The Heavy Pets to rock the North Beach Bandshell for the holidays
Craving a bit more energy from your holiday music than the traditional “Jingle Bell Rock” can deliver? The Heavy Pets has a rocking solution.
The Fort Lauderdale-based jam band that blends jazz, blues, funk, disco and reggae with straight-up rock ’n’ roll brings its third annual Holiday Ball to the North Beach Bandshell on Dec. 21, with the bluesy Roosevelt Collier Band also sharing the bill.
Any doubt that this show will pack a punch is squelched by Relix magazine, which dubbed The Pets “a living, breathing force of nature.”
“I think you just gotta go and hear it,” says guitarist and vocalist Jeff Lloyd, when asked to sum up the band’s sound. “We’re a rock ’n’ roll band at the core, and are high-energy and dance-y. We do a lot of different things on the records, but for the most part our live shows are pretty high-energy.”
Heavy Pets fans will hear plenty of tracks from the group’s fourth full-length studio album, “Strawberry Mansion,” including “Higher,” “Second Sky” and “Rainy Days.”
“You can expect to hear a bunch of songs from the latest record, and we’re gonna probably dive deeper for some older cuts as well,” Lloyd says. “And then you never really know what’s gonna happen. The general format of the show is that each band is gonna play a set, and then we’ll do some kind of collaboration between the two bands to finish out the show.”
Can fans expect any new music or traditional holiday tunes at the show? Lloyd plays it cool: “I’d rather that be a surprise.”
Pedal steel guitar master Collier, a Miami native who describes his mix of blues, gospel and rock as “dirty funk, swampy grime,” got his start playing in the House of God Church in Perrine, Fla., alongside his uncles and cousins in The Lee Boys. He and The Heavy Pets have performed together often, so it was only natural that the two musical forces would join for a proper tour.
“Over the years, we’ve gotten the opportunity to play with [Collier] so many times – he’s come on the road with us and toured with us, and he’s used some members from this band as his backing band,” Lloyd says. “So then finally, earlier this spring, we decided to make it official and do something together, and we did a small run around Florida, and now we’re trying to bring the Florida jam scene to the south of Florida.”
The jam scene has treated The Heavy Pets well, as the band has performed at popular festival circuit concerts such as Bonnaroo, Gathering of the Vibes, Summer Camp Music Festival, Wakarusa Music Festival, Langerado and more. Unlike many other groups, its members don’t mind the label “jam band.”
“Not at all,” Lloyd says. “I do think it kind of pigeonholes you, and so some people, rightfully so, have an aversion to that term, or anything that they think is construed as ‘jam band’ music. That kind of goes for any genre of people – people naturally think that they already know what they like and don’t like, but I think if people give us a chance, we’ll have a little something for everybody.”
Whenever the term “jam band” is mentioned, two groups invariably come to mind: Phish and the band that inspired the whole movement, the Grateful Dead. And yes, The Heavy Pets is heavily influenced by both.
“We’re a bit younger, so initially Phish was a huge influence when we were first getting this thing started,” Lloyd says. “But [the Dead] was certainly an important part and a big inspiration, and let’s face it, a lot of music that you hear today in our scene – there wouldn’t even be that scene if it wasn’t for the Grateful Dead, so you gotta give credit where credit is due. This whole festival scene – whether people know it or not, it’s all about [late Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia].
“I’m always impressed by festival-goers, whether it’s their first one or 50th one,” he continues. “I think people go with a sense of wonder, and letting things happen and letting the music take them places. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure situation, from minute to minute at a festival. And something that people don’t know is just how much work goes into putting those things on, so kudos to the people that throw these events, because it’s really amazing what they do.”
In keeping with the holiday giving spirit, the Holiday Ball represents more than music. Attendees are encouraged to bring canned food and unwrapped toys for charity.
“It’s both a show and a fundraiser, and a community event,” Lloyd says. “We always do a toy drive and a food drive, and it’s something that we take great pride in doing. It’s a party that will make people move and dance, but the Holiday Ball is our chance to do a little more with it.”
Proceeds and donations from the show benefit both The Rhythm Foundation’s Miami Beach Youth Music Festival in early 2020 and the Miami women and children’s shelter, Lotus House.
“Just being part of a community that’s given so much to us, we’re just trying to give whatever we can back to it,” Lloyd says.
What: The Rhythm Foundation presents The Heavy Pets Holiday Ball
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 21
Where: North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Cost: $20 advance; $30 day of show
More information: rhythmfoundation.com
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Top photo: The band includes, from left, Mike Garulli, Jeff Lloyd, Jim Wuest, Jamie Newitt and Tony D’Amato. (Photo courtesy of Romy Santos)