Filler San Diego Groovin'

See Spot Groove Visits Their Zonie Fans In The Baking Pueblo.
By Jennifer Murphy

WHEN RECORD HEAT hits Arizona, a record number of Arizonans head for the cool shores of San Diego. Called "Zonies" by the locals, we are to San Diego what snowbirds are to us.

Music "There's a lot of Arizona license plates out here now, so you see all these bumper stickers that say things like "No Zonies" and "Zonies Peed On My Lawn," See Spot Groove guitarist Roger Lahr reveals via long distance from San Diego.

His bandmates can be heard in the background telling him to watch what he says. "Keith wants to know if you're offended," Lahr queries.

I assure him no offense is taken, since I've never peed on anyone's lawn in San Diego. I plead the Fifth on Los Angeles, however.

It was a couple of Zonies on break in San Diego who caught See Spot Groove live and were so impressed that they booked a date for the band at Club Congress one night last spring, to open for Black Moon Graffiti.

"We had so much fun, that's why we're all totally excited about doing it again. Unfortunately, we're not going to be able to hang out because we have a show in San Diego the next night," says Keith Bartels, bass player for the band.

The fun was mutual. Big hip-hop-jazz-punk thrashed against tight, funky rhythms on the dance floor. The band's enthusiasm was genuine and their energy infectious. A few songs into their set, there was a prevailing sense that everyone was happy as hell to be alive.

"Most of the bands we play with are--I don't know if they're really angry about anything--but they're either kind of pissed-off or serious. We're just not super pissed-off. I mean, there are things we take seriously, but we really enjoy what we're doing and it's really fun for us.

"Part of it with us is that we don't try to put on a big show or anything. I mean, we don't care if we look kind of goofy or dorky, we're just being ourselves and not trying to be anything else, and I think that people catch on to that pretty quickly. Nobody's trying to be cool, so its all right to be yourself and just have fun," Bartels says of their appeal.

Bartels and Lahr founded the band nearly three years ago when Lahr found himself at odds with his old band and began looking for a new project.

"I was heavily into rock and was on tour somewhere in Rhode Island. I was trying to write this song "Neighbors," which is on our first CD, and the singer didn't like it," Lahr recalls. "But I was playing it and the band joined in and I noticed the bartenders and waitresses and a couple of girls were dancing to it. It triggered something inside me. I didn't want to be in a head-banger band. I wanted to be a little more funky--exactly what we are right now."

Image Bartels' funk band was breaking up so Lahr gave him a call. Their dissimilar musical backgrounds clashed when the two got together to practice. "The first time was terrible, we couldn't connect--but we got along really well. By the third time we got together, everything started clicking," Lahr laughs.

With heavy metal and funk already in the mix, the two found a drummer whose musical direction brought a third influence to the party.

"I had a jazz background in school--big band jazz," James Rhinehart explains. (Rhinehart replaced original drummer Shane Casad about a year ago.)

Their debut release, entitled Greatest Hits, received high praise from the Southern California press with Slamm magazine calling it "a fun and groovin recording by one of the more exciting bands in San Diego." Given the accolades heaped on their first record, the band couldn't wait to return to the studio.

"We're working on the second CD right now, and we're super excited about it since it's coming out really good, but we have to kind of sandwich it between doing shows and day jobs, so it's really taking a long time; but the material has been written and we're anxious to get it out.

"That's another reason we're happy that they're giving us a long time to play, 'cause we have a bunch of new stuff that we haven't been able to play here because they give you a pretty short set, and if we play all the new stuff, there are people who want to hear certain songs and we never get around to it."

Their initial swing through Tucson made a favorable impression on the band. Bartels contrasts what's going on in San Diego with what they experienced here.

"It seems like they're so many bands in San Diego, the scene seems like it's kind of subdued, I think. It's like a handful of people will be at a club, it's not like a million people rushing the stage. But there's a lot of music and a lot of places to play. It almost seemed like the Tucson scene was more fun. It seemed a little healthier. Out here (San Diego), it's a lot more vibe and attitude, and Tucson seemed more musical and a little artier with a lot less attitude."

Although Bartels acknowledges George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, James Brown and Sly have been hugely influential to him, their musical expression is limited only by what sounds good to them.

"We're not just doing a funk thing," he says. "There is plenty of what we do that's punk, jazz, cowboy, hip-hop weirdness. We started out with a more focused thing, but we were having a lot of fun at practices doing the weird things, and it was really different than the stuff we thought we ought to be doing. Finally we just threw up our hands and said we enjoy it way more, so if it doesn't fit--oh well.

"Nobody's thrown anything big and heavy, so we keep doing it."

See Spot Groove opens for Black Moon Graffiti at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. Friday, August 23. Cover charge is $3. TW

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