The band is named Biscuits & Gravy because of a joke that stuck – they needed a name on the books for their first show and Huddleston had a history of being in bands with food names – but to me, their name reflects the music they make: Tasteful and best served sizzling. Fusing elements of hip-hop, funk and soul together is no simple task, but it comes as second nature for these guys. Biscuits & Gravy formed in 2010 when all seven members were attending Boston-based Berklee College of Music. They have been playing together ever since, sharpening their sound and molding their image into that which I had the pleasure of playing witness to on Saturday night.
Biscuits & Gravy played a mix of songs from their 2012 record Hello Weekend, new material, and covers. Songs like the grooving “Let Me Get Down (With You)” and “Serenade” highlight Huddleston’s vocal evocations, while the beautiful “Night Cap” show off the band’s instrumental section, featuring saxophone and trumpet flares, guitar riffs, and more. Just as fascinating, however, were the band’s covers. After playing a heart-warming arrangement of Outkast’s “Roses” earlier in the show, the band absolutely floored the crowd with a jazzed-up version of Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” that had, tucked inside like an extra present on Christmas, the first verse of Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind” rap. Words cannot describe the level of enthusiasm I felt at hearing these songs – the band consistently defied genre constraints, refusing to be defined by any one musical element and instead opting for a modern mix that everyone can dance and bob along to.
Biscuits & Gravy are a sharply-dressed force to be reckoned with. Drummer Mark Ward and bassist Evan Coniglio are a dynamic duo when it comes to laying down a mean backbone, which saxophonist Craig Hill and trumpeter Eric Tait spice up with tight hooks. Mark Steinert (aka “Ghost”) contributes flavorful swag via keyboard, playing likable licks over some songs and synthesizing lovemaking chords on others. Guitarist Sam RP was bold enough to wear white sunglasses indoors and cool enough to get away with it. “I have at least thirteen pairs of cheap sunglasses collected over time from those New York street vendors,” he says. “I don’t know why, but I kept on doing it and I wear different colored sunglasses all the time.” You’ll be hard-pressed to find Sam RP on stage without his shades, which earns him my gold star for trademark dress – and this is in addition to how he and his six strings jazzed up the room.
The entire band was in sync on Saturday night. Instruments traded the spotlight as their musicians took turns to solo or carry the beat. This aspect of humility – understanding one’s part in the band and playing to those strengths – is something I admire in musicians. It served to unify the band, as each member seemed to know what the other was playing before he played it. Standing in front of it all was David Huddleston, microphone in hand.
David Huddleston is one of those singers who you never want to take your eye off, not even for a second, because you never know what he’ll do next. He is a talented singer, but he must have taken acting classes at least once because his stage presence is impeccable. It is as if he took the best bits of famed performers James Brown and Michael Jackson and used them to craft his own electric brand of showmanship.
I have recently come to understand the difference between a good concert and a great one to be the degree of contact between the performer and the audience. Biscuits & Gravy won me over, if not through the music alone, then through Huddleston’s alluring dynamism. He played to the audience, keeping us reeled in through direct addresses (“New York City, how’re you feeling tonight?”), on-stage dance moves, and off-stage antics that included serenading a few lucky ladies, dancing on tables, and walking through the crowd. Huddleston never let us forget the band’s name, finding a new way to slip the words “Biscuits and Gravy” into every address he made. He is everything you want in a frontman: humble, lively, and engaging.
Biscuits & Gravy may be better known as a morning dish right now, but it won’t be long until more people are associating the name with this Boston septet. Their live show is among the best I have ever experienced, and trust me: That’s saying something. For now, the band is back in Boston working on the follow-up to their 2012 debut album, Hello Weekend. Their next scheduled appearance is a fourth-annual Halloween party at The Middle East, but Sam RP hinted for me to keep checking the website: “This is one of our slower periods, but shows pop up all the time and suddenly we’ll be booked for four straight weeks.” With the release of their sophomore album, Biscuits & Gravy hope to stretch out of their New England comfort zone. There is no guaranteed timeline, but be sure not to miss them if they should pass through your town. While 2014 has seen little in the way of new media content, this YouTube video from a year ago captures their energy from a concert at the Hard Rock Boston.
So many amazing bands fly under the radar. Don’t let Biscuits & Gravy be one of them. Check out their website and fill your stomach and ears with Biscuits & Gravy.
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