Words by Forrest Reda :: Images by Earl Gardner
Particle :: 02.24.06 :: Henry Fonda Theatre :: Los Angeles, CA
Scott Metzger of Particle
02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
A few weeks after Particle's last gig on board the floating festival Xingolati, a reporter at the Vegoose press conference asked Trey Anastasio the reason he was playing with a second guitarist (Les Hall) in his new band, 70 Volt Parade. Trey replied that it was because of how much he liked the sound of a band with two guitars and pointed out that Phish began with two guitarists.
Veteran rockers moe. and rising stars Umphrey's McGee also incorporate two guitar attacks, to great effect. So maybe it wasn't that much of a surprise that Particle introduced not one, but two guitarists to the lineup, adding Ben Combe formerly from the Phoenix band Badshoe and Scott Metzger of Brooklyn's RANA.
Most bands pull out the stops for farewell shows, but Particle is not your typical band. With DJ Logic, Robbie Krieger (The Doors), and Joe Satriani slated as guests for the "Transformation" show, it was sure to be an interesting night in Hollywood.
Gould & Combe :: Particle :: 02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
DJ Logic got the vibe rolling at the Henry Fonda Theater, which was adorned for the occasion with Burning Man-inspired decorations, including two sets of writhing performers in alcoves on either side of the stage. The eye and ear candy set the mood for the evening, and as the curtains fell, the capacity crowd pushed towards the stage.
A spotlight showed the typical Particle setup, plus two guitars and three microphones set up on the stage. Drummer Darren Pujalet was the first to walk to his spot, taking a deep breath and getting the music started with a few bangs of his toms.
Krieger & Molitz :: 02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
Bassist Eric Gould was next, easing into his bass guitar with some guttural shudders that shook the balcony. Steve Molitz strode into his array of keyboards, nodded to the crowd, and the energy of the band began to increase.
When the two guitarists emerged together, they were obscure enough to cause discussion, but obviously known by some of the fans, who applauded with excitement.
As a litmus test, the very first song "Give" featured not only the two new players' voices, but also Gould's and Molitz's. Granted, they were just singing "LA, LA, LA, LA, LA" in kind of a "Norwegian Wood" cadence, but they were in concert and it was catchy enough to draw in the crowd.
Particle :: 02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
After playing the new song, the band played three Particle standards, giving the crowd a chance to hear the new guys play the old stuff. Whether it's the material or the fact that the guys were excited to jam, the band had a tendency to peak right away, like Particle of old. However, the twin guitarists were carving through their scales instead of shredding the music. Textures stood out as the players coagulated the tones of their instruments.
After shaking off the rust, the band introduced Robbie Krieger. Having the guitarist from The Doors, one of the greatest bands to ever come out of LA, definitely added to the coolness factor, and Krieger can still work the frets. Playing guitar has got to be good for the soul. Krieger sounded like a young ace, adding soul-jazz guitar to the mix.
Krieger, Pujalet, Metzger :: 02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
After jamming through "Metropolis" with Krieger, Metzger put down his guitar and belted out "LA Woman." While standing next to someone who was there with Jim at the Whiskey, Metzger nailed the song. Instead of hamming it up, he sang it like Morrison might have at an early Doors performance - a little timid, his voice doing the posturing, even sneaking off to puff a cigarette during the instrumental break.
By nature, Particle's material is loose. There were times during the first set when Particle seemed like an out-of-control train, but there were no wrecks. Molitz is a master at riding out the steep sections, and he tends to control the action on his keyboards.
Combe & Gift of Gab :: 02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
After a well-played new song called "It's So Hard (Believe Me)," the band focused the wild energy of the first set and put the pedal down with "The Elevator." Then things got even more fun as The Gift of Gab from Blackalicious and a DJ joined the band for "Excellent," which got the crowd excited. From there The Fonda erupted as the band segued into Beck's "E-Pro." Molitz handled the rapping duties, turning in a performance just as impressive as Metzger's "LA Woman."
Steve Molitz - Particle :: 02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
The covers were certainly a high-point of the night, but the new material is very impressive. Combe and Metzger are loose guitarists who can also be very precise when the music demands. For not having played together that long, they complemented each other and the band extremely well. Two guitarists lessens the pressure for one person to carry the load, and it's a light load because Steve Molitz is such a force behind the keys. In the second set, there were a few moments when he was the only one playing, in one instance channeling Page McConnell's "Squirming Coil" coda to the crowd's delight.
That's not to say that Particle was just mimicking Phish. The up-tempo style the band is known for is still very much present, but the band has developed patience with the music.
Combe & Satriani :: 02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
Particle has never been overtly derivative; the space porn funk with which it first experimented was an innovative attempt to merge genres. There was a heavy element to the guitar in the past that sometimes caused the other musicians to play harder and faster but without direction.
Speaking of heavier guitars, Joe Satriani made his brief appearance memorable by showing off his virtuosity. At times he was leading the other guitarists to dizzying heights, while at other moments he was letting Metzger and Combe show their stuff, nodding and gesturing his appreciation of their ability. When Joe Satriani is giving you props, you are doing OK. He seemed impressed with DJ Logic's ability in the live setting as well, smiling when Logic worked his magic on the song "W."
Combe & Metzger - Particle :: 02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
The show circled back to the beginning with a song called "Thanks," which might be designed to bookend a show with the first song "Give." It sounded similar, with more of the "LA, LA, LA, LA, LA" chant.
For the first encore, Combe and Metzger shared the stage for an acoustic duet, covering "Lucky Man" by The Verve. It was a nice gesture, and it sounded good. Particle is not just a party band any more; however, they can still get the dance floor jumping. Particle is also still a very good cover band, and they closed the night by inviting all the guests back onstage to jam-out Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." Combe handled the vocals with aplomb.
Particle :: 02.24 :: The Fonda, LA
In a great night of music, Particle revealed many of its influences, from Phish and Zappa to Beck and Stevie Wonder. Guest's Robbie Krieger and Joe Satriani added to the show, but it was already solid.
The new transformation of Particle was as much a celebration of the East and West Coasts coming together as a coming-out party for the new and improved Particle. After months of speculation and rumor about its direction, Particle has indeed emerged as a more dynamic band.
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