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Published: 2004/02/24
by Mike Greenhaus

Raisinhill, Knitting Factory Old Office, New York, NY-2/12

On this evening, sharing the bill with fellow Connecticut band Rane, Raisnhill drew a relatively youthful crowd of jamband enthusiasts. Located on the Knitting Factory's deepest level, the Old Office also has a giddy jamband feel, complete with any college bar's ubiquitous bottleneck. But guitarist John Kasiewicz, along with upright bassist Brian Anderson and drummer Jay Bond, don't play generic jamband music. Part rock performers, part certified musicians, Raisinhill straddle these two classifications better than many of their jamband contemporaries. A far cry from Slip-style fusion or Deep Banana Blackout' groove, Raisinhill's most original asset is their cerebral polish. Layering subtle time signature changes and melodic hooks into their numbers, Raisinhill's greatest asset isn't their ability to jam (though that's not too shabby a quality itself), it's their ability to create clear, catchy songs.

Perhaps the centerpiece of their packed Thursday evening Knitting Factory performance, "Nameless" embodies Raisinhill’s ripe spirit. A healthy mix of composition and improvisation, the song emits a euphoric energy; part thinking music, part dance party. Throughout the trio’s thirteen song headlining set, the Knitting Factory’s basement-style Old Office felt like a cramped college party populated by downtown intellectuals. Fitting for three musicians who not-so-long ago doubled as academics.

Trained at Goddard College, Raisinhill’s Kasiewicz spent several years learning how to balance structure and space. A former student of Ernie Stires, Trey Anastasio’s college mentor, Kasiewicz’s melodic guitar incorporates a wide range of brainy sounds. Like many of Anastasio’s early chart-experiments, Raisinhill use their carefully composed numbers to hold together delicate jams. Mixing jazz and classical into their well-defined instrumentals, Raisinhill have a tendency to emit a serious aura. Yet despite their professionalism, Raisinhill still play rock-music, complete with catchy chords and hum-able hooks.

Opening with "Growin’ Up," Raisinhill offered a series of compact, well-groomed instrumentals. Though most songs included bits of improvisation, such as the excellent "Nameless" or the new number "Rhino Ballroom," Raisinhill could have a second life as a full-time studio band. Anderson plucks his upright bass like a lead instrument, giving his low-end an emphasized voice. Bouncing against Kasiewicz’s tranquil electric guitar, Anderson’s bass-lines give Raisinhill’s numbers a unique flavor, one that is rooted in Stires’ atonal style. As evidenced on "The Ridge," a highlight on Raisinhill’s self-titled debut, each member of the trio also has a careful ear, creating a terrific sense of synchrony. Perhaps the evening’s best segment, Raisinhill’s pairing of "The Ridge" and "Nameless" produced a distinct, joyful feel that ran throughout their jams. Yet, instead of relying on segues and groovy transitions to create a definitive energy for their evening performance, Raisinhill utilized recurring riffs and melodies, tying their set list up in a careful, little package.

But despite their serious sound, Raisinhill still knows how to throw an excellent basement party. Tacking on a fun cover of "Sweet Dreams" near the end of their set, Raisinhill proved that they are still products of the post-Phish jamband party scene. As evidenced during last fall’s 80s themed "High-School Dance" Halloween show, Raisinhill is apt at weaving theatrics into their set lists. At times the trio also borders on 1970s inspired prog-rock, a sign of their artistic ambitions and future studio potential. Yet as Raisinhill approaches its third year as a band, the group has taken a definite stab at cementing their trademark sound: they make serious, jazz-inspired music accessible through their fun, rock and roll hooks.

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