There’s a tendency among those who disparage the jam-band idiom to dismiss the music as “all sounding the same,” or worse, “just a bunch of dudes with beards noodling around.” OK, I get it. But then again, I don’t. Because in truth, there are bold and imaginative new hybrids taking place within the world of improvisation-heavy rock music.
Take Ohio’s the Werks, for example. Over the course of the five years, we’ve been able to watch the quartet – guitarist/vocalist Chris Houser, keyboardist/vocalist Norman Dimitrouleas, bassist/vocalist Dino Dimitrouleas and drummer/vocalist Rob Chafin – gather into the folds of its expansive sounds the influence of myriad idioms. Funk, psychedelic rock, electronica, trance, roots music and the improvised ground where they all intermingle, define the Werks as a group that has rather handily slipped out of the “These guys are just noodlin’ around” noose.
Last year’s self-titled album drove the point home over nine songs. Whether falling lock-step into mantralike techno grooves, or busting out into wild and wiry guitar solos – Houser is an absolute beast of a player – the Werks never fail to marry melody to musicianship, and a sophisticated sense of dynamic interplay to dramatic pacing.
Of course, with bands that specialize in ensemble improvisation, the stage is where it all goes down. A burgeoning reputation earned through serious touring has earned the Werks slots on some of the big yearly festivals, among them the All Good, Wakarusa and Electric Forest Music festivals.
The Werks have played Buffalo in the past, though I’ve never been able to catch the band for one reason or another. I plan to fix that problem, when the Werks – joined by one of Buffalo’s finest jam bands, Funktional Flow – arrives for a show at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Waiting Room (334 Delaware Ave.). Tickets are $10 advance (box office, www.afterdarkpresents.com).
Here’s a dynamic threesome for your listening pleasure – a booking very much in keeping with the ethos espoused by the folks at Pausa Art House finds three musicians bonded by friendship and talent joining forces for an evening of eclectic folk-based sounds. John Lombardo and Mary Ramsey have composed and performed together for a few decades by this point – as the duo, John & Mary, and as members of 10,000 Maniacs. Lombardo and Ramsey also have been presiding over an ensemble known as John & Mary and the Valkyries for the past several years. Between all of this activity, Lombardo still finds time to play with his friend, multi-instrumentalist supreme Joe Rozler.
At 8 p.m. Friday, all of this disparate musical activity will come together in Pausa (19 Wadsworth St.) under the umbrella of John & Mary and Joseph. The three musicians will perform songs from the catalogs of John & Mary, 10,000 Maniacs, the Valkyries and “a broad selection of tunes from the pop, Broadway and classical traditions.” Admission will be $5 at the door.
Hard Rock contest
Feel like going to Italy this summer? Think your band might have to goods to “go international”? Curious to see for yourself that pizza in Italy looks absolutely nothing like pizza in America?
Hard Rock Rising is moving from London, England, to Rome, Italy, this summer, for the first Hard Rock Love Rome Music Festival. And guess what? They need bands! Visit Hard Rock Rising on Facebook, and learn how you can submit your band in a contest that will ultimately result in one act performing at Hard Rock Live Rome. To borrow a line from Tom Petty, “even the losers get lucky sometimes” – so even the selected runners-up will each receive “music equipment and gear valued at $10,000.”
The deadline for submissions is Jan. 27. Registration is free. Once local voting is complete, the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls will host the top-voted artists in a battle of the bands, at 8 p.m. Thursdays from March 6 to April 3. Full details are available through www.hardrock.com or Facebook.com/hrcniagarafallsusa.