There are maybe 35 people crowding the Rock Bottom stage when the Heroine come on. The radio-station remote crew has gone, ditto the pretty girls handing out free beer. But the Heroine play sweaty, riff-driven rock ’n’ roll, music to chug by, so frontman Ernest Isaac Benavidez offers to buy a round of Lone Star for everybody over 21 anyway. Only 13 hands go up. “Daddy got paid,” he explains with a grin, though one of the band’s speakers is still visibly torn from last month when their equipment trailer flipped over in an accident.
While the beer’s being distributed, Benavidez channels the ghost of David Lee Roth onstage. Roth’s still alive, of course, but Benavidez is possessed only by the cool part, the part that died when Roth filmed the video for “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody.” No spandex or scatting here, but Benavidez’s manic gesticulation and king-shit swagger are proof he’s been runnin’ with the devil. Benavidez stalks the stage through the band’s eponymous theme song while guitarists Jorge Luevano and Derek Badillo take turns diddling the blues scale. Benavidez stomps, shakes, waves his hands in front of his face, throws the mic stand around, crawls on the floor, and several combinations and variations thereof, and the rest of the band, impossibly, keeps up with his decidedly non-hair-metal howl.
Badillo, tongue out, third-bases a solo riff while Benavidez boot scoots. Luevano buys the second round, and toasts with the crowd between solos. The band won’t waste a drop of beer, but Benevidez soaks his head in water. He christens John Martinez’s kit with the vile, non-alcoholic stuff, and Martinez splish-splashes through a drum roll, grinning like he’s drenching his kid sister in the community pool, grinning like he’s time-keeper for the coolest damn band in town. For about 45 minutes, in front of 35 or so witnesses, he’s probably right.