Fifth House, Place: Three Stars
• Genre(s): Funk, rock, jam band.
• You’ll like it if: You don’t mind the normal jam-span being whittled to (oh my!) single-digit lengths.
• Defining song: “Phase Shift.”
The retort is always the same for bands that cater to the jam: “Yeah, the album’s painful, but you should see them live.” Luckily for local quartet Fifth House, the formula falls apart. Their debut release, Place, is a good blueprint of what to expect live. Fifth House’s most pleasurable trait is their ability to show their instrumental muscle without being accused of the cock-rock malady. Cory Bullman’s guitar doesn’t ache for attention, and it never tries to outdo its counterparts on the bass or keys. In turn, Rob Heyer’s bass grooves and Kevin Scala’s delicate piano maneuverings make the ear realize that Fifth House has a galaxy of equally radiant stars. However, at this juncture in their career, it seems that the band is baby-stepping away from live covers and into studio originals. The awkwardness is evident due to numerous montages of musical influences which impede their originality. Still, numbers like “I Can Feel it Coming Down” and “Sky to Fall” show a band on the right path to their own sound. Once they corral this beast, Fifth House could be unstoppable.
Firecracker Jazz Band at the New French Bar: Five Stars
• Genre(s): Dixieland jazz.
• Be glad you stayed home if: You prefer your Dixieland reinterpretations handled by Ken Burns.
• Defining moment: The band’s gospel medley of “Closer Walk With Thee” and “Down to the River.” The urge to repent was only rivaled by the desire for a stiff drink.
The essence of Storyville came alive for a couple of hours at the French Bar. Although the beckoning of the red lights were missing, Firecracker Jazz Band helped the small crowd revisit the days when Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong pimped both sound and hookers. Joyous in every way, the sextet wowed the small crowd with technical chops and humorous banter. Especially entrancing were Jason Krekel (banjo, tenor guitar and shenanigans), Reese Gray (formerly of the Squirrel Nut Zippers) on piano, and his younger brother Mike Gray on drums. Krekel’s vaudeville persona was outmatched only by his brilliant string work. Pianist Gray danced around the keys like a man celebrating the end of Prohibition, while his brother went on drumming sprees that left the crowd’s mouths collectively agape. The triumvirate brass of Je Widenhouse (also formerly of Squirrel Nut Zippers), Earl Sachais (who’s played with jazz greats like Warren Covington and the Tommy Dorsey Band) and Henry Westmoreland (a recent graduate of Brevard Music School) surged at all the right moments.
Go see this band at all costs! Their originality is a celebration of all that is good about New Orleans.
[When he’s not bending readers to his will, Hunter Pope cooks, gardens, hikes and spends his mortgage money on CDs he’s never heard.]