Monday, April 10, 2006

No Crampin' My Style

The Greyboy Allstars served notice to all musicians this weekend: If you want to make it to the top of the Best Shows of 2006 list, you're gonna have to bring your A Game.

Saturday's show at Irving Plaza -- part of the band's first tour in seven years, ahead of its first album in nine -- was truly off the charts. It was actually so off the charts it was on the charts. It left everyone with whom I attended the concert speechless, without speech. And it led me to write this mental letter in my head:

"Dear GBA,

I know you're all All Stars, not just average musicians. But, please, could you just sign here ensuring you'll never break up again?
(show the band paper to sign at this point) Thanks in advance.

Everyone in Attendance"

The New York crowd was fired up for this star-studded collection of funk and jazz talents, a band that lost seven years on the road together as a result whatever reasons are floating through the rumors ether (band quibbles, seminary school, etc). And we all realized just how big that loss was after Saturday's show.

Saxamophonist Karl Denson started the Tiny Universe, keyboardist Robert Walter begot the 20th Congress, guitarist Elgin Park (aka Mike Andrews) wrote and performed the soundtrack to Donnie Darko, Freaks and Geeks and Ace-favorite Me and You and Everyone We Know, and the rhythm section...well, does anyone ever really care about the whereabouts of the rhythm section? And although critics and fans have celebrated all their bands and side projects, the sum of this group is clearly greater than its parts.

GBA's new tunes are powerful, instant classics, especially the first-set closer, Deck Shoes. Mixed in with the old standbys -- Cramp Your Style, Jack Rabbit, Chitlins, Nautilus, Taxman -- the setlist kept the crowd in a palpable frenzy all night, the place louder than any show I've seen there in some time. Reunion show or not, the venue truly went nuts for these guys, appreciating the jams' peaks and marveling at the wicked improvisation and familiarity. They've still got it.

Here's a list of reasons you should track these guys down and see them before they disband again:

1. Karl Denson can not only blow that sax, but he looks very similar to the black Jim "The Anvil" Niedhart. Great goatee. You can't put a price on that. He's also the coolest man to ever play the yazz flute, and that's including Ron Burgundy.

2. Elgin Park's bigdork glasses are constantly slipping off his nose, and he spends about a quarter of the show pushing them back up to the bridge. Plus, he kinda looks like George McFly tried to go as Buddy Holly for Halloween but ended up telling people he was Elvis Costello. Oh, and he's a sick, sick, sick guitarist. That too.

3. Robert Walter is a better keyboardist than anyone I know personally. I say that because I feel like he's the kid you went to high school with who wore overly nice clothes, maybe a tie and jacket to class, drove his father's Beemer, only at night he got seriously baked and played the party host's parents' piano all night before getting blown on the bench by the chubby, drunk slut who kinda digs music.

4. You'll never once say, "They should turn up the bass" or "I can't even hear the drums over this noise." Chris and Zak are total throwbacks, fucking fantastic. Plus, I think Zak was wearing shorts and knee-high socks, but I'm not sure. Unconfirmed.

5. GBA is utilizing a time-tested formula: Play well, make a name, quit for the better part of a decade and come back to a ready, willing and able audience. I'd seen these guys in the Spring of 1998, and I've seen Denson and Walter a few times since, but this show was circled on my calendar for some time. And when a band surpasses even your unreasonably high expectations, you know it's something special.

And maybe you'll get some special guests as well. We were treated to guitar legend Melvin Sparks, awesome free-agent drummer Adam Deitch and, for the second time in a few weeks for me, Jerry Jemmott (who also sat in on bass for Oteil at the 3/20 Allmans show). Following an overly impressive show that we witnessed unfolding from about 10 feet away, this was the ultimate icing on the cake.

I'll admit, this is by far and away the worst review I've posted on Slack in some time. I think it's due to the fact that I'm so overwhelmed by how fun the show was. Seriously, if you can see them in Chicago next week, or New Orleans for Jazzfest, or out in Cali after that, make sure you do. Oh, and one more piece of good news: The new album "drops" in January 2007, according to Denson, and there might be another one following it.

