It's been quite a year of Grateful Dead and related music, and the beat continued with Golden Gate Wingmen coming to Brighton Music Hall on Sunday the 26th of July. This combo is fronted by John Kadlecik (who pronounced his name with a liquid "c"), and includes a few other guys, like Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, and Reed Mathis (Billy and the Kids most recently). We and a full BMH were totally psyched to see them do their thing on a hot Sunday afternoon in a college-student-deserted Brighton.
Sarah and I got a nice table on the back patio at Deep Ellum in Union Square and a sunburned Dave joined us after getting off the Provincetown ferry. After a few beers we toddled over to the hall about 15 minutes before doors opened and found a small but Deadicated line there already. People were gushing about Chicago, Santa Clara, the GGW, and all things Dead-related, entertaining the gathering of Brighton street people who had joined the festivities. Then the doors opened and Dave and I ensconced ourselves in front of the stage, just a little to the right. Sarah had grabbed our "usual" place against the wall but got kicked out for handicapped accessibility, so she joined us in front of the stage, about three feet from where John picked his psychedelic guitar and about five feet from where [the much younger] Reed Mathis plunked his funky bass.
John and Jeff had pushed past us while on line, apparently going for some eats, and they mingled with the crowd when they got back. The guys came out and started a bit past 8, and got right into it. Here's what they played:
It Takes a Lot To Laugh It Takes a Train To Cry
Tin Roof Shack
If One Of Us Should Fall
What's Become Of Mary
John and Jeff need no encouragement to improvise, space out, and jam long and hard, and that's what this was. The opening Dylan song turned into an excursion but then they brought it back with a vengeance and John wailed the last verse by the Bard.
All through the set John was just having a good time, free of any requirements, not being dominated by older band members (hint), past irrelevant expectations about living up to Garcia. Jeff was being his creative, nimble self on organ and electric and synth, Jay Lane was flexing his muscles and tattoos and playing the skins with an incredible authority (we were close enough to see he was denting his cymbals), and Reed Mathis was playing a supple, effect-heavy, rattling bass. Reed was the spectacle of the night for me, having never seen him live before. He had a filter that he worked by sawing back and forth on a foot pedal that moved him up or down one or two octaves and made his bass seem like a whole string section itself.
And the vocals were great too. John had written many of the songs and led the band and did most of the singing, but Reed stepped up a lot himself and showed a fine tenor voice, as well as incredible delight at the packed house raving on his every note and bass effect.
Highlights of the set were John's old song, What's Become Of Mary, which had the whole hall singing along, and a spacey Bird Song that I'd called soon into the long introduction.
Time for a long set break and we realized we'd have to protect our stage-front camp as the place was packed with frantic people, pushing (gently) toward the front. That was no problem since it really was relatively mellow and there were three of us to take turns going for bathroom/beer/cider breaks. We saw a friend from the last DSO show in Boston who was eager to hear about Santa Clara, as well as other friends from the line and the crowd. The 18(?)-year-old next to me was anxiously writing down the setlist and enthralled by my and others' stories about seeing the Dead 40 years ago.
OK, the guys finally came back out and by now it was well after 10PM on a school night. What the hell, it was the middle of Dead summer and the future was looking bright. Here's what they played next:
We Can Run
Reuben And Cerise>
Walking In Your Footsteps>
I was very happy that they opened with Cleaning Windows, the relatively obscure Van Morrison song covered excellently by Tom Russell and Barrence Whitfield, and done by the GGW a few times in this tour (we'd been looking at their setlists).
Nice to throw in a Brent song on the anniversary of his death. They did a few songs (first set and this one) from the American Spring record that JohnK had done with Melvin Seals back in the naughties.
But then they went back to the GD canon with Crazy Fingers and Reuben & Cherise and the crowd was grooving along with a vengeance. They did the Police's Walking In Your Footsteps and then closed with a grinding, grungy, far out, intense Ripple like the original guys never tried.
Though the hall was air conditioned we were a sweaty, tired mass by then and it was approaching midnight. They came back out soon and sent us all on our way with Brokedown Palace. Fare you well, my honey...
Wonderful set by everyone involved; this band is great and these guys played very well and we had a lot of fun! I think it may be that years from now, after the original generation of GD is retired, that we'll be saying that we saw Golden Gate Wingmen when they first started. Then again, maybe not!