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Rowhouse and the Nadines team up for Wild Berries

Restless Wild

Alex Tapia is pure energy. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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Sometimes, when I get a load of laundry done, write a couple of articles for this rag, make some dinner, send out some important emails, and finally relax to have a drink, I'll think, "Boy, did I get an awful lot done today. What a productive and energetic guy I am!"

Every single time I see Alex Tapia I am put to shame. Tapia is easily the most energetic person I've ever seen, and that is not an exaggeration. Put it this way: the first time I saw his previous band, Rowhouse, I noticed that - when he wasn't strumming his guitar - he'd take little breaks to snap his fingers before going back to the strings. He is an irrepressible spirit, which makes for a lively frontman.

Rowhouse was a two-piece made up of Tapia on guitar and Gary Kawamura on drums, with little guest spots from other local musicians like Phil Harty. Every time I got a chance to see Rowhouse live, they seemed like a different band. Sometimes, they'd lean more on the rootsy blues-rock side of things, while other times they'd be a straight-up indie-rock band, or sometimes they'd jam out, relying on Kawamura's jazz drumming experience to go on mini explorations.

They weren't indecisive; they were just restless, and not satisfied with getting stuck in a mold.

Recently, the powers of two bands joined together. The two-piece of Rowhouse became a four-piece with the addition of Aaron Berryhill and Chelsea Reed, of the well-liked but short-lived band, the Nadines. With the change in lineup came a change in name, to Wild Berries.

"This is a smash-up of two different bands in town: the Nadines and Rowhouse," says Tapia. "Aaron Berryhill booked a show for us, and came out and jammed with us one time, and one thing led to another. ... It just felt like the next right step. Rowhouse was cool, but it was a pretty highly controlled experiment. Aaron and Chelsea really bring some intensity and some chaos. It's wilder now. It's a little bit crazier. It's louder. It's more raucous."

With the incorporation of Berryhill and Reed, the sound of the band has certainly begun to gel. And louder? Yeah. Wild Berries have slid toward the Nadines' brand of garage psych, while still incorporating the jazz and blues elements that Rowhouse embraced. With no bass, and with the witchy, tremulous background vocals of Reed, Wild Berries is all craning energy and no low end. When they really get on a jag, it's like watching them tiptoe along a balance beam.

"I think, in a matter of a couple of months, we've come to understand how one another work, and how to give suggestions," says Tapia. "Generally, Aaron and I are the main songwriters of the band."

Notice that Tapia used the phrase "a couple of months." Wild Berries is a very new band, and I usually tend to stay away from bands so new, just to avoid giving any unwanted exposure to bands that are still figuring things out. But, I figured this would be OK for two reasons: First, there is a good pedigree with all of the musicians involved. Second, Wild Berries released a four-song EP that documents their first time ever performing in public, which occurred on the final night of this year's Squeak and Squawk Music Festival.

To be brazen enough to not only release material this early on, but to release live material is something not only to be commended, but it's just crazy enough to work. Wild Berries Live at the New Frontier shows a band completely comfortable with their presence on stage, and it telegraphs good things to come.

In the meantime, someone take coffee away from Alex Tapia. I don't need any more reminders of how lazy and ineffectual I am.

WILD BERRIES, w/ J. Martin and Andrew Cook, 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12, Northern Pacific Coffee Company, 401 Garfield St. S., Tacoma, no cover, 253.537.8338

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