The combination of Gregg Allman’s improved health, The Allman Brothers 40th anniversary and the Phish and the Dead reunions is creating a perfect storm for an American rock and roll revival. Blues music is a key component to rock and is finally getting the recognition it deserves here in NYC. As the Allman Brothers 40th anniversary is shaking the foundation of American pop culture, bands like Blues and Lasers are catching a ride of the wave of good music, as evidenced by their post-show performance.
Blues and Lasers are made up partially of the backing band behind Grace Potter, in Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and consist of GPN lead guitarist Scott Tournet, Benny Yurco on lead and rhythm guitar, Matt Burr and Steve Sharron on drums and their new Bass player, John Rogone. Rogone is a Vermont area session musician that replaced former Blues and Lasers Bassists Bryan Dondero who first stepped down from Blues and Lasers and in just the past week Grace Potter and the Nocturnals as well. Dondero leaving GPN resulted in the last three shows of their tour being cancelled. Despite this fact I was told at the concert that the split was “very happy” and there are no hard feelings, that Bryan is multi-talented and has chosen to go work in the engineering and producing side of music. This good natured sentiment is also reflected on a statement released on the GPN website.
READ ON for more from Alex and Rachel on Blues & Lasers…
The band came out late, around 12:00 am as the venue started to fill out with bodies coming in from the Allman Brothers’ show. The group wasted no time talking up the crowd and went right into the Blues and Lasers originals Give it a Try followed by Fallen Friend. Next came another band favorite, Take You Down, a song that made its live debut at Sullivan Hall this past January. Take you Down starts out with an instrumental jam then digs right into the dirty blues that B&L does so well. Some might say the band doesn’t always sound like a Blues band: my friend described it as Grunge, mixed with blues and improvisation. I personally feel that although Blues and Lasers incorporates different elements into their sound, they are primarily, a swampy, delta blues band and they nail that style flawlessly when they choose to. B&L are one of the few bands touring right now that have mastered open tuning slide guitar blues and the dark, sexual emotions that comes with it.
What Do You Think About Me is an example of Tournet’s both authentic and original fiery blues style. One of his signature moves, that is prominent on this song is playing guitar simultaneously with the vocals so they meld into one note. I have heard this done with jazz players before but not typically in blues or rock. You can tell that Tourney learned to play by ear rather than formally, open tuned guitar is really something to watch, barring a whole fret with the glass slide makes a full chord, and his hand would like up and down the neck in the traditional 1-4-5 pattern pattern. His Telecaster looked to be tuned to open G but it may have been in E, the tuning in which Duane Allman mostly played when he was plugged in.
The next song they was 22 Times which sings as its chorus “Hell is Cold.” This is one of those emotional, earthy blues lines that hit home, as I have thought this on numerous occasions since relocating back to NYC from Tampa. They have mastered the kind of fiery, blues that speaks to the scorned and jaded lover that in this day and age resides somewhere inside everybody. Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco, also tried their hand at the blues tradition of trading solos and though it took them a little while to connect, once they got going they were matching licks note for note, with great melodies that one has come to know from Duane and Dickey Betts.
The band was playing hard the whole night with no sign of tiring, Rooster is another classic worried blues song, that sings “Can’t eat, Can’t sleep at night.” I Ain’t Changin’ taps into the archetype of the sinning blues man, who will not compromise his lifestyle and perceived shortcomings to fit into mainstream society. The song is one of my favorites and sounds like ZZ Top’s La Grange.
Members of the band were supposed to hit three more shows with Grace Potter but the gigs were cancelled due to the loss of Dondero. This was their last show for a while and they did not disappoint. Closing in on three o’clock the band had already played two encores, Cheap Shit and Somewhere Down the Road. When the house lights came on and the people started to shuffle about, Tournet called out, “if the house doesn’t have any objections we would like to play another song.” With that the lights dimmed and the band performed a harder version of Neil Young’s Fuckin Up.
After just witnessing a delta blues revival in front of my eyes this band could do no wrong. Upon leaving the show I recalled some tongue-in-cheek lyrics from one of the night’s songs “it’s not cool to play the guitar.” Everyday I witness the popular yet soulless music out Brooklyn seep into mainstream culture, masquerading as independent music. Thankfully with bands like Blues and Lasers carrying on the tradition of a hard working DIY ethic and, this band is winning over fans one show at a time.