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It’s Thursday night. In Dewey Beach, that means it’s the weekend.
Pete Wiedmann, 35-year-old bass player for rock sextet Love Seed Mama Jump, trudges along the dark, narrow boardwalk that leads to the rear entrance of the Rusty Rudder. He’s got shadows under his eyes, some kind of phlegmy lung ailment, and a T-shirt that pleads for someone to “Kick Me.”
He stops in front of a thick metal door reverberating with the bass line of Lil’ Jon & the Eastside Boyz’ “Get Low.” Behind it are approximately 1,500 young professionals from D.C., Maryland, and New Jersey. They’ve driven hours through uninspiring soybean fields to reach this particular nightclub on the shore of Delaware’s green-glass Rehoboth Bay. In their wake, they’ve left clouds of excuses on why they’re not going to be at work tomorrow. With one voice, they shriek: “To the window, to the wall! / To the sweat drop down my balls!”
Wiedmann doesn’t even blink. “Ready?” he asks. Then he pushes his way through the door.
Glowing eyes spring out from the darkness—neon Miller Lite buttons, which the revelers have slapped onto their tits, butts, and foreheads. Guys sporting collared shirts and golden crucifixes and gals squeezed into anything tight clump in pods on a vast, open-air wood deck. Comely, roving bartenders supply them with cans of beer straight from the 12-pack. All around, there is an overpowering aroma of soap.
“It’s yuppies and the BMW crowd,” says Alex Pires. The 55-year-old D.C. lawyer is a general partner in the corporation that owns Ruddertowne, a sprawling complex that includes this nightclub as well as two other megabars, a fine-dining establishment, a book/coffee shop, and—in the true spirit of a resort community—a chapel. “The girls are here to look for husbands,” he says. “The guy’s just cranked. He drinks the liquor to get his courage up, and he wants to nail something….He doesn’t give a damn who it is.”
But nobody would get nailed, explains Pires, if he didn’t have a band playing “I’m a Believer,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” or “Billie Jean” every weekend. The familiar, seductive sounds of cover music are the catalyst in the mating process. “What they want to do is drink heavily and sing to what they know,” Pires says. “The chemicals we give them, which is the beer, that’s just the background. The overload of the live show is the cover band making the noise. It’s like musical vaudeville.”
A man in a baseball hat detaches from the crowd and in a matter of seconds is at Wiedmann’s elbow. “I want to buy the band some shots,” he declares. Wiedmann was up until dawn and looks as if a shot of Jägermeister would do him as much good as a shot to the gut. But after casting a glance at the rest of the band setting up on the outdoor stage, he says: “Make it five.”
Over the years, Love Seed’s learned a couple of important things about its fans. For one, they expect everybody to be having as good a time as they are. That translates into an order to the musicians to drink a lot of Jäger. Not that some don’t enjoy it. Most of the people in Love Seed drink Jäger. Percussionist Dave James, 39, quit drinking alcohol five years ago because, he says, “I got too good at it.” Another peculiarity among the fans is that they want to sing, too. People will leave or get pissy if they don’t recognize the lyrics. So Love Seed has adopted a playlist that stresses classic-rock cover songs, albeit versions with deranged twists.
Band managers say the typical cover band on the East Coast lasts between three to five years. Love Seed, which is not altogether typical, has lasted 13 years, playing four to six nights a week in Dewey Beach and clubs in D.C., Philly, College Park, and Arlington’s just-arrived Clarendon strip. The band has salaries, a health plan, and a trivia question on Megatouch bar terminals (wrong answer, though). In 1999, Dan Snyder knighted it “the Official Rock Band of the Washington Redskins.” Love Seed now appears on a huge-ass deck above FedEx Field after every game, blasting out tunes on a stage stocked with a dozen wriggling cheerleaders.
Frontman Rick Arzt moves up to the Rudder’s mike and roars, “Can you feel the noise?” Not enough people do. “That’s some weak shit there!” he says. “That’s weak like unsweetened Kool Aid.”
