Sunday, October 25, 2009

Review: Jake Loggins Band : Stargazers, 10/23/2009

Everybody who really knows music in southern Colorado kept telling me "you gotta see this kid." His name has been popping up on my radar for months, one reason being that he fronts a local jam night in Colorado Springs at Southside Johnny's. I had held off checking him out for a number of reasons, and when I heard a month or so ago that Stargazers had him booked for Friday October 23rd, I knew that was the time and the right place. I - like you - have been let down before by local music aficionados over-hyping one band or another to me only to go see them in less than perfect circumstances with a less than perfect crowd leaving me with a ho-hum feeling towards the band. So given the underground skinny on Jake Loggins, I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt of seeing him do his thing in a performance venue, not just possibly hacking around in a bar for his regulars.

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.

Jake Loggin's father's name is David "Lobo" Loggins. Most people just call him "Lobo". Lobo's a guitar slinger who has played from Texas to Colorado to Nashville for a long time and has a following everywhere he's played. Although he's got credits on recordings and has a co-produced CD "Vices and Verses" (Lobo Loggins & Sheryl Mayfield, March/2003) (with its own great reviews if muted success) and had a top-40 song "Ain't No Cows In Texas" with video play on TNN and CMT, he apparently didn't play music politics as well as he plays guitar. So Jake always had access to guitars and his father’s grasp of classic Texas-branded guitar grinding to country rockabilly styles.

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.

Opening the night was some stand-up routines by comedian Tim McKenna who started off a little tentatively but gained momentum and had several funny bits like "...I've got a sex-ed book for kids coming out in the spring. It's a pop-up book." This led into Justin Loggins, Jakes older brother also doing a comedy routine. Since this was the first time Jake, Lobo and Justin had all been on the bill the same night, Justin did a pretty amusing routine while showing and commenting on old family photos being displayed up on Stargazer's insanely huge screen behind the stage. Alot of family was in attendance, but many more were long-time followers of Lobo and Jake and everybody got some belly laughs out of Justin's self-deprecating and family gigging descriptions of mullet hair styles, large sun glasses, and fashion sense over the years. The biggest laugh came at Lobo's expense: shown in full mullet next to the Grand Canyon, Justin riffed "here's my family heritage - this says it all - how Joe Dirt!"

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.

The expanded band went into a smokin' version of "Little Wing" ala Hendrix or Vaughan but with a decided Loggins stamp on it. Jake's totally boogying "Soul On Fire" followed along with a slow very bluesy version of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Leave My Girl Alone", in which Don could stretch out on with his saxophone. The band picked up the pace with several more numbers that just burned, Lobo just absolutely leaning into his guitar work like there was no tomorrow. Maybe a little Father - Son bonding over six-strings, both trading scorching guitar work and vocals in different songs, both looking totally proud of what the other was doing depending on who was driving at any given moment.

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".

After a brief break Don, Lobo, and Jake all entertained the audience of nearly 300 with acoustic guitar work in a format that's become popular recently at reunion concerts which this kind of was for a little while. Three stools, three guitars, three excellent musicians, three songs, each musician taking a song for a vocal lead starting with the original version of Don's "Five O’clock Somewhere". This was followed by a heartfelt rendition of a song Jake wrote, "It Takes My Blues Away" followed by a country-fried song written by Lobo and Don, "You've Got The Rest of My Life". A final acoustic number by Don and fellow writer Jim Brown followed about people that come up and brag in bars about song material (and other things) that were lifted from them and made into hits called "That'd Be Me".

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.

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