Last night, I was a lab rat.
The experiment: get all the people that can fit (maybe 45 or 50 tops?) into Sonic Temple Recording Studio on Hollis Street to sit in on a session, which will provide the basis for a forthcoming recording, by Jerry Granelli's quartet, V16. This was the first of two nights for the band - comprising of Granelli on drums and percussion, J. Anthony Granelli on bass, Dave Tronzo on slide guitar and Christian Kögel on guitar - at Sonic Temple.
To start the evening, producer/engineer Dave Hillier, who normally does sound at the Festival Tent, welcomed everyone to his studio. Then he disappeared to the booth on a floor below.
And what a wonderful space for a lab rat. A warm wooden and exposed brick interior, including the large former fireplace that must've given the studio its name; slatted skylights allowed audience to observe the many blues of late day, early evening, dusk and night.
Speaking of that colour, one of the best tunes was a blues number about midway through the set. This was the point where the band opened up wide, saturating wood interior and flesh-and-bone audience with a mean, slow stomp.
Dave Tronzo, the night's jester, burned up his strings on this one, giving the night a roots/rock flavour. (Tronzo was fun to watch, as he bounced up and down and used all manners of objects to run up and down his guitar neck, a metal cup, a plastic glass, what looked like a satay stick, which he jammed behind the strings near the pickup. During the last number, he tossed each on to the floor, a deliberate act to add some ambient sound.)
For much of the night, he and Kögel traded riffs, note for note, chord for chord. Kögel played the night's straight man, musically and personally. A thin guy, he's perfect in the role. His playing was moodier, as no doubt was agreed upon by the band. He played some great wah-wah for all the rock-loving lab rats assembled - and there was one kid in a Zeppelin t-shirt with a huge 'fro of hair who was chief among them.
The kid's curly lid threatened to touch the solid, exposed beams running the width of the space or at least get singed in one of the gauzy lantern-style lampshades hanging from the ceiling. Thankfully it didn't happen.
At the same time those beams - solid and true - made you think of the tandem team of Jerry and son, J. Anthony. Granelli the younger plays bass like a dance between forms. He can rock out, playing big, resounding notes. He can establish, jump off from and return to the melodic through-line like a great house DJ.
And what can you say about Jerry Granelli, really, that hasn't been said before? The guy loves playing, judging from his smile, ecstatic expressions and pitching and weaving, as if he's playing tag with the sound. He plays every inch of his drums, tapping, striking, stroking and pounding -- a great tune involved him hand-drumming on a bongo and his kit. And still he brought out roped-together cymbals and bells. Where's he keep it all?
People delight in Granelli senior, as they do in the whole band, who were just having a lot of fun. No pretences here. The music was contemplative and sombre, true, in moments, but that's not to be mistaken with pretension.
When it was time for the lab rats to scurry out along the wide-board hardwood floor, they were warmed, red in the face, and happy. Certainly the band must be too with the results of this experiement.