Occasionally the planets align in a favorable manner and bring some truly incredible show moments to Utica, NY. Saturday, October 13th was a prime example of this effect. The band moe. was in town on a two day run at the Saranac Brewery and this town always comes out big for them. The bars that line Varick Street were bursting with quality pre and post moe. shows to keep the party going. Among the pre-moe. festivities was a set at Blu by CNY alum Joe Driscoll. Blu was holding it down for fans by keeping this a free show and also having some pretty solid drink specials. You cannot let the chilly temperatures keep you inside under conditions like that. Wrapped up in our winter finest, a few friends and I gathered and made our way.
Joe was joined for this performance by James ‘Hollywood’ Moore on the saxophone and both of their wonderful attitudes. Each looked genuinely pleased to be doing exactly what they’d come to do, play some music for some people and get some hips swinging. No time at all was wasted and the music started before the outside bar was even open.
The performance spanned Driscoll’s career from “Origin Myth” to tracks of the new album he has penned with Sekou Kouyate (check the history on this, it’s quite an interesting collaboration and the songs I have heard are epic). Only getting better with time, Driscoll is well seasoned by his constant touring schedule and time overseas and the accompaniment from Moore added a lot of audible interest. I loved that he often sang along and looked just about as pleased as most of us did. Joe took a few requests and did plenty of interacting with the audience lending a real hometown feel to this show. It was something to be grateful for, indeed.
By including a few special cover selections including a request for Ani DiFranco’s “Untouchable Face” and an unexpected interpretation of “Soul to Squeeze” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Driscoll again proved his diversity as a performer. He is willing to please his crowd and seems to take earnest interest in flexing his beat box and string tickling prowess on songs of others that he himself enjoys listening to. He slowly and deliberately layered textures of sound over each other with effect and looping equipment, building the sound to a crescendo effortlessly. You feel a bit like you’re hanging out in a garage somewhere with a few of your most talented friends, one of whom can’t put down his guitar and the other weaving beautiful and stirring sounds from his horn. The likeability factor was off the charts.
Then, there are the rhythms coming out of these performers, with nary a drummer in sight! Assuming both your legs work, I submit it is impossible not to use them at a show like this. I was bouncing all over the place and eventually an expert hulahoop-er took over the ‘pit’ area with an impressive display. When Joe mixes his beatboxing with a staccato beat banged out on his tambourine, it’s bliss for your dancing feet. It’s more than a one man band effect. It is something fresh, new and utterly intriguing.
In case you can’t tell by now, I had an absolute blast and will continue to eagerly seek out opportunities to experience Joe Driscoll at Blu, or elsewhere, live again. And, probably, again … and again. I’m totally hooked. Here is a brief taste of a new track of the aforementioned album with Sekou Kouyate. Purely for your enjoyment.