Greyboy Allstars : Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR 3/10/2006

In sitting down to write this review a funny thought crossed my mind. I wondered how many times I would be inclined to use some form of the word funky in describing this epic performance. I figured the best way to handle this temptation is to get it all out of the way at once, and try to stray from it for the rest of the review. So here goes: This was the funkiest funk fest that featured some of the funknastiest musicians, funkin up the jams to a funk starved audience. Wow, now I feel a lot better. But in all seriousness this show was the real deal, and my eardrums are still reverberating.

In a time where, there are more self-proclaimed “All-star” bands out there then actual stars in the industry, this one lives up to the billing and then some. The Greyboy Allstars are truly a celestial combination of musicians, that have truly earned the moniker “Allstars” In one jam they can tickle your mind with harmonically layered tunes that the most cerebral focused music fans out there would be attracted to, while they can simultaneously add raw groovin’ nastiness in the same song for those whose bodies just need to funk out (sorry I couldn’t help my self). For those who love to both listen to the intricacies, and dance your asses off, this is a match made in heaven.

It had been nine year since the last time I saw this incredible act. If the expression is true about absence making the heart grow fonder, then my own heart had overflowed with fondness for the Greyboy Allstars till this evening.

I do have to say that the Crystal Ballroom was packed like I’ve never seen. For the first time in my many experiences there, the line to enter the venue actually wrapped itself around the building. The lines inside for drinks were no better, and many a potential customer was deterred from dealing with the extended wait. Dance space was at a premium, and there seemed to be little room for social swimming through the crowd for the larger folk (myself included). But in all honesty it didn’t matter one bit. These boys tore the roof of the Crystal Ballroom, and maintenance is still trying to collect all of the scattered pieces.

The first set consisted of some interesting peaks and valleys. A terrific cover of the Beatles classic "Taxman" was followed by two newer G.B.A.S. instrumentals that together were incredible. In fact there were many new compositions scattered throughout the evening, which is a delightful sign. New music seems to signify that the musicians are investing time into this band, and I anticipate more performances to come in the future. There was also a terrific "Left Coast Boogaloo" that ignited the crowd.

To be honest I was not blown away with everything I heard this evening. There was a slow and rather uneventful song of Elgin Park’s called "You Don’t Know" that seemed a bit out of place for the ebb and flow of the evening, but this small critique doesn’t shadow the fact that it was great to see Elgin again. Typically he seems to thrive in the musical shadows behind the scenes, as he likes to compose and produce a variety of musical forms, but when he steps to the front of the stage with guitar in hand, his ability to compose melody and lead a ferocious charge up and down the fret board is awe inspiring. I truly forgot how electrifying he is on stage, but I guess that is what nine years apart will do.

Karl Denson on the other hand is pretty hard to miss on any stage that he graces. His playing demands attention, and his chops deserve the accolades. What I really enjoyed about seeing him in this format was the fact that he didn’t need to be the front man that he is in the Tiny Universe. He is surrounded by so much talent (hence the Allstars) that he can sit back and watch any member of the band rip it up. The best part about this arrangement was when his turn came to lead the jam he was so pumped and fresh to throw it down, that his playing seemed to carry a little more punch. In no way am I trying to insult K.D.T.U., because they have their own set of talented musicians, but in this format Karl seemed to be on more even ground with the other musicians, and in K.D.T.U. he is clearly the front man (as in the K.D. of K.D.T.U.).

Robert Walter was a monster on the keyboards all night long, and he deserved to receive the M.V.P. for this Allstar gig. He was handling with ease both duties of laying down a solid foundation for his band mates to create against with various musical textures, as well as twisting notes and chords into infectiously danceable grooves that got the Crystal Ballroom’s floor jumping. There were a few moments in both sets where Robert was riding the crest of the jam, where I had to stop to pick my jaw off of the floor, and place it back into my mouth.

Chris Stillwell on bass and Zak Najor on drums and percussion were the backbone of this groove machine. Stillwell stood out throughout the evening, and his bass virtuosity was always done with finesse and precision simultaneously. Zak seemed to be having a ton of fun behind the kit, which was particularly evident during his extended drum solo. Together the heartbeat of the G.B.A.S. seemed to always thump right on time.

Maybe it was a good thing that the room was as packed as it was, because the incredible musical mayhem that these Allstars produced may have forced me to try to twist my body in ways that are not humanly possible. This band is not to be missed, and after this show I will do everything in my power to not allow another nine years to pass before my next Greyboy Allstar encounter.

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