The 3rd Hometeam New Year’s Rally is in the books. Great weather, great organization, great people, 27 musical performances (26 of which I liked). [Photos to follow.]
I didn’t miss a note.
I actually rolled in to the Maddox Ranch in Lakeland Christmas night and got a great insight into festival goings-on in the hours before the event’s kick-off. Cody and Jenelle had a wonderful team of people setting up, wiring, checking arrivals, feeding the crew and attending to the other bazillion little items necessary for a successful festival.
I also learned that, although percussion looks easy, I am really horrible at it. Nobody took my little drum away at the drum circle, but that was probably only because nobody could hear me.
Sean Maloney got the nod to kick off the proceedings Friday afternoon with the Legacy Orchestra Collective. Sean is a looper and often performs solo, but in this setting he was joined by a number of musicians throughout the set.
You need to know that Sean has ADD, or ADHD. That is my professional analysis, based on the fact that he cannot start a song without having it segue into two or three other melodies. I do NOT recommend treatment! He and I were talking about his bio, because some people are pigeon-holing him as a reggae artist. That’s amusing, because there were no reggae tunes on this program. He hit an instant groove first song out, and in the course of the first three tunes he covered “Groove Is in the Heart” and “Tell Me Something Good.”
Savi Fernandez (artist-at-large) on guitar and Kenny Harvey (Holey Miss Moley) on bass joined Sean for a fine jam, and then it was Chris Sgammato’s turn (Displace) on alto sax, working Lionel Ritchie into the mix. After a nice “Sugaree,” Sean played a great “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer > Iko, Iko > Rudolph.” Kyle Biss (Applebutter Express) and his ukelele jumped on stage, and Savi took one last turn. It was a blast! An uplifting start to the festivities.
For me, one of the very best aspects of a festival is discovering bands I’ve never seen before and rediscovering ones I hadn’t heard closely enough before. Endless Flow fits the former description. Their delightful blend of soul, R&B, reggae and Afropop – they call it funkalicious feel-good music – was the perfect antidote to the overcast afternoon.
The two female singers’ voices bounced on the sound of lead and acoustic guitars, bass and drums. And I was really pleased to see John Demeter on bass. He and I had connected some time back when he was playing with the Commoners. And Chris Sgammato’s alto sax provided another nice sit-in. I can’t wait to see them again.
I recalled seeing Between Bluffs for the first time at last year’s rally and then more recently at Downtown River Jam, where they turned in a superb set. This was its equal. Most striking visually is Justin Davis’s upright electric acoustic bass, and he gets great tones from it. Jerrod Simpson is a charismatic front man and vocalist and lyricist.
I was a bit disappointed that Devo was not with them. Devo (Devesh Nermal) played with Between Bluffs for the first time at DRJ, and I was hoping to see him. They fooled me! Devo and his violin entered the scene on the fourth tune, “Give Up Everything,” a song from the band’s new CD, Shook Up from the Infoquake.
“Out of My Mind” was another stand-out song, and I really loved “The Pen is Mightier in the End.” Between Bluffs covers a lot of territory, continuing the afternoon’s excellent beginning.
There were many highlights (and only one lowlight) over the course of the weekend, but one of my thee favorite sets of the festival occurred next. Fil and Friends was the billing, and what friends! Fil Pate, playing guitar, was joined by Matt Giancola and Trevor McDonnel (Future Vintage) on keyboards and bass and by Adam Volpe (Infinite Groove Orchestra) on drums. If you are a straight-ahead jazz fan, it’s tough to imagine a better opening that “Impressions” and “Milestones.”
At this point, I had a realization. With only slight adjustments, you could put almost all of these musicians in a big bowl and scoop out a random band, and they would be great, because these musicians “get it.” They all have roots in jazz and funk and rock and can do just about anything.
This particular quartet sounded like they practiced for hours, instead of not really at all. It was so impressive. They hit the New Orleans groove with MSMW’s “Little Walter Rides Again” and then funked up the place with Herbie’s “Hang Up Your Hang-ups” (Matt is a Herbie Hancock nut, so this was heaven-sent). They closed with a Future Vintage composition of Matt’s, “Battery.” The buzz about this set never settled down all weekend, and deservedly so.
Uncle John’s Band has been serving up Dead tunes for… ever, it seems. Lucky for us. They launched right in with “Jackstraw” and “Friend of the Devil.” This was a really well-delivered set, and the level of playing during “Help On the Way > Slipknot > Franklin’s Tower” was dynamite. They closed with a rollicking “Loose Lucy.”
The Christie Lenee’ Project was next up. I had seen her perform at least half a dozen times before I discovered that she went to high school with my son (the designer of this blog!). Lenee’ is a quadruple threat. She has a superb voice, is a brilliant guitar player, writes great songs, and brings remarkable positive energy to the stage.
