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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

The Hi-Fives
Cathy Bauer

Vitamin You:
The Hi-Fives dress up SFMX3 downtown

WHEN THE Hi-Fives drive past the renovated Oakland Coliseum, memories of the band's December 1995 gig opening for Green Day flutter back. Guitarist/vocalist John Denery prefers to hold his breath or touch a screw when he sees the venue. "People think it was great," Denery says. "But you meet no one. I've never played to so many people yet met so few, because you are so isolated from everything. The stage is so big you can never feel comfortable. The Green Day guys are great, and that was fun, even though the show itself wasn't as memorable as playing the Purple Onion"--or perhaps the Usual in downtown San Jose for the South First Music Experience on Thursday (April 17), with the New Mosquitos, the Aquamen and the Odd Numbers.

A cursory tumble through the '60s pop tweeds of the band's newest album, And a Whole Lotta You!, indicates that the Hi-Fives probably don't plan on adding pyrotechnics or dancers to their stage show. Their sound is mod pop, as if the smiling, mop-top band that always materialized in those Frankie and Annette beach movies had landed in the '90s and discovered punk. And a Whole Lotta You! is inspired by the loving subjects that the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five sang about so fondly ("girl," "baby," "child"), except that the personal pronoun of choice is "you." Yeah, you!

"I once saw an interview with the Beatles," Denery says. "They wrote a lot of songs about 'girl' and 'baby.' And someone said that they should write songs about 'you' because it'll involve the audience." This technique yields more "yous" than any Mills Brothers boxset. Check the groovy R&B pop of "It's up to You," "It Begins With You," "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You," "You Can" and "Say What You Want."

The songs on And a Whole Lotta You! are even shorter than the ones on Welcome to My Mind; most barely break the two-minute warning. "1:50 is the length of the songs I've written, even back in Brent's TV," Denery explains, referring to one of his early bands. "Rock & roll is too boring of a form of entertainment. My attention span can't go beyond two minutes. It also makes practices shorter and makes memorization less difficult."

Despite the clean-cut image, the Hi-Fives are affected by the typical problems that beset many bands. Last year, a nasty row between bassist Jess Hilliard and drummer Danny Seelig spilled out on stage in the middle of a summer tour in Portsmouth, N.H. The drummer quit on the spot. The five-week tour was whittled to three, and the dejected trio drove 52 hours back to the Bay Area. Hilliard left the group soon after. "The only time we stopped was to get gas," Denery remembers. "I missed the whole [fight]. My back was to it. I was talking to someone in the audience, oblivious. Then I hear Chris going 'John, John,' and all I saw was Danny running out the door."

The Hi-Fives are a jolly unit once again, with Steve Faine and Gary Gutfield on bass and drums, respectively. "I heard that the very next night, the band we were supposed to play with re-enacted the fight on stage," says Denery, laughing. "It involved the bass player screaming and spitting, the drummer running through the back door, and the bass player kicking in the drum."

Tonight, Tonight

Salmon hits the Cactus stage for SFMX3 at 8:15pm. Set your clocks and lives accordingly. ... Tune in to KSCU (103.3FM) this weekend. The station's annual fundraising drive begins. The more you donate, the fewer pledge breaks you have to endure.

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From the April 17-23, 1997 issue of Metro

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