Last October, when Saigon Kick took the stage at Broward County’s Duende festival, it had been nearly 28 years since the Coral Springs-based hard rocking band first formed. Back in the early 90s, Saigon Kick would regularly play gigs at local clubs like the Button South in Hallandale and Reunion Room in Fort Lauderdale. Their sound was called a “rabid cross between the Sex Pistols and the Beatles, with occasional stomps through the Orient,” a hard-to-place mixture of metal, alternative and even pop, layered with harmonies and punctuated by monster guitar solos.
The band signed with Atlantic Records in 1990. Their second album, The Lizard (1992), became a mainstream success and reached gold record status. The most well-known song from that album, “Love is on the Way,” also became a gold record. To serious fans, though, the moody ballad didn’t have the band’s more familiar hard rock sound.
Unfortunately, Saigon Kick’s subsequent projects didn’t enjoy the same commercial success. The band’s hybrid music arrived during a crossroads in the music industry when grunge and hair metal were beginning to make waves. Saigon Kick didn’t belong clearly to either camp, making their music original but difficult to categorize.
The band’s evolution over the years includes many personnel changes, most notably a major rift between lead vocalist Matt Kramer and the band during the recording of their third album, Water (1993). Their last tour was in 2000 and the band was considered dismantled at that point.
Lately, however, following years of reunion rumors, Saigon Kick has been playing a few concerts. Involved are both Kramer and Jason Bieler (guitar), the two original members that fans say are essential to the band. The current lineup also includes experienced and long-time musicians Jonathan Mover (drums), Atom Ellis (bass) and Stephen Gibb (guitar).
In talking about what drives Saigon Kick’s revival at this time, Bieler says, “I have spent my entire life writing, performing and producing music. If an opportunity comes around that seems interesting or challenging, I am open to it. There really is no larger agenda.”
Rather than playing for the sake of nostalgia, the band plays for the sake of music. For Bieler, not sacrificing musical integrity for the sake of popularity is critical. “We do what we do,” he says. “Some call it brilliant and others hate it. It is nice to be appreciated but it is very low on my priority list.”
Outside of the band, the members all work on their own projects and are restlessly creative. For example, Bieler runs Bieler Brothers Records with his brother Aaron and works on his Owl Stretching project, solo musical experiments that he releases online. Kramer has written books of poetry, like An American Profit (2007).
As for future concerts, Bieler says, “We are only doing a handful of future dates. Some Euro festivals and things in Asia are in the mix but there’s no real touring at this time. In February, we are doing the Monsters Of Rock Cruise, which should be a lot of fun.” The four-night cruise to the Bahamas begins and ends in Miami and features Extreme, Tesla, Steve Vai and many other bands. As a send-off, the Pre-Cruise Shredders Ball at Magic City Casino in Miami on Sunday, February 21, will highlight many of the Monsters of Rock bands.
Saigon Kick’s South Florida fan base continues to grow with younger generations who have opportunities to experience the band’s music through festivals like Duende. Bieler says, “We have had consistent and tremendous support from our home. We all grew up together and when our scene happened, it was something really special. It is nice that people are still into the band the music and the memories.”