February 9, 2009

Give Me That Sweet, That Funky Stuff

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All I wanted Saturday night was to get funked, and The Rozatones made sure that I did. With an energetic set that ranged from brass-balled bravado to Latin-laced electricity, their show at Castaways demonstrated once more why The Rozatones sit at the top of Ithaca’s funk-rock feeding chain, and just what it takes to get a mass of college-age bodies moving.
The night began with a set from Nat Osborn and The Free Radicals, a large and conspicuously all-male band that plays with reggae riffs and the odd hard rock motif. There were occasional highlights hidden among the Dispatch-derived vocal harmonies and off-beat guitar chords, but for the most part their sound featured nothing new for the roots-heavy Ithaca music scene.
At around 11 p.m. The Rozatones took the stage and jumped right into their signature groove. The highlight of the band’s live show is Revi Roza, the lead singer and guitarist who, with her red hair and sultry voice, brings to mind a Siren. Her lyrics and guitar-playing are the icing on a funky cake that is held together by the rhythm section of Miles Crettien on bass and Byard Duncan on drums. The tightness with which these two play is essential to the Rozatones’ sound: for all their scintillating soloing and musical virtuosity, the most compelling aspect of the bandmembers’ performances is the sharpness that holds them together.
The Rozatones have made significant strides since they formed nearly three years ago. Based at Ithaca College, the band has gradually honed a signature sound whose most obvious characteristic is pure musical skill. With one self-produced album, Tastes So Good, under their belt and another on the way, the band’s forte is nonetheless its live show. This became obvious to more than just the Ithaca musical community when The Rozatones performed on Good Morning America last August, in what was certainly a bigger moment of exposure than most student bands dream of.
The show on Saturday night was also significant, as it was The Rozatones’ first performance in Ithaca since October. Needless to say, the gathered masses were excited, and they weren’t disappointed. Seemingly indefatigable, the players wore out dancers even as they jumped from tune to tune. Their third number, “Make Me Happy,” made me dance like a madman, with trumpet player Mike Conerty’s inspiring on-stage moves — the fist pump, the run-in-place, etc. — significantly increasing the bar’s buzz. Two songs later, “Broken Focus” broke out into a Santana-inspired finale, Roza’s furious Latin solo playing off the brass of Conerty and saxophonist Sam Podell.
The highlight of the show came next, with a cover of Rick James’ “Give It to Me Baby.” Roza’s singing was supplemented by keyboardist Adam Gold’s low-growl intonations into the microphone and Conerty’s falsetto contributions to the chorus. Throughout, the vocals were enhanced by a significant helping of reverb, and the overall effect was one of funk-soaked glee.
The show ended with the Soulive-sounding “Stop Right Now” and an encore cover of RJD2’s “Ghost Writer.” Stepping out into to February Ithacan night, I felt exceptionally warm. Whether this was due to unusually temperate weather or the heat from the funk The Rozatones had just laid on me, I couldn’t tell. Still, I like to think it was the latter.
Check out The Rozatones and the their upcoming shows at http://www.myspace.com/therozatones.