Big letdown: Phish's Fishman isn't enough

I haven't eaten pork in at least a decade. Not for religious reasons or because of some age-old doctrine on the grossness of swine, but because every time I eat it something in my stomach doesn't settle right. I tend to enjoy foods that give me a pleasant mood after I eat– not the kind that make me sluggish and yearn for a long nap.

Pork Tornado played at Starr Hill Tuesday, November 12. The band is the side project of Phish drummer Jon Fishman, but as I quickly learned, there was very little Phish in this mixture.

Truthfully, I have had the pleasure of listening to more intriguing local bands here in Charlottesville. Pork Tornado probably would not pull more than 50 people to a venue if it weren't for the fame of Jon Fishman. Fishman is an extremely talented drummer, and his in-between song diatribes are quite amusing. That's about the only thing that I could latch on to at this performance.

The band played a random plethora of Zappa covers. When traveling down this road, I would have to give them an "A" for execution. However, the Zappa tunes were scattered among a hodgepodge of boogie woogie, blues, rock, and funk that at times was very trying on my ears. It was obvious who wrote what song and who felt comfortable playing it.

There were times when the chain smoking guitarist seemed lost in his licks on certain tunes. On other songs the keyboard player was obviously not comfortable singing back up. Everything pretty much came to a head when the band dropped into the song "Kiss My Black Ass" that featured the large framed brother with big blue hair screaming those exact words over a Parliament-style funk riff. The song came as a shock considering his laid back Tonight Show sax playing from earlier in the set. If people were unsure about how they felt about the band up to that point, that song either got them going or completely turned them off. By the end of the tune, about half the remaining audience headed out the door.

In the end I tend to judge music like I judge food. After leaving the show, I wasn't invigorated or energetic– I just headed straight home to hit the sack. The next time Pork Tornado rolls through town, I might just skip the show and wait for something healthier and pleasing (like Phish) to satisfy me.