Last week, the Music Farm announced a date for N.Y. power-pop rock band Fountains Of Wayne: Mon. June 18. They haven’t been in town for about three years or so. The band may be best known for their excruciatingly catchy/Knack-esque 2003 hit “Stacy’s Mom,” but their arranging, and riffing talents are genuine.
Led by the songwriting duo of Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, they return to Charleston in support of a new 14-song album titled Traffic and Weather. While Schlessy ‘n’ Colly are the “faces” of the Wayne, it’s second guitarist Jody Porter who shares a special history with the local music scene. As some band vets in Charleston remember, Porter played and sang for years in various local original bands in the late 1980s and ’90s. I remember it all.
As a young teenager, he fronted a high school rock trio called Foreign Aide. Porter, bassist Greg Holton, and drummer Chisolm Wilson were barely old enough to drive, but they had a full set of melodic original songs replete with solos, choruses, verses, and riffs.
In 1985 and ’86, I had the chance to play drums with Porter in a short-lived quartet called The Sound Committee. Bassist Glenn Horres (also of The Islands, The Nabors, Honey Wagon, Velveeeta, and other local acts), keyboardist Edward Hart (also of The Islands and Velveeeta), Jody, and I played a few original songs that sounded like an awkward mix of U2, The Jam, The Police, and The Pretenders — bands who we covered, along with “current cutting-edge” stuff by the likes of Elvis Costello, The Cars, and The Clash.
We tried to look cool. In the spirt of Welsh band The Alarm, we used to “alarm” our hair before shows (usually proms, frat parties, and club dates at the Windjammer or downtown dives) with a sticky product called “Dep” and tons of hairspray. A bit of eyeliner was involved, too. And hip Salvation Army threads. Don’t tell anyone.
By 1986, I followed Porter out of the Sound Committee and into The Waltons with his former bassist Holton, a terrific musician for his age. It was the first serious original rock band I ever experienced. Eighty percent of our set was penned by Porter, with a couple of songs by Holton. Porter’s original work was equally inspired by the Beatles and the British Invasion, local trio The Killer Whales guitarist David Bethany’s original work (compare the Whales’ “Here in the Modern World” to Porter’s “Livin’ in the Real World”), and the British New Wave of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Oh, those good ol’ days! We sounded more or less like the Whales: hook-filled, melodic, and semi-romantic, with big drum fills and dramatic song endings … sort of an overly-serious mix of The Attractions, The Joe Jackson Band, R.E.M., and The Kinks.
Porter went on to play with Holton and various drummers in The Fields through 1989 before moving to the Big Apple and forming The Belltower with Britta Phillips, and, most recently, AstroJet (a fave of former City Paper music writer Larry Queen) with drummer Tom Hamer (currently of The Fire Apes and Hed Shop Boys).
After three years of gigging in London in the mid-’90s, Porter relocated to N.Y.C. and joined the Fountains of Wayne in 1996 or so. I wonder if any Sound Committee tunes will make their set list at the Farm … hopefully not!