August 28, 2009
BY JASON SONGE
I'm not sure if I've ever seen Alex McMurray so animated. At his CD release party for "How To Be a Cannonball" at d.b.a. Friday night, the less-than-bubbly and hard-to-impress McMurray shook off his low-key demeanor during his band's more raucous songs. He seemed pushed to new heights by drummer/vocalist Carlo Nuccio and keyboardist/accordionist Bob Andrews, who provided a solid foundation lined with sharp edges. I could certainly see their spontaneous flourishes sparking a brain fever in McMurray. I know it happened in me. The danger element was elevated because of so much push and pull in the music, and as a result, the music rocked hard. McMurray was possessed by the spirit, disjointedly jumping to and fro while burning off impressive solos. Like he couldn't get it out fast enough, never play fast enough.
The older crowd left over from Ingrid Lucia's happy hour set tried in vain to dance to some of the mid-tempo numbers, which were just as likely to change direction, tempo, and mood. They were stubborn about dancing, as if they wouldn't know how to enjoy the music any other way. This was annoying to me and I'm sure a couple other people the dancers bumped into on their way to drunk heaven.
A highlight of the first set was the album's title track, a delightful tale about apprenticing at the circus. At the end of the song, Nuccio played a snare roll that recalled the same sound you hear before a human cannonball is launched. When Nuccio stopped the roll by hitting his snare hard, he made a rainbow motion over his head with his right hand. Besides the great music, quirky moments like these were a reason why McMurray's band was so fun to watch. Each member looked like he was having a grand ole time, but Nuccio was the main jokester, sending seat-of-his-pants, "yeah, i just did that" smiles to bassist/vocalist Joe Cabral during songs and cracking jokes on the mic between them. A second highlight was "The Woman I Love," which featured all three vocalists. Even though a new song, the crowd took to it well. It built and built into a fraternal euphoria, a chant of stubborness that the audience took on.
Cabral is an excellent player, but he seemed out of place, less than confident, and less than a presence on this night. He was laying back when he should have pounding. Matt Perrine works better in that spot.