Saturday, July 28, 2012

Greg Brown at the Bull Run

Greg Brown had been booked for the Bull Run for months, but we hadn't gotten tickets, not knowing what we'd be doing on a mid-summer Friday.  As it turned out we were going to be around and when I checked, one of the front tables was available (must have been a cancellation).  So we did the after-work thing on Friday the 27th ... had a nice dinner and then sat back to see, arguably, the best folk singer in the world.

Greg came out 20 minutes late with his accompanist, Bo Ramsey.  Bo played Stratocaster and another electric and was just fascinating, setting down the mellow groove and throwing in some funky leads.  He played both guitars without picks, hitting the top three strings with his thumb and alternating between his first two fingers on the bottom strings.

Greg played without picks too, on his steel-string acoustic.  He mostly strummed with his thumb and the two of them together made some excellent sounds.  This was bluesy folk song-writing, singing, and understated playing steeped in Greg Brown's world-class style.  They only did three songs we knew: Hey Baby Hey (from his 1996 disc), Iris Dement's Let the Mystery Be, and the second encore.  The rest was recent originals and the songs and melodies were fascinating.  As I say, quality stuff ... but before we knew it he was done!  He came on late and played an hour set.

We got them back out for two encores and for the second Greg did a Pete Seeger song (This Little Light of Mine) that everyone could sing along on, but then he was gone.  Oh well, Bo looked very tired and you can't expect musicians to play all night every night.  We would have liked more but got home in time to watch the last hour of the Olympics opening ceremony!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Couple of Low Kayaks

Went for a couple of short kayak trips recently on the very low local rivers ... still probably much above the water levels most of the country is suffering.  I put in at 225 in Bedford and went downstream on a lovely evening on Friday the 20th and then put in at the route 27 place in Lincoln on Monday the 23rd and went upstream.  Along this route you could see row above row of muskrat condominiums, all high and dry above the water.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Got To Try To See a Little Furthur; Bethel Woods 2012

-- by guest blogger, David

Furthur’s concert on July 15th, 2012 at Bethel Woods was the fifth time Ricky and I had seen them, and it was by far the best.  The weather was cool and drizzly as we walked down the path to the lawn in front of the stage and found a good area just a little left from the center of the stage.  Maima and Rose certainly aren’t Deadheads, but they were almost as excited as Johnny, Ricky, and I (the Deadheads) were for the show.  The tensions was building as people filed in and waited for the band to take the stage, and we were getting antsy for the first notes of tuning to ripple through the air.  We took this opportunity to look around at our neighbors for the first set, and it seemed to be the familiar assortment of drunk old hippie couples, strange mountain people (this being upstate New York), neo-Deadheads about our age (dreadlocks, shaggy clothing with Dead logos, and a lot of brown), and college hippies.  A little off to our left and in front of us was a mother, her friend, and a child who would spend the concert in a cosmic game of fetch where the boy would run off in his neon green shirt and she’d follow after him and bring him back after anywhere between ten seconds and two minutes.  There were also two 40 year old hippies who Johnny had parked next to who were smoking – ahem…tobacco pipes all night long.  Finally the ads on the gigantic TV screens on either side of the stage went black, the few house lights we could see in the daylight went down, and the band came on.  Needless to say, Ricky, Johnny, and I screamed like maniacs, Rose and Maima rolled their eyes at us, and the band started tuning up.

Tuning is always an interesting moment for a Deadhead who believes in the alchemical powers of the Dead.  It’s much less them testing the tuning and settings of their instruments than it is them testing the vibrations and qualities of the atmosphere.  The riffs and melodies soar over the audience, feeling out the potential energy that lies therein.  After they decide they’re satisfied with what they find in the soggy crowd in front of them the band cracks into Cold Rain & Snow, and there’s no turning back now.  John has a new guitar this tour, and it has added to the palate of colors with which this genius can play.  He sings us a beautiful version of this classic song, and he opens up the first jam section without hesitation, Jeff wailing on the organ to fill in the empty spaces right beside him.

