Friday May 15th I worked about an hour late, which isn’t too bad compared to most days, and called Nicole to make sure she still wanted to attend the show at Jerky’s I’d been talking about all week. We were both a little beat from long and stressful work weeks but we thought it best not to be bums and make it out this night. I arrived at Nicole’s place to find she’d already eaten, myself starving I suggested we grab a brew each at the liquor store and hit United BBQ so I could put something in my stomach sooner rather than later. I scarfed my pulled chicken sandwich as she picked at my fries, and we got our butts out of there fast to secure parking downtown before the show. Its come to my attention that my anal retentive punctuality usual results in being early for everything, much was the case this night, Nicole and I arrive at Jerky’s about an hour before the music actually started. I had only known of two bands on the bill for the evening before arrival, but after speaking with Zach Fenner for a bit I was informed the bill consisted of Spank City, Gravity Works, and The Brew.
After about an hour of hanging out, chatting up some of the other patrons, introducing Nicole to some of my new friends and a few cigarettes Spank City took the stage. Dave Harrington seemed to be the band leader signaling solos, time and groove changes while playing electric bass guitar and a small synthesizer, Ian Sims was on drums, Nate Slone was on various keyboard setups, and Will Epstein was on saxophone. Spank City opened with a trippy instrumental number, with a bit a jungle beat:
It felt experimental, with some jazz elements. The sax started the song off, and quickly Dave took over using his bass guitar almost as a standard guitar, and continues to play lead riffs throughout the song, while employing all manner of samples and synthesizers. Nate started off their next song on the keys with a bit more traditional sound:
I really had trouble placing a genre or influence on them, after the show I spoke with Dave. He said they were a drum and bass/trance group, never having seen that type of music performed live before, it was pretty interesting. Each musician was talented in their own right, but I sometimes had difficulties following the songs. Their whole set seemed very improvisational and experimental. I took a break from recording to ask Nicole what she thought. The look on her face said it all, I assumed as much as I have to generally drag her to any Jam Band show, these guys were NOT her cup of tea. The third song they played was very Jazzy to me, it had a really busy, driving bass line, and included a pretty crazy sax solo, quite psychedelic. I recorded the next song, again it had a crazy bass line driving the song as a whole, this time each other musician took a chance to flex their muscles a bit:
Ian had a really nice what seemed again, jazzy fill towards the end of the song, it sounded like poly beats to me. Later in their set they played a song very heavy on percussion, it was reminiscent of Stomp or Blue Man Group for me, as the of the drum circle, so to speak, finished, Will took a bit of a sax solo, before everyone jumped into the jam. At the conclusion of their set, I had mixed feelings. I could tell they were very tight and well practiced, but had difficulty staying with many of the songs. They were great on their instruments, but it just seemed that their style wasn’t really for me and definitely not for everyone. I would imagine Spank City to be a musician’s band, in that other musicians would really enjoy their talent and experimental nature, but their sound would be a tough sell to the masses. I may have enjoyed it more in the late nineties when MDMA was like Flintstones Vitamins around Boston, speaking of which, I could see these guys headlining a rave, or after party, do they even have those anymore? A wide eyed and shocked Nicole needed a breath of fresh air, and I wanted a cigarette so we took to the back deck to get out for a bit as Gravity Works set the stage. Covering Frank Zappa’s “Slime” to start, they set a jammy pace for the night:
I like when they play this song, I can’t claim any familiarity with Zappa’s music, but I do get a big smile watching Paul get so into singing the opening verse as well as play a bit of Zendrum, which is always an intriguing instrument to me. Leading into the chorus Nate brandished his best Don Pardo voice. Without so much as a break they broke into an original number “Hamilton Bupo:”
A fast dancey number some of the ladies in the audience started to jive a bit. I could tell by a quick glance at Nicole she was enjoying Gravity Works a bit more than Spank City. Nate was providing lead vocals and the bass grooves, backed by Zach on vocals while he played lead guitar. Marco was at the organ laying good rhythm tones. Paul had placed his Zendrum aside for his bongos and congas, while Joe provided his rocking main percussion behind them all on the drum kit. During their next original listen for what seems like a double time drum fill around the 2:20 mark just before solos from Marco, Nate and Zach:
