Photos by Amy Castaldo and Joe Davidson
Words by Joe Davidson
The Aquaphonics create a unique blend of funk, jazz, electronic, reggae, and even an indie type sound. Drummer Jessiah Weston and keyboardist Alan Martinki have been jamming together since 2000. There have been numerous changes through the years including the addition of guitarist Steve Elmore in November of 2008. In July of 2009 the band announced the addition of bassist Jim Dinsmore and began their latest conquest. They have been drawing a lot of attention recently opening for Perpetual Groove and being added to the line-up at the Bear Creek festival.
As soon as we hit the southbound on- ramp en route to the show a tingly wave ran through my body. “Time for another night of marauderin’,” I said to Amy. One of my favorite feelings is that of hitting the road, rolling down the windows, cranking the stereo up, and letting loose. I was amped. The drive down to Ybor City (Tampa) was peaceful. The skies were displaying the distinct teal color that Florida offers. Intense cloud formations built up over the coast as we got closer to our destination, morphing from bright orange to a dark pink. Amazing. Soothing.
As night set in, we got off the interstate and began the process of trying to find a parking spot which proved to be quite a challenge. After 15 minutes or so I surrendered to the nominal fee parking garage and we began the search for the bar. I must say that Ybor has a large amount of booty clubs and it definitely made for some entertaining people-watching on our walk to the Crowbar. We found the venue and settled in. Amy started to scope the stage doing some photo recon as I hit the bar for a pint.
The band hit fast with an upbeat jam to start. The first thing to catch my ear is that these guys are extremely in sync with each other. It reminded me of seeing Bela and the Flecktones, very impressive. The hi-hat work from Jessiah was incredible to say the least, flawless. He made everything look so effortless, singing lead vocals while carrying on some intricate beats. He also made great use of a drum machine pad attached to his kit which melted into the foundation coming from the keyboards. The harmonies created by Jim, Alan, and Steve were stellar. They complimented each other so well conducting seamless transitions and constructing some funky, blissful melodies. The moog layer was a highlight throughout the entire show. Alan has perfectly mastered the art of complimenting a live jam without overpowering the others. Jim was absolutely sick on his six string bass. I focused on him a couple times throughout the show and was in awe, insanely talented. The guitarist Steve captured the spotlight on more than one occasion during the show. He contributes a perfectly orchestrated layer into the mix with his guitar work. Whether it’s a bluesy lead riff, a muted reggae pattern, or a jazzy rhythm part, he’s right on point at every turn.
As they transitioned into the second song I could tell that they were really honing in to each other. Steve looked over to Jim with a huge smile, both of them sharing a moment. With only 50 people on the floor they threw down like they were playing for 20,000. The energy was intense. The crowd was losing it. On more than one occasion there would be a random scream with someone throwing their arms in the air completely overwhelmed by the energy bouncing around the room.
One of the greatest aspects of this band was their diversity. They have created and stay true to a signature sound but find a way to keep it fresh through a multi-genre influence. The first few songs were along the lines of moog inspired, electronic dance songs and transferred into some reggae/dub beats. After a few more upbeat dance songs the band broke into a slow, jazzy cover of “Twist” by Phish, which was a nice change in pace. It gave everyone a moment to catch their breath before they picked it back up again. They earned a lot of respect from me by showing that they aren’t limited to just one sound or relying on a constant fast pace to keep everyone interested.
Lionel Smith from Southern Lights created a great backdrop for the band throughout the entire show. I could tell that he was into the music himself, enhancing transitions and matching the tone of each song, a great addition to the set.
Look out for this band folks. I really can’t say enough good things about them. They have found a way to create an extraordinary sound that will appeal to any music lover. It was apparent that these boys have a great time doing what they do and love to share the experience. The night felt like a private jam session for all in attendance, like we were all fortunate to be there. The band is currently working on their official debut album, but free media is available at aquaphonicsband.com. The band will be playing shows in the South Florida area and will be performing at the Bear Creek festival in Live Oak, Fl at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.
I’m so glad that Amy and I went down to bring this band to your attention. We feel so blessed with this great opportunity. The truly “liquid” sound created can be appreciated by music lovers of all walks. Amy summed it up perfectly, saying “this is the reason you go to see live music.” Yet again, it was another great Friday night of funkin’ around Florida style.