They close the song nicely, and already the rain is starting to recede.  The band then jams into a Ratdog song, Two Djinn, which we were unable to identify immediately; a new song is not only unfamiliar in its words and chords, but with a band like Furthur it’s hard to pinpoint where a jam ends and where a song begins.  The crowd around us seemed spilt between people who are ready to see what newer things the Dead’s members have created, and purists whose only reaction to Ratdog songs is “shut up, Bobby!”  Johnny was in the latter camp, and there is some validity; who wants to hear an old man singing “sassafras?”  On the other hand, the arrangement of the song is very neat, and it is easy to tell that the band has a lot of fun playing it.  There’s a great hook that cycles throughout it that’s something like a tropical Slipknot, and conjures up a nice desert delirium feeling.  They finish up the jam at the end with grins on their faces, and Rick and I nod our Deadhead approval of the song, and the start to the first set as the rain continues to wane.

The band then rolls out one of their best songs, in my opinion: They Love Each Other.  While it’s a song that the Dead did well into the ‘80s, I always think of it as a ’73 song.  Tonight they played it as if they were back in those golden days, with Bobby rolling across John and Jeff, and Phil thundering in the back.  This was also a great example of how Joe Russo can play his drums like a melody.  He rolls right along with Bobby, hitting notes that aren’t just rhythmic accents, but the true backbone of the song.  In the jam sections the band shows us how tight they’re going to be tonight, with everyone listening to everyone else; the homo gestalt is fully functioning.  Jeff and John clearly have a carnival stuck in their minds the whole show, with melodies whizzing in and out that could only have come from some merry-go-round from the fifth dimension.  Needless to say, we enjoyed every second of this song, and when the line “got to try to see a little further” rang out, even Maima and Rose yelled along with the crowd.  Lord, you could see it was true.

Next up was a song that Rick, Johnny, and I all heard before in Binghamton, Black Throated Wind.  We were a little disappointed to get a repeat, but it was well worth hearing.  Bobby was singing and playing very coherently all night, and it was great to hear such a beautiful song being sung instead of mumbled.  While it’s always funny when Bobby forgets the words, I’d much rather hear what he’s trying to sing, and tonight he didn’t forget a single word.  The rest of the band also played the song better than the first time we saw it, which served as more proof that they were going to be on point all night.  By this time the clouds had lightened up and there would be no more rain for the rest of show.  All signs were pointing towards an amazing night.

Before I go on to the next song, I want to make a quick aside about the expectations of a show.  The weeks before going to see any Furthur show, there is usually a list in our heads that narrows down as the show gets closer.  This list consists of the songs that we really want to get.  Usually we don’t get any of them and the only things that have dropped from the list before this show are Dark Star and The Eleven.  The list leading up to tonight, then, was Terrapin Station, The Other One, Help On the Way/ Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower, Eyes of the World, Wharf Rat, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, and Bird Song.  Rose and Maima only had one, Ramble on Rose.

And Ramble on Furthur did!  It was just like Jack the Ripper!  And it was really long and funky to boot, at just about 10 minutes.  If I haven’t mentioned that the band was on point yet, let me take this opportunity: they were perfect!  John and Bobby traded lyrics seamlessly, and as they all sang “ramble on rose,” we all danced around Rose - she was understandably embarrassed.  The jam section in the middle unfolded into John’s cosmic carnival, Phil tumbling down as Jeff climbed up over Bobby’s sideways shuffle, until Jeff brought the jam to what we thought would be the only summit of the song.  Waves of piano broke and crashed around us, erupting into trills that slid down the keys and returned to erupt again, and then John, with some help from Joe, brought the crowd to tears, and swiftly returned to the lyrics.  The sun was starting to slowly push through the clouds, and we were turning into animals at the mercy of the music.  As John took us to the leader of a band, we jumped and shouted, acknowledging that while the grass ain't greener and the wine ain't sweeter either side of the hill, it was still a really great hill!

The set felt close to an end, but we were going hard.  Suddenly a tuning riff ripped through the air and Ricky and I go bug-eyed…was that…?  IT WAS!  Help on the Way had arrived, and I went nuts, knowing that Slipknot! was hot on the heels.  The band proceeded to absolutely kill this gem from Blues For Allah, Bobby and John once again trading off lyrics with Sunshine and Jeff Pherson singing back-up.  The jam opened up and John shredded across the air, followed close by the swirls of Jeff’s piano.  Phil and Bobby helped Joe in laying down the foundations of the song while simultaneously tearing them away.  The lyrics came to a close and the energy started to build even higher as the song slipped away into Slipknot!  Of all the Dead’s instrumental numbers, this one has got to be the farthest out.  While much of the material from Blues for Allah is far out and beautifully arranged, this song combines the structure of a song with the formlessness of something like the Other One or Dark Star; the ‘70s version of the Eleven.  Furthur absolutely nailed this song at Bethel, the band acting as the epitome of group consciousness in coming out of the void into the Slipknot! hook.  The band sped up at the end to give their transition more fire.  Transition into what you say?

