Over three sold out nights in Burlington this New Year’s weekend, Twiddle played into the past, present and future of their musical catalog and continued to prove why they are one of the most talked about bands in the jam scene. The packed crowds at Higher Ground were treated to three very different nights of Twiddle. The band highlighted their three studio albums and substantiated that their latest release PLUMP is a showcase of where their live performance is headed.
Twiddle roared in the New Year in vintage style. A “Gatsby the Great”-themed evening saw the band and fans dressed to the nines for New Year’s Eve. With several extended jams and a night packed with fan favorites, the band played their second studio album Somewhere on the Mountain in its entirety, while interjecting several non-studio fan favorites, including “Gatsby the Great” and “Hatti’s Jam,” throughout the sets.
As an album Somewhere on the Mountain evokes the party, so it was fitting that Twiddle chose to play all 12 tracks on the biggest party night of the year. “Doinkinbonk!!!” into “Apples” became a 40-minute dance party/sing-along to two of the band’s most infectious songs. During “Apples,” Soul Monde’s Russ Lawton (drums) and Ray Packowski (keys) joined the band onstage while Twiddle’s Ryan Dempsey showed off his skills on the marimba. A dual drum performance between Lawton and Twiddle’s Brook Jordan added an unexpected element to the song, making it one of the evening’s most talked about moments.
The first set closed with “Syncopated Healing” from the band’s most recent studio album PLUMP and a special guest appearance from Dempsey’s father, Stephen Dempsey, on saxophone. The song’s placement on night one was a bit of a red herring, as to not spoil the puzzle of what nights two and three would contain.
The second set saw a weaving of non-Twiddle moments, including a tease of Phish’s “Divided Sky” as well as a meaty jam of Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock,” in the middle of a nearly 20-minute version of “The Box.” The night ended with a more mellow approach as Twiddle cooled off the crowd with “Beethoven and Greene” before ending with a “Gatsby the Great” Reprise.
While Twiddle rang in the New Year with a contagious groove, they started Friday night’s New Year’s Day performance with a glimpse into the band’s future. Joined on stage by “The Frendly Horns,” featuring Rich Williams (tenor sax), Adam Sawyer (trombone) and Chazz Canney (alto saxophone), the band once again intertwined non-studio songs among the tracks of their third studio album, PLUMP.
The album’s opening track “Complacent Race” was debuted live for the first time, while the album’s horned tracks were brought to life for fans for the first time. It’s one thing to upgrade your band’s sound in the studio, but live the task is more difficult to pull together. If the sound on PLUMP is where the band sees their musical direction, they managed to prove two things on Friday night. First, that this newly debuted, polished studio sound is not outside of their ability to reproduce live. And second, that even PLUMP’s polished studio tracks have space to expand.
“Polluted Beauty” and “Indigo Trigger” were launched into deep, nasty funked-out vehicles for the band to showcase where this newer material can go. On the other side of the coin, the band’s ability to weave tracks like the bluegrass-rooted “Hattibagen McRat” or the instrumental “Latin Tang” so seamlessly into the album’s mix show that this new material holds just as much of a viable place in Twiddle’s live show as does anything else they play.
By the end of night two, many fans had started to put the puzzle pieces together. So on Saturday night, it was no surprise that the evening began with the opening track from Twiddle’s debut studio album, Natural Evolution of Consciousness, titled “The Catapillar” and ran through the album’s first four tracks before closing out the first set with two unrecorded gems “Earth Mama” and “The FRENDS Theme.”
Night three contained less songs, but longer jams and more guest appearances. “The FRENDS Theme” featured Jack Mitrani (Frendly Crew) on electric guitar and vocals. Scott Hannay from Mister F (keys) and Jamie Armstrong from Lucid (saxophone) sat in during the second set opener “Tiberius,” while the second set closer “Frankenfoote” featured Lucid’s Lowell Wurster on washboard.
While the three day run didn’t include much in the way of catalog rarity, what it lacked in surprise it more than made up for in production value. Twiddle demonstrated a growth in technical skill and creative staging. Their studio polish appears to be rubbing off into their live performance with precision, turn-on-the-dime transitions and unique musical moments. The latest addition of Evan Antal as Lighting Director (Zed’s Dead, Kendrick Lamar) on this three-day run elevated the overall show experience.
What’s most striking and noticeable about Twiddle’s growth is the rather intense development and involvement of their fans within the growing community. Fan artists continue to develop and execute inspired art from prints, clothing, pins and other merchandise that seem to be moving the band’s name further into the masses. Friday and Saturday nights saw a strong presence by the band’s fan-founded charity the White Light Foundation—all signs that Twiddle has an army of dedicated fans behind them.
While some jamband fans debate the validity of Twiddle’s increased fan base and continued success, the band managed to show that over a three-night run in their hometown they are diverse, growing and paying attention to the details. All three nights sold out nearly a month before New Year’s Eve, evidence that Twiddle is quickly outgrowing the smaller venues their fans have grown comfortable seeing them in.
As Twiddle prepares for its 2016 “Plumperdump Tour,” the small run of mostly 1,000-plus ticket theaters may be a sign that you won’t be seeing the band in smaller, more intimate venues again anytime soon. A good thing for the long list of fans clamoring to get into the band’s most recent sold-out shows for the majority of this past fall and winter tours.
Twiddle heads out on Jam Cruise 2016 on Jan 6. The band will be on a short hiatus before kicking off the Plumperdump Tour in Portland, Maine, on Feb. 18. Spring dates are expected to take the band back out west and look to be announced in the coming weeks. Recent announcements include Twiddle slated to open for The Disco Biscuits at Red Rocks on June 4.
Photos courtesy of Greg Horowitz Photography