Right now, jam band ALO has reason to celebrate. Their latest album, Man of the World,
was released Tuesday and the group is gearing up to tour in support of it. As a bonus, the album was produced by laid-back granola-rocker Jack Johnson, who signed ALO to his Brushfire Records in 2007. Things are good. And to kick off their tour, the band signed on to play a free show at Fingerprints in Long Beach. Optimistic expectations of well-crafted and layered jams are tempered with a healthy dose of skepticism. While on record, they produce a Wilcoesque sound, in concert they may prove to be a little too geared toward the Hacky Sack crowd.
The Show: These four guys seemed like the most mellow people on the planet, and it was unclear if they were trying to put the audience to sleep, or cure their own insomnia. For nearly an hour, ALO produced low-key, groovy, warm, keyboard-helmed jam rock that called to mind the safety of the womb. It was, in a word, pedestrian. Between songs, they would banter with the crowd in muted tones reminiscent of the Saturday Night Live spoof of NPR announcers discussing sweaty balls with Alec Baldwin. The set opener, "Suspended," off their latest album, had the bad fortune of sounding like the song "Superman" from easy-rock outfit Five for Fighting.
Although each man from ALO tried his hand at lead vocals during the performance, it was keyboardist Zach Gill who led most of the charge and sounded like a cross between Richard Swift and Randy Newman (without the emotional gravitas of the former or the bellicose showmanship of the latter.) There were, thankfully, only two songs when the band cut loose and and wandered into extended jam territory. Guitarist Dan Lebowitz, armed with an acoustic hooked up to a Wah Wah pedal and fuzz, produced some fairly substantive leads that intertwined playfully with Gill's keyboard. Sadly, it was played-out jam rock schtick, and, in a word, tired.
The Crowd: Like the music, there was little that was noteworthy. Several parents were there with children--small children, some no more than a year old. For the most part, the music seemed to have little effect on those present aside from a few girls swaying to the sounds throughout the set. The energy in the room noticeably picked up during the set closer "Lady Loop" from 2007's Roses and Clover when most everyone broke into dance.
Overheard: "I'm going to try to go to as many Phish concerts as I can this year," said one female fan to a friend as she waited in line outside the venue.