It was a cold and snowy night on Saturday, February 17th, outside Albany’s Parish Public House, but inside you could feel the heat with a packed house that was ready for a heavy dose of deep fried funk served up by Vicious Jimmy and special guest Morris Code. It was apparent that Vicious Jimmy’s two year hiatus from playing did not detract from their fans coming out and supporting the band. This type of fan support could be due to the fact that the lineup of the band features all Albany natives, including Tom “TK” Kretzler on guitar/lead vocal, Tim Fiato Jr. on keyboards, Jeff Jukes on Bass, Gary Nowik on drums/percussion and newcomer to the band, Jason “JY” Young on lead guitar/backup vocal.
Vicious Jimmy was formed back in 2009 and released their single LP Relatively Dangerous in 2012. The band has had a few lineup changes over the years, but with the welcomed addition of Young to the band’s roster this past year, the band has developed a new energy in their playing and showmanship. JY is no newbie, he has been a mainstay in the local musical scene for years with his long time work in the acoustic duo Yellow Dog, which just celebrated their 25th year playing together. Kretzler and Young met at a party and when JY listened to their music, he knew he wanted to be part of the band.
Vicious Jimmy took the stage first, which initially seemed strange to me, but when I asked about the band opening the show bassist Jeff Jukes stated jokingly, “Our fans like to be home before midnight so they can get their sleep”. He was alluding to the fact that the audience that came out for Vicious Jimmy was primarily comprised of their Generation X contemporaries, who are now well into their late 40’s.
The band started their set with a “Black White Black” jam which is strictly an instrumental led off by Tim Fiato’s funky keyboards which was slowly picked up by the rest of the band, leading them straight into “Intro,” a mainstay in the band’s set list. This number set the groove for the evening while, at the same time, musically introducing the band members to the crowd in a very Vicious Jimmy deep fried, funky way. Next up was “Ape City” which showcases the comical and irreverent lyrics that makes VJ’s music so much fun to listen to. During the break between songs, guitarist Young called for the audience not to be shy and to come up towards the stage and dance. After a brief tune up, Vicious Jimmy went into their classic song “Donkey” and kept the pressure up on the audience with their lyrical chant, “Get Your Ass Grooving”. The crowd still seemed reluctant at first, but after a few more funky licks from the boys, they finally started to loosen up and dancing started to break out right up by the stage. Vicious Jimmy showed that they came to play. During the number “Underground,” when Kretzeler and Young went into a complicated extended guitar solo, the two guitarists harmonized expertly together, creating a jam that was a personal highlight of the show.
Another high point of the night’s set was Fiato’s artful keyboard solo that was an intro into “Dr. Selkirkian,” a song that eerily depicts a menacing physician living in the tiny town of Selkirk which is located just south of Albany. VJ finished their set strong, performing fan favorite “Liquor,” but instead of playing the number as it is on Relatively Dangerous, they broke the piece up into three pieces in a variant style labeled as “Liquor in Three Jiggers.” The first part being the bluesy “Who’s Drinking?,” in which Kretzler polls the audience from the stage on what type of alcohol they were partaking in. The second “Jigger” was the more traditional “Liquor” that featured the band’s signature funky sound. The third and final movement was straight out of the Blues Brothers/Sam and Dave soul review routine. The boys sped up the tempo of the last movement, while Kretzler, in true Elwood Blues style, thanked everyone for coming out in the crummy weather and pleaded to the crowd to drive safely home and to remember to be good to one another. The set wrapped up with the band leaving the audience craving more of Vicious Jimmy’s down home, deep fried funk.
After a brief pause in the action, while the bands transitioned their gear, it was Morris Code’s turn to take the stage. The Albany 5-piece is comprised of band members Conor Donovan on vocals, Jesse Rawson on guitar, Daniel Milici on keyboard, Dan Walker on drums, and Kyle Salcedo on bass. Walker was not available for the gig so Vicious Jimmy’s drummer Gary Nowik was gracious enough to fill in for him for the performance. The band came out strong with a Morris Code original, “Take Over.” The sound of the band was much harder than Vicious Jimmy and lent itself more to hard rock than funk. The band also did a few covers and featured a mash-up of The Allman Brothers’ classic “Midnight Rider,” Lorde’s “Royals” and finally Lynyrd Skynyrd’s rock anthem “Sweet Home Alabama.” While you might think that this would not be a good combination of songs to work with musically, all in all, it really seemed to work. It became apparent that the crowd was thinning out and became much younger. Morris Code went on to play more original material including “Snake Charmer” and “Cafe Berlin,” both of which were featured on the band’s 2015 LP Decrypted. A personal highlight of the set was an interesting version of Radio Head’s “Creep” which featured Rawson on both electric guitar and trombone.
Vicious Jimmy: Black White Black Jam, Intro, Ape City, Donkey, Good For You, Blackhouse, Underground, Hard Boiled, Dr Selkirkian, Stiff Arm, Liquor in Three Jiggers: • Who’s Drinking? • Liquor
Morris Code: Take Over, Only Me To Blame, Midnight Rider/Royals/Sweet Home Alabama, No Turning Back, Charades, Hysteria, Snake Charmer, Creep, Cafe Berlin Watching Stars, Joker And The Thief, Don’t Count Me Out