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June of 44
Sapphire Supper Club
54 North Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL
September 4, 1999

This concert was bumped up to a 7:00 PM starting time because the Sapphire scheduled the reggae singer Yellowman for the Saturday night main event. Still, the postrock quartet June of 44 managed to fill the club at such an early hour. Yellowman’s tie die-clad band looked confused because they couldn’t unload their equipment with this crowd in the way.

Three Second Kiss opened the show. The trio from Bologna, Italy played a similar brand of aggro-rock that rose to popularity in the early ’90s on record labels like Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go. Yet at the close of the decade, Three Second Kiss come across as stale and dated. The guitarist had a trebly, high-pitched amplifier sound akin to a southern rock Steve Albini. The drummer played in an all-over style much like Rey Washam (of Scratch Acid fame). The vocalist/bassist compromised national interests when he sang in English rather than Italian.

June of 44 opened with “Cardiac Atlas,” the most fervent track from their latest CD, Anahata, and the closest they’ve come to writing a radio-friendly piece. Another man, presumably a roadie, joined June of 44 on keyboards for this and several other songs. The band performed vibrantly for the first few numbers, but quickly began to disappoint. I can’t pin the blame on the Sapphire’s sound system, so it must have been the band. Neither the singer/guitarist Jeff Mueller, nor the bassist/trumpeter Fred Erskine, nor the guitarist/singer Sean Meadows had decent volume on their instruments. Sadly, this lack of loudness left June of 44’s intricate compositions—competently and cohesively performed on their CDs—struggling in aural quicksand. Thankfully, the drummer Doug Scharin’s incredible style and talent—not to mention his boundless enthusiasm and rock god facial expressions—made the concert somewhat tolerable. Also, Erskine’s limited range on trumpet for “Wear Two Eyes (Boom)” and “Peel Away Velleity” provided relief from June of 44’s incoherent instrumental rambling.

Listening to Mueller, Erskine, and Meadows swap lead vocal duties was worse than licking concrete. No one in the group possesses an acceptable voice, and after reading their vague, pseudopoetic lyrics, no one is much of a lyricist, either. Thankfully, the shouts and whispers were low in the mix—just like the guitars. Perhaps the band should consider instrumental-only performances in the future.

June of 44 ended with the lengthy “Peel Away Velleity,” also from Anahata, and left without an encore. After such a lackluster performance, I wouldn’t have returned to the stage either.

Originally published as “June of 44 Stuck in Quicksand” on the Orlando Weekly website on September 8, 1999.