In my recent review of the Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio, I said people might start accusing me of cutting and pasting. I’ll call myself out. That’s the only way I could compile this: from old reviews.
This is too late for Thursday, but here is a look at most of the participants at the Dunedin Brewery Spring Beer Jam 3, and I will miss most of it (sniff). These are just pieces of reviews from the recent AURA Festival, Gov-Fest and shows at the brewery.
8:00 THE FRITZ
Up the hill in the forest, the Fritz (Asheville) was about to grab the stage. I had missed them the previous Saturday due to a late arrival in Dunedin, so I was looking forward to this. SPEC-TAC-U-LAR. This set was scorching from start to finish. The rhythm section is superb, and Jamie Hendrickson was just wailing on his guitar. What a deep, funky groove. And it was impossible not to watch front man, vocalist and keyboard player Jamar Woods, gyrating, provoking the funk. I need to see them over and over! What a delightful first show for me!
I was blown out at Bear Creek by the Fritz, so I jetted back to the Music Hall to catch their set. This is where the schedule got really complicated. I ended up missing Papadosio — again. There is only so much you can do. The Fritz were blowing it up inside. The rhythm section was impossibly tight, and Jamie Hendrickson was killing it on guitar.
10:00 THE HEAVY PETS Kinky Reggae Party
From there, I hustled over to the Porch for the Heavy Pets. This South Florida quintet has been on a rampage of late, and this was a tremendous set, highlighted — for me — by Collier joining them on my favorite Pets tune, “Dewpoint.” that led to an amazing funky bluesy jam with Collier trading off with guitar slingers Jeff Lloyd and Mike Garulli.
All of the permutations and combinations of the Heavy Pets were also featured throughout the weekend, and Tony D’Amato and Jamie Newett were nothing short of stellar in each appearance on bass and drums.
4:00 FAT MANNEQUIN
I made sure that I got to the Vibe Tent in time to see Fat Mannequin, yet another subset of the Heavy Pets. At last year’s AURA, I found them playing by accident and was truly knocked out. No bass. No drums. Just guitarists Mike Garulli and Jeff Lloyd picking acoustic and singing. My award last year for the best performance at this funky festival was this duo performing a stunning version of “Eleanor Rigby.” My award for this year? Same thing. Garulli and Lloyd were joined by bandmate Tony D’Amato, who added great richness to the sound.
6:00 DJ 45 REVOLVER
8:30 NAUGHTY PROFESSOR
Months ago, Serotonic’s guitar player, Jordan Garno, put a bug in my ear. “Naughty Professor,” he near-whispered. “Incredible New Orleans band.” And he just nodded.
Last night, I was nodding, too. As was Jordan. And everybody else in the intimate Dunedin Brewery. I have seen the future. And the past.
Let’s suppose you wanted to build a funky jazz band. Or a jazzy funk band. How would you go about it? Here is an architect’s rendering:
You need a strong foundation. Start with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, with that three-horn frontline. Add a floor of Chicago Transit Authority and Blood, Sweat and Tears. Next floor: James Brown’s Famous Flames and P-Funk. Going up: Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band and Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House with the Brecker Brothers and David Sanborn. You’re getting the picture.
Assorted Marsalis collaboratives. Dirty Dozen, Rebirth and Soul Rebels Brass Bands. Galactic, Karl Denson and Lettuce. And Snarky Puppy in the penthouse.
Naughty Professor hit every one of those – and more — at some point during their mind-blowing sets. I felt at times as if I had lucked into a History of Jazz concert. Take trumpeter John Culbreth, for instance. His magnificent tone kept reminding me of Dizzy Gillespie. Nick Ellman’s alto sax work recalled Paul Desmond and Art Pepper. These six young men form an incredible juggernaut, and the possibilities for them are endless.
This band is tight, as tight as any I have ever seen, and I thought I had made the same pronouncement about a number of bands on our scene (mentioned above and more). It starts, as it must, with the rhythm section. You almost don’t notice Noah Young on bass, because he is fairly stoic (especially compared to the horns!), but as you listen you realize he is just crushing it, along with drummer Sam Shahin. Shahin is lots more animated, and he has a marvelous sense of time. Together, they provide the superb syncopation for the ensemble horn attacks.
NP is old school and new school all at the same time. Whenever one of the horn players takes a solo, the other two have a delightful habit of walking off stage to focus attention on the soloist, then playing as they walk back on stage. It is effective, respectful and engaging, and it also allows more face time for the rhythm section and Wild Bill Daniel on guitar.