Into Franklin’s Tower of course!  John’s guitar exploded into shooting stars on the very first chords, and the sun erupted from behind the clouds.  Everybody was standing and dancing in an ecstatic frenzy; even the one little kid stopped running away from his mother to dance with a grin a mile long plastered on his face.  Jeff’s organ shot waves of energy through the crowd as they rose and fell in the circles he was laying down.  Phil’s singing elicited the cheers it normally does, and everyone was singing “roll away the dew.”  John took his time getting down to business in his first jam, but as soon as Phil sang “if you get confused, just listen to the music play,” the fireworks began anew.  The crowd was starting to get soggy again, but from sweat instead of rain this time, and no one minded.  As the song came to the last lyrics Phil started bouncing his bass along the hillside and the band couldn’t help but bounce right along with him into a beautiful lull before exploding again and slipping back into the ending of Slipknot! to finish the set.  “We’ll be right back,” promised Bobby, and we sat down to reevaluate our situation in life and the world.  The sunset was illuminating the clouds in a way that couldn’t possibly have been real, and a rainbow shot up from somewhere behind the stage.  Maima asked “what now?” and Ricky and I groaned - intermission would be a long time.


The sun having long set, the second set was signaled by the downing of the house lights.  Furthur currently has a wheel of lights as their lightshow’s centerpiece, and we were looking forward to having that visible now.  Tuning rippled through the air again as Ricky and I tried to figure out the opener for the second set; would it be a Beatles tune?  An ‘80s tune?  Would they do the rest of Blues for Allah (having done all of Anthem the night before)?  Terrapin Station.  They opened the set with one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.  I saw Phil & Friends do Terrapin in San Rafael, but I knew at the time that it would never compare to a Furthur Terrapin, and I was right.  Phil Lesh became a whale carrying Terrapin cross the ocean, coming from all directions at once, and John, apart from some filter issues at the beginning of his solo, was playing pure genius.  The main jam in Lady With a Fan (the proper name for the beginning of Terrapin) sounded like it was going elsewhere, but it was just the Grateful Dead machine turning over, and they came beautifully back to Terrapin with maybe a hint of Dark Star.  The Terrapin Jam was as epic as anyone would imagine, and I won’t waste time trying to describe what happened; it was just awesome.

Then they slid, maybe a little sloppily, into a slowed down Estimated Prophet.  While Bobby was very articulate and all the words came out with the proper syllables, Bobby sounds like a schizophrenic old man when he does the song now.  He plays on the line “the voices tell me what to say” just a little too much, but the song (another welcome repeat) unfolded excellently.  The syncopation and time signature (7/4) make in an interesting ride, and the funkiness is undeniable.  The middle jam and final jam both came to full crowd-pleasing-fruition, with angels in shafts of light everywhere.  The end jam was going along wonderfully when suddenly…

Jeff decided to be a prankster and tease the Other One, which they did last night and we had therefore ruled out for tonight.  But then it was more than a tease, and it evolved into a full band Other One Jam in 7/4!  While this felt like it lasted a good 5 minutes, the tape has it at only 2…it still felt great to get part of a song on the list after getting so many already.  We couldn’t have been happier or more far out at the time, and we could feel it was building up to something…but what?

A familiar riff, but it seemed so out of place.  That progression comes from another song, but it was never the Other One or Estimated Prophet…what was it?  And then it started to come together: Supplication Blues!  This made some sense for two reasons: 1) It is also in 7/4, and 2) Furthur has done Supplication Jams before, but never with its original partner, Lazy Lightning.  We were happy with the jamming, thinking they would leave soon, but instead Bobby flew into the lyrics and things were kicked up another notch.  John was shooting off spinning stars and fireworks left and right as the band rocked on and on.  The jam coming out of it was in good shape, until a twist in the vibrations from the crowd came and the jam dissolved into chaos.  Phil, however, seemed to have a master plan as he grooves along and finds a riff then launches the band onward…

