H.P. and His Hot Take Out Band - Blue Moon, South Amboy, NJ - February 18, 2012
Mardi Gras, Blue Moon Style!
By Phil Rainone
H.P. and His Hot Take Out Band have played at the Blue Moon for a few years now, usually around Mardi Gras time. They’re a band that has to be heard to be seen and seen to be heard - that is, they stimulate all your senses (and Gary the cook will stimulate your stomach with some authentic Cajun dishes like gumbo, fried catfish, jambalaya, and spicy beans & rice - talk about fio on the Bayou!) They’re a four piece band - featuring Howard Parker on guitar, Steve “O” Nelson on rub board, Mark Hamza on accordion, and Miltmon on drums/percussion - that can play it close to the vest like their soulful strut version of Lennon’s “Imagine,” or a rafter-rockin’ hat-trick of “Tequila/Break on Through/’I’m a Man” (The Champs/ Doors/ Spencer Davis Group respectively) that will give you pause as to how these three classic rock tunes easily morph from one to the other. All the while, everyone’s heads are boppin’/feet stompin’ and this all-around, feel-good vibe that they create time and time again is making the place seemingly bursting at the seams! This is a band that loves what they do, and the measure they give, is given back in spades!
Besides covers, they also play originals that are hard to tell apart from the covers, and that’s a good thing! During their four sets, we were treated to boppin’ originals like “Zydeco Buosalou,” “Party ‘Till the Money Runs Out,” “Each Time I Turn Around,” and “Zydeco Cheesecake.” So by now I guess you can see the theme that the band has going on here. Eat, drink, and party ‘till the cows come home - or until Ash Wednesday!
Traditional New Orleans/Zydeco/ old-school party tunes like Lee Dorsey’s “YaYa” or “Iko Iko” are songs by some of New Orleans primo artists. In the hands of H.P. and His hot Take Out Band these staples become cool-as-H-E-double hockey sticks! Sometimes it’s hard to tell which song is which ‘cause these guys know how to keep it fresh and furious when they hit a hot groove-which is most of the time!
Another cool thing that makes H.P. and His Hot Take Out Band unique is Steve’s rub/percussion board. It’s a homemade (all the best ones are) contraption (for lack of a better word) that is a combination wooden/ metal washboard, with two small cymbals attached. One is vertical by his shoulder, and the other is horizontal, attached to the bottom of the board. There’s also some other little percussive trinkets attached here and there, which helps to makes each rub board unique, and create multiple sounds. Sounds simple, but watching Steve playing is like…well… actually there’s nothing like it that I can think of, it’s just original and cool! He also sings while playing with an overhead mic, so you really have to be on your game or it’s gonna sound like crap. Steve plays it like its second nature, coolly amazing!
Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35,” which is already a cool and off-the-wall in itself, was transformed into a monstrous party starter, as pretty much everyone in the place was singing along with the chorus, turning it into a gang vocal party starter!
Never Enough Cowbell!
The intro for the Stones “Honky-Tonk Woman,” with the original’s classic cowbell intro, got turned upside down, inside-out, sideways, and seemingly every which way, as Charlie Watts’ tappity-tap cowbell intro got spun into a percussionist’s party as the drummer and rub boardist stirred up a sweet, metal mash, while the accordion player and bass player held the originals bump-and-grind cadence until the other two were finished dueling it out, with the crowd as the winners. Robert Johnson’s originally laid back “Crossroads” got turned into a Cajun jam session a la The Meters funk/soul shake style. - And all this was going on starting from 3pm. Just goes to show you, a good band like H.P. and His Hot Take Out Band can raise the roof pretty much any time they want! A great show at a great venue!
In the past I’ve been using lyrics from songs like “Once in a Blue Moon,” by Van Morrison, and Chuck Berry’s “Round and Round,” to describe the feeling you get when you go to the shows at The Blue Moon. They have live music Thursday through Sunday, including the Thursday Night Open Mic Jam. That really is the essence, the mojo, the cool vibe you get there. Owners Walter and Adrian have a very hands –on approach, and the club has been unique since the 70’s when it was The Broadway Central Café. There are times where you can get exactly what you expect, and other times it can be out of this world!