Gettin’ “Toasty” with the Buddhahood

I’ve had the good fortune to listen to the pre-master version of The Buddhahood’s newest CD, this one a tribute to their recently-passed guitarist/vocalist/inspiration Tony Cavagnaro. It’s the recording of The Buddhahood’s latest blow-out concert in the middle of the Park Avenue Fest. The CD will be available in its fully-mastered glory this Sunday at the tribute show, and even if the proceeds were not going to a good cause (which they are, Tony’s wife and child), it would be worth it’s weight in gold.

Because of course, live CDs capture a moment in time. They are a snap-shot of exactly where a band is at any given time, what inspires them, where they are moving. The Park Ave Fest shows have always been another type of benchmark, year after year, as the band has progressed and evolved. This CD faithfully renders the band as it was this summer, flush with the excitement of their latest sonic discoveries.

The Buddhahood has wisely chosen to release live CDs from this event on more than one occasion in the past, and they had already planned to release this one before Tony’s unfortunate passing. In fact, Rick Whitney tells me Tony was psyched to release this one. Anyone who knows Tony’s reputation for having excruciatingly high recording standards knows that this is quite the statement.

I can report that his eagerness was well-placed. This show is a great example of The Buddhahood at their relaxed, happy best. The sound is loose and easy-going, everyone fitting into their respective parts like a time-worn, carefully maintained and reliable ride, the gears just seeming to fall into place without a second thought. Park Ave shows, being several hours stretched over two days, seem to have always been an excuse to break out and improvise for the band. Here on this recording, What’s My Crime takes a turn even spacier than its usual; Purify gets down and dirty; Rub the Buddha shows off it’s rough edges; Spy Surfer surfs on waves of synesthetic inspiration.

But the first thing that struck me was the first thing I heard: Tony’s voice. After a protracted absence, there he was again. Large as life, as always; as if nothing bad ever happened, because of course at that point, nothing had. It’s just another blessed summer Sunday performance in Hogan’s parking lot, on a home-made stage, under a colorful tarp, in front of another audience eager to dance and drink in the Rochester sun.

“Hey! . . . Oh, my goodness. . .” And straight into an easy, happy reggae shuffle I’ve not heard before, as loose-limbed and carefree as young lovers in the throes of post-coital bliss. Actually, the song really just sounds like a reinterpretation of Kaia’s harmonic riffs, with different lyrics, since that is the next song.

And away we go through the rest of the album. If the sound of Tony’s voice was a bit of a shock at first, the snap-shot nature of the album smooths that maudlin edge out and lets us live the memory – not simply of one man, nor of one band, nor even of one event – but of a continuum of happy, sunny, jaunting, not-so-mildly-inebriated afternoons at the Park Avenue Fest.  And it whets our appetite for next year.

And again I return to a theme: the Buddhahood is less of a band than it is a social phenomenon and a family. I counted quickly, but I heard no less than twenty names mentioned over the course of this one concert, some of them audience members and some of them band members. There is a sense that the line between these two is less distinct with the Buddhahood than it might be with other bands. And at the Park Ave Fest, among other such gatherings, the audience includes an extended family of children drawing with chalk and parents in lawn chairs.

This is definitely an album I’m happy to have in my archive.  It’s rare that you get to hear decent recordings, much less decent live recordings, of local bands doing what they do at their best.  This is but one more benefit of The Buddhahood’s extraordinary circle of loved ones.  I suspect that, while the pre-master sound is very good, once some compression and tweaking has been employed, the final result available at the show is going to be amazing.

But unlike most of you, I have the pre-master, ultra-cool bootleg version!  Bwa-hahaha!  Don’t expect to find it on Pirate Bay any time soon.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.