Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Mantras @ The NEW Blind Tiger 3/19... Homecoming Week Round 1

Having heard all about this "New Blind Tiger" I was eager to head to Greensboro to check it out.  And what better night than The Mantras playing for the first time at their hometown digs! They've been touring the east coast in 2011, pushing hard on the road and into the ears of new listeners so it was a homecoming for the band and its fans who have had a successful year so far! 
    Opening the night was Bubonik Funk from Charlottle, NC.  Initially, they are a four-piece funk/jazz outfit.  Soulful and bluesy grooves topped with smooth vocals that are remeniscient (to me) of Jamiroquai.  Their rhythm section is funky and hard hitting, and displays range through calypso-style reggae and a spot-on cover of Al Green's "Love and Happiness." Bubonik Funk is solid and unique, and certainly on my radar.
Next up was The Ends out of Burlington, NC.  They are deep and classic blues at its core. The semi-hollow bodied Gibson and legendary maroon SG invoke thoughts of the blues legends, and The Ends do not disappoint those forerunners.  Hard rock, hard blues, and then, just when I think I have this band pegged, a bluegrass breakdown dedicated to the fine folks of Alamance County!  Ending with a sit-in from Keith Allen of The Mantras, you can color me impressed with The Ends.

     And then, the marquee performers of the evening, The Mantras.  I spent some epic moments with The Mantras last year (Phish After-Party in Raleigh, Junction, Camp Barefoot 4, Halloween... Hail Satan, New Year's Eve) and this would be yet another amazing and memorable moment.  The comforts of home must have been exacerbated for the band considering their busy touring schedule over the recent past.  It was clear immediately in their set, that they came to christen the new joint in style with a personalized "Eye of the Tiger" and a seemless transition to the fast-paced banger "Magillacuddy" featuring Brian Tyndall on the bass. The first set wrapped up fairly quickly with the new "Water Song" and the old "Blue Tiger" dedicated to the old Blind Tiger.  "Blue Tiger" featured Justin Hardin on the harmonica, which was a perfect fit (really, check it out, that tune loves the harmonica).  That tune also loves Justin Powell on the electric piano and organ.  Powell has been an amazing addition to the mastery already in place with The Mantras. 
     The second set opened with the new-ish "Dr. Ssanasinod" and Powell funk-blasting the clav straight to the Silky Way.  From there, the band seemed to blast off heading straight for Supermoon: hard rock funk fusion that moved to spacey jams throughout the set and culminated in Billy Joel's "Moving Out."  And finally in the set came the second piece of bread in the "Dr. Ssanasinod" sandwich.
As if the evening hadn't already blown the roof off the "Tiger," The Mantras came back for a 3rd set quintuple encore beginning with the theme song from "Sanford and Son.":  quirky, funky, and cool to hear that tune extended.  The night's finale came long after the epic curtain-call in the form of a lyrically personalized "Eye of the Tiger," including words about the Blind Tiger, old and new.  So you can call the place officially open and officially christened, stamped by The Mantras and ready for business.  Congratulations Greensboro, you have a beautiful venue full of great people. 

The NEW Blind Tiger:
The Mantras:
Keith Allen - Guitar/Vocals
Marcus Horth - Guitar/Vocals
Justin Loew - Drums
Justin W. Powell - Keyboards/Vocals
Brian Tyndall - Bass/Vocals
Brent Vaughn - Percussion/Vocals
Matt Gordon - Sound/Recording
Healing Bear - Lighting Director
(taped by Joel Hudson, Thanks Joel!) 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Man, The Myth, The Legend... Ed Hamell @ Trent River Coffee Co., New Bern, NC 3/5

Ed Hamell is an artist, a performer, a comedian, a storyteller and, above all else, a preacher of common sense and truth.  His performances invoke thoughts of the great rebellious comedians and social commentators of the past: Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, even a bit of Sam Kinison.  He is a great mind; acoustic punk rock mixed with a traveler's soul. I was lucky enough to get to New Bern on Saturday night for another dose of "Hamell on Trial" at the Trent River Coffee Company.  Some rock, some folk, some ranting, some storytelling, and some important discussion on the nether-regions of a certain right-wing columnist (who shall remain nameless... okay, Ann Coulter). There's no way around Hamell's obscenity, but in that is a willingness to fight for the free-thinkers of the world.  Hamell is a refreshing punk-rock bomb on the unsuspecting folk singer-songwriter world. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Funkuponya @ The Starlight Cafe 2/25... Greenville Gets Funked.

Funkuponya is a jazz/funk quartet from Raleigh and play at a musical caliber that far exceeds the norm for Greenville.  It was exciting to have them here, and exciting to think that Greenville may once again be in a position to host a more expansive live scene.  As the evening crowd filtered out of The Starlight Cafe and the funksters moved in, Funkuponya warmed up with some cool mellow dinner jazz.  This was promptly followed by a couple sets of the louder and funkier variety that included jazz and funk recent classics such as Robert Walter's "Adelita" and Galactic's "Go Go."  Between the unique covers, the band's originals stand out.  The band does openly admit to finding much creative inspiration in songwriting from food ("Mixed Greens" and "The Garlic"), but also have ventured towards inspiration from a higher power with the revival-inducing "Sacred Secret."  The gospel rollicker also includes a strong Dead-esque "Lovelight" tease that comes as a welcome surprise.  Although they base their musical directions in funk and jazz, it is easy to see in the live setting that they are four outstanding musicians that span genres. So the next time they are here in Greenville, or in whatever town you are in, be sure to look for some Funkuponya!

      Doug Carter (guitar)
      Carl Blackwell (drums)
      Brian Werner (organ and keys)
      Leo Kishore (bass)