Mike Keneally and Beer For Dolphins come to Jazz Cafe in Plains Township
PLAINS TWP. — Progressive rock fans who have never heard of Mike Keneally need only to check his resume to understand what he brings to the table.
Keneally toured and recorded with Frank Zappa in the late ’80s and went on to perform with Zappa’s sons, Ahmet and Dweezil throughout the ’90s. He is a member of the real life version of Dethklok, the death metal band formed to perform the music of the corresponding fictional band in Adult Swim’s “Metalocalypse,” and he currently plays guitar and keyboards with guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani.
As a solo artist, Keneally has put together a catalogue of progressive rock ‘n’ roll that shows as much originality and mastery of his art as any of his contemporaries. Keneally and Beer For Dolphins perform at 10 p.m. Oct. 25 at the River Street Jazz Cafe with opening act the Travis Larson Band.
In Beer For Dolphins, Keneally is joined by bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Joe Travers who have played with Keneally in multiple ensembles and in support of his early solo records. Beer for Dolphins gigged often in California, but this tour takes the trio to the Midwest and East Coast for the first time.
Keneally said the power trio format allows the band to explore all the possibilities of the songs they preform.
“There’s a tremendous amount of freedom in just having a bass and drums to work over,” Keneally said. “The directions the songs can go in are endless. There’s something crazy that happens when it’s just the three of us, so I’m glad to finally be bringing that over to the East Coat.”
Keneally’s acclaimed solo work includes the instrumental heavy “You Must Be This Tall” and the songwriting oriented “Wing Beat Fantastic,” which Keneally co-wrote with XTC songwriter Andy Partridge, but his most recently released work is the second album in a concept series called “Scambot.”
The inspiration for the series came from a character Keneally said he drew “years ago.” Eventually the drawing developed into a narrative around the character, Keneally said.
“Gradually, I started developing the story line. In 2009, that resulted in the first album, ‘Sambot 1.’ It was abstract and dense, and it had layers and layers of detail in the songs,” he said.
In contrast, “Scambot 2,” Keneally said, is more song-focused and less dense in composition.
“While there’s a lot going on in the beginning of the record, as the record goes on, there’s this feeling of oxygen being let in,” Keneally said. “It becomes airier and more acoustic.”
This progression is not only his goal with the record but with the series as a whole.
“By the time ‘Scambot 3’ comes out … the way I’ve been describing that, it’s almost my version of a Brian Eno record where it’s very ambient and there’s a lot of space.”
As the Scambot narrative takes its next steps, Keneally brings his newest songs and older pieces of his catalogue to the Jazz Cafe.
“The stuff we were playing together in the ’90s, that’s like a shared language for us,” Keneally said. “We know (the songs) so well, we can explore all the possibilities every night. The new stuff, from ‘Scambot 2,’ is new to the repertoire, and it’ll be interesting to see how those songs evolve, because this band always takes a song and remakes it in its own image.”
Keneally encourages new listeners to check out his website, keneally.com and come to the show to hear something different.
“We’ll be out here on the tight wire exploring every night,” Keneally said. “I love performing live, and I hope people will come see what we’re all about.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts
If you go:
What: Mike Keneally and Beer for Dolphins with supporting act the Travis Larson Band.
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 North River St., Plains Township
When: 10 p.m. Oct. 25. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Additional information: Tickets cost $20 and are available in advance at riverstreetjazzcafe.com or at the door the evening of the show.