The long and the short of it: A review of last Saturday’s music at the 13th Floor Music Lounge in Florence

Last modified: Thursday, August 14, 2014
In a Valley of live venues, the 13th Floor Music Lounge in Florence is one of the newest kids on the block. Located above JJ’s Tavern, its painted logo adorns the stage wall: the “13th” in a moon, the “Floor” cradled in a puffy silver cloud below.

The nightspot, which has been open since March, has a possible capacity of over 100 people; late last month, the club came close to that number when a doom/thrash quadruple bill shook the carpeted stage.

This past Saturday, however, the club hosted a five-band bill of diverse Amherst-centered acts and the biggest the crowd got was a low-key 20.

Wydyde, the music-making moniker of Van Kolodin, had the most onlookers, with everyone standing supportively close to the stage. Even the couple at the pool table stopped the game to watch.

Wydyde can be a full band but that night it was Kolodin by himself — a skinny guy in shorts, sneakers and a T-shirt, his electric guitar doused in reverb and delay — playing what he announced would be his last solo performance for quite some time.

His guitar style was dreamy and woozy but with an edge; one of his oft-used effects made the sound of his instrument vibrate severely with a sudden surge in volume, like a worsening earthquake.

He stood center stage bathed under ever-changing spotlights and rotating green laser X’s; the scene was a cross between an early-’80s vector graphics video game and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.

With so many bands on the bill, Wydyde courteously kept it short — four songs, with just some throat clearing and small talk between songs.

“My eyeballs are filled with acid right now, it really hurts,” he said, taking off his glasses and wiping his forehead feverishly. “Actually, it’s just tears and sweat.”

In truth he only performed 3½ songs. His closing number, “Satellite Song,” was plagued with guitar problems he couldn’t solve while singing/playing/shooting confused looks at his headstock. He cut himself off mid-refrain to speak directly to the crowd: “I’m just gonna end this song because my guitar is broken. Thank you.”

Next up was Putty Head, a duo from Connecticut that met at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Guitarist Tommy Verdone played guitar and read non-sequitur jokes from his iPhone before most songs. Drummer Christian Fountain was to hard-core drumming what Billy Zoom is to punk guitar — smiling, always smiling. On the wall next to his head, a red laser dot continually exploded into myriad pinpricks of light, which made it seem like he was zooming through hyperspace.

Verdone played in shorts and bare feet, twisting metallic riffs from his guitar; Fountain pounded out crazed parts that contained many a manic drum roll and lots of cymbal bashing. Their sound combined metal, jazz, hard-core and more.

Putty Head had a number of fans, lined up in a polite semi-circle close to the stage. “Yeah, Tom-MY!” yelled a particularly supportive friend before the duo kicked into their first of about 10 short and speedy blasts.

For one of their songs, which sounded like Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” but not quite, they were joined by bassist Ben Bosco. He turned out to be a member of the next band, Watts’ Closet, who might have benefitted from following the lead of Putty Head’s use of brevity.

The Amherst quartet was a jammy pop band, led by the guitars of Jake Slater and George Condon and filled out by the drums of Henry Condon. They started their very lengthy set with “Sports!!!,” a sunny C-major groove that was the smiliest good-vibe thing to happen on stage all night.

Slater was a strong guitar player who often got caught up in the moment in old-school rock style; during a wailing solo he’d throw his head back, teeth bared at the spotlight. The less-showy Condon was solid and funky, à la John Frusciante.

Watts’ Closet’s songs didn’t stick to verse/chorus formulas, often containing many sections, usually instrumental, which was the way to go — the band’s strength was in its playing.

During its long, long set, which included seamless segues between tunes and a cover of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” half the audience evaporated. Somewhere in there, drummer Condon donned an alien mask.

At the point in the show where a typical band would announce, “We’ve just got one more,” Slater said, “For our last bunch of songs ...”

That endless final medley included a bit where Slater sang, “I guess we’ll just keep on rowin’.”

The staff, still needing to get the final band on before closing time, thought otherwise, and the soundman found a millisecond between riffs to politely pull the plug.

“Thanks guys, that’s a wrap,” he said, getting surprised looks from the stage.

Ken Maiuri can be reached at clublandcolumn@gmail.com.