With The London Souls
The Stage Miami
Friday, May 11, 2012
Better Than: Maybe ever.
This past weekend marked the first time that Fort Lauderdale's ambassadors of tropic-infused jam rock, The Heavy Pets, returned to their deep-rooted fanbase since an acclaimed New Years Eve show at the Culture Room.
Although certain vigilant Petheads might sling accusations of neglect, the first quarter of 2012 has taken the quintet up and down the East Coast, with gigs at choice venues like The Brooklyn Bowl in New York City and the Blockley in Philadelphia.
Those hard miles have made the heart grow fonder for many who consider the band to be a local favorite. But more importantly, all this time on the road has pushed The Heavy Pets to an entirely new musical level. And that was on full display at The Stage in Miami on Friday night.
The uncharacteristically cool evening played well into The Stage's indoor-outdoor hybrid venue design. And a set of opened garage doors allowed the amplified reverberations of opening band The London Souls to cut through honking cabs and the crunching of beer cans with ease.
During the short intermission between bands, this homecoming celebration of sorts hit its stride as the tight-knit community that haunts Heavy Pets shows exchanged hugs, high fives, and shots of hard liquor. All of the right pieces were in place to kickstart a party. And it seemed that the band was aiming to wear down some soles till way past midnight.
The Pets opened the show with "How Would I," a welcomed warm-up and an opportunity for the band to show off some newfound chops. Next, they moved into a nearly 36-minute segue that started with crowd favorite "Bibbles," and cut through "Dew Point" before crashing into a bass-driven "Jackie Bones."
The joint was packed, eating it up as a steady bounce set in and the crowd kicked off its dance-floor rust. Grooving buildups were only broken up by technical solos, and the six-string dexterity of both Mike Garulli and Jeff Lloyd showcased range and prowess, alongside organic bass lines from Justin Carney. It was hard to track the sonic paths of any single member within the context of the pocket grooves. But the Pets joined together for resounding peaks that were as cohesive as they have ever managed to achieve.
After almost 80 minutes, the band was still locked into a deep and intense psychedelic battle. All cylinders were firing. And even in round eight, the jam heavyweights were landing punch after punch.
With no chance for a set break in sight, the band pushed through a cool-down cover of John Denver's "Country Road" before ramping up into yet another clever segue that started with "Holy Holy" and ended with danceable sing-along "Chew." Improvisational envelopes were pushed, previously anticipated gaps were filled, solos were traded back and forth and back again, and the band flat-out rocked.
After leaving the stage, the crowd made it known that they weren't finished with the guys yet. Cheers and whistles brought them back for a unique version of "Girl You Make Me Stupid," which saw the band actually swapping instruments, resulting in a new lineup featuring Lloyd on bass, Garulli on drums, Carney on Garulli's guitar, and drummer Jamie Newitt whipping out his beatbox skills on the mike.
It went perfectly with the vibe of the night. And it wasn't surprising how damn good each member sounded on foreign instruments. Amid laughs and grins, the band finished with "Played Again," a close-out cut that hit the nail on the head for this band and their loyal fanbase.
We can't wait till they play again.
Personal Bias: I have been seeing these guys for years, but the recent touring efforts abroad have brought back an entirely different band that is pushing boundaries and enticing new fans to jump on board.
The Crowd: Hardcore South Florida fans of The Heavy Pets, the usual Miami locals looking for a rock fix, lots of pretty ladies, and a quite few new faces.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I think we need more whiskey."
The Heavy Pets' Setlist:
-"How Would I"
-"Keep Me Running"
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-"Girl You Make Me Stupid"
-- Adam Smith