I saw Brand X live a few hours ago

I saw Brand X live a few hours ago. Great jazz-fusion band from the 1970s, still playing like genius maniacs after all these years. Dropped $200 on tickets, dinner for me and my wife, and a Brand X cap. Worth. Every. Penny.

Yeah, they saved “Nuclear Burn” for the encore…only during the last regular number some idiot managed to spill water on Goodsall’s guitar pedals, making it unsafe for him to play. So that blistering guitar line that hypnotized me as a college student in 1976 had to be played by their current keyboardist, Scott Weinberger. And damned if he didn’t pull it off!

Brilliant performance all round. Lots of favorites, some new music including a track called “Violent But Fair” in which this band of arcane jazzmen demonstrated conclusively that they can out-metal any headbanger band on the planet when they have a mind to. And, of all things, a whimsical cover of Booker T and the MGs’ “Green Onions”.

The audience loved the band – nobody was there by accident, it was a houseful of serious prog and fusion fans like me. The band loved us right back, cracking jokes and goofing on stage and doing a meet-and-greet after the show.

I got to shake Goodsall’s hand and tell him that he had rocked my world when I first heard him play in ’76 and that it pleases me beyond all measure that 40 years later he’s still got it. You should have seen his smile.

Gonna wear that Brand X cap next time I go to the pistol range and watch for double-takes.

“Nuclear Burn” by Brand X

21 thoughts on “I saw Brand X live a few hours ago

  1. Just went on a YouTube “rabbit hole” listening to them. I’d never heard of them before, and I am loving that bassist!

    Honestly, they put me in mind of Weather Report + Dream Theater. (Meant as a compliment) They’ve got that fast, frenetic jazz feel with an amazing bassist, and their songs are pretty lengthy and don’t stick to the more common 3 or 4 motifs per piece.

    ++numFans;

    • >Honestly, they put me in mind of Weather Report + Dream Theater.

      Indeed and truly. It didn’t come home to me until I heard them live, but there’s some Frank Zappa influence as well – I’m thinking of the Hot Rats and Apostrophe albums.

      >and I am loving that bassist!

      Percy Jones is unique. Nobody else sounds anything like that, or has the nerve to play at his speed on a fretless.

      >++numFans;

      We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!

      I’m going to guess you might be a musician of some sort? Brand X has always been a musician’s band – I think their failure to gain a mass following might in part be due to most non-musicians having some trouble following those fast, twisty song structures. Even Weather Report made more concessions to its audience than these guys do.

      • > musician of some sort
        Trumpet player and sometime vocalist. Currently out of practice, but I still self-identify as one.

        Seriously considering picking up the the bass, which is why Mr. Jones stood out to me.

  2. Thanks for the tip! I’m just embarking on a journey into jazz myself. I don’t know enough about the domain to be able to usefully define things yet, but I do know I enjoy whatever Brand X is.

    • >I do know I enjoy whatever Brand X is.

      It’s usually called “jazz fusion” and considered a subgenre of jazz – though there are jazz purists who scorn it. Early experiments in the 1960s led to an explosion of high-quality work in the 1970s: artists and bands to look for include Billy Cobham, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock, Return to Forever, and Jean-Luc Ponty.

      The styles of these bands were quite divergent, incorporating various influences from the progressive rock of the period and spanning a range from intricate electric funk to neoclassical lyricism with amplifiers. A lot of prog-rock fans dug fusion as well, and vice-versa.

      After 1986 or so the fusion style almost disappeared. I’ve never quite understood why, unless it was as a simple as record labels discovering that they could sell more records if they pumped out acres of interchangeable, unchallenging smooth-jazz crap.

      However, Simon Phillips’s band Protocol carries on the tradition; see my post Finding jazz again for a review. Alas, they lost Andy Timmons; the bands’s most recent lineup is not so great.

      • Thanks – that makes sense. A colleague of mine recommended Weather Report and Return to Forever while I was starting out, and that – Jazz Fusion – seems to align with my current tastes. And then your earlier post (Finding jazz) added Simon Philips to the list.

        On my “list of things to buy when I’m next rich enough to drop a few grand on an instrument” is a Mollenhauer Elody ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TchTxoj5BU ); I suspect it might lend itself to this style of music, and I’m gradually limping along towards the kind of proficiency in the Alto that I think I’d need.

  3. What happened to Brands I through IX?

    (I’m mostly kidding, but equally there’s the Krautrock tradition of Bandname followed by Bandname II, etc…)

    • >What happened to Brands I through IX?

      Ah, you don’t know how Brand X was named.

      The band was in studio recording “Unorthodox Behaviour” before it had settled on a name. But there had to be some designator on the schedule for their session times, so a record-company functionary penciled them in as Brand X – the generic “other” brand compared unfavorably in one’s advertisements.

      The guys shared a distinctly quirky sense of humor – easily heard in their music. They decided to keep that name.

      • Is that sense of humour seen as typical of bands like theirs?

        I ask because it seems… hackerish. Perhaps it comes out in the music in a way that appeals to folks like ESR.

        • >Is that sense of humour seen as typical of bands like theirs?

          I wouldn’t say it’s typical, exactly, but…fans of this kind of music do consider it a plus.

      • Oh, I figured it was something like “generic music product” as a joke, though I didn’t know that story.

        (See my original parenthetical.)

    • It’s funny you should mention that, because there’s a Genesis tribute album that sports a lovely cover of “Can-Utility and the Coastliners” by a group named “Brand X II”. I have no idea who they were, and that appears to be the only thing they ever recorded.

      Edit: The Internet tells me they were Doug Lunn, John Goodsall, and Nick D’Virgilio, so it must have been a one-off project for the tribute album, like the version of “Siberian Khatru” for a similar Yes tribute album by “Stanley Snail”, which also included Nick D’Virgilio (who is my favorite rock drummer).

  4. This possibly an era where new listeners should be warned to “only play this song on a good stereo”, because it sucks to hear drums, bass and synths like this all tinny on a cell phone. After 2 minutes… I had to shut it off, walk back to the yurt, and plug it in to a stereo. And then melt (hot day) to hear it through twice in the sweet spot.

    How’d I miss this band? I listened to nearly all the bands you mentioned – and in particular think weather report’s “I sing the body electric” a masterpiece of the era….

    • It’s funny you should mention this. I’m listening to Hiromi right now on a shitty pair of Samsung earbuds, about to mail my Audio Technica pair back for warranty repair. It really does make a difference :-/

    • >How’d I miss this band?

      That’s an excellent question. I’d have expected you you to have been a fan from way back.

      Now go listen to Hiromi. You’ll be in awe of her talent. You’ll want to have sex with her, too, and anyone who doubts this has never seen the downright lustful way she plays a piano. Zounds…

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