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Monday, September 26

Review: Cope w/Beebs and Her Money Makers – Skippers Smokehouse, Tampa, FL- Sept 10th, 2011

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Don’t let the name fool you, Skipper’s Smokehouse may be smoking catfish in the restaurant but the live music is on fire nightly at the “Skipperdome” outside. The “Hippies Enter through Back Door” sign near the restaurant/oyster bar entrance could not be more on-point at this place. The venue is open to the air and is protected on 2 sides by giant southern oak trees draped with dense moss. On Saturday September 10 the stage beneath the trees belonged to Tampa natives Cope and their friends from Orlando – Beebs and Her Money Makers.

BaHMM caught the laid back crowd off guard…in a good way! Their up-beat sound is an effective mix of ska, hip-hop, rock, soul and jazz. Their music surrounds the vocal duo of Beebs wailing the rock feel with her rhyme-mate B.T.R.U.E. dropping free styles. The two intermingle a rock/rap dialogue and convey it in a tasteful way along with a cast of excellent musicians. The crowd filled quickly during BaHMM’s set. Fans were getting down; a perfect up-tempo warm up to get fans ready for Cope.

After a quick spacey intro, Cope cut into “Awake.” It has an appealing, if not choppy rhythm that is highlighted by the lyrics and vocal representation from singer/guitarist/banjoist Dennis Stadelman. “Sleep well maybe not tonight, I’ll try again tomorrow,” are the opening lyrics that set the stage for the chorus “Awake, so awake, I can’t close my eyes, Awake, so awake, wait for the sunrise.” “Awake” also gave fans their first blast of saxophone from singer/keyboardist/saxophone player Juan Montero. The sax notes were a twisting tornado of sound that got the fans raging. Montero’s twisting sax jams were ever present throughout the evening, always an interesting, welcome addition to any Cope jam.

They followed the opener with a great choice in the instrumental tune “Creeker.” Another up-beat, all jam and no butter dance song that exudes the originality of Cope and the craftiness therein. The timing between beat, rhythm and saxophone is on point and is exemplified during the saxophone jams. They continually build up to a blast off point then suddenly go back into the chorus again and again making the song temporarily seem never-ending.

Cope hit the high point of the show during the second half of their one-set performance. The comfortably packed venue and the humid Florida night had them warmed up. “A Tune,” kicked off the 7 song spectacle. “But it’s family still. You always hurt the one’s you love the most,” wails Denny Stadelman during the chorus. This version’s jam featured a laid back, jazzy sax solo from Montero.

Following “A Tune” was a jammed out version of “Today.” This song opens up a great opportunity for Dennis to showcase his skills. The jam within was like none other. Stadelman uses a whining effect on his guitar to form a spaced out circular jam in cohesion with Montero’s keys and a steady backbeat from bassist Kenny Stadelman and drummer Dave Gerulat. A jam that left no fan standing still.

Showcasing a bit more versatility, Dennis busted out his electric banjo for the next two numbers. “Take Me Over” went directly into the folksy, storied jam-grass original “Suwannee River Scrub Down.” This song has personal meaning to Cope and their fans as it pays homage to the experience of attending a festival at the legendary Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL. Cope has been involved in several festies there including Wanee, Black Water and Bear Creek. The crafty lyrics tell the story of getting to the fest with no money, partying hard, then cleaning up with a nice scrub down in the black waters of the Suwannee River. A song any festival goer can relate to.

“Babylon Man” was up next. “Babylon” holds true to its name as it hits island notes. This version was complete with Juanjumon’s freestyle. He let his dreads down and belted his lyrics amongst the fans and the sick light show of the evening.

“Babylon” was followed with what is likely Cope’s most popular song, “Going Home.” The song, just like the Cope fan base, screams positivity. That is remarkable since its lyricist Dennis Stadelman admits that he wrote the song during one of the more uncertain times of his life. It is a song with an exultant theme and has a super chill, folkish-reggae rhythm. Fans revel in nostalgia during the song’s chorus; “I’m going home, I’m not sure when. I’m going home, I’m almost there. I’m going home, I don’t know when. I guess I’ll see when I get there.” Everyone remembers the time that they had those same feelings and they sing along with a sense of familiarity. The subtle jam and the purposed lyrics leave you with a feel good vibe.

Cope is one of the most inviting, open bands and are known for offering any or all of the members from their opening acts to join them on stage. The Skippers show was unlike none other; nearly every member of BaHMM’s hit the stage for a jam that lasted nearly ½ hour to close out the show. The grandiose (10 ppl on stage) band hit crazy funk notes and spewed freestyles that were anchored by BaHMM’s MC B.T.R.U.E. A funky rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain,” was also tossed in.

Despite the fresh, original mash-up jam with BaHMM’s, many fans were craving more Cope. The entire set was a blast off party and would have been nicely rounded out with Cope staples “Shake Anything” or “See,” the title track from their new album.

It was another booming evening for Cope in their stomping grounds. They were stoked to be joined on stage by percussionist and Cope side project drummer, Mike Rumore. Hot off the release of their new album See, Cope is hitting the road hard. Many dates are set for upcoming festivals as well as shows along the East coast and throughout the Mid-West. They are also preparing to play 3 different sets at the Bond Fire Music fest in Groveland, FL over New Year’s Eve.

In an era when bands have more laptops and synthesizers on stage than instruments and microphones, there is a need for bands that still write songs with evocative lyrics and crisp vocals. Between the writing skills of brothers Dennis and Kenny Stadelman, Dave Gerulat and Juan Montero, fans can expect to continually hear new songs with quality lyrics and a supreme sound. The re-popularization of the saxophone is a key to the success of bands like Cope and Big Gigantic. The music was good at Skippers, the fan base was kind. Another chapter in the book of sick Cope shows at their home-town stage, Skipper’s Smokehouse.

Review: Richard Kujawa