Hot Day At The Zoo is a New England based Bluegrass unit from Lowell, MA. This four-piece musical ensemble has created their own genre that they and their fans like to call “ZooGrass.” Combining the likes of Classic Rock, Folk and Americana while adding in characteristics of the Grateful Dead and other avant garde stylings, this band has captured the minds and hearts of people all over. The band consists of members Jon Cumming on Banjo, Dobro and Vocals, Michael Dion on Guitar, Harmonica and Vocals, Jed Rosen on Upright Bass and Vocals, as well as JT Lawrence on Mandolin and Vocals. The connection between these members is a sight in itself. Jon Cumming and Michael Dion are the two writers for the band, both having their own unique styles that they make blend oh so well. These guys have performed amongst many of the greats and actually won the Folk/Americana/Roots award in 2012 from the New England Music Awards.
While touring around the country these guys have had the opportunity to open for Levon Helm, David Grisman, Railroad Earth, Grace Potter, Trampled by Turtles, and big time jam rockers moe.. Creating a style all its own, this act has been able to cause a big stir and have gained amazing notoriety in the Bluegrass scene. There are a bunch of live recordings available of this fine band on archive.org. One that I would like to recommend is from May 4th, 2012 at the Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, PA. Although it’’s an audience recording, it picks up the vibe of how the audience interacts with this stellar act. There are a few covers, notably an upbeat version of the Grateful Dead’’s “Dupree’’s Diamond Blues,” that takes off with a wonderful kazoo solo. Also another noteworthy cover of John Lennon’’s “Let It Be,” which the band takes in a completely different direction, creating a new song altogether. This show didn’’t just have cover songs to make the night great, but also a plethora of originals were played as well.
Songs like “Long Way Home” and “Boom Boom Boom,” really show the differences in the writing capabilities of Cumming and Dion. “Long Way Home” written by Jon Cumming is a sweet melody driven number, that tells a beautiful story of traveling home. This song really capitalizes on all the instruments in the band, utilizing every
members potential to create a story of their own. “Boom Boom Boom,” written by guitarist Mike Dion, takes you to the other side of this “Zoograss” adventure. A raspy voice with jug band thumping from the upright bass creates a knee-slapping frenzy that makes it easy to catch a groove and cut a rug! These are only two songs that this band has written. With 3 albums under their belt and numerous tours, this band is a MUST SEE for any fan of other Bluegrass acts like Railroad Earth, Yonder Mountain String Band or Hot Buttered Rum.
-Archive.org Link for the May 4th, 2012 show at the Triumph Brewing Company- http://archive.org/details/hdatz2012-05-04.mk41.wideortf.flac16
Photo from HERE
LMNR: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to do this with me.
HDATZ: Hey Jason, no problem thanks for having us.
LMNR: Was the intentions of the band to get this big? Did you think you would be doing shows in multiple cities?
HDATZ: I think our intention was to play the music we discovered, and play it alot. In the beginning i dont think we thought much more about it. Mikey would get us gigs around town, and we would show up and play and just have the time of our lives. We rarely rehearsed and just learned on stage from playing live and taking chances. Eventually, we did realized we were making strides and progessing and were actually able to travel around and fill rooms, which is really cool. Its been growing since and we hope we can continue to turn people on to our music.
LMNR: Have you guys had the chance to write any new material recently? How do you go about that? Do one of you write a song and bring it to the table, or is it a group effort?
HDATZ: Yes we we recently finished laying tracks for 12 new original songs. Mike and I wrote a majority of tunes on this one, and JT wrote an original instrumental tune. So yes we have alot of new material. We are in the process of writing more and just went over a couple of new songs at the last rehearsal. Typically the way it works is Mike and I will bring a tune in its most conceptual stage; the hook, chords, intros, outros, the basic framework of the song, and we will run it by the rest of the band. And from there its a group effort to sculpt it or carve it like a block of wood into something cool. JT and Jed have great musical minds and come up with tons of great ideas to add spice to a song. Recently we added Nick Heys on the keyboards and he is now adding to the effort as well, so its a really cool process. I have a lot of faith in the band’’s ability to take an idea and craft it into something pretty solid.
LMNR: Do you have a favorite musician or band that you like to cover? Do you like to make the covers more your own style?
HDATZ: I don’t think we have any one favorite band we like to cover. I mean we cover some Dead, Petty, Hendrix, Beatles, Doors, Nirvana, some old bluegrass standards and such, so we like to have variety. And ya, when we do covers we like to make em up our own while staying as true to the song as possible. Jed sings a pretty cool version of “Foxy Lady” we do which always seems to go over well with the audience.
LMNR: Who are some of you favorite Bluegrass bands on the scene today? New or old.
