Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tedeschi Trucks Tear Down HOB Boston

When we heard that Tedeschi Trucks Band would be playing the House Of Blues, we started salivating, knowing that this would be a heaping helping of wonderful sound.  I guess a lot of people thought so, because both nights sold out quickly and resale tickets were hard to come by.  We resold an extra we had, and it went in a matter of minutes.

Met Sarah at the HOB restaurant after cruising around the block and not finding a legal space (there were plenty of illegal ones), and ending up in the same old lot at the corner of Van Ness.  Sarah was able to get perhaps the last table in the restaurant and it was already a madhouse two hours before the Friday show, December 12th.  We got food and beer somehow, then got in what was already a long line for the people who had gotten entrees (and so early admission) at 6:45 or so ... the line for real admission was already almost up to Brookline Ave.

They let us in right at 7 and we were able to grab our customary place to the left of the stage ... and another beer/cider.  The HOB filled up really quickly and we were all totally pumped, some more juiced than others but what the hell, it was Friday night!

Soulive opened and really blew me away with some excellent blues-funk.  The band is drums, guitar, and keys, and they played a loud, spacey, bluesy, colorful set of instrumentals, including a riff on McCartney's Eleanor Rigby.  I was hanging on their every note and the crowd was too for their first number or so, then started gabbing and by the end of their set was almost as loud as they were.  Such is the fate for opening acts at HOB.

Then they changed the set to the traditional Tedeschi Trucks setup, and soon Derek, Susan, and the guys came out and proceeded to exceed my expectations.

I'd never seen Derek from so close and he was riveting, displaying mastery of technique and inspiration from both hands, particularly his right,  He played the top string-and-a-half with his thumb and the rest with his fingers, striking and caressing and plucking them like he was defusing a bomb or holding hands with a child or giving the other driver a few hand signals.  A musician can exude mastery of his instrument, and his mastery was comparable to what I'd seen from Garcia.

Susan was worth the price of admission herself and shone on several vocal parts.  Not to mention the other 9 people in the band, who all took their chances to prove that they were excellent musicians too.  It's amazing that a band that large has stuck together for so long ... I think their personnel is what it was when we first saw them in 2011.  I think they all know that they can do magic together and they like to do that.  Here's the set list:

Are You Ready
Made Up Mind
Do I Look Worried
Midnight in Harlem
Let Me Get By
Part of Me
Don't Miss Me
Idle Wind
Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning
Break In The Road
I Pity the Fool
Keep on Growing
The Storm

Night Time Is the Right Time
Palace of the King

The first four songs just blew the crowd away and we were putty in their hands after that.  Idle Wind was another highlight for me, and then they reconfigured for a couple of acoustic songs, starting with Derek doing acoustic slide and Susan wailing away on a fantastic arrangement of Lamps Trimmed and Burning.

No Anyday (I'd love to hear them do that again), but they covered Keep On Growing and the place was rocking so hard it was threatening to burst at the seams for that.  Short break before the encore, and then they brought out the Soulive guys for the second encore.  They were delighted, as were we!

Took a while for the place to empty out and we just mellowed a bit, being Friday night.  Then a convoluted ride home as Storrow Drive was jammed and we reversed direction.  Great night!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

DSO In Lowell!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, going to see Dark Star Orchestra is wonderful fun!  We’ve been to see them every time they’ve come to the Northeast over the past few years and this time they were playing in the big old Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Saturday December 6th.

We met Scott and Michelle at a just-opened bar in Lowell on a rainy evening after the first place we tried to meet was found to be packed.  Things were going on in Lowell that night (Riverhawks game?), and it was bustling.  After a quick burger we took off for the Auditorium, only to find that our print-at-home tickets had to be exchanged at the box office for “real” tickets instead of actually letting us in the door.  They need to join the 21st century.

Only missed the first few bars of the opening song though by the time we got in the third-full hall: “Well, well, well, you can never tell.”  They had taken all the seats from the floor, which was not what I’d been expecting.  But this meant that Dave and I could sidle up towards the stage (especially since the place was just beginning to fill up), while the three shorter people were content to stand behind the few rows of mezzanine seats.

The question at DSO shows is always what Dead/Garcia show are they reproducing … or are they doing an elective set?  Shakedown Street instantly knocked the early 70s (and 60s) out of contention (we’d been hoping for a 1974 show), but the rest of the first set was very satisfactory and by the end of it we had it narrowed down to later ’78 or (very) early ’79.  This was definitely Shakedown Street era:
  1. Shakedown Street
  2. Me and My Uncle >
  3. Big River
  4. Peggy-O
  5. Beat It On Down the Line
  6. Stagger Lee
  7. New Minglewood Blues
  8. Brown-Eyed Women
  9. From the Heart Of Me
  10. I Need a Miracle

The downstairs part of the Auditorium was filled by this point, and the balcony (that they opened at some point) was about half full.  Their bathrooms weren’t quite as funky as at the Capitol Theater, but were not modern!  There was some speculation as to the show in the men’s room and at the beer line, though several people I talked to called From the Heart Of Me, “France.”  Donna gets no respect from some people, even though Lisa had done a fine job with her best song.

