Monday, October 26, 2015

Guilty at the Bull Run

We’ve seen Dave Alvin many times, and several times with his brother Phil.  And we’d been to the Bull Run Restaurant a great number of times.  But the two together on October 23rd was quite the combination, they’d never been there before and Shirley was waiting for them.

The Bull Run was packed more than I’ve ever seen it.  I don’t think they technically sold out, but the parking lot was already overflowing when we got there at about 6:45 for the 8:00 show and the Sawtelle Room was jammed with every table they could fit in there, many of which were already full over an hour before the show.  We jammed into two of the last three seats at table 63 in front of center stage, and then Scott showed up shortly thereafter and took the last one.  We managed to get beer and food, but the waitresses and the kitchen were struggling to keep up all night.

The band came on late as Chris Miller was apparently delayed, and the room took a long time before getting anywhere near settling down.  Finally Dave and Phil came on with the normal “Guilty Ones” band of Chris, Lisa Pancratz, and Brad Fordham.  I’ve said this before, but they all played excellently, perhaps better than I’d ever seen them.  They’ve become an incredibly tight, well-disciplined unit that can rock your ass off.

And were they loud!!!  It possibly wasn’t as loud as when we sat right in front of Dave’s amp at Johnny D’s, but I’ve never heard the Sawtelle PA turned up like that (it handled it great), and Dave’s Strat was just blasting.

And what a great setlist it was too.  They did a superb mix of tunes from their last two albums, some older Dave Alvin songs, and some classic Blasters tunes.  It went something like this:

I Feel So Good
This World Is In a Bad Condition
Mister Kicks
Southern Flood Blues
Border Radio
Sit Down Baby
All By Myself
Cherry Red Blues
Hide and Seek
Truckin’ Little Woman
Johnny Ace Is Dead
Dry River
American Music
What’s Up With Your Brother
Marie Marie
Turn On Your Lovelight

I may have missed a few and gotten the order wrong, but I think you get the point.  I was thrilled to hear Phil step up and sing Border Radio!  He was in as good voice as ever, tackling the incredibly difficult Cherry Red Blues with ease, hitting all the lyrics to Truckin’ Little Woman perfectly, and singing Marie Marie like he meant it: “I just want to be your loving man!”

Chris and Brad were fantastic too, and as usual, Lisa was phenomenal.  The sight lines in the Bull Run are sometimes a challenge and though we were at the front table, Phil was almost totally blocking Lisa for me.  But I could peer around him once in a while and get a sight of a polka-dotted arm, a puffed-out cheek, and sometimes the iconic Lisa Pancratz eye rising up above the curve of Phil’s guitar, fixated on the band leader.

And who was leading the band?  Dave was incredible himself, just permeating the room with his vision of the blues, straight out Stratocaster sound filling our brains.  And I think they were really having a good time too.  The Bull Run is probably a fun place for a band to play: great sound and enthusiastic crowds in the middle of Nowhere, Massachusetts.

At one time after Lisa’s drum solo in Dry River a perhaps tipsy woman ran up to the front and shouted at Dave, “She’s great, she’s fantastic, she’s wonderful!”  Dave said, “I know.”  She shouted, “Tell her how great she is!!”  Dave said in his way, “You tell her,” and stood back.  Lisa smiled.

As they’ve been doing lately, they closed with a background rave-up of Turn On Your Lovelight, alternating between Dave singing a few of the lyrics, ripping off another incendiary guitar run, and the band introducing each other.  Really, Phil was as integrated into the band as anyone else and he did his part in the mutual introductions, again calling his brother a triple threat: singer, songwriter, and guitar player.  What a band and what a fun night!

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