Now I'm 64: Jam band's riffs grow on you


The Butterhouse Band
at Jabberwocky
Friday, March 25

I must be getting soft in my old age. There was a time when the mere suggestion that I review a band that leaned to the jam left me boiling in my boots, reveling in pointing out the peaks of their suckdom, plotting their downfall as I sat bored by their never-ending noodling.

Maybe it's just the layer of fat around my abdomen, but the Butterhouse Band, who performed last Friday at Jabberwocky, did not raise my ire– in fact, I rather enjoyed them.

To paraphrase Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, there's a difference between seeing and observing. The people I was with and I saw a band of untold numbers setting up on Jabberwocky's expansive stage. I observed, by the ponytails, shaggy appearance, baggy-slouch and big slap back-hug handshakes that we were most likely in for a performance by a jam band of neo-hippies of the frat persuasion.

What I couldn't deduce from their appearance was that the Butterhouse Band is quite talented.

After an eternity setting up and one tantalizing sound check, the group's bassist and drummer took the stage for a few minutes of playing together before the rest of the group joined in the same repetitious riff.

Composed of a keyboardist, guitarist, guitarist/vocalist, bassist, and a seated drummer (dwarfed by his ridiculously overbearing drum set), the group has an easy-going feel combined with impressive instrumental proficiency. The group's great strength is definitely the drummer, a man giddy with fills, laying them on thick.

The lead guitarist, who always had an expressive riff up his sleeve, was my personal favorite, but the bassist, who was one of the finest examples of that particular species I've ever seen, made an impression too. His notes are clean and his plucking technique great to watch, the fingers of his right hand flying over the strings, placing bass notes on and in-between drum crashes with a skill that left me breathless.

Three minutes into the riff of the first piece, the band more or less morphed into Pink Floyd– their chorus, though still vocal-less, had the kind of chords and made the general impression that called to mind some of that group's best work. Like most non-song driven groups, the Butterhouse Band frequently does not pause between numbers, and on completion of the first tune, a three-chord outing that reminded me of "Purple Haze" began immediately.

Constant lead work did not distract from the drummer's nearly ceaseless assault on my eardrums– he seemed to be attempting to shove as many beats, be they bass kicks or snare hits, into the song as possible.

Song four saw the first introduction of vocals, and I was surprised to hear that the songwriting was actually pretty good (it's not common for lovers of the jam to be concise songwriters as well), with a vibe similar to the Allman Brothers and various other southern rock outings, though with more instrumental passages.

Maybe age really is getting to me, for though the vocal numbers were my favorite parts of the Butterhouse Band's set, the instrumental jamming had me nodding my head almost as frequently.

The Butterhouse Band