Callahan's | Cheshire, CT | 04.16.02
For the Connecticut contingent of Psychedelic Breakfast fans, Callahan's will always hold a special place in our hearts. A music-friendly venue with a good bar, and a not too shabby setup to host a nice evening of food and drink as well as a serious rock n' roll show. There were a couple nights in the past, walking out after a Breakfast show and thinking, "this place is as trashed as Toad's Place usually gets after a big show." The only difference is that Toad's Place is smack-dab in the middle of the Yale University campus in the heart of downtown New Haven, CT, and Callahan's is in a strip-mall way out in sticks of Cheshire.
There have been a lot of classic PB moments at Callahan's, including a first time "Food For Thought." For those unaware, "Food For Thought" is an original PB concept where the band plays a sick jam centered on the FFT theme music, and laced with some little known tidbits randomly pulled out of thin cosmos by Tim Palmieri.
Callahan's will possibly be most remembered for hosting the first and, up until this past Tuesday night, every Diesel Experiment. Tuesday's Experiment was the last at Callahan's since the owner has made a business decision and is closing up shop out in Cheshire.
The Diesel Experiments, though the brain-child of Psychedelic Breakfast guitarist Tim Palmieri, is not and should never be confused with the band itself; though you will often find some, if not all, of Psychedelic Breakfast members on stage at one time and another. The Diesel Experiments are the greatest thing to happen to local live music since local live music began. And though it is a completely open forum in the true open-mic tradition, the theme and line-up for each experiment is usually pondered sometime before the show itself.
Diesel Experiment themes include: Spunk (the Diesel that started it all; Space and Funk = Spunk), Americana, Acoustica, The Grateful Dead Meet Frank Zappa, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The High Life, Junk (Jazz and Funk = Junk), and now Jam. Usually there are some mysteries surrounding what one will hear at a Diesel Experiment. Not this one. I knew it was going to be an amazing display of pure Jam music. Going up, down, rolling from front to back, I was ready for extended solos and some serious groovin'.
The lineup for this affair was:
From Psychedelic Breakfast: Tim Palmieri - guitar and emcee for the evening; Jordan Giangreco - keys and lots of them
From Uncle Sammy: Brian O'Connell - bass and funkmaster for the evening; Tom Arey - drums and all around beat-keeper
It turned out to be primarily a night of covers. But the selection of covers was an education in itself. Most of the songs played, I am still unaware of their origin. Though all the music was jammin', the name of this experiment should have been Chops, because that is what was flying all over Callahan's on Tuesday: chops from all involved and all over the place.
Set one, billed in typical fashion as the cocktail hour, was nice and easy, building up from some classic jams into some serious down and dirty blues. Now, I have seen Tim do many a solo, but on Tuesday, I saw a side of Tim that I didn't think I would see for another ten years. He was not just ripping up and down the neck, playing at tenacious speeds, but also dropping tasty licks of slow crying blues.
Because of where we were standing [Adrian's Corner - the best place to view Psychedelic Breakfast from, ever, and it is only available at Callahan's. Gotta see it to believe it.] Tim's back was to us most of the night. I have learned, a long time ago, that there is no point in trying to visually digest Tim's playing or else you'll wind up with a head spinning in utter amazement. At one point during the first set a friend turned to me and asked if Tim was using a slide. It did sound slide-like, but turning our way Tim revealed that it was all just fingers on strings. His playing never ceases to amaze me.
Jordan was on all night long. I did manage to make it over to his side of the stage to check out the sounds coming right out of his speakers, but I couldn't stay there long. He tickled his keyboards through every song, making the notes and sounds cackle, wobble and jam with a psychedelic funk that should only be allowed to exist inside of $5 balloons purchased in crowded parking lots on summer afternoons.
I have seen Uncle Sammy a few times in the past, and I am always impressed with their original sound and compositions. Very jam-able, groovin, and always danceable. Brian O'Connell was on the bass, keepin' it going all night long. His consistency was matched by his willingness to explore his entire instrument.
When it comes to drummers, PB's Adrian Tramontaro is the end all, be all. I truly believe that there is not a band playing that Adrian couldn't sit in with and take that band to a level they had never thought possible. And I mean ANY BAND PLAYING ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.
Watching Uncle Sammy's drummer Tom Arey playing with Tim and Jordan was an enlightening moment. Here is a drummer with his own flavor, style, and technique (and very tasty in all those areas). Tom did not miss one beat and was always throwing pristine percussive sounds all night long. Seeing Tom workin so hard, and playing so fine, just made think, "It can't get any better than this." But my friends, it did. It SO did.
We were also treated to two guest horn players, James Albis (a Diesel regular) and Mike from The Elastic Band, for one song in the first set. A sharp and bopping olive in the Set One Martini.
As the Cocktail Set was winding down, I saw a sight that made me smile from ear to ear. Adrian was in the house. Set Two was going to be "ser" [an adjective derived from Serious. Origin: The mind of a madman.]
Callahan's setbreaks are so nice. Everyone is happy and drinking and chatting. Congratulations are being tossed toward the musicians, and there is always some "kind" of get-together somewhere.
As the setbreak ended, there was a different drummer on the stage. Tom took five more and Adrian got behind the drums. The second set opener was a true surprise, an amazing cover of Phish's "Mike's Song." No one was really getting down in the first set, most everyone was just chair-grooving. The opening notes to "Mike's Song" changed that in a hurry. Instantly, the crowd around the stage went three to four persons deep.
The second set was one long jam, as one would expect givin' the evening's theme, chock full of nastiness from everyone. Tim continued in rare form, and Brian took his bass playing to an entirely different level during set two. A couple of highlights were a crazy effect-laden jam duel between Tim and Brian. One of the best off-the cuff effect jams I ever had the pleasure to witness. Jordan tastefully filled the second set with his distinct brand of amazing key-manship. We even got a nice little schooling-on-the-skins by Adrian, who like the consummate professional, gave the wheel back to Tom after getting his fill for the night, exiting the stage to thunderous applause and frenzied screaming.
As set two serpentined through the rest of the evening, we were treated to some Frank Zappa amongst other (rare to me) jams, until culminating with a "Weekapaug Groove" that had so many little teases in it I still can't remember them all. They included but were definitely not limited to "Bathtub Gin" and Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein."
We were all "sharin'" in the jams of Diesel's Jam. It was a great night and a fantastic end to the Callahan's era. At least for the Diesel Experiments. During setbreak I asked Tim if the Diesel Experiments would continue even though their home was gone. I believe his answer was, and I quote, "Ohhh yeah."
The Callahan's era will officially come to an end on Friday, April 19th with Psychedelic Breakfast playing on the last night of business. For anyone who reads this and has not seen Psychedelic Breakfast or been to Callahan's, it is a must see show. To experience the madness of PB at a venue where there is no bad viewing spot, and to share in the good times that happen and have happened in the past. Callahan's is an all ages venue, another plus and reason for real sadness.
Thanks to Callahan's for bringing some joy into the hearts of so many.
Thanks to so many for bringing the joy into Callahan's.
'Til it happens again...
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