HDATZ: Jatoba is a great 3 piece string band out of Vermont. Great band and good friends of ours. Like us they are not traditional bluesgrass, but they stay true to it. Cabinet is another great string band out of PA. We have done a bunch of festivals with both of these bands and they tear it up for sure. The Infamous Stringdusters are a great band too. We did part of their tour last year in the North East. Yonder Mountain, Hot Buttered Rum are really killing it these days. For the older bands we listen to Monroe, Rowan, Hartford, etc.
LMNR: Your fanbase seems to keep growing quite readily, is there a reason for this outside of your great music? Anything a fan has ever done for you guys of note?
HDATZ: I think its just people talking and us making sure we keep them interested. I mean we do attempt to strategize somewhat to build in markets and keep it growing. Our manager at Great Northeast, Ben Jaehne, does a great job of keeping us on point and keeping the ball rolling. But its not an exact science. There are a million reasons for things going one way or another. But ya try your best to make things work in our favor. Its not easy and is probably one of the harderst ascpects of music as a business in my opinion. Anything a fan has ever done for us? Thats a loaded question isnt it? I think letting us crash at their place has often been a favor fans of ours like to extend to us. There is always something a fan gives you in some way, either in the form of words or something else. Its happens often and is always humbling.
LMNR: Do you have any rituals you do before a show? Anything in particular you do while on the road to a show?
HDATZ: I dont think you really want to know the answers to either of these questions. Next….
. But ok seriously, we really dont have a pre-show rituals other than standing around, waiting to go on, and making sure we don”t get up each others asses about anything right before the show. On the road to the show, we do most of our set lists in the van. And we sing a lot. We sing and play and arrange in the van. There is a video on, Youtube I think, of Jed, Jt, and I at Mandolin Brothers in Staten Island singing this old standard “Bye Bye Blues.” We had been singing that one in the van for a few weeks and its now part of our regular set list. So we get a lot done on the road. Except we don”t sleep much.
LMNR: What makes you guys different from the other touring acts in your genre?
HDATZ: Well we just do our thing and that”s what makes us different from other bands in our genre, just like they are doing their thing which makes them different from us. We fall into this catagory of bands that is bluesgrass but not bluegrass. We call what we do Zoograss. The other bands have their own unique sounds, but we all still pay homage to the roots of the music without signing on the dotted line. And I think thats what is different about all of us that fall into that basket. It”s new and fresh and pretty cool I think.
LMNR: Any words of advice for a younger generation of pickers?
HDATZ: Don”t stop. Think outside the box but dont be dumb about it. And practice. Just always practice. And be respectul. Respect other musicans and writers and pickers and promoters and people in general. Music brings people together, so don”t be a dick about it for any reason.
LMNR: What show are you guys most excited for on this upcoming tour? Why?
HDATZ: The Mighty High Music fest in May is going to be pretty cool with Dark Star Ochestra and David Grisman and a bunch of other really cool acts. Playing the Knitting Factory in NY with Cabinet in April, which will be cool. And we have some shows in Wyoming and Kentucky this summer which will be cool to go to some new places and see if we can turn people on to what we are doing.
LMNR: If you had one original song to choose for new listeners to get into the “ZooGrass” style, what would it be? Why?
HDATZ: Hmmm. Maybe “Mercy of the Sea.” It”s a great song that Mikey wrote and it contains alot of very typical “stuff” we do that defines our sound. I could name a few more but I think someone would get the point by listening to that one.
LMNR: Last question: One of my friends caught you guys in the parking lot at Mountain Jam a few years ago and stopped to listen in for a while. Is this something you like to do regularly? Has it gotten you fans with this approach?
HDATZ: Oh god I think I remember exactly the night you are talking about. We did that frequently early on and still do it today. But as our schedule becomes more complicated its alot harder to do. But when the mood strikes us we will start picking anywhere. It”s one of the great benefits of being in a string band. And yes it has rewarded us with new fans. We still have people that come up and tell us about a time we picked at their campfire or they saw us in the parking lot somewhere.
LMNR: Thank you guys so much for taking the time to answer these questions! Hope to see you at a show soon!
HDATZ: Thank you Jason. Take care.