…into Eyes of the World!  It was a different intro to the song than I had ever heard, and it took Rick a bit to recognize it, even with me and Johnny looking bug-eyed at him.  It was spectacular to witness.  All night long the light show had been stabbing shafts of light out into the crowd and then retreating to the circle above the stage where they would rotate, but now the lights were going absolutely nuts.  After Phil sang the first lyrics Jeff’s solo section came and it rocked us all right in the face.  His piano brought seeds to life that burst into bloom and decayed, and then whipped us off to some grand ballroom in space where pianos roamed freely in the wild.  John brought us back to his merry-go-round from space a few times, and Phil was just having a great time all around.  The end jam going out of Eyes used to be the Phil Zone back in the ‘70s, but now it was just a jam-fest for the whole band, and the jam they whipped up started morphing into something very familiar to Rick, Johnny, and me.

We first got the Eleven in its proper place, after St. Stephen, back at the Vibes last year, but had since seen that Furthur can be very flexible with it, putting it into all sorts of places where you wouldn’t assume it belonged.  Eyes of the World would not have crossed my mind as a place where it could be fit; just goes to show I guess.  It wasn’t as fast as the others we’ve gotten, and maybe the slowness harmed it a little, but it was still a great time.  While not at its most daring in this version, the band was still very tight, and they absolutely nailed the fierce jam coming out of the Eleven in a way I’ve never seen them do before.  It was going along like a savage, and then, in another example of the group mind, went seamlessly into another repeat for us, and a pleasant one.

Standing on the Moon is one of the ‘80s songs we can stand, and it was damn well time for the cool-down song in the second set.  We would have preferred Wharf Rat, Morning Dew, or something from American Beauty or Workingman’s Dead, but Standing on the Moon is nice.  It’s another one that Bobby took over in the post-Jerry world of the Dead, and one that he has a particular knack for in my opinion.  The crowd was starting to thin at this time, but there was no way we were going anywhere; why leave early?!  The parking lot scene was pretty cool, but you pay for and show up for a concert, the parking lot’s free and is there long after the show ends.  Either way, we enjoyed getting more breathing room and a chance to catch our breath.  The song ended and we braced ourselves for the end of the set.  Would we get another Goin’ Down the Road?  Sugar Magnolia?  Throwing Stones (no thank you)?

The hum of Phil feeding back rumbled through the crowd, and John came straight from a Middle Eastern desert with waves of sand and sun.  Maybe they were doing that Pink Floyd song Time?  Wait, Joe has an idea…and John lifts us back into Terrapin!  At a Siding was never performed live by the Grateful Dead and I’m not sure which post-Jerry iteration of the Dead started it, but we knew that Furthur could wind out a mean Terrapin Suite.  We were disappointed when they left Terrapin to go into Estimated, but to envelop the entire second set in Terrapin was the kind of creativity we love Furthur for.  Bobby sang us through the new arrangement (much more syncopated than the album version), and the band came to the At a Siding jam, trading licks between Jeff and John over the drum fills that Joe was laying down.  The band was starting to let their instruments feedback either out of tiredness or to push the envelope, but it worked out excellently in the end.  Finally the band came into Terrapin Flyer to close the show and we all lost it.  Phil brought us to our knees, John brought us to tears, and Bobby brought the funny mustache.  We waited for the Donor Rap, cheered for Cody, and then came the encore.

Being Sunday, it was time for a spiritual number: Samson & Delilah.  A great rocker, and a great way to end a show, they gave it an a capella opening that felt just a bit folksy.  They wailed out some great rock and roll that got us back on our feet.  I was incredibly sore by that point, but I couldn’t help but dance as hard as I could; I actually danced holes into the ground.  The end fell apart a bit with John missing his cue, but they brought it back together right away and ended on a strong note.  All in all, it was the best show I’ve ever seen, and I want to see more!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Green River Festival, Sunday 7/15

After sleeping a bit late, going down for the textbook continental breakfast, and then hanging around with our friends some, we were back at the festival again, by 11:15 or so.  And again there was already a long line.  This time people were a bit more polite and festival personnel herded us a bit better.  But I think they've got to consider opening the gates earlier and/or organizing the crowd outside a bit better.

Oh well, everyone was nice and we got inside in time to grab a great piece of lawn, just a few rows behind that invisible "don't sit closer than this or you'll get trampled" border area that a lot of festivals develop.  It had been incredibly sunny and hot on Saturday and we were relieved that it was overcast on Sunday, though we knew that at some point in the afternoon the clouds would gather and start dumping rain on us.  Oh well, that was in the future!

