It was a mild February night, the kind of day when you know the whispers of spring are not old man winter’s lies any longer. Robins gather in groups and do their best to scrounge food and one starts to notice that the grass is starting to look green. Even with the knowledge that there’s still one more snowstorm that’s lurking around the corner, this day is so good you want to get out and listen to some great music with a roomful of strangers and friends.
For this night, I took in a wild performance at the Tin Pan by JD Simo, a large animated guitarist and vocalist joined by a rhythm section of drummer Adam Abrashoff and bass player Andraleia Bush. Abrashoff has long been associated with Simo, and despite the fact that Bush has only been with the group for about 20 shows, her bass playing was stellar and provided a great backdrop that allowed Simo’s guitar to soar.
The show started when Abrashoff walked onto the stage in camo pants and t-shirt looking like a punk rock Jesus, and immediately began creating a driving rhythm moving in and out of riffs, utilizing his kick drum, hi hat, cowbell (yes, more cowbell), his drums, cymbals, maracas, and whatever else he could hit that makes noise. While he was playing, Bush stepped up on the stage and began to add her bass. Bush was dressed in coverall shorts under a beautiful red jacket, and a black hat that matched her black choker. The choker had a crescent moon that was only slightly smaller than the real moon.
Did I mention that she plays bass like a demon? She’s got a strong grasp of the rhythm and supplied a bass line that was funky, soulful, and rocked for 90 straight minutes.
They were then joined by Simo himself wearing a long coat over an all black outfit and the trio launched into a 20-plus minute jam intro that electrified the small but appreciative audience. They received several ovations to celebrate some outstanding lead work by Simo and Abrashoff.
Both Simo and Abrashoff were very animated in their playing, each moving as the music moved them. Bush was still, the calming member of the group, conserving her energy and letting her bass take her share of the spotlight. In a discussion later with Bush, she did tell me that she is usually “all over the place” while playing, but tonight she was afraid that the jack to her amp would break if she moved too much.
Once the intro played out, Simo started calling songs and led off with a great version of Slim Harpo’s Got Love If You Want It complete with some sweet slide work. He followed up with a Magic Sam cover and right away the audience was under the band’s spell. At this point, it was obvious that Simo and Company appreciated the classic blues performers, but they were adding their own rock or even jazz touches to the songs.
They followed up with a couple of mellow songs in order to add contrast to their performance and that included an extended bass lead for Bush and drum solo for Abrashoff. After that, Simo stepped to the front and began to perform Sweet Little Angel without a microphone. He even broke a string at one point and had to spend a little time talking with the audience while he changed it to play the last song, With A Little Help From My Friends. Simo channeled Joe Cocker to deliver an outstanding version that caused several people to rise to their feet in a long ovation.
Weekday concerts are always a roll of the dice. Many people will hold off simply because they need to get up early for work or school. The audience at the Tin Pan this evening was small but mighty. Any people who were there who were not already fans of JD Simo became one that night. The group is a strong addition for blues rock fans, and an even stronger addition for those who like some psychedelic pyrotechnics in their music.
I will definitely keep them on my radar, and I think you should as well.
(All photos by Anita Schlank. Used by permission.)