Mind Blown: Dunedin Brewery OktoBEERfest
Photographs courtesy of Nymania Productions, John Strojny,
Funk Eye Media, and Jeff Moellering / Snapzalot.com
In the run-up to the Dunedin Brewery OktoBEERfest, VP and proprietor Michael Lyn Bryant confided that he wanted to take a step or three outside the norm, to make this an “edgier” celebration.
Merely to say that he accomplished his goal would be a gross understatement. This year’s event in Dunedin, Florida, October 3-6, was a smashing success musically, socially, and gastronomically. Oh, and there was beer, too. Over the four days, there were 11 musical performances. We have photographs of all of them and were able to review the seven evening sets. I will mention here that the last two sets I heard were two of the most amazing musical performances I’ve ever witnessed. More on that soon.
Here’s how it went down:
The opening night was Literstein Heritage Night. Patrons could buy a special literstein which could then be filled up at a discount until next October. Patrons were sprawled all over the courtyard, enjoying great beer and German food, waiting for music to begin inside.
WOVE Silk-screened T-shirts
The Row Jomah boys are house regulars. They make up part of the DunBrew House Band on Wednesdays, and Joe Roma worked all weekend with house sound engineer Chris Fama in addition to his band duties.
Every time this Clearwater quintet take the stage, they bring delight. This might have been their best set yet of the dozens I have heard. It did not hurt that Dave Gerulat (shoeless soul) sat in on percussion, as he does often, nor did it hurt that ubiquitous reed man Christian Ryan (Leisure Chief, Holey Miss Moley) was in for the night as well.
They stomped off with an amazing first set of more than a dozen tunes, opening with “Fade Away” from Guns & Gods & Gold. They included five songs from Cat People!, including great versions of “Choke,” “Funk,” and “Shudder” back to back to back. Their “Sledgehammer” cover is always a blast. Row Jomah, who already have a complete Talking Heads tribute to their credit, added another with a set of Flaming Lips music that they threw down at a recent wedding. From that set, we got “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” which benefitted greatly from Gerulat’s vocals added to Roma’s.
Ryan alternated between alto and tenor saxophones and then added his flute to the mix on a trio of songs. Austin Llewellyn had a fabulous electric piano outing on the introduction to “Fire & Ice,” which then turned wonderfully into a set-closing “Once in a Lifetime.”
During the second set, Dylan Chee-A-Tow had a tasty drum solo during the actual “Fire & Ice” before they offered another Flaming Lips tune, “Are You a Hypnotist?” Chee-A-Tow intimated the start of “Hang On Sloopy” before it turned into a rockin’ “Psycho Killer.” Llewellyn and bassist Vinny Svoboda crushed solos during “#41,” the DMB song. Svoboda makes beast mode look effortless. Question: on how many songs did Melbourne Walsh take great guitar solos? Answer: ALL OF THEM.
Bravo, gentlemen! That’s the way you get the party started!
This show was the album release party for Ajeva’s eponymous album, and, like Row Jomah before them, they blew out a tremendous set, perhaps again the best of the dozens of theirs I’ve been privileged to hear. For two hours, they gave us the new album (not necessarily in order) plus some older favorites, including “Motown Money” and “Jungle Funk.” Reed Skahill was handling lead vocals, but there was plenty of vocal back-up from Mark Mayea at the keyboards, Elliott Dickinson on guitar, and drummer Travis ‘Two Tall’ Young, who also showed off his rapping skills.
Also on the set was percussionist Jimmy Rector. He’s not a member of Ajeva, but he did appear on part of the album musically. And he designed the album cover; he was a great addition to the evening. During “Waves,” former band guitarist Skyler Golden came up to play. Golden had to take a hiatus from performing due to physical problems with his wrist. He was in fine form, soloing and then battling with Dickinson. Golden played slide guitar on “Do You Wanna Get Down” (with another Two Tall rap).
Ella Jet came up to sing “Childhood” and sounded lovely. “Something Else” began slowly with a superb twin-guitar lead with Michael Nivens, the band’s lead guitarist, and Dickinson. Then everybody gave Rector and Young room for a percussion conversation, Taylor Gilchrist then stepping in on bass, and finally Dickinson. Nivens had a brilliant night.
As they worked through the album, they finally got to fan fav “Funky Green Men,” and the crowd lit up. Mayea, whose keyboard stylings are always a revelation, had his synth dancing around Nivens’ guitar. Young rapped, Gilchrist threw down, and Golden came back to sing. THEY ROCKED OUT!
