Most of the sparse audience stood near the stage for SKATERS’ Grog Shop show on the last day of March. While some people bobbed their heads, others got into a strange interpretive dance they called “passing the orb,” but no one was really getting into it the way you’re supposed to.
And for a rock concert, that was pretty awkward.
You could see it affect the opening band, The Bakers, who played accurately but seemed depressed about the tiny crowd. While the band behind him cruised into songs, singer Bryan Viviani yelled into the microphone, a little tone deaf, riffing mad guitar solos. The band was accurate, fast and exciting, but I couldn’t tell you a single word of their lyrics.
Next up was Team Spirit, and the name couldn’t have been more accurate to depict their attitude on stage. “Yeaaahhhhhh Cleeevelannnnnddd!” yelled singer Ayad Al Adhamy, a crazy smile spread across his face, topped by a tiny, almost comical mustache.
As the odd group warmed up and tested the sound on stage, the sound guy flickered lights above them crazily, and Adhamy said, “Best sound check ever!” Even with just eight people standing in front of them, they were excited to be there.
Team Spirit’s songs included topics like murder, deals with the devil and love (but not the good kind of love). Adhamy slugged back a beer on stage, then shared the same bottle with guitarist Kieren Smith and bassist Dan De Lara.
At the end of the band’s set, Adhamy carried his guitar and mic stand to the floor of the Grog Shop, and kneeled down, asking the audience to kneel down with him. In a small, story time circle, he sung out the lyrics quietly. Then, as it built, he slowly stood and then ended it off by running around the room.
By the time SKATERS hopped on stage, Team Spirit had prepared the audience for a great show.
But SKATERS didn’t make a typical entrance: The lights were off, and “The Final Countdown” was blasting. Once everyone had taken their places, they were ready to jam. But for the first couple of songs, they didn’t pause to talk to the audience.
The music combined reggae, punk, rock and other cultural styles. Songs like “Change Your Mind,” “Armed” and “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How)” had a single, front-row, number one fan audience member belting the lyrics out along with them. A few other fans were pretty devoted; two women had followed the band from their last show, a few days earlier in Columbus, Ohio.
It wasn’t hard to see why SKATERS had their own mini cult-following. The whole show ended exactly as I would have expected from a punk rock concert: with everyone rocking out simultaneously to flashing lights. Afterwards, my ears rang.
SKATERS played their songs accurately enough to immediately recognize them, but messily enough to make it feel alive. There may not have been many people to appreciate what they were doing at the Grog Shop on Monday (and it may have been a little more fun if there was more of a crowd), but they still had a good jam.