Down by the ocean…

By on January 6, 2015


Matt Kramer - Saigon Kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Matt Kramer – Saigon Kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)


Saigon Kick with Pitbull Toddler and Save the Radio – December 27th, State Theater, St Petersburg

OK, not exactly the ocean, but Saigon Kick returned yet again to the waters of Tampa Bay; downtown St. Petersburg at the State Theater for the second time in just under two years. With nothing new to promote, Saigon Kick played their first show in over twenty years back in March of 2013. ( Now, having played around ten shows since that first one, Saigon Kick decided to give their second hometown another; and am I glad they did. Who really knows if this was Saigon Kick’s last time performing as a band? Facebook led me and a few others at the show talking about whether or not it was in fact their last show. Or, was it Saigon Kick’s original bassist, Tom Defile’s,last show with the band?  Defile did not play in the early shows of Saigon Kick’s reunion tour.  He returned to the group for only two shows; a Las Vegas show in December, and this one.

Phil Varone - Saigon Kick (Travis failey / RSEN)

Phil Varone – Saigon Kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Saigon Kick released their first album Saigon Kick in 1991. Tampa Bay’s powerhouse radio station 98ROCK began playing tracks off the album and Saigon Kick was an instant hit all around the Bay Area. They packed the old Rocket Club on Dale Mabry (R.I.P.), played Livestock (R.I.P.), 98ROCKS’ 4th of July BBQ (R.I.P.) and Guavaween. It wasn’t until the release of their second album, The Lizard, in 1992 that the band’s success really exploded. The Lizard went gold and the band made a video for MTV which made single “Love Is on the Way,” a national hit. Shortly after the release of The Lizard, bassist Tom Defile was fired from the band and was replaced by ex Cold Sweat bassist, Chris McLernon. McLernon stayed with the band for Saigon Kick’s next three releases.

Water (1993) and Devil in the Details (1995) featured another major lineup change in the band; lead singer Matt Kramer left the band and all vocals were taken over by lead guitarist Jason Bieler. Saigon Kick, fronted by Bieler, went on to release their fifth and final album, Bastards, in 1999, which was only released in the Far East and Japan. I consider myself a HUGE Saigon Kick fan and I have never heard anything off of Bastards.

Josh Maloney - Pitbull Toddler (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Josh Maloney – Pitbull Toddler (Travis Failey / RSEN)

When I arrived at the State Theater, I was expecting to see a lot more people. The last show sold out and this time opening was Tampa Bay’s number one morning drive radio host, Mike Calta’s band, Pitbull Toddler. Calta (most know him as Cowhead) plays bass. With no original music, Pitbull Toddler is a crowd-pleasing cover band; performing rock classics like Twisted Sisters’, “We’re Not Gonna Take it,” Poison’s “Nothin’ But A Good Time,” and AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell,” just to name a few. I don’t often get a chance to listen to the Mike Calta Show, but I just assumed that with Calt’a band playing, and him being the number one radio personality in town, that more people would have shown up.

Greg Gavin - Pitbull Toddler (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Greg Galvin – Pitbull Toddler (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Shawn Scheller - Save the Radio - (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Shawn Scheller – Save the Radio – (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Also opening up tonight was another Florida-based band, Save the Radio. Save the Radio hails from Tampa, and some of their music is produced by Saigon Kick’s very own Jason Bieler. Save the Radio is an all original rock-and-roll group with a pop-radio, feel-good type of sound. Save the Radio will definitely get you up on your feet as you can feel the energy and passion coming from this band. Most noticeable for me was the drummer, TL Jentgens. TL is very charismatic and one hell of a drummer behind a small drum kit.

