Harry & the Hitmen’s psychedelic Motown expands upon the classic sounds of yesteryear.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
“Money had never been the main thing for me,” Motown founder Berry Gordy once said. “It’s the legacy that was important.”
For nearly eight years, Santa Cruz’s Harry & the Hitmen – Ryan Morgan (vocals, tambourine, harmonica, trombone), Rolf Sandmeyer (vocals, guitar), Jesse Toews (bass), Scott Makson (vocals, keyboard, trumpet), Harrison Murphy (drums) and Nick Gyorkos (vocals, guitar, bass trombone, trumpet) – have been helping keep that soulful legacy alive, with a twist.
“When we first started playing we’d just jam, make experimental music, have fun and see how each person’s chemistry worked,” says drummer Harrison “Harry” Murphy. “When we started playing Motown we didn’t want to let go of that primal urge that we all had. We thought it would be really fun to put a twist on the soul music and use the songs as a platform or a backdrop for what we wanted to do in a deeper way, which was to make experimental psychedelic dance music.”
As that jam band sensibility intertwines with accessible Motor City classics like Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready” and The Four Tops’ “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” the result is highly infectious live shows that are known for extending beyond last call. This weekend, the sextet takes the stage at the Alternative Café on Friday and then Fernwood on Saturday.
Murphy says the shows are part of a string of performances leading up to New Year’s Eve at the Crepe Place in Santa Cruz, where the band will tackle its largest undertaking.
“This year we had the bright idea to play the whole Stax Revue concert from 1967 in Norway,” he says.
The legendary show featured everyone from Otis Redding to Booker T & the MGs. Harry & the Hitmen will recreate the entire show – while implementing its own vibe – down to a complete horn section.
“We stuck to who we were at Motown,” Gordy once proclaimed. “And the world came around.”
Murphy and his bandmates seem to be doing the same thing.
HARRY & THE HITMEN play 8:30pm Friday, Dec. 16, at the Alternative Cafe, 1230 Fremont Blvd., Seaside. $10. 583-0913. 9:30pm Saturday, Dec. 17, at Fernwood, 47200 Highway 1, Big Sur. Free. 667-2422.