Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tom Rush and Mustache

We were really psyched when friends asked us if we were interested in seeing Tom Rush at the Bull Run.  Oh yeah.  Tom's like the Bob Dylan of folk (I'm saying this with a straight face, it's all a matter of perspective), and we'd "wanted" to see him for years but not wanted to experience the folk rage associated with him.

Anyway, though life sucks, we showed up in Shirley at 6:30 to meet our friends for dinner before an 8:00 show and the Bull Run was PACKED already.  We got beer and dinner and yucked it up pretty good.  This is a fun place you should check out if you don't know it.  I thought there was going to be an opening act but there wasn't and Tom came on a bit after 8, wearing his old guitar and looking like a Mark Twain re-enactor with his perfectly coiffed white hair and handlebar mustache.  But you could tell he was an old Cambridge stoner!

This was another of those shows with a musical legend who lived up to his billing; a few songs in and I was completely entranced with his ability to sing those lyrics that I'd heard a thousand times and make them meaningful and to strum those chords I'd been hearing in the back of my mind since high school and make them shine.

Tom opened by himself and then brought out Eric Lilljequist and Dean Adrian on vocals and guitars when he needed a bit more orchestration.  They played a 40-minute first set and then after a long break played a 30-minute second set with a long encore.  Not bad for some old guys!

Tom has an incredible catalog to draw from and his set list was fantastic.  He opened with Gonna Get Hot Tonight, did Urge For Going early on, did an ethereal Jamaica Say You Will (with good story about Jackson Browne), and closed the first set with an excellent rendition of his mashup of Bukka White tunes under the name of Panama Limited.  He did Joshua Gone Barbados, a beautiful mid-second set no-holds-barred No Regrets/Rockport Sunday with classic introduction ("the seagulls, the church bells, the waves crashing on the shore"), and a rocking Merrimac County, the song that first made me love his music.

Hard to believe that that large crowd wasn't on their feet cheering after that, but I guess people were trying to be folk-cool ... forty years too late.  Tom came back out anyway by himself and launched into Child's Song.  Just hit us with a pickle, how could you think of a more emotion-laden, sentimental song than that ("Little sister, you'll have to wait a while ...")?  Eric and Dean came back out and they did Tom's mashup of Who Do You Love and Hey Bo Diddley, which rocked.

Tom walked off and then spent hours signing at the merch table.  He sure showed some signs to me of his old magic.  In particular, his left-hand guitar fingering was so much what I'd been listening to and drooling over since I was a pup.  His voice wasn't quite up to my memories and he didn't rock out as much as I was hoping, but this was a wonderful show by one of the most veteran performers of *my* life.  He's sure covered some ground from when I first saw him in 1974.

Monday, November 25, 2013

DSO Warms Up Concord

You've got to hand it to Dark Star Orchestra for touring as much as they do and consistently putting on vastly enjoyable shows.  In fact, part of the fun of seeing them is seeing how much everyone else there is enjoying themselves.  This November they didn't come very close to Boston, but they played in a few small towns in the hinterlands of New England, like Burlington VT, Portland ME, and Concord NH. :)

We thought about seeing them in Northampton or in Portland, but because of several factors (like we were busy last night), we settled for just seeing them in Concord on this Fall tour at the friendly and graceful Capital Center For the Arts on November 24th.  It was one of those frigid Fall days in New England when the stiff Northwest wind makes you suddenly realize that winter is much closer than you think.  There was snow and ice on the ground in Concord, but the town was rocking on a Sunday night, the Center For the Arts opened their doors early so we wouldn't have to wait outside, and we chattered eagerly with other devotees waiting in line for General Admission.

Most of the people there early (25-30 of us??) were middle aged or older, though lots of younger people showed up later.  They opened the doors and we rushed in; most people grabbed the first row in the orchestra or the first row in the balcony, but we weighed our options a bit more and took the best seats in the third row of the orchestra, figuring that the space between the stage and the first row would become a mosh pit of stage-rushers later in the evening, which turned out to be very correct (note here that I have to hand it to the incredibly-patient-with-obnoxious-deadheads security, who were trying to keep the aisles reasonably clear and keep everyone happy at the same time).  These were great seats.

The band was set up with two drum kits and with the lead guitar over by the keyboards to the right side, with the bass (Skip Vangelas (with an Alembic bass) took the bass chair that Kevin Rosen had filled so well for so long) on the far left.  Between RobE and Skip was the mike that Lisa would take, with a low stand as well, like she was going to play a banjo or something ... this was never used so I'm still waiting.

The crowd took their time arriving but ultimately packed the place.  DSO took their time but then started up at 7:10 or so with a rocking Touch Of Grey.  Instantly my wishes for an early '70s or late 60's show were dashed, but WTF, we were off!!  Here's the first set:

Touch Of Grey > Greatest Story Ever Told; Iko Iko; Queen Jane Approximately; Catfish John; Mister Charlie; From the Heart Of Me; Mama Tried > Mexicali Blues; Big Railroad Blues; Let It Grow

It was obvious early that this was an original setlist, and then Catfish John clinched it.  But no one was disappointed, they did an excellent job on every note of these songs and we all sang along and danced and danced.  There's some real skill in the band, but all of the players had their so-so moments, including Skip playing it safe in a few situations when he needed to stand out.  But they are so much fun!  How often do you get a chance to croon along with "... don't go near that river," to bop wildly to Mr. Charlie, to roll along with your flagboy and my flagboy, and to get a fucking cowboy troika, all in one set?  And that's not to mention the incongruously popular Lisa (I love her, as does everybody I know) taking a spin on Donna's The Heart Of Me.

RobE finished with a perfunctory Let It Grow, and then they all mumbled off for a break while we grinned and grinned.  Short bathroom lines, long beer lines, many people stepping outside (but not far in that cold) for a smoke, with the smell of it wafting in the front doors, a few people checking on the Patriots score on their phones, and then we all got back just in time for the lights dimming for the second set.

I'd been texting the setlist to Dave and he predicted Drums and Space for the second set.  He was right, but this was no loose jam introducing a sloppy second set.  This was a whole night of precision.  Rob waited until Jeff had played the lead riff three times, and then started picking the Bobby part of China Cat, and they did not stop for a while.  Here's the list:

China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider; Samson And Delilah; He's Gone > The Other One > Drums > Space > The Other One > Visions Of Johanna > Let It Rock

  • This was an ideal China Rider; they were not trying to replicate the Dead sound of a particular year, they were trying to play these songs with the spirit they deserve and did so; and the crowd was absolutely bellowing on the "wild geese in the West" and "wish I was a headlight" highlights of Rider (Skip knew not to back off the bombs here).
  • The drummers shone on Samson, and Lisa did some great vocals backing up Rob; again, this was not a mimic of Donna and Bob, but the two of them singing for all they were worth.
  • He's Gone continued the pace, and then it got good and weird and fantastic; as before, it was clear to some of us that they were playing TOO about five minutes before the signature bass notes and to all after that, but this time they then proceeded to jam and jam.  Finally Rob stepped up and sang a verse with Lisa (and all of us) jumping up and down while screaming "coming around."  Then it got weirder.
  • I'd never before this night seen Dino channel Billy so well and RobK channel Mickey so well.  Dino did not leave his traps, whanging the kick and the high-hat while rolling on his toms.  Rob got up and went to the back of their set-up, where he sampled himself on congas, put it through some odd filters, and then took off from there.  Soon we had no idea where all those sounds were coming from, and we realized we'd been enthralled for 10 minutes of this ... and then the guys came out and played space.
  • And then they went back into TOO.  This was fantastic, a truly uplifting, riveting, thrilling sonic experience.  Lisa came back out and if you think we were all jumping up and down before, I think New Hampshire is still shaking from that second verse.
  • Jeff then sang a beautiful cover of Visions Of Johanna for a wind-down song.  This was a very good vocal and was one of the artistic highlights of the night.
  • And then they did what's rapidly becoming DSO's signature show capper, Let It Rock.  I think there are still some fans to whom this song is not as familiar as a song like Saturday Night or Around and Around, but this is DSO's song.

Ack!!!  They shuffled off again and we all were laughing and raving about what we'd just seen.  That TOO was incredible!  Why the heck did they set up their teepee on the tracks in the first place?!?   They came back out and RobB told us that of course we'd been listening to an "elective" set.  He then looked around slyly at the other guys ... what would it be for an encore??  Scarlet Begonias!  No Fire this time, but they did Scarlet perfectly and closed with the tight Mars Hotel ending to the song.  What a night!!

Skip came out afterwards and high-fived fans left and right.  He gave me the thumbs-up.  We made it out into the cold and found our car down frigid South Main Street in Concord.  Luckily the wind had died down a bit and it was a smooth drive back home, making it door to door in a bit under an hour.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Great Tedeschi Trucks Band, lousy auditorium

After seeing the Tedeschi Trucks Band two+ years ago and then listening to their releases since then, I consider them at the top of current blues-rock, and so was very surprised to see they were playing the small Lynn Auditorium on November 23rd.  So were a lot of other people I guess, it sold out quickly.

