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August 3, 2002
Port Hueneme Military Base - Port Hueneme, CA

Susan Salva
Contributing Writer
Dishwalla (picture by Susan Salva)

Beneath sunny Californian skies and wispy white clouds, Dishwalla, the Santa Barbara based rock band, best known for the hit song “Counting Blue Cars,” their 1995 chart topping single, delivered an inspiring, arousing, energetic solid set of straight ahead rock music, to an excess of three hundred eager fans at the Seabee’s 60th Anniversary event at Port Hueneme military base.

The base, normally off limits to civilians, was open in celebration of the sixty years of service these construction workers for the military have provided to all of the branches of service building bridges, towers, and barracks.

Dishwalla, currently on tour in support of their third record release, “Opaline,” supplied a rousing backdrop for this event based on their deep-seated emotional connection to these men and women of the armed forces.

Nestled between military personnel in fatigues, amphibious tankers, and mothers shading their babies from the heat, J.R. Richards, the lead singer, propped his black electric guitar against his body, and took center stage singing engaging songs, with his unique intense vocal quality, that was audible for miles throughout the military base. His brilliant vocal tone lured the crowd into their brand of music with his sensitivity, passion, and conviction.

Dishwalla’s music is an emotional experience. Between the heightened excitement of the military display and the carnival atmosphere, the band provided both a refreshing escape and a captivating mix of melodies. JR’s crisp vocals, Jim Wood’s haunting Moog synthesizer, Pete Maloney exertion of triple time drum beats, Rodney Browning Cravens mesmerizing guitar riffs, and Scot Alexander’s rhythmic bass lines, leave an indelible mark on your soul. The band is fearless, combining melodic choruses with aggressive edginess.

At one point in the set, the band tested the limit of their audience by blending the rounded melodies with a raw punk antagonism. The crowd was simultaneously stunned and awed by the intensity of the music as they held their breath until the band reached the end of the song. With a roar the audience applauded the band as if they had been on a monster roller coaster ride satiated by the end result. Then they wanted even more music, and the band was happy to oblige.

The most poignant moment happened as J.R. described the bands’ stirring experience at Ground Zero, and St. Paul’s cathedral in New York City, one of the only freestanding buildings left in the area after the September 11, 2001 attack. The church had miraculously remained intact, and sustained after the assault. The building has been set aside to allow the emergency rescue workers a little respite and opportunity to pray in peace.

Dishwalla was one of the fortunate bands to be selected to perform for these amazing heroes. Once they were at Ground Zero, they played an acoustic set with a string quartet introducing their new tune, “Angles and Devils,” and were surprised to find hope and solace within the church confines. The band also previewed this spine tingling song, making an intimate connection with the affable audience during their hour fifteen-minute engagement at the base.

Not surprisingly, the crowd responded enormously when the band played, “Counting Blue Cars,” the song with the inescapable lyric of “Tell Me All Your Thoughts on God,” inspiring the audience to rise up on their feet.

These five guys put out a sound that is somewhat like spending a day at the raceway. The music is loud, sonic, heart palpitating and speeds quickly past you. No obstacles prevent them from playing their own brand of music, even if for some people it is not easily delineated into one genre or niche market. Whether they are creating or performing their aggressive melodic music, they do so from honesty and sincerity, and in disregard to what other musicians are producing. This was one enjoyable and memorable day at the beach. Currently, they are on tour. Check them out for yourself.

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