When most people walk into Sidblu bassist Pablo Lopez's West Palm Beach workplace, they see a corporate office for designing funeral home Websites. But in the top-of-the-line computers, laser printers, and CD-ROM burners, Lopez sees a no-dough promotional palace and compact-disc manufacturer. "Someone has to do it," Lopez understates. After watching former coworker Alex Osuna gain a national reputation and major-label bids for her band the Remedy Session, Lopez jumped headfirst into the indie-rock circus.
Sidblu was born in April 2001, when Lopez befriended a very drunk Patricia Gomez during a Dashboard Confessional show at Ray's Downtown on West Palm's busy Clematis Street. "When I woke up the next day, I didn't remember meeting her at all," Lopez chuckles. "I just had 'P' next to a new number in my cell phone." After a few phone conversations in which "P" and Gomez discovered they shared an art-school past (Gomez attended Miami's New World School of the Arts with an eye toward painting, while Lopez graduated from Riviera Beach's North Technical Institute with a degree in graphic design) and a love for the Pixies, Gomez wandered over to Lopez's place and noticed his bass collecting dust in the corner.
"I asked Pablo if he wanted to start a band, and he waved his broken wrist at me," Gomez recalls. "I said, 'So?' and then he tells me that he doesn't know how to play. So I picked it up and played him some of my songs."
Sidblu, FiveSixSixFive, and Remedy Session
Billabong Pub, 3000 Country Club Ln., Hallandale Beach
10 p.m. Saturday, September 14. Call 954-985-1050.
Lopez flipped out. "I was blown away by the emotion in her voice, and her songs were amazing! She hooked me."
Gomez waited for Lopez's cast to come off and then supervised his rehab assignment: a crash course in bass guitar. For the classically trained Gomez, teaching Lopez came naturally but soon proved exhausting. "We'd practice until 4 or 5 in the morning," Gomez recalls. After three weeks of bass boot camp, Sidblu began playing acoustic gigs at Underground Coffeeworks in downtown West Palm while searching for a drummer to complete its lineup. But Lopez has suffered the same rhythm-section curse that has afflicted Osuna and Remedy Session: In Sidblu's ten-show, 14-month life, the band has gone through seven drummers.
Sidblu's quest for a percussionist started innocently, when ex-Brethren stickman Pete Carino responded almost immediately to an ad. "He was a cool guy, a good drummer, and it was working out great," begins Lopez, before adding ominously. "After the fifth practice, his phone got disconnected, and we never saw him again. Maybe he spontaneously combusted like in Spinal Tap." Last September, Sidblu hooked up with Magalie, a lovely French national who spent a month charming Lopez and Gomez and performed at their Ray's debut -- before the feds terminated her work visa and sent her back to the Old Country. "After 9/11, the government got really strict about who could stay here," Lopez grumbles. "She wasn't a brain surgeon or anything, so she had to leave."
Frustrated by these false starts -- yet unwilling to give up and buy a drum machine -- Sidblu soldiered on while issuing an open invitation for someone to beat the skins. Late last year, with a December gig at the Surf Café in Boca Raton quickly approaching, Maypop singer Keith Michaud took them up on their offer. "Keith said he could do it, so we told him to meet us at our warehouse and learn the tunes -- but he never showed up," grimaces Gomez. Michaud arrived at the gig at the very last minute and paid no mind to chord changes or tempo. "He just played as fast as he could. It was horrible."
After that disaster, Sidblu found another Pete to play drums, who, unfortunately, soon proved to be humorless. "I had a Confederate flag on my bass amp, and he ordered me to take it down!" Lopez complains. "How could I be a Klansman? I'm freaking Spanish!" This Pete lasted but four shows. "I hated that guy," Lopez concludes.
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In February 2002, Sidblu picked up Lewis Turner, a UM freshman who gladly commuted to the band's Pompano Beach practice space from his Coral Gables dorm room. Finally possessing a devoted percussionist, Sidblu entered Hollywood's Full Moon Records in April and completed nine songs in two days. Unfortunately, Turner spent more time learning tunes than studying his communications texts, resulting in his exit from UM and a one-way ticket back home to South Carolina.
Drummerless again, Gomez resigned herself to the familiar three-week recruiting schedule: "The first week, you're depressed and you complain. The second week, you get off your ass and put up a million fliers around town. The third week, you field 50 calls and try to weed out the freaks." While Gomez searched, Lopez again followed Remedy Session's lead and offered a free CD to anyone who requested one on Sidblu's Web page (www.sidblu.com). The public was unable to resist the allure of swag. Fanzines in Russia, Peru, England, and Canada, as well as Internet geeks from all 50 states jumped on the gravy train. They were treated to a nine-song survey of all that does not suck in indie-rock land. Breezy acoustic pop ("Driving"), nihilistic rage ("Elvis"), and post-punk boogie ("Rocket") all shine via Gomez's chameleon-like pipes, which can change from Siouxsie Sioux to Babes in Toyland faster than David Letterman can pass cars in the HOV lane.
After one month of drum-free living, Sidblu met a man named Dave who filled in during June and July before quitting the band to concentrate on his studies at Florida Atlantic University. After losing two drummers to opposite sides of the academic coin, Sidblu took matters into its own hands. "We bought our own drum set," Lopez states. "We weren't even going to accept poverty as an excuse." Fortunately, Lopez's high school buddy Leno Natale joined before Sidblu had to cruise skid row. For the first time, Sidblu has some stability behind the skins. "We've been friends for so long that if he left, I'd have to kill him," Lopez chuckles.
With Natale installed, Sidblu is weighing an offer from D.C.-based Plaid Skirt Records and preparing for an October slot on the Ladyfest South festival in Atlanta. "The bands are supposed to at least be two-thirds female, so we had to get a special dispensation," Gomez smiles. "Pablo's going to have to wear the panties at that one."