The Downtown Club in Farmingdale, NY, just underwent extensive renovations. Was it worth the wait, you bet it was! Dave Glicker sheparded the transformation from typical Long Island sports bar to a first class music venue with great sightlines, good vibes, a killer sound system, and room for over 400! Add to the mix the kitchen is open until 3am and you have created the standard that all LI clubs will be measured against.

This was the Zen Tricksters’ first show at the new Downtown and they christened it with two killer sets of deadly rock & roll. The first notes to emanate from the stage were those of "China Cat Sunflower" into a raucous instrumental original, "Light of Life," with a seamless segue into "Fire On The Mountain." Then another classic Zen tune, "Mother Found A Gun" into a tasty Zen jam leading us to a brilliant "Mission in the Rain." The crowd went crazy and well they should, the band never sounded better.

The Zen Tricksters, Jeff Mattson on lead guitar and vocals, Tom Circosta on rhythm guitar and vocals, Klyph Black on bass and vocals, Pete Levin on keys and vocals and Alan Lerner on drums, have gelled into the premier jam band on the scene today. They have taken the music of an era, energized it, evolved it and given it new life. Each show they push the envelope to the thrill of all that experience it. They fill a great void. Add to this the wonderful family feeling prevalent at a Trickster show and you have a truly wonderful experience.

The band continued the first set with raw, kick-ass monster rock n roll monster "Reno," a Klyph Black tune. The band then caught their collective breaths before unleashing a killer "Truckin’" after which the jam evolved into a mellow groove that lead into one of the most touching, heartfelt original ballads on the planet today, Jeff Mattson’s "The One." This song resonates with the same kind of vibe, and tugs at the heartstrings in a similar way, as some of Jerry Garcia’s sweetest ballads. The band then proceeded to get the crowd’s feet a movin’ with "Lay Your Love," another Zen original, featuring Zen alum Dave Diamond on Acoustic guitar and vocal then into "I Know You Rider," featuring beautiful harmonies, to close the first set. The rhythmic backbone of the band, Alan Lerner, demonstrated a ferocious and rock steady beat-keeping ability, as well as the knack of subtlety when it was called for.

The second set opened with "Expressway to Your Heart" which gave us everything we’ve come to expect from the Zen version of this tune-big, bawdy organ mixed with great guitar riffs to form a thrilling combo, followed by Klyph’s swampy charmer, "Hoodoo." "From Above," a Pete Levin original featured Pete’s soulful vocals and killer keys in a song that could easily be a top 40 radio hit, despite its fine musicality! He has filled a very big seat with talent, dignity and grace and has been the recipient of great enthusiasm from the crowd. Tommy took the lead vocals on "Me & Bobby McGee" with aplomb, followed by Klyph’s raunchy vocal performance on the classic "Hard To Handle." Jeff’s haunting "Goin’ Down Slow" wound into a cosmic and very out-there jam that kept coiling until it ultimately coalesced beautifully into the fine harmonies of "'Til The Morning Comes." The band then performed an old Mattson tune, "Patience;" that has been recently placed back into rotation. A fine ballad with a loping ¾ time, the chorus of the song intones, “Good things come to those who wait” and after waiting for several extra months for the new Downtown to open, it was all good and no one had to wait that night! The second set closes with the predictably breathtaking rocker, "Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad."

The audience responded with an enthusiastic and resounding roar and enticed the Tricksters into performing two encores. First was a real special treat, "Highway 61 Revisited," with Klyph on lead slide guitar and Jeff donning the bass. Besides being a monster bassist Klyph is quite comfortable with a guitar or dobro hanging from his neck, and plays a ripping slide! He brought the place to a frenzy and then, to help bring people gently back down to earth, the Zens closed the show with a lovely version of "Box of Rain," again featuring precise and gorgeous vocal harmonies.

Check the band’s website, catch a show and see if you don’t leave shaking your head in amazement and coming back for more!

Bob Nielsen
JamBase | Long Island
Go See Live Music!

The Zen Tricksters | 01.12.02
The Downtown, Farmingdale, NY
Set 1:
China Cat Sunflower, Light of Life, Fire On the Mountain, Mother Found a Gun, Mission in the Rain, Reno, Truckin', The One, Lay Your Love, I Know You Rider
Set 2: Expressway to Your Heart, Hoodoo, From Above, Me and Bobby McGee, Hard to Handle, Goin' Down Slow, Till the Morning Comes, Patience, Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad
E: Highway 61 Revisited, Box of Rain

[Published on: 1/17/02]

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