Friday July 31st after working a bit late I gathered my show going kit (i.e. manpurse stuffed with fliers for my blog, a notepad, pen, camera, spare batteries, and spare flash card) I hopped in my car and took the hour journey south to the Matunuck area of South Kingston and The Oceanmist. In addition to the normal motivation of five great music acts, it was for a great cause. Amber Bettez, lead singer of The Law and owner/designer of Silver Tides Jewelry was diagnosed with a brain tumor, after some dangerous and costly surgery she is in the clear and recovering. Being a self employed artist and musician, she’s without health insurance, an all too common problem in our United States these days, and is left with a medical bill only surpassed by my student loan debt. Gathering friends and bands, Low B organized the show to help Amber and her family foot the bill. The lineup consisted of Johnny Ronci, Humblebee, Broken Ground, Nevermind: A Nirvana Tribute, and The Law.
Working late I didn’t hit the road south until about 8:30, by the time I got down to The Oceanmist and found parking I was in time to catch just the last song from Johnny Ronci, “If These Walls Could Talk:”
Accompanied by Mike Schiavone on guitar, Johnny took to the helm of his keyboard to play an empathy generating piece, his vocals strong and passionate, giving more weight to the lyrics. The song blended elements of piano pop and power ballad well, think Billy Joel jamming with Guns N Roses. Schiavone’s guitar solo halfway through lent mostly to the “power” label, while having hints of blues. It was a good performance, and made curious for more. Since the show I’ve been enjoying some selections from his Myspace page, check out “Blackholes” when you get the chance.
Humblebee was next to stage, I’d been keeping an eye on their shows for a while, but this was the first opportunity I had to see them perform live, and was stoked. The Worcester based, jam rock quartet consisted of Dave Brunyak on guitar and vocals, Paul Courchaine on guitar and backing vocals, Dave Pelletier on bass guitar, and Joe Aldrich on drums and backing vocals. I had the chance to catch five of their songs on video, an instrumental jam, “House of Cards,” “Take on Me,” “Mafia,” and another original of unknown title:
Dave P. did a great job of opening the instrumental jam with his bass line, Dave B and Paul jumped in with dueling guitars to generate a hip shaking groove. “House of Cards” had an upbeat feel to it, simple positive lyrics, and happy guitar tones. The song began and ended with a slight southern rock sound with a great spacey jam in the middle. Covering Aha next, Humblebee performed “Take on Me” in a reggae vein. It was a great version, I certainly enjoyed it more than the original, but mostly to do with my abhoration of “80s music.” Next they played the original “Mafia,” Dave B blazed a bluesy jam solo halfway through. I’ve still been unable to obtain a title to the last track I recorded. Joe showcased some fantastic fills, while Dave P’s bass line reminded me almost of a disco groove. Paul kept an interesting trythm going while Dave B tore up an extended solo towards the end of the tune. Overall it was an impressive set from Humblebee, I hope to see them play around Rhode Island a bit more, or I’ll just have to get my ass to Worcester sometime soon.
Nevermind was next to grace the stage, a Nirvana tribute band. A new musical project, consisting of Mike Schiavone on guitar, Low B on Bass and Kevin Pacheo on drums, so new in fact, this was their first time playing out. They filled their set with Nirvana classics from Bleach through Nevermind:
Starting the set out with “Breed” from Nevermind, Schiavone blaze the intro guitar riff, K.Pac then joined in with an intense drum fill, followed by Low B bounding in with the familiar bass line. They played “On a Plane” next, and again stayed true to form. It was a rocking version, and certainly refreshing to hear some of the classics from my high school days played live. Continuing on they played a raucous version of “Grandma Take Me Home,” which had me letting my hair down for some singing along and headbanging. Keeping the energy high, Nevermind broke into a hard version of “Territorial Pissings.” Schiavone’s vocals were right on, K.Pac was showcasing his rocking fills yet again and Low B traversed the bass neck thumping the groove. Taking the chance to slow down the pace, Low B introduced the band, and their alter egos before breaking into a great version of “Lithium.” Schiavone carried from the verses and screams well, prompting the crowd to join in. Wrapping up the set they continued to stay true to the original and play fantastic versions of “In Bloom” and, of course, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” All members were great on their instruments and Schiavone’s vocals were astoundingly Cobainesque. Such an awe inspiring and nostalgic set for myself, I dug out “Insecticide” and listened for the few days following the show.