We made our way into deepest darkest Lynn on a Saturday evening and found a parking space with a bit of difficulty.  We'd gotten good reviews of the hall from a friend who'd been there recently, but we had a much different experience, probably because we were sitting under the overhang of the balcony, rather than in the balcony itself.  The sound was probably fine out in the open, but under the balcony it was boomy and echoey, and during the opening act it was deafening in there from everyone talking and getting to their seats.  I looked around to see who was talking and no one right around us was, the sound was coming from far away, and it was very distracting.

Also, the sightlines were impossible!  We were in the 24th row (and were under the balcony, that's how small the hall was), but could barely see the stage through the widebodies in front of us.  It was sold out and so we were packed in, but there was barely any pitch to the orchestra floor and when someone 5 rows in front of us stood up, it totally blocked our view (especially when he was big as a house).  Everyone in the place stood up and sat down like jack-in-the-boxes all through the concert, trying to see.  Luckily the guy in front of me had gotten his hair cut recently so that gave me a couple of extra millimeters to peep at the stage.  Sarah just gave up, she could barely see Susan Tedeschi when everyone was sitting down and had just no chance to see a thing when they were standing.  Oh well ... be forewarned about the Lynn Auditorium.

Having said all that, the concert was still fantastic.  Jamie Woods opened and ripped off some soulful blues, accompanied by a single electric guitarist.  After a long break TTB came out ... all 11 of them, and somehow crammed onto the small stage and blew the house down.  The backup vocalists were on risers behind the horn players over on the far right, Susan was to the left of them, Derek next to her, the drummers on risers behind them, and the bassist and keyboardist/flute player way over to the left.  With the seeing difficulties, there was no way to watch them all at once, even on such a small stage, but you could hear them all at once at least ... by the end of the show the sound guys (sitting a few rows behind us) had balanced it out pretty well.

And they were just incredible, phenomenal, and every other superlative you could pull out.  Derek played some of the best guitar I've ever witnessed, Susan kept bellowing the blues like you wouldn't believe (belying her little girl speaking voice), Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson rocked the whole North Shore on drums and percussion, Kofi Burbridge was excellent on keys and flute, Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers were riveting on high lonesome soulful backup vocals (and took a few leads), the horn section of Kebbi Williams (sax), Maurice Brown (trumpet), and Saunders Sermons (trombone and vocals) was more than worth the price of admission themselves, and the day's bass player was thundering.

They opened with the show-stopping Made Up Mind from their new record, covered several other tunes from the record and went deep into the rock/blues catalog too.  They did a beautiful, moving, Midnight in Harlem with a 5-minute guitar/organ/percussion introduction, a long, inspiring Bound For Glory, and a cover of Prine's Angel From Montgomery that Tedeschi possibly sang better than Bonnie ever did.  AND ... just to show how far out and far deep they could go, when they were jamming on the bridge Susan stepped up to the mike and ripped off, "When they come to take you down, when they bring that wagon round..."  A verse of the Dead's Sugaree in the middle of Angel From Montgomery?!?!  This just emphasized how masterful this band was.

After one long, long set of killer blues from a killer band that filled the stage and filled our eardrums, they came back out for a two-song encore (Susan thanked her many family members in attendance), and then faded off into the night.  We made it out of there and out of Lynn after a little difficulty (but before most of the crowd apparently), and then back home.  DSO  tonight!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bonnie Raitt at the Orpheum

Again, we were very excited a few months ago when we got the chance to buy tickets for Bonnie Raitt on November 17th.  I hadn't seen her since 1976!

The Sunday arrived and after a long bout with leaves, a short nap, and a nice dinner at Scollay Square on the lower end of Beacon Street, we crouched our way into the Orpheum and got our chance to spend $20 on a couple of drinks.  The Orpheum may be good for performers and may have good sound, but it reminds me of the old Garden in that you're always looking for the fire exits and you have to squeeze in and out, and it reminds me of Fenway in the size of the seats/legroom and the [in]convenience of the bathrooms and concessions.  Oh yeah, it's very much "old Boston."

Anyway, Bonnie was excellent.  Marc Cohn opened, accompanied by top-notch keyboardist Glenn Patscha (Ollabelle).  Then Bonnie came on with her old-school band of  guitarist George Marinelli, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, drummer Ricky Fataar, and organ player Mike Finnigan.  We were delighted!  She did many of the songs from her new record, but also mixed in classics like Angel From Montgomery, Dimming Of the Day, and Love Me Like a Man.

Bonnie brought out Bonnie Hayes, the writer of some of her Grammy-winning songs and currently head of the song-writing department at Berklee, to sing her Have a Heart for an encore.  Fantastic concert and not much of a struggle home on a Sunday night!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ol' Brown Shoe In a Corner at Kitty's

It had been a while since we'd seen Ol' Brown Shoe so we spun over to Kitty O'Shea's Irish Pub in Beverley, late on a Friday night.  The place is definitely set up like a cozy pub, with lots of little nooks.  Might be a nice place to go back to on a lazy night, but that night it was packed and even the American-style wheelchair entrance and deck were full.

Got ensconced up front and the band was set up in one of the nooks, which turned out to be a sound challenge.  But they were great anyway, hitting some of their best songs in Wonder's Boogie On Reggae Woman, Gaye's What's Going On, Larry's Prison Walls, the Brothers' Blue Sky, and of course many tunes by the Good Ol' Grateful Dead.  Their cover of Shakedown Street is fantastic.  AND I was able to answer, "Who wrote that one?" with, "Hank Williams!!!"

Talked to Larry a bit and Mary showed up so had a nice chat with her, between the loud sounds and the enthusiastic crowd.  Setlist:

Set 1: Beat it on Down the Line, Funky Biotch, China Cat -> Prison Walls, Boogie on Reggae Woman, You Win Again, Back on the Train, Sugaree
Set 2: Possum, Scarlet Begonias -> Midnight Rider, Shakedown St, Blue Sky, Chalkdust Torture -> What's Goin On
Encore: Tangled Up in Blue

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Phil Lesh in Port Chester, part 1??

For many reasons too tedious to list (like we wanted to see him), the best solution for November 2nd was to go see Phil Lesh and Friends at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester NY.  It was a Saturday so Sarah and I got a leisurely start and had a beautiful drive on a sunny mid-Fall day down to Connecticut, along the Wilbur Cross and Merritt Parkways to Stamford, where Dave had gotten us a discount room at the Hampton Inn.  Dave showed up soon after we did and we yucked it up for a while in the room before taking off for the short and frenetic thruway drive towards the NY border, and then the long crawl through congested city sprawl over the Byram River into downtown Port Chester, where we parked in the theatre's lot.

We had a totally excellent Mexican dinner at the Kiosko Restaurant a few blocks away from the Capitol.  And I mean totally excellent: I got the quesadilla de la casa, Sarah got a camarones dish, and Dave got a salmón dish, all melt in your mouth.  If you're looking for "American" Mexican food and have no appreciation of just-baked corn tortillas and rojo sauce that'll peel off the paint and verde sauce that tastes so piquant it's sweet, then this is not the place for you.

Short detour to their mellow Shakedown Street, where Dave got an awesome sweater, and then we waited in line for General Admission.  We were the second group in line but some people had gamed it by talking their way into the box office inside and then waiting there at the nearer doors, but whatever.  We got in and moved right up to the stage, not quite in the Phil Zone, but basically dead center.  Can't complain about that.  A few beers, some talking with kindly security guys (we liked the Capitol a lot, they've got it together) and fellow spectators, and then American Jubilee came on.

American Jubilee is a product of Phil's Terrapin Crossroads incubator, and consists of his younger son Brian, the dynamic guitar player Ross James, and several others.  Phil had announced that each night on this tour would have a theme, oriented to a classic music album.  American Jubilee opened with a raunchy Cinnamon Girl and we were off (they did Young's Round and Round later)!  Here's a link to an aud of their show.  They're a rocking country band that seems like it could play anything and make it sound good.  We loved their music, as did the growing and growing crowd.

By the end of their set it was getting pretty packed in there, and the crowd kept growing through the rest of the night.  By the end we were pressed up against the stage pretty good, but it was ok and basically remained mellow.  There were several characters who were sure that Phil wanted them to be up front, but we talked them out of it, and there were several concert-goers who did *not* want to let us old people (mostly Deadicated types up front, like us) return to our "seats" after bathroom/beer breaks ... we and our stage-front neighbors had to take turns protecting our prime places, which worked out ok but was sometimes a hassle.  By the way, they had good local beer on tap, which was my choice of course.

Then Phil came on.  He had his son Grahame, the almost-famous Anders Osborne, and the pedigreed-at-a-young-age (North Mississippi All-Stars and Black Crowes) Luther Dickinson on guitar; Dickinson mostly played lead while the two others played the chords, but they alternated and were very democratic.  Tony Leone of Ollabelle(!) played drums, and Jason Crosby did the organ/piano/synth thing and also picked up the fiddle for a few numbers.  We were psyched to see these guys play!

