Phish wasn't the only sound to engulf Cincinnati on the weekend of February 21st. Fortunately for the thousands of music fans who had descended upon the “Nati” Friday and Saturday nights, the music didn’t end with the sounding of Phish’s final notes but continued long into each night thanks to the Everyone Orchestra.
The Everyone Orchestra is a relatively new phenomenon, brainchild of Jambay’s Matt Butler, which brings talent together for an everyone jam session. Think of a festival: there are a handful of bands that each gets their own slot to play a set, one at a time. Now imagine moving it all inside and squeezing everyone into two sets. Sounds messy but, quite the contrary, it’s pretty damn pleasant. If the opportunity to see so many favorites on stage together wasn’t enough, the Everyone Orchestra is committed to donating proceeds to local charities. This weekend, the Buckeye Forest Council shared a percentage of Everyone Orchestra’s profits to help save Ohio’s prehistoric forests.
The evening had a tribal beginning of drums led by Matt Butler, with accompaniment by Cyro Baptista of Beat the Donkey and the Trey Anastasio Band, and Johnny Polansky of Ohio’s own ekoostik hookah. This led into “Redwood,” Matt’s song from The Redwood Project with bandmates Mike Sugar and Chris Haugen, and Zach Gill of the Animal Liberation Orchestra.
They built a nice groove and summoned Mat Jacobson, national field director of the Heritage Forests Campaign and a representative of the Buckeye Forest Council, with the simple request, “Let’s hear your words bro.” Instead of a talk about forest, Mat took the opportunity to deliver a stirring address about this country’s current situation, “We need to make some noise” he said. “The only wrong thing to do is to do nothing.” The anti-war mood was high and the perfect setting for Mike Perkins’s (The Shantee) performance of his song he wrote for his cousin Jesse, who has been called to join thousands more of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.
He was followed by Zach Gill performing “Eye for an Eye” and the “Isla Vista Song.” By this time the crowd was really cooking by the end of a moving jam and ready for Deep Banana Blackout’s “Come On, Come Over” which led to the first Orchestra Jam of the weekend, conducted by bassist Tye North. The Recipe took over the beginning of set two to get everyone back in the groove, and was followed by a moving rendition of CSNY’s “Helplessly Hoping” by Deepwater Junction’s Chris Davis and ekoostik hookah’s Dave Katz. A group “Deep Elem Blues” followed, led by the soulful vocals of hookah’s Cliff Starbuck. The remaining members of hookah then joined their brother for a couple of their own numbers including crowd favorites “Dragonfly” and “Raging River.” Eventually the set morphed through the wailing blues of “Let’s Make It” and on into one more full blown Everyone Orchestra session, conducted once again by Tye North. The late night crowd danced harder and harder, with common appreciation for the tumultuous ups that led to chaos and back for a triumphant finish. The theater pulled the plug at 2am, so an a capella encore was in order of the fitting “We Bid You Goodnight”.
Saturday, February 22nd came in a hurry, as all good times move as swiftly as possible, and before we knew we were back at the Taft, this time joined by many more friends who in the previous twenty four hours had heard about and decided that an Everyone Orchestra was something that they had to see. Evening warm-up came courtesy of The Recipe and was followed by the night’s first example of the true beauty behind the Orchestra. Electric Maji’s lap steel and guitar virtuoso Brandon Creasman began a simple Caribbean melody that was soon joined by Hookah’s Cliff and Johnny, Zach Gill, Jambay’s Matt and Chris, and Cyro Baptista. By pulling his groove out of the air and adding their voices, the jam wove itself around and filled the room with the true spirit if the event, group unity and the shared vibe. To accentuate the beauty of the event, Mat Jacobson returned for some more spoken word on the behalf on the Buckeye Forest Council to remind us of the benefits of helping an organization such as his.
Then it was time for Jambay, with guest Zach Gill, to showcase itself as the top-drawer musicians that they are. This was followed by everyone joining each other and showing the crowd how seemingly simple it is for that kind of talent to connect and share the stage under the direction once again of Tye North. The second set began with about forty ekoostik hookah-filled minutes complete with plenty of Steve Sweney shredding ability showcasing. Talent equality joined then took over when Fuzz, Hope Clayburn, Rob Somerville and Bryan Smith brought some Deep Banana Blackout funk to the party. That funk turned into a tribal grooving drum set with the percussionists and all who wanted to share in the energy. Then it was time to try something new.
The Everyone Orchestra's connection to community allowed the opportunity for a Guest Conductor to be chosen out of those who chose to donate the few dollars per ticket to the Buckeye Forest Council raffle. Tye was set to instruct but it turned out not to be needed because winner and devout hookah fan Brian John is a music student. He looked to be having the best time as he ran back and forth, directing key changes and calling for solos. Later he took the time to comment that “This show was the best I’ve ever seen in my life! It was innovative, new, and for a good cause.”
The orchestra jammed on for the remainder of the night, picking and grinning, bringing down the house. In the spirit of the night before, the evening was brought to a close a capella style with “Good Night Irene.”
The Everyone Orchestra certainly seemed to have found its niche in Cincinnati and, with any luck, Ohio will once again get treated with its sounds in the near future. Until then, it is the fortune of other regions of the country that the Everyone Orchestra should be visiting a town near them soon; those live music fans taking in the New Orleans experience of JazzFest will be able to see an entirely new cast perform as the Everyone Orchestra, Friday April 26th at the Howlin' Wolf at 9pm. [Read a show preview.] Motivational Mat Jacobson might have described it best when he said, “Everyone Orchestra has its head in the clouds and its feet on the ground. Its implementation is as inspiring and uplifting as its vision is daring and hopeful.” And with that, we bid you goodnight...
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