HOT DAY AT THE ZOO UPCOMING SHOWS
June 21 Smoked Country Jam Bluegrass Festival Cross Fork
June 22 Camp Coldbrook Barre
July 6 Out Among the Stars Benton
July 12 Harlow’s Peterborough
July 18 Chenango Blues Assoc concert series Norwich
July 19 Flying Monkey Plymouth
July 25 Quixote’s Denver
July 26 Oyster Ridge Music Festival Kemmerer
July 27 Oyster Ridge Music Festival Kemmerer
July 28 W Yellowstone Comm Concert Series W Yellowstone
Aug 9 Bluegrass in the Park Folklife festival Henderson
Aug 10 Purple Fiddle Thomas
Aug 15 Lowell Summer Music Series Lowell
Aug 18 Governor’s Inn concert series Rochester
Aug 24 Camden Summer Farm Festival Camden
Aug 31 wedding Dennis/Ernst Old Forge
Sept 9 Haddam Neck Fairgrounds Bandstand Haddam Neck
Sept 7 wedding Crump Belvidere
Sept 14 Ocean Mist Kingston
Sept 28 Higher Ground S Burlington
Oct 5 Harry’s Harvest Ball Starks
Oct 13 Sandwich Fair Sandwich
Nov 15 Mainely Brews Waterville
Nov 16 Mainely Brews Waterville
Originally published on LiveMusicNewsAndReviews.com
Written by Jason Staniszewski
The Spring Revival is a brand new camping festival that officially kicks off the outdoor festival season in Upstate NY this year. It features current regional touring acts Dopapod, Twiddle, and Consider The Source, as well as a reunion by the late 90′s favorite Schleigho. The lineup also features several up and coming Upstate bands, and UpstateLIVE had the opportunity to talk with Jay Gilly from Ocupanther, Mike Gantzer from Aqueous. and all four members of Formula 5 out of Albany. Thanks to all of the bands for sharing their time with us.
Interview with Ocupanther from Rochester
Ocupanther is a five piece instrumental unit out of Rochester. These guys are some serious musicians that can throw it down. The band consists of Jason Gilly on Bass, Matthew Blauvelt on Drums, Collin Jones on Guitar and Synthesizer, Mikey Pantano on Guitar and Matthew Klock on MOOG Synthesizers.
Jason Staniszewski: Hey Jay, what’s happening?
Jason Gilly: Hey Jason, very cool to be able to talk with you
JS: Same goes for you. How did you guys come up with the name Ocupanther?
JG: Well, when trying to name this project, we were attemping to come up with something that sounded ferocious. I had always wanted to use the symbol of the panther. It was something that I thought represented the direction we wanted to go musically. Whether it be the animal itself or the symbolism of it in society and politics. Then, after perusing a list of prefixes, we thought that “Ocu” (having to do with the eyes) had a very sinister ring to it.
JS: You guys played awesome at DBGB’s after Keller Williams here in Buffalo. How did it feel knowing that Keller was in the crowd getting down to you guys like the rest of us?
JG: Oh man, we had such a fantastic time. The place was filled with such a great mix of family and friends. Keller being there was a great surprise. He is such a genuine guy and such a wonderful musician. We extended an invitation for him to come up and play. He was super cool and said that he just wanted to hang out and watch us do our thing. It felt great to see him dancing and smiling. It was cool to collectively share in the moment with him and everyone else in the room.
JS: What does the future hold for the band?
JG: Well, right now we are continuing to write and record. We were recently in the studio recording our 2nd album. Both of our records were recorded at River Bottom Sound in Henrietta, NY and were produced by our great friend and collaborator, Matt Klock. He’s an amazing producer, engineer, musician and friend. During the sessions for the latest record, we were brainstorming ways to add texture and layers to tracks and we tapped Matt Klock to Lay down some Moog synthesizer. We enjoyed the process and sound so much we asked him to consider making his presence a permanent fixture in the Ocupanther landscape. To our great pleasure, he agreed. So we are working with him to bring his sonic madness into our live setting. We are super excited about what the future holds.
JS: That’s awesome, the newest album sounds amazing. How long has this unit been together?
JG: We have been together in this format for about 18 months.
JS: What is the most memorable gig outside of DBGB’s the other night?
JG: One of our favorite nights was at the Westcott Theater in Syracuse. We were asked to support The Grandmothers of Invention. The band consisted of Zappa alumni Napoleon Murphy Brock, Tom Fowler, Christopher Garcia, Robbie Mangano, Don Preston. They were amazing and incredibly kind to us. Just really really fun guys. We spotted Napolean out in the back really enjoying our music and dancing. We are all big Zappa fans and it was certainly a thrill. They played an amazing set, consisting of songs from Bongo Fury, Roxy and Elsewhere and Apostrophe, among others. It’s was a fantastic night.
JS: Yea that is awesome, I love me some Zappa. What are your thoughts on the lineup for the UpstateLIVE Spring Revival in May?
JG: We are really happy to see such a great group of musicians all in one place. The line up is phenomenal and we are super excited to share the stage with such amazing artists.
JS: What does the Spring and Summer look like for you guys in Ocupanther?
JG: Well, we have some exciting shows coming up with Marco Benevento (who we all dig very much) and our good friends, Jimkata, among other great events. Plus we are planning on entering the studio again at the end of the summer to record our 3rd album. We are very excited about 2013.
JS: Any information you can give to other musicians or people trying to do what you guys are doing?
JG: I would say, just keep playing. Play, play, play. Always be playing music, no matter with who. Music is an amazing crusade. Work hard and enjoy yourself.
