Artist: Andy Frasco & The U.N., Nick Geriarch’s Cult Conference
Venue: Lodge Room
Date: Friday, September 17th, 2021
Simply put, Andy Frasco & The U.N. was one of the craziest and most fun rock n’ roll shows I’ve seen in a long long time.
Let’s take a few steps back. Last Friday, I attended my first show at Highland Park’s Lodge Room, a former masonic temple converted into a second floor auditorium. The room had some nice character, with bars both inside and outside the room, and water stations smartly set-up. The room acoustics were good and staff were friendly.
As people filtered in, I noticed that the crowd was a mix of ages, with a surprising amount of older audience members. Based on the music I had heard of Andy’s, I was expecting a younger, college-age crowd (especially considering the venue’s proximity to Occidental college). But, there’s no age limit for enjoying live music on a Friday night.
Opener Nick Geriach’s Cult Conference was definitely not what I expected. Basically a one-man instrumental act, Nick entered the stage with a saxophone and took turns wailing on the brass and playing on a keyboard over preprogrammed beats. It was a unique vibe – 21st century smooth jazz meshed with electronica perhaps? In between, Nick shouted out various statements which were hard to hear addressing the merchandise sales in the back and special guest. This special guest was a stand-up comedian (who’s name unfortunately escapes me). The comic was funny, but the talkative audience wasn’t quite prepared for the quiet attention needed for enjoying comedy (there’s a reason why the show Roadies said you should never have a comic open for a rock band – they just don’t quite mesh).
Once Frasco and his band came to the stage, the audience was primed to move, and they wasted no time getting their 2-step on as the band blasted out recent single “Dancin’ Around My Grave”, a rock n’ roll hoe-down that perfectly set the vibe for the rowdy, fun evening. Being only really familiar with a couple of the group’s songs, I didn’t know quite what to expect out of the show. What I got was basically everything.
Andy Frasco & the U.N. are the band for the A.D.D. generation. They move through genres willy nilly, break into covers mid-song, do instrument swaps and basically have as much fun on stage as they can. What’s also clear is that Frasco found the perfect band to join him in this controlled chaos. While his name takes front and center, each member of the U.N. was given numerous moments bask in the spotlight; jamming out solos (both on their own instruments and the swapped out ones), and take over on vocals (where they all showed a surprisingly strong range). Nick Geriach (who is also Andy’s podcast co-host) came out to duel each member of the U.N. on his saxophone, leading to more entertaining musicality.
With all the antics on stage happening, the band still managed to fit in their actual songs. Early songs in the set called to mind early E Street Band rock n’ roll rave-ups, melded with Graceland-era Paul Simon vocal deliveries. Songs like “I’ve Got a Long Way to Go” filtered soul and gospel through its revival rock sound, while there were some clear blues licks in “Love is a Gun”. “Struggle” went in a full-on ska direction (though they broke out into a cover of Limp Bizkit‘s “Break Stuff” midway through), and “Main Squeeze” touched a little on New Wave.
The band went punk with a cover of The Clash‘s version of “I Fought the Law”, with the bassist taking on lead vocals, and the bright, positive energy of “Keep on Keeping On” returning things full circle at the end for some good time party rock. There was even a moment at the show’s end when Frasco entered the crowd and got them all dancing in circles to “Hava Nigila” (Frasco is a loud and proud member of the tribe).
Over half the audience raised their hands when Frasco asked who had attended one of his shows before, and it’s no shock that he has a returning audience. Bands like his are the kind that get rabid cult followings for a good reason. They bring an unpredictable yet uplifting energy to the stage that is simply addictive. The camaraderie in the group is wonderful, with the band almost wrestling with each other as they move around the stage, and Andy himself explodes into Jerry Lee Lewis-style antics on his piano, dancing on it while drinking from a bottle of wine during “The Walk”.
While their recorded music is great, Andy Frasco & The U.N. are a must-see live band for anyone looking to have memorable, rocking night.