by Scott A. Williams
A bitter wind and frigid temperatures outside were no match for the feeling of endless summer inside Ralph’s Diner in Worcester, Massachusetts as The Sun Protection Factor Four (SPF-4) presented a blistering set of surf-inspired rock to a full house Friday night. Clad in matching black rashguard shirts and clicking from the first chord, the band members hit their stride early and kept the groove cooking throughout a 75 minute, showcase performance.
left to right: Craig Nieske, Dave Kroll, Tony Maciag, Rob Brooks
Guitarists Rob Brooks and Dave Kroll combined crack musicianship in a style that honored the surf music tradition without sounding formulaic. Bassist Tony Maciag and drummer Craig Nieske set the pace with a tight, smooth groove. The band’s authentic surf-tone combined with a modern edge performance kept the audience on their feet.
The surf-instro vibe was visually enhanced by Bruce Brown’s 1966 movie classic The Endless Summer which was simulcast as a backdrop for the band. The film chronicles the experiences of surfing legends Michael Hynson and Robert August as they travel the globe in search of the perfect wave.
Ralph’s Diner is a Worcester institution. The diner is the genuine article, a railroad diner car. The menu consists largely of burgers, dogs and chili, with a good selection of draft beer to wash it down. Adjacent are upstairs and downstairs cavern-style bars with eclectic décor that gives revelers plenty to observe and contemplate. Ralph’s has hosted a plethora of regional and national acts for the past 25 years.
Among the dignitaries in the audience were members of the surf band 9th Wave and NESMA founding members guitarist Mike Rosado and multi-instrumentalist Sandy Brooks. Also present were professional staff of the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine and many recently made friends of SPF-4 from previous Worcester area performances.
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