TAUK, Aqueous, & the Clock Reads Rock Pittsburgh’s Rex Theater
The Rex Theater
May 15, 2015
Article written by Laura Beth
Photography by J. William Taylor Hott
Pittsburgh’s heady jam crowd was out in full force on Friday, May 15, for one hell of a night with TAUK, Aqueous, and the Clock Reads at Pittsburgh’s Rex Theater. The free show, which drew a crowd of over 525, was one of many brought by the city’s funkiest concert promoter, Grey Area Productions.
There was something for every jam lover on the evening’s bill: Pittsburgh’s own The Clock Reads opened with a jazz and funk-inspired jam set; Aqueous brought it with some intense, groovy progressive rock; and the night peaked with TAUK and a killer psychedelic set.
The Clock Reads
Pittsburgh-based psychedelic jam band The Clock Reads kicked the evening off with a 45-minute set, their original jams giving the Rex crowd a good dose of their jazz influences and funk tendencies. A good sized crowd – including loyal fans from the University of Pittsburgh–came out to support the hometown band for their first performance at the Rex, and we were all rewarded with some fun, groovy jams, including a Steely Dan Josie cover.
The Clock Reads Set List, 05/15/15, Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, Pa.:
Josie (Steely Dan cover) >
El Gato del Fuego
Appalachian Jamwich took a few minutes before the show to talk with this young band just emerging on the Pittsburgh jam scene. The Clock Reads formed on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 and began playing shows at Uncle Jimmy’s in the city’s South Oakland neighborhood near Pitt’s campus, helping the dive bar build up its live music scene. “It’s exactly what Oakland needs,” as there are otherwise no live music venues near the university’s campus, The Clock told Jamwich in the band’s first-ever interview. So The Clock and Uncle Jimmy’s have been great news for college students at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon who now can get their live music fix and then safely stumble home without ever leaving Oakland.
The Clock crew that took the stage in Pittsburgh included John O’Brien (guitar), Jason Greenlaw (guitar), Steve Ippolito (drums/vocals), Michael Berger (bass/vocals), Aidan Epstein (keys/vocals), and Dave Rohr (tenor sax). They’re young and excited to be helping to build up the jam scene in Pittsburgh. They said what they love most about the scene is that “everybody’s friends.” (Or in some cases, family: Berger’s brother is guitarist Justin Berger of the McLovins.) The band recently hosted an open-mic night at The Thunderbird Cafe in Pittsburgh, and it won’t be their last. You can also check them out at Uncle Jimmy’s on May 22, at Club Cafe with Vibe & Direct on July 10, and at the free one-day Feastival – with Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, and more – in McKee’s Rocks on August 1. Check out The Clock’s Facebook page for more info.
From start to finish of their hour-long set in Pittsburgh, Buffalo-based Aqueous brought their prog groove rock so f****** hard. Their live performances are crazy fun trips, with dirty, high-energy guitar jams transitioning so smoothly into laid-back funky jams. Aqueous had the Pittsburgh crowd completely entranced by the end of their set and it’s safe to say they are quite a few more AQuaintances after their Pittsburgh performance.
Aqueous Set List, 05/15/15, Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, Pa.:
Fame (David Bowie cover) >
Don’t Do It > *
Eon don > Timmy’s Blades **
* Changes teases in Don’t Do It > Origami segue [Hendrix]
** Master of Puppets tease in Eon Don
Aqueous really set the bar high for TAUK to follow. Immediately following the insane performance, a friend read my mind when he looked at me and said, “There’s no way TAUK can top that. I want these guys to play all night.” Another friend commented on his first Aqueous show: “That may have been the best show I’ve seen in the last 6 months. I can’t think of anything I enjoyed more. It went exactly straight to my brain. Wow. I could leave and I’d be happy. (I’m not going to, but I could.)”
Another first-timer to Aqueous, and Jamwich’s photographer for the show, J. William Taylor Hott, said: “I’m shredded. I’m just destroyed right now. The whole time I was completely transfixed.”
Interview with AQ
Jamwich sat down with the kind-hearted guys of Aqueous for a fun pre-show interview. A groove band rooted in rock, AQ is in a constant state of fluid evolution. The band works to create a really nice balance between really hard rock and guitar harmonies and vocals led by Mike Gantzer (guitar/vocals) and Dave Loss (guitar/keys/vocals), and the super tight funky rhythms of Evan McPhaden (bass) and Ryan John Nogle (drums). The band says their music, extracting influence from a wide spectrum of music, is progressing every single day.
