Perpetual Groove | 12.30 & 12.31 | GA

Words & Images by: James E. F. Young

Perpetual Groove :: 12.30.08 & 12.31.08 :: Georgia Theatre :: Athens, GA

Perpetual Groove :: 12.31 :: Athens, GA
New Year's Eve offers a time to reflect on the past year while building resolve towards the future. For the members of Perpetual Groove this process is particularly poignant. Over the past year the band has undergone an incredible change. The departure of keyboardist Matt McDonald after the band's ninth annual Amberland festival (read the review here), left Perps (members of the PGroove community) shocked and understandably nervous. While the addition of John Hruby, a friend and frequent guest to the stage, helped ease some fears, the apprehension and palpable tension was noticeable during the fall "Thunder Construction" tour. For both band and fans, the two nights of this New Year's run served not only as closure to these turbulent events but also solidified the announcement of a new, powerful force in the musical community.

December 30, 2008

The first night at the Georgia Theatre started with a surprising treat. Drummer Albert Suttle opened up the evening with a solo set. Since his first solo endeavor two years ago, the one-man act has grown tremendously. He samples songs and lays down his own funky brand of beat, often interlaced with humorous and appropriate movie quotes. His versions of "Beyond the Veil" and Skee-Lo's "I Wish" were obviously satisfying as the listeners were crammed against the stage hoping to get closer to his spectacular performance.

Butler & D. Perry :: 12.30 :: Athens, GA
Following the opening act, Perpetual Groove took the stage and without pause brought the heat straight from the deepest pits of hell. "Tu Sevun" is fantastic in any set, but as a show opener it floored the crowd. They followed this rare occurrence with a fantastic rendition of one of their newer pieces, "Witness to the Rest," a number that exemplifies Hruby's skills as both a singer and keyboardist. If there was ever any doubt of his ability to keep up with the band's driven electronic rock, it was dispelled by set closer "Mr. Transistor."

For the second set, the band invited a few familiar guests to the stage. Early on, Gary Paulo from Under the Porch joined them on saxophone. He sat in for "Up Tight" and "Sweet Oblivious Antidote" before Damien Perry took the stage. Bassist Adam Perry's brother, Damien is a guitarist with obvious roots in heavy metal and he started off with a driven "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," which, for all of you stat junkies, hadn't been played for four years to the date. The Perry brothers form an impressive and intimidating force as made evident in their rendition of "Mayday," a song that has continued to impress for the last two years. The four-piece then finished with overindulgent renditions of "TTFPJ" and "Playground."

12.30.08 :: Georgia Theatre :: Athens, GA
Set I: Tu Sevun, Witness to the Rest > All This Everything, pt. 2, TSMM, Stealy Man, Out Here, Mr. Transistor
Set II: Gorilla Monsoon, Uptight (Everything's Alright)*, Sweet Oblivious Antidote*, Can't You Hear Me Knocking**, Mayday***, TTFPJ, Playground
Encore: Lost Connection

*with Gary Paulo from Under the Porch on sax
**with Gary Paulo from Under the Porch on sax and Damien Perry from Red Giant on guitar
***with Damien Perry from Red Giant on guitar

December 31, 2008

To open up the second night, guitarist Brock Butler performed a special set. He started off solo, playing both familiar songs and a few from his new album, Instrumentals & Incident. Travis Cline soon joined him on drums for a particularly moving version of "Ain't No Reason." To complete the set, they were accompanied by Michael Blair on guitar and Ayinde Bryant on bass for a new number and a fantastic version of Neil Young's "Helpless."

Perpetual Groove :: 12.31 :: Athens, GA
The main performance was nothing short of spectacular, one for the annals of Perpetual Groove history books. The house lights went down and the crowd started cheering as the staged glowed a piercing purple. Across the PA came an uplifting song, like the hero's theme from a spaghetti western. As the crowd roared and the building trembled, the band took the stage, ready to deliver us into the New Year. The place was packed, with crowds surrounding the stage and filling the balcony as lines wrapped around both the bar and restrooms. The show had begun.

The first set was brief but powerful. After a short "No Decorations," the band plowed into a cover of LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends." This song has been heavy in the rotation since Hruby joined the band, and again his performance on keys was an integral part of this commanding song. The camaraderie amongst the Perpetual Groove community has always separated this band from others, and this much was apparent as friends jumped around and sang, "I can see all my friends tonight!" After a fiery "Space Paranoids," the band meandered into an expansive "Three Weeks," and while most everyone is familiar with this number it is nice to see the band continue to find new ways to play their most popular song. They ended the set with "At the Screen," a funky song Hruby brought in from his previous band, Guest, with impressive vocals between him and Butler, as well as a number of drum driven interludes from Suttle.

Brock Butler :: 12.31 :: Athens, GA
The break was short, for the hour was approaching. To ring in the New Year, the band chose to play "Robot Waltz," a song that had been dormant since McDonald left. Nicely, the former keyboardist was in attendance this evening, and many were glad to see him still connected with the community, evidenced by the swirling crowd around him. The moment got closer and closer and with a minute left the band played a recording of the Apollo 11 launch over the PA. The countdown proceeded and the crowd erupted as confetti and balloons created a thick, impenetrable fog around the stage, and after the obligatory "Auld Lang Syne" the band snapped back into "Robot Waltz" with devilish fervor.

To the audiences' delight Damien Perry returned to the stage for a shredded version of "Speed Queen," which was sandwiched around a fantastic cover of Rush's "Tom Sawyer." To fully grasp how awesome the interplay between the Perry brothers can be, it is necessary to listen to the archive recording of this show.

As things were getting awfully intense, the band played a relaxed and inspiring rendition of "The Noise." Then, they broke into a lengthy "Teakwood Betz" with a "Macumba" wedged into it. "Macumba" is a fan favorite and included an extended rap medley from Butler with excerpts from Jay-Z's "99 Problems," Big Daddy Kane's "Let Yourself Go" and the Beastie Boy's "Pass the Mic," to name a few. For the first encore, PGroove debuted a cover of Bowie's "Fame," but one encore was nowhere near enough and the band returned for "It Starts Where It Ends," a well received song from the new album.

Although the past year has been a tumultuous one for this band, these shows serve to remind us that change, while frightening, is often good. This new Perpetual Groove is most certainly welcome in the New Year, and will be a formidable force in the jam band community.

12.31.08 :: Georgia Theatre :: Athens, GA
Set I: No Decorations, All My Friends, Space Paranoids, Three Weeks, At the Screen
Set II: Robot Waltz, Speed Queen*> Tom Sawyer*> Speed Queen*, Teakwood Betz> Macumba> Teakwood Betz
Encore: Fame*, It Starts Where It Ends

*with Damien Perry of Red Giant on guitar

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