Guavatron & Firewater Tent Revival Do a Thing in Melbourne
Guavatron had announced that their two September shows were in Melbourne and in Boca Raton. The show in Boca was a repeat of their show in July of 2021 with The Reality, so that one was a lock. Double-header weekend with Guavatron and The Firewater Tent Revival in Melbourne? Absolutely!
Both bands and a full room of enthusiastic fans converged on Pineapples EGAD in Melbourne, a three-story affair with a lovely restaurant on the ground floor, a mostly open-air third floor bar, and, in between, the Moon Room, where they regularly have live music.
The Moon Room is a box. It is NOT designed for live music. Music bounces hither and yon, and even a very competent sound engineer would struggle making bands sound good. The sound man this evening was out of his depth. Three major issues resulted. The Firewater Tent Revival, an incredibly entertaining band from Jacksonville playing very psychedelic bluegrass and rock, play outstanding music, but their stock in trade is a brilliant set of lyrics to their amusing songs. Their vocals were all but unintelligible (unless you already knew the words). Guavatron struggled with in-ear and monitor issues and often could not hear what was going out into the room. Third, the set break music was WAAAY too loud and very tinny; no excuse for that at all.
Despite all of that, both bands played superb sets!
We were sitting with a gentleman who had not seen The Firewater Tent Revival since the addition of the dynamic rhythm section of Aaron Webb, bass, and Brandon Howell, drums. He agreed that their inclusion in the band really gives FWTR great added depth.
Manic is a good way to describe this band, in the most entertaining way possible. They kick ass and laugh too hard to take any names. Dave Smith handled most of the lead vocals and played acoustic guitar. Assuming the setlist is in reasonably the right order, they opened with “Worries,” with solos from Jeff Hoff on alto saxophone and Nigel Ledford on banjo. At some point, it spiraled briefly into “I’m So Glad,” back to the head, and off on another tangent! Despite the sound limitations of the room, if the sound had been cranked back a notch and a half, the lyrics might have been decipherable.
“Shot for Shot” was a total rocking shitkicker, and the boys really leaned in. Kris Whatley is the most entertaining electric washboard player ever, even without his fluorescent yellow mohawk. He and Ledford offered backing vocals all night. In a surprise to at least some of us, drummer Howell took the mic for “Shovel”; he is a great singer, too! This band is loaded!
Hoff put down the alto and grabbed his harmonica for “FHB,” which contains the great chorus refrain “Stupid people shouldn’t breed.” Ledford is at the heart of this band, a titan on banjo, and he shredded this into little pieces. I’m guessing it was “Dead Horse” that had a great rap and a spacey jam before galloping off into teases of “Within You, Without You,” ??, “Birds of a Feather,” “Chameleon,” and a great drum feature.
“High Speed” was another shitkicker tune, and things blew up out of “The Reason.” On paper, it was “Rage Against War Pigs.” In actuality, it went this way: “War Pigs > Bullet in the Head > War Pigs > Bullet in the Head > War Pigs.” This just got stupid. Ledford CRUSHED.
When they intimated “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” we realized there was no violin player on stage, but there was Hoff… with harp. It went reggae, then “Summertime,” “Another Brick in the Wall” next and finally back to “Devil.” To close, they let Howell croon one more, a WAAAY uptempo rocker called “Hotwire.” Bravo, FWTR!
[FWTR: Worries, Shot for Shot, Shovel, FHB, Dead Horse, High Speed, The Reason, Rage Against War Pigs, Devil Went Down to Georgia, Hotwire]
The battle getting Guavatron set up would continue into the set. In fact, they were convinced the set might have been a disaster. So we played the Guavatron game. That is where I say “Amazing set!” or “Best set ever,” and they laugh and observe, “You say that every time.” It wasn’t until Saturday that guitarist Adonis Guava said, “I saw some video clips. They sounded good!” TOLD YOU SO. Many thanks to Brad Zeiler for these videos! Click the links for the songs to watch.
I have a rotating list of favorite tunes in their repertoire, and “Cousin Kelly” is near or at the top, and this 23-minute romp was the “best ever” (see?). They had warmed up with a really badass jam, so they were primed and ready. Despite in-ear problems and monitor mess, they blew this totally up. Roddy Hansen on synths and keyboards (he had a simple setup for this show) had a brilliant night. Adonis continues to delight on guitar with his superb leads and trance-dance rhythms.
“Cousin Kelly” bled right into a dandy version of “Let’s Get It On,” vocals from Adonis and drummer Casey Luden. The synths were again off the chain. (Are we still allowed to say that?) Guavatron also features a titanic rhythm section with Luden at kit and Conor Crookham on bass.
They invited Ledford up to jam. They had selected the Ween ditty “Help Me Scrap the Mucus Off My Brain,” but the vocals didn’t translate well in the room, and it seemed rather pedestrian. Once they ditched the song structure, the jam built quickly and powerfully, way beyond what I imagined it could be. During a slight lull, Ledford seemed as if he were going to leave the stage, but the Guava boys made sure that didn’t happen, and the jam exploded all over the room, Crookford on space bass, then Ledford on very psychedelic banjo. Crookham and Luden were playing as a unit. DAMN!
The “hit” song was next, “Disco Shades” from the band’s album Momentous, released in March. With time for one more song, they blew out a fine version of “Voyager,” another fine song from Momentous.
[Guavatron: Cousin Kelly > Let’s Get It On, Help Me Scrap the Mucus Off My Brain, Disco Shades, Voyager]
When life give you lemons, make lemon martinis!