The band rips into the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun.” And a wondrous thing happens. Every last man and woman on the deck turns to adopt one posture: face to the stage, eyes clamped shut, mouth wide open to holler, “Let me go awwwhnnnn…”
Before the night is over, Love Seed will provide similar demonstrations of mind control through a punk-rock version of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” a rockabilly rendering of Paul Simon’s “The Boxer,” and something peppy called “She Likes the Dead.” Former Redskins running back Reggie Branch will jump on stage and hop around on one leg to Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and Arzt will mount a fat man and ride him into the crowd, screaming, “Rusty Rudder, you fucking rock tonight!”
The scene in the parking lot at closing time bespeaks a victory for both band and club. A guy hunches on the curb next to a Rehoboth Beach ambulance, holding bloody hands to his face. “He fell at the bar, cracked his nose,” explains a cop. “You know.” Farther down the pavement is the collapsed body of a young woman. “Somebody put something in my drink!” yells a passer-by. Good Samaritans pile her into one of the bicycle rickshaws that substitute for cabs along Route 1, the hotel-lined main drag. But she hits the seat face-first and then slumps over when righted.
“Get a rope and tie her head to the seat,” somebody suggests.
Love Seed’s rise to party-band prominence rests on a dirt-simple principle: Fuck it. The band’s reformulation of “In Your Eyes” is a good example of the principle in action.
“We really liked the song. We couldn’t figure out how the fuck to play it, and we weren’t good enough. So we just dumbed it down,” says Arzt, 34. “There’s this big, long bridge interlude in ‘In Your Eyes’ with all this keyboard stuff going through….First of all, we don’t have a keyboard player. So we went to Brian [Gore], our resident chord guy, to try to figure out what the chords were, and he was like: ‘Errmmm. You have to chop that.’
“Then we played it, and people are like: ‘That’s genius!’”
“Laziness,” says Wiedmann, “is the mother of invention.”
The band got its start in 1991, when Wiedmann, Arzt, and guitarist Will Stack, the last two on summer vacation from the University of Delaware in Newark (about 90 miles upstate from Dewey), got serious about seeking “free beer and sandwiches.” Stack minted the name Love Seed Mama Jump—perhaps in an effort to outdo the moniker of his previous band, Biodegradable Love Turtles. “Had we known it would last,” says Arzt, “we probably would’ve come up with something better.”
The band doubled its roster with Sussex County boys Paul Voshell on drums, James on percussion, and guitarist Gore, who owned Dewey’s East of Maui Surf Shop. Everybody agreed that sticking with classic rock was the best thing to do. “We picked songs we could play without listening to the tape,” says Wiedmann. “Honestly, just easy stuff.”
When it wasn’t easy, they made it easy, or at least fun. They took the copyrighted material through wild stylistic experiments, performing Peter Gabriel as ska and dragging John Denver through metal hell. They put songs inside of songs inside of songs (inside of songs). And they continued to cut and paste, but mainly cut: Arzt compressed the entire horn section of Paul Simon’s “Late in the Evening” into a kazoo solo.
“Love Seed’s thing was to play the songs very poorly,” says 55-year-old Rick Green, who booked the band throughout New Jersey in the early ’90s. “Speed them up or slow them down. Every club owner thought they totally sucked, because they didn’t play the songs right.”
Other signs that Love Seed was not a conventional cover band emerged the next summer when it dipped into songwriting. The musicians came up with new tunes together in the living room of Gore’s Dewey Beach home. “We just kind of shouted out lyrics, and whichever lyric was the best made it on there,” says Wiedmann. An early success was “She Likes the Dead,” the upbeat, sardonic tale of militant punk rockers who grew enamored of patchouli oil and the Grateful Dead: “You used to wear all black and that was cool/Drinkin’ whiskey and skippin’ school/Now you think that Jerry rules/Shave your fuckin’ legs.”
The hippies, it turns out, were friends of Wiedmann’s. “I kind of gave them the thumb, called them sellouts,” says the bassist. “Of course, those guys turned right around to me and were like, ‘Well, who’s playing in a cover band?’ And I’m like, ‘Touché.’”
