Garage A Trois brought hippies and funk royalty alike out of Atlanta’s woodwork to the Five Spot, where the muggy sweet-heat of May wasn’t enough to melt the cool vibes and frosty sax flowing from the stage. Cold beverage of choice in hand, the crowd braced themselves for a night of wicked instrumental jazz. Garage A Trois delivered, and the Five Spot, beloved Five Points dive, positively buzzed with the intensity of four very talented, very deranged men.
Bug-eyed, tongues whipping around, the guys of Garage A Trois seem to be a visual representation of their newest album, Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil. The New Orleans-based band formed in 1999 during Mardi Gras, and is made up of Mike Dillon (vibes/percussion), Skerik (tenor saxophone), Stanton Moore (drums), and Marco Benevento (keys). Each band member comes from a different part of the country (Texas, Seattle, New Orleans, and Brooklyn, respectively), bringing their unique superpowers to this true collaboration of masters. Each member had impressive credits to their name before Garage A Trois, including the likes of Chris Wood (Medeski Martin and Wood), Eric Krasno (Soulive) and Roger Waters (Pink Floyd). Dillon, Skerik and Moore are all original members. Benevento replaced Charlie Hunter in 2007.
The show was also the release party for the new album. The band wore matching grey jumpsuits and red Puma sneakers, and the guys promptly removed their jackets to reveal tees showing off the cover art for Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil, a crudely drawn, cute yet demented smiley face with fangs dripping blood. It was obvious from the beginning this was not a normal jazz band. Thanks to lots of creative effects one can only assume are magic, Skerik’s thunderous sax shredded the still air like a guitar, and Dillon’s vibes sang like a synth. As if this scene, what with the eye popping and lip-smacking, weren’t enough Skerik opens the proverbial can of worms: in a room full of imbibers practically living off of taco bell fourth meals and blunt wraps, he asks the crowd “Hey, is Adult Swim not located right here in Atlanta?”
The crowd went insane. “Marc, let’s do one for Tim and Eric,” Skerik yells, speaking of the epically famous Adult Swim show Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job, which has a massive cult following of its own. The band shouted out Adult Swim references as it played, all to the amusement and laughter of the crowd.
Garage A Trois are not easy to describe. Sometimes punk, sometimes jazz, sometimes psych rock, the band bridges a lot of gaps in between many musical genres, and therefore has a diverse following. Across the bar from this writer sat Alvetta Newby-Jones and Solomon Wright of Cherry Royale, a talented soul/psychedelic funk group that opened for Soulive a few weeks before. That’s the thing with the jazz scene- everyone knows and plays with everyone else. Though their style is somewhat different from that of Garage A Trois, they were definitely feeling the vibes that night, and let it be known with their applause.
One of the highlights of the evening was Shooting Breaks, which featured lots of Moore’s pounding, almost tribal drums, and a resonating melody which is passed from instrument to instrument. Like a theme song for a dastardly villain, the song rang on and on, sometimes distorted and grumbly, other times pure and piercing. Benevento’s keys seemed to roll and trill against the growling of Skerik’s sax, and Dillon, who is so talented he can bend down to fine tune something and still play blind with one hand, switched back and forth from vibraphone to bongos and back again without even breaking a sweat. Well, maybe breaking a sweat, but to be fair everyone was in the sauna box that is the Five Spot.Shooting Breaks by Garage A Trois
At the end of the show everyone poured into the street dripping, stinking and ears vibrating. Just like after watching an episode of Tim and Eric, many left with a big smile that said I don’t know what the fuck that was, but it was AWESOME. Hopefully Garage A Trois will keep finding ways to confuse and amuse its fans for another ten years.
Garage A Trois’ new album Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil is out now, and they have several shows scheduled for the east coast this month, specifically in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York. Check here for a show near you.
By Nicole Banister
Skerik referencing the Tim and Eric show: