The 7th Squeeze: Late Saturday Night at Freddy’s
Y’know, one thing leading to another. I slipped into Freddy’s Bar on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope for the very first time, sat at the bar and happened to sit near a young woman I know from court reporting school. She was with a friend, who was there to hear an Albany band called The 7th Squeeze at midnight. ”They have a really amazing vocalist,” her friend said.
My interest was piqued.
The band entered the bar at 11PM. A spirited group, they’d just driven down from Albany with their manager and were pumped to play their first Brooklyn gig. Meanwhile at the front of the bar, a tiny performance space with an upright piano, a blue light and a microphone, an Elvis impersonator wowed the crowd with his Elvis circa 1970′s act, wearing a white bellbottom jumpsuit with tassels and huge sunglasses.
Over the roar of the crowd and Elvis singing Heartbreak Hotel, I asked Jesse Sample, the 7th Squeeze guitarist, who was waiting on a beer, the meaning of the band’s name. He said it was a horse racing term. “But this is my seventh band, and this is the one. The one,” he was adamant.
The band’s manager, a serious woman with blonde hair, filled me in on the group’s sound (a little gospel, punk, heavy metal and alternative rock); where they’ve been playing (the Friar’s Club in Manhattan, the Apollo, where they’d placed first in its talent night); and what’s coming up (hopefully a tour sponsored by Gallo Wine). I prepared myself for a potentially unsatisfying bar band experience. That turned out not to be the case.
The spine of the four-piece band, which began in 2006, is Sample and bassist Michael Borkosky, who looks like a manic Leonardo DiCaprio in low slung jeans. He’s great fun to watch as his fingers cascade from one end of his fret board to the other. Sample and Borosky have a brotherly chemistry and tight musicality that delivers a Grateful Dead/heavy metal litany of interconnecting licks. Drummer Vinnie Amico adds a punk energy to the enterprise.
Enter Nicke Horace, who joined the band in 2009. The son of a Baptist minister in East Texas, he’s unimaginably graceful with a long, think torso, dancer’s arms and a head full of swinging braids. His idols are Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Patti Labelle and Bill Withers and he sings with a confident blend of contemporary r&b and gospel, bringing a highly rhythmic and theatrical poignancy to the songs.
Unfortunately only a small audience gathered to hear this punky group fronted by a talented soul singer. Most of the crowd at Freddy’s was talking and drinking in the front or listening to Elvis. Two young woman, fervent fans of the band from Albany but living in Brooklyn now, sat up close. I overheard one of them say to Sample that she missed Albany, that she missed Lark. I don’t know if she meant a specific club or Lark Street, an Albany street rife with restaurants and bars.
“I don’t wat to hear the word Albany tonight,’ I heard Sample say. He wears a black bandanna around his neck and has intelligent good looks and a radiating smile.
The group played its signature mash-up of soul singing and a complex almost mathematical interweaving of guitar, bass and drums. They played originals including Ish, Hitsong, and Can’t Walk on Love and covers like a riveting version of Chris Isak’s Wicked Game and Bill Withers’ Lovely Day.
The lead singer is magnetic, but it is the odd and interesting combustion of styles that gives 7th Squeeze its satisfying crunch. My night at Freddy’s ended at 1:42. The band still had another set in them, but I was tired and ready to make my way home.