Concert Review: State Radio at Culture Room, February 11

State Radio 
With Big D and the Kids' Table
Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale
Wednesday, February 10, 2010 

Better Than: Watching your live Dispatch: Zimbabwe DVD for the 12th time. 

State Radio plays smart rock.More specifically, it's educated, punk-infused alt-reggae with socially conscious lyrics. And the band plays it damn well. 

The trio -- Chad Stokes on guitar and vocals, Chuck Fay on bass, and Mike "Mad Dog" Najarian on drums -- rose from the ashes of hallowed jam rockers Dispatch. And although they were just in town, opening for 311 at the Bayfront Amphitheater back in December, they said Wednesday night that they needed to get out of the snow. Their 90-minute set at the Culture Room not only showcased the venue's intimacy but also the band's sincerity in all of its endeavors -- from social outreach programs and political education to straight-up rock and roll. 

After opening ska band Big D and the Kids Table finished its set, the mob of mohawked, skanking high-schoolers fled the venue. As the floor cleared, the slightly older State Radio fans rushed to fill the small club.  

The trio opened with "Still and Silent" off their newest album, Let it Go, but the show really got moving when they segued into old favorite "Mr. Larkin." Almost everyone knew State Radio's catalog, which created a comfortable environment for head-banging, swaying, smoking, and yelling out requests. Feeding off the their energy, Chad often let the audience sing for him and the band added two songs to their hand-written set list, including the new tune "Bohemian Grove" and oldie "The Waitress."

The band's interactions with those around them certainly brought a human aspect to the rock show. Aside from the clear connection between the band and its audience, Chad thanked the Culture Room's staff by name and honored special guest Sergeant Camilo Mejia, protagonist of their song "Camilo." After the show, Chad, Chuck, and Mad Dog happily greeted fans, signed autographs, and posed for photos. Rock and roll doesn't get more down to earth than that. 

Critic's Notebook 

Personal Bias: I interviewed Chad for a story a couple years ago and he was one of the most pleasant, passionate people I've spoken with in the industry.  

Random Detail: Mad Dog's bass drum sported a photo of the King of Pop with the caption, "HI! MICHAEL!" 

By The Way: The causes State Radio supports -- Calling All CrowsHow's Your News?,  The Elias Fund (and others) -- are legit. Check 'em out and make a difference.

-- Hilary Saunders

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