NEW MONSOON: AN EIGHT DAY STORM

Round 1: No Moore | New York City, NY | 5.23.03

Well, if you live in the Northeastern area of our country you've realized that the word "drought" is non-existent this year. On Friday, May 23rd, 2003 a severe storm hit a town named Gotham. This storm brought a new sound to many folks’ ears that night. Although it was raining outside, the music of new monsoon brought sunlight into the souls of everyone at No Moore. I must say for the first time seeing this band, I was blown away. Now I have to confess that I acquired a few of their live shows beforehand and thought to myself at the time, "Man, I gotta see these guys when they come around," and low and behold...

photo by Dan Sock
The No Moore gig in NYC was a private party thrown by some great folks at Running Smooth Productions. I arrived early to help set up for the party, the food, the t-shirts, balloons, and so on. So I start talking to this guy and we’re making conversation and wait a minute, it was Rajiv Parikh, Tabla player for new monsoon. Man, are these guys down to earth. Here I am talking to some random guy and ask him if he’s here to see the band and he tells me he’s one of the percussionists. The guys wowed us with funky, nasty jams and at times absolutely beautiful melodies throughout the night. Some of the highlights of the night were "Gelstream," "Calypso," "Hot’lanta," "Velvet Pouch," "Wagontrain," and the Stones’ "Paint It Black." I had my ass handed to me with three of the rockingest sets of music I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Round 2: Tobacco Road | New York City, NY | 5.24.03

photo by Dan Sock
Well, we returned to NYC the following night for round two of the severe storm that had rocked the East Coast. Once again the guys in the band were happy to see so many faces from the night before. In talking to the guys again, I learned that Bo Carper, Jeff Miller and Phil Ferlino all hail from the great state of Pennsylvania. The show started with a raging "On the Sun." Heard some new songs that I was not quite familiar with, but enjoyed immensely, mainly "Bo’s Blues" and "Before I Begin." Although they played "Downstream" and "En Fuego" the previous night, they were played on this night with a different energy, a different kind of drive behind them. As the show went on I finally got to hear what is now my current favorite, "Mountain Air." This song absolutely cooks! It builds and builds into the jam in the middle of the song and then wham! The reprise is like walking out of a hot stuffy late-night set into the cool mist of the mountain air. It is that freakin’ good! The boys took us home with an excellent rendition of the Allman’s "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," then their own "Velvet Pouch" and "Calypso." The encore was truly a treat as we were treated to Jeff playing the mandolin on Bob Dylan’s "Don’t Think Twice." We then got one more kick in the rear with a smoking "Gelstream," on which Phil was wreaking absolute havoc on the keys. Night two of my journey into the monsoon was full of friendly folks enjoying new music and a band that loved every minute of it.

Round 3: The Fire | Philadelphia, PA | 5.27.03

photo by Dan Sock
Now Philly was a different vibe altogether. If you’ve ever been to The Fire you know what I speak off. The room is only 20’ wide at best by about 40’ long, making for a very intimate show. There were candles lit about the room providing just enough light to put a soft glow through the air. Tonight Jeff announced that Heath Carlisle had a throat infection and it would be an instrumental show. Now I don’t know many of the tunes played this night, some of which were "Early Matt," "Liquid Blue," and "3 Tenors," but the musicianship was downright amazing. Once again there were driving, rocking versions of "Gelstream," "Vickassippi," "En Fuego," and "Bo’s Blues." But allow me to step back a minute, and admit an advantage at this point in time. Being that this show was 20 minutes from my house, and a good friend was taping, I’ve had the opportunity to listen and re-listen to this gem quite a bit. Without a doubt, "Mountain Air" was the song of the night. It was played with a more deep tone, one that fills and vibrates through you, to the point where you’re not dancing at all because the sounds have taken you over. Like I said, the vibe was very intimate this night, and the soft glow of the candles absolutely did it when Jeff and Bo broke into the reprise of the song, with Phil following on the organ, seemingly breathing that “mountain air” right into you. Damn!

Round 4: Joe’s Mill Hill Saloon | Trenton, NJ | 5.28.03

Now this was the night I had been waiting for. The band was now with in 10 minutes of my house and it was the first birthday show I had for a long time. So naturally, a good time was bound to be in the works. This was, again, an intimate setting for a show. It was one large room with a bar in the rear, the dining area in the middle and the stage in the front. There were friends, families, locals and even a few members of Railroad Earth, with whom new monsoon would be playing with in Boston the very next weekend. Once again Jeff announced that Heath would not be singing due to his throat infection. This was sure to be another great instrumental show. I mean when you think of the songs they sing with lyrics, those songs are pretty ingenious, but to be adverse enough to play an entire show instrumentally shows great ability and confidence in musicianship.

Once again the guys didn’t disappoint. They had at one point an entire family (parents and little kids) bobbin' and swayin' their heads to their hard-driving groove. A few new ones on this night were "Clinging" (a Santana-style song), "Are You Listening," and "Double Clutch," which became an instant favorite for me. We were also given a long, so well-played version of "Southern Dew," another song that just makes you move. The treat of the night came in the form of the second set: "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," Raja Tabla jam > "En Fuego," "Gelstream," "Jungle Strut." The only drawback here was there was no dance floor to get up and groove on. Dancing in my chair just didn’t cut it. But the music, yes the music...

Round 5: Harper’s Ferry | Boston, MA | 5.31.03

photo by Dan Sock
Boston is always a fun time: don’t know what it was, maybe the beer, but tonight was fun. Both Railroad Earth and new monsoon seemed very excited to be playing with each other. There was a big showing of RRE fans and a lot of folks wondering about both bands. Now I’m a huge RRE fan, and an instant new monsoon fan, so I was psyched too. Simply put, new monsoon brought the roof down. The highlight of the night was, of course, Tim Carbone of RRE sitting in on fiddle for "En Fuego," and it was just that: "On Fire." Now I’ve said it before and so have other RRE fans, that those of us that had seen new monsoon over the past week, well there was a certain uneasiness that new monsoon just stole the show. I actually asked myself if RRE could throw down that hard, too. Ha ha haaaa! I guess we all worry a little sometimes. But seriously, new monsoon played with such enthusiasm and determination, the driving storm had kicked my ass in under an hour flat. Now I had to make it through a stellar RRE two-hour bluegrass workout.

I went to the NYC shows because a bunch of friends were and told me I had no choice. I almost passed up the Philly show because I was truly worn out after a mini tour in NYC. But I was sold; I had to go, and then to Trenton, and then up to Boston. I went to Boston with a favorite band, RRE, and I left with two. The two bands are worlds apart as far as musical nature and style goes, but yet they're similar: the roots to two of the hottest touring bands right now were born right here in the PA/NJ area. I can’t complain. The bottom line is, Go See new monsoon!

Words and images by: Dan Sock
JamBase | East Coast
Go See Live Music!

http://www.newmonsoon.com

[Published on: 6/26/03]

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