And play they did.  Phil is a heck of a bandleader and he had them doing the right thing, following his lead, and then diving off the reservation with no hesitation when he asked them to.  There were lots of smiles all night from everybody in the band, this was a great example of talented musicians putting in a professional performance that rocked.

They continued the Neil Young theme (doing most of Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere, Young's 1969 record), and mixed in a bunch of ... well, here's the list and here's a link to one of three auds on IA:

Set 1
Ramblin' Man (Dickey Betts)
Down By the River (Neil Young)
Dire Wolf
The Losing End (Neil Young)
Cumberland Blues

Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)
Shake What Yo Mama Gave You (Lil John??)
Running Dry (Neil Young)
All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
Death Don't Have No Mercy (Gary Davis)
Going Down the Road Feeling Bad
Help On the Way
Franklin's Tower

Donor Rap
Cowgirl In the Sand (Neil Young)
I Ain't the One (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

We were close enough to see the setlists they had taped to the floor and I knew Ramblin' Man was going to be the opener ... this blew the crowd away!  I hope they do an Allman Brothers tribute sometime in the tour.  They also did a nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd, who's music they covered to a great extent the next night.  Here's some more notes:
  • Phil's singing was as good as I've ever heard it, I guess his throat was feeling good.  Of particular note was a beautiful cover of Peggy-O.
  • Great ensemble singing and playing all night, listen to Cumberland and the transition into Watchtower.
  • Dickinson was wailing on lead guitar, 6 feet in front of us and filling our eardrums with loud and clear sounds.
  • I've been following Leone for years and think he's great but after this performance had to re-evaluate ... he's better than great!  Phil was chuckling all night at some of the sly fills Tony would come up with and the way he'd anticipate what was coming next from the big guy.
  • Crosby is really an incredible keyboard player and had plenty of chances to show his nimbleness.  I've not been a fan of his on fiddle, but the pieces he did were very accomplished as well.  He also had some great face-English when pumping the B-3 and cranking the Leslie.
  • After shock 1 (Ramblin' Man), shock 2 was the second set opening with a short feedback segment into the roller-coaster of Caution.  This was what we came for and will come for again.
  • How many times can you say, "one of the best Sugarees?"  This is a classic song that was sweeter than sweet. 
  • Shock 3 (that I knew was coming from my peeks at the setlist) was the Help suite.  Everyone thought GDTRFB was the end, and then they struck that opening Help sequence in unison ... awesome.
This all was very satisfactory to say the least.  We hung around a bit at the end, but the crowd wasn't dispersing quickly at all on a Saturday night and we finally pushed our way out into the open air.  Made our way back to the car with our ears ringing, found our way back to the frantic thruway, and then pulled into the Hampton for a short wind-down and then a long night's sleep.

Phil has made some bomb-shell announcements lately.  Furthur announced a year-long hiatus and soon after that Phil said that he was done with the road for good ... we'll see what happens there.  And then right after the show we saw, Phil announced a contract with the promoter of the Capitol for 30 nights next year!  We may be haunting the Hampton in Stamford (and the Kiosko) again, sooner than you might expect.

Monday, October 28, 2013

JT Earle at "The Sinclair"

Went out to a Cambridge Sunday night and saw the phenomenal Justin Townes Earle at The Sinclair.  Several things bothered me about the venue and the restaurant attached to it, but it shouldn't surprise me when a snooty Cambridge rock club doesn't care much about its clientele or has a snooty name with a capitalized article.

Anyway, we were there when the doors opened and got spots right in front of the stage.  Arc Iris opened and played some very adventurous songs on dual pianos with dual glitter ... an entertaining way to start a musical evening.  Then Justin Townes Earle came on with accompanist Paul Niehaus on pedal steel and electric guitar and blew the place down.

They opened with Who Killed John Henry and did a bunch of other songs, including Close Up the Honky Tonks as the first encore (the only cover I believe).  But the song list doesn't matter.  What matters was that Justin Townes Earle has written, sings, and plays some of the most beautiful (but funky) songs ever.  His songs are centered on every-day observations and structured very traditionally.  He doesn't do anything flashy, doesn't change guitars, doesn't interact comfortably with the audience (or himself, one suspects), doesn't jam with his accompanist (being JT Earle's accompanist must be a lousy job, Earle lost Niehaus a few times and then cackled at him), and ends songs when he's done.  But he shines with the directness, simplicity, and poetry of the finest American musicians.

Justin's a friendly guy, he was not gruff with the audience and seemed to be enjoying himself and his reception.  He reported the World Series score to us after it was whispered to him by Niehaus at a break (4-2 Red Sox in the 8th), kidded people when they shouted out requests, and then responded to one by playing his excellent Slipping and Sliding.  Who am I kidding ... *all* of his songs are top echelon.

Here's Earle and Niehaus (looking a bit stoned) doing one of Justin's folk anthems:

Here's one of his songs about dealing with himself:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dr. John In Vermont

On Friday the 25th we left work early, met at North Billerica, and then hit the road for Vermont, ending in Burlington down the big hill toward the big lake as the darkness settled.  It was a beautiful drive with many late Fall vistas of New England mountains, rocks, cliffs, and valleys.

Burlington can get crowded and it was hopping on that Friday night, but we parked where Fred told us to and then walked the few blocks over to meet him and Maree at the Pizzeria Verita on St. Paul Street.  After a really good round of assorted appetizers and some gourmet pizza dinner, we sauntered around the corner to the Flynn Center For the Performing Arts ... we were going to see Dr. John!

The band came out and did an intro and then the Doctor himself came out, dressed to the nines of course and leaning on a dazzling cane.  He sat at the biggest of grand pianos and spent most of the night on that, but switched to a funky electric piano for a few songs, shook some voodoo sticks that made excellent jangling sounds on one song, and even strolled over to pick up his stratocaster and wail some blues on that.

The band was led by trombonist Sarah Morrow, who was fantastic.  She did some things to the trombone that I didn't believe even when I saw them, like singing through it.  She also contributed some great backup vocals and tambourine.  Couldn't pick up everybody else's names, but there was Dave on guitar, Ronnie on drums, a bassist, and an organist.  All were fantastic players and one of the best parts of the concert was just that: it was a great *concert* with excellent song after excellent song, led strongly by Morrow, featuring all of the players in ensemble and taking leads, and centered around the incredible keyboards of the Doctor himself.

I'm not deeply into the Dr. John's music and so didn't recognize all the songs, but I was more than psyched to finally see him ... he's been around all my life.  They played one long set, opening with Iko Iko and also covering Let the Good Times Roll, The Monkey Speaks His Mind, Walk On Gilded Splinters, and his recent hit, Big Shot.  They closed the set with a long number in which they introduced the band and everybody took a lead.  The Doctor then grabbed his cane and walked slowly off the stage to much fanfare.  After the band finished and left the stage themselves, he came back out for a long solo on the grand, and then the band came out and launched into the encore, Such a Night.  The crowd had been pretty reserved for much of the evening, but was standing and dancing and singing by that point.

Ran into my old classmate Reed, who lives in Burlington.  We stood around and talked on the sidewalk until they shut the place down, and then drove behind Fred and Maree back to Stowe, where we drank beer and talked late into the night.  Woke up to a late Fall snowstorm, hung out some more, and then made our way back to Massachusetts, after stopping in Montpelier (Three Penny Tap Room) for lunch.

Here's the Doctor doing The Monkey Speaks His Mind with his earlier band ... this was the song of the night for me:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Robert Hunter Back On Tour

As discussed, I'm falling back (deep deep) into Grateful Dead fanaticism.  Which takes strange forms.  But in any case, I probably would have said, "I have to see this" when I heard Robert Hunter was coming to town for his first tour in 10 years on October 7th.

Anyone with a shred of intelligence will agree that Hunter's lyrics in his songwriting partnerships with Garcia and other members of the Dead were at least a giant step beyond the normal rock lyrics, not to mention his work with Dylan, Hornsby, Lauderdale, etc.  I'm a word guy and have been captivated by his lyrics since the second I first heard them.  I really liked his first two records back in the 70s, and I *really* like his collaborations with Lauderdale, his mythic meeting with and inspiration of the great Tom Russell, and most of all his ability to remain relevant as an artist, years past his "time."  As he said when commenting on his famous feat of writing the lyrics for Ripple, Brokedown Palace, and To Lay Me Down in one afternoon, "Ah if only those times would come again ... they will, just not to me."

So we got tickets as soon as available, had dinner at Jacob Wirth's on a busy Monday evening, and then sauntered over to the 5th row of tables at the Wilbur to see the show.  Hunter admitted in last week's Globe that he had had a medical scare recently (a possibly fatal spinal infection), and had re-assessed his goals for the last part of his life and realized he wanted to perform more.  We were very glad he did, especially since this made him possibly more tolerant of a hard-edged Boston audience than he would have been earlier in his career.

