Tom Hamilton’s American Babies, The Groove Orient Blow Up Florida Tour


Over and over, my brother from another mother Pat kept telling me: You went to the Silent Disco at AURA 2015 and missed Tom Hamilton’s American Babies in the Music Hall.

Finally, I got a chance to find out what he was raving about, as Hamilton and crew played Tampa for the first time at The Crowbar (Friday, January 29th). I am now prepared to say:


am babies new

This was a superb night of music from THAB and from The Groove Orient, the quintet from Orlando accompanying Hamilton on all five dates on the Florida run; this was night four.

The Groove Orient came roaring out of the gate with “Hot Bandit Woman.” Multi-instrumental Tommy Shugart was on guitar for this one and cranked out a monster solo to whip up the too-sparse crowd (because YOU MISSED IT!). Chuck Magid (guitar) and Harry Ong (bass) had some great vocals going on this, including a great call-and-response-type section near the end, very effective. Magid’s voice had great depth all evening, and Ong’s has a beautiful range and quality.

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The only issue hampering the music of the evening was that the sound engineer, possibly new to the house, had the bass and the bass drum cranked up way too loud (go ahead, tell that funny joke again). There was no reason for it. It also hampered the sound of the DJ who spun great sets before, between and after the bands’ two sets. It got a little better for THAB. Sound men are indispensable, but they are not infallible. The pompous ones will bristle at suggestions; the great ones will make adjustments.

Next, TGO cranked out a great Soulive cover, “Cannonball.” Shugart had slid into his keyboard seat and whipped up a great solo on organ after Magid ripped one on guitar. The Shugart and Ong had a clavinet/bass conversation in the funkiest tradition.

“Radio Draft” again featured Shugart on organ and clavinet and Ong on a bass solo. The title track from the band’s second album, Generation Y, was a heavy-duty monster. Percussion from David Vanegas and drummer Bucky Buckingham was propulsive. Before TGO played “Lonely Road,” they called up Al Smith, drummer for THAB, to sit in… on keyboards! He and Ong locked horns on a great exchange with clavinet and bass. Ong and Magid again provided vocal magic.

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For the closer, Vanegas picked up the bass, Smith moved over to percussion, Ong grabbed the microphone, Justin Mazer of THAB jumped on stage, guitar in hand, and the band cranked out its very fine cover of “Whipping Post,” with Mazer front and center after Shugart’s organ solo.

Simply put, this was the best set I’ve heard yet from The Groove Orient. Clearly they have been shedding hard, and their recent tours with J.J Grey and MOFRO and Tom Hamilton’s American Babies have also helped to refine and improve their performance.

Speaking of the DJ, he played some excellent music, including lots of Afrobeat and Latin-tinged tunes. I look forward to seeing him again.


It was time for my education concerning Hamilton and his band. And they delivered a superb hour-and-a-half primer for everyone there. This was a joyous set from a band incredibly tight and playing as a unit. I asked Hamilton later about the setlist, but he said they just did it on the fly, so I’ll do my best.

Hamilton and bandmates Smith, Mazer, Clay Parnell (bass) and Raina Mullen (guitar) cover a vast amount of rock territory, from classic rock and Dead sounds to folk-like tunes to all-out psychedelic rock and indie sensibilities. When a band is fronted by three guitars and some fine harmony vocals, it might be easy to overlook the huge influence of the bass and drums, courtesy of Parnell and Smith. These two had a brilliant night the entire set.

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Mullen’s guitar got the set started, and as the band filled in it was obvious to see why the quintet has received such rave reviews. Mazer and Hamilton are both true guitar slingers, and each had ample opportunities to show his stuff. They hit themes such as “Am I too young?” and a song mentioning the CIA. Raina had one tune all to herself on vocal which was really nice.

This is a true American rock band. After a really hot jam, ears perked up as Hamilton introduced “Deal.” The band’s sound often veers Dead-like, and of course Hamilton works with long-time collaborator Joe Russo in Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (JRAD) and has played with Billy (Kreutzmann) & the Kids. Hamilton blasted the solo on this one.

Next was a new tune from their upcoming March album release with another superb jam. Based on this tune alone, the album should be a smash. Another tune referenced “Standing in the shadows,” the next a “long hard road,” the later with wonderful harmony vocals. Hamilton had another great solo on “Crime of the Century,” and Mazer was tremendous all night.

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Then somebody hollered “Goddamn.” That’s a song request, and Hamilton and company took it and ran. Finally, it was time for the set to close. Hamilton offered his sincere thanks to those who turned out, mentioning that this was the band’s first time in Tampa. He reminded us to tell friends, who would in turn tell friends — because that’s how it works. And they closed with a great Jerry-like tune which peaked to a frenzied duet between Hamilton and Smith.

The band’s upcoming schedule is listed below, including a return to AURA Music and Arts Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. They are currently on the Camayo Cruise out of Miami until February 7th.

Pat was right.

[The Groove Orient: Hot Bandit Woman, Cannonball (Soulive), Radio Draft, Generation Y, Lonely Road, Whipping Post]

Many thanks to MoonGoddess Productions for bringing this and many other great shows to our area!

am bab crowbar


FEB 18  THU  Dunn Dunn Fest  Chicago, IL

FEB 19  FRI  The Mousetrap  Indianapolis, IN

FEB 20  SAT  Woodlands Tavern  Columbus, OH

FEB 23  TUE  Higher Ground w/ Anders Osborne  South Burlington, VT

FEB 24  WED  Westcott Theater w/ Anders Osborne  Syracuse, NY

FEB 25  THU  The Hollow  Albany, NY

FEB 26  FRI  Capitol Theatre w/ Anders Osborne  Port Chester, NY

FEB 27  SAT  Paradise Rock Club w/ Keller Williams  Boston, MA

MAR 03  THU  AURA Music & Arts Festival  Live Oak, FL

MAR 04  FRI  AURA Music & Arts Festival  Live Oak, FL

MAR 05  SAT  AURA Music & Arts Festival  Live Oak, FL

MAR 17  THU  River Street Jazz Cafe  Wilkes-Barre, PA

MAR 18  FRI  The Acoustic  Bridgeport, CT

MAR 19  SAT  Ardmore Music Hall  Ardmore, PA

aura square


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