The fact that this is the third review to chronicle what went the last night in March at Wetlands Preserve without repeating coverage on any of the bands represents strongly for the place. There are weeks where I spend more waking hours there than in my own apartment. Not only is the booking strong but it's a great refuge for the average head amidst the rushing madness that characterizes this city.

Shady Groove represents themselves with jams led by guitarist Chris Soltis, a true rock talent who soaks in everything around him to help open it up from there. He gets ample opportunity to solo throughout their sets which is just lovely for a guitar junky like me. "La Nesnah," the opener, showed Shady's gift for the hook which balances their extensions. It has a sharp twist at the waste that bears a durability given it by Barry Karsh on drums and Chris' twin brother John on the bass. "La Nesnah's" rev'd feel led into the funkier "Athens" and everyone who made it there early spread it out to get a little more room to move.

By the time the band got to "Andre," Shady Groove had us set up perfectly. The song begins with a bass line that made this one of the first of their tunes I listened to repeatedly, but not the last. The pause before it repeats itself leaves a little space for crowd response that always feeds them. Josh and Chris were able to fly out wide with Chris lending support but that's only the beginning. As they also did that Friday in "San Mateo and Conman," the closer, Shady showed a sense for the overall flow. It's all by design, to some degree but, in Andre, it seems to me that Shady Groove easily finds that place where you forget yourself and the musician becomes a vessel, defining clearly what it means to "nail it."

Shady Groove's gift for the segue is another part of what they do that keeps me coming back. As the end of "Andre" wound down, I expected the ultimate note but, instead, they transitioned from a slow, ruminant right into "Kan Di Sha Na Way" as if the songs were written with that connection from the beginning. "KDSNW" has an island rock feel as the guitar takes on the tone of a kettle drum which stands out as a nice change of pace in the middle of their bluesy, overall feel.

The highlight for me was "Top of the World." On a particularly dark day, I had one of Shady's shows on and this song completely transformed my mood. The leap into a more joyous state comes back to me whenever they play it so I was glad they fulfilled the request I shouted out. It's a nice tour through each band members' abilities but what always stands out to me are Josh's vocals. He uses the same layed back style that comes out through his guitar in a bass scale that feels like comfy blanket.

As soon as Shady Groove was done, I bolted downstairs to catch the triumphant return of Virginia based Rebus . These two bands are a large part of the reason why I'm hooked on Wetlands' lounge. I was happy to be bunched in down there because the guys have been working on new songs and changes in their style. The payoff for all of that work was all over the lounge from their pumped up excitement on stage and off which was the mirror's reflection of everyone's natural reactions on the other side.

One of the strongest representatives of Rebus' evolution is a song called "Felix." Kyle got it going with the crisply peppering beats of dance and electronica which set the stage for some nimble work by the rest of the band. Andy establishes himself as more and more of an individual every time I see him. He plays in deep concentration and I finally came up with a way to adequately describe how I perceive it. Between the notes he plays, I started to feel a smoothly flowing line that was still there even when he wasn't dipping into it to bring out patterns of varying length.

Strategery followed and was one of a bunch of songs in their expanded repertoire with which I'm less familiar. As they played through "Other than Mine," "Start Again," "One Leg Up" and "Popcorn Rug," Rebus showed me a lot more of what they can do. I know they don't like to go too far with the solos and that really came out during the show as they went through all of these songs. Their jams were forceful and it was a testament to Pete's ear that he kept the bass from fogging over what James was doing on keys and Kyle's more delicate moments. The wind and heart rate of the forward rushing intensity demands a heightened sense of awareness so as not to let go. Rebus showed this ability in "Simon's Creation," the journey piece of the evening. Billed as a "short one," I should have realized quickly it would be twenty minutes or more. I'm not sure of the exact length but this was one of those explorations where it doesn't matter what physical universe you're in because the band in front of you is creating a deep and rich world where you can hang for a while and kick back while you kick loose.

Luckily, "Simon's" wasn't the only chance we got to hear the band's more established material. Kyle started off on vocals for the beginning of the second set with "Anxious on the Curb." It represents the sly economy I perceive in a lot of what he does. The intelligence of more non-linear jazz modes bears the constant possibility of spinning off into an abyss but he has this way of keeping it in nicely with a knowing smile. By the end, they had us tired but completely ensnared through "One Leg Up" and closing the second set with "Jimmy's in the City." This song is bona fide for them. Every time I see them in New York, Rebus faithfuls seem to jump out of their skin for it so the already boiling energy of the crowd swung quickly to gaseous form as they reached the second break in the action.

Pete showed me again how strong his bottom line is through other vintage Rebus tunes like "On the Fence" as well as the malleable forms he puts out in "Glimpse" in the third set. Throughout the night, he was the rock and gave James the opportunity to throw in some elasticized solos that formed some of the most solid grooves for us to ride. The focus he kept on the ideas that came up for him to play with grabbed me each time he set out. But that was no cause for break because everyone else joined in on his reverie right on cue each time.

My big regret of the evening is not being in the lounge at any of the points that Brothers Past guitarist Tom Hamilton sat in. Opening the first set with "Carboat" and coming back down for "A Day in the Leaf," I'm sure the combination produced very interesting things. By the time I walked back in for their cover of "Traffic's Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," Tom was gone but I was glad I got to hear what I did because Pete's vocals are just one of many aspects that scream how they were meant to play it. With that link and the appearance of ulu's Aaron Gardner on Rebus' Live Vol.1 album, there's a nice tandem of acts who all get you moving but demand that you think beyond the obvious to find what they've hidden in all degress of complex subtlety.

Shady Groove is starting to spread things out wider with dates at UPenn on April 19th, Da Funky Phish out on the Island of Strong (4/19) and then up to Harper's Ferry just outside Boston. Rebus has gigs coming up at Giorgio's in Willamsburg on Friday 4/13 and the Paleo Sun Cafe in Wilimgton the following night with many more to follow. The date I'm eagerly anticipating, though, is May 11th when the guys will be headling the Buffalo Creek Music Festival's Friday night lineup in Lexington, VA. I can't think of a better way to kick off my northern festival season after a few day's rest following JAZZFEST!!!!

Howie Greenberg
JamBase NYC Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 4/9/01]

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