Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)
As a fan of jam-bands with an ear to the ground, I'd been hearing about Vermont-based rising stars, Twiddle, for a couple of years. I had seen them in Fort Collins a couple of years ago as they opened for The Heavy Pets. We arrived late, but I remember thinking they had a really busy sound. Since that night, I've heard them pop up again and again. I recently saw a video of them covering Phish's "Harry Hood" on the Relix rooftop. It piqued my interests again, and when I had the opportunity to attend the sold out show at Denver's Bluebird Theater, I went for it.
Nursing a hangover from a Friday night of boozing, my motivation was lacking. When the time came, I rallied and made my way to the east side of Colfax. Vowing a night of sobriety, I intended to leave at the set-break. When Twiddle finally hit the stage, they brought the packed house to a frenzy and I knew I was in for the long haul.
At first, I admit I thought they wanted to be Phish too much. The drum solo turned vocal jam was bordering on too Phishy, but to be honest, that was the only moment of the night where their exceedingly obvious appreciation for the jam gods was overbearing. The rest of the show was only Phish-like in ambition. Through heavily compositional passages and into the improvisational deep end, all four members were technical, versatile, and professional.
Bass-monster, Zdenek Gubb (wait a minute here, are these names for real?!) was comparably impressive. Fully capable of laying down the supportive low end or dropping face-melters in stride, Gubb was fantastic. At one point the entire band laid down their instruments to listen to Gubb's loop-groove. When he began soloing over the loop, the room went wild. I noted how effortless he made it look, with giant tone coming from what appeared to be a very soft touch.
Ryan Dempsey had to be good on keys, right? With such stellar talents on bass and guitar, it just wouldn't have been right to have a slacker in the band. Dempsey was no slouch. Often responsible for the fullness of their sound in a supportive role, Dempsey made clever choices and peppered integral nuances to their grooves. When the light was on him, he was as capable and talented as anyone else in the band. He not only played keys very well, but he also added a fun energy that led him to stage dive during one of the tunes... Not a typical sight at a jam show.
Last, but not least, drummer Brook Jordan was a musical warden, keeping everything locked down. His rhythms drove the band through a variety of ideas as he subtly and deftly maintained the flow. I think his role reminded me of Phish the most. Jon Fishman had undoubtedly influenced Jordan's style, slipping in intricacies with such casual precision, only the focused ear noticed. Tricky, yet smooth. Impressive.
Impressive was the word. I found myself wishing I'd done some listening before the show. The songs were all new to me, but I could immediately sense the depth, passion, and talent that had earned their reputation. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defined twiddle as "to play negligently with something." I saw a band with far more purpose than their name would suggest.
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