The band didn’t get that kind of flak from their fellow college students. Anywhere there was a frat house, Love Seed was god. The musicians embraced nerddom by day and rocked the University of Delaware’s student club by night. Here, they recorded their first and still most famous album, 1993’s Drunk at the Stone Balloon. They sold 25,000 copies off the stage that same year, says Arzt, and were soon enjoying top-50 stardom in the college charts.
Arzt attributes the album’s success to its uncharacteristic embrace of classic rock, which was out of favor on the club scene at the time. “That was when Nirvana and Pearl Jam and that whole movement exploded on the scene,” he says. “So what we did was purposely not do anything like that….The fact that we weren’t doing grunge was kind of our ‘fuck you.’ That attitude is on there, and I think people get that. They hear the ‘fuck you’ in us.”
“Actually,” says Wiedmann, noting the disc’s background sounds, “they hear more the ‘What do you mean you’re out of Jäger?’ Which became, ‘Fuck you. We’re out of Jäger.’”
The college scene didn’t just introduce Love Seed to the rowdiness and inebriation that would mark its crowds for the next 10 years—it also proved a valuable crucible for its live act. One lesson: However easy it is to love Steve Miller or Ozzy Osbourne, putting the two together brings people down. “‘Crazy Train’ in ‘Swingtown’…looks funny on paper,” says Wiedmann, who now refers to the combination as “Crazy Train Wreck.” “They just stared at us like we had a horn coming out of our head.”
Love Seed found it could also play its own music if it wasn’t identified as such. “We wouldn’t go out of our way to say, ‘Hey, this is an original,’” says Arzt. “We would just play. Then eventually, when the songs started catching on, we’d be like, ‘Oh, by the way—that was one of ours.’ And they’d go, ‘All right!’
“Because a lot of times if you start out by saying, ‘This is one of our songs,’ you might as well immediately turn around and go, ‘Drink, please!’”
“Right,” says Wiedmann. “Or you might as well call your new song ‘Go to the Bathroom.’”
“We have a saying here: ‘Check your brain at the Bay Bridge,’” says Wiedmann. “People pay their $2.50, come in, and”—he grabs his head and wrenches it to the side—“unscrew their head and take out their brain.”
This beach mindset has proved favorable for Love Seed.
The hordes from the cities arrive in summer, kicking the Dewey/Rehoboth/ Midway resort area’s winter-visitor population of 300,000 to over 3 million.
Once the vacationers sweep the dead insects from their beach houses, they quickly find, if they didn’t know it already, that there isn’t much to do in the mile-long, two-block-wide drag strip that is Dewey. Fine dining is rare—pizza joints dominate. The minigolf and go-cart places are up in Rehoboth. The beach itself has sticky sand, wimpy waves, and, this year, a massive croaker kill that has left it saturated with stinky fish fluids.
Dewey Beach is not a romantic place. It is, however, a horny one.
“[Vacationers] come here and their view is kind of like: Look, time out. Let’s have some rules before we drive over the bridge,” says Pires. “I’m gonna hook up with whoever I want to hook up with….What goes on in Dewey stays in Dewey. I want to party, and I want an atmosphere where it’s just kind of happy and fun. When the season’s over—in September when we go back—it’s no big mystery what I have to do for the next seven months. It’s a long winter in D.C.”
For a cover band, “happy,” “fun,” and “hook up” are the perfect conditions for life. That’s why there are seemingly hundreds around Dewey today. But it hasn’t always been this way. The Bottle & Cork across town used to be famous for its original acts. Then, says Wiedmann, half-joking, “we squashed it like a bug.”
The town’s musical transmogrification (rebirth, if you’re the optimistic type) began in the early ’90s, when Jay Prettyman, builder of Ruddertowne, decided to update his club’s selection of live entertainment. At the time, the waterside deck grooved to the sounds of DJ dance night, a toned-down reggae act, and the week’s crown jewel, an oldies band called the Hubcaps. “Wasn’t near the people who go there now,” recalls Prettyman, now 60 and living on a farm in Lewes, Del.
