Thursday, March 16, 2006

Headlights Still Shining In My Brain

Greetings and salutations.

Nothing like waiting until the last possible second. Under pressure, true creativity is said to thrive, and that is what I kept telling myself when I decided to wait until last night to check out this week’s artist, Half Moon. Yes, there were actually numerous exciting live activities this past weekend. No, I didn’t find the human energy to make it out to any of them. Yes, there were notable shows in the early part of the work week. Didn’t go to those either.

After taking a short breather, I decided on Monday that I’d pay a visit to Half Moon and leave myself as little time as possible to write an interesting and informative commentary. When I think about it, it occurs to me that I could’ve just as easily seen them later this weekend and given myself more time by reviewing someone else this week. Why am I telling you all of this? So that in the event you enjoy what you read, you’ll have enough additional information about my personal struggle to truly appreciate how awesome I really am.

Assuming you’re a longtime reader of my column (how long have I been doing this, now?), you’ll recall that I don’t naturally gravitate toward jam bands. Not that I don’t enjoy the spirit of spontaneity or admire the strong improvisational skills. Spread over a few hours, some of the more inspired artists can happen upon pure genius, going off into their own world and making some pretty profound musical statements along the way. While you probably won’t confuse them with the Grateful Dead, their sound would no doubt make Garcia proud. Often up tempo but rarely at a pure drive, they add flavor to a relaxed rhythm and blues foundation with folk/rock guitar, swinging bass groove, and soulful horns. Their two (yes, two) drummers flirt with jazz percussion and add a touch of classic rock ‘n roll to turn the bassist’s thumb-snapping walks into full fledged bounce.

On paper, I’d expect such a thing to sound like a mess. Every member seems to be doing something entirely different, meaning much less overlap and leaving a lot less room for error. Since the quality of talent can vary greatly in a genre that does not adhere to the normal music-making rules of expectancy and resolution (the opening and closing of each musical idea with the notes that your head tells you are right), you’ll often find that groups tend to jam by breaking off one or two members at a time. Taking turns at individual improvisation is usually the safer form of fusion, but Half Moon don’t appear to care. Their drummers are seamless and entirely complimentary of one another (at least onstage). The guitarist and bassist groove around each other, and the horns come across surprisingly mild, lending just enough Southern-style tone to be distinct.

In the end, the group’s impressive chemistry and relaxed performance style allowed even a curmudgeon like myself to have a good time, and that’s saying something. I get letters from people all the time who read the column and ask why in the hell someone so negative bothers to even go outside, let alone to review a band he expects might bore him to tears. One word, folks: Paxil. But even unmedicated, Half Moon put on a worthwhile show, with tunes that hold up whether you appreciate each note or just want to take pleasure in a casual listen.

That’s all for this week. Much to discuss in the next installment, including the offer I posted several days ago about doing an interview. Several local acts have expressed interest in taking part, and I think it might be an interesting experience. Anyway, thanks for reading, and do keep those letters coming. We’ll be opening the mailbag again pretty shortly, and who knows…next week I might even post on time. Until next we meet…

- The Phantom