Fort Lauderdale Jam Band The Heavy Pets Rock Bonnaroo
House-music-ready bass drum echoed from "Cafe Where" -- a tent located at the back periphery of the enormous crowd gathered at the main stage. The music was coming from Fort Lauderdale jam outfit The Heavy Pets, who played during the enviable hour window between Snoop's show and Phish's festival-closing three-hour set and at the location which had the easiest accessibility of all the tents to the main stage.
Everyone knows Bonnaroo is an important opportunity for new artists hoping to broaden their fanbase. So at 7:30 p.m., the pressure was on for our home-grown jammers. The Heavy Pets had 60 minutes to win over those scattering after Snoop and those staking out territory for Phish. And for the 150 or so people who wandered in along with one inflatable alligator -- woohoo Florida memorabilia! -- the band nailed its first Bonnaroo appearance.
Made up of Jeff Lloyd (lead guitar/lead vocals), Felix Pastorius (bass), Jim Wuest (keyboards), Jamie Newitt (drums), and Mike Garulli (guitar/vocals), the Heavy Pets judiciously bypassed the parts of their catalog which are more accessible and rock-oriented, and instead cranked out a funk cocktail of reggae, keyboard effects, metal-tinged guitar work, and Latin rhythms that when fused with the steady beat seemed to create a jam/House-music hybrid. It was hard to tell how many songs were played because the band was in wail-out mode, but they took up the hour with hardly any breaks and hardly any vocals. At times the music got repetitive and a bit stagnant, but the group in its current formation is only 3 months old. As far as other minor criticisms, the band should probably spotlight Felix more. He would be, after all, a big draw for those unfamiliar with the band, especially at a festival like Bonnaroo. Nevertheless, judging from the crowd's reception -- I almost got elbowed in the face by one woman oblivious to anything but the beats dictating her movements -- the dance party won't be stopping any time soon.
In fact, it continues in South Florida in the next few weeks. The Heavy Pets will play West Palm venue Roxy's on June 23 and Culture Room July 11.