Sometimes when one hears of a certain band coming to town, securing that ticket becomes all one is concerned with. Such was the case when the virtuosic New York-based trio known as Consider the Source (CTS) came back to our fair city for a show at The Camel on May 15. The openers, however many there might have been, mattered little–all I was able to think about was that headliner. But sometimes in these instances, one can be pleasantly surprised.
Sometimes when one hears of a certain band coming to town, securing that ticket becomes all one is concerned with. Such was the case when the virtuosic New York-based trio known as Consider the Source (CTS) came back to our fair city for a show at The Camel on May 15. The openers, however many there might have been, mattered little–all I was able to think about was that headliner. But sometimes in these instances, one can be pleasantly surprised. With Consider The Source’s self-proclaimed “Middle Eastern sci-fi prog” as the lone clue of what their opener, Elephant Wrecking Ball, might sound like, I decided to let the fates surprise me. And I was not disappointed.
Elephant Wrecking Ball turned out to be a jazz trio, featuring trombone, bass, and drums. By their second song, the trombone’s wild delay and cosmic effects were taking my mind far out and far in, all at the same time. Behind an array of very tastefully employed and well-timed effect pedal choices, Scott Flynn’s solo excursions were anchored by a tight rhythm section, which consisted of a good old 4-string electric bass and a competent drummer that had enough flair for tasty fills but enough sense of restraint to keep it simple.
Consider The Source guitarist Gabriel Marin joined the openers for a full song, and after a simple riff accompaniment, let loose a solo that reminded me who I had originally been excited to see. It also made me realize that I had been very engaged by these youngsters, who I’m certain were thrilled to death to share the stage with such talent as CTS. Local brass talent Mark Ingraham (DJ Williams Projekt/Beast Wellington) also shared the stage for a song and showed the Camel crowd that he could rip a trumpet solo with enough gusto to overpower the much more amplified trombone and its effects. It wasn’t a competitive gesture, but rather one of necessity; the group was loud.
By the end of the generous first set, the intelligence of their song structures had fully sunken in. These guys are thorough and thoughtful with their compositions, and it was this fact that really showed why they were chosen as the supporting act. All in all, Elephant Wrecking Ball was very promising. At one point, I turned to my friend and exclaimed, “I can’t believe how awesome this is, and we haven’t even seen the band I brought you here for!”
Hopefully you don’t need an introduction to Consider The Source, but as they’ve only played Richmond maybe four times in the past five years, you may have missed them. And if so, you missed out. Drawing from the absolute jazz-rock authority of first-generation Mahavishnu Orchestra, as well as other 70’s peers such as King Crimson (you pick the incarnation) and Ravi Shankar, they perform some of the most virtuosic and technical music I’ve ever seen, particularly at somewhere as cozy as Cary St. Café or The Camel (the two places I’d seen them before).
In the span between their last time in town and this show, they’d clearly been progressing nicely as players, and the ecstatic shouts from the crowd at the sweep-pattern flourishes and the disgustingly funky bass work confirmed it often. Gabriel Marin plays his extremely unique headless double-necked MIDI-outfitted electric guitar (both necks are 6-string, one fretted, one fretless) like someone who has been to India to study the Indian tala system of rhythms and microtonality; because he has. (Indeed, they all have.)
The expected festival hippie crowd showed up a bit hazy and a bit tardy, but before long, they were all in the passionate frenzy of dance, trying hopelessly to keep a physical groove to CTS’s often odd and frequently-changing time signatures. Regardless of whether or not you’re able to keep time with them, the urge to boogie–somehow, someway–was blatant and welcomed. And as a band that very deliberately ventures far into distant sonic realms with great technical capacity and requires unfettered attention, the welcoming feeling is a bright shining star of accessibility for those otherwise unfamiliar. Keep your eyes open for these two groups in future RVA venues… they aren’t to be missed.