Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jackie Greene @ Higher Ground, Thursday, 10.07.10

     I swear that some sort of higher power was keeping me from this show.  Since his opening gig for Gov't Mule this past August I had been jonzin' for more of his brand of Americana with a side of Dead.  Jackie Greene and his band were slated to start a bit early - which I was made aware of far too late.  Perhaps I could have looked at my ticket?  Nah. 
Upon trying to leave my home I realized that being timely wasn't really wasn't in the cards.  I was literally trapped in my own driveway by two firetrucks, a tow truck and two police cruisers.  Commence meltdown.  After waiting in my own driveway for 20mins whilst the Colchester Fire and Police Departments worked to flip a late 90s Honda Accord from its roof to its wheels and aide the shaken driver I could finally head toward HG.   I had ultimately missed the first set by this point.  Glad the driver is ok and his car missed the fence of our condo association. 
     I arrived during the first song of the second set.  Apparently, and much to my chagrin, Jackie had done numerous acoustic numbers to begin the night, even a couple solo.  Well, truth be told, you can't win them all.  I was very pleased to see and hear him switch from guitar to organ for a few songs.  Jackie is an incredible talent, especially on piano or Hammond B-3 organ.  Those tunes shine, often conjuring up some 'Stage Fright'-era tracks from The Band. 
     The first time I saw him perform was in Phil Lesh & Friends in the fall of 2007.  He completely won me over with his interpretations of classic Grateful Dead songs.  The performances never seemed like covers of songs but more of a retelling or a reinterpretation of an old familiar story.  He is wise beyond his years and is single handedly carrying the torch of the Dead into new territory.  At those 2007 Phil & Friends shows he would tear down the house while leading a band of veterans through 'New Speedway Boogie' and 'Sugaree'.  In fact, I don't think I have ever seen him perform without one or both of these tunes in his sets.  Jackie's show at HG was no exception.  The band barrelled through a monster verson of 'New Speedway Boogie' that stretched past ten minutes.  I can barely remember what the Grateful Dead version sounds like as the song belongs to Jackie Greene now.  The second set ended with a soulful version of 'Sugaree'.  Again, he just owns this song.  Its always nice to have a group of 500 or so singing along.  Their well deserved encore was their most well known tune 'Ball and Chain'.  This song has enough rock & roll and blues swagger to supply 10 albums worth of mojo.  Jackie and band again brought down the house in style. 
     After the show I was milling around the stage and saw him pop out to greet some fans.  I took the opportunity after the urging from a friend to introduce myself and thank him profusely for playing HG.  The conversation was short and I probably should have talked about the NLDS which had his hometown San Francisco Giants' ace pitcher Lincecum on the mound (who would go on to strike out 13 that night).  Atleast I got to meet the dude who makes me look huge.  He does however, have incredible taste in hats.  [Photo Credit - Artie Lavigne]  'Til next time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Yonder Mountain String Band @ Higher Ground. Wednesday, 10.27.10

I never tire of Yonder Mountain String Band's unique sound.  They're at the top of the heap of string bands.  Each member incredible in their own right and when assembled they turn into something much bigger - like the Voltron of bluegrass or something.  Four part, honey drenched harmonies out in front of virtuostic playing was just what the doctor ordered for an unseasonably warm late October night. 

They peppered in some new tunes around long standing crowd pleasers like '40 Miles To Denver' and 'Kentucky Mandolin'.  I love the energy of their shows.  It is easy to get caught up in a ho-down clique and stomp away the mid-week workin' man's blues.  Tonight was no exception, the energy was high throughout the first set where they whipped the crowd into a bunch of dancing maniacs.  The second set started with a dedication to Phish after Jeff Austin gushed about how much he loved them and how transcendental the Manchester show was the night prior.  They rounded out their night with a flawless segue of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere > Traffic Jam > After Midnight > Traffic Jam. 

Download the show for a small cost here http://www.yondermountainlive.com/live-music/0,5669/Yonder-Mountain-String-Band-mp3-flac-download-10-27-2010-Higher-Ground-South-Burlington-VT.html

**Disclaimer - cranky old man rant ahead.**

I really love their music but I must say, Yonder has the worst effing crowd next to Railroad Earth.  Perhaps I am just getting old, but I thought blugrass/string based music WAS for old people.  I have no idea what the hell it is about acoustic, bluegrass, string based bands but the a-holes come out for them in droves.  I am the first dude to be super fired up to be at a show, dance as if no one is watching, blah blah blah, but these concert goers tend to be completely unaware.  I have been to tons of shows and this is by far the stinkiest crowd as well.  I often wonder if some of the fans own actual vats of patchouli oil as it permeates every fiber of my head.  ::Hops off soapbox::

Guster @ The Flynn Theater, Burlington, VT. Thursday, 10.28.10

Please note that this is not a show review for Lar Lubovitch nor Joan Baez.  Sorry to disappoint.  But if you do happen to care for their unique take on interpretive dance or narrative style folk music please by all means check out their websites or see their shows. 

Glad that is clarified and out of the way, lets get get down to business.  Guster business.  Simply put, their two hour performance at The Flynn Theater was nothing short of amazing.  After seeing Guster countless times early on, I took a ten year absence from their live shows (for reasons still unclear).  I got back on board in Fall 2009 for the 'Lost and Gone Forever' 10th Anniversary Tour.  I am truly glad I did.  Now I am back to unabashedly singing along to their infectious pop gems, albeit out of tune, but I have passion!  Their live show still offers up their penchant for hilarity as well as sharply honed musical chops.  The band trades instruments throughout the entire show, switching from acoustic to electric, from banjo to bass, from piano to guitar, from drum kit to bongos.  Their voices sound as crisp as they did years ago - hitting all the highest notes with ease.  Vermonters know good music thusly Guster packs the Flynn everytime they come to town.  They certainly have come a long way from $8.00 shows at Club Toast and kitchy Madonna and Rage Against The Machine covers. 

Guster's sound is as big as ever.  They absolutely killed road-tested must play tunes.  'Demons' brought down the house with its tension building up to a frenzy.  I am still in complete awe of this song 13 years later.  It was comforting to see that fans still throw ping pong balls onto the stage at the ending of 'Airport Song'.  It is also comforting to dance ones ass off to this song as they have turned it into a straight disco rave up.  They can still play the hell out of 'Careful', 'Satellite', 'Barrell of a Gun', and 'Happier'. 

Their new songs held up incredibly well.  Those cats sure can craft a near perfect pop song.  They had a wealth of new material to pull from off their excellent new LP 'Easy Wonderful'.  'Do You Love Me' has been getting a bit of airplay on 104.7 FM The Point so I was really happy to hear it live.  The song has lyrical gems like "I wanna know who yer talkin' to when yer singin' in yer sleep" and "I got marbles in my mouth, 1000 words I wanna say but its impossible to spit em out".  Ryan's voice turns elastic hitting the refrain "Do you love me".  Just remarkable.  Other new tune highlights included 'Bad Bad World' and 'This Could All Be Yours'. 

I had the privilage of seeing a ton of people I haven't seen in ages while milling around the lobby before Guster's set.  I am positive that they as well as every person at the Flynn enjoyed the hell out of this show.  Just a blast from the first note to the second call back for encore where they treated us to an all acoustic, no amplification version of 'Jesus On The Radio" from the edge of the stage.  A class act for sure.  Ya'll best believe I will not be taking another 10 year break from their live shows anytime soon.  Until next time.