In a new arrangement, this set was played under a tent on the property just south of the brewery, and it made for easy access to all points of interest and seemed advantageous for Fama and Roma working sound.
Cat Box is what you get if you throw Jon Ditty and Stick Martin together. I was familiar with Ditty, who can spit rhymes way faster than I comprehend them, but his lyrics are deep (thankfully, he provides lyrics with at least some of his albums). But I’d never had the pleasure of hearing Stick Martin before, and a pleasure it was! He is a remarkable musician, great looper, and one hell of a rapper to boot. His FB page says he does “Rock, Blues, Country, Hip Hop,” and at some point we got all of that.
Both are more than capable of spontaneity and freestyle, but this was a tightly-arranged performance from the two, and it was as impressive as it was fun. They began with Ditty’s “Natural Selection,” but after that all bets are off in terms of titles. Maybe there was “Where the Party At?” Maybe “The Truth is On Fire.” Doesn’t matter. It was all solid, and the packed house was eating it up, deservedly so.
Martin played guitar and keyboards, and he knocked us out with his kazoo (or was that Ditty?). Their new “cassingle,” available only on cassette, was well received, especially when Martin soloed on slide whistle as Ditty played DJ.
We may not have mentioned the cat t-shirts each wore, or the long cat tails, or the little catnip mice strewn around, or the tip jar which was, in fact, a cat box with a scoop and, of course, cat litter to stick the dollars in. Yep. It was that kind of fun.
I almost bailed on this duo about 10-15 minutes into their set. rickoLus & Bleubird appeared in matching white jumpsuits, sunglasses, hats, and a weird vibe. In part, it was difficult to jump on stage and excite the crowd after that refreshing Cat Box set. Moreover, speaking for myself, I had to get used to the vibe and image they were presenting, because it was beyond my limited experience in the rap and hip hop world.
I was rewarded for sticking it out. The set began to gel, and I was beginning to get it, at least on some level. The two dudes have massive energy, and Bleubird has a great singing voice when he used it. And the set was fun. There was a segment called (approximately) “We Got a Ticket on the 3-0-1.” I liked the lyric: “How we live, how we run, Throwing money at the sun.”
There was a great piece about “Space Mountain,” followed by a discussion noting that “Floridians say, ‘You ain’t from around here. You don’t come from down here.’” “Sunset Jetski” mentioned the appeal of taking your jet ski to work. They cruised through dance party disco land with “Going Up, Going Down.” They had been teasing that sound at the beginning of “Sledgehammer,” a synth wood flute (shakuhachi), several times. When the music actually began, heads turned. They changed the lyrics to “Hurricane Party”!
DeLeon Family Oktoberfest Band
Putting Michael Lyn Bryant and Joe Marcinek is a questionable proposition. They start to do weird stuff. Like, really weird. For Bryant, this is his stock in trade as part of excellent avant groups including Follow the Monarchs and Skallop. His birthday party every year is a complete improvisation orgy with half the house packed with musicians waiting their turn. Marcinek is a chameleon who can do just about anything and, it seems, with practically anybody and everybody in the jam scene (he’s hosting a jam room night on Jam Cruise in January!).
So start with Bryant on synths and keyboards and Marcinek on guitar. Throw in a rhythm section of Vinny Svoboda and Tucker Sody (bass and drums, respectively), Austin Llewellyn (Row Jomah) on keyboards, and Dave Gerulat on percussion. Joe Roma sat in on vocals, and Alex Sears did likewise on synths.
It got weird. It got funked up. It rocked. It was in fact so damn much fun that percussion master Mike Dillon came over before his set to join Gerulat with all of his toys. This got truly joyous, and in retrospect it should have been a tip-off about what would occur inside shortly.
There was a lot of great interplay: Sody and Gerulat on percussion, Bryant and Llewellyn on keyboards, Bryant and Marcinek, and Svoboda again in beast mode propping everything up on bass.
The Mike Dillon Band
I have been a fan of Mike Dillon ever since I saw him with the Dead Kenny Gs at Bear Creek way back. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform with his own band and as a guest dozens of times, including a tremendous show last January in Tampa. This one was a mind-blowing masterpiece, and every patron who packed inside the brewery will vouch for that.
Dillon and bandmates just seemed delighted to be at Dunedin and had themselves a time for two straight hours, no small feat given the intensity of the punk-metal-jazz they play. Throughout the night, Dillon switched back and forth between his vibes (he IS The Vibraphone Destroyer, you know) and some percussion instruments — timbales and more.
