Garage A Trois treated Chicago fans to a round of robust instrumental homebrew, spiked with harmonic chaos at the Double Door. Sonic visionaries Stanton Moore (drums), Skerik (saxophone), Mike Dillon (vibraphone/percussion) and Marco Benevento (keyboards) performed the ultimate after hour soundtrack to an exuberant, moderately sized, audience. Within their two hour set, the quartet toyed with the outer limits of jazz, funk, rock, hip hop, punk and heavy metal.
Chicago was the last stop on Garage A Trois’ latest tour and boy were they appreciated. It had been years since the all-star quartet last graced the city, practically imploring serious fans to combust in anticipation. The quartet took stage around 11 PM each sporting identical grey two-piece Puma jogging suits, bottomed off with red Puma kicks. Garage A Trois eased into set one with “Fragile”; the tune was paced surf rock spurred by a steady drive from Moore, a wailing top coat from Skerik and frequent dramatic builds.
Spliced in between the steadfast beat were slick improvisations culminating in full instrumental freak outs; from there the sound propelled into a realm of avant-garde jazz rock.
Moore laid down jazz scat voodoo on drums that possessed Skerik to twitch and assault the moment with mid-ranged staccato blurts on the sax. Dillon attacked his vibraphone with two mallets per hand creating rhythms of ominous reverb, while Benevento added the support of guitar and bass via keyboard pickups.
Eventually Dillon ditched his vibes for a set of Tablas and led the band astray on an expedition backed by Moore. Benevento chimed in with electrical charges insinuating a jungle space safari. Throughout the evening there was no telling what direction the ensemble would take. One moment their sound reflected Charles Mingus’ hard bop fusion in the unexplored realms of jazz, followed by a room of fun house mirrors ultimately smashed-up and stomped-on by driving metal beats the next.
Garage A Trois’ sound regularly shifted in shape and agility while carrying consistent color. They proved themselves a true collective with their ability to correlate free movement while journeying through an array of musical styles. This lack of restraint allowed them to present a plethora of authentic grooves mixed and matched with various beats and textures.
In the heat of the show the band collectively stripped out of their track jackets to reveal matching Garage A Trois t-shirts, followed by a stretch session. Skerik yelled “Bring out stretcher!” as each member proceeded to unwind and slip into an energized “Rescue Spreaders”. The collective continued onward with extended selections off their 2009 release Power Patriot. For the cloud gazing “Dory’s Day Out”, Skerik split his time between sax and vibes alongside Dillon. The tune carried a gentle pace infused with a double dose of vibes, creating a hollow round fit for daydreaming. Benevento supported the vibes with drawn out chords while Moore relayed a persistent high hat bellow.
By set two attendance oddly dwindled; perhaps some people just could not handle the truths of improvisational disarray. I felt the second set got a lot more edgy and progressive rock driven, with consistent punk undertones. There were also more strides towards hip hop or rap rock, with Dillon stepping up to the mic and laying down lines.
Set two provided many of the evening’s highlights including the Garage A Trois original “Fat Redneck Gangster”. Moor and Dillon collectively drove the tune’s pace with rhythms that reminded me of street drummers pounding on garbage cans. Benevento electrified the tune’s underbelly with a steady progression of synthesized bass, while Skerik personified with “Fat Redneck Gangster” via his sax, practically shit talking through his woodwind. During the band’s exorbitant cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, Skerik substituted voice for saxophone yet again. This time he replicated Robert Plant’s legendary shriek by penetrating high register roars through hard rock distortion. Garage A Trois ended their performance with the psychedelic techie experiment “Computer Science”.
Tight in execution, each musician shot toward the peripheries of sound holding no reservations. Even as they issued contorted discords, Garage A Trois still managed to sound melodic, leading me to believe that Moore, Benevento, Skerik and Dillon piloted the Double Door to Saturn and back.