Review: Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band In Brooklyn

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Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band :: 12.12.15 :: Trans Pecos :: Brooklyn, NY

When navigating the challenging labyrinth of live music options in New York City, it’s always good to have some well-trusted landmarks. One way I always know I’m likely in the right place is when NYCTaper is in the house: when he (or one of his crew) is at the same show as me I know that a) the show is usually going to be pretty great and b) an excellent recording will soon be freely available for future enjoyment. Of course, this is all pretty easy when NYCTaper is actually promoting the show as was the case Saturday night at Trans Pecos for Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band. Settling in at the Ridgewood performance space, I think everyone in attendance knew they were in the right place.

Opening the night was Herbcraft, a deep-space guitar-bass-drums trio from Portland, Maine. Their set was a 45-minute, non-stop soundscape with multiple movements and plenty of head-first excursions. They combined tribal-hypnotic drum rhythms, McCartney-bop bass and long-reaching guitar solos that went from soaring to explosive to introspective and back again. I’m sure there were songs involved, but the set played out like a single shape-shifting entity that was a perfect mood- enhancer for the headliner set.

Forsyth and his quartet needed little time to get comfortable, making themselves at home in Trans Pecos’ welcoming suburban-living-room chic surroundings: the perfect vibe for their instrumental freak-outs. Their opening number featured synthetic loops and organic guitar-crunch, Forsyth’s guitar blasted a psychotic Stevie Ray intro before the rest of the band pounced on the jam’s themes into a heady rock out section. “The Ballad of Freer Hollow” off last year’s Intensity Ghost album showed off his sonic range even more, from exotic to runaway 18-wheeler to Dickey- Betts-circa-Fillmore-East over the course of the jam.

In lieu of standard banter, Forsyth has canned samples of other rock stars’ banter, typically from the 1960 classic rock/psychedelic heyday from which his own sound has its roots, which he plays between songs. So instead of forced jokes, you get juxtaposed echoes from CSN or The Who shows from days of yore. And since long jams were the theme of the evening, the centerpiece of the set was an extended medley that started with the twist-tie composition of “Paranoid Cat” before opening into a series of “wow!” moments. The band seemed to have internal GPS and clock synchronization, going far-flung and then very far-flung before rendezvousing at the agreed upon spot before venturing out again and again and again. Eventually this came back into a portion of Forsyth’s Solar Motel suite, slide guitar and gonzo bass giving a “Bay area 1969” feel to deep-borough NYC mid 2010s.

With a new double album coming out early next year, the show finished with two new ones both extending the Solar Motel sound along different axes: “The First Ten Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” was an afro-groove transmutation complete with bongos and alien effects and the sharply contrasting “Boston Street Lullaby” which combined jazz chords and gentle Garcia guitar meditations into a lovely relaxation exercise and a soft landing for a high-flying evening. From the sounds of it, the new Chris Forsyth album will be well worth checking out when it’s released.

In the meantime, I assure you that Saturday night’s excellent show was recorded.