The Permilla Project, Sullivan Hall, NYC- 2/7
In the not too distant past, I made it a point to get out quite frequently and see younger bands here in Manhattan. Younger bands have always had a freshness about them that more established bands lose while gaining experience, and that freshness, once lost, is never regained. It’s for that very reason that people who have seen bigger bands always refer to earlier shows at smaller venues with the obligatory beginning, “I remember when.” It’s a badge of honor to have seen a band in a tiny venue, not because you merely saw the band at a tiny venue, but rather because the band that eventually makes it big often played with an elevated level of ferocity and hunger earlier in their career.
The Permilla Project out of Maryland isn’t exactly at that point yet, but their show Feb 7th at Sullivan Hall was plenty enjoyable nonetheless. Taking the stage relatively early in the evening, the band launched into the opening combination of “Black Beans and Rice” and “A Break Would be Nice.” The high energy pair of songs set the tone for the evening and also served to introduce the band to those of us in the audience entirely unfamiliar with their style and their sound. One part Umphrey’s McGee, one part Phish, one part something else I haven’t quite decided on yet, the dueling lead guitars Ryan Jackson and Pete Bozick were certainly the focus of the band’s music, making comparisons with Umphrey’s fairly easy, even if both guitar players lacked the firepower of the seasoned musicians in that band.
As the set progressed, moving through songs such as “Skipjack,” “Big Yank” and “Hand to Mouth,” the band found themselves more comfortable in their surroundings, and the jam sections really began to take shape. While I have no idea the age of the band members, nor do I know how long they have been playing together, I suspect their time collaborating as a band has been relatively short, as the jam sections were often highlighted by elongated guitar solos rather than any real band communication. At the same time, those sections featured excellent layering by Charlie Greenhalgh on bass, whose bouncy lines and interplay with Sean Miller on drums, allowed both guitar players the room to attempt to move the songs forward, although often they fell back into the comfort zone of a pre-established chord progression. At the same time, it was over those chord progressions that the band offered up some danceable grooves which got many in the crowd at least bobbing their heads, if not outright dancing.
With solid enough vocals, excellent skills on their respective instruments and songs with interesting time signatures, The Permilla Project have many of the necessary tools in place. The show was surprisingly enjoyable and while the band has many miles left to go, traveling those miles is going to make this band that much better. A few festival slots, a few opening slots, and The Permilla Project out of Maryland is going to leave many people pleasantly surprised.