Saturday, November 18, 2017

DeadCo Fall Tour 2017 (Boston night one)

The life of a Deadhead keeps on getting richer and richer, which is very curious, and very wonderful.  As an example, Dave’s Picks 24 came out recently, a sonically incredible re-mastering of a restored tape from 45 years ago, when the earth was flat and I was still in high school.  But it’s some of the most delightful music I’ve ever heard … it’s got that thing that appeals to me about music, a combination of technical ability, poetic expression, great writing, and great performing.

And we continue to be blessed not only by archival releases, but by current musicians playing the Dead’s repertoire in a modern way.  That’s amazing!  Arguably the best Dead band around is Dead & Company of course, and we were very happy when they announced a Fall tour after their excellent tour this past Spring.  I was ecstatic at the prospect of seeing them again, and also extremely glad that the guys were showing a commitment to the band that could possibly be called into question if they just toured once a year.

Well, lots of people are committed and the scramble for tickets was as frantic as you may imagine.  They announced one stop in Boston (at the Garden) and another in Hartford, which we targeted and were able to snag tickets for (in the balcony) with all three of us trying hard.  Then they added another Boston date and we were lucky enough also to get floor tickets for that.  Sarah and Dave just got “wait” messages when they tried but I was able to get through and was offered the floor, which I jumped on!

Are we nuts to go see this band over and over, including the night before Thanksgiving??  That’s for you to determine, I’m not going to defend myself.  All I can say is to listen to this stuff, which in my mind ranks as some of the best artistic expressions of this century.  I’ll be vindicated when they’re still playing it and listening to it in 500 years!

So the first concert was Friday the 17th, and I did the same old thing of leaving work a few minutes before 4:00 and battling traffic on Routes 2 and 16 and then down Soldier’s Field Road and Storrow Drive with a beautiful Fall sunset at my back, lighting up the Charles in a deep blue and the Eastern sky in a hazy rose and reflecting off the buildings in our beautiful city.  Got to Bowdoin Street in plenty of time, met Sarah and Dave, and parked in their building as soon as we could.

Went down to Kinsale’s in Government Center to meet up with Leen and her family, who were attending the concert also.  Had some quick beers, salad, quesadillas, and talk, then walked quickly down to the Garden to battle the crowds getting in.  The place was packed; we waited in long lines for beers and hit the bathroom, and got settled into our seats in section 308 not long before they started.  We were way up in the balcony, but were pretty much straight on to the stage and could see fine.  We were too far away to see fretboard fingering, but everything else going on on stage was clear if you knew what to look for.  And being so far up, our view of the stage was unrestricted and better than in some situations where we’ve been very close.  And the seats were a third what floor seats cost!

The boys started some purposeful tuning, Bobby started a steady beat on his rhythm guitar, and soon they dropped into Jack Straw and we were off.  The Dead were back in Boston, making magic!

We’d heard/seen most of the first three shows of the tour (2 NYC, 1 Philly), and they started off "great" and were already at "excellent" by the time they got to Boston.  What level would they get to tonight?  And seeing them live, standing at one end of an indoor arena while they were roaring at the other end and the crowd was singing along was just an incredible experience.  The bass and drums were of course miles more vivid than when seen/heard electronically, and the sounds from Weir's guitar and Chimenti's piano rang through the whole arena.  And that's not to mention the lead guitar, which made the Celtics' and Bruins' historic banners ripple in appreciation.

In their first few tours the band has been a bit raw and has tried to stick to what they knew they could do well.  The most wonderful thing about them in late 2017 is that they seem to have said fuck that, we’ve been together for a few years now and are a mature band that can take chances.  And taking chances is a big part of what this music is all about!  As one blogger said, “When John turns to Bobby he gets instructions, but when he turns to Oteil he gets inspiration!”  And he was turning back and forth all night.

Sure, some of their forays into new stuff don’t quite ring solid, as with their debut of Beat It On Down the Line in NYC and their attempt to jazz up Big River in Boston that night.  But what the hell, we’ll take warts and clams if it means we also get the extended passages of transcendence that sometimes appear.