Hunter came out picking a solid-body guitar and stuck to that all night, accompanying himself on harmonica for some songs.  Some people seemed taken aback at how old he looked, but got over it quick.  He opened with Box Of Rain and I was immediately thrown back on my figurative heels.

I'd heard this song hundreds of times before and had been captivated with it for years.  But I heard it as if for the first time.  I've certainly heard other versions than the American Beauty track, performed by other bands than the Dead and sung by others than Phil Lesh.  But this guy wrote it and was able to present it as his original work.

Every line had an added quality.  Right off the bat, "Look out of any window" became a suggestion rather than a command.  "What do you want me to do?" became a plaintive moan rather than a petulant complaint.  The dream in the line, "This is all a dream we dreamed" became an ideal state rather than a foggy anomaly.  Well you get the point, I (and probably most of the people in the hall) *knew* these lyrics so well and yet found new meanings in them when hearing them with a confident change of inflection, an extended few measures beyond the familiar chord change, and an alternate emphasis that brought out other meanings in those wonderful words.

After he just blew us all away with Box Of Rain, Hunter proceeded to take us to Fennario, where both Dire Wolf and Peggy-O are set, and to sing both songs at the same time!  Though Garcia had just hinted at it, he showed us the terror behind Dire Wolf, asking whatever God might be anywhere near the neighborhood to keep him from being murdered; and he alternated with the fury shown by the Captain confronting Peggy-O, threatening to kill all the women in the area-o.  Hunter already had at least 10% of the audience (including us) in the palm of his hand at this point, and it was close to 100% by the end of the evening.

Cruel White Water, Ship Of Fools, a wonderfully playful Candyman, the Dylan co-write Silvio, and a folk-anthem-version of New Speedway Boogie followed.  Hunter encouraged us to sing along with the "This darkness has got to give" chorus of Speedway, and we all knew what darkness we were referring to with the current government shutdown, the recent well-publicized incidences of lack of mental care boomeranging on us, the atrocities in Syria and the lack of international outrage, and so on and so on.

Hunter said he'd see us in 20 minutes and he came back out right on time for the second set, and he was right back on top.  He started off with a version of Wharf Rat that had us all melting, like the first time we'd heard it (ok, the first 50 times).  He sang the August West part like it was the dying story of a sad old man ... which I'd always tried to make it in my mind ... rather than the defiant rant that Garcia always sang ("Some other FUCKER'S crime").  And he really left us wondering if the narrator's girl had been true to him or not.

He followed this with Bertha and Jack Straw (in his version, Shannon actually called the other guy, "Jack Straw"), and then he knocked us all into the next world with Reuben and Cérise.  We were all grooving with the beautiful story of true love overcoming fear, and then he changed it!  Reuben ended up cradling the dead Cérise in his arms as he looked back at life on his path down to the underworld, as warned at in the myth behind it all (and in the movie Black Orpheus).  My meager mind was blown by this I can tell you, and I know there were bits of gray matter splattered all over the tired plaster walls of the Wilbur from everyone else's.  But we all rallied and gave Hunter his first hall-wide standing O after this song.  This seemed to waken him up to the fact that all of us were *listening* to his words and waken us up to the fact that this guy had the power.

Oh yeah, next came a stellar Brown-Eyed Women where you got the rogue quality of the narrator in a way Garcia's vocal never elucidated, a mandatory Must Have Been the Roses, a rocking Deal, a beautiful Brokedown Palace, and then his later song The Wind Blows High.  He finished the set with a couple of love songs: the epic Standing On the Moon and the song for his wife (he mentioned that it was written for her), Scarlet Begonias.  We'd been a very well-behaved crowd at suppressing our urges to sing along with those marvelous songs (and thus aggrieve our neighbors), but by the time Scarlet came around we didn't hesitate to join in.

The interplay between Hunter and the crowd was one of the subtlest and most wonderful parts of the night.  There were a couple of instances where an enthusiastic listener shouted something a non-New Englander might perceive as aggressive, there were a few audience members who had a hard time limiting their whoops and hollers to appropriate times, and Hunter showed some temper himself when he trashed a mis-behaving filter switch and ignored some audience entreaties.  BUT, audience members scattered roses on the stage (which delighted Hunter to no end), we wound-tight Bostonians showed no hesitation at rising to and applauding the crescendos in his performance, and most importantly to a performer, we all showed again and again that we were *listening* to what he had to say.  That's why we were there, to hear the magic words re-struck.  Hunter ended the evening with a huge smile on his face and I got the impression that he had gotten as much out of it as I had.  I hope so!

Encore time and he did goddamn Ripple.  We were all as silent as if we were in church, listening to the parable about ... well, that's up for you to decide isn't it?  We exploded in applause when it ended and Hunter made a motion to embrace us all, and then struck up his signature ending, an a capella version of his Boys In the Barroom, which was perfectly fitting for a Boston crowd of course.  That was it and he smiled and smiled as he reluctantly left the stage, with a last promise that he'd be back.  I think he liked playing the Wilbur on a blustery early Fall night, and hopefully he won't forget it.  I certainly won't.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Patty Larkin Rocks

The lineup at the Me and Thee Coffeehouse last year was fantastic, but this year seems a little thin.  BUT, one of the first up this Fall was Patty Larkin (actually a leftover from a cancellation last year), and there was no question that we were going to be there.

Quite a slog through traffic getting to Salem, where Sarah and I met at a packed Gulu Gulu (even the outside tables were busy).  We made it to the church about 10 minutes before showtime and I let Sarah out while I parked.  She was able to wiggle into a front-row seat, and the church filled up soon afterwards, including a bunch of chairs in the vestibule.

Scott Alarik came on first and read some passages in his nuanced, high voice from his folk music novel (a genre waiting to explode).  Patty came on next and rocked.  She must have taken the easy ride through the tunnel from the Outer Cape to Marblehead ... she was fresh and ready to go.

I was hoping for I'm Fine, one of the best songs ever written IMO, and she did that second and followed it up with the sublime Tango.  Sitting in the left-hand first pew we had a great view of her fingering and picking and it was enthralling.  She's got the fingers and the technique of a concert pianist, as well as a suitcase full of fantastic songs, a soulful voice, and a great sense of humor.  After stretching her neck between songs she commented that she'd been thinking of taking up yoga but decided she wasn't ready to take the edge off quite yet.

Patty did a couple of songs from her just-released album, Still Green, but covered songs from throughout her career.  Then she nicely asked what songs people would like to hear in the second set.  People did not hesitate to shout them out, but she cut us off after 5 or 6, saying, "OK, that's enough!"  She took a break while we all got coffee and/or pastries, and then she came out and played all of the requests!

I had asked for Metal Drums, thinking it against the odds that she'd want to do a song from so early in her career, but she did an excellent version of it, citing the pain and struggles that toxic waste problems have caused in Massachusetts, in towns like Holbrook and Woburn ... it was like she knew we're from Woburn.

She also did some of her excellent instrumental pieces, like Banish Misfortune/Open Hand:

Merry Amsterburg came out and accompanied Patty on vocals for an encore of Different World.  We hung out a bit after the concert and chatted with Glenn and then Patty.  Sarah mentioned my sister and she actually remembered her as "Louise from Portland" from when they met in Ann Arbor years before.  What a nice person, and what a nice time at the Me and Thee!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ipswich South

Haven't been blogging about all my kayak trips in MA recently, but here's one.  I've borrowed Dave's Old Town Castine for local salt water trips and we hit the big time today.  We put in at the Ipswich Town Landing, went down the river for a mile or two against the solid incoming tide, and then poked out into the Atlantic, past the opening to Plum Island Sound.

The incoming tide was ripping over the shoals at the entrance to the Sound and was twisting back and forth with the options to go up the river, up the sound, or to crash on the shore.  Added to this was the strong South by West wind that grinned at the tide (headed Southeast generally) and whipped up a chop wherever it could.  We plowed through turbulent waves and whirlpools out in the mouth of the sound, hiding behind buoys that were almost submerged by the strong current.

Back up the river after a sandwich and strolled through the salt marsh peninsulas on the high tide while motorboats joy-rode down the channel.  Made it back to the Town Landing about an hour past high tide and put up.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Winwood and ABB at Meadowbrook

I don't know if the Bourne Summer Music Tour is going to end ... it's kind of gotten to be a state of mind at this point.  It continued with a little trip up to the lovely Meadowbrook in New Hampshire to see a couple of minor acts: Steve Winwood and The Allman Brothers!!!  Again, when we saw this show advertised we got tickets as soon as possible and spent the interim in giggling delight.  We knew it was going to be a special evening and it was.

I got out of work in plenty of time and had not too much summer traffic on the way to pick up Sarah at the train in Billerica and then to navigate up to 93 North.  That slowed down of course with the early rush hour crowd, but we hit our stride upwards of Manchester and cruised on to Route 11, the Lakes region of NH, and the beautiful downhill towards Gilford and Lake Winnepesaukee.

