I consider myself a musical schizophrenic. I can get into just about any genre you put in front of me — especially if it’s live. I may not be a musician, but music has been a passionate subject for me for as long as I can remember. One of the first local shows I went to when I was about 18 or so, was Hypnotic Kick and All That Remains at the Fat Cat Bar and Grill in Springfield. I soon became a regular at their hardcore nights on Sundays. I became so inspired by live music, I went to any show I could get a ride to before I got my license at age 19. And after that I had more independence to seek out even more shows.
One of my favorite places to go was the Flywheel in Easthampton when it was on Cottage Street. I remember sitting on the floor, cross legged while musicians played standing over me. The power and energy I felt going to shows became my natural high. Even today, when I want to escape reality for a bit, I track down a show close to me and just melt into the crowd.
My new column, Valley Show Girl, is all about the experience of local live music up close.
This past week, art editor Hunter Styles, event coordinator Laura Dintino and I were wrapping up work on Sessions, the Advocate’s web concert series — new videos uploaded every Friday. We had just finished recording with three acts: The Suitcase Junket, a one man folk band; Mammal Dap, an instrumental indie/psych-fusion group; and The Greys, a jazz duo. I left work in search of even more live music to fulfill my appetite for the evening.
So, I ventured into Mardi Gras land. It was Fat Tuesday, the final day of Mardi Gras, after all.
I walked into the BBQ-infused air that hangs heavy in Theodores’ Blues, Booze & BBQ on Worthington Street in Springfield and grabbed some Mardi Gras beads. I made my way through the sea of people bouncing to the sounds of New Orleans-style funk band, Krewe Les Gras. Krewe, based in Western Mass, was playing their first of three sets for the night. The place was so jam-packed, a friend and I couldn’t get a table right away, so we picked a comfy standing spot toward the back to wait and listen to the band.
My eyes wandered while my ears soaked in the delicious funkiness.
The decor at Theodores’ screams vintage Southern-style. It’s cool to look at, but hard to focus on one thing because there is so much going on. I spied a woman in a glittery blazer dancing around in the front, with her braids bouncing back and forth, I wanted to ask her where she got the jacket, but never got the chance. Mandy Pachios, singer of The Mary Jane Jones, showed up looking like a gem chiseled from the 1940s in her classy attire. I was crossing my fingers she’d hop up on stage to belt out a tune, but no such luck.
A table near the bar finally opened up and we sat down with a better view of the stage. There were more instruments up there than there were bodies. There was a trumpet, tuba, saxophone, trombone, organ, drum kit, numerous mic stands, some guitars and so much more. I’m always in such amazement when I see a band with more than your average three to five members. I think there were about 10 people on stage with a guest popping up here and there. Members of Krewe Les Gras who played that night were: Dan Thomas, Darby Wolf, Jon Carroll, Nick Borges, Kathryn Rapacki, Steven Yarbro, J Witbeck, Chris Ball, Colin Jalbert, according to the event on the Facebook page.
Formed in Western Mass in January 2014, Krewe Les Gras has had a revolving door of musicians to accompany their love of Mardi Gras-enchanted grooves. Starting off the second set, the band formed a line and, one by one, while playing their instruments, paraded through the audience to the stage. They did a funky version of George Michael’s “Faith.” It took me a while to realize what they were playing, but Krewe Les Gras made it their own and it worked. While we gorged on our Pepper Jack Cheese Sticks dipped in salsa (absolutely recommended, they are amazing), we danced in our seats.
As the evening got closer to an end, the crowd slowly started to diminish, leaving the main room with the stage area where people were dancing more intimate. We made our way to the other bar on the opposite side of the room, drinks in hand, to get closer to the stage. Viewing the last set up close was mesmerizing. Seeing the musicians master their instruments while blending with the others — seemingly improvised — is what live shows are all about; feeling the energy, witnessing the creativity, and reveling in the moment.
Contact Jennifer Levesque at firstname.lastname@example.org.