Ever find yourself clapping politely while the opening band plays mediocre songs and rambles on about the album you really don’t feel like buying? That’s the opposite of how it went for Pepper, the energized opener for Slightly Stoopid’s show at the Pageant in November. It was more like an endless scream and mosh fest, with some costumes thrown in, don’t forget people this was Halloween. Right before the grand entrance, Elvis announced, Luke Skywalker set up the amps and finally Pepper came on as Borat (Bret Bollinger, Bass, Vocals), Bruno (Kaleo Wassman, Guitars, Vocals) and Ali G (Yesod Williams, Drums); the personalities of famously politically-incorrect funny man Sacha Baron Cohen, who so recently has been recognized by the masses. Right away, you knew you were in for a good time, devoted to the heart and humor of the band and the music reverberating off your clothes, which might have been cat ears and pirate hats in the spirit of the night.
Though Pepper is well known in California and many hard-core fans showed up, this band never relies on their growing reputation to carry them through. The performance was impressive, showcasing jaw-dropping instrumental talent. Wassman’s guitar solos were a satisfying blur of fingers flying up and down frets, crafting the piercing focus of each song. The boys were clever, smiling and dedicated to bringing out their best. However, the bits of boyish rowdiness played in perfectly, especially when paired with the popular “Give it up” and “Too Much” which won over an already happy crowd. Bollinger’s vocals were more powerful, laden with rock chords and lots of sound while Wassman took on the more old school and expected ska/punk mix. The night was noisy and shameless and in the midst of all those stuttering strobes and that body-shaking baseline there was never a dull moment, much less a silent one.
As this was the Jagermeister tour, it was no surprise when the crowd saw a certain bottle bottom face the ceiling in the moments before the headlining show. But church chant background music and the line of monks and that occupied center stage in the minutes following certainly were unexpected. Thankfully Slightly Stoopid banners dropped behind the drum set and throwing off his hood, lead singer Miles Doughty screamed “What’s up St. Louis?” and started off the set. The monks continued to jump around, the crowd got crazier, the base got even louder and the effect was exhilarating, just how they wanted it.
With all the traditional devices of rock in check, guitars and drums, it was odd to see saxophone, trumpet and bongos share the glory on stage. But for Stoopid’s style, always a mix acoustic, reggae, rock and metal, they were the perfect addition for songs meant to mellow and meant to activate. Varied songs like “Ain’t Got a Lot of Money”, “Anti Socialistic”, and “Officer” showed off Stoopid’s experience in the whole series of genres. The vocals of Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald were as springy as the melodies that seemed engineered to rev you up and when needed, slow you down. All were very comfortable onstage and reveled in the moment, keeping up the momentum but obviously enjoying themselves.
Slightly Stoopid never ceased to morph with each song, there were pieces riding on elements of funk and blues, and parts with punky solos. They even threw in quiet ballads written just to soften and sweeten the concert atmosphere.
As with many bands, when they left the stage an encore was obvious, the crowd just wouldn’t shut up. In a joyous parade they returned and started into “Wiseman”, the universal favorite. With a laugh and toss of the drumsticks it was an acoustic end to an evening filled to the max with stoner songs, costumes and true talent…and don’t forget the Jager.
Pictured: Slightly Stoopid