Elemental Groove Theory taught me how to move...
Granted, "moving" for me is not much more than nodding my head, maybe moving my leg a bit, and not TOO much else. But it's more than what it used to be, particularly at the onset of my college career. As opposed to not moving at all, I'll take this any day.
I had the honor of seeing EGT in concert for the fourth time Thursday evening, and for the second time (maybe third... hell, I can never remember these things) with the like-minded First Street Heat.
This time in particular was for the eight-piece's CD release party, the first of -- hopefully -- many. Students and non-students alike trudged from all over to the Union to witness an evening of horns, hula hoops and funk-- all in the name of a brand new album from one of Athens' most prominent bands.
The First Street Heat were a more-than-worthy opening band. The band's malleable, ever-changing lineup was still as tight as can be, with swelling brass and stellar vocals from Ben Kain, Eden Lee and Eric Turner. And, of course, people got down. Like whoa. It may well be because it was freshest in my mind, but I cannot remember seeing that much dancing at a show in quite some time. And what was more? The place was packed. The two bands have always been known to bring large crowds to the Union for their shows, and Thursday night was no different. If you were in the front of the audience and had to leave even for a moment, you'd have to forget about getting that spot back. Things were intense.
Elemental Groove Theory only ramped up the intensity of the evening. Though the First Street Heat were, as always, exceedingly eye-catching and entertaining, there is no funk rock band I've seen that can beat EGT. Having heard their new album in its entirety (a must-listen, by the way) and having spoken to a few band members themselves in an article I wrote last spring, I can confidently say that the band is simply too talented and entertaining to pass up on any night.
It was a great hour-plus of music. After starting off with an immense jam-like song sans vocals, singer Rachel Maxann emerged onstage as the band launched into -- arguably -- their best song, "Live Your Style." It contains a lyric, "Music will change everything," which I particularly like. It's simple, sure, but it can be the truth. And when you see the crowd reaching toward Maxann and the stage while she sings those lyrics, well, it certainly is inspiring to say the least.
The night wore on but the intensity never died. Bassist Matt Urminski aimed his bass into the crowd like a shotgun, guitarists Mark "Mavis" Meredith and Dan Perez traded harmonic, blistering guitar solos, and the brass/woodwind combo of saxophonist Kyle Slemmer and trumpet Dustin Bastin are seriously two of the most talented players of each respective instrument I've had the opportunity to see live. Keyboardist Mike Brokamp's solos were always welcome and the crowd always seemed to dig them, plus the guy has an incredible amount of energy while onstage. Drummer Eric Wright donned an enormous fuzzy hat for the occasion. Frankly, while watching him, I thought about how it was a wonder that the thing even stayed on as he played.
Hilariously enough, after finishing up their album's closing song, the ten-minute "The 751," Urminski leaned into the microphone and asked the crowd if they liked the song. He proceeded to note that ACRN called the song the worst on their new album. For a fleeting moment I felt like yelling out that not all of ACRN thought this, that this was just one person's opinion, especially since the track was one of my favorites on the album. But to each their own, right? Right.
The evening ended just shy of 2 a.m., after the band had played most (maybe all? It's so hard to keep track!) of their new disc and had inserted in a few covers and other originals as well. The verdict: I think everyone most certainly left satisfied. I know I did.
Though seeing them live is an experience in and of itself and should be witnessed at all costs, Elemental Groove Theory also has a great record out now that is many, many months in the making. Go out and get it. You won't be sorry.
--Kevin Rutherford, Managing Editor