Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Black Tooth Grin

Gloria Diaz

Whatzup Features Writer

Published June 24, 1999

Heads Up! This article is 23 years old.

On Friday, June 11, Black Tooth Grin scheduled a CD release party at Legend’s. The band was there, but the CDs weren’t. No one cared.

It’s sort of accepted that whatever plans the band makes always get screwed up, says drummer Andy Luther. Shows mentioned in passing go off without a hitch. Meticulous plans go awry. The CD, Twist To Open, ran into technical difficulties. Bassist Jim Griese feels it’s safe to say, “the CDs will be available sometime after tonight.”

It will be worth the wait. Black Tooth Grin came onstage to a medley that started with the theme from Star Wars and lusty cheers from the audience. The group blasted into a tune that had the crowd moving and spilling beer with enthusiasm.

In fact, the group has and will play for beer. Four out of the five members of Black Tooth Grin attend Ball State University and are very familiar with the college circuit. Members say the scene in Muncie is dead, and are more than happy to play house parties, fraternities, especially.

It’s good money, a good crowd, but they’re hard to get into,” says Aaron Sprowl, guitarist and back-up vocalist. Whereas bars want some level of musical ability and want to hear a tape or CD before booking a band, frats want videos. The reason, says Sprowl, is proof that a band can get the crowd going. Musical ability is secondary. But Black Tooth Grin can whip the house up and play.

“Our show revolves around the crowd,” says Griese. “If we don’t have a crowd, we don’t have a show.”

The CD release party definitely had a crowd. They were treated to a mixture of classic rock and new rock originals.

The band’s set list depends on what they’re listening to. Most members are big fans of 80s rock, with the exception of George Mallers, guitarist and back-up vocalist. The band’s name came from a Pantera video, which mentioned Black Tooth Grin as a shot of whiskey and a dab of Coke.

The group’s history started while three of its members were still in high school. Aaron’s brother Rob used to laugh at Aaron’s guitar efforts. Rob insisted he could play it better, and Aaron took him up on the challenge. Both ended up in the group. They and Luther became a band.

Griese came along during his sophomore year at Ball State. A fan of the band, he received a phone call from Rob who asked, “you want to be in a band?” Griese accepted, even though it meant learning 40 songs in a week’s time.

“I only knew Rob,” says Griese, who became the band’s bass player. But that changed. “We’re all really good friends,” says Griese. We can hang out or whatever … that’s one of the best things. It’s always a good time when we’re together.”

Even when Griese isn’t conscious. The group had been to a party at Aaron’s house, with plenty of drinking. The next night they had a gig at Wabash College and decided to practice beforehand, which required more drinking. Already sloshed from the night before, Griese was even more soaked during the gig. Aaron recalls hearing a strange noise during one of the songs. Looking over, he found the problem.

“He’s (Griese) laying on the speaker, sleeping,” says Aaron. “The people didn’t even care.”

Maybe because the group gives good show. Not only do the members have stage presence, but their set list contains some pleasant surprises. Luther says local radio personality Sharon Rossi said of the group, “this is one of the few bands I know that can go from Jimmy Buffett to Rage Against the Machine, back to back.”

Griese sums it up this way: “if it’s a party tune, we’ll play it.”

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