Sunday, October 25, 2009
Review: Jake Loggins Band : Stargazers, 10/23/2009
One of the guys who knew I hadn't seen Jake Loggins before sidled up to me at some point half an hour into the show just looked at me with raised eyebrows. Just then there was a song break and I told him my review for the Gazette would probably consist of two words: "Holy" was the first one. Something else I can't get printed was the second one.
Jake Loggins is his own man. He's 25 and has the chops of alot of guys I've seen twice his age. He plays blues laden rock. I'm hesitant to call him a straight blues player, and to say he plays rock and roll is totally wrong. But if you're old enough to remember bands like Montrose or Robin Trower or Pat Travers, you may get an initial impression. Bands from the late 60's/early 70's that were drawing from blues material and making it "heavy" like Cream. And inevitably names like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page come to mind. But I mentioned that he also has some groove to him like maybe a Dave Mason, you might start to get other ideas. If I added "oh, yeah, you can tell he's studied Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan" you might cry "foul". Who's over-hyping now?
I wanna be clear: he has his own tone and style. I think he's a bluesman at heart with party-rock mojo. And in some quieter moments you can tell he's gotten education in alot of techniques. And that's where his father comes in.
Which brings us back to Stargazers. In simple terms, I can sum this up by saying Jake's show in a performance venue is not to be missed. This is a national act masquerading as a regional power band at the moment, their gate pricing is cheap, the performance level is amazing. Last parenthetical observation I'll make here: this is the most democratic audience I have ever seen at a show recently: cholos and truckers, stock brokers and bikers, high heels and cowboy boots, hippies, kids, moms, and grandmas. And babes. Oh. My. God. There was incredible, uh, "ambience" at friday night’s show.
In keeping with the feel of a Loggins family reunion, congratulations to Justin and his baby-momma: Justin proposed marriage to her at the end of his set, and it was a genuinely nice moment to share.
Jake came onstage and before getting into his real set he started with a simple singing of "happy birthday" to Tim McKenna, Justin and Lobo Loggins who all share birthdays within a few days of each other, and he included another family member that just had twins that day.
So just as I was worried that this was going to devolve into a family love fest, the Jake Loggins Band dove into a no-holds barred set of high-energy blues/funk fusion with tight syncopations coupled with great stage presence, Jake leaning over and pouring energy into his Fender strat & pulling back with grimaces over burning solos, standing out in front of the mics at stage center just wailing away.
First serious observation: this band is tight. Drummer Desmond "Motown" Washington's animated and very heavy handed style of play was showy without showboating: I loved watching him beat down his equipment while bassist Noel McFarland matched "Motown" in perfect synch, adding punch and a solid foundation for Jake to stand on. One thing about power-trios: if you look back historically at many bands that had killer sound and huge success, you'll see that fewer musicians almost always means everybody's pulling their load. There’s no place to slack. And these 3 were on overdrive friday night. But here's the fun part. They have a keyboardist, Lawrence "LC" Clark. Now I didn't get a chance to talk to LC, but he's back there providing perfect support, with style. While the band was totally in overdrive, LC's back there at one point laying down perfect jazz-influenced fills that as I'm writing this sound out of place to say, but I swear I heard it and it was very cool. He had his share of organ effects in a couple breaks he took, but he was just over there on the side not making a fuss and adding this totally cool enriching vibe to the whole band as they're totally shredding my ears off.
This is a loud band. But after 4 songs or so, Jake invited his father Lobo Loggins onstage along with special guest Don Rollins. Don's name you may recognize. He's based in Nashville and has many songwriting credits to his name, one of the most notable being "It's Five O’clock Somewhere" you've seen and heard Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet play. Don won a Grammy for that one.
Like a fully loaded freight train cranking up the tracks from Austin Texas, the band ended the set with a classic Texas grinding shuffle version of "The Blues is Alright".
The full band came back on for several more numbers with various solo breaks by different members expressing everything from Dave Mason-type soulful bluesy guitar work with mellow tones to some rowdy soul/funk material leading into "Patience", another Jake Loggins crowd pleaser that went from slow to fiery to self-indulgent leads into just solid purring portions that underscored what a great rhythm section Jake had in Desmond, Noel and LC. The final number with Don and Lobo was the Stevie Wonder song "Superstition" which Stevie Ray Vaughan remade into a funkier strung-out version. The band pulled no punches, making it totally funky and outrageous. Musicians love playing "Superstition" because of the middle part of the song - you can jam, repeat themes, have a lot of fun with solos, but JLB took the opportunity to seamlessly bring in a funky version of Jeff Beck's "Going Down" right in that middle part before bringing it back to a big-finish close-out of "Superstition".
It's now 11:25pm and Don and Lobo leave the stage and Jake announces they're gonna stick around and jam for a while "if that's alright!" After a funky heavy rock laden blues number Jake rips out the classic intro to Jimi's "Voodoo Child" which - after a few solo breaks by everybody including Jake playing his guitar up over behind his head without even making it look like he's doing anything special turns into the big finish of the night at around 11:45 with the exhausted and deafened crowd on their feet ready to go for another couple hours.