11.10.15 Twiddle & The Werks

Tractor Tavern
Seattle, WA

Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Chris Davis

For jambands who make their living by touring constantly, there is no question that choosing to play the west coast is a more difficult proposition than booking an East Coast or Midwest run. Sure, the West Coast is a desirable place to be with beautiful scenery everywhere you look, but compared to the East Coast, all of the major cities are relatively much further apart, in addition to the scenes being less developed than places like New York, Chicago or Philadelphia. For the bands, this means they generally make less money for more effort. So, as West Coast fans of this type of music, it is our duty to come out and do everything we can to support these bands when they make the long journey away from home.

Large, established bands are better equipped to take on these difficulties, and tend to turn up out here on a more regular basis. I really appreciate the chance to watch the smaller bands make it out here for their first time, because you know they are taking a risk. They often have no real assurances that anyone will even show up, but their dreams of playing in this part of the country outweigh the risk. This often leads to exceptional performances when the bands get matched up with a good audience, but can also result in emptier shows that are fun for the diehard fans in attendance, but not as enjoyable for the band members.

On a cold Tuesday night in Seattle, jam scene stalwarts, Twiddle and the Werks, combined forces help both bands make their debut in the Pacific Northwest. This co-headlining tour saw the bands switching off shows as the opener or the headlining act, with Seattle’s bill having Twiddle opening for the Werks. These two bands have complimentary styles to one another, Twiddle plays in a unique reggae-jazz-funk fusion style, and the Werks tend more towards hard-hitting, funky livetronica dance parties. This combination made for an extremely pleasant evening at the Ballard neighborhood’s intimate Tractor Tavern.

To warm up the crowd, Seattle locals, Wet City Rockers, played the first opening set. Their reggae/dub infused jamming really helped the crowd to relax and unwind after a long work day. After a 45-minute set, the crowd was quite ready for Twiddle to continue and extend on the Reggae vibes. As Twiddle took the stage, the crowd’s energy bubbled to the surface, showing itself in wild screams. Having listened to the band extensively for several years, without yet getting a chance to see them live, I was no exception. They opened up with “Indigo Trigger,” a song driven by singer/guitarist Mihali Savoulidis’s powerful, booming vocals. A line from the first verse, “I think I’d rather take a bike ride rolling to the stars, pedal straight to the moon hopping puddles in the dark,” nicely foreshadowed the improvised section of the song, which wasted little time in heading for deep space. Savoulidis started off leading the improv, which flowed into a wonderful electronica jam featuring keyboardist, Ryan Dempsey, on the synthesizer. As they came back into funk-rock territory, Savoulidis began to fully display his guitar chops. He made his beautiful Becker guitar absolutely scream as he unleashed a flurry of notes that took everyone in the building by surprise.

After a brief pause to acknowledge the crowd’s enthusiasm and communicate their joy to be in Seattle, they launched into “Dr. Remidi’s Melodium.” This Reggae/Jazz-influenced track was highly appropriate for their audience. The improvised section featured Dempsey trading off with bassist Zdenek Gubb, going from a keyboard solo to a jazzy bassline to an organ solo and then to Gubb full-on taking over the jam. This part of the show saw him utilize his effects to produce a perfect swamp tone, then playing spacey, exploratory licks as his long hair flowed in the spotlight. After some light, tasteful slapping and tapping, he built up an epic crescendo of delay effects. The band seized this opportunity to rejoin the mix, taking things in a soaring, uplifting direction. Dempsey’s keyboard part here sounded to me like a tease of the band’s well-known anthem “When It Rains, It Pours,” but the band quickly moved into a tight, fast jam lead by Savoulidis. He and Dempsey traded off several times before the jam ended with a full-band quote of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Half of the audience was too confused and stunned to applaud, while the other half picked up the slack, in awe of the odyssey unfolding onstage before their ears and eyes.

The next tune was a bust-out of an older, rarely played song called “Orderly Chaos,” from their 2007 album Natural Evolution of Consciousness. This instrumental track features a happy, bouncy, syncopated guitar riff that highlighted the perfect synchronization of the band members, drummer Brook Jordan in particular. This jubilant track was quickly taken into some dark territory during the improv, with Gubb leading the way. After a few minutes of darkness, Savoulidis brought the band back into major-key funk rock. After a solid peak, the band segued into a newer tune, “Polluted Beauty.” This tune prompted a major singalong, with its poignant message that technology is distracting the human race from enjoying the beauty of the world around them, and even driving them to damage it irreparably. Savoulidis’s soulful voice belted out, instructing us to “take a second to let the beauty blossom” by putting down our phones and appreciating life. The singalong gave way to a patient, exploratory jam that featured great full-band interplay, notated on the setlist as “Smoglight.”

“Daydream Farmer” followed, with the well-known track picking the singalong back up. I love to show this song to people as an example of some of Twiddle’s best lyrics and songwriting, and seeing it live did not disappoint in the slightest. The chord changes came off just as flawlessly as they do on the studio version, and the powerful lyrics took on additional weight with the audience as a chorus. The happiness in the room was palpable as they encouraged us to “live to love, and let go while we’re still around. Keep the earth in your soul and your sole to the ground.” After Dempsey’s traditional keyboard solo to end the composed portion, Savoulidis picked things up with a jazzy, scat-style solo, leading into an extensive tease of “Find Your Cloud” by their good friends, jamtronica spellbinders, Papadosio. This was perhaps my favorite moment of the show, as it highlighted the great comradery between the up-and-coming bands in this scene.

