There was expectation in the air. It was Friday and the Visulite was quickly filling with music lovers who were clearly ready for some fun. To much excitement, the men of Dangermuffin took the stage. When they began to play “Ol’ Fidel,” the groove came immediately. There was no settling in, no building it up from a foundation of drums and a scaffolding of bass, like the big bang, in one instant it wasn’t, and in the next it was. Mike Sivilli hopped on his guitar and went paddleboarding through the beat, while the drums kept coming with the consistency of the forces of nature. At the break, the guys sped and splashed, bathing in the sound and preparing the happy crowd for the rest of what was destined to be a marvelous night.
Mike plucked his way into “Waves” like flock of birds figure eighting in the wind. Dan Lotti played rhythm guitar and sang like a white rabbit, with a measure of mystery and just the right accoutrements for the occasion. Then they struck up “Slumber,” rhythm and reason intertwining in a way that melded and rendered the shadows and light of the Visulite, extruding them into a plate of spaghetti-shaped sense. Steven Sandifer took turns with the drums tickling the tympanic membranes of those in attendance, and Mike’s fingers – for a brief moment – resembled benevolent lights on a UFO, working their magic and creating something beautiful. Then, much to the crowd’s delight, they played “Ode To My Heritage.” Dan’s vocals were like arugula after two days of burgers. Mike slid like barbecue sauce into the mac n cheese rhythm, and Steven hugged his tree, tapping and pulling the melody from its sugary soul like a master confectioner.
Dan sang “Fuego,” his uvula vibrating with love. The song tossed the audience like a ship at sea. As the reggae-influenced beat tap-tapped, Mike played an oozing melodic interlude and Steven blended it together, the banana in the smoothie. Then, Mike pushed a pedal and magic poured out of his guitar, sticky and sultry. After the band extinguished “Fuego,” the audience was in full-on ecstasy. There was a change of guitars and Steven hopped onto the bongos for “Cradle of the Beach.” Mike’s melody was light and playful, porpoises in the water. Dan delivered the lyrics with a sense of youth that will never age. The drummer (subbing in for Markus Helander) played like an octopus family reunion as Dan’s voice windsurfed around the rhythms. The band slowed things down and Mike played a charming riff that left people lolling.
Then “Sakina” sauntered in with the click of gummy bear pumps. A visible change on the band, Dan plucked notes that rumbled and Mike slipped into the demeanor of a blues man, churning out waves that could slice marble like goat cheese. They tiptoed into “Gutter Dance.” When Dan let loose, the other guys followed and the sound was big, intermittent with the tiptoeing; Dangermuffin transformed into burglars of silence and dissonance. They spun the air into something more valuable than any of the traditional staples of economics.
They sped into the next song and Steven played his bass with such easy speed, his face pure peace, I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to uncork a jug one-handed and take a swig on a couple of open notes. The crowd went nuts, energized like rockets at a science fair, heads bobbing and legs flaring. Steven’s right hand was a blur and the sound was divine. In “Big Suit” Mike picked and chose from the nearly infinite selection of notes available to his golden fingers, and Dan’s voice was like water after a poorly planned walk in the Southwest. The drums tssked and donked, creating a feeling of security akin to that of metal fasteners in a quickly built structure. The sound was solid and sumptuous, grapes and honey.
After minutes of audience supplication to hear “The Rising Souls,” the band capitulated. Steven wove the beats into an arras of goodwill, and the guitars created melodies of happiness. The audience swung on every word, as if they were monkey bars. In “Moonscapes,” Mike played a solo that pricked my auditory cortex like a voodoo doll. The sound was pure and flowing, urged forward by the beats, warming and quilted. Then with colored lights flashing on the lenses of his dark glasses, Mike opened the door to the psychedelic in a way that made me wish the song would last for at least 10 more minutes.
They finished the show with “Homestead,” one of the hotties from their 2012 album Olly Oxen Free. Bopping and funky, Dan’s voice was like lambswool still attached to the lamb. Mike’s guitar clucked, scratched, and made an omelet. Then, like an etude extraordinaire, Mike twisted the air into a sentient sonic creation that jumped off the stage, chugged a beer, and slithered out the door into the cool January night.
It was a Friday well spent in Elizabeth, enjoying the toasted Dangermuffin jams. This is the kind of band that gives a great live show not because they’ve choreographed every move and hired a stylist with a BS in psychology to dress and coif them. These guys play their tunes with so much wiggly love for the world that it sets the crowd vibrating with the same wiggly love, a sort of humanitarian Samaritan tuning fork. Based in Folly Beach, South Carolina, they play frequently around the Southeast. If you get the chance to see them live, show up and tune in. In the meantime, they have five albums to explore plus an EP.
Check out the Libro Musica Live! footage from one of their recent stops in Atlanta.