The Great SOCIO: Guitarless Rock Band Rocks the Grape

“We’re The Great SOCIO, the guitarless rock band,” lead vocalist and trumpeter Alberto Muñoz told patrons of the Grape Room early Sunday morning, July 29.

In spite of missing the staple instrument of rock, The Great SOCIO kicks out enough firepower to cover Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” in an encore arrangement that would satisfy the most avid Rage fan. In place of a guitar there’s Matthew Montgomery (or Monty), a Tom Morello-inspired keyboardist, and his triple-deck keyboard rig (with which he impressively replicated Morello’s guitar solo).

TGS runs on the innovative bass of Craig Stenger, who plays through a guitar amp and a comprehensive array of effect pedals. Craig also pens the band’s lyrics. Their detached, sometimes chillingly honest social
perspective is put to dark bass lines, creative, versatile keys, and the energetic clockwork rhythm of drummer Andrew Bernier. Traces of jazz, reggae, and rock contribute to the sound of The Great SOCIO, which most closely resembles that of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That could be an oversimplification, however. TGS distinguishes itself through an original blend of styles and explorative use of real-time studio effects.

Vocally, Muñoz is reminiscent of Chili Pepper Anthony Kiedis and Incubus’ Brandon Boyd. His dynamic, punchy trumpet solos give TGS an element of worldliness and encourage further the connections with jazz and reggae.

Muñoz, donning a top hat, is an engaging frontman. He presided over an interactive show at the Grape Room, a venue he considers instrumental in the band’s success. Muñoz took time near the middle of the set to announce a friend and fan’s proposal, to which a surprised and ecstatic now-fiancé said yes. The Great SOCIO knows how to make the audience part of the experience.

The show was the release party for the band’s new single “Roll it Up,” which Muñoz proclaimed a tribute to Philadelphia. The song, which encourages movement, features a percussive bass line, wide-open organ chords, and a lyrical, dynamically-sound trumpet solo. Other original songs from their repertoire, like “The Separate Eye” and “Stereo” (released this past spring), took on a considerably more energetic feel at the Grape Room than on the recordings. The band also played a new, hyped-up arrangement of their song “Criminals.”

The atmosphere in the Grape was electric, thanks in part to the inventive, feel-good pop/rock sound of Baltimore/DC band The New Media and rocking Philly locals Grip of the Gods, who directly preceded The Great SOCIO and were thoroughly tight through various rhythm changes. The Great SOCIO proved fitting closers, and also that they are an act
to be experienced live. August will be a busy month for The Great SOCIO, starting with a show at the Trash Bar in Brooklyn Thursday, August 2, and three appearances along the Jersey shore before they return to Pennsylvania. But if you have the chance, catch them at their home arena—the Grape. In Muñoz’s words, “We are never more confident than when we’re on this stage.”

-Nick Hancock

(Be sure to read Annika Nadine’s interview with the band, also posted in That Mag’s news section).

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