March 2005                  back

Floetry : March 28th at S.O.B.'s (Sounds of Brazil)

  Marcia Ambrosius                               Natalie Stewart

I've been aware of Floetry for about the last two years, but not so familiar that I'd call myself a fan. It's safe to say that by the end of this show you could officially describe me as a big fan. This was one of the most fun shows I've attended lately.

Floetry is a neo-soul duo originally from The UK who now call Philadelphia home. Listening to their show, it was hard to believe they didn't grow up in Philadelphia. Their music is a unique, and very American sounding, fusion of soulful ballads, funk, rock, reggae with a fair share of spoken word and hip-hop influence. Marcia is an amazing singer and Natalie handles more of the hip-hop end of the performance, but it's the blending of the different schools that makes their sound so original.

They've written songs for numerous other artists including Michael Jackson, The Roots and Jill Scott, several of which received Grammy nominations, but have spent the last few years concentrating more on Floetry.  Their 2003 CD, Floetic, also received a Grammy nomination and their next CD is due out soon.

The show started with two percussionists, keyboard and bass player pounding out a frantic driving beat that got everyone's adrenaline pumping until Marcia and Natalie finally took the stage and the whole room exploded with pleasure. From the moment they took the stage, there was a positive vibe permeating the room. People danced, drank and sang along with the familiar songs. I'll no doubt be seeing this group again and next time I'll also know the words.

With such good feelings in the air, it was inevitable that I'd smooze with a number of people, a few of which were artist Kymm, lawyer Julie, camera guy, big guy and aspiring singer Salina. My friend Joseph says that when he's in a situation where he needs to approach a stranger, he sometimes asks himself "How would Bill do this?" Good music does tend to bring out my sociable side. Between the music, the people and the ambiance there was no way not to have a great time at this show.

S.O.B.'s  has a Caribbean theme with palm trees, bamboo shutters and a Caribbean menu, but the 85 degree temperature may have been a little too authentic!  Otherwise, it's a nice club with good food and I'll be back in a few weeks to see Zap Mama. 

 

Aqualung : March 21st at Bowery Ballroom

About two months ago I saw that a group called Aqualung was playing at Joe's Pub. My first reaction was surprise that a Jethro Tull cover band would be booked at Joe's Pub. Then I discovered that this Aqualung was actually British singer songwriter Matt Hales whose music is most commonly compared to Coldplay, and whose haunting song Strange and Beautiful was used in a Volkswagon commercial. The various blurbs that I read definitely made me curious and I might have gone to Joe's Pub except that I already had tickets for Habib Koite the same night.

Fast forward about one month. As a member of public radio station, WFUV, I'm eligible for free tickets once a month from their ticket hotline. I was calling the hotline regularly, hoping to get free tickets for either The Finn Brothers at The Canal Room or Van Morrison at The Supper Club. Neither show was offered, but then one day Aqualung at The Bowery Ballroom was offered. I try to use the ticket hotline to either explore new artists, save money on tickets that might be expensive or for shows that are sold out. As my first two show choices faded into the sunset, Aqualung seemed like an intriguing alternative.

Aqualung's songs were catchy and moody with lots of palpable emotion, so the comparisons to Coldplay are somewhat obvious, but  Brighter Than Sunshine was very Beatlesque, reminding me of I Am The Walrus, and at other times I was reminded of Cousteau, one of my recent favorites who, by amazing coincidence, also had a song in a car commercial this past year.

With Matt Hales on keyboard and vocals and his brother Ben on guitar and backup vocals, I was surprised by the full rich sound generated from a cast of two. I should add that Matt does a better job of singing in key than Chris Martin of Coldplay, who's voice does have a tendency to wander.

Halfway thru the set my friend Mabelle asked what I thought of the show. I said that they sound good and the songs have a lot of emotion, but I don't know if I'll run out and buy the CD.  But I may have been wrong. The songs have stayed with me long after the show and I may have to take a trip to Barnes and Noble and give them another listen. 

The stage was too dimly lit for any good pictures, so I lifted the picture above from Aqualung.net.

 

Vance Gilbert : March 5th The Forum Theater (Metuchen, NJ)

Attend a Vance Gilbert concert and you may leave with the feeling of having witnessed a schizophrenic episode.  This is due to the fact that within Vance's mind and body reside a jazz and blues musician, a folk singer, a storyteller, a comic and an evil twin that he manages to keep in check most of the time.

He actually began this performance with a 10 minute monologue that had the audience literally doubled over with laughter and wiping tears from their eyes.  As near as I could tell, it was all ad-libbed.  He poked fun at each individual black person in the audience, singled out several children for embarrassment and added that since this is a family show, there'll be no swearing or sh*t like that.  He briefly adopted a goofy persona and thanked all 15 people for coming (actually about 100) and said one day he'll fill the Forum Theatre because he's been practicing and he's getting better.  I should mention that the crowd might have been somewhat diminished by the fact that Toshi Reagon was performing the same night about two hundred yards down the road at a "Women Helping Women" benefit. (Apparently Metuchen is happening!)

Just when some of the audience might have started to think that this guy was more of a comedian than musician, he broke into a jaw dropping version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come".  By the end of that song, anyone with any doubts knew they were seeing an extraordinary performer.

His two sets included a handful of songs from his new CD, Unfamiliar Moon, along with selected songs from previous CD's and several covers including a slowed down Save The Last Dance For Me and a jazzy finger picking version of Jimi Hendrix' Castles in the Sand.  He also played a little bit of a song called Emily which segued into a beautiful and moving version of Never Never Land for a little girl named Emily in the front row.

Our $8 tickets also included a free reception at Casa Marianna's down the block.  The last time $8 went that far, Sam Cooke had just written A Change Is Gonna Come.  At the reception, we chatted with several attendees of the concert along with Dee from www.njtheatrealliance.org  who helped sponsor the event, and Vance, who's first manager turns out to be our friend Rex Fowler from Aztec Two-Step.  At the theatre, we also met a guy named Greg who's involved with a website vaguely similar to this one.  It's at www.pressedmusic.com

If you went to the movies tonight, you may have seen a really good movie, but you spent more money than me and didn't have wine and hors d'oeuvres!