The Anthony Gomes Band
In searching for a genre of music outside my ordinary everyday music routine I came across a funky blues rock group called the Anthony Gomes Band. Anthony Gomes a Toronto native is the leader of the most unique band I have ever heard. After reading his biography and some reviews of his past shows I decided to venture to the Blues Station in downtown ColumbusOhio to take a closer look.
This was my first time at a Blues club or the like, and I found it very welcoming. Located only minutes from the OhioStateUniversity campus I expected it to be filled with rowdy and intoxicated college kids however I was pleasantly surprised to find a middle aged refined crowed. The venue, Blues Station was a very open system which allowed me to enjoy the music freely. Unlike the eloquent entrance of the building instantly as you enter the doors the rich aroma of southern cuisine hits you then you look around to find the room decorated with road maps of the south and pictures of great and influential musicians. B.B. King, Elvis and other such great performers are pictured throughout the venue. I picked this particular night because according to the website (www.bluesstation.net) there were going to be other performances besides The Anthony Gomes Band. I thought this would be a good way for me to compare the band to others. We were greeted with live entertainment from the beginning. This was somewhat new to me; I am used to walking into a venue to watch a performance and not getting much more then a DJ spinning records before the main band or performers. I have never really been exposed to Jazz or Blues music before so almost all of the songs performed that night by both bands were new to me. While researching the Anthony Gomes Band I found some very interesting fact such as, they write all of their own music, they once won a ten thousand dollar contest for being the “best unsigned blues band” and the main singer and leader of the Band Mr. Anthony Gomes has completed his Masters. In this day I am more used to seeing performers with limited education forming bands and somehow making it, I found it very refreshing to see someone who perused higher education also making it. According to his biography Anthony Gomes wrote his final dissertation and thesis about the racial evolution of blues music. His care and devotion to the field of music attracted and interested me further to see his band live.
The band had four members, one bass guitarist (chordophone), a keyboard player (electrophones), drummer (membranophone) and electric guitarist (chordophone). Although the venue was packed I still managed to get a close look at the various instruments. The bass was played by Biscuit Miller; his instrument had five strings, and a C shaped neck which allowed for thick, full sound with a clear tone. It also had a strap which he used to swing the bass around his body during his solo piece. Secondly was Rusty Hall on the keyboards. Hall who was the most eccentrically dressed, played a Musical keyboard, which are musical instruments which have depressible keys that are tuned to produce musical notes in specific frequencies. While they took the stage, I was able to get a better glance at the keyboard which when I analyzed the keys they were arranged in octaves of twelve keys apiece. Each twelve key octave consists of seven white keys and five black keys. Throughout the performance the keyboards were not the main or foremost instrument but at times because of its distinct sound really complimented the guitars. Thirdly was my favorite instrument the drums which were played by Barry Alexander. A full 5 piece set complete with bass drum, toms, and brass cymbals. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Alexander playing these; they really energized the crowd and added tempo and pulse to the music. Lastly playing the electric guitar was the band leader Anthony Gomes. This 6 string guitar was the true soul of the band, with its smooth tones and energizing notes it immediately captured the audience’s attention and held it throughout the performance. As mentioned earlier the band members did not introduce themselves until the completion of the second song. While Anthony Gomes introduced the members they each displayed some of their capabilities. Even though Anthony Gomes is the band leader, every one of the members plays a vital role in the production of this multi genre music.
According to Anthony Gomes’s site they play blues however it is fused with other genres such as gospel, funk, rhythm and blues and soul. His latest album “Unity” incorporates most of these genres successfully. At times the different styles were clean, for example the band made the audience clap to a certain song which felt almost church like. Other times they were upbeat fast paced songs which got everyone on the dance floor moving, their recipe for music is a definite success because they were able to pack the house and keep people thoroughly entertained. Their distinct sound is one that is hard to describe because of the variety, it was very refreshing to get three or four genres of music in one performance.
