15 December 2011 (Aggie Theatre, Ft. Collins CO)
Garage a Trois brought their mystery funk amalgam of jazz, rock, and semi-controlled noise to Ft. Collins for an audience of clued-in fans. Whether it was saxophonist Skerik grimacing in horror or Mike Dillon's seizure-like flailing on the vibes, the quartet's zany stage presence was visually engaging. But despite the silliness, the group was utterly focused on the music.
Listening to Garage a Trois was like watching a school of fish; functioning as a single unit, they darted in seemingly random directions. A lazy sweet harmony would suddenly veer into Ornette Coleman free jazz territory, with each player nailing the off-rhythm perfectly. Then the song might coalesce back into a Zappa-esque melody.
This coordination was strongest between Dillon and drummer Stanton Moore. With Dillon playing a snare, cymbal, and synth pad, the two could build a tightly controlled, drum corp sound. Unlike the drum corps I've heard, the two often zipped off into odd time signatures and very loosely structured riffs. They mirrored each others fills so tightly, it sounded like a single drummer.
Just like a school of fish, though, the band could also dissolve into their component elements. Garage a Trois used this chaos to create moments of tangled melody, forcing the audience to choose what to focus on. This anarchy gave each listener their own version of the music.
Each player emphasized his own persona: Skerik's melodramatic exaggeration, Moore's boyish enthusiasm, Dillon's manic intensity, and Marco Benevento's laid back joy. These archetypes framed the interactions during the night, from Dillon's savant attack on the vibes to Benevento's glee as he alluded to Rhapsody in Blue during a solo.
Skerik and Dillon both have a lot of electronic gear to run their instruments through, so the band wasn't tethered to a straight jazz combo sound. Benevento also had a small collection of synths to augment his keys. So, between the sax and keys, the band could evoke electric guitars for a more rock band sound. Their cover of Immigrant Song was particularly impressive.
Garage a Trois' musical intensity carried the show. They created such crazy complexity and made it look natural and effortless. It was a gift to catch them on such a hot night.
More photos on my Flickr.