Buttah at Orbit

By Damani Harrison

The weather lately has got me all messed up. Monday I was suffering from a near-migraine type sinus headache caused by the changes in pressure and humidity. I figured I needed to head to a smoky bar to help relieve my sinuses. A relatively new formation of familiar faces was playing Orbit that night: Johnny Gilmore (Corey Harris, The Wonder Band) on drums, Chris Leva (Guano Boys) doing guitar duties, and Brian Hughes on bass. The trio call themselves Buttah.

The first few songs I caught were loosely executed jams constructed around funky bass lines. I could see a great deal of potential in the grooves if they were actually developed into songs, but this was obviously a free-form session.

Gilmore's rhythms border on confusing but somehow manage to stay in the pocket. After a handful of awkward tunes, the group relaxed into a Bob Marley cover. Hughes sang lead and brought order to the semi-congealed randomness that was Buttah.

After the cover, sax protégé Andy Roland stepped up to add some melodic flavor to the mix. A few songs later, Ezra Hamilton, a man with a gift, added his vocal styling to the mix. The band settled into a soulful jam while Ezra scatted on-point jazz harmonies. By now the vibe was near perfect, and my fascination with what was going down on stage had eradicated my splitting headache.

The base trio continued with a few more reggae covers after their two guests left the stage. I stuck around for a few, but my headache returned, and I had to retire early.

On my drive home I realized that the music scene in Charlottesville is something like the weather. You never know what's coming. There's a large group of truly dedicated players who interchange line-ups, dissolve and reform bands, and sit-in wherever they can.

Trying to keep up with who is playing what with whom and where will give anyone a headache. You just have to get out there and accept whatever you get. It's not so bad.

As a matter of fact, not being able to predict what's out there keeps things interesting. I can't say that I'll be a regular at Orbit when Buttah's playing, but at least now I know another good place to kick it on Monday nights if I feel the need to relieve some pressure.