Words & Images by Richard Clarke
RAQ :: 10.18.05 :: Surf Cafe :: Boca Raton, FL
I am not a meteorologist, but the temperature definitely rose when RAQ hit the stage at the Surf Cafe in Boca Raton. I love a band that likes playing so much that they start early, and that's exactly what these guys from Vermont did, nailing an impressive version of the Jeff Beck classic "Led Boots" to start the first set. The rhythm section, consisting of Greg Stukey (drums) and Jay Burwick (bass, vocals), laid out a thick funky groove that immediately grabbed the audience's attention, and once they had it, they did not let go. The interplay of Chris Michetti (guitar, vocals) and Todd Stoops (keyboards, vocals) was enthralling, and the band treated the Beck piece with an amazing attention to detail. The funk kept rolling with "The Down Low," which offered the audience the first taste of the band's vocals. RAQ displayed strong vocal abilities that bands with their caliber of musicianship frequently lack or overlook. Michetti, Stoops, and Burwick all share lead vocal roles and harmonize exceptionally well with what seems like genuine jubilation.
Burwick & Michetti - RAQ :: 10.18 :: Boca Raton, FL
I also enjoy a band that throws in some cover material, and I especially like a band that tackles challenging music from prestigious artists. Such is the case with RAQ. After blowing me away with the Beck song, they crushed a great rendition of Billy Cobham's "Strattus." The show went back to the RAQ material with "Chuck," which segued into the multi-tempo "Shirley Be a Drooler." This sequence featured some intense keyboard wizardry from Stoops who applied some thumping low-end bombs that thickened up the already rich bass at the same time wailing some wicked synth leads before the jam spiraled back to "Chuck." The tempo continued to jump and bubble throughout "Japan." With intricate guitar and keyboards layered over craftily applied Asian-inspired rhythms, the piece soared and descended in a dizzying euphony of sound. And the classic Allman Brothers "Whipping Post" was sandwiched inside "Brother from Another Mother." RAQ cranked some Frank, breaking out Zappa's "Trouble Everyday," another challenging cover song. The first set ended with "Bootch Magoo," which was loaded with pumping organ, soaring synth leads, and a fantastic piano-guitar exchange.
Stukey - RAQ :: 10.18 :: Boca Raton, FL
It was about five minutes into the set break when I could hear Stoops saying to his band mates, "We should play. Let's start." And with that the pumped-up rock quartet stepped back onstage and unleashed an epic "Walkin in Circles" that featured great vocals and amusing lyrics. You could not see any of the band members' lips move during "Ventriloquist" because it was an instrumental funk-jam spree. "Botz," translated from Italian as "Crazy," is one of RAQ's newer tunes and is a song that really gets audiences going. A spirited version of "Havah Nagilah" infiltrated "Stuck in Hole." Another siege of sound ensued with "Will Run" that melded into "Massive," and it was nothing short of epic.
About five minutes before the Surf Café's scheduled closing time, the crowd erupted and RAQ responded with "Hannah Can" from the CD Carbohydrates as an encore. I could tell Burwick was trying to be mindful of the time as he sent a signal to his band mates to wrap up the intense jam in which they were immersed (the venue had also turned on the house lights). By now, the inside of the place was an insane frenzy, and RAQ wowed everyone even more (especially the fan who was screaming for it) by playing "Confuzor" from the CD Shed Tech. This tune caused the show to run fifteen minutes past closing time. Gotta love that - RAQ started early and ended late.
Michetti - RAQ :: 10.18 :: Boca Raton, FL
RAQ put on an astounding show. They offered the thrilled South Florida audience great music combined with a newly acquired light array artistically run by road manager TJ, who wears many hats for RAQ in addition to his Yankee's cap.
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