The Blue Method :: 12.13.08 :: Zene’s Pub :: State College, PA
A humble $5 cover granted access to an all-out frenzy of funk at Zeno’s Pub, a tiny venue that could hardly contain The Blue Method’s feel good energy. Built in a small, low-ceilinged basement, Zeno’s has great acoustics. So great in fact, The Blue Method recorded a live album here last summer. Over the past few years, they’ve garnered a vivacious following here in Pennsylvania’s largest college town, and it seemed every last one of them packed into the bar for this performance, making the evening a lively – albeit sweaty and crowded – affair.
After a simple drumstick four-count, The Blue Method plunged full-force into a decidedly funky interpretation of Hendrix’s “The Power of Soul.” While lead guitarist Mike Patriarca couldn’t replicate Jimi’s guitar work exactly, he scorched the fretboard with a style all his own. And once Brian Williams spread his monitor-overdriving vocals atop the granite-solid foundation provided by the rest of the band, all discrepancies were easily forgiven. Next up was James Brown’s “Hot Pants.” They played this funk standard so well, so incredibly tight, The Godfather himself would be proud to know his music was in the hands of such capable stewards. For this tune, Williams and rhythm guitarist Tom Long picked up the horns, and The Blue Method unleashed their full fury. There’s no garnish more musically delicious than some crisp horn work, and when the explosive timbre of harmonized sax and trumpet sang through the air, I swear my mouth watered. It’s hard to tell whether Williams squeezed more soul juice from his trumpet or from his voice. But either way, his towering presence filled the room, vibrating beer glasses in the farthest corners.
I’d estimate each of their songs to have been in excess of 10 minutes in length, so I guess you’d toss “jam band” into The Blue Method’s mash-up of styles, though none of their jams felt protracted or repetitive. They always found a way to keep them fresh, whether through audience call-and-response, snappy horns or solid riff progressions. Also, Long’s soaring sax solos kept things interesting. I’d say this is one of the more enjoyable facets of The Blue Method’s sound. The guy can play with a virtuoso’s command.
Early on, I felt the phenomenal synergy between bassist Rah Sungee and drummer Theron Shelton. The two are so keyed into each other, so firmly locked into the same groove, you’d need a crowbar to pry them apart. So, during the second set, when they played an incredible drum and bass duet, things got crazy. Like I said, the two are bolted together, and when it’s their time to shine, they shine like a binary star, the light of each fusing to form one brilliant, white-hot beacon of beat.
By this time the floor was sticky with a night’s worth of spilled booze. Even so, not a single foot was stuck, at any point, to the tiles. People shimmied and jived with a lightness of spirit, under the irresistible influence of this wonderful band. I don’t like to classify The Blue Method as a mere bar band. The association is degrading. But at the same time, that’s what they are: a band that plays a lot of covers in mostly small bars. Sure, they have two albums of original material, and yes, they do make it out to some notable festivals and larger venues; but really, I can’t imagine a more perfect venue for this band. They truly thrive in intimate settings, where every spot is close and no fan is out of reach. And should they ever graduate to larger venues, Philly’s best-kept musical secret would be lost.
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