Stephen Perkins and Tony Franklin with Willie Waldman at The HoodLab
This tight formation of Banyan consisting of Stephen Perkins, Willie Waldman, Tony Franklin, and Brian Jordan was smack dab in the middle of a two night run at Quixote’s True Blue. Banyan had a history with Summer Camp, having performed twice at the festival. Last year they performed the opening set on Sunday morning at the Moonshine stage.Perkins and Franklin arranged for a short drum and bass jam at the multi-purpose space known as HoodLab. Distributer of HoodLamb Hemp coats out of Amsterdam, HoodLab is also an art gallery and a space for live performances. Curated and owned by Adam Dunn, this place is one of the hidden gems in Denver. Opening up was self-described funk metal group Herb N’ War. They were without lead singer Eutimia Cruz Montoya. So, they played as a power trio and basically blasted through an improv set that featured heavy riffing and some tight drum work by Carter Casad. Without their voice they were left to focus on the music, and honestly this was a perfect fit for the Perkins Franklin jam.
There was a modest gathering, many of which seemed to be regulars and friends of the proprietors. Originally billed as just a drum and bass jam with Perkins and Franklin, Waldman added his horn to make it a full-blown Banyan show. Perkins unleashed his fury on the drums as the crowd settled in for thirty minutes of freeform rage. Franklin tickled his fretless bass to the delight of the audience as Waldman, without any effects or petals, created a cacophony of sound with just his horn and a microphone. At one point Waldman created distortion by inserting the mic into the bell of his trumpet. Franklin went wild on the bass causing the roof of the HoodLab to rumble as the Perkins broke into a raucous beat to blast off on another jam tangent. All in all, this entire musical journey was short but powerful. As they finished up, Herb N’ War took the stage again to close out the evening. If you get the chance spend some time at the HoodLab, this place was special, and worth the visit.
Banyan with The People’s Abstract at Quixote’s True Blue
No one puts together a lineup quite like Jay Bianchi. As I entered the newly reformatted venue, which has moved to the old Bender’s Tavern, the band Tick was warming up in the main room. Quixote’s is two stages split by a large wall. Each room contains their own bar, and it actually does work quite well. I opted to watch some docile covers by The Mighty High Band in the front room rather than get bitten by the Tick. The Mighty High Band is a basically a Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and Legion Of Mary cover band pulling out deep cuts from Garcia’s side projects. This band was a fun way to ease into the night. Performing songs like “Tangled Up In Blue,” with amazing accuracy I was happy to have caught a bit of The Mighty High Band.
As Tick cleared the stage it was time for something completely different. The People’s Abstract could be called a Zobomaze side project. However I prefer to think of them as another side of the same musical coin. With Zobo’s Sean Dandurand, this tight four piece at first glance has a lot in common with Zobo. When they start playing those similarities disappear. The People’s Abstract is a instrumental blend of jazz, funk, rock, and more. As people slowly filtered in, it almost seemed that they were caught off guard by the incredible music coming from the stage. I too found myself blown away but this unassuming quartet. Given their warm take on jazzy funk, they were a perfect fit to open for Banyan.As I mentioned earlier, this was a tight four-piece version of Banyan. I have seen this group bloated with as many as seven members, however this amalgamation of Banyan had laser focus and impeccable back and forth. With Franklin and Perkins holding down the rhythm, Jordan and Waldman were left to fill in the musical gaps. Performing two sets, over the course of a few hours, Banyan proved once again why they are not to be missed.
Banyan Live at Quixote’s True Blue on February 9, 2013.
Weaving their way through jazz, rock, and Middle Eastern inspired jams, Banyan is as fluid as any group you will see live; in essence with a rotating pool of players you have to see. Perkins just wows the crowd as he slowly peels off layers until he is left in his signature black wife beater. Watching Stephen Perkins in a tiny room playing jazz to forty of fifty people is something everyone should experience. He is a force behind the kit that literally unleashes an all out attack on the skins. Waldman back on stage with his effects is able to paint sonic murals that fly around the crowd. Franklin too is a beast who simply shreds. Brian Jordan, continues to impress with his virtuoso guitar work. They sounded fantastic together and I would love to see this lineup continue to tour regularly, as it was too much fun. If you’ve never heard of them, download the show, take a listen, and get inspired. This type of free form musical exploration is a rare treat in today’s paint by numbers scene. It’s definitely worth checking out and it could change your perspective on what jam can be.