There are five bands you need to see at AURA next week…
Hold it! Hold it right there! What do you mean FIVE bands? There are 33 bands playing, counting all of the permutations and combinations of the Heavy Pets. What gives?
Agreed. You need to see ALL 33 bands at AURA next weekend at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak. There’s just one little problem…
You can’t. I know. I’ve tried. Even if you bring your clone, you won’t get to see and hear everything. There are situations when three bands you’re dying to see are playing at the same time! So what can a sane person do? (You’re asking me?)
Prioritize. See if one band will be in your area relatively soon and you could afford to miss. Split time between two stages.
And this: my number one festival rule is: be absolutely sure you go to see some bands you know nothing about and others you have only heard on the radio or on the internets.
With that in mind, here are five bands working largely on the regional level, what downbeat used to dub talent deserving wider recognition. I am highlighting five bands I have seen. (I can’t wait to check out eleven bands next week I’ve never heard before.)
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Consider the Source. Lucky Costello. The Fritz. TAUK. We’ll take them in order of appearance.
Friday at 2 AM: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Last year’s winter storms played havoc with AURA 2014. One band that just barely avoided the snow to make it was Baltimore’s Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. They had the opening slot Saturday, and they blew the place up. You could try not to dance to this: “And all I want to do is F-U-N-K, F-U!” That’s how they started their set. It was tremendous. Two guitars, bass and drums producing their version of “high-energy psychedelic funk.”
Try not to watch front man, lead singer and guitarist Greg Ormond. It’s simply not possible. Jeremy Schon rips off the guitar solos while Ormond chunks the funk, dancing all the while. I’m all about the bass… and drums, and the PPPP rhythm section delivers the goods perfectly, Ben Carrey on bass and Dan Schwartz on drums.
Saturday at 2 PM: Consider the Source
I am wary of comparisons. They are useful as general guidelines but not as specific roadmaps. That being said, I have never heard anyone I thought sounded like John McLaughlin, until, that is, I heard Gabriel Marin of CTS. I knew nothing about the band when I first went to see them at the Dunedin Brewery; I always have great fortune ‘discovering’ new music there (plus beer). I was absolutely blown away: psychedelic fusion with Indian themes, prog rock and jazz filled my head to the brim. The trio touched places for me only the Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson had visited. In fact, they describe their music as “Sci-Fi Middle Eastern fusion.” I’m buying.
This ‘new’ band has been together for a dozen years, working out of New York City. John Ferrara and Jeff Mann form one monster of a rhythm section to drive this metal-tinged jazz and rock and interplanetary magic show. Strap yourself in; you’re about to embark on a wonderful, wild ride. Warning: not for the faint of heart!
Saturday at 5 PM: Lucky Costello
This Jacksonville Beach quartet had the opening Sunday slot at last year’s AURA, and they delivered an excellent set on a beautiful morning. I bought their live CD and had been waiting for round two. That finally came at the recent Gov-Fest (Valentine’s Day), and again the band came up big. Jeff Raimondo and Andy McWilliams (bass and drums) drive the bouncing groove along, with Gerry Raimondo playing lilting guitar lines. In and around the jams, Wil Begley’s keyboard wizardry washes over every song, adding remarkable color to the music. Both times, they had people dancing everywhere. I am ready for round three!
Saturday at 7:15 PM: The Fritz
My first encounter with The Fritz was only in passing (my error): we were at Dunedin Brewery (again – I love that place and sound engineer Chris Fama) to see somebody (TAUK??). We opted to find seats inside, so I could hear The Fritz a little bit (they were under the tent outside). I knew I needed to see them for real, and the opportunity came at Bear Creek. They were incredible. In P-Funk parlance, it was funk “so wide can’t get around it, so low you can’t get under it, so high you can’t get over it.”
Who says a rock band can’t play funk? Certainly NOT the Fritz. In fact, that’s how the Asheville quintet bill themselves. These boys rock incredibly hard, and it is impossible (absolutely impossible) not to watch singer and keyboard player Jamar Woods. Did I mention he can dance and gyrate AND sing and play? Yep! Mike Evans’ percussion adds great flavor to the punch of the rhythm section (Jake O’Connor and Michael Tillis).
Saturday at 11:45 PM & Sunday @ 1:45 PM: TAUK
Of the five bands you MUST see at AURA this year, TAUK is probably the most widely known. They have been in good rotation on SiriusXM’s Jam On (Channel 29). I knew nothing about them other than the name when good fortune led me to see them twice in the Baltimore/DC area last March, then four more times (including both Bear Creek sets). They blow my mind. Every. Time.
Heavy instrumental rock fusion is what TAUK does, and they do it with flair. They produce that wonderful 70s fusion none of them was even around to hear back then. Isaac Teal is a stud on drums, in a class with Cobham and Mouzon. He teams up with bass player Charlie Dolan to lay the foundation for some powerful music. Matt Jalbert can play a gorgeous guitar melody one moment and rip your head off the next the next with a blistering rock riff. And their secret weapon is: A.C. Alric Carter is a master keyboard player. TAUK’s music is infused with his synthesizers, organ, clavinet and piano; I cannot think of a player on the scene who contributes more from his keyboard stool.
You can’t see everybody, I know. But these are five you owe it to yourself to check out – at some point. See you at AURA!
Photo credits: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong: AURA; Consider the Source: Sonsini Media; Lucky Costello: gypsyshooter/David Lee; The Fritz: Garrett Woodward; TAUK: Richele Cole