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* aural cavity located on the sides of the head for insertion of local music scene
The COMPASS Group, July 2006

Fireflower: Folk rock from Taiwan's east coast

By Ryan St. Onge Translated by Charlie Shen Photos by Iris Hsu

Douglas Newton shifts onto the stage looking relaxed and engaging, explaining that he has been up late the night before with friends. This is not an unusual start to one of Fireflower's shows. No flash. No ceremony. Just three guys settling in to play a set of original folk music. And, given their penchant for late-night jam sessions, Fireflower exudes an air of unpredictability. Just when you though you had this odd little band figured out, they throw in a Lynard Skynard cover or settle into a lengthy jam in the middle of one of their set pieces.

Those unfamiliar with Fireflower and their unique brand of folk rock still have time to catch the trio on Taiwan shores. With an American tour slated for the fall, time is running out, although the band's working-man tour schedule takes them around the island. Newton, bassist Terry Sommers and drummer Justin Yore have been the nexus of a musical ride along Taiwan's east coast for four years now. Although Fireflower has obviously been influenced by acts such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and John Lennon, Yore's unique bongo styles add an exotic element to Sommers' complicated rhythms and Newton's formidable lyrics, creating an interesting blend of sounds and styles.

The only foreign band of note currently residing in Hualien, Fireflower has often been regarded as a novelty act among local music fans. But persistence has paid off for this group of eclectic Americans. Consistent jobs at Hualien's All Star Live House and Enigma Pub have made them legitimate folk artists with a rock-solid live set. The east coast has been an incubator for the band's unique style and has led to wildly-successful performances at the renowned Sugar Factory Shows in Dulan and Soulstice Pub in Lotung, plus several similar forays to Taipei and Taichung.

"There is an impulse to play to the crowd too much," noted Newton. "Playing original music is a difficult proposition. When the market demands cover bands, original music has a tendency to sink to the bottom." Along with a busy schedule and plans to tour America, Fireflower is in the process of producing and recording their first full-length album, expected to be finished early in the summer. The band plays often in the Hualien area and once a month in Lotung.

Fireflower is: Douglas Newton (lead guitar, harmonica, vocals), Terry Sommers (bass), Justin Yore (bongo drums).
Ryan St.Onge is the co-publisher and editor of Highway 11 Magazine, the East Coast's only bilingual monthly.


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