Instrumental New Yorkers TAUK highlight Rams Head triple bill
Apr 09, 2015 02:46PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Instrumental rockers TAUK have found themselves a niche. The band has carved out consistent placements on summer music festival bills and club shows alongside bands whose songwriting and improvisational tendencies can take on an enjoyable albeit derivative bent. Intentionally or not, by positioning themselves amongst groups emblematic of the traditional “jam band” formula (bands pulling Americana influence from the Grateful Dead and funk feel from Phish), TAUK offers a respite from repetitive billings with their dark brand of reflective jazz-fusion.
So it was on Thursday, April 2nd, at Rams Head Live in Baltimore, with TAUK appearing after North Carolina groove-rock factory Big Something (whose set featured a superlative take on Lettuce’s “Blast Off”) and before hometown goof-funk favorites Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Though Pigeons Playing Ping Pong appeared as the bona fide headliner, delivering an enjoyable set of lighthearted dance-rock, the buffer created by TAUK’s deliberately edgy and contemplative music was arguably the most important component to the night’s overall flow.
Attacking some of the best tracks from their 2014 release Collisions (“Friction,” “Sweet Revenge,” “Mindshift,”) TAUK seemed particularly enthusiastic, which bassist Charlie Dolan confirmed when reached by phone the following day. “We had, like, a week off. We were all recharged and it was just good to be back on stage, playing together,” he said. Showing off an especially impressive energy reserve was Dolan’s rhythm section partner, drummer Isaac Teel. Teel’s emphatic gesturing, constant dancing and frenetic playing lend the band’s live show a spark, creating an angular and interesting backdrop for TAUK’s instrumental hooks. Without vocals, the band relies on soaring guitar and rearing synth-leads, seeking to create a cohesively melodic flow through each track. According to Dolan, finding the occasional song to cover which traditionally featuring vocals is a way for the band to illuminate their intentions. At Rams Head, TAUK unleashed a monster cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” which found most of the audience singing along at the top of their lungs. A recent addition to the band’s repertoire, Dolan says that the track achieves a seemingly difficult purpose in helping audiences understand how TAUK sidesteps the inclusion of vocals.
“I feel like when we play covers like [“In Bloom,”] it allows people to understand how we approach our own music. It’s very melodic. You can sing it in your head. So it’s important for us to do songs like that.”
With the aforementioned buffer created by offsetting styles, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong delivered in their first headlining bill at the Baltimore venue. Well-played versions of “F.U.” and “Poseidon” were particularly noteworthy within a set punctuated by collaborations. Sit-ins by TAUK keyboard player Alric “A.C.” Carter and hometown guitarist Cris Jacobs were exciting and welcome, while Danny Davis and Mario D’Ambrosio of local Beatles-reggae experiment Yellow Dubmarine leant some depth on trumpet and saxophone, respectively.