Words by Jeff Milo. I’ve been made a believer by bands like Act Casual. Bands towards west of Detroit, like Desmond Jones, Chirp, and Stormy Chromer, have each been reeling me further past my staid indie-rock threshold and into the realms of jam…
When I say “jam-band,” do stigmatized, long-established acts like Phish or Humphrey’s McGee come to mind? That ain’t the case with the charming, little renaissance in jam-band culture I’ve been hearing over the last two years. What distinguishes the aforementioned Michigan bands, and particularly, Act Casual is a deep connection to the dance-able fundamentals of funk. They take inherently rhythmic arrangements and spill in a bit of surfy psychedelic rock with vocal styles, slithering coolly between an R&B croon and a bluesy growl.
Act Casual diverts from the typical preconception of jamming, (or “fusion”), that of a noodly band getting entranced in their own sonic spell and being lost in the moment; this quintet is supremely in the groove—to where you, dear listener, never lose your own grip even if a time signature swerves. The delightfully titled, “Hillbilly Disco” does albeit, glide into a more detached and jazzy bridge, but you are soon whipped back into action by this stellar guitar hook and uptempo drum’s kicking four-on-the-floor rhythmic patterns that bookend the song. I also have to pin upon the tones they find to spill into their musical mixer; I can’t place it if it’s just slick, radiant, or flavorful- but maybe it’s just in the energetic playing of the instrumentalists. It keeps coming back to energy.
If we could drop names to whet your appetites, it would be the fiery conjurers of New Orleans funk and electric blues, like Robert Randolph, or maybe other soul/funk-jammers like Curtis Harding and Tedeschi Trucks. But Act Casual are less on the fusion tip, to my ears, and more inclined towards exploring the most interesting boundaries of funk, specifically, and intent on crafting some really indelible hooks and arranging them perfectly throughout each tune, whether it’s the possibly more palatable 4-minute trips or the more expansive 8-minute odysseys. It’s almost like blues rock if it was kicking with the energy of a brass band.
I’ll leave it at that. Bands like Act Casual can redefine the “jam” genre for you; rebuild it…they have the technology. They can make it better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster… At least that’s what I believe, now. Listen to the entire EP release here.
Act Casual EP Release Party
Fri., Dec 1st
Simons After Dark
Doors at 8pm, $7
4936 Allen Rd., Allen Park