It’s not unusual to find a variety of bands playing at Faneuil Hall Marketplace during the busy summer tourist season. Different musicians and street performers occupy different stations around North, South and Quincy Markets, some busking rookies and some veterans, who are all trying to entice the passing crowd to stop and observe their act. There are acoustic guitar players, stunt devils and pianists. But one afternoon there was a jam band. A four piece electric jam band planted right in front of Faneuil Hall and played 10 minute genre-melding works with their amps probably turned up a little bit louder than they should have been. But the crowd couldn’t resist stopping and tapping their toes.
They are Straight Up, and they know how to have fun.
Catching up with these guys at PA’s Lounge during one of their shows, they admitted that their time busking was, at least for now, a one-time gig, but they learned an immense amount about the multi-faceted experience of playing outdoors. They learned that people are a lot less critical if they haven’t heard you before. They learned that their genre hopping tendencies allow them to appeal to much wider audiences. They learned that if you lose your drummer after short intermission break, you could have a young tourist hop on the kit and jam for a few minutes until he wanders back. They learned about the spontaneity of busking.
Influenced heavily by the likes of Primus, The Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Phish, Herbie Hancock and even old hip hop artists, Straight Up is comprised of four childhood friends who couldn’t be having more fun with what they’re doing if someone paid them hefty amounts of cash to. That became clear when a conversation with them spanned from the consistency and likability of feta cheese to a poem that Clay, guitarist, and Steve, drummer, wrote about a football card, which slowly transitioned into a rather comical, existential love ballad. Lots of laughs were had in between.
In regards to the music they play, Dana, bassist, stated, “If it moves, it grooves. I think that’s me quoting George Clinton…I think.” And their music grooves. Based on things they know and have written, their live performances also take on a very reactionary role where they transition through a seemingly endless list of genres in response to the crowd’s vibes. Sam, guitarist, and Clay admit that they are still working on developing their stage presence, but they think that if they have fun, the crowd will feed off that energy and have fun, too.
Straight Up is simply fun. They are always smiling, cracking jokes and jokingly making fun of one another, and that is what makes them such a joy to watch and listen to perform. They have undeniable chemistry with one another and are so genuinely interested in having as much fun as possible. It is almost impossible as a listener not to have fun.