Particle Makes it Hot on a Snowy Day in Saratoga

The neon signs that welcomed fans to Putnam Den were illuminated by falling snow landing on the glass. People huddled around the snow covered tables, smoking, trying to stay warm. The venue was very welcoming to the cold as leather couches sat in the middle of the room, giving off a cozy, warm, almost home-like feeling. People trudged in slowly and the floor became soaked in footprints as the perfectly lit room filled. Everyone who made it through the treacherous weather to get there prepared themselves for the great time that is a Particle party.

John Wayne and the Pain opened the evening with their unique sound of Reggaetronic Dub. The mixture may sound abstract but when put all together a great sound was created. They pushed musical boundaries to the limits when they covered the Grateful Dead classic, “Wharf Rat”, a song that wouldn’t seem to fit this genre, but with these three musicians they made it work. Starting the song with Garcia like guitars licks and ending it the same way was a phenomenal feat, that very few could pull off.

As Particle prepared to take the stage, fans who were milling around the room came to the center for what was sure to be a rager. The slightly tilted hats that have become a staple in the scene were out in full force as were the girls in their artsy skirts with drinks in hand. Clay Parnell (bass) and Brandon Draper (drums) started out the show with “Papa Delta”, a heavy drum and bass beat, getting the crowd going, warming their cold bones. The energy level was extremely high as guitarist Ben Combe and keyboard extraordinaire Steve Molitz joined the other two on stage. Molitz then led the drum and bass jam into the Chemical Brothers’ “Denmark”, a keyboard heavy dance track, with the crowd throwing their hands in the air, smiling, and giving each other high fives. Particle had arrived. Molitz was also hopping up and down to ensure the energy level was steady.

Although the sound of Particle is keyboard heavy, the next track, “London Forces”, was focused on Combes’ guitar playing, building up and up until an explosion of sound emerged showing the versatility of the band. Covering Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” was a treat for all, slowing the pace down a bit, allowing fans to catch their breath but still staying connected to the show. The beautifully covered song also showed the immense range Particle has in their playing ability. The party continued with more beats to keep the crowd moving, to keep them warm. This being only the second show with this rotation they were spitting pure fire and will continue to do so as the band’s chemistry grows.

Setlist: Papa Delta, Denmark, Hits, London Forces, Red Orchestra, Launchpad, Have A Cigar, New Song, Kneeknocker, W, Elevator, Below Radar, Axel F

Encore: Pro, Sun Mar 11

Prior to the show, I had the privilege of siting down with Particle members Steve Molitz and Clay Parnell before their recent show at Putnam Den.

Jimmy Chambers: How has the sound of Particle changed as new members have joined the band?

Steve Molitz: Different people bring different sounds and tones, but I don’t think the Particle sound changes that much. There is sort of this core thing that happens when the songs get played, I don’t want to say it’s bigger than the musicians playing it but it’s separate from the musicians playing it. The various musicians over the years have tapped into it. The songs are created with am end line, but by bringing in new musicians there is room for a song to grow, but always keeping that core intact. And it’s interesting playing with different players, because you get to hear what the interpretation of the song is. A great example of this is Clay (Parnell) on bass he interpreted a song that we have been playing for ten years differently than when it was written, and now we have a completely new sound to a song we have been playing for over ten years.

JC: Clay are you pulling double duty with Brothers Past or are you mostly going to be focused on particle?

Clay Parnell: Well in a sense I am. I mean Brothers Past hasn’t disbanded, we have a couple of dates lined up. But everybody in Brothers Past is doing really amazing things, Tommy Hamilton is out with the American Babies. Our keyboardist, (Tom McKee) is running a music school.

JC: How did you end up joining an established band, when your are already in an established band?

CP: Its funny, Steve and I, since both of our main projects were kind of in a lull I kinda had a lot going on, like I say I’m the man of a million side projects.

JC: Like the Warren Haynes of bass.

CP: Yeah, you know, Steve asked me what I was doing, and asked me about this, and I just went with it.

SM: It all came about very organically, it started with just jamming on tunes in the studio, and just worked out. He heard the tracks and laid down his bass lines, and that was that. It all came together very well.

JC: How did you get involved playing with Phil Lesh, and how did that experience impact your playing, because the Grateful Dead sound is a little different than the Particle sound?

SM: I think he (Lesh) came to see Particle at the Cow Palace (San Francisco), I think, and shortly thereafter he asked if I want to play with Phil Lesh and Friends. I said yeah, but I never grew up listening to the Grateful Dead, I didn’t have their albums, I wasn’t familiar with their songs. So I told him I may not be the best guy for the job and he said that’s even better, that’s perfect! He was thrilled that I didn’t know the material because then I wouldn’t try to emulate anyone who has played it before me. You really made a good point when you asked how it influenced my playing, because I definitely learned a lot playing with theses different lineups.

JC: Now that you have this formation in the band where do you see yourself going? About ten years ago I saw your name everywhere, Disco Biscuits shows, then it kind of died down a bit. But now you have this resurgence with Clay in the band this huge tour. Where do you see it going?

SM: Yeah you’re right, right now we have like 40 tour dates on the books. This tour takes us down the East Coast and as far south as Texas. Then the next tour starts in Tahoe (Nevada) and works its way down to San Diego and out through Arizona, Utah, the Midwest, ending at Jazz Fest in New Orleans. So we’re definitely getting around, planning a big fall tour as well and finishing putting a few touches on the new album. As for the big picture, its kind of counterproductive to think about the future too far and that’s something I’ve learned being on the road for over 14 years. So I’m not really trying to get ahead of myself thinking where will we be in a year, five years. It’s more just thinking ‘I am so excited for the show we are going to play tonight’, and ‘I’m so excited for the show we’re going to play tomorrow night and so on’. Trying to play each night as it comes, live each moment as it comes. And have as much fun as possible doing it.