The Fall Risk: a big band with a nice nineties throwback sound
Living in the Bay Area since 1971, I sometimes get the blank stare from other locals. I don’t want to listen to Grateful Dead wannabes or guitarists who sound as if they’re on a liquid IV drip with Garcia riffs being infused into their bloodstream; I want musicians with their own material, their own style, their own sound. Something about that makes people uneasy. There are days when hearing someone demanding that a live band “play more Jerry tunes!” makes yelling “Go hit the Internet Music Archive, there are thousands of Jerry tunes up there, and they’re actually played and sung by Jerry. Win-win!” impossible to resist.
I saw Fall Risk at the Ashkenaz in Berkeley recently, and really liked what I heard. The eight-piece combo, fronted by Jeff Pehrson, has two keyboard players and two lead guitarists. I’m particularly impressed with Philip Savell’s lead chops, and Rich Goldstein’s slide work is stellar. As lead singer with Further, Pehrson’s got plenty of cred with the Deadhead diehards. But this is no Dead cover band, and none of the string players are into doing Jerryoke. In a two-hour set, they played over twenty songs; I think four were covers. Yay! Originality!
Listening to some of Pehrson’s songs specifically, I was taken back to what I liked best about music in the 1990s. We were coming off the eighties, that horrible decade of popsynth, whining vocals, no guitars, drum machines. Riding to the rescue were bands like the Gin Blossoms, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Blues Traveller and the best of the best, Barenaked Ladies: a lot of mid to uptempo material, superb harmonies because they understood the importance of a good lyric and vocal, and somehow managing to keep any lushness to an easily integrated level. Like them, The Fall Risk is a big band that sounds tight yet full.
A high point for me came during the second set. Keyboard player Matt Twain has a monster of a song, called “Lemonade” (editorial note: this is actually a Jeff Pehrson original, not to be confused with Cisco Adler’s song of the same name). The band uses it as a vehicle for a gorgeous, deeply exploratory jam, every instrument getting its turn to speak and move the next instrument into place. It was intense, edgy, visceral. Really good stuff.
If The Fall Risk is playing within reach, I highly recommend going to seee them. Just don’t expect a watered-down Deadgasm. These guys don’t do that.
You can find out more about The Fall Risk and check out their music at their website: http://thefallrisk.com/