Jentgens - Save the Radio (Travis Failey / RSEN)

TL Jentgens – Save the Radio (Travis Failey / RSEN)

The show started about an hour late. I think this may have been a last ditch effort to try and sell a few more tickets at the door. I talked to the owner of the club after the show and they ended up with about 40 walk-ups and little less than 300 tickets sold in advance. That, along with a hefty guest list with three bands, all from Florida, I’m guessing that around 450 were in total attendance. It was pretty sad if you ask me, but who am I really? I’m just a fan that supports music and loves going to shows. I’m also a guy who loves Saigon Kick. Now if you went to the first Saigon Kick reunion show in 2013, or possibly saw their short set at 98ROCKFEST in April and decided not to cough up a mere $35.00 to see this one, it’s your loss. The first time Saigon Kick played, the band was a bit rusty. I don’t believe they rehearsed at all, yet still sounded pretty damn good. The second time around at 98ROCKFEST was just awful. But it wasn’t the band’s fault. The guitar and microphone didn’t work until the third song, and ultimately, their set was cut short.  But this show, all the kinks were worked out and Saigon Kick sounded better than ever. Singer Matt Kramer’s voice and Jason’s back-up harmonies sounded great. Drummer Phil Varone and bass licks from Tom Defile sounded amazing as well. I felt like I was 19 all over again.


Tom Defile - Saigon Kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Tom Defile – Saigon Kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Jason Bieler - Saigon kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Jason Bieler – Saigon Kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Opening up with “New World,” “Suzy,” and “Down by the Ocean,” the lightly packed house sang the words to every song from beginning to end. (See Saigon Kick’s full set list below) A few highlights from the show were: “My Life,” wherein Mike Calta joined Saigon Kick on stage to play bass, followed by most of the guys from Save The Radio, and what seemed like all their friends and family. Calta’s love for Saigon Kick began many years ago. Kramer told a story during the show about stage diving once in South Florida and actually landing on Calta. I’m sure this was a little bit of a dream come true for Calta to not only to open with one of his favorite bands, but to share the same stage. Guitar player Kevin from Epcot’s British Revolution also joined the band for “God of 42nd Street. And, finally, for their biggest hit of all time “Love is on the Way,” Saigon Kick was joined on stage with the guys from Save The Radio. They also played a jazzier version of another hit in “Colors.” Some loved it, others were disappointed that they didn’t get to hear it in its original version.

(Travis Failey / RSEN)

(Travis Failey / RSEN)

After the show hanging out in the lobby, I was waiting to meet all the guys in the band and overheard someone ask Matt, “Matt is this really the last show or is it just the last show with this lineup?” Matt’s reply was spoken like a true rock star: “It’s rock-n-roll, man, who knows.” Ha! Way to keep inquiring minds Matt.

Matt Kramer - Saigon Kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Matt Kramer – Saigon Kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Not every band was meant to last forever. Hopefully this wasn’t the end for Saigon Kick. It could be, and if it is, I’d say a big part of it is the lack of people going to shows. Even though we are all based in Florida, it still costs these guys money to get to the State Theater. They can’t play for free. $35.00 for three bands is an awesome night out, but if everyone keeps saying, “Oh, I saw them the last time,” or “I’ll catch them next time they are in town,” there just might not be a next time, and “I saw them last time,” becomes “Man, I sure wish they were still around.” And then one day you’re driving down Central Ave in Downtown St. Pete, and the State Theater is now some trendy art store and you’re like, “Damn, I used to see so many bad-ass shows there back in the day and now it’s gone.” WAKE UP Tampa Bay and support live music. It’s a win-win for everyone.

It was a great night of music from Saigon Kick. They are a band that deserved to be bigger than they were but they got caught in a musical shift that many bands suffered from during their time. Hopefully it will not be their last time, but for the people that were in the audience on this night, they got to witness the magic that Saigon Kick originally brought to the music world once again.

Phil Varone SG 03

Phil Varone – Saigon Kick (Travis Failey / RSEN)

Saigon Kick’s set list – 1. “New World” 2. “Suzy” 3. “Down by the Ocean” 4. “Coming Home” 5. “God of 42nd Street” 6. “Dear Prudence” (Beatles cover) 7. “What You Say” 8. “Peppermint Tribe” 9. “World Goes Round” 10. “Colors” 11. “My Dog” 12. “Chanel” (which was performed live for the first time 13. “Ugly” 14. “My Life” 15. “The Lizard” 16. “Hostile Youth” 17. “Love Is On The Way” 18. “Space Oddity” (David Bowie cover) 19. “What Do You Do”






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