They are not like Ecstasy, or an aphrodisiac, exactly, but their effects may be similar. And Lovedrug is all about the places love drags us.
The name is fitting given the philosophy behind the music. Michael Shepard, front man for the band Lovedrug, explains that as a lyricist, rather than pushing a particular political or religious agenda, he simply writes about life and everyday experiences. What’s more, by dressing his lyrics in the trappings of fairytales, knights in shining armor and fair maidens, Shepard feels he can give his audience something to work with, whereas putting the story in simpler terms would leave little room for interpretation.
Lovedrug was formed in June of 2002, the genius of Shepard and bassist Adam Ladd, both former members of Kerith Ravine. Two short years later, with the additions of guitarist David Owens and drummer Matthew Putman, Lovedrug has crept out of the shadowy cornfields of Canton, Ohio, and into the limelight.
Their first full-length album, Pretend You’re Alive, was put out earlier this year by the infamous indie label, The Militia Group, despite several offers from major record companies. However, it has been no detriment to the spread of Lovedrug’s popularity. Scene, Cleveland’s alternative news weekly, recently named Lovedrug the number one band to watch in 2004.
When they came to the North Star Bar, at 27th and Poplar streets, it was the perfect time to check out what all the hype was about. By 7 p.m. drinkers and smokers were being herded out of the billiard room and into the bar to make room for the under-21 crowd. The lack of haze in the room proved an unfortunate detriment to atmosphere, but perhaps beauty must sometimes be sacrificed for the sake of one’s health. The venue is a great place to see bands. Dim lights set the mood of an intimate room in the back of the bar, its beauty enhanced by the antiquated clutter of bricks, a trademark of Philly’s old architecture.
The Venus Delta opened the night, though their set was hardly worth mentioning, followed by Valencia, who gave a considerably high-energy stage performance, but lacked much originality in their music.
The world seemed to stand still as Lovedrug, humble servants of the eagerly waiting crowd, took the stage. They gave a passionate performance, pouring themselves into the music, and it paid off. At the first pulse of the funk-driven bass, underpinned by the steady mechanical kick of the drum, the audience shuffled off the petty cares of the outside world, finding themselves united in something resembling nirvana. Lovedrug recreated the world in that tiny backroom, restoring the chivalric order and putting the god back in its heaven.
Even after the ethereal resonation of Owens’ creeping riffs had ceased and the soft melodic whine of Shepard’s heartfelt words were but a distant memory, headlining band Days Away was less than impressive. But then Lovedrug is no act to follow, even by bands who are signed to a major record label.
Nathan Weaver can be reached at email@example.com.