In Tahoe, Wenesdays often mean a “Saturday night” for locals who staff the ski resorts. Maybe that’s part of what drew the significant midweek crowd down to the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room, to dance, soar, and expand our horizons with Papadosio.
Perhaps it was simply the extensive nationwide following the band has amassed in 10 years on the road touring and playing their intelligent, exploratory, jazzy-psychedelic-rock-electronica repertoire. (It has been festival favorites at High Sierra, Oregon Country Fair, Bonnaroo, and other major events around the country.)
Whichever it was, those of us who came out to hear the popular Asheville-based band were uplifted, mystified, and sanctified by this five-piece band of musical magicians.
In its uniquely unclassifiable style of musical mélange and voyage, the band of young geniuses embarked on an inimitable, seaworthy craft of changing shape, colors, and sounds that wove and sped through the waters of the world, our lives, and the Tahoe night for two full hours that sped by in the reverie and communal unity the music created and inspired.
Opening with only a few tentative guitar notes, like testing the air for wind before a spaceship of sound lifted off, Papadosio instantly launched into an intelligent, symphonic jam. Studious and intent, each of the quintet’s members focused on their part in the intricate, living, morphing waves of sound. Moving in and out of tribal tones, back into outer space, spun with hints of earthy jazz and electrifying rock and roll jams, the musicians mesmerized the (now swelled to capacity) crowd from those first notes. We were on the spaceship, and there was no getting off.
A cyclical, revelatory journey of sound, lights, lyrical sensibility and apocalyptic, revolutionary evolutionary industrial noise, Papadosio showcased crowd favorites from its first three self-produced studio recordings, as well as songs from their brand new release, “Extras in a Movie.”
The crowd of seasoned dancers swayed like progeny of the original Pranksters to the exploratory, psychedelic jams. Fueled by drummer Mike Healy’s rock-solid, impassioned polyrhythms, the eclectic, mad-scientist guitar styling of Anthony Thogmartin (also on keys and vocals), Rob McConnell laying down a solid, fluid bass line (and vocals), and the harmonic, lush interplay of the virtuoso piano brothers Sam and Billy Brouse (on synthesizers, keys and vocals), the intertwining melodies, beats and soundscapes that Papadosio creates transport (and transform) listeners to new planes of experience. Orchestral, deeply improvisational, informed by sensitive, cogent lyrics relevant to these times, Papadosio takes music and sound to the next level, like nano-electronix mixed with the earth’s heartbeat, jazzy and exploratory, always unexpected.
With the Brouse brothers facing each other over their elaborate keyboard and synthesizer set-ups, bent over buttons and toggles, mics and keys, a sense of the creative collaboration behind this inspirational ensemble begins to emerge.
Also soloing on guitar and vocals, Sam Brouse shone (like the rising star he is), supplying lilting, soaring melodies and shredding bluesy rock and roll riffs, running fingers like water over rippling keys and eliciting complex harmonics in his lightning-like delivery. Brother Billy echoed the same, playing with his computerized bag of tricks like it was Halloween every night of the week. With Thogmartin’s lyrical guitar work, McConnell’s bass dipping in the reggae river from time to time, Healy grinning incessantly while drumming his heart out (I’ve seen this guy play before, and he’s always this intense), it was as if the band threw the music up in the air where it shattered into a million pixels, and then would catch it again on the way back down wherever it started to land. Playing song into seamless song in this true psycho-naut fashion, guided by golden, rarified piano notes and soaring orchestration, then suddenly switching it up into swampy, funky etudes dripping with moss-covered humidity, he band only grew more energized and excited by its own performance as we danced and celebrated.
Inventive, multi-faceted, featuring stellar crescendos built from indefinable jams, the band lathered itself into a fine frenzy, with Thogmartin confirming our happiest suspicions that they have “no idea what genre we are.” Nor do we want them to know! We love this inventive, pseudo-techno, lyrical gang of cloud-busters, psychedelic and melodic, like a staircase let down from Heaven to the roiling floor of rock and roll, where we all climb aboard, in our self-created spaceship of time travel and regime and paradigm changing sound. Touches of early, raunchy Neil Young or Lou Reed, the heavily synthesized orchestration of Genesis or Yes, and something all their own characterize this outstanding crew of dedicated, full-spectrum artists.
To say Papadosio has a sound system is a severe understatement, with its amazing array of computerized, amplified, synthesized, spaghetti-wired equipment. All that, and the band’s truly outstanding, self-created lightshow (color electronica) helped lift the music, and the evening, to a whole other level, where the intensity of the musicians jamming and creating fresh, chakra-aligning sounds melded with the joy of the dancing, hula-hooping, blissful crowd, to remind us all why we love going to hear live music so very much.
Bluetech, aka, Evan Bartholomew, opened for Papadosio. He’s a one-man, highly respected mix master hailing from Hawaii. Laying down melodic interludes and soothing, down-tempo music compiled from a wide array of ambient, dub, and techno sources, Bluetech drew the loosely milling crowd closer to the stage, inspiring extravagant partner dancing alongside freestyle twirling. A good warmup for the two hours of solid music yet to come with Papadosio.