Beastly: The Heavy Pets and Roosevelt Collier Band

If I had any brains (and clearly, in this regard, I do not), I would stop saying, “I’m not taking a notepad. I’m not writing about this show.” Because every dang time it is a killer show screaming at me to tell you about it.

Happened again last night (Friday, June 14) at Crowbar in Tampa. this was the third of four nights of the Free Energy Tour featuring The Heavy Pets and the Roosevelt Collier Band. They had, by all accounts, crushed at Will’s in Orlando and 1904 in Jacksonville the two previous nights.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Was it too loud? Yes. The muddy mix did affect Collier’s set a bit, as Rodrigo Zambrano’s bass overrode Collier and the keyboards at times, but it was still a blast. For the Pets, it was still loud, but the mix was perfection, especially considering all of the great vocals and vocal harmonies the band employs. OK? OK.

Writing the setlists for Collier’s shows is fun, because it is often “Jam 1,” “Jam 2,” and so forth. They might actually have names, but I suspect for the most part they are just jam structures to allow the band to stretch out. Also, Collier had swapped out bands after the first two nights, where he was accompanied by Matt Lapham, Anthony ‘AC’ Cole, and Keegan Matthews. For last night’s show and for tonight at The Funky Biscuit (with the Pets AND with Tand), Collier played with three-quarters of South Florida’s Electric Kif; he has worked with them often. Zambrano was on bass, Armando Lopez on drums, and Jason Matthews on keyboards.

They knocked out a tremendous 75-minute set, most of which you would regard as jams, giving each of the members a chance to stretch out. Collier did not have his pedal steel guitar on stage. He was playing his new-fangled lap steel guitar built into a real guitar body. That one debuted last year at Michael Lyn Bryant’s birthday celebration at Dunedin Brewery. And last night he also unveiled an awesome new one that we hadn’t seen before, slightly smaller. It was built by Scott Duggar, a fine craftsman and husband of Melody Trucks.

Lopez, Zambrano and Matthews are brilliant at this stuff, and the whole set rocked. Toward the end, Collier asked us if we wanted to hear so blues as he was playing the intro to MJ’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” all blues-ed up. That was a lot of fun, and the crowd certainly agreed.

I’ve heard dozens of Heavy Pets shows dating back to 2007, the most recent at Orange Blossom Jamboree, where they headlined Saturday night; Collier headlined Sunday. But this might have been the best one of all, certainly none better. They lit out with “Movie Star,” one of the tunes from their EP Rags and Aces, guitarist Mike Garulli on vocals. From there, they shifted into “Help Me Help You,” and it was all the way ON.

They delivered a relatively short “So Thank You Music” — short, in that it was only 18 minutes long and not the usual 25 or 30 — but it was so tight. Everything was working. Marulli and Jeff Lloyd were blazing on guitars. Meanwhile, Jamie Newitt was keeping everything on an even keel from behind his drum kit, ever-present smile on his face. Pets fans know the marvelous faces Jim Wuest makes behind his bank of keyboards, but this night (I guess I’ve never noticed before) we could also see him dancing — all set long.

And speaking of dancing, bassist Tony D’Amato was all over the stage. He owned the OBJ set, and he and Wuest were a match this night. It was just brilliant. The Heavy Pets can go mellow, pop-ish, reggae-style, every which way, but first and foremost last night they just ROCKED. We got a handful of tunes from their 2018 smash album Strawberry Mansion, including the title track, “Second Sky,” “Shahryar’s Rage” and “Invisible Coyotes.”

At the conclusion of the 74-minute set, they went off-stage, briefly, before returning, as promised, with Collier. And with Matthews. Lloyd stepped to the mic and asked, “Do you like dogs?” That was the introduction to “Jackie Bones,” with Collier and Matthews given nice solo space. It seemed that might be it, but they turned right around as Wuest started noodling the beginning of “Dewpoint” (not coincidentally my most favorite Pets song).

Pure magic. That made for a great half-hour encore, and the crowd loved every second. Near the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton tonight? Then I’d cancel your plans and get in the car. Now.

[HEAVY PETS: Movie Star, Help Me Help You, So Thank You Music, Second Sky, Strawberry Mansion, Shahryar’s Rage, Invisible Coyotes, Sopresatta; E: Jackie Bones, Dewpoint]

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