SAN FRANCISCO When Verbena took the stage at the Bottom
of the Hill Monday night, fans of the grunge-punk band immediately
noticed something was missing.
Gone was singer/guitarist Anne Marie Griffin, who left the Alabama
group in July after a falling out with bandleader and lead guitarist
"People who have known each other for a long time sometimes get on
each other's nerves," Bondy, 26, said as he lounged on a couch
backstage after the show.
"She might be back; she might not," Bondy said. "No one was fired or
anything like that."
Bondy, who wore black pants and a polyester brown shirt torn at the
shoulder, leaned forward on the couch as he spoke, peering out from
beneath strands of platinum white hair with a steady gaze.
Though the band did not cancel any shows, it's clearly not the best
timing for Verbena to lose a member. In July they released their
major-label debut, Into the Pink, featuring the single "Baby
Got Shot" (RealAudio excerpt).
Foo Fighters leader and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl produced the
Verbena, a trio, initially planned to tour as a four-piece with
touring bassist Gaelin Polivka. When Griffin left, the band decided to
play the tour as a trio rather than replace her.
Though Verbena have elicited comparisons to Nirvana since their 1997
debut, Souls for Sale, some fans said Griffin's absence
heightens the similarity to the influential Seattle band.
"They definitely rocked, but I think a big part of their sound is gone
now without Anne Marie," Jason Kelly, 28, said after Monday's show.
"She gave them a different dynamic, whereas now they sound so much
like Nirvana that you can almost forget you're watching Verbena."
On Into the Pink, Griffin and Bondy frequently harmonize,
recalling the female-male interplay between Exene Cervenka and
John Doe of the Los Angeles punk band X, while their collective guitar
work brings a jagged but rock-steady foundation to the band's sound.
Bondy said he may look for a replacement for Griffin if it becomes
clear her departure is permanent. But he said he doesn't believe the
band has lost any of its ability to rock hard and loud, though he
admitted he has to "sing better" without her.
"It would take someone really amazing to fill her shoes," Bondy said.
"Plus, it's kind of rare."
"My mom said she'd do it," he added, smiling.
During Monday's show, Verbena mixed songs from Into the Pink,
including "Baby Got Shot" and "Submissionary," with such Souls for Sale
cuts as "The Desert" (RealAudio excerpt).
Though the band did not shy away from songs that prominently feature
Griffin's voice on record, some of them, such as "Sympathy Was Dead"
noticeably missed her.
Bondy stared toward the back of the venue as he sang, rarely looking
into the crowd. Between songs, however, he occasionally spoke with
fans up front, twice answering inquiries about Griffin's whereabouts
by answering, "Club Med."
The second time he became more serious: "I miss her, too," he said.