Photos by Kelsey Winterkorn
Summing up ALO in one word, one simple but definitive word, would undoubtedly be FUN. ALO is currently touring on the heels of their latest release, Man of the World, produced by Jack Johnson, which was just released eleven days before Saturday’s nights show.
With such a headliner, you need an equally playful opener and that’s what we were treated to, with the up tempo jam-grass band Poor Man’s Whiskey. They came out playing super-charged bluegrass and country. Heavy on the strings with banjo, mandolin and acoustic guitar, the rhythm section is made up of a freestanding bassist and drummer. Their sound is contagiously happy and addictive. Their performance etiquette is even more compelling, as they grabbed the audiences attention, playing games on stage with each other, getting the crowd involved and all the while kept the songs flowing and the jamming consistent. The antics of mandolin player Jason Beard are not to be missed and Poor Man’s Whiskey is a must see act.
After PMW, the crowd was pumped and ready for ALO. The quartet has a way of creating easily received pop songs that can be open up a bit in the live setting and tonight they showcased this ability. Of particular note are the keyboard skills of Zach Gill and the intricate syncopated drumming of Dave Brogan. Gill showed how he can carry an entire song as he did with the title track off ALO’s new album, “Man of the World.” Gill was out front with simple and catchy, yet repetitive piano strokes. It was a great way to introduce new material to the Bay Area Faithful. “Man of the World” was well-placed between two other Gill songs, from his solo catalogue, “BBQ” and “Don’t Touch My Stuff.” The latter, a reggae-flavored number, light and yes of course fun, featured the soft and deliberate vocals of Gill, with supportive harmonies from ALO guitarist Lebo. Backed by a solid rhythm section, Steve Adams on bass and Brogan on drums, the first set was a light and social laid-back way to start the show.
As the night pushed past midnight ALO came out for their second set bringing with them RatDog’s Mark Karan. The guitarist, who been busy this past year supporting his first solo album, Walk Through The Fire, added a little Grateful Dead vibe to an appreciative crowd. As the set began, Karan’s intricate guitar work melded well with the rhythms played by Lebo. “States of Friction” another new song with playful vocals, was played well, with the whining guitar of Lebo laying in over the piano playing of Gill.
Further on into the second set they played the radio friendly, “Girl I Wanna Lay You Down.” At this point in the evening the jams were pushing past the ten-minute mark and the energy was starting to rise to an apex. As one in the morning came and went, so did a fantastically played “Boogie on Reggae Woman”, with amazing bass lines by Adams, as the song bounced from verse to verse. The final two songs of the set were Karan originals,“Plastic Bubble” and “Lady Loop.” which allowed Karan even more room to showcase his guitar work, while ALO really put their stamp on the tunes.
The encore included a bass-defined “Suspended.” Sleepy would be an overstatement when describing this song, since it rolls slowly as the piano and bass rifts intertwine with each other. As an encore choice it allowed everyone to catch their breath before ALO wrapped the show with the crowd favorite “Maria.” With a beautifully elongated piano intro, the entire band dropped in as the fans swayed back and forth across the Fillmore’s floor. Meanwhile, a cheerful crowd danced and sang along up in the balconies.
ALO has been with Brushfire Records for almost four years. They have released two albums under them, and have established themselves as mainstays in the jamband scene. They differentiate themselves by being more accessible than most jambands, but have not been trapped by overexposure. This Saturday night show at the Fillmore showed how they can take well written songs, excite a crowd, perform jam-influenced versions of them all the while having a whole lot of fun.