Updated: Sep 15, 2022
Left to right: bassist Conor Crookham, vocalist/guitarist Adonis Frangiskakis, keyboardist Rodney Hansen, and drummer/vocalist Casey Luden at the Funky Biscuit.
Photo by Chris Schmitt
Any sampling of Palm Beach County’s live music scene is likely to produce some similarities. Many bands have middle-aged performers playing music from 40 or more years ago.
But when you walk into a show by West Palm Beach quartet Guavatron, you’ll know you’ve entered a different dimension. Its four musicians are in their early 30s and meld most of their material — usually expanded pieces from their debut EP and full-length CD, “Momentous” — into a hypnotic and danceable collage. On-the-fly improvisation among the four is a recurring, effortless theme.
Together for nearly 10 years, vocalist/guitarist Adonis Frangiskakis, keyboardist Rodney Hansen, bassist Conor Crookham and drummer/vocalist Casey Luden met as students at G-Star School of the Arts in Palm Springs. And even they don’t seem to know how to categorize their swirl of sound.
“Wow, the hardest question first?” asks Hansen. “I’d say maybe something like jamtronica or funktronica.”
Frangiskakis and Hansen also form the downsized Guavatron duo, which occasionally performs on the band’s off nights in a setting that spotlights Frangiskakis’ impressive vocal range. The duo’s lists of individual influences offer clues as to the jam, funk and electronica elements of Hansen’s made-up subgenres for the full band.
“David Gilmour from Pink Floyd,” Frangiskakis cites as first on his list of guitarists. “And Trey Anastasio from Phish, Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, and jazz players like Grant Green and John Scofield.”
“Page McConnell from Phish,” Hansen says of one of his favorite keyboardists, “and Eli Winderman from Dopapod, Jamie Shields from The New Deal, Rick Wright from Pink Floyd and Herbie Hancock.”
The guitarist’s tapestry of tones is akin to that of Garcia, guru for the original San Francisco jam band from the late 1960s. The additional influence of traditional jazz artist Green and jazz/fusion icon Scofield also factor into Guavatron’s unpredictability.
Crookham and the versatile Luden, who switched from being a second guitarist to drummer when original drummer Nate Largent left the quintet version of Guavatron a few years back, form a grounded, supportive and creative rhythm section a la Phish bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman.
Hansen has similarities to the versatile McConnell, and Frangiskakis’ mix of vocal and instrumental talents bears a resemblance to Anastasio.
So with the exact same number of band members playing the exact same instrumentation, the logical comparison is to Phish, the Vermont-launched superstars — also influenced by the Grateful Dead — who are themselves nearing 40 years in existence.
But the Guavatron sound is different. Hansen, like Pink Floyd’s secret weapon, Wright, conjures every imaginable keyboard sound: acoustic and electric pianos, clavinet, synthesizer, Hammond and Wurlitzer organs. And with an influence like the veteran Hancock, the keyboardist also has both traditional jazz and fusion covered — Hancock played both with Miles Davis — plus the funk of his post-Davis 1970s Head Hunters band and the electronic music of his solo career from the 1980s onward.
Another influential band Hansen mentions, the Berklee College of Music-trained Dopapod, is one of several international jam acts Guavatron will share the stage with Dec. 9 to 11 at the North Beach Music Festival at the Miami Beach Bandshell. Others include Moe, Lotus, Lettuce, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Antibalas and Trouble No More.
Perhaps keeping such company is a signal that Guavatron, already a regional touring act, is heading northward, literally and figuratively.
“We plan to start getting out of town and out of Florida more often,” Frangiskakis says. “And we want to keep hitting the same places, branching out little by little, to develop a strong fan base in every city and state we keep returning to.”
See Guavatron, with special guest The Reality, at 7 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Funky Biscuit, 303 S.E. Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton (561-395-2929). Tickets are $20 to $30. For further information, visit guavatron.com.