Spin the spice ‘RAQ’

Nick Wiener

Vermont-based jamband RAQ made New Haven’s Toad’s Place their first stop on their spring tour that canvasses the country to include stops in upstate New York, Boston, South Carolina, New York City, Florida, and finally a mid-April finish in Chicago. RAQ (rhymes with shack), together since 2003, consists of Todd Stoops on keyboards, Chris Michetti on guitar, Jay Burwick on bass, and Greg Stukey on drums. The buzz around RAQ has been rising since they were nominated for a Jammy award for best new band in 2003. The band has been shedding comparisons to fellow Vermont based jamband Phish since inception and continues to allow themselves more room to create their own illustration. The group’s constant touring schedule, as well as their big label debut, “Carbohydrates,” has helped the band craft their own sound, image, and following.

Having previously rocked Toad’s with a mid-October show, the fans and the band were eager to begin the night’s festivities. The crowd seemed double the size of the previous outing as word had surely spread since the bands last visit to the area. The band opened with a raucous rendition of Hannah Can a song off of “Carbohydrates,” much to the fans’ delight. This quick-jam vehicle lent itself to another rocker off of “Carbohydrates,” in “Brother From Another Mother,” a song that had both Stoopes and Michetti exchanging solos to each player’s amusement.

The crowd was now in a full dance mood and the band didn’t let up as Michetti slowly played the chords to “Georgia,” a crowd favorite that quickly picked up into a wall of sound. The jam out of “Georgia” was truly beautiful and the band was now running on all cylinders. “The Down Low” followed, another track off “Carbs,” as it’s called by most fans, and the band jammed it out on their way to a set break.

The set break is one of the most interesting times at a concert, giving the fan not only time to catch their breath but also to speak to fellow worshipers of the band on stage. One fan who had traveled from Tennessee to follow RAQ on the northern swing of the tour explained how it was his 24th show, and a young woman shared how she traveled with her friends from Long Island for the show, hoping to be back in time for classes the next day. This type of devotion to a band this early in their career shows how much of an impact RAQ has had on the scene and only spawns more hope for the future of this fine band.

For the second set, RAQ welcomed members of The Breakfast onstage. The fellow jam band based out of New Haven lent its keyboardist and guitarist to the stage. The band launched into “Funk #49,” a cover song originally played by Joe Walsh and The James Gang. The scorcher saw Michetti and Breakfast guitarist Tim Palmeri exchanging licks back and forth until there was nowhere on the fret board left for the guitarists to play. After that the band was informed it had 11 minutes before curfew and so RAQ launched into “Carbohydrates,” the title track off the album of the same name.

The night came to a close, the band bowed, and the crowd exited, hoping RAQ wouldn’t become too big to visit a little bar named Toad’s again.