Skip was playing that loping bass style from the late 70s, RobE was frailing away at the rhythm guitar like his life depended on it, and Jeff was almost literally exploding above everything when it came time to take the lead.  RobK and Dino were pounding the drums in incredible synchronization; they might have been my favorite part of the show except for RobB, who was just a delight.  He stuck to the electric piano, but played it with such panache and color it’s hard to believe that even on a good night, that the 1978/79 Keith could have come close.

Pretty long set break, but that had been a longer-than-expected first set.  They lined up for the second set and we were still a bit unsure as to whether this was an elective or not.  But then I called Scarlet and they ripped into that, and the rest of the set clinched the era:
  1. Scarlet Begonias >
  2. Fire On the Mountain
  3. Estimated Prophet >
  4. Eyes Of the World >
  5. Drums >
  6. Jam >
  7. Not Fade Away >
  8. Black Peter >
  9. Around and Around >
  10. Good Lovin’

This was great stuff, such fun!  Dave and I were back on the floor for the second set after visiting with the others at the break, and we got up to the fifth row or so from the stage, right in front of Skip (they were lined up with Jeff, RobE, Lisa, Skip, and RobB from left to right, true to that time period).

There’d been some pot-smoking on the floor during the first set, but the second set was just amazing.  It seemed like everyone around me had a pipe or pocket vaporizer out and the smoke almost obscured the stage a few times.  And all of this indoors!  Pretty extraordinary … and the most extraordinary thing about it was that I wasn’t knocked out by being around it.

The finished up with a crackling Good Lovin’ in the disco style, then came out soon for the encore.  RobB revealed to us in that the show was New Haven Coliseum, 1979-01-17, and RobE added a personal note, that he was there and it was a rescheduling of one originally scheduled for the previous Fall which had been cancelled because of Garcia having pneumonia … Dave had gotten the right month!  They then finished up with the proper encore, Casey Jones, and a filler of Sisters and Brothers (which the Dead never did, though the Garcia Band had of course).

What a rocking good time and what a great mellow song to send us off into the night!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Signature Sounds 20th, Sunday

They actually had two shows scheduled for Sunday and we would have loved to see both (Miss Tess and Lake Street Dive were closing), but we had to get back to work the next morning after a long Thanksgiving weekend and so had only gotten tickets for the Sunday afternoon show ... but this was not a bad lineup itself, to say the least!

We hung around the Quality Inn until they gently kicked us out at about 11:00, and then meandered into downtown Northampton, where we got a fine parking spot across from the theater on a sunny Sunday and proceeded to wander around a bit.  We edged past a line of young adults waiting for a seat at the Green Beans ... and noticed that one of the groups was Aoife, Brittany, Greg, and a manager from Crooked Still.  I did not disturb them, though Brittany and Greg looked fine about being recognized (Aoife was busy texting).

Had a fine lunch at the Toasted Owl, and then made it back to the theater right on time to see ... Twisted Pine again!  They set up on their plank of plywood and only did one song for us this time, but they are really good.  I asked Jim's wife at the merch table (Jim Olsen is the guru of Signature Sounds and was complimented by all the bands, as he should be) how they managed to sign them right under the noses of Compass Records (who sponsored Freshgrass)?

OK, first up was a band Sarah and I have seen many times and have an unreasoned devotion to, Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem.  They're all oozing talent, they're really mellow and eclectic, they play whatever they want and don't make a big deal of it, and they produce excellent music.  Mark Erelli joined them on lap steel.  They did their usual set, with Rani's new song about dropping her son off at school, a few sing-alongs, and then closed with I Want To Be Ready When Love Comes Back To Me.  This just cannot be beat.

Next up was the Sacred Shakers, and this was a very entertaining set too.  As I'm sure you know, the band consists of Eilen's 4-piece band and 4 other pieces: Daniel Kellar on fiddle, Greg Glassman on guitar and vocals, Daniel Fram on guitar and vocals, and Eric Royer on banjo.  One of the amusing things about their set was that they cover the gamut from light gospel to heavy gospel, and some of the artsy-fartsy types who were in attendance because this was an arts thing in Northampton were a bit confused by all this ... weren't they going to play something about peace and love rather than just Old Testament stories?  Luckily, they did not!  Eilen continued to move the bar up and up, as she had started to the night before, and she was just shimmying with gospel soul.  Jerry was not bad either, ripping off some great dark rock and roll leads between Royer's and Kellar's bluegrass parts.  And Jason Beek was marvelous on vocals.

