Stanton Moore, Jeff Raines, Wil Blades, Boom Boom Room, San Francisco, CA – 4/2
There’s nothing better than waking to the infamous question of “what the heck happened last night?” after a transcendental night of music. Thing is, I’ve had this age-old question hurled my way many, but none may have been more fitting than following Saturday night’s post-Galactic throwdown at the Boom Boom Room in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the Galactic show, but having seen them numerous times over the past 5+ years I could only imagine the energy they brought to the Fillmore that night. Upon arriving at the Boom Boom Room at the witching hour of 1:30am my sentiments were confirmed with rave reviews. For the afterhours entertainment this evening the good folks over at the Boom Boom Room located in the historic Fillmore District of San Francisco had put together a rollicking night of music with Bay Area Hammond B3 wunderkind Wil Blades hosting an late-night jam featuring Stanton Moore and Jeff Raines of Galactic. The gig was set to go from 1:45-5:00am.
It’s gigs like this that I immediately circle on my calendar. Every now and again The Boom Boom Room has these late-night get-downs that can extend past the infamous 2:00am curfew. Although patrons are not allowed to drink after 2:00am (hence the 1:45am door time), for those looking to keep their night going ‘til daybreak with great music there was no better nor funkier place to be. In a world gone mad it just makes me all sorts of fuzzy inside knowing that there are places like the Boom Boom Room that put together all star bands of today’s finest funky jazzmen for late-night gigs.
And it goes deeper than just the music, no matter how transcendentally funky it may be. The whole concept of having the heavy hitters of the jazz/funk/boogaloo scene (Galactic, Soulive, Karl Denson in his various bands, and infinite wisdom, etc…) mixing with local musicians at an intimate venue with gigs until 5:00am is an absolute winning situation for all parties involved. Of course for the fans of the music it’s an absolute no brainer – more music equals a high quality of life, duh. For the established musicians the opportunity to get to stretch out and jam in a musical environment where expectations are thrown out the window in lieu of vibe – I must imagine – is a breath of fresh air, and for the local musicians experience with big names in the live setting cannot be understated.
Thus, we begin. I grabbed a quick beer and meandered through a packed house and headed over to the left side of the stage, with perfect periphery of Stanton and organist Wil Blades. The energy in the place was through the roof, absolutely electric. Stanton began to count off the first tune, and for the next few hours, anything was possible. The band hit the ground running, opening the evening with the track “Pot Licker” off of Stanton’s most recent album, Groove Alchemy. The tune was hard driving and high energy, conjuring up the sounds of Grant Green channeled through a more hard-edged, breakbeat feel. I had forgotten how hard Stanton plays and perhaps it was being roughly fifteen away feet from him that really emphasized how just exactly how physically assaulting he is on the kit, but I was astonished at the sheer amount of force that was coming from those drums. Furthermore, all of this comes after the man had just finished a 3 hour show with Galactic and had also driven to and from Sacramento to give a drum clinic earlier that afternoon. If the energizer bunny is ever looking to retire, well, guess what – we found his replacement. It was clear to see that Stanton was pumped. With an ear to ear smile and that effortless touch of syncopated brilliance, it took him no time to settle into a tight pocket.
Jeff Raines provided great accompaniment throughout the evening and showed flourishes of a more melodic approach to the music, embracing the chance to play less ‘chicken scratch’ funk guitar and adopted an equally funky but more melodic approach to this slightly more jazz-oriented group. Switching from a septet to a trio can do that to a guitarist, and personally speaking, this concertgoer really enjoyed hearing him in a group that relied more on improvisation and also featured a smaller instrumentation.
From there, the band settled in at an up-tempo pace that saw Stanton maintaining the most inventive and steadiest of backbeats and Raines comping and stepping up when called upon. But it was Wil Blades who was really making this whole thing go. Handling the bass pedals with the greatest of ease and playing with utter control of the 400 pound monster/piece of furniture that is the B3, Blades did a great job of making the songs come alive – adding dashes of brilliance and filling in space when necessary in addition to turning in impressive solos throughout. Blades is arguably one of the best kept musical secrets in the Bay Area and has been hailed as heir apparent to the legacy of the Hammond B3 by the good doctor, Dr. Lonnie Smith. Although his career has concerned itself more so with jazz than the other musicians playing this evening, through increased visibility on the jam scene as a working member of the Stanton Moore Trio, playing semi-regularly with Will Bernard, and most notably a recent past performance as well as an upcoming performance at Jazz Fest with Billy Martin of perennial facemelters Medeski, Martin, and Wood.
Then out of nowhere I feel a hand on my back and turn to see Reed Mathis (of TLG, JFJO, Marco Trio fame), proud owner of the aforementioned beard. I had given him a ride back to the City from a Marco Benevento Trio show in Felton, Ca a few months back and we run into each other around town from time to time. Reed Mathis, besides being an absolute freak of nature on the bass, is one of the nicest guys around. We spent a minute chatting about Tea Leaf Green and music in general before Reed got the call to head onstage.
As fate would have it, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk were also in the City, finishing up a two night run of their own, and as Mathis started setting up on stage, Ivan Neville and Tony Hall of Dumpstaphunk were also called up to get in on the fun, with Wil Blades taking a momentary breather.
Now I’ve never been to New Orleans, but this is sort’ve like how I always imagined Jazz Fest to be – everybody is in town, late night jam session, tons of sit-ins. Thus, our band of Stanton Moore on drums, Ivan Neville on Hammond, Reed Mathis bass, Jeff Raines on guitar, and Tony Hall on vocals, dove headfirst into a stretched-out version of Billy Preston’s “Will It Go ‘Round In Circles?” By this point the entire place was going nuts as a full on super jam was in effect. After a rocking version of the feel-good Preston sing-a-long, the band then launched into the Meters “Cardova”.
After a quick setbreak, the core three, Stanton, Blades, and Raines, made their way back to the stage. I cannot say enough about the atmosphere in that room. By this point it was approaching 4:00am and the music combined with the sit-ins and free-for-all nature of the night had everybody smiling and grooving. The second set featured an array of guitarists sitting in with the band, namely, Steve Burke, a Bay Area musician who plays with Wil Blades weekly in Oscar Meyers Steppin’, Ian Neville of Dumpstaphunk, and also Brian Jordan of KDTU.
All in all, I can’t imagine wanting anything more from the night. The musicians and music fans came together to create a night of transcendental, funky music and an incredible electric atmosphere. Here’s to many more late-night boogaloo dance parties at the Boom Boom Room, and to all you folks in the Bay Area and beyond, you don’t wanna miss one of these.