Music is important. Family is more important, so let me pass on great news before the music review. Jesse Hensley, lead guitarist for Big Something, did not make this four-gig pairing with Tauk (Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, DC). A vertebra pressing on his spinal chord was causing him enormous pain. The great news is that he had surgery and felt huge relief immediately. He should be back in action shortly (maybe at their next show — at my home in Tampa 08.14 at Skipper’s). Mend quickly, Jesse!
I love the 8×10 Club in Baltimore. The name is pretty accurate, and people love having a great time there. The balcony is wonderful for those not raging in the pit. I was beyond thrilled to get to hit this show while visiting family north of Baltimore. I would have gone to this show to see either band. Both of them? Ya think?
This was also the last of five Wednesday night shows at the 8×10 in Tauk’s July residency; Big Something had done a similar residency the previous summer. This is an interesting concept giving the band a home-base-away-from-home for a month. Nick MacDaniels, singer, guitar player and front man for Big Something, walked on stage to tell us about Jesse. The band stepped up big time to fill the void — Hensley is a monster player. MacDaniels worked his arse off (OK, actually, he jumps, but still). It is tough keeping your eyes off him and his bouncing left-handed guitar, but then right next to him you have Casey Crawford, a great tenor sax player who also gets some great sounds from his EWIs (electronic wind instruments). All of the music is colored by Josh Kagel’s keyboards – and the occasional trumpet! And, of course, the bottom line IS the bottom line: bass and drums. Doug Marshall and Ben Vinograd once again anchored a tremendous set.
BS grabbed a couple of tunes from their 2012 CD Stories from the Middle of Nowhere (“Pinky’s Ride,” “Amanda Lynn” & “Saturday Night Zombie”). They left their 2013 eponymous disk mostly alone (three nights ahead), and concentrated on the disk they are working on for a fall release. Nick mentioned that “UFOs are Real” and “Waves” are two new ones. “Love Generator” and “Megaladon” have been on lots of set lists recently and might be part of the new project as well.
The audience response to the entire set was, in a word: delirious. The dance floor was mobbed the entire set. These boys just plain funk! Bring that back to Tampa!
After a very short set break (both bands worked hard to make that happen), Tauk hit the stage. I knew they were from New York, but I kept imagining that the name was a play on “talk.” Which it might be, but much more obviously it is an abbreviation for Montauk. Captain Obviously Oblivious here.
I had the great fortune to see this fusion quartet twice at the end of March, and they simply blew me away. Now, they matched themselves up for a four-city tour with Big Something, touring on their brand new CD, Collisions. The two-hour set featured seven tunes from the new disk and five from Homunculus, their previous effort. They also included four superb covers.
For those of you with me in the AARP set, Tauk reminds me of what would have happened if John McLaughlin sat in with Herbie Hancock. For you young’uns, I’d say Particle. I’m really not trying to make comparisons – more like providing points of reference. Tauk is a mind-blowing collective, and they nailed it, nailed it, nailed it once again. They can absolutely crush the rock side of fusion and then offer sparkling jazzy touches. To me, it is a joy-filled presentation from start to finish.
There are no weak links in this quartet, just different styles. Contrast, for instance, Matt Jalbert on guitar with the Charlie Dolan on bass. Dolan is nearly a statue, reminiscent of the late Alvin Lee of Ten Years After. As you listen, though, you recognize that his bass lines act like trampolines for Jalvert’s guitar to bounce on. Jalvert is the opposite, back and forth, strumming, thrashing, picking with great animation, an excellent front man.
Which brings us to A.C. Alric Carter almost gets ignored visually stage right, yet his work on all manner of keyboards really directs the sound. Electric piano, synthesizer, organ, you name it – A.C.’s keyboards complete the aural picture.
Tauk hopped back and forth between Collisions and Homunculus. After a great cover of Radiohead’s “I Might Be Wrong,” they blew it out with “Afro-Tonic” (Homunculus) and then a pair from the new one, “Friction” and “Mokuba.” The st closed with a strong reading of the tune in rotation on Sirius Jam On, “In the Basement of the Alamo,” before a cover of the “Kill Bill” theme and “Collateral,” the last track on Collisions.
I was exhausted but still excited to see them come out for an encore. I could not have imagined it being a 22-minute crusher. After two more from the new disk, “Mindshift” and “Sweet Revenge,” they blasted into one of their favorite set-closers: “Immigrant Song > Jungle Boogie > Immigrant Song” (with A.C.’s synthesizer mimicking Plant’s vocal!).
Man, oh man, oh man! I am so pumped that they are heading to Bear Creek (and perhaps to AURA!). Do yourself a favor. Buy Collisions, and go see Tauk. And Big Something. It’s good for the soul.
[Big Something setlist: Julia Jam > Love Generator, Pinky’s Ride, Megalodon, UFOs are For Real, Waves, Amanda Lynn, Saturday Night Zombie, ??Turn Down For What?, E: ??]
[Tauk setlist: The Chemist, Dead Signal, Dusty Jacket, Tumbler, I Might Be Wrong, Afro-Tonic, Friction, Mokuba, When in Doubt, In the Basement of the Alamo, Kill Bill, Collateral, E: Mindshift, Sweet Revenge, Immigrant Song > Jungle Boogie > Immigrant Song]