Locals Only: : 'A' For Effort

Former Lightweight Holiday members return wiser for a Rescue Effort

Rescue Effort

Rescue Effort

According to drummer Brian Penick, Rescue Effort is a four-man call to arms, a mission to overhaul the music world in terms of expectations and quality.

"Johnny Cash, maybe?" Penick muses when asked about the inspiration behind such a lofty goal. "Wait, no. You know who it is? Pat Rice."

OK, the scoop on Rice: If you dig local music, you've probably seen her around. If not, you can randomly attend just about any local Rock gig and chances are she's there, a parka enfolding her 61-year-old frame as, eyes closed, she nods her weathered head in time to the music. She comes to shows early — not for special drink prices or to schmooze but to reserve a good spot to watch the show.

"She's an amazing lady who loves the scene and gets nothing out of it," Penick proclaims. "She's more dedicated by far than any musician in any local band.

I mean, she knew my birthday! I couldn't believe it."

The way Rescue Effort sees it, Rice's brand of dedication is the magic ingredient in producing meaningful music.

"We come early and stay late for shows, too," Penick says. "We just like to see as much original music as possible because we think this is one of the best scenes there is."

Penick says that Cincinnati musicians are lucky because, although the landlocked geography often inhibits opportunities for exposure, it also fosters a sort of brotherly encouragement to write music to be proud of instead of focusing on fame or profit. The band — including Justin Sheldon (guitar/vocals), Rob Barnes (guitar/vocals) and Evan Sharfe (bass) — recently hatched from remains of poppy favorites Lightweight Holiday, a band hindered by youthful mistakes.

"Everyone was proud of the songs we were doing for the label (Porterhouse), but that was one step in a coming-of-age process," Penick says. "Now we're not as eager to get signed and buy into false promises."

With an eye on possibly touring in the future, the boys from Rescue Effort have decided that, for now, it's better to pour themselves into the task at hand — creating music they can be proud of.

So, from whom or what precisely are we meant to be rescued? Oh, that's easy. Fall Out Boy. Or Hawthorne Heights. Or any number of artists currently commandeering the Power Pop realm.

But when you listen to Rescue Effort's newest project, a split EP with fellow rockers Junior Revolution, you might wonder if all this righteous disdain for mainstream music is misplaced. The songs are simultaneously angst-ridden and sunny, complete with the same powerful, mixed-up vocal harmonies and chop-shop guitar riffs that made Jimmy Eat World famous.

Even though you can find popular (read: played-out, corporate-driven) elements in much music, rarely do you find a local outfit that manages to sound so much like the "real" thing without catering to big money or extorting underage kids. Rescue Effort is, above all, adamant about maintaining integrity and shielding their turf and the people in it from the potentially crippling grip of ill-intentioned label reps.

The Rescue Effort experience has, thus far, been pretty comfy. They've organized a local Rock network with bands like Crybaby, Death in Graceland and Junior Revolution. It's not always easy to find like-minded people in a given area, and the boys from Rescue Effort like the fact that their fellow musicians embrace their tongue-in-cheek snobbery. They're content to remain "stuck in the 1960s and '70s," writing songs reminiscent of bands from Chicago to Blood Brothers. They don't mind chucking a song they've spent two months working on if the feel is wrong.

OK, fine, so music in general sucks and is in dire need of help, but how does Rescue Effort feel about Duran Duran? Penick strains to hear the jukebox and recognizes "Hungry Like the Wolf." A slow grin spreads across his face as he gives a casual thumbs-up, and I file away a mental snapshot fit for a Rock & Roll greeting card.

RESCUE EFFORT (rescueeffort.com) performs Dec. 7 at The Viper Room.