Review & Photos | Twiddle | Port Chester

Words by: Chadbyrne R. Dickens
Images by: Greg Horowitz

Twiddle :: 04.02.14 :: Garcia's :: Port Chester, NY

On April 2nd, Vermont jam act Twiddle put forth a professional display of their patented hi-def shredding for a packed house inside Garcia’s at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY.

Formed in 2005, the quartet of Brook Jordan (drums), Zdenek Gubb (bass), Ryan Dempsey (keys) and Mihali Savoulidis (guitar/vocals) are quickly ascending the ranks as one of the most buzzed about bands in the jam scene for good reason. With an infusion of jazz, classical, bluegrass, funk and a heavy dose of reggae- tinged jams, Twiddle provides a unique experience. The after-party for the first night of the Phil Lesh and Friends run fueled an incendiary party for the rabid crowd. As if the pouring of libations for this late night soiree weren’t enough, the band’s impeccable musings left a different sound than the usual jam band. Mihali’s voice, reminiscent of a higher-pitched Jacob Hemphill (SOJA) or Miles Doughty (Slightly Stoopid), has a charming and contagious quality to it that is alluring on the very first listen.

It may seem an impossibility that one state would be the home of two of the greatest jam bands in the country, but Vermont can currently boast just that. moe.'s fans are dubbed “moe.rons”, Yonder's fans have the moniker of "Kinfolk” and the loyal faithful that follow Twiddle have labeled themselves “Twidiots” and are very active on the iTwiddle Facebook page, which serves as a gateway for information, tickets, discussion and show details. Twiddle has released two albums thus far and are set to drop a monster new record next month – a live double offering titled Live at Nectar’s, which is a collection of recordings taken from their popular weekly residency at the famous Nectar’s bar in Burlington, VT. The band saw their stock rise when mammoth booking agent, Madison House, agreed to take them on. They are relentlessly touring across the country and are booked at a plethora of respected festivals. Twiddle treats their fans with gratis live show recordings on archive.org.

After the successful “Trees Are Naked Tour” this winter, the band has embarked on an ambitious “Green Is Good Tour” this spring with two stops at Garcia’s. Twiddle is a band that fills the venue like no other and the energy before the show was palpable. Known for improvising on the fly, rather that utilizing a set list, the band engaged in a 90-minute jam tour-de-force. The New Jersey-raised Mihali, a fan of Dopapod and String Cheese Incident, dressed in a muscle t-shirt and Converse sneakers, buoyed the energy by initially delving into “Syncopated Healing” with its strong message. A mysterious bearded front man, with flowing long hair and adorning a black top hat, exuded the kind of cool that any fan would desire to emulate. He writes most of the lyrics, but the band is as effective as inspirational throughout the complex arrangements. Bassist Gubb plays with powerful prowess and rhythmic authority. When asked about the distinctly catchy reggae sound contained within so many songs, Gubb stated, “People can always dance to reggae.” Influenced by Les Claypool and Victor Wooten, Gubb possesses the initial look of a ski bum, but oozes talent like a seasoned professional by providing the hard-hitting back beat that is an integral part of the jam experience the band delivers.

Often labeled by many as “the next Phish,” the band delivers a vastly different experience from Trey Anastasio and his mates, with the one commonality being the ability to effectively melt faces. Other highlights included the teases of “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” during the conclusion of “Apples,” the subtle, mesmerizing jazz musings of “Doinkinbonk!” from 2011’s Somewhere on the Mountain album and “Subconcious Prelude” from the 2007 Natural Evolution of Consciousness record, and these moments helped successfully paint the band as troubadours with a message while delivered with intricate melodies. Whether it was Dempsey’s intense fills or Jordan’s heavy hitting behind the kit, the band consistently proved adept at various styles, chord structures and unique time signatures. The audience sang with unified passion in cohesive harmony so often that one felt like a guest welcomed into a euphoric secret society.

Garcia’s is an ideal forum for Twiddle to strut their wares. Located adjacent to the historic Capitol Theatre, the uber-comfortable bar/venue reeks of jam history. A sculpture of Jerry Garcia’s iconic right hand adorns the cabinet above the long sleek bar and one of his pristine banjos remains on public display in a glass case on the wall. The sight-lines are sweet, the sound is stellar and the familiar environment is both inviting and intimate. It is a fun party with one’s knowledgeable and respectful friends old and new, who all share an affinity for good live music, in an environment where everyone seemingly knows your name. Brett Fairbrother, manager and booker since the bar’s opening, stated, “I feel like we jumped on the Twiddle bandwagon just in time. When they headline, they always play to a full house. The ultimate goal is to get the band to the next level and headline the Capitol Theatre.” Garcia’s is an exemplary place to catch live music and it was not lost on the band’s Mihali, “It’s special place to play, and to play next door and get a chance to play at the Cap at some point next year is insane. It’s a legendary club.”

With a consistently loud buzz spreading about the band, an upswing in momentum and a vast amount of people turning out in droves for shows, the band is more excited than ever for this summer. They are set to play three nights at the Wakarusa Festival, will perform at Summer Camp and have been invited to play Gathering of the Vibes for the third straight year – this year's appearance is special because they are moving to the main stage and are flattered to be asked back to a festival again – one usually with a rotating lineup.

Like Blues Traveler with “But Anyway,” The Samples’ “Feel Us Shaking” and the Spin Doctors' “Two Princes,” Twiddle has a memorable catchy song that they are renowned for more than any other. “Jamflowman” was not performed on this night, but has been a performance staple due to its immense popularity and as a vehicle for spectacularly tight jams. Mihali wrote it as a 14-year-old freshman in high school, influenced by jam bands including Dave Mathews and Phish and reggae juggernauts like Bob Marley and Sublime. He has stated that since then he has “always wanted to figure out a way to squeeze reggae into songs.” Although the song pre-dates the formation of Twiddle, its general structure has been altered to foster lengthier and more elaborate open jamming and provide a more epic climax. It was the first of Twiddle’s “epic tunes.” Mihali has kept it fresh and interesting through the years by attacking the ending differently every time. “I realized its potential early on by how well people were reacting to it. Many people thought it was about me or Trey or my music teacher, but really at that time it was a story for me of a character who I thought was the most badass performer – a tell-tale rocker and it’s kind of funny how my career has kinda shadowed the story.”

Mihali’s skills are not lost on his contemporaries. MUN guitarist Wiley Griffin stated, "Mihali and I used to jam and trade licks back in the pre-Twiddle days. I distinctly remember being impressed by his technical work and his song writing. Even back then songs like 'Jamflowman' and 'Subconscious Prelude' had a strong resonance amongst our friends."

Mihali, once an acting major at Castleton State College, mentioned that he thinks Johnny Depp would be well suited to portray him in a movie. But anyone who has seen him perform live knows that no one could better play the enigmatic front man than the “Jamflowman” himself - one badass musician indeed. Vermont is a laid- back state ripe with rocking jam music as evidenced by Grace Potter and the world’s greatest living jam band, Phish. As Phish can’t play a strenuous tour schedule forever, Twiddle is poised to become the best outlet to carry on the Vermont jam tradition for years to come, as evidenced on this night when fans were left punch- drunk with pleasure.

Setlist: Syncopated Healing, Apples-> MJ tease, Wildfire, Subconscious Prelude, Classical Gas, Doinkinbonk!!!, Indigo Trigger, Bronze Fingers, Brown Chicken Brown Cow, Daydream Farmer

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[Published on: 4/10/14]

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