New Monsoon came with so much of rock’s past in their sound and performed with such accuracy that at first listen I thought they might be a cover band. They are not. Redolent of Southern rock, namely the Allman Brothers, there is also a splash of West Coast hippie rock on loan from the Dead. It lends the project an earthy kind of feel. But right about the point that a listener begins to think that this sort of jamming has all been done before, New Monsoon juices it up with a reggae mix that anchors their sound to the present. Add to that bluegrass (they appear regularly at major festivals such as Telluride), funk, and something approaching straight-ahead jazz. The only ingredient missing is the long-winded soloing traditional to old-school rock and jazz.
But the jam-band descriptor implies a mellowness. And while New Monsoon can recreate that Mill Valley ethic, they have also been called “the perfect storm” by critics, referring to the power of their live performances.
New Monsoon is a San Francisco band. Formed out of college in 1998 by Bo Carper and Jeff Miller, the band has survived a variety of personnel changes over the years. Almost from the beginning New Monsoon caught industry attention, and by 2003 they were the Jam Base’s Emerging Artist of the Year. Jam Base characterizes New Monsoon as a rock and roll jam band, but to my ear their guitar work has a rustic fingerboard technique that has more to do with stomping in the pines than egoistic guitar heroism. On their recordings they sound like many bands, as if they grew up listening to all the great rock festivals of the past. It works so well that I have to remind myself that New Monsoon has been around since 1998, not 1968.
The Mother Hips headline.
NEW MONSOON, Belly Up, Friday, April 11, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $22.