Stick around, guys. It's fun out here.

Slack Video of the Day: Here's a shot I uploaded to Youtube (I'm warning you, these videos are as terrible as the concert was amazing)...

And here are three more 14-second reminders I really need a digital camera that takes video clips: Video 1, Video 2, and Video 3.

Slack Song of the Day: I've posted it here before, but the 5/1/04 version of Greyboy's Jack Rabbit is one of the better songs I've ever heard, by any band. Just such a cool tune. If I were youse guys, I'd download the whole show from NOLA's Saenger Theater, then download the 8/29/03 show from Colorado as well.

It's all fantastic -- boogie-band fantastic. AND CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE 4/8/06 SHOW FROM IRVING PLAZA.

(All photos courtesy of Mike Wren Concert Photography)


At 1:28 PM, Blogger ahren said...

saw GBA at jazzfest in 2004 -- fucking amazing band. i'm glad to see they're back to touring, and i'm sure they're even better now that they're working at it rather than just doing random one-offs.

elgin park is a badass.

your description of robert walter is so on the money.

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous HANDSTAND said...

I am still speechless.

And your description of Robert Walter is on point.

Did you see those two girls basically verbally fellating him throughout the entire second set. I'm pretty sure I lip read "You're mine" several times from one of the girls.

:::adds rocking jazz/funk organ to list of things I need to learn:::

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

That's really the beauty of this band -- you can't get over how good Elgin is, no, Robert, wait, Denson's sick, ha, Zak's crazy, wait, that bass line is great, ahhhhhhhh...two nights at the Fillmore in May? Might have to be done.

I did catch that, Handstand...I don't read lips, but I think I saw him say to them, "I want you inside me."

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Chilly Jackwater said...

To quote Bill Lumbergh, "I'm gonna have to go ahead and, uh, disagree with you." While Karl D is very good, without Bobby Walter, those dudes are about as dead as Trey's septum. I'll take anything Mr. Super Heavy Organ is on over Horn Player #2 from Sexual Chocolate any day of the week. And twice on Tuesdays. That being said, I have sufficiaently dislocated my hip kicking myself for not hitting that show on Saturday. I really don't have any excuse. Bad jamband fan. Bad baaaaad jamband fan.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

That's good and all, Chilly, and I love that people love Bobby Dubs, he's the man. But you're not really disagreeing with me at all. I just re-read the post and the comments, and I'm not sure I ever picked a side in the Denson/Walter Greatness Debate.

I don't quite see them in center/linemate terms like Messier and Graves or star/wingman terms like MJ and Scottie. To me they've got more of the 3-4 in the batting order kind of dynamic. May the gods strike me down for using this analogy, but I see them in some sort of a Manny/Ortiz dynamic. They each bring you some of the best hitting in the league night in and night out, each side from a different side of the plate, and if you're a pitcher you're worried about both of 'em hurting you badly.

But, yeah, as I said before, that's the beauty of this band, there are enough super musicians in the band for everyone to have their own favorite. You missed a good one!

At 8:46 AM, Anonymous HANDSTAND said...

I cannot physically remove this show from my cd players.

On the way to work - in my car
At work - in my computer
On the way home - in my car
At home - blasting aurround sound

I haven't been this overwhelmed in a while.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

How does it sound? I didn't download it yet...does it translate well to disc?

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Don Fiedler said...

Es una gonga?

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous HANDSTAND said...

It actually sounds pretty good. I was afraid of the bass being boomy like some other Irving Plaza shows I have on cd, but this one is quite good.

At 5:08 PM, Blogger Chilly Jackwater said...

Bobby Walter is more like Allen Iverson to Karl D's Othella Harrington. Or Samuel Dalembert. Or POSSIBLY the Reggie Jackson to Karl D's Oscar Gamble. Or, if you'll have it - and I hope you will - the Daryl Strawberry to Denson's Tim Teufel.

By the way, when did they start letting women into jamband shows?


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