New Monsoon, Conan’s Pub, Portland, OR- 2/27
The conga/drum/tabla driven deluge that is the new monsoon descended on Portland Oregon, Friday night. The band is in a bit of a growing stage and Arne Livingston offered his services on the bass at Conan's. Livingston's solid contributions kept the percussion and the keys on target and allowed the Vocals/guitar room to breathe, grow and expand.
The band's eclectic mix of Afro Cuban, Indian and traditional percussion along with the grounded vocals and familiar jam friendly guitar gave the show an air of exotic familiarly. The set on Friday night was my first experience with the band other than the studio effort Downstream and a live show I borrowed from my roommate. The band opened the set with a simple intro that segued into a group of tight jams. Many styles of rock and roll and blues were present, a Spoonful-like blues jam was followed by Sympathy for the Devil lick, and a Billy Payne/Steve Winwood Piano segued the band into another good run. Phil Ferlino's keys meshed the rhythm section and lead guitar of Jeff Miller. Jeff Miller's tone brought Lindsey Buckingham and Duane Allman to mind.
The exotic fell to the drummers. Marty, Rajiv, and Brian can run the familiar Afro/Latin rock and roll beats in their sleep. Marty Ylitalo has an anchor like effect and provides a nice solid pocket when necessary and isn't afraid to branch out with the well placed fill. He also left the cans and played didgeridoo. Brian Carey, on congas and latin/afro percussion runs beats from the ponche to the punto guajiro. Rajiv Parikh plays lightning fast. His Tablas and collection of Indian Percussion is not only refreshing instrumentation and on stage eye candy, his classical training brings everything from abhiram tal to sakirna jati to the rock and roll show. The best thing is this maelstrom of percussion is integrated, not tacked on.
Bo Carper is a good front man, his banjo and acoustic guitar added flavor and a focal point to the long jams. His vocals, especially on the track "Purple Pouch" solidified the musical wanderings and steered the band into the deepest part of the channel that we were floating down. Lyrically, with the exception of "Purple Pouch" and a song with the chorus "gotta get behind the mule" and with the disclaimer that I have only heard 1 studio record and 1 show, the band needs to hone and edit the lyrics a bit. Delivery and suspension of disbelief, however is top notch.
The New Monsoon is a challenging and comfortable band that deserves a chance to win you over. They have just finished their first year of nation wide touring including a slot on the Jam Cruise. The ticket price at Conan's was $7 and they played their hearts out for two and a half to three hours. For those in Portland, Oregon, Conan's is a great place to catch a show.