This holiday season I had the pleasure of seeing a band I have grown to love over the last few years—-and it wasn't in sunny Miami. Instead of making the journey down south, several of my friends and I took off from my hometown of Detroit towards the northeast. After eleven hours of driving and an hour of border disputes, we finally arrived safely in Burlington, VT.

Deep Soda was set to open for Simplicity on New Year's Eve at Higher Ground around 10:15 pm. I had previously never seen Deep Soda, and was impressed with their set. They were a strange match opening for Simplicity, sharing virtually no musical qualities or genres with them, but maybe that was a good thing. It certainly made for an interesting show.

Simplicity took the stage about five minutes before midnight while champagne was being distributed throughout the venue. Sparse noodling began the set as background music for everyone eagerly awaiting the New Year's arrival. Champagne toasts, a cascade of balloons and a rockin' version of "All in Good Time" kicked the New Year off with a bang. The song was played much faster than the album version, but the band still stayed extremely tight throughout.

"If You Could Play Every Woman" was very high energy, and gave Brian Sheehan (guitar) a chance to show his chops over a standard chord progression through the verse and chorus. "Gun Down" marked the first Francis Jaramillo (keyboards) song, and also the first jam of the night. After Francis told his tale of getting mugged in Detroit, the band swayed and turned as one without resolve until strong alternating minor third chords and a fill by drummer Peter Avigne brought the band back into the verse. The jam was hot; one of the best jammed-out "Gun Down"'s I've heard. A verbatim, yet raw and rowdy cover of Ween's "Spinal Meningitis" pleased the crowd immensely, and the first "Player's Club" in three months marked the first Frank Jaramillo (bass) song of the night. "Player's Club" was welcomed with cheers and the resurrection of the balloons. The song is a personal favorite of mine, and this version was another great example of why I love it so much. In my opinion, it is worth getting a copy of the show just for the entirely too rare "Player's Club."

The second set kicked off with a clever, daring new Francis tune, entitled "Baby Jesus." After asking "Where is your savior now that you need him the most?", Francis responds with "He's out cutting a rug with the Holy Ghost!" "One Sure Fire Scheme," a fun, playful crowd pleaser, followed "Baby Jesus." Another highlight from the set was the jam vehicle "Applause." Different from the album in which the jam fades out, the live "Applause" climaxes with a few scripted notes from Sheehan, after a long and winding spacey jam. "Getaway Car" told a fast-paced first-person tale of a criminal indifferent of his wrongdoings ("Shot two cops, stabbed a lady in the neck/The cops survived, so what the heck? So what the heck.") An unfinished version of "As I See It" closed out the set, and was unexpectedly finished after the encore break, with Sheehan's "Untitled" wrapping things up.

The show was definitely worth the trip, and it seemed as if the band was really enjoying themselves, which added to the overall energy of the room. I'm looking forward to the new album being finished, and I can't wait until they come around again!

For setlist and further information, please visit Simplicity's website.

Words and Images by: Brian Moore
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[Published on: 1/12/04]

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