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Indie Rock Profiles: Woodfish (New Jersey Quintet)

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It has been my pleasure to become well acquainted with a group of musicians from the New Jersey shore for the past several years. Hailing from Red Bank, NJ, the band Woodfish is comprised of two brothers, bassist Steve Kalorin and drummer Dominic Kalorin, Don Honeycutt on saxophone, John Samuel on guitar and Luke De La Parra, vocals; up front and center.

Upon first meeting, I was asked to listen to them play and in all honesty after hearing bands perform several times as a talent agent, I was not overly excited to go and frankly not expecting anything spectacular.

Having come from a background in music, as a classically trained violinist and drummer, I not only hear every note, chord, riff, pick up, break, beat and tone, just the slightest aberration will send me running out of a venue after the first three chords. I can also tell if what I am about to see has good stage presence and a good stage vibe and has a hooked out, marketable talent. Woodfish has all that and more.

When I walked into a small venue in Belmar, NJ, to hear Woodfish perform for the first time, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Not the typical rock band, this was a super funk, jive, jam, jazzy party band with a wailing sax player. I wasn’t sure if it was a Red Hot Chili Peppers revival or a seasoned and funky NYC jazz band with a ragtag bunch of guys in flannel shirts and torn jeans. I was about to have my socks rocked.

Woodfish (in concert)

Woodfish is led by Steve Kalorin who plays the bass like nothing I have ever heard. And, he writes the material. Trying to put him into an appropriate group of contemporaries, my best guess is he is the newest version of Flea or a reincarnated version of Jaco Pastorious.

Steve is to the bass what Eddie Van Halen is to the guitar. Not only is Steve an accomplished bassist, he puts on a stage show (sans clothing, unlike Flea), in which he slaps the bass with a beer bottle hitting all the thick, hard driving, bending bass lines and melodic chords without a hiccup. It is truly something that needs to be seen as well as heard.

As one might expect, you will also hear some very funky jive riffs a la Bootsy Collins of the Parliament-Funkadelic. Steve has won the Best Musician Award several times at the Asbury Park Music Awards annually held at the infamous Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ where I have had the honor of attending on a few occasions.

Rounding out the band is Domenic Kalorin, Steve’s brother on drums. Together they produce a sound and resonance, heavy bottom end and a driving force that is highly unusual in any of today’s indie rock bands. With an unusual mixture of the sounds of Stuart Copeland of The Police and Buddy Rich, plus the precision of Neil Peart of Rush, Dom’s drumming is imbedded into his soul and you may wonder if he is ever absent from his kit. When I listen to the Pennsylvania band Live’s song, “Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe,” I am always reminded of Dom playing drums. The lyrics, “My brother kicked his feet to sleep,” must have been Dom as a child.

Luke de la Parra is up front as vocalist and brings a swarthy, gritty Joe Cocker-style of bluesy vocals to the band. Don Honeycutt playing sax brings an eclectic, jazzy, NY retro sound reminiscent of Stan Getz. John Samuel’s adds guitar leads and rhythm on cue and perfectly orchestrated to fully compliment this bass driven quintet.

On their first CD release, Bamm Didley and their newest CD release, Starlight Remedy, Woodfish manages to blend effortlessly sounds like surfer music icon Dick Dale and funk icon Bootsy Collins along with killer ripping Flea-esque bass lines. The vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Darius Rucker and always gritty like Joe Cocker, but newer and more rocked out like perhaps Scott Stapp of Creed. There’s ’70’s style guitar riffs like Bachman Turner Overdrive and newer alternative rock with Stan Getz styled sax overtures lilting throughout.

Overall, I would say Woodfish is virtually impossible to define musically. They have created their own music genre and the only way to understand their sound is to hear them live and experience the deep, eclectic mélange of their vast musical repertoire with decisively rock and roll roots.

Woodfish is a very talented and hard working group of musicians and it is my honor to profile them. And I must say, being backstage with them when they opened for Foghat at the Blender Theatre in NYC was a pure treat and one of the best times of my life as well as an incredible show.

You can check out its current tour schedule and download Woodfish tunes at woodfishmusic.com.

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