Guitarist Jody Porter is the secret weapon of Fountains of Wayne. He puts the power in their power pop, is the muscle that keeps them from being helplessly twee, the musical punctuation marks in their quippy lyrics. So what happens when he's no longer reined in by his wordy band mates, when he and his guitar take center stage? Will it be Arcardia to Tinted Windows' Power Station, the less-successful splinter act but still with one hit up his sleeve? As he proved at the Lizard Lounge on August 14, he is mererly a solo act that meets expectations.
He is touring as the frontman of full four-piece band. It wasn't so much that they were too loud for the small club as much as too loud for the small audience. The opening act attracted a coterie of giggly, high-heeled blondes who looked out of place in a bar featuring unknown indie rock, and they evaporated before Porter's outfit took the floor. That left only a dozen or two in the audience while the band was amped to a volume for a crowd ten times that size. But Porter was clearly volume-minded. His solo style is surprisingly similar to Straitjacket Fits, New Zealander also-rans from two decades ago who were eclipsed by the likes of Chills but who churned up some blistering psychedelia at their creative peak. That the guy has chops was never in question. The problem is that as a solo act, he's got nothing but chops. In a group, there is creative push and pull, editing and containment of egos; in something resembling the democratic process of a band, the components of individual talent are ultimately subservient to the overall material. With Porter in charge and no one to say otherwise, the solo act is essentially one long guitar solo, with song structure and lyrics clearly an afterthought or just not his strong suit.
The set didn't end so much as peter out. Porter walked off leaving behind a guitar trapped in a feedback loop. The rest of band eventually followed, the drummer shrugging as he exited, conveying a lack of game plan. It looked like there was a mistaken assumption of an encore, but the attenuated audience was hardly demanding one. The show was a curiosity for die-hard Fountains of Wayne fans (not that they were in evidence), but proof that Porter shouldn't quit his day job.