Everyone Orchestra, Sullivan Hall, NYC – 10/27
Note: For this review I have included in brackets [ ] those things that Matt Butler wrote on his dry erase boards that were visible to the crowd.
Looming threats of Sandy sure didn’t dampen any spirits at Sullivan Hall as The Everyone Orchestra took to the stage on Saturday night for what many considered the kick off to their Hurricane parties. The energy throughout the venue was high and space was becoming limited in the notoriously cramped venue. As the posted start time came and went you could hear the topics of conversation recycling between the previous nights set list, potential sit ins (after all Trey was in town with TAB and Fishman was behind the kit) and of course, the looming hurricane.
If you are not familiar with The Everyone Orchestra you need to get in the loop, and if you haven’t had the chance to catch them live you are missing out on an experience that not even Lou Pearlman could have thought of. Simply put, Matt Butler is a genius. Is he the first person to take a rotating crew of players and create a “band”, no. However, when you think about the state of the scene today and how it has grown from the improvisational spirit of jazz, the feelings of the blues and open-mindedness of the psychedelic movement it all comes together live and in person when Matt Butler steps up to the stage and begins to conduct what ever incarnation of The Everyone Orchestra he brings to your town. Like a new age conductor, Matt stands facing his orchestra wearing a top hat and long cape like jacket, both adorned with a psychedelic array of colors and designs. Unlike your traditional conductor he has abandoned his baton for a small desk, markers and a few dry erase boards that serve as his “cue cards”. For the uninitiated, what happens next is magical and the true embodiment of the “jam” scene.
The second of a three night run brought in a slightly different line up than the opening show yet featured the weekends “core” group of John Kadlecik (guitar), Jon Fishman (drums), Reed Mathis (bass) and Jamie Masefield (mandolin). The “wildcard” players for this night’s journey consisted of ALO members Zach Gill (keys and the like) and Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz (acoustic guitar), Jessica Lurie (saxophone/flute) and Katy Gaughan (percussion) and of course leading the madness as always was conductor Matt Butler. Butlers first set of instructions are quickly jotted down and revealed to primary orchestra members first and then the secondary members i.e. the audience. [Funk A] was the first bit of directing to get the party started and it wasn’t long before Matt was hunched over his table scribbling down his next vision. With Reed holding down a meaty bass line the dry erase board was flashed and off went Jamie with his [short hello solo] followed by Lebo, Jessica and John K who seriously laced into his fretboard for his more than short hello. Ultimately the jam closed out with [D Triumph] creating tension, releasing it and building it once again as the orchestra members opposite the stage were encouraged to join in screaming [Yes!] and clap along to the final [hello solo] from Katy.
Showing up on Matt’s instruction board next was the phrase [follow Zach] which foreshadowed the theme to be of the night: a game of follow the leader. Appropriately enough, what emerged was “Hurricane song”. With melodica in hand Zach laid down the melody which gave a sense of a flowing carribean-esque feeling. Maybe the cue of [simple] is what set the stage for the laid back intro but as the jam developed it was clear that this was not going to be all sunny skies and cool breezes. Using his phone to read the lyrics, which he penned on his flight to New York, Zach was clearly preoccupied with the storm and its potential impact on his travel plans. However, as the jam turned a bit dark the cue card flashed to reveal that they were now playing to the parts of the storm; with Matt spinning and running around the stage like a mad man the [outer bands] were approaching. After a brief return to the opening theme things got [closer to the eye of the storm] and ultimately the atmosphere cooled down with Zach’s sentiments of preferring to be stuck in New York City of all places getting a rise from the crowd.
Playing leader next was John K and as one may have guessed he ventured into a loose meandering space which undoubtedly was influenced by the years of playing Dead. Propelling the melody along was Fishman who kept things tight with his precision playing while leaving the flare for Katy, whose set up of percussive toys lent themselves perfectly to the job. With [part A] laid out and in full swing Matt jotted down and held up [part B Lebo]. Using an acoustic guitar, Lebo was able to take advantage of his pedal board (one of many on stage) and drag the jam into a dark space which was perfectly complimentary to the jammy [part A]. Midway through the jam John K took the crowd on a journey with a soaring lead perhaps encouraged by the long drawn out notes swirling around the stage from Jessica’s horn. Backed by a soft shuffle courtesy of Fishman, a very laid back take on [part A] ensued while the tempo gradually escalated culminating with a display of mastery on the part of Reed. The two final sets of instructions, [unison guitars] and [unison ascending sax] drove the groove home with waves of the layered melody drawing everything right into the final jam of the first set. Beginning strong, Jessica quickly picked up on the melody established by Lebo as Matt demanded, [follow Dan]. Although the jam was over rather quickly with the crew ready for a break, there were several spirited moments. In particular, the “read and response” section with the crowd exclaiming [Hey! Vote!] was welcomed by leaving Reed all smiles and Matt jumping crazily around the stage.