February 25 – Roosevelt Collier’s California Get Down
When this band played here back in November, many people declared it the best show they’d ever seen at the Crazy Horse. It’s not a stretch to suggest that this one was even better. Without a second guitarist, Collier had more of an opportunity to show the full extent of his remarkable range on the pedal steel guitar. He truly is a magician with his instrument, summoning sounds that defy description. Bassist Norwood Fisher returned along with two young, funky guns from the Bay Area – Max Cowan on keys and Joe Bagale on drums. Both were nothing short of extraordinary. The unit was locked in from note one, focused mostly on groove-based jamming. Virtually the whole show was instrumental with an exception being an apocalyptic tumble through Hendrix’ “Spanish Castle Magic.” A late night jaunt through “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” (sans vocals) accurately summed up the collective mood.
March 12 – GrooveSession
When a formula works, a lot of bands have a tendency just to stick with it. That’s why it was so utterly refreshing when GrooveSession came back and reinvented itself before our eyes. Introducing new originals and playing with a tighter edge than we’d seen before, they took their level of professionalism to new heights. They started the show with several acoustic songs, welcoming us into their new web. Soon we were hearing an indie rock side of the trio which sounded completely foreign in an exhilarating way. There was a sense of intricacy by each of the members, allowing the crowd to appreciate the subtle layers within their playing. The gooey, organ-gripping bass tone that Ronnie Sanchez has achieved is one of the most awe-inspiring you’ll ever hear in a small room. Even the covers were new, including “Driven to Tears” by The Police and the show closing “Bertha” by the Grateful Dead. One thing that didn’t change was the effect this band has on audience – the equivalent of musical catnip.
March 19 – Blue Lotus
This band from Eugene is too good to remain a secret much longer. The songs, the musicianship, the chemistry, the x-factor…all amount to something truly special. Early on they explored a heavier, bluesy landscape at times, integrating several of their knockout compositions like “Ballad of Black Bart” and “The Canyon.” The second set got looser as guitar ninja, Felix Blades, manipulated sonic energy like a genie released from a lamp. He has one “I can’t believe what I’m hearing” moment after the other. Does this kid have a ceiling? The rhythm section sizzled with intensity and boiled with mischief. The new keyboardist inserted melodic nuance. And frontwoman/guitarist Brandelyn Rose anchored it all with barroom, gypsy swagger.
March 25 – Brothers Gow
This band from San Diego continues to progress at a rapid rate. Their thoughtful stage presence and lust for performing is very palpable. They even had some coordinated dance moves going. Leaning heavily on cover songs throughout, the show kicked off with “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” by The Beastie Boys and closed with “Who Am I? (What’s My Name)” by Snoop Dogg. They incorporate this dirty electro sound into the mix which has a seductive quality. Other highlights were a mash-up of Phish’s “2001” and the Dead’s “Shakedown Street,” Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate. This is one of those bands that is so diverse stylistically, the description is going to change every time you see them. This show saw its share of reggae, jam-rock, hip hop and R&B/Soul. The light show is an integral part of the equation. The ultimate barometer for an amazing show at the Crazy Horse? One of the loudest and most persistent encore cheers we’ve ever had.
March 26 – Deltaphonic
This show had to be the most explosive surprise of the year so far. Then again, it’s natural to expect that a band from New Orleans would bring the heat. At first we were taken aback to see they were only a duo, with Andrew T. Weekes on guitar and vocals and Ciaran Brennan on drums. Like other famous duos (White Stripes, The Black Keys), they left nothing to be desired with both men filling up an ocean of sound. Weekes is one of the single most talented artists we’ve ever had at the Crazy Horse. He is captivating to watch as he practically levitates on a cloud of creativity emerges in every form possible: Bayou-country-bluesy-soulful vocals, relentlessly wicked guitar playing, cool command of the stage and a snappy dresser to boot . Make no mistake though…this defies the stereotypes of New Orleans music. It’s just great music, period. The focus is almost exclusive on original material which is so consistently fresh and engaging as almost beyond belief. Brennan is Evil Knievel-like on the kit, leaving no stone unturned. It’s the kind of stuff that grabs you, won’t let go and sticks in your head for weeks.
All we knew about this band from Portland is that the trumpet player had toured with Bootsy Collins and that they were going to be funky. We didn’t know that keyboardist/vocalist Tony Ozier has been a featured member of Parliament/Funkadelic for many years. It also escaped us that guitarist Agyei Ptah-Hotep Marshall and bassist Marquay Seamster have spent time in Prince’s band. A+B=C and C is kind of what you’d imagine…pretty freaking awesome. But there was more…We got introduced to one of the most badass MCs ever thanks to the presence of guest artist J Ross Parrelli from Auburn. She alternated between singing R&B with crystalline star-power and spitting rhymes at rapid fire like a freestyle champ. It was one of those shows you’d be lucky to see in a big city let alone our little gold rush town. The diverse audience gave the band more than its share of love which is always a beautiful thing to behold.