Ian Bowman plays tenor saxophone, and through his horn you hear the history of jazz as well. Clearly, these boys have studied and listened and synthesized and made this music their own. Ellman also plays a monster baritone saxophone.
I missed the entire first set. I won’t make that mistake again! I walked in just as the second set began. Jordan and Robert Sanger, bassist for Serotonic, were there already. I also spotted Jamie Newitt, drummer for the Heavy Pets, sitting at the bar, and Josh Formanek, guitar player for Infinite Groove Orchestra. Musicians in the house!
Right out of the gates, they hit Jazz Messengers stride with “Knockwurst” from their new CD, Until Next Time. Next was a tune from theep (the EP), “Chef’s Revenge.” Bass and drums led eventually to a fine tenor solo from Bowman; I kept hearing Tiny Universe in my head. A new tune, “Prune Juice,” showcased Ellman on both alto and bari.
Then they called up Newitt to sit in on Lettuce’s “Breakout.” The mutual joy and respect were evident. They closed the set with “Chef’s Special” from the new disk, featuring solos from Culbreth and Bowman.
During set break, I mentioned to Formanek that the guitar player did not have much solo space that set, although we agreed we liked what we heard from him. What we did not know was that the third set was merely an excuse to unleash “Wild Bill” Daniel.
And unleash they did! A pair of great originals (all the tunes were theirs except for the Lettuce song) was followed by “Elephant’s [??],” and “Wild Bill” took off. A ballad followed, “Out on a Limb,” with Bowman and Young stepping out, but then “Wild Bill” forgot it was a ballad and blasted out again with another great solo.
Next up was a baritone sax tour de force with Ellman blowing and gyrating, working along with Shahin’s drums. After that, a couple of guys who knew the material kept calling for a tune. And what a great call it was! From the new disk, they closed with “Six Paper Joint.” Bowman took another mean turn on tenor, and then “Wild Bill” went on a long, trippy guitar excursion. It was awesome!
There was obvious support for an encore, and they rolled out “Metal Mariachi” from theep. Once again, Wild Bill” got the nod, and then Shahin entertained with a joy-filled drum solo.
And every tune featured that tight ensemble horn work at some point during the tune. Hubbard, Shorter and Fuller? Brecker, Sanborn and Brecker? These boys belong in the same conversation. For real.
Paul Levine: I’m sure you already know about these cats, but PLEASE bring them to Bear Creek. Thor, Wayne, In the Groove and WMNF: PLEASE bring these boys back to the Tampa area. And thanks to Naughty Professor for donating a copy of Until the Next Time to WMNF and In the Groove!
To quote from Pedro Bell’s album cover for Uncle Jam Wants You: DESE CHUMPS ARE SE-REE-OUS!
10:30 THE HEAVY PETS Dunedin Rock City
The Heavy Pets have been on fire for quite some time, especially at festivals at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park (Bear Creek, AURA, Wanee and more). And they always rise to the occasion at Skipper’s. They wasted no time jumping right into the groove. Once again, the rhythm section is the backbone supporting this collective musical beast, and Tony D’Amato and Jamie Newitt come up huge EVERY time. They really knock me out. And there is just something about the musical colors Jim Wuest gets on his keyboards. I hereby accuse him of listening to some of those great old disco tunes with great synthesizer and clavinet and you name it (and, no, ‘great disco’ is NOT an oxymoron!).
Which brings us to the guitar side of the stage. Mike Garulli and the aforementioned Lloyd work so well in tandem, chunky and funky and blistering and downright dirty, offset by their two huge grins. Lloyd in particular has been playing like a man possessed, and I will block any exorcist who dares to come near!
Their joyous set ended with a truly wicked encore that at some point morphed into “Hedi Sigismondi” and then out; at least, I think so. Whatever, it was a truly glorious night for two great bands who continue to improve their game show after show. Both belong front and center on the national stage.
[Check out The Big What?, Big Something’s festival in Mebane NC June 26-28, their latest CD, and the two recent 7” vinyl releases and digital downloads from the Heavy Pets: “Two Horses” and “Rags and Aces.”]
BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVER.
12:30 SPONTANEOUS UNDERGROUND
Back in the Vibe Tent, Spontaneous Underground was taking the stage. This trio featured the Heavy Pets’ rhythm section (D’Amato and Newitt) and James Dunstan on keyboards. This was similar in approach to Lather Up! (D’Amato, Newitt and Jim Wuest). They call it “jazz for the dancefloor.” Exactly right. Positively infectious. One jam led to a really spacy “Tomorrow Never Knows” that segued into the Star Wars theme before returning to TNK. Then they were joined by Roosevelt for a bluesy collaboration.
