Beats & Blues

Jaime Coyne

The Saturday Nite Music Series at the Barge Canal Coffee Company last week was a unique experience. While more often than not the musicians that visit the Barge play mainstream popular music, Saturday night’s band, the Gonstermachers, had an eclectic, bluesy sound. The four members of the band include bassist Richard Curry, harmonica player Curtis Waterman, drummer Hymie Witthoft and guitarist and cello player Leo Crandall. They also used some unconventional instruments from time to time, such as a morocco made out of mussels and a log used as a drum.

The band often used a three-part harmony, and a kind of call-and-response method which was also used between the harmonica and guitar. They all took turns being the “lead” vocalist, though Crandall may have sung lead slightly more. He always seemed very emotionally involved in the music he was singing, and had a voice similar to B. B. King.

The lyrics were very difficult to understand in their songs, often seeming a bit slurred, but it was crystal clear that their music was not about the words. Though many of the songs appeared to be originals, even songs that sounded familiar took on a complete life of their own. Waterman described it well after one song.

“You will find that song nowhere else,” Waterman said.

“We’re still looking for it up here,” Crandall retorted.

At first, the Gonstermachers’ music seemed to perfectly fit the coffeehouse atmosphere with its mellow blues sound wafting in the background. Over time, however, the room seemed to pulsate with the music as it became more upbeat than typical blues songs. People in the audience were dancing around, emphatically tapping their hands and feet, and nodding their heads along.

Some of their songs had huge build-ups, with crescendos reaching up and up and up. They often faded out of one song into the next, making it feel like nearly nonstop music. There was such an incredible energy in the Barge, that sitting down seemed absurd.

One might have regretted drinking coffee, because the combination of the caffeine and the music was an overwhelming adrenaline rush. It was clear in the band’s playing that they were caught up in the music, as well. Curry seemed to be having lots of fun the whole time, with a huge smile on his face. Also, the extensive harmonica solos seemed to come entirely from within.

The Gonstermachers may not play the type of music generally heard on the radio, but maybe it is best that way. Their music was truly an experience, and actually being there, feeling the Barge pulsate, made the experience.