Sunburned, hot and bothered

by Jordan Green

It’s a warm evening on Tate Street, the bohemian strip along the perimeter of UNCG, and a little something is clearly happening on this Saturdaynight apex. It’s a scene — that is, a racket, a clutch of folks, a little buzz of activity to attract the attention of curiosity seekers and passersby spilling out of the nearby coffee house.

Three bands are engaged in the ritual of load-in, jostling past each other with gear, offering greetings, and rifling through the vinyl records and paperbacks in the store-cum art gallerycum performance space known as the Maya Art Gallery. Jence guitarist Luc Gravely’s face is burned to rosy hue following Jence’s afternoon performance with Boston band Township at an outdoor festival at Catawba College. Daniel Habib, Jence’s singer, bass player and principal songwriter, says Township asked them to set up a show for them. They booked Studio B, but then last-minute scheduling changes forced them to look elsewhere. Mariner Fend Martyr, the third band on the bill, had connections at the Maya Art Gallery. Jence is a classic rock band, no two ways about it. They have a full set of cover songs to placate the barroom patrons, but they also write their own songs and play them live as much as venue owners will allow. Imagine what was stirring on college campuses and workingmen’s taverns in 1970, and you have a pretty good idea what influences have seeped into Jence’s music. The power trio captures a little bit of the Stones’ Sticky Fingers-era raunch, and Daniel Habib’s voice conveys the harsh poetry of the Doors’ Jim Morrison, while Gravely’s guitar playing radiates with Hendrix-like atmospherics. “I was raised on the Beatles,” says 19-year-old Daniel Habib, who anchors the rhythm section with his brother, Matt, who is six years his senior. Daniel is the youngest of the brothers and the only one born in Kernersville, where his parents relocated from New York. His music is his parents’ music, and he gestures somewhat awkwardly to his mom and dad milling on the sidewalk nearby. “Just by listening to it in the car,” Daniel Habib says, explaining how he came to appreciate classic rock. “My dad was a drummer. He had a band and they would practice in my basement. I would fall asleep to them. I just always wanted to play.” Jence formed in the summer of 2003, and Gravely joined about a year ago. Their first professionally packaged CD, an EP of five songs, has just been pressed. It’s not an occasion for outrageous fanfare, so much as a calling card to booking agents, to land them bigger gigs and a passport to a wider circuit. The show’s getting started a little late tonight, and Mariner Fend Martyr does the honors. They play earsplitting, introspective instrumentals with math-rock precision. Mariner Fend Martyr’s guitarist, like Gravely, owns a pedal rig larger than a doormat, but the Mariner Fend Martyr axe man puts the various processing devices to more experimental use than his cohort. Jence’s set begins at about 9:30 p.m., and the band rips into the second track on the EP, “Goin’ Out Tonight.” The music is hard soul, pummeling rock and roll with clearly enunciated vocals. And then they’re soon rocking through the next song, another Daniel Habib composition called “Sugar.” It begins, “Hey, girl/ I said, hey, yeah hey/ I said, yeah, hey yeah.” And then the simple story unfolds, redolent with male sexual desire and appreciation of good times: “It was a nice day outside, and I was feelin’ mighty fine/ And I saw her in a satin white dress/ And I knew my heart won’t get no rest/ So give me some sugar, baby, baby, yeah my baby, some of that sweet thing, some of that sweet thing, baby/ Tell me if you want me now/ I’ll show you what I mean.” It must be said that Jence also shares a sound with another classic-rock revival band, Southern Bitch of Athens, Ga. And never more so than on “Alone,” a song co-written by Luc Gravely and Daniel Habib thatshowcases the band’s lethal crunch, Gravely’s clarion-call guitarplaying and vocals that suggest a wounded wolf. Not to mention drummingthat is merciless and relentless. Matt Habib is pounding his kit sohard it looks like he’s going to levitate on the floor.

LucGravely and Daniel Habib trade vocals: “How did I get here to thisplace?/ I don’t know, baby, I don’t know/ Seems unfamiliar, like outerspace/ Where did you go?” A guy standing next to one of the speakerstouches his ear appreciative and turns to yell a comment to a fellowfan. “Ringing,” he says.

Jence, featuring (l-r) Luc Gravely, Matt Habib and Daniel Habib played a concert at Maya Art Gallery in Greensboro on April 4. (photo by Jordan Green)