Saturday, 9 February 2013

Buckfest: Night One

Buckfest at Cafe Chaos

Yeah, I’d call that a success | Mike Gerbasi

I arrived a little late the first night of Buckfest (one of the downsides to earning a meager paycheck, I’m afraid).  Shortly after walking in I immediately saw the dance floor was packed with a thrashing auditory ranging from young rockabilly-types to middle-aged metal-heads, and they were all feeling what the Hobo Outlaws had to offer. 

With a moving rhythm section, twangy and melodic lead structures, and smoky-smooth vocals, Joel Kaizer, Jason Lariviere, Chris Robinson, Lisa Bates, and Tyler Parent did it again.  The bass took one for a walk like a German shepherd on a short leash, powerfully percussive and yet masterfully restrained to leave just enough space, filled up wonderfully by clashing electric and acoustic guitars accompanying some impressive work with the banjo, and fiddling that can simply make one weep.  Of course the on-point vocal performances of front man Joel Kaiser and harmonies by banjo master Jason Lariviere brought everything together with such raw emotional freedom, a display that only comes when the music is truly felt rather than just heard.  

As it were, I had had a discussion with Joel shortly before a gig at Grumpy’s earlier on; I felt compelled to ask him if his songs were based on true happenings, to which he replied, “Oh, fuck yeah, man.  Every single one of them.”  I realized that this made sense not only lyrically, but also melodically.  The way each song played out almost told its own story in a musical sense that seemed to fit snugly with the words being sung as it went along.  And although they have no percussive instruments, the Hobo Outlaws seemed to generate their own beat and rhythm, something that, according to common crowd response, is quite clearly working out for them.

As they began to disassemble/reassemble the stage for Santosh, I spotted an old friend and co-worker of mine, Nick Raz.  As we got into discussion and I told him what I was there for, he mentioned his band, Bones Malones, would be on after the next act.  Having lost touch, I was pleasantly surprised to hear this news, and excited to know what Bones Malones could do.

Meanwhile, the show had begun for Santosh, a two-man band involving one on the electric/slide guitar and the other behind the drum kit with an acoustic guitar in his lap, simultaneously playing, using the kick and hi-hat pedals, and singing.  I kid you not.  It seems that for two shows in a row I stumble upon two astronomically different yet incredibly talented pairs of musicians onstage, capable of filling the room more efficiently than a 4-piece.  Santosh himself was, of course, the man behind the kit, feeding guttural vocals with such feel into the microphone and strumming deep dark blues and bluegrass rhythm patterns whilst lead licks from the slide guitar rang out distinctly.  It is truly a sight that can only be seen and not described, but if I tried I would probably say something like: two men who got the blues and who know how to show it.  They more than make do with what they have; they make it work. That combined with great songwriting and sick attitude when playing makes this Tennessee-rough twin-barrel powerhouse a definite must-see/see again!

More Malone

Finally, Bones Malones filed onto the stage.  I would compare this alone to a magician pulling scarves out of his sleeve: it didn’t stop for quite a while.  When all was said and done, there was a drummer AND a percussionist, an upright bass, keyboards, an electric guitar, saxophone, a harmonica, as well as Bones himself.  Needless to say, they were well equipped for almost any musical scenario, which is wise seeing as how they chose to do so.  From gypsy swing to funk, doo-wop to downright soul ballads, they proved themselves expertly versatile onstage.   An old-school chemistry united them as they played, as if each of them knew exactly where, when and how they had to be in the songs performed, and it was clear that they had developed a sense about what was going on at all times around them.  

Their timing change-ups and perfectly placed vocal breaks, as well as an honest-to-god, full-on amusement whilst performing, were evidence that these guys have decades worth of musical experience between them.  Bones Malone himself was displaying such comfort onstage, with a charisma and charm that only comes when you feel at home in your environment.  At home enough, at least, to get the crowd singing and dancing, separately and together, or to introduce a song with such words as “Time to get sexy, now,” and follow it up by playing a soulful chill-out vibe with the subtle yet powerful effect of a downbeat energy.  His voice was unique, I wanted to say Tom Waits but I was also hearing much less of a head voice and more of a booming power stemming from the depths of his diaphragm, something I am sure all singers would agree to say is doing it right.

The upright bass was not used, I might say, in its most conventional sense, but played more in relation to what was needed in order to create a unique yet steady foundation off of which the rest of the band could work.  The originality of the saxophone’s creamy riffs and the added percussion’s rhythmic layers set a specific tone no ordinary group could achieve, especially when playing songs written about “our brothers and sisters from another planet.”  Harmonic scales and melodies played out across the room as the audience swayed to and fro, an obvious sign that the band’s extravagant performance was just what the people listening wanted to hear.  Their closing piece was one of a Chicago rhythm & blues style with an amazing energy that was just right to send the listeners home with the satisfaction of having heard a ton of great music.  Once again, I was delighted to hear and see that artists still have a deep-seeded passion for what they are doing, that they are onstage not for fame, nor money, but because people love to come watch true virtuosos have a hell of a good time.  And if music is not for enjoyment, then this is my last review.  Which it isn’t.
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