Rhode Island’s newest dynamic hip-hop duo Broken Ground were next to stage. Comprised of Low B and 90sevan each takes responsibility for different aspects. Scribing all the lyrics and taking care of their delivery, 90sevan uses unique cadence in his flow. Producing all music and beats through the use of bass, guitar, drums, turntables, samples and anything else of which you could think, Low B blends elements of classic hip-hop, funk, soul and jazz to generate Broken Ground’s unique sounds. They went on to play most of their free debut album “Sneak Attack” for their set, with one new song they’d worked out since its release:
90sevan addressed the crowd over a tracked version of the album intro before the duo broke into “Beautiful Day.” Low B simply lent backing rhymes while 90seven worked on getting the crowd riled. 90Seven kept his poetic flow coming with their rendition of “How Much Longer,” while Low B lent some live guitar licks. I made my way out back for a cig and to enjoy the sounds of the ocean lap against the shore before returning to capture a couple more songs on video. During “No Turning Back,” Low B laid more heavily on his guitar, why 90seven continued to bring the flow. Making the consious effort to conserve battery life, I continued on to tape the hot version of “Wake Up” played next, but neglected to tape the closing number, and what sounds to be the single from “Sneak Attack,” “Move.” It was a decent set from Broken Ground, 90seven’s lyrics and presence were strong, Low B’s guitar playing was scarce but on point. The performance would have been better suited with a third member, or Low B mixing the beats he’d created in the studio. Low B has intimated that he’s working on getting together a travel production kit, as to fill out Broken Ground’s live shows a bit more.
The final act to the stage for the night was a new iteration of The Law, without Amber Bettez. The lineup for the night, lead by Low B on bass included Mike Schiavone on lead guitar, Kevin Pacheo on drums and Dennis Christiano on rhythm guitar, all members contributed vocals at various points, with Dennis seeming taking the role as lead vocalist. Since the show, this lineup has gone on to form Outside the Element to carry on the music during The Law’s hiatus for Amber’s full recovery.
Beginning the set with a soulful rendition of “Schiavone’s Song,” Dennis delivered a powerful vocal performance. Schiavone continued his stellar guitar playing, as well, Low B and K.Pac brought back their rocking sensibility from Nevermind’s set. Changing configuration for the next number, Brendon (Low B) took to the microphone and Mike’s guitar for a version of “I Think I Know.” Dennis tore into the intro, bluesy guitar riff, and continued with the lead guitar role throughout the song. Schiavone, on bass played well with some cool riffs. A slower number, Kevin played solidly, but was not afforded the opportunity to knock the covers off the skins, but did use some intricate fills. Low B performed decently on lead vocals, lacking only confidence. Dennis took over lead vocals for the next number “Float” and delivered strongly again. The song seemed to showcase a bit of a reggae feel as well as a bluesy melodic lead segment from Schiavone, once his new guitar was back in his hands. Primus’ “Too Many Puppies” was covered next, obviously one of Low B’s favorites to play, as he took to the microphone again, and delivered with confidence this time. It was a good, heavy handed, loud version. Schiavone took lead vocals for the next number, “Take Me Away,” a Ween cover, while all the members jammed out a bit more. Vocals were difficult to discern at the beginning of the song, which I believe was adjusted in the sound booth during the performance. To close the night right, The Law played their psychedelic folk version of “Yes I See,” an early twentieth century traditional song. Dennis took us through the lyrics of the first verse while Low B played a hip shake inducing bass line. Amber joined the party for the final verses vocals, bringing back the more traditional sound of The Law. A great night of music, and a great crowd and a great cause.