Liz Dellinger nodded toward the stage at Pacific Standard Tavern last Thursday, where she would soon be performing with her band Snooty Garland for the aptly named show Homecoming.
“I want to be on that stage. It’s weird being in the audience. I’m at home up there,” she said.
Dellinger, also known as Lady Elizabeth Dellinger, had returned from a four-month trip across the United States with her youngest son and had been recording new music when she asked friend and bandmate Mark Lyon if she should do a show. She reached out to her “beautiful healthy music family” and “everyone said yes.”
“We are all getting strong. I really missed them.”
Dellinger herself has been on quite the journey in the past four years. Starting out singing and songwriting with gigs at the former Olde School Bar and Bistro, “where I found my family,” she said, she eventually put together the band Snooty Garland and was one year into working with them.
Then she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and the surgery needed for it ended up paralyzing her vocal cords.
She went through voice therapy and over time the left cord gained strength and moved. “It’s the superhero” she said, “It reaches over and grabs the right one.”
Dellinger said that her voice now “sounds the same, but it’s harder to make the sounds. I’m learning how to do that again.” But she also said that it is definitely improving. She is “finally getting good takes” with it when recording (she is currently working on singles that she hopes to release in 2018) and had been eager to try it out on stage with a big show, such as this one, with her music family.
“Once in a while we put this big freak show together,” she said, “that’s what this is going to be.”
Big was the word of the night, as big sound and big love permeated every corner of stage and bar, as three acts all interconnected celebrated their music and each other.
First to take the stage was Jeremiah Fuller on keyboards, joined by Maxx Spinelli on bass, Al Sheffield on drums, Dylan McDonnell on flute, and Stephen Gritz King on saxophone. The band opened with an instrumental, highly jazz-funkified version of Bill Withers’s “Lovely Day,” trading off on solos and eventually leading back to a full band jam. Throughout the three song set, each musician offered the other smiles and looks of admiration as they riffed on their own instruments and then easily joined in again together as one. This band was having a blast, enjoying every minute of what they were doing. When Dellinger as well as vocalists Chad Browne-Springer and Paul Bryant Hudson joined them for a fourth and final song, the energy of the room rose all the more.
The room got even brighter and hotter with the next act, The Lost Tribe, which came to the stage and began with almost every band member playing a percussion instrument for their first number. That got a few audience members right up front and dancing. After that number band leader and percussionist Jocelyn Pleasant introduced the band, which included Matt Bellliveau on guitar, Joel Hewitt on bass, Nathan Davis on trombone, Karim Rome on tenor sax, Richard McGhee on alto sax and flute, Jamemurrell Stanley on percussion, and Seny Camara on djembe.
Pleasant then asked the audience members if they were ready to dance. She repeated that question and got a louder response. “When you see these drums, you know you have to dance,” she said.
This band headed straight into three more beat- and brass-heavy instrumentals that got the ever increasing crowd moving and responding wildly. Even those who were not straight up dancing could not help but move along.
Snooty Garland took to the stage with its regular lineup as well as a few guests throughout the set, adding to the already high-intensity party vibe. Dellinger on vocals, Mark Lyon on guitar, Dexter Pettaway on drums, Jocelyn Pleasant on percussion, David Davis on sax, Corey Claiborne on bass, Stephen Gritz King on sax, Ted Moraldi on guitar, and Jeremiah Fuller on keyboards were joined by Scott Packham and Tim Walsh (both of whom Dellinger mentioned are producing some of her recordings) as well as Dylan McDonnell on flute.
Dillinger began the proceedings with a smoky slow jam that worked its way into an all-out funk fest that included a guitar solo that ended with a group scream. Chad Browne-Springer joined her for vocals after the first song. Later in the evening she was also joined on vocals by Ruth Onyirimba as well as Avery Wilson, a vocalist who had appeared on The Voice and had come back into town specifically for this show.
The final number lasted almost 30 minutes long (draining this reporter’s camera battery completely only partway through but allowing me to get my dancing in). It featured each and every performer on the stage, but also created a delicious and seemingly endless serving of sound that had both band and audience moving, smiling and sweating on this cold final November night.
“These are my songs and they want to play them,” Dellinger said after the set was over, with the house lights on and the band and audience intermingling, laughing and smiling. “We put up the Snooty signal and people came. It’s humbling. It’s family.”