I’m going to save you a lot of time. Here is the Clif Notes/Readers’ Digest version of this review:
Three bands played their best sets ever. See? All done.
In it for the long haul, huh? Good. Me, too.
It was wee bit nippy for most folks to comply with the Pants Off Dance Off theme of the night (The Amsterdam, St. Petersburg, January 22); most opted to pay the $5 cover rather than enter in skivvies. Still, it was entertaining watching the brave folks who did dress “properly.”
Between Bluffs had the first set of the night. They said they had not played out in almost six months. You would never have known, and their enthusiasm at getting back together shoved this set immediately into overdrive. They kicked off with “How Do You Feel?” Then they really got down to business with a great cover of “Psycho Killer.” Jerrold Simpson is an engaging frontman and singer-songwriter, and he led the band through a great set.
The crowd at The Amsterdam warmed right up as Between Bluffs continued to throw down a great set including “Made of Water” and “Two Lovers.” The David Bowie shout-out “Fame” was perfect for BB, much to the delight of the growing crowd. They ended strong with “Out of My Mind” and “Florida Song.” Melbourne Walsh had a great night on lead guitar, although Simpson flashed a few fine solos of his own.
Row Jomah was next up, with bandleader Joe Roma doing double duty, running sound all night. Roma has proved himself a great soundman at The ‘Dam, The Ringside Cafe and Dunedin Brewery. Most of their excellent set came from the 2015 release Cat People, including opener “Choke.”
Bassist Jason Berlin also had double duty, running around outside as people arrived earlier — in skivvies — berating those who dared to come in… pants! He and Dylan Chee-A-Tow (drums) locked in a great set, and Austin Llewelyn had an exceptional night on keyboards, including a lovely “St. Thomas” tease during “Cat People” (which is not, by the way, on Cat People).
“Funk,” “Shudder” and closer “Outhouse” were great, with Roma’s acoustic guitar as the perfect introduction. Llewelyn and Walsh (also doing double duty, a member of both bands) had superb solos on “Tell Me.”
And then it was time to get funked up. There are lots of excellent funk bands up and down the Central Florida corridor but none better than The Juanjamon Band. Recently, they have been playing some really jazzy jams in addition to the straight-up funk, and the mix has been amazing.
They opened with a long jam that was simply incredible. Dre Mack was blazing on guitar, and Juanjamon was already peaking on tenor sax. Matt Giancola was infusing everything with his jazz sensibilities. WOW! That led into the simply delicious “Knockin’ Boots” (“Who’s that… knockin’ on my door?”). Michael Garrie was insane on the drum kit.
From there, a great tenor sax solo led into “(She’s Got a Real Nice) Booty.” Mack was all over this one (and everything else). After another funkfest, the band roared into “Rosie,” the String Cheese Incident cover. Trevor McDannel (bass) had a brilliant night, especially great here.
The elation of “Rosie” carried into “Hey Chester.” Mack was absolutely huge on this, channeling Eddie Hazel, the original “Maggot Brain” man. The tune segued logically into “Can We Funk You? (Night of the Thumpasaurus Peoples),” then back into “Hey Chester,” but with a new and different vibe to it.
Then it was guest time, as Brad Elliot, former member of CopE with Juanjamon, took the drum kit, and Scott Minehart sat in for Giancola. The set finally closed with Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love.”
THAT’S how you do a Friday night in St. Petersburg!
Thanks as always to Zoie Torres and John Cullen for continuing to bring great music to The Amsterdam!
Juanjamon Band photographs courtesy of Anna Giancola.
[Between Bluffs: How Do you Feel?, Psycho Killer, Made of Water, Gadget,
Escape from Babylon, Two Lovers, Fame, Out of My Mind, Florida Song]
[Row Jomah: Choke, The Corner, Tell Me, Sledgehammer, Fire & Ice, Funk, Shudder, Cat People > St. Thomas tease, Outhouse]
[Juanjamon Band: 1, Knockin’ Boots, Booty, 4, Rosie, Hey Chester > Can We Funk You > Hey Chester, 7, Feel Like Makin’ Love]