RAQ Hits Philly Hard
“RAQ is BAQ,” and the band’s show at the Blockley Pourhouse in Philly, part of a five-show reunion run, proved just that. Their triumphant return to the lower Mid-Atlantic delighted dedicated fans, some of whom traveled from Syracuse and beyond to see them on this night. I, for one, was ready to see what all the fuss was about.
Opening acts Flux Capacitor and Twiddle warmed up the crowd for the headliner. I had never heard of Flux Capacitor, but now that I’ve seen them I sure as hell won’t forget them. A high energy trio of keys, guitar, and drums, these guys got the crowd going with a much larger and more layered sound than their numbers alone would suggest. Much like the Doors, these guys proved that a skilled keys player can make up for a lack of bass–in this case, the bass was not missed one bit.
Twiddle, a band familiar to me, played equally as well, showing off a bit of their eclectic nature during their shorter-than-I-would-have-liked set. The range of sounds that night reflected a number of genres, including classical, funk, reggae, and bluegrass. In a longer set, Twiddle often provides a wildly diverse set, and although this set was slightly less varied than past performances, given the short slot I think they managed to convey their unique nature.
As RAQ took the stage, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I have seen Kung Fu perform multiple times and absolutely love their funky jams and groovy personalities, and I knew keys player Todd Stoops and drummer Adrian Tramontano would bring it. I have also seen Conspirator, and while I have never been a huge fan of that band, I have always been impressed by the precise and rapid finger work of guitarist Chris Michetti. But I had never seen the various parts perform together as RAQ.
They did not disappoint.
Stoops created a variety of musical pictures with his skillful keys playing, conjuring images of everything from a videogame-like funky Loch Ness Monster to a spooky, sexy haunted mansion. Michetti repeatedly nailed intricate, high energy solos, at one point guitar picking on a bluegrass-infused jam like a runaway train, only it was that rare kind of runaway that is perfectly executed and joyously welcomed. During a slow, ethereal jam, Tramantano revealed his range, instantly and seamlessly transitioning from loudly intense to soft and pretty.
One of the highlights of the evening came toward the end of the set, when the band members took turns sipping from a bottle of whiskey before playing the funky “Sweet Cream Butter.” Bassist Jay Burwick, who executed his bass lines with precision the entire night, took over the vocals on this one, telling an amusingly silly fantasy that began with the suggestive prelude “We’re gonna get a little funky girl…we’re gonna get cheesy.” Burwick and the rest of the band had the crowd laughing as they danced to the groovy funk the musicians laid down to set the mood for this comical story of a song.
I left the Blockley that evening with a smile on my face, glad to have finally checked out the band whose return pleased so many fans in the jam scene. The playing was tight, and they showcased a wide range of talent. I am sure that I join many long-time fans in my desire to see the quartet continue creating music together. Here’s to hoping RAQ is BAQ for good.