By KEN MAIURI
Gazette Contributing Writer
From the new kids on the block to the New England band from another universe: the Chandler Travis Philharmonic swings in from the outer reaches (of Cape Cod) for a big show at the Iron Horse on Friday at 10 p.m.
The CTP is related to NRBQ not just in personnel (both bands share members with The Incredible Casuals, plus satellite member Keith Spring was in the ‘Q’s Whole Wheat Horns) but also in attitude: good music is good, so throw labels and categories out the window with a hearty heave-ho.
That leaves Travis and his band using the term “omnipop” to try and describe its indescribable sound; reviewers drop words like “cracked” and “skewed.” The nine-member Philharmonic plays a quirky smorgasbord of rock, blues, boogie-woogie, dixieland and some free-jazz zing here and there. Sort of like NRBQ crossed with a circus in the middle of a just-exploded thrift store. Expect a test-pattern rainbow of pajama robes, fez and other headgear, checks and stripes and leopard print and polka dots. One of the nine members is a “singing valet.” And holding it all together is the super-swinging backbeat of transgender drummer Rikki Bates.
“The Chandler Philharmonic Blows” is the group’s new record, another all-over-the-map affair, showing that under the loud-patterned mismatched clothes is pure, unadorned heart. The chorus to one affecting, bucolic, Kinks-ish song (co-written with David Greenberger) goes “We’ll grow old by not being lazy / our hearts will beat until they stop / bury us close but leave room at the top / for you and me, pushing up daisies.”
“Graciously” is another of the album’s highlights. Starting with a piano riff so classic you can’t believe it hasn’t been used before, the band members jive around until Travis sings “Soon there will be a chorus / so fine, you will adore us / graciously / then you all on the dance floor/ will get everything you came for / eventually” and the song breaks out into a Mardi Gras party of cacophonous horns, funky second-line drums and joyous backing vocals.
Even if you’ve never seen the band before, the wild carousing brass, ringing electric guitar, boisterous handclaps and whoops make it clear how amazing it must be to experience the band live. Friday is your chance! Don’t sleep on it. Or just wear your pajamas to the show. You’ll blend right in on the dance floor.
Opening the show is Northampton’s own Salvation Alley String Band, a sprawling band of a different sort, led by singer-songwriter Ryan Quinn and featuring pedal steel, mandolin and high lonesome harmonies from Brandee Simone.