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Young rockers nod to the past

by Jordan Green

Excepting a handful of parents lined up along the left wall, hardly anyone in the room is old enough to drink tonight, but a young woman in an olive-colored military-style hat keeps a hopeful vigil behind the bar just in case.

The band, a group of fresh-scrubbed youngsters whose shaggy haircuts offset the baby fat on their cheeks, competently execute surf-inspired jams and new-wave angularities on guitars, bass and drums. It’s a little past 8 p.m. and despite their best efforts, the players fail to persuade the parents and siblings in the audience to get up and dance.

The soundman keeps cracking on the high school bands. He’s a grizzled, white-bearded figure with a Yorkshire cap tilted over his forehead, and his banter personifies the boys and girls club-cum-gritty rock and roll dive ethos in the painting at the end of the bar announcing in psychedelic lettering: “Somewhere Else, Supporter of the Arts Since 1979. Welcome, Respect and Enjoy Yourself, Others, This Club and the *!# laws of this *!# great state of North Carolina.”

“I tell them, ‘Did you only bring one person apiece?'” the soundman quips. “‘Hey, you got another person! Oh, that’s your mom’…. That’s okay. How do you think Herman’s Hermits got their start?'”

The nine o’clock slot will be filled by a band called Revolution Mills that made their debut here less than a month before. Like the opening act, the boys are still in high school. The three of them met at Ragsdale High School, although one, Matteo Maggi, has since decamped for the Weaver Academy.

One of the parents, Norma Curtis, happily announces that she’s excited to see the band even though she’s been watching them rehearse in her living room for months now (she knows the words to most of their songs).

“Luke had another van,” she says of the drummer. “I guess it was like a mom’s van, a minivan, and it kept breaking down. So he got this other vehicle, this VW bus. Michael said they drove to the music store together. He said, ‘Mom, I feel like I’ve arrived.'”

The soundman remembers the first show.

“They started off a little shaky,” he says. “They had one guy doing most of the lead guitar and one guy doing most of the lead vocals. They were looking for a bass player. They were all right. They made some money and they had a bunch of girls screaming.

“I said, ‘Y’all are on the road to ruin,'” the soundman continues. “‘You made a bunch of money and you’ve got girls screaming for you in the front row. Make sure you book another show with Burley before you go, now.'”

As usual, owner Burley Hayes is stationed near the entrance collecting cover charges, running the lights and monitoring the closed-circuit security system.

Not long before the opening act’s finale, the members of Revolution Mill return from a trip to pick up a stray piece of equipment. As per routine, the band sound-checks immediately before their set; the soundman issues instructions through a kind of intercom.

After the bass drum, toms and cymbals get their check and the guitarists strum through some chords, the soundman declares, “Everybody look famous. I’m turning the microphone down. You’re on your own.”

They rock.

On their first song drummer Luke Taylor hunches over his set propelling a thunk and cowbell rhythm reminiscent of the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts on “Honky Tonk Women.” The rest of the band’s songs, all original, cover a range of loose, organic virtuosity that could have been produced anytime between 1969 and 1976.

The front of the club is full of a multi-ethnic high-school crowd that is enthusiastically devoted to the band, and they’ll scatter at the end of the set, leaving the next two bands – whose members are significantly older – to soldier on.

Norma Curtis’s son, a diminutive kid with curly, sand-colored hair grins as he shifts the weight of his guitar.

“I just wanted to tell you the website: revolutionmill.com,” he says. “We’re recording next week and we’re gonna have a CD out for y’all.”

The high school girls scream their approval.

Stopping at the edge of the stage to retrieve a cord, the soundman quips: “By the time they get their drivers’ licenses they’ll be ready to tour.”

The club owner is pleased.

“Yeah,” Hayes says. “They’ll be back.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at jordan@yesweekly.com

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