Saturday, June 2nd, was a hot, steamy night at The Stage in Miami’s Design District. The swarm of young women began to arrive to stake out their real estate front and center, in anticipation for the performance of the Georgia boys’ band, Stokeswood. The band’s South Florida fan base seems to proliferate with each visit. Don’t be fooled by the multitudes of young female groupies, as this band has quite an expansive gender and multi-generational fan base. What do all these devotees have in common? They like to dance. Stokeswood’s infectious energy comes from a “layered mixture of pumping synths, powerful vocals”, which they have coined as “low-endie rock”, thereby producing an irresistible dance vibe.
With each band member sporting their own eccentric style, lead guitarist Mark Godwin’s tie and vest, bass player Justin Mullinix’s no-nonsense t-shirt, jeans and running shoes, drummer Jon Joiner’s button up white shirt and vintage fedora, lead singer Adam Patterson’s loose t-shirt, custom made split pants and barefoot, and keyboardist Michael Roman’s sleek black shirt and pants, they took to the stage and dove into “The Old 4th Ward” from their 2009 release, “Carassia” with its easy going vocals and quick paced percussion and bass.
Next, lead singer, Adam Patteron’s silky smooth and yet passionately energetic vocals trilled “Werewolf”, from their recently released CD, “In the Field of the Vibrations” interlaced with Roman’s keyboarding reminiscent of Talking Heads, got the crowd’s feet moving.
Stokeswood’s cover of Talking Heads “Naive Melody” was spot on funky fantastic. Even their covers, all sounding familiar enough to recognize, though definitely flavored with some “Stokeswood”, come from a wild range of styles: Hall and Oats, Depeche Mode, and Nine Inch Nails all were on the night’s playlist.
According to the band members their electric and acoustic guitar sounds come from such influences as Radiohead and Simon and Garfunkel, however, there seems to be other influences like, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode and even a little Queen. What Stokeswood has that all the afore mentioned bands have is that they are a band’s band. They co-mingle on stage. Their camaraderie is so cogent that you crave to be up there with them, throwing down the music, feeding off the energy. Like young, nubile quintuplets, when they are together, they speak a language, on and off the stage, that only they can decipher. Musically, they finish each other’s sentences, or shall I say notes. They have a musical cohesiveness that captivates each audience member no matter which of the five musicians you happen to focus on at any given moment. All five are showmen. Individually they are great musicians, together they are a brilliant band. From where did this bond emerge?
The two founding members, Adam Peterson, and Mark Godwin jammed regularly in college in Georgia, later joined by childhood friend Reed Irvine, before going their separate ways. The two found their way back together in 2005 and Irvine joined in 2007 on bass and keyboards. Drummer, Jon Joiner, filled in on Djembe when he wasn’t performing with his band Moonshine Still, until they disbanded in early 2008 at which time he formally became Stokeswood’s drummer. Justin Mullinix joined as bass player in 2010, after several recording sessions in the studio where he was producer and fill in studio musician. This past March Reed Irvine left the band for family matters. Irvine was replaced by long time friend and loyal follower of Stokeswood, Michael Roman, who left a regular gig in Vegas to join the band. With the tightness of the band on and off stage, there was some concern about losing something when Irvine left. Peterson admitted “I was not concerned at all about the musical aspect of it, because I knew we weren’t going to bring anyone else on but Michael, but Reed had such an onstage energy… I was worried about that from the very beginning, you know, you take away old big boy up there shaking it…but it turns out this guy over here”, pointing to Michael, “can burn some cardio.” Peterson said the group was sorry to see Irvine go, as he was like a brother, but “who are am I to tell you how to live your life?” They all seemed to accept that Irvine came to the proverbial fork in the road and his path went a different direction.
They tour from New York to Miami, primarily an East coast ramble, with the exception of Austin’s South x Southwest. Their seemingly democratic and pragmatic relationship even extends to their touring life which is evident in their driving system: there is one great bench for sleeping, so they rotate in specifically timed shifts and at each rotation, they all move seats. As hard as the touring life is on their personal lives as well as their aching backs, not one would give it up for they live for that moment to be on stage.
Where did the name Stokeswood come from? Adam tells the story, “My mom got us really good hockey tickets to a Flames’ game, I mean really good.” During a break Adam was asked be on a live onscreen “dating game”. The prize was either a mp3 iPod boom box or a date with Adam to another Atlanta Flames game. During the live interview he was asked, “What do you do?” Adam answered, “ I play in a band.” Of course the next question was, “What’s the name of the band?” “The only quick response I could come up with was the name of street Mark and I used to live on in Atlanta, Stokeswood.” Their seats were sandwiched in between celebrities so according to Peterson, the audience assumed they were “somebody”. Therefore, after announcing the name of their band as “Stokeswood” and with the enormity of publicity and recognition they felt it would behoove them to give it up at that point, so it stuck. Subsequently, the house on Stokeswood burned down, but the band has remained a solid and extremely cohesive structure.