Speaking of transcendence, here’s the first set:

Jack Straw
New Speedway Boogie
Althea
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Big River
Sugaree
The Music Never Stopped

This was riveting stuff and we could hear every note and the balance was amazing.  OK, Jeff was a little quiet to start with and the vocals had to get a bit straightened out.  As always in an arena, what sounded just exactly perfect in sound check needed adjustment with the bowl full of people.  But they were soon roaring on all cylinders.

Bobby's been cycling between four guitars this tour, and has a new walnut-body electric that just sounds like buttered toast.  The drummers have been on top of their games this tour, and Billy in particular was the guy to listen to all by himself.

The first four songs were up and up, each moment topping what came before, but then Big River was a throw-away, and then they took their shot at Sugaree, which we could have predicted would be in the first Boston set (in fact, we did).  And of course they ended the set with another fantastic Music Never Stopped, in which John finally made the "Keep on dancing until daylight" bridge his own.  No longer will I say, "Yeah but Donna should have been singing that."

We were in heaven, as was pretty much everyone in the audience.  After hanging around at our seats for a while to let the crowd rush die down a bit I ventured out for bathroom and beer and met Dave, Leen, and Madison, who were having a great time.  Madison may be a Dead convert, I hear she liked the second set even better than the first.  How could you not be head over heels about this stuff?

They seemed to have converted all the good beer taps to just Bud Light and Shocktop, but I finally at least found some Sam lager and made it back to the seats right after the roar went up, announcing that they were back on stage.

And here's where it got good.  They hadn't yet done Scarlet Fire on the tour and they were not about to let that oversight go for another minute.  This was a boppy Scarlet, an ultimate hippy anthem, and then it became an exercise in controlled power that ultimately led to Oteil stepping up to the mike and sweetly telling us all how the mountain was on fire and it was all because of dragons playing with matches.  This was excellent, cream-filled stuff.

And then ... well, here's the list:

Scarlet Begonias
Fire on the Mountain
He's Gone
Viola Lee Blues
Drums
Space
Milestones
Wharf Rat
The Wheel
Sugar Magnolia

He's Gone was as lovely as could be, but then one of the moments of the night was when that dwindled into noodling, and then fucking Viola Lee roared out of those ashes and picked up the Garden and shook it.  It was kind of futile to scream our delight from where we were, but this one had me in ecstasy.

Ho hum, Drums, Space, Miles Davis, and Wharf Rat!?!?!?!  Instead of the classic Thunder Drums the guys have dual sets of giant drum pads set up behind their rig this year and they got some incredible noises and rhythms going on those.  This setup allowed them to mix in samples really easily and well.  And they were joined by Oteil soon, on bass instead of traps this year.

A little note: Oteil spent much of his time standing on a red-lined mat(?) but stepped off that to sing, so we had no idea what that was for.  But we figured he knew what he was doing!  Another note is that Bobby's been wearing glasses this tour, the first time the youngster of the Dead has ever done that on stage (except for "home" concerts, like at Sweetwater).  Maybe his vanity has finally lapsed enough for him to do so, but knowing Bobby I figure he finally said, "Hey, I can see better this way!"  You'll be glad to hear that even though he could see better and had a teleprompter right there, he kept on forgetting words at his classic pace.  Anyway, when Oteil had his on (they're on and off), that made 5 of the 6 band members wearing spectacles.

But where was I?  Oh yeah, excellent jazz piano by Jeff on Milestones.  Then epic but perhaps not the best Wharf Rat.  Bobby's vocal power and range has been consistently top-notch lately but he still has a bit of trouble bringing the gravitas when he needs it, though this is a small criticism.  But then they started into The Wheel, and the Garden woke up and started thundering.  As I say, the sound at our end of the bowl was astounding.  Not only was the bass and the rhythm guitar and the drums and the piano rocking us, the Deadheads to our left and to our right and beneath us and all around were singing on key to this epic Garcia song, and of course the lead guitar was piercing through everything with Mayer's twist on Garcia's melodies.

And then OMG, they started into Sugar Mags.  This wasn't the balls-to-the-wall rock and roll of a 1972 version, but was still exactly what we needed to finish off a wonderful musical event.  Bobby (with John on excellent harmony) was singing about love and sexual fascination and being free like irony had never been invented, and then they got deep down into the jam and then they emerged and Bobby didn't exactly jump to the mike (he kind of sidled up to it), and then they were singing about daydreams in the sunshine and life was just perfect.  This is what we come for, I guess.

