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Thursday, March 16, 2006

". . . and if there's only one thing that I know"

Back in fall ’98, I saw Sarge in Houston at Fitzgerald’s for the first and eventually, only time. They went first on a four band bill, including the Gloria Record, Jets to Brazil and the Promise Ring. When they started playing, only a handful people were around, but it seemed like they were really into them. I had never heard of Sarge before, but was really drawn to them right from the first note. Nevermind the fact that it was three women and one guy playing music in a genre dominated by all-male bands, Sarge rocked as hard as any other post-hardcore band of its time. The songs were snappy, tuneful and a tad angular – all ingredients that I dug and still dig today.

A couple songs into the set, I noticed a girl in the “crowd” singing along to every word that frontwoman Elizabeth Elmore sang. I thought it was cool to see, but at the same time, who had ever heard of this band? Well, I was in the role of the person singing along Tuesday night as Elmore’s main post-Sarge band, the Reputation, played at Rubber Gloves in Denton.

Following a brief acoustic set by three college-looking indie folks (two guys, one girl, two guitars and one tambourine with no amps or microphones), the Reputation came on. Playing to roughly ten people, they sounded like they were playing to a full house. They tore through a number of my favorite songs (including “Either Coast”) and I bopped my head to the beats and mouthed whatever words I could remember. I had a blast – it felt like my own private set.

Prior to last night, I had never seen the band play live. It felt like a long time coming for me. I had been in touch with Elizabeth for my book via e-mail and phone, ran into her and her bandmates at South By Southwest last year as I stood in line waiting to get into the Doghouse Records showcase and was at a bar across the street from where the band was playing in Chicago when I was there last October. So there was a sense of relief when I got to finally see this mighty band.

Between sets and talking with various members of the band, I kept being reminded of shows from Rubber Gloves’ past. I remember seeing At the Drive-In and Jimmy Eat World play together in ’99, Burning Airlines also in ’99, Red Animal War a couple of times, [daryl] a few times, along with so many other bands. The place has become bigger and better (especially with the addition of a full-fledged bar area a few years ago) with a much cozier vibe (especially with the relatively new brownish-red paint on the walls, along with framed pictures and posters).

All of this served as a reminder of how cool a place like this still exists and how cool the bands can be. Talking with Greg, Steve and Elizabeth from the band, I, like many times before with various bands, never felt I was talking to untouchable rockstars. We talked about our regular lives, music, my book, and in the case of Greg, a couple of mutual friends we have in Chicago. Whenever I try and explain to people why it’s important to be open about this kind of camaraderie between band and audience, I use something like this as an example.

I know I may sound like a broken record about the power of connection between artist and admirer, but I don’t think I can say it enough. This is something that really drew me into deeper territory than just what was on a CD. I have a firm belief that it’s still doing it to newer people even to this day.

2 comments:

Chris B said...

"it was three women and one guy"

Wasn't it two and two? At least, that's how it was when I saw them in April of '99.

The band I was in at the time actually played consecutive nights with them, and they ended up crashing at our drummer's place the night of the first show. It was cool getting to hang out with them for a while.

But it was a little weird, especially with Elizabeth. They'd recently been named something like "Hot New Band of the Year" in Rolling Stone, and it seemed like they felt they were about to move up to the next level. Yet they were still playing the third-tier scene where we were. (The first night's show was at an indie bookstore. The place set up a PA in a reading room for shows. One woman brought her dog to the show. According to her, he enjoyed our set.)

Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like there was some latent bitterness there - like that Elizabeth felt the band would move up now that a mainstream mag had taken notice. But it wasn't happening.

And, honestly, when I heard they'd broken up (did they reform?), I wondered if that was a factor - to appear to be so close to success, only to not have it happen.

But we played with them the next day, and it was a really, really great show. Even if we did try to get us all lost on the way there.

Eric Grubbs said...

Chris-
When I saw Sarge in '98, they featured Rachel Switzky on bass. When you saw them in '99, Derek Niedringhaus was their bass player.

Sarge almost signed with a major label, but they broke up before that happened. Despite what people have assumed over the years, Sarge did not break up because Elizabeth went to law school. "Somebody else broke up Sarge" she told me. I think it's best to just leave it at that.

Before the band was named the Reputation, I believe it was named the Elizabeth Elmore Band. I may be wrong, but I think that's what it was at first.

Hope this helps and thanks for sharing.