Martin Simpson - Martin Simpson was another performer that I'd been listening to on radio and record for years but had never seen.  He did not disappoint and lived up to his billing as a distinctive wizard of a guitar player.  He came on a bit early so he'd be able to stretch things out a bit and played four songs that were cut by diamonds, they were so precise and shone with such brilliance.

Elizabeth Cook - I'd seen Elizabeth several times and had told my friends that if they were going to watch one act at the festival, it had to be her.  Though it was early on a gloomy Sunday afternoon, she lived up to my expectations and exceeded them.  She played the hits, like Heroin Addict Sister, El Camino, and Balls, but then she did the song of the festival.  She launched into her cover of Hot Burrito #1 and rolled her head back and shook her hair slowly and hit all those changes on the rhythm guitar and sang so gently and soulfully  but you could tell she was screaming from her inner being just like Gram used to about wanting no one but you to love me.

Brown Bird - Ran down to the Yonder Stage again to catch Brown Bird, a local (Rhode Island) band about whom I'd heard some great stuff.  They're very eclectic themselves but also fit right in with the tradition of acoustic bands that have found their own mix of instruments and their own sound and end up producing music that sounds centuries old.  David Lamb hits that guitar hard while also singing his complicated songs and beating out the rhythm on the kick drum and a wood block and/or tambourine with the other foot.  MorganEve Swain sings harmony and a killer cello, double bass, fiddle ... and you get the feeling she could knock you dead with a banjo, mandolin, or ukelele too.

Chris Smither - Then ran back up to the main stage to see one of the great musicians of the day, Chris Smither.  He brought a funky band this time and I managed to catch a few tunes, then break off for some more veggy/chicken wraps!  No rain yet, but things were getting a bit darker.

Richard Thompson - Yes, much darker.  Richard Thompson is an enthralling musician who plays guitar as well as anyone on the planet and rivets you with his imagination and his effortless stylings.  He will get vibrato from bending different strings in different directions while strumming them in the same chord for an eighth note and then twist into another pretzel on the fret board while sounding a lonesome and whining tenor before diving into a baritone chorus.  Though Cook had the shining moment and Rubblebucket (below) won the crowd, Richard Thompson was the star of the festival.

Winterpills - Calmed down a bit after Richard and the local indies Winterpills came on.  I only stuck around for a couple of songs and then stopped by to see Kate and dragged her off to see The Good Stuff...

Peter Mulvey and the Crumbling Beauties - Because at the Meltdown Stage (a.k.a. the kids stage), Peter Mulvey (whose latest CD, "The Good Stuff" uses the same phrase as is used by Sunday Morning Country's tag line) was just starting up.  Mulvey has a great band, including the ubiquitous David Goodrich on guitar.  He did a number of his recent, very successful songs and should have gotten a larger audience than he did.

Rubblebucket - OK, back to the main stage area in time to get dinner (more wraps) and get totally stoked for Rubblebucket.  I meant to stay back at our seats, but abandoned Sarah when they came on ... meaning to just stay up front for a song or two ... but then stayed there all set long.  I was right in front of the stage, jumping and grooving with a couple of other 50+ guys and a vast sea of 20+ people.  They opened with Worker, did Silly Fathers, Triangular Daisies, a couple of Blondie tunes, Came Out Of a Lady, Young As Clouds, and we all danced and danced and danced while they jumped into the crowd, ghosts appeared on stage, robots roamed through the audience, Kalmia painted faces, and Ian Hersey blew my mind with his guitar licks.  If you aren't familiar with Rubblebucket, you need to get familiar.  This was their third consecutive time at GRF (a record) and they had the crowd eating out of their hands.  This was more fun than a universe of monkeys ... I hadn't really noticed that it had started to rain steadily during their set..

Ozomatli - It was about that time when we didn't know whether to shit or wind our watches.  The steady rain that had been threatening all day continued and settled in for the long haul, but unfortunately it didn't cool things down a whole lot.  Scott and Tristan showed up (the families had gone back to the hotel) and we were all exhausted, but then Ozomatli came on and we danced in the rain for another hour.  Salsa rap is not my style, but these guys knew what they were doing and were kicking out some excellent grooves that kept us all jumping.  They had Kalmia and Alex Toth come out and join them for a couple of songs.

