Somehow, I had never seen the Bath Salt Zombies, despite the fact that 90% of the time Dennis Stadelman performs in one of their shirts; that should have been recommendation enough. Finally, I would get to see them, if I actually woke up in time to catch their 11 AM set Saturday morning at the Hometeam New Year’s Rally.
I made it in time to catch five dudes in turn-of-the century undertaker clothes (that would be 1900, not 2000), about ready to get it on. Banjo, acoustic guitar, drums, and left-handed acoustic bass guitar. I know, that’s four. Hold your horses.
Their set featured delightful tunes about murder, dismemberment and similar acts of depravity. It was so much fun, so demented. Sulana gave credit to her friend Dan for seeing a similar band once and describing it as “circus music gone wrong.” PERFECT!
Eventually, the fifth member and his violin hit the stage, which became all the more awesome when he donned a great-looking wolf mask while they cover Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs’ “Little Red Riding Hood.” They also covered the Clovers’ “Love Potion #9,” and we absolutely cracked up when they played “Run Away to Join the Circus.” Dan was right!
And if that wasn’t enough, their “Don’t Fall in Love with a Bearded Lady” featured, of course, a lovely dancing bearded lady. The thing about playing comedy music, whether it be Zappa or Weird Al or Spike Jones or Micky Katz, is that the music must be spot-on for it to work. The Bath Salt Zombies nailed it, big time.
Their best tune was “The Old Devils Are at It Again,” reminding us that politicians these days are just as slimy as they were decades and decades ago. “It’s true right now, like it was back then. The old devils are at it again.”
My first exposure to shoeless soul was three weeks prior at the Downtown River Jam, so I was pleased to get a second taste. The quartet features guitar, bass, tenor sax and drums, and they rolled out a great set. Very impressive was the song (and I am just guessing at many of these song titles, so…) “We Got to Change Our Ways,” about straightening up our act and taking care of the earth. “We got to wake up before she’s gone.” Right on.
“Paving the Way” was another great song, and they closed with a tremendous tune I had heard at DRJ, “Obviously Oblivious.”
Now chicanery was afoot. The Rev. Funky D (also masquerading as sound man extraordinaire) was about to put his New Diggs through their paces. D commands such respect that musicians jump at the chance to play with him. He grabbed Jordan Garno and Robert Sanger, who play guitar and bass for Serotonic. And they had the very next set – on the other stage. Where is the teleporter when you need it?
Filling out the starting line-up were Josh Garno on drums and Chris Sgammato (Displace) on alto sax and fun effects pedals. They ripped off a great instrumental opener, and suddenly there were two female vocalists on stage, Tea (Green Sunshine) and Robyn, plus Mama Bone and Johnny Nichol on trombone and trumpet. Matt Hillman joined the rumble with his harp at some point, and at that point I began to lose track of all the sit-ins. Josh Garno was doing a great job with Sanger driving the beat.
D had truly wonderful words to say about Robyn, and then they played his new composition “I Just Quit My Job Again Today.” We could all relate. Toward the end, they hit a great medley with Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” > “Funkytown” (Lipps Inc.).
And then, for me, a revelation. I really like Jordan Garno’s guitar playing with Serotonic, and very recently he has agreed to fill in with Infinite Groove Orchestra, but until this moment I had never really seen him stretch out. And it was at this moment that Rev D and the New Diggs ripped off a tremendous trio of Pink Floyd tunes: “Breathe > Shine On You Crazy Diamond > Have a Cigar.” Garno exploded, he soared, he wailed. WOW.
Later D said that Garno was his favorite local guitar player, and now I know why! Meanwhile, Garno and Sanger were almost-teleporting their equipment to the main stage for the Serotonic show.
This quartet just knocks me out, and from the opening bell they were on fire. Jordan Garno has been singing more recently, and his confidence is showing on songs such as “Know You So Well,” with backing vocal from alto sax player Jon Tucker. Third on the setlist was my favorite of their compositions, “Rhinobelly.” This one BLEW UP. BLEW. UP. Garno should be required to warm up with three Pink Floyd songs from now on. This was nasty funk.
