Bobby Previte’s Coalition of the Willing , Tonic, NYC- 5/26
Bobby Previte's Coalition of the Willing – 5/25/06 – Tonic, NYC
After downing some free Brahma beers – think Brazilian flavored Old English – at a promotional event a few blocks away, I actually arrived early for the 10:30 set, enjoyed the scene outside for a few minutes, then meandered into the club. There was still plenty of space in the concrete shell that is Tonic, which I enjoyed after thinking this show would be packed to the brim. The quartet of course started late at around 11, and as they took the stage and began to play, I overheard the following statements that made me smile: "This is the first time I've seen him play a real guitar," referring to Charlie Hunter and "He looks evil," referring to Skerik.
Running through material from the Previte’s Ropeadope release The Coalition of the Willing, the players were confident as always and having fun. I was happy to see Marco Benevento playing much more organ that he did with Joe Russo back at the Bowery Ballroom a few weeks ago. Hunter’s guitar was heavy on distortion and low end, almost like a heavier version of what you’d hear on an old Sly Stone or Booker T album. Skerik also stayed low, mostly playing along with the bass lines Benvento was laying down with his left hand. Overall though the sound was too loud, as gauged by my level of ear ringing after the show and the fact that even when Previte was wailing, he still was a bit set back in the mix. Call me an old man, but I’m sure many would agree.
Dubbed a “super bar band” by Previte, I would give them more credit than that, although their rock was intelligent and digestible at the same time. In some ways “instrumental Spinal Tap” seems appropriate but I’m not quite sure if that does the music justice. Selections like “Oceania” start with an old school guitar riff ala the Byrds or Jefferson Airplane. “The Ministry of Truth,” closed out the set with its stomping beat, as the guitar and keyboard licks meshed into one. While it seems like everyone is playing rock these days, Previte and his guns aren’t just trying to write catchy pop tunes so they can appear on the next soundtrack for The O.C. The political undertones, although not stated on the band’s website or via on-stage banter, are obvious with the album and song titles, and maybe highlight some deeper motivation for Previte to put out a guitar rock album.
The set lasted almost exactly one hour, and while short, somehow felt long enough. I guess we were a bit of a quiet crowd as Previte claimed, “Hell, even Santa Barbara was louder than you guys,” and Sam Leonard soundman for the Slip – who was serving that function as well as MC shouted, “Are we in Hoboken, New Jersey? Where are we?” And I must admit, it is something I have noticed as of late. Are we New Yorkers spoiled with too much good music? Too cynical to get loud and crazy like folks down South or out West? Whatever the reason, crowds in the city, while certainly appreciative of the artists, often fall into a “stare with my arms crossed” pose more often than in other parts of the country.
For the encore Benevento busted out a steering wheel video game control that looked like something you would use when playing Atari. He got some cool sounds out of it, more background in nature as opposed to cutting through, but he was able to use the devise to control rhythms as well as just ambience. Skerik egged him on by picking up effects pedals and throwing them in his face, telling him “hey, try this,” without saying anything. Marco then wedged a piece of sheet music into the keyboard, allowing him to hold the note indefinitely while he walked over and slammed on the drum kit alongside Bobby.
Everything then eventually waned back to the one sustained note. Marco stared across straight into the Previte’s eyes. Skerik and Hunter looked on. There was something about to go down. Would they explode? End? Everyone wondered. A few started to cheer, but the band gave a “cut it out” kind of look. Before you knew it Previte jumped up onto his kit with a first in the air pounding the group through a short run of fast notes which abruptly ended. We cheer, they smile, and that’s that.