The Big Paradox

When four become one in the name of Love

Respeto is a local-scene veteran who also played with the Spinouts, so he's looked at clouds from both sides. "We're definitely not star struck," he affirms. "I've been in bands that came close to getting signed, been joined on stage by Joey Ramone. I played bass with the Spinouts, with a pompadour, painted eyes. I go back to the days of Johnny Depp and Slyder and the U.S. Furies, Charlie Pickett and those guys, and I've seen plenty. There've been a lot of times that things have come close. But I never put my chips on it. I learned to be patient, keep plugging. It's a matter of rock and rolling, even when you're in your Fifties." He pauses and smiles. "Which is not that far away anyway. It's something you're born with. Like Chip said, it's in the blood. I'm an entertainer. I've just always seen myself performing on-stage."

Big Love's stage show carries the same sort of duality that makes this band so fascinating. Exuberant antics can be seen as an impurity in an otherwise honest approach, or they can simply be a contribution to the entertainment package. "It's high energy," Allen says. "Danny's all over the place. Jorge jumps down off the stage and sits on laps ." But none of that is contrived, and that's important. "I feel like I have to touch somebody in the audience," Respeto explains. "I don't feel like some god on-stage. But people are there looking for something, looking for a touch maybe, and by doing that, we just share. We get to let them know that we're just like them, except we have axes. But we're all the same as people. Besides, Danny's a ham, I love to be on-stage, the more the better."

Their recorded music is much more controlled, vaguely pop in a U2 sort of way, which means little. They aren't that much like Bono's band, and they don't seek to be. Theirs is a big sound, an arena sound, simple and straightforward, but fresh enough to stand apart from comparisons. How many bands (successfully) reference a line from "Amazing Grace" in the middle of a song, in this case "Fire," that's at once a gospel ode to the Lord and a wide open field for other interpretations? One -- Big Love.

"I basically write my songs," Respeto says, "about something deeper, something with more value than what job you have, your look, your intelligence, who you hang out with. The value of the individual goes much deeper. I was raised up in a family of ten, never had much in my family, and that led to a lot of soul searching. My dad and mom always worked. I always had to say something, had to be heard. At points I was so scrambled I could hardly communicate with anyone. I guess it's pretty miraculous that now I'm on the dean's list at UM, that I'm even at UM period. I never saw myself accomplishing that. The spirit realm has always been mysterious."

The optimistic and encouraging nature of Big Love's music should not be mistaken for naivete. "Our songs are written to encourage and give hope," Allen says. "There are enough negative messages being given out today, so I think it's important that bands that have something positive to say are heard." And even if one doesn't need a boost up, the sound of Love is compelling enough for other reasons.

"But I still feel that it's a message," Respeto says. "I want to say something. We want to be people who have an opinion no matter what the masses say about it. We live in an era when you need to be heard, need to say things that have substance, something that will have ramifications, make somebody think and maybe even question. Essentially what's happening in school is that your mind is being expanded, you're being told to think. I'm hoping our music can cause that same reaction. That someone will think about what's being said through the songs."

Big Love performs at 11:30 p.m. Friday at the Edge, 200 W Broward Blvd, Ft Lauderdale, 525-9333. Free before 10:00 p.m., $5 after.

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