As the sun was setting on Snoop Dogg's Sunday show at Bonnaroo and the middle fingers that were raised high in the air cheering him on only a few minutes before were put back in their pockets, a dance-funk fusion of keyboard, wailing guitar, funky bass, and steady
House-music-ready bass drum echoed from "Cafe Where" -- a tent located at the back periphery of the enormous crowd gathered at the main stage. The music was coming from Fort Lauderdale jam outfit The Heavy Pets, who played during the enviable hour window between Snoop's show and Phish's festival-closing three-hour set and at the location which had the easiest accessibility of all the tents to the main stage.
Everyone knows Bonnaroo is an important opportunity for new artists hoping to broaden their fanbase. So at 7:30 p.m., the pressure was on for our home-grown jammers. The Heavy Pets had 60 minutes to win over those scattering after Snoop and those staking out territory for Phish. And for the 150 or so people who wandered in along with one inflatable alligator -- woohoo Florida memorabilia! -- the band nailed its first Bonnaroo appearance.
Made up of Jeff Lloyd (lead guitar/lead vocals), Felix Pastorius
(bass), Jim Wuest (keyboards), Jamie Newitt (drums), and Mike Garulli
(guitar/vocals), the Heavy Pets judiciously bypassed the parts of their
catalog which are more accessible and rock-oriented, and instead
cranked out a funk cocktail of reggae, keyboard effects, metal-tinged
guitar work, and Latin rhythms that when fused with the steady beat
seemed to create a jam/House-music hybrid. It was hard to tell how many
songs were played because the band was in wail-out mode, but they took
up the hour with hardly any breaks and hardly any vocals. At times the
music got repetitive and a bit stagnant, but the group in its current
formation is only 3 months old. As far as other minor criticisms, the
band should probably spotlight Felix more. He would be, after all, a
big draw for those unfamiliar with the band, especially at a festival
like Bonnaroo. Nevertheless, judging from the crowd's reception -- I
almost got elbowed in the face by one woman oblivious to anything but
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the beats dictating her movements -- the dance party won't be stopping
any time soon.
In fact, it continues in South Florida in the next few weeks. The Heavy Pets will play West Palm venue Roxy's on June 23 and Culture Room July 11.