By Wes Putt
As patrons migrate to the rim of the George’s Majestic Lounge stage, the lights dim and a well dressed black-haired 20-something sneaks up to the microphone. Clutching the barrel, he stares down at the floor with building intent, perhaps fighting to replace his anxiety with the courage that he’s been saving for this special night. The crowd politely clamors in wait and lead singer Eddie Love’s girlfriend shoots a ‘You can do it, baby’ look while his friends resort to the all-purpose ‘Whoo!’ that gets a show really started.
To either side of Love are the Woods brothers, guitarist Dustin and bassist Jon. The Woods have been planning for this night since 2003, when they first created A Good Fight. Sean Merriott, the drummer, is entering his own state of Zen. Sitting peacefully with his drums in the dark corner behind Love, he could be thinking about any number of things. He could be wondering if Eddie, who has never performed live other than karaoke, remembers back six or seven months ago the charmed second audition that brought Love and AGF together at last. Or he could be hoping Jon’s cord is plugged in all the way. Maybe Sean is hoping that Dustin is as excited as he is about all of this. After all, he knows how hard the Woods brothers worked to make A Good Fight’s debut a reality.
A Good Fight spent its first two years in Northwest Arkansas auditioning vocalists to fill their front man spot before they found Love.
“We actually wrote a lot of songs two years ago with no lyrics in mind,” Dustin said. “We would go over and over each song section and perfect it [while] trying to fill the void of not having a singer.”
The fight for perfection is a shared philosophy in the group.
“I don’t really know the point of writing a half-assed song,” Love said. “I don’t think I could, or would do it. And if it’s not good enough, then it’s obvious, so it gets thrown out, or changed, evolved, until it’s as good as it can be. You can print that.”
Love was actually in the practice space next door to A Good Fight’s at the time, leading his project The Scenery. Realizing it only when the band met for the first time to do a photo shoot recently, before AGF came together, they occupied three different practice spaces on Center Street in Fayetteville without ever having met one another.
Like the majority of artists, Love had to make ends meet somehow.
“There was The Future, The Scenery, the Dorothy House, then some depression because The Scenery went away…there was a sword fight where I almost lost my eye…losing friends, gaining new ones, getting the old ones back…shitty dead end jobs, getting fired from said jobs…you know—the same shit everyone goes through,” Love said.
The Future, The Scenerey and Dorothy House are all bands that Love fronted before joining AGF.
Unless you’re a close friend, it’s hard to imagine AGF off-stage, away from the cluttered platform flooded with lights and littered with speakers. Is being in a band a full-time job? Maybe for Eddie.
“Eddie Love? That just sounds like a rock star’s name,” Dustin said.
“I look at it like I’m just one—for lack of a better word, disciple—in a long line of rock,” Love said.
But Love works too, just like everybody else. But maybe that’s why so much music sucks these days. Bands seem to shoot out of garages and book shows at breakneck pace without ever having really experienced labor. Real work. Trial before treasure. That’s not to say rockin’ out is easy—music is an art of practice—but it takes a lot of integrity to save the fun until after you’ve done your eight daily hours.
AGF knows all about that. Sean works full time at Dead Swanky hair salon as a stylist. Sean’s dedication to AGF is consistent to the driving backbeat behind “The Drama,” one of the songs in A Good Fight’s playbook that could “untie your shoes” as Dustin put it.
Discounting the AGF girls— a pack of sexy 20-somethings–
muscling their way into the front row, cries were heard from a range of voices. Bodies were up, guys were saluting with the international sign of “rock on!” and butts were shaking.
Maybe that’s why AGF nearly incited a riot at George’s that night. If you wanted to get any closer to the stage, you’d have to shape-shift between row after row of human chain link fences.
All the band members work all day just like everybody else. The boys spent Saturday afternoon letting the fever build until it was play time. They practiced, tweaked and perfected up until the last minute. And the show blew everyone away.
Perhaps the trick is in AGF’s doing-not-saying attitude. Take Jon, for example. A lot of popular bands have strong opinions about politics but few ever take action. Maybe they just like to stick it to “The Man.” Bon Jovi became a United Nations ambassador after decades of playing rock music and becoming famous.
On the flip side, Jon Woods is already a state legislator, an elected official taking real action with a real effect in government policy. Politician by day, rock and roll guitarist by night? How’d this come to be?
“My older brother would make Dustin and I watch Guns N Roses and Motley Crue videos when we were kids—seven and eight years old. That had a huge impact on us seeing the live videos of sold out stadiums cheering for a group of guys running around on stage having a blast.”
Dustin puts food on his plate as the manager of Marketplace Grill in Springdale.
“I think everyone should work in a restaurant for a year. They would learn the true meaning of being humble, courteous and a true servant.”
That makes sense. Julian Casablancas, lead singer and principle songwriter of The Strokes, worked feverishly as a bartender before launching his musical career. It just so happens that Casablancas is Love’s prime influence as a performer.
“(Casablancas) is the reason I am who I am today,” Love said, “(The Strokes) really showed me, made me realize and believe in myself.”
By the end of AGF’s May 5th performance, fans were already demanding an encore. Love’s reaction was apologetic.
“We don’t have any more songs!” he announced. To which, the crowd began to chant for an encore of “The Drama.” So they played “The Drama” again, and it drew an even more cheers. AGF’s members were reeling in their new celebrity.
At the end of the show congratulators swarm AGF. First time listeners hail the band as the next big thing.
“It’s between rarely and never that you have a band, right out of the gate, with 200 people show up just for them,” said Harold Wieties who books shows at George’s. “And they followed with the same two weeks later. Since they’re a new band, I can only assume the music is going to get better and better.”
But when all is said and done, the players part to continue their contribution to working society. Dustin had to wake up at dawn to set up shop at The Marketplace.
They’ll reconvene again, brighter yet, with the goal of sporting a couple new originals and maybe another cover or two. Their next performance at George’s will be June 8 with Six Hung Sprung followed by a feature at the Fayetteville club Blu with Benjamin Del Shreve. For more information on shows and band profiles, go to www.myspace.com/agoodfight.