Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Watching the World Fall in Love—with Train Company

 Eavesdropping can sometimes lead to beautiful things. I was in a Starbucks, and the boisterous baristas were talking about a band, a local band I’d never heard of. I like music; I like to support local artists. I thought I’d go home and check out this band called Train Company. Odd name. I expected something maybe fun, a young group feeling their way into music, what we expect at a local level. I got something entirely different. 

Their website offered the entire album for play. I played it. I played it again. I bought it and played it every day for the next eight months. Call me obsessed: I fell in love. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t listen to them.

I’d love to define Train Company with a neat label that encompasses their sound, but it’s impossible. Blues rock, yes they are that. Indie rock, that too. Jazzy nightclub seduction, yes. Hard, anthemic rock, progressive rock, they have these too. They are a rhythm even non-dancers can’t resist, a contagious joy, with sex appeal that ranges from raw lust to sweet love. This band brings you life.

I had the lucky pleasure to see them live in a small, local venue, The Office in Batavia, IL. If I loved their studio sound, my love doubled on seeing them live. This band meshes. Young and energetic and in it for love, they play together like seasoned veterans. I was astounded. 

Train Company is a band that understands layers, the power of subtle nuance. They know just when to hold back and when to pull out all stops and crash together. They are five guys feeding off each other’s mood and direction, building intricately as keyboardist Sam Wyatt taps tempos and crescendos from elegant to joyfully wild, as saxophonist Mark Alletag blows svelte seduction or a playful bounce, as bassist Mike DeWitt tantalizes with rhythms that fix in our stomachs, as drummer Rob Lejman controls us with a steady beating or with expert elation rolls everything out. The band builds tension as they hold the song together, and singer/guitarist John Zozzaro buoyed on it all, responds to what he feels, tickling up a melody, luring us around corners, seducing us with a bluesy lust, or pounding a dynamic rhythm that lifts us off our feet.

The music drives forward, until suddenly all those separate sounds coalesce. The instruments quicken, each raising the other, and suddenly a wash of sound envelops the room. Zozzaro wails with a voice of silken seduction, rich and smooth, and guttural when need be. You’ve no choice but to relinquish, to give in to the ecstasy of release.

In this tiny venue, Train Company played all my favorites (do I have any that aren’t favorites?), and I don’t even know how many times the band hit transcendence. Always in “City Down by the Shoreline,” which is a fine example of their building mesh of sound, and the live version of “Other Side” caused the universe to crash and whirl together. In the bluesy, beautiful “Change,” guitars and lyrics built to climactic release, as Zozzaro sang, “Doesn’t matter anyway, ‘cause we’re going whether or not …” and the audience relinquished to his own beautiful succumbing to the life he depicts. A magnetic performer, Zozzaro’s songs sometimes bubble up inside us, making the audience smile. “Bannister” had the room dancing, the sweetest sexy song I’ve heard in a long time, while “Step to Me” brought out the low and dirty, a band at work together to create raw, sensuous need.

I hadn’t realized how hot and sexy Train Company’s music is because it’s also filled with light, boisterous living. I don’t dance, but hearing them live, my body couldn’t resist their rhythmic undulations. “Still Can Feel the Heat” and “Myself in Two” blended assertion and nonchalance with intriguing appeal. “Leavin’” felt like the aftermath of a final night of sex and the thrill of new adventure. “October” was a beautiful testament to the band’s fearless experimentation and talent. They play with the history of rock in their genes, yet know how to make it new.

They are a band that makes songs come alive. You see the sound taking them, how as they play along with each other, their stances alter, pulling them higher, as if the music is coming up through the floor, taking over, transporting them. Witnessing that kind of art is the greatest pleasure: immersion, surrender, and release.

At one point in that tiny venue, I looked around at the audience. I saw people smiling, dancing, or jumping to the energy, and one woman in a long, loose dress who swayed sensuously, her hands resting on her front thighs getting lost in the sensuality of Train Company’s sound. Playful, hard, and happy; seductive, sensual, and heated. There were times I couldn’t contain my smile and other times when the sensuality had me wanting to sway like her, biting my lip instead. Was it the intimate setting? I don’t know, but it was getting hot in there.

--by Patricia J. Esposito, author of Beside the Darker Shore

You can get a taste of Train Company here

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