2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the famed cross-country trip made by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters on the bus that shared its name with their destination – Further, or Furthur, depending on whom you ask. To commemorate the original trip Kesey’s son, Zane, took the bus on 50th Anniversary Tour with stops around the country.
Albany, NY’s Formula 5 took the stage at 8:30 getting folks moving with a 12 minute “Perch Above the Earth.” This was followed up with a buttery segue into a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Uh Oh, Love Comes to Town,” picking up the pace a bit and getting everyone in the room dancing. Keeping with the flow, they took this into a great “Excalibur.” Only at this point, halfway through their hour-long set, did they take a break. “Coming Home,” the highlight of the set, included jams on The Blues Brothers and Phish. The set closed quite fittingly with a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “The Music Never Stopped.” The influence of these various bands is quite obvious in the way Formula 5 plays, but they are making their own mark on the scene. Seek them out now while they’re still playing small clubs.
The Jauntee, hailing from Boston, took the stage next around 10:00. Their opening song, “Puppy in my Pocket,” starts a bit like the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll,” but quickly changes up. There were many similarities to other bands throughout their set, including a song that sounded like it could have been pulled directly from Primus’ repertoire. In fact, their entire sound mimics that of Phish. It’s not surprising that they were once called the heir to Phish’s throne. They seem to have modeled their entire sound on that of Phish. Even the guitarist, Caton Sollenberger, looked a bit like Trey Anastasio from the ‘90s to the point where he even mimics the “Trey face” that Phish fans have grown to love. The band is quite talented and can definitely go places. However, they need to use Phish more as an influence and less as what they strive to become. They seemed to lack a sound of their own.
Finally, around 11:30, New York City’s TAUK took the stage as the crowd filled in. Their mix of the funk, progressive rock, and intricate melodies kept the room moving as they kept the groove going from start to finish. The band is reminiscent of Umphrey’s McGee in how tight they keep their composed sections intertwined with the improvisation. It’s almost as though the entire show was a long composition. They closed their set strong with “Collateral,” ending about 10 minutes after the 1:00am curfew with the house lights on. TAUK is a band worth checking out. It would not be surprising to see them playing larger venues within the next year.
In the half hour breaks between the sets on the main stage, COSMAL played his one man band fusion of EDM, trance, and house music. Most of the crowd headed outside to take pictures of the Further bus or hung out at the bar during his sets. The music provided a good filler between the main events.