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Published: 2005/05/13
by ian porter

Hydra, Jannus Landing, St. Petersburg, FL- 4/27

How does one write a show review for a band that is, basically, so new that one is unaware of the songs beings played? One has to take the show as a whole— the sum of its parts, so to speak.

A similar scenario held true for the couple hundred fans that showed up at Jannus Landing for Hydra. There were several groups and individuals that had gathered independently at the Detroit Pub in St Petersberg’s downtown — jamheads on business, local travelers, and Tampa folk who love either Particle or Mickey Hart’s work with the Grateful Dead. All were enjoying the rare and exciting moment of anticipation when a new band presents itself in an almost ‘ready-made’ form. Mickey Hart’s reputation precedes him among Deadheads but Particle, although reasonably well known by jamband fans, are still a new phenomenon. The question for many was: "How would this sudden admixure of talents pan out in a live forum?"

The first set answered most questions as it developed. Given that this was, essentially, Particle with a nitrogen boost on percussion, it is not surprising to find out that the key word on this evening was the word ‘groove’. In the opening number it seemed as though Mickey and Darren Pujalet (drums) were trying to lock into a rhythm and space that they could work with, and by the second number they had managed to find it. With the drums locked in Steve Molitz’s keys started to sparkle and dance while Eric Mould’s bass was finding its own place in the mix. The chemistry was clearly developing, especially between Hart and Molitz, yet still reminding that this is a sauce still very much on simmer. By the end of the first set the band was laying down this sweet ghetto-funk groove that was slowed down to the point that it reminded the listener or "West LA Fadeaway", with Hitchcock’s guitar slightly reminiscent of a late 80’s Jerry Garcia. Very Nice.

Set break at an intimate venue like this gave people a chance to compare ideas on an unfolding musical happening that most in attendance had been hearing about, but for which nobody had any serious reference points. Most seemed to approve. We were all curious to see what the second set would bring. Would there be any Dead? Anyone who had witnessed the wicked set thrown down at the Langerado Festival six weeks earlier wanted to know just exactly how "off the hook" the Particle elements would get with this slower, more primal drum beat anchoring the "groove"?

All was answered in the second set. The pleasant vibes that had been laid down in the first set simply got deeper and darker. Much of it reminded the listener of how the Grateful Dead would get into a place like "Not Fade Away", or "Wharf Rat" where the Rhythm Devils would just thicken up the space to the point at which you just sat back and watched it all happen — except that the Particle People kept it grooving.

The Set II highlight for Deadheads present could possibly have been the mid-set "I Know You Rider." A song that had always been a bit of a ‘drummers choice’ was no different here except that, with no lyrics, it soared as an improvisational tool. Teased at first, once the exchanges began between Pujalet and Hart, there was no misunderstanding about where this song was going. Molitz’s keys found their home in the mix and it was a very truly special jam. The guitar space started off very well but broke down into the merely conventional. Nevertheless, it tightened beautifully to finish up.

"Drumz" was anticipated and expected to be special. It did not disappoint. What was not so expected was the psychedelic guitar expressions that flowed out of Charlie Hitchock towards the end. To this point it might have been easy to write off Hitchcock as serviceable and competent guitarist, but the way in which he wrapped u" this section left people with the impression that he has yet to fully explore what he has to give to this outfit.

Hydra, in its current form, is well worth anyone’s time and attention. Given time to season-up and expand upon the "groove" potential, the undeniable individual talent of its members could well free form into the multi-headed "groove" monster that is its name.

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