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Published: 2001/12/26
by Dan Alford

Reid Genauer Band & Aaron Katz Band, The Knitting Factory, NYC- 12/21

It was a family affair at The Knitting Factory on
Friday night when Reid Genauer performed, with Aaron
Katz as the opening act. There is a long standing
friendship and a great deal of brotherly love between
Vermont's Strangefolk camp and New Hampshire's own
Percy Hill, a friendship evidenced by the fact that
Reid's Band consists of not only Adam Terrell and Andy
Herrick, but Percy's John Leccese on bass and Nate
Wilson on keys. John pulls double-duty, as he is also
the bassist for the Aaron Katz Band, which is
returning home from an extended fall tour through the
Midwest and South (which, incidentally, was a much
larger tour than Percy Hill has done in years). As
both Katz and Genauer are prolific songwriters, the
night was filled with focused playing, fantastic
vocals and palpable emotion. Of course, Reid and
Aaron vary greatly in style, the former, bright and
inspirational, the latter, intense and sardonic.
Thus, the pair forms a nicely balanced show that keeps
you moving from start to finish.

I thought I would be the only one at the quirky little
venue south of Canal who wasn't there to see Reid, but
as I chatted with others, I found a bunch of PH fans
that came out to see of the band. While all played
well, it was disappointing that Nate did not join
Aaron on stage, especially when his boards were
already set up and the band played a set heavy with
Percy Hill material. Regardless, the AKB set, about
an hour and 20 minutes or so, was fantastic. All the
roadwork shows, as the band powered through songs with
energy and grace, placing emphasis on structure but
cracking open tunes when appropriate for long guitar
solos or hard sax blowing. They opened with a pair of
rare, older tunes played too infrequently by Percy
Hill. Mural has finally lived up to its potential,
the band working as a single unit to power the song's
reflections. Throughout the set I was struck by how
well the band gelled, everyone falling into place and
no one crowding the sound. The excitement of the
opener was surpassed only by the surprise of the
following Masterful Reminder. The road trip song is a
long time favorite, and a thrill to hear again. The
band had once more rounded out the song, giving it a
larger form and coloring its spaces with quick leads,
drum fills and rhythm beds. The easy groove helped
accentuate the song's intrinsic movement, a bit laid
back, but enthralled nonetheless.

Josh Pryor had a nice solo that also served to stretch
the soundscape. Josh's playing was exceptional
through the entire show. He has a wide array of
effects that allow him to change the tone of his
playing with ease from aggressive fuzz styles to
sinuous tubular sounds to techno organ effects. The
guitar work on Stadium was particularly fine, helping
to create the disco vibe at the outset and end, but
grating in a long central passage, as it was on Make
Believe. Josh slid along with the PH standard,
building a smooth flowing current with pipe organ
effects as Leccese loped along a smooth bass line.

The centerpiece of the set was a driving Soul Sister >
The Now. AKB versions of Soul Sister are definitely
more aggressive than PH versions, changing the
melancholy of the tune into an unfocused, angry
frustration. Aaron added an interesting spot of vocal
percussion before the "acid takes control" section,
and was belting out the angst by the end of the song,
leading his band mates into a huge climax that dropped
into The Now. Andy Gallagher played along with the
opening lyrics on the sax, matching note for note, and
shining in with bright bleats during the early verses. A short drum solo offered a brief pause after the
jam, just before the band attacked the end and set the
crowding to cheering.

When Reid took the stage after a short break, I was
immediately slapped with his charisma. For years, due
to nothing but circumstance, I missed Strangefolk set
after Strangefolk set. For the most part, they were
festival sets, and mixtures of weather, hunger and
traffic prevented my attendance, and it continues to
happen since the change in line-up. I had, of course,
heard a few tapes here and there, but was not overly
excited. But after Reid's guest appearance with Percy
Hill for Sometimes over the summer, I got a taste of
what has captured so many sets of ears. But it was
actually seeing Reid live that made me understand part
of his appeal. He simply exudes energy, pouring it
off the stage and sucking the audience in with his
powerful vocals and emotive phrasing. The acoustic
set was solo and short, but ended with a powerhouse
tune (sorry, no song titles here). The electric set
was equally potent. They clearly played a number of
well-known tunes, as the audience was cheering wildly
and singing along through two thirds of the set.

Whereas John was digging in more with Aaron, sculpting
the twists and segmentation of songs, he was literally
bouncing across the stage during Reid's set, joyfully
riding the simpler curves. It was a real treat to
hear Nate again, although he played more of a sideman
role than usual. His Moog was not working, so he
favored the B-2 and Kawai. While his fills and washes
decorated every tune, he also had a few of extended
solos. For each one he set about slowly building a
structure, starting with a sketch or spare framework
and creating an intricately layered sound that
eventually pulled at the band, as inescapable as
gravity. In one tune, he was flying so high, he had
one hand on the organ, the other waving behind him,
blown back by the electric currents. It was also
great to see Nate looking to old friend Adam Terrell
as the guitarist raced nimbly across the frets with an
utterly clean sound that matched the music perfectly.
They were giving each other five after tunes and
trading licks during tunes, just having a blast.
Likewise, Nate and John traded glances throughout the
performance, each knowing the other's ins and outs,
playing together and reveling in the music. Hopefully
the two bands will continue to play together in the
future, and hopefully they will mix it up a little,
cross-pollinating and sharing the groove.

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