Material: Manuel The Band has become more than just a collective from Long Beach. Their music is a collection of picturesque songs that illustrate their evolution from Manuel Grajeda the solo artist to “Manuel The Band.” When this group of musicians perform alternative rock songs from their debut EP, Room For Complication, their shows can evoke a spectrum of feelings that make their live audience want to headbang to some songs and dance to others. This beautiful dualism is depicted quite well with the band’s original composition “Casual Love,” a song that combines elements of country-rock with jazz fusion.
Musicianship: When the sound of George Madrid’s pedal steel guitar permeates the pre-chorus sections of love songs like “Thinking Of You” and “Casual Love,” it elicits even more affection for the band’s live content. It is also a complementary nuance for the soulful voice of the band’s primary songwriter and lead singer. Grajeda’s tonality often rings out like the vocal cadence coming from John Mayer or Nick Hexum from 311. His dominating guitar riffs, along with the large horn sections of was nearly as spirited as the saxophone solo Matt Kalin and Richard Fernandez, are a big reason why the band is able to successfully transition from alternative rock and blues-rock to funk and jazz so smoothly.
Performance: The interplay between Kevin Nowacki and Brandon Charles Worth held steadfast throughout this live set. The rhythm players fed off of one another’s energy, particularly during songs with fast-paced transition sections, like “So The Story Goes.” This blues-rock composition featured a fiery melodic passage on the guitar by Grajeda. It from Kalin during the group’s rendition of “Strong Independent Woman.” The band’s performance of this song was so cathartic that it inspired several audience members to sing along.
Summary: This was a solid live presentation by a tight unit of musicians. The vivid imagery of the brass section gyrating their bodies in tandem was just as intriguing as Grajeda’s sporadic headbanging. When Manuel The Band performed seven songs at Hotel Café, their live set took their dedicated fan base on an expressive multi-layered journey.
Players: Manuel Grajeda, vocals, guitar; George Madrid, pedal steel guitar; Matt Kalin, saxophone; Richard Fernandez, trombone, trumpet; Kevin Nowacki, bass guitar; Brandon Charles Worth, drums