OM Trio, The Fez Ballroom, Portland, OR- 10/25
The intimate OM Trio show at the Fez on Saturday night was as enjoyable as the unseasonably warm and sunny weather we've had the past week in Portland. It had been quite some time since my last show at the Fez, and I was excited for the evening's festivities. The large and elegant room was only sparsely filled with patrons when we arrived at 10:30pm. We seated ourselves in a darkly lit corner just behind the stage on two cushy, pillow-strewn couches and enjoyed some cocktails before the band took the stage. Things got under way by about 11:00pm, but the room still wasn't very full, especially for a Saturday.
After playing "Romeo" to begin the set, the band performed the song "L" from their newest album, GlobalPositioningRecord. The first instrumental grooves of the evening were apparently unimpressive to the typically ultra mellow Portland crowd. Then keyboardist Brian Felix asked the audience to come closer and the dance floor suddenly became populated with a small, but enthusiastic crowd that danced and jived for the entire rest of the night. The hypnotizing and skillful drumming of the dark and longhaired Ilya Stemkovsky is the backbone of this tight little ensemble that just keeps getting better and better every time I see them. Bassist Pete Novembre played in perfect synche with Stemokovsky, laying down a deep foundation while not being too flashy. Keyboardist Felix played multiple textures, grooves, solos and voice samples that kept the instrumental music varied and interesting for the entire set. As the intensity of the set and the energy of the crowd peaked, the band busted in to a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ "Suck My Kiss" to end the set. An ecstatic crowd bounced their heads along to the heavy rocking funk of the well-known tune and bellowed out the lyrics "suck my kiss!" at the appropriate times upon the band’s request.
Although the set break was relatively lengthy, no one was complaining. It was a pleasure to hang out in a room as nice as the Fez on such a mellow Saturday night. People visited the bar, lounged on the many sofas and cushions, and chatted amongst themselves. The band started things off right where they left off and played another very strong set of music. A few older OM Trio tunes, "Clydedogg," and "Broken Glass" were particularly well played at the beginning of the set. Every song seemed to be an extended version as the band experimented quite a bit, obviously having fun stretching out the songs and making them segue into one another. The final song of the set was my personal favorite, "Phobophobe." This tune’s heavy drumbeat, trancey vibe, abrupt stops, and slamming starts make it very appealing to a live audience, and this night’s version was one of the best I’ve seen.
After a valiant effort of generous and energetic cheering from the small but devoted crowd, the band came back to the stage for an encore at around 1:30am. But before beginning the song, they explained how they were slightly road weary as they were just finishing up a tour that started in July. They thanked the intimate crowd and then mentioned how much they like and respect Frank Zappa. The "Peaches en Regalia" encore was enthusiastically received and everyone danced for the sped up, funked out rendition of the tune. There was a large portion in the middle of the song that broke away from the melody and went off on a random musical tangent that included whirring synthesizer samples and high-energy rhythms. Eventually the jam meandered its way back to the familiar refrain and the song blistered to a close. All in all, it was an intimate evening of funky, trancey, instrumental grooves from this up-and-coming trio from San Francisco.