Originally created 10/26/01

Rock fans are given something to rave about



For all intents and purposes, summer has been over for weeks. The nights are cooler, the days shorter and school has been back in session long enough that it feels normal to be doing homework.

But there is always an opportunity for one last day in the sun.

On Sunday, more than 4,000 feedback aficionados showed up on the banks of the Savannah River, attracted by that rarest of local beasts, a rock show in Augusta. And from the response, I'd say they had been aching for the siren song of an electric guitar for some time.

Now here is the thing about rock concerts, particularly festival-style shows like Sunday's 95 Rock River Rave. It's a grab bag, and an audience never really knows what it's going to get until performers take the stage. In some instances, fans might get a band like the newly renamed Mesh STL, formerly Mesh, or pete., the concert's main stage openers. Both bands seemed talented and earnest, but the performances were by-the-numbers rock. Too much "Hello Augusta!" and not enough emotional investment in the music. The members just didn't seem to have that intangible element, that extra rock-star chromosome. They seemed stranded in the eternal limbo of The Opening Act.

Days of the New mastermind Travis Meeks, the third act on Sunday's bill, has true rock-star credentials. How else can you explain his walking on the stage with an acoustic guitar, facing an excitable audience and then whipping them into a power chord frenzy? That's not a learned skill. It's something you're born with.

Following Mr. Meeks and company were current MTV darlings Puddle of Mudd, with an impressive feat of time travel. The band took the stage, and in an instant it was 1993 and the audience was experiencing the halcyon days before the promise of grunge was blown away in the wake of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Like Pearl Jam without the pretension of Soundgarden without the Zeppelin histrionics, Puddle of Mudd's dynamic and easily accessible rock draws - in equal parts - from pop, punk and metal. It's possible that nearly a decade after the demise of grunge, this band, with nary a single member from the Pacific Northwest, could be the saviors of the Seattle sound.

The main-stage headliner, Sevendust, found itself in a difficult position. Its heavy, groove-oriented rock has garnered mass appeal. Energetic, tuneful and talented, the band is more capable of standing on its own merits, and the crowd quickly turned into a single shaking, throbbing organism, breathing in time to the music. However, the band still found itself the victim of unfortunate circumstance.

Sevendust had to follow Jemani.

That's right, Jemani. From the relatively tight confines of the home-grown music stage, the Augusta rap-rock act managed to steal the show - not once, but twice. Performing before Puddle of Mudd and then again before Sevendust, the band wound up a crowd attracted by the lure of national acts like a cheap tin toy. Following on the heels of fine performances by local acts Thicker Than Blood, Youth@Risk and Impulse Ride, Jemani served notice as to the legitimacy of Augusta music.

So go ahead and mark Oct. 21, 2001, on your calender. Based on the financial and popular success of River Rave 2001, it could prove to be the day rock, sorely missed these many years, returned to Augusta.

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.