April 25th I made my way down to Narragansett towards The Wheelhouse for Funkatronic, The Choos and the eagerly anticipated return to the stage of The Law. I arrived early and snagged a parking spot practically in front of the venue, with plenty of time to catch up with my cousin Katie at the bar. As Funkatronic was sound checking we ordered a round and caught up a bit. Apparently she and Brendon (Low B) had spent the day before in New York and didn’t arrive back until 5am, leaving them both about 4 hours of sleep with which to function, ouch. Earlier that day I had been at Zig Zag’s grilling and checking out band practice, but the aroma of freshly fried potatoes and malt vinegar filled the air, awakening the sleeping giant that is my appetite. I was doing fine suppressing the beast with a $1 Coors Light (not my normal choice but can’t beat a buck), until the gentleman to my right Bob received a platter of chicken fingers and french fries. I sarcastically accosted him “Do you know what you’ve done?!?!” for furthering my appetite and proclaimed I must now order my own basket of fries to satiate the beast within.
Bob laughed at me as so many do, and said he was only really after the chicken fingers so the fries were up for grabs if I were interested. Wasting a nano-second pondering the etiquette of the situation I asked if we could douse the batch in some malt. Behind me I could feel my cousins face turning red I turned to her with a mouthful and shrugged “Whah?” I chatted with my new friend and found out he was here for The Law’s set, as it turned out he was Amber’s father. He was surprised when they started to sound check, asking why they were going on so early, I explained they were setting the levels for all the different acts now for a faster change between sets. If The Law was sound checking I thought it best to head out to the floor shortly as Funkatronic would surely be starting their set soon. I offered to buy Bob a drink for his kindness, but he had just started on one, I promised him his next and made my way out to the floor.
Funkatronic, consisting of Paul Caraher on guitar and keyboard, Justin Caraher on drums, and Low B on bass guitar, are a jazzy funk jam band. The brothers Caraher have been playing together for the majority of their lives, originally from Nashville, Tennessee relocated to Rhode Island a few years ago, and have since used Low B on bass to round out the trio. Most of their original work being instrumental, its difficult to nail down the titles while listening to the CD I purchased and on myspace. They played Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You for Let Me Be Myself” followed by an original number:
Funkatronic covering Sly and the Family > Unkown Original
All night Low B was playing his funky smooth bass lines. Justin was setting the pace with his frantic fills and steady beats. Paul provided solid vocals and guitar rhythms and riffs. Changing genres between funk, jazz, and rock they proved themselves again to be exceeding tight musicians. Slinging his guitar to the side, Paul stepped up and manned the keyboard synthesizer for the next song:
04.25.09 Funkatronic performing an original 1
Each member showcased some solo work here. Paul at the synthesizer while his right hand was tickling the keys his left hand on a horizontal slide unit on other end of the keyboard. Low B rocked the groovy bass line our further with his fret hand outstretched while sliding down and up the neck. Finally Justin took his moment and slammed the skins and symbols with his quick sticks. Brendon took on vocals for “Too Many Puppies” a Primus cover, not one with which I am familiar. I believe they played “Electica” at one point, I remember a fantastic drum solo with sticks criss crossing everywhere touching everything they could find. Paul started in with a nasty little riff that he carried through the musical interludes for their next original:
04.24.09 Funkatronic performing original 2
Overall it was a great set. I enjoyed it throughly and was impressed with their stage presence compared to the last time I’d seen them play. Playing to the crowd much more than playing at each other, the crowd was certainly getting into the set as more people were starting to arrive. Closing out their set they chose one of their newer songs with which I was familiar from myspace, “Porno Funk.” Defiantly the funkiest number of the night, it really allowed Paul to let loose on the guitar for a while, leaving the stage red hot and the audience ready for more.
