I know it's cliche, but last Friday night at The Hideaway Cafe and Recording Studio, I got yet another lesson in not judging a band by its appearance, which is something I have always struggled with.
It was your typical busy night in downtown St. Petersburg — Rays game goers milling about along with people out enjoying First Friday and the area's menagerie of shows, bars and restaurants. I found myself at Hideaway Cafe (1756 Central Ave.) and was not quite sure what to expect from the bands scheduled to play that evening: Spark Notes and The Wholetones. Owner John Kelly made me curious with his overtures about how young and extremely talented the bands were.
Gene and Lalo [pictured right] make up the lively Spark Notes, and they opened the evening with a short set of acoustic alt-rock tunes. Gene plays acoustic guitar and throws in some harmonies while Lalo slaps the bass and belts out insane lead vocals.
The duo emanates infectious energy, making it hard not to smile. Lalo is both animated on and off stage. Their first tune had a punk vibe to it (I immediately thought of The Matches) and one of its lyrics — "The sun is imploding" — got stuck in my head all night. The next song had a softer vibe and really showcased their abilities to harmonize. Gene added somewhat old school, Flamenco-style touches with his picking and casual strumming. And Lalo — who's got an amazing set of pipes — hit notes I didn't know guys could reach (well, save for Adam Lambert). A song about their hometown, "Sarasota," proved to be a crowd favorite, and got the audience clapping and even singing along to the refrain: "Forever I adore you oh Sara, Sarasota."