Do bands that only release music digitally have “Streaming Release Parties”? Not something I’ve really thought about until realizing that this weekend there are back-to-back honest-to-goodness CD Release Parties, something that hasn’t really been the norm for the last few years. While digital music is convenient, there’s something to be said for bands who still cater to those of us with CD players in our cars. And the new releases by Bava Choco and Sophmore are EXACTLY the kind of music I want to be listening to while on the road.
You’d be excused if neither of these names are familiar – neither band falls into the traditional college-aged kids playing every opportunity they have even if it means a Tuesday night 1am slot at The Summit. (Yikes, if you knew how hard I had to think about a live music venue in Columbus that hosted local bands late into the night/early morning on a weeknight, you’d say, “Yep, dude lives in the ‘burbs and is out of touch”). But, I digress. Bava Choco and Sophmore are both made up of Columbus music veterans who used to do the Tuesday night gig thing back when clubs like High Five, Bernie’s, and Ravari Room were still around. These days, band members have full-time jobs, mortgages, kids and few dreams of signing a record deal with Geffen and going out on the road 250 days a year so these shows are somewhat rare and special.
Let’s dig into the music, shall we?
Bava Choco (named after some drug references in Pulp Fiction) was a well-guarded secret considering I’ve known two members (vocalist Patrick Monroe and bassist Mike Lovins) for, easily, 15 years but didn’t know about this new band until I saw a post on Facebook with a link to a freshly-recorded song (“Death Ride”) in November 2015. At that time, I described Bava Choco as sounding like they sprang up out of a sludgy Southern mud pit and after spending time with the Death Ride album, my opinion hasn’t changed. The music is heavy, but slow, with vocals to match. There’s a chugging groove on tracks like “Dead Roses” and “Balance” that bring to mind early Soundgarden, before they were showing up on MTV, after popping a couple of medically-prescribed (off course) relaxation pills. If I didn’t know these guys personally, I’d envision dudes with dirty beards, long hair rocking jean jacket vests and trucker hats laying down this kind of Tee Pee Records-inspired stoner rock. Patrick told the Alive this week that the band’s CD release party, happening Friday night at Ace of Cups (it’s a FREE show with The League Bowlers opening) is only the fifth show Bava Choco has done. So, if this kind of music is something you want to experience live, don’t miss this show as it may be a while before you have another chance. And, did I mention it’s a FREE show?
On Saturday night, Sophmore takes the Spacebar stage to play songs from Summer Lovin’ (while I can’t confirm, I have to think that the name is somewhat inspired by Bava Choco’s bassist who has a history with at least one member of Sophmore). Not sure if I’m supposed to say this, but drummer Ben Kemp told me that at least one of the songs on Summer Lovin’ was written while he was still in The Honey’s, only one of my favorite ’80s-hair-metal-by-way-of-90s-basement-punk Columbus bands of all time. Take a little of the Skid Row out of The Honey’s music and add an extra dose of The Donnas and you’ll get an idea of what Sophmore sounds like. The song titles (“Wheezin the Juice”, “Connie’s on Crack”, “Hot Loose”)- and lyrics – are sophomoric (see what I did there?) but are a hell of a lot of fun and have an ’80s garage rock element in songs like “Saved by the Bell” with the “B-A-Y-SIDE! Go Tigers!” shout-out chorus and “Loser Cruiser” which sounds like it should have been blasting out of Wooderson’s car in Dazed and Confused (man, the opening drums and guitar remind me of Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some”). Singer/guitarist Emily Barnett has paid her dues in more of my favorite Columbus bands like Estee Louder, Templeton, The Means and Monster Zero. Like Bava Choco, Sophmore shows are few and far between so catch ’em while you can.