Ken Maiuri’s Clubland: One, two, three— two-two-three

  • The Threesies performed Thursday at The Luthiers Co-Op in Easthampton. KEN MAIURI

Published: 11/9/2016 4:17:49 PM

Local band The Threesies will never, ever play “Rock Around the Clock.” Or “Stairway To Heaven.” Or any disco hit. Or “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Or “Danke Schoen.”

That’s because the musicians have one mission: to revolt against what they tongue-in-cheekily call “the tyranny of 4/4 time.” They only perform songs in 3/4 time (waltzes, jigs, slow rock 6/8 sways).

But you don’t need to understand anything about music theory to enjoy watching the band of ace musicians having fun together. They played the Luthiers Co-Op in Easthampton last Thursday night.

“It’s more a set list than it is a band,” announced leader/bassist Paul Kochanski at the top of their 10-song concert, referring to the fluid membership of the project.

This time around — The Threesies’ third-ever show — in addition to Kochanski on both electric and upright bass, the group included Jim Henry on mandolin and electric guitar, Eric Lee on violin, Chris Haynes on accordion and keyboard, Anand Nayak on electric guitar and Jason Smith and J.J. O’Connell taking turns on drums and percussion. Throughout the night, guest vocalists snuck out of the crowd and onto the stage for a number or two.

Kochanski is a sought-after player, a member of such local bands as Fancy Trash and Look Park (whose promotional button he wore on his suit jacket), but he started off the show with a rare lead vocal, singing Butch Hancock’s sprightly “West Texas Waltz,” a mouthful of multiple verses packed with alliterative lyrics and clever rhymes:

“Now only two things are better than milkshakes and malts / and one is dancin' like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz.”

Guitarist Nayak (also in demand as a producer and musician in groups like Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem and the Adam Dunetz band) immediately quieted down the raucous mood to sing lead on Leonard Cohen’s meditative “Bird On a Wire.”

And then another vibe change. “Is this the third song of the third show?” vocalist Kay McKinstry asked happily as she left her audience seat behind and approached the center microphone. “I feel the power!” She had crowd members smiling in awe during her strong performance of Aretha Franklin’s R&B soulful classic “I Never Loved a Man.”

Kochanski’s daughter Saera (aka Wishbone Zoe) jumped up to add backing vocals on the Aretha tune, squeezing in among the small stage’s densely packed gear, tangle of microphone cords and musicians — now totaling nine, the most populated moment of the night.

Drummer O’Connell left the drum throne to take the spotlight on one of his favorite soft-rock gems of the ’70s, Walter Egan’s “Magnet and Steel.” McKinstry and Nayak shared a microphone, cooing the backing vocals together.

Nayak’s wife, Polly Fiveash, emerged from the audience to become a performer for one selection, singing on the original tune, “The Last Slow Dance.” It had one of the night’s most beautifully textured arrangements: accordion, fiddle, mandolin, the wooden thunk of the upright bass, the twang of the electric guitar and the couple’s harmonies.

Jim Henry took over lead vocals for a song by the Cincinnati band the Ass Ponys, “Dollar a Day,” which kicked off with an attention-getting opening line (“Your brother got bird lice / from a feather he fixed with a bobby pin”) and included a nice slide guitar lead from Nayak.

Los Lobos’ “Saint Behind the Glass” featured harmonies from Kochanski and Nayak and ended impressively with instruments fading away to leave Smith and O’Connell going all by themselves — a lively percussion workout which, if the wicked groove had kept going, surely would have gotten some people up and moving on the dance floor.

“I’m surprised they haven’t done ‘Que Sera, Sera,’ ” said an audience member behind me, obviously tickled by The Threesies’ concept.

O’Connell jumped back behind the kit to sing lead vocals on “The Dirt Farmer,” the title track of Levon Helm’s Grammy-winning 2008 album.

Though there were a handful of tunes left on the set list (including “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music”), Kochanski got the signal from the sound person that it was time to wrap it up. “It’s still a school night, even at the Luthiers,” he said with a smile.

The band snuck in two more. One was Jim Henry’s show-ending cool-down tune, the appropriately titled “Last Call”; the other was the highlight of the night, a traditional Irish jig called “Swallowtail.” It was a fiery instrumental that had the audience clapping on the downbeats as Henry and Lee wailed on their instruments. The latter was having so much fun he threw in a big-grin theatrical move — he played the violin behind his back.

Kochanski is planning another area show for The Threesies in January.

Ken Maiuri can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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