Wasn’t near any people, in fact. Despite the cheap booze and lack of cover charges, the Rudder had a skeleton population. “It seemed what was hot up [at the University of Delaware] would be hot at the beach,” figured Prettyman. So in the summer of 1991, he booked Love Seed. “First night they played, I paid them $75.” A hundred people showed. “Next week, 300 people came….By the fourth or fifth Thursday, it was filled to maximum capacity.” And it stayed that way through the summer.
A good deal of the draw originally came from people who knew the band from college or even from Cape Henlopen High School, which Wiedmann, Stack, and Arzt attended. But strangers began to flow into town as word spread about the wild Thursdays. “The band, as a young band, was a tremendously visual show,” says Love Seed manager Elvin Steinberg. “Rick would run across the stage and high-jump over the microphone. In pictures, he looks like Michael Jordan. Will would do [front] flips into the audience. We didn’t even need a light show: Dave would be juggling fire….[The audience] didn’t mosh. They jumped straight up and down….We were the original band to do that. Signature move.”
The veracity of that last claim aside, Love Seed’s showmanship was indeed stratospheric. At the Down Under club in Newark, Del., the band dropped its collective shorts in the middle of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.” In other shows, Stack would produce a prop guitar that he’d beat to pieces. “You can play all night and the audience thinks you’re OK,” notes Stack. “You smash that guitar. They’re like, That guy rocks!”
Fans such as Michael McDonnell became obsessed. McDonnell, a 34-year-old general counsel for a Virginia software company, has made a habit of jumping onstage during Love Seed shows. He was up there with the musicians at an Aug. 5 Rudder gig, pretending to play an electric guitar with a fiddle bow. At home, in Georgetown, he writes the online Love Seed newsletter—the “thrilling adventures of everyone’s favorite action/adventure, rock/roll, fluff/fold band,” to quote the March installment.
If there were Love Seed pogs, McDonnell would have bought a set. Several sets. “Every girl at the beach had a crush on Will. Until they found out he got married,” he says. “Pete Wiedmann is still the wild man of the band, which gives it a little bit of hard-rock reality….What’s funny about Rick is that he has this psycho-killer stage persona….When he’s up on stage, he has that whole ‘I’m about to leap into the audience and beat your girlfriend senseless’ look on his face. But the minute the music’s off, he’s just standing there with a dumb grin on his face.”
At the time, Arzt had a right to smile. “We could play whatever we wanted. We could do a lot of originals, a lot of whatever.”
Then the other bands started coming.
To hear it from Love Seed, the band brought it upon itself. Band managers from Philly and the Jersey Shore—both long-standing breeding grounds for cover acts—heard about the Rudder throwdowns and began to sniff around, says Arzt. “They started coming over and noticed and were like, Wow, there’s this whole fucking scene over here that’s totally unexploited,” he says. “Rick Green brought his whole army of bands.”
Green, president of the Pennsylvania-based Midnight Sun Company Inc., had already made a small incursion into Dewey: The cover band Flaming Caucasians, which he represented, played the Bottle & Cork. But when the beach began attracting a more rockin’ stock of vacationers—and the live entertainment stayed frozen at R&B crooners, horn bands, and Love Seed—he saw that the time was right to press for hard-core, sexy cover music.
“The D.C. crowd would just come and—I don’t know if they’re stressed out—but they’d just come and party so hard,” says Green. “You’re being attacked from both sides, from front, back, and middle, by women that are grinding you. You’d be like, Oh, my God, I gotta get out of here. It’s like sex in public….I find Dewey to be, like…” He finds himself verbally beached. “The people are so drunk.”
