Written by Michelle Lesch. All photos by Kristan Whitlow Hughes.
Twiddle returned to the Capitol Theatre November 29-30, 2019 for their third annual Frendsgiving to deliver a fiery holiday weekend, packed with surprises big and small. With Aqueous as the opening act both nights, and a special appearance by Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, the crowded venue was buzzing with an intense positivity and warmth all weekend. This is the most anticipated weekend of the year for Twiddle fans, and after a break from touring this fall, both the band and the fans were ready to make this run extra special.
The Capitol Theatre, located in Port Chester, NY, is rich in history and adorned in beautiful detail from top to bottom. The view from the balcony was stunning before the show even began. Psychedelic lights danced on either side of the stage area, red velvet curtains hung from the entryways, and gold embellishments on the walls and ceilings added to the majestic vibe of the theatre. The Cap is also the home of Garcia’s, the lobby bar and smaller venue that hosted the Frendsgiving pre-parties featuring Dogs in a Pile, Eggy, and Twiddle’s VIP set.
Kicking things off on Friday night was Dogs in a Pile on the stage at Garcia’s. The New Jersey quintet’s performance was a special treat for those who came to the venue early. Their jazzy, psychedelic grooves drew us in, while their youthful energy and pure joy of playing was infectious across the audience.
Aqueous’s first time playing at the Cap started with a playful “Burn It Down” followed by a funky “Little Something to Me”. The chemistry and talent between the band members was impressive, with every groove and transition flawlessly executed. A definite highlight of the set was their cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “Daft Punk is Playing at My House”, which they worked into the middle of their dance tune “Be the Same”. Drummer Rob Houk, with his mustache flowing in all its glory, was on vocals during this rager. “Split the Difference” was a heavy trip with teases of “Rock Lobster” throughout, which made this tune especially fun. Their set kicked us into high gear, preparing us for what was to come.
Twiddle began their first set with Ryan Dempsey (AKA Norb) and Mihali in sync for a lovely intro to “Gatsby the Great.” “Zazu’s Flight” was up next, which transformed into a funky groove while the lasers kicked on and sailed over our heads to dance on walls and ceilings. “White Light” was a personal highlight for me. The instrumental section of the song took us on a journey, musically parallel to the lyrics: “Give that sound a little light, from the sky straight to the ground…” At the peak of the jam, it felt like the sun bursting through a dark window, radiating light and warmth through the venue. They circled back to “Gatsby”, followed by “Frankenfoote”, which is always an epic showcase of each band member’s genius. They closed the first set with a new song, titled “Life Back Now,” to the delight of the crowd, who have been buzzing about new Twiddle material for some time now.
The second set opened with a sit-in from Frendsgiving alum, Taz, who raged alongside Mihali for an explosive version of “Milk” into the funkiest of “Apples”. Taz has played with Twiddle many times in the past, and the chemistry between them was obvious and a joy to witness. Every time I’ve had the chance to see him perform, I am awe-struck at his abilities and playing style. Then I remember he’s only sixteen years old and I have to pick my jaw up off the floor.
Perhaps the Twiddle guys were hungry when they were planning the second setlist. Or maybe they just knew what we were craving, because the second set was all about food. Wedged in the middle of “Apples” was “Peas and Carrots”. The much sought-after “Dinner Fork” was followed by a “Gatsby” reprise. “Cabbage Face” was especially rowdy and led into a new unnamed jam that was played for the first time. They also debuted “Slippin in the Kitchen”, which was an extremely funky number, with lyrics about breakfast cuisine, and a deep bass and keys groove that had the entire audience boogying. The last song of the set was the gorgeous two-parter “Hattie’s Jam” > “When it Rains it Poors”.
Walking back on stage for the encore, Taz and Mike Gantzer were called to the stage to assist in attacking Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”. Gantzer nailed the slide, while Mihali sang and shredded with Taz on the infamous solo. It was evident by their huge smiles and the way they hopped around on the stage that this was a moment of pure bliss. The lasers and lights were going nuts, as was the entire audience. I would recommend checking out the video here because everyone should see this ten minutes of rock ‘n roll at its finest.
Saturday’s festivities kicked off with the VIP Party at Garcia’s. The limited number of folks who had passes to this pre-show gathering were treated to a mini performance, a Q & A session, and a photo with the band. The excitement and gratitude of the guests was palpable as we waited for Twiddle to take the stage. After the rager the night before, it felt really special to get to see the boys in such an intimate setting. Their set included “Second Wind” and “Brown Chicken Brown Cow”. After the performance, their manager Kevin Rondeau, led the question and answer session. He first cleared the air on any speculation of a new album. “Mihali’s album is dropping very soon. After his album is released, yes, there will be a new Twiddle album coming.”