Dragged our drenched asses back to the car after the GRF was totally done and drove slowly back to the hotel with the defroster going full blast.  Changed into dry clothes and hung out for a while, talking about what a great concert we'd just seen and everything else.  Can't wait for next year!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Green River Festival, Saturday 7/14

The 2012 Green River Festival again featured just a fantastic lineup.  We got early-earlybird tickets and showed up there at about 11:15 for the noon gates and there was already a long line.  We all waited like good folk fans (though two(!) non-authorized lines formed and a bunch of people forced their way in before us polite ones).  We still were able to grab a nice piece of lawn about 50 feet in front of the soundboard, put on sunscreen, and settled in for:

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion - We'd seen them about 18 months before this and were kind of unimpressed with them, but they did a great show at the GRF.  They played with a bassist and that may have been the glue that was needed to fit their sounds together.  They did mostly originals but mixed in a few songs by Sarah's grandfather (this summer we're celebrating Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday birthday).

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three - I'd been wanting to see Pokey for a while and he didn't disappoint.  Besides singing the heck out of a bunch of great original and traditional songs, he has a great guitar player (Adam Hoskins) and a fantastic harmonica/washboard player (Ryan Koenig), and a very tight sound.  This was one of the sets of the festival and I went up and talked with his band afterwards, though Pokey himself was mobbed ... bunch of nice mid-westerners.

David Wax Museum - Another band I'd been dying to see and David Wax was fantastic, energetic, and dynamic.  But the jaw-dropping(!) thing about their act is when Suz Slezak gets out her donkey jawbone and gets more sounds from it (while dancing around like a firecracker) than you can believe.  Great, eclectic, neo-traditionalist (but what tradition?) band.

Lake Street Dive - I'd seen Rachael Price at the GRF in 2011 and had heard her band but never seen them either.  And once they started playing you could not take your eyes and/or ears away from them.  Bridget Kearney is an amazingly talented and melodic double-bass player, Mike Olsen is excellent switching back and forth between electric guitar and trumpet ((!) I say again), and Mike Calabrese is a solid drummer.  These guys are just a rocking unit and when the gorgeous Rachael gets her pipes going, you realize they're playing pop-blues from another dimension (which might be called Brooklyn).

The Sweetback Sisters - After Lake Street I dashed down to the Yonder tent (renamed from The Dance Tent) and caught most of the Sweetback Sisters set.  They play a funky cowboy-swing-bluegrass-blues thing with some aggressive vocals and a dancing beat.  In other words, they're right up my alley.  Mager saw me sneak in up front and commented, "You were watching them hard!"  I was.

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express - Back up to the main stage and saw a few songs from Chuck Prophet, who is a bit overrated IMO.  He's got some good songs and a very good sound, but hams it up a bit too much for me.  Still enjoyable!  This was a good chance to get some great vegetable/chicken wraps for me and Sarah.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three - Back down to the Yonder Stage and saw the end of Pokey's act, then...

JD McPherson - A lot of people were looking forward to JD McPherson's set in the Yonder tent and he and band did a yeoman's job, though it was extremely hot in there and they seemed pretty tired.  As pointed out, they'd come from Dublin (Ireland) two days before and played a gig the night before then drove there all day.  Even so, they had a lot of energy and JD burned the tent down with his solos.  Also some great vocals from his bass player, which was the unexpected treat of his set.  Pokey's band stuck around to watch them and I had another nice talk with Ryan Koenig while we walked back up to the main stage.

Los Lobos - Los Lobos is one of the great bands of the last 25(?) years and I was sorry to miss any of their set, though I had an excuse.  Hidalgo and Perez are real cool guys and perhaps could have used a few more pyrotechnics, but expecting a great band to put on a show is missing the point: they played some of their fantastic songs (also covered a Grateful Dead song) and went back and forth with some soul-searching solos.  This was quality music!

Arlo Guthrie - As mentioned, it was Woody's birthday celebration, and Arlo played just a delightful set featuring as many family members as possible.  He had 3 daughters (or nieces), one son-in-law (Johnny Irion), one son, one nephew, and a multitude of grandchildren on stage at various times.  He kept up a steady stream of stories in his measured, incredibly well-paced way, and did a bunch of his hits (Coming In To Los Angeles, City of New Orleans (Steve Goodman song, don't forget it!)), as well as some beautiful covers of his Dad's songs, including one of the best Pretty Boy Floyd's I've heard and a sing-along, bring-out-the-whole-band, not a dry eye in the house, end the show right, version of This Land Is Your Land.

