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See it to believe it: Teenage beatboxer will blow your mind


(This is the 12th entry in Soundcheck's summer concert series, The 50-50 Club. For previous entries, click here.)

Here are the three things I ask of my bar performers:

1. Do not drain your spit valve into my shrimp dip.

2. Do not, under any circumstances, play Margaritaville.

3. Be background.

What I mean by that is, most people don't go to a bar or restaurant solely to hear the performer. Sorry, but it's true. Most people go to drink and tell jokes and play video poker and eat Chex Mix and argue over who is the ugliest baseball player from the '80s*.

There is one exception to this last rule, however, which is: When a band starts to jam, all bets are off.

This became clear to me on Thursday at Yeoman's Road Pub on Davis Islands, as Christie Lenee ripped off 10-minute funk jam after 10-minute funk jam, and the dance floor slowly populated with groovy chicks and tall, bearded David Foster Wallace lookalikes, and the evening stretched well into the morning to the strands of cascading sax solos and noodly guitarwork.

Yep. This was Hippie Music.

Normally, I don't cotton to hippies, what with their clove cigarettes, Life is Good T-shirts and "Kucinich '04" bumper stickers. I have friends who love Phish, 'Spread and Bela Fleck, and I simply cannot relate to them. I went to a Phish concert once, and it was the longest two hours of my life ... and that was BEFORE the intermission.

But after swapping e-mails with Lenee a couple of times over the past few months, she seemed nice enough to me. She's certainly a talented musician, a classically trained guitarist and composer and student of music at USF. (You can hear her song Set it Free here.)

And also, if you're going to check out some Hippie Music, you might as well go to Yeoman's Road. Located on a stretch of Davis Boulevard that feels like it belongs in a smaller coastal town, Yeoman's Road is what I'd call a "friendly dive," a neighborhood Britpub that often hosts reggae bands and singer-songwriter open mics. It's neither big nor flashy**, but it's beloved by Davis Islanders, and it's a nice little outpost for people who just want to, you know, groove.

The first half of the set was just Lenee and her guitar, a la Dave Matthews or Ani DiFranco, and it was your basic folk singer-songwriter fare, albeit delivered with exquisite technical precision. As a guitarist, Lenee was stellar but not showy -- which, considering she was performing in a bar, was really the best choice. Everyone was chatting with friends, some people were paying no attention whatsoever to the music. Lenee was background***.

Then she brought out her band, the Funkgrass Groove, which I swear is their real name and not one of the bands from A Mighty Wind. The six-piece group started playing a few funky jams, doodling around on their keys and horns, and sure enough, here came the hippies, swirling and doing their twisty, thrusty little Hippie Dance on the dance floor.

And just like that, the concert had gone from background to jam band faster than you can say String Cheese Incident. Noodly organs, noodly guitars, noodly saxophones. The Flying Spaghetti Monster would approve.

The performance had moments of Dave Matthews Band, whiffs of G. Love and Special Sauce, even a very faint hint of raw, early E Street Band. Some of the songs stretched on for 10 minutes, maybe more. When the jams got a little stale, the crowd drifted away. When the jams got hot, they came right back to the dance floor. This is The Hippie Way.

I of course got up on the floor, too, in part because I could not see Lenee above the swirling hippies, but also because, like I said, when a band starts jamming, all bets are off. You are drawn to the music like ants to an uncovered sponge cake. You must become part of the jam, embrace the hippiness of it, and let your inner Phish flag fly.

When Lenee took her intermission at 12:45 a.m.****, she let pixie-tiny but big-voiced singer-songwriter Emily Roff come onstage for a few solo acoustic numbers. It was very much background bar music, with kind of a Buddy-Holly-at-the-beach vibe.

But then she closed with a cover of One More Minute by the Sublime-like reggae rockers Authority Zero, and sure enough, this one dude picked up a shaker, and another girl hopped behind the drum kit, and Lenee's saxman wandered back in from outside, and before you knew it, the song turned into a scat-happy 15-minute roots jam. Roff looked absolutely ecstatic.

The crowd wandered back to the dance floor, and as Roff and her pickup jam buddies played, the Hippie Dance resumed once more.

Next up in The 50-50 Club: The Airborne Toxic Event, May 22, Push Ultra Lounge, St. Petersburg.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

* Gary Gaetti.

** It does have a giant glowing digital TouchTunes jukebox near the door that looks totally out of place. Just my opinion.

*** At the very end of the night, however, Lenee played three jaw-dropping acoustic instrumental compositions, plucking, smacking and tapping her fretboard like Kaki King. She even played a new, unfinished piece, then asked the remaining crowd for advice on the how to end it. At that point, all you wanted was for everyone in the bar to shut up and listen. Background, my ass.

***** You do NOT want to know what time this show ended.

[Last modified: Friday, May 22, 2009 1:27pm]


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