California-based improv rock band The Higgs have been powering their way through a big, cross country 2019 fall tour, and this past week has seen the tour take a very special route through the northeast. On Sunday night, The Poke Around caught their headlining set at Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge, and man, was it a good time. Opening for The Higgs were Ashville-based funk outfit STIG, and at one point in this quick yet totally full night, the two bands joined forces for a couple of memorable jams. Below this article, we have full set audio of The Higg’s performance along with a gallery of images from the evening.
The Higgs consist of John Lovero on guitar, Jesse Jennings on keys, Garrett Morris on Drums, and David Barksy on bass, and together as a unit they far surpass your run-of-the-mill jamband. With a sizable catalogue of their own songs that brim with life and a sense of character, The Higgs seem to focus an intense amount of energy and ability into creating unique and memorable performances. Go see The Higgs multiple times, several times right in a row even—you’ll get wildly different evenings of music each time.
Mercury Lounge’s set opened with a pair of originals, with their feel good tune called “Change” coming first. A span of just eight minutes on this one was enough time for the band to mix in multiple shifts in tempo and intensity for a beautiful first display of creativity. “Gotta Know,” meanwhile, and carried some really sturdy, gut-punching funk across the fifteen minute mark and included a jam on Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.”
At the apex of the evening, The Higgs invited all the members of STIG up for a high-powered live experimentation. The two bands, complete with both a two-man drum section and two bass players, surged their way veraciously through a hardcore take on The Wood Brothers’ “When I Was Young,” with wild solos from STIG saxaphonist Ryan Stigmon and Higgs keyboardist Jesse Jennings stealing the show at points. A four-player bass and drum section bridged the funk between this cover and a version of The Higgs’ own song “Rice and Beans.” This one worked through it’s way through several sections, the middle of which sounded like a more cinematic take on Clapton’s “Layla.”
A couple more covers from The Higgs really sent this evening to high standings. A version of Railroad Earth’s “Bird In The House” eventually flipped the electric switch and mutated grandly into a crazy stretch of rock and roll that invited an improv jam on “Low Rider” and then some more nods to Cream. Then, there was yet another treat in “Maggie’s Farm,” and if you want to hear this Dylan tune played at just about the grooviest tempo ever, listen to this version done by The Higgs in NYC. After lilting steadily and gracefully through a gentle peak, Barsky on bass took charge and funneled it into a breakneck, breakdown double time section.
Tonight, The Higgs play famed upstate spot Buffalo Iron Works, and tomorrow they’ll take to Thunder Road in Boston, where they’ll be joined by Connecticut rock band Eggy. After a gig Friday night at The Press Room in New Hampshire, two back to back nights in Oswego will end their northeast stretch of shows. From there, they’ll head south for shows in North Carolina and West Virginia, before taking the tour back out west and a set at Railroad Earth’s Hangtown Music Festival.
Stream the entirety of The Higgs’ headlining set at Mercury Lounge, courtesy of taper Dave Lewis. Below that, view a photo gallery of the evening. To check out more about The Higgs, head here. For more info about STIG, head here.