August 14, 2021
Review by Bob Kern; photos/videos Greg Perry
The Spongetones – 40 years later, the Beat (Music) goes on…
Like so many bands that have enjoyed enduring success, the occasion to mark specific milestones often results in some type of celebratory event.
On a hot August Saturday night, the Spongetones played a concert marking their 40th anniversary. A consummate power pop combo and the darlings of the local Charlotte music scene for more than four decades, they formed in 1979, birthed from a common desire to play Beatles and other 60’s music they grew up with.
This “reboot” show, postponed over a year by the pandemic, was enthusiastically welcomed by the several hundred people lucky enough to attend the McGlohon Theater performance. Much of these Spongetones faithful and the band have co-existed together for the same 40+ years celebrated during this performance, and at times it felt more like you were in someone’s living room hanging with friends than at a concert venue. There was occasional back and forth banter between the fans and the band, and it seemed natural and familiar, almost like part of the show itself. Those in attendance largely remained seated and quiet, content to listen to and watch the band perform instead of carrying on their own personal conversations. For their part, the group enjoyed the performance immensely, often laughing out loud and, at one point, shedding a tear or two. You could tell that these men truly shared a special bond on stage, and it was a pleasure to witness that during the show.
As for the music, these guys haven’t lost much since their early days when I had the occasion to see them perform in Greenstreets, a club in Columbia, SC in the early 1980’s. Jamie Hoover, Steve Stoeckel, Pat Walters and, since 2014, Chris Garges (who replaced original drummer Rob Thorne) played two outstanding sets that together easily lasted over two hours. During the show, the band effortlessly maneuvered between original songs and spot on covers of 60’s classics.
Their first album, “Beat Music” was heavily featured, and half a dozen classic tunes made it into the setlist – “Here I Go Again”, “Better Take It Easy”, “Every Night is A Holiday”, “Don’t You Know”, personal favorite “Where Were You Last Night” and the classic “She Goes Out With Everybody”. Those alone would have made for a fantastic night of original music, but the Spongetones catalog, spread across 9 albums and an EP, provided many additional highlights during the concert. Add to those classic songs by the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, The Monkees, Badfinger, The Doors, Brinsley Schwarz, Cream and the Rolling Stones and you have a setlist sure to include something that would please everyone.
The band doesn’t play live very often these days, but if you get the chance to catch a show, don’t let that opportunity pass you by. You’ll be gifted with an evening of amazing music from one of the premier American power pop groups – The Spongetones.