Jim Speece, Reading Eagle Weekend
There is a Big Beat Tornado warning, as a new band is wreaking funkadelic havoc.
Groovopolis, here we come!
Big Beat Tornado's new CD, being released Friday night at the Brass Lantern, takes listeners on a funky road trip.
By Jim Speese
Reading Eagle Correspondent
Funk ain't dead in the new century — at least not in Berks County. There is a Big Beat Tornado warning, as a new band is wreaking funkadelic havoc.
Big Beat Tornado releases its debut CD Friday night at 9 with a celebration at the Brass Lantern, 12th and Pike streets.
The album is called "Groovopolis," and it, indeed, invites the listener to a different city — a city where everything moves to a funky rhythm.
The band has already been garnering praise in Berks, especially from fellow players who appreciate the musicianship of BBT. Indeed, it's quite the conglomeration of talented musicians.
The band features the talents of Brad Bansner on guitar and keyboards; Mike Williams on tenor and soprano sax; DJ Meeshu on turntables, analog synth, beat boxes and everything else; Christopher Layser on bass; Rick Tomlinson on drums; and Angela Ezell and Sue Groove on vocals.
This last is intriguing.
Rarely does a band feature one exceptionally talented female singer, yet BBT boasts two. And each adds to the other, switching from lead to backup to harmony with ease and a sense of egolessness. Each seems to try to find ways for the other to shine vocally (and lyrically).
Layser, who'd been with Ezell in another band — Frozen Poet — back in the day, commented on how these two work together.
"The material's all written in the same way," he said, talking about how the band writes songs. "Before rehearsal we just jam. Sometimes it's something we like; sometimes we throw it away. Then the girls split it up and write the lyrics."
The band is relatively young, but in a way, has been around for a while.
"We started talking about doing it a long time ago," noted Layser, "But it was only when Sue (the last to join) came on that it was complete."
The idea of Big Beat Tornado was percolating in Layser's mind for a while, though.
"I knew exactly the instrumental lineup for this band — exactly what I wanted," he said.
This knowledge grew from his frustration with earlier projects.
"I've always tried incorporating funky bass lines into non-funk bands," he explained. "To be able to do it with a funk band is a nice switch."
"I don't know anyone doing stuff like this on a local level," he said, then added with a laugh, "or even a national one!"
And that's true. The best thing (and there are many good things) that can be said about Big Beat Tornado is that they are unique. What they do is incorporate funk into their jams, but not the funk of the '70s — rather it's a funk style that fits right in with the music of the oughts.
The only thing that seems close is Beck.
BBT seems to grab onto that groove and just let it take them somewhere — "Groovopolis," apparently — and then pull the audience along with them. The band is all about that ride, that trip. Songs are important, but an afterthought. It's where the songs go that matters.
And it's all for the sake of having a blast.
"We're just trying to put out a really fun album," Layser said. "I hope we did it."
Well, to answer his question, they did.
The album reflects the band's live show — a show that's energetic, eclectic and fun.
Or, as Layser put it: "Imagine if George Clinton were two young white girls. That's big Beat Tornado."
For more information on Big Beat Tornado or their CD "Groovopolis," check out the band's website at www.bigbeattornado.com.
Columnist Jim Speese is a member of the local band Cloud Party. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.