Concert Review: Stonefox CD Release Party with Surfer Blood and Dead Rabbits, at Propaganda, July 30

stonefoxplayingprop.jpg
photo by Ian Witlen
Stonefox ruled Propaganda.
To see a full slideshow of photos from the show, click here.

Surfer Blood, Dead Rabbits, and Stonefox
Propaganda, Lake Worth
Thursday, July 30, 2009

Better Than:
Another DJ dance night wherever

The Review:

Last night at Propaganda marked the official album release by Boca rock and rollers Stonefox, and a triumphant event it was. The band has clearly won some rabid friends and fans with its out-of-nowhere blues-garage stomp, and those friends and fans have told their friends and fans. The small but super-cool new venue was packed with a shaggy crowd that worked itself into a sweaty mess by hooting, hollering, and shaking hips.

Yes, this was a real rock and roll rave-up on a moslty deserted Palm Beach County block on a random Thursday night. Yes, it's okay to think, How the hell did this happen? The important question, though, is, How do we get it to happen more often, and perhaps further south?

As a brief aside, this was my first time at Propaganda. I live in central Miami and it's a trek to get there from here, but I surely wish it wasn't. The place somehow manages to meet a comfortable middle ground -- it's a hip place that thankfully doesn't also try to be a dance club, a mostly-bar venue whose carefully curated lineup features good, original rock instead of bro-ski cover bands.
The P.A. is excellent so the bands sound crisp, the parking outside is free, and a well cocktail is just $4! For god's sake, they have a psych/garage/post-punk DJ night on Mondays! I really, really wish Propaganda would release a pollen spore and reproduce in Miami-Dade, or at least somewhere in Broward.

Alright, as for the bands that played last night. First on the bill was the apple-cheeked, youthful quartet Surfer Blood, from West Palm Beach. They used to be TV Club, but I only saw that band about once, a year ago; perhaps they were slightly punkier then, but I can't really compare.

One of my colleagues here has compared the band a little bit to Joy Division, but that's the wrong side of post-punk for these kids. While they delve a little bit into effects-heavy guitar drone, their sound overall is pretty sunny, driven by pleasantly bouncy basslines. In fact, in their janglier, breezier moments, they sound a little bit of the '80s Scottish group Orange Juice, or, perhaps, the more recent Northern English brat-popsters the Cribs. Well, maybe I'm just projecting on that last bit, but this is a local band to watch whose songwriting chops are gelling at an impressive clip.

The next band, though, was the real surprise of the night. Stonefox pals from Atlanta down just for the weekend, Dead Rabbits is a two-piece, with one hirsute fellow on guitars, another on drums, and both on throaty, soulful vocal duties. And if the drummer's particular wail sounded an awful lot like the guitarist's, well, it was only a few minutes before the latter explained -- his name was Joshua, and that was his brother Lucas on drums. Cute.

And at that point, I began to solemnly mourn my morning deadline, because deeply sodden seems the way to best experience this duo's damp Southern swamp rock. With only one guitar, Dead Rabbits still manage to sound epically heavy, and there are enough stop-and-start, off-kilter patterns in the riffage to keep everyone paying attention. Dead Rabbits could exorcise demons and make them dance.

Then, finally, Stonefox. They were the stars of the evening, and they were clearly relishing the attention and adoration. Their swagger was at 100 percent from the get-go, with guitarists Dave and Jordan donning crazily unseasonable leather jackets, the latter in sunglasses to boot. Well, the best rock and roll entertainers are a little cocky, and the Stonefox guys seem to have struck showmen's balance between shrugging self-assuredness and appreciation for the audience.

The opening number "Smoke and Mirrors" instantly became a call-and-response exercise with the crowd, many of whom seemed to already know most of the words to every song. Things just got louder from here and more ecstatic. The band's Atlanta-based bassist, Ross Fuentes, was there to perform, and as a four-piece, the band's wall of fuzz is even more flattening. (You also have to give Fuentes skill points for his ability to play bass, drink canned beer, and smoke cigarettes at the same time.) The dance number "Stun Like a Gun" well, made people dance, and the chant-like "Go Back to California" seemed, live, even more like the soundtrack to an old Western movie's duel.

Sure, I came to this show already a Stonefox convert, but I left even more convinced this band has the potential to break out, big-time. Their new album, Back on the Wire, is now available on iTunes and CDBaby, so take a listen for yourself.


Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: It's no secret I really like Stonefox.

Random Detail: Broward and Palm Beach County rockers support their own -- in the audience I spotted Timb Krueller, and members of Zombies! Organize!!, the Pretty Faces, the Freakin Hott, and probably someone else I'm forgetting.

By the Way: It would be really, really worth it to hit the Poorhouse in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday -- Stonefox is playing there, and again with Dead Rabbits. They must be seen before they retreat back to Atlanta.


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