Dead & Company seem to be buying in to the idea that encores need to be timely.  Jeez, when we last saw Jorma he just stood behind his chair at the end of his set, and then got back in it for the encore.  The guys came back on stage almost as soon as they left.  Billy may have had time for a quick piss in there, but as you get older that becomes a little tougher.

Anyway, John got an acoustic out but the others stuck to their electrics (I loved Bobby's walnut guitar, but he didn't play it for the encore), and they struck up Ripple, which John excels on.  What a wonderful ending to a wonderful concert!

The crowd wanted a second encore, but the house lights came up and it was time to go home.  We hung out a bit (we were in the middle of our row, way up in the balcony), but then we got assembled and got out of there pretty quickly into the cold and windy late Fall night.  Downtown Boston was going at full tilt on a Friday night and it took us a while to push through the crowds up the lower slopes of Beacon Hill (including a short cut through the back of the hill, a working-class neighborhood back say, 45 years ago, but very upscale now).  Then when we left the garage the streets were full of cars like it was rush hour, but we finally got onto the expressway, over the Zakim Bridge, and back home before it got really late.

Day off today and then back to the tour on Sunday!!!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Patty Larkin At The Burren

Thought about it for a long time, and then finally bought a couple of the last seats to go see Patty Larkin at The Burren on Friday, 11/10.  We’ve always loved seeing Patty, and we really loved seeing her again!

The November weather had turned really cold suddenly, as it can in New England, but I got a good parking space right across Elm Street and we settled in at a booth in the cozy Burren with a couple of beers to wait for the doors at 6.  We had GA tickets, though most of the room is reserved tables.  The long table right at the stage is non-reserved however, and that’s where we went.  A quick waiter got us some more beer and then dinner and it wasn’t long before Patty came on.

She was solo of course, though Merrie Amsterburg joined her for a couple of tunes later.  Patty opened with Italian Shoes and played a great setlist, featuring some gems from throughout her career.  She did a few new songs too, including one written at a writer's cabin on the Outer Cape, about the Outer Cape in us all.  She encored with Nick Lowe’s What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding (we were all aware of the very depressing one-year anniversary we were facing).  No I’m Fine or Metal Drums, but quite satisfactory anyway.

Being right at the front we had plenty of opportunities to joke with Patty, and after the show we stopped at the merch table to chat.  Sarah mentioned Louise, and Patty was nice enough to sign her “25” CD to give to her, though it’s been a very long time since their paths have crossed.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Dave and Jimmie Dale at Bull Run

I was kind of surprised to see an announcement from the Bull Run that "loud folk" Dave Alvin would be touring with transcendental Texan Jimmie Dale Gilmore in a few months, but that didn't stop me from rushing to the phone to get tickets.  Both of them are at the top of the heap, and we'd seen a couple of other odd pairings that came off great (like Bromberg and Campbell right there in the Bull Run).  We got our customary center-left table, and then the show sold out fast.

Got to the Bull Run after pickup in West Concord on a Friday night (11/3) and the place was already pretty full by the time we got there.  Got some good beers and good food quick from a very efficient waitress.  Took some last bathroom breaks (Alvin was down there and was mobbed, hard to go to the bathroom that way), and then settled down for a good show.

Dave was right in front of us and Jimmie Dale on the right, both sitting on their low metal chairs.  The show was a lot of fun and I have to say that the pairing worked, though it seemed uneven at times.  I was thinking they were going to do a lot of traditional songs that they both knew equally, but they concentrated on an Alvin song, then a Gilmore song, and so on back and forth.  They did ask for requests early in the show, but they basically wanted us to request what they had planned to play.

Jimmie Dale made a few mistakes when trying to keep up with Dave, which I'm sure can be pretty difficult.  When he took the lead he was excellent, doing Dallas, Just a Wave (which he said was written by Butch Hancock but is HIS song), and one of the moments of the night was him captivating the whole sold out and raucous Sawtelle Room with Another Colorado.  He's magic at his best.

