Saturday, April 22, 2006


Particle @ Bowery Ballroom

The jam-band scene has been in a state of flux ever since Phish broke up in 2002, came back together in 2003 and broke up again in 2004. The '90s jam-band boom was hatched by Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers devotees Phish, Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Widespread Panic, Aquarium Rescue Unit and a host of lesser-known bands. The summer HORDE tour (organized by Blues Traveler) spread the jam-band gospel from town to town. When Jerry Garcia died in 1995 and the Dead disbanded (they would soon reunite as the Other Ones), jam-bands could no longer look to the Dead for guidance. They were suddenly on their own. Phish stepped forward and filled the void left by the Dead. But with Phish's second and last departure, it's been unclear who jam-band fans are currently most devoted to. Is it Boulder's String Cheese Incident? Georgia's Widespread Panic? Philly's Disco Biscuits? New York's moe. and Medeski Martin & Wood? Phil & Friends and Bob Weir's Ratdog? Phish leader Trey Anastasio? The Allman Brothers? There seems to be no consensus. Maybe that's a good thing. Jam-bands are so iconoclastic to begin with, who needs one band to dominate the scene?

Probably the two most significant jam-bands to come along in the last few years are Chicago's Umphrey's McGee and LA's Particle. Both played Green Apple Fest shows last night. I'd seen Umphrey's recently at the Nokia Theater, so I attended the Particle show instead. I've liked Particle from the minute I heard them four years ago. Originally a 4-piece, they're now a quintet with 2 new lead guitarists. Particle are part Phish, part Disco Biscuits. Largely an instrumental unit, they rely on the strength of their jams to tell stories without words to help you figure them out. Particle have more of an electronica sound, speedily cruising along the crescendo superhighway. But, mostly, what I hear is a disco influence that reminds me of one of my favorite late-'70s units, Machine ("There But for the Grace of God Go I").

Mad Professor was scheduled to open last night's concert, but he never showed up (he was at sound check but didn't return), so it turned out to be a complete evening of Particle music, which was fine with the band's fans who sold out the house. For nearly two and a half hours Particle held court, alternating between originals ("The Elevator," "Walking By," "Eye of the Storm") and covers (Prince's "Let's Go Crazy," Spiritualized's "Smile" and Beck's "E-Pro" from Guero for the encore). Early in the first set, drum maestro Mickey Hart joined Particle on the Hydra tune, "Wavemaker." Hart, who's been a true Green Apple ambassador this week, played the African thumb-drum, the kalimba, and interacted with each band member during their respective solos.

Particle's revamped linuep includes original members Steve Molitz (keyboards), Eric Gould (bass) and Darren Pujalet (drums), and recently-added guitarists Scott Metzger (formerly with Rana) and Ben Combe (Bad Shoe). When the band decided to part ways with original guitarist Charlie Hitchcock late last year, they auditioned many players. Metzger and Combe were so good that they hired them both. In additon to his guitar-playing, Combe provides the band's relatively rare lead vocals; he did a pretty good Prince imitation on "Let's Go Crazy."

For more on Particle: CLICK HERE

Bowery Ballroom, NY

Set 1:
Let's Go Crazy
The Elevator
Mind Over Matter
Walking By

Set 2:
Eye of the Storm
I Think I'm in Love


*Hydra song w/ Mickey Hart on kalimba

Thanks to Chris McCleary and Erik Koral for providing the set list, and to Particle manager Jonathan Shank for being such a cool guy.

Tea Leaf Green is the best new band!!

From San Fran...the next generation!!
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