“Zazu’s Flight” closed out the set in a big way, with goofy lyrics about a man having a conversation with a bird. This song was totally characteristic of Twiddle’s optimistic, lighthearted songwriting, although they were too short on time to fully give the jam the attention it deserved. As their 90-minute set drew to a close, the crowd screamed for more, to no avail. This evening was far from over and there was a schedule to keep.

Twiddle Setlist: Indigo Trigger, Dr. Remidis Melodium, Orderly Chaos, Polluted Beauty > Smoglight > Polluted Beauty, Daydream Farmer, Zazu’s Flight

After a brief intermission, the Werks took the stage, wasting no time getting going with a cover of Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” better known as the theme to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Their cover is heavily influenced by Phish’s version of the song, and it really allowed drummer Rob Chafin a chance to shine. He kicked the band into a tight groove from the instant they started playing, and refused to let up. His integration of his electronic kit was especially seamless and impressive. The Werks also had a special guest, with Twiddle’s Dempsey pulling double duty by filling in for usual keyboardist Dan Shaw. The first tune was a series of crescendos and climaxes filled in between with spacey grooves that acted as a playground for bassist Dino Dimitrouleas to interplay with Dempsey’s organ work. Right out of the gate, it was clear that these two bands were having a lot of fun challenging and one-upping each other on this tour, with the Werks trying to steal the crowd’s hearts from Twiddle’s clutches.

The next song was a Werks classic, “Duck Farm.” This one starts off with a relaxed, but anthemic riff by guitarist Chris Houser. Dempsey added some nice textures with his synthesizer that helped to get the audience feeling their livetronica style. At one point in the song’s lyrics, Chafin asks, “Would you stop if there is no ceiling?” foreshadowing the eventual towering peak of the song’s improvised section. After completing “Duck Farm,” the band made their way into the deep space-funk that is “Galactic Passport.” This song saw Dempsey making good use of his clavinets, an instrument that was conspicuously underutilized during his set with Twiddle. As he brought the old-school funk sounds of the clavinet, Dimitrouleas laid down an absolutely filthy bassline, ushering in a vibe of classic cow-funk. The band used this funky groove to segue into my personal highlight of the set, “Cruel Stone Blues.”

This song saw Dimitrouleas step to the mic to deliver lead vocals, and the gentle giant left the room’s collective jaw hanging to the floor with his bellowing, expressive lines. After each verse, the breakdown was uncontrollably funky, moving the crowd to dance with a vigor yet unseen this evening. The group standing next to me left little doubt as to why this show had been billed as a part of ‘Twerk Tour.’ Each time Dimitrouleas returned to the mic, his vocals seemed to take on a new level of intensity, and it was remarkable to see just how intense he could get. During the song’s improvised section, there was a great faceoff between Houser and Dempsey that saw the two deftly weave together a melody and countermelody that both shared the same harmonies. This kicked off a 20+ minute rapid-fire dance jam that basically decimated the crowd. Chafin ratcheted up the tempo to the max, and people went continued to go nuts as the band tightly grooved alongside him for the duration.

After this monstrous segment, everyone in the building needed a breather. The slower number, “Music,” filled that role nicely, with lyrics about the power and value of music. All in attendance found this to be an agreeable message, and by the end of the tune, people seemed reenergized. The next song featured an explosion from Houser in the form of a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick.” He went berserk on Jimmy Page’s guitar part, commanding the full attention of the room. Before the conclusion of the song, it segued into “Fall,” which featured some great slap-bass work from Dimitrouleas and outstanding three-part harmonies from him, Chafin and Houser. This song closed the set, but the band did not even leave the stage prior to their encore. They used the break to announce the winner of a raffle for a signed poster, with profits going to the White Light Foundation and Conscious Alliance.

The final song, “Onslaught,” featured a tease of Eric Johnson’s “Cliffs of Dover” by Houser before it got going. As the song began in earnest, Dempsey strutted through a wobbly synth part as Houser soulfully shredded his way into the main verse. The synths faded away and the song took on a metal flavor, drawing heavily on the influence of another jamband, Umphrey’s McGee. Houser absolutely put on a clinic. As the synths returned to close the tune, I had no doubt in my mind that it was the most intense set I had ever seen the Werks play (for reference, this was my 6th Werks show).

Twerk tour definitely did Seattle right, drawing a good-sized crowd (especially for a Tuesday), despite the show overlapping dates with Trey Anastasio Band across town. Next time either Twiddle or the Werks return to the Seattle, many more jammers will doubtlessly turn out, ready to get down to the infectiously funky grooves each band has to offer.

The Werks Setlist: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Duck Farm, Galactic Passport > Cruel Stone Blues, Music, Moby Dick > Fall

Encore: Onslaught

*Entire set with Ryan Dempsey on keys

Chris' Photo Gallery

*Due to circumstances beyond our control, our photographer was unable to photograph The Werks




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