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I manage to avert my gaze nonetheless, because the band's story is compelling enough to distract me. Violet Wild hadn't played a single show yet when I was watching them play at guitarist Josh Kennedy's house. Yet before the band even made its onstage debut last Saturday night at Last Exit, Violet Wild had an incredible catalogue of songs, and the musicians' skills are awe-inspiring.
You probably know Kennedy's name from his years spent rocking with the BlackMoods, and you might recognize Violet Wild's vocalist, Bobby Scott, from his time fronting Mink Rebellion. Both of those bands were sacrificed in order to get Scott and Kennedy to collaborate in Violet Wild a tough decision to make, they tell me, but one that's obviously worth it.
I'm not an easy sell, especially when it comes to a band that hasn't played a single show. And it didn't help my preconceptions about Violet Wild when I found out that former Edge 103.9 doyenne Nancy Stevens was lending her industry sway to the band. Stevens managed Mink Rebellion for several years, and the band was shopped to every major label out there, but nothing came of it.
"We got offered a deal from Virgin, but it was a developmental deal," Scott explains to me. "They wanted to take the song that they believed in most, slap it against the wall, and if it stuck, cool. If not, then they claimed the fucking song. There's no way in hell I'd let them do that."
Mink Rebellion may not have made it, but Stevens' influence is what brought Scott and Kennedy together. I'm always skeptical of prospective hitmakers like Stevens, but watching the foursome, which also includes bass player Phil Fenix, rock the fuck out at Kennedy's place convinced me that Stevens got this one right.
In the converted practice space at Kennedy's place, the band busts through "Concrete Lake," with Kennedy's fingers flying over the frets, an arsenal of effects pedals at his feet. He's one of the Valley's premier guitar talents, by far, and when his skills are combined with Scott's charismatic frontmanship, magic happens. Violet Wild plays pretty straightforward, radio-ready, midtempo rock, and Scott has a Chris Robinson-esque drawl to his vocals. The rhythm section is rock solid, but basically serves as a platform for Kennedy's maniacal guitar playing and Scott's vocal histrionics.
The one cover I hear them play is "Got You (Where I Want You)," originally by The Flys, which is a song I never cared for much because of its overly sappy and simplistic content, but I enjoy it a hell of a lot more when Scott's crooning it and Kennedy's harmonizing with him while he works the six-string.
At Violet Wild's debut performance last Saturday, they kick out the Flys cover as well, but the energy is even more kinetic when I'm watching the four of them feed solely off each other.
When the band comes onstage last to a crowded house at Last Exit, these guys rock out, with Bobby Scott holding his mic stand with two hands as if it were a skinny lover girl he doesn't know whether to strangle or make love to, and Josh Kennedy stomping, strutting, and striking rock-star poses.
It's a great stage show, and it sounds excellent, but it's cringe-inducing when Stevens explains to me that she convinced Scott and Kennedy to break up their previous bands in order for the two of them to work together reminds me of Svengalis like Lou Perlman, who put together the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. But this one was a stroke of genius, and even Scott and Kennedy know it.
"We got together and decided we were partners from there on out, come hell or high water," Scott tells me while we drain a bottle of Jack Daniel's, and Kennedy's brother Tyler runs out the front door to fetch another.
"Yeah, call me if you're gonna take a piss," Kennedy says, only half-joking. The chemistry between the two of them is evident whether they're in front of microphones or sitting around a dining room table. Personally, I never got excited about Mink Rebellion or the BlackMoods, so in this particular case, I've got to give props to Stevens for seeing the potential.
While we're bullshitting about the band's genesis, I notice that on a flier for the band's first show, the band's name is spelled Vylet Wylde, which I immediately make fun of. Luckily, they're a young enough band to switch to proper spelling before too many people get the same chance to dig on the Zakk Wylde-ish silliness.