During “Think Fast,” Tucker was on his knees, James Brown style. It was a visual treat. The real treat came next. Earlier in the afternoon, drummer Andrew Kilmartin was discussing the proposed setlist with me. He was deciding between another tune that they play really well and Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” a recent addition they have been nailing. I suggested “Move On Up,” since more people would recognize it. My two cents.
Andrew would have picked it anyway. The all-call went out for horn players. On stage stepped Mama Bone and Clay Watson (trombones), Juanjamon (tenor sax) and Sgammato on alto. And then, running on stage for his 250th gig of the year (who’s got the over/under?) came Christian Ryan with alto. Tucker just stood toward the back, beaming, as this collective played a joyous rendition of the song.
Bryan Lewis gave us some great synthesizer work on “Jelly” and on the closing “Squadlive” and great electric piano of “Cinotores,” while Garno was just plain evil on this song. “Squadlive,” a Lettuce tune, is one of Kilmartin’s favorites and a perfect set-closer.
Things were getting a little squirrelly with the schedule, time-wise. It was already a bit off, and there had been a delay moving equipment from one stage to the other for the previous set. That would start to snowball later.
Future Vintage was the only act all weekend who really touch jamtronica in addition to their funk fusion. Matt Giancola and Trevor McDonnel had turned in a wonderful set Friday with Fil Pate in a straight-ahead jazz setting. Future Vintage is all about space travel, and Giancola gets you there quickly. This was a great set. For the third tune, the stage was invaded by Juanjamon and Christian Ryan, who paired up nicely for an FV song, “Body.” Juanjamon stayed on for the next tune as well. After that, they really nailed “Zombie Killer.” And then came the call all musicians love: extra time! Play another song.
You would not imagine that moving from jamtronica to a trio sporting banjo, guitar and upright bass would make sense, but somehow it was perfect. I had never had the pleasure of hearing Grandpa’s Cough Medicine before, but I can tell you I won’t miss them again. And I had the thought that I should produce a triple CD with bawdy tunes from GCM and Applebutter Express and macabre Bath Salt Zombie wailings. Million-seller!
Here is that comedy music discussion again: if you intend to inject humor into your songs, your musical chops had better support it. Brett, Mike and John were fabulous, and they were joined by Isaac Corbitt, a certain recipe for delirium.
I probably wasn’t paying enough attention to the lyrics of the first two songs, but I for sure heard the third one, “A Man is Only as Old as the Woman He Feels,” followed by “Denim Prison,” in reference to the trouser snake, I believe. They got everybody’s attention on this ode to pedophiles: “They Sentenced You to Death the Day They Set You Free.” Sounds like it could be a track on their February release, “Blood and Justice.” They call it outlaw country; their previous release was “The Murder Chord.”
“If Pickin’ Was a Crime” was great, and they blew up “Pop Country Really Sucks,” which they credited to Hank3. Isaac came back on stage for a couple more songs. Superb!
On to the Funk Nuggets, yet another band I had not heard before. Thirty seconds into “Shimmy,” I understood perfectly why ‘funky’ is part of their name. This was great! “What Are You Doing?” was next, and, after an instrumental, Tony Tyler (CBA) stepped on stage to sing CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising.” Later in the set, they got great response with Devo’s “Whip It” in addition to some great originals.
Green Sunshine covers a lot of bases, from soul and funk to hip-hop and jam. I am not a huge fan, but this was the best GS show I’ve ever seen and heard. They were firing on all eight cylinders (were there more?). They are certainly crowd favorites every time I’ve seen them, and this was no exception. I was really excited when they called Bryan Lewis from Serotonic on stage for a superb reading of “Bang Bang,” the old Sonny & Cher hit updated by Terry Reid in the 60s. This arrangement was from Monophonics, who recorded the tune on their most recent CD, In Your Brain.
