Gov-Fest 2015 at the Maddox Ranch was a magical time for a lot of reasons, but chief among those were the stunning performance of Flat Land, a quartet out of Gainesville, and the remarkable interplay between Fae Nageon de Lestang of Flat Land on violin and her musical twin Dani Jaye of Come Back Alice. If I counted correctly, the ladies performed together three times, and that doesn’t count the laughing, smiling and giggling.
Flat Land and Come Back Alice both had superb sets at Gov-Fest. The two bands had met and performed together previously, but there it was shared with lots of festival-goers. So the announcement that the two bands would be performing at Skipper’s Smokehouse March 28th was met with great anticipation.
However great I thought Flat Land was at Gov-Fest, this was even more fabulous. Guitarist Chris Storey crushed a number of solos throughout the set. Kudos go to John McCrary, who filled in on bass and had been with the band less than a week. He had a great night in tandem with drummer Grant McLeod, whose smile was visible from the back of Skipper’s, with a percussionist thrown in for good measure.
As I arrived, they were settling into their self-described “cosmifunkpop” set, although that really doesn’t do justice to the amazing range of their music. After several new tunes and a great one (“Rufio’s Last Stand”) from their self-titled EP, they played a rollicking version of Stevie’s “Signed Sealed Delivered (I’m Yours).” This is a powerful quartet, and they romped on “12/8,” covered a Jamiroquoi tune (“Canned Heat”), and closed with “Sun Face” and “60 Ft.” wrapped around a down-and-dirty “Use Me.”
The band had a different singer previously, and with his departure Fae, who had never sung before professionally, stepped up. You would never, ever believe that, hearing her soulful, soaring voice. She reminds me of Alley from Wise Monkey Orchestra. And she and Storey get in some epic back-and-forth onstage conversations between violin and guitar.
My impression initially was that not many people at the Skipperdome had ever seen Flat Land before. Within a very few short minutes, you would have though Flat Land was everybody’s favorite band. They brought the house DOWN!
CopE Back Alice took the stage next. CopE and Come Back Alice have collaborated brilliantly on a number of occasions. This one was slightly different: Tony Tyler and Dani Jaye would be joined by Kenny Stadelman on bass and Brad Elliot on drums, CopE’s rhythm section.
Let me put this out there. The CBA regulars, Big Bad John Werner and Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris, are spectacular. Their work with Tyler and Jaye is amazingly tight and on the one. So inquiring minds might wonder how the “fill-ins” would do.
Comment one: Stadelman and Elliot were incredible. Comment two: perhaps because I was seeing and hearing them in a different setting, I appreciated the talents of both men more than I ever have, and that includes 30+ CopE shows. INCREDIBLE.
Every time Come Back Alice hits the stage, this quartet seems to raise the bar. Even with the “substitutes,” this might have been my favorite CBA performance (but they have all been WOW). CBA delivers a great mix of original tunes and mind-blowing covers. They bounced back and forth from “That’s Alright Mama” to Dr. John’s “Right Place Wrong Time” back to “Fast Train” from their recent eponymous CD and then into “Don’t Do It (Don’t You Break My Heart)” by The Band.
The set started with Tyler on the Hammond B3 and Jaye on guitar. That’s a wicked combination. By the time they got to “Fast Train,” Jaye had picked up her violin and Tyler his guitar. Meanwhile, Stadelman and Elliot were pushing the music at delightfully break-neck speed.
The next segment was so evil, so wicked, so ugly, that I just pray somebody was recording. It began in the deep, deep funk of “Give It Up,” which jammed into “Shaky Ground,” back to “Give It Up,” into their badass new song “Ugly Rumors,” then impossibly into “Something Stank and I Want Some” and back to “Ugly Rumors.” I was in a puddle.
Everybody needed a break, and fortunately it was time for the family Facebook pic, which CBA does every show. That was followed by everybody’s favorite singalong, “Coraline.”
John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” got the wah-wah violin treatment with Tyler on harmonica, and that jumped into Zep’s “Rock and Roll.” Storey from Flat Land came up during “One-Track Mind” and ripped another great solo.
Kenny Stadelman and Brad Elliot never missed a beat. Not one.
Since Storey had already broken the ice, it was time to get both bands on stage. McLeod took over the drum chair for “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” (CBA does a nice cover on the new CD), with Fae and Dani face to face and bow to bow. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, out came the bass line for CopE’s signature song, “Shake Anything.” It was magical. The ladies squared off again, Kenny sang, and it was glorious.
Two spectacular bands, two superb sets, and two musical futures glowing very brightly. You owe it to yourself not to miss either band, and if they play together, well…
Flat Land plays two different sets at Purple Hatter’s Ball at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park (May 7-10), and Come Back Alice closes the Saturday festivities at Orange Blossom Jam (May 14-17).
[A side note: at this show, as often happens, people were clamoring for “ONE MORE SONG.” In my observation, when a band (or two bands) has just blown it up playing the last song, in this case “Shake Anything,” nothing was going to top that. I have seen musicians try… and fall short. People will probably always scream for “ONE MORE SONG,” but I truly applaud bands and performers who know when to stop. My 3 cents, adjusted for inflation.]
[FL SET: Feeling, Turn, Sinister Kid, Rufio’s Last Stand, Black Rain, Signed Sealed Delivered (I’m Yours), 12/8, Canned Heat (Jamiroqui), Sun Face, Use Me, 60 Ft.]
[CBA* SET: x, That’s Alright Mama, Right Place Wrong Time, Fast Train, Don’t Do It (Don’t You Break My Heart), Give It Up > Shaky Ground > Give It Up > Ugly Rumors > Something Stank and I Want Some > Ugly Rumors, FB pic, Coraline, Cold Turkey, Rock and Roll, One-Track Mind, x]
[CBA*/FL SET: I Walk on Gilded Splinters, Shake Anything]
* entire set with Kenny Stadelman and Brad Elliot, CopE