For something like half a decade, this group of Portland musicians has come together at Mardi Gras, heating up the cold Maine winter, just before lent. Formed from a dozen or so local bands like Sly Chi, Model Airplane, The Fogcutters and Micromasse, they represent the best players in Maine. They cover a wide range of Crescent City styles, from blues to funk to R&B.
I got dragged to one of their warmup shows a few weeks back at the Portland House of Music. Honestly, I didn’t feel like going out. It was a cold night, it was late and it was Tuesday. Not an inviting combination. But I’m sure glad I gave in to my friend Jeff’s pleadings.
“Just for one beer,” he said.
I don’t remember the beer, but I remember head spinning when the horn section kicked in behind Lex Jones’ spirited vocals on the old chestnut “You Rascal, You.”
Jones jokingly calls himself Portland’s third-worst bluesman. He’s anything but — trust me. He puts a theatrical spin on the traditional numbers and plays lyrical lines on his slide guitar when other bluesmen might descend into just noise with a big, 10-piece band behind them.
The horn section — Jamie Colpoys on trombone, Emma Stanley on trumpet and Lucas Desmond on alto sax — is top notch and obviously having a blast on stage. They have the right combination of precise timing and languid phrasing. They seem to revel in call-and-response singing, too.
Pete Dugas and Frank Hopkins faced each other across the stage, both playing keyboards. You’d expect that to end in disaster but they stayed out of the other’s way all night, their fingers dancing.
The heart of the group is Max Cantlin on guitar, Adam Frederick on bass (and funky vocals) and Dan Boyden on drums. A tighter core you won’t find.
So, what I’m trying to say is: snow be damned. Get out to the Portland House of Music this Fat Tuesday and hear this band. On Wednesday, they will disappear for another year.
The Fat Tuesdays band plays at 9 p.m. at the Portland House of Music on Tuesday night, Feb. 9 at 9 p.m. Doors open at 8 and there is a $5 cover charge.