RAQ :: 02.25.05 :: 12 Galaxies :: San Francisco, CA
Being the second most famous jam band from Vermont can be a curse or a charm, depending upon how big a shadow that other band once cast. RAQ recently made their only Northern California stop at 12 Galaxies in San Francisco. They don't come to the West Coast very often, and it was a treat to catch them in the small intimate setting of 12Gs. In fact, the band commented a number of times about digging the groovy San Francisco vibe. Local favorites Spindrift opened the show with a short set of all new material, showing off their psychedelic, countrified sound.
In many ways, RAQ exemplifies the classic components of the term "jamband." Where the majority of "jambands" handle the instrumental areas with agility, they are often unable to combine the extended improvisations with good song structure and vocals, but RAQ has found a way to do so. The four-piece outfit has often been compared to the other Vermont jamsters, Phish, which was understandable when RAQ first appeared on the scene with their original lineup and repertoire of Phish covers. Now they are striving to develop their own sound with added progressive rock stylings, clever lyrics, and outstanding musicianship.
Chris Michetti :: RAQ :: 2.25.05 :: San Francisco, CA
The lead guitar player Chris Michetti, whose sound and mannerisms are still somewhat reminiscent of Trey Anastasio, is technically outstanding as a guitarist as his quick fingers dance over the fret board of his Fender. Keyboard player Todd Stoops has really grown into his role as a songwriter and singer with the band. He was playing at least six keyboards in San Francisco including an electric Hammond and assorted synths as well. In addition to his skills on the keys, his animated persona was also a delight to watch. The bass is manhandled by Jay Burwick, who keeps the beat driving and was able to add pleasant vocals too. Most improved is the steady drumming of Greg Stuckey, who looks to have buffed up in the past few years. Both rhythm players lay down a solid backbone over which Stoops and Michetti are allowed to soar, and they take every opportunity to do so. The band has plans to take a break from touring and return to the studio this summer to record their next album.
Opening strong with "Beauregard," off of their excellent 2004 CD, Carbohydrates, the band powered its way through the first set. A cool cover of Frank Zappa's "Trouble Everyday" and a new tune, the tasty Asian flavored "Japan," complemented other fine versions of RAQ live standards like the quirky and complex "Hannah Can" and "Crazy Tonie."
Todd Stoops :: RAQ :: 2.25.05 :: San Francisco, CA
The sexual innuendo silliness of "Donkey Show" opened the second set, followed by the anthem-like "Carbohydrates Are The Enemy." RAQ then whipped out a sped-up version of The Beatle's "Lovely Rita." "City Funk" was well, very funky, and then the other new tune of the evening, the joyful "Walking in Circles," was also performed impressively. Unfortunately, the second set had been shortened due to time constraints and curfew. Making the most of their remaining stage time, RAQ closed out with a ripping version of ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses," complete with a nod to the Grateful Dead with an extended "Chinacat/Sunflower" middle segment. Then, the band returned for a quick encore of the Allman Brothers Band's driving classic, "Whipping Post."
Based on the music this band makes it's unfair that the comparisons to Phish are still dominating the RAQ conversation. A closer listen will reveal a band that does its own thing, does it really well, and has a lot of fun doing it. So what if they emulate their musical heroes a bit? If you like the harder guitar-driven rock of moe., Umphrey's McGee, or The Breakfast, RAQ should be just your cup of tea. Catch them when they RAQ into your town.
Stuck in a Hole
Trouble Everyday (Zappa)
Forget Me Not
Said & Done
Carbohydrates Are The Enemy
Lovely Rita (Beatles)
Walking in Circles
Cheap Sunglasses (ZZ Top) (w/ China Cat Sunflower tease)
Encore: Whipping Post (ABB)
Words & Images by: Susan J. Weiand
JamBase | San Francisco
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