JS: What makes Ocupanther so unique compared to your other projects?
JG: Hmm…, that’s a great question. The one thing I hear from people all the time is that we don’t sound like anything else. That we have a sound of our own. Its a great compliment. I guess because everyone in the band has all different kinds of musical influences, we find ourselves blending our tastes and trying to create something distinctive. Usually, while writing, we will come up with something, some little line or riff, and if it sounds like something we’ve heard or that has been done, we try to tweak it and make it into something we haven’t really heard before. Sometimes we even surprise ourselves.
JS: You guys definitely do it well! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this with me man! See you soon!
JG: Thank you, Jason! It’s always such a great pleasure to talk with you.
Interview with Aqueous from Buffalo
Aqueous is a four piece bulldozing machine hailing out of Buffalo. This band has been taking leaps and bounds in the scene recently and are more than worth the listen. This cast of characters consists of Mike Gantzer on Guitar and Vocals, David Loss on Guitar,Vocals and Keys, Evan McPhaden on Bass and Vocals and rounding it off with the animal Nick Sonricker behind the Drum Kit.
Jason Staniszewski: Hey Mike, how is it going man?
Mike Gantzer: Can’t complain brother. Keeping busy playing and writing with the fellas, and playing Zelda in my free time haha
JS: So it seems like you guys are really starting to take off and book a lot of shows on the East Coast. Is there a specific run or show you are most looking forward to?
MG: Yeah man, we’re doing our best to get out there. There are certain cities regionally where shows have been getting really intense and energetic, and we always dig that. I know personally I’m psyched to go back to Burlington, VT. We’re doing a show with this incredible funk band Turquaz at Nectar’s, and Burlington is beautiful, so win win there for me!
JS: After playing moe.down last year you guys were now asked to play Summercamp Music Festival. How excited are you to be a part of these amazing festivals?
MG: We’ve compared the excitement level to being nine years old and opening up the Nintendo 64 on Christmas. Haha, honestly dude, we just feel so honored to have been given the opportunity to do these festivals, and it’s so humbling and amazing to see the hard work paying off in that regard. A mixture of gratitude and excitement to say the least, all of the artists on festivals like this are our heroes, our inspiration, so to answer your question…pretty damn excited! haha
JS: What are your guys plans for the future? Maybe a west coast run?
MG: Well, we’re aout seven songs into writing a new album which is exciting given that we put our most recent studio release out in September. So writing, playing as many shows as possible, and going West, yes! My long term goal personally would be to tour in Europe, I just think it would be the coolest.
JS: Any new gear these days?
MG: Ah I’m glad you asked. I love being a nerd about gear but no one ever asks about it too much in interviews! My rig has stayed pretty consistent, but I recently picked up a pro-co Rat pedal to get a bit…heavier at times. Haha Dave got a new guitar too, a beautiful PRS, it makes me jealous! I’m scheming on a new guitar purchase at some point, but not to replace my strato-macaster, just for a change of pace type-deal. Dave and I are both rocking mesa’s these days too, they sound amazing! Lastly, our manager Josh bought me a new Mario figurine to stand on my amp, my old one got….beat. haha Now Mario, Wario, DK, and Yoshi are all at home on the AQ stage.
JS: What would you offer as advice to other musicians when it comes to the music scene?
MG: Ah man I always feel strange giving advice considering that we’re just building our thing now, but I’ve said before that I think the number one priority should be finding other musicians that you can get up with musically and personally, and on top of that, making on stage/off stage communication the foundation of the band.
JS: What are your thoughts on the Spring Revival festival? Looks like a great lineup!
MG: It’s gonna be awesome, Herby is always putting something cool together, and we’ve had some great experiences with so many bands on that festival. It’ll be one for the books for sure; you can’t go wrong with a line up like that.
JS: When Josh’s picture sells at the merch table, and we all know that will be any day now with the sex appeal in that Canadian tuxedo, where will those funds go? A new Canadian tuxedo for all of you guys? A zebra?
MG: Man, that’s a good question! A Canadian tuxedo isn’t a bad call at all. Perhaps we could all afford some high quality fake moustaches, or maybe just a 5,000 dollar hair cut. I like to spend wisely. haha
JS: Hahaha Last question, If you could play alongside any musician, who would it be?
MG: Man, that’s a tough one. Actually a couple of weeks ago I got to sit in with Dopapod in Buffalo, and that was kind of awesome for me. Those dudes are actually a huge inspiration for us. If I could get crazy though, I’d want to sit in with Lettuce and get all funky, or play Knights of Cydonia with Muse, we just saw them in Cleveland and I’ve been on a huge Muse kick leading up to and after that show!
JS: Thanks so much for your time Mike, hope to see you around soon!
MG: Anytime my man.