3:00 LATHER UP!
During the break, I ran back to the Vibe tent to check out a band, but there was a change in schedule. Instead, the first Heavy Pets subset was on stage, Lather Up! This superb trio features the rhythm section plus keyboard wizard Jim Wuest. Think the New Deal or Pnuma Trio. This configuration sends me into orbit. And Wuest displays every note with his facial features, which a number of people said they enjoyed. Just too much!
4:00 ALY CAT
6:00 KETCHY SHUBY
A very different set was going down in the Vibe tent, as Ketchy Shuby put on a mesmerizing show. All five men were well dressed, as in a review. The music was a blast, and then they got to some interesting songs. “She’s White as Cocaine” was a stitch. Then the vocalist of the Miami band announced the next tune, “Black Areola,” which led to an awesome space jam.
9:00 THE HEAVY PETS Space Disco (somebody better record this!)
I believe in evolution. Want proof? Here it is:
Half an hour into the Heavy Pets’ show at the Dunedin Brewery, I had my review all written. Knew exactly how it was going to unfold.
But then it changed and evolved by the end of the first set and evolved half a dozen more times before the “Jackie Bones” encore. You wanted proof positive? There it is!
There is just something about the Dunedin Brewery that turns an extraordinary performance into a truly magical one. Perhaps it is because you can stand right next to the band, with the energy surging back and forth between the band and the enthusiastic audience. Maybe it is the spot-on sound provided by house engineer Chris Fava. Perhaps it is the amazing job the Dunedin Brewery owners and staff do in providing outstanding music, beer, food and service. I’m guessing it’s a combination of all of that.
Ultimately, however, it was down to the Heavy Pets. This was my 20th show, and it was the best show I’ve ever heard from them.
In several recent reviews of the Heavy Pets (most recently 05.24.14 on my birthday), I have singled out the superb guitar work of Jeff Lloyd, and I stand by every one of those remarks. However, clearly I had musical blinders on, because I was obviously NOT paying enough attention to Lloyd’s guitar-slinging mate, Mike Gerulli. Last night fixed that. I was standing next to Gerulli for most of the first set, and he blew it up. Every song. Every solo. On fire. Raging. WOW.
Tony D’Amato’s addition to the band on bass has had a profound effect for me. I really enjoyed Justin Carney’s work on bass, but D’Amato is so funkified that shows since he joined the band have become funky rave-ups. Just watching D’Amato grinning at drummer Jamie Newitt as they propel the band through song after song tells you all you need to know. It is why, as I am preparing this for publication a week later, they are set to play their 1000th show at Hulaween.
Jeff Lloyd would explain it this way (ripped from FaceCrack): “Why do we do what we do? No friggin clue, but we do it for you. Thank You from the bottom of my heart and with all the Love I have to give. Sincerely, – JeLlo”
“Keep Me Running” just seemed to explode three songs into the first set. That’s when I thought I had my review all done. HAH! By the time they got to set-closer “Pass It Down,” it had evolved with massive funk rewrites.
Linda often remarks that certain bands “shouldn’t sing.” You know what I mean: the vocals work in the context of the music, but they are NOT great singers. That is absolutely NOT true of the Heavy Pets. Garulli, Lloyd and keyboard magician Jim Wuest all have good voices and harmonize extremely well together.
They opened the second set with “Chevrolet,” which then launched full speed into “Sunshine of Your Love” before working its way back to “Chevy.” It was a moving tribute to bassist Jack Bruce, who had passed away just that morning. “Sigismondi” is not normally one of my favorites, but this was by far the best version I’d ever heard.
The brewery had a special beer on tap called “Jackie Bones,” with a bunch of pumpkin spices and the like in it, which coordinated perfectly with the encore, Lloyd’s “Jackie Bones.” Coincidence? Not a chance!
I wish that somebody had recorded the evening’s performance. It would allow me to verify that the 20+minute rendition of “So Thank You Music” was a legendary as I think it was. One of the greatest musical performances I have ever heard, anywhere, by anyone. The segues and transitions were seamless, and everyone was totally caught up in the music. The crowd was fully engaged all evening, but this took us all over the top. “So Thank You Music” is exactly right!
Great to see Robert and Jordan from Serotonic with their much better halves, Katie and KelliAnn! Setlists courtesy of Tony’s napkins and the bands clarifications!
