The Tommy Marz Band knocked it out of the ballpark for their sold out â€œBringing Alphaâ€ CD release show at the Pike Room in Pontiac, Michigan, on Dec 05, 2015.
Iâ€™ve seen some shows in my day. Most of them follow a similar pattern: an opening band thatâ€™s sometimes forgettable, a second act that wakes the crowd up, then the lights go down and the main act takes the stage, cranks up the volume, and just explodes.
While the opening and middle acts were talented and entertaining in their own way, nothing even came close to the energy and explosiveness of Tommy Marz and his band. The fact that three regular ‘Joes’ from southeast Michigan can generate this kind of buzz and power is singularly astounding to me.
The perfect gentleman that he is, Marz came out to thank the fans for their support and to introduce the opening act. However, right before he brought the first band on stage, he brought his bass player up to pay tribute to recently deceased singer Scott Weiland. Marz tapped his tambourine along while his bass player played the acoustic guitar. The two of them sat center stage on bar stools while a dimly lit blue light showered down upon them, giving the audience a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the classic Stone Temple Pilots song â€œCrackerman.â€
The show started with Flint, Michiganâ€™s All Day Monday. A group of four ladies with a decent sort of folky rock sound mixed with a little Ani DiFranco. They had lots of acoustic guitars and some decent melodies and songwriting; fun in their own right, and a good crowd awakener. What really impressed me about this group was the drummer. She just seemed natural for what she was doing. She was smooth, precise and elegant for the tone of the music.
Next came metro Detroit area rockers, Core Effect. They started out their set with an instrumental that immediately grabbed my attention. It reminded me of the Scottish post-rock band Mogwai. They also managed to get everyoneâ€™s attention with their melodic and harmonic sounding rock that had a classic Queens of the Stone Age/Stone Temple Pilots kind of feel. The audience seemed to be mesmerized by the talented musicianship of these guys. Layered guitars and tight songwriting made them a production worth setting your drink down and paying attention to. I foresee great things from the guys.
The real treat of the night was the Tommy Marz Band. This band doesnâ€™t just take a stage; they explode on it with boundless energy. Sticking your head into a bucket of liquid awesome and then detonating it with TNT is a little like watching Tommy Marz close a show. Marz is like the Energizer Bunny, he keeps going and going and going, jumping and jumping and jumping, throughout the entire 75 minute set, never running out of energy.
Marz loves his cover songs. Never a dull moment, his set was mixed with a few of his older GoToZero era tracks, a few of the new ones and some of his favorite covers mixed right in, making it an enjoyable and fun set to listen to.
As soon as the bandâ€™s name was introduced, Marz launched full speed into a cover of Pearl Jamâ€™s â€œPorch,â€ kicking out an expletive and showing the room how a rock show starts. Within a few seconds, his band, Chris Alef on bass guitar and Jason Tucker on drums, kicked in and joined him. The show was non-stop from that moment forward. It was a joy to watch him bounce and spin and thrash for three minutes of 90s grunge.
From there they segued into â€œWaste of My Timeâ€ from Marz’s previous GoToZero era. With a throaty â€œAre You Ready?â€ Marz called his fans to the front of the stage with this relentless stomp-rock song that winds up into the most ethereal chorus, and then breaks down into a wicked thick solo with Tucker cascading across the toms to carry into the final chorus.
For the third track, Marz launched into one of his new songs, â€œRoad To Nowhere.â€ The chorus was especially fun to listen to with the drumsâ€™ ride cymbal accents and crash stops and the silent-opening bridge gave Marz a chance to show the crowd his chops on guitar. The crowd was on its feet, hands waving and bodies dancing.
And just like that, without a secondâ€™s hesitation, they went from â€œRoad To Nowhereâ€ to â€œEaseâ€™s Oceans,â€ another classic Marz song from his earlier days. This is an old-time show staple that the band hasnâ€™t played much lately, and the crowd definitely approved of its resurrection. The verses have a great two-punch-accent at the end of each measure that got folksâ€™ fists pumping in rhythm with it. Alef grooved along beneath Marzâ€™s warbling wah solo, and the song dissolved into one last chorus before closing down, bringing cheers and whistles from the devoted crowd.