Green inserted cover bands at venues up and down Route 1. Among the arrivals were Strange as Angels, Mike Hines & the Look, Kristen and the Noise, Green Eggs, Mr. Greengenes, Burnt Sienna, Flip Like Wilson, Engine Number Nine, and Chorduroy. He also hired a rock coach, Michael Stratford, to help his musicians smooth over personal troubles, stay sane through endless recitals of the same songs, and connect with their audiences using Springsteen-tested techniques such as eye contact.
“I personally took a lot out of it,” says Bryen O’Boyle, singer for Mr. Greengenes, which arrived in Dewey in 1995. “You got to have eye contact with anybody and everybody. You point to them, sing to them, get right in their face. You encourage the crowd to sing along and let them see on your face and body you’re emotional about the tunes, whether it’s a ballad or an angry song or a happy song. You can see their reactions: Wow, if he’s having a good time, I gotta have a good time!”
Soon enough, competition among the bands was a moot point. Enough meatheads were pouring into Dewey that every group playing “Sympathy for the Devil” was guaranteed a large, loud audience.
“It became just like it was over [on the Jersey shore],” says Arzt. “Cover bands ruled.”
Five years of playing the “Rusty Rutter” in “Do Me Beach” is sufficient time to create an identity crisis in any band with creative aspirations. At least that’s what happened to Love Seed.
“We got tired of doing the same thing,” says Wiedmann. “Every band has some sort of aspirations to become national, even some cover bands….We sort of took a serious turn, thinking nobody was gonna take us seriously if we kept on writing novelty songs like ‘She Likes the Dead.’”
So Love Seed stocked 1997’s studio disc Seven Stories High with thoughtful, often dark tunes that Stack and Wiedmann wrote themselves—some new, some left over from the hormonal storm of their teenage years. “Blink,” from whose lyrics the album drew its name, was written by Wiedmann in the aftermath of a breakup. “[It] was about basically me feeling isolated, just not wanting to be around everyone,” says the bassist. “I was just in that period where I was sitting in my room watching TV all the time.”
Astute listeners could glean from the song’s snippets about “We will never die” and “I vanish when the sun arrives” that Wiedmann was also riffing on vampire culture. “I read Interview With the Vampire in high school, so [that] had a lot to do with the influence on the songwriting,” he says. “I got to identify with being Louis the Vampire, where he just has to always be hidden and he can’t be seen….Then that movie came out, and I’ve always tried to play that element down, ’cause I don’t want people to think I’ve had a crush on Brad Pitt.”
Neither veging out to the boob tube nor bloodsucker Louis de Pointe du Lac seemed to pique much interest among Love Seed devotees. “Their own stuff is very good—better, I think, when it’s happier and peppier,” says No. 1 Fan McDonnell. It’s not that the songs on Seven Stories High are bad, he says. “They’re not songs you’d ever think to dance to.”
A year after the album came out, the musicians, using the cash they had reaped from their party gigs, rented vans and went on tour to places where people weren’t out to just dance: Detroit, Atlanta, and Columbia, S.C. “We thought maybe we’d tour, get a following,” says Gore, 39. “Like Phish.”
That didn’t exactly happen, but the trip wasn’t a loss, either. “It was invigorating at one level, because the people weren’t conditioned on what to expect from a Love Seed show,” Wiedmann says. “We could tone things down.” The musicians opened for Beck and the Beach Boys and performed their original tunes in big-name venues that most cover bands would never dream of setting foot in, such as the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Ga. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell: The Watt’s where R.E.M. got its start. “Being there was like being at the Cavern in Liverpool,” says Wiedmann, referring to where Beatlemania got its start. “So it was really kind of cool playing there, even though we played to four people.”
Love Seed was back in Dewey in 1999 to record the live disc Summer of Love, cementing the band’s habit of issuing one album every two years. The idea, says Wiedmann, was to re-capture the impromptu performance energy (and marketing success) of Drunk at the Stone Balloon. It worked. “We had a nice write-up in Billboard magazine, got onto the soundtrack of an Xbox game, [Project] Gotham Racing,” says Arzt. “Things were looking positive.”
