“You can never go home again.” It’s a cliché we’ve all heard at one point or another. Referring to the way your old hometown has changed or the fact that you’ll never be able to revisit your long-lost childhood, it’s hard not to relate to on some level. True as it may feel at times, however, it does not always apply.
Friday night, local rock band Frogleg skillfully balanced the past and present at a return to their old stomping ground Bunker’s, the north loop institution which used to host them every Thursday night. Over the course of two sets, the band showcased their musicianship and songwriting chops with songs old and new, consistently backing up the reputation they’ve built since those early nights at Bunker’s.
Set one saw a satisfying mix of what fans have come to expect from the band. The first few songs were mellow numbers. While they didn’t exactly foreshadow some of the deeper jams or funkier sounds they would get into later, they got things off to a solid start. Of the earliest songs, “First Thunder, First Rain” stood out for the way it built momentum and left the audience wanting more.
As the set went on, the feel changed significantly. While the performance remained firmly song-oriented as opposed to jam-oriented, things got progressively more exploratory, with more improvisation and more solos. Some of the jams were intense, and some more spacey. Though they did jam, their jams, which mixed rock, funk, reggae and more, were diverse and balanced well enough with their songs to keep the crowd moving.
By the time set two started, the crowd had completely packed the house. To their fans’ delight, the band rose to the occasion. The set saw more smokin’ solos (especially in early set highlight “Johnny Law”), and more jams, one of the best of which came on “Little Sleep.” The lengthy jam was at various points spacey, funky, and hard-hitting, the latter two sometimes at once.
Engaging as it was, it wouldn’t prove to be the highlight of the set. That distinction would belong to the extremely rhythmic and danceable one-two punch of “Tommy and Isabel” and “In the Dust.” During these, and in other portions of the second set, the spotlight shifted to the drummer and percussionist, both of whom proved they were more than ready for the challenges presented by an important show like this.
Another high point in the set came in the form of a cover. Los Lobos’ “Kiko and the Lavender Moon” is an understated gem that the band executed excellently. It’s one of the more underrated songs in the band’s catalog, and hearing it covered so well was a rewarding treat. The band’s choice in covers (which also included Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead,” and Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach Texas”) highlighted their taste as a band as well as some of the diverse influences that make up their sound.
You can never go back to the past, but you can revisit the people and places that made it worthwhile. On this night, Frogleg’s performance celebrated the past, present, and future of the band while also highlighting just how far they’ve come.