JAVA may have played their last show with original singer Lynnea Godfriaux twenty years ago, but they certainly haven't forgotten her. And judging by their reunion set Sunday night at the High Noon, they haven't forgotten a note either.
Godfriaux, who like many musicians has no health insurance, is afflicted with a mysterious condition doctors have described as a multiple sclerosis-type disease which has left her unable to sing, and has forced partner Brad Pregeant to cancel shows to take care of her. To help with these bills, JAVA reformed for one night only. While most of the members remain in Wisconsin-- guitarist David Hecht and marimba player Todd Waech in Madison and saxophonist John Croarkin and drummer Tim Pleager in Green Bay -- keyboardist Steve Ruth came all the way from Timonium, Maryland, to participate in the effort.
Even though they only had one three-hour rehearsal on Saturday to relearn songs they hadn't played in two decades, their ninety-minute set had the High Noon crowd packing the dance floor from start to finish. Granted, it was hard to resist the heavy reggae influence of original songs like set opener "I Want More" and closer "Lake Michigan." In between those a cover of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" which incorporated a chorus or two of "Angel of Morning" proved particularly inspiring.
It was a night of reunions for more than just the band. I saw multiple instances of people greeting friends they obviously hadn't seen in years, excitedly introducing spouses and trying to catch up. Ruth told the crowd of 200-plus (which was slightly older and certainly better dressed than a typical night's audience): "You all look exactly like you did twenty years ago."
Opening the show was the timeless Clyde Stubblefield and his band. Stubblefield has also been the recipient of benefit efforts for his own medical bills of late. In fact, the profits from the raffle of a thousand dollar guitar donated by Good N Loud were to be split between him and Godfriaux. Stubblefield took vocals on the first couple numbers of the set, notably an aching "Georgia on My Mind," before giving up the mike to Rachelle Fiskey for one song and then the terrific Carolynn Black
They were followed by the enthusiastic Danny Feral (because he's wild) and the Last Bar Band. Feral's band included amazing saxophonist Bob Corbitt, who had just flown in from St Louis, as well as the Rousers's bassist Radar, an ubiquitous face in the Madison music scene. Their set of danceable favorites included classics like "Who Do You Love" and "Route 66."
While Feral did get a number of people dancing, it was nothing compared to the island-flavored party that followed with JAVA. Between the enthusiastic response of the crowd and the unabashedly good time the band seemed to be having, I had to wonder if they might not wait quite so long before doing this again.