Live Review: waterbear, j roddy walston & the business, gringo star

waterbear, j roddy walston & the business, gringo star
oct. 7, 2013 • the shakedown

Though a relaxed Sunday night The Shakedown may have started out true to the subdued reputation of its home city, but by the end of the evening the crowd was as lively as a Friday night audience, if not quite as thick.
Hailing from Atlanta, Gringo Star mounted the stage in a jam-band like fashion, around 9:50 p.m. With a rock solid rhythm section and dueling lead guitars, the boys warmed up the smattering of people gathered around the invisible fence that seems to crop up around the front of the stage. By the time the Andrew Bird-like croon of brothers Peter and Nick Furgiuele came through the PA, the group had the crowd head-bobbing and clapping like they could have been town favorites. The Allman Brothers-esque dual guitar solos brought an interesting twist, especially when coupled with the surprisingly tender vocals.
After a tastefully short drum solo and some improvisational moments, the stage cleared for Bellingham’s own Waterbear. Wasting no time, this new band started up quickly and with little hubub. Curiously lining up on the left side of the stage, leaving space for their guitar player to hop onto the Nord keyboard for the occasional key section.
Playing a thunderous mix of garage-pop and good old fashioned rock and roll, their stage appearance betrayed their raw energy. With guitars slung up to their sternums, I half expected them to start busting out Throw Me the Statue style jangle-pop chords and heartfelt lyrics about Zooey Deschanel.
Instead, they threw down a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club rumble onstage, complete with tambourines, Spaghetti-western levels of vocal reverb, and and Apples-in-Stereo sense of harmony. Surf inspired guitar lines snaked through driving drum lines while the Costello-like voices of Gage and Dalton rang through the PA.
Right around midnight, J Roddy Walston & The Business took the reigns. Dominating the majority of the stage was a large Yamaha traveling piano, with “J RODDY” emblazoned on the side in bright orange tape. The crowd scooted closer as each musician sound checked, the lights dimmed when J Roddy hit the keys. Though their aesthetic bears more in common with Red Fang than Neil Diamond, the bearded crew burst into a Queen style number with soaring harmonies and guitar lines that could have been taken from Brian May’s songbook.
Bee Gee’s-style harmonies rocked through the speakers while the Zeppelin-style riffs filled the space between the Black Crowes like timbre of J Roddy’s voice, while the band kept the deep-fried bass and drum work driving. Cheap Trick came to mind, as their songs had a strong power-pop hook, making me excited for the next chorus to shout along to without even knowing the words.
Thrashing on the keys like a madman, J Roddy switched frantically between keys and guitar with energy that would make Andrew W.K. proud. The energy proved to be contagious, as  the crowd danced along with the swinging stomp of “Full Growing Man”. The band had the whole crowd singing along to the memorable refrain: “One foot, two foot, five foot nine / that’s all I’ve got to give to you / So don’t you change your mind/ I’m a full growing man.”
The sing-along quality to their songwriting, and their ability to make the stage their home helped these Tennessee dwellers bring a shot of life to a usually dead Sunday night, greeting the working week with a pint and a party.
–Charlie Walentiny