Published September 12, 2002, in issue #32 of the Hook
Frontbutt at Outback Lodge September 7


Charlottesville is a relatively conservative city. I'm sure some would disagree with that statement, considering our neighbor to the south is Lynchburg. Compared to Jerry Falwell's burg, Charlottesville is a simmering cauldron of sin in the bowels of hell. Nevertheless, I am inclined to call any city conservative that shuts down before midnight on a weekday and/or has deserted streets on Sunday.

Some time had passed since I'd seen the proverbial "hair let down" in this town. So I was pleased to see the hair let down, the skirts hiked up, and the shirts come off at the Frontbutt show at Outback on Saturday, September 7.

If you don't know Frontbutt, then it is about time you make their acquaintance. Why? Because not only do they boast the largest repertoire of '80s and '90s hip hop and rap songs of any local band, but they bring them to life in a way that demands that audiences go berserk.

From the first notes of House of Pain's "Jump Around" to the last notes of TLC's "Waterfalls," they played with unfettered energy. Classic after classic poured from the speakers as Frontbutt remade, remixed, and revamped our generation's new standards into funky rock.

No rap artist was safe, no song could hide. "The Humpty Dance," "O.P.P," "Insane in the Brain," "La Di Da Di," "Wild Thing," "California Love"... on and on and on they went, nailing hit after hit.

Shell-toed Adidas jumping all over the stage, big gold chains, sunglasses, and jogging suits rounded out the spectacle until the defining moment of the evening. The invite was sent to the audience to truly get buck-wild to one of the most controversial songs to hit the media circus: Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back."

The only controversy that night was who got to shake what their momma gave them in front of video cameras there filming the show. All the while, the members of the band never lost their cool. Even with 10 women doing what some have come to refer to as "the nasty" on stage, they still kept their shades on and their Adidas tied.

When it was all over I drove home to my apartment on Tenth Street, only to be startled when getting out my car by the sound of eight gun shots about 200 feet from my house. I stared out my window and thought about my evening: a Frontbutt show and gunshots at 3am.

What would Jerry (Falwell) think?


C-ville Weekly, 03.05.02, by Cripsy Duck

The world of entertainment is so twisted up, cross-pollinated and incestual that it’s never really much of a surprise when something that seems completely absurd on the face turns out to be genius in practice.

Take the Dark Star Orchestra, for instance. Years after Jerry Garcia died, dissolving the world’s most notorious jam band, you’d think the last thing we’d need would be another Grateful Dead cover band.

Then these guys from Chicago hatch a hair-brained scheme to cover not just Dead tunes, but whole shows. It’s ridiculous idea from the get-go, but somehow, it is perfect in every way. The Dark Star Orchestra is one of the few bands that get really close to the original Dead-show experience, music-wise. And when frontman Jon Kadlecik remembers lyrics that Jerry fumbled at the original shows, well.., sometimes it’s almost better.

Frontbutt exploits a similarly paradoxical mystique. Rap from the ‘80s and ‘90s is a rough genre to adore. (“Ice, ice baby?”—phew! Open a. window.) A lot of that crap was real crap— mung pasted together by un-named producers featuring mouthy bigots with jawfuls of gold and hood ornaments hanging around their necks. These jogging suit fetishists could consider themselves very lucky if their one hit was strong enough to get them anywhere near the wonder category

Frontbutt rummages through the nobody-wants-em record stacks of the lost vinyl era and resurrects a shiny new hip-hop beast, one that—by capitalizing on the comic intensity of a bunch of white dudes enthusiastically spewing the music of urban blacks—actually excels where its idiom so often repelled.

The fact that they take it super-light only helps. Frontbutt's’s line-up is fully pseudonymed, with band members donning costumes and wicked hip-hop get-ups. It’s like a club for dudes who just can’t let classics like “Funky Cold Medina” die.

And a scene—whoa! When the Frontbutt crew socks it to you, the whole house knows, because nobody can resist a funky backbeat, three in-your-face frontmen and a too-cool groove being copped organically on guitars and drums actually doing justice to the original synthetic flavor. With Frontbutt in the house it is not uncommon to see funky fly girls and assorted party people dancing on speaker stacks and tables, ripping clothes off of bandmembers, screaming at the tops of their lungs and shaking their booties hard. A most hearty party indeed.


The Hook, 03.07.02, by Mike Parisi

LET’S say it’s 1989. Unless you’re part of a small group of college students, Seattle doesn’t mean squat, and grunge equals dirt, if you’re in the right age group, you dig pretty fiercely the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Out of George Lucas’s trilogy you’ve seen only Return of the Jedi in theaters (and you liked the Ewoks). Paula Abdul leaves you flat, though that video with the cat’s not too bad. Still, you need something a little harder. You need rap.

A decade later, you might need Frontbutt. The guys in Frontbutt— six white boys who thrash in Navel, TO.W, and Olive when they’re not wearing sun glasses, track suits, fake hair, and silly a.k.a.’s— sound like they remember that delicious, illicit feeling of getting their hands on a DJ JazzyJeff & the Fresh Prince CD and hoping mom doesn’t find out.

Their tastes run from one-hit wonders (Tone Loc, Young MC, Naughty By Nature) to just below radar survivors (De La Soul) to sorta old-schoolers (Run DMC, Doug E. Fresh). Though Snoop Dogg gets his pocket picked, this time capsule stops before gangstas bum-rushed the airwaves. Back then, parents might not have been able to understand House of Pain, but nowadays lots of choosy moms let their kids choose Jay-Z.

With names like Munny Shot, Infamous L.O.G., Fakebeard the Pirate, and Double Iced Mocha, the group mostly avoids the Beastie Boys, those NYC funky white boy prototypes. A good move. Like karaoke (which the project isn’t too far removed from), Frontbutt’s act can be silly, inspired, compelling, and tedious, sometimes simultaneously. But it’s never serious. Covering “Fight for Your Right (To Party)” is a little too predictable, and besides, after that, the Beastie’s actually got good.

In a group that performs only covers, choice becomes paramount; and with a standard rock lineup, skewing heavily toward rap tunes that feature sampled guitar riffs is wise picking. Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” (almost indistinguishable from “Funky Cold Medina,” which is why it’s neat to hear them play the pair as a medley) uses a riff from Van Halen’s “Jamie’s Cryin’”; De La’s “Me, Myself and I” uses a guitar line straight outta the George Benson songbook; and Run DMC practically invented the hard rock riff as rap hook.

Luckily, Frontbutt never fronts with the irony that made country club poseurs Dynamite Hack’s poker-faced N.W.A.-isms so grating. if you surf by their web page (, you can read random and witty bios of each member. When they bring the noise, though, cleverness has no place. They can be seriously fun because they know that nothing else is serious about it.

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