The violin is a beautiful instrument. It evokes wistful emotions and colors from some of history's best classical pieces. Ever imagine, then, what it could do for a Johnny Cash number? Or Stevie Wonder's “Superstition”? South Florida quartet Rogue Theory Band has and does, incorporating the violin into clever and vibrant covers of pop music that traverses a wide expanse of genres.
Formed in 2012, Rogue Theory consists of frontman and vocalist Harry "HD" Bayron on violin, guitarist Johnny Frasca, bassist and harmonica player Ryan Jackola, drummer Ryan Cross, and the occasional fifth Beatle, Mark Carter on saxophone. All are transplants, but after many years in the Sunshine State, they consider themselves full-fledged Floridians.
On the Wednesday night I catch their live performance, Rogue Theory is doing a stripped-down set featuring just Bayron and Frasca. There's no deep bass funk or percussion, but it matters not. They play three 40-minute sets, and it's pure melody and rhythm. Each set is a whirlwind of pop and rock hits jumping genres, from Dave Matthews Band to Santana to Wiz Khalifa to Sublime to a Charlie Daniels version of “Sweet Home Alabama” and back to DMB. In between, they sprinkle original material so seamlessly that when I speak to Bayron later, he tells me that people are often tricked into thinking they've heard those songs before.
“I love that song,” they'll shout. “Thanks,” comes the response, “but I promise you haven't heard it before.”
This is by design. Yes, the band play covers, but it absolutely makes the songs its own. Instead of playing them straight, Rogue Theory rearranges the compositions and hits audiences with something unexpected, which is why it named itself after an oceanic aberration that creeps up on sailors.
“We want to be something that sneaks up on people on a sunny day and kind of engulfs you,” Frasca says. “When our originals hit, we want it to be something that engulfs you and when it passes by, you have a story to tell.”
It leaves some crowds confused but simultaneously keeps them dancing and enjoying a properly unique show.
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With the full band, Rogue Theory typically plays six or seven of its own songs, and more are on the way. Not all of them necessarily will be sung in English. Although he was born in Pennsylvania, Bayron is of Puerto Rican descent and plans to incorporate his culture into the music, a smart move considering his surroundings. “We've written a couple of songs in Spanish, some of the rock stuff, kind of Maná-style.”
Later, Bayron describes their music as rock/funk/reggae. But perhaps the best way to sum up Rogue Theory is when he calls its style a “circus of music.”
Here's to everything they're cramming under their big top of ideas.
Rogue Theory Band plays a 10 p.m. show, Saturday, August 8, at Hurricane Bar and Lounge, 640-7 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-278-0282, or visit hurricanelounge.com.