The Heavy Pets are in the vinyl game. They have released two 7” colored vinyl Eps, last year’s Two Horses (“Last Babies” and “Keep Me Running”), and this year’s Rags and Aces (“Movie Star,” “Chew” and “Dewpoint”).
[SET 1: SET 1: Taste of Wind, Ibis, Keep Me Running, Movie Star, Xylophone, Steppin’ Away, Pass It Down; SET 2: Chevrolet > Sunshine of Your Love > Chevrolet, Giant Birds, Sigismondi, Strawberry Mansion, Last Babies, So Thank You Music, Foolishness > Pain of Soul; E: Jackie Bones]
11:00 THE NTH POWER
Cannot find my review. GRRR
As quickly as we slipped into bluegrass land, we slid back out, into Displace. This Tampa quartet has been simply been over the top in the past few months, including their Hometeam set and a big show last week at the Ringside. None of that prepared me for the massiveness of this set.
Let me cut to the chase. If you attempt to answer the question, what was your favorite concert, there are so many factors involved. So consider my relatively simple benchmark. I search for music that is, in the moment, as good as it gets. You will think I’m crazy (and you’d probably be right), but I hit that benchmark at least a dozen times over the course of Gov-Fest. It WAS that good.
But the Displace set was a thing apart. For me, this was Vinny Swoboda night. His bass-playing was simply amazing. It started immediately, as the quartet opened with an interesting choice, “Eyes of the World,” and it worked. From there, they launched into my favorite Displace original, “Geonosis Shuffle.” The Hometeam version was monstrous. The Ringside YouTube recording is huge. This version was beyond imagination, with Sam Dobkin just killing on guitar and Chris Sgammato alternating between guitar and alto sax. “On Responsible Consumerism” was a blast. It was a stunning set, and they made many new believers that night.
6:00 THE HEAVY PETS Whale (double album in its entirety)
The Heavy Pets were in town from Ft. Lauderdale, on their way to the Northeast, to melt snow, if last night’s performance is any indication. From the opening whistle, the quintet came out slamming, Mike Garulli handling vocals on “Movie Star.”
And then it happened. “So Thank You Music” was the second song in the set. And the next 26 minutes were just RIDICULOUS. Off the charts, off the hook, ridiculous. At that point, I sent out a Facebook message that said, “And now the Heavy Pets are destroying the Social. Already best set I’ve heard from them.” Mind you, this was my 22nd HP show, so I know – sort of – what I’m hearing.
Jeff Lloyd had first vocal chores on STYM. Garulli took the first guitar solo, followed by Jim Wuest on electric piano, and then Lloyd on space guitar, which he does really well. After that, even a program would not have helped. There was so much happening, so many changes, and it was all happening in a whirlwind of sound.
Tony D’Amato and Jamie Newitt are so incredibly tight on bass and drums, and it was jaw-dropping watching them lead the Heavy Pets through this amazing tune. D’Amato and Newitt along with Wuest had played some of the sickest jams ever with Roosevelt Collier on their December mini-tour, and for my money this was more of the same. MIND BLOWN. I asked Lloyd about it after the show. He said, “Yeah, I don’t think we’ve ever played it in the second spot. It was a highlight for me, too.”
“Keep Me Running” was actually an opportunity to catch one’s breath after the previous extravaganza. Lloyd was featured on “Pleasure Tank,” and a segment of the “Xylophone” reminded me of Cream’s take on Skip James’s “I’m So Glad.”
I really enjoy Jim Wuest’s work at his keyboards, including electric piano, synthesizer and voice tube. A long piano intro led into “Help Me Help You,” and Wuest called for the ubiquitous Cranford to get back on stage with his alto. Cranford responded with his best work of the night. And this song, like many in the HP repertoire including KMR, featured splendid three-part vocal harmonies from Wuest, Garulli and Lloyd to close out the set.
The Gov’nah, who had been on stage often raffling off tickets to Gov-Fest, was joined on stage by Matt. They gave away the grand prize (tickets to Gov-Fest AND Orange Blossom Jam, plus some merch). Then Matt pointed out that the Pets would be back through Orlando again at some point, but wouldn’t we like to hear ONE MORE SONG now?
Clearly, that was the overwhelming sentiment, and the Pets were back. More three-part harmony, synthesizer and another Lloyd space outing (brilliant) were all part of “Sigismondi,” and we were done. Baked. Put a fork in it. Me.
10:00 DUBBLE JAMES