February 17, 2018 @ The Sinclair
Review By: Craig Short
Yes, I admit it: I used to listen to jam bands. In fact, they were pretty much all I listened to. My condition became pretty serious. Any song under 20 minutes was a disappointment. I craved longer and longer jams, bigger and wilder improvisations. If your band didn’t tour with at least 6 different keyboards, I simply was not interested. Eventually it became too much. I quit cold turkey. I had to. And it’s a decision I’ve regretted every step of the way.
So, when Papadosio came to Boston on February 16th and 17th, I happily suffered a relapse and got myself a ticket to see them play The Sinclair with Aqueous (I only caught the second night, but it was more than enough). Oh, it was a wonderful experience. Aqueous, whom I wasn’t familiar with, blew me away with how talented and fun they were onstage. They played a long, fluid, and seamless set of groove rock bangers, extending each song into a delicious instrumental playground of soloing and what seemed to be mind reading. That last part is what I love about jam bands: they can pull fully formed grooves out of thin air. The guitarist would improvise some four-note motif, then play it again. And then again. And suddenly the rest off the band would catch on, subtly shifting their parts to complement the new arrival, inevitably morphing that one idea into a completely new piece of music that would culminate in a roaring musical climax, making the audience scream, cheer, and dance like nobody was watching. Aqueous has a simple setup; it was just bass, drums, guitar, and the occasional keyboard, but it was enough to drive the audience wild and make some drunk guy in front of me whip his beer can around and spray everybody with foam. (This was after he thought the guy next to me was Shaun White. I’m pretty sure Shaun was at the Olympics, dude.)
So that was great. But Papadosio was greater. They’re one of the most technologically literate jam bands I’ve ever seen. The sheer number of knobs and buttons up on that stage was staggering. One member played 3 different keyboards (sometimes at the same time), and another had a guitar, a sampler, and a modular synthesizer that he worked by himself. I honestly never figured out what one member was playing; there was a keyboard of some kind that he played occasionally, but there were a lot of bizarre sounds coming from his general direction whose methods of production elude me still. All of these devices, of course, were not just for show. Papadosio calls its brand of music “space rock,” and I couldn’t think of a better descriptor if I tried. It’s a mixture of electronic beats, funky guitars, delicate piano playing, and straight up sci-fi weirdness that also manages to be supremely danceable.
The lighting rig was sublime as well. There were five cloth frames hanging at the back of the stage, one behind each member, upon which some very psychedelic moving images were projected. I remember having an epiphany halfway through the show about the way the images were moving: Every time an individual frame would pulsate or go wild with color, it was in response to what the person in front of it was playing. Gaaaaahhhh. It made the whole question of who’s-playing-what a lot easier to answer, and it also looked great.
At the end of a long chain of interconnected jams whose beginnings and ends were unclear, I stumbled out of the venue thinking about how hard it was going to be to top that concert experience. Also how much I miss jam bands. I’ve got a lot of 40-minute songs to catch up on…