Made our way into the parking lot by 5:40 or so and got out the lawn chairs for some sandwiches and Sobes in the afternoon sun.  The crowd was much mellower than it had been for Furthur and the security was too ... they gently told people to put their beers in plastic cups instead of busting their chops.  Put the chairs away, walked into the venue, got beers, and paid for the CD of the concert up front, and then made our way to our seats in row 13 (stage right) right before Winwood came out.

God, he was fantastic!  He was on keys for most songs; we couldn't see the keyboards themselves, but he apparently had at least an organ and a piano in the same box, with foot pedals that made an awesome, droning sound.  His guitar player, José Neto was fantastic; his sax/woodwinds player, Paul Booth, was beyond belief; his congas/percussion player, Café, was phenomenal; and his drummer, Richard Bailey, was an absolute monster.  Some notes:

  • You have to be fantastic to play with Steve Winwood and so to say that Neto was the most pedestrian of the 5 is not saying he was bad, he was just the glue that held them together.
  • They didn't have a bass, but did that bother them?  Not at all ... Neto had his bass strings tuned low, Winwood had those pedal drones, and most of all ...
  • Richard Bailey had a drum kit to drool over, including two toms that were as big as normal bass drums.  This meant he (being incredibly skilled of course) could get an amazing assortment of bass sounds by striking them in the middle, around the edges, with different sticks, etc.  He was worth the price of admission alone, especially when he played as fast as he did and got the rolling blues thunder going.
  • Café also had a phantasmagoric array of percussion instruments, from normal-looking bongos and congas to weird basket drums, gourds, cymbals, and chimes.
  • Paul Booth opened on flute but then alternated for most of the night between a baritone and a tenor sax (which were really not that far apart in size or tone).  He was just amazing on sax, playing it with an ease and dexterity you rarely see (actually, I'd never seen someone who could finger the sax so precisely) and producing beautiful sounds.
  • Booth also filled in on organ when Winwood switched to his (rocking) Stratocaster, and did the harmony vocals, which were remarkable themselves: half-bars and snippets of phrases that needed to be emphasized in Winwood's classic songs.
  • Light Up was the jam of the set, with Winwood doing unmentionable things to the organ, Booth using his saxophone to twist us into places we hadn't been before (he also did some percussion), and Bailey pounding his kit.

Winwood played the old stuff.  How's this for a set list: Rainmaker, I'm A Man, Can't Find My Way Home, Had To Cry Today, Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Higher Love, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Gimme Some Loving?????

Break time and no one in the place wanted Winwood to leave but the stage crew was already out there setting up for the next band ... we'd all forgotten who it was going to be for a minute, but then we all remembered.  I had a nice conversation with the guys about Winwood, the Brothers, and stuff while waiting in an interminable men's room line, got another beer, and wandered a little.  Not much time left and made my way back to row 13 in time to get just a tad more excited before THE ALLMAN BROTHERS came out and hit that groove hard with Hot 'Lanta!!!!!

For those of you who haven't been paying attention (including me for much of the past century), the current Allman Brothers Band (didn't originally have the "Band" on there but it's called for) consists of original members Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, and Jaimoe, with Oteil Burbridge on bass, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks (Butch's nephew) on guitars, and Marc Quinones on congas and percussion.  I'm at a loss for what to say now, that's just an incredible lineup.

OK, here's what they played (no set break): Hot 'Lanta, Statesboro Blues, Don't Keep Me Wonderin', Midnight Rider, Worried Down With the Blues, Leave My Blues At Home, Trouble No More, Dusk Till Dawn (new song), One Way Out, In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, Feel Like Breakin' Up Somebody's Home, No One To Run With, and Whipping Post (encore).

How did I feel about all this?  Well, I was really transported to a wonderful spot, grinning in delight, dancing slowly to songs I'd heard since I was a pup, grooving to the sounds and communing with the people around me in ways that I rarely experience.  At a Furthur concert there's a sense that what you're hearing is incredibly precious and there's a panic to savor it; at an Allman Brothers concert there's a sense that this is the way the blues and these songs in particular should be played and are always being played by the heavenly choir ... we just have to get in the groove and hear them.

Some notes:

  • I was incredibly impressed by Haynes, his leadership, his rhythm, and his vocals in particular.  I've seen him with other combos and he wasn't a perfect fit with them but in this case he was perfect.
  • Butch Trucks was perhaps the performer of the night for me; all set long he did not stop playing a thundering, precise beat on everything that came within sight.  On several songs he moved back to his tympanis and I've definitely never heard them played like that before!
  • Oteil Burbridge is one of the best bass players I've ever seen or heard.  You have to hear this person play melodies within melodies while keeping up the beat to the screaming blues and see how his fingers dance around the fretboard.  He also filled in on the drums at times while Butch was doing barely legal things to the tympanis.
  • Quinones and Jaimoe were essential to the sound, Jaimoe producing on the blues groove and Quinones going wild on the congas and high-pitched cymbals. 
  • Derek Trucks is one of those genius guitar players, what can you say?  His expression doesn't change that much, his technique is perfect, and the sounds he produces elucidate the songs for the masses.  He couldn't help but look a little bored playing rhythm during Haynes's leads but then he would crank it up at his turn, rip one off himself, and he was in his element.  When he and Haynes both led together it was sublime, that's what we came to hear!
  • And speaking of what we came to hear, there was that Gregg guy on the organ (he played piano for one song, One Way Out).  Though they've always had great instrumentalists, what does it for me for the band is when Gregg puts his heart into the vocals, like on Whipping Post or Leave My Blues At Home.  At various times people have knocked him for not being as involved as possible, but that night he was, both vocally and on the organ.

The end of the set arrived and this *really* gave us the blues, except that we knew one last blast was coming.  This may have been the longest I've had to wait for an encore, but the crowd kept yelling and banging on the seats, and screaming through the wait.  Finally the band came back on stage and it was then that the screams for Whipping Post started, my voice not least among them.

Uh, Oteil starts it off.  "I've been run down, and I've been lied to ..."

Whipping Post had been playing on our car stereo when we got to the lot and it was the song of the night, closing the evening, with Trucks and Haynes milking their guitars, Allman throwing himself all over the organ, Trucks shaking our world with his rhythm, and then Gregg coming back after an amazing jam to tell us that sometimes (maybe *all* the time) he feels like he's been tied.  "GOOD LORD, I feel like I'm ......... dying."

Gregg was done and politely thanked the crowd, as did Warren.  That was really good.  We picked up our CD of the concert, made our way back to the car, waited to get out of the parking lot, and then drove the 2 hours home.  Boy, was that worth it!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Matt and Jeannie and Joey

We were very, very delighted to attend Matt and Jeannie's wedding this past weekend and had a super, marvelous, really really nice time!

But that's not what this blog's about of course.  While we were in the mid-Hudson area we followed the wedding itinerary and showed up at Keegan Ales in Kingston on Saturday night.  Kingston is a funky old town with lots of houses made from the local metamorphic shale, many (to my further delight) featuring real wood shutters that could be closed over the windows to shut off the cold blasts coming over the Shawungunk Mountains.

We had a few beers and then Joey Eppard took the stage.  He knocked us all dead with an opening acoustic number that rocked the bejeesus out of us.  This was pyrotechnic acoustic guitar, featuring an incredible array of right-hand strumming positions, a lot of volume, and some fine vocal wailing.

Then his band came on and and they impressed too, though they were not really ready for prime time.  Hey, you can't expect a Saturday night band in a bar in a small town to be ready for prime time ... more like ready for free beer, and they were way beyond that ... they deserved every ounce of applause they got.  I didn't catch any names but the super-cool woman on bass was very talented (but could have stepped up more), the keyboard player had some great riffs (but when he ran out of them he kind of sat there), the rhythm guitarist was perfect for backing up Joey (would have liked to hear him play more than one lead), and the drummer could have used a little variety.

The star of the show was Joey, who has some great guitar chops and a really good rock voice.  He needed to bring his band into the tunes more and could have kept some things simpler to great advantage.  Enough with the criticism, we loved it and would like to go see Joey Eppard again ... hopefully closer than Kingston.  And hopefully the next time we go back to Keegan Ales they'll have their best stuff on.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Meet Up At Movies 2013

[written much later]

The Grateful Dead "Meetup At the Movies" took place on Jerry's birthday, August 1st.  This year they showed Sunshine Daydream, the famous Ventura OR concert of 1972-08-27.  I had seen bootlegs of this documentary, which was never commercially released, and they were in pretty poor shape though the concert itself seemed excellent.

They re-mastered and gussied this up, and the only problem with the final theatrical release was that it wasn't loud enough!  We saw it at the Lowell Showcase Cinemas, and the theater was pretty full, though not packed.  There was much giggling at all the super-high and super-naked young people in the movie, some of whom may have been some of the theater-goers.  A wonderful time was held by all.

