Seemingly correlated, it twists the mind around trying to decipher the meaning. On the surface, it seems to work. The sound of it is somewhat familiar, yet unusual enough at the same time to remember distinctly. Listen enough and it will create a wonder aural illusion, like a Magic Eye stereogram for the ears. “Oh, it’s a sailboat!” This successfully describes both the term Heatwarmer and the sound of the Seattle-based jazz fusion band.
Led by vocalist and electric bass player Luke Bergman, the group also features a drummer, guitarist and not one, but two synthesizeristas, one who also plays the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) and one who can flip his hair and make it look perfect. Every. Single. Time. The songs are eclectic but very listenable, like a blend of Frank Zappa and Stevie Wonder. Well, not exactly, but sorta. Ya know?
No, you can’t know unless you listen to them. I’ll save the clever adjectives and music critic comparisons for something describable. For now, just enjoy:
Their new album is reportedly finished, awaiting the “final touches” as Bergman put it. They played only one song off their first album last night, “Weird Shower.” You know when a band plays there new stuff, and nobody is really into it because they just want to hear the songs they know and love already, even if the new stuff is even better? This did not happen to Heatwarmer. Jaws dropped, cheers were hollered and people danced. “What am I even seeing right now!?” was uttered more than once.
A review of a 2009 performance by Heatwarmer concluded with Gabe Meline waiting for the initial weirdness to settle down to determine if this was “good” or “bad,” and he rightfully concludes that if there’s even a moment of confusion to determine something that simple then it’s automatically in the “good” category.
“When they first started playing, I couldn’t tell if it was the wackest shit ever or the most punk rock thing I’d ever seen.”
I gotta ride with my friend Josh on this one, who did eventually determine the latter. From Seattle, Heatwarmer set up in the cavernous room of Matrix in Petaluma and, before they’d played a note of their “songs,” noodled for 10 minutes or so in the most fantastically addictive way. “I hope this is their set,” I told Shane, hopelessly. “It sounds like the Wired Guitar God Parodies,” he replied, acutely.
Though the noodling was not their set, it was close. Galaxie 500 meets Mr. Bungle meets Raymond Scott meets Phish meets Quasi meets a slowly accumulating cadre of won-over appreciation on the faces of everyone at Matrix. At one point I zoned out on the keyboard player, who wore some kind of medallion around his neck, pondering how he’d memorized all the augmented chords and dexterous runs, when I realized that the electric clarinetist was unreeling the same in unison.
Grappling with an initial sense of confusion, springboarding either into “good” or “bad,” makes the final result that much more concrete. It’s why I don’t recreationally listen to much pop radio, and why Heatwarmer was, in a mentally interactive way, so positively and weirdly thrilling. Check them out here.