In these frigid mid-winter temperatures, sometimes even the promise of submerging the subconscious in metamorphic melodies is not a strong enough force to lure blanket-wrapped couch dwellers from the confines of ultimate comfort. Those that failed to emerge from their cozy cocoons missed Formula 5 and Strange Machines exploring an assortment of jam tactics at Funk ‘N Waffles downtown Saturday January 23.
Massachusetts-based Strange Machines opened, featuring Mike MacDonald (guitar/vocals), Christian Perron (keys), Bill Noonan (drums) and Craig Holland (bass). They launched their set with a hard rock attitude, temporarily taming their monster sound and diffusing into a nebulous ambience before mutating into a funky breakdown.
Throughout their set Strange Machines continued to cross genre boundaries, fully utilizing distortion techniques to broaden the scope of their sound and keep the crowd intrigued. At the conclusion of a song that culminated in a unification of crashing symbols and heavy guitar strumming, MacDonald posed, “You guys are okay with weird, right?” Swerving into a hip hop beat, the band continuously shifted gears to undulate seamlessly between rock and reggae overtones.
MacDonald’s vocals fluctuated conjunctively between soul and rock. While he nailed a falsetto covering MGMT’s “Electric Feel,” as is often the case with instrumental projects, the sound from his lips fell short of the grandeur projected from the musician’s fingertips. Despite vocals that at times felt forced, MacDonald and Holland conveyed an organic chemistry during a bluesy portion of the set as they merged into a matching rhythm, momentarily mirroring subtle full-body swaying. Knees and hips swiveled as skillful fingers dexterously plucked the stringed instruments slung across their bodies.
Formula 5 followed, the crew of young musicians channeling New York pride from their Albany home base. Joe Davis (guitar/vocals), Greg Marek (drums), James Woods (bass) and Matt Richards (keys/vocals) presented a gentler, more even-toned identity, flooding the room with a mellow jazziness. The pleasant tones washed the crowd in a sea of warmth, conveying a sensation of floating leisurely through tropical ocean waves, or perhaps burrowing in that same fuzzy blanket flung abandoned on the couch on a Saturday night.
Formula 5 and Strange Machines’ cover choices appropriately blended with each band’s sound aesthetic. Collectively, they served up a medley of jam-based dishes for every taste ranging from plain buttered noodles to jazzed-up spicy stew.
Strange Machines setlist:
Steal Away > jam, Squid, Golden Rule, Juxtaposed > Enter the Interceptor, Little Monster, The Shape of Things, Electric Feel*, Brighton Tickler, The In-between
* MGMT cover
Formula 5 setlist:
I: Earthbound$* -> Floating@ -> Earthbound, Kid Charlemagne (Steely Dan), Pedro* -> Excalibur$, Coming Home -> Mellow Mood! -> Jam -> Hot Box
E: Drum Solo -> Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf)
* – Unfinished
$ – contains Tweezer (Phish) Tease
@ – contains Divided Sky (Phish) Tease
! – Bob Marley & The Wailers cover, First time played