Sure Mondays are tough, of course you're tired from the weekend, and in San Francisco you can bet that you got your fill on Friday and Saturday, but when you live in the Bay, you have a certain responsibility to yourself to suck it up, go out and have a raging good time.
Coming off a fairly average weekend swing in San Francisco featuring such bands as The Disco Biscuits, Tea Leaf Green, Brad Mehldau, Kooken & Hoomen, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Ming & FS, and a few others it's almost understandable why I didn't see more of my musical cohorts at The Fillmore last evening, Monday the 30th of September. In retrospect, now playing Tuesday morning quarterback, all I can say it, YOU MISSED OUT!
Photo by Dino Perrucci
Whenever sax freak Skerik is on a bill, I pretty much know I have to be there, regardless of how tired, beat-down, over worked and under fed I am...wherever he's a-blowin' I'm a-goin'! Add in percussive genius Stanton Moore and I can't think of an excuse that would keep me off the dance floor. I mean this is half the reason I make the trek to NOLA in late April; to see these cats craft some heavy voodoo funk! Throw in fellow New Orleans groove guru Brian Seeger, Astral Project upright-bass man Jim Singleton, and versatile sax player John Ellis, and all of a sudden you've got yourself one hell of a swamp fest.
We meandered into the epic Fillmore a few songs in, and by the time we arrived it was already a party. Nothing too crazy, but great music, good people and plenty of room to loosen up. The first set moved through a few Moore staples, with each player stepping in and sliding out, moving around each other effortlessly, like the true professionals they are.
The amazing Stanton Moore proves time and again that he is... well, he proves he is MORE. Stanton sits in the pocket, right in the sweet spot at all times. At this very moment in our wonderful scene, Moore is the quintessential technical drummer. He does not miss a beat, and is capable of both dictating the flow, and reacting to on stage antics with out even a hic-up, the guy is a human metronome. I was blown away by Singleton on upright, his work with the Astral Project has always impressed me, but I rarely get the opportunity to see this guy at work, and I assure you, he is top-notch.
Photo by Jenny Bagert
The second set was a rager. As the band came back on stage, Stanton announced that he was going to invite their friend Josh Roseman out to blast a little trombone. Roseman is best known for his work with Charlie Hunter, but don't be mistaken, his other work hold its weight as well. At this point the evening really started to take off, with Roseman ripping into deep grooves, Stanton pushing the bubble, Singleton thumping, and Seeger multi-tasking on guitar; moving from searing solos, to light angles, everything seemed to fit like a glove.
The unmistakable highlight of the show came in the final portion as Skerik put down the bari and picked up that beautiful black, tenor. At this point my good friend, (yes Super Dee) kept wishing, almost praying for the gorgeous "Angel Nemali." For those of you not familiar, this song was written by the South African saxophonist Dudu Pukwana, who died in exile before seeing the 'end' of apartheid in his native country. This remarkable song is available on Moore's All Kooked Out and various other recordings, and well worth your effort in digging it up. Skerik lead the band through an uplifting version as the entire crowd became engulfed in the beauty, the history and the intangibles that come with truly amazing music.
Coming out of the ethereal "Angel Nemali" Stanton started to pound out some beats, really laying into it only to be cut-off by Skerik. I have never seen anything quite like this, at least not pulled off so eloquently, but then again, there is only one Skerik. As the funk crescendo was building Skerik jumps on the mic and literally stops the show. He starts yelling, "Stop! Stop the show!" And the band stopped. The look on Moore's face pretty much said it all. He was almost smiling, almost shocked and very intrigued. Skerik was barking at the crowd, telling everyone to go home. He looked at Stanton and said, "That's it, it's over!" Stanton put up his hands and didn't really know what to do; he smiled and was definitely at the mercy of Skerik. Skary Skerik then proceeded to pull out his money clip and tell the crowd that they deserved their money back. He began to peel bills off his wad and throw dollars into the crowd. I shit you not; Skerik took out his cash and was tossing it out to the first three rows. The band was at a loss, they stood in disbelief, just looking at Skerik and laughing. As Skerik's stage presence was taking on a life of it's own, and things were truly getting out of hand, he screamed "1, 2, 3, 4!" and the band dropped back in without missing a beat, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Photo by Dino Perrucci
As the show was coming to an end, and the mandatory encore was about to ensue Stanton picked up the mic himself and decided to skip the formalities. Speaking very personally to the enthused crowd Moore said, "This is the part where we pretend to go off stage, and you guys scream and yell, then we come back out and play one more. We all know the game, so let's just skip it. You guys yell and we'll play one more. Oh, and if you know the words to this bitch, SING ALONG!"
From there Skerik administered a lashing, breaking into perhaps the most impressive "Whipping Post" I have ever seen. To see Skerik take the reigns and destroy this classic was worth the 20 bucks by itself. The only version that I could even put in this category was the '96 Alpine Valley Phish whippin' with Trey destroying the solo. But to be honest, I think this one took the cake.
As the entire crowd sang the chorus (albeit a little prematurely -sort of busting in a hair too early- but shit, we were all damn excited), Skerik brought it down and went into a heavy freak out section that reminded me of the Beastie Boys. Skerik was screaming into the microphone for his sax, repeating the phrase, "I'm making money, I'm making bacon, I'm making out with my dad... I'm making money, I'm making bacon, I'm making out with my dad." Once again, the look of the fellow band members spoke volumes. Roseman was behind Skerik with his head tilted to the side, staring in disbelief with a confused expression that seemed to say, "What the hell are you?" Meanwhile Stanton and Singleton where in awe, laughing and shaking their heads as the truly bizarre Skerik once again proved that he is the master of the stage. At the end of Skerik's very odd vocal display, he put his mouth back on the sax and played a few beautiful bars, and that was it. Moore wasn't quite sure what to do... nor did any one else for that matter, and it was very clear that after something like what Skerik just did, you call it a night. The band looked at Stanton, he shrugged his shoulders and nodded, putting down his sticks and saying good night.
You could not have been at The Fillmore and not had a good time. The crowd slid out shaking their heads, thanking the stars that they didn't get their sleep that evening. And this my friends, is why you go out on Monday night in San Francisco.
JamBase | HeadQuarters
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