In 2001, the band signed with Artemis Records, a New York independent that has also dealt with Steve Earle, Jimmy Cliff, and the North Mississippi Allstars. “They’d just come out with [the Baha Men’s] ‘Who Let the Dogs Out,’ which was really good timing for us,” Arzt says. “The best thing that can happen to you is if the band before you that [the label’s] promoting has a huge hit, because then they have all this extra money to spend on you.”
Love Seed was in bed with Artemis when it shipped its next biannual CD, Love Seed Mama Jump, across the nation. The release date for radio DJs was an ill-fated Sept. 12, 2001. “Everything got pushed back,” says Arzt. “So we’re not selling anything in Gary, Ind., because no one’s ever heard of Love Seed Mama Jump, because we’re not getting airplay. And all the retailer knows is that we’re taking up shelf space and collecting dust.”
The retailers did the natural thing and sent the CDs back to Artemis.
“The label says, ‘The retailers soured on you,’” says Arzt.
“‘Even the shoplifters soured on you,’” says Wiedmann.
For the second time, a label dumped Love Seed. (The first dumping came in 1995, when Ruffhouse Records decided to side with hiphop acts, later booking the Fugees.) “Getting dropped again…after you worked really hard on a record takes the wind out of your sails,” Arzt says. “We came back from that and we’re just like, ‘Fuck. What do we do now?’”
The answer was waiting in Dewey. The Twin Towers fell on Tuesday. The following Saturday, Love Seed gave a benefit show at the Bottle & Cork. Arzt performed a “bone-chilling” rendition of “God Bless America” to a packed house.
A slow-moving river of youth, dotted here and there with orange-plastic leis and cowboy hats, is moving along Route 1 to the Rudder. Rick and Karen Plumpsky, both 44, have set up lawn chairs and footstools in the front yard of their house, where they relax, sip beer, and observe. It reminds the high-school sweethearts of their own salad days.
“We used to see Love Seed all the time,” says Rick, a genial fellow with a nasty sunburn.
“Before they even hit it big, Ricky and I would go over there”—Karen points across Route 1 to Ruddertowne—“and we’re like, ‘Oh my God, Love Seed’s gonna be there! Again!’”
Neither has checked out the band recently. They’re more interested in things that happen outside the clubs.
A sign hanging from a nearby bar chides passers-by to “Respect 5.0.” That’s the police, as in Hawaii 5-0, not the Dewey Beach legal limit. But you wouldn’t know it from the Plumpskys’ perch. The reason the sign is there, in fact, is because on July 18 a drunk driver with a 0.336 blood alcohol content (according to the state medical examiner’s office) drove the wrong way up Route 1 and crashed into the car of Delaware State Trooper Christopher Shea, killing them both. Similar blood-alcohol levels seem to be staggering through the Rudder parking lot.
One fellow with no shirt on pulls his sports car into a parking space. He gets out, hauls an opened suitcase of beer from the trunk, and sets it on his hood. Then he saunters up to the parking meter, unzips his shorts, and pisses all over it. Within seconds, one of the four cops patrolling Ruddertowne is giving him a ticket. “It’s her, officer! She killed that man,” he says, pointing at a passing woman. “Just ’cause she don’t have blood on her hands don’t mean she didn’t do it.” He pauses as another cop walks up to ask whether he has any warrants. “If I was wanted,” he declares, “I’d take both y’all on.”
To the Plumpskys, this shit is better than HBO. “You got to understand: We’re a little bit older,” says Rick.
“Older than the crowd that hangs out here,” says Karen. “It’s a young town.”
“Thirty percent of the girls walking down the street aren’t wearing panties,” says Rick. “’Cause I take polls. I stood out there with a clipboard one night. I never wrote nothin’ down on that board all night. I just asked. Heh heh.”
In the past couple years, there’s been a miniboom in Dewey, a seasonal replanting of the musical loam. The beach vets who return year after year (and as a consequence are easy to spot: They’re the Gary Buseys, with stretched facial skin and shocks of sun-bleached hair) have been subsumed in a deluge of fresh, young faces.
