I’m involved in a love affair. With a band. Wait. Actually, I have a love affair with at least a dozen bands, because, you know, I’m polyamorous. Holy Miss Moley is near the top of my list. Last night (November 23), this excellent funk band celebrated the birthday of our beloved PK, a.k.a. James Williams, MC extraordinaire. And it was my 34th HMM show, so there’s that.
Two of the most impressive things about the current music scene are the ability of bands to adapt when not at full strength and the willingness of musicians to sub at a moment’s notice when fellow players need a hand, or two (or hands AND feet). That was in evidence Wednesday. Christian Ryan, the band’s multi-instrumental reeds player, was under the weather, Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris was playing with his other band, Come Back Alice, and vocalist Miss Robyn Alleman was vacationing in South Carolina with Twisty Chris.
So how did Holey Miss Moley respond? With yet another superb outing, a night of magical funk, jazz, Afrobeat, rock and blues. Jamal ‘Music City’ Wright was at the drum kit, as he has been often. He and bassist Kenny Harvey were once again in lockstep all night long, pushing the evening’s agenda at a delightfully wicked pace. In Ryan’s absence, it was left to Jacob Cox and Mikey Guzman to pick up the slack on guitar and keyboards, respectively; they overachieved in a glorious way.
And Danny Clemmons carried the vocal load, although he had help, as always, from Cox, and also from Ajeva’s Reed Skahill, from Loe Sanz, who has joined in on various HMM projects such as their P-Funk set, and later on from Juanjamon. That sets the stage.
There were two other events intertwined with this. Liza and Hal Balstein hosted a Friendsgiving Gathering at Northshore Park, a wonderful opportunity to get together before the music of the evening and the next day’s Thanksgiving gatherings.
The other event was Antelope: A Phish Tribute at nearby Ale and the Witch. I had no idea who that was and was unable to make those in any event. My mistake. Matt Weis (Boxcar Hollow), Juanjamon (The Juanjamon Band), Sean Hartley, and Michael ‘Thunderfoot’ Garrie combined for a great show — that was the report from all who attended.
Very often, a Holey Miss Moley show would begin with one of PK’s stellar introductions, but he had slipped out briefly to make an appearance at Antelope. Loe Sanz did a great job throughout the night as MC in addition to her vocals on a handful of songs.
Holey Miss Moley launched with one of their great originals, “Bermuda Triangle,” and it was on! Next, they dipped into one of the greatest albums in all of funky jams, The Meters’ Rejuvenation. And seriously, if you don’t own this album, then you need it. Like, yesterday. Clemmons said, “We’re gonna make it funky for PK” as the band played “Just Kissed My Baby.”
Next was one the band dusted off, and somehow I had never seen them cover Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs” before. Success of playing that song depends on three things: spot-on rhythm section, deeply emotive vocals and blistering guitar. They went three for three! Mikey Guzman’s organ came to the fore on Galactic’s “There’s Something Wrong with This Picture.”
“Superstition” got everybody up and dancing, and they stayed up for “Big Bad Wolf,” another great original. When Holey Miss Moley’s album is finally recorded, it’s going to be a monster. A second helping of Rejuvenation was “Hey Pocky A-Way.” The negative aspect of the evening was the sound. It all depends who is on the board, and on this night it was unnecessarily loud. I wore earplugs, and my ears were still ringing at the end of the show. Here is a fact: at some point, louder is NOT better, only louder.
Clemmons and band do a superb job with Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands,” which segued into “No Diggity.” Ajeva’s Reed Skahill was dragged on stage to accompany Clemmons. My one request: a bit more of “Grandma’s,” or a segue back to it at the end. It is so good.
By this time, The Ringside Café was filling up. “ATLiens” got everybody’s attention. It was fortunate that most people knew the lyrics, because at this point the sound got really muddy, and the vocals were blurry to the point of indecipherable. Seriously. That is unfair to the band.
Clemmons announced my favorite of the band’s compositions, “Afroshaft.” Normally, that tune depends in part on Ryan’s saxophone, but everybody stepped up and made this one of the best versions ever. Guzman was superb on piano, and then everyone stepped back to allow Wright and percussionists Vernon Suber and Tony Morales to go deep. When the rest of the band stepped in again, Guzman and Jacob Cox blew the tune apart.
