On album debut gig, 2Adam12 gets reinforcements and spices it up
I went to a rock concert and a fiesta broke out.
Which was just about what I needed to salve my Patriots depression.
2Adam12 is a quartet, half from Lynn, half from Dartmouth, which produces the kind of music you’d expect if the Red Hot Chili Peppers took a long Caribbean vacation. Together since 2005, the quartet released its debut album last night with a show at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge.
Set times were pushed back to accommodate those glued to their TVs for the Patriots’ playoff game, and the band managed to nearly fill the small room with about 100 enthusiastic fans.
2Adam12 – the name was concocted from the fact that the group includes a pair of Adams, with just a passing reference to the old TV cop show – was expanded to a sextet last night. Percussionist Yahuba added plenty of spice with congas, bongos and especially with steel drums, while Eli Winderman provided keyboard textures.
The core group includes singer/songwriter Adam Payne, who plays acoustic guitar; lead guitarist Adam Dehner; bassist Mik Mersha; and drummer Mark Purrington. The group began when Payne and Dehner jammed together at a Jamaica Plain nightspot.
Payne, who has a graduate degree in industrial psychology and teaches management at Bentley College by day, has been writing and performing his own songs in the Boston area for several years. He released a solo album, ”Just Me,” in 2006.
The band has mostly played Boston, Cambridge and North Shore clubs, with nary a show south of the city, a situation they hope to change soon.
Last night’s showcase gig caught fire with the easy groove of ”Passive Aggression,” a polyrhythmic feast that featured tempo shifts and neat interplay between Payne’s acoustic and Dehner’s electric guitar. The Caribbean rhythms and Yahuba’s intoxicating steel drums made ”Give It” a delightful bit of fun with an underlying reggae foundation.
That contrast between the two guitars was particularly effective on ”Ride,” on which Payne’s delicate acoustic lines were followed by Dehner’s fast-paced funk-rock chords, making terrific use of the wah-wah pedal. The way Payne barked out the lyrics here could be compared to hip-hop, yet the tune ended in blazing guitar solos.
If all that cross-genre mixing sounds confusing, in actuality 2Adam12 brings the same kind of expertise to their music as the Neville Brothers. Which is to say, everything is focused around the groove, which is the paramount ingredient that makes all the other elements work, no matter how disparate they may appear to be.
”Totally Hands-Free Man” is an homage to the band’s manager, and again Payne’s singsong delivery makes it seem like hip-hop, but with tasty funk guitar shadings from Dehner. The panoply of styles and rhythms in ”Stagnant” belied its title, as surging organ and guitar lines atop what seemed like an army of percussionists turned it into a tour de force.
2Adam12’s final song was more in the classic soul-rock vein, with Payne’s vocal on ”I Will Wait for You” reminiscent of Jeffrey Gaines. But then Yahuba’s steel drums turned it into a chugging locomotive of rhythm and an accelerated guitar coda found Payne, Dehner and Mersha all doing an impromptu unison pogo dance.
The new album, called simply ”2Adam12,” features all those songs and more, with spotless production and a guest spot from the Boston Horns on one song, too. It can be ordered through the band’s Web site, 2adam12.com.