Dave SinClaiR Matthews
There has always been something strangely anticlimactic about the Dave Matthews Band. The musicianship is clearly stellar, the vocals fine, and the melodies memorable enough, and yet there has always been something missing. For some, this lack can be attributed to a seeming aversion of musical intensity. The music is executed brilliantly, but instrumental brilliance can go only so far before falling into a well of emotional bankruptcy.
Enter Sacramento’s SinClaiR, a three-piece band that shares much of Matthews’ groove-based jam and that also suffers from some of Matthews’ problems. SinClaiR’s show last Friday night at Marilyn’s began as a marvelous tribute to the free-spirited play of jam-based music and then drifted, slowly, into mediocrity.
The show’s opening numbers immediately underscored what sets SinClaiR apart from other Dave Matthews Band-influenced acts: the band’s rhythms, which tend to be Latin- and reggae-influenced, and the adventuresome quality of the musical textures the band offers. At best, these textures coalesced into something that seemed influenced simultaneously by Jack Johnson, the Dave Matthews Band and Rush.
Unfortunately, the initial spark of interest elicited began to fade after about half an hour. Part of this can be blamed on the visual presentation of the band itself. The group’s brilliant drummer, Jesse Olswang, was the only member of the band who seemed at all interested in the proceedings. Frontman Justin Ancheta and bassist Eric Alonzo both looked bored and slightly out of place. This is a huge issue for a groove-based dance band like SinClaiR. If the band looks bored, then what incentive does the audience have to boogie? This was made even more of a problem Friday night; just as SinClaiR had half the room dancing, the band left the stage so that Ancheta could play a quiet solo number. The show seemed to grind suddenly to a halt, and the audience sat down and never got up again.
Ancheta, in particular, will need to work hard at becoming a leader if SinClaiR is to succeed. As lead singer and guitarist, Ancheta is who the audience should be focused on, and, unfortunately, he does not yet have the stage presence necessary to hold the audience’s attention for long. The relationship should work like a fortune-cookie proverb: The dancing must start on the stage; only then can it trickle back into the audience. This level of onstage boredom also hugely affected the quality of the songs, by sapping them of all but the most obvious emotional overtones and cheapening them.
These issues are, of course, surmountable, which is good news because SinClaiR is technically a very good band. It has solid control over its instruments and, even though the sound mix at Marilyn’s was a bit muddy, the guitar and bass playing seemed to be a rhythmically perfect accompaniment to Olswang’s groove-heavy drum work. Covers of Bob Marley and Sublime helped energized the audience, and the original material worked toward the strengths of the band very well, allowing band members to lay in the pocket. This, under the right circumstances, can get the hips swaying and the feet moving every time.