Words by: Zachary Sampsel | Images by: Roger Franklin
Chris Berry Trio with Michael Kang :: 07.17.09 :: Ukiah Brewing Company :: Ukiah, CA
With a little help from The String Cheese Incident's Michael Kang, the Chris Berry Trio brought some cool, island vibes to Ukiah on a sweltering Friday night in July.
|CB3 with Kang :: 07.17 :: Ukiah, CA|
The Ukiah Brewing Company, with its certified-organic menu, was the perfect spot to choose for a fundraiser benefiting EcoMotion, the October block party in the name of sustainability taking place in Fort Bragg. Although afternoon highs of more than 100-degrees created a sweaty setting for the night, the four-piece opener, High Heat, didn't mind. Wasting no time in giving the heady Emerald Triangle crowd what they wanted, High Heat busted into a classic by Phish. As soon as the opening riffs of "My Friend, My Friend" came humming off the pickups plenty of people in the crowd, myself included, took notice. Following a good reception for "My Friend," High Heat launched into original material and lubed up the crowd for what was to come.
Fresh from the String Cheese reunion at Rothbury (read the review here), Kang joined Berry for a seven-show tour throughout Northern California and Oregon with Aaron Johnston and Jesse Murphy, both of Brazilian Girls, rounding out the core of CB3.
Opening with a free-form, improv jam that featured Berry chanting "Ukiah" over the top of an island-sounding beat, the tone was set for an evening that would blend world sounds, live instrumentation and electronics through Berry's unique perspective. Much like the opener, CB3 linked up quickly and dropped into dub-filled songs and jams that pleased the reggae-friendly crowd of sandals, bare feet and socks that covered the dance floor. Whether it was Kang's electric mandolin work or the unique, organ-like sound of Berry's one of a kind mbira, CB3 officially whisked everyone off to the oasis with the free spirited feel of "Come Away."
But upstroke guitar and dub beats weren't the only tricks up their sleeves. One of the strongest songs of the first set was the psychedelic calypso of "Stronger," which showcased Berry's songwriting strengths, as the crowd was up in arms at his message of self-empowerment. And the ensuing jam wasn't too bad either. With Johnston and Murphy pounding out the low end and padding the bass, Kang took a moment to let loose on a solo that showed why he and his other band had successfully sold out Red Rocks Amphitheatre for four nights back in 2007 (read the review here).
|Berry on the mbira :: 07.17 :: Ukiah, CA|
The second set picked up where the first left off with the same psychedelic synthesizer sound from "Stronger" reappearing during the opening. I'm not sure if I was the only one who noticed it, but that synthesizer was eerily familiar to some of the sounds I've heard Kyle Hollingsworth use when playing with String Cheese, which I believe added to the palpability of it all.
Much like I've seen from Berry during Panjea sets at festivals, he isn't one to let the energy die down quickly, which was apparent as the band launched into the raucous dance party portion of the night, the one-two punch of "Booty Bump" and "Come & Play." From here on, the rest was a blur of gyrating waists, fists pumping, hands waving and even a few people spinning in circles. CB3 had the crowd hooked, and with a title like "Booty Bump," who could resist?
Thinking the evening was over, Berry and friends left the stage, but the zealous crowd's cheers for an encore spilled into the streets and the band returned to the stage. Back on stage, Berry was something like the mad hatter as he bounced around from vocals to percussion and back to mbira, which looks something like a wooden keyboard made of spoon handles. But Berry wasn't the only one feeling the love. An enthusiastic Kang looked blown away as the crowd poured the last of its energy into those final moments before drifting away from the oasis.
JamBase | California
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