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August 29, 2007

8/24: Greg Mayo & The Groove @ The Bitter End, NYC

Throughout this awesome stint as a wanna be music journalist (by far one of the best summer’s to date…thank you again Billboard), us bloggers have had the privilege of seeing (and hearing) some of the greatest live acts on today’s concert circuit. Wanting to hit up as many big names as possible, it’s easy to forget that some of the best live music is often that which is yet to be discovered by major record labels and concert promoters. Before my days of befriending security guards and unfairly weaseling my way in front of thousands of other screaming fans (being 5’ does have it’s advantages), my favorite Friday or Saturday nights were spent roaming (ok, stumbling) through NYC’s own Greenwich Village in search of some great live music. So, with no official Billboard assignment on the schedule for the week, I pouted long enough to convince my hubby (who’s been the ultimate co-concert trooper this summer) to go on a hunt for live music with me…after his rather sweaty softball game and before his post-game shower…like I said…trooper. As it's always bustling downtown on Friday night, we ventured back to Bleecker Street in the hopes of finding at least one blog-worthy band. Not so tough when you've got the Bitter End in your backyard! Oh how times have changed! Sipping Shiraz instead of guzzling G & T’s and replacing otherwise unmentioned hand held objects with pen and paper (gotta keep it clean for the ‘rents), we strategically positioned ourselves front and center in no other than “New York’s Oldest Rock Club”…The Bitter End www.bitterend.com. If it was good enough for the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Wonder (just to name a few), then it’s good enough for this Mobile Beat Blogger. If legends like that got started there, and now I’m reporting from there…hmmmmm…could this be the start of…ok, I digress (and clearly daydream). The Bitter End, with its intimate nightclub ambiance and red brick walls, is not only a NYC Landmark (literally…it earned the title on 7/23/92) but a cornerstone in the world of American music at large.

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We had no idea what type of music we were about to hear…not knowing a thing about any of the acts on the evening’s line up, it was a virtual crap shoot. The big man at the door said Greg Mayo & The Goove www.gregmayo.net were good…what other credentials does a band (or potential concert goer) need, really. Let me set the record straight by assuring you this is not a group of college buddies banging on drums and guitars straight out of a jam session in mom’s garage. With their front man and lead vocalist (obviously Greg Mayo) on keyboards, 2 sax men, a bassist and guitar player, a drummer and a hit-whatever-makes-noise percussionist spread out across the small stage, I could tell before they even started that these guys were no joke…legit musicians who were going to prove to be well-skilled and talented in their respective crafts. After hearing just the first song, “Ain’t it the Truth,” it was obvious that my friend at the door was on the money with his reco…and would have been justified in charging us way more than a mere $10 entry fee.

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Listed second on the night’s roster of about 5 acts definitely doesn’t leave time for a band to ease into their set…starting off slowly and escalating into an all out musical frenzy before departing. But obviously Greg Mayo & The Groove, playing the Bitter End at least once a month, don’t need me to tell them that. The band hit us right off the bat with an all instrumental song that saw alto sax and bass solos (c/o John Liotta and Chris Anderson) setting the mood for a funky, jazzy, soulful night of tunes.  This first number allowed each player to show off his stuff with brief solos, but kept bringing them all back together on what was a really catchy hook, proving not only their individual talents, but their tightness as a band as well.

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“Get it Going” introduced us to Greg Mayo’s smooth vocals and catchy lyrics, as well as to the harmonizing backup vocals of guitarist Erik White. It was pretty impossible not to bounce in our seats along to the beats…and not wish we knew the words to sing along. My “family and friends” envy kicked in (as usual) when I saw some lip syncers dancing on the side of the stage. Mayo definitely knows how to sprinkle his songs with the perfect amount catchy lyrics so as to generate enough pop appeal without sacrificing the band’s more jazz/soul foundation.

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“Still Going On” and “The Flow” proved, without a doubt, that the white man does have rhythm…or at least some of us do. Scanning the stage, I wouldn’t think that the tall, long-legged, four-eyed (I say that with the utmost endearment, as I think I’ve been sporting spectacles since birth) red head seated unassumingly in the back would be the funky one in the bunch…but alas, I sat at my table corrected, ashamed of my prejudgments and in awe of how many percussion instruments Ryan Vaughn could play at once. This guy totally funked up the back beat, whether it be by slamming on a slap box, shaking a tambourine, banging on a cowbell or doing all three at the same time! He was awesome!

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“Waiting for You” was a soulful, ballad-esque song that really let Greg Mayo show off his powerful, even and emotionally charged voice (he’s got the whole eyes squeezed shut during the belting out moments thing down pat). It was the first song of the night where I felt his lead vocals took center stage over the instruments…that is until White tore it up with a really bluesy guitar solo that perfectly complemented Mayo’s despondent lyrics about love.

