When you ride a roller coaster, you expect ups and downs. In fact, you expect the ups and downs to even out. So what if you are on a roller coaster that only has ups, with maybe the occasional slight dip? How does that work?
That’s what my musical life feels like right now. It just seems so surreal. The music seems to get better and better, and the bands bring it even harder and harder. Is there a ceiling? A limit? A maximum?
Judging by Saturday’s events in St. Petersburg, I’d say to infinity… and beyond. The main event was the birthday party for the late Dallas Bohrer, owner of the Blueberry Patch, properly dubbed Peace, Love and Blueberries. The afterparty hopped over to the Amsterdam, closing out nine hours of amazing music.
I was late (shocking, I know), but who could blame me? It was raining during the afternoon (and into the evening), and my comfy chair was real comfy. I was disappointed, because I had hoped to catch the complete set from opener Troy Youngblood and the SoulFish. One week earlier, Youngblood and crew put on a fine show at ZenFest 2015, and I was eager to hear his excellent voice again.
As I arrived, the quartet was finishing a tune and worked their way into “Got My Mojo Working.” There was something different about the sound – no drummer! There was a percussionist adding color to the sound, but it changed the dynamic, putting more focus on the band. It was effective. Youngblood’s rich tenor then asked “What the Hell Am I Doing Here?” I didn’t get to hear Thee Eloquent Barbarian’s great bass voice, but his keyboard work was fine. He plays in a style I’ve never seen before, with the keyboard tilted forward. Very interesting.
If I told you that a lady with a three-string cigar-box guitar and a dude playing floor tom, guitar and banjo would sound like Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top, you would say I’m crazy. You would probably say that about me anyway, but Hymn for Her rocked everybody’s socks off, even the people without socks! It was impossible not to watch so much great sound emanating from a seemingly tiny source.
I can’t top this description from their website: “Injecting juiced-up backwoods country blues with a dose of desert rock psychedelia that has been described as ‘Hell’s Angels meet the Amish’.” They opened with an homage to their Airstream trailer titled “Hi Ho Silver Trailer.” My thought after several more songs: the B-52s wish they sounded like this! “Fiddlestix” was a blast. Lucy introduced their ‘ballad:’ “The Whole World is One Big Aching Heart.” How touching! Maybe it was somewhere in the middle of “The Road Song” that I looked to see who was playing congas, but it was Wayne, drumming on his banjo. Incredible.
Next was an all-too-short Stadelman Brothers set. I had just seen a magnificent CopE set the night before, and I’ve seen Dennis and Kenny in this configuration before but…
Something was different. Magical. Maybe it was the Blueberry Patch aura. Whatever it was, it was superb. They began with two CopE tunes, but I liked these acoustic versions even better than the band’s electric ones. “What Goes Up” was instantly magnetic, and “Awake,” early on my favorite CopE tune, was just wonderful. It didn’t hurt that Critter Critendin, guitarist from Copious Jones, jumped into the mix. The set closed with a favorite cover of theirs, “Strange Brew.” In the context of the Blueberry Patch, it described the evening perfectly. Bravo!
A shorter Stadelman set did mean a longer Applebutter Express set, which is always a great time. The joy and innocent looks on their faces is wonderfully juxtaposed with “Shit Ain’t Illegal If You Don’t Get Caught” and “Hot Pussy.” A nice ballad followed, “When the Leaves Change Color,” before ABX stomped back into their ‘hit,’ “Hey My Brotha” (featured in the Ron Howard movie A Good Lie).
In all of the fun and shenanigans, I have failed to mention Kyle Biss’s superb ukulele playing. His enthusiasm matches that of bassist Matt DeSear, also a tremendous player. And the intertwining of Kyle’s and Shannon’s voices is heavenly, even on not-so-heavenly tunes. Also, there is Shannon’s irrepressible smile! But the secret sauce is fiddle player Joe Trivette. Florida has many fine fiddle players, but Trivette might be at the top of the heap. His work supporting the songs is downright amazing.
