The Amorphous Band Rocks the Bier Haus
On Friday night march 5th it wasn’t difficult to decide whether The Bier Haus patrons were enjoying the band. Every few minutes someone was shouting “good band, huh!” at someone else. The Amorphous Band took the stage at the Bier Haus at 10pm to a crowd that was, as singer Cindy Kaza jokingly but correctly described as “an eclectic mix of personalities.” The forming audience reflected the music throughout the first set, a veritable sampler of styles with an inner consistency in original songs which often hint at familiarity but quickly offers up surprises, without any two songs sounding the same as often happens with bands who try fusing a composed and jam band sound. A steady stream of people, both students and locals, entered the bar and most turned their attention directly to the stage. By the time they took a break around 11 there was a crowd before the stage as the smoke clouds thickened and the lights seemed to dim as the night beat on.
The best way to describe this band would be through ripples on still water. The musicians are all natives to New Hampshire and range in age from 23 to 37, coming from a variety of musical backgrounds. Their sound feeds of off this variety by leaving the listener at times slightly confused but usually happy. They achieve this through a jam band sound with a level of musicianship that is obvious and hard to come by in college towns. The band formed to its working combination two years ago. Chris O’Neill, the lead guitarist and producer for the band writes the majority of their material and harbors a passion for music that is visible whether he is talking about their sound or tuning up his guitar. Keith Foley, bassist and energetic storyteller, oozes energy and enthusiasm. O’Neill and Foley were playing weekly at the Barley Pub in Dover, NH when they met singer Cindy Kaza. According to Foley, “She sat in with us one night and blew us away!” Kaza is the youngest member of the band but in no ways does she lag musically, her stage presence is strong and her chemistry with the other band members is secure.
Now enter Mike Walsh on the drums and Dan Shure on keyboards and you have a sound that is full and at times very vibrant. Walsh is a graduate of the UNH music program and Shure is a classically trained pianist, who comes in with the keyboards filling in spaces the listener would not have noticed otherwise and crafting the air into something exciting and beautiful.
The Amorphous Band names their influences from a smorgashboard of common musical heroes. They give a twist to covers ranging from Steely Dan to Miles Davis, as well as Bob Marley, Jamiriqoui and The Grateful Dead. Their original songs are a fantastic infusion of funk, rock, blues and jazz.
The band started out strong and really captured the young Bier Haus patrons when a few songs into their first set they performed a cover of Erika Badu’s “Appletree” and “On and On”, Kaza’s voice captured everyone, she was at once confident, sultry and shockingly smooth. Purple light covered Kaza’s bare shoulders as she began to scat lightly, every set of eyes was on her as 30 young men turned into smitten kittens being pulled toward her alter-like place in the catty cornered stage.
At the conclusion of “On and On” Kaza left the stage and the men went into a quick jazzy instrumental. Really showing off the fusion of Foley and O’Neill. Foley’s intuitive style on the 7 string bass combined with O’Neill’s integrative soulful guitar style create a uninhibited, clean yet unrehearsed sound that is not boring and never goes on too long and so never drowns in it’s own sound as many jazz fusion ensembles do.
When Kaza returned with a tambourine in hand the crowd in the bar had swelled and there was a constant flow of students entering the bar. Most headed straight toward the stage. The crowd thickened and the sound of the band was absorbed into bodies as people nodded their heads along with the music. Conversation went on and jokes were made as friends caught up, but there was no sense of competing with the music. The bar scene and the band seemed to blend together boosting the energy of a downtown Friday night.
As the band played on, Shure’s presence on the keyboards became more pronounced doing more than just rounding out the sound, he made the music fat and happy. Spinning the band into a comfortable controlled chaos that can at once be labeled as acid jazz, funk, rock, pop, and blues and on and on. Peeking through all of these layers was Walsh’s progressive drumming style. Keeping the band on course as the night wore on. Sometimes leading the music into a Latin groove that was surprising but not entirely out of place.
Overall, Fridays’ performance was a perfect fit for a small mountain town like Plymouth. Echoing New Hampshire with its familiar feel, surprising quirks, and instrumentals that could place you on top of a mountain or under water.
O’Neill admits that as musicians they enjoy a jam band format. When asked if problems ever arise over some members being classically trained (Shure on keyboards) and others being self taught he responded, “sometimes band members clash a little, but Dan is a good jammer and willing to explore.” In the recording studio the band put together 11 tracks containing material they developed while jamming and much material written by O’Neill who admits “the album certainly gives a nod to accessibility”. Certainly the music doesn’t suffer from this and the whole product displays the bands charged dynamic.
The Amorphous Bands’ 2003 album, “Primeordia” follows a trend similar to their Friday night performance. The album brings the listener through several stages of musical development and style. The first three tracks are quick and upbeat, hinting at the blues and also catchy rocked out folk tunes. “Gordie” moves the album closer to the funk and Latin grooves helping to give this band a unique sound. Next comes “Settle Down” an appropriate lyric for the soft melody of this track, with some clean piano accompaniment and a wave to the radio friendly ballad genre. Half way through the album the band changes gears yet again with a new age sounding instrumental. The rest of the album continues in the vain of cleaned up jams with an affinity for jazz.
You can catch The Amorphous Band in action again at 9pm on Friday, March 19th at the Muddy River Smokehouse in Portsmouth, NH. For more information about their music and the band go to www.amorphousmusic.com.