Concert Review: TopSpot USA Showcases Young Punks at Talent Farm

Categories: Concert Review
Photo by Mikayla Davis
Vega Under Fire guitarist Brad Shellito is calling Dr. Love
TopSpot USA Industry Showcase
With Vega Under Fire, New City Lions, Easton, So Long Davey, and Not Here Now
The Talent Farm, Pembroke Pines
Saturday, April 3, 2010

Under the sparkling Talent Farm lettering, five young bands that all deserve "punk" attached somewhere in their genre categorization performed for a youthful audience at one of the few South Florida music venues not choked with cigarette smoke, the Talent Farm. As the evening blossomed, more groupings of teens in Chuck Taylors, fedoras, floppy stocking caps, and meticulously mussed hairstyles -- probably requiring a chisel to unpack at the end of the night -- filled the venue/recording studio's carpeted floor.

More obvious than acts that are pitched to a slightly older audience, the look of each group proved to be as important as their sound -- and it often indicated how well-defined the band's sound would be. Leading the way, in terms of synchronized threads, were Fort Lauderdale's New City Lions, cutting an imposing figure with dark jeans, jackets and hats, and West Palm Beach's Easton, shaggy-haired preppies with starched oxfords and vests. San Diego quartet So Long Davey built themselves around frontman David Vaughn's afro-hawk hairstyle and blue facepaint, whereas Miami's Not Here Now -- the night's openers stuck with an impossibly early 7 p.m. start -- is still finding the style to match their energetic poses.

Somehow, Naples-based Vega Under Fire's onstage look -- more of a sloppy non-look, with bare feet, thrift store tees, denim cutoffs and genuine bedhead being about the only unifying characteristics -- was the most inviting.
  As mentioned, the crowd, which grew quite sizeable by the time New City Lions hit the stage at about 10:30 p.m., was sparse, albeit committed for Not Here Now's opening set bested with "Your Number" and others power chord crunch bursts. Singer Kendrick Vazquez managed to get most of the attendees up on stage by the end of their set, which upped the energy there, but left a big, empty space on the floor.

The inevitable wallflower fans (and parents) of the five bands still hung back as the non-Florida act of the night, So Long Davey, hopped and kicked through "Wallflowers in Bloom." Singer David Vaughn spent his night preening confidently across the stage, which resulted in a mix between Lenny Kravitz's muscular sexual energy and High School Musical's G-rated theatrics. Although this is definitely a pop-punk act, Vaughn can deliver a notes from catchy The Fashion EP standout  "You Got Me" like a seasoned Broadway performer. It was nice to see that the drummer was pleased enough with the South Florida visit to obtain a "I'm in Miami Bitch" Tee.

The room was suddenly full for the most mainstream pop sound of the night, Easton with keyboardist Marc Ryan sweetening the mix. Beyonce's "Single Ladies" played as they set up their gear, and a few bars of Owl City's "Fireflies" during sound check sent a stir through the crowd. Singer Jeremy Michaels attaches virtually no emo affect to his vocals, instead letting songs like "Us" rise to the rafters naturally -- Train's Pat Monahan would be proud. It was a little hard to focus on Michaels with Elliot James, formerly of Hey Monday, behind him. Not only does James have one of the sweetest kits around -- like a bunch of tiki drums that light up -- but he never ceases to look like he's the luckiest guy alive while he's thrashing through the songs.

Judging by Vega Under Fire's singer Brian Blount's slitted eyes and half-grins, mischief was his underlying agenda.Bassist Jason Giardina's mane of hair that mostly covered his face, hiding the fact that he looks a lot like KISS guitarist Paul Stanley, which is only relevant here because the band had a badass trio of cardboard cutouts behind them: Gene Simmons in full makeup, 50 Cent brewing up his Formula 50 Vitamin Water, and Alan Jackson. Fortunately, all of this visual bedlam was a perfect accompaniment for "Life of the Party," a highlight among the jarring keyboard punk compositions that are far weirder (read: better) than their recorded output.

Photo by Mikayla Davis
New City Lions

As the scent of hazelnut cream candles wafted through the air, the night built to a perfectly manicured conclusion with New City Lions. Flipping their guitars on their straps in wide circles over their shoulders in unison -- harder than it looks -- and knowing their robust material inside and out. Judging by the well-timed "whoa"-ing from the audience, "Right This Time" and others have made the rounds online. Their synth-infused rock draws easy parallels to Fall Out Boy and Cobra Starship both musically and visually, and thus, there's a good chance New City Lions won't be in need of showcasing for too much longer.

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