Weather, Vibe and Love are key in PGroove’s Amberland weekend

Written by David Shehi / Photos by Lance Bryand & David Shehi

June 15, 2012

Memorial Day weekend means many things to many people. Within our nation, the day itself is of course known as the time when we officially honor the men and women of our armed services  that have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of honor, freedom and country. It is a day when we are to express our gratitude for these fallen heroes that have provided the most easily recognized examples of commitment to duty and the greatest love: where one lays down his or her life for another.

Over the years, and in accordance with what all holidays do, Memorial Day has come to be a day that people across the country choose to spend in a variety of ways. For some, it simply means an extra day home from work that should be capitalized upon for much needed relaxation. For others, it is all about spending time with family, close and/or extended. For fans of Perpetual Groove who choose to attend the band’s annual three day event, Amberland, it is a combination of both.

 

With humble beginnings in a backyard as a barbecue, the same spirit from “way back when” holds true to this day.  Consciously choosing to not dub Amberland as a “music festival,” but rather as an event that more resembles an “ice cream social,” Perpetual Groove set the tone for what they envisioned in their event from its inception and have held onto it tightly. At Amberland, whether it is your first or fifth, there are no strangers, only smiles. In contrast to large multiple stage gatherings where people can become little more than mere obstacles that dot your path from one place to the next, in Amberland people are exactly as they always should be — fellow travelers in this journey of life, brothers and sisters from the same Mother…Earth.  Perpetual Groove are what all have in common and it is their provision of the weekend’s soundtrack that serves as the proverbial tie that binds the family of friends together.

Amberland is not something that Perpetual Groove take lightly. It is the place that they know will be populated with only their most devout following. For this reason, they want it to be special — their way of saying “thanks” for the support throughout the year. For example, in 2007, the band opted to give Amberland attendees the first listen to studio release, Live Love Die, via a  silent headphone event. Similarly, in 2009, the band played Heal in its entirety, live. In between, there was the not so great news in 2008 that the event would be dubbed “The Last Robot Waltz” and see the departure of founding member, keyboardist Matt McDonald. Then there was 2012.

After three years that saw the uncanny and amazing abilities of John Hruby provide ivory-tickling services, founding member, Matt McDonald retook the position that Hruby (who was on the scene for the entire Amberland weekend) so ably held down.

Though a double-edged sword of sorts, as many came into the PGroove fold during the Hruby era, one cannot help but feel the adrenaline shot that has come as a result of McDonald’s return that came in late 2011. It is as though things are exactly the way they were meant to be, a refreshing feeling after a mid-2010 and early 2011 that gave the all but certain feeling that Perpetual Groove’s decade together would end in each member going his separate way.

From a personal viewpoint, Brock Butler (vocals, guitar) looks like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders and healthier, Adam Perry smiles much more and Albert Suttle (drums)… well he is Albert, the same anchor that he has always been. As for Doogal (Matt), his enthusiasm and and energy will definitely cost him a keyboard by the end of 2012. Musically, the cohesion is back in a way that does not call any era to mind — they are tighter than ever.

In 2010 after singularly providing the music since the beginning, the four lads of PGroove decided that it was time to bring in some hired hands, bands that they felt would fit  the Amberland mold. This year’s nod went to Heavy Pets and Moon Taxi, both of whom provided a sonically diverse and downright delicious extra layer to the Lafayette, GA baked cake.

 

As for PGroove, their six sets were precisely played with highlights including:

 

>  “Only Always” that was book-ended by seamless segues out of and into a guitar driven “Mr. Transistor”

>  The take on “Andromeda” was like a walk down the sweetest memory lane.

>  An encored “Green Light Go” bust-out  (LTP 4/25/08) with it’s constructed build, intermittent distorted electronic interspersion and subtle release was a perfect reminder of exactly what McDonald brings back into the fold (as though a reminder was really needed) and served as a foreshadowing of what is yet to come.