Music shifted back to the side stage with Holey Miss Moley, and the time schedule was getting further and further off schedule. I’ve written about HMM often, and they have really upped their game. They made the most of their relatively short set, striking out with “Bermuda Triangle,” featuring Christian Ryan on alto. Then they jumped right into the Galactic tune “There’s Something Wrong with This Picture,” with Danny Clemmons singing in a dapper outfit. Danny said one of the magic words I had been thinking about: collaboration. He thanked all of the musicians for sharing and for the glorious collaborations which make the result so much greater than simply the sum of the individual parts.
A nice Afropop tune featured Ryan again, this time on baritone, with the Rev. D taking a great solo. By the time they got to “Devil Funk (Uh-Huh!),” HMM had been joined by Cameron on trumpet and Clay Watson on trombone. Then Tea from Green Sunshine appeared, and the band nailed their awesome cover of “It Ain’t No Use,” with Jacob Cox taking it over the top on guitar. CBA’s Yral Morris was on the one, filling in on drums while Tony Morales rehabs his injured wrist. Because the main stage was not ready (45 minutes between sets is NOT enough!), they got two more tunes, finally closing with “Naugatuck.” Sweet!
CopE! CopE! CopE! These boys are the kings of the local jam scene, and they have been spreading their sound far and wide. Maybe CopE has an off night; I only know that the 31 times I’ve seen them, they’ve just killed it. This was a tremendous set, and let me point out over and over again that Andy Lytle and the sound boys had it dialed in to perfection.
The Stadelmans are so underrated as players – Dennis on guitar (and occasional banjo!) and Kenny on bass. This is top-shelf stuff, ladies and gentlemen. If one thing stood out this set, it was Juanjamon’s Hammond B3 work underneath a number of the songs – just superb. And his tenor solos are deluxe. They shut it down with “Goin’ Home” and “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature.”
By now, the schedule was completely whopperjawed. Displace, due to hit at 9:45, got on after 10:15. You could have seen my smile from outer space when they opened with “Geonosis Shuffle!” On the third tune, Kenny Harvey, who had just knocked out a great set with HMM, stepped on to do bass battle with Vinny Swoboda.
That was fun, but it was only the beginning. Harvey split, and Swoboda went to the drum kit, Tucker Sody left his drums for keyboards, and Chris Sgammato put his guitar and alto down and picked up the bass. (Sam Dobkin refused to release his guitar.) After they played a great instrumental, Sgammato said, “We Displaced ourselves from our instruments.” Yuks all around! They got more time, because the main stage was again not ready.
Finally, it was. Zach Deputy, looper king, was at control central. So here is the deal, and I will keep this short. I don’t think Deputy belonged in this headliner slot with a two-hour set. When he’s on, he’s really on, but when he’s flat, well, it just isn’t very interesting. Somehow, he ended up playing even more than his two-hour shift. This is why the weekend was 26 out of 27 for me. By the time he was finished, the crowd at the main stage had thinned to almost nothing. How would we recover?
S.P.O.R.E. had the antidote! They proceeded to crush a two-hour set that ended at 3:30. A great throng hung out with them at the side stage, ready for their engaging, psychedelic jam rock. S.P.O.R.E. stands for Spontaneous Progression of Recurring Energy. Boy, did we ever need that! This quintet was on fire, having a great time. After the second song, one of the boys said, “That was great!,” talking about the vibe from the crowd.
After “Inoculate,” the stage was once again invaded by collaborators: John Parkerurban, Christian Ryan, Juanjamon, Jody, and Isaac Corbitt. It was just ridiculous, funkalicious. Even more impressive was that Adam on bass had been with the band a very short time (a week?), but you would never have known it. It was a fabulous set, the perfect way to end night two! On to a short schedule Sunday. And I might not have mentioned the aerialists in the tree.