With a string of Georgia Theatre gigs under their belt, the boys from Skydog Gypsy have quickly garnered considerable respect and attendance loyalty at this legendary venue. A launching pad of sorts for a variety of bands from diverse genres, the Theatre has that unique ability to push a band from merely noteworthy to wholly must-see status. This weekend saw Skydog tapping firmly into that vibe, withdrawing every ounce and dispensing it with crystal clarity into their listener's eagerly awaiting ears. What transpired was nothing short of magical.
Prior to the theatre's doors opening, the buzz on the street was clearly audible. The fans knew this was a show that was not to be missed, and they were doing their best to make sure those not-in-the-know were rapidly converted. Once inside, looking out over the crowd, the anticipation was tangible. You could feel the vibe, its energy hardly contained by the roof, the walls. The boys took the stage, revealing a new stage setup, with drummer Allen Aucoin placed stage left and forward, in clear view and well-lit for the audience. A warm smile from all, to all. Let the magic rain down.
With a host of new originals and some unique covers, one was fairly certain that such a hyped show would witness the unveiling of another new tune. Little did anyone realize what the boys had up their collective sleeves; the first complete performance of the mysterious "Kiekergaard Suite." The opening "Kiekergaard" got everyone moving, with firm rhythm statements punctuating Josh Becker and Dean Tovey¹s playful noodling. The tune's final bars sent listeners marching headlong into "Bomb Song." With the crowd having bounced through Bomb's verses, suffered the spine-shaking blows of Aaron Goldberg's bass drops, and visited the tune's varied soundscapes during its 15-minute jam segment, the energy and awe were rampant. Though suffering a quick slip during the segue, the highly technical yet thoroughly engrooved "Thirteen Dislocated Spasms" cooled the atmosphere, slowing things down a notch and putting the Skydog experience (lights, sound, and musicianship) on bold display. Just as everyone thought the Suite was winding down, the boys popped back into high gear with a quirky new bluegrass-tinged rocker, the aptly titled "Kiekergaard Shuffle." The crowd lit up in approval and grooved giddy, riding "Shuffle" into "Kiekergaard Resolve." A brief, orgasmic blend of the major thematic segments of "Bomb Song" and "Kiekergaard," "Resolve" brought the Suite to a triumphant close. Having ingested the first of the night's many aural treats, we wanted more, much more.
With everyone still stunned and stumbling, the boys laid into a thoroughly Skydogicized version of the Chili Peppers' "Show Me Your Soul." Drenching the crowd in funknasty groove juice, Aaron's skills propelled the generous jam segment, though he dipped back slightly toward the end, allowing Josh to throw in an extra handful of Poly funk for that little added kick. As the tempo picked up, "Idle Decay" sprang forth. Fists pumped high in the air and heads bobbed in accord as the crowd chanted the title lyrics until being eased into the evening's most delicate jam offerings. The "Idle" jam, with its healthy doses of more intimate and intricate jamming, firmly asserted the boys' expanding talent and maturity, and led smoothly into the return of the chorus for the final chant and the set's end. One thing I found particularly interesting was the large number of people that were leaving as soon as the set ended. "Surely these people aren't leaving after what they just saw," I said in disbelief and confusion.
Of considerable relief was seeing those same people coming back, bringing a friend or two who had sadly missed out on the first set. The energy level was about to go through the roof. The crowd was now close to twice as big, and piling en mass to the front of the stage as Skydog prepared to scramble a few brains. A sparse vamp by Josh premiered the band's newest cover tune, The Who's "Eminence Front." While dead-on in their rendition, Skydog knew they couldn't let it remain a standard cover, and added a prodigious 15-minute jam segment to showcase their jamming talent and dexterity. Waxing everything from Wailers' thick reggae funk, to MMW jazz playfulness, and throwing in a sly tease of the band's "Undertow," Josh drove much of the Eminence jam. With Milt Jackson overtones closing out "Eminence," the tune segued sharply into "Synovus." Rising from the disharmonic orchestrations that signify the "Synovus" intro, Allen took the reigns with a pair of mallets and a keen sense for establishing order from within the bowels of the abyss. As the chaos collapsed, Josh dropped in the instrumental's familiar haunting chirpings and commenced tweaking knobs atop his effects processors. With sounds assaulting the crowd from all angles, Aaron's fat, effects-laden bass lines plopped the groove solidly upon our chests with authority. The sonic experiment was underway, with Josh throwing in a Peter Gabriel "Sledgehammer" tease for craps and giggles. Stepping boldly upon his bandmates' solid rhythmic foundation, Dean wailed with the conviction of a madman and dropped jaws with his ever-expanding virtuosity.
