Live review: Toleman Randall, Double Door Inn (2/7/2015)


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Toleman Randall, Grey Revell's Roman Candles
Double Door Inn
Feb. 7, 2015

Toleman Randall
  • Toleman Randall

“I seem to have a frog in my throat," Grant Funderburk, guitarist for Toleman Randall, told the Double Door crowd Saturday night. Despite his deadpan delivery, Funderburk seemed to be joking gently about his gruff, whispery, sandpaper smooth vocals.

Glancing at hand-written notes scrawled on a crumpled envelope at his feet, Funderburk launched into limpid pastoral chords backed by rolling breakers from Kyle Dussault Carinelli's liquid keys. The supple but crunchy rhythm section of bassist John Liccare and drummer Charlie Heard built up steam, like a semi-trailer shifting gears to top a rise in the road. The gathering thunderhead broke with sheets of searing psych-blues guitar runs from Funderburk.

All of this from a band flying without a setlist, electrically wired to Funderburk. The face-melting lava lamp fretwork created tension and contrast to Toleman Randall's clean, uncluttered arrangements, rootsy song structures and the grainy fog of Funderburk's insular vocals and impressionist wordplay.

On the cosmic cowboy lament "Dreamer," Funderburk whispered pointillist details under weeping guitar and cloudy organ, while his coruscating, crackling fretboard runs on "Gravity Brought us Together" channeled the acid-drenched blues licks of Pink Floyd's David Gilmore.

Though the audience hooted and hollered during Funderburk's out-of-body guitar excursions, Toleman Randall wasn't all about fretboard flash. Building on a descending doomy bass run and crackling slurry guitar, the band kicked out an electrified country reel on an untitled instrumental, and they balanced both roots and space rock with the unexpected Dire Straits cover "Wild West End." Spitting out sparks, lost in cosmic reverie, Toleman Randall kept one foot in hypnagogic trance and the other in shit-hot roots rockin'.

Opener Grey Revell introduced his combo as a "Doaist space blues band." Yet Revell's joking description only hinted at the instrumental and compositional firepower of his Roman Candles.

Launching into the brisk metaphysical art rocker "Blake," Revell's soaring, ebullient vocals wound around Matt Stache's sugar rush synths and pumping Fender Rhodes, Rodney Wallin's chunky bass and drummer Daniel Jackson's skittery beats.

Spending the past year writing and recording one song per month, the Candles have produced three sets of sparkling Happy Infinite EPs, in the process evolving into an inventive, hard-hitting combo. Saturday night, their sophisticated indie rock grab bag balanced post-modern dynamics, retro shadings of distorto cowboy guitar and hints of Procol Harum's classicist pop into brisk, tight-as-a-glove songs.

On "Red Cat", Revell's soulful singing counterpointed Wallin's bouncy bass in a tension-filled marriage of smooth pop and rock muscle. The coiled power of the rhythm section and Stache's lysergic keyboard washes powered "Alan Watts," a poppy paean to the British philosopher who popularized eastern thought for western minds. A whipcord entwining of bass, keys and drums set off Revell's jazzy vocals amid lashings of lonesome sagebrush guitar.

Quipping that he always thought of himself as "a cross between Desi Arnaz and Dennis Hopper," Revell set up the side-winding psychedelic samba "First Cuban Boy on the Sun." Stache's kaleidoscopic carnival keys and Revell's spaghetti noir guitar propelled the trancey Tropicalia tune.

Wallin and Jackson's galloping rhythms and Stache's swirling mad scientist organ kicked off "Color the Day," a rockin' Buddhist benediction that left the crowd applauding the set's stomping, beatific conclusion.

Rapturous and rattling, spacey and seismic, the Double Door's double bill neatly showcased two complimentary bands - crisp combos that confidently rode the cusp between roots music and excursions to the outer limits.

Saturday night, Toleman Randall and Grey Revell's Roman Candles demonstrated that experimental tuneful rock still burns brightly.


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