Interview with Formula 5 from Albany
Formula 5 is a four piece out of Albany. These guys have amazing raw talent and are not afraid to push the envelope. With subtle hints to a Phishesque style of jamming, this band has been starting to captivate audiences and climbing in the jam scene. The group consists of Mike McDonald on Keys and Vocals, Joe Davis on Guitar and Vocals, Bill Shattuck on Bass and Vocals, and Greg Marek on drums and vocals.
Jason Staniszewski: Hey Joe, how are things with Formula 5 these days?
Joe Davis: Things with the Formula Five have been great our new album has just been released and we just finished up a small string of shows supporting its release. We are starting to really meld into our own style. We’ve started to get a lot more creative with setlist arrangements and segueing in and out different tunes. We’ve also kind of opened the door to leaving certain songs open ended and leaving it unfinished and returning to the refrain of said song after going through a couple different songs. Kind of reminiscent of the classic “Playin’ in the Band” sets from the Dead back in the day. We’ve been kind of on a tear lately lots of energy is being poured out of every crevice of our sound and evidentially, from our growing reception at shows, it’s paying off. Each new show we’ve enjoyed more than the last and were glad it’s happening now as we approach festival season. We hope to really knock some socks off and open some eyes at Spring Revival the FIRST of any of the festivals we’ll be traveling to this summer.”
JS: What are your plans for this year regarding touring etc?
All: We are looking forward to playing some new markets and really trying to expand our touring range and fan base. The first year and 3 months since Joe joined the band have been amazing and we have played to some good crowds in different areas of the northeast. We are looking forward to widening our range of travel and teaming up with some other regional jam band players as well to get our music out there to new people. Festivals are a very big component of that as well and we are looking forward to a couple big ones this year such as Backwoods Pondfest, UpstateLive’s Spring Revival, Mama Strawberry Jam and a few others as well. We have a few shows scheduled already that will give us a chance to play in some new markets in 2013.
JS: Mike who would you consider to be a huge influence in your playing?
Mike McDonald: That’s a great question. I have been influenced by a lot of different players in many musical styles but I think if I were to list a few it would go like this: Brent Mydland, Bill Payne, Stevie Wonder, Garth Hudson, Elton John, Nicky Hopkins, Bruce Hornsby, Page McConnell, Herby Hancock, Chick Corea and nearly a million others. It is very obvious to see why a primarily piano/organ player would relate to the standouts like Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Herby Hancock who I admire for their roles as songwriters and band leaders but I would say a large chunk of my personal style is more molded by the playing of the Brent Mydland’s, Nicky Hopkins’, Bill Payne’s and Bruce Hornsby’s of the world because of how they were able to integrate melodic chord driven comping(or rhythm) to into their playing. They weren’t always the lead instrument in their respective groups but they were creative within their roles as to push the other members of the band. They could all solo when given the opportunity but some of my favorite moments with Formula 5 happen when we we’ve hit a good pocket as a group and nobody is “soloing” per-se but we are all adding interesting rhythms and melodic runs to make it quite interesting.
JS: Bill I am having trouble getting my telescope aligned correctly, I was wondering if I could join the 3 Ring Circus with you?
Bill Shattuck: Well the alignment is costly but there’s room in the ring for you! Yeah, this song, as you can probably tell, is three sections (rings) involving the charade of “jumping through the hoops” of a wily female’s trickery and wild ways in order to hopefully get to the real her. Some women prefer a chase and one has to gauge whether it’s worth the while. In this case it is and despite the circus and interplanetary chaos she stirs up in her admirer, the two are able to come down to Earth and cease the endless and pointless running around. Very few women are worth this chase, but if she is, the end justifies the means.
JS: I am loving the new album, is there any part that you guys wish you could have added more to or changed?
All: Absolutely, in fact we pretty much wanted to do the whole album over but we hear that is a very common sentiment regarding newly released albums. Being our first album and our first time in the studio as a band, we really just wanted to try and put forth the best impression of our sound in an approachable sort of way all while not breaking the bank too much. We really wanted our songs to sound genuine and more marketable but without alienating our live band sound completely. We discussed this at length regarding the studio and shortening track times, etc… but in the end we realized it was more important to put out music that sounds like “us”, which to this point had been defined by our live show. So in the end we tried to tighten up some of our oldest songs while not completely avoiding the “jam” side of our band. We wanted our fans to recognize the band on the album as the band they had seen live.
JS: Greg, what gives you the mystique that you posess?
Greg Marek: My mystic is based mainly on a diet of rancid milk and unicorn blood. The other components are derived from a long line of drummers. Both of my grandfathers were musically inclined, as well as my uncle on my mother’s side. They told me at a young age that if I practiced and played with others as much as I could then it would pay off. I would have to agree. It has taken a long time but the results are starting to show. Living an hour north of the boys, in Lake George it was hard to find people to play with, given a smaller pool of musicians to choose from, I found my search heading south. After much ado, I have found a great group of guys that I am just ecstatic about playing with. Now, my mystic is at an alarming level. I have recently started adding rotten eggs to my diet to further expand on my mystic. Not the best results.
