[Concert Review]: @EllisAshbrook at Croton Reservoir Tavern-11/18/11
I had the pleasure of catching Brooklyn-based psychedelic prog rock/genre mashing band, Ellis Ashbrook about a month ago at the Croton Reservoir Tavern in Times Square. But I have to say that catching a show at the Croton Reservoir Tavern is admittedly a bit of a strange experience, and for a number of reasons: the first being that Midtown Manhattan crowds as a general rule don’t seem to be too into live music – other than Croton Reservoir Tavern, I can think of maybe one other bar in Midtown that I know of that has any live, original music. So in some way, live music is a bit of an afterthought.
In the case of the Croton, they had a small stage near a staircase and the bathroom/coat check. So throughout the entire set you had people walking back and forth, which was kind of annoying. And there was a sense during the first couple of songs that the crowd that was there wasn’t really expecting music or knew what to do with live music they weren’t familiar with at all. But by the fourth or fifth song, there was a sense that the crowd’s attention was entirely won over. Yes, there was a sense that the audience was mesmerized. After seeing them live, I can see why – they’re a tight unit playing a brand of music that isn’t heard very often these days. Sonically, their influences sound like a mix of a buzzing Dark Side of the Moon and Animals-era Pink Floyd, with bits of jazz fusion, Parliament Funkadelic funk (I’m thinking of a track like “Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication” off Mothership Connection) and New Wave. Much like the Phenomenal Handclap Band, their sound decidedly brings to mind the sounds of the 1970s; however unlike the Phenomenal Handclap Band, Ellis Ashbrook plays a more free-flowing improvised set. They also seem to lean much more towards the psychedelic rock and jazz more so than the funk in the way that PHB does. (There’s also a slight resemblance to Rubblebucket in the fact that the both Natalie Rowe and John Barber trade vocal work.)
I spoke to vocalist and keyboardist Natalie Rowe after their set and she told me that the band rarely has a prepared set list. In fact, the band plays as though they know each other so well that they seem to know what the other is thinking – and it shows.
Most of the material they played was from their excellent album Meridia and live they sounded pretty close to how they would sound on the album. After playing their album a number of times, there isn’t a track that I didn’t like, and I was glad to hear them live. I honestly found myself liking the album even more after catching them live. They managed to show their musical chops with an impressive cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” and a drum solo from Alex Major that reminded of the great Ginger Baker, combining explosive power and musicality. Overall, they play a fun, energetic set and I think that I’ll be catching more of them in 2012. I was impressed by the sound and can’t wait to see what the future brings for such a talented group.
Source: Joy of Violent Movement’