Alex Fredkin, Staff Writer
Reminiscent of the Grateful Dead, the Heavy Pets turned the Oneonta Theatre into an all out jam session Thursday night. The Florida-based band consists of Jeff Lloyd (vocals/guitar), Mike Garulli (vocals/guitar), Jim Wuest (vocals/keyboards), Justin Carney (bass) and Jamie Newitt (drums). Formed in 2007, they are no rookies, having played at well-known festivals such as Bonnaroo and Gathering of the Vibes.
The Heavy Pets were preceded on stage by Oneonta’s own Chester, which is comprised of Oneonta students Taylor Frederick (guitar/vocals), Jon Patrizio (bass/vocals), Kevin Foran (drums) and Eric Luba (keyboards/vocals). Chester was a perfect complement to the Heavy Pets, as they played very similar music. Tasty bass lines were threaded throughout each piece while blues, funk and reggae emanated from the guitarist and keyboardist. Many songs evolved into atmospheric jams, while one song was totally improvised. The band played their popular song “Molly” which brought everyone to life and got their faithful fans to sing along.
After this fitting warm-up, the Heavy Pets combined blues and funk expertly as they turned every single song into a 10-minute (plus) improvisation. The audience was treated to some progressive elements as the band dabbled in odd time-signatured riffs. Never content to play a rigidly formatted song, every performance featured a few lines of vocals to prove that they did have rehearsed songs (in case anyone doubted them), and then the members quickly reverted to what they obviously enjoyed the most: jamming. All five guys going off at once might present a disaster for a less talented group, but the Heavy Pets’ members each added their own flavor to the recipe and produced a treat every time. Main vocalist and guitarist Jeff Lloyd’s flowing ginger mane conjured images of Shaun White flailing around, only with a guitar instead of a snowboard. Bassist Justin Carney contorted his face every which way during their set, clearly possessed by some sort of bass god. One keyboard was not enough for Wuest; he needed four separate instruments. Sometimes he played straight up organ funk while other times he used his effects to create a spacey mood as the lights dimmed down.
The audience for the band was mixed, with the more middle-aged crowd preferring to remain seated. The college kids were more apt to get up close and personal, filling up the standing room area between the seats and the stage. The Heavy Pets’ unique blend of jamming and laid back, relaxed music afforded many different forms of expression. Some audience members jumped around and rocked out while others swayed side to side and danced. Others brought lights and glow sticks to add extra color to the already well-lit stage.
The Heavy Pets provided a fun night for all. It was hard to tell who was enjoying the show more, the audience or the band. They were gracious enough to stop in Oneonta for the first time, smack dab in the middle of their “Swim Out Past the Sun” Spring Tour. If you didn’t see them in Oneonta, go catch a show in Ithaca or Syracuse next week! The show was a great time and the Heavy Pets are sure to be welcomed back whenever they decide to tour again.