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“Take Me Back” was placed perfectly in the set list. Not letting us lose too much steam from the previous slower tune (perhaps the only one of the night, actually), the band fully rocked out on this harder, more drum-driven number. Tons of jazz inspired solos from every player filled the song right up until the end when the guys once again finished it off on the same, solid note. If I had any gripe with the band, it would be that I wanted to see them go a little crazier with their jams. The guys’ talents weren’t in question…they were good…really good…and it was obvious they not only loved music, but loved to bring music to their listeners. But amid their smiles and jams, I was anxious to see and hear them loosen up a little, play out of the comfort zone of what seemed to be well-rehearsed improvs. In a nutshell, they were almost too good! Too tightly in sync with one another. I couldn’t help but think that maybe Greg Mayo & The Groove were getting too big for this famous yet familiar Bitter End stage and were in need of some more space and freedom to accomodate their huge sound and abilities.

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“I Don’t Know” was a really upbeat, well harmonized tune that definitely got me singing along to the catchy chorus by the end, not to mention clapping along to the beat with the rest of the newfound fans in the audience. “Inside Your Mind,” had a kind of New Orleans-y feel that really showcased the band’s soulful/bluesy side. Heavy on the keyboard, drums and saxes, it was hard to shake images of Maceo Parker or even Stevie Wonder. For a bunch of early 20 something guys clad in well-worn in jeans and T’s, they were (as my other frequent concert companion Yael so eloquently put it) “totally pulling off a funky/jazzy/r&b sound.” Mayo again proved to be a stellar and quite comfortable front man, singing rather than screaming his lyrics with just enough power to express himself not at the expense of the great musicians on stage with him.

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The guys brought up a guest sax man on “Follow” that got the room howling, and they finished their set with “Maybe” that gave a real feel for their sense of rhythm and over all musicianship. Every great band needs a signature cover, and Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” might just be it for Greg Mayo & The Groove. Not crossing the line over to a cheesy, karaoke rendition, the guys did a great job with funking up this classic. And it was very cool to hear a little more fire in Mayo’s voice as he belted out the vocals.

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Any GOOD band or musician sounds better live, right? So of course at the end of the night, impressed and completely pleased with what we just heard, we had to show our support and buy some $5 CDs. But, as we walked out, we laughed about how “so different” (otherwise read as:  worse) these “random” live bands can sound the next day when you listen to their studio cuts. Putting Greg Mayo & The Groove to the test, we popped their 5 track disc (extended play) into the CD changer for our drive home…and I haven’t taken it out yet.

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Comments

Ross

If you let me beatbox i might've made it into your blog (although you did give me a shout). Good tunes!

Reid E.

Way to seek out lesser known bands!

Amy

I agree, it can be worth seeking out the lesser known bands...

Amy

And no, I did not read Reid's post before I sent mine!

Randi

What a great review. Another band to add to my list

Jason

Can you burn me a copy of the CD?

Cuz

Haven't been to the Bitter End in years. Always love the live music there. Great review.

Cuz2B

I saw these guys two months ago...I think I told you about them. I have their CD too and it's great!

idnar nomis

Dam, I wish I met up with you Friday night. Would have been fun. Great review. I'll have to check them out next month when they make the rounds.

John

I was there, those guys are incredible! Good call.

ER

Never miss a GMATG show!

iZzY

I couldn't agree with you more! I have been listening to GMATG since '02 when I actually worked with Greg at a summer camp. I have never taken their cds out of my car since then and I don't plan on removing them any time soon. This is one band that captures jazz & funk with an upbeat tempo and keeps your feet tapping to the beat! I love them & I can't wait for Greg's performance at my wedding rehearsal dinner!

JR053NtHa1

awesome of you to seek out undiscovered music. do you know when/where these Mayo fellows will be playing next? i'll try to make it down...

Jim

I've been a fan since... 2001? 2002?
I know a lot of musicians... a lot of the people playing the village venues... and if there's one band I do my best to see, its GMATG. They make everybody dance and feel good! EVERYTIME!
I was at this show, and your review is spot on. Thanks!!

Big Jimpin'

I never miss a GMATG show. It's always a good time, and you can't help but dance and sing along. Next time hopefully they will do their cover of "Late in the Evening", they do it better than Paul Simon. Great review, I hope to see you at the next show. You signed up to be on their mailing list, right?

Reid E.

Sledgehammer encore. Awesome!

Celeste Armstrong

This looks like my kind of spot and my kind of band! Thats awesome! Great job again! So wish I could have hit up more shows with you this summer!!!

lauren Ainsworth

These guys are not too hard on the eyes either...

Jack L.

Mayo, the Bitter End -- music or food review?

tammie

You know I love anything at the Bitter End....

Megan Ross

I thought I had checked out all of your blogs, but somehow missed this one. Thank you for introducing me to yet another new band. What am I going to do when you're done with this???

margie v

That sounded like my kinda show.How 'bout sharing the CD with a colleague??

margie v

That sounded like my kinda show.How 'bout sharing the CD with a colleague??

Michael R

Well I'm happy to say I remember seeing Dylan, Joni and a few others there, many, many moons ago. And some bands that were great but vanished into the night. It's great seeing an act you didn't know about and having a great evening to boot.

MarianEve

What memories...Wonderful that you went "out of the box" for this review. It's count down and it's you all the way!

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