Bobby Lee Rodgers | The Manhattan | Future Vintage, Leisure Chief | Yeoman’s Road Pub 12.13.14

IMG_2589He’s been practicing!

IMG_2584That was Tim Turner, talking about Shak Nasti bandmate Rion Smith at Bear Creek 2009, but his remark has stuck in my brain all this time. And I am thinking about it now because all of the bands I like are continually raising their game, following one excellent performance with another even better. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

This was a fun evening on the mathematically deluxe date of 12.13.14. We started out at a place in south Tampa that has been presenting music recently. There is room inside Manhattan Dolce and Bistro for music, but this cool evening Bobby Lee Rodgers was plying his trade on the covered patio. This was originally intended as a trio gig (and there is room for a band), but due to family circumstances BLR was on his own. I’ve seen him in all sorts of configurations beyond his normal trio setting, but this was my first time hearing him solo. He was tearing it up, getting a very nice response from those outside and others wandering in and out of the place.

He was playing a beautiful C.F. Martin acoustic guitar through an amplifier that truly did the guitar and his playing justice. In such a situation, there was beaucoup room for extending solos. One of the best and jazziest emerged between “Over the Rainbow” (yes, that one, gorgeously rendered) and “Lima,” where the alligator still goes “KA-BOOM!” At set break, he was surrounded by fans and well-wishers, deservedly so. We were sitting by one of those propane heaters that ran out of fuel, and we had planned to head up the road anyway, so we hugged Bobby Lee and got warmer.

IMG_2588Not three miles away, Yeoman’s Road Pub was hosting a righteous doubleheader. Leisure Chief had escaped the Orlando area to come team up with Future Vintage for a night of funk and jazz, but not necessarily in that order. Yeoman’s, incidentally, will apparently transform itself into Iron Mike’s come January 1. Here’s hoping that the name is all that changes; it’s a great place to hear and see music performed live.

This was my third time hearing Leisure Chief, one of the 43 bands Christian Ryan plays in (little-known fact: Christian is in fact an alien who does not need to sleep). I kid, but Christian has both remarkable talent and range, which puts him in demand for jazz, funk, reggae, metal (!!), pop and just about everything else. This quintet had a fabulous night, showcasing many new originals and their collective skills. They hit syncopated funk, sweet jazzy rhythms and tight, tight arrangements. Their previous performances were very good; this was excellent, joyous and fun.

Nick Bogdon had a particularly nice guitar solo on “Curves” (and song titles are what I imagined I heard). Chris McMullen’s bass was a knock-out on the funk tunes, joined by rhythm section mate Derek Engstrom on drums, whose swinging style is as much fun to watch as it is to hear. And the man with the hat? That was Keegan Matthews (also with keyboards). I’d call him the quarterback if I were a football fan. He stood out on “Windows,” with very nice vocals from Bogdon. Truly a great set from all.

One of the aspects of pairings such as this one that I have really come to appreciate is the rapid set changes the bands are making so that there is no 45-minute set break. In what seemed like no time, Future Vintage was loaded and ready.

IMG_2596And, boy, were they ready! In keeping with the notion of stepping it up, this again registers for me as FV’s best set ever. Everything seemed to work from first tune to last. I did not track down set lists (my usual M.O.), but I know “Duke Meets the Booty” was in there, one of my favorite of their originals. Matt Giancola was having a blast with the voice tube thingie (that’s the technical name) hooked up to his bank of keyboards, while Trevor McDannell was interspersing his great bass work with occasional forays on the synth bass pad. And at each show, Dean Rocco gets even freer and funkier on his drum kit and the electronic drum pad.

To everyone’s delight, they “dragged” Christian Ryan back up to lend his alto sax to some deep, deep funk. Two great young bands, working and playing together, pushing each other to great, great performances, following a master performance from Bobby Lee Rodgers.

Your Saturday evening dance card should look so good!

Great to see Thor (WMNF’s In the Groove) and Anna, as always!


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