Christian Clarke isn't a Florida native. He's not really native to any one place, though he admits to having been a surf and motorcycle bum in Los Angeles for a period in his life. He settled down in Fort Lauderdale in 2005 and in 2010 started his first band ever: the Riot Act
Before getting together with drummer Danny Krauss, Clarke decided he might go it alone. "I bought a crappy, barely digital four-track machine," he admits, "and I wrote a few songs and thought I'd record them myself." On three separate tracks, he placed his voice, guitar, and a tambourine, of course. "I found out quickly the tambourine wasn't cutting it," he says.
At that point, he hadn't really gone out much in the area and so didn't know any drummers. He put an ad on Craigslist, and what came back were guys who could cover just about all of the songs in the world but couldn't help with original material. Then he met Nova student Krauss, and the Riot Act was born.
After their first gig at the former Radio-Active Records space, they started to meet other acts and spread their wings to play all over the place. This past year, they've written a bunch of new material, and Clarke says this spring things have really launched, with many people asking them to play shows. Their biggest to date was the Boca Beer Fest. He confided that it was "kind of nice having a dressing room and proper sound."
Clarke played the guitar alone in his room from ages 14 to 18, until he put the instrument away for a long time. He calls himself "low-tech" and doesn't own an iPod, or -- imagine this -- a computer at home. "I found it difficult to find new music I was interested in," he says. "I think that's what got me into writing and recording my own stuff." Nowadays, though, he's slowly started to find good music on the internet. Good thing he didn't have the knowledge to navigate the web before starting the band.
The musician had been hounding the people at Culture Room for a slot on their stage. When they finally got in touch with him, it was worth the wait. They asked him to open for surf legend Dick Dale, of whom he is a huge fan. Of the guitar hero, Clarke assures of the things that make Dale stellar: "Just being a tough bastard. I think he's beat cancer two different times. He's like 76 this year, and he's still going strong." Then suggested we look at his intense tour schedule. Dale blew up amps back in his original day, and Clarke reminds us that nobody played that loud then, not until Hendrix. "There's nothing cooler than making your amplifier catch on fire. It's very rock 'n' roll."
Clarke first saw him play at Respectable Street, and opening act Laramie Dean came out in a skinny tie, looking like Dale in the 1960s. This gave Clarke the idea to offer the legend a visual tribute by dressing similarly. "I'm borrowing my brother's guitar that looks exactly like the guitar Dick played in the '60s." Also, his amps are all early '60s Fender, similar to what Dale used and still uses.
Tonight, they're playing the Going Back to Cali sendoff show for Beach Day at the Poorhouse. He calls the band "certainly an attractive bunch." Clarke enjoys playing the Poorhouse and generally loves the crowd there. Also opening are the Gun Hoes, saying, "They're another two-piece; we were both included in the Green Room compilation CD. Two different takes on the garage two-piece style. Nice to see another band out there doing similar stuff."
He reassured us that we should expect a real something-else performance with the Riot Act. "We put on a hell of a fucking show," he says. "We don't just stand there shoegazing."
Gigging too much has its consequences. They haven't had much time to record. They're in talks with Livid Records' Chuck Livid, who is trying to get them up to Jacksonville to work with producer Rob McGregor at Goldentone Studios. Until then, they're just going to continue to hone their unique sound and to knock socks off whilst onstage.
The Riot Act plays with Beach Day and the Gun Hoes at the Poorhouse, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale, on Friday, April 13. It opens for Dick Dale at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, on Friday, April 27, at 8 p.m.
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