From the band’s excellent P-Funk tribute, they next delivered “You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks” with Sanz adding vocals. She stayed up as Clemmons suggested “we might as well stay on the P-Funk train” with “Red Hot Mama,” Cox ripping up his solo.
THE MUSIC DURING SET BREAK WAS SO LOUD YOU STILL HAD TO YELL AT THE BARSTAFF TO ORDER.
Set two began with Galactic’s “Doo Rag,” Guzman first on piano, then Cox on guitar. Sanz then called PK up before the band tore up “Brickhouse” and “I Wanna Do Something Freaky to You.” By this time Juanjamon, the Antelope gig over, was in the house. He and tenor saxophone were invited onstage. Immediately, he teased the refrain from “Careless Whisper.” Thank heavens they played “Naugatuck” instead, Guzman’s organ sounding great, with a nice solo from Juanjamon. That segued right into “Devil Funk (Oh YEAH!).” Guzman finally busted out the clavinet, and it was awesome! More, please! Juanjamon also soloed, and Cox delivered his best solo of the night thus far!).
After “Nobody Else,” Clemmons announced an upcoming Meters tribute December 10th at Ace’s Lounge in Bradenton (with Wild Root), so of course they hit Rejuvenation again for “It Ain’t No Use,” which they offer up so expertly. Harvey and Wright killed it on this one. Michael ‘Thunderfoot’ Garrie was also in the house after Antelope. He has also performed with Holey Miss Moley when needed, and he sat in for “Shake It with Me,” which included a great drums and percussion jam and a solo from Juanjamon. At set break, Garrie attempted to say, “That’s the only song I sort of know.” Don’t believe that for a nanosecond!
Sanz introduced set three, which began with great electric piano leading to “Can You Do Without?” (a Meters tune from Fire on the Bayou) with another fine tenor sax solo. At this point, the vocals were so far under the mix you could barely hear Clemmons. After a fine “Use Me,” Skahill was invited back up to do his Michael Jackson thing on “Billy Jean,” Guzman on synthesizer perfect. Wright got a brief drum workout, and Guzman came back for more “Billy Jean” goodness. Harvey’s bass was all over this one.
Clemmons talked about his “ginga from another Ninja,” and with that Cox blew up “Maggot Brain.” Just WOW. Finally, Clemmons called up PK, and then the two of them began pulling Hometeam folk on stage, including Cody Bean, Robb Fishback, and at least a dozen others on stage. As Ringside proprietor Mitch Gray said as he took a picture, “I’ve never seen that many people on stage before!” They shut it down with a heart wrenching “Heart of Steel.”
And that’s how you throw a birthday party! Happy birthday, PK!
Get well soon, Christian Ryan! (It was his birthday Tuesday.)
[HOLEY MISS MOLEY 1: Bermuda Triangle, Just Kissed My Baby, Bridge of Sighs, There’s Something Wrong with This Picture, Superstition, Big Bad Wolf, Hey Pocky A-Way, Grandma’s Hands > No Diggity, Shimmy Shimmy Ya, ATLiens, Afroshaft, You and your Folks Me and My Folks, Red Hot Mama; 2: Doo Rag, Brickhouse, I Wanna Do Something Freaky to You, Naugatuck > Devil Funk, Do It Like You Do It, Ain’t No Use, Shake It with Me; 3: Can You Do Without?, Use Me, Billy Jean, Maggot Brain, ??, Heart of Steel]
HOLEY MISS MOLEY SCHEDULE
11.25 Om Bar | New Smyrna Beach
11.26 Dunedin Brewery | Dunedin
12.02 Pi on Broadway | Ocala
12.03 Hometeam New Year’s Rally Pre-Party | Blueberry Patch | with Flat Land, The Juanjamon Band & Ajeva
12.09 The Hummingbird | Macon | with Freddie’s Finest
12.10 Meters Tribute at Ace’s Lounge | Bradenton | with Wild Root
12.29-01.01 Hometeam New Year’s Rally | Maddox Ranch | Lakeland