The film and soundtrack were released a little later and are excellent.  There's just as much nudity as we saw in the theater.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Green River Festival 2013, Sunday

I woke up on Sunday for the last day of our Summer Music Tour (actually, it'll continue next month but is now on hiatus) in pretty good shape.  It helped that I had slept late in the quiet and homey Oxbow Resort Motel after a late night of sitting in lawn chairs, swatting bugs, and talking about stuff.  It was another hot one and golf was again not for me, though some of the other boys hit the links after breakfast.

Sarah and I replenished the ice supply, filled up the cooler with assorted liquids, drank lots of coffee, and sweated though our clothes before we even left the air conditioning.  Oh well, we made it to the Greenfield Community College parking lot just as the gates opened and couldn't get our exact same spot in front of the Main Stage, but settled for one about 10 feet in front of where we were Saturday, where we hunkered down and drank some more iced coffee.  This was from the "artisan beverages" booth rather than the "coffee grinders" one and they seemed insulted that I wanted just plain black coffee.  They asked me about 30 times if I wanted a shot of this or to mix it with that ... their purpose in life was to manufacture exactly the beverage the customer wanted, and they were upset when the customer wanted one off the shelf.

Well ok, the temperature was a little better than the day before, but not by much.  The good thing is that you could tell this wasn't going to be a day of adventurous weather, though in New England in the summer thunderclouds are always a possibility.  We saw:

Milton -- Had never heard of this singer-songwriter from New York, who was accompanied by an excellent bassist.  He played a very assured guitar style and did a bunch of songs on the basic folk music themes of no love and no money, but in a very clever vocal approach, mixing talking blues, intricate rhymes, literary forms, pop-culture references, and some quick melodic runs on the flat-top.  Again, very enjoyable, especially for an opening act on a hot Sunday morning.

See more Milton pictures ...

Heather Maloney -- Another artist we hadn't heard ... we (and some people sitting next to us) were surprised when Anand Nyack, the stellar guitar player for Daisy Mayhem, came out and tuned up a mandolin with Heather's band.  We soon figured out why: she must be a lot of fun to play with.  Her music is advertised as "adventurous folk" and I can see how for a player it would be liberating and chuckle-producing; there's always a lyrical twist or an unexpected coda.  Heather played mostly her own compositions, including a few that I absolutely loved such as Dirt and Stardust.  She then closed with a number she introduced as "a song I used to jump up and down on my bed to," Her Majesty from Abbey Road.  Now that was a surprise, especially when she arranged it as an epic romp rather than a quick ditty, though she didn't add to the words.

See more Heather Maloney pictures ...

Todd Snider -- I've gotta admit that I took the proto-typical hippie folk singer Todd Snider's set as an opportunity to buy food, check out the craft vendors, and basically walk around.  I got back to our seats eventually for a few of his songs, and he really is an entertaining performer, though I was a bit burned out on folk singers strumming acoustic guitars and singing about the same stuff (though he was meta-oriented enough to comment on that in his catchy songs and his self-deprecating between-songs patter).  Pretty good if you don't know him.

See more Todd Snider pictures ...

Lake Street Dive -- Time for one of the most talented bands of the weekend, Lake Street Dive, fronted by the amazingly lovely and amazingly talented Rachael Price but also featuring one of the best stand-up bass players I've ever heard in Bridget Kearney (she has this twitchy habit of constantly adjusting the tuning pegs, perhaps to get the string slightly more in tune but more likely so it'll produce exactly the sound she wants at that moment, she's that good and that quick),  a wizard of a guitarist (and trumpeter) in Mike Olson, and a lovely jazz/pop/whatever drummer in Mike Calabrese.  They're all New England Conservatory-trained and  feature beautiful ensemble precision.  They write most of their own songs but also do covers and can play anything and make it into one of the most most ear-catching tunes you've ever heard.  All this and I have to admit that Rachael Price at full emotive swing is one of the most eye-catching females I can imagine.  All of the songs were sterling, but perhaps my favorites on that afternoon were Bad Self-Portraits and Don't Make Me Hold Your Hand.

See more Lake Street Dive pictures ...

Spirit Family Reunion -- Some devil of a schedule-maker put them in between Lake Street Dive and Miller-Lauderdale, but I managed to time it right and catch a couple of their songs between the power sets at the Main Stage.  Spirit Family Reunion has made some waves with an unexpected performance at the Newport FF last year that got rave reviews, and I was dying to see them.  They sure delighted me in a short time, with their traditional/classic sound of frailing banjo, simple drums, and great group vocals.  I'd love to see more of these guys.  But then I walked as fast as I ever have and got to my seat just in time for...

Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale -- These are two of the best musicians in the world, good friends, and they've recently recorded a ... hopefully not one-off ... album together that is (or should be) at the top of any list of albums done recently.  And they were joined on stage by the legendary Fats Kaplin on fiddle, though the airline had not delivered his pedal steel.  Sarah was not at the seats and I knew she was up front for this but I wasn't sure where.  I saw my friend Kate sneak up front after a couple of songs and I followed her, as did her husband Majer.  We moved up past a few people and suddenly there was Sarah standing in front of us!  We all grooved to some of the best country music that can be.  Not only did they do most of the originals and most of the classic covers from their record (such as I Lost the Job Of Loving You and Down South in New Orleans), but they did A Wide River to Cross (which has been covered by everybody), Buddy soloed on All My Tears, and Jim soloed on King Of Broken Hearts, which he dedicated to Gram Parsons and George Jones.  We'd seen some talented people that weekend but no one that could come close to these two, they were (and are and will be) that good.

See more Buddy and Jim pictures ...

Brandi Carlile -- Brandi's become very popular, and you have to love a musician who doesn't fall in love with her popularity and continues to play Johnny Cash songs.  Of course, she did mix a Fleetwood Mac song in there and did perhaps play a little too blaringly loud and the band did spend an inordinate amount of time rocking out and pointing to each other.  But what the heck, she was great and she set the place on fire for the last act of another fabulous GRF.  The most charming part of her set (she's got great charisma) was when she motioned to the guitar tech that she needed the big guitar, he tuned it and got it to her in record time, she strummed a chord to test it, then grinned with delight, turned it up, and absolutely wailed on it.  Jeannette, Dave, Rebecca, and some of the kids joined us for this one and we all jumped up and down ... lots of fun!

See more Brandi Carlile pictures ...

Exiting the GCC took forever after the concert, but we caught glimpses of the almost full moon as we waited through endless phalanxes of over-hyped rent-a-cops ... oh well, we were listening to our tape of Furthur from the other night so it was ok.  Six days of music were over, but there was still a night of barbecuing, sitting in lawn chairs, and laughing waiting for us back at the hotel.

See more Green River Festival 2013 pictures ...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Green River Festival 2013, Saturday

Woke up on Saturday at the Oxbow Resort Motel to another scorcher.  Morning golf was out of the question ... too brutally hot already.  We moseyed over to the motel's excellent (and mellow, open the refrigerator and help yourself) continental breakfast separately.  I was actually on the same schedule for breakfast as Tristan most mornings.

Got ready slowly and then headed over to the festival in late morning, arriving in time to join the long line to get in around 11:45.  The gates soon opened and we grabbed a great spot, stage center about 50 feet back, just about where we sat last year.  We got iced coffee immediately but were still suffering from the heat and a bit of exhaustion from being out late rocking the night before (and the night before that, etc.).

BUT, soon the music started, our bodies adjusted, we ate a few cold noodles from one of their Thai-style food vendors, and we were off!  There was a short rain shower later in the afternoon and that relieved the heat a bit.  The forecast at the beginning of the day was for greatly changeable weather and there was even some fear of a tornado or bad lightning storms, but the rapidly changing sky didn't turn threatening and we all breathed a sigh of relief to make it through the day unscathed, though they cancelled the balloon flights (they held the balloon illumination though).

Here's what we saw:

Slaid Cleaves -- Slaid was one of the excellent known quantities among the spotty (by their standards) lineup at this year's GRF.  He played with his current accompanist, Chojo Jacques on mandolin, and ripped through a number of his excellent songs.  He did Broke Down, Horses and Divorces, and several other early songs.  He also did some of the new stuff, including Still Fighting the War of course, Welding Burns, and God's Own Yodeler.  He also did a Don Walser original and was able to rip off some excellent Maine yodeling.

See more Slaid Cleaves pictures ...

Jeffrey Foucault and Cold Satellite -- I'd heard a couple of songs from Foucault's new record and was not that impressed, but live I felt his sound was excellent.  David Goodrich (last seen accompanying Peter Mulvey at the Festival last year) playing guitar helped of course.  They did some great rock and blues, but were at their best when they toned it down a bit and let the irony of their new songs shine through.

See more Jeffrey Foucault pictures ...

Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside -- We'd seen a few songs by Sallie on YouTube and were psyched to see her let loose in person; Scott and I moved up front, and Sallie did a great set in her typical flowered sun dress, fancy glasses, and eclectic band, rocking our world with her unique brand of bad girls' psycho surf rock.  Highlights were Addicted, Lip Boy, and the poppy Do Me Right.  For me though, the best part of her set was when she covered Loretta's Fist City; no one there had any doubt that she'd be more than glad to knock that girl's head off if she made her do it.  Sallie signed her new record for me afterwards and seemed tickled that her music can entertain middle-aged guys as well as her core audience of bad girls.

