Chagrined that I’d gotten the date wrong in the previous week’s column, I made a point of being at Heritage Saturday for Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda’s set. I’d heard some of their MP3s, but really wasn’t sure what to expect of them live. Their most recent EP, “Happy Song,” is smoother than 20 dollar gin, with throwback arrangements that would make Al Kooper smile and nod in appreciation.
In particular, “The Myth” blusters with Lucretia McEvil horn charts; Pete Pidgeon holds down the center with wicked guitar triplets and fifth-gear-on-an-icy-road vocals, featuring goofy lines like “Every time I open my mouth I get misinterpretated.”
On record, Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda take all that’s great about melting pot Americana music and add a few drops of high-energy hot sauce. But what if it was all overdubs, multitracking and multiple takes? How would they sound in a bar, surrounded by pool tables, milling patrons and NASCAR beer lights?
Turns out I needn’t have worried. My first indication that Arcoda has a knack for pulling musical rabbits out of their hat was their arrangement of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster.” Most everyone does it as a slow growling blues. Arcoda gave it their own stamp by turning it into a booty-shaking jump shuffle. So far, so good.
Pidgeon plays guitar like a roadhouse Pat Metheny, with a dash of prog-rock spiderfingers thrown in, on a big, hollow bodied Gibson six-string more typically seen in the hands of guys working behind monogrammed bandstands. He has the easy, natural touch of George Benson combined with the frenetic fret-ranging of Steve Howe. I’ve never seen anything like it, with the possible exception of Robben Ford one night in 1979, when he was trying to upstage Bob Weir in a Palo Alto bar.
Arcoda has apparentely employed more drummers than Spinal Tap. On Saturday, with longtime bassist Seth Rivers holding down his end, including a couple of wild and wooly solos, the only reason I knew they had a new rhythm section was because Pete said so. Unfazed, these guys could and did make it up on the spot, nailing a rough but ragged pre-Grammy cover of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” at a fan’s request.
My favorite number of the eveing was “Funk #49,” a James Gang song that introduced me to kick-ass rock and roll nearly 30 years ago. Pidgeon & Arcoda of course gave it their own shape, playing the 4/4 intro as a Jimi Hendrix burlesque, then shifting into blistering solo trade-offs between Pidgeon and second guitarist Kurt Schellenberg, who is no slouch either.
Their rip-roaring, and horns-free, version of “The Myth” closed the night, leaving me smiling and looking forward to their next trip to the area.
Download some of their music and you’ll know what I’m talking about: