Perpetual Groove, Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale, FL- 9/17
Summer must be wrapping up in the state of Florida. How do we know? Besides the ever-present threat of tropical storm systems looming off our shores, touring bands that would otherwise be pre-occupied with the festival circuit are returning to our venues like the monarch butterfly returns south of the border in winter. So it was as Perpetual Groove kicked off their "It Starts Where It Ends" tour. Doing right by the state of Florida PG hit Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Clearwater throughout this week and last before wrapping up the leg with a pair of shows at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room on Saturday and Sunday.
The Savannah, GA quartet seems to be on a steady, upward trajectory as a touring band these last couple of years. Although primarily a regional southeastern band, their ambitions have turned towards a more national scale that has included a Bonnaroo performance this last summer. And why not? This is an excellent band with a widespread appeal to many different tastes. Combining raucous grooves with driving, primal, almost trance inducing jams powered by an insistent, persistent drum beat.
Set one opened up with a prime example of Perpetual Groove's artistry. "Life">"Stealy Man" began with guitarist Brock Butler onstage alone laying down some spacey riffs that were soon joined by fellow band members Matt McDonald (keys), Albert Suttle (drums) and Adam Perry (bass). Slowly building the jam to a point at which the bass and keys exploded like a mushroom cloud on the now packed Culture Room. This peaked intensity established a format for the grooves that followed throughout the night..
"Suburban Speedball" followed with its electronica induced pop beats. An almost dancehall reggae form of rhythm pushed the jam forward as Perry alternated between playing bass and working a small keyboard. By mid-jam McDonald had the keys pushed to the front with Brock moving in tandem to make a groove that reached a frenzied peak before morphing into a funked out sound that would reveal itself to one of PG's sweeter numbers, "Crockett and Tubbs". After getting the capacity crowd's collective head bobbing, the group began to find some open space to start laying down a trippy, grooving loop that left Brock free to start manipulating a small slide guitar instrument only slightly larger than a mandolin. With a building intensity he was making deeply ethereal sounds that built to a steady climax while his bandmates held down the jam with a straight ahead drums, bass and synth that finished up with the band's first break to see how we were doing.
"Long Past Settled" brought in a breezier sound to break up the intensity of the previous numbers as Matt McDonald's pleasant piano work brought us all into a sweet musical space. "Playground" with its jumpy, reggae-ish beats had the house bouncing again before heading into a harmonics driven groove that was held down by the rat-tat-tat drums and bass line that worked itself into a frantic driving force (with an expanding light show to match) that peaked before relaxing back into the cool jam that started it off. The set ended with a pleasant surprise that was the Lionel Ritchie cover "All Night Long". The fiesta feel had the crowd dancing like one big block party although I doubt Ritchie ever envisioned the guitar work that made this rendition stand up on its own merits. The band seemed to be having fun with it as well, as Bock started joking around with Adam, playing guitar behind his head — clearly having a good time like the rest of us.
Set II began with "Teakwood Betz". Matt McDonald's moog-ish keyboards meshed with Adam's bass line to create a very deep bottom end. Brock set up a guitar loop that he began to riff off of, which seemed to morph into an echo chamber effect as it set up an almost trance-inducing jam. As it moved forward, the keys moved back into the front end to set up an incendiary finish that established firmly that this set was going to pick up where the first set left off.
After they worked through "Tu Seven" in a more mellow fashion, the band effected a 70's discoteque feel as they started throwing out the opening keyboard notes from K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s classic, "Get Down Tonight" P-Groove's infectious poly-rhythms make this song a natural addition to their repertoire. McDonald stretched out the original as he started incorporating a mixing pad rhythm that had the effect of a scratch turntablist. A refreshing approach as he moved back into a synth groove that just exploded as the whole place was hopping like a dance club. We did indeed 'do a little dance, make a little love and got down that night', fo sho. A definite set highlight.
After keeping with the dance club vibes, PG had a poppy intro into "Robot Waltz" with its trance feel before dropping into the anthemic "It Starts Where It Ends". The song is full of power and emotion as it soars into its harmonics driven peaks as if they were trying to blow the roof right off. "Speed Queen" finished up the set on a slightly different feel. It was more of an arena-rock number before developing heavier bass and keyboard elements. The crowd was eager for their encore and put lots of energy into drawing the band back for their farewell number, the bass heavy hip-hop tribute jam, "Macumba". This is a fun joint for anyone with a 90's hip hop sensibility. The band sets up a hip-hop beat as Brock puts down the guitar, picks up the mic and throws down a medley of favorites. In this case, Jay-Z's "99 Problems", Dr Dre and Snoop's "Gin and Juice" and the Beastie Boys towering classic "Pass the Mic". A nice bit of variety and plenty of fun.
Perpetual Groove treated South Florida to a great show. This is a band that has tight instrumentation and strong stage presence. They gave Fort Lauderdale almost three hours of tasty, thick, sticky and just ridiculous jams that turned up the heat on an already hot and humid late summer evening.