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Slipped Lips

It's 6:30 p.m. on a Monday — not the most ideal time for a local band to be taking the stage. But even at this unrockly hour, the Freakin Hott is playing to a bigger audience than it would normally get at the average Friday-night bar gig. The Delray Beach-based power trio is rocking from the second stage at Sound Advice Amphitheatre, opening for arena-rock legends Journey and Def Leppard. It's the third time Sound Advice chose TFH as the opening act for a national concert (the other two being Velvet Revolver and the Black Crowes/Tom Petty). By now, it's a familiar scene for the band, performing opposite the dozens of booths selling beer, merch, hamburgers, and arepas. It's a mixed crowd, made up of middle-aged couples in Journey T's, 30-somethings in '80s garb, and young rockers who weren't even born when Pyromania came out. Most of the thousand-plus concertgoers are busy wandering around, filling their bellies and emptying their wallets. But they're all within earshot. And by 6:45, the Freakin Hott has managed to draw a motley crew of audience members. A 40-ish guy wearing a Pulp Fiction shirt and Birkenstocks is doing that goofy, cha-cha-like thing people do when they're trying to dance without spilling their beer. Maybe the heat was getting to him. It certainly was bugging Freakin Hott vocalist/tambourinist Maggie Dove.

"It's getting warm out here," she says to the crowd. The Pulp Fiction guy agrees, and how.

"It's hot — like you!" he shouts, obviously enthralled by Dove's tambourine-on-the-ass percussive technique. Meanwhile, off to the side of the stage, the Freakin Hott's unmanned merch table draws a few patient customers; they wait for the band to finish so they can buy the band's CD, Slip On the Lips. There's no street team hocking the discs or asking people for their e-mail addresses. That's just not how this band operates.

"We just kind of go with the flow," Dove says. "None of us are out there pounding the pavement, trying to shop our record around or bugging promoters to put us on shows. We're having a great time, and if something more comes out of it, that's absolutely fantastic. But none of us has big dreams of being number one on MTV's TRL or anything. We're entirely realistic about it."

Guitarist/vocalist Aaron Gentry agrees. "I think our measure of success is personal satisfaction," he says. "Success to us isn't monetary or [about] publicity or some 'record deal.' It's being satisfied and proud of what we're doing."

That sounds like a simple-enough plan, one that most bands ascribe to. But for every music first band like the Freakin Hott, there are five contract first bands that exist only for airplay. The Freakin Hott's music speaks for itself; sounding like a hybrid of X and AC/DC isn't the most popular thing to be doing these days. But that's how they roll. And it's the trio's unassuming attitude that allows it to have as much fun playing for hair-metal fans at Sound Advice as dining-out groups at Dada (where drummer Jon Wilkins hosts Popscene on Saturdays and Gentry hosts an open-mic night on Mondays). Then, of course, there's the Poor House, the Freakin Hott's home away from home.

"The crowd there just lets loose and gets crazy, and they make every show there the best show ever," Dove says. "Nobody's concerned about looking cool or being indifferent. They're there to have a great time, which is the best thing a band like us could ask for."

That's on an average night, though, when shit doesn't happen. Literally.

"There was one show at a venue that shall remain nameless," Gentry recalls, "where the toilets backed up and overflowed out into the club. Of course, this was on the same night a torrential downpour [was happening] outside as well. Well, the water is rolling in the front doors and up from the back where the bathrooms are. And, apparently, the lowest point in the whole place was the dance floor — right in front of the stage. So the water keeps collecting, and there's about one inch of standing water in the whole place. We're about halfway through our first set, and we're not stopping, and apparently neither is the crowd. They're all dancing and jumping around like preschoolers in a sidewalk puddle. It was messy, messy, messy."

It's a testament to the power of rock 'n' roll, no doubt, but having its audience dance in sewage wasn't something the band asked for. Even when the floor's dry, the Freakin Hott isn't one of those bands that berate people for not dancing. They'd rather let their music do the talking. Ditto for drawing a crowd in the first place, Gentry says — let the people make up their own minds about which bands to see.

"I always hear bands telling people that if they don't go to their show, buy their CD/T-shirt, or vote for them in some online battle of the bands, etc., that they aren't 'supporting the scene,'" Gentry says. "I'd just like to let people know that by not supporting crap bands and musicians, you are supporting the scene. Throw your support and money at bands you love, starve the ones that suck; it makes the whole 'scene' stronger. Just because it's local doesn't mean it's good."

That may sound like a bold statement coming from an unsigned band. But the Freakin Hott aren't cocky indie snobs; they're honest, and they actually have the songs to back up such talk. Either way, that's Gentry's beef. Dove has her own qualms — namely, the resurgence of a fashion trend that should have died decades ago.

"Pooka-shell necklaces weren't cool in the early '80s, and they're not cool now," she says. Indeed, not even the crowd at a Journey concert is that lame.

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Jason Budjinski