On The One, The Aruba Hotel – Las Vegas, NV- 6/22
The Aruba Hotel, formerly the Thunderbird Hotel & Casino, doesn't shine
like the mega-resorts just a few miles south of its Las Vegas Boulevard location.
The Strip didn't exist when the Thunderbird opened in 1948, but acts from Bob
Hope to Ronald Reagan graced the lounge's stage back in its heyday.
Now, surrounded by wedding chapels and adult bookstores, a new neon sign
still doesn't attract much attention to this non-descript green stucco
building. But perhaps that Old Vegas speakeasy vibe, a sense that once
inside the world stops following a few hours of debauchery, is what
makes the Aruba the perfect venue for the Las Vegas Jamband Society's
community soirees. For this hot Friday night in June, Southern California
groove purveyors On The One hosted the proceedings. The quartet took
control of the room and everyone's asses as they tour to build a regional
rep on the road to national notoriety.
While the band name may sound unfamiliar the players have been established
in live music circles for years. Drummer John Staten used to hold down the
beat for Karl Denson's Tiny Universe and Carlos Washington's Giant People.
Saxophonist Jesse Malloy, another Giant People alum, logged time with one of
the most esteemed tributes on the scene, The Pink Floyd Experience.
Together with bassist extraordinaire Andy Irvine (also of, you guessed it,
Giant People) and guitarist Aaron Bleiweiss the four-piece delivers
skintight arrangements peppered with blistering, intricate jazz solos.
Whether or not On The One will outlast its members' tenures in other groups
remains to be seen, they are only a year in so far, but either way its fun
while it lasts.
Any songs in line to be on the group's forthcoming debut studio record will
be well road-tested by the time the tape starts rolling. A spaced out "Feel
It" opened the evening, followed by "F-Funk" and "Dam Right".
It wasn't until the familiar funk standard "Pass the Peas" showed
up mid-first set did the audience perk up and realizes what On The One was capable
Largely an instrumental affair, the rousing chorus gave way to Staten's
on-point syncopated drumming and complex fills. The shaggy haired Malloy
took most of the group's leads, but everyone got a fair shake throughout the
night to take center stage, with bassist Irvine making perhaps the most
impressive statements. Fans flowed on and off the Aruba's low-ceilinged
dance floor; some unexpectedly running into a swing dance class in the
hotel's ballroom looking for quiet respite from the throbbing funk. But
anyone who missed the second set jitterbugging would live to regret it.
Starting off sounding like a Steely Dan "Deacons Blues" cover, the second
set opener was actually a Greyboy Allstars tune, "Toys R Us", and Staten
and Co. did a more than admirable job with one of Karl Denson's more recognizable
tunes. Programmed drum beats, such as on the song "Hotz", were more prevalent
in the second set but the band still featured the same driving
funk the crowd had already come to expect. "Da Dillio" and "Skunk
Funk" sounded similar to selections from earlier in the night just played with
more conviction, or perhaps liquid courage. Back on a Wednesday in December
2006 On The One played to a Vegas audience barely 20 people strong, but the
larger weekend crowd brought its own energy to this show and most of the
fans stayed through the three-plus hour affair until 2 AM. Still an early
night by Vegas standards, but the band was fresh off a late-night show in
Colorado and 2 AM probably suited them just fine.
Local scene icon Charlie Vegas summed up the band in his special way. To
him, On The One recalled old Spiderman cartoons and the swinging jazz band
that seemed to follow Peter Parker around to all the juke joints in town,
inevitably running into the villain du jour. Their time would soon be up,
and the same could be said about the classic Aruba Hotel if one didn't know
about the party raging inside. But Charlie could never shake the sound of
that band, the same group grooving away in each episode. Whether or not you
think On The One sounds like the Spiderman house band or SoCal's Next Big
Thing, if they keep things up they'll be out of underground lounges and into
major clubs in no time.