Live: Perpetual Groove at Culture Room, August 12-13

Perpetual Groove
With Aquaphonics
Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale
Friday, August 12, and Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fresh out of a stellar showing at Gathering Of The Vibes and hosting the 10th annual Amberland festival, the boys of Perpetual Groove just kicked off a late summer tour that boasted six dates in Florida. The Georgia-based jam rock quartet invaded Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Tampa and Orlando before taking over the Culture Room for two nights with Aquaphonics offering warm up support. The band is not shy about their affinity for the Sunshine State, and South Florida specifically, but this weekend the elevated, genre blender playing spoke volumes about their far-South affection.

Fresh out of Friday's Happy Hour, the weekend warriors filled the room with chatter and banter early in the evening. Guitarist Brock Butler sat in to close an impressive Aquaphonics opening set, suitably nicknamed Braquaphonics by the fan-base, and it wasn't long before he returned with Perpetual Groove reinforcements. Expectations and hopes for the weekend were high given the multi-night billing. Instead of easing into the audience, the band broke the ice with a 25-minute "Occam's Blazer" - a philosophically clever tune named for the bands first touring rig comprised of a Chevy and trailer. Now the track nomenclature is really a testament to their status as an accomplished touring machine. Their stage set up was all pro and complete with full LED lighting strips, a dozen moving heads and an assortment of instruments and gadgets. The eye candy was certainly not going to be a problem, but the playing out of the gate seemed patient, yet driven and experimental. A string of deep ambient and lightly grooving rock ballads, the likes of "Up Again," "Breeze" and "Cairo," gave a proper dose of Brock's vocals and the band's ease at executing composed sections.

The second set opened with "Devil May Cry," a new tune that debuted at Amberland that seems to snugly fit their live repertoire. An ode to the metro setting dropped with a Miami Vice influenced "Crockett and Tubbs." The highlight of the night shortly followed with a perfectly jammed out cover of Fat Boy Slim's "Praise You." Naturally this sent the crowd into a frenzy of danceable jumping to the 90s electronic anthem. The band kept the energy level high and bombed the stage with a stunning rendition of "Mayday." An encore of Peter Gabriel's "Digging In The Dirt" kept with the stellar covers theme to close out a solid first night.

Feedback from fans ranked night one as the top of the Florida run, and possibly of all the Perpetual Groove shows ever at played at the Culture Room. The energy that defined the conclusion of the previous night spilled over into Saturday. Aquaphonics repeated their solid showing and primed the pump beyond the expectations of a typical opening band. P.Groove came out quickly and continued early show haste with a spacey "Crowded Tub" that set the pace. The jam offered another extended 20+ minute odyssey into moody licks and a wash of echoing synthesizers. The vibe was high, there was more dance room and the drinks seemed to be flowing proper for a Saturday night rock show. Changing gears, and demonstrating an ability to have a funky side, the guys brought out Danny Silver for an epic bass duel during "Get Down Tonight." Albert Suttle was playing the role of quarterback, and his machine like approach to the drums dictated the direction of the peaks. It was mesmerizing to focus in on him and the resulting instrumental reactions of his band mates. The view from the second level balcony was a full on dance party of smiling faces lost in the trance of rhythmic backbeats and flighty guitar build-ups.

The entire level of play and connectedness between the band members was elevated and the stimuli had noticeable implications on the vibe. This was the making of the show for which the rest of the tour would be compared to, and everyone knew it. Set two brought out a sandwich of segues with a wholesome "Green Tea" and a meaty crowd favorite in "Three Weeks." Not missing a chance to keep the successful sequence alive, Brock triggered the band into a cover of Massive Attack's "Teardrop." The pairing of the front man's voice with the perfectly executed keyboard work by John Hruby painted a perfect canvas of trip hop that was way outside their typical sound comfort zone.

The set continued to impress, but it wasn't until the heavy peaking "Teakwood Betz" encore that a sense of being completely spoiled set in. The jam built from the ground up reaching higher than anything else that weekend. They weren't just playing fast, but rather building off the textures of each other and pushing the limit to a blissful, jaw-dropping peak. Adding fuel to the fire, the roaring crowd brought them out for a second encore featuring Lee's Boys prodigy Roosevelt Collier tearing up "It's Bad You Know". There wasn't a disappointed person in the building, and if this was a statement show that Perpetual Groove was on the up and up again, then point taken!

-- Adam Smith

Critics Notebook:

Personal Bias: I had been unimpressed with the last handful of Perpetual Groove shows I attended over the past few years, but wiped the slate clean and went into it with no expectations. This approach paid off in dividends.

Random Detail: Brock and bassist Adam Perry had funky sunglasses on stage that they put on during a particularly deep jam.

Overheard: "Night one was good, but the thing about them is that you know night two is always going to be better." "I want to wear this on my dick."

Set Lists

Friday 2011.08.12

Set I: Occam's Blazer, Up Again, Breeze, Cairo, Gibbles

Set II: Devil May Care, Crockett and Tubbs, MWATA, Praise You, Mayday

Encore: Digging In The Dirt

Saturday 2011.08.13

Set I: Crowded Tub, Holy Ship, Get Down Tonight*, Space Paranoids, Live and Let Die

Set II: Green Tea> Three weeks> Green Tea>Teardrop, Lemurs, TTFPJ

Encore 1: No Decorations, Teakwood Betz

Encore 2: It's Bad You Know*

*With Dan Silver

*With Roosevelt Collier

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