Proven in the past by our fascination with Little Stevie Wonder, Hansen, Musical Youth, and Derek Trucks, we as a populace are fascinated with the new and inspired talent brought forth by the younger generation. Bobby Paltauf is a rare current example of a teenager who plays with soul and an infectious enthusiasm. Like the other young acts which preceded him, Paltauf’s reputation is solidly built on talent and not merely as a novelty adolescent act. The Bobby Paltauf Band delivered a bombastic and blistering show at B.R.Y.A.C. in Bridgeport, CT on Sunday, March 10th.

They say good things come in small packages. They never met 14-year-old guitar prodigy and quickly-ascending artist, Bobby Paltauf. He is not good, rather he is great – a true tour-de-force beyond his current marked pubescent place in time. His style of play is derived within Bluegrass, jazz, funk and blues and heavily influenced by guitar stalwarts Garcia, Krasno, and Anastasio. Paltauf has played with some of the genre’s finest including Dumpstaphunk, Twiddle, Stanton Moore and Buddy Guy. His unannounced surprise sit-in last September at Catskill Chill with The Meter Men was considered by most to be the highlight of the amazing festival weekend. Supported by professional players, Gene Leone Jr. (keys), Miles Livolsi (bass) and Caitlin Kalafus (drums), The Bobby Paltauf Band were especially ecstatic for this wild event as it was the official CD Release Party for the record, Lost and Found, which dropped two days prior. In regards to the release, Paltauf stated, “…feels so great to get out and share with it with everyone! 6 months in the making, the originals on the record really sound tight, as well as the covers!” The homey and bucolic setting was an ideal one for such an outpouring of passion shared through music and love by a fervent fan base.

B.R.Y.A.C. is an ideal music venue complete with a cohesive crew of local residents that are welcoming and appreciate quality music. It is conveniently located on the coast of Connecticut in Bridgeport (mere miles from the Gathering of the Vibes location) and only a little over an hour from New York City and Hartford.   Despite a tumultuous history and a challenge to reopen 1.5 years ago, Black Rock Yacht and Athletic Club persevered with the might and resilience from a rabid local neighborhood which rallied behind it. Inside the euphoric confines, that felt more like an old familiar house rather than the usual industrial setting of a music venue, the extremely comfortable restaurant and bar has seen immediate dividends. With ability to consistently book professional outfits like Lucid and The Brummy Brothers, the proliferation of BRYAC as a destination place has exponentially increased. There have been over 70 sit-in’s since doors opened. Rob Somerville (Kung Fu) and others co-founded the popular Wednesday Funk Night series and there are Sunday night residencies. An intimate enclave, they still manage to serve nearly 60 dinners a night. Having focused on increasing production value, musician Buddy Cage said it was the best sounding room he had heard while on months of touring. Owners Dave Chard and Mike Andre, along with manager Brian Zoni, create an inviting environment conducive to good times.. Chard stated, ” We provided Bobby his first headlining gig some time ago. I was excited for this particular show. We did it all for Bobby.”  

The Bobby Paltauf Band commenced the show in incendiary fashion with their take on The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” performed in the jammy-instrumental style previously shared by Soulive’s Eric Krasno, but made famous by Garcia during his 1980 shows. Paltauf didn’t emulate; he forged ahead with his own distinct style and skill set. Furthermore, he demonstrates his innate ability to lead the jam as it explored new realms. It is mesmerizing to see someone so young knowing when to lead and when to kick and fill in when necessary. Other highlights included a song the band wrote for the new album, called “Black Rock.” It starts with enticing chords reminiscent of the opening for the O’Jay’s classic “For the Love and Money” before evolving into a gyrating groove that served as impetus for those in attendance to kick up their heels.

With seamless segues and a relentless driving groove, the show maintained its high energy with the contagious guitar hooks of “Dry Martini,” another original number that harkened back to early Clapton but fused with a funk back beat. The driving rhythm section is led by Kalfus on the skins. A fan of a fellow female heavy hitter, Nikki Glaspie of Dumstaphunk, Kalafus laid down thick beats behind the kit and effectively left an indelible mark to those in ear shot. The interesting and complex chord progressions on “Atmosphere,” which the band wrote in her basement, kept the juices flowing. “2001” fueled a bouncy danceathon and proved so funky that Paltauf’s idol, Anastasio, would have been proud. The guitar prodigy’s impeccable timing, rhythm and uncanny ability to innately exude cool confidence under pressure is already becoming a known trademark. 

The set concluded with a guest sit-in by Jenn “Pipes” Durkin, an edgy vocal powerhouse with massive appeal. She had parlayed wonderful energy into her performance of “Fire of the Mountain” earlier in the set. but the barn burning show stopper was saved for the funky exquisite take on Sly and The Family Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher.” In her Janis Joplin-esque fashion, Durkin blossomed while effectively meshing well with Paltauf’s powerful guitar strut and a powerful mentor for Bobby who had joined the fray, harmonica pioneer, John Popper of Blues Traveler. Later, Paltauf joined Popper, the band Stir Fried and Durkin, for a rousing rendition of “Turn on your Lovelight” which provoked an expected fan frenzy as the song passionately unfolded and participants played tight as a cohesive unit. Paltauf held his own while demonstrating his wares with the axe while possessing his patented facial countenance that often shifts into the confident and intense “I got this” facade. With a youthful enthusiasm suitable for the moment, Paltauf exclaimed, “It was so such an honor playing with John Popper and Jen Durkin! I love listening to Deep Banana Blackout and Blues Traveler, so to play with them was so incredible!!” Those lucky few who attended this sold-out show experienced one of the finest Sunday afternoons in recent memory.

The band also has an extensive summer tour planned which will include festivals starting with an opening slot at Equifunk’s “Leprechaun’s Ball” on Saturday, March 15th at Le Pouisson Rouge. Paltauf has also been bestowed with the honor of being asked to participate as an artist-at-large at Rock n Roll Resort in Kerhonkson, NY on the weekend of April 4th. Paltauf has emphatically stated that he hopes to play festivals and shows with his band for years to come – we can only be so lucky. The next generation of jam music lovers are in good hands.

– By Chadbyrne R. Dickens

(cover photo courtesy of Michael Thut Photography)

Set List: Eleanor Rigby, Black Rock, Lost and Found, Dry Martini, Atmosphere, Playin’ in the Guitar, Fire on the Mountain*, God Made Me Funky, 2001>Hill Climb, Ready For a Show, I’ll Take You Higher*     *with Jen Durkin