Finger Lickin Good, Mt. Tabor Theater, Portland, OR 6/12
Tuesday nights in Portland, as I would guess is similar in most cities, is the not the most happenin’ night for live music and for smaller bands simply trying to get time in playing in the larger clubs, Tuesdays can be a most difficult night to please a crowd; especially if they’re even lucky enough to get one. On this Tuesday, Finger Lickin’ Good brought 50 of they’re closest fans together and took full advantage of a great stage and their time in the limelight by treating those in the house to a night of deviously fun music.
They were preceded by the band Triple Bypass, a hybrid group composed of several members of Finger Lickin’ Good including the lead guitar, bass and drums and were joined by a second guitarist and singer. Triple Bypass, if anything is hippy punk, maybe only because I have a slight insight into the sound of Finger Lickin’ Good, with their ska-versions of “Cavern” and memorable covers of a few Allman Brothers songs, as being more granola-oriented. Heavy on searing, distored guitars, a solid, driving bass-drum combo and capped with a vocalist along the lines of a thrash screamer, Triple Bypass is an exploration of the music these guys were listening to before they ever reached into the hippy scene. They overwhelmed the small crowd in the room with their tribute to the earlier days of punk and thrash, including a highlight Black Flag cover and were great testament to the various roots of this generation of musicians. Only in 2001 could one find a jammy hippy willing to get onstage and reach back and rock to many people’s teen-age roots of punk, metal and thrash.
After Triple Bypass traded the second guitar player and singer for keyboards, Finger Lickin’ Good had been assembled and the music took a turn. An eclectic mix of ska, classic rock, and smooth jazz-jam riffs, Finger Lickin’ Good is a sort-of melting pot of 1980’s and 1990’s rock and roll. The aforementioned version of Phish’s “Cavern” is the most notable example; in this form the song takes on a completely new meaning and upon listening one cannot help but grin. Several of the bands original songs also expand on their variety of roots, songs such as “Slight Breeze” which reaches into the urban funk of get-up-and-groove music, and the multi-layered compositional song “Wheels.” While a bit a rough-around-the-edges as unit, each member clearly displayed some serious skill as a musician, most notably Cal Farris and The Humongous Dougie Pain (aka Doug Mateer) tag-teaming the bottom line on bass and drums respectively. Borfus Wallaby (yes that’s his real name) drove a multi-lingual piece of machinery on guitar, surprising the listener at each turn as he quickly moves from light jazzy runs to searing tag-lines that the metal enthusiasts in the house could enjoy. All the while Kevin McKennon painted a light breezy layer of notes over the top of it all on his keys to complete the stew of sound.
The flavor of jam that Finger Lickin’ Good spreads is still new and one that has yet to be defined, caught somewhere between Steely Dan and the Dance Hall Crashers. But given the skill of each player and an obvious willingness to try something different the band has much to build on. And the fifty or so people at Mt. Tabor that night stand as testament to interested ears, a swell of ground support for a band that is only in the early stages of its development.