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Published: 2001/10/27
by Dan Alford

Aaron Katz Band, The Lions Den, NYC 10/26

Songwriter and drummer Aaron Katz is on the road
supporting his new solo album, Simplest Warrior.
While the album features mostly new material, the set
also included a good number of familiar Percy Hill
songs, although every tune has been reworked in some
way to show a more aggressive edge. In general the
tunes focused more on the songs themselves than on
jamming, so that Soul Sister clocked in at five
minutes rather than ten or twelve. Nonetheless, there
was great energy on the stage, and both Aaron (playing
acoustic guitar) and John Leccesse, Percy Hill’s
bassist, were all smiles all evening. The other band
members, saxophonist and keyboard player Andy
Gallagher, drummer Pete Koeplin, and guitarist Josh
Pryor, were all tapped into John and Aaron’s
longstanding chemistry. The band was tight, hitting
all the shifts and turns with ease.

A driving version of The Now opened the show. Andy
played a short sax solo where Nate’s organ would be,
and filled such spots in the same way throughout the
evening. A new Chrissy Reid followed. Pete played
with padded sticks, creating a loose, jungle vibe.
Although the vocal arrangement remained the same, the
instrumental shift infused the tune with new vitality. Radio Line Saviour was the first of many new songs.
Although much livelier than the brooding version on
the album, it was still moody. Josh had some fine
licks, playing guitar that sounds like clavinet.

With Stadium, the band hit the first jam tune of the
night. A dancehall groove began, wobbles and
stretched notes accenting the movement. A nice organ
line grounded the central jam, although in general the
keys were too low in the mix. Again Josh ran over the
bouncing bass with a distorted solo, bringing the song
to a bright peak before the final verses.

In the middle of the set the band performed Cycles, a
brand new song. On first listen, it seemed part of
Aaron’s environmental suite. It stretched back to
contemplate prehistoric footsteps and "sacred shores",
closing with an extended space jam that had everyone
bending notes and shaking their instruments. It was
more reminiscent of Pink Floyd than a Bay Area
meltdown, and after the show I found that Aaron is
very excited about this new direction.

Some other highlights included slick versions of
Ammonium Maze and Slave (Self-Promoted). The acoustic
intro on the former was fantastic, as was Andy’s sax
work. The latter differed greatly from other slinky
acoustic versions, emphasizing the ideas of oppressive
routines addressed therein with incredible vocals and
a nice bass solo from John. Aubade included an
extended end segment, complete with vocals draped over
a slick guitar solo. It filled the void I’ve always
felt plagued the song.

A short second set included a solo Soggy Weather Skunk
that allowed Aaron to toy with vocal percussion. Soul
Sister also made an appearance, the vocals and bass
both standing out. Chlorine Christmas, however, stole
the set. A very catchy tune, it is a prime example of
Aaron’s talents. Intelligent compositionally as it is
lyrically, the solid backbeat and power chords
describe the road to the chorus. "According to what
they say we’re doomed/ according to prophecy/ at this
rate my children will be skating on desert sands/ turn
up the air condition/ break out the Evertan" It is
that type of stylish critique, coupled with the
precision of the band, that gives this new unit such
potential. The music is able to cross boundaries and
appeal to a variety of audiences. I would not be
surprised if this band really takes off.

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