Thread: Scott Spiezio's band, Sandfrog
01.22.03, 05:29 PM #1
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01/21/2003 5:23 pm ET
Spiezio, Sandfrog take to the stage
Metal band debuts in Southern California
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Scott Spiezio rocks out with his band Sandfrog. (Brian Bulman/Special to MLB.com)
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- "We're comin' to your town, we'll help you party it down, we're an American band."
That's how the old Grand Funk Railroad song goes, and it's couldn't have been more true for Angels fans last week, when the long-awaited, much-ballyhooed Southern California debut of Sandfrog finally took place.
It was difficult to know what to expect when Angels first baseman, World Series hero, and lead singer Scott Spiezio first released the information that the garage band from his hometown of Morris, Ill., was coming to the West Coast for the first gigs outside of the greater Chicagoland area in the group's six-year existence.
It was even more difficult to understand what Spiezio was singing about once the band started playing.
Yes, folks, these guys crank it all the way past 11 and did not disappoint head-banging metal fans in shows at The Grove of Anaheim and the Knitting Factory in Hollywood. Sandfrog's sound is unapologetically loud, heavy and dark.
Wednesday night's gig at The Grove marked Sandfrog's true homecoming. Hundreds of red-clad fans showed up early to catch a glimpse of Spiezio backstage, many of them wearing his No. 23 jersey.
Lounging in the backstage dressing room, the members of Sandfrog talked about their origin and their big break: this year's "West Coast Tour." They also revealed that they're completely devoid of the pretensions that sometimes come with rock stars.
Scott Spiezio / 1B
"We better hurry up if we're going to make it big," said rhythm guitarist Andy Anderson, who is Spiezio's brother-in-law.
Anderson looks like the most conservative of the bunch, with nondescript short hair, but five minutes before showtime, he coated his head with gel that spiked it up and gave it a shade of blue.
He also opened up the dressing room refrigerator, noticed that it was stocked with beer, and, with a straight face, asked Spiezio, "Hey Scott, for everything we drink, do we have to pay them, like in a hotel?"
Spiezio, who had inked a $4.25 million deal to stay with the Angels for one more year earlier in the day, said he couldn't help but feel more nervous than he had while starring in the World Series.
"I'm just not nearly as confident at this as I am at baseball," Spiezio said. "That translates to the fact that I don't know what the heck I'm doing, basically."
His bandmates are all about metal, though.
Sandfrog's lead guitarist, Jeremy Sparta, bass player, Chuck Butts, and drummer, Steve Underwood, spent the first half-hour of the evening backing Illinois guitarist T.D. Clark through his opening set.
Since Spiezio is only available in the offseason, and this year's offseason was cut short a month by Anaheim's championship run, Sandfrog is mainly a winter thing.
Soon enough, World Series MVP Troy Glaus and American League Championship Series MVP Adam Kennedy strode to the stage amidst amplified frog noises and pumped up the crowd.
"We've all been waiting for this for three years," Kennedy said. "Sandfrog!"
The group launched into their set opener, "Further From Myself," and continued a sonic barrage that included an impressive drum solo by Underwood and equally impressive stage antics by Spiezio.
"I'm just not nearly as confident at this as I am at baseball. That translates to the fact that I don't know what the heck I'm doing, basically."
-- Scott Spiezio, Angels first baseman and lead singer of Sandfrog
"It says in my contract that I can't stage dive," Spiezio said. But late in Sandfrog's Anaheim set, Spiezio practically took a dive on stage, falling down while doing one of his many David Lee Roth-style jumps.
The rest of the 13-song, one-hour-plus set included Spiezio-penned originals "Listen," "Inversion" and "Stigmata," plus covers of the Alice in Chains tune "Them Bones" and Godsmack's "Keep Away," better known to Angels fans as the song closer Troy Percival comes out to in the ninth inning.
Afterward, while basking in the VIP lounge and finishing off the many TV and press interviews, Spiezio and the rest of the 'Frog knew their first California splash was a success.
"Unbelievable," Anderson said. "That was so much fun."
Saturday night didn't start out in quite the same vein, however. While The Grove is a huge venue that happens to be adjacent to the Edison Field parking lot and sure to attract the Angels crowd, the Knitting Factory is a much smaller room on Hollywood Boulevard. It's a place where you're more likely to see movie-industry hipsters than fat guys with Eckstein jerseys.
Underwood offered a look of concern an hour before T.D. Clark's set. "They said they're not gonna let me take a drum solo," he said. "I don't get it."
Meanwhile, the rest of the 'Frog looks weary from a whirlwind week. After Wednesday's gig, the band spent a good portion of Thursday at the NAM Convention, a music industry pow-wow in Anaheim.
Spiezio also hooked up studio time with Steve Plunkett, the singer of 1980s metal act Autograph, who had a hit with "Turn Up The Radio."
With Plunkett at the producing helm, Sandfrog spent 18 hours Thursday and Friday recording "Stigmata," which they hope to release as a single soon.
"At times, it's a little overwhelming," Sparta said. "We're 3,000 miles away from home, we're doing all this work, and we're so pressed for time. But it's all worth it."
As for the different Hollywood vibe, Sparta had one comment: "I always like a challenge."
Turns out it wasn't much of a challenge. Some of the Angels faithful showed up, and despite a menacing prelude set by a band called Three Sixes, Sandfrog managed to win over the crowd, which packed the front of the stage.
Underwood even got to take his solo, after which he threw his drum sticks into the crowd.
"You guys are awesome," Spiezio said about 10 times during the performance. "Wow. All we need are the ThunderStix."
And all Sandfrog needed was a chance. With baseball star Spiezio at the helm, the group has the big name needed to headline a club like the Knitting Factory, which normally hosts accomplished alternative rock acts such as The Flaming Lips.
As Butts explained, the band does not feel ashamed to profit from its high-profile connections.
"We all owe it to him being a baseball player," Butts said. "The World Series boosted it to heights we never expected. But he's made leaps and bounds as a frontman and we can hold our own."
Wendy Sparta, Jeremy's wife, said that was proven this week.
"Sure, the notoriety comes because of Scott, but they will succeed on their own merits," Wendy Sparta said. "People didn't know what to expect, but they saw a good band with really good musicians."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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