Walking into Kitty O’Shea’s Pub in Beverly, Mass., I was shocked at what I saw. It was not the venue’s well known (and by now infamous) lack of space that had shocked me, but the impressive number of people that had managed to jam-pack themselves into the small pub on this particular Friday the Thirteenth. The long standing Irish pub has always pulled impressive numbers as it continues to enjoy its position as a staple of Beverly’s bustling downtown; however, as a live music venue, it has always left patrons wanting more. That did not appear to be the case that evening, however, as a loud cheer went out from the masses and local favorites Our Own World took the stage. Shooting a glance around the crowd, I noticed the look of excitement shared between those in attendance; barring any Friday the Thirteenth bad luck, we were in for one hell of a night.
After a quick tune-up and a thank you to the crowd, the band opened with a well-known duo in The Grateful Dead’s repertoire, “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider,” featuring the mesmerizing vocals and enveloping notes of lead vocalist and guitarist Collin Curtis. Curtis found something inside of himself while playing Jerry Garcia’s part, and it translated incredibly well to the crowd as they felt the honesty in the lyrics he delivered.
An impressive segue between the two songs kept the crowd’s energy up before the band began a rarely played original, “Mexican Spice.” A song from early in their development, “Mexican Spice” is a testament of the band’s growth as a whole. Bassist Billy Sullivan started a relaxed and comfortable, funk-infused slap bass line, which served in getting the entire audience dancing and exciting drummer Jake Snyder into finding his pace.
Now settled into a tight groove, the band allowed the fans to dance a bit more before beginning another original, titled “My Girl (It All Works Out).” A ballad in and of itself, “My Girl” features incredibly soulful bass playing by Sullivan behind obviously personal lyrics from Curtis that create a passionate and overwhelmingly sincere experience.
Allowing for a moment before the next song, Curtis asked the audience for their patience as they debuted a new original song, titled “Free Her Maria.” With southern rock inspirations, the song seemed to drift along as if being carried by a small, yet decidedly determined breeze. Sullivan stepped to the forefront and began calling the shots, resulting in lead guitarist Brandon Cyr and Snyder following suit as the smile widened on Curtis’s face.
Now completely locked-in with one another, it was time for the band to take the new song to places the practice room could not contain. A spaced-out jam, featuring lofty solos from Cyr that were reminiscent of the early Allman Brothers Band, carried the crowd to the brink of understanding before luring them to a place one foot over the edge. Building the song up and up, the band worked the crowd into a frenzy before Sullivan dropped them happily back to Earth with the opening bass line of yet another original, “The Story Of…”
A slow and decisive groove formed, weaving an exotic scene that served to guide the band as they climbed and fell gracefully from one verse to the next. Stepping out of the chorus and into a beautifully constructed jam, the band found its way into Phish’s realm with a new addition to their repertoire, “Harry Hood.” Though thoroughly enjoyed by the audience, “Harry Hood” was short lived.
After teasing the crowd with another cover – moe.’s “Kyle’s Song” – the band decided, at the suggestion of Sullivan, that it was time to make them dance. And with spectacular 4/4 precision, make them dance he most assuredly did. Over Sullivan’s driving bass, it was hard not to see Cyr coming like a freight train with a whirlwind of furiously lacerating notes. Trying not only to keep up with Cyr, but also surpass him tenfold, Snyder cranked up the speed (as well as the energy of the crowd) to 11. Reaching a peak, the band quickly teased the re-entry into “Story Of…” before Snyder decided against it and picked up the pace, resulting in a Brandon-“Spacebird”-Cyr-inspiring roar from the audience.
In no time at all, the now frenzied shoulder-to-shoulder crowd all stood as one with their eyes closed, locked contently in the jam as Cyr delivered an almost flawless execution of a dance-inspiring solo with a degree of ferocity that would cause the wind to grow green with envy. Just as smoke began emitting from the band’s instruments, they returned to the end of “Story Of…” once more and closed out the medley, leaving the now deafeningly loud crowd (as well as your humble author) leaping into the air with excitement. In one of the most impressive displays of local musicianship I have seen in quite some time, I found that there were times during this song when I asked myself, “Why not? Why not them?”
After a brief tune-up, the band seemed to unconsciously begin to play another rarely heard track, entitled “Cyr Yourself,” that is immediately recognizable as an instrumental ballad. Sitting perfectly comfortable in his element, Cyr wailed away as only he can over a reassuring bass line from Sullivan. Seeming confident in their knowledge of the song, the band stepped outside of the box somewhat and entered a more exploratory jam for a short while before reeling it back in and opting to end it for set break.
Looking around and seeing the shifting mass of people I realized once more just how small that pub actually is. It was rare that I would so easily forget something so immediately invasive; however, somehow Our Own World had managed to make me forget my surroundings entirely…but it was sometime until they would return. So outside I went, with no little energy expenditure.
