Locked out: Luck of the pop music draw

Josh Mayo
At Miller's
November 29

Camera? Check. Notebook? Check. Wallet? Check. Phone? Check. Scarf? Check. Pen? Check. I didn't have a particular plan in mind when I stepped out of my motor vehicle on the Downtown Mall last Saturday night. I knew I had to review something, but I was navigating without a mental map of the evening's musical offerings.

I dared to hope that Miller's, almost the only bar on the Mall with a changing musical schedule, might have something I had not set my eager journalist/devil eyes on before. "Door locked? Check. Now where exactly are my keys....?

Suffice to say that about 10 minutes later, after calling AAA to order a handy jimmy (carried by a handy jimmy handler), I found myself in Miller's, shaking off the cold and inquiring about what was on tap, musically speaking, for the evening. One of the always-delightful waitresses informed me that Josh Mayo was the main attraction, set to play with his full band.

Shortly after I sat down and ordered a drink, Mayo, armed with a blue acoustic cut-out guitar, launched into the first tune. Wearing what might best be described (by a fashion anti-guru such as myself) as a "big hat," Mayo performed the first verse of the song solo, his guitar and vocals the only dam against the normal bar din. Shortly before the song's chorus, the rest of the group kicked in, in the old "Surprise, we were all hiding back here!" band trick.

Pop music is what Mayo plays, and the gentleman has a voice for the genre, capable of high-flying heroics with, at least on Saturday night, never a moment of flubbed pitch. The group, which in addition to Mayo is composed of electric guitar, drums, and Dain North on sax, had only played six previous shows together before their Miller's outing, though North has been a longtime Mayo compatriot at shows around town. After a jammy pop song into the set, my phone rang, and I took a much deserved break from my hard music reviewing work to facilitate the passage of my car from its then present locked state to an unlocked version.

Returning after my 30-minute hiatus, Mayo and his group launched into Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels," their version easily outstripping the original in both dynamics and energy. The group is quite tight, an impressive feat after only six shows, with everyone locked into near metronome precision with the drummerwho's quite good.

Partly because Mayo's lyrics were not really discernible, his originals had a habit of running together, in one big jammy pop mess-­ broken only by the interjection of some fairly choice covers– "Stuck In the Middle With You," and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" being just two of the evening's grinners.

Hey folks, this is pop music-­ I doubt it will be around when the aliens come to Earth and find it has been a barren wasteland for millennia, but for a Saturday night, it's all right.

PS: Think about following this useful piece of advice: Subscribe to a motor club.

Josh Mayo