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Herbal Essence: Jay Palmer of Sourgrass shows his sweet side.

Sweed & Sour

By Garrett Wheeler

Here's a little secret: Moe's Alley rocks. Pop your head in the midtown blues club on any given night and chances are you're going to hear some Grade-A rock & roll. It might be blues, maybe jazz or funk—heck, it might even be reggae—but regardless the genre, one thing's for sure. It's gonna be rockin'.

Those of you lucky enough to have dropped by Moe's last Saturday night will already know it was no exception to the usual high-quality fare on offer there. The three local bands that graced the stage were good. Really good. So good, in fact, that my reservations about having to miss Matisyahu at the Catalyst (yeah, I heard it was a fun show, woop-dee-doo) were quickly laid to rest as I was impressed, one by one, by the talent that performed nearly an arm's length away from where I sat. Bet you can'tsay the same about Matisyahu. C'mon, I'm not jealous; I'm just making a point.

The first band to hit the stage was a funky-rock quartet called Sourgrass. There were some mighty sweet-smelling aromas wafting though the air during the set; an army of the group's devoted fan base showed up to support their local heroes, and the boys in the band did not disappoint. Mixing Sublime-like rasta rock with Chili Peppers funk, Sourgrass had the whole joint (no pun intended) groovin' on the dance floor from the first note to the last.

Next up was the oddly named Sweedish, whose catchy, feel-good melodies kept the Moe's Alley crowd alive and dancing right on into the night. A rock band of sorts, with influences ranging from Stevie Wonder to the Allman Brothers, the group's eclectic set list covered a wide range of music, all of which was rock-solid. Lead guitarist Greg Becerra's pentatonic (blues scale) solos were nothing short of dazzling, while three-way vocal harmonies were good enough to get yours truly thinking Beach Boys. The band's obvious flair and pop sensibility were present throughout as the four young guns blasted their way through the hour-long set.

Headlining the event was Miznoma, a Santa Cruz trio specializing in an upbeat brand of rock & roll tight enough to warrant some mainstream exposure, should the right person (i.e., record exec) show up to one of its gigs or take some interest after reading this column. The infectious melody of "Home Again" (check it out on their Myspace) could surely compete with any song on commercial radio, and the band's lively stage presence must serve it well on the party circuit. Led by singer/guitarist Sam Fischer, these local lads cross the rock & roll timeline to bring audiences the best of the decades, from '60s rock to modern indie-pop.

To be honest, by the time Miznoma came on, I thought I'd seen the best the night would offer. After all, the two bands that had just played were great, and the crowd's energy couldn't last all night. But as the dance floor swelled with squirming bodies once again, I realized I was sorely mistaken. The energy would persist; the good times would go on. And I had all but forgotten about Matisyahu.

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