That left it to those vacationing boys from Atlanta, Copious Jones. That is, if you consider 37 shows in three weeks a vacation. It probably felt like 37 shows before they hit I-75 for the Georgia border. The run began prior to Gov-Fest and ended the day after this show. Gov-Fest was my second Copious Jones show, and they were superb. I was really anticipating this one.
No matter what I expected, I could not have imagined the titanic nature of this set (that’s in the proper adjectival sense, not about some boat). The set just exploded so quickly. I write often about my benchmark, hearing music that is, in the moment, as good as it gets. CJ hit that mark about ten minutes into the set and maintained that surreal level almost the entire set. I heard George Benson-style “White Rabbit” and the Outlaws and deep, deep funk and… eventually, I just wrote “! ! !” The set closed with Mikhail Peterson singing a beautiful “Expect Me Any Time.”
One interesting aspect was that Matt Stallard used Kenny Stadelman’s acoustic bass guitar and played it sitting down. To me, he was over-the-top superb. I loved his playing at Gov-Fest, but this was a thing apart. Critter killed it on guitar all night. Here is an impossible challenge for you: try to list all of the really great guitar players on our scene. The number is staggering; there is, to quote Christian Ryan, so much “young hungry talent” (and perhaps a few not quite as young). We are so damn lucky.
OMG! What time did music start at the afterparty over at the Amsterdam, a few miles away? As luck would have it, I arrived in the middle of the first tune to see the Juanjamon Band. I have plenty to say about this latest configuration, but hear what others posted first.
Robyn Allemon wrote, “How about the new additions to the Juanjamon Band? Holy fantastic!”
Kenny Harvey (aka Bonesaw) posted, “I think the NEW Juanjamon Band could be my new favorite local band. Greasy funk. The addition of Matt and Trevor is just ridiculous. Two songs in they are smashing Funkadelic’s ‘Cosmic Slop’!”
Oh, yes, they were! They stomped all over it. Matt Giancola (Future Vintage) delivered a tremendous synthesizer solo, and guitarist Dre Mack knocked it out of the park. This particular set-up gives Juanjamon great freedom to play tenor sax and EWI and organ/keys and to sing and be the front man. He is such an engaging personality, and this suits him well.
Being as I am all about the bass… and drums, the rhythm section of Trevor McDannel (also Future Vintage) and Michael Garrie is nuts. Insane. In other words, perfect for this band. Garrie and Juanjamon have great history, and this quintet debuted at Gov-Fest and blew the place up. The Amsterdam began to fill as Blueberry Patchers started drifting in. Kenny Harvey (Holey Miss Moley) and Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris (Come Back Alice) were in the house all night.
The second set might well have been the sickest, stupidest, funkiest outing I’ve ever heard. This band was made for each other. It began with a hot instrumental that led to an EWI solo, but rapidly that shot into “Hey Dog.” But that wasn’t enough. NO! It segued into “May We Funk You (Night of the Thumpasaurus Peoples),” rolling into a Garrie drum solo. And then it happened – again. At Gov-Fest, I was absolutely bowled over by “Knocking Boots (Who’s That?),” and thank heavens they played it again this night. Giancola soloed, then Juanjamon on tenor, into a jam, Trevor on bass, “(She’s Got a Real Nice) Booty,” Dre on guitar, Giancola again, this time on his newest toy, a Moog, and back into “Booty.” Deeper than deep!
Harvey and Morris took over for the rhythm section, and Critter, who obviously hadn’t played enough on this road trip, took the guitar. They blew out a great version of the Greyboy All-Stars’ “Get a Job” (and kudos to Anna Giancola for nailing that!). They closed with a slightly slower-tempo Latin tune that sent everybody home exhausted but smiling.
What a great ride!
Great to see Dan, Winston, Robyn and Anna!