Thursday May 7th I was right back down on Westminster again, this time at the Providence Black Repertory Company for the SEXCoffee and Fungus Amungus show. Providence Sound Sessions is a week long, genre-defying music festival hosted at various venues throughout the city, during the preceding months they hold rounds of voting in person and on line to determine the festival’s lineup for the year. This provided me a great opportunity to check out Fungus Amungus, whom I’ve heard so much about, as well as SEXCoffee, a band of whom I’d heard very little. Working a bit later than usual for the day, I was rather rushed in getting ready and heading downtown, nary a moment to eat. Once I’d secured parking and meandered my way towards the Black Rep, cigarette in hand, I realized my only dining option before my destination would be Tazza Cafe.
As I stood at the door, polishing off my over taxed cigarette, I heard a honk and a cat call in my direction. Zach Fenner, Fungus’ guitarist, was just pulling up to load equipment, we caught up for a bit and I informed him of my burger intentions before heading over and he assured me I had plenty of time. As I’d said earlier, I’d be bumping into these guys quite a bit this week, both Zach and Joe Jannerelli played for Gravity Works and Fungus Amungus. I ordered a Hawaiian burger, a heavenly creation of teriyaki marinated, grilled pineapple, and Monterey jack cheese atop a black Angus beef. Needless to say it was delectable, I had another Dogfish 90 minute IPA to wet my whistle as I wolfed down the burger. I cleared my tab and headed next door (practically) to the Black Rep to find I had made haste in waste, the music was starting later than anyone had anticipated and various band members were scrambling to find a less expensive watering hole in the meantime. Zach and I took a stroll and bull shat for a bit, discussing the process for getting into the Sound Sessions as well as how busy he was with all his musical projects. We arrived back to find that SEXCoffee was sound checking, I grabbed a drink and made my way to a table near the stage.
SEXCoffee is a hard alt/rock band with a hint of punk, consisting of Ruth as lead vocalist, Rick on guitar, Sharlene on bass and Paul on drums. Coming out the gate strong Ruth established her stage presence early, with strong vocals and some warm up stage moves and poses she was playing to the audience there early for their set. Playing their instruments well each other member lent backing vocals to the first track, “Damascus :”
Starting slowly with just Ruth singing and Rick lending some tender guitar, about 30 seconds in the band jumped in and the picked up the pace. Their second song featured a heavier drums, a more driving bass line and more intricate guitar work. The following song seemed geared for Sharlene to show off her bass skills. Rick started off with some soft guitar tones and continued through the song with a cool riff, which showcased when Sharlene hopped in with her hammer ons, sliding down and up the neck of her bass for “Tasty:”
Paul had some of his busiest fills of the night during this song, and Ruth started to get into the set a bit more moving around on stage a bit more during the musical interludes. Around this point in the set Ruth spotted a friend of hers and turned to the band, then broke into a great version of what I think was a hip-hop cover. Later dedicating it to her friend in attendance. After I finished my applause I’d noticed I’d also finished my glass of sangria and decided to make my way back over to the bar and ran into more familiar faces from earlier in the week. Desiring some nicotine and some quieter conversation I stepped out for a butt and relaxed a bit while SEXCoffee was still performing. I got back in time to record another one from them “Love, Lust:”
It was another number with some good rocking tones and cool guitar riffs. Overall I enjoyed the set from SEXCoffee, not something I would normally seek, but would enjoy seeing them play out again if the chance presented itself. The MC took to the stage and reminded us all to vote, make sure to get our input for the final Sound Sessions lineup. As she was chatting a bit and the bands were switching, I took the opportunity to step out for some fresh air again. I made my way back in for the beginning of the Fungus Amungus set, they started off covering Steel Pulse’s “Roller Skates:”
Immediately it was easy to tell why why Fungus is one of the better known and well respected acts in the area. Jarrod lead in with his funk jazzy alto saxophone. Zach Fenner on guitar and Johnny Lingo on the ivories provided the reggae rhythms of the song. Chelsy Lau lent her sultry soulful vocals, she reminded me of Janice Joplin as I was surprised to hear such power come from a small package. Mike provided some funky bass grooves, while Joe Jannerelli tapped out a back beat from behind the kit. It was evident that The Fungus was among friends as the venue had started to fill out, hanging on every note as they were getting into their set, and the all too familiar aroma of patchouli breezes filled the air. I put the camera away for a bit to shake my hips along with the songs. The next I happened to catch was one penned by Johnny Lingo, Chelsy took to the crowd and mingled allowing Johnny lead vocals for a rocking version of “This Man:”
Halfway through the song Johnny took a solo on the keys that made his Roland appear more an extension of himself rather than an instrument. Mike’s bass line was busy, groovy and understated the whole song, accompanied by Joe’s rocking beats and fills they provided the perfect background for the solos on keyboard and guitar. This man needed a cigarette and another sangria after that auditory orgasm. Chelsy joined the band back on stage for the next number as I was making my way outside to the smoker’s circle. After some stimulating conversation and an American Spirit I returned to the bar to refresh my glass. Noticing they had the balcony chained off to stop crowds from going up top, I had flash of genius and asked if I could go upstairs to film a song, figuring the vantage point would better suit my camera. After obtaining permission to go up top, I was asked to keep it tidy and understandably so. Breaking into a funky number whose name I didn’t catch, each member looked like they were just having a blast playing together:
Mike started the groove on the bass before the rest of the band jumped in with their instruments. Jarrod and Joe were rocking infectious smiles the entire set, while Jarrod seemed to take on the role of conductor as well as his providing his funk jazz saxophone riffs. Chelsy impressed with her vocals again, this time reminding me more of Jen Durkin. Zach blazed a fast melodic solo, prompting an even bigger grin from Jarrod. They were all spot on hot tonight. Loving the angle from the balcony I remained up top for another song:
Chelsy was on point, putting her all into each line and playing to the crowd. Jarrod broke into a molten sax solo, I don’t know how he had so much air to keep pushing through that thing! I thought it best to round up my things and head back downstairs as I was beginning to get the low battery light on my camera. Grabbing my drink and some other empties I spotted on a table I made my way back downstairs towards the bar. Chelsy made her way off the stage for the band to break into a fantastic version of Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.” Hindsight always 20/20 I kicked myself for not remaining in the balcony to record this gem, instead I broke the camera out for some still shots as I was bopping around with the ever energetic surging crowd. Johnny, Zach, Mike, and Jarrod all exited stage left for a fantastic drum solo from Joe Jannerelli. Spanning three minutes, or so, he had the whole room entranced by the time the band returned to rock out the rest of the song’s ending to the roar of the crowd. Being another work night I regretfully limited my stay and packed up before the remainder of the set. I’m very glad I made it out, and hope to catch Fungus out again very soon. I made sure to vote on my way out, and I believe you can still vote on line. This show certainly got me excited for the Providence Sound Sessions this July, it sounds like I’ll have a busy week! A congratulations is also due Fungus Amungus as later in the week they were voted Best Jam/Reggae act in the area, way to go FUNGUS!