Vinyl & Psychedelic Breakfast, The Domino Room – Bend, OR 4/15
When I heard that these two fine young bands were scheduled to join forces in Bend, OR for a night, I knew a road trip was in order. I picked up my friend in Salem on Tuesday afternoon and we headed east towards our destination city of Bend. To get to the high desert central Oregon town, however, we had to cross over the mighty Cascades. While there was plenty of snow on the trees and ground, no snow ever fell on the roadway, not even as we crossed over the forty eight hundred foot summit of the Santiam Pass. There was plenty of gray rain showers and swirls of mist clinging to the pine tree coated hills, cliffs, and mountains as we drove through the rugged wilderness, but no snow. Dropping down into Bend from the mountains we came over a ridge and could see the long, straight line of the road rolling out for miles in front of us in little dipping hills. A bird escorted the cars as it flew along hovering about fifteen feet above the roadway all the way down into the valley.
Upon arriving at the Domino Room, we found Psychedelic Breakfast just about to start their final sound check. We chatted with their bass player for a minute. Ron remembered us both from when the band opened for the Motet in Eugene in 2002. The Domino Room is a large, black, rectangular room with a large tile dance floor. The stage is on one end and the small bar that only served beer from a cooler-tap is located at the other. The strange thing about the room is that it is attached to a roller-hockey rink next door. As you walk into the bar, you walk by the rink and guys were actually playing a game over there when we first arrived. Unfortunately, the place smelled pretty bad thanks to their sweating and rolling around next door. But the lights were plentiful and included a disco ball, the stage was large, and the new PA sounded excellent. Another nice touch was the little silver cut-out stars hanging from the ceiling on strings. A small upstairs balcony in the back that had a few pieces of various tattered old furniture on which to sit rounded out the place. All in all it was a pretty nice venue. My only real complaint was the three fifty price tag for a small plastic cup of beer.
In a few minutes Psychedelic Breakfast started their short but powerful set. This young quartet from Connecticut impressed me even more than when I had seen them for the first time last summer. They exploded into one of their songs that sounds decidedly off-kilter, but in a good way. They use chords and chord changes that feel uncomfortable to the ear as they deal with minors, augmented notes, and chromatic scales. Their music is not bouncy, happy, major chord sounding hippie music. They play very aggressively and throw basic song structures out the window. Songs can speed up or slow down, stop suddenly, or have strange lyrics…and most do all that and more. Psychedelic Breakfast is a fitting name as it brings to mind some of the early sixties psychedelic sound which they definitely bring to the table in their discordant vocal harmonies and chord arrangements.
The second song worked into a funky space before catapulting into a speedy jam that highlighted the abilities of keyboardist Jordan Giangreco and guitarist Tim Palmieri, who both took lengthy and impressive solos. A bluegrass flavored tune that felt like it had been dosed was next, and it sped up so much that I thought bassist Ron Spears head might explode while drummer Adrian Tramontano arms might just fly off. It was truly nothing short of spectacular. Tim and Adrian worked together as the driving energy force the entire set. Tim reeled off blistering solo after solo, sometimes bringing things down for a short time but always working them into a wailing frenzy. Adrian slammed away more quickly and powerfully than most drummers I've seen, attacking his kit with a vengeance. Ron serves as the sanity in the middle of the stage. He maintains his cool as jams flit dangerously close to spinning out of control or exploding into a major train wreck, but always somehow manage to resolve themselves elegantly. Jordan adds tasteful organ fills, keyboard solos, and even some nice trippy sound effects to the mix.
A rocking version of Pink Floyd's In The Flesh ended the set and the sizeable Tuesday night crowd cheered enthusiastically in appreciation of the talent these young musicians possess. Overall it was a great set. My only complaint is the slight lack of variation. This band can jam quickly and explosively, no doubt about that, but some different genres and styles will help keep their sound fresh. I don't expect anything less from this incredible band with awesome potential.
Next up were west coast favorites, Vinyl. Vinyl's laid back Latin groove is a great sound to dance to on any night of the week. By the time these guys hit the stage the room was packed nearly full with one hundred fifty people – not bad for a little mountain town on a Tuesday. Instead of coming out of the gate with their signature slow, Cuban flavored, horn-heavy groove, Vinyl started things off with a song that felt more like a cosmic funk jam. There was no slinky lilt to it whatsoever as it relied heavily on the guitar and keyboards to give it a disco-trance funk feel. I though that they might have been trying to compete with the raw energy wake left by Psychedelic Breakfast. The next tune was a bit slower, but was still more of a straight ahead jazzy little funk number than what one would normally expect from Vinyl.
Just as I was beginning to wonder what band this was, exactly, Vinyl began playing what I've come to expect from them; a horn-heavy Latin groove complete with a bongo intro and lots of one-two-three stop and start rhythms. The entire crowd was very loose by this point and everyone launched into some serious boogie action as the festive sound of heavy percussion and great sax and trumpet solos filled the room. A few cries of delight rang out here and there over the pulsing rhythms as a percussion solo began and was followed up by yet another soaring saxophone solo. By the time the fourth tune started up with its bass and drum intro, we decided to go upstairs and check out the scene up there.
We found plenty of room and decided to stay up there and dance in large circles where we could swing our arms and legs in a vigorous, if not so graceful, dancing motion. The band worked its way through many different styles that ranged from hyper funk to straight ahead jazz to slow reggae grooves and back to again to the classic Vinyl style. They even played a song with a Middle Eastern flavor that had some high trumpet solos layered over top of the jam followed by a bluesy number where the keyboard player took a mean down and dirty harmonica solo. Then there were the flute solos from the sax player…
After seeing this show, I've decided that Vinyl is becoming a band with a much more varied sound. While they can still nail their Latin style like no one else in the jam scene complete with the slow and deliberate percussion groove and tight horn riffs, they can currently also dip into a deeper well of various musical styles. All of the players are very solid in this large band and they create a party vibe that is popular with every crowd I've ever seen them play for. They were particularly good on this night when paired with Psychedelic Breakfast because the two bands' respective styles vary so much. Vinyl was a nice mellow, grooving, mature-sounding yin to the frenetic, youthful, chaotic and powerful yang of Psychedelic Breakfast. Both bands should look forward to a long career of making music for happy customers if they keep playing with the energy and drive they displayed for the packed house in Bend, OR.