Dig if you will a picture … a born ‘n’ raised Auburn Tiger moves away from home only to be greeted by a package from a parent who has been furiously rummaging through memories of their child’s past in the name of “cleaning.” The package contains assorted Auburn memorabilia: a signed Bo Jackson 8×10, an old Opelika-Auburn News game day wraparound and a VHS cassette circa 1998.
Auburn Tiger pops in the tape. At the very end are complete live performances by Auburn underground hall-of-famers Hematovore and Hotbox Escape Pod filmed at Bandito Burrito, now Mike & Ed’s BBQ. Chances are you stopped in for some grits when it was Tiger Time Diner back in the day. And chances are, if you spent any significant time on the Plains, you caught a glimpse or heard a chord of Hematovore, the go-to guys for instrumental metal.
They’ve been those guys for 18 years. 18. That’s a long time to consistently draw a crowd.
Hematovore still does, even if guitarist Jamie “Spaz” Uertz thinks the reasons have changed.
“It’s like watching ‘The Price is Right,’” Uertz says. “Now people just come out to see the train wreck or see when we are going to have heart attacks onstage.”
How many heart attacks have they dodged since forming in 1992? It’s hard to say — what counts as a gig? What counts as sober?
Despite the band’s longevity, Uertz puts Friday night’s show at The Independent as maybe only its 100th.
100 gatherings. 100 episodes. 100 nights of fun.
And while the faces and names have changed (at least some of them), the Auburn crowd that gathers Saturday for the deceptively beautiful and intricate melodies of metal as unique as it is loud is going to look like they always have: headbangers and hippies, dudes and ladies, young and old with inquisitive smiles of “yes …” on their faces.
A review at decoymusic.com tries to explain things: “Bands with three guitar players always get me excited, and Hematovore is no different. Amidst the cacophony of chugging guitars, symphony of guitar effects, and wandering leads, there is a drummer in there, beating away to his heart’s content.”
Uertz, ever humble, describes the sound simply as “uh oh … feeling sweaty …”
He’s not goofing around entirely. On many occasions, Hematavore has been the only band on the bill, not just because they have got the skills of three, but the endurance: Half the time, Hematovore is going to play all night long.
But as for descriptions, at this point in the game, it is important to know only that the members of Hematovore are some of Auburn’s most talented musicians.
And most committed.
Uertz says the band has been through just three or four changes to the guitar gallery and only one behind the drums.
Currently bringing the ax triple threat are Uertz, Rod Stewart and former Trust Company member James Fukai, while Randall Sewell handles bass duties. Seemingly soft-spoken Brian Cross (who possesses one of the finest vinyl collections in War Eagle country) pounds the drums in ways that can still shock the uninitiated. And there are plenty uninitiated: These guys have been playing music together longer than some Auburn undergrads have been alive.
But the band’s heyday, like so many other Auburn acts, is undoubtedly rooted in Auburn’s thriving late ’90s house party circuit.
That is when their record, “Out For Blood,” debuted on WEGL’s “Homegrown” show hosted by Dave Veatch (Rudy Banes Breakdown). The record led an all-out resurgence in local music interest, garnering consistent airplay in WEGL’s regular rotation — a historically rare feat considering the sheer randomness of programming on Auburn University’s student-run radio station. The band went from “weird name on a flier” to required experience. Breeze shot between Auburn scenesters on whom to include in a line of hypothetical Auburn action figures (Gay St. Spectrum Gas Station and Wall play set sold separately) never failed to include long-time Hematovorite Steve Schultz, with his mop of Crystal Gayle-length blond hair and trademark bike shorts.
“I knew them as a staple on the Auburn music scene,” said Wes Funes, a former 10-year Auburn townie. “They always came to a show with fistfuls of energy and heads full of swingin’ blond hair.”
Ah yes … Uertz remembers those days fondly. House parties … UPC Battle of the Bands …
“[The] best places in Auburn to play were the house parties,” he says. “Nobody does that anymore ‘cause the kids these days suck and don’t like real music anyways.”
So why keep offering it to them? Is it for the sake of educations? An extra sense of obligation to the “something special” Auburn music scene they’ve helped define and sustain for two decades?
“We still play shows,” Uertz says, “because it’s fun.”
Where: The Independent, 203 Opelika Road.
When: Saturday, Oct. 24. Show starts at 10 p.m.