The Choos were the next act, a local acoustic cover duo who play the area quire frequently. Lacing their set with well known as well as lesser known classic rock tunes, as well as a solid dose of ball busting humor, a lot of their friends and fans were in attendance. They opened up with a great version of The Band’s “The Weight,” which had me singing along from the start. I thought I’d catch the rest of the song on my digital camera, but only snagged a clip as I wanted to continue to sing along:
04.25.09 The Choos covering “The Weight” clip
Phil Adams took the song break as a chance to address the crowd and bust our chops as Brett Boardman adjusted his mic and tuning. Playing Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” making sure to make it a bit their own:
04.25.09 The Choose covering “Boogie on Reggae Woman”
About halfway through the song I noticed some new friends from last weekend’s show at Snookers, Kendra and Tara, coming into the show, with a gaggle of friends. Upon completion of the song, I quickly put away my camera to greet them, and meet some new friends, we took off to the bar section to grab the crew some drinks and chatted a bit during the next song. After securing the ladies some Grateful Deads, and the gents some brews we made our way to the smoker’s deck for a quick butt. After further introductions (I’d forgotten names already) and about half a cigarette I realized The Choos had chosen (pun fully intended) “Handle With Care” by The Traveling Wilburys. While billowing my best Roy Orbison impression during the first chorus I thought my appreciation of this classic would best be served inside, and flung my butt into the ash bucket. Once inside I lowered the volume of my, too shitty for karaoke, voice and continues to sing along with The Choos. The crowded mirrored my appreciation with a good round of applause as they broke into a great version of the Moody Blues’s “Forever Afternoon,” complete with some sick interpretive lead segments. Enjoying the crowd’s input, they obliged a fan by closing the set with a song I had never heard, Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemane:”
04.25.09 The Choos covering “Kid Charlemagne”
As the Choos cleared the stage it was evident the crowd was ready for The Law’s return to the stage. Having taken the winter off to work on their album, and restructure the band a bit, it had been a while since the South County crowd had a chance to see them perform. Tragically it was around this point I noticed the, you should have charged your battery light on my camera and cursed my vague recollection of the Boyscout’s “Always Be Prepared” motto, and my camera’s imminent failure. Without video reference material, the writeup may suffer from lack of details. The Law now consists of Amber Bettez on vocals, Low B on bass, Max Sherman on guitar and Kevin Pacheco on drums. Down to three instruments they focused on a much bluesier sound, letting the spotlight shine on Amber’s vocal styling.
All set the band was tight, stretching their new wings so to speak, and I for one loved it. I enjoyed their sound and style much more than the last time I had seen them play. I can’t claim familiarity with all of The Law’s previous lineups, but I echo the common sentiment that this was their best lineup yet. With a much more discernible blues rock sound, they broke into a cover of Donna Jean Godchaux’s “Tore Up.” The song is a great choice for The Law, providing a platform for Amber’s powerfully soulful vocals as well one for Max to tear up (again, pun fully intended) with his Fender. Kevin commanded the kit with a great rocking style, both drummers on the night were fantastic and I relished at the chance to hear the contrast in their styles. Busy on the night, Low B rocking his bass hard, back out there with his busy bass-lines. Using musical interludes as a sirens call, Amber would shaker her hips and sway to the music, insuring all the room would follow suit. They chose a new number for their next piece “Staring Into the Light.” Again with a fantastic bluesy rock feel, the whole room was enjoying this new selection from The Law.
Slowing the pace a bit, Max and Kevin stepped off stage and lent the spotlight to Amber and Low B for a performance of “I Think I Know.” Brendon showcased his acoustic guitar skills, and traded lead vocals to and from Amber on verses, with beautiful harmonies on the choruses. Max and Kevin returned to the stage for a fabulous version of the Allman Brother’s “Whippin’ Post.” Modifying the lyrics to a woman’s perspective was a great touch, and as always the song allowed for each instrumentalist to showcase their skills during the extended musical break. The room again pumped full of energy they broke into their final number of the night. It was again a new composition from The Law, and was less bluesy this time around and more hard rock, complete with a drastic time change toward the end. After the set, everyone was packing up and saying their goodbyes. I thanks the musicians that performed and grabbed Brendon for a butt break before I headed back to Cranston. During our stroll we came across Justin, and he joined for a bit. We discussed the incredible night of music, some of the upcoming shows both acts had on their agendas and generally had a good old laugh. I marked Funkatronic’s show at AS220 with The Muve on May 8th in my notebook as a must see, and The Law’s May 9th show at Tammany Hall with The Attic and Humblebee as an “oh god why haven’t they invented transporters yet” want to see.