Boundary-Hopping Twiddle Lands at Salt Hill

For all their youth, Twiddle has assimilated a lot of music.  Though they’ll be entertaining bar patrons at Lebanon’s Salt Hill Pub tomorrow night, it will be two years before any of them can order a drink.

But the four-piece band, based in Hubbardton, Vermont, is musically wise beyond their years.

Twiddle draws from a stylistic palette of jazz-fusion and booty-shaking funk, with spice thrown in from across the spectrum.  Versatile guitarist Mihali “Mickey” Savoulidis’s playing references everyone from George Clinton to Jerry Garcia, though the easiest comparisons are the ones best avoided.

“We often get compared to Phish, which we hate,” drummer Brook Jordan told a journalist recently.   But Twiddle could do worse, and the parallels are there for anyone to see.  The four met in college, and like Phish, they try to juggle musical and academic goals.  They share a house together, and spend much of their waking hours working out arrangements; they’re proud that two shows rarely sound the same.

But the jam band persona is deceiving.  Though songs like “Zazu’s Flight” and “King Gatsby the Great” have an improvisational, free form feel, the band works out every note with an exacting detail.  The results are more Weather Report (the band) than “Weather Report Suite” (the Grateful Dead song).

Their hopes for success have received a lot of encouragement of late.  Twiddle’s steadily growing fan base nabbed them multiple return engagements at South Burlington’s Higher Ground club.  They’re holding down a near-residency at the Sidelines Club in Rutland, where they recently became only the third band to charge an entry fee.    Last weekend, they “blew away” the main stage audience at last weekend’s SolarFest show, according to manager Neil Jordan, who’s also the drummer’s father.  They’re also set to open for the Gin Blossoms at Rutland’s Paramount in early October.

Guitarist Savoulidi and keyboard player Ryan Dempsey met their first day at Castleton College.  In a sign of things to come, they skipped orientation that day to jam, and formed the beginnings of a band when school started.  Bassist Billy Comstock came along when he and Savoulidi worked together in a Castleton production of “Hair.” Drummer Brook Jordan knew Comstock from high school; both attended the Stafford Technical Center’s Jazz and Contemporary Music Program.

The band’s chemistry solidified with surprising speed, and after 18 months together, a comfortable, crowd-pleasing “Twiddle Sound” has pleased audiences throughout the region.  Summer park shows, recently in Rutland, and upcoming in Manchester and Bennington, are now a regular part of their schedule.  That’s quite notable for an original band, particular one with the adventurous leanings of Twiddle, but their music plays to all age groups, says manager Neil Jordan.

At Salt Hill, they’ll play songs from the recently released “Queen City Live,” recorded in and around Burlington.  They do a few covers; one of the more interesting ones is a reworking of Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas,” with Dempsey’s keyboard substituting for the original’s acoustic guitar.

Their website, twiddlemusic.com, debuted recently.  Curious fans can go there to check out Twiddle’s unique brand of hyphenated, caffeinated modern music.  Their Salt Hill set begins at 9 PM.

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