At one point Jimmie Dale was going on about river songs, and how they were in the same vein as train songs, and how there might be outer space songs some day (I think he was losing me).  And then he stopped and said, "But there aren't any bicycle songs!?!"  Dave immediately started playing, "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.  I'm half crazy all for the love of you.  It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage.  But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two."  Or he played part of it at least.

And it was as wonderful as you might expect, seeing Dave Alvin sitting 10 feet in front of me playing acoustic.  Some yahoos shouted for Harlan County Line early on, but he pointed out to them that he needed an electric to play that.  I kind of wished he had his electric and turned it up as loud as he had last time I'd seen him at the Bull Run (that was a topic of conversation at the table, we all agreed that was the loudest we'd ever heard the place get), but he was perfect on acoustic of course and this was great!

For me, the moment of the night was him doing Evening Blues from his Blackjack David record.  I never thought I'd see him play this song and it's a gem.  Several of us requested Blue Wing, but he shook his head and said they'd played that the night before.

BUT, never mind that.  He'd opened with Long White Cadillac, soon chimed in with King Of California (with Jimmie Dale frailing the mandolin part on his guitar), done an amazing acoustic Fourth of July in the middle of the set, and his song in the encore was an amazing, delicate and ethereal version of Marie Marie, three of the best songs in the world right there.  Superb!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Alison Krauss In the Windy City

Another tough (not really) concert decision we made this late summer was to not go see Alison Krauss at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion.  Reasons that we wanted to go were that this was kind of a come-back tour for her after taking time off because of problems with dysphonia, and she’d recently released a solo record (not with her long-time band, Union Station) that featured another side of her great talent (she is the most-awarded singer and most-awarded female in Grammy history).  Reasons for passing were that we’ve already scheduled many concerts for this Fall and that BHBP sucks: it’s inconvenient to get to and park near, their sound system is pitiful, and their prices for tickets and concessions are outrageous.

BUT, on the day of the concert, Friday 9/22, I saw I had email and it was a flash from WUMB that they had tickets to give away and the first five to reply would get pairs.  I replied and got them!  So that addressed one of our concerns for sure.

It was the last day of Summer (and first evening of Fall) and another concern was that the remnants of Hurricane Jose were causing a storm near the New England coast and, though there probably wouldn’t be torrential downpours, it would be an evening of very un-Summer-like weather and temperatures.  Oh well, we could take that for free tickets!

We went home after work to eat dinner and get prepped: sweatshirts, slickers, and gloves as well as good footwear and warm socks.  And it’s a good thing we did, the wind was absolutely roaring on the waterfront, the temperature must have been in the 40s, and it was spitting rain off and on all night.  There were some people there in t-shirts and shorts and they didn’t last long, the wind cut right through you and though it may have been a sell-out, lots of people couldn’t take it and left early.

We’d decided to drive right to the Seaport rather than park in Government Center and walk, and we miraculously snagged an on-street parking spot when someone in front of us pulled out.  That upped the amount spent for the evening to $1.25, but we soon made up for that with beers in the venue.

Our seats weren’t that bad … one thing about that amphitheater is that most seats have good sight lines and aren’t too far from the stage.  But as before, we were amazed that they thought that the small stacks of speakers they had suspended from the tent, left and right, were enough for quality sound.  They sure weren’t, especially because they hesitated to turn them up!

David Gray was the opener and, though I read that he’s had several chart-toppers in the UK, he’s flown under my radar.  I recognized a couple of his songs, but only faintly.  He was mostly on solo guitar or piano, though he was joined by some accompanists later in the set.  I found him kind of boring I hate to say.  One example was that he featured sampling himself on guitar and playing those loops while he went in other directions … a modern thing to do, and he was skillful at it.  But at one point he had one bass loop going, another little rhythm loop going too, and then he played a line of melody, sampled that, and started it repeating while he put down his guitar, stood back and clapped.  I found this boring!  I mean, you knew exactly what was going to happen in the next measure and you had a pretty good idea what would happen in the measure after that, and the one after that, etc.  It wasn’t that compelling.

Another criticism, and this was the venue rather than the artist, was that their sound system SUCKED (have I mentioned this?) and that they barely had it turned up at all.  He could have been singing a cappella.  And with the howling wind you needed some boost from the PA.  It’s like the BHBP was reluctant to drown out the conversations of the many, many people chattering away during the opening act of a CONCERT!

But there were a lot of David Gray fans there straining to pay rapt attention too, and his songs were greeted with lots of whoops and hollers and he had fans singing along at the drop of a hat.  I was glad to see that, though his set wasn’t really to my taste.

Anyway, then Alison came on and they turned it up a bit, and she was awesome.  And she was joined by Suzanne and Sidney Cox!  I had no idea … here’s the band we saw: Alison Krauss on fiddle and vocals, Ron Block on guitar and banjo, Barry Bales on stand-up bass, James Mitchell on electric lead guitar, Jerry Roe on drums, Matt Rollings (from Lyle Lovett’s band and many other gigs) on grand piano, AND siblings Suzanne Cox on vocals and Sidney Cox on vocals, dobro, and acoustic guitar.

Alison stuck mainly to ballads from throughout her career and though her wispy and delicate voice wasn’t the best to combat a windstorm, the music she and her band produced was excellent.  As with other concerts I’ve seen, the difference in quality of sound between the opener and the main act was astonishing.  We thought Gray was good, but these guys were perfect.

Of particular note was Sidney Cox playing some killer dobro, Rollings being just more and more astonishing on piano as the night went along, and of course Block and Bales from Union Station.  As with other excellent concerts I’ve been to, I could almost see the music with Rollings staring at and bonding with Roe and Bales on a solid groove which was illustrating the sound coming from the other side of the stage, where you had Block doing his best Bob Weir on guitar, punctuating the lead stylings of Mitchell on electric, the flourishes by Cox on dobro, and of course by Alison on fiddle.

But the best thing was naturally the wonderful vocals, with Alison solo, her duetting with Suzanne, the small group unisons with Sidney, and the ensemble vocals when Block and Bales joined in.  As the evening went along they shrank into a smaller and smaller group, and for the encore they actually brought out an old RCA mike for the boys (and girls) to cluster around.

Can’t remember the setlist exactly, but here are some songs they played:

River in the Rain, I Never Cared for You, Stay, Forget About It, Baby Now That I've Found You, Broadway, Ghost in This House, The Lucky One, It’s Goodbye and So Long to You, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground, Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby, I Am Weary (Let Me Rest), Down to the River to Pray, Restless, Gentle on My Mind, Losing You, Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues, When God Dips His Pen Of Love in My Heart, When You Say Nothing at All, A Living Prayer

I was delighted that she did Now That I’ve Found You from the very beginning of her career, and of course the O Brother songs.  I was a bit disappointed that she didn’t do the title track from her new record, Windy City, both because I wanted to hear it and also because it was fucking windy in the city that night!  As I say, people were leaving in droves all through the evening because they were freezing and couldn’t take it anymore.

A bunch of us stayed until the end, but when it was over you can believe we all took off as fast as we could.  Not too far back to the car and only a few blocks over to a ramp down to the expressway and back over the Zakim Bridge to home.  Again, lots of fun and very well worth the price, but I wish they had a better amphitheater downtown, or would upgrade this one.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Midnight North at Thunder Road

We've seen Phil Lesh a lot, you know.  And we'd seen and greatly admired his son, Grahame, for a while.  Sometimes show biz offspring can be a little painful, but sometimes they can excel and threaten to eclipse the old man/woman.  I can't imagine anyone eclipsing Phil, but Grahame has shown himself to be a true talent on his own, and a dedicated working musician, which counts a lot in my book.

His latest band is Midnight North, with the excellent Elliott Peck joining him on guitar and vocals.  Geez, he should stick with Elliott, who's quite a talent.  As a young band they don't go on many world tours, but they finally came this way and we were psyched to go see them in Somerville on a Monday night, September 18.

With the demise of Johnny D's, it seems a lot of music clubs have sprung up around Cambridge-Somerville, and Thunder Road is one of the newer ones.  We'd been tempted to go there a few times but this was our first.  After a quick nap for me and Sarah after work, we met Dave in Davis at Redbones for dinner, and then drove the 1.3 miles down Somerville Ave to the Northern edge of Union Square.  Grahame was outside pressing the flesh but we stopped for a toke (totally legal) before we went in, and missed our chance to ask him the tough questions.  And when we got inside the place was empty!