“All of a sudden, it feels like an awful lot of new people,” says Green. He speculates that the turnover has something to do with the political cycle. “Maybe because it’s an election year, and the people are nervous or working hard and making sure they stay in power.”
Whatever the cause, the newbies are demanding the same old stuff: rock covers. “It seems more logical that kids who want to rock ’n’ roll would be more rebellious, more anti-establishment,” Green says. “This generation has adopted all this stuff, these lame bands. The Monkees are one example. When Queen first came around, I thought it was a bad band. Kids think Queen is fantastic. Journey was just garbage. They love Journey.”
They even dig sluggish U2 ballads, says singer O’Boyle, who might as well be Bono when he performs “With or Without You” in Dewey. “They get so hyped to see Greengenes,” he says, “that there are times you got to catch yourself and say, ‘What the fuck? I’m in a cover band.’ People are treating you like a top-list, A-1 band on the radio. You walk on stage and they’re screaming at you.”
The arrival of the next generation of party people is giving Love Seed something like a second wind. “We were the band people’s older brothers listened to,” says Gore. “But it seems like, in the past two years, we got back in touch with the younger crowd.” A visit to any current show in Dewey Beach backs up Gore’s claim: The kids warble along to “Blister in the Sun”—and to the old Love Seed originals.
“I guess the punk-rocker in me is appalled,” says Wiedmann. “The musician in me is having a great time.
“This is just like Bizarro World, where a band like us can really [succeed],” he continues. “We tried to do tours and stuff like that with mostly original stuff, and we played to very small crowds, and we definitely got appreciation, but I don’t know if we can exist anywhere else but here.”
But if you’re an originals band, it’s unclear if you can exist in Dewey Beach.
On Memorial Day weekend, Fountains of Wayne performed at the Bottle & Cork. The band drew maybe 300 people. In July, the West Coast rockers Dada gave a free show at the same club. It barely scrounged up a crowd of 100, says Arzt.
Nobody cared about Silvertide, either. The hard-rockers appeared July 30 in the Rudder Lounge, a shadowy, enclosed space that’s something of the club’s appendix: small and arguably extraneous. The group has been on tour with Van Halen, Kid Rock, and Aerosmith, and lead singer Walt Lafty certainly acted the part. He flung himself around the room like a snapped power cord and surfed over the floor on spilled drinks. The band sounded great.
Everybody who entered the Rudder paid a $7 cover charge to support Silvertide. But the only moment more than 50 people occupied the Rudder Lounge was when the band wasn’t playing. At the set break, several hundred carousers in pink-feathered cowboy hats and “Nikki’s Bachelorette Beach Blast” tank tops spilled over from the main deck, where cover band the Interns was playing. They downed Jell-O shooters and boogied to DJ music. When Silvertide took the stage again, the crowd dropped back down to 50.
“Most people who are coming to a beach, in my opinion, anyway…don’t want to experience anything new,” says Lafty. “They want to do the same thing every night, which is get drunk and listen to Third Eye Blind songs. It makes them think of when they were 18 years old and having a good time.”
Lafty’s group is about to tour Japan, but that doesn’t make him feel any better. “Our old bass player is playing in a cover band. He’s making 10 times what we do,” he says. “It fucking pisses me off, royally. I make no money. I haven’t made money in months. We play nonstop.”
Love Seed made $14,000 playing the Rudder for a New Year’s Eve bash in 1999, says Prettyman, and has been doing splendidly since. In 2003, Pires treated the musicians, their wives, and their girlfriends to an all-expenses-paid vacation in Las Vegas. “We made so much money from that band that—even though we pay them a lot—I really, honestly felt badly,” says the Ruddertowne honcho.
Of course, it’s not all about money. Intangible rewards keep Love Seed abiding, too.
“Occasionally, I’ll get a text message from Wildwood, N.J., or someplace weird, saying some band just played ‘She Likes the Dead,’” says Arzt. “That’s pretty heartwarming.” CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Darrow Montgomery.