Expectations were high at The Downtown on Friday night. Just last week Vermin Furley and Rainbow Trout played together at the Back Street Blues club in Rockville Center and apparently tore the roof off the place. Tonight would turn out to be no different.
Rainbow Trout took the stage a little later than expected... but wasted no time getting their funk on. They mixed in funky originals with jazz and funk standards that would have made any master proud. From "Do That Stuff" to "Hot Pants Road," Trout made everyone glad they brought their dancin' shoes. Things got off to a hot start and never cooled off.
Vermin Furley began their set at around 12:30 to the appreciative applause of their hometown crowd--many of whom have been coming out to see these guys since their first show about a year and a half ago. Since then, Furley has changed drummers, but they haven't changed their goal of playing real music for real fans with true heart and undeniable skill. In the past year, VF has emerged from a great bar-band into a true group of musicians improvising, composing and experimenting to the great appreciation of all who come out to their shows. Whether on Long Island or at their gigs in Manhattan, you'll see the same tight-knit group of fans who can't get enough Furley. And tonight, they knew they were in for it because when Trout comes to play that means they get to see Furley with horns. Vermin Furley is Vinny Spadero on guitar, Colm Connel on bass, Matt Herzog on keys, Vinny Commisso on percussion and Dave Diamond on drums (also of Rainbow Trout, Zen Tricksters). Let the games begin...
Furley opened their set with "Pug," a deep jazzy instrumental showcasing the band's groove-heavy rhythm section, that morphed into a brand spankin' new tune (written by Colm, bassist) named "Tasty Alibis." Finding the right words to describe this tune is rather difficult... think intergalactic fusion with a little bit of reggae thrown in. You do the math. This one is going to go places. A nice lead by Vinny S. dropped the band into the Furley classic "Way to Loosen" showing off Vinny's vocal chops and rock-star guitar licks. Off to the side of the stage we could see Jordan Katz and Pete Baione from Rainbow Trout preparing to take the stage. Yesssss. Mission Accomplished.
A brief discussion between the band members, who have now shared space 3 times, resulted in a jazzy version of VF's funky "Cantina." Adding horns to this tune only made it more fun--as if it needed any help to begin with. The smiles on the faces of the guys on stage let us know that they were having just as much fun playing as we were dancing. By the 4th tune of the night, we had already gotten our money's worth. And there ain't nothin' wrong with that!
Colm then wished Miles Davis a Happy Birthday and launched the now 7 piece band into a smooth rendition of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue." This 10-minute exploration featured incredible trumpet work by Jordan, over extremely smooth fills by the rest of the band, among other things. Keeping with the theme of honoring the forefathers of their art, and taking advantage of having a horn section on stage, the boys launched into a sick version of the funk standard "The Chicken." Dancing was not an option at this point. Mayhem ensued.
"Destination Sun," always a jam vehicle for Furley was brought to the next level and made even more epic with sax and trumpet. Sick bass licks over trancey drumbeats gave leeway for the band to really get their groove on. The jam was complete with "Manteca" teases... among other things. Intricately woven keyboards and guitar melodies along side funky sax licks and smooth trumpet made this "Destination" one for the ages.
Wasting no time, the opening licks of "Pretzels"--a Furley-family favorite--filled our ears and for 8 minutes everything was perfect and nothing else mattered except the music. "Pretzels" is a tune that Furley generally kicks ass with, and it makes you wonder if Vinny knew that one day he'd get to play it with horns. Amazing.
Jordan and Pete left the stage leaving an amped up Vermin Furley to close the set with the 1-2-3 punch of "Celestial Anthem," "Flight of Junipa," "Celestial Reprise." "Celestial Anthem" is a beautifully composed masterpiece that highlights each band members' strengths. It tells a story without words and takes you places you never thought you'd go while listening to a local band that has only been playing together in their current line-up for a few months. Vinny Commisso really gets to show off his percussion during Junipa and tonight was no different--this bouncy feel-good song is perfect for ending sets because it leaves you smiling and wanting more. Getting a "Celestial Reprise" was icing on the cake.
After a short break, VF returned to the stage with the crowd-pleasing "Mars"--Furley's only rock-ballad. It's danceable quality and sing-along chorus make it a fun tune to start up with--"Maybe some day we will live to ski the mountains on Mars..." Maybe.
If "Mars," a straight-up rock and roll tune, is a portrait of where Furley began, then the next portion of the night is a sneak peak into the future of this band. "Winds of Forever," a new song written by keyboardist Matt Herzog took the band on a swirling journey through the sky. This will be another jam vehicle for sure... Matt is unstoppable on those keys. Appropriately, the new song dropped instantaneously into Billy Cobham's "Stratus" and I mean *dropped*. They laid it down. Hard. Colm layed down a gorgeous rolling bass line that made you feel like you were soaring up in a storm cloud. And then Vinny's scorching guitar and Matt's lightning keys brought attention to the fact that it had started to rain. But Dave and Vinny's beats keep you afloat until gently they let you down into a tight spacey jam that left us breathless.
Before we could catch our collective breaths, VF kicked it up one more notch and treated us to an extremely tight "Charlie's Groove" that had all the troopers who stayed out until 3am dancing like crazy. If you stopped, you probably would have collapsed so your best bet was to keep on struttin’.
Just when we couldn't take it anymore, VF slowly let us loose with "Enough with the Hand," a smooth instrumental that set us back down on Earth and left us more than satisfied, yet still wanting more. But that's the great thing about local bands... they play again on Wednesday, 5/30, opening for Leo Nocentelli of the Meters.
JamBase Long Island Correspondent
Go See Live Music!
Show schedule, mp3’s and more can be found at: www.verminfurley.com
5.25.01 | The Downtown | Farmingdale, NY
Set I: Pug > Tasty Alibies > Way to Loosen, Cantina*, Afro Blue*#, The Chicken*, Destination Sun* > Pretzels >* Celestial Anthem, Flight of Junipa, Celestial Reprise
Set II: Mars > Winds of Forever > Stratus$, Charlie's Groove, Enough w/the Hand
*w/ Jordan Katz on Trumpet and Pete Baione on Tenor and Soprano Sax (from Rainbow Trout)
#In Honor of Miles Davis' Birtrhday (Davis original, made popular by Coltrane)
$Billy Cobham cover