>  The monstrous, trance inducing and downright scary “Sundog > Orange Wedge” that was percussion driven to the point that no matter where Butler or McDonald went, they always had a place to call home. The jam possessed such fluidity. Oddly enough, the tune most likely would have never been played had Butler not lost his fully worn voice four songs earlier.

The only drawback was that the fully instrumental final portion of the set (sans “TTFPJ”) — that included this highlight — most likely caused the deviation from traditional Amberland numbers, “Walking in Place” and/or “Macumba.”

>  “My Favorite Color” proved that PGroove still has the complete ability to create beautiful music and that Butler can still write smart and insightful lyrics that take the listener to places that he might normally shy away from. Plus, he can sing them in a manner that all that can happen during the daytime.

 

With another Memorial Day weekend having come and gone, so too has another installment of Amberland. For some, it was their first trip to “McDonald’s” since his return. For others, it was their first trip yet. For the rest of us, it was just more confirmation that Perpetual Groove is heading in the direction that they deserve. As for the perps (fans of PGroove), things at Amberland had never been better. The weather was blissful, but above and beyond that, it was Cheers on Earth: where everybody knew your name, even if they actually didn’t.

Yes, the solidarity from the stage through the trees was as ever-present as it ever has been; and perhaps even more. As leaders of the pack, PGroove demonstrated that brotherhood doesn’t die any more than Goonies do. This was best evidenced by the interplay between Matt and Hruby, who played and hung together just as they did when Hruby’s project was Guest and his PGroove affiliation came courtesy of his membership in Brock and Adam side project, The Ruins. After all, this was Amberland. It’s collective vibe and environment was bigger than ego. It was a family affair, but above all, it actually was the tagline that it has proudly bore for many moons — Amberland: A State of Mind.

 

PGroove Setlists

(Scroll down to view more photos)

 

PGroove and Friends Superjam – May 25, 2012

 

I: Bobblehead Funk, Drink Then Fill, Pumped Up Kicks, Blues Jam, I Know What I Know, The Thrill Is Gone, Can You Get To That > Sober

 

Click HERE to download this set.

 

Perpetual Groove – May 26, 2012

 

I: Life > My Favorite Color+, La Casa Bien, Tu Sevun, 53 More Things to do in Zero Gravity, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, Perihelion, Sweet Oblivious Antidote, Crowded Tub, For Now Forget*#

II: A Day the Way, Violet Fang, Green Tea, TSMM, Cabulo Monstrosity > God’s Gonna Cut You Down > Cabulo Monstrosity, Fend for Your Life+, Robot Waltz, Pepper*#

III: At the Screen*^, Million Dollar Bill@ (Dawes), Mr. Transistor > Only Always > Mr. Transistor, Two Shores, Three Weeks, Teakwood Betz, Andromeda, Green Light Go

 

Notes: + First time played — * w/John Hruby (former PGroove keyboardist)- Keys — # w/Matt on Guitar — ^ w/Mark Montrella- Bass — @ Brock Butler solo

 

Click HERE to download these sets (courtesy of Joel Hudson/JamLive.org)

 

Perpetual Groove – May 27, 2012

 

I:  Astro Monkey, The Devil May Care, Luthien and Beren, Suburban Speedball, Breeze, Crockett and Tubbs, Out Here, Decepticon Structure

II: Space Oddity%, Speed Queen%, Cairo, Playground > Echo > Playground, Holy Ship, Lemurs

III: The March of Gibbles Army, Man With all the Answers, Carry Me Home$, Mayday, Space Paranoids, Niggaz in Paris*, MOTA, Sundog > Orange Wedge

Encore: TTFPJ&*%=, Occams Blazer > and Everything

 

Notes: * w/John Hruby — % w/Jim Wuest of the Heavy Pets- Keys — $Brock’s voice officially dies for weekend — & w/Jeff Lloyd of the Heavy Pets- Guitar — = w/Gary Paulo of Under the Porch- Sax

 

Click HERE to download  these sets (courtesy of Joel Hudson / JamLive.org

 

Click the thumbnail(s) for more photos from Amberland

by Lance Bryant & David Shehi