The 8×10 “Rocktober” Residency
Night 1: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013
w/Freedom Enterprise and Moogatu
written by Cliff Tyler
photos by Kindones Photography
On Wednesday October the 3rd I had the pleasure of attending a show at one of my favorite venues. The 8×10 Club, located in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, is a very small venue that hosts many shows organized by Walther Productions, the famed company behind the All Good Festival and Dark Star Jubilee. Besides this connection to music festivals, the owners themselves are long-time jam band fans. Many top-notch groups have graced this stage over the years, usually squeezing into a venue that is much smaller and intimate than they are accustomed to. This provides fans a chance to see their favorite artists up close and personal on the spring-loaded dance floor or by clinging to the balcony that is literally right on top of the stage.
This fine evening I made the trip downtown to check out the first installment of BIG Something’s October residency. Each month the 8×10 books a band to headline every Wednesday of that respective month. The headliner is usually supported by two other groups of local or regional interest. This particular week BIG Something, based out of Virginia, was joined by a fine group named Moogatu, also out of Virginia, and Freedom Enterprise, who are quickly becoming one of the finer jam based bands in the Baltimore area. This month’s string of Wednesday night parties have been dubbed “Rocktober” and the three groups that performed this evening sure held up their ends of the bargain!
First up at 9pm sharp was Freedom Enterprise. I’ve shared a bill or two with these fellas and have had to opportunity to see them live a couple times. Upon seeing them take the stage I realized that something was different. I quickly remembered that the band had added to their lineup since we last met. They now have a sax player, and an excellent one at that. Patrick Rainey joined up with the Freedom Enterprise boys after the band he was a part of retired…..sort of. As a whole, Freedom Enterprise has always been fun to watch and brings great energy but the added dynamic of a talented sax player that also brings vocals and some added stage presence has shifted Freedom Enterprise into a higher gear. The band creates great dance inducing music and can draw you in from afar with their tight jams and great lead vocals. Don’t miss your next opportunity to see Freedom Enterprise!
Before I move on to the next band I’d like to add a little insight into how I form my opinion on music that I hear or preferably see and hear. I am a musician. I currently bring the bass to three Baltimore based bands. We all play the local bar scene and have just started branching out to festivals and more legitimate venues in the last few years. When I watch a band perform, I’m looking at how the members interact on stage, I’m looking at their gear and how they use it, I’m looking at how comfortable they are on stage, and most importantly of all, I’m looking for that spark, that look in your eye when your band hits that groove and is really having a great time making music. Maybe this mindset gives me a unique perspective from time to time and I hope that readers might appreciate that.
Now back to the music at hand. The second band that brought the funk that evening is called Moogatu. Their music showcases two amazing lead guitar players combined with a great drum set and bass guitar rhythm section. This particular evening their lineup did not include a keyboardist, but their website lists one. Before the show, I met up with my buddy Jeff who came mainly to see Moogatu. He mentioned the lack of keyboards, along with the fact that this was probably the best show by the band that he had seen as of yet. I imagine ole’ Jeff has seen them a few times as he was on their guest list! Moogatu creates progressive rock and roll type jams that are very pleasing to the ears. Having never seen them play, I became a fan of this band in a few seconds. Experiencing them play in person was mesmerizing to me. Their music is very original, danceable, and may just display some of the finest face melting guitar work from an up and coming band that I have seen in a long time. Their songs are mostly instrumental but they can add great vocals too. Moogatu is a hard working band with a nice tour schedule so track them down for a guaranteed good time!
BIG Something waited patiently for their chance to rock, and rock they did. Big Something’s lineup consists of a smoking lead guitarist, an incredible keys\trumpet player, thumping bass, beat driving drums, a fine sax player who has a very interesting electronic toy about the size of a clarinet in addition to his classic woodwind, and a vocalist\mandolinist\rhythm guitar player. The mandolin\rhythm guitarist’s unique playing intrigued me the most that night. I noticed right away that he was playing his mandolin upside down, basically playing a right-handed instrument left handed. In addition he left the strings applied in a right-handed format. Theory wise, this made sense. A mandolin is basically the lower four strings of a traditional guitar strung backwards. So I figured that this would make his style of playing the mandolin more like the technique used on a guitar. I gathered all of this info during their first song. Well, by the second song he was playing a guitar. Like before, he was using a right-handed instrument in a left-handed manner while leaving the strings in a right-handed format. This effectively makes the guitar a completely different instrument to learn to play and in no way relates to how he plays the mandolin. My musical mind was blown! I had to regain my focus on the music as a whole. BIG Something has big sound and they are really freaking good at sharing it. I found myself smiling and bopping along with their music, immediately impressed with a band that I had never seen live before. The crowd had filled in pretty well by this point, the music was rocking and I could tell the band was having a blast. I look forward to my next chance to take in some BIG Something and I really hope it’s at a festival where music and vibes seem to shine even brighter.
What a great way to kick off Rocktober! In a musical world where the EDM scene and it’s live band counterparts have really taken root, I found it really inspiring to see three bands that, to me, have their musical roots in good ole rock and roll. That being said, there is definitely a technique of playing to a specific crowd or venue. I think all three of these bands could delve into jamtronica at a moment’s notice, particularly Moogatu with the addition of keys. Freedom Enterprise, Moogatu, and Big Something fit together on this bill like a musical puzzle. Seemingly related yet individually original they displayed aspects of latin, funk, hard rock, prog rock, ska, and the all mighty jam. BIG Something will be playing every Wednesday in October at The 8×10 with more dynamic, emerging bands like People’s Blues of Richmond, Golden Guns, Big Daddy Love, Trace Friends Mucho, Deaf Scene, and Jimkata. See more of BIG Something’s tour dates and listen to their music at http://www.bigsomething.net/. Thanks for reading and supporting your local artists. We can’t do these types of things without you!