Besides the clapping the band and audience communicated very well. This open system allowed for high positive energy from both the band members as well as the audience. Most of the dancing done by the band was done by Anthony Gomes, who at times stood on top of the speakers and got everyone to start clapping or sped up the pulse of the song and really got people moving. This aspect of the show was essential to the overall performance because it kept people wanting more, it allowed for the audience to get involved in the show. Aside from Gomes’s dancing Biscuit Miller, the bass player, really had people on the edge of their seats when he took over the show with his solo piece. Spinning the guitar around his head and playing it upside down he really did not need to dance to get the audience involved. The band members did not coordinate their attire; they all seemed to dress according to themselves. Miller wore simple jeans and jacket, Gomes was a bit more original with a brightly colored scarf and ripped jeans, I was unable to get a close look at the drummer however Rusty Hall truly had a style of his own. He wore bright colored clothing with a pink feathered scarf around his neck.
I feel the way they chose to dress played a role in the spontaneity of the show. I am not sure how or why but I believe this spontaneity led to a lot of improvisation during the performance. At different points of the evening members of the audience would shout out different song names and the band would instantly play them, this gave me the feeling that in their concerts improvisation plays a major role. Also towards the end of the night when the band was about to leave the crowd started to really make noise asking for one last song of their choosing. Comedic banter between band members seemed unplanned and spur of the moment. The band would change songs according to the audience’s mood, I noticed them playing more and more upbeat songs rather then slow ones. I have not been to any other concerts by the Anthony Gomes band but I got the impression they based their shows on the mood and temperament of the crowd more so then a schedule.
This back and forth banter and spontaneity lead to a lot of interaction with both the band members and the audience. Some times not verbally but through head nods or smiles the band members would communicate. Gomes would sometimes lean over and hit a few keys on the keyboard only to get pushed away from the keyboard player, this playful attitude also spilled over into the crowd. Anthony Gomes would point to certain people in the audience and ask them what song they wanted to hear, or he would look at someone and get them to come to the front of the dance floor to show of their moves. Even though this took up playing time I believe it added to the enjoyment of the show. It made the atmosphere very friendly and kept everyone smiling and enjoying themselves. You felt connected with the band on a more personal level when they made jokes of each other and themselves. It also enabled the band to add a different dimension to their performance, comedy. This does not always work well but on this occasion it did. The band members seemed to have a bond with one another that came across as friendly. This also gave me the impression of a truly one of a kind performance. Whether or not that was true is beside the point, they made me feel as though they do not give everyone the same show.
Right from the beginning the band motivated and energized the crowd. Unless they were playing a soft possibly romantic song, which they did the mood stayed relatively high. Throughout the show they played what the crowd wanted, and most requests were fast paced songs. Within the first two songs everyone was on the dance floor, until the very last song they kept the audience very energized. Through solo performances and wacky antics they did not let up.
This being my first blues show I was not sure what to expect, I did not know if I was going to hate it or love it, I ended up loving it. The band had a successful formula for getting the music across. The formula contained elements such as humor, upbeat tempo and steady pulse which made me quiet impressed. I mentioned earlier they do fuse a lot of music together, some songs were border line funk and others were soft quiet and smooth. The way they fused the music left the audience desperate for more and kept us highly entertained, never knowing what was next. One minute they were jumping on speaker boxes signaling everyone to get on the dance floor the next it was Anthony Gomes alone under a spot light singing a song of a lost love. The most important element was the notion that this was not a concert for the masses. They interacted with us they showed interest in what we wanted to hear and that was the most important element of all to me.
I have not been to a lot of concerts so this was a very unique experience for me; however the spontaneity and crowd interaction really pleased me. Even though it was my first time really listening to blues and I have nothing to really compare it to, I enjoyed it. Great atmosphere everyone had a great time. Another unique feature was when the entire band went offstage and the bass player stayed on to do a solo piece. Filled it with tossing his guitar into the air and around his neck really was the high point of the show myself as well as the crowd loved it. Despite the informal atmosphere there was nothing I really disliked about the show. I kept an open mind and fortunately enough I found a genre of music that really interests me and something I will look forward to involving my self in more.