An annual event each year, Robin Soares’s birthday bash has become a day long, multi-band affair . Soares is the lead singer of Rhode Islands’ premiere cover band 5 Flavor Discount. Soares turned last Sunday’s event into a combo of her B-Day celebration and her engagement to her guitarist Jonathan Hathaway. A bikini contest usually happens midway through the lineup of bands and this year was no exception.
The swinging shindig took place at The Beach House in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, a wide, sprawling music room with two bars and a fairly low ceiling that keeps the sound nice and tight.
Big Cat Blues opened the show but I missed their set because I was stupid enough to rely on Mapquest to find something two states away. Yet, everybody I asked said Big Cat Strut put on a good set.
Second band Rhode Island Rocks played feisty versions of Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever,” Aero smith’s “Seasons Of Wither,” and the Judas Priest classic “Breakin’ The Law.” R.I.R. also rocked out on a high energy version of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” that grabbed the attention of all in the room.
Sinister Minstrel came on third and rocked the room with their edgy, quirky originals. The leader of this four piece plays a Zachary guitar that sounds, at times, like an electric mandolin, if there even is such an instrument, and it gave these songs a truly original, accessible sound. Their tune “Picking My Nose” was great for comic relief in the middle of the high intensity songs called “The Execution” and “Cry Of The Valley.” Sinister Minstrel have a lot of English renaissance and baroque influences mixed in with their classic rock approach. Their final song, “Mamushka” had an almost polka beat with hard rock rhythms and pristine guitar phrases playing over it. Again, Sinister Minstrel is truly original and truly talented. Look for these boys to pick up a lot of gigs in rooms that cater to originals.
5 Flavor Discount kept their set short to allow their friends to play longer. Still, 5 Flavor Discount did offer up a tasty serving of their talents. They opened their set with a powerhouse take on Sly And The Family Stone’s “Higher.” Guitarist Jon Hathaway, new bass player Bobby Healey, and singer Robin Soares shared the vocal duties on it, giving the song a hip conversation feeling as they traded lyrics. Old favorite “I’ll Take You There” gave 5FD a chance to show their indelible rhythmic shifts that they always pull off well, and, Living Color’s 1990s classic “Cult Of Personality” came off like a combo of hard rock and funk, thanks to the movable beat provided by drummer Angela DeFazio. The foursome closed their set with another Sly Stone number, “Thank You,” and Healey, although he’s the new bassist, showed that he already had it in the pocket with DeFazio.
A bikini contest held in between sets turned out to be the nonevent of the day. Only three women participated, not to mention two male audience members who also stripped down to their skivvies. It just wasn’t as much fun as a longer contest with more participants would have been. What made it ridiculous is the number of women in the room who were obviously wearing swimsuits under their summer clothes who didn’t want to be bothered. Whatever happened to the community spirit?
The much vaunted tribute band Gilmour’s Breakfast came on and performed a smoking, perfect set of songs from one of England’s biggest super groups, Pink Floyd. They tore into “Young Lust” from The Wall, pulling the crowd into the sound of Pink Floyd live. Organ swirls and a thumping rhythm section made it all sound more hard rock, but hey, it’s live. Lead and harmony vocals were all perfect and the lead guitar and the rhythm guitar switched gracefully from whistling lead phrases to crunchy power chords. “In The Flesh” came alive, powered by every instrument in the band, with a great huge sound that only a room like The Beach House could handle. The lead singer was nicely understated and the vocal harmonies were sweet and chilling at the same time. A rollicking bass line moved “Happiest Days Of Our Live/Another Brick In The Wall Part II” at a brisk, rock and roll pace. Gilmour’s Breakfast have got this all down to a science. A bass solo and a drum solo were nice touches, and, Robin Soares, guesting on “Any Color You Like” was a real highlight.
Rhode Island’s new Led Zeppelin tribute band Custard Pie opened solidly with “Good Times Bad Times” and got even better on “The Lemon Song,” in which bursts of lead guitar magic from Jon Hathaway and tremendous vocalizing from singer Mark J. Moretti made the song wildly entertaining. They handled “Black Dog” and its cool stop and start vocal parts with crack timing, and they tackled “Four Sticks” with a majestic rolling drum beat. At times their drummer reminded more of a Phil Collins style, but that huge drum sound worked in The Beach House’s wide open area. Custard Pie reached even greater heights with “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “Ten Years After,” “Dazed And Confused,” and, most impressively, “No Quarter.”
Half-Star Hotel closed out the night with a solid set of well chosen covers. “Bitch” from The Rolling Stones, Aero smith’s “Last Child,” and The Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down” gave this band a chance to strut their hard rock stuff, and a thick wall of sound from guitarist Ed Jamieson made their music come alive.