‘Toga Thursdays – The Heavy Pets & Formula 5 at the Putnam Den

It has been almost 200 days since my last Phish show, which thankfully will be cured soon with their summer tour starting this week. However, to fill this void throughout the year, I go see Formula 5 and The Heavy Pets as often as I can.  On June 27th, I got a double dose of jam music when both bands performed at the Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs.

One of the best feelings, and the start to a great night, is walking into the venue just as the first band takes the stage, in this case, it was the sound of Formula 5. Their first song had teases from Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” quickly grabbing the audience’s attention. They hit the crowd with a new single that had no name but didn’t need one, and ended up being called “No Name”, featuring a strong guitar presence thanks to Joe Davis, with lots of cymbals ringing from Greg Marek, creating a very spacey melody.

One of the best parts about watching Formula 5 perform is bassist Bill Shattuck. His feet barely touch the ground as he dances and tiptoes ever so carefully around the thick bass notes he leaves everywhere. The boys were on point that night with no slow build ups and blasting from one song to the next. Mike McDonald plays just about every note on his keyboard with great speed and simplicity. A great surprise was when Jeff Lloyd from the Heavy Pets joined the band for the song “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town” by The Talking Heads, terrific energy and guitar shredding.  Formula 5 will be hosting a Phish SPAC After Party on July 5th at The MINE nightclub on Broadway. The guys will also be making stops at this year’s Backwoods Pondfest and The Big UP music festivals.

The Heavy Pets hail from Florida but are no strangers to playing to a dedicated fan base in Upstate New York, particularly due to their early roots in Syracuse, where Jeff Lloyd calls himself an alumnus. Their sound is like a space station on a tropical vacation – you get the electronic mixes with a heavy dose of reggae that always catches you by surprise. “Spin Round”, a pop/electronic tune featured charming vocals and upbeat piano chords from Jim Wuest. “Chevrolet” was a harder rock song with reggae vibes radiating with sharp string playing from a combined Jeff Lloyd, Mike Garulli and Tony D’Amato.

Halfway through their set, the band announced the winner of the raffle contest with the prize being Phish SPAC pit tickets that were given to each attendee at the door. I don’t think I’ve ever seen people with so many raffle tickets before. Focusing back on The Heavy Pets, Jamie Newitt got the crowd amped up with a quick tempo start of “STYM” and laid down the rhythm strong all night. Putnam Den was filled with the echo of their simple yet powerful lyrics, “We are one. So thank you music.” The set ended with “Jackie Bones”, a steady beat with raising harmonies that made you wish the show wasn’t over yet.

The Heavy Pets will be performing at this year’s Equifunk and The Night Lights Fall music festivals.