The Werks made their way to Brighton Music Hall to play an energetic opening set before Big Something, a groovy alternative rock band. Fresh off their annual festival, “Winter Werk Out,” the Ohio-based jam band played with passion and flair that ignited the crowd. Rooted in funk, dance, and rock music, The Werks have toured extensively across the country, from their annual summer and winter festivals to post-party shows during Phish’s 13-night “Baker’s Dozen” residency at Madison Square Garden.
Their most recent album, Magic, is linked to various musical legends. After the songwriting finished, the band received the help of lead engineer and producer Joe Viers, who has worked with music powerhouses like Blues Traveler and Twenty One Pilots. Viers utilized the studio’s legendary Amek/Neve 9098i mixing console, which is one of only 13 in the world. This specific console was originally installed in Olympic Studios in London, where it served to document the unique creative mojo of Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, and more.
Rob Chafin drives the band forward with his dynamic drumming and vocals. His complex drum fills prompt his bandmates to elevate their improvisation, pushing the jam to the next level. The bassist, Jake Goldberg, maintains the groove with his thumpy creative patterns. During the concert he often laid low to allow other band members to tear into fiery solos—the crowd loved when he extended his bass playing on songs like “Shakedown Street.”
In addition to original songs, The Werks treated the audience to a fast-paced encore of the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.” The rendition was fantastic, with two guitarists liberally using the “wah” effect. Chris Houser, on the lead guitar, made use of the wah pedal until the guitar sounded like it was singing. Nick MacDaniels, from the headlining band Big Something, sat in for the song and complemented Houser with unique sound of his own. As he played the rhythm portion, he seemed to gel with the other players, often nodding and smiling in recognition of the other musicians’ playing. Specifically, his rhythm playing worked well with Dan Shaw’s keyboard runs. Later in the night, Big Something returned the love by inviting Shaw to play a song with them.
Shaw and Houser spent the night trading and accentuating each other’s solos. The second song of the night, an original called “Dark Farm,” stretched to well over 12 minutes and featured highlights from all of the members of the band. Chafin’s drumming was noticeably tight for this song, as he led the band through musical twists and turns. Houser’s guitar playing started off melodic and in line with the general limitations of the song and its structure. His sound was reminiscent of The Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man,” and as the song progressed, his solos were transcendent like those of the late, great Gregg Allman.
The band reached beyond classic rock solos, drawing Caribbean influences in the song “Moving On,” as they transformed the dark music hall into a lively tropical beach. The instruments and musicians layered their playing over each other, creating an interwoven sound that allowed the song to evolve into an otherworldly jam that came as a surprise after the carefree, simple beginning and chorus of the song. As he played, Houser closed his eyes and concentrated, as if he was trying to access the creative spirit that permeated the concert hall.
The Werks played a great show in Boston, living up to their stellar reputation in the jam band community. Further, they did a great job as an opener. Once their playing was over, the crowd was primed and ready for the main act, who did not disappoint either.