Buddha's Belly | Cubby Bear | Chicago, IL | 4.18.03

Like Gatsby’s green light, the lawn gnome shown like a beacon of musical hope as fans awaited Buddha's Belly on Saturday night. Fresh off a successful seven-city East Coast tour, including a headlining show at the Elbow Room in New York City, Buddha’s Belly was welcomed home by an enthusiastic Chicago crowd on April 18th at the Cubby Bear, sharing the bill with Urban Funk Ordinance.

A synthesis of musical influences, the Belly’s sound is an eclectic blend of rock, jazz, and funk. The band features Evan Cobb on the saxophone and oboe, Eric Miller on the trombone, Daniel Golden on the guitar and vocals, Pete Wojtowicz on the bass and Jason Hanggi on the drums. Their improvisational style has created quite a stir in the jamband scene, but the Belly appeals to jam, rock, and jazz fans alike.

While the warm up was slow, the wait was well worth it when the band finally took off around 10pm. After cruising through “Moon Rush” and “Pablo’s Red Wagon,” the Belly launched into a raucous cover of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City,” proving that they rock as much as they jam. Segueing into their own “Mrs. Ogynist,” guitarist Dan Golden led the crowd in a resounding cry of “bow wow wow, yippee yo yippee yay.”

The Belly really showed its unity, depth, and improvisation skills on the crowd-favorite “OSUB.” The melodic intro and chorus of this harmonically complex original showed the technical skill of each musician. Wojtowicz’s slapping solo on the bass set the pace and energy for the rest of the tune. It was during Hanggi’s extended drum solo, however, that the song reached its peak. The highlight came at the end of the drum feature when Hanggi counted the band back in through a series of improvised, synchronized beats hits. The crescendo of tension and anticipation reverberated throughout the band and the audience, rousing the entire club to its feet.

Building on this climactic energy, Buddha’s Belly reprised an old band favorite, “Preacher Man,” with a guest appearance by vocalist Caitlin McKechney singing lead. Rounding out this diverse set was a fresh vision of the old jazz standard “My Favorite Things” in a new groove arranged by trombonist Eric Miller. With lyrical sensitivity and stylistic range, Miller and Cobb, on tenor, both impressed on solo features. If you enjoy diversity, skill, and contagious enthusiasm you have to check out Buddha’s Belly.

The year 2003 has been the Belly’s best yet with a variety of new music, a tighter sound, and a growing fan base. From the February 1st headliner at Chicago's House of Blues, to sold-out shows at Nevin's Live in Evanston, and highly praised performances at the King Club in Madison, Wisconsin, Buddha’s Belly is making waves across the Midwest, and beyond. The Belly has shared the stage with top acts from across the country, including Umphrey's McGee and Ray's Music Exchange. Look for Buddha’s Belly to appear with Psychedelic Breakfast, ulu, and more in Madison on April 26th at 12:30pm at the WSUM Party in the Park Festival in James Madison Park. Locally, the Belly will headline the Lakeview Mayfest on May 16th at 8pm, as well as the Deutsche Autofest 2003 in Springfield. Check out www.thebelly.net for the summer tour schedule.

Words by: Katy Rosenberg
Images from: www.thebelly.net
JamBase | Chicago
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[Published on: 4/28/03]

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