JS: Any of you guys have any new gear you want to talk about?
Joe Davis: I am constantly upgrading my gear and frequently pulling new pedals in and out of my rig. I recently just acquired a modernized Mu-Tron III, which was responsible for the coveted envelope filter tone of Jerry Garcia. I love it and have really worked it into a lot of my playing in Formula 5.
Mike McDonald: I recently bought a Micro-Korg XL package synth and I have been messing around with it. It’s very nice it has some tasty sounds and is very compact but I still am struggling a bit with the programming and the scaled down key size. I haven’t worked it into my rig just yet but am excited about some of the things it can do.
Bill has recently added a brand new compressor as well as a very versatile bass synth (Mark Bass Super Synth) and Greg has recently added some brand new hit hat cymbals and a monster ride cymbal.
JS: Are you guys stoked to be playing the Spring Revival in May? Looks like a lot of great bands and at a great price!
Joe Davis: Well if that ain’t a kickoff to the festival season we don’t know what is. That lineup is beyond killer. It really is the accumulation of what we consider to be the most serious talent in our circle of musical compatriots. We’ve been honored to share the stage with most of this lineup at least once or twice and it’s safe to say we’re extremely pumped up for that weekend.
JS: Mike, are there any crazy things that you guys like to do while on the road? Counting road signs or having staring competitions with each other?
Mike McDonald: That is a great question… I think some of our favorite “on-the-road” pastimes include never getting comfortable in our wicker chair back seat, quoting any family guy, Workaholics, or Key and Peele episodes endlessly, and talking about music in general. In our short time on the road, we have found that we can do some pretty good work en-route that can make our live shows better. One thing we’ve really been trying to do is write interesting set lists with segues, key changes and other interesting “curveballs”. We rarely get an opportunity to practice these show-specific nuances so sometimes vocalizing it as a group does the trick and we can take some risks on stage. The only problem with any of this is that we all can talk endlessly (as anyone who’s been around us can attest to) and due to the vans engine being very loud, all this van discussion can leave our voices shot before we even sing the first note. We’re getting better at that though.
JS: Joe being the youngest member of the group, what has been some hardships you have had to deal with while gigging out?
Joe Davis: Being the youngest member in the group felt weird at first but I think that the band trusted my mental capacity for music and that unlike some of the other people they tried out I already knew their music before walking in the door. I was 19 almost 20 when I joined in January of last year. The most difficult thing might have been the actual bars themselves. Of course I couldn’t drink due to my age limitation which seemed unfair when free beers or drink deals were part of our compensation as a band. Due to a lot of bars allowing 18+ it wasn’t ever really a problem until we went to Buffalo for the first time shortly apparently after a very strict law was passed placing harsh penalties on bars that got caught serving minors. We were informed ahead of time that the bars in the downtown area were taking this very seriously and were allowing now exceptions, even forperformers! Fortunately, we worked out the situation and ended up playing the show and having a great time. The good news is that I recently just turned 21, am now enjoying the perks of playing music in bars, and am slowly turning into a functioning alcoholic. Just kidding Mom.
JS: Greg, do you have any suggestions to up and coming artists like yourselves?
Greg Marek: Find a group of guys you are truly happy playing with. we have changed alot as a band since our inception and a great deal of it goes to finding the right lineup. Once we were all on the same page it was easy to write, play, and practice, practice, practice. Oh yeah, and practice! The more you practice, individually, and as a group the better you become. Its so cliche but only because its so true. Its noticeable to us as a band and musicians when we do and don’t practice. When we have a great practice our gigs that weekend are fire. So we practice as much as we can. in conclusion Jason, id have to say practice is my biggest suggestion to up and coming artists such as myself.
JS: Thank you guys so much for taking the time to do this. Hope to see you all soon.
This was originally published on UpstateLive.com
Photographs by Lindsey Robinson Photography
Review written by Jason Staniszewski
On the morning of April 18th we got an early start leaving Buffalo, headed to our destination of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scranton being my hometown, the drive was quite easy and our accommodations were set! Lindsey and I got to the River Street Jazz Cafe just before 9 pm. We ordered some food and awaited the opening act to start the night. While waiting for the band to start, Jon Fishman made an appearance at the bar, in which people started rushing his way. He made a quick getaway and not to long after that, Sonic Spank took the stage. This quartet out of the Philadelphia region seemed ecstatic to be sharing the bill with Fishman and Touchpants. Having a jamband feel with a heavy trance-funk undertone, these guys had a great sound and worked the crowd over. For their last song of the night, Jon Fishman sat in with them on Pink Floyd’s ”Astronomy Domine.” I overheard later that night, that it was the bands first go at the song, they definitely held their own.
