Friends of Fire

The Hi-Ho Lounge

March 13, 2004

After the soundman figured out The Hi-Ho Lounge's new soundboard Saturday night, local rock quartet Friends of Fire took the stage with little fanfare. Since they were the first of six bands and a local rock band, for whom I reserve doubt, I figured they'd suck.

But, nope, they are now one of my favorite local bands, up there with Supagroup, Bingo!, and Rotary Downs. The hardcore/punk band was drummer Eddie Marroqui, guitarist/vocalist John Thompson, bassist Greg Hill, and cellist Eric Ferrara.

The band's sound had a solid, abrasive punk base, and it broadened with catchy melodies. For one song, they played epic rock a la The Who. The band was tight, but they were beyond that. Friends of Fire had just enough tempo, theme, and mood changes so I didn't feel overloaded.

The choruses were appealing because the band created emotion through familiarity and disjunction. They built up the same progressions and changed one note every measure. I had a good off-kilter feeling when the rhythm section rocked at a brisk pace but the guitarist and his vocals lagged.

The vocalist's whiny, emo-style delivery was clear and effective. It fit well with the music. On the rougher songs, he was a good screamer, too. Ferrara's instrument was drowned out by the others. When heard the cello added malevolence and sadness. That's the Hi-Ho for ya. Things get drowned out and raw.

Since Friends of Fire were the first band, the crowd didn't show too much emotion for them at first. By the end of the set, though, a row of people close to the stage was watching the band, hanging on every note.

Here's to a band that is bound for acceptance. They've only been together for six months.

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