Friday, May 23, 2008

Sardina: A band from Indiana

I heard last week that the drummer for the Indianapolis band Sardina, LonPaul Ellrich, died very suddenly in his hometown. A tragedy. He was a wildly talented guy, as are the other three members of the band (Marty Green, Michelle Marchesseault and PJ Christie).

Sardina were one of the great Midwest bands of the 1990s. I was lucky enough to catch them live near the beginning of their run in 1993. The show was in the basement of a fish restaurant in Bloomington. They were opening for Arson Garden at a special show for Midwest alt-weekly types who were in Bloomington for a dopey regional alt-press conference.

That night, Sardina blew away Arson Garden--who were a great band in their own right, and at their peak around that time. They mostly played the lyrical, menacing and ebullient songs from their first demo, and the first band I thought of when I saw them was the Jefferson Airplane (think Crown of Creation and Bless Its Pointed Little Head). Marchesseault's voice had more grit than Grace Slick's voice, but as much (if not more) power. They were tight and could go from whisper to a roar in the blink of an eye. For this rock critic, it was love at first sight.

I saw them live a couple more times. They played St. Louis three times in the next few years, and I also caught them at a SXSW showcase in 1995. They got trippier as time progressed, but no less powerful and inventive, as you can hear on their page at the Indianapolis music site, Musical Family Tree. Their 1995 record, Presents, also available for a listen on that page, seems only to have gotten better with age -- a perfect mix of gorgeous pop and outright surrealism that should have yielded two hit singles. ("I'll Be Around" and "Hey")

But it didn't. And the band imploded by 1997. But they're one of the few groups of that era that's still in heavy rotation on my iPod. And word is that there may be more from the vaults that might be released in the near future.

Those in the Indianapolis area may want to check out the benefit concert for LonPaul Ellrich's son Rupert at Radio Radio in Indianapolis on June 15.

Bonus: Video of "I'll Be Around"

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