When Borg Party converged on Buffalo Iron Works to a packed house, no one really knew what to expect. If you expected the obvious, a simple fusion of the super group’s respective sounds, you would have been slightly disappointed. When Rob Compa (Dopapod), Mike Gantzer (Aqueous), Mickey Carrubba (Turkuaz), James Searl (Giant Guerilla Panda Dub Squad) and Wiley O’Riley (The Niche) took the stage, surprisingly, they offered something very different. Borg Party was a masterclass in improvisational jazz subtly infused with a soulful yet intensive rock union.
The night was about five incredibly talented musicians playing some of their favorite tunes. The evening’s set list included rare, odd and surprising covers and a chance for these musicians to play the music that inspires them . “I was planning on coming home for the week of Christmas to visit my parents,” Compa told NYS Music. “So I figured I would call up some people whose playing I really love, who are from western New York and put together a couple shows just to have some fun and blow off some steam. That is really pretty much the whole point.”
The evening began with “Rise of the Borg”, an original composition written by O’Riley for the evening. Aqueous guitarist Dave Loss sat in during a playful version of Grant Green’s “Flood in Lincoln Park”. Borg Party also opted to play musical tributes to John Scofield, Buddy Miles and The Beatles.
Champagne Brown (The Swooners, The Niche), who has been singing with O’Riley since her teens, joined the band on stage during a rousing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. Her stunning yet strong vocals were the perfect complement to the band’s solid and dialed in musical focus. She also lent vocals on the night’s encore of James Brown’s “Sex Machine”.
Despite running a set list of mostly covers, Borg Party never lent itself to sound unrehearsed or unsure – a true testament to their talent as studied musicians. The five members of the super group all prepared on their own. “We’ve had a big e-mail chain of cover ideas,” Compa told NYSMusic before the show, ”We’re all just learning stuff on our own and we’re gonna see how it goes.”
Watching Borg Party play was a fascinating musical classroom. With the five members having only pre-show rehearsal time together, they were more reliant on the purity of improvisational cues showing that improvisational music really is as much about instinct as it is preparation.
The set list and tone of the night was much more mellow than anticipated. The song selection was a history lesson with a majority of the evening’s covers having been originally released before 1980. The deep track set list also reflected that the five members of Borg Party are more than just studied musicians, but also music fans.
Compa and Gantzer, who have previously played together on several occasions including this summer’s Aquapod set at Buffalove, have an incredible on-stage chemistry. It is clear that these two have a deep respect for each other’s talent.
Borg Party was a two night only engagement at Buffalo Iron Works in Buffalo and Flour City Station in Rochester. According to Compa, the group doesn’t have plans for future dates. When asked if Borg Party could surface again, Compa simply stated, “I guess we’ll see how it goes and then take it from there. For now, though, just those two.”
Buffalo Setlist: Rise of the Borg (Willy O’Riley), Them Changes (Buddy Miles), Chank (John Scofield), Since I’ve Been Loving You* (Led Zeppelin), Flood in Franklin Park^ (Grant Green cover), Hey Bulldog (Beatles), Back at the Chicken Shack (Jimmy Smith), Offspring (John Scofield), Circles (Incubus)
E: Sex Machine* (James Brown)
*w/ Champagne Brown on vocals, ^w/ Dave Loss from Aqueous on guitar