OK, it was round two, but this wasn’t a battle; it was a glorious collaboration of manic music styles. Opposite Box defines themselves as “belligerent jungle funk.” The Bath Salt Zombies claim to be “undefinable;” they look like a bluegrass band, which is a pretty good disguise for their wild antics.
YOU’RE ON ALERT: MELBOURNE, NEW SMYRNA BEACH and JACKSONVILLE. They’re coming for you, so you just might as well submit.
Noodles and the Elephant Project had the lights blazing last night at the Dunedin Brewery (February 18) for both bands, to everyone’s delight. They added a great dimension to an already outrageous program. So did house engineer Chris Fama’s spot-on sound.
Opposite Box, four crazies from Chattanooga, brought their brand of insanity to the Sunshine State. They played a live set on WMNF 88.5’s In the Groove program Tuesday and had their first Florida matchup with BSZ Wednesday in Sarasota. By the time I arrived at the brewery, OB had already captivated the crowd. And Sarah Philips, trombone player for Green Sunshine, was playing with them!
In the midst of the tune, Ryan Long, who plays keyboards and trombone and sings, shouted out drummer Ryan Guzman. He was the one with the full-face Jason-like mask. Partway through the solo, he suddenly grabbed one of his floor toms and carried it to the center of the dance floor, all the while playing. Then guitarist Dick Long (the one with the pig face half-mask), grabbed the other floor tom and brought it out as well, drumsticks also in hand. The two circled the drums, playing all the while. Guzman occasionally also played the floor, barstool legs, and anything else he could find. Eventually they returned the toms to the stage and just kept rolling.
Opposite Box ranges from funky jazz to all-out, full-frontal thrash punk. That’s a fairly wide range. Ryan Long was blowing up his synthesizer, when the next tune then evolved into a very jazzy electric piano workout. At some point, Ryan donned his full-head lion mask, grabbed his trombone, came out onto the dance floor, climbed up on a stool, and blew!
There was a story song about Sarah, a girl whose trusted her girlfriend, Megan, convinced her to do psychedelic drugs at a music festival, riotously turning into “Shake What Your Mama Gave You.” Then there was a song about drinking on the beach.
Ryan called another “rock and roll!” song, and it morphed continuously: “Gin and Juice > ?? > Pray for the Dead > Blackwater > Fat-Bottom Girls > Zomby Woof.” The “Zomby Woof” was huge. Preparing for the last song, Ryan said, “Sing along if you know the words.” Naturally, they played Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.” Called back for an encore, they played a superb version of “Creatures,” a tune from their new EP, Make a Jungle Noise Here.
And then it was Bath Salt Zombie time. They eased us into the set with “Dig a Little Hole” and “Away We Go,” two of the band’s great original songs. Then it got nuts. BSZ did a mashup of The Inkspots’ “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” with “Firestarter” by Prodigy. The first one is smooth, the second one… not so much. And the black lights came on for the first time during “Firestarter,” revealing the boys’ skeleton faces and arms. It was awesome.
I’ve seen the Bath Salt Zombies a dozen times, but I truly heard them for the first time last night in the intimate confines of the Dunedin Brewery. I never appreciated just how talented each member of the band is nor felt the true fullness of their sound. This was a great revelation.
I certainly never appreciated the brilliance of Fancypants Fancypants on mandolin (the only band member who does not sing). He was shredding all night, adding amazing sound effects, so integral to the band’s sound. Banjo player Zane Bowman took some solos I thought were electric guitar; he was tremendous. And Graham Woodard, the band’s front man, sounded awesome on some sort of prototype guitar.
More than anything, however, I never understood just how much these boys KICK ASS. This was such a strong set, powered by great playing from Tucker Cobb (it IS all about that bass) and thunderous drums from Dan Croley. Where have I been?
After their great surprise Beatles’ medley (“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer > Eleanor Rigby”), they blew up “Saw Red” ( ), featuring a wicked banjo solo and a monster mandolin solo. It turned into a long Dead-like jam. WOW! During “Whoa Betsy,” we were treated to a bovine (possibly a lady in a cow suit) breakdancing and spinning on her head.
They called up Twisty Chris (of Twisty Chris and the Pudding Packs) to sing “Astro Zombies.” Sarah Philips donned a beard and her trombone for “Bearded Lady.” It was Robyn Alleman’s turn as she (Holey Miss Moley) and Graham sang “I Put a Spell on You.” Finally, Ryan Long and Philips had dueling trombones to enhance “St. James Infirmary.” Plus an encore.
Perhaps the best part of the set, however, occurred when somebody requested “Boris the Spider,” which started innocently enough with Cobb’s deep baritone. But a some point it segued into a wickedly wonderful version of “I’m Your Boogie Man.” You have NEVER heard this song until you hear it with lead mandolin. This was a jam that simply wouldn’t quit (to everyone’s delight). I think this was when Ryan Long joined in on trombone. Sick as funk, for certain.
Like I said, Melbourne, New Smyrna Beach and Jacksonville: lock up your children, and then submit to the awesomeness of Opposite Box and The Bath Salt Zombies. You will NOT regret it.
This is a link to video of “I Put a Spell on You.”