Stroke 9 returns to Monterey for their debut at the Long Bar.
Thursday, July 8, 1999
Though the pickings are slim, the rock ''n'' roll sound that''s been coming our way has more than made up in quality what it lacked in quantity, and this weekend will be no different. If you haven''t checked out the Long Bar for live music, today is your chance to remedy the oversight. The San Francisco-based band Stroke 9 is coming back to town to rock the (new) house.
Listening to the band''s Universal Records debut album, Nasty Little Thoughts, was like having a party in my living room. The catchy alternative/rock tunes are reminiscent of bands like Third Eye Blind and Counting Crows. And yes, the quartet harmoniously and successfully combines attractive guitar chords with tight drums, adding intelligent lyrics in order to catch your full attention. But truly fascinating are the clever tempo changes taking place within a melody. They keep you occupied, managing to change the mood of a song quite suddenly and drastically. And just when you think you know where a particular tune is going, the pace changes again and you''re left confused and singing off-key. Better leave the singing to the band''s guitarist Luke Esterkyn who has no problems vocalizing the entire scale in a three-minute ballad.
Stroke 9 was initially a project band made up of four high school seniors, the result of a "Rock Band" class at Marin Academy, a high school in San Rafael. The project in itself may seem unorthodox but it''s also proof that a little fun in music class can get the job done. At least three of Stroke 9''s current members are a perfect example.
In the spring of 1990, the whole class went to a recording studio and created a five-song demo on 48 digital tracks. It was released under the name Rufus Hairsbain with hand-colored cover art by the band''s guitarist Sean Collins, and immediately sold out after the initial pressing. Summer came, and then college in fall, and Stroke 9 was put on hold for a whole year, until the summer of 1991, when Esterkyn and drummer Greg Gueldner got back together, adding former Rufus Hairsbain members John McDermott (guitar) and Stephen Heath (bass) to the band.
The years that follow this initial reunion reflect gradual growth in every direction. Amazing and commendable, to say the least, is the fact that throughout their college years, the quartet would play winter breaks and summer vacations, only to split up again for school. To recount the band''s history up to the day when it finally gained well-deserved recognition and agreed to sign with Cherry Entertainment Group, a division of Universal Records, would be interesting to say the least, but you''ll just have to take my word for it. After all, there''s the limited space issue. Suffice to say that the final lineup change came in 1997, adding drummer Eric Stock (Gueldner had since moved over to play bass). In Stock, Stroke 9 seemed to have found the perfect match, calling their first performance together at the 420 Festival in Santa Barbara a mystical date and I am pretty sure that the boys are more than ready to share that myth with you tonight.
Stroke 9, Thursday, 9pm, Long Bar, 372-2244.
Also no stranger in this town (though it seems to have been a while) is Monterey''s very own Butter, coming at you on Friday at the BlueFin Caf. The energetic funk/blues/rock mix features original sound as well as covers by artists such as Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani and Jimi Hendrix, to name a few. Leading the pack is guitarist Steve Mosely who''s sure to get the party going.
Butter, Friday, 9pm, BlueFin Caf, 375-7000.