Zach sings lead vocals on “Evergreen,” and lead in with a mean guitar riff. Did you catch the fill of which I spoke? Marco took a fast paced keyboard solo directly following the drum fill. Next was Nate in the spotlight with a melodic bass solo. Zach took the next solo, on guitar up and down the neck before the next verse. I re-joined Nicole at the table at the end of “Evergreen” and sat to chat and enjoy “The Unveiling.” Joe must have been using a double bass petal or a double jointed ankle here as he was laying out some crazy low beats. She was enjoying Gravity Works set a bit more, and said I should have recorded the one they were currently playing. I assured it it was on their space if she wanted to hear it again. The next number they played started with a bit of a Celtic/Gothic feel and quickly turned to a Reggae rhythm:
Nate lead in on bass, sang lead vocals and was sliding what looked like a wrist sweatband for a cool effect during the musical interludes. The song was organ heavy allowing Marco to stretch his wings a bit. They turned to the audience for input before deciding on their last number “Points” or “Do it to It.” I clamored for the latter as I didn’t think I’d heard that one before, and had captured two or three versions of “Points” recently, after a show of hands apparently the crowd wanted “Do it to It” as well:
An instrumental number, I had captured this song previously, but mislabeled it as just a jam before “Hamilton Bupo.” A great jam, they let loose, Marco, Nate and Joe took an incredible lead segment to wind down their set and pass the stage to The Brew. I made my way back to the table top to join Nicole again. She enjoyed the set, but was getting sleepy, Friday shows are always tough after a long work week. We made our way to the back stairs, she for fresh air and myself for a smoke. The stage change was rather quick and The Brew, consisting of Chris on keys, Joe on Bass, Kelly on drums and Dave on guitar, proved early that a constantly touring act makes for a fantastic live experience. Calling Amesbury, MA home they’ve been touring the east coast for the entire spring, and are continuing straight through the Summer. The night getting late, and Nicole and I getting tired quickly I only had the chance to stay for the first few songs, lucky for me they have a few shows coming up in Rhode Island in August. After wishing their friend Cristy a happy birthday they broke into a great version of “Castle Walls:”
A studio track of that song can be found on their 2007 album “Back to the Woods,” Chris and Joe started the song off with a perfect vocal harmony, their voices so pitch perfect in unison it was easy for me to believe, when I was told later, they were brothers. Overall the song had a bit of a Celtic Gothic feel, complete with a groovy bass line and hauntingly heartfelt lead vocals provided by Dave. Halfway through it they changed tempo a bit to reggae feel, and Chris took over lead vocals. The songs I saw performed I was quite impressed with their melody and harmony, next they played another good song, this one I have yet to find the title:
It was a great rocky number with some impressive drum fills, starting out piano driven, it was closed with a great guitar riff. I glanced at Nicole with a look of “Eh haddya think?” She returned what I interpreted as a dreary approval nod, it was time to start packing up to head out. Saying my goodbyes to Gravity Works and their ladies quickly, I made my way over to the merch table to grab a CD or two for my further listening pleasure. A few people came up to me asking if I liked the show, seemingly friends of the band, but no one was working the table. Five to ten minutes passed and Nicole came over with the “I thought we were going” look, I decided to grab the CDs they had available, and seek to pay later. We made our way out back to the car, by the time we were back to Cranston, I had to wake her up in the passenger seat. I passed out right quick and upon waking in the morning sent a message to The Brew via Myspace and Twitter asking for the address to send compensation. Guys, the check is literally in the mail, hope you understand.
I’ve been so busy seeing shows I’ve hardly had the time to type them all up, don’t worry there will be plenty more installments of Sully’s Cafe coming soon. Next up will be May 16th, The Rhode Island Songwriter Association’s: Saturday Songwriter Sessions at the Brooklyn Coffee Teahouse on Douglas Ave, Providence Rhode Island. Yeah, that’s a long one, that will get acronymed fast!