Walking into Nietzsche’s Saturday, November 29th, you could instantly feel something in the air that was different. One by one, people made their way passed the handlebar-mustached doorman and grabbed a beer with apparent anticipation. Drummer Alan Evans was born and raised in Buffalo, and one thing the city does well is welcome home one of their own. There were several family members and close friends present and that was in addition to the growing fan base that the Alan Evans Trio has quickly established here.
Starting the night, Kid Splendor & the Royal Fortune took to the stage and, ironically, had the fortune of a Royal Family instrument upgrade. Earlier in the day, Kid Splendor drummer Jacob Leckey got a text saying he could use Alan Evans drum kit. Hesitating with disbelief, he almost brought his drums just in case. Lucky for Leckey though, the text was no hoax and he got to take full advantage of the incredible opportunity. As the band opened with their song “A Go Go”, Leckey channeled Evans and commanded the opening groove. Describing the experience, Jacob said, “I wasn’t as concerned that it was Al’s as I was with the fact that it was setup directly in the front of the stage. I have never played a show as a drummer like that and being the main thing people would focus on was new. Adding to it, the guy who normally gives me most of my cues was behind me and made it a bit daunting.” The hurdles went unnoticed by the crowd though as the band’s sound was tight. Once they were a few songs in, the band pulled out a cover of the Neville Brother’s “Fire on the Bayou,” satisfying the longtime funk appreciators of the crowd. Throughout the set, guitarist Mike Hogan and keyboardist Mike Kausner traded solos with a solid foundation laid down by the rest of the band. The addition of the Harbor Horns, a three piece horn section that played with Kid Splendor during their set, added brass accents and a rousing rotating solo on “Smaller the Club (Better the Party).” Kid Splendor closed their set with “Floyd” which was led by the rapid pace of Leckey, still feeding off of the high. The energy of the song capped off a great opening to the night and propelled the crowd right into AE3’s set that shortly followed.
Set List: A Go Go, Chicken Strut, Fire on the Bayou, Mah Na Ma, Hey Pocky Way, Sissy Strut, Smaller the Club (Better the Party), Laminak, Floyd
As Alan, Beau, and Danny made their way through the crowd and up the stairs in the front of the stage, people began filling in and really packing the small club. With the upper levels filled, it really felt like the band was only going to make it out if they satisfied the surrounding group. They took the challenge in stride and easily surpassed all expectations. The set started off blazing right from the get-go, leading with the fast-paced “They Call Me Velvet.” Beau Sasser’s solo on the song stomped on the gas, but Danny Mayer’s answer sent the crowd into orbit. Alan Evans was equally adding to the sound, beating his drums harder than I have ever seen him play. The fact that his kit held up for the entire set was honestly surprising as he was relentless from the beginning. Even with the focus they put forth, you could see the fun these guys were having as it was written all over their faces. After every solo or lead, you could always spot one of them giving a nod to the other as if they were just as excited to hear that as we were.
As the middle of the set approached, the group dove into another highlight of the night on the Hendrix cover of “Ain’t No Tellin,” which really captivated the crowd. Beau Sasser showcased his ability on this one and proved that he should have his own “Beau Knows” marketing campaign for his B-3 prowess. What he did on that solo caused most people to stop dead in their tracks and pay attention to his rapid-fire delivery. As the energy reached a high point, the band thankfully slowed things down with “The Laydown.” Danny Mayer led this song as it began with a slow-rolling Strat solo that was beautifully colored with a muffled wah tone. The slow pace allowed Mayer to float some powerful notes into the night air, leaving room for Evans to accent in between. While they’re only a three-piece, they understand how to strike a perfect balance between each other. The balance of improvisation and structure was explored throughout the night with an almost undetected form of communication between the guys. Wrapping up an incredible night of funk, the guys came out for an encore of the Buddy Miles song “Them Changes.” The song was fitting for the evening and left the crowd with one last high. Mayer’s solo on this one had his Strat screaming with every note being further punctuated by Evans’ play.
At any given point during their set, you really felt as though these guys were somehow able to talk to each other while they played. They pull off of a completely synchronized feel without coming off as rehearsed. It’s pretty obvious why they continue to draw more and more at every show and will continue to with the drive they have. Thankfully for us, Alan is a hometown guy who always sets aside time for a trip home.
Set List: They Call Me Velvet, If You Want My Love > If You Want Me To Stay > If You Want My Love, Thor, I’m Coming Home, Ain’t No Tellin, The Laydown, Nothing to Say, Who Dare Knock, Cosmic Hazel Dust
Encore: Them Changes
Photography by Kyle Hess