Farewell To Matt McDonald at Amberland
Over Memorial Day weekend, Perpetual Groove held its annual festival, Amberland. In its ninth incarnation, the festival returned for its second year to Cherokee Farms in Lafayette, GA. The weekend also represented the final performances for keyboard player Matt McDonald, who will be leaving the road in exchange for more time with his family.
Beginning Friday night with a stripped-down, in-the-round setup, Brock Butler, Matt Adam Perry, Albert Suttle and McDonald played songs that spanned this lineups seven years, and three studio albums together, including: Perihelion, Andromeda, as well as a rare cover of Rage Against the Machines Bulls on Parade.
Saturday saw the festivities move to the main stage for three, full sets by the band. The afternoon sunshine welcomed the sounds of Paul Simons Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, as well as such longtime staples from the band’s catalog as TSMM and All This Everything (Parts 1 & 2).
As nighttime fell, Perpteual Groove offered up a series of rousing numbers and fan-favorites like Decepticon Structure, Occams Blazer, Three Weeks and Teakwood Betz. A free-styling Butler also showcased his hip-hop hooks during a version of Macumba in which he sported a vintage leather jacket from the infamous, Atlanta gentlemens club, The Gold Club.
The late night set saw a return to the in-the-round stage, which perhaps offered a glimpse into McDonalds future with a 40-minute, PA set from his laptop, which included remixes of Nine Inch Nails and others. PGroove then capped off the evening with an acoustic performance covering The Disco Biscuits Home Again, STS9s Breathe In, the theme from the Sopranos and a closing This Must be the Place (Na Melody), by The Talking Heads, which had band and crowd singing along in unison.
Sunday morning started at 10am, with Butler offering his annual Brockfast set. Stretching over two hours, Butler ran through many favorites, including Under African Skies, Steely Dans Do it Again, a Broken Social Scene medley, and an amusing take on Snoop Dogs Gin & Juice. Butler was also joined at points throughout the set by friends Ayinde Bryanton bass and Brian Rivercomb, the latter who originally played in Butlers high school band, The Corporate Sugardaddies.
The band then launched into its final three sets of the weekend, one of which focused on Pink Floyd, with highlights including Mother’ and Have A Cigar. Brain Damage/Eclipse featured Perrys brother, Damien, who has been a regular guest at past Amberlands.
For his final send-off, McDonald and company scorched through numbers spanning his career with the band from Sundog (ironically enough with a giant tent which caught on fire in the background), It Starts Where It Ends, a poignant reminder of the looming events, and TTFPJ, complete with a Sarah Michelle Geller/Buffy The Vampire, life size, cut-out on stage for the comical refrain, Banging Buffys Muff! Banging Buffys Muff!
The encore was a special treat, and was visibly moving for longtime fans as well as the band itself. From the first time cover of Modest Mouses Float On, to the extended piano breakdown in arguably the bands most moving number, Sweet Oblivious Antidote, McDonald and his brothers held their heads high and finished with an extremely spirited version of Robot Waltz, a tune McDonalds patented swirls of sonic sound have helped characterized over the years, and some feel may be shelved from the repertoire forever. Report by Brian Bavosa