Jeez, that was fun!  We considered going back down to the Yonder stage after putting our stuff in the car, but the band there was just ending.  We hung around to see if Tristan would show up (didn't know if we were supposed to be giving him a ride) and wait out the jam of traffic leaving the concert.  We didn't have far to go ourselves and pulled into the Quality Inn parking lot after a while, where we checked in, helped a woman in the parking lot with a dead car (and husband) and then went to bed pretty soon after that.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hot Tuna at the Bull Run

We were incredulous when we heard earlier this year that Hot Tuna (acoustic) would be playing at the tiny Bull Run Restaurant in central Mass and we snapped up tickets to both shows as soon as they went on sale, as did a good number of others apparently.

Sunday, July 1st came around and we headed out there for brunch (I got eggs Benedict and Sarah got their Hot Tuna special, a spicy mash of seared tuna) and a few beers before the 3:00 show.  I hit the bathroom downstairs and ran into Jack Casady, who was giving the towel dispenser the eye when I walked in.  We had a short but pleasant conversation ... guys don't usually hang out in the bathroom.

We were front and center for the show, with Jack, Jorma, and Barry Mitterhof on low chairs which meant  a lot of the people in the very full room couldn't see them that well, which must have been disappointing.  Jack was playing a new Epiphone bass and Jorma had his old Gibson.  Barry alternated between instruments, but for most of the songs stuck to a traditional mandolin.

We were in heaven from the first note, with Jorma growling his lyrics and working his fretboard with his thick, muscular fingers like we'd heard for years but never seen so close, Jack hunched over his bass and attacking it with a three-fingered run up here and a run down there, while all the time resting his thumb on the lowest string until it was needed too, and Barry playing incredible mando leads when Jorma nodded to him to go for it.  The setlist for the first show was at Jack's feet and was clearly visible to us.  They opened with Been So Long and sprinkled in some lighter songs but mostly played the blues: Been So Long, Nobody Know You When You're Down and Out, I'll Let You Know Before I Leave, More Than My Old Guitar, Second Chances (excellent version, Jorma in fine voice), Let Us Get Together Right Down Here, Barbecue King, Children of Zion, Come Back Baby, 99 Year Blues (after which Barry advised a couple of 8-10 year old boys at one of the front tables to pay no attention to those words), and then Bread Line Blues.

Phew, that was some set!  Sarah and I were riveted by their musicianship and the great songs.  They stood back behind the stage and then sat down again for their "encore."  We could see that Sea Child and I Know You Rider remained on the set list, but they decided to mix it up a bit and did Parchman Farm into Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning, and then followed that up with Water Song!  The whole room was standing by the end of that, even in the late afternoon on a hot July day.

Many people stuck around for the 7:00 show, as did we.  We walked around a bit, talked with other attendees/devotees, and had ice cream on their patio, then took our places at our table (in front of Jack this time, not the very center table).  We got some dinner, more beers, and then the band came on a half-hour late (but that was all right).  They digressed from their second set list a bit more, but covered some more of their essentials, like Hesitation Blues, How Long Blues, Mama Let Me Lay It On You, Things That Might Have Been (another killer Jorma vocal), Red River Blues, Uncle Sam Blues, Vicksburg Stomp, and I Am the Light Of This World.

The guy sitting next to me (in the seat I was in for the first show) had his camera out and took this video.

This show was just as good as the first, or possibly better!  Barry pointed out for the large number of us who were at both shows (though we knew this, duh!) that they hadn't repeated any songs.  They stood behind the stage again after they were done ... everyone was beginning to tire, and then they came back and did I Know You Rider and then actually repeated a song: they closed with Water Song again but how could you complain about that?  Well you couldn't and if you did then you would have to be from another planet.  Actually, I could listen to Come Back Baby for a few days straight and not get tired of it.

Back to our cars and back home.  We got copies of both set lists and were very, very thrilled to see this band we'd been following for so long in such an intimate setting. I first saw them in 1976 (at Northeastern) and they're still going strong over 35 years later.  This music has accompanied me for most of my life and we sat six feet from the geniuses behind it while they played it once more for us!