For many loyal fans of Perpetual Groove, the band's annual two-night run at the Culture Room has been like a family reunion for the past several years. Saturday night, in typical night-two fashion, the venue was filled with folks who were still basking in the warmth created the previous night, enjoying the communal glow as they awaited the entrance of their beloved hosts.
What was different this time around, was that this year's finale was marked by a greater sense of finality. The band will soon be going on what they are calling "indefinite hiatus" and many, the band members included, shared the feeling that Saturday night's show could be the last they ever play at the Culture Room, their "home away from home."
So, the hugs and laughs that cascaded through the crowd were a bit more tender than usual. And when the band came onstage it was extra meaningful for them to begin the night with a powerful instrumental and then "It Starts Where It Ends."
There were few words spoken from the stage and few exchanges between the band members. Yet, volumes were communicated. The music moved through the whole spectrum of moods that the band is known to express. The night was anchored by heavily emotional ballads, including the heartbreaking second-set opener "Only Always," which cradled every soul in the room as the refrain "All the saddest things I've seen don't come close to what has been..." brought beautiful, poetic touch to a shared experience which was beyond all other words.
Much of the show was spent in deep, trance-like jams -- at times funky and playful, at others hard and rocking. In that sacred space of group improvisation, the musicians came together in a closer way than they might otherwise.
The lightest moment of the night, which came as an uncontrived and timely relief, was a cover of "Escape (If You Like Pina Colladas)." It was during this tune that Brock Butler's hip-gyrating guitar solo helped bring the first smile onstage to the face of bassist Adam Perry. A shared grin between Perry and keyboardist Matthew McDonald followed.
Appropriately, the end of the show was the most powerful and transcendent part of the night, and perhaps in all of P Groove Culture Room history. The instrumental set-closer and encore segment was nothing short of a religious experience: arms were in the air or wrapped around a neighbor, tears were streaming down cheeks... It was huge. As a nearby fan put it, the band rose to the occasion.