- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 12, 2001

Members of the local band Cactus Patch may look onstage like three teen-agers rocking out in their parents basement, but they are starting to attract action with their quirky brand of alternative rock.
In preparation for the WHFStival at RFK Stadium, the band is playing the Metro Cafe Friday.
The road to forming Cactus Patch has been a long one for singer-guitarist and principal songwriter Vince Scheuerman, bassist John Hutchins and drummer Dennis Manuel. Mr. Scheuerman and Mr. Hutchins grew up together in Gaithersburg, where they formed their first band at age 16.
"You hear about bands that at age 16 go places," Mr. Scheuerman says, "but our band, when we were 16, we ."
After high school, the two went to the University of Maryland at College Park, where Mr. Scheuerman studied mechanical engineering and Mr. Hutchins English.
"When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a rock star, and everyone told me I couldnt, it was too much of a gamble," Mr. Scheuerman says of his reasons for going to college.
They both still had the music buzz, though, which led them to join the ska outfit the Sidewinders SC after graduation.
Not long afterward, the duo left the Sidewinders to form a new group with Mr. Manuel and guitarist Derick Wiggins, both long-time friends. Mr. Wiggins soon departed, leaving the three remaining members as the current, and final, lineup.
Eight months later, Cactus Patch won the WHFS "big break" contest. It competed against 500 other bands and found itself sharing the stage with Incubus, Coldplay, Fatboy Slim and others as the only unsigned band at the festival.
"Its been exciting, and it feels right," Mr. Scheuerman says. "In the past year, weve come a long way as a band and people are starting to notice."
The bands excitement about playing RFK Stadium on Memorial Day weekend is tempered by a bit of reality.
"Those things are kind of subjective," Mr. Scheuerman says of the "big break" contest. "Who knows who theyre gonna pick? There were a lot of good bands there. We were fortunate to win the contest."
The bands name has gone through more changes than the lineup.
"We started out as Linus, until we found out there were about 10 other bands with the same name," Mr. Scheuerman says. His love for fly-fishing led to a new name, Caddis Hatch, after an insect that lives in trout streams. When the caddis hatch, the "fish start going nuts," he says.
People were a bit confused over the moniker, which led to Cactus Patch, a name that rhymed with and sounded like the old band name.
Regardless of what they call themselves, the band members have a ready-for-radio sound that is distinctive enough to stand out from the endless parade of generic rock bands flooding the airwaves.
"Our sound has developed, and weve sort of developed the Cactus Patch sound," Mr. Scheuerman says of the bands direction. That sound is couched in a variety of influences the band cites a number in its press kit, from solo rocker Tom Waits to Peter Gabriel, Chet Baker and D.C. punk rockers Bad Brains.
Cactus Patch actually is closest musically to its rock heroes Weezer on its latest self-titled EP released in December with a touch of the reggae-tinged band Sublime thrown in. "Everything You Need," one of the strongest tracks, backs up a solid opening guitar riff with a catchy "Hey Babe" chorus that laughs in the face of cliches.
The ability to take even mediocre lyrics and turn them into something special is what makes Cactus Patch stand out.
"Usually, what happens is Ill make up songs on my own, the chord progression and lyrics," Mr. Scheuerman says. "I take it to the band and say, 'Hey, lets play this song, and the bass player and drummer will make up their own parts."
That last EP has sold a few thousand copies, mostly through word of mouth and on the strength of the bands Washington-Baltimore fan base. A new seven-song album is planned for the summer, the first time Cactus Patch will have recorded in a full studio.
The first single off that album, "These Hands," already is getting airplay on local radio stations.
"Its a pretty cool little song about hope," Mr. Scheuerman says. "Its upbeat; its catchy. This is the best batch of songs weve done."
Mr. Scheuerman reluctantly concedes that the band members are in their mid-20s but benefit from their youthful looks.
"I get carded everywhere," he jokes.
That sense of teen-age fun coupled with the groups mature musical sound likely will keep it in the local spotlight.
"Were going to try and do some big shows this summer and continue on the path of building our fan base," Mr. Scheuerman says. "Were going to take it as far as it will go."

WHAT: Cactus Patch with the Tender Idols and the Red King
WHERE: Metro Cafe, 1522 14th St. NW
WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday
TICKETS: $8
PHONE: 202/588-9118


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