Suddenly, I was aware that the numbers around me on the back porch of Kitty O’Shea’s had thinned, and knew that it could only mean set-break was coming to an end. Making my way back inside, I noticed the boys from Our Own World had once again taken the stage (as well as everyone’s attention). A quick thank you, and we were off once again with yet another original, titled “Pick or Choose,” featuring some inspiring lyrics that were convincingly delivered by Curtis. Setting the pace for the second set, the band brought the song to a plateau before transcending it with a seamless segue into the fiery and raucous inspiring “Pirates.”
After yet another dance jam that would cause most electronic acts to reconsider their profession, Snyder laid down ferocious cymbal strikes, and Sullivan leaned forward and shut his eyes in a prime example of foreshadowing. Now totally cohesive, the jam reached peak levels and acted as a catalyst, igniting the audience into blind ecstasy before dropping back into the main riff of the high-sea-pilfering “Pirates.” Ending the song with a roar, the band looked to each other and laughed before opting to cool things off with another original, “Living Freely.”
Curtis’s vocals hit home with many in attendance as the now swaying crowd closed their eyes and sang along. As the song reached its climax, Cyr stepped forward for a heart-wrenching solo that sent the crowd from swaying to bobbing their heads. With a loud crack of a snare strike from Snyder, the bass line dropped down and the floodgate opened. In a wash of sound, the crowd was once again dancing their way through oblivion. Climbing and falling, the band dragged them along, bending the crowd happily to their will. Just as the band reached a fever pitch, they moved into a brief “Pick Reprise,” and then brought the crowd back to the here-and-now with another original debut, “Grateful and Easy.”
Curtis’s vocals trailed smoothly over a beautifully composed ballad, and the band allowed themselves to have a small learning curve, keeping the song tight and forfeiting any exploration that was sure to come at a later date. In Curtis’s eyes was true passion that was shared by those in attendance as he delivered the final verse and motioned to the band that it was time to move into another original, “On My Way.”
With a truly attentive bass line from Sullivan and a drivingly simplistic beat from Snyder, everyone within earshot began swaying their hips to the particularly exploratory version of the song. Chasing each other around the stage (musically of course – as I said, the venue is miniscule), the band found their way through a murky segue into The Grateful Dead’s “Sugaree.” Once again, Curtis’s presentation of powerful solos and sincere singing of the Grateful Dead served to tug emphatically on the heartstrings of the audience. Continuing to impress the crowd with his control over the work of Jerry Garcia, Curtis began yet another Grateful Dead cover, “Brown Eyed Women.”
After a lengthy applause and a quick check of the clock, the band hastily decided to begin a slower song to round out the evening by playing an original, “Not Rob’s Song.” Not easily categorized, the song drifted along eerily behind Curtis’s tale of tremendous struggles and the impact we all have on each other, even when we think we are only hurting ourselves. The truth in the delivery and the emotion behind each word easily translated to the crowd as they swayed in unison despite the obvious looks in their eyes that told the tale of the introvert. Before anyone had a chance to realize it, the song ended, shaking the audience, and awaking them to a tremendous applause from the jam-packed pub.
With a nod from Curtis, the band turned around to begin packing up their equipment and Curtis left the stage. Just as I, too, turned to make my way to the exit, another voice was heard through the amplifiers. I recognized it as my friend (and fellow blogger) Sam Hill. It was enough to turn me right back around and see what he was up to. Despite his pleasantly trained, radio-worthy voice, I needed something more to keep me inside of the now frantic pub. And with a quick laugh from Cyr I got just that.
Now, I know that Sam Hill would not admit to being the ultimate Phish guru; however, as Cyr struck the opening chords to Phish’s “Birds Of A Feather,” there was no one else I would rather have at the helm. Bursting forth from the frenzy of notes being delivered by Cyr was Sullivan’s enthusiastic slamming of the bass and an impressive delivery and stage presence from Hill. Laughing and having the crowd’s support, the remaining members of the band and Sam Hill decided that they would keep going until someone stopped them, and they moved quickly and unapologetically into another Phish track, titled “Wolfman’s Brother.” A more precise test of Hill’s ability to remember the lyrics, he did not disappoint, as the group effortlessly delivered a cohesive take on the song.
Feeling the moment, the band pushed on through “Wolfman’s Brother” into an easier to remember song by Phish, titled “Meatstick.” Having the support of the now reformed crowd, the group continued to push their limits and began a jazz favorite by Herbie Hancock, “Chameleon.” Usually without lyrics, “Chameleon” is brought to a more relatable level by Sam Hill as he continues the “Meatstick” vocals as long as the venue would allow…which wasn’t very long, as the “Chameleon” was cut short, and the crowd groaned. The moment they had dreaded on this Friday the Thirteenth had finally reared its repulsive head, and the night came to a close.
(Head on over to archive.org to check out the recording of this show: http://archive.org/details/OOW2012-01-13)