An often overlooked ravage of age is the diminished capacity to attend late night musical events, especially those beginning past midnight. I can still pull it off, but usually pay for it with an episode of the yips the following morning, along with an inexplicable craving for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and orange blossom tea. It's weird, frankly, and tends to creep out friends and family. I was delighted, therefore, to learn that the John Turck Trio was playing a happy hour show at Woodlands Tavern Thursday night. A chance to see one of Columbus' best bands play for free in a venue that takes sound quality seriously is too good to pass up, especially with $2 drafts available. I headed over directly after work. In a town of musical copycatting, the JT3 is singular -- they don't sound like anybody. An attempt to describe their music with adjectives invites disaster. The best I could come up with is “cosmic piano ballads,” which sounds like Billy Joel lurking in the back of a planetarium, waiting to spring “Uptown Girl” on a class of unsuspecting fifth graders. I retreat, therefore, to a more functional description. As the name suggests, the JT3 is a three-piece working from a base of synthesizer, bass guitar and drums. The set-up suggests a sparse sound, but that isn't the case; both Turck and bassist Danny Cashin can tumble in enough notes to suggest a far more crowded stage. Drummer AJ Barnes plays ahead of the beat and offers a clinic on using a hi-hat to push and pull tempo. The result is a tight snapping texture with dancing melodic lines. Turck’s high tenor, which at times is reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield, floats overhead. The band opens with a straightforward love song, “Jump the Moon,” followed by the upbeat “Somebody,” both from their second album, 2012’s JT3. The band then swings into the first verse of 2010’s “Not that Strong” -- “[r]olling down the highway and the sunshine makes me smile” -- before dropping into a jam. While not a jam band per se, the Trio is fully capable of devolving into a chaos of tom rolls, jazz scales and fractured chords, only to emerge playing an entirely different song. When they come up for air, it’s Bill Withers’ “Ain’t no Sunshine when She’s Gone.” Next up is the gorgeous "Everything," a chorus about life's blessings and verses that hint at something a little darker. Gorgeous? Yeah, gorgeous. Complex chords, intelligent lyrics, rising melodies, minor falls, real composition and arrangement. Perhaps not what you would expect from a rock band, but maybe what you should. And don’t get me wrong, these guys can rock for sure. At the end of “Everything,” Turck plays a bit of the French-Canadian folk song “Alouette,” cynically misinforming the audience that it is “Frere Jacques.” He then starts into the stomp of “Three Steps Behind,” a sharply pointed tune about American abuse of the working poor, before moving to the swirling “Sun of a Gun” and the abstract “Wide Giant Sky.” At this point, things shift gears and head to the other forte of the band – unrestrained goofiness. If, as the philosophers say, there really is territory between the sublime and the ridiculous, the JT3 is quite comfortable camping out there. As in RV, Coleman Stove, extra canoe and 17 bags of marshmallows camping. The smutty and hilarious "Midnight Sandwich" will forever remove David Crosby's "Triad" from your brain, with a great in-joke to local musicians: "[w]hatcha gonna do when we're tearing down our gear tonight?" Turck's unpredictable tendency to strap on a keytar mid-song may have musical relevance for which I lack the requisite sophistication, but I think it’s a rather safe assumption that he does it because (1) it’s a keytar and (2) it’s a keytar. If you were lucky enough to miss the 80s….oh hell just Google it. And good lord, the covers. You're never going to escape from a JT3 show without hearing something bizarre, anything from Cyndi Lauper ("Time after Time") to Phil Collins ("In the Air Tonight") to Metallica ("Fade to Black"). This evening it's Lionel Richie's "All Night Long," a harrowing tale of one man's journey of self-discovery through a post-apocalyptic wasteland of parties, fiestas and forevers. It seems a strange thing to say about a band, but it needs to be done; the JT3 is accessible the first time you see them. The band is not afraid of strong pop hooks and arrangements; they can also be danceable, powerful, poignant and completely absurd. Turck’s voice is clear and articulate, and you can actually understand what he’s singing about – and what that is might well surprise you.