Time travel: Outback to the '80s

The Outback Lodge has gone through a few ownership changes this year, but it's still the same old place. By that I mean there haven't been any drastic overhauls in the décor or sudden shift in the clientele base. To the credit of the new owners, the bathrooms seem to stay cleaner. The Heckler still remains, orbiting the bar with his ZZ Top beard, lumberjack flannel button-up, and keg belly, yelling boos, hisses, and jeers at any band he believes doesn't belong on the stage. The Outback Lodge will forever be a place where people feel comfortable doing whatever they damn well please.

Friday night I decided to give the ol' Outback a try. After sliding past the kind bouncers and narrowly escaping a woman twice my age who clumsily spilled my ginger ale while propositioning me for sex, I made my way to the back to check out Osmotic, a young bunch of jamsters relatively new on the scene. I've been meaning to check them out for while. From what I heard of the band, they're very heavily improv-based.

I have no problem with improvisation. As a matter of fact, there are few things better than pure "in the zone" improving (sex included). However, spending a while in the bathroom after three tall ginger ales is right up there at the top­ and that's what I chose to do rather than listen to some of the choppy improv that Osmotic put forth.

I am being a bit unfair. To their credit, Osmotic are a bunch of highly talented musicians. The keys and drummer stood out as forces to be reckoned with as they get some experience under their belts. The guitarist and bass player also played with much promise, but didn't quite lock into the groove they way I knew they could.

I loved the rawness, their fresh ideas about arrangements, and their written grooves were exactly where they needed to be. Let's hope that as time progresses they'll script the improv portions of their songs a bit tighter. With a little discipline, I see Osmotic going a long way.

Next to the stage was South Carolina's own Sun Domingo. Sun Domingo was like stepping into a time warp and coming out in a "best of" the '80s scenario complete with Journey-style three-part male vocal harmonies. I think I even saw Matthew Broderick chase after a NASA test monkey in the corner of the room. But I digress...

Sun Domingo was a real treat. They played a variety of covers from across the pop-rock '80s spectrum. Their originals were schizophrenic versions of their cover tunes with a bit more contemporary rock. The focal point of the group was the lead singer/bassist with a voice that could give Sting a run for his money. He solidified that point by doing a dead-on cover of The Police's "Roxanne." The Outback crowd went nuts. I even got a little chill.

Sun Domingo did some cool things, but at times their cool was a bit overdone. The drummer had a tendency to speed a bit too much when the band began to jam, partially because one of the guitarists, who also played timbales, had a tendency to push the bpm's. Because of this, the ends of the songs were muddy and overplayed. Somehow in the midst of it all, the bassist and other guitarist remained rock solid. They were, by far, the heart of the band.

After "Roxanne," nothing else mattered. I drove home singing the tune in falsetto à la Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours, thinking to myself that the '80s really weren't all that bad.