"We're gonna get some bluegrass particles flyin' around here," said Vince Herman as he took the Newby's stage with the Wayword Sons in Memphis.
The Wayword Sons with Vince Herman/Particle
words/photos by Josh Mintz
Herman and the Sons were on the bill with Particle, a line-up straight out of the Bill Graham book of concerts. Graham got a kick out of pairing acts that really had no business playing together, and more often than not, it made for a memorable evening of great music. Things were no different on this night in the Bluff City.
Galloway is a prominent songwriter, and Herman fit in nicely with the Sons. Herman mixed his own humor in with Galloway's solid lyrics and the band was a great, if not unlikely opening act. They certainly got a few perplexed stares from the Particle fans, who were there for an entirely different kind of music. However, by the end of the Wayword Sons' set, most of the packed house was dancing along. Herman even worked lyrics about Gus's, the best fried chicken joint in Memphis, into a song during their set.
Particle has had its share of changes of late. In the span of a year, Particle has had three guitarists on its stage. Charlie Hitchcock was "removed" in October of '05, and the band became a quintet, with both Scott Metzger and Ben Combe on guitar. Then, this past July, Metzger understandably left the group for family reasons. Despite the consistent change on guitar over the past year, Particle has persevered and is still on top of its game. While that game may have changed just a bit, it's still a great one to watch.
For several years, the guitar was a prominent feature in Particle's sound, as Hitchcock's precise fretwork was often at the forefront of songs. With the personnel changes that have been made, the sound has been partially changed as well. While Combe certainly adds colorful touches and tastefully worked solos, he really did not take center stage as much as Hitchcock did. However, keyboard player Steve Molitz has clearly stepped up his game. His hands danced across his keys the entire set just as much as he danced between them, a man in constant motion whose smile illustrates the fact that he quite obviously loves what he does. He was consistently stellar throughout the night, as was drummer Darren Pujalet, who kept a thumping, powerful beat that propelled the band through its set.
The band hit the ground running as Pujalet pounded the opening notes of "Denmark," and Combe promptly joined in with on-time licks. "other Desert Cities" charged along, driven by Eric Gould's pulsing bass intertwining with Combe's Paul Reed Smith hollow body to create an entrancing sound. During the song, everyone but Molitz left the stage; he stayed behind and showed his verasatility with a keyboard solo which was at times delicate, at the other end of the spectrum from the rest of the set.
"Ed & Molly" was solid as ever with its opening tribal beats, and they closed the set with a raunchy "The American Dream" before coming out for a "Kneeknocker" encore.
Particle is a band clearly firing on all cylinders. They had the crowd moving from the start of the set to the finish. Their music is often called "space porn," and by the end of the night, the whole crowd had been thrust into a sweaty orgy of solid, solid music.