Frogleg Bunkers Music Bar & Grill Minneapolis, MN- 11/10
While the seasons drift from the vibrant colors of autumn towards the grey days of early winter, Minneapolis based Frogleg likes keeping things hot and funky throughout the year. Just back from a brief tour across the Upper Midwest with Madison’s Peoples Brothers Band, the Fleg blew up their weekly Thursday night residency with some help from another former tour partner, Jon Wayne, from Jon Wayne and The Pain.
Fronted by lead vocalists/guitarists Joe Dunn and Demitri Rallis, and augmented up front by ultra talented keys player Sam Hultman and sax player Elliot Wachs, the band’s sound grows outward from the strong rhythms of bassist Jimmy Geisinger, percussionist Doug Christianson, and drummer C.J.Vanderpoll.
Since shortly after their inception in 2012, Frogleg has held down a Thursday night residency at Bunkers Nightclub, launching pad to stardom for former Twin Cities guitar slinger Jonny Lang, and one of the late Prince’s favorite clubs to jam at.
This week’s show opened with “Mash Pierre,” a long instrumental jam which showcased the soloing abilities of all four of the front line players while hinting at the work of their wide ranging influences. In this case, Zappa and the Mothers, Traffic and Gregg Rolie era Santana.
Alternating between Dunn’s grittier guitar attack and Rallis’ liquid tones, the band rumbled and roared through a number of breakneck changes before the band glided deftly into the original tune, “Busy Checking In,” Dunn’s guitar work igniting another jam before settling down into a languid island groove as they worked their way through an inspiring cover of Bob Marley’s “Coming In From The Cold,” featuring Dunn’s stellar vocal work.
For such a young musician, Dunn’s vocals command a warmth and soulfulness well beyond his years. Whether a band original or classic cover, Dunn is able to bring his own voice to the material, imbuing the song’s lyrics with depth and understanding. The remainder of the set found the band alternating between original tunes such as “(Back To The) Homestead” and “Persephone” with a wide range of covers.
Dunn steered the band through everything from a bluesy “Just Kissed My Baby,” to a smoking rendition of P Funk’s “Red Hot Mama,” and for the set’s finest moment, an exuberant romp through Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ “Road Runner” with Rallis’ guitar exploding from the mix while keyboardist Hultman decimated Jerry Harrison’s original keys part.
The addition of Jon Wayne to the band’s mix in the second set just added more ingredients to the band’s music, throwing Snoop and Dre, Rancid, Sublime, and Al Green a la Gov’t Mule in a blistering take on I’m a Ram.
Indeed, it is in the diversity of their influences that comes out clearly in the strengths of their playing. The dual guitar interplay of Rallis and Dunn, the sax and keys players’ stellar lead work, and the whole band’s ability to improvise over the strong playing of the rhythm section.
Working hard since their beginning has given the band a chance to chase after their many muses, slowly evolving into one of Minneapolis’ best bands. Where 2016 has found Frogleg touring across the Midwest and Mountain states, their plans for 2017 include a bigger touring load, the band looking to extend their fan base behind the projected April release date of their sophomore album.