He opened with vibes; when he played percussion, it allowed guitarist Brooks Hubbert III great opportunities to shred, and he was great at it. The second tune was way-uptempo jazz, which abruptly turned to punk, and back and forth. The band was so incredibly tight, with Nate Lambertson on bass and Brendan Bull at drum kit in sync with every dodge, twist and turn of the music.
It didn’t take long for Dillon to engage us in a sing-along on “Bonobo” from his most recent album, Bonobo Bonobo, with that unforgettable refrain: “Are you fucking up, or are you fucking down?” After another smokin’ hot song, they jumped to “7 A.M. at the Jazzfest,” which surprisingly roared into a killer “Low Rider,” and that twisted itself into “Air BnB in Arabi.” At this point, nothing he does should surprise me.
He taught us the chorus to “Leather On,” which we all got eventually: “MOTHERFUCKER!” We got it, alright! Lambertson had a great bass solo. More madness followed with “Cremate Me,” featuring great interplay between guitar and vibes. Guitar and bass laid out while Dillon and Bull had a mind-blowing percussion duet.
Dillon then said, “I feel like playing some blues. Gonna go old-school. New Orleans. Allen Toussaint.” And out poured a blues-dripping version of “Get Out of My Life, Woman.” Which was followed, naturally, by “Blitzkreig Bop”! And one hell of a version, too! “Crab Rangoon” is always a delight. There was an amazing punk thing, a great guitar solo, and then Dillon invited three friends up to play vibes. All four of them. I suspected cacophony, but that’s not what came out. It was syncopated and beautiful and joyous.
He bounced from a stunning short death metal song to a gorgeous jazz theme and then way-uptempo jazz again. At this point the fun really began, as a long dissertation of sorts emerged about no beer, a Nine Inch Nails cover, mellow-hard-mellow-hard, and punk. And then it really, really began with a huge rap titled “What’s Wrong with Daddy?” The music was propulsive, and the laughter unstoppable. At the end, he credited Bad Brains and Frank Zappa.
He related a Stevie Ray Vaughan story and played “Your Mother Loves My Guitar,” but there were shout-outs to Chef Boyardee, wombats, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and the Jolly Green Giant. You might say Dillon was on a roll! How they had energy for an encore I’ll never know; we were wrung out to dry.
Somehow, none of my close musical buddies had ever mentioned Eric McFadden to me. I had checked out YouTube recordings and was suitably impressed, but that was video.
HOLY SHIT! That’s what my notebook says, and it rarely lies. For three hours, McFadden and his rhythm section took us on a ride the likes of which I have rarely encountered. I will mention here that McFadden made me think of two of the greatest “unknown” guitarists I’ve ever seen: Shawn Kellerman and Kelly Richey. This was face-melting, mind-blowing, life-changing stuff.
Guessing at song titles here. There was a reserved “Valley of Love,” followed by rock and roll, all-out Blasters style. Bass player Charles Gasper stood out. There was a Fatboy Slim tune that hit like The Stooges before a stunning take on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the very first psychedelic song (The Beatles, Revolver). McFadden then slowed things down before again punching the gas.
Those of us who had no idea up up to this point (which was most of us) were looking at each other with mouths open and that WTAF look on our faces, because this was serious. McFadden has assembled a true power trio, and they all contributed to the success of the set. There was some stunning Hendrix-like stuff. DAMN!
He played “The Letter” by the Box Tops. There was a discussion of Alex Chilton, the man who wrote the tune before moving on to Big Star. And there might have been a Big Star tune.
There was a request, to which McFadden answered: “I don’t normally take requests. I don’t do anything normally. I don’t regularly take requests, but that one’s near and dear to my heart. My dad got that album for me to hear. I learned to play this,” speaking of Are You Experienced? and Jimi Hendrix’s version of “Hey Joe” (originally by The Leaves).
And he CRUSHED it. Fittingly, they followed that up with an instrumental version of “Strange Brew” by Cream (also “Hey Lawdy Mama”) with a quick drum feature in tribute to Ginger Baker, who had just passed away. There was also a “Toad” discussion.
All evening, McFadden used two microphones, one presumably a harp mic, for great vocal variations. The rhythm section stood down as he played “Dead and Gone” achingly solo, and they finished with “Bring You My Love.”
Three hours non-stop stunning rock and roll from a master. Check him out, and if he’s ever in your time zone, run, don’t walk, to the nearest entrance. You can thank me later.
The reason that OktoBEERfest runs like a finely tuned engine is because of the outstanding staff. Here are a few, starting with sound engineer par excellence Chris Fama: