Toots & the Maytals, Particle, & Inner Circle in St. Petersburg 03.11.05

[Another review from back in Facebook days and a really bizarre night.]

Jannus Landing (now Jannus Live) in St. Petersburg has a tight time policy. Shows generally start at 8, but, regardless of start time, they must end at midnight (that, too, may have changed since 2005). It’s easy when there is only one band on the bill, not bad when there are two.

It gets messier when there are three bands, and a lot worse when the opening band takes an hour and a half to hit the stage. Then you know there will be problems.

Maybe that’s what you get when you schedule a bunch of “Bad Boys” for the opener. If I said Inner Circle, most people would shrug and say, “Who?” But if I belted out a few tortured bars of the COPS theme, you would know for sure. So a show slated to begin at 7 kicked off at 8:30. So everybody involved —  bands, promoters, fans – starts looking at watches, to try to figure out how that was going to crunch all of the sets.

The headliners were Toots & the Maytals (or Maytalls, according to the ticket). Sandwiched in between two reggae acts were jamtronica’s Particle. Talk about a weird billing. Inner Circle was onstage almost an hour, and afterward there was impressive work going on to get their equipment off and Particle’s on. I was certainly hoping for more, timewise, but I certainly couldn’t complain about Particle’s 51-minute rocker of a set.

Particle, known for songs in the 15- to 25-minute range, made everything tight and compact. It provided an interesting view in economy. “Launchpad,” the title track from their first CD, got the Particle fans (there were a few of us) in the proper frame of mind. Again, this was a pared-down version, tight on the jams and solos. Steve Molitz was driving the festivities from his spaceship control panel, or perhaps that was just his bank of keyboards.

The remainder of the set was a spirited battle between Molitz’s clavinet and Charlie Hitchcock’s guitar, and it was terse. “Truth Don’ Die” featured Hitchcock’s wah-wah pedal and what sounded like Leslie cabinet effects. That was followed by an abbreviated “W,” the most reggae-ish tune in the five-song setlist. Molitz didn’t ignore his other keyboards, but I noticed the clavinet more this show than before or since. Which was appropriate, given the atmosphere.

Darren Pujalet is a great drummer, with that disco-like style that matches up so well with jamtronica (in full evidence on “Launchpad”), plus he is great to watch. Meanwhile, Gouldy (bassist Eric Gould) was clearly having the most fun. Together they provided the deep, rich bottom necessary for the dancing guitar and clavinet.

Hitchcok, Pujalet, Gould & Molitz: Particle – Photo credit: The Music Vibes

“The Banker” picked up the tempo, again a shorter version than normal. After a brief pause, they worked slowly and carefully into “Superstition.” Early on, it was a bit tentative, almost unrehearsed. At a point when it nearly bogged down, suddenly it regained energy and surged for the remainder of the 15 minutes (longest song of the set). And suddenly it was: Adios, Particle. Better than no Particle, I say.

By this time it was about quarter to 11, but nobody seemed to be in much of a hurry to get the Toots show up and running. Finally, and I mean finally, at 11:20, the Maytals took the stage. Mind you that Toots, the headliner, wasn’t on stage yet, and the place was absolutely going to shut down at midnight. Really finally, Toots hit the stage at 11:35. You do the math. Maybe he only wanted to do a very short set. But I’m betting not. I CAN tell you that I shot out of there at 12:01 before others realized we were at the end of the show.

It was a weird night, but I’ll see Particle anytime, anywhere. In speaking to the quartet afterward, I did note that it WAS “Mar 11,” just not “Sun Mar 11” (it was Friday).

[Setlist: Launchpad, Truth Don’ Die, W, The Banker, Superstition]

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