I'm flying off to New York City tomorrow on a vacation and won't be blogging for another week or so. But before I left town I wanted to share with you about this great band I caught last Sunday, Sept. 3.
While the George Fryer Combo is one of Orange County's most talented bands, the group is equally among the most accessible and fan-friendly of music-making outfits.
There is generally never a charge when the quartet performs, and what could be more accommodating than regularly playing both evening and afternoon shows? Whereas Fryer's original songs, such as "You Make Me Happy" and "Still a Pawn," are highlights of any show, the Huntington Beach-based band gladly plays classic and modern-rock covers while making them their own.
That wide-ranging, easygoing approach has been extended into the recording studio and makes the George Fryer Combo's "New American Standards" CD a true gem.
George Fryer (lead vocals, guitar), Phil Vandermost (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dave Felde (bass) and Wolf Scheffler (drums) are uniformly strong, whether performing original material or reinterpreting the varied likes of Van Morrison, X, The Beatles and Herb Alpert.
"I (had) put out four original CDs. Every time we played a gig, I got asked, 'Do you have stuff you play live?' We went to Phil's studio and did it live," Fryer said of tracking the 15 songs on "New American Standards" in June and July of 2005. "All the instruments were live; we overdubbed vocals and guitars to sweeten it."
Vandermost had just started putting together a home studio when the George Fryer Combo was ready to record a follow-up to "Meow" (released at the beginning of 2005).
Fryer noted that "New American Standards" provides a snapshot of what the combo is doing right now. The troupe can play hundreds of songs, and many of the combo's best concert tunes are featured on the new CD. Herb Alpert's "The Lonely Bull (El Solo Toro)," Van Morrison's "Domino" and a strong and innovative medley of The Doors' "Soul Kitchen," Santana's "Evil Ways" and Cream's "Crossroads" are among the formidable classics redone, while seven of Fryer's originals are also showcased.
"We've been playing with this lineup for three years and developed a sound no one else has," Fryer said. The George Fryer Combo is the perfect house band for King Neptune's, a relaxed tavern in Sunset Beach where regulars and visitors can hang out, watch Sunday football and then catch live music.
"If someone comes in with a request, we'll try it even if we don't know it," Fryer admitted. On a recent Sunday afternoon at King Neptune's, the George Fryer Combo performed memorable versions of The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" and "One After 909," Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man," as well as Fryer's own "Teenage Lovesong" and "Goodbye (I Guess This Is)."
But which do they like most?
"My favorite song is everything we play," Vandermost said. "Plus, I like what George is doing with his own songs. I like to add to that."
The George Fryer Combo will perform at King Neptune's, 17115 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach, at 5 p.m. on Sept. 10 and Sept. 17 and 24. Admission to all shows is free.
Orange County-based post-hard-core outfit Saosin will open for AFI at a string of upcoming area shows, including dates at the Bren Events Center in Irvine on Tuesday and the Long Beach Convention Center on Sept. 15. Saosin will be playing material off the band's self-titled Capitol Records debut, set for release Sept. 26. Several songs from "Saosin" (pronounced say-o-sin) can be heard on the band's MySpace page. Saosin will headline at the Troubadour in Hollywood on Sept. 26 in celebration of the CD release.