It is a girl! But what's her purpose?

Published May 13, 2004, in issue 0319 of the Hook

at Miller's
May 8


Last Saturday night found me pulling my worn out frame to Miller's, for though the day had seen one unfortunate incident after another befalling me, I was a music review short of my weekly quota (one music review). I headed to Miller's to see the "alternative-rock" band Zag, partly because the place is but a stone's throw away from my house, partly because I had not seen Zag before, and partly because I wondered what the phrase "alternative rock" really means in this day and age.

Made up of two guitarists, a bassist, a female drummer, and a female singer, the group on stage quickly launched into a tune that to my ears sounded a bit like an instrumental from those '90s populist darlings, the Gin Blossoms, only with the blonde side-woman providing cascading "ooo's" throughout the song's many verses. Near what appeared to be the end of the tune, the group introduced themselves, and lo and behold, they turned out to be my old friends Fountainhead.

To explain, I reviewed Fountainhead about a year and a half ago at the Jaberwoke, sticking around for one set of their jam band jive before taking off. Mildly berated by them for mistaking their female drummer for a man and not sticking around for the second set, where they said their vocals had been collected, I swore to one day see them again, a promise I promptly forgot.

Fountainhead still likes to jam, at least as much as they did when I saw the band last time. Four songs from the band took over an hour by my reckoning sometimes a song had many parts, leading to relief that the group was moving on to another number, and then to hopes being crushed when the same verse coda would re-appear.

In terms of musicianship, the group was pretty good tight, with never a wrong note to be heard. Indian-style riffs bubbled out of the lead guitarists, seemingly placed randomly throughout the set a nice change of pace from the normal jam-band fare. What was a bit mysterious to me was what the group was trying to accomplish with the inclusion of their female singer. As far as I could see, except for providing backing vocals on one tune, the group's many instrumentals had her just singing lines of "oh's" and "yeah's", without any more substance.

"Words!" "Loud words!" "Harmonies!" "Off-key harmonies!" "Long ending jam of varied tempo changes!" Those thoughts went out through my head at the group's third song, the first to bring one of the group's guitarists to the microphone but the band's fourth song, "Dancing with a cactus," was where they truly showed me their stuff. I guess.

"I don't ask you to follow, don't ask you to change" the guitarist sang, punctuating the end of each line with a David Byrne style talking/yelping presentation. It was an all-right pop song in need of a chorus, nothing to write home about, but by the second verse, the Byrne posing was really starting to bother me.

Fountainhead this time I stayed longer, and the drummer is definitely a female.