Aug 31, 2012

Sponge - Recher Theatre

By Bob Suehs


August 31, 2012

Recher Theatre

Towson, MD

SPONGE Setlist:  Pennywheels, Rotting Pinata, Giants, Neenah Menasha, Molly, Miles, Wax Ecstatic, Drownin, Speed Racer, Plowed, Fields, Rainin, (encore) Have You Seen Mary

Sponge was a band that made it’s mark in the 90’s via 2 major radio hits, “Plowed” & “Molly” which still get airplay to this very day....the band bridged the gap between pop music, punk & Seattle grunge with guitar tones that varied from drop D heaviness to standard tuning brightness while Vin’s vocals added flavor & a touch of glam to the overall appeal of the music.

Vin’s a vocalist who gives Scott Weiland a run for his money in terms of both his presence & his vocals; Vin’s a cartoonish character who oozes charisma onstage and his secret weapon is his amazing voice which can be angry one moment & mellow and deep the next.

I’ll admit that after the “Wax Ecstatic” record I assumed Sponge were no more because they rarely hit the East Coast or the Maryland area and the name Sponge became a momento from the 90’s music one ever mentions Sponge unless it’s affiliated with the single “Plowed” yet the band stayed active & released record after record throughout the past decade via indie labels which simply did not promote the bands new music in the proper ways.

The 2012 version of Sponge is NOT the same, personnel wise, as it was in this point the band’s only consistent member is lead singer Vinnie and for what it’s worth the current version of Sponge is just as solid as the original line up because they do justice to the older Sponge material which are the ones MOST people know.

On this night Sponge played “Rotting Pinata” in it’s entirety and the way they did it was interesting.....they had NO intro, NO flash, the lights simply dimmed & the musicians took the stage & started “Pennywheels” in a very dark, dreary way which picked up by the time Vinnie took the stage in what I’d describe as “Detroit Pimp Styled” because he wore a fury vest which looked like it could have came from a gorilla costume and under the vest was a giant Mr. T styled gold chain. Vin’s pin striped pants seemed mismatched with the fury vest & cut up t-shirt and I can’t forget the pimp hat that he wore which really reminded me of something Scott Weiland would sport and that’s what really struck me when Vinnie first took the stage...Vinnie was the equal counterpart to Scott Weiland in his day....Vinnie didn’t get messed up with drugs like Weiland though & Vinnie never had the issues that Weiland did; in reality Vinnie should be playing larger venues & he SHOULD be a much bigger rock star than he is. It’s the sad reality of rock n roll when a talented guy like Vinnie who clearly has “it” still and he made a small mark in the music world, yet he didn’t achieve the success he should have....Weiland is a great singer BUT he’s a total f**k up & Vinnie should be right up there with Weiland because talent wise the guy is an amazing singer & a great front man....sadly though he’s still fighting to keep his music alive instead of coasting off the past ala Weiland.

When song #2 in the set “Rotting Pinata” started I had a tiny flashback to when this record came out because “Rotting Pinata” (the song) was a personal favorite of mine & to the bands credit they played the hell out of this song & I was actually surprised to see Vinnie jump off the stage & stand atop the barricade while holding a male fans hand for support.

The set list for this night was unique because Sponge started off the night playing “Rotting Pinata” in the same order as the record but when they hit the 5th song of the set Vinnie told the crowd that he always wanted “Molly” to be before the song “Miles” so they were playing the set in that order with “Molly” as the 5th song and then another change to the set came when they finished playing “Miles” & tossed in “Wax Ecstatic” to pick up the pace a bit & rock things!

After another song they tossed in “Speed Racer” which was the theme song to the aforementioned cartoon and Vinnie dedicated it to the small children which were upfront & it was actually pretty cool how he interacted with the kids asking them to sing the “GO” parts of the chorus “Go Speed Racer Go!” but sadly I think Vinnie scared the little girl because she looked frightened when Vinnie was asking her to sing and participate in the show.

“Plowed” was played towards the tail end of the set and it was actually a mistake to not have that one be the nights closer because that’s the one that made the crowd go nuts & for the duration of that song the entire crowd was taken back to 1994 when this song was new & fresh...the reason I say that is because the band still plays “Plowed” with just as much energy and passion as they did back in the day.

“Rainin” was the closer for the first set and I’m not sure if the crowd enjoyed it as much as I did because the song itself is slow and brooding with a slightly fast part towards the’s a moody song that sounded great and the band came back for a one song encore of “Have you seen Mary?” which was an interesting closer simply because it’s a slow song and when the band said thank you & left the stage it was a very somber ending to an intense rock show....“Plowed” is their biggest hit & should have been the nights last song.

Throughout the night Vinnie’s stage banter was quite amusing because he’d make jokes about the band, the crowd, the songs and when someone yelled “Free Bird” Vinnie told a story about when Sponge opened for Lynyrd Skynyrd in 2008 and the band played the beginning chords of “Free Bird” as Vinnie told the story.

Vinnie did bring one point up that I always noticed about the “Rotting Pinata” record which was that the record had alot o’ slow songs which is why they decided to toss in a few “non-Pinata” tracks between playing “Rotting Pinata” in it’s entirety so they could change the pace up as opposed to simply playing slow song after slow song.

Vinnie joked that every time he searches Google for his band he usually gets “Sponge Bob Square Pants” and then he went into a joke about how Sponge Bob was kicked out of the band for his drug use & I was surprised to hear Vinnie name off all the characters in the cartoon and make random jokes about them.

All in all Sponge circa 2012 is a kick ass rock band and if no one told you that the band onstage was NOT the same atleast member wise as it was in 1994 you would NEVER know the difference because the current version of Sponge really does a great job in preserving the old Sponge tunes!


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