PARKSIDE JONES with Bullfrog at Lee's Palace, November 30. Tickets: $12-$15. Attendance: 500. Rating: NNN
it's rare to find an opening band who actually set the vibe for the headliners. Too often the first act falls flat, playing to impatient fans who couldn't give a fuck about the openers' music. Sometimes, the openers blow the roof off the house and the headliners drop the ball for the rest of the show. Big up to the tour manager who arranged the marriage of Parkside Jones and Bullfrog. There were few dull moments in over three hours of non-stop body-rockin' tunes, from Kid Koala's pre-show turntable aerobics to the ecstatic percussion marathon at the show's end.
Koala killed time before Parkside Jones took the stage, upping the audience energy with his manual decks-terity. He unassumingly manned the wheels of steel, mixing Louis Armstrong with Nice & Smooth, old-school Tribe and Beasties with Sesame Street, until the cooler-than-thou college kids were intrigued enough to shut up and pay attention.
It was a smart move on Koala's part because the members of Parkside have positive energy and a good stage presence, but they're not dynamic enough to silence a crowd. That's a bit surprising, since the funk-rock foursome with a huge cult following in Montreal are polished performers.
Frontwoman Ryhna Thompson charmed with a dazzling smile and seemed super-concerned with the audience's welfare, checking in after every couple of songs and rewarding patient listeners with lollipops after a particularly long tuning interlude. She also wowed on the trumpet, and her band mates (guitarist Matthew Lederman, bassist Peter X and drummer Stefan Schneider) showed off impressive instrumental skills on songs that ranged from tight funk-soul jams to down tempo alterna-rock numbers.
Too bad their technical mastery doesn't extend to the vocals. Thompson's voice has a nasal edge that gets abrasive and though Lederman strains to sound soulful, he's no Al Green -- he's not even James Brown.
Koala and company kicked things up 100 notches when they took the stage. Even though they played pretty much the same set as they did at their early September Harbourfront show, Bullfrog's performance seemed fresh and inventive -- probably due to their improv aesthetic.
Maybe touring with Bullfrog will teach Parkside Jones the art of blowing minds at their live shows.