Fabulous Night at Crowbar with Row Jomah
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. So that could help to explain why Row Jomah sounded so damn good Friday night, October 23, at Crowbar in Ybor City (Tampa).
However, after more than three dozen Row Jomah shows, I would in any event declare that they have never sounded better than they did Friday. This was perhaps the band’s fourth time out since March, but that was never for a second in evidence. For this evening’s show, Kenny Harvey (Holey Miss Moley) was the designated bassist, and he CRUSHED.
This was the second concert at Crowbar, thanks to all of the incredibly painstaking work Tom DeGeorge has put in to keep his venue alive and to keep us all safe. A couple of idiots paraded around a bit without masks, but usually an employee would ask them to wear masks.
Set one was all originals, and the quintet opened with “Windowpanes,” a tune from 2018’s Guns & Gods & Gold (also on Live at Dunedin Brewery), and it was immediately obvious we were in for a great night. That segued into the band’s most recent single “Big Water,” an enormously heavy tune with a badass intro from Harvey and great vocals and incredible range from Joe Roma, who also plays acoustic guitar. Austin Llewellyn was playing electric piano and took a fine solo. Then Melbourne Walsh stepped up and ripped the first of more than a dozen stunning guitar solos on the night.
The group then stepped back into their first album, 2015’s Cat People!, for “Tell Me.” They’ve added a kickass country shitkicker intro that works perfectly. Dave Gerulat (shoeless soul) was sitting in all evening on percussion, and he and drummer Dylan Chee-A-Tow match up so perfectly. They had a duet of sorts, followed by a tremendous jam, then Chee-A-Tow romping over the band’s vamp.
They have also added a great intro to “Shudder,” also from Cat People! Llewellyn played organ and switch to electric piano for the coda. And speaking of Cat People!, there IS such a song, but it’s not ON Cat People!, and Roma, calling me out, mentioned that it never would be. (Which isn’t entirely true, since there is a 20-second teaser on Guns & Gods & Gold called “Cab Peephole,” included there for the sole purpose of vexing me.) This song gives solo space to everyone. Walsh was first, then Gerulat, Llewellyn on organ (including his favorite “St. Thomas” quote, which the entire band picked up), and then a Chee-A-Tow tour-de-force as the band vamped again. This version did not include “Cantina Band.”
“Rain Down” is a newer composition. A huge Walsh guitar shredding session was sandwiched between two Llewellyn solos on electric piano, and everybody was on fire. They closed out the hour-long first set with “Better Days” (Guns & Gods & Gold). Roma was in great voice all set long.
Set two would feature Row Jomah alternating songs by Talking Heads and The Flaming Lips. They had performed Talking Heads tributes perhaps half a dozen times, all superb. Their Flaming Lips set, however, was a one-off. The band had played in Asheville on a Saturday night last year and then drove straight through to Miami to play the music of The Flaming Lips at a wedding. Also, most patrons were familiar with the Talking Heads material, not so many the Flaming Lips stuff.
People who had not seen the concert film Stop Making Sense or Talking Heads live weren’t sure they were starting the second set when only Roma and Chee-A-Tow got on stage first, at least not until they launched into “Psycho Killer.” Then it was ON. The band members had changed to spiffy outfits and filed out, joining them mid-tune. Gerulat was now out front with bongos and microphone for “Race for the Prize;” he and Roma sing so well together. Gerulat added great vocalese on the choruses.
The final member of the tribute, Ms. Robyn Alleman Pack (Holey Miss Moley), jumped in on the funkified “Making Flippy Floppy.” Harvey nailed this one. For most Flaming Lips tunes, Alleman Pack went off stage, as the group had rehearsed those without her. Gerulat had a deep spoken intro to “Fight Test,” a great song. Then Roma asked all of those questions we know in “Once in a Lifetime” (“Well, how did I get here?”), Llewellyn also on vocals.
For a lovely surprise, “Space Oddity” had worked its way into the setlist, to everyone’s delight, and that yielded to “Girlfriend is Better,” with Llewellyn channeling Bernie Worrell on synths and Harvey playing some phat space bass. Alleman Pack did stay for “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” the Flaming Lips tune, which featured a lot of “No no no no no”s!
Next, they offered up “Slippery People,” Turkuaz-style. It was so deeply funky; there was a great jam, then Chee-A-Tow and Harvey having a ball. Walsh absolutely crushed here, especially on that James Brown funky-chunky guitar stuff. Walsh added so great slide work to “She Don’t Use Jelly.” Gerulat’s work on bongos all set was brilliant.
Next up was “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).” Interestingly, I’ve never appreciated this song before, but this excellent performance finally reached me; the groove was so deep. Llewellyn was doing Bernie again, Harvey and Chee-A-Tow tagged up again, and Walsh was… Walsh. Damn.
Roma thanked us for coming and told us they had one more song for us. The vocal trio of Roma, Alleman Pack, and Gerulat were heavenly all set long (also when Llewellyn jumped in), but “Crosseyed and Painless” was special. Alleman Pack in particular got to strut her stuff not in ensemble, and she quite simply owned this one with a magnificent performance.
Kudos to everyone involved in getting live music back on stage: to DeGeorge and his outstanding crew; to the sound engineer and the gentleman who provided the top-notch live-stream; to The Little Pig vendor on the patio with his great food; to Roma, Walsh, Llewellyn, and Chee-A-Tow and guests Harvey, Gerulat, and Ms. Alleman Pack; and to all of the patrons who supported the show.
[RJ1: Windowpanes > Big Water, Tell Me, Shudder, Cat People!, Rain Down, Beter Days; RJ2: Psycho Killer, Race for the Prize, Making Flippy Floppy, Fight Test, Once in a Lifetime, Space Oddity, Girlfriend is Better, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Slippery People (Turkuaz-style), She Don’t Use Jelly, This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody), Crosseyed and Painless]