Between the power chords and one-love vibration, State Radio’s performance last night at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale in support of their latest album, The Barn Sessions, was electrifying. After browsing the band’s website, I wondered whether Urmston, who pens lyrics about conscientious objectors, was going to preach or play. Unlike some activist singers who use the mic to talk instead of sing, Urmston’s views are tightly sewn into the songs of State Radio. He took a few moments near the end of their set to bring attention to the conflict in Sudan and offer information at their merch stand, but there was no lecturing or cramming lyrics down people’s throats. The songs gave bassist Chuck Fay & drummer Mike Najarian room to maneuver and add their own weight to balance the sound. Impressively enough, for a trio, the band has the full sound of a five-piece ensemble.
Urmston played like he loves touring. He lightly bantered with the audience, but mostly he kept the upbeat pace from one song to the next. Najarian banged away like he was angry at the drums and mercilessly pounded them as Urmston, who by the way is the former guitarist for Dispatch, tore through his chord changes and set his lyrics free. Barefoot bassist Chuck Fay seemed to be the one at peace while he played, keeping a smooth & steady bass line. A few times, once they’d established a song, the trio would extend it, jam band style, using their wah pedals & effects just enough to make you want more.
Local Miami band, Jacuzzi Fuzz opened the night. Like State Radio, they are a trio heavily influenced by Bob Marley, but with more of a freestyle sound similar to Sublime. Guitarist Andy Clavijo seemed less polished for lack of touring… and by that I mean Jacuzzi Fuzz should be touring. Charlie Labarca played aggressive bass lines, running up and down the neck of his 4 string. Jonathan Colorado had a jazz timing to his drumming that kept you keyed into the song changes. Having played through their prepared set, their only fault was checking for time when the audience wanted more. Jacuzzi Fuzz should stop worrying about the clock and get used to club owners giving them extra minutes to extend their sets. –- Kenneth Scott.