See more Sallie Ford pictures ...

Miss Tess and The Talkbacks -- First hard choice of the day was whether to see JD McPherson or run down to the Yonder Tent for Miss Tess.  I made up my mind early (actually, I guess I'd made up my mind when I first heard Don't Tell Mama on her new record), and Sarah and I were down there right in front of the stage for her set, though a bowl of peach ice cream made me a little late.  We were not quite as blown away as we'd thought we would be; her band seemed to know that they couldn't get the same studio sound that had been so great on the record when live, and so they rocked it up a bit more and this perhaps needed some more practice.  But what the hell, we totally got lost in the beautiful sound of her guitar, her mellifluous vocal phrasing, and the burning leads of Will Graef.  Highlights were Adeline, People Come Here For Gold, and of course Don't Tell.  I ran into Miss Tess in the crowd the next day and gushed about her set ... a charming woman.

See more Miss Tess pictures ...

The Skatalites -- I was going to stay down at the Yonder Tent for The Duhks, but we were exhausted from standing and wanted a break back at our seats and maybe some food.  And we were glad we did, because The Skatalites came on and impressed us so much.  The band formed originally about 50 years ago in Jamaica and was instrumental in the inventions of ska and reggae.  They still have a few of the originals and some killer young additions, including an incredible horn section and a great keyboardist and guitarist.  They played a few jaw-dropping songs but then I managed to rip myself away and hurry back down to the Yonder Tent for...

See more Skatalites pictures ...

The Duhks -- I'd never seen this band but had wanted to for years, especially after seeing their fiddler, Tanya Elizabeth, accompany Mary Gauthier a few years ago.  They were everything I expected and more, definitely the band of the day for me.  I'm not sure how to describe this group of Canadians from the Plains, they're a band you need to hear.  They don't have an unusual lineup: a vocalist, an acoustic guitarist who leads the band, a dynamic fiddler who sings a lot of backup, a banjo player who takes some vocal leads, and a percussionist.  They do some songs in an almost traditional Cape Breton style, but also veer effortlessly into things like R&B, gospel, jazz, bluegrass, and whatever else comes to mind.  They even did a Randy Newman song and then closed with a dark, incendiary version of Traveling Shoes!  Do not miss these guys if you have a chance.  I also should mention that Leonard Podolak played one of the funkiest banjos I've ever heard and that Scott Senior played box, some kind of leather bell contraption on a high hat stand, and a thing that was a cross between a bodhran and a tambourine.  Loved those guys!

The Devil Makes Three -- OK, struggled back up the hill, got some food, and then got just captivated by The Devil Makes Three, from Santa Cruz.  This was another band I'd never heard and the blurbs I'd read about them didn't do much for me.  But they reminded me once again how many supremely talented musicians there are in the world and what a delight it is to discover new ones.  They play what you might call old-timey rockabilly but is all original, and they're all virtuosos on their instruments and can sing like they're not even trying.  You should check these guys out, especially pay attention to how often Cooper McBean changes instruments: at least once a song.

See more Devil Makes Three pictures ...

We were shot after that.  We could have stayed for Gogol Bordello (the crowd was swelling in anticipation of this band like you wouldn't believe) or Bernie Worrell, but later reports made us glad we hadn't.  All reporters agreed that Gogol Bordello was obnoxiously loud and in-your-face ... ok if you like that kind of stuff I guess, and that Bernie Worrell tried to do a cool funkadelic act but was a bit stale.

Whatever, we picked up some ice and some more beer at the Big Y and then were back at the hotel relaxing by then!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Rubblebucket at the Shea

Our personal Summer Music Tour continues!  We were heading out to the Green River Festival but before that, there was a little matter of Rubblebucket playing at a small theater in Turners Falls.  This was the official GRF kickoff concert; Rubblebucket couldn't make the main show this year but were booked for the night before with And The Kids, who would perform at the show.

Got on the road for the West at a bit after 1:00 with the thermometer reading an even 100 degrees.  Traffic leaving the city was mid-summer snarl, but it calmed down as we got further and further beyond Worcester and we pulled into the Oxbow Resort Motel just a bit after 3, where it was still crazy-hot.  The others hadn't arrived yet but we broke the ice and took room 25 in the back left of the hotel, a very nice room.

The motel's under new management and they're struggling to get their staff and their act together in some ways.  The golf course isn't really mowed except for a few areas (which is bad for golf) and there are other signs of needing to catch up.  The proprietors were skimming the swimming pool in a mad hurry because they knew their weekend guests would be using it heavily.  One of them told me that they'd recently hired someone to do housekeeping, so she could finally concentrate on the grounds work that she knew needed to be done.

The others showed up and we all hit the pool.  Sarah and I had to take off a little after that for a nice dinner in pretty downtown Greenfield at the Greenfield Grille with my high school teacher/friend Peter.  On the way to Turners Falls after that we detoured by Poets's Tower but didn't have time to climb the trail up to it ... some other visit.

Crossed the strong Connecticut and the swift-flowing spillway past the old mills in Turners Falls and turned up into the middle of town, where we had time for a beer in a tavern across the street (at about half the price they'd charge in Boston).  We crossed the street to the funky little Shea Theater and made out way inside (no one asked for our tickets).  There's a dance floor in front of some seats there and of course we walked right up to the stage and sat on it.  What's the point of going to a concert if you're going to choose to sit in the back?

And The Kids came on right on time and were a bit freaked out by the fact that a couple of older people were standing in front of the stage.  They thought they appealed to youngsters.  But then some youngsters stepped up to the front too and it was ok.  What helped them relax was that we obviously enjoyed their music too ... guitar, electric piano/vibes, and kit drums.  I was very impressed by the guitarist picking up her mandobird at one point and changing the key with four precise twists of the four tuning pegs; she knew her instrument well.

Between sets Scott, Michelle, and Tristan finally made it and the place started to get seriously packed.  Then Rubblebucket came on and the place exploded.  We all were soon jumping up and down, shouting, and stretching our arms up to the ceiling (and beyond) in ecstasy.  Those guys are great.

They've got a new bass player and one new percussionist instead of the two they'd had previously, but they still had the core of Annakalmia Traver, Alex Toth, Adam Dotson, Ian Hersey on ripping guitar (the guitarist for And The Kids had a great-sounding axe and Ian borrowed it for their set), and Darby Wolf on organ and synth.  They ripped our ears off with their classics: Worker, Silly Fathers, Triangular Daisies, Young As Clouds, etc.  They also mixed in a few songs from their upcoming EP (one of which was very good and got Adam the thumbs-up, which he accepted gravely), their newer Pain From Love, a Doobie Brothers cover, and closed with Came Out Of a Lady.  They waved people up on stage for the last number and then of course the horn players (and the drummer) jumped off the stage after the last song and paraded through the crowd, delighting us all.  Their actions show that they want their music to belong to their audience.

We stumbled out of there after the show and found a nearby bar where the Karaoke was rocking and the beer was even cheaper (I couldn't resist a 20-ounce Bud Light Lime for $2.35(!)).  Soon back to the Oxbow for a few more beers on the veranda and then to bed.

More excellent pictures at:
And The Kids -
Rubblebucket -

p.s.  We returned home on Monday the 22nd and got an email from Kalmia to her list of fans.  They'd mysteriously cancelled a few upcoming gigs, and we were glad they didn't cancel on the one we had tickets for.  But Kalmia announced the reason for the cancellations is that she's got ovarian cancer and is scheduled for surgery soon.  We feel so strange to remember her putting on her usual incredibly dynamic show on Friday, her and her band knowing what they did and we not having any idea.  What a brave person she is, and best wishes to her.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Emmylou and Rodney at LSMS

We'd crossed the Lowell Summer Music Series off of our list; they pissed us off with their lack of caring about having room for everybody and left us cold with their selection of artists.  BUT ... then they announced Emmylou and Rodney on their 40-year-delayed dual tour, and we decided to take the day off from work (actually not a hard decision seeing as what we'd done the past two nights) and show up there really early in hopes of a decent seat.  We'd seen Emmylou and Rodney back in March and suspected that this would be much the same show, but whatever ... that show was fantastic and we wanted to see it again!

It was a slow morning and we were anxious to get up to Lowell in time to grab a prime patch of grass.  The heat started soaring early and was pretty bad when we finally left the house.  Not much traffic up to Lowell and we pulled up to John Street about 1:15.  I parked while Sarah went looking for a spot on the lawn in Boardinghouse Park; I joined her with the blanket and we were amazed that we could put it down to claim a patch right to the left of the VIP section, basically second row left, in front of where the lead guitar would be.  We were psyched!  As mentioned, when we had seen Emmylou and Rodney in March it was overwhelmingly good and we were looking forward to being overwhelmed to a higher degree.

