Imagine taking a journey on unfamiliar roads, and your GPS isn’t working. You’re left to trust your instincts, fairly confident that you’ll reach your destination, even if you don’t quite know what lies ahead of you. That’s a bit like seeing Caravan of Thieves for the very first time. The band performed at the Nelson Odeon on Saturday, November 19. Their multiple styles were all over the musical map. There were elements of swing, bluegrass, alt-country, folk, Americana, big band, gypsy rhythms, Celtic influences, and yes, disco, throughout the evening. Their infectious songs had the audience singing along on the choruses, or on familiar cover tunes, and earned the crowd’s trust that we’d all find our way to an enjoyable evening. Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni, the husband and wife guitarists that front the band, accompanied by Nicole Scorsone on violin and Rich Zurkowski on upright bass, led a nearly full house through a rollicking two sets of high energy, foot-stomping, hand-clapping, finger-snapping songs. When not playing guitar, Fuzz played extended solos on what looked to be the world’s most make-shift percussion kit, comprising of a five gallon plastic water bottle, a sauce pan, a spring, a coffee can, what may have been half of a fifty-five gallon drum, and other instruments not readily identifiable. His drum solos added to the band’s “anything goes” attitude and brought smiles and thunderous applause.
Many of their originals, such as the opening piece “Wasting My Time,” and “I Get Sad,” showcased the remarkable harmony of Fuzz and Carrie’s voices. Scorsone’s expressive violin and Zurkowski’s double bass, which he both plucked and bowed, deserve mention for the richness they added to Caravan of Thieves sound. The cover tunes were stunning in both their selection, and in their execution. The band put their own signature stamp on these pieces, rather than cookie cutter versions of the original recordings. These included a Beatles “Girl/Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” medley, an audience sing-along on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and to begin their encore, an instrumental version of Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood,” followed by Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” I am going to go out on a limb and state that I’m fairly certain that no other band at any time or any place has ever played those two songs back to back.
For their finale, the band came down from the stage, gathered the audience around them, and played an unplugged rendition of their song “Raise the Dead.” This piece would be right at home in an Irish saloon, with reverence for the departed and celebration for the living, complete with a stomp, clap, and sing along chorus that those in attendance readily joined in. Maybe we didn’t know exactly how we ended up shoulder to shoulder with strangers, singing and stomping and clapping in public without a care in the world. But, I’m glad to have trusted Caravan of Thieves to get us there.