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Endearing Geggy Tah Moves Beyond Mere Child's Play

January 06, 1997|JOHN ROOS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA ANA — Tommy "Tah" Jordan, lead singer, bassist and primary lyricist for the L.A. pop band Geggy Tah, has two sisters who are teachers, and he occasionally visits their classrooms to play music and chat with students.

His affinity for youngsters was instantly apparent during the group's endearing performance Friday at the Galaxy Concert Theatre. In fact, one 6-year-old boy practically turned the quirky trio into an even quirkier quartet throughout the concert's first half.

Jordan, keyboardist-guitarist Greg "Geg" Kurstin and drummer Daren Hahn had skipped the customary backstage route to the stage, walking instead through the crowd while Kurstin played a very long-necked trumpet and Jordan and Hahn played hand-held percussion instruments at the start.

Jordan spotted a boy dancing by himself as the band members reached the open pit in front of the stage, so Jordan joined him. The boy--Brian Justice, the son of one of the Galaxy's cocktail waitresses--and Jordan grooved for nearly 10 minutes as Kurstin and Hahn jammed on stage.

A grand opening, indeed.

Jordan pulled the youngster onstage a few songs later, after a supreme rendition of "Don't Close the Door," to show off more of his uninhibited dance moves. Midway through the next song, Jordan asked that the lights be doused, and he and Brian spun about, twirling two flashlights apiece, much to the delight of the boy and the audience.

Jordan thanked the crowd at one point for staying out so late on a Friday night because "I know you all have cartoons to watch tomorrow morning." It was a humorous aside, but reflected Geggy Tah's immersion in things childlike as an escape from the harsh realities of adult life.

Numerous songs covered this thematic landscape in memorable ways.

"Gina," a love song dedicated to "a dog who thinks she's a cow," was particularly impressive--so was "Welcome Into the World (Birthday Song)," an uplifting gem that celebrates the joy of birth, and "Lotta Stuff," which Jordan introduced as "a messy-room song" and in which he convincingly portrays a precocious kid who repeatedly claims proud ownership of the clutter by shouting: "All mine . . . all mine!"

The band displayed a winning touch in broader areas too, changing War's 1975 hit "Why Can't We Be Friends?" from an R&B sing-along into an equally appealing raplike, harmonica-driven sing-along.

"Giddy Up," from the trio's 1994 debut album "Grand Opening," showcased the trio's ability to shift tempos effectively. It began as a slow-paced serenade featuring Kurstin's delicate piano backing, gradually emerging as the up-tempo vehicle its title suggests. A climactic finale had Jordan going bonkers on the trumpet.

The band also offered a reconstructed version of its single "Whoever You Are" in which Jordan modified the line: "You let me change lanes / While I was driving in my car" to "You let me change clothes / In the back seat of my car."

There were, however, moments during the 100-minute set when that spirit of experimentation simply left the group seeming quirky for the sake of being different. Jordan and Hahn traded their respective roles as bassist and drummer before playing "Sacred Cow," but it added little to the proceedings. Each played capably but without distinction.

The preponderance of vocal effects--including whistling, gurgling, humming and simulating a variety of animal noises--grew tiresome. They might have used the time better to let Kurstin, who has solid credentials as a jazz pianist, put those chops to use in some solos. Instead, he remained in the background, offering a low-key presence on both electric guitar and keyboards.

Still, the 200 or so fans who remained (after 2 1/2 hours of warm-up acts) got a performance laced with charm, humor and the unexpected.

Second-billed New Roll Soul served up a spirited batch of groove-oriented funk 'n' roll spiced by a two-piece horn section. The Anaheim Hills quartet combined a playful, energetic stage presence with some serious, slinky dance beats in such infectious numbers as "Bootie Candy" and the sexually suggestive "Sweet Sugar."

Third-billed Groove Salad couldn't decide whether it's a funk band or a '70s guitar band (think Outlaws or Lynyrd Skynyrd.) Whatever it eventually settles on, what's needed is less indulgent soloing by guitarist Jerry Chaviaras and more Red Hot Chili Peppers-like funk.

Huntington Beach siblings Larry and Bob (Hall) opened with a short, uneven set of acoustic-centered pop-rock.

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