Verbena Singer/Guitarist Quits, But Band Plows On

Grunge-punk group, whose major-label debut came out in July, says it will finish tour without Anne Marie Griffin.

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

Scott Bondy.

"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

album.

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"

(RealAudio excerpt),

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.