"It seemed like they were stealing the right bits and pieces of the Beatles," Lake Worth singer-songwriter Grant Balfour summed up at the time.
When I showed up for the Saturday night Soma show, a small crowd had gathered, half of them a posse I'd rounded up myself. Since the limited space meant a limited crowd, which in turn meant a limited budget (the band was being paid in good karma and juice drinks), it was important I do my part: I ordered an organic wine.
I asked Brooke Joy Waszak, a 26-year-old Soma yoga instructor, if the band or the beer and wine license had brought her out tonight. "We yogis discourage drunkenness on Saturdays," she said. She'd come to check out the band.
"I'm not usually a big 'out' person. Wait, that's not true — I do go out," she laughed. "I was living in denial of who I actually am." Changing the topic, she boasted, "I changed all the spark plugs in my car today."
"How many was that?" I asked.
Waszak's face took on a pained expression. "Eight," she sighed. The culprit was a gas-guzzling Caprice wagon. "I sold my car in the interest of being green, but then I took jobs where I needed a car."
Perfect moment for Kermit the Frog's lament "It ain't easy being green." But the Guns were just then firing their way through their songs and a few covers, including Jane's Addiction and Velvet Underground, while a dozen or so sedate Soma regulars sat in front of flickering votives on folding tables in the studio.
I might have felt bad for the band, but the perpetually unshaven and purposely disheveled front man, Chuck Andrews, specifically said that he didn't want a gratuitous audience: "I don't want people to come see us to support us; I want them to come to be jaw dropped."
The trio was good, but typical of many South Florida audiences, most of the jaw dropping was happening only in the interest of conversation. Mine too. I downed my first glass of wine at one of the folding tables in the studio, where the band was set up, then went back to the counter for a refill, staying there for company and conversation.
Kevin Williams, draped in a geometric wool poncho over his Hawaiian shirt, was drinking jasmine tea. A visual arts student at Dreyfoos School of the Arts, the 17-year-old was enjoying the addition of live music. Also a sitar and guitar player, he said he appreciated how the Guns "slow down their time signatures at the end."
In the kitchen just a few feet away, his friend Steven Rizzo, also 17, was working as a "dishwashing engineer." The two had met at church years ago. Now, Steven calls himself "not theistic" but a "non-affiliated spiritualist," and he enjoys his work at Soma for the "contemplative exercise that goes with it."
I pointed at his T-shirt, with "Wealth of Marcel" printed across the front. "Duchamps or Marceaux?" I asked.
"Or Proust," he said with a shrug, putting the smart in "smartass."
As if on cue, enter my former philosophy professor, Simon Glynn. "It was Jimi Hendrix who said, 'I lived in a room full of mirrors,'" he said, launching into a short lecture that I first thought was inspired by the mirrors in the studio. "You derive your identity from those you socialize with. If I keep hanging out here, I might turn into a fucking hippie." His British accent was evident even in his laugh.
"I love this place, I like the vibe," said Heather LaCroix, a graphic designer from Third Eye Studio. Tonight, she'd skipped her full moon drum circle down at Bryant Park to be at Soma's premiere band show. "When I get a laptop, I'll be down here working," she said, taking a swig of Mich Ultra.
Everything in moderation, Steinborn said. "You can have a raw vegan meal and enjoy an organic glass of wine. We're not extremists."
"At least you don't have ashtrays," LaCroix chimed in.
"Well, we went out and bought a bunch because people wanted them," Steinborn said. "You get coffee drinkers who want to smoke [outside]. Your body is your body; you get to choose."
Some things you choose, other things you must first dream about. Brown and Steinborn want to be "the Starbucks of raw food," while the Guns aim at creating a mashup of their own. "If the Beatles were born in Nashville — that's what we want," Cartrett told me. And Soma nurtures such imagination.
Wherever your imagination directs you, though — whether to smoothie franchises or country incarnations of British legends — don't even think about one of those hippy shakes served with... fries. Find someplace else to pollute your somatic temple. Not Soma.