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"Congratulations, Denton gypsy music band, samples multiples genres"

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Congratulations, Denton gypsy music band, samples multiple genres


They're excessive, humorous and surprisingly confusing, all while stirring up emotions both visually and audibly.

Dressed in drag, beach gear, a cowboy getup and some sort of child in a propeller hat, Congratulations knows how to put on an entertaining show. Witty lyrics, intricate harmonies and roaring guitar solos accented by dreaded heads and hippie garb made the performance Saturday night at The Boiler Room a sight to see.

"Everything's been done before; it's just how you take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and make something new," said Gaah(n), the band's pianist, organist and vocalist.

The shows depend on an energy exchange between the band and the audience for each song to reach its full capacity, said guitarist and vocalist Brian Felker, an UNT alumnus. Half of the show is created "in the moment."

"The improvisation aspect is common in Denton," Gaah(n) said. "We've expanded on a well-defined set of tunes."

Influences pulled from Frank Zappa, Ween, Phish and Igor Stravinsky will soon make Congratulations a perfect fit on the festival circuit as members of the gypsy music culture.

"Denton's music scene is a lot like what we do," Gaah(n) said. "We're a fringe jam band, not a jam band. It is something we incorporate, but not who we are."

Alan Eckert, drummer and a former UNT student, said the group has played nearly every style of music the members can imagine.

"We play every song differently each time and manipulate the form," he said. "We go from dance party to metal, polka to bluegrass or to songs that are a conglomerate of many different styles."

For Felker, Congratulations is about more than creating music for the sake of creating music.

"We can take something original and make statements with it, aside from just beautiful music," he said.

Congratulations teamed up with the nonprofit organization HeadCount to help register and inform voters about issues and candidates for Tuesday's election.

"We really encourage action over apathy," Eckert said.

Along the politically active side of Congratulations, the guys recently converted a 20-year-old, 44-passenger BlueBird bus to biofuel.

"Everyone has really solid environmental ethics," Felker said. "We're just trying to make our carbon footprint smaller."

The band has plans to start touring across the country, playing 200 to 300 gigs a year.

The bus runs on vegetable oil and makes travel cheaper and more environmentally friendly, Eckert said.

"We try to be experimental, but not the genre scene," Felker said. "We want to do something new and break new ground."

The members worked with Nick Moon as their production engineer on "It's a Band," their new album, released in June 2008. The band's next Denton show is Dec. 4 at The Boiler Room.

Congratulations accomplished the band's goals within the first six months of its creation; the members graduated, recorded an album, traveled out of state and toured across the lower United States. Now, two years later, new ambitions and determinations keep the band motivated and looking for new terrain. - North Texas Daily

"Congratulations! It's a Band!"

In the opinion of this reviewer, pop music is not what it was. Bands today often lack the talent of the popular bands of the seventies and instead go for looks, shock value, and statements. This being the case, many of the more talented musicians get lost in the underground. Congratulations is one of those bands.

To date, Congratulations has played 37 shows in the 15 months they have been together, and I have been privileged to attend 34. Even in the early days when the band was confined to a smaller catalogue, each show felt different and unique due to the ability of the members to jam off into a tangent whenever they felt one coming. One of the beautiful things about those tangents? Even after the jam went far enough that the audience forgot what song they had left, it was always returned to seamlessly.

This is one of the many things that makes it such a pleasure to see Congratulations. Each member of the band has studied his instrument, or music, in an academic setting and could easily be making it as a ringer for another band. In fact, every single member of the band plays with other groups and plays a vital role as a leader in those. Although their training and musical taste is varied, it all comes together to bring the audience a sound that is entirely their own. One can spot the general love that all members of the band share for Frank Zappa’s complicated rhythms and off beat sense of humor, the intricate counter melodies and musicality of prog bands like Yes, a tongue-in-cheek country feel that pop bands like Cake utilize well, the variety of genre only rivaled by something like Ween, and (if you listen carefully) a friendly, lyric driven love song that even Paul McCartney would want to sing along with. So basically, it’s a sound that can’t be put into words, even by a talented lady such as myself.

The backgrounds of the band members are as different as the influences. Both Gaah(n) (keys and vocals) and Mike Beall (bass and backing vocals) grew up in Little Rock, where they played together as young as 14. Through the years they started a few projects, but for the 6 years previous to Congratulations played separately and took time to “grow up musically.” Through those years Gaah(n) developed his solo music and played with the Denton jam supergroup, BAGG, while Mike worked with Thinking Room, an indie band in Dallas and also had several blues and funk projects going. Brian Felker (guitar and vocals) played with Gaah(n) in Sol Kitchen, which is a Denton gang of top musicians (mostly jazz musicians, all funky) who vow to never record, never play outside of Denton, and never rehearse, while working on his degree at UNT in Music. Brian and Gaah(n) both handle most of the songwriting for Congratulations. Eric Rogers (percussion) is also a member of Sol Kitchen who used to play with thrash-funk band, Parallel Realty. Eric never plays drumset, and instead prefers to play auxiliary percussion, filling in with everything from marching quads to a sample pad. He’s currently studying music at UNT. Congratulations also recently acquired drummer Alan Eckert from jam band $9 Word. Alan is a everything from a jazz drummer to a jingle writer. A side note, I recently saw Alan at his second rehearsal with Congratulations… this kid is good.