The stage was cleared and refilled with Touchpants’ equipment. At this point I could tell that the crowd was ready to see what was in store. As they took the stage, the place lit up with applause and the band had started into a vocal jam called “Penis Slap.” Although this would probably cause a stir in most of America, most of the people there that night laughed it off and still awaited more. And the more they gave, the raunchier it got. The next song was dedicated to a female in the front, called “Mushroom Tattoo,” a song about putting a penis on a girls face. Next was “Mom Jeans,” and then the first of many “Dirtsters.” “Ode To Dirtster” is a group of poems that guitar player and vocalist Colby Dix and drummer Jon Fishman had constructed during their time with Jazz Mandolin Project. They are about a girl named Tammy, in which Fishman and Cox named all the dirty hippie girls that they wrote these lyrics about. These poems push the envelope and are insanely derogatory towards women. Although this didn’t phase most of the viewers, some decided to leave early.
Chris Friday, the other guitarist/vocalist of the band, told the audience that this next number is their bluegrass song. “Jesus had a baby out of his dickhole in Cinncinatti” was the song and I am sure that just by the title you could understand where this one went. Again with the creative titles, “Let Your Cock Lead” was started and the band kept calling people out in the audience. It was hilarious and one of those moments where you don’t know if you should be laughing. “1,2,3,4″ came and went, then Cox started a new “Ode To Dirtster.” This time around, a woman standing next to us turned to bass player Aran Bedrosian told him that she didn’t know how to act – she loved the music but was not sure on what to do. Aran, who was literally like a foot from us replied “Neither do I.” Funny story is that this “Ode To Dirtster” was directed to the aforementioned audience member. Cox asked the band to take it down a little bit because he just wrote this poem, and it was meaningful.
Fishman then realized that about half the audience had left and thanked all of us for sticking it out, saying that as the show goes on they will see who the true fans are. He then told everyone to buy some merchandise, telling the crowd that they had a special run of shirts featuring Kevin Ware.After a few more songs we got what I thought was one of the best played songs of the night, “Cat Blow Job.” Although the lyrics to this song were risque, the jams were phenomenal. Aran’s bass playing was incredible and he was such a humble guy, giving high fives to us in the audience and laughing most of the night away. Lindsey was then chosen as the next of many “Ode To Dirtster’s.” She was nervous but took it like a champ. Cox broke a guitar string and while he was fixing it, Fishman broke out a penis guitar that their road tech Will Smith made, then played a bit of “Brain Damage” before handing the guitar back.
As Cox returned with his guitar, a man was pulled up out of the audience to berate Will Smith. Instead of doing that, he told a lady from the audience to hop onstage and give Fishman a kiss, telling her the worst thing that could happen is that she would be kicked out. The lady went for it as the man was tossed off the stage. Fishman threw his drum sticks up and said “NO WAY!” Cox and Friday told the woman if she flashed them, they would allow her to kiss Jon. After a few attempts she finally pulled her shirt up, again heading towards Fishman and she was quickly escorted off while the member tore in.
The show came to an end a little while later and I couldn’t believe all that just happened in the last two and a half hours. The lyrics, the stage banter, Friday pretending to jerk off on Cox’s face, Fishman playing “Brain Damage” on a penis guitar or the toilets they were sitting on, this was a one of a kind show to say the least. Linds and I truly did enjoy ourselves, having a bunch of laughs and still in awe that these guys made it to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I know people were disappointed thinking that some sort of Phish music would be played, Fish did throw a “Bouncing Around The Room” tease in, with the audience cheering to only get knocked down by Friday and Cox ripping into jamband fans. I would suggest everyone seeing this band if you are into raw humor and want to see some killer musicians in a smaller setting. To me it is definitely a one time deal, but still glad we went!
Originally featured on UpstateLIVE.com
Photos by Lindsey Robinson Photography
Written by Jason Staniszewski
On Tuesday April 16th we had the chance to catch Sound Tribe Sector 9 at the Town Ballroom in Buffalo, NY. Although the day started out rainy here in western New York, it quickly subsided and let through some sun for this phenomenal performance that was about to ensue. As we reached the city and parked the car, we saw a huge line of people waiting in line to get inside. After waiting for about 25 minutes, getting all of our credentials squared away, we were finally ready to enter. I found a spot to watch while Lindsey went to the Pit to take some photos.
