A Rollercoaster of Sound
By: Sean Moore
TAUK came to Portland last night for the opening night of a brief 8 date tour in support of their latest album Shapeshifter 2: Outbreak (before heading out for almost the entire month of April), after spending January a bit quiet and restful, besides a week-long stint on the Jam Cruise.
Opening nights of a band’s tour are fun and full of new energy, as the band is usually ready to work out new material and play around with other songs, this is especially true in the case of “jam bands,” always willing to stretch their music muscles for an enthusiastic crowd. TAUK is that kind of band with a sound that blends progressive rock, elements of hip-hop, and jazz with instrumental songs that play out like short stories and make you feel like you are on a rollercoaster of sound, with ups and downs, twists and turns, stops and starts. Essentially, TAUK plays music you feel with your entire body. Each song begs your limbs to move, dares you to attempt to stand still.
The irony was not lost on this writer/witness when the band walked out on stage to the Foreigner song “Cold As Ice,” aptly chosen as a bit of a joke, maybe, due to the polar vortex we are experiencing these days; but ironic, because once the band started playing, they were anything but cold, and in fact, their incredible 2 hour set brought the heat. I saw people dancing so much they were sweating. People were dancing with friends, People were dancing with strangers. No one in the packed room at Portland House of Music stood still from the first riffs of “The Drop” through incredible new tunes “CMF 9000” and “Let It Ride” (the namesake of the tour, as well).
Everyone in attendance was clearly having a great time, the band included. Guitarist Matt Jalbert was grooving and I could not help but watch his fingers move with a quickness to rival great blues guitarist when the song called for his solos. Each band member traded out solos multiple times, sometimes within the same song. Keyboardist Alric “A.C.” Carter added a great futuristic-sounding element to the songs, especially the new ones, as the band was inspired by science-fiction and artificial intelligence while writing the new album. Drummer Isaac Teel was smiling the whole night while keeping everyone in line with his amazing talent behind the kit, that can be best described as a kaleidoscopic rhythm filled with stutters, starts and stops to the time signatures every now and then, making the crowd yell for more; and that’s what I’m talking about when I say, a jam band depends on the crowd’s energy, in something like a symbiotic relationship for a couple of hours. This Portland crowd came to party and certainly let the band know; and the band delivered right back, as they stretched a few of their songs well beyond the 10, even 15 minute mark, most notably at the end of their set, with two songs that found the band talking to each other while playing about where to go next, while the crowd encouraged them to play on.
It was great to see another local band get an opening slot, too. This time the honor went to a self-described “electro funk dance party” that goes by the name Versificator. Sometimes it’s hard to be an opening band with a very similar sound to the headliner, but there is something about these guys that just made the night a perfect dance party. The opener is supposed to warm up the crowd, get them ready for an incredible night of music where everyone in the audience can forget about anything else going on in their life. Live music is a form of escapism and Versificator did an absolutely solid job of getting the crowd dancing, carefree and loosened up with their own version of funky, fresh, rock/jazz-fusion tunes (instrumental, as well). Perhaps it was because of the tight-knit music community here in Portland or simply the fact that Versificator plays at Portland House of Music frequently, but the crowd showed up early and ready to party the minute they started playing.
With these two bands (one a local sensation and the other a global sensation) as evidence last night, it is clear that funk, jazz, and rock-infused music is alive and doing very well.