- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Jason Stollsteimer proves his versatility as a songwriter, singer and musician on the Von Bondies‘ second album, “Pawn Shoppe Heart.”

He’s equally skilled at juggling the life-on-the-road chores of a touring band: On the first date of the Von Bondies’ November tour, Mr. Stollsteimer served as the navigator of his group’s rented SUV on its way to Chicago and scoped out a fast-food lunch spot, all the while conducting a cell phone interview to promote Wednesday’s date at the 9:30 Club.

The Von Bondies, out of Detroit, have been touring for the past 11 months in support of “Pawn Shoppe Heart,” a pure, unassuming rock record that delivers pop thrills and a gritty, soulful exuberance. The shout-along, pogo-inspiring single, “C’mon, C’mon,” has spawned a growing fan base in the United States and Britain.

Yet the year has been filled with unsettling events. In August, bassist Carrie Smith departed the band, to be quickly replaced by Yasmine Smith. Last December Mr. Stollsteimer squared off against White Stripes singer-guitarist Jack White in a Detroit bar brawl, an incident that became notorious. Mr. White produced the Von Bondies’ first record, “Lack of Communication.”

The publicity that followed the scuffle, along with the nonstop touring and critical praise for “Pawn Shoppe Heart,” elevated the band from the stable of “garage rock” compadres that helped bring international attention to the Motor City’s music scene.

The Von Bondies strove to be original and avoid a generic label from fans and the media. The group’s two-male-two-female lineup and Mr. Stollsteimer’s fondness for hip-hop legends N.W.A. and Public Enemy and punk rock, set them apart from other Detroit bands.

“We didn’t have the pressure and have to hold up any image,” Mr. Stollsteimer says.

During high school, Mr. Stollsteimer discovered punk bands such as Nation of Ulysses, who recorded for Washington’s Dischord label. His devotion went so far as to sleep outside of the Beecher Street NW home listed on Dischord’s mail-order catalog. But instead of meeting label founder and Fugazi vocalist-guitarist Ian MacKaye, Mr. Stollsteimer chatted with the owner of the home — Mr. MacKaye’s mother, Mary Anne.

He has graduated from sleeping near the homes of his idols to becoming a self-assured singer and songwriter. Two new songs are nearly finished. One of the new compositions incorporates four or five “really good” hooks, Mr. Stollsteimer says.

In the past, the group would have distributed the hooks in different songs. But with so much belief in the band’s abilities, there’s no need to spread out the gems.

“It’s at the point where I’m not afraid to try different things,” he says. “Everytime we go into the studio to do an album we become more confident.”

Each of the group’s members, including drummer Don Blum and guitarist Marcie Bolen, contribute to the songs. The Von Bondies expect to record their next album next March or April. The band appears with Starlite Desperation and the Donnas at the 9:30 Club.

It’s been 10 years since G. Love and Special Sauce’s eponymous album introduced the band’s shuffling drums, plump bass lines and Garrett “G. Love” Dutton’s drowsy, mouth-full-of-gauze vocals.

The blues and R&B-loving hipsters delivered a disc full of memorable tracks, but none greater than “Cold Beverage,” an all-time ode to the delight of a refreshing drink on a steamy summer day. Co-opted for beer commercials and house parties for a decade, the funky roll-call for root beer, egg creams, ice tea, vodka and more embodies the cool, detached G. Love brand.

Expect plenty of audience requests for “Cold Beverage” and the Philadelphia band’s other hits during Sunday’s headlining appearance at the 9:30 Club with Slightly Stoopid and Tristan Prettyman.

“The Hustle,” G. Love’s sixth disc, showcases a tender side with “Front Porch Lounger” and the subtle, jazzy “Two Birds.” The band gives a nod to the foot-stompers of old with “Don’t Drop It.” The album is too new to know if any of its 14 tracks will have the staying power of “Cold Beverage.”

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