Wednesday night, the power trio of funk, fire, and infamy Garage A Trois made the Aggie Theatre their first stop in Colorado and played to a crowd that were more than happy to step out for a night on the town midweek. For this trio of talent, Fort Collins would be the jumping off point for four straight nights split between FOCO, Denver, and Boulder and as anyone familiar with the group that tours so sporadically, having the potential to catch them this many nights in a row in such a small radius truly is a treat.
Taking the stage in matching jumpsuits adorned with tigers, toucans, and trees, the band opened the show with “Nothing But Trouble”, a bluesy jazz tune with plenty of punch. Skerik got first dibs at the solo and TORE IT UP! Thrusting and bobbing, this cat grabbed everyone’s attention and the room ponied right up for what he was selling. Charlie Hunter took the second slot and showed his agility and ridiculousness, managing both the bass line as well improvising over the top with a guitar lead, all produced from his eight-string wonder-strument. Stanton kept everyone in line and on time and even got a short solo before the other two jumped back in on the head.
“Cool Whip” got everyone moving in a dizzying tizzy. The upbeat funk got people moving and once the groove was established, Skerik hit them with a shredding solo, cutting fat lines and tweaking in the offbeat. Hunter flexed his wah, and twisted faces, both his own and the crowds, and once again proved his ability to get nasty. Moore showed off his prowess at the build, swelling and commanding of time itself.
At the close of the tune, with unfettered enthusiasm, Skerik proclaimed,”We just went back in the studio and that was a new song we made. We just made it for you Fort Collins! The first time we ever played it! Oh my God!!!”
Following an excited applause, Skerik introduced the band and kept the set rolling with the spacey and appropriately named “Wizard Sleeve”, a Charlie Hunter original off of his 2007 Mystico album. Although the original version is more upbeat, the delivery here was much truer to the magic of the title, filled with echoing sax, moaning, stretched, and slowed down while Hunter rode the bass and Moore hung back in the pocket.
The band lit up “Calm Down Cologne” and shifted the space entirely from the ethereal to the thunderous. This title track from their latest release, was packed with enough punch to intoxicate everyone in the room.
Chester Thompson’s “PowerHouse” returned the party to a groovy strut. Skerik took the room to the old school, Hunter got nimble to the nth degree, and Moore continued his role as the gelling goo holding it all together. The majority of attendees hung off every run, lick, and turn, and called out for more all the way through to the end. Skerik also turned to his effects, pulling the context from organic, to the celestial, and back again.
Continuing the covers, “Ramblin’” by Ornette Coleman was pulled as the next card and opened with a call and response between Hunter and Skerik while Moore filled the space between with tom rolls and cymbal stirrings. At the stop of the soupy opener, the major construct of the tune got going and continued the evening’s agility exercise. These three amigos laid this one with an incessant drive that showed the best of each of themselves and their commitment to the muse. This again was another take on the old school and would have drawn even the most pretentious of jazz aficionados into the GAT fold.
For the next three slots, the band pulled a trio of tunes from their 2003 Emphasizer album. At the trifecta onset-a, Skerik cried out, “Play the Nola!”, as the band plunged head first into “Plena for my Grundle”. This tune is sexy, spicey, and full of soul salsa. A few measures in and everyone in the room felt a bit suaver and slinkier and those who had come together got a little closer. Hunter led first and alternated seamlessly between the sensual guitar and the visceral bass. Like an old familiar flame, Skerik eventually stood in the spotlight and laid it out smooth and silky, filling the room with his own bit of the sultry while laying some skronk to it all and making it oh so tasty.
Keeping with the slick lick and following Skerik’s call out “C’mon Stanton, give it to them!” the band continued with “Gat Swamba”, and this one too like its predecessor, had sex appeal oozing out of every note. Hunter’s effect sounded more like atmospheric organ than guitar and Skerik’s hypnotic approach mesmerized the reptilian brain of the bystanders. Stanton shook out an incredible display mid-song and showed he and his instruments are as much about melody and intonation as his counterparts are.
“Sprung Monkey” made three and kept the funky monkey in all of us grooving and getting down. Hunter’s tremolo distortion and performance in and around the time of the song alongside his ear-to-ear grin showed everyone he was having as much fun as the rest of us dancing our asses off. Midway through, Skerik got down on his wah, hunched over under yellow and red lights and ripped a growling solo that realigned chakras and lifted the spirit.
“Serpico Waltz'' was a solid shredder with a reserved middle that served as a platform for some great original structures and another great Stanton Moore drum solo. The waltz moved directly into an unsettling end that felt like a whole different tune. The band played on it for only a few measures before coming to a dead stop, which added to the enigma of the section.
The band picked the groove up again and gave a lengthy upbeat intro to a bluesy cover of Little Milton’s “If Walls Could Talk”. Sung by Hunter and soul stirred by Skerik, this piece of music showed the talent of Hunter as a singer and simultaneous instrumentalist. Charlie gave out some significant scatting over the top of guitar phrasings to match, driving the intimate surroundings wild, and causing Skerik to note at the end, “Charlie Hunter everyone, playing three instruments!”
The Stanton Moore original “Tchfunkta” from his 1998 album All Kooked Out was the next selection and was played out in true Nawlins funk fashion. The sax shone bright on this one and Stanton stirred the soup so deliciously, everyone was asking for more. Moore also had a big breakdown in the middle, armed with a drumstick in one hand and tambourine in the other, he used the two accouterments to run circles all over that Gretsch kit and did it in such a way one had to question if that might have been the way drums were supposed to be played instead of with two sticks.
For the encore, the band did Chester Thompson justice once again with a cover of “Etienne”. The mellow groove was a slow burner and gave the band a last chance to dig in deep to more notes than one could count, but coalesce in a final big finish, before letting the ending play out in a quieter blues form, sending everyone off into the night with a smile and a giggle in their step.
There is no misspelling or miscommunication in the language of this three-headed creature. The joy in their musical execution goes hand and hand with the obvious jubilation they experience getting off together as well as with anyone who is in any room anywhere. It is apparent that they do what they do as much for themselves as those listening and would do it even if no one else was around. For this writer, this was my first time witnessing the GAT and all I can say is “Damn! What have so many been missing out on?” The live performance was well worth the price of admission and the vibe is nothing short of uplifting so if this trio of musical madmen of mayhem comes anywhere near, regardless of what day of the week it is, run don’t walk, and get tickets for you and five of your closest friends as none will regret spending their Tuesday getting the inspirational refill this band delivers.