Eminence Ensemble and Voodoo Visionary Deliver Doubly Great Night of Music

OK, Jacksonville, you’re on notice. Tonight.

You, too, Savannah, Asheville, and Evansville.

Also, Saratoga Springs, New York City, Manchester Center, Burlington, and Buffalo.

Perhaps you’re wondering why. That’s understandable. Allow me to explain.

Two dynamite bands are on the road. Both will be in Jacksonville tonight at 1904 Music Hall along with a third equally amazing band.

Eminence Ensemble, from Boulder and Denver, will take the route through Georgia, North Carolina, and Indiana before returning west. And Voodoo Visionary, from ATL, heads to New York and Vermont.

Eminence Ensemble, Voodoo Visionary, and Ajeva all played Thursday evening at The Crowbar in Ybor City (Tampa), a magical evening presented by Moongoddess Entertainment and Don’t Fret Entertainment. I missed the Ajeva set, but they delight every time out, including at Suwanee Hulaween and Orange Blossom Jamboree and their headlining set at Backwoods Fam Jam. And all three are at 1904 tonight.

The funk and dance grooves poured out immediately as Voodoo Visionary launched into “Cold Shallow Moon,” vocalist Scottie MacDonald sounding better than ever as be belted “It’s a sticky… sticky… sticky situation…” Dennis Dowd’s synthesizers drove the tune. More than ever before, the rhythm section of Jimmy Lynch, bass, and Mac Schmitz, drums, were in perfect lockstep. Because it is all about that bass… and drums.

Voodoo Visionary. Foto by Chuckie

Mike Wilson stepped up on “Salt” with some blistering guitar work before the band rollicked through “Harmony,” one of the band’s best tunes and a great sentiment besides. Apparently, I had never paid attention to Lynch’s fine backing vocals before. Dowd rocked the clarinet before Wilson abused his wah-wah pedal.

“Saving Face” featured Dowd’s B3 effect, Wilson, synthesizer, and then Schmitz on an all-too-brief drum display. Schmitz was huge all night. “Jangalang” was excellent, but then “Heathen” topped it, clavinet, a quick rap from local MC Nook, guitar, and then a great long jam. During “All Week,” they added a nice cover of “Cosmic Slop.”

Dennis Dowd & Jimmy Lynch. Foto by Chuckie

Next they invited guitarist Taylor Frederick of Eminence Ensemble up to join them on a joyous “Turn On Your Lovelight.” In addition to the interplay between Frederick and Wilson, MacDonald and Schmitz had their own back-and-forth. They closed with a funky, chunky “Hold Tight,” loaded with Lynch’s romping bass and Down on clavinet and synthesizer.

Unlike Voodoo Visionary, whom I’ve seen more than a dozen times, I was thoroughly unfamiliar with Eminence Ensemble. Never even encountered the name until I read about this show. I can assure you I’ll never miss them in the future. They were awesome.

Eminence Ensemble from July show in Dallas

In terms of set-up, think Umphrey’s McGee. Eminence Ensemble doesn’t sound like UM, but the instrumentation and power are the same. These guys blew out on superb set, and they jam relentlessly. They opened with a real rocker titled “Mousehunt.” They turned it into a great spacey jam, with Frederick and Justin Neely on guitars and Johnny Bosbyshell on synthesizer.

“The Regulars” was a slight departure, a bouncy story song before they truly displayed what this band is all about — deep wicked jams. “Hacer Sex” highlighted the rhythm section — notice the theme here? — of Zac Flynn, bass, and Tanner Bardin, drums. Frederick led them into a long jam, Nick Baum’s percussion a highlight. And that worked its way into “Booty,” resplendent with three-part harmonies (Frederick, Neely, and Baum).

More great vocals and another long jam were featured in “Tony’s Song.” Baum has a wonderful voice, and he and Neely were magic here, followed by a guitar battle and great synth work. Next they offered a nice cover of “Sugaree” with more great vocals. As nice as it was, their originals are better.

The cornerstone of the set was “S2.” “‘Situation Type 2’ is where we try to paint a picture of said scenario musically,” they later explained. It began with a heavy drum intro that might have reminded you of “That’s It for the Other One.” It lead to a massive jam called “Pirates.” It eventually morphed into “Ganstajazz,” clearly defined by some awesome walking bass by Flynn, Baum’s percussion, and great piano work by Bosbyshell.

And then, for something completely different, they blew out an amazing shitkicker slam grass tune titled “Mr. Evans,” followed by a solid cover of “Breakdown” with Baum on lead vocal. “Right Ahead” was another excellent original, synth-heavy, with an “Eleanor Rigby” instrumental jam inserted, before returning with a reggae lilt. Finally, they closed, bowing to peer pressure from the raucous fans, for an encore of “Here’s Your Sign.”

Eminence Ensemble from July show in Dallas

Do yourself a favor. Check out these bands when they come your way. Outstanding live music performed by a bunch of nice guys. As Taylor Frederick shared later,

“Just glad someone like yourself enjoyed it! That’s why we keep doing what we do.”

Thank heavens for that.

[VV: Cold Shallow Moon, Salt, Harmony, I Got a Feeling, Saving Face, Jangalang, Heathen, All > Cosmic Slop > All, Turn On Your Lovelight, Hold tight]

[EE: Mousehunt, The Regulars, Hacer Sex > Booty, Tony’s Song, Sugaree, Situation 2: Pirates > Gangstajazz, Mr. Evans, Breakdown, Right Ahead > Eleanor Rigby > Right Ahead; E: Here’s Your Sign]

The photos of Eminence Ensemble are from a show in Dallas in July. The Voodoo Visionary photos are from Funk Fest 8 in March (fotos by Chuckee).

VOODOO VISIONARY

08/16  Gaffney’s | Saratoga Springs NY
08/17  Arlene’s Grocery | New York NY
08/18  The Perfect Wife Restaurant &  | Manchester Center VT
08/19  Radio Bean | Manchester VT
08/20  Buffalo Iron Works | Buffalo NY
08/25  Aisle 5 | Atlanta GA  w/ Holey Miss Holey, Soul Mechanic