|BOG | Thursday, July 25 | The Fire | Philadelphia, PA
Photos by Jaci DownsBrandon Tarricone rages the wooded fretboard of his lavish Heritage hollowbody as if he needs to wake up the world. As a matter of fact, he often reaches this extreme level of virtuosity throughout his performances whether they be in the dark, sweaty clubs that litter the streets of his hometown in NOLA, or upon the Brotherhood of Groove‘s whirlwind summer tour, which reaches from way West to the great Northeast. Careening into the “City of Brotherly Love” (more on that later), the BOG erupted inside the Philadelphia watering hole The Fire, waking up the shady little neighborhood called Fishtown. A new market was broken this evening, new friendships forged, and new promotion organization J.A. Productions came to fruition. The Brotherhood of Groove rising star was at the forefront of the evening events, surpassing the expectations of the already dedicated BOG fans, and certainly winning over a new group of fans who turned out to see what the buzz was all about. They were not to be disappointed.
A local R&B band Amos Lee opened the show, showcasing a Philadelphonic/Soulquarian sound. The group borrowed from D’Angelo and Maxwell’s respective vibes, with a touch of Brother ?uestion and Lucy Pearl in the trio behind singer Ryan Massaro. The vocalist’s unsteady stage manner was upset and shadowed by doses of comic relief interspersed between falsetto vocals and some acoustic strumming. Definitely a soulful mission, these guys seemed to both relish what they were doing each and every moment, and take it with a humble grain of salt as they softly and smoothly entertained. As far as decibels and energy go, Amos Lee were fittingly miles apart from their headlining counterparts.
Like a thunderclap and the torrential downpour that follows here during the Delaware Valley’s muggy, dank, brutal July days, the Brotherhood of Groove were a welcome change of pace for a city in the doldrums of summer (Philly has not been like the “Summertime” video since, well, the “Summertime” video). The Independence city and its nasty attitude seem less culturally aware and more concerned with Allen Iverson’s legal and marital woes than just about anything else. Fifty or so folks managed to lethargically show up for the BOG second-ever Philly gig, and it was an audience that showed about the energy and agility of an Andre the Giant (RIP). As the band ravaged through Tarricone’s inventive compositions or sewed outrageously colored tapestries within choice covers, the crowd sort of just swayed here and there, hooted once in a while. Tremendously disappointing energy (or lack thereof) from the Philly folks, but that has come to be expected (from this writer) of my former city.
Opening with a seriously high energy “The Chicken,” the Brotherhood was juiced to make even the lamest audience walk away impressed. “The Chicken” was long, funk-fried, thumping and full of ‘forget-warming-up-this-engine-is-already-overheated’ soloing around the room. Some might say it was a bit much right out the box, but the crowd needed to be woken up violently, and it made for a barnstorming ten-minute opener. The JB’s-esque horn breaks really brightened up the darkening jams that were sandwiched within the Godfather of Soul standard.
Brotherhood’s drummer Dan Caro is a league unto himself. Not necessarily the ‘best drummer of all time,’ (although he is a sick pup), but within his energy and resolve is character of granite. I have heard people describe seeing him play as a “religious experience.” As he masterfully manipulates beats before your eyes and ears, one is inevitably moved and inspired. You gotta see him pound away at the skins to truly understand, and like all dedicated musicians, he just keeps getting better, more confident. Defiantly and with valor, Caro is becoming a presence, not only in the BOG, but the superfreaky, highly critical NOLA scene. The Brotherhood of Groove was always Brandon Tarricone‘s vision, however these days it is apparent that the monster on drums has more than just a say in matters. As the band tore through originals like “Society Folks” (which featured a Moby Dick segment where Caro just killed it), and the very P-Funk “Same Old Thang”, the leaps and bounds this band has grown along the summer outing became glaringly obvious; the drummer has big legs in those strides.
Utilty-man Mikael Williams played all kinds of instruments in the back of the stage, mainly saxophone, along with some flute work and various percussion. He even got vocal (vocals from the BOG a rarity) on the dubbed-out departure “Bombs for Real,” where Tarricone offered dreamy leads drenched in reverb atop Caro’s syncopation and bassist Michael Miksis‘s walloping bottom end. Throughout the show, the bass was turned up super loud, which worked to an advantage on this island raga jam, but often drowned out some of the other players throughout the performance. The band’s tastes, individually, are so broad; it is inevitable that their product would stretch genres. One would never expect a raga-tinged number from the NOLA crunkologists, but the surprise was both welcome and enjoyable. One very vocal and supportive fan, who would identify himself only as “Muppet,” really got off during this segment, bow-leggedly traipsing around the room hollering “NOLA…m&*%^f#$@!%s!” and screaming “Dan Caro is a F*&$#*n’ rock star.” I inquired if he knew this band personally, but he was incommunicable, so focused on the music, the players, and attempting to cultivate the maniacal voodoo New Orleans vibe. The crowd needed more of this “Muppet”-type to liven up the scene a bit.
