2011 Speed Street
May 27, 2011
The Deal: Far too often, concertgoers go to a national act’s show well after it begins so they can miss the “crappy opening bands,” but at Food Lion Speed Street 2011, that would have been a sad mistake. The act to see for the night was Charlotte’s own Fusebox Poet, who won 106.5 The End’s battle of the bands for the time slot between Paper Tongues and Everclear on the Miller Lite stage. Rain and bad weather plagued Fusebox Poet throughout their involvement in the competition, with baseball-sized hail at the preliminary round and mega-thunderstorms at the finals. Singer/keyboardist Drew Cyphers said the rain started just as he walked onto the Speed Street stage for sound check and he just looked up at the sky and thought, “Really?!”
The Good: Despite a slow start due to bad weather and some technical foul-ups, Fusebox Poet, in their color-themed outfits matching their new t-shirt design, really got in their groove. Fans and casual passersby trickled in slowly toward the stage while the band got its sound locked in during the initial couple songs. Bassist Dave McGarry’s brutal scream at the end of the first song, “Ashes and Apologies,” let everybody know that Fusebox was on the Speed Street scene. It was the third song, “Lifeline,” when things really started to click (pun intended, as Drummer Pat Gerasia begins this song with drum rim clicks), and by the end of the song, Pat’s floor tom sounded absolutely epic. The crowd had grown considerably by that point. Pat said after the show, “The weather sucked and we were really bummed out, so I didn’t look out [into the crowd] at first. But after awhile, I looked out and was like, [pauses and smiles] ‘Yeah.’” When their last song “Clean” rolled around, the faces in the crowd had multiplied exponentially, and Fusebox Poet closed its set to roaring applause.
The Bad: As the band tore into its opening song, the rain stopped, but other issues cropped up in its place. Technical difficulties swallowed the first line of Drew’s vocals, and he threw his hands in the air, watching his words fly in unamplified futility into the night. The instrumental mix was not quite right for the first couple of songs, causing a bit of a short circuit in Fusebox Poet’s usual cohesion. Drew’s vocals were a little off from his usual spot-on pitch while he adapted to relying on stage monitor speakers to hear the rest of the band. In the smaller clubs, Drew said, you can hear the drums acoustically and the keys and guitars straight from their amps instead of through the P.A., which took some adjustment on the band’s part. Fusebox Poet’s usual lighting spectacle of fluorescent ballasts and lighted “ego boxes” paled in comparison to the blazing bulbs of the big stage, but better to be dwarfed by the stage’s bigger lighting than by other bands’ bigger sound.
The Verdict: While it looked at first like the rain would put a major damper on what should be fantastic exposure for the band, the weather’s not always the same as the forecast, and it turned out to be the fantastic show Fusebox Poet deserved. (“It was awesome,” guitarist Paul Wright proclaimed.) In the end, the Fused Four found their bearings, and their musical energy transferred well to the larger venue from their customary nightclub surroundings as their Speed Street set blew two signed, national acts off that giant stage.
Ashes & Apologies
Hold the Line (Toto cover)