Of all the Congratulations shows I’ve been to, I’ve never seen it empty. Even when the band played recently at Mardi Gras in Dallas they managed to pull a good crowd up from Denton, no easy feat. Within seconds the crowd is split into two groups, those that have to dance, and those that want to stay seated and try to figure out the polyrhythms and enjoy the talent. The band will often open with something fun, like “Delicious Part One,” only to transition into the funkier “Jiffy Pope,” and then pull back into “Delicious Part Two,” which has a driving jam leading to a few slow, high notes trailing off. By the end of what the band calls “Delipopecious,” the crowd is ready for anything next. Sometimes it may be “Woke Up Dead,” which starts like death-rock, and has an adorable, Beatlesque chorus, or “Failed Bit,” which can only be described as tongue-in-cheek bluegrass. Some songs showcase the extreme talent of certain members of the band. In the case of “Mr. Funkknuckle,” Mike Beall gets to come out of the background and show off just how good he is with his 6-string bass. Occassionally if Denton’s most talented mc, Soul Relentless is at the show, they’ll have a bass/rap duel that gets so intricate it’s hard to pull your jaw off the floor. Gaah(n) and Brian often choose to showcase each other and while Gaah(n)’s “Riga” lets Brian shred some faces off, Brian’s “Going to the Moll” leaves space for Gaah(n) to rock socks off. The band almost always makes sure there’s a drum jam between Eric and Alan in “Crack of Now,” among others, and the two play together so well, it sounds more like there’s one drummer with four hands.

It’s a shame that often these talented bands go so overlooked by everyone except the indie rockers and the festival crowds. These five men have worked hard to master their instruments and to play well together and it would be nice for more people to have the opportunity to hear them. Of course, last time I spoke to the lads they were trying to put a tour together. You won’t find them on the radio, they are too good to be noticed by pop pundits, but maybe one of these summers they’ll be playing a festival that you’ll be attending. Check them out, won’t you?

By: Lindsay Huntoon
January 7, 2008
Cricket Soda :

- Cricket Soda

"Congratulations @ Boiler Room"

by Contributing Writer Hillary Early

Show Date: 4/24/09

Bill: Congratulations

Denton loves Congratulations. You can see pride in the smiles of the smelly, sweaty dancers crowding the floor. There's a sense of shared ownership among the crowd. This is our band. We helped to shape this sound. We're the environment and Congratulations is the organism. You can borrow them for a few weeks, West Coast, but when they finish playing, please put them back on their bio bus and send them home, because they are from Denton, F*ing Texas and we need them here.

The best time to see this band is when they come home after a tour. April 24th at the Boiler Room was a prime example of the effect the road has on this band. They are playful and happy to be home. The music is a spicy sonic stir-fry. Nobody really thinks it's a good idea to mix polka and metal, until you realize Congratulations just did it and you kept dancing. It's the norm in the jam scene to mix funk, blues, jazz and rock. Been there, done that. No one cares unless you have some surprises planned along the way. More like Zappa, less like Panic. Slightly Ween-like, not so much Grateful Dead-ish. They like to use musical quotations a lot. It's uber-nerdy. Like that guy who throws in a phrase of Latin next to a Kafka quote in conversation. Normally that makes me roll my eyes. When these guys do it, I roar with triumph and then look around to see who else got it. Was that Herbie Hancock? No, man that was Stravinsky I mean... Prince? Don't feel bad if you can't understand the words. That isn't how people talk. It's how Gaah(n) thinks. "Ostensibly covert, responsitorially old. Fastidiously preachy, ostentationally fervent. Conveniently peachy, humbly your faithful servant." Yea, I don't really get it either. But that doesn't stop people from singing along with Riga. "That riga sure to mean a tendril eight." I've been singing this for years and have no idea what it means.

Daniel Forrester (Nine Dollar Word) has taken over for Mike Beall on Bass. Is this a permanent change? Not necessarily. To be honest, I did miss Mike's killer tone. That sound created more than a few puddles of Bass player drool on the floor for some hippie chick to slip in. But Daniel is no slouch on the instrument. His playing is exciting and powerful. I'd only cry for a little while if this means no more Mike. If you are looking for a band that wants you to cry with them about their past relationships, go see someone else. If you're looking for madness, ear candy, and narwhals perhaps you should try Congratulations.

Photography by Thorpeland Photography - My Denton Music


In May 2008 Congratulations independently released their first full length album entitled "It's a Band"



When four key members of the 13 piece improv funk/jazz powerhouse band, Sol Kitchen, wanted to flex their skills with tight orchestration, witty lyricism and rich vocal harmonies, they called on one of their favorite local Dallas musicians and Congratulations was born. With musical influences as wide ranging as Frank Zappa, Bassnectar, Parliament Funkadelic, Yes, EOTO, Miles Davis, Phish, Squarepusher, Ween and Igor Stravinsky; the words genre shattering come to mind while trying to describe Congratulations' unique sound. Catchy song writing seamlessly interwoven into skilled improvisation has made them current favorites of the underground Texas music scene.

At a typical Congratulations’ show, you might find the venue transformed at times into a sweat filled dance club saturated with pulsating electronic beats and rhythms delivered by percussionist Eric Rogers and drummer Alan Eckert. Or maybe engaged in a Broadway-ish sing-a-long led by Keyboardist Gaah(n), complete with tap dance solo. Brian Felker’s striking guitar leads and Daniel Forester's grumbling bass lines deliver funk filled counterpoint at rippling speeds or at a precise slow greasy grind.

Since 2006, Congratulations' high energy live performances have enabled them to travel extensively while adding to an ever growing and diverse fan base. From bars to festivals and late night 'events', Congratulations proves it's ability to harness the energy of an audience and let it build. Last year saw the release of Congratulations' first full length studio album and tens of thousands of miles traveled in touring support. Members of Congratulations have shared the stage with or have opened for such acts as: Widespread Panic, EOTO, Vic Wooten, Estradasphere, Topaz, Eric McFadden Trio, Drop Trio, and Sugar Free Allstars, just to name a few.