(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Concert review - Honey Gitters, with Novalectric

18 August 2010 (Aggie Theatre, Ft. Collins CO)

Free shows at the Aggie Theatre, one of the great treats of Ft. Collins. These shows give bands some good exposure and they encourage people to make time for live music. Last night's crowd was a little thin, but they had the enthusiasm of a multitude. The Honey Gitters were the main draw and a relatively new band, Novalectric, started out the show.

Novalectric's sound was firmly rooted in Southern rock and blues. Over the course of their set, they quoted plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers. Lead guitarist Scott Simon was the most dynamic member of the band. His technical skills are strong; he was comfortable shredding to a southern boogie or laying out some jazzy Allman-style licks during a spacier interlude, not to mention playing a mean slide. Simon was also the dominant element of the band's sound, laying out a lead after every verse and filling all the available sonic space.

While the lead work brought a lot of energy to the stage, Novalectric's sound needed more space. Dialing down the lead guitar would have given the audience a better chance to hear the vocals and other players and to appreciate Simon's chops. A good band's sound should be like a conversation. The players make their musical statements and give them a chance to sink in. Maybe one player makes his point and steps aside to let his bandmate expand on the idea or counter it. That kind of organic flow is important and it's not genre dependent. Jazz, metal, or bluegrass - the best examples feature this kind of dynamic.

Novalectric's setlist did showcase a range of sounds: blues boogie, Southern rock, spacey jams, and country rock. At times, they even reminded me of Country Joe and the Fish. My favorite song of their set was a long jam, based around a John Lee Hooker guitar lick. Glancing at their setlist, I think this may have been Crazy Mama/Tijuana. This flowed from a bluesy beginning, into a looser jam section with a cool Mexican modal vibe. This kind of versatility will serve them well. As they grow into their sound and develop a stronger stage presence as a full band, they'll be well worth seeing again.

The Honey Gitters
It's been a while since I last saw the Honey Gitters. They've maintained their bluegrass roots, but last night, they emphatically embraced the jam. Maybe it was in response to following the rock sounds of Novalectric, but they pushed the boundaries of their improvisations.

The set was well paced, moving between their core jam grass sound and wilder interludes. They hit a lot of the classic songs from their CD (and earlier show), like Cocaine Lil, Shankar Stretch, El Dorado, and Roll On, John. The heavy funk of It Ain't Funny was particularly amazing. Josh Beard's wah-wah infused electric banjo sound drove the start of the song. Later, Beard and guitarist Chachi Simms jammed out, with Simms accenting the sound with tatters of feedback. By contrast, the rhythm section kept things comfortably tight, with Slim Acosta's spider walk bass line and Leland Leyba's syncopated fills.

This jam is why I'd like to see the Honey Gitters start reaching more fans of acts like the String Cheese Incident. They've got a lot to offer.

After a good, long set, the band was ready to call it a night. They played their obligatory encore, finishing around 12:30 am. The small, but dedicated remaining crowd demanded more. After another song, the situation repeated itself. Feeling exhausted, I headed for home around 1:10am while the Honey Gitters were playing their third encore.

This was a long night of good music, from the hyper intensity of Novalectric to the dancing jams of the Honey Gitters. It called for sipping on some good homebrewed India pale ale.

More photos on my Flickr.

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