If there is always a lesson to be learned, then the one imparted to those in attendance at the Flour City Station in Rochester last Thursday night was simply: Lyrics are overrated.
Two rising young bands owned the stage on that night. Neither sang a single word. And yet, epic tales were told, vivid images imagined…
The night started with local stalwarts Ocular Panther. Formerly a trio, they debuted their newly minted quartet, adding drummer Jimmy Grillo, formerly of Roots Collider, to existing guitarists Colin Jones and Mike Pantano, and bassist Jason Gilly. Considering the complexity of their compositions, with long instrumental passages, shifting time signatures, and the heavily improvised nature of their music, it was not an easy role to jump into. A hiccup or two would be expected. But not on this night, and not for Jimmy Grillo. Having a live drummer, especially one of Grillo’s capability, created an entirely new dynamic for the band. The sound advanced beyond just electronic dance grooves, becoming less predictable and more nuanced. The electronic drum sounds still showed up here and there, but acted more as a spice and not a driving force. Jones was more freed up to concentrate on guitar, and both he and Pantano were equally impressive on rhythm and explosive leads. As good as they sounded, it seems they’ll only be improving in the coming shows as Grillo continues to grow more comfortable in the band. And those in Rochester will have plenty of opportunities to check Ocular Panther out in the coming weeks as they are on a bunch of upcoming bills.
The stage was set then for NYC’s Consider the Source. The individual parts of which defied comprehension. Gabriel Martin on fretless double-neck guitar could coax an incredible catalog of sounds out of his instrument. Some by effects pedals (of which he was surrounded by a rather large floor full) which turned his guitar into everything from a sitar to a clarinet. Some of it was just in the technique, which ranged from straight metal-esque raging to slinky sliding Middle Eastern melodies. At one point he utilized a trombone effect, which was particularly interesting as he played it like a slide. John Ferrara played bass like a lead instrument, melodic and beautiful and technically brilliant. Rarely content to sit back in a simple groove, his fingers were in constant motion, pulling and kneading the music into extraordinary and unusual spaces. Jeff Mann’s drumming style was that of a perpetual solo. Like Ferrara, rarely settling into a rhythm, just constant motion, constant changes, but still holding it all together.
It was soloing in triplicate. But the real magic was the intersection of all three. Their music intertwined ancient Middle Eastern and Indian influences with jazz, rock and metal into a quasi-futuristic blend that represented a land and a culture that don’t yet exist. This was particularly evident in their latest venture, Put Another Rock in That Bag, a multi-part composition released last year on their World War Trio EP. And their interpretation of Radiohead’s Paranoid Android was likewise not of this world.
After over three hours of intense instrumental jams, the crowd cheered not just for one more song, but for one more set. Yep… lyrics are definitely overrated. Lesson learned.