Well, not empty-empty (there were bartenders), but at the height of the evening there were maybe a few dozen people there at most, which means we had plenty of room to spread out.  There were a couple of Deadicated people there, but mostly it was locals looking for a good rocking Monday show.  And I think they got their wish with this band.  We grabbed stools right off the dance floor, but we were up and dancing after a few numbers, as was most of the crowd.  These guys are good.

Grahame and Elliott were accompanied by keyboardist Alex Jordan, bassist Connor O'Sullivan, and a drummer.  Lesh has written some great songs for the band, and Peck has written some even better ones.  Jordan is not only a great keyboardist, but is an excellent country-rock backup singer, and they were in the groove all night.

They played a bunch of songs from their new record (Under the Lights), opening with Roamin' and following that up with The Highway Song.  Lesh was very good on lead guitar and soon had the sparse (but enthusiastic) crowd whooping and hollering.  I think most of the people there were delighted to see such excellent performances on what they thought was a lazy night in a back corner of Somerville.  And Peck was supreme, perhaps most impactful when she backed up Lesh with that little bit of twang and lots of feeling that a good country rock song can hold.

Then they said they were going to do a Levon Helm song, and started into the blues beat that I instantly recognized as one of my favorites ever, When I Go Away.  Larry Campbell wrote it and Levon recorded it (on a Grammy-winning record), and Midnight North killed it.  The vocal arrangements they featured all night were challenging, and pulled off excellently, and they sure had this song down.

They broke into Tennessee Jed after a few originals and that got the crowd dancing faster than a whistle on an evening train.  If you watch their videos on YouTube, Midnight North kill a number of CSN songs, and they soon lit into Long Time Gone (David Crosby) like they wrote it.  This had some jaws on the floor, it was so good.  They mixed in a number of other originals, like Peck's great Greene County.  But then they got the crowd back on the floor for good with Viola Lee Blues and later Mr. Charlie, sung by Peck with a great growl.

For a closer they did the whole Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Steven Stills, perfectly.  This was great stuff and though they were sticking pretty closely to the way CSN had done it, jeez, how could you argue with that?  They finished the song and then kind of trickled off stage.  They left all of us in a pool of sweat on the dance floor and we didn't know whether to shit or wind our watches.  But then we realized they were done, and we recovered.

They half-heartedly manned the merch table at the back of the room ... there wasn't really a crowd there to besiege them.  But the three of us got our stuff together and then migrated back there and had a nice talk with Elliott and Alex.  I told Elliott about just missing Larry and Teresa do When I Go Away with Phil & Friends at the Cap and she was nice enough to sympathize.  They were anxious that we'd come back the next time they were in town, and we were anxious that they'd come back to town!

Got out of there and wove through the faster- and faster-changing Kendall Square area over the Longfellow Bridge to drop Dave off at Charles, then got on the road back home.  Not in bed too late, though it was well past our normal bedtime for a Monday.  But this was really worth it, we saw a great young band in a great new venue without any crowds or hassle, and this was fun all over.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Benevento After Wolf!

We'd seen Marco Benevento, the amazing keyboardist for JRAD (etc.) at the 2016 GRF ... loved him, and he's been scheduled for Sinclair in Cambridge a couple of times since then.  Dave saw him the first time and we all were psyched for the next time.  But he was cancelled by snow early this year and rescheduled for ... September.  Oh well, we could wait.

In the meantime we saw that (JRAD guitarist) Scott Metzger's band, Wolf!, was going to be opening and were almost as psyched to see them.  The middle of September finally came around and we moseyed into Harvard Square after assembling in the newly-refurbished house for dinner on Friday the 15th.

Doors were at 8 and we had a good time waiting in the slight drizzle and hanging out with other enthusiasts, including the young guy I'd met at GDMUATM back in April.  When we got in at 8 for the show at 9 we had our choice of standing room spots, but ended up hanging back in front of the soundboard, which is very good in some ways (sound, sight lines), but not in other ways (endless streams of people passing by left and right).  The air conditioners were also going full tilt and dripping water onto the floor ... that is, if it didn't hit our heads first.  Don't look up!

