A late December, cool, breezy Thursday night in Central Florida. A perfect setting for a free show, right?
Ok, so technically, this wasn’t a free show, but I know our entire crew (which is somewhere in the 20 range) were offered free tickets via The Plaza Live in the week leading up to it. I mean…we’re pretty awesome, but by all accounts, we weren’t the only ones to score legit freebies. Therein lies what makes being a jam music fan in Orlando so great…yet so difficult. The fan base just doesn’t have the concentration of most major cities of similar size, so we get skipped. A lot. But when we do get a show, we get it in a smaller venue than most others and you’re usually not fighting for dance space. We also have a really great underground jam scene rooted heavily in rock, funk, jazz and improv (just to name a few: Shak Nasti, Thomas Wynn & The Believers, The Groove Orient, Leisure Chief) so even though our numbers are small, I feel like our scene is very appreciative and knowledgable. Ok. Stepping off the soapbox. Let’s get to the show!
Hometown boys, The Heavy Pets, (well…Ft. Lauderdale) started things off with their Beatles tribute “Walrus”, which they debuted back in October at their 10th anniversary shows . I love the fact that they decided to bring this back for the couple shows they’re playing with Pink Talking Fish. If we’re in for a night of covers as it is, let’s REALLY make it a night of covers.
Overall impression of the set, for me, centers around a heavy appreciation for how they treated these classic songs. They didn’t try and sound like the Beatles. They took the songs and played them like The Heavy Pets, which is exactly how they should have gone about it. Prime examples being their reggae/funk styled version of “Hey Jude” and an absolutely stunning electro-styled take on “Tomorrow Never Knows” which morphed its way out of a post “Day Tripper” jam. Fittingly, “I Am The Walrus” closed out their set and we took a VERY short set break.
Now, I reference the short break because it was probably the shortest break I had ever experienced between 2 bands. I had barely even gotten a chance to grab a beer and chat with a few friends in the lobby (beer/alcohol sales are in the outside lobby only at The Plaza) when I unexpectedly hear “Girlfriend Is Better” coming from the theater.
Before I get into the show proper, I have to muse on about Pink Talking Fish for just a bit. How in the hell nobody has ever thought of combining these 3 bands into one cohesive (as they call it) “Hybrid-Tribute-Fusion-Act” is totally beyond my comprehension. It just makes so much sense. I mean, Pink Floyd and Talking Heads don’t necessarily share many (if any) parallels, but when you throw Phish into the mix, it all just comes together. They are the common thread for obvious (and non-obvious) reasons. Phish covers songs from both bands, most notably their Remain In Light Halloween ’96 musical costume and Dark Side of the Moon surprise to a half sold out Utah crowd on 11/2/98; but more so, they take heavy influence from both bands in their own songwriting/jamming styles. Floyd, with their intricate, grandiose early composition style and the Heads with their rhythmic, textured, danceable song design. It really is brilliant how these 4 musicians have taken total ownership of what appears to be ENTIRE catalogs of these 3 bands and pulls it all off in 1 cohesive live performance.
PTF’s jamming style definitely trends toward Phish. Zack Burwick (drums) and Dave Brunyak (guitar) played in a Phish tribute band out of New England called “The Phreaks” before PTF. And I have to say, Brunyak channels Trey in a way that I don’t think I’ve seen from anyone else. The dude has the Jedi’s licks DOWN. Now, this is not to say that every jam is a Phish copycat. They definitely inject their own personalities into the non-composed spaces. Founding member Eric Gould was the original bassist of Particle, so I can definitely hear that Jamtronic style creep in there a bit. Of the 4, I’d say that keyboardist, Richard James does the most in the way of bringing that textured, Talking Heads feel into the jamming while keeping that etherial, Richard Wright tone that was so key in Floyd’s sound.
As far as Thursday’s show goes, 2001 was as funky of a get-down as I’ve ever heard (complete with “Give It To Me Baby”, “Thriller” and “Careful with that Axe, Eugene” teases); a masterful rendition of “Dogs” (which went incomplete until the end of the set…more on this a bit); an out of nowhere transition out of “Psycho Killer” back into the “lone note” section of “Divided Sky”; a BRILLIANT placement of “Lengthwise” in the middle of the “One Of These Days” intro; and a RAGING encore of “Crosseyed and Painless” and “Tweezer Reprise” with The Heavy Pets’ Jeff Lloyd (guitar), Jamie Newitt (percussion) and Robert Smiley (saxophone) joining in on the jam. Those who frequent my blog, understand my love of “Crosseyed“, so yes. I lost my proverbial shit when they decided to return to the stage with that.
Aside from the truly remarkable musicianship of this band, what really impressed me the most was how they weave a setlist together. I mean, this thing reads like an oh so wonderful fever dream swimming around the head of a hippie. A “Run Like Hell”/”Moonrocks” sandwich. “Dogs” meandering their way into “Burning Down The House” and not coming back until the waning notes of the set closing “Tweezer”. Just amazing.
Say what you want about bands playing other people’s music, but as far as I’m concerned, you can take your music snobbery elsewhere and I’ll get down with my bad self. A night of the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish all played by world class musicians? Yes please!
December 17th, 2015
The Plaza Live
Pink Talking Fish Setlist:
Girlfriend Is Better>
Run Like Hell>
Run Like Hell
Burning Down The House
One Of These Days>
One Of These Days>
Crosseyed And Painless**>
*w/ Give It To Me Baby, Thriller and Careful with that Axe, Eugene teases
**w/ Jeff Lloyd on guitar, Jamie Newitt on percussion and Robert Smiley on saxophone