Walking down the sidewalk of Albany’s Madison Avenue, a laundromat and Tierra Farm Store are the book ends to a timeless, historic neighborhood theater, complete with old school signage and black typeface letters that spelled out “Consider the Source Tonight” above head. The sci-fi, Middle Eastern fusion band hailing from NYC that has garnered quite the following from the Jam community, awaits in a back room of the small Madison Theater, ready to offer fans an unforgettable experience of two sets: one acoustic and one electric.
If you’ve seen Consider the Source, I’m sure it’s been at your average sized music venue or perhaps one of many festivals that roll on through summertime. In rare, more intimate cases, CTS brings an acoustic set to the forefront of the stage. Back at Wild Woods 2014, 200+ people fell victim to a beautiful, serene performance that found its viewers seated on the ground, watching in awe. The trio has also surrendered an interesting choice of acoustic Radiohead sets to their fans. Madison Theater, on the other hand, would witness a cozy performance in a back room of a theater, able to hold no more than 100 people. Seats weren’t filled, but those who came prepared for the show with a drink in hand were ready to relinquish all control and step into an inter-dimensional journey of cerebral intellect and emotional engagement.
An unplugged, acoustic set is not what you’d expect from quite a powerhouse of a trio but that’s what makes the performance all the more distinctive. John, Jeff and Gabriel emerged from behind a curtain, which they referenced as a “hobbit hole,” towards the back of the stage, mirrored with two large, probably locally crafted paintings on each side. Just three rows back and even still, you were at their very feet, able to get a close up view of an array of atypical instruments and a minimalist yet captivating stage set up.
After quick banter and brief introduction with a small yet devoted crowd, they launched into acoustic set one with a prelude of harmonies that seemed straight out of Game of Thrones, paired with the stylings of rhythmic African drumming. From the get-go, it was clear to see each band member truly work with and bounce off one another in the heat of the musical moment. The atmosphere made it easy to get a closer look into their onstage operations, as they displayed top-notch eye contact and ability to follow and lead one another at the snap of a finger or the strike of a drum. Aside from the technicalities, their crescendos were master-level, able to give off sound as grand as a full-piece band or as soft as a mouse.
Song two, a Turkish tune by the name of “You Go Squish Now,” brought a double neck guitar to the stage– one Gabriel Marin is known to handle with integrity. The wails and cries of the double neck drew intense emotion from Marin’s face and demanded the attention of all in its path. Next up was an improvisational “Good Point, Wandering Bear” which found the group conquering their halting breaks and impeccable timing. In the midst of all of this, they cracked jokes in between song changes and asked each other to borrow instrument tuners, bringing us all back down to planet earth to realize that aside from their unmistakable talent, they’re just like the rest of us, if even for a second.
A fan-appreciated Star Trek reference kicked off song five, titled “There are Four Lights,” which found John exchanging banjos for basses and claiming “I forget how to play this one, who starts?” The last song of set one introduced the first major hand drum solo in the middle of “Tihai for the Straight Guy,” which is typically very electric and offered a captivating Dan Bau solo. Consider the Source makes you feel like you’re on a journey of self-discovery, inner-confusion and triumph as your passing through dimensions of time and space, only to be spit out where you started, feeling more enlightened than before.
Set two was plugged in and picked back up with Are You Watching Closely fan-favorite “Moisturize the Situation,” which is more up-tempo than most of the tunes delivered in set one. After coming to a band decision whether or not it would be 40/60 or 60/40, they launched into a song by the name of “40 Percent Gentleman, 60 Percent Scholar” while segueing into the first song drummer Jeff Mann ever played with the group. Macedonian track “Do Not Shrink Me Gypsy” was what solidified Mann’s involvement when founding drummer and member Justin Ahiyon parted ways with the group that began back in 2003. Fans were delighted to see the Mandolin make its way out on stage as well as the electric sazz for “More Than You’ll Never Know.” (Bonus points if you knew the title referenced Arrested Development.)
“Bass Wand Jam” came up next and as if their instrumental diversity wasn’t enthralling enough between Kala U-basses, Goldtone Banjo Basses, Dumbeks, Theremins and Mandolins, John threw a Slaptick bass into the mix. Essentially, its a thin, 5 foot bass-drum hybrid instrument. The rectangular piece of metal has a paper thin slab of metal running down it, which functions the same way as a string would. With two songs left, Jeff manned the drum kit while holding down a Dumbek solo during the appropriately titled “Doumbekistan,” before entering the last song of the night, “Tsim Sha Tsui.” The last two songs found Gabriel releasing his long strawberry blonde locks from his hat, a cultural Taqiyah.
When someone asks you to explain Consider the Source, you find yourself somewhat caught off guard. You know exactly how their magic makes you feel, yet no words seem to accurately depict their impact, as their sound is unrivaled and incomparable to the music that surrounds them. Their use of technique and one-off musical instruments make for quite a treat and although they’re huge in the Jam world, they continue to break boundaries with Middle Eastern influences and plan to dip into progressive rock and metal scenes as well. Those in attendance at Madison Theater witnessed quite a luxurious, musical experience– one that many dream of being a part of.