Greenhouse Lounge at Dunedin Brewery: May 28
Electronica. Prog rock. Trance-dance. Jamtronica. Call it what you want, but this genre of music can really get a crowd moving. The Disco Biscuits, Guavatron, Lotus, Tand, STS9, Electric Kif, DYNOHUNTER, S.P.O.R.E., SunSquabi — there are so many proponents of the multifaceted genre who can turn a crowd into a dance party in no time flat.
Greenhouse Lounge is another name on that list. GHL are back after a hiatus following AURA Music & Arts Festival 2016. They re-emerged briefly in late 2019, just in time to get ensnarled in the pandemic. Be assured, however, that Greenhouse Lounge are back, in a huge way.
They blew out a spectacular show two weeks ago at Orange Blossom Jamboree, and last night (Friday, May 28) was the first of a three-night Memorial Day weekend run. Night one was at Dunedin Brewery in Florida; they returned there Saturday along with Universal Green before heading back to home base Jacksonville for a Sunday show at 1904 Music Hall with special guest Roosevelt Collier; also on the bill are Rohan Solo, SIDE TRAK’D, and Vlad the Inhaler.
The lynchpin for Greenhouse Lounge is bassist Dave McSweeney, who was in the original incarnation of the band. McSweeney has also performed with Hive Mind from Atlanta, where he is based. The rest of the band is from Jacksonville, beginning with Jason Hunnicutt, who also drums for the live hip hop band Universal Green and is the proprietor of 1904 Music Hall. Billy Begley (all manner of keyboards) is also in excellent band Side Hustle and was formerly a member and co-founder of the great Lucky Costello; Begley and McSweeney are co-writing the band’s new material. And Steve Honig, guitar, plays bass with S.P.O.R.E. and is also in Cowford Town Band.That is a heavyweight crew right there.
The Friday show at Dunedin Brewery featured two spectacular sets of music that had the crowd — pause here for a moment. This was the first time most of us had encountered a full dancing crowd at DunBrew since pandemic restrictions have been eased. That in and of itself was very special, hugs, handshakes, fist bumps, and head nods all around, right at the unofficial start of summer, end of the school year (for most), and a holiday weekend to boot (and please remember why it is a holiday).
The quartet went interstellar instantly with “Smash > Release > Smash.” By turns, every member of the band came to the fore. Front and center was McSweeney, looking like he was leading an aerobics class with his non-stop dancing as he played, laying down deep, deep grooves. All around the room you could see the wide smiles and the aura of magic and healing that the music was providing. And just like that, it was a dance party, 21 minutes’ worth!
Theoretically, the next three songs were intended as a segued unit, but, as McSweeney pointed out, they are just getting their groove back (not one soul in the room would agree with that, though), so there were breaks between the songs. They are working on new material and reworking older material as well, but the music for this evening was dayenu — more than sufficient!
“Call for Dawn” began with a Dead-like vamp based on Honig’s guitar before exploding. Begley was absolutely brilliant all night long with electric piano, organ, and washes of various string and synth modes coloring every song. After a brief pause, “Helical Rising” began at a softer pace, but of course it picked up to near breakneck speed, Honig seemingly in a trance as he shredded with abandon.
As they launched into “Han Solo,” I wrote (and I really don’t write this word often) FUCK YEAH. Hunnicutt was crushing on drums, driving the group into jamtronic heaven. Totally sick. That was a riveting hour.
And credit to McSweeney, who said, “We’ll be back in 30.” Always appreciate honesty; it beats, “We’ll be right back!”
During the break, Chris Sgammato arrived with alto sax and pedals in hand. Sgammato has been debuting new material of his, resurrecting his former band Displace, and sitting in all over Jam Cruise, Fool’s Engagement, and shows with SIDE TRAK’D.
Set two opened with some dubsteppy grooves before it went from smoldering to smoking to flaming jams on “Merrimac Merchants.” Then Sgammato stepped on stage, and they lit into “Sands.” Begley played some truly wiggy stuff before Sgammato and Honig stated bouncing riffs back and forth, all the while with a recording of Alan Watts playing in the background. Sgammato also got into it with Begley, smiles all around, and Honig again soared on guitar.
The entire now-quintet went into crush mode on “Lemurian Beings,” Begley, McSweeney, and Honig on fire. And they shot straight out of the galaxy on “Defeating Harrison,” the final tune of the night.
The band and the crowd were all drained. It was life-affirming, so very needed for all involved. Fortunately, Greenhouse Lounge promises there will be much more coming, and for that we are so very, very grateful.
[GHL SET 1: Smash > Release > Smash, Call for Dawn > Helical Rising > Han Solo; SET 2: Merrimac Merchants, Sands, Lemurian Beings, Defeating Harrison]