Live from the BASSment’s open mic sessions ignite enthusiasm in the local music scene.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
In a dimly lit, low-ceilinged space below hip gastropub Cannery Row Brewing Company, an expertly executed cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” takes a wonderfully unexpected turn into The Doors’ “Riders on the Storm.”
Following a little back-and-forth banter with onlookers, a quick drink or two and a strategy huddle, the makeshift band – including Dani Paige Band guitarist Jesse DeCarlo and young keytar phenom Erica Wobbles – follows with Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Booker T & the MGs “Hip Hugger” – an homage to the recently deceased Donald “Duck” Dunn – as a large screen loops nature videos and anime behind them.
This has become a common scene every other Tuesday night in the Cannery Row Brewing Company’s bottom floor since Live from the BASSment kicked off in January. And it’s obvious from the folks who have been gathering in the speakeasy-like spot – numbering at least 50 and as many as 100 – that the area has been hungry for something like this.
The four-hour open mic jam session – dubbed “an experiment of funk” – is the brainchild of DJ/rapper Hanif Wondir, drummer/promoter Brian Conway, Para La Gente guitarist Leon Gomez and DeCarlo, each of whom sits in regularly.
Here’s how it works: Anyone can sign up the night of or beforehand by leaving a name and instrument on Live from the BASSment’s Facebook page. Since space is sometimes limited, the organizers recommend the Facebook route. A drum kit, bass and guitar amps and a partial backline are provided (sometimes there’s also a spare guitar and keyboard on hand).
“It’s an opportunity for anyone who wants to play,” Wondir says. “It’s especially nice for people in bands who are sick of playing the same things all the time.”
The sessions are also opportunities for musicians to meet like-minded souls and, most importantly, a chance to experiment in a nonjudgmental environment. Last installment, a ragamuffin ensemble of about seven glided into an instrumental funk odyssey seasoned with p-funk and marinated in Edgar Winter Band keyboard psychedelia. BASSment regular Taylor Kropp provided Pat Metheny-scented guitar interludes and young keytarist Wobbles – sporting an androgynous hairdo that would make the Thompson Twins jealous – brought otherworldly dexterity on an instrument declared dead in the ’80s. Rory Glass and Conway welded it all together on bass and drums.
“I have goose bumps,” Wondir said after the 15-minute impromptu journey. “That was fantastic.”
Sometimes, it’s clear none of the performers know exactly where the music is going or when it will end, but that doesn’t seem to matter. And though some of the players have noticeably more talent than others – one dude’s voice was so painfully void of tone it sounded more like dying wolves than human song – no one really cares. The possibility for charismatic collaborations overcomes the hiccups in quality.
Live from the BASSment happens at 9pm Tuesday, May 29, at Cannery Row Brewing Company, 95 Prescott Ave., Monterey. Free. 643-2722.