This past Saturday, I went to Gezellig to see Inner City All-Stars perform again. It was only my second time to see the band live, but I was immediately converted as a fan from that first show. It only made sense that I should go see them to celebrate their CD Release Party for Gotta Move On. I got at the club at about 9:30 and got the opportunity to chat with tuba player David Seip, as well as bandleader Calvin Sexton. Both are incredibly cool and friendly individuals. The band started their set at 10:00, and although the crowd at that time was smaller and less energized, the performance by the band was fully energized. I’ve made many mentions of how fun this band is, but during their first set, I really took the time to observe the band, and I must say that Calvin Sexton has managed to organize an excellent group of musicians together. More importantly, Mr. Sexton does an excellent job as band leader, running a musical ship that is always tight yet never so tight that the band loses its sense of joy. As a result, what the audience hears is a first rate jazz band that brings more fun to its set than any other jazz group I’ve seen.
The band took a short break before starting its second and “main” set. During this break, the band was getting prepared for its grand re-entrance to the club. For those not familiar with the band’s modus operandi, the band likes to enter the club from the front door, playing their music along the street as they enter the club. This is where my story gets more interesting. I was approached by David Seip about the opportunity to play bass drum with them as they marched down the street. There was only one problem with this theory: the band was not aware of how rhythmically challenged I am. Instead of bass drum, I opted to play A-Go-Go bell. So there I was, walking with Inner City All-Stars, playing A-Go-Go bell to their sweet, sweet music. The weather was slightly cool, I was more than slightly nervous still, yet at the same time the experience was a total rush. Some bands talk about audience participation, but this band takes it to the next level. How many other bands do you know that allow music bloggers to be a part of the band, even if only for about 10 minutes?
Once the band re-entered the club, the party was officially on. The crowd had grown, and more importantly, the crowd was alive and dancing. I regret that I did not stay for the entire show, but I had another show that I wanted to see. I do hope to get the opportunity to get the band, and very soon. If you have not seen this band live, rectify that situation immediately. If you don’t have their new CD yet, buy it. It may not be as intense as the live experience, but it’ll keep you from Jonesing too bad until their next show.
After “leaving” the band (in both senses of the word), I headed to Barley House, where I was lucky enough to catch the last half of Marcus Striplin’s solo set. My only complaint is that there were too many SMU frat boys and sorority girls chatting over his quietly gorgeous tunes. Other than that, it was a joy to hear him play, especially when he dug up one of my personal PG favorites, “We Made Our Way”. I got an opportunity to talk to him afterwards, and I got to talk to him about his move to NYC. He informed me that Pleasant Grove is not breaking up, but rather he is moving to the Big Apple in order to pursue his music career. Or to quote Mr. Striplin he’s “just runnin’ down a dream, man.”
Gratuitous Tom Petty references aside, I wish Marcus the best as he bids the city adieu. Be sure to attend Double-Wide on March 1st, as that will likely be one of the last Pleasant Grove shows we will see in these parts for awhile. I also got Marcus on record promising to play “Commander Whatever” at the Double-Wide show. I’m holding you to that, buddy.
Finally, I Love Math played. There’s not much to say. John Dufilho can do no wrong, so of course the set was fabulous. No word when the next I Love Math CD is coming out. C’mon guys, who do you think you are? Boston? It’s time to release the album now.
So here’s the recap: Inner City All Stars are phenomenal, I learned to play A-Go-Go bell and had fun doing it, Marcus Striplin sounds better when drunk frat boys shut up and listen, and I love I Love Math. Yeah, that about sums it up.