We immediately went looking for a place with really good air conditioning for a leisurely lunch ... the show wasn't scheduled to start until 7:30.  We cruised around for a bit and almost fainted in the heat, then stumbled upon the Fuse Bistro on Palmer Street.  They have seats on the sidewalk and they were in the shade on a quiet street, but even that was too much with the blaring heat.  We went inside and they had great air conditioning, a great beer selection, and a really good lunch menu.  I recommend the place enthusiastically (for lunch at least, though I assume dinner would be good too); Sarah had a crab Nicoise and I had a pan-seared tuna burger ... both fantastic and not expensive.

OK, left there and spent the afternoon in Boardinghouse Park, mostly in the shade.  I took a nap, read, walked up to Dunkin's for iced coffee, ate some grapes, listened to Furthur from the night before, and chilled.  A guy walked Emmylou's dogs through the park and cleaned up after them of course.  The band came out to do the sound check and when Rodney emerged (looking like he'd just woken up and wearing your Dad's Bermuda shorts) he was hanging out near me to the left of the stage.  I walked over and told him how much I had liked his music since 1979 and thanked him for it; we had a nice talk about the Orpheum in March, the current weather, and stuff.  Emmy came out without her stage clothes/makeup also and politely asked the few of us there not to take pictures before the show ... but she was as beautiful as always anyway.  There were a few afternoon showers but the time went by quickly.   They set up Amy Black in front of the main band's stuff and her band did their sound check ... all set for the show!

Amy was playing with a different band than we'd seen her with before.  She's recently moved down to Nashville and then back to Somerville, trying to kick start her singing career.  She's got a new album in the can (Fall release??) and did a few songs from that.  She was really good, opening with Dance Floor and One Time, doing a few of the new songs, and just impressing the heck out of us with her powerful voice ... she filled Boardinghouse Park for sure.  One of her new songs, about her grandfather's love of Alabama, is top quality song-writing.

Break time and then Emmylou and Rodney came out as the sun started to go down and the temperature had dropped to the point where it was just a balmy summer evening rather than a blast furnace.  They had timkered around with Millworker in the sound check (James Taylor's song about a young woman working the mills in Lowell), but didn't do that ... but they did do 26 straight songs without a break and the crowd was in heaven.  We'd seen Emmylou from up close before, outdoors at the De Cordova in the 80s, up in Hampton Beach, and recently at the Green River Festival ... and of course we'd seen Rodney from up close at the Bull Run recently also.  But this was a little piece of heaven to see them sing together from 15 feet away with a killer band in that pretty setting in the Lowell National Park.

They opened with what they called "the old stuff" and then did "the new stuff" ... as they had in Boston ... but then kept on playing songs old and new way beyond what they'd done back in March.  Here's the list:  Return Of the Grievous Angel, Wheels, Pancho and Lefty, Earthbound, 'Til I Gain Control Again, If I Needed You, San Antone Rose, Ashes By Now, Love Hurts, Luxury Liner, Red Dirt Girl, Rock Of My Soul, Darling Kate, Love Is All I Need, Hanging Up My Heart, Invitation To the Blues, Spanish Dancer, Chase the Feeling, Dreaming My Dreams, Back When We Were Beautiful, Still Learning How To Fly, Leaving Louisiana In the Broad Daylight, Ain't Living Long Like This, and Old Yellow Moon.  How about that set list?????  Just incredible stuff.  And these were not done as a "greatest hits" medley; every song was given a full treatment and in particular Luxury Liner, Leaving Louisiana, and Ain't Living' Long went on forever with the proper searing lead guitar riffs.

Emmy was as gracious as ever about introducing songs (calling out Susanna Clark, Patty Scialfa, and Kate McGarrigle (but skipping Townes and Kris)), and Rodney was his self-deprecating, grinning self.  There were all kinds of demons in the sound setup on a hot, humid night, and the PA was suddenly not working when they opened with the killer Grievous Angel, though they got it fixed soon.  Emmy's in-ear monitor failed a couple of times and she looked angrily toward the engineers, but she smiled at us of course and shrugged it off.

The afore-mentioned killer band consisted of old colleagues Byron House on bass (he had 4 of them on stage and used them all, at different times that is), Steve Fishell on wonderful pedal steel and dobro, Jedd Hughes from Australia on lead (he had to wipe his brow after his drenching lead on Luxury Liner), Chris Tuttle on beautiful piano, organ, and accordion (Emmylou pointed out that their "new" songs shone with his accompaniment), and Gerry Rowe on excellent country drums.

So the list above is 24 songs, not 26 ... but even after they said Old Yellow Moon would be their last song, no one in the Park wanted to leave.  We stood and applauded until they came back out, with Amy Black!  Gee, what hadn't they done?  Well how about Stars On the Water and then Even Cowgirls Get the Blues?  People stayed up for these, dancing, singing, waving their hands like crazy people, and throwing their hats up in the air.  Amy brought out Emmylou's dogs for a cameo, and then they all faded away into the night.

Emmylou commented during the show that she'd keep on doing this until she dropped because she loved it so much, and I hope to be there too!

Pictures taken by Sarah at:

p.s.  Furthur played Boston again that night and we were definitely bummed not to be there (especially after we heard they did Alligator, Eyes, and Dew!), but in all I think this show with Emmylou and Rodney was more enjoyable and will be a memory that sticks with me more than another Furthur show would have.  That makes three nights in a row of music, now off to Rubblebucket tonight and then the Green River Festival this weekend!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Furthur in Boston 2013

So the next day we went to see Furthur again!  Their tour visited Boston for two days at the BOA Pavilion on the beautiful Boston waterfront and that's, naturally, where we were headed.

We parked in Sarah's building a little after 5:00 and hiked down there through the heat, the tourists, and the organized chaos of evening rush hour.  We stopped at The Daily Catch in the Federal Courthouse building for a great meal of Sicilian-style mussels marinara.

The crowds got pretty thick as we passed the Fish Pier and snaked our way into the Pavilion, though there was no Shakedown Street per se ... too crowded.  We ran into our neighbor from the show Tuesday night, he was just a few rows in front of us last night.  We also talked and talked with a bunch of guys behind us who were coincidentally all named Rob and from Westford.

The crowd was very late-arriving and there was a rush to pack the pavilion during the textbook opening rocker, Passenger.  The followed that with a spacey Crazy Fingers, I Need a Miracle (*lots* of people had been walking around with a finger in the air outside), a slow Wang Dang Doodle, picked up the pace just a bit with a great Mississippi Half-Step, kept up the mellow vibe with Let It Ride, and closed the first set with Sugaree.  Sugaree has been played so many times it's sometimes a bit formulaic, but this was a great one, definitely one of the stand-outs of the evening.

Break time again, and we picked up a couple more $13 drafts(!) and hung around out by the patio talking it up.  Again, the band beat everyone back and I had to dash back quickly for the second set opener: WRS Prelude.  They went on to play the rest of the suite and this appealed to me totally, they should not break up this song, it's one piece.  From there they did an excellent He's Gone, spaced out a bit, and then did a long, slow, spacey Speedway with John and Bobby trading verses, more jamming, and then a cool, mellow UJB.  Looking back at the set list I think how lucky I was to get some great songs from Wake Of the Flood and then some classics from Workingman's.  Great stuff, but then they did another song from Workingman's and it all went downhill.

Bobby has a very hard time singing Black Peter well.  This is one of those songs that bring forth associations in my mind of specific times and places; it's very personal to me as well as being a great song.  Jerry sang it with an apocalyptic, Americana, folksie soul and Bobby can come nowhere near that.  Guess you've got to hand it to him for trying, but I think the rest of the band needs to do an intervention here.  Oh well.

OK, enough Bobby-bashing.  They then got it going again with Not Fade Away and did the full Monty with this one, segueing into GDTRFB and then back into NFA.  Joe Russo was banging those things, the band was singing their hearts out, Phil was running up and down the fretboard and dropping bombs, JeffC was doing things to his keys that had never been done before, etc.  The Boston crowd got into the idea of clapping the NFA chorus as the band disappeared, but it was too hot to be really enthusiastic about this.

I should mention that Jeff's keyboard had been replaced by a grand piano!  Jeff played the B3 a bit but then seemed to look around and say, "What's that thing?  Oh my Dog, it's a fucking GRAND PIANO!!!"  He then spent most of the rest of the show on that and produced some excellent sounds with it.

After a donor rap we could barely hear (well ok, people shut up and listened politely after Phil got a few sentences in), they encored with Ripple ... another song from their most fertile period.

We hung out a bit after the show because we'd ordered CDs from Gnomes and Hobbits and knew they wouldn't be ready yet.  And as we walked out, we realized that Sunshine was walking right in front of us, she'd come out to mingle with the crowd at the patio, a very classy move.  We had a short conversation with her and she seemed to appreciate my opinions that she should get a lead with Furthur and that she and JeffP really put the band over the top.  Without them the vocals would definitely be a weak point of the band IMO.

Finally got out of there and made out way through a few blocks of dazed hippies wondering where their cars were, then climbed up through downtown Boston to Beacon Hill and found our car!