Fire Dept. Album Release Party

September 24

By Leonard January

Okay, so I am 41 years old and my ears are still ringing as I sit at the typewriter determined to recall the last three hours of music that I just listened to at the famous smash rock club – The Toy Tiger. It's a good thing that the Fire marshal was not in the club tonight, because there would have been very little he could have done to put out the real Fire started by the opening band, Code Bleu and got out of control with the headliner group, Fire Dept.

First, a few words about Code Bleu. They are all from Louisville and they definitely have potential. Opening the show at ten o'clock sharp, they ripped into a strong version of Bad English's "You Get the Best of What I Got." It's a perfect opener for this group because it features Steve Perry sound-alike Greg Murja on lead vocals. Mr. Murja knows how to attack a vocal line, gyrate, glide and pump through a song while he stays in perfect key. That's not easy to do – especially over a thirteen-song set.

A band is only as strong as its weakest link and Mr. Murja happens to be the strongest link in this group. This was quite evident when he left the stage halfway through the set, presumably to pick up a corned beef sandwich at some unknown East End deli. Fortunately, he was able to get back on stage and complete the evening with some Journey and Judas Priest covers. The drummer, whose name I did not catch, was excellent.

D Being in a position to review ta band, one is always tempted to give advice – so I will. Code Bleu is ready to start doing originals (something I found myself hoping for) and please make sure Mr. Murja does not leave the stage. Have someone else get him a sandwich. Code Bleu will be performing September 26-27 at the Back Comer Bar.

Glancing down at my watch, I figure it will take about forty minutes before the Fire Dept. stage crew sets up for the main event. This gives me plenty of time to check out the atmosphere. I have to admit, there is an incredible amount of excitement being generated by the patrons of this bar.

Louisville has always had its fair share of talented musicians eager to break out onto the national scene and the Fire Dept.'s fans showed up in full force to support their entry. I'm looking through a maze of smoke and hanging, colored balloons. Everywhere I turn there are small groups of girls, clad in tight tights, mini skirts and maxi hairdos. Someone has been passing out or selling black-and-white glossies of the Fire Dept. and most of the people I see are making sure they have their pens at the ready to secure an autograph. There is no fresh air left to breathe at this point in the night.

After enduring the repetitive thumping of the drums sound check along with the power chords of a musically less-talented roadie, the band seized the stage. Lead singer and chief songwriter Steve Steele quickly went about his business of establishing a tight bond with his fans. Sometimes a great performer doesn't have to do too much to whip the crowd into a fury. This was the case last night. Mr. Steele set the tone for an evening of solid, foot-stomping, head-banging, butt-humping rock 'n' roll. This is the way all debut album release parties should be.

Leading off with Side One song "Piledriver," Fire Dept. wasted no time in showing the audience they came to play hard. Lead guitarist Allen Needham was born with an electric guitar laying on the side of him. His intro to the band's only cover tune, "Wild Thing," was sensational. He is a show in himself. Being limited only by the dimensions of the room, Mr. Needham worked the audience from every known position and angle he could think of

Most of the evening's songs were featured around outstanding solos delivered by each of the band members. It's hard to single out the most memorable, but I would have to say the eight-minute drum solo following the "Culvertown Stomp" was something to behold. Sitting behind a Mack-truck-sized drum kit, totally non-visible, Perry Scroggin displayed why behind every great band there is a great drummer. Mr. Scroggin is a drum machine.

One thing I appreciated was the band's sensitivity to the stage. I liked the way the bass player, Mark Martin, established a solid, forward presence throughout the show. All of his playing is solid, but he takes on the air of a lead guitarist. I mention this only because it exemplifies the totality of the group. They constantly were at one with the audience. At one point during the end of "Culvertown Stomp," Mr. Steele employed one fan's rendition of a steaming, whistling train.

I don't want to leave out Michael Hatfield. Despite being the newest addition to the group, he more than adequately completed the task. It looks as if he'll be a favorite with the ladies, according to my own small survey.

The high point of the night: "Too, Too Bad," This should be the group's entry as its single. It's got a great hook and Mr. Steele works the audience perfectly. The beginning of the song places Mr. Steele on his knees with a female member of the audience. It; is the same conversation that takes place on the album's cut. It has to do with a standard. plight in a road musician's life – stay with the girl or go with his real love, rock 'n' roll. He toys with the girl. She thinks she has him on the ropes. Will he forsake his music'? I don't think so. At least not when Mr. Steele requests that she take her *** and hit the door. The song is great and the crowd literally jumps out of its shoes.

The low point of the evening – "Lady." The song should be tossed. It does nothing but break up the power flow that the band has worked so hard to establish.

All in all the group covered all their songs on the album extremely well.

Mr. Steele's parents were brought onstage to help blow out a huge candied cake. I couldn't help thinking how nice it is to have your parents up on stage with you, sharing the spotlight. It was a nice touch. Plaques. of appreciation were handed out and numerous pictures were taken. It's nice to see a rock musician, his parents and their fans get a little bit closer to their dreams.