It’s hard to pinpoint what makes a MoGuitar show so successful. Is it all of the busy guitar techniques utilized by Gordy Pettipas? Is it his assertive vocalizing? Is it the flexibility and variety of grooves coming from the rhythm section of bassist Mike Berkowitz and drummer Garrett Cameron? The trio’s gig last Saturday night at DC’s Tavern in Hooksett, New Hampshire found them rocking the room with tremendous blues power.
Guest musician Aaron Botelho played second guitar for most of the first two sets and saxophonist Howie Frolin showed up for a few numbers. The occasion was Gordy Pettpas’s birthday, and the two additional players helped him celebrate it in style.
The MoGuitar Blues boys plus Botelho opened with the frisky guitar phrasing leading the other four through a feisty take on “Turn It On & Turn It Up.” The blues shuffle played underneath the guitars was strong enough to power a truck. The rhythm section’s pushy groove also powered up the funkier “Champagne Fantasy.” Pettipas traipsed over the beats and low ends with fierce guitar phrase while finessing the lead vocal, coasting over the cusps of the music.
After the first few numbers it was clear the audience was in for night of much better than average bar band music. Bulbous grooves were loaded with strength and nuance and numerous guitar techniques flew out of Pettipas’s fingertips to create hard charging blues. “High Heeled Sneakers” offered a lean, mean guitar phrase over a lilting groove. “Bewitched” had a raucous groove that knocked everything out of its path and over that Pettipas unleashed a wiry phrase that practically whistled through the room. “Natural Man” let Pettipas showcase his snappy guitar licks as he belted out his lead vocal with muscular authority.
MoGuitar played the lively “Caledonia” earlier in their show than most bands who prefer to use it nearer the end. This shows that MoGuitar plays with enough musical power to make any song a highlight at any point in their show. The rhythm boys flung the groove forward with ballsy momentum as Pettipas sang the sweet lines over his flinty guitar picking style. Mr. Pettipas got a fun call and response action going with their audience on “Blues Is All Right,” showing that MoGuitar is also a fun band to book into a room of fun loving local patrons.
“Hey Little Sister” is one that lured several onto the dance floor. Howie Frolin’s tender saxophone melody over a booming groove made all the difference. The band went into oldies rock and roll-blues hybrid “Rock This House” that became a riff-fest for each member during this party vibe number. Botelho whipped out a riff that had plenty of snap, crackle, and pop. His sharp, snappy line danced over the groove. The entire band’s precise sense of timing was a key ingredient in this swampy send up.
Pettipas delivered plenty of clever world play on “W.A.S.T.E.D.” as he made his way through a description of being like the title says. The band played even wilder on modern blues rocker “Right As Rain” before getting sweeter on the R&B-ish “Every Woman Needs To Be Loved,” a number with a bleating guitar line expressing tenderness. It was during the show’s half way moments when Berkowitz shined on his four string. His knobby notes and his tastefully restrained lines were full of twisty parts that allowed a glimpse into how he flavors up these numbers while moving each forward. Cameron too was more palpably heard here. A multitude of fills and skin smacks made each tune feel like there was something alive and rumbling beneath the surface. Like a kidnap victim gagged and tied up inside the trunk of a car shimmying around to be heard.
“Big Legged Woman” was another that benefited from the rhythm section’s talent, a pulsating groove that never quit. “Have Blues Will Travel” was a more complex affair, wavy guitar lines soaring over a hoofing groove. MoGuitar Blues Band let loose with some very recognizable tunes. “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Messin’ With The Kid,” “Phone Booth,” and “Love Me Tonight,” were all action packed and tight as a trio can be.
Flinty, speedy guitar riffs were on order for “I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled, and Crazy” and Pettipas put out even more wattage on “Skin Tight Fishnet Bodysuit, which was packed with punchy, snappy riffs beneath Botelho’s lead guitar phrase. A MoGuitar original, “Misery,” indicates this trio needs to get out of New Hampshire’s townie bar scene fast. Pettipas played on it his wildest guitar phrase of the evening. The rhythm section played their heftiest groove, showing their original to be better than their performances of their selection of great standards. Another original, “Groove Thing,” was loaded with hard hitting notes from each player, each of those little notes were ringing out with clarity and purpose.
MoGuitar showed a lot of power in a few slow boiler blues before putting their personal stamp on long play guitar classics like “Black Magic Woman,” Voodoo Chile,” and “All Along The Watchtower.” Sleek phrasing on the Santana classic felt like Pettipas was playing aerial over a wall of groove. He effortless captured the vitality of the Hendrix works too.
It all added up to a night of bolt action groove and fire when ready guitar action. MoGuitar blues needs to circulate more around the New England blues circuit. They express a massive amount of talent while showing respect to many nuggets out of the great American blues and rock songbook. It didn’t hurt that the tiled ceilings, carpeted floor, and direct layout of Hooksett, New Hampshire’s DC’s Tavern allowed the trio and guest players’ sound to travel smoothly and unimpeded from one end of the house to the other. (The food and service were good too).