Over the past few years, the Little Mountain Band has shifted its lineup to include new guitarist Drew Azzinaro and drummer Bene Torres, and in the process, has sharpened its focus. Already a strong outfit, one that arrived on the scene in 2003 just as a new movement of jam-based music was solidifying in our town, LMB found an added urgency in the interplay between co-founder Donovan Cudmore’s deep-rooted bass playing and Torres’ virtuosic drumming, and the twin guitars of co-founder Aaron Ziolkowski and Azzinaro.
LMB was ready for transformation when Torres and Azzinaro joined their ranks. They’d been working with revered area drummer Corey Kertzie for a good while, and Kertzie helped the band up its game. When Kertzie left the ranks to become a full-fledged member of renowned jam-grass band Big Leg Emma, the remaining members were dedicated to the idea of keeping that momentum going.
As the newly released “Great Karma Valley” makes clear, they’ve managed to do so. The level of band interplay, the depth and clarity of the recordings – tracked at Mark Studios in Clarence with the help of producer Fred Betschen – and the strength of the songwriting coalesce in service of a stirring fusion of jam-based influences. A deeply moving cover of the Grateful Dead’s “If I Had the World To Give” seals the deal.
You can find “Great Karma Valley” through www.littlemountainband.com, or sample some video and audio – and check upcoming live dates, including one at 8 p.m. Friday in Abbey Square (784 Wehrle Drive) – through ReverbNation.com/littlemountainband.
With the Showplace Theatre (1063 Grant St.) preparing to open for business under new ownership, I’m simultaneously hoping for the best for the venue’s future, and reflecting on some treasured concert memories formed at the former movie theater in Black Rock.
Throughout the ’90s, the Showplace was a significant player on the local music scene, offering a healthy blend of national, international and local artists. I recall seeing the Reverend Horton Heat tear it up there on a number of occasions. My one and only Cramps show came courtesy of the Showplace, too. I’ll never forget leaning against the stage at the feet of bassist/vocalist Dug Pinnick as King’s X brought its gospel-tinged prog-rock to the faithful.
I played at the Showplace with my former band the Tails on a number of occasions, and vaguely recall walking into the dressing room to find Tubes vocalist Fee Waybill pitching a fit about something or other, just as we were about to take the stage opening for his band. It was weird. But it was also pretty cool.
My Morning Jacket offered a set of epic proportions in the Showplace in the band’s early days, and on some mornings, I do believe my ears are still ringing from that reverb-drenched dream of a show.
The Showplace gig that stands out most prominently for me still ranks among the 25 finest concerts of my life. Mercury Rev played the Showplace in April 1999, near the end of its lengthy tour behind the transcendent “Deserter’s Songs” album, and the packed house was offered a thoroughly hypnotic performance. What Pink Floyd means to Cambridge, England, Mercury Rev means to Buffalo, and this Showplace gig underscored the band’s status as one of the finest of its generation.
New Showplace owner Joe Breidenstein offered encouraging words to The News’ Mark Sommer in a piece announcing the reopening of the venue. “Concerts are the history of this place,” Breidenstein told Sommer. “And that’s where I think it needs to stay.”
I’m looking forward to making some new memories in the Showplace. No opening date has been made official yet, but there will be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Monday with local bands Breckenwood, Crashfuse, Cosmic Shakedown and Sleep Hahas; doors open at 4 p.m.