The band played a brand new cover which I hadnâ€™t heard them play before this night: Hoobastankâ€™s â€œHello Again.â€ Heavy, thick and groovy, the Tommy Marz Band played good homage to another nineties icon with this hit. Marzâ€™s guitar slid up the fretboard with musical prowess during the choruses, and the delay effect during the bridge was an apropos surprise.
Once that song drew to a close, the band treated fans to yet another old GoToZero classic: â€œThe Mean Season,â€ a plodding-sort of down-tempo grunge tune with a surprisingly musical chorus and some fun drum accents during the instrumental pre-verses. Alef bounced and nodded along to the rhythm, demonstrating just how much fun it must be to play that song.
Marzâ€™s style of music has always reminded me of Silverchair and Marz made a point to hammer this impression home by covering their hit â€œFreak,â€ which bounced with the best of them. Much jumping was present, not only on stage, but in the crowd as well, and the band moved like a single entity with the waves of the audio. Such a dark and mean sounding song, Marz gave it every inch of power he had in him. The cheers from the crowd at the end was proof of this in spades.
The band began playing Rage Against the Machineâ€™s â€œBulls on Paradeâ€ however segued right from the intro licks of that into Seven Mary Threeâ€™s â€œCumbersome.â€ The band rocked through it like pros, and Tucker executed the complicated drum pattern fills prior to the bridge and outro with skill and precision. Alefâ€™s bass guitar melody during the bridge stop was smooth and precise, and Marz coaxed the crowd into singing along with him.
All of a sudden, the band jumped back yet another decade and treated the crowd to a trifecta of the eighties, starting with Princeâ€™s â€œLetâ€™s Go Crazy,â€ and seguing from there to Duran Duranâ€™s â€œHungry Like The Wolf.â€ Marzâ€™s guitar solo was screaming and crying during â€œLetâ€™s Go Crazy,â€ and the transition between the two songs was nothing short of perfection. The band played the first verse and chorus of “Hungry Like The Wolf” then switched to an original song of theirs which was heavily reminiscent of the eighties, called â€œA Kid in the 1980s.â€ Alefâ€™s bass rhythm was executed with professional perfection. Marz asked for crowd participation and cheers rose up while the entire room sang along with him during the choruses.
Marz slowed things down a bit and told the audience a sincere story of a friend of his whom he lost touch with until twenty years later when he found himself at his friendâ€™s funeral. This inspired the lyrics to their next song, â€œSpace in Time.â€ Even with a touch of sadness to the story, itâ€™s really about losing touch, reminiscing and reconnecting. The song keeps building on itself, getting more and more energetic until it ends with a bang. This is indeed one of the stronger tracks on Bringing Alpha and the crowd seemed to connect with it immensely.
Marz then treated the crowd to another GoToZero song, â€œWhite Horse,â€ a four-point head banger which marches relentless into the choruses where Alef lent his voice to add to the power of the words.
At what everyone assumed was the close of the show, Marz set off fireworks with his rendition of the Beastie Boysâ€™ â€œSabotage.â€ Marz shrieked and verbally accosted the crowd with the larynx-shredding verses while Tuckerâ€™s arms were like the wind, and the drums were a thunderous accompaniment to the spectacle. When the song started to die down halfway through, Alef gave it a few beats, launching back into that strum, and the song exploded again. When the song came to an end, the band approached the edge of the stage to greet their fans, but only for a moment. Immediately, the crowd started chanting â€œone more songâ€ over and over, and the band was all but forced to comply.
The encore brought us around again to Silverchair with â€œTomorrow,â€ a tune that both Marz and GoToZero spent many a show playing. The band demonstrated how well they can do it, with utterly thunderous grooves and precision fretboard cascades up and down. The admittedly strange rhythm of this 90s hit can be especially difficult for a band to recapture, but Marz, Alef and Tucker treated it like an old hat and hit every mark. Tucker even made his single-pedal kick drum sound like a double bass with his quick double-tap accents.
Amazingly enough, they werenâ€™t quite done, as they launched right into a cover of Pearl Jamâ€™s â€œAnimal.â€ At the conclusion of that last hit, Marz bid the crowd farewell which they shrieked back at him with love and affection.
The Tommy Marz Band grabbed the Crofootâ€™s Pike Room by the neck and shook it nearly to death, then kicked it afterward, leaving lasting bruises. Our photographer, Thom Seling, was on hand to capture all of the magic. Here are his images from the night.