“We’re all listening to new music all the time,” McPhaden told Jamwich. “I listen to a lot of neo-soul right now, and I feel that coming out in in a lot of our playing, at least mine anyway. I just wanna lay back and groove a lot more. Every time we hear something new and like it, we kinda emulate that a little bit,” he said.
“The more diverse our music listening, that tends to really sway our writing and jamming styles. It’s kinda fun that that way,” said Gantzer, who has also been into neo-soul lately, as well as the blues.
Gantzer stressed the importance of constantly learning, studying and expanding one’s knowledge. “I always have to be learning something on my instrument so it’s new and fresh feeling. As long as you spend time learning, you can always turn that into new creative energy.”
Loss has been listening to a lot of Steely Dan, Eric Johnson and Billy Joel. “I’m really trying to expand my knowledge of both guitar and keyboard,” he said. “I’ve definitely been picking up on a lot of Eric Johnson tricks. It’s all stuff I’ve listened to for a while now, but it’s great to go back and really try and learn some of it.”
For Nogel, on his playlist lately has been Gamalon, a Buffalo-based fusion band whose drummer passed away suddenly. “He was a phenomenal drummer who I always looked up to,” Nogel commented.
At a live show, AQ takes each of its carefully calculated compositions and surrenders them to the musical flow, seeing what can be created through the magic of improvisation. The band, which has been playing together since 2007 (Nogel replaced drummer Nick Sonricker in 2014), uses sign language and non-verbal cues to make shifts in live jams. “All of us have cues that we use to try and make the jamming more interesting,” Gantzer said. “Sometimes if we find something that feels good, we’ll just kinda rip on it for a long time because it feels so good!” (Thank you for this, AQ! It feels good to us, too!)
Aqueous also experiments with themed shows, recently performing a Cakeous set in Buffalo. “I think we took a risk with that because Cake isn’t everyone’s cup of tea,” Gantzer commented. “When we do [themed shows], we try to integrate them into our own music to try and find how they can fit together, which is really pretty exciting.” AQ will perform a Red Hot Chili Peppers set at the Illumination Festival in Canada in June, and an all moe. set at the Paradise Music and Arts Festival in Hustonville, Ky., in July.
The Mad Tea Party Jam will be treated to two AQ sets this summer and the guys are super stoked for their first appearance at the festival. “It’s a killer lineup,” Gantzer told Jamwich. “Two nights at a festival is awesome. You feel like you have time to stretch your legs and give people different sides of the band. We’ll come in hot,” he promised.
If you don’t catch Aqueous this summer, you’re doing something wrong. Their summer tour includes a ton of great festivals, including Summer Camp, Domefest, Peach Festival, and more. Visit www.aqueousband.com for more info and dates.
TAUK brought its dirty funk rock fusion and psychedelic light show to the Burgh with a full two-hour set to finish off the night. Matt Jalbert (guitar), Charlie Dolan (bass), Alric “A.C.” Carter (keys), and Isaac Teel (drums) killed it, captivating the Pittsburgh crowd with a wild head trip of emotional instrumental rock. The performance peaked with a half-hour-long encore that struck me as one of the best I’d ever seen and included a cover of the Beatle’s I Want You (She’s So Heavy), with vocal participation by the crowd.
TAUK Set List, 05/15/15, Rex Theater, Pittsburgh, Pa.:
A Series Of Choices
Track Seven (Radiohead Cover)
In Bloom (Nirvana Cover)
Dead Signal >
I Want You (She’s So Heavy) (Beatles Cover)>
It was TAUK’s first performance at the Rex but second show in Pittsburgh, and Teel said it felt really good to play in a place that is already pretty familiar to him. “I’m really happy to see the great crowd that came out tonight,” he told Jamwich after the show.
TAUK will be performing three sets at this year’s Mad Tea Party Jam. When asked if the band has any surprises in store for it, Teel wouldn’t say much except, “Shhhh, we gotta keep that on the hush,” but said the band is really looking forward to the festival. You can also catch TAUK this summer at Summer Camp, the Werk Out, Peach Festival, Resonance, and a ton of other places. For more info, check out www.taukband.com.
Catch both Aqueous and TAUK at The Mad Tea Party Jam: www.themadteapartyjam.com.