Informed mainly by word-of-mouth, instrumental rock-fusion fans lined up around the block awaiting the chance to participate in a rare event… experiencing first-hand the artistry and talents of the three premier musicians who are The Aristocrats – Guthrie Govan, Marco Minnemann and Bryan Beller – and their tour-mates, The Travis Larson Band, as they trek across North America on their Tres Caballeros Tour.
Though electric with anticipation, there was nobody pushing, shoving or cutting into line when the door opened to The Rainbow; they were here to absorb music which would not only move their bodies, but delight their ears and minds with intricate instrumental conversations interspersed with pregnant pauses and shifting uncommon time signatures powered and driven by the nuclear-fuel intensity of Rock.
Guitarist Trevor Larson opened the night with bassist Jennifer Young and drummer Dale Moon ripping into Shift off of their new cd/dvd, Shift Happens. Their 50 minute set included the Adam West Batman inspired Zok and a soulful rendition of Georgia on My Mind, by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, which Jennifer introduced with an exquisite finger-picking/tapping bass solo. (watch a version of this here)
The end of a brief break was heralded by the cheers of the virtually standing-room only crowd to the entrance on stage of Guthrie, Marco, and Bryan. Touted as being “More fun than fusion has any right to be” by Rhythm Magazine, The Aritocrats burned, soared, and steam-rolled their way through an almost two hour set building an energy between themselves and their audience that could almost be literally tasted; interjecting the pulse with anecdotes from their years on the road.
Their instrumental rock-fusion compositions are simultaneously labyrinthine and sophisticated in their tonal structures, time signatures, and pauses (reminiscent of the genius of Frank Zappa), yet aggressive and feral enough to impel heavy metal fans. This welding of two seemingly disparate musical genres attests to the mature creativity of each of these musicians and the solidity of their collaborative composing and live performance.
No one piece stood out from the others during the show. They were all unique in their own particular way, like Culture Clash, with it’s multiple movements from the speed of a fast-frame movie of urban commuters to a lilting open airy phrasing like rolling green hills then returning to mad screaming guitar to move off into various seemingly chaotic tangents …only to end abruptly.
The night filled with compositions (bordering the left side of genius) labelled with titles like grafitti scrawled on asylum walls, such as Sweaty Knockers and Blues F.ckers from their self-titled debut album, and from Tres Caballeros, Pig’s Day Off and my personal favourite – The Kentucky Meat Shower (…country-pickin’ bluegrass jazz fusion polka-punk??).
This ‘event’ (…because calling it a ‘show’ does not do justice to it) at The Rainbow here in Ottawa will remain lodged in my memory for years to come. Two outstanding bands in one night of hallowed instrumental rock-fusion heaven.
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