The Mooney Suzuki rock Toad’s Place

By on April 24, 2003

Mod rock quartet, The Mooney Suzuki, had kept New Haven hanging for six months, with their initial date in support of second release “Electric Sweat” scheduled to be October 29 at Toad’s Place.

The club was treated to an April 10 show and a loyal following of fans turned out. Supporting acts The Realistics and Loudermilk turned out for the Mooney’s opening date of their headlining Spring tour.

A month ago the band made a college tour with sponsors CMJ magazine and MTV 2, with the University of New Haven in West Haven as their only area stop, although catering to UNH students only.

“Electric Sweat” also got picked up by Columbia Records.

Fans at Toad’s noticed nothing pisses off singer/guitarist Sammy James, Jr., guitarist Graham Tyler, bassist John Paul Ribas and drummer Augie Wilson, other than an audience not clapping to their music, getting down and waving the number one sign.

From New York City, the group plows through hard-charged rhythm and blues that brings 1950’s Motown and British Invasion rock together with an early punk aesthetic reminiscent of the Ramones, MC5 and Velvet Underground.

At quarter to midnight, four guys who had met from Manhattan’s Parsons School of Design a couple years ago were pouring out smooth garage-riffed R&B, leading with “Right About Now,” off their 2000 debut, “People Get Ready.”

Soul man Sammy James, Jr. belts, “Get set and let’s begin / just let the record spin / downtown in rhythm city / get down to the nitty gritty / right about now!”

Tyler and his guitar get acquainted with those in the first few rows and he also maintains his trademark back-bending split for the first several minutes.

Prior to a run through of their new single, “In a Young Man’s Mind,” James, Jr. urges all to watch the new video for the song. Though, MTV has not released the new video, featuring Jack Black in a spoof cameo as the band’s manager. The band is also seen playing the song in a witty new Coors Light commercial.

The Mooney continued with a pair of the band’s early staples, and their most charged, “Half of My Heart” and “Singin’ a Song About Today.” Three basic boisterous blues chords and adolescent lyrics haven’t sounded quite as fine live as on your special someone’s birthday; the majority in attendance did not have a chance to see The Rolling Stones, The Who or The Kinks, of which at least the first has made a Toad’s appearance some time ago.

The soulful garage-rockers finished the evening with “I Woke Up This Morning” and a stellar sing-along ceaseless run-through of “Yeah You Can.” Unless Mick, Keith and the rock deities were tuning in, or Sammy and company noticed the Stones had played Toad’s some 14 years ago, “I Woke Up This Morning,” with similar guitar riffs and structure to any early “Jumpin’ Jack” hit, was played impeccably and in true classic rock glory.

During a few of the song’s breaks, James, Jr. and Ribas got the crowd into a soul-clap, while Tyler and Wilson kept the electric charge in time. With the crowd involved in “Woke Up” and “Yeah You Can,” Tyler and James, Jr. took turns wailing away in sonic duels, hopping into the audience while Ribas carried James, Jr. on his shoulders.

In the last break of “Yeah You Can” James, Jr. and Tyler duel some more, this time atop their stacked amplifiers before making a great leap to the Toad’s stage. Concluding the song Sammy whirlwinds to coda a la Pete Townshend. Tyler’s licks and presence is aptly Jimmy Page. Augie brings out the colossal hollow fiberglass ‘Number 1′ hand and waves it around in a clearly obscene gesture.


About Mike Schoeck