Billy Iuso and the Restless Natives @ Sullivan Hall (08.06.10)
Billy Iuso and the Restless Natives
Special Guest: Jaik Miller
I had heard good things about this New Orleans based rock/funk/jam band. I was also excited to have the opportunity to check out one of the bands competing for a spot on Jam Cruise through the Vote to the Boat Competition taking place on Facebook. Finally, I had been slated to review the show for Jam Base but there seems to be some new motivations behind the Show Review section and so, here we are!
Before the show started, I was hanging out with some cats in the band before I even realized. “Hey Karen!” shouted fellow New Yorker Spencer Raymond from across the street. Spencer would be filling in on drums for Bryan Besse who was other wise engaged back in New Orleans. He and I chatted for a while before I was introduced to Thomas McDonald, the bass-playing Native. We raged together outside for a bit. It came to my attention that this was the first time the drummer and the bass player had met, let alone played together. We laughed about that and I immediately thought, “This is going to be interesting. I hope it sounds tight.” At some point I had ran into Billy Iuso himself, hugged it out and he thanked me for coming. And then it was time for the boys to get to making some music.
Hitting the stage around 10:15 pm, Billy Iuso and his Restless Natives dove right. Blending rock and funk with tons of energy and smiles. Within minutes, the rock/funk hybrid of sound came out and the first song had Billy ripping his guitar across the stand of his microphone for effect, jumping, bouncing…energy. New Orleans funky-rock. I am really starting to dig the rock-n-roll I am finding in New Orleans. I am only just now discovering it. Having just seen The Radiators for the first time a few weeks ago at Gathering of the Vibes, I have been researching more rock based bands out of NOLA.
The Natives brought some fun layers to their music by way of Thomas McDonald skating over his bass solo during The Meter’s Love Slip Up On Ya. Sporting a “WHO DAT” shirt, Tom thumped away on his bass proud and loud throughout the night. As he counted off into Two Deep In Shallows, the energy just got higher with all the members coming together to form a cohesive little stage rage for the rest of their short set.
Mike Burkart stood out on the key for Oh, I See. Funky! Funky! A strummy rocky number that also showcases Billy‘s skills. They covered The Talking Heads‘ Once in a Lifetime. It took me a minute to recognize the song. But then it took me even longer to warm up to their styling of it. Perhaps is was how they slowed it down, perhaps the fact that it was missing a little something to give it that kick jump into rage town. Oh well…
Trippin Over Dragons had Billy inviting Jaik Mille to join the stage. A trippy space jam infused with rock and just good feelings. A great dancing song with funky keys and lyrics. Billy’s singing voice was on point and smooth. We got a fun keys solo from Mike Burkart towards the end of the song. But not before a jamming guitar solo from Billy. I truly love his energy. Not every guitar player can be the greatest player but every guitar player can be fun to watch if they feel their own music. Billy is a great guitar player but he would get lost in his instrument and I loved seeing that in him. I certainly am not the only one as they are currently third in line for Vote to the Boat.
I moved to the raised floor section, giving me more of a bird’s eye view of the stage. I cheered with the rest of the crowd and began dancing as I heard the opening of Don’t Let Go. Billy was paying homage to the death of Jerry Garcia and that alone garnered a star in my book. I enjoyed the cover as I danced next to a happy adorable white-haired man who leans over to me and says: THAT’S MY SON,” with a beaming proud face. He pointed out “This is my favorite song.” Billy’s father and I danced side by side for the remainder of the song. Such a proud father!
Later I would find out that Spencer and Billy were members of Brides of Jesus, a band created back in 1992 that has listed Ian Neville, Russle Batiste and other funky musicians as members. Before this night, Spencer and Billy hadn’t played together in 15 years. You know, you never would have know it. For not having rehearsed before the gig, it went beyond well. All in all it was a great night of funky NOLA rock. Some good jams pulled out front and the spaces were filled with danceable notes from beginning to end.
I can’t tell you who I am going to vote for, but I can tell you with all certainty, that if Billy Iuso gets voted on the boat, he will deliver some good fun music. And that is what it’s all about. I looked forward to my second round of seeing them at Bear Creek Arts and Music Festival in the fall.
Set list!: Love Slip Up On Ya, Oh I See, Two Deep In Shallows, Trippin Over Dragons, Once In a Lifetime, Don’t Let Go, Big Chief
Special Thanks to http://www.ruthrocks.com/ for photography
Check out http://www.billyiuso.com/