So in celebration of being ensconced in the final chapter of the ‘The Wonder Years Version 50′ I found myself on my own for the auspicious date. Oh dear, what’s a boy to do ? It just so happened that Chicago Blues-man Nick Moss and, his band, the Flip Tops were coming to Rochester to help me with my load. I thought that was pretty cool of them. That being said I did my best to collect a posse of friends who might want to buy me lots of drinks and food and help keep this poor boy out of trouble Well, well, well did I ever work that situation out nicely! We convened at the world famous Dinosaur BBQ (where the music is always free) for some award winning ‘Que and liquid enrichment. Thus setting ourselves up for the musical entertainment portion of the night.
What a perfect choice ! Nick and the band opened up with a well constructed instrumental that was painted in broad brush strokes containing elements of jazz and a beat that had the crowd shakin’ their hips and heads to it. Now this might not sound like anything remarkable, but the audience was not your typical blues crowd. Running concurrently at the War Memorial was the ‘Jingle Jam’ a holiday event featuring such bands as Fall Out Boy and other severely non-blues acts. Yet the proximity of the Dino allowed some of the artists and fans to wander over and see what was happening. At one point early into Nick’s set drummer, Patrick Seals and bassist Matthew Wilson were putting down a deep soul R&B pocket as Nick and Michael Ledbetter were sharing vocals when the entire crowd of ‘Jingle Jammers’ were dancing and head weaving to the groove. It was at that moment I remarked that one could have had someone on stage doing Howlin’ Wolf or Muddy lyrics in a hip-hop manner and it would have been absolutely great. At the conclusion of that song the Jingle Jammers bopped their way out of the Dino waving to Nick and the band looking very satisfied that they came and stayed for a spell.
In that moment we were shown the power of music to bring people together, two diverse – but not unrelated – musical forms seeing the commonality of the music and crossing the lines that the genre Nazis create to keep us separate.
Nick then settled into a wide range of songs, working the jazz-fusion end of the spectrum with the help of some outstanding keyboard work by A. Travis Reed. Mr. Reed displayed quite the range and understanding of the Blues Piano family tree at one point as Nick would call out the names of past masters and Travis would just slide in and out of their styles.
Mr. Michael Ledbetter was given ample room to shine as the rhythm guitarist and vocalist. His voice is pure like honey from the bee, and offers a nice counter-point to Nicks’ fuller and resounding vocal style. The band seems to be a very nice fit with Nick. Their professionalism and abilities have allowed Mr. Moss to fully expand his musical explorations. There were moments when Nick settled into a grove or ventured outside the standard framework and the band were always right there to help shine the light for his re-entry into the selection. I think that in it’s current configuration the Flip Tops will bring more of the well deserved praise from fans around the world.
His style has progressed into so much more than being a guitar playing ‘Chicago blues-man’. His technique and roots are undoubtedly Chicago based, but it has gone beyond what people might consider the oft’ spoke ‘Chicago style’. This style has evolved throughout the many years since Muddy plugged in, bringing in funk, R&B influences as well as touches of Prince and a smattering of psychedelia to the table. Nick is well equipped to move the style forward as he calls upon these influences and then adds his own later of Moss to it.
To add to our delight Nick brought up Rochester’s own Blues legend, Mr. Joe Beard to do a few numbers with the band. Doing his outstanding version of ‘Gambler’s Blues’ (aka Blues Deluxe) he simply stunned the young ladies who met me there. They are not that well acquainted with the Blues – so it was all about the music and the talent and Joe Beard put it all out there for them to see and made them begin to see what is out there for the taking. Later in the second set Nick brought up Joe’s son Chris Beard. Chis is a hard rocking, guitar plowing blues-man who tore up the crowd with his ‘Mike Singletary’ facial expressions and incendiary guitar work. Man what a treat ! Ace photographer Martin Goettsch had such a blast he went the next night to Syracuse to do it all over again.
Nick and the Flip Tops have a new release out on Blue Bella Records, titled, ‘Here I Am’. In it he pushes that evolution we spoke about both sonically and stylistically. Oh yeh, I stole some of that from none other than Jimmy Thackery did on the back cover of “Here I Am’. I bought a copy of the new disc and gave it to my young femme fatales so that they can dig deep and keep it as a reminder for the night that they truly found the Blues.
Oh by the way, the ladies (Krystina & Diana) are meeting us very soon for another national blues act at the Dino, as will Craig and Pete, so it’s looking good for the Blues!
So as far as birthdays went – it went really, really well. I made it through the night, with the help of some good friends, saw the healing power of music displayed, introduced some young adults to the Blues, and got to see one of America’s finest young blues bands out there Nick Moss and The Flip Tops. Can’t beat that with a stick, as we used to say in the projects !
Visit Nick at his web site: http://www.nickmoss.com/
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos: Martin Goettsch, Blue Bella