Spirit animals rule the night at Great American Music Hall as Royal Jelly Jive come roaring to life

Royal Jelly Jive

Royal Jelly Jive

By Tom Dellinger //

The Great American Spirit Ball featuring Royal Jelly Jive, Be Calm Honcho, Rainbow Girls, Brass Magic & The Jelly Roll Dancers //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
July 25th, 2015 //

A seed was planted last Saturday at The Great American Music Hall as the site for the first Great American Spirit Ball, where fans were encouraged to join the performers and come dressed as their favorite spirit animal. The brainchild of Lauren Bjelde and Jesse Lemme Adams from Bay Area band Royal Jelly Jive, it was an event that embodied the very best of SF’s music history.

More than a show featuring four bands, it was a package — a unique experience that took the participant on a magic ride that was both a visual and aural feast. Upon entry into the venerable hall, you found it had been decorated with strands of light bulbs and long strands of line with triangular flags that had been strung from the stage to the balcony facades and created something akin to a circus atmosphere from an earlier time.

Brass Magic

Brass Magic

Unlike most shows with a multi-band format, the energy and vibe of the evening never waned between sets as the time was filled with performances on the floor in front of the stage that featured Oakland eight-piece horn dance band Brass Magic, which jammed on funky grooves that kept the crowd engaged, and a group of Aztec dancers led by San Jose-based Cipacteo Herrera. Also joining Brass Magic during their set were some wonderfully costumed dancers on stilts from the group Jelly Roll Dancers, adding immensely to the “spectacle” aspect of the evening.

Rainbow Girls

Rainbow Girls

While the action on the floor was wildly entertaining and kept things on a high note, the action onstage gradually ramped up throughout the evening with an over-the-top closing set from Royal Jelly Jive. The opening set began with Santa Barbara/Sebastopol-based band Rainbow Girls, a group that’s been building a steady following in the Bay Area. The girls played a tasty set drawing from their recent release Perceptronium with many fine grooves that moved through rock, funk and a few points between.

Be Calm Honcho

Be Calm Honcho

After more fun on the floor with Brass Magic and the Jelly Roll Dancers, local favorite Be Calm Honcho took the stage. Having caught them at a recent date where they opened for Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas and now seeing them for the second time, it’s becoming obvious they’re a band with a repertoire that could take them places. Drawing heavily from their release Honcho Dreams, their songs are catchy, fun and artistically satisfying. Keyboardist and lead vocalist Shannon Harney has an irresistibly magnetic personality with a fine voice that sits beautifully in the mix. It was an excellent performance from them and well worth seeing whenever possible.

Great American Spirit Ball - Royal Jelly Jive

Royal Jelly Jive

As the spectacle and joy of it all had increased to a steady boil, SF’s Royal Jelly Jive hit the stage and blew the lid off the place with a romping, stomping and fast-driving set of their remarkable catalog. The band came onstage much like an entourage that was clearly excited and ready to seize the moment. It was time to unleash their inner animal, which they quickly proceeded to do as they tore through their catalog with a passion rarely seen.

Royal Jelly Jive

Royal Jelly Jive

For those familiar with Royal Jelly Jive’s work, a listen to their most recent CD reveals performances that are more studied, well-crafted and restrained. But on this night, they came roaring to life as they played it all at an uptempo pace compared to their recordings. One could hear previously unheard textures from the drums that were nothing short of mind-blowing. The horns section was tight and ripping with Adams ever so cool on the accordion and keyboards. Bjelde, whose vocals often range between the alluringly sweet and the gritty, laid into the mic with style, grace and power. Rarely the quiet voice, she was in top form and she knew she had something magical to share with us, which is exactly what she did. And, it was truly stunning to behold.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s easy to see this venture was a great success. At the end of the night, as Royal Jelly Jive played right up to midnight and didn’t have enough time to play an encore, the crowd cried for more. It was one of those nights where no one in the house wanted it to end. As mentioned earlier, a show such as this, because of its groundbreaking uniqueness and the quality of performers, honors the musical legacy of SF. Perhaps if we’re lucky, the spirit animal in us all will come out to play once again someday.


  1. George Gerardi says:

    Spectacular! What can be an encore to this? Dad Gerardi

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