Over the course of two weekends recently, I was fortunate to catch seven bands (two of them twice) on four nights in two cities. I know it must seem as if I’ve been sipping the Koolaid, but every band was on fire, delivering great performances. This, I am delighted to say, has become the norm.
The run began on Friday, December 11th, with the Future Vintage album release party for Doin It Right. Trevor McDannel and Matt Giancola, founding members of Future Vintage, are also vital elements in the superb funk quintet led by Juanjamon, so it was fitting that The Juanjamon Band opened the show at the Ringside Cafe in St. Petersburg.
Juanjamon and crew were, as mentioned, absolutely on fire. Dre Mack was knocking out tremendous guitar solos, and Michael “Thunderfoot” Garrie was propelling the proceedings at break-neck speed. Giancola had plenty of space to show off his funky keyboard chops; he is one of the elite piano players on the scene.
And Meesta Juanjamon was kind enough to throw it down hard on several of his best tunes, including “Knockin’ Boots” and “Hey Chester.” This band is a vehicle that allows him to focus even more on his fine tenor saxophone playing.
And then it was time for Future Vintage to unveil their first full-length album. I had the pleasure the previous Tuesday of guest-hosting on In the Groove, the jam band show on WMNF 88.5 in Tampa with Thor Bendicksen. Giancola, McDannel and Juanjamon were my guests in studio (along with Anna Giancola, who designed the album cover and acts as band archivist via photography and videography); we debuted the album in its entirety.
This was a special night for the band. Giancola was decked out in a deluxe white suit, and new recruit drummer Eric Layana again demonstrated why he is the perfect fit for this jamtronic trio. McDannel too was having a brilliant night. And there were numerous family members there in addition to the amazing Hometeam musical family in attendance.
Future Vintage played songs from the new album and plenty of other tunes as well, including a great rendition of the theme to Back to the Future which had been debuted at the deluxe Come Back to the Future Vintage party with Come Back Alice and Row Jomah, and Juanjamon and Christian Ryan on saxophones.
I was tired and ready to slip out, but Anna insisted I hang out until the next tune. I soon discovered why. Matt began to talk about somebody when I realized he was talking about me and my writing and support for the scene and musicians. It was then that he announced that my retirement party had been set for March 12th right there at the Ringside with Future Vintage, the Juanjamon Band and Serotonic!
I then discovered that Donna had put the wheels in motion and that Anna connected all the dots to make it happen.
I’m still glowing!
Saturday night, it was a great show at The Crowbar in Ybor City (Tampa) featuring Kung Fu and Holey Miss Moley. My brother, Phil, was in town, and we had a blast listening to Holey Miss Moley. This superb octet (plus one) has been flame-throwing recently, including a great headlining show at Skipper’s Smokehouse two weeks previously.
The new soundman at The Crowbar is also a star. In the past, you could count on the volume being set to EAR-SPLITTING levels. This man has the touch. In particular, the vocals of Danny Clemmons and Robyn Alleman were clear and undistorted. It didn’t hurt that both of them were nailing all of their songs, either (I am such a sucker for Orgone’s “Don’t Stop”). Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris, the man behind the kit for Come Back Alice, has been filling in for Tony Morales while his wrist heals; Yral IS the man.
Kung Fu delivered a spirited set, but by now there was a problem: SMOKE. The Crowbar permits smoking (apparently, bands can request no smoking), and the place was jam-packed (credit to Kung Fu and good promotion from Moongoddess Entertainment and Brotherly Love Productions), but it was difficult for non-smokers to breathe. Blessedly, there was a speaker set up on the patio out back, and it was possible to stand there, listen, and see the band from inside. Clearly, however, this detracts from the overall experience.
Rob Somerville was dancing and singing up a storm in addition to his tenor sax duties, and Tim Palmieri remains one of the true unsung heroes of the guitar. Keyboard player Beau Sasser joined the band in June and sounded great when I saw them at The Big WHAT?, but now he fits seamlessly into the quintet. Adrian Tramantano is an incredible source of power at the drum kit. And thanks to bassist Chris DeAngelis for his great phone interview during the In the Groove show on Tuesday as well as his bottom-end anchoring this night.
Fast-forward to Friday, December 18th at The Crowbar. This was the fifth annual Moongoddess Entertainment Holiday Charity Drive. Greenhouse Lounge, about to go on a year’s hiatus (except for the AURA festival in March), was playing its last club date for the foreseeable future. This superb Jacksonville trio plays full-tilt live electronica, and they had a great night, their ebullience matching that of the bouncing, enthusiastic crowd. Dave McSweeney, Zach Weinert, and Rayland Felts delivered a great set; they expressed their true affection for Julia Stewart and Moongoddess Entertainment, pointing out that they had been playing at The Crowbar for her for five years.
Future Vintage opened the show with a brilliant set, every bit a match for their album release performance. The highlights were another incredibly jazzy reading of “Back to the Future” and an angular funky new tune to close the set in addition to numerous tunes from their new album.
Between sets, DJ K Slat (Kevin Slattery) brought his usual amazing mix of deep house grooves to the party. He is by far my favorite area DJ, bringing the funk and disco and house music along with some great Headhunters fusion. Kudos again to the soundman for another great night where I didn’t need earplugs!
Saturday, there were numerous options, but another wonderful dinner at Brick and Mortar in St. Pete seemed to indicate that we should head to the Witches’ Den, the new indoor room at The Ale and the Witch. The new addition means that cold or inclement weather won’t stop the show, which normally is in the courtyard. It also means that music can go past the midnight noise ordinance.
First up was Porcupine, the group led by The Rev. Funky D, the godfather of the Bay area music scene. He was in fine form singing and on keyboards as we caught the end of the set, including a spirited “Right Place, Wrong Time” and a funky “Crazy” (the Gnarls Barkley tune).
And then it was time for another dose of The Juanjamon Band (because I can never get enough). This was a very different set, in a most wonderful way. From the start, it was more jazzy than funky. Giancola was killing it on his single keyboard (a synth that does everything), but it was Dre Mack who really seemed to set the tone. His beautiful jazz chords were brilliant.
They did get around, I am delighted to say, to “Knockin’ Boots,” and eventually Juanjamon, who had a superb night on tenor sax and was even better on the EWI (electronic wind instrument), announced that they had one more tune to play.
HA! Technically, it WAS one tune, but a medley, starting with “Hey Chester” into some nasty jam into “May We Funk You (Night of the Thumpasaurus Peoples)” back into “Hey Chester.”
Them boys are sick!
This was also the St. Petersburg Hometeam New Year’s Rally Pre-Party. And cheers to The Rev. Funky D for superb sound. That is a great room Brett Andress has created at A & W.
I’ll take two weekends back to back like that any time!
Photographs by kind permission of Anna Giancola and Samantha Goodall!