The lights went out and the band took the stage; the audience was ready to get down for this sold out performance. I thought, not bad for a Tuesday night in Buffalo! The show started with 20-12, a really light hearted trance number that had the crowd ready to boogie. Bassist David Murphy, was grooving and smiling from ear to ear while getting drummer Zach Velmer into his musical space. Guitarist Hunter Brown wasted no time at all throwing in some amazing guitar riffs to help accentuate the already progressive structure. As the midi faded out, we were brought in by Murphy’s bass line toMove My Peeps. Murphy was again dancing readily with the audience and showing off his skills, and the rest of the band dug into the groove. F. Word was next with keyboardist David Phipps starting off the opening segment. This number also contained Russ Liquid joining the band onstage to add some killer sax lines. Liquid stayed on for the next song as well, King Pharaoh’s Tomb, but this time he busted out the trumpet. This was really well played and showed off a lot of what STS9 has to offer. Allowing percussionist Jeffree Lerner to really show his stuff and take over in the empty spots.
After King Pharaoh’s Tomb ended, Murphy thanked the crowd and expressed how much fun the band was having, just before busting into an amazing rendition of Crystal Instrument. The synths were now going full bore, the band took us on another musical roller coaster of Kamuy. Hunter Brown’s guitar work was phenomenal on this one, truly shining throughout the whole number and creating a vocal landscape through his instrument. Taking it down for a second, the band went into Blu Mood. Ending the first set was my favorite song of the night and one of my all time favorite songs from Sound Tribe, Aimlessly. Although there were a few minor flubs, this song really goes out there and can paint such an amazing picture in one’s mind. I spent a few minutes to recuperate, see some friends and get a drink, and the second set was about to begin.
As the lights went down yet again the crowd erupted and showed just what Buffalove is all about! The lights swirling around and the energy at 11, the band broke into T.W.E.L.V.E. Compiled of numerous midi samples and synth action, drummer Zach Velmer was ready to throw down. I feel he totally caught his groove on this one, allowing the band to fully open up. Vibyl was next, with some great key lines and midi synced vocal overdubs to add to the ever evolving soundscape. Murphy again trying to amp the crowd up even more asking if everyone is having a good time. Without wasting a moment the guys went into One A Day. This song is awesome, with some great paused sections that allow for some great build and release moments I am always searching for in music.
Percussionist Jeffree Lerner once again took the reigns, starting off When The Dust Settles. Quickly lending a hand is keyboardist David Phipps, and the audience couldn’t have been happier. The crowd also helped out, yelling during the paused segments in this number. Some great percussive grooves went on in this one, definitely one to check out if you haven’t heard it yet. Hunter Brown’s smooth jazz licks cascaded into Grow. Even though there are no lyrics to this bands song selection, you almost forget about needing them at all. They are such a fine tuned machine that your mind has so many places to wander and get lost before they lead you back to the start. Arigato was up next with a vocal passage looped through from one of the midi samples. A really well played Simulator led into a crowd pleasing version of March. This ended the second set, but the music kept coming!
The encore started with Wika Chikana and moved into my second favorite song of the night,Circus. This brought the show to a close and I don’t think there was a soul in the place that was disappointed. If you have yet to see this band or have been on the fence for a while, my suggestion is GO! These guys are on fire and are a great group of musicians that really know how to work their sound. I am so grateful to have these opportunities to see shows like this and the others I have covered. Go out and support music, local, regional or national acts. This night really showed what a town like Buffalo has to offer, when the right act was placed here.
Ocupanther, a phenomenal instrumental group that hails from Rochester, is set to release their new album Progessor, this Friday, March 29th. The album starts off on a high with the song “Ghostless.” This progressive tune takes on numerous shapes and sizes, truly showing off how amazing this band really is. The way in which the guitars simultaneously move together creates a culminating experience like no other. Just as the song nears its end, you are tossed into another ambient space that does not disappoint. “Misunderstanding Hugs” is an exploratory salsa infused jam that leaves one’s pallet wanting more and brings to mind Steve Kimock.
“Which Is The Witch” is the perfect transition song from “Misunderstanding Hugs,” seguing nicely into “Naga Jolokia”, which really hones in on the dirty space funk that is Ocupanther. With the synth and wah playing a heavy part, this tune was meant to make people groove. “Progressor” creates an Umphrey’s McGee-style jam that leads you into a whammy enhanced ping pong battle that brings you in and out of different dimensions. Taking stride right out of “Progressor” is “Holy Jeffery,” a flawless excursion that feels like a roller coaster ride. The final song on the album is house beat number “Waxhaw Hacksaw,” providing a trance based techno ditty, a juggernaut of a jam that shows off all of the members musical abilities. Bass player Jay Gilly noted that “Waxhaw Hacksaw” was a last minute add to the disc, as it was written in the studio and they liked it so much that they had to add it.
This album is a work of art for those that like improvisational progressive jamming. If Ocupanther is playing a show near you, get out and support this group of top notch musicians; you will not be disappointed.
Key Tracks – Ghostless, Misunderstanding Hugs, Naga Jolokia, Holy Jeffrey
Originally featured on UpstateLIVE.com
Photos by Lindsey Robinson Photography
Review written by Jason Staniszewski