Last night at The Vogue in Broad Ripple, Indianapolis The Main Squeeze once again put on a terrific performance. It’d been several years since I’d last seen them live at The Bluebird in Bloomington, just blocks away from Indiana University’s campus. I was expecting a similar experience: intense, funky, jam rock, soulful singing, and a masterful level of musicianship. What I got was all that and more.
Opening Act: Derick Howard
The Vogue was still mostly empty when I walked through the doors around 9:45 pm. Shortly after I grabbed a drink and found a seat, Derick Howard took the stage. He wore a flannel shirt, glasses, and had his hair tied back in a ponytail, and an acoustic guitar slung around his back. Howard launched into his first song by beatboxing “oh’s” and “ah’s,” which were looped, and served as his percussion. A guitar progression followed and was soon accompanied by a groovy bass line.
Derick Howard is a one-man jam band whose style ranges from funk to folk, and from reggae to rock. He creates his songs by looping percussive vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, and an electric drum pad. On top of it all, he adds a layer of vocals to create full songs with both a verse and chorus.
Aside from his unique style and approach to his live performances, however, Howard’s songs seem to lack in subtlety. Don’t get me wrong, the man is extremely talented and capable of playing in a wide variety of styles, but there were a few moments where it seemed like he was reaching. If I were him, I’d stay away from the layered vocal harmonies until after I took voice lessons.
As he moved through his set, however, Howard demonstrated increasingly more skill and depth. Most notably, what he brought to The Vogue was his charismatic personality, which seemed limitless throughout his entire performance. Equally impressive was his use of effects to add an extra layer to his stripped-down set. All things considered, Howard did what opening acts are supposed to do. He got the crowd warmed up, and excited for the real show to begin.
Before The Main Squeeze took the stage, I was able to get a few words in with keyboardist Ben “Smiley” Silverstein, and drummer Reuben Gingrich. By their admission, The Vogue was a “one-off” show, coming in at the tail-end of their Fall Tour, after which, the band would be heading back to their new home of Los Angeles. From what I gathered, the L.A. music scene differs from Indy’s in that it’s more studio-based, whereas, in Indianapolis, it’s all about the live shows.
When I asked Silverstein how the change affected their progression as a band, he said that The Main Squeeze was interested in making “timeless music that can resonate throughout the years,” and that their songwriting process had changed as a result of that.
Both Silverstein and Gingrich were glad to be back in Indianapolis, and a lot of old friends and smiling faces were there to greet them. At one point, Gingrich mentioned that “Every bass player that’s ever been on a Main Squeeze record is here tonight. That’s never happened before.”
The Main Squeeze
By the time The Main Squeeze took the stage, the crowd up front was packed in tighter than sardines in a can. Upon hearing the first plucked note of the guitar by Max Newman, the crowd launched into applause. The Main Squeeze had the crowd in the palm of their collective hand as soon as they started playing, and you couldn’t expect much less from these masters of building and releasing tension. The Main Squeeze is somehow able to strike a perfect balance in their songs between low tempo, soulful reprises, and the loud, bursting, climactic choruses.
A few songs into their set they played a cover of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Suck My Kiss.” It was a good choice, as The Main Squeeze showed just how much more energy they could put into an already high-energy song.
The highlight of their performance, in my opinion, however, was when they went into their song “I’ll Take Another (Gimme One More).” The chorus hit the crowd out of nowhere, and they immediately went ballistic for it. “I’ll Take Another” is The Main Squeeze at their best. The main groove sounds like a more funky Rage Against The Machine, and the transitions to the quieter sections blend seamlessly. Towards the middle of the song, they fell into a groove that became a Star Wars’ Theme interlude. That was by far my favorite addition to the studio version, and the crowd ate it up.
Once more, it was an enormous pleasure to see The Main Squeeze playing live again. If you weren’t lucky enough to see the show, be sure to catch them the next time they come to town. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.