Side Hustle Offer Outstanding Sophomore EP ‘LIBERATION’
Jacksonville’s Side Hustle have been prominent on the Sunshine State jam scene for years, and their debut recording Common Ground was a real treat, issued in November of 2018. In the meantime, they have continued to rock festivals and concerts wherever they go.
That was never more true than at Monster Mash over Halloween weekend 2020 in northeast Florida. At the time, we wrote:
Side Hustle decided to follow suit (after an incredible performance by The Reality) with an incredible set of their own. Anton Laplume (guitar) and Billy Begley (keyboards), the gents who curate an amazing 28-program podcast series called Bottom of the Bill, were certainly top of the bill this night. They led with a new song by Begley (no working title yet) before “Work with What You Got.” Then Aaron Plotz on drums kicked the band in a jammy Latin direction on “Freedom 35,” and Roosevelt Collier joined them.
They got all funky for “Living for the Day,” Begley balancing clavinet and organ. Bass player Sean Thomas helped set up some funky syncopation on “Destitute,” with Collier back on stage trading back and forth with Laplume. Then, in what seemed to be the order of the evening, they too hit that excellent trance-dance groove during “Fed Up.” The word of the night, incidentally, was SHWING (or maybe SCHWING). After some spooky organ on “Street Walker,” the vocal harmonies were awesome leading into — what else — more great trance-dance during “Promise Land > Abra Cadabra > Alpha Draconis.” The crowd was eating it up.
And today (July 30) they have issued brand new EP LIBERATION (although, at 45 minutes, it’s really an album). From their press release:
The band calls LIBERATION a “statement about finding meaning and purpose in today’s world of endless distractions.” Says Laplume: “This album speaks to our audience who find themselves vigorously navigating the rugged terrains of a gig economy.” The band drew inspiration from a persona LIBERTY who is a modern take on the Statue of Liberty; a young woman in today’s environment who is surviving on will, self-reliance and perseverance. This persona informed the album art produced by Adam Cartsens. The album will encompass seven songs and 45 minutes of play, each song extending longer than the typical radio time. “These songs are derived from our fans’ responses to our live performances, and we wanted to provide that in this EP,” says Laplume. Songwriter Laplume, a South Florida native, was a tour professional with The Rockin’ Jake Band before embleming Side Hustle in the Jacksonville area. Aaron Plotz (drums) is a Jacksonville native and has collaborated with heavyweights such as Tony Steve, Richard Kirkland, Charlotte Mabrey, and Danny Gottleib. Sean Thomas (bass/vocals), a graduate of Florida Southern College, performed in one of Jacksonville’s premier funk/jam bands Herd of Watts. And Billy Begley, founding member of Lucky Costello, a regional electro jam band, mixes his classical piano upbringing with modern jamtronica improvisational flair. [Ed. note: Begley also stars in jamtronic powerhouse quartet Greenhouse Lounge.]
LIBERATION is a sheer delight. All seven tracks are credited to the band. Ready to jump in?
Plotz’s drumming powerhouses “Alpha Draconis” (7:03) into deep groove space. He and Thomas lay down a nasty foundation for LaPlume to ride on, guitar and great vocals. Begley, meanwhile, has his synths dancing around the groove the entire time; this was his forte with Lucky Costello as well. Beautiful piano work emerges as the tempo shifts down slightly to a delicious groove. Thomas has some solo space, and then LaPlume’s superb slide work takes over. What a way to open the album!
Begley whips out the clavinet to send “Living for the Day” (6:22) soaring. The harmony vocals are great, and LaPlume’s guitar sails on top of Begley’s bouncing funk. During the second section of the song, Begley adds organ and synths on top of clavinet for a glorious gumbo.
“The Temptress” (6:08) has an almost reggae/ska vibe during the stanzas, while the choruses are smooth. LaPlume is in great voice, and Begley is, well, Begley. Thomas lights this one up, and then LaPlume rips a fine solo. These are great compositions.
“Destitute” (6:10) was the first single released, and it again fits their groove perfectly. This one might remind of TAUK, very favorably. Plotz gets an excellent feature halfway through as the band rocks with him. LaPlume again shines as Thomas and Plotz drive the song with a locomotive presence.
The second single was “Bounce” (5:14), Begley’s clavinet and Thomas on bass certifying that the title is accurate. Begley adds organ as LaPlume and Thomas sing. This is pure fun, a dancing delight.
There is a fascinating vibrato effect from one of Begley’s keyboards in “Good Times” (5:00). The slower tempo shines light on Thomas’s great vocals here.
The band closes with a high-powered Latin tune titled “Street Walker” (9:00), Plotz on drums and Begley on piano huge here. The feeling shifts as LaPlume’s guitar work is light, and then Begley enters with some otherworldly organ sounds (1960s, maybe). There is a trance-dance-y feel as Thomas and Plotz lay down that steady groove again and LaPlume and Begley play repetitive figures. This instrumental will certainly be a concert delight.