With the excitement of a grand reunion, the Ominous Seapods took the stage Friday night at the Cohoes Music Hall to play a show that will stand out from their 2,000-plus shows during the 1990s.
Unrehearsed for at least six years besides a quick fix for this gig — guitarist Dana Monteith lives in Australia — the five man group fit right into its old glove, nailing all the endless stops, starts and turns that are riddled throughout its songs.
Along with remembering all corners of the tunes — so many details in their song arrangements — their jams were fantastic. It’s a sharing band with big ears. More than most jam-bands, their jams rarely have a soloist out front. When best — which was often Friday night — they moved forward together, the two guitarists and bassist rising and falling one at a time like a weaving pattern, clearing a path for one another, while drummer Ted Marotta and keyboardist Brian Mangini served to anchor the sound.
They opened the show with “I Hope I Shall Arrive.” Fans were on their feet before the band came out, and danced through the entire concert. This tune had a funky Phish feel, as did many of Monteith’s tunes, which bounce nicely and set the stage for a few rounds of solos, or a straight run through to gear up for a more spacey number from Max Verna.
Verna’s tunes pulled the band back, let them fall into a pocket and explore a bit. Verna’s solos, which opened the door for the band to wander, were sketched with thin, clean single notes. Monteith liked to play off of him, while bassist Tom Pirozzi pushed them both with his constant rumbling from underneath. Pirozzi was the busiest and most aggressive, rarely holding down a bass line, instead getting into the rumble with the rest of them.
The group relished the buzz of the hall, the revelers and the band members seemingly one group of friends. At one point between songs, after Monteith spoke a bit to the audience, he realized the band members were busy talking amongst themselves, catching up on old stories. “We’re just hanging out,” he said to the audience. “But that’s ok, we’ve all earned it.”
Verna played a solo acoustic section, and then the band joined him for an acoustic jam through the jazzy “Guardian Angels,” with Pirozzi playing a cool stand-up bass for this.
Mangini is the quietest member of the band, and tends to move little physically when not soloing. His work is more felt than heard, his organ setting subtle tones and changing moods without notice. In his solos, he’d sustain a chord with his left hand over several bars at a time, giving the band a chance to climb together before he raised the stakes to a higher position on the scale. It was predictable, but it was very cool.
They balanced the night well, countering softer ones with uptempo tunes like “Branch’s House,” with the great line, “You always knew that she wouldn’t be the one who wouldn’t drag you down.” And there was fast tempo blue-grass type jams, along with tempo-less lyric-less moments as well.
The reunion did not only belong to the band, but also to their beloved fans, where the gathering was part of the fanfare. Fans traded endless Seapod stories: where they first saw the band, with who, and the calamity that often took place during the escapades of their more youthful concert days.
The energy was infectious Friday night. The band did not have to perform well and the night would have still been memorable. Fortunately, its members played at their A-level — at least six years wiser and more skilled than their last concert. Friday night was the first of the band’s two shows; Saturday night’s performance sold out.