Backstage in South Florida: The Saw Doctors, a Fort Lauderdale Show to Get Psyched About

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Music vet and
New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman offers his insights, opinions, and observations about the local scene. This week: Salivating over the Saw Doctors...  

One of the disadvantages of living in a place as far removed as South Florida is the fact that we're well off the beaten path as far as many touring bands are concerned. 

I discovered this early on when I worked for record labels. Many artists felt it didn't make sense to make a trip this far south, because logistically, it was hard to plot a tour schedule that took them so far out of their way. 

It was easy to book shows in major population centers like Atlanta or Chicago or Boston, then move on to another locale in a matter of hours. But when you include South Florida in the itinerary, you're forced to factor in at least an extra day of travel, and a lot of time is lost in transit.
Consequently, that's one reason we miss out on major artists and oftentimes don't get to see up-and-coming indie acts either. It's a real shame. Sometimes, I suspect we're in the wasteland as far as this disconnect from the rest of America is concerned. How cool would it be to catch a band like the Civil Wars or Okkervil River? Any chance M. Ward will ever grace our environs? Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath. 

Fortunately, there are a few venues that have managed to accomplish the all but improbable. There are clubs like Revolution Live and Culture Room or larger venues such as Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the Fillmore Miami Beach that have managed to bring in acts that have otherwise ignored us in the past. Happily, they give reason for optimism. 

Despite the gloomy assessment I laid out above, I've sometimes been surprised by the announcement of upcoming acts I never thought I'd see here, not only due to the geographical difficulties but also because they seemed so out of sync with South Florida's tastes. For example, five years ago I was thrilled to catch one of my favorite bands, the Samples, at the Stage in downtown Miami. A cult favorite in their home turf of Colorado, they made it their first -- and, I believe, their only -- South Florida appearance ever. 

Surprisingly, they attracted a healthy crowd, especially for a band that was relatively unknown here. I was enthralled. Their emotional road songs and jam-band delivery are a potent combination, one that makes for a melodic and lyrical embrace. 

Likewise, it was a special thrill to witness Poco at Gulfstream Park a couple of years back, considering they are another group that's seemingly more at home out west. Country rock and Hallandale Beach have little in common, but regardless, it was wonderful to hear some of the classic songs from their revered repertoire and get a taste of the music that helped define the origins of Americana. They even did a meet-and-greet at the merch table afterward! 

Still, I find those encounters few and far between, at least as far as my favorite artists are concerned. So that's why I'm especially excited to see that the Saw Doctors are playing at Revolution Live on February 23. Truth be told, I saw them down here once before, at an Irish festival that took place at the Fort Lauderdale baseball stadium, about a decade ago. Yet, by their very nature, this is an outfit whose Irish origins make them more at home in the Northeast than in our unique multicultural surroundings. 

Regardless, they're a wonderful band, one that I've often touted as being among my top ten. Boasting 18 Top 30 hits in their native country, the Saw Doctors describe their sound thusly: "Born into a repressed, Catholic, conservative, small-town, agrarian, angst-ridden, and show-band-infested society, we're trying to preserve the positive elements of our background and marry them to the sounds which have culturally invaded our milieu through TV, radio, 45s, fast-food restaurants, 24-hour petrol stations, and electric blankets!" 

If you find it a bit of a challenge to wrap your head around that description, worry not. For me, they fulfill everything I look for in any outfit; their upbeat material is so rousing and effusive, it's impossible not to rise to one's feet and sway along, even when you're as rhythmically disadvantaged as I am. Then again, their slower songs -- mostly sweet narratives that reflect on adolescence in the Emerald Isles -- are so beautiful and beguiling, it's often impossible to hold back tears. Their tunes boast catchy choruses and irresistible refrains, a nod toward old-world folk tradition tempered by modern-rock urgency. 

I'd offer any number of albums as evidence, whether it's their latest offering, The Further Adventures Of...; their greatest hits, To Win Just Once; or their concert set, Live at the Melody Tent. And for an intimate backstage glance, check out their DVD Clare Island to Cape Cod, a terrific travelogue that shows the Saw Doctors both back home and on the road. 

I've no doubt that once you explore their music, you'll be as psyched as I am that they're venturing this far south.
 
The Saw Doctors. 7 p.m.Thursday, February 23, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $20 in advance, $22 on day of show. Visit jointherevolution.net, or call 954-727-0950.
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