Brandon really took over on some ‘rock-God’ shit when he led the troops into a seriously heavy “Frankenstein” to close the first set. Anybody who knows Mr. T is well aware of his affinity for one Vermont-bred shredding axe-man. The Trey factor bleeds through some of his stage mannerisms as well as in his choice of pedals, effects, and sonics. During this now-infamous hiatus, so many ‘phans’ translate their adulation into imitation, and Brandon himself may have been guilty of that in his earliest musical endeavors. Let us all put that to bed today, as this ‘T-Bone’ would have made Trey himself proud with an updated version of the Edgar Winter offering Phish does so well. Manipulating feedback, blinding fretboard wizardry, and emotive, screeching leads, all courtesy of Brandon, drove this already-chunky rock anthem to New Orleans.
During the brief break in music, I admired the Frenchy BOG lithographs on sale at the merchandise table, and stopped to pontificate on how far Mr. Tarricone and the Brotherhood have come in two short years. Not too long ago they were struggling to get a handful of people to check them at Patrick’s Martini Bar in the French Quarter. Now they are sharing Tipitina’s bills with the mighty Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, and finding admirers in living legends Fareed Haque and Johnny Vidacovich. Lately, Brandon has taken to wearing sunglasses, I now need not ask why.
Unfortunately, the band lost half its audience during their short intermission (it was nearly 1AM by the time they returned to the stage), but those who stayed were treated to another hour from one of the brightest new bands to emerge in the last couple of years. The Brotherhood of Groove opened the second set with a blistering version of the title track off their new album Pocket Full of Funk. Brandon wasted no time putting the pedals to the metal right out the gates, his tone swimming in leslie and screaming out the doors of the now-sparsely filled Fire. The waning attendance and crowd lethargy sure did not affect the band, though, as they tore through the number with authority, splicing in JB’s breaks and other funk horn comps. “Ridiculous” came next, a contribution from relatively-new bassist Miksis, who certainly seemed to enjoy himself throughout the performance, clad in a gray NICU shirt, a very animated and joyful player. The Herbie Hancock tune “Steppin In It” (Manchild) featured some fun harmonica runs from Williams, and blazing saxophone from another BOG newcomer Michael Tucker, who had slowly but surely been making himself known as the gig raged on (for the band, at least). Brandon busted out a new song, written on this very tour, “Green Zombie.” Within it soared a grandiose NOLA flavored melody, and a Stanton Moore-esque assault brigade on the trap set stage right, emanating from the mind, body, and soul of the wondrous Dan Caro. Speaking of the Galactic drum maven, Tarricone pledged his allegiance to the band’s fertile breeding grounds with Moore’s “Tchfunkta” off All Kooked Out. A local musician (‘Elliot’ was all I got out of him) joined the BOG on the encore with a tasty soprano sax solo.
The night was filled with hits and misses. Lots of great material and energy brought to a new market, a city non-massive, one that half-assed its way through being a poor and lumbering audience. Some sloppy playing was more than made up for with grit, integrity, NOLA vibes and smiles abound. A new production group got off the ground with this show, and a few heads left the venue with an ear towards the Quarter, and a new band to spy on. Pretty much a success, right? I wish the evening ended right there with a true dose of brotherly love from the BOG.
After thanking the band and making plans to see them the following evening in NYC, I ventured out into the streets of Philadelphia to come upon my car broken into and completely looted (parked in front of a fire station, for crying out loud!). City of Brotherly Love, huh? Maybe the Brotherhood brought more than groove with them from New Orleans.(JK!) Or maybe some bad karma is catching up with me. Whatever the case, the incident only served to further my disappointment with this formerly glorious place, my city of ruins, but it never would it rain upon my ever-evolving impression of the Brotherhood of Groove, rising sons of the Crescent City.
[Published on: 8/1/02]
- Bonnaroo 2002- The Way it Should Be (B.Getz on JamBase collaboration)
- BERKFEST 2002- collab with Robbie WK (B.Getz on JamBase)