As "Synovus" wound slowly down, Dean initiated the porno-funk stylings opening the band's ode to their fans, the Family, "Get on the Bus." After a quick "Eminence Front" tease, Josh slapped the keys into funkdom with the others jumping into the mix with abandon. Following the funk adventures early in the tune, the mood turned to heavy-handed rock, then slid gently back into a mellow Headhunters funk derivation before venturing on to the band's most beautiful and melodic jamming of the evening. Roughly 25-minutes into the tune, with the jam slowing to a spacey pace, the opening notes of Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" came piercing through. People turned to one another and smiled, yelling "Hell yeah! Bus into Diamond!!" But just as "Diamond" was about take full form upon Allen's building drum barrage, the fakeout materialized and he switched to a complex drum-n-bass break beat. The smiles remained. The awe I spoke of earlier doubled, easy. The "Bus" wound its way steadily through a vast expanse of Skydog landscapes, ending it's journey nearly 40-minutes after it had left the station, with the crowd greeting the return with wild applause and even more dropped jaws.
Having vividly displayed their funk skills and rocked the crowd into oblivion, the boys highlighted their jazz abilities with "Shape." A relatively new tune, it maintains a laid-back feel and allows the quartet to explore the emotive aspects of their playing. Dean led the jam out of "Shape" with a refreshingly delightful solo, priming the crowd for the hip-shaking and head-bobbing that came as "Shape" gave way to "Orion's Belt." "Orion's" is one of those instrumental tunes you can't help but dance to, and the crowd soon realized this. No matter how tired people got while grooving to Skydog's previous offerings, they gladly ate up every morsel "Orion's" dished out. Sparing further muscle fatigue, "Orion's" ended the set and afforded the audience a few minutes of rest before jumping right back into things during the encore.
With Skydog having seemingly covered every possible angle of the musical spectrum, one wondered what could be left. Well, one needn't wonder long this night. With another mic stand taking residence between Dean and Aaron's, the Family knew the shiznit was about to get downright nasty. Those who had no idea of what was about to transpire laid witness to the second-coming of Gangsta Goode, a.k.a. Johnny R. Goode, Skydog's light master. Goode strolled up to the mic, gripping it with thug intensity as Dean and the boys launched into a righteous cover of Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade," another first for the band. Dean couldn't have nailed the guitar licks more precisely, and Jboe and Pat's sound wizardry further propelled the experience with left-to-right pans to match Rage's tactics. The energy was as vibrant and gripping as ever.
Had one wanted to "see it all" before dying, they could rest assured they pretty much had. Of course the plans for drifting off into eternal bliss had to at least wait until "Peak" was finished. You never want to miss "Peak." With Dean's graceful guitar licks opening this trademark Skydog tune, the crowd quickly found themselves back in the gypsy groove sailing high on the wings of his axemanship. Allen and Aaron pumped the pulsing rhythm as the crowd landed back in Josh's hands, immediately plunging us back into the Poly funk-mire. A quick bass solo, a quick drum solo, the funk took us out. Brains fully scrambled.
Watching the audience filter by on their way out of the theatre, I saw firsthand the impact such an incredible show can have. Haven't heard Skydog yet? Haven't seen them yet? You need to. More now than ever. Just ask those in attendance Saturday night, or better yet, snag a copy of the show on disc from http://www.skydogypsy.com.
JamBase | Georgia
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