The Few were busy last weekend, pulling back-to-back duty with a Friday night show at the Beachcomber and a Saturday night set at Harpers Ferry. Never one to miss out when they’re in town, I opted to catch the Allston show, where they filled in the opening slot for Aussie indie/punk outfit Children Collide. Saturday’s performance also marked the end of an era for the band, as this was founding member/vocalist/keyboardist extraordinaire Zeke Panitz’s final show before he relocates to Ireland.
Until recently, The Few gigged for years without a bass player, relying on the duo of Kevin McKenzie (guitar) and Panitz (keyboard) to flesh out the sound. The news of the latter’s impending departure however impelled the group to opt for a more traditional lineup, thus adding bassist Ryan Martin to their ranks. Now, as Martin’s upbeat rhythms rumble in behind Mckenzie’s dirty, bluesy riffing, it’s hard to believe that this low-end was ever missing from the band’s output. While Panitz’s skill as a songwriter and nimble-fingered pianist is no doubt irreplaceable, hearing The Few’s songs underscored by Martin’s bass only confirms that when it comes to rock, a solid bass line simply cannot be matched on the synth.
Joining the many paying tribute to Michael Jackson last weekend, The Few opened their set with a tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Beat It” before gliding into their familiar eclectic rock groove.
Saturday night’s performance was divided into two halves, opening the show sans keyboard, before Panitz joined in to close out their set. Over the first half, the band churned out a dirty guitar-driven, blues-inspired sound. During highlights “Wanna Get Down” and “Burnin’ Up,” drummer Shaemus Shepard banged out springy up-tempo rhythms, while McKenzie channeled his inner Hendrix, wailing filthy wah-heavy solos (those who have followed the band have gotten to witness the growth of McKenzie from a solid axeman into a guitar behemoth).
Throughout the night, couple Kevin McKenzie and Jaime Rioux (soon-to-be Jaime McKenzie) traded lead vocal duty, Mckenzie’s gritty bluesman baritone uplifted by his classically trained fiancé’s powerful and seductive voice. Rioux hit her stride with a crowd-pleasing cover of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart”; she is without a doubt the only performer I’ve seen pull off a worthy take on Joplin’s classic.
Closing the night with Panitz in a familiar place behind his shag-covered keyboard, The Few were opened up stylistically, his piano lines drawing their songs into jammier, poppier territory (yes, those are real words). Their first song together “Never Gonna Be the Same” seemed a fitting number for a band in transition.
Finally, bringing the set to its end, the band launched into their staple sing-along “Smokescreen.” Banging out piano and guitar chords in unison, before transitioning from the verse into the pleasingly infectious hook, The Few’s instrumentation coalesced into a warm blanket of sound, creating a feel-good buzz that would be the musical equivalent to topping off a good meal with a better stout. A satiating experience provided by a group quickly distinguishing itself as a premier act in a sea of bands.
Thanks to Seth C. Drury for the photos!