As you might have figured out by now, our booking agent has impeccable taste in music. He holds himself to a high standard so our patrons can rest assured that just about every band coming through the Crazy Horse is going to be special. When he goes out of his way to talk up certain artists, then you know this is someone who is almost definitely going to light your fire. Such was the case with keyboard maestro, Asher Fulero. Just the name alone is a bit of a giveaway. He played here a year ago, starting the night out with a solo set. Lofty expectations were met and quickly shattered. For his second set, he was joined by a few other musicians. What we heard was excellent, but in an impromptu jam session sort of way that left us longing for more.
Fast forward to Saturday, June 14 when he returned with the Asher Fulero Band from his home base in Portland, OR. This was his first foray into being a true bandleader and he took to it like an eagle in flight. The band kicked things off on a funky foot with “Just Kissed My Baby.” A group of youthful senior citizens promptly poured in, all donning Mardi Gras beads. On cue, Asher and the gang lit up the dance floor with a Steely Dan classic. His voice exudes an elegant clarity with expansive versatility. Following that was a breathtaking rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless.” It was touching to see the reaction by some of the older crowd who were clearly in awe. Rather than just covering a song, Fulero turns them into three-dimensional entities spilling over the brim with emotional gravity. His piano flourishes on “Fearless” oozed with passion and practically swept us all into a dimension of dream-like fantasy.
The band played a handful of originals but leaned heavily towards covers. Their repertoire is limited and they wisely made every effort to lock in the crowd. Unfortunately the room never filled up too much, but undoubtedly seeds were planted for the future. The ultimate example of the band’s ability to reinterpret a cover song came with Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream.” Fulero envisioned it as a New Orleans jazz rag with entirely alternate phrasing. The melodic nuances were uncanny in their cleverness.
During the second set, the band took a deep dive into an ocean of improvisation. The chemistry between Fulero and Brett McConnell on bass, Darvey Santner on guitar and Kyle Owens on drums defied simple logic. Santner seemed so committed to playing unexpected notes with devious tones and keeping everyone on their toes. The complexity within the web of groove established by McConnell and Owens was a springboard propelling each melodic theme further down the track. A feeling of effortlessness was pervasive throughout the flow. Fulero’s accompaniment was both challenging and supportive, like a big brother leading his siblings into the wilderness. Considering the way this band is listening to each other so early in this stage of development, the brightness of their future appears blinding.
The set culminated with a pair of Phish covers that brought out the best in the audience. After a luscious take on “The Squirming Coil,” Fulero and Co. dropped into “Stash.” McConnell is in a Phish cover band (go figure with that last name, eh?) and Fulero is a disciple of the most faithful sort, thus this staple was treated with great reverence. Weaving through the sections with jubilant precision, a state of euphoria flooded the room. It was a goose bump moment as the crowd chanted along with the hypnotic refrain. As if it couldn’t get any better, Fulero steered the ship through the righteous port of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” before veering back into a “Stash” reprise. “Maybe so, maybe not….” Definitely so.