Holy (Rock &) Rollers

Stavesacres leap of faith

In "Sundown Motel," the most pointed Speakeasy tune, Salomon takes aim at his band's detractors: "They'll say we love the darkness, but I'll say we hate their half-light" and "I don't believe this is what God ever intended/So I wanted you to know."

"It's not what God intended," he emphasizes. "Christian T-shirts and sloganeering are not what he meant. We did a tour last year that was almost all Christian fests and shows, and we'll still have to play some of those shows, but never a tour like that again. Our drummer, Sam [West], calls it Jesus Incorporated: they've got wall-to-wall Jesus T-shirts with corporate logos like Starbucks, but instead of STARBUCKS, it says SALVATION, and instead of a picture of that weird little goddess chick, there's Jesus in a crown of thorns. I'm not saying that's a particularly bad thing, but the point is that it's passed off as sharing the love of Jesus. There are people in the Christian industry who are loving, gentle people, but there are some who just don't get it. It's a business to them."

Salomon was born and raised in Fresno, where, as a teen, he joined a Christian punk band called the Crucified —and gradually backslid on the beliefs he was raised on. "I chased girls, lost my virginity to a married woman, experimented with cocaine and weed," he says. "I wasn't really rebelling—I was just bored and lazy. Plus, I was manipulative and pretty much used everyone within an arm's length."

Fresno was a dead-end town—"No-town," he's branded it—so he left for LA shortly after turning 18 and took a job washing windows in the San Fernando Valley. "There was just nothing in Fresno," he says. "The punk scene didn't have straight-edge or any positive youth; it was all shut-up-and-drink aggro. There was nothing to do except destroy your life."

But life in LA wasn't much better, just a lot of time hanging out with 55-year-old window washers who liked to smoke pot while driving around pointing out all the hookers they'd had. Salomon could see that this was his future—and it wasn't pretty. By 1993, he had straightened out and moved to Huntington Beach, into a house with several other Christian men. The Crucified had broken up that year, which was fine by Salomon.

"Everything was this endless testosterone fury, stuff that was quickly going the way of Pantera," he says with a mock snore.

Hungry for something more, he and Crucified guitarist Jeff Bellew looked to build a band that would be a bit more challenging, something with more textures, colors and layers than your standard punk-by-rote. So they started Stavesacre (named after a Eurasian flower, the seeds of which Webster defines as "highly emetic and cathartic"), promptly got signed to friend Brandon Ebel's Seattle-based Tooth & Nail label, and released their debut, Friction, in 1995.

"We didn't have anyone to model ourselves on," Salomon says. "In the Crucified, you'd get up onstage, jump around a bunch of times, and everybody would be happy. But in Stavesacre, you can't jump around in the middle of a beautiful part where you're singing a melody that's from the deepest part of your soul."

Stavesacre live is an attention-grabber, full of booming sounds, moody melodies, wide-open choruses and the occasional fist-pumping anthem, fronted by Salomon's bottomless set of pipes, which would have no trouble reaching up into the highest tiers of the average sports arena. But venues like those remain a dream for now. Until they can get to where they want to be, Salomon will keep slaving away at his day jobs. He and the rest of Stavesacre (West, bassist Dirk Lemmeness, and guitarist Ryan Dennee, who replaced Bellew) can't yet devote themselves to the band full-time, regardless of breakout sales figures. "The money won't be there until we start getting played on the radio," Salomon says.

That's what they're going for. But for now, Salomon must still contend with busted cappuccino machines and making sure he gets his orders right—roles that at least keep him grounded. "It's very difficult to have a rock & roll attitude when you're serving coffee and waiting on customers who are intoxicated," he says. "I'm a working man. It's kind of weird sometimes—at the restaurant, I'll get people who were at our shows the night before screaming their heads off, and I'll be spilling coffee on them. Maybe I work jobs that aren't particularly prestigious, but I just keep plugging away, doing what I do. I lovewhat I do."

Stavesacre play with Wonderlove and Five Crown at Linda's Doll Hut, 107 S. Adams St., Anaheim, (714) 533-1286. Sun., 9 p.m. $5. 21+; and with the Deal and Oneside at Sid's Tattoo Parlor, 13912 Ponderosa, Santa Ana, (714) 664-8804. Sat., Dec. 18, 7 p.m. $5. All ages.
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