Weekend In Review – Thursday 12/01/11 and Saturday 12/03/11 – Robert Meade w/Nathan Lynch; Mood Area 52 / Sam Hahn / the Craig Chee Band (Black Forest / Luckey’s)

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Eugene Band Reviews
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   Thursday’s show with Robert Meade and Nathan Lynch at The Black Forest was in celebration of and kick-off for their upcoming acoustic tour for the Sundance Film Festival.  Of course Rob was entirely unpredictable and amazing as always – managing to sound perfectly composed one second and exploding into manic super-guitarist/vocalist mode the next without blinking an eye.  Thank you for playing one of my faves, “On The Beach” (although I admit I don’t remember it being performed quite that energetically before!) – as I said, unpredictable!  When music becomes predictable we need to find another form of amusement I think…

      It was our first time to experience Nathan’s work and I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect (he has quite a bit to be compared to, playing and touring with Rob).  We settled in with his opening of “Infatuation” thinking, “yeah, nice guitar work there… and good vocals, a nice mix definitely…” and THEN he went into full-Nathan-mode (as I’ve learned is what he really is!), running vocals from one end of the spectrum of range and volume to the other with full theatrical presentation and amazing acoustic guitar riffs.  I understand he plays often with a bassist but as he and Rob will be touring as a solo acoustic show, I expect he was performing a solo show tonight for that reason.  In any event, not having a bassist accompany him tonight (understanding I haven’t seen/heard him play that so I don’t really have a good basis of comparison) did not detract from the effect he had on us, trust me!  If I say he’s a force to be reckoned with that would be an understatement…

We thoroughly enjoyed what we could catch of both these guys before we had to dash out (at midnight!) as it was a work weekday night (talk about a contradiction in terms!) and the TCC crew all have to get up at the crack of dawn (well, actually since the time change that would be about an hour BEFORE the crack of dawn in actuality) for their various day gig duties.  No pictures from this show I’m afraid, but we’ll plan for that absolutely the next time we catch them!


    Saturday at Luckey’s was a real surprise – the club started out relatively empty, but by the time the band had finished their first number the place was quickly become packed.  Fun to see Nathan Lynch (and Rob Meade a bit later) for hugs and hi/bye’s as well!

Mood Area 52 – Michael Roderick (front vox/guitar/accordian/trumpet/piano), Amy Danziger (cello), Billy Barnett (acoustic guitar), Jeremiah Harris (acoustic standing bass), and Tony Figoli (drums/percussion) 

Sometimes I do a lot of research on bands before I see them so I know what to expect, but I hadn’t had a chance to do that before encountering (no other way to say it) Mood Area 52.  As we watched them set up I thought, “ok, they look fun and interesting – kinda gypsy/folk -ish” … and while that is true to a certain extent, it is no more a complete description of this band than, say, calling the New York Philharmonic Orchestra a “nice string group.”  Their webpage uses the terms “instrumental tango, lounge, cabaret, and exotica” among others to describe their music, and those are equally flat, two-dimensional adjectives to paint this multi-dimensional group of extremely talented, theatrical, and charismatic musicians.

Starting with those who most often don’t get enough attention simply because they aren’t possibly as flamboyant as others, let’s take a look at Jeremiah Harris on standing acoustic bass.  His runs were simple, poignant currents that ran along and under all the pieces, giving a timeless clarity and evenness to what would otherwise be untethered flights of fancy.

Billy Barnett is superb on acoustic rhythm/lead guitar.  His chord work blends seamlessly with the rest of the group and you might miss his prowess completely until he breaks into a lead solo that sends notes flying and spinning in the most beautiful melodies.

Tony Figoli on drums makes a basic kit sound anything but basic, utilizing everything including the stands themselves for a repertoire of effects that were absolute perfection.  His timing was superb and the fact that he doesn’t always play with this group made all of that just that much more amazing.

 Most impressive was Amy Danziger on cello – a consummate virtuoso, blending classical bow cello with percussive plucking that continually caught you by surprise with the sheer beauty of her work.

Of course, the man who stole our hearts was front man/vocalist/accordianist/guitarist/pianist/trumpeter Michael Roderick.  An absolute dead-ringer for Johnny Depp, he comes across as very quiet and subdued… until he opens on vocals, running everything from a growling bass to a searing tenor in styles ranging from New Orleans’ jazz to old-school blues.  He is absolutely stunning on every instrument he plays, from guitar to accordian, and vintage instruments ranging from trumpet to what I can only describe as a toy piano.  Just amazing – he continually caught us off-guard and there was no way to not dance with this group!  I especially loved his mini-vignette intros for certain pieces.  One of the few times I thought a set was entirely too short – every song was its own separate entity.

I did get a chance to talk to Michael briefly after the set to confirm the folks who were at this performance – he gave me their website (http://www.rocketboyarts.com/mood_area_52) as well as a couple CD’s that he wouldn’t take any payment for (“I’d rather our music was out there being listened to!”) – thanks Michael, we are definitely doing that!!

They capture your attention and hold it hostage, playing it, stroking and teasing, building up until it erupts in this amazing wall of sound that envelopes you in the experience.  Jeanice and Rachel both agreed – Luckey’s is the perfect venue for this band, they completely fit in this club and their music makes you sincerely wish for the cigar smoke atmosphere of the past as you are transported back in time!


Sam Hahn (lead vox/guitar) with Zak Johnson on acoustic standing bass (thanks Fatty – ExiledInEugene – for providing Zak’s info!)

     This duo was just fun – Sam’s evocative lyrics, soulful vocals, and nice guitar work were perfection combined with Zak’s bass work.  Another duo who definitely have a bigger sound than what two people would expect to have.  Sam’s vocals remind me a bit of Donny Iris (and THAT dates me, right?!).  While I’m not sure this is an accurate portrayal, his lyrics do give a definite impression that Sam has a bit of unresolved history with the opposite sex but that may just be part of the fun – dunno!  All I know is we were continually laughing as he made us girls feel nearly insulted but coming just short of actually being offended.

   Equally amusing was a guest appearance by someone who tried to be incognito in a ninja-mask (I have to say, the ukulele was a dead giveaway tho!)  Craig Chee’s addition was a treat for sure…

The Craig Chee Band – Craig Chee (lead vox, ukulele), Sean Ponder / Joey Hepner / Theo Halpert

Nice energy and a well-balanced group of musicians.  We couldn’t stay for much of the first set but what we caught we thoroughly enjoyed.  It was obvious this band has a serious local following, as the club was packed to SRO for this CD release performance.  They have a beautiful big keyboard sound (reminiscent of Elton John), with nice vocals and a solid presentation.  And I have to say – I have never seen a ukulele rock with that much energy since Elvis!  I’m looking forward to seeing them again…



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  1. Fatty says:

    The gentleman playing upright bass for Sam Hahn is Zak Johnson, or The Dead Americans, et al.

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