that and I enjoyed both, but initially liked Sponge more. 

1994 - Rotting Pinata
Rotting Piñata was such a great album with guitar riffs that wormed their way into your brain and got stuck there.  The upbeat riffs just made you want jump up and down and Vinnie's vocals added depth and intrigue to the frenzied feeling.  The two big hits - Plowed and Molly (Sixteen Candles) are both incredible songs and it seemed like you couldn't escape them for a while as they were on all kinds of movie soundtracks and compilations.  But they are far from the only good songs on the album.  Nearly every song is great and worth a spin.

1996 - Wax Ecstatic
Wax Ecstatic was a worthy follow-up.  It had everything I liked about Rotting Piñata but with a little deeper feel overall.  Wax Ecstatic (To Sell Angelina) was a great single and I was always disappointed that it didn't get more respect from people.  Then when Have You Seen Mary was released, I remember hearing many people say that they were just trying to copy the Black Crowes.  I can see the comparisons especially with the slide guitar and the slower pace that people weren't used to (although there were plenty slower songs on each album, this was just the first single).  Maybe if this song had been released before BC's She Talks to Angels or further apart people would have given it more of a chance.  I must admit that when the Have You Seen Mary video first came out that I had a little bit of a hetero man-crush on Vinnie.  Check out the video around the 2:48 mark.  I so wanted to be the tall, skinny rock god with suit, slicked back hair, and gold tooth.

I, like most people lost track of Sponge at this point.  I know they had several members quit and be replaced and I kind of thought they had broken up.  Then a few years ago, I heard that they released a new album but I forgot to buy it.  I did not realize that Sponge had kept at it for all these years.

2009's Hits and B-Sides

So much Sponge that I have never heard.  I am not sure if I could really call myself a fan any more.  However, when I heard that they were playing a local show, I was very excited to see them.  I even bought an advance ticket, something that I almost never do for club shows because all the extra fees that ticket outlets charge usually make it not worth it.  I didn't buy it because I thought it would sell out, I bought it so that if I had future doubts, I would still force myself to go.  This ended up being a wise decision as I ended up feeling pretty terrible the day of the show and was not looking forward to going at all...but since I already had a ticket, I had to go.

Plus Sized Sebastion
Seeing a once popular band, years later, in a small club is always a calculated risk.  It could be great.  I have seen several shows where my interest in the band was re-piqued, and it was a surprising and entertaining night.  Some times seeing an ex-star still plugging along is inspiring - you can tell that they are really into the music and just love playing and that it isn't always about fame and money.  But these shows can also be completely horrible.  These are the shows where the band looks and sounds bitter, unhappy and disappointed with life.  These shows can ruin completely ruin a band for you.  I have seen even more of these shows.  Rarely a show can be a mixture of the two.  Take Sebastion Bach in the early 2000's: he was totally over-weight and hard to recognize.  It actually gave me a headache with my brain trying to comprehend SB's voice coming out of this person...but  if you closed your eyes the magic was still there and it was a good show.

I wasn't sure what to expect.  Surely, Vinnie couldn't be the ultra-slim rock god of yesteryear.  I was just hoping they sounded decent.  I arrived a little before 7:30pm.  I figured that I was going to be very early but with the way that I felt, I didn't trust myself at home...sit on the couch and I would probably be asleep.  Again, I get lucky.  The show happened to be an early start all ages show that started at 5pm.  I saw a couple songs from the third and final opening band and Sponge took the stage a little bit later.  Vinnie definitely looked older but he still looked pretty darn good...maybe not quite as skinny but still one of the thinnest people I have seen.  I'm guessing drugs...but don't know and don't care, that is really not my business.  As long as he puts on a good show.

Sponge came swinging with Wax Ecstatic and Molly (Sixteen Candles) was great and the crowd was pretty into it.  Jumping around, dancing, singing along.  I was surprised that they blew two big hits right off the bat but I think that it ended up getting the crowd more into the show than if they had just played one.  I then got a little worried when Vinnie replied to a shouted question of "Where have you been?" with "I've been here, you can find me every night in any bar in every town, USA."  Maybe he was a little bitter?  But he quickly got back in to the show.  Then it was some time for some newer songs (by which I mean "not from the first two albums").  Everything they played was pretty good, definitely something that I would be interested in.  They then pulled out Have You Seen Mary and then the Speed Racer theme.  They played the Speed Racer theme for a CD Compilation called Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits.  It was an OK album if you liked cartoons and they did a fine job, but it was not a song that I would expect in a Sponge live show.  It was OK, but it didn't really fit.  A few more newer songs and then asking the audience what they would like to hear.  I expected everyone to yell "Plowed" and I think the band did too...but six different songs were yelled out and only one of them were Plowed.  I don't think everyone was trying to be the ironic hipster fan yelling out the most obscure songs...I think they actually wanted to hear these songs because they connected with them.  Vinnie himself looked a little surprised at the variety and you could tell that they weren't really prepared to plan most of them.  They ended up playing Plowed and the crowd went wild, after the normal version he slowed it down and played the chorus several times with a lot of audience participation.  It was nice, but I am glad he did it after the normal version instead of ruining the song.  Sponge then played Destroy the Boy off their new EP.  

The new EP
It was a short show clocking in at barely an hour.  I am not sure if that is their normal set, or if they cut it short because it was an all ages show that had to end at 9pm.  Sponge played until about 9:20 with the owner watching the minors closely and then very quickly escorting them out.  A short, but highly intense and energetic show.  Definitely worth the $15.  I was a little disappointed in the size of the crowd.  I know it has been 15 years since they were big, but I thought more people would turn out.  I blame the lack of promotion for the crowd...I've talked to several people today that said they loved Sponge and would have liked to go...but they never heard about.  The only reason I knew was because I randomly happened to be checking the bars website a couple months ago about another show.  I bought Sponge's new EP and a t-shirt at the show.  I figured that I witnessed a great show, so I figured I would help support them...and hopefully they would come back again despite the only medium sized crowd.   The EP is good and also contains bonus track of Plowed and Molly (Sixteen Candles).  If you are in Dubuque, you can check them out tonight...and I would suggest you do.


Lax Guy said...

"They played the Speed Racer theme for a CD Compilation called Saturday Morning Cartoons' Greatest Hits."
I'm not ashamed to admit that I have that album. It is pretty good for what it is. It is on my iPod...

kelly said...

The best thing to ever come out of Plus-Sized Sebastian Bach:

"Shaved Beef = Metal"

Michael said...

I too own a copy of Saturday Morning...but it's not one of those things that I can listen to over and over. Definitely not something I expected to hear live 15 years later either.

Kelly, you're forgetting the second half "Unshaved Beef = Suck." But I think he was almost normal SB at that time, Not Chubbo.