Her band featured keyboards (Joe Costa, who has played with Lenee’ for years), bass, drums and flute! What a positive groove the flute provided! Later, Sgammato’s alto again jumped on stage (with Sgammato attached). Not only that, he has been playing with his new toy, a pedal that gives him a very effective wah-wah and also that Eddie Harris electrified sound. Lenee’ closed her glorious set by having all of us join her in singing her anthem, “We Are One.” Yes, indeedy.
Come Back Alice have increased their visibility greatly over the past 12 months. They are at the top of numerous bills now, and it is obvious to see – and hear – why. They blasted off with “Layla” and never let up. Tony Tyler was on guitar and hopped back and forth between that and the Hammond B3 (and the almighty Leslie cabinet!). Dani Jaye had (for me) her best night ever on guitar, with several blistering solos. Savi Fernandez was on stage at some point.
They have cultivated a darker, edgier sound, which I enjoy immensely. The new tune “Ugly Rumors” is just evil. And Jaye was a wah-wah violin monster on “Just Along for the Ride.” Big Bad John Werner’s bass was huge during “Coraline,” and of course Yral Morris had everything anchored on traps.
I was sitting down (as I normally do) when they played the intro to “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Several weeks ago, CBA covered ABB’s “Live at the Fillmore” album, with Jacob Cox from Holey Miss Moley providing the extra guitar needed. What would they do tonight without the extra guitar, I thought. So I stood up to see and… there was Cox. All is right with the world!
For the finale, Tony invited all the singers on stage, which, by my count, turned out to be eleven, in honor of the recent passing of Joe Cocker. With this huge “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”-style choir on stage, they sent “With a Little Help from My Friends” to the heavens.
It was Meesta Juanjamon’s turn. The CopE sax and keyboard player had carefully selected the Juanjamon Band for this excursion. Michael Garrie was grinning back on the drum kit, and flanking Juanjamon were Dre Mack (left) and Savi Fernandez (right).
If you look on Wikipedia and search for “the shit,” I’m fairly certain there must be a recording of this set, because this was THE SHIT. By the time they hit “Who’s That,” it was, to quote Parliament, “deeper than deep.” The deepest end of the funk pool for certain. Clay Watson (artist-at-large) and trombone joined in at some point, and they killed everybody with “She’s Got a Real Nice Booty.” After “Whatcha Doin’,” I was funked up and funked out. Mack and Fernandez were simply out of this world. Spectacular.
So how on earth do you go from deepest Funkville to a band that looks like a bluegrass hoedown? First, you move from the side stage to the main stage. Then, you strap on your seatbelt, because the Applebutter Express brings the uncut ukulele funk. THE BOMB! They mix originals and the most awesome set of covers. And what better way to start the set than for Kyle Biss to invite his mom on stage to hand out homemade chocolate salty balls, while they played… yes, of course they did! And mom was singing it, too! And they were really tasty. Chocolate-y. Salty.
Salty. That might be the best way to describe ABX. Watching Shannon Biss on stage with the boys looking like a cherub and singing songs such as “Shit Ain’t Illegal If You Don’t Get Caught” is just so much fun. They played six songs from their new CD to great audience response, and that response blew up with “Gang Bang,” “I Like Pussy” and “Liquor and Whores.” Great music meets ribald lyrics, and everybody is laughing and smiling.
That left it to the Corbitt Brothers to close down the first day of this three-day extravaganza. I had seen them last year closing down this festival and had enjoyed their raw power. You look at the stage, and you’re thinking, Hmmm, drums, guitar and harmonica. That’s it? And you’re thinking that right up until Isaac Corbitt hits those first harmonica notes. He is a king of the harp, as talented as anyone I’ve ever heard. He is the bass, the lead, the everything. And they come at up at 90 miles an hour and then double-clutch up. This set started with Marshall Tucker Band’s “Fire on the Mountain.”
They have some great originals, and then they took “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover > Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye > 50 Ways” to places those songs had never even imagined. They also played a song dedicated to their hometown’s “St. John’s River.”
The Corbitts do just fine as a trio, but this was a festival, so you knew the stage would be crawling with sit-ins. Kenny Harvey turned in one of his best bass performances ever while Juanjamon was wailing on tenor, and Christie Lenee’ was shredding up there, too, on “Gin and Juice,” of course!
Then the world about tilted off its axis. Tony Tyler (CBA) jumped up to the keyboards, Juanjamon, moved to bass, and John Parkerurban (another artist-at-large) whipped out his lap steel, with Lenee’ and the Corbitts, as they closed with the Dead’s version of “Fire On the Mountain” (and thanks to Dee, or Kenny, or whoever it was who pointed out the set opener and closer). I think it was Johnny Nichol on trumpet and Clay Watson on percussion and wearable washboard.
Music is life, and life is good.
I will wax philosophical in the Sunday review, but a huge shout-out to Andy Lytle and Dee Quesenberry (The Rev. D) and the other outstanding sound men for perfect sound all weekend long. A soundman can make or break a performance. You gentlemen made everything happen. Thank you.