Life is not always fair. People who deserve good things don’t always get them, for one reason or another. In the music business, it is often attributed to band breakups, egos, drug and/or alcohol abuse or plain ol’ bad luck. Long after many of their less talented alternative/grunge peers are now major festival headliners, or still on local alternative radio, one group remains the forgotten gem of the early ’90s era that gave the world the best Molly Wringwald tribute in the history of Molly Wringwald tributes. That band is Detroit’s own Sponge.
Fast forward 16 years, and three new members later, the Vinnie Dombroski show that is touring as Sponge somehow made it to Austin for a show at Red Eyed Fly, of all places. It’s a great local Red River venue known for being a sort-of local “beginner band” venue with almost no touring acts. It was a rare opportunity for any alternative lover and ’90s nostalgist. After all, Sponge’s 1994 Rotting Piñata has always been one of the best alternative albums ever made.
|Sponge and a fan|
That 1994 version of Sponge, the original and youthful Detroit rockers, were the Sponge I know I wasn’t going to see. Now, while I certainly understand we do not stay 25 forever, my fear was that it would be a horribly aged, raspy voiced version of the original. I was prepared for a low turnout and for the worst in general. Still, this was apparently the best version of Sponge I’d see in my lifetime.
Playing to a Thursday night crowd of roughly 60 people, Dombroski and company took the stage and all fears or worries went out the door the minute they hit the first note of their second song of the set, “Molly.” Dombroski still has the memorable chops that helped make the band famous. Singing along to every word, the mostly early-30-something and older crowd was hooked.
What was also memorable and great to see was Dombroski’s personality come out, especially when it came to handling drunk, idiot meatheads and drunk chicks celebrating their birthday. A true professional and no-nonsense kind of dude, Dombroski accepted the heckler’s t-shirt and only asked for Jäger shots in return. As for the birthday girl, Dombroski gave her a front-stage serenade and later had her join him on stage for a back up vocalist spot on “Party ‘Till You Drop.” After all, concerts are supposed to fun, right?
After “plowing” through some unfamiliar later singles (pun intended), Sponge finally performed the iconic hit live for everyone to sign along to, and that they did. Sure, we got an extended live version, but it sounded just like the song we all knew and loved just the same. It just didn’t look the way we all remembered, but that is perfectly okay. For this one Thursday night, we got to re-live an era of our youth in which times were simpler and without more flannel. We just needed a reminder that Sponge was a part of that. Mission accomplished, Vinnie.
Sponge performed at Red Eyed Fly in Austin on Sept 30.