The Horseshoe Tavern has been the home of influential acts since its inception in 1947. The dark and dingy legendary venue boasts a sense of success that lingers in the air amidst the cigarettes and stale beer.
The further you retreat into the bar the closer you get to its history. On the walls are signed records and set lists from bands that have graced the stage at the Horseshoe. The presence of greatness is palpable between these old walls. And on Tuesday October 6th the tavern hosted a three-band lineup that had something for every music lover.
The clock struck nine and four-piece Hello Harvard begins working the crowd at the Horseshoe with some playful banter. Their sound is reminiscent of Weezer, Blink 182 and Green Day rolled into one. Lead singer/guitarist Bontempo spits out catchy lyrics and the dance floor fills. Hello Harvard are fully accessible to a wide demographic. The drummers swift back beats propel the songs forward. They’re a lot of fun and rock the stage with catchy riffs that make you move almost involuntarily. Hello Harvard intertwine elements of classic rock with modern punk. Their cover of Blink 182’s “All The Small Things” is met with excited recognition from the Horseshoe audience.
Bontempo gets the crowd clapping and screaming on command with the comical and playful antics of his bandmates as Hello Harvard closes out their high energy set.
Up next is five-piece band Rob Jankowski.
They kick off the set with a folk rock touch asking the crowd to play a match of human chess on the Horseshoe’s checkered dance floor. Jankowski is an animated frontman and the accompanying harmonies from lead guitarist Morgan really fill out their sound. Everyone in the bar gets involved with a game of sing song. “Hoo Hoo, Hoo, Hoo” the Owls are out in full force, transporting the audience to a 50s era sock hop. Further down the set list are soulful serenades that ignite a “huddle round the campfire” feel that’s reminiscent of the Tragically Hip, Jankowski thrashes around the stage providing an entertaining spectacle to accompany the music.
Jankowski is funny and knows how to engage the crowd, as they laugh and cheer between each installment. Rob Jankowski has a modest charisma that makes them impossible not to love.
After a short break four-piece Voodoo takes the stage.
Opening with a heavy hitting blues-funk riff, Rhodes player Karwat delivers a thoughtful spoken word about Bill withers. Voodoo. Got. Soul. Karwat’s deep rasp is conjured from the gut, transmits through the soul and fires out his mouth. There’s a reason they’ve headlined tonight, they are absolutely nasty. Voodoo is every bit as black magic as the name suggests. Their grooves are long and refreshing despite remaining in the same key. The jazz leaks through the speakers and forms a puddle of funk on the dance floor. Guitarist Piilonen’s tasteful riffs bob and weave within the rhythm and break wide open during the solos.
Karwat and bassist Griffith trade off leading the charge vocally. Griffith provides walking bass lines that strut beneath the groove with grace. They are tight, polished and not afraid to take chances, dropping ones like they’re hot. The members of Voodoo trade solos holding true to an experienced jam band. These men are musicians, they’ve honed their craft and were truly amazing to watch. Only a three song set but it felt like a journey through music. They close with a version of “No Diggity” by Blackstreet that is all their own. One can’t help feeling they’ve unearthed a diamond in the rough after witnessing Voodoo at the Horseshoe.
Have any of you witnessed any fantastic bands recently? If so, where can we find them?