The way that the entire crew, Kevin included, treats the fans is one thing that always stands out about Twiddle. The Q & A session was as silly as it was insightful: Did you know that if Brook Jordan could be any dinosaur, it would be a pterodactyl? We learned that Zdenek Gubb’s been listening to a lot of Thundercat and Bahamas. We also got to hear a hilarious story about a terrified Mihali riding shotgun on a golf cart with a flare-weilding Norb through the dark backwoods of Vermont when they were in college.
Eggy kicked off Saturday night at Garcia’s after the VIP party wrapped. This was my first experience with them, and just about every five minutes, my husband and I would look at each other with faces that said “Holy shit!” When they play, you can see each of them become swept away by the music, fully submerged, and not coming up for air until the song is over. The foursome from Connecticut gives off a retro-vibe at times, but keeps a fresh spin on their jams. By the conclusion of their set, Garcia’s was packed, and the roof was officially blown off the Cap before the main event had even begun.
Once Eggy’s show was over, I got to chat with keyboardist/vocalist Dani Battat and I asked him what Frendsgiving means to him. He replied, “Frendsgiving is the opportunity to connect with old friends and make new ones. We all become a family. It’s the unique opportunity to gather, and everyone brings something to the table. It’s like a potluck, where everybody has something different and fresh to offer, and that’s what makes the collaboration so special . We’re really grateful to the Twiddle guys, and Kevin and Dan [Travis], for a seat at this table.”
It was time to head into the Cap for Aqueous’ second performance of the weekend. They began with “On the Edge” into “Kitty Chaser (Explosions)”. If last night’s show all about the funky grooves, the first two tunes showed us tonight was going to be a heavier, spacier experience. The instrumental “Kum and Go” took us on a journey way,way out and back again. “The Median” led into a cover of Vampire Weekend’s “Sunflower”. Closing out the set was “Skyway”, which broke down into a blissful dance number, displaying the virtuosity of especially Dave and Evan McPhaden, who were each playing multiple instruments throughout.
Twiddle opened with the Ryan’s signature fluttering on the piano for “Enter” into “Orlando’s”. Next was “Jamflowman”, where Gubb and Norb really owned the spotlight, before they all came together to absolutely destroy the last few minutes of the tune. We were treated to a continuation of the unfinished “Gatsby” from yesterday, as Mihali illuminated the Cap, tearing through the reprise and smiling the whole way home. A romping “Hattibagen McRat” followed. Belting the lyrics, we danced with our frends, and they went back into “Orlando’s” to conclude it.
The next song we were blessed to hear was the highly sought-after and rarely played “Beehop”. The spotlights buzzed up and down the stage in sync with the jazzy notes of the instrumental intro. Ryan took it to the next level, hopping up on his keyboard and playing with his right foot. “Carter Candlestick” raged on for over twelve minutes, with the keys and guitar in beautiful harmony before entering into an otherworldly groove. They kept picking up the pace until even the lasers couldn’t keep up, and then finally brought us back down to Earth. They finished with a new song, titled “Mistakes”. Mellow and moody, with deep lyrics and a beautiful, glowing tone, “Mistakes” was a sublime ending to this ferocious first set.
After a short break, the boys were back on stage, starting with “Latin Tang”, which included a great moment between Brook and Gubb, as they laid down a dope drum and bass ditty before Mike Gantzer and Dave Loss joined the stage to round out this instrumental saga. The three guitarists blasted off into a raging back-and-forth jam as the lights swirled around the walls and ceilings of the theatre. “The Box” > “Zelda Theme” > “The Box” was a musical journey of epic proportions, captivating the crowd through every note. “Syncopated Healing” demonstrated the majestic chemistry between Ryan and Mihali, followed by “Machine”, which is a lovely tune written and sung by Brook. A rowdy “Frends Theme” kicked the tempo up another notch, featuring Norb on the keytar. We then received a taste of another new tune. “Just Gravy” was a bouncy instrumental that led back into the final conclusion of “Gatsby the Great”, finishing off the set.
For their encore, they played “Lost In the Cold,” which, (no matter how many times I’ve seen them play it) leaves me with goosebumps every time. Hearing the entire Capitol Theatre sing “Take all my pain and give myself a good life…” was an incredibly touching experience that left me with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude in my heart.
Frendsgiving was an incredible experience in so many ways. We got to be the first to hear several new Twiddle tunes, and we were treated to a few deeper tracks that aren’t as heavily played. Beyond the raging musical delivery from all the musicians involved, Frendsgiving was overflowing with friendship and warmth. Generosity and gratitude were themes of this event, from the performers who poured their heart and soul into their sets, to the fans, who are among the kindest on Earth. There was no better way to kick off the holiday season, and I will try to carry that spirit of friendship with me into the New Year.
Check out some more of Kristan’s epic pictures from the weekend below: