Material: Act Casual is a group of highly skilled musical chefs that each stirs into the pot their own batch of scintillating ingredients. A dash of funk, a dollop of country, a pinch of jazz and a helping of blues are all essential in making this stew a success. Their tunes are original and span the gamut from a great opening number like the overdriven two-step- fueled “Detroit City” to the space rock epic “Voodoo Thang.”
Musicianship: Everyone is tastefully solid on his respective instrument. Small and Richardson work really well together and never get in each other’s way. Their solos are also distinctive, complimentary and push the band forward. Stafford is not so much a soloist as an ornamentalist. He spices up the music with an overall ambiance and well-placed chord choices. Flynn is a diligent machine on bass as he mixes walking lines with melodic leads that mimic the guitars. Yoskovich is a reliable time-keeper, to be sure, but his strength is just as much in the way he ebbs and flows with the rest of the band. You have to be ready for anything in this group and Yoskovich can play quiet or thunderous depending on what the song calls for.
Performance: The band really takes one on a musical journey where motifs and ideas morph from one thing into the other. They kicked off their set in a somewhat standard country vein and quickly shifted to something resembling Ozric Tentacles or Krautrock a passage or two later. They tactfully appeared to be in sync and relied on sly visuals and subtle audio cues that would lead from one groove to the next. Lead vocalist Small maintained a decent dialogue with the crowd between tunes and kept them engaged. Then, about halfway through their set, Stafford jumped on sax and took this reviewer aback with some classic Motown/Stax-type soul textures. That seemed to add another dimension to the fray and raised the bar.
Summary: “Act Casual” is, perhaps, an apt name for the way the band “casually” communicates on stage in a seemingly free and sub-conscious manner. Much like Phish, Jimmy Herring or The Grateful Dead, their stock in trade relies heavily on the “jam” aspect. However, in a nightclub setting with limited time, it would be nice to hear a balance of more outlined “songs” represented as well.
The Players: Nick Small, guitar, vocals; Will Richardson, guitar; Ryan Stafford, keyboards, saxophone; Danny Flynn, bass, vocals; Ryan Yoskovich, drums.
Photo by Eric A. Harabadian
Venue: PJ’s Lager House
City: Detroit, MI