Anyway, we were there with some PBRs, having a good time, and then the opening, opening act came on right at 9.  This was Spencer Albee from Portland (ME) on piano, with a bassist and a drummer (note the start of a pattern here).  He was really good and had some good rocking tunes and a tight band.  His penultimate song was Zevon's Lawyers Guns and Money, and that was right in his sweet spot.  The crowd was pouring in and we, and a lot of Cambridge, were having a great Friday night already.

Then Wolf! came on and they were fantastic, as good as we imagined they would be and better.  Though Scott is a great vocalist, they eschew vocals for fancy instrumentals and for the freedom to be able to pivot on a dime, fuck the lyrics!  Scott had a bassist (Jay Foote subbbing for regular Jon Shaw) and drummer (Taylor Flores) with him, and both knew enough to stick with him around the slippery curves.

Scott stuck to his Telecaster and milked so many styles from it in such rapid succession that our minds were spinning, let alone our ears.  He played classic rock, surf rock, rockabilly, blues rock, acid rock, country rock, a little prog rock, and lots of rock and roll.  No feedback, but that's cool, he didn't have time.  Can't name any of the songs he played, probably mostly originals; on listening to this archived performance with the same band, a bunch were definitely covered, so those may be the titles.  The one song he introduced was Sock Full Of Quarters.  Scott really showed us and the almost-packed Sinclair that he can do it.

Then it was time for Marco, the Sinclair let in the last few before closing its doors, and the air conditioners continued to drip.  It was getting near 11 by that point but we weren't paying much attention to the time, though we knew we were exhausted.  Oh well, can't rock and roll all night without a little inconvenience.

With Marco was his long-time second-string (but-almost-as-much-fun-as-Dave) bassist, Karina Rykman and substitute drummer Dave Butler (from Guster).  They were a great band and the third trio we'd seen on the night.  Guess there was some kind of rule about that.  There were times when Marco could have used a guitar, but in general he's just an incredible, incredible keyboardist with an overflowing sonic palette.

Karina and Dave were wearing white t-shirts with matching slogans (We're Using Time For Fun) and white khakis, and Marco had his top-hat and pink glasses but besides that was dressed in a white suit and t-shirt himself.  This meant they all glowed in unison when they started the trippy lights, though they were never that far from a trip.

Marco opened with the whole Fred Short suite and played an eclectic set list, mostly from his earlier records (after the opener).  He's a great showman and had the crowd at his beck and call throughout, ending with three encores and teasing the crowd to beg for more.  It didn't hurt that Karina and Dave were smiling all night, and that Karina showed some great ability to jump around the stage with her huge electric bass and rock our worlds with some booming runs.

He closed with At the Show, but we were a bit disappointed that he didn't do Heavy Metal Floating Downstream or Dropkick, two of his catchiest tunes.  Oh well, we had a great time and will definitely see him again.  It can be surreal to watch a great keyboardist tinkle on the ivories and then work them and work them, like they're an extension of his hands and fingers.  He's nick-named his stand-up piano "Gib" (I assume it's a Gibson) and he let it take a number itself, on which it excelled of course.

OK, we were done and dragged ourselves out of there.  It was already too late for the Red Line and so Dave came home with us and we all got to bed before 2, though it was close.

Beers From All Over Again

Haven't added to this list in a long time, but thought I'd get it down on electronic paper.  Current list of countries I have beer bottles (which contents I drank) from:

Argentina
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Brazil
Canada
China
Costa Rica
Czech Republic
Denmark
Dominican Republic
England
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Guatemala
Iceland
India
Ireland
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Kenya
Laos
Lithuania
Mexico
Netherlands
New Zealand
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Russia
Salvador
Scotland
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sweden
Switzerland
Thailand
Tibet
Trinidad
Ukraine
United States Of America
Vietnam

This is 45 countries and as you may notice, contains places that may not be on your current list of countries of the world, which is endlessly debatable.  I figure these are "beer" countries: if they have a distinctive national style and/or advertise on their label that they are from a particular country, I figure that merits inclusion in the list of "beer" countries.