Inasense rocks Goodrich with Middle Eastern flair

Fans of live music at Williams often have something to complain about, namely the lack of live rock music on campus. After all, only a handful of bands have played Goodrich this year. This is unfortunate since there are many regional bands with a great deal of talent who are willing to play smaller venues like Goodrich (e.g. The Nields and The Slip).

Saturday Feb. 27, however, concert-goers had nothing to complain about. Inasense, an Israeli-American jam band, played an impressive set that rocked Goodrich to its very foundations. Inasense’s Israeli roots are central to the band’s jam rock music. Lead guitarist C. Lanzbom and rhythm guitarist/percussionist Noah Chase are both Americans by birth, but the two lived for many years in Israel. There, four years ago, they founded Inasense. Several of the band’s songs display a Middle Eastern flair, yet the music remains accessible and draws heavily upon rock influences.

I arrived at the 9:00 show just in time to catch a stunning rendition of “Rider” (“I Know You Rider” to Deadheads). The guitars jammed with exceptional creativity on this up-tempo rocker, slowly twisting the sonic beats into a Middle Eastern groove. In fact, the band was rocking so hard that Lanzbom actually broke a string on his electric guitar. This unexpected event allowed the band to showcase its acoustic side on the next song, “The Ride,” which gradually devolved into a drum solo featuring Marc Ambrosino (and giving Lanzbom time to change the broken string).

Next, Inasense played a funky jam, which seemed to have been built on a riff borrowed from Pink Floyd’s “Money.” As they expertly shifted rhythmic and dynamic gears, it was quite obvious that Inasense had both talent and exuberance. Thanking the crowd for its enthusiasm, the band launched into a rocking version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” which was reminiscent of the Black Crowes laced with Eagles-esque harmonies. As the improvisation began, Ambrosino locked into the groove, and Lanzbom took his guitar playing to a higher level.

Impressed by the band and greatly enjoying the show, many of the concert-goers signed the mailing list and bought Inasense CDs during the short set-break. The second set contained some of the best music performed at the concert. Pleasing all the Deadheads in attendance, it began with Chase strumming some chords from the Grateful Dead’s classic “Scarlet Begonias.” I was thrilled to see this song performed live and even more thrilled that it was not merely a rote rendition. Rather, like a living tribute, Inasense used the Garcia/Hunter composition as a blueprint for entirely new musical explorations. Recasting the song as an up-tempo boogie, Chase handled the vocals with flair, especially on the bridge (“I knew right away she was not like other girls – OTHER GIRLS!”) Lanzbom’s solo, vaguely reminiscent of Dickey Betts, had the growing crowd on its feet.

In perhaps the highlight of the show, Inasense began to improvise away from the song’s form. As the middle-eastern sounds took greater and greater precedence, the song sank into a slow funk. The Dead’s live performances of “Scarlet Begonias” so often effortlessly slipped into “Fire on the Mountain,” that Deadheads coined the phrase “Scarlet?Fire.” However, Inasense did not follow the Dead’s tradition. Instead, the band began to make the song its own by entering the musical realm of the Middle East. Or so it seemed, anyway. Inasense’s creative segue into “Fire on the Mountain” was met with surprise and pleasure from the audience.

Inasense followed “Fire” with several of its own songs, including a memorable “Ain’t We All Just a Little Like That.” Performing original music gave the band room to explore other musical terrain, including using some guitar feedback. Inasense then slowed things down with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday.” Further delighting the audience, the band continued with a rhythmic original, “Sweet Craziness.”

At the end of set two, the audience demanded an encore. Because Ambrosino had broken the head of his snare on the closing song, the band apologized in advance and then closed the show with a slow song. The apology proved entirely unnecessary as Inasense played a fine cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall be Released.”

With its foundations rooted firmly in jam rock, Inasense gave a very entertaining performance. I’m sure that anyone in the enthusiastic crowd, which was smaller than one might expect from a 2,000-person school, would agree that it was a concert not to be missed.