Next up was the pièce de résistance, a Crooked Still reunion.  This world-class band had broken up for the individuals to pursue various projects back in 2012, and they'd been very successful.  We'd seen Aiofe O'Donovan play at Freshgrass, as well as seen fiddler Brittany Haas in her incredible trio with Kowert and Tice, and seen banjoist Greg Liszt leading his band at GRF, the Deadly Gentlemen.  But with the addition of Tristan Claridge on cello and Corey DiMario on double-bass they are so far over the top with talent it's incredible.  They did songs from throughout their career as well, including a funky Come On In My Kitchen, a note-perfect cover of Gillian's Orphan Girl, a beyond-soulful Look On and Cry, and a beautiful My Captain.  They closed with The Golden Vanity and then came back out with the crowd and led us all in Shady Grove.

Whoah!!!  What a (short and sweet) 24 hours of music it had been, and we only had a few hours of driving in the sudden late-November dark before we were back home.  Can't wait for the 25th!

Signature Sounds 20th, Saturday

Years ago I started noticing that I liked everything released on the new label Signature Sounds, and I started seeking out their stuff.  I remember one year going to the Signature Sounds tent at the Boston Folk Festival and asking them whom they'd just signed that I should hear.  They said, "Well, we've just signed a woman named Eilen Jewell."

And so when we heard at the Green River Festival this year that they'd be having a set of 20th anniversary concerts (we'd been to their 10th in the Somerville Theater), we were psyched.  We got tickets to two of the 4 shows, even though they were on Thanksgiving weekend, and arranged to stay in a hotel near Northampton in between.  Then Thanksgiving came and went and we headed out there on a beautiful late Fall Saturday, November 29th.

Went this way and that and checked into our hotel in Hadley, then found a quick Applebee's (the Comfort Inn didn't have the game!) and watched the Revolution beat the Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference final.  That was done, and so we headed across the river into Northampton, found a parking place on the street, and then strolled over to the Academy of Music, a sweet old hall where Harry Houdini once entertained the crowds.

Here's who played that night:

Zoe Muth was up first and had a new guitar player and new bassist.  Pretty much all of her set was from her World of Strangers record, including the bittersweet Mama Needs a Margarita and the sublimely mellow Waltz Of the Wayward Wind.  Her guitarist tried to rock out a bit and I guess she's trying to be a bit of a show-person, but she's as down home as ever and as great.  For pure musicianship, this was possibly the best we'd seen her.

Next was the Sweetback Sisters and they were on fire as well.  Ryan Hommel opened on pedal steel and I wished he'd done a few more numbers on it.  Emily was being her hyper self and was dominant, quite a good night for her.  Zara knocked us over with a torch song, but it was Emily and their usual sly sense of humor that thrilled us.  And their costumes were just awful.

Barnstar! was up next and possibly put on the best show of the night.  They're a super-group of local bluegrass, including Mark Erelli, Taylor Amerding, and Jake Amerding, and they just filled the hall with powerful harmony.  We'd seen them at the GRF this past summer, and they were easily twice as good this time, they just nailed it.

It was break-time next and they dropped the ornate purple curtain, and we settled down for a bit.  BUT ... then they set up a plywood plank or something over the orchestra pit and Twisted Pine came out!  We'd seen this band of Berklee students at Freshgrass over the summer, and they are mightily impressive.  They squeezed in a 4-song set at the break on Saturday and showed that a) all 5 of them can balance around one mike on a piece of plywood better than you'd expect and b) they just keep getting better and better.

Break over, Heather Maloney came out and played a fantastic set herself, mostly solo but also with some of the other artists joining her at times.  Of course the highlight was her take on Joni's Woodstock, which you have to hear if you haven't.  She keeps getting better too, and switched between three very different-sounding acoustic guitars and a whole layer of filters.  Very technical and very entertaining stuff.

Winterpills was up next and they're just not at the same level as these other bands.  I took a stroll around during their set and bought a few CDs.

The final act was Eilen Jewell and she was a delight.  We'd last seen her back in February, when she was very pregnant and just playing one quick gig before retiring to Idaho to be a mother for a while.  Now she's ready to go back on the road, and the rest of her band is very ready too.  They played a flat opener and then Sea Of Tears, which is one of my favorites of theirs, and which Eilen didn't rip the way she has in the past.  But then she stepped to the mike and apologized!!!  I guess she thought herself that she'd been not that hot, and she said, "My mind is on a little face with a pacifier in it and probably a very wet diaper by now."  How sweet of her to apologize, and any parent could sympathize.  Then she got her act together and played a great set, delightfully getting better and better as the night went along.

They have a new studio record (as well as a new live one that I picked up at the merch table) which will be released in the Spring.  But they only played one song from it and for the rest cruised through all of her catalog, including several songs from her first, Boundary County.  I guess I've seen them better, but they're still getting back together and it was really great to see them.  They called everybody back out for their encore and did a Hank Williams hymn.

Quite a show!  Back to the car on a cold Fall night with the dregs of a Thanksgiving snowstorm piled up all around us, and then back to the hotel not too late.