Friday, August 21, 2009

Rt. 29 Revue - August 16 - Columbia, MD

So I created my own little mini-festival this weekend by going to see the Hot August Blues Festival in Cockeysville, MD on Saturday (see my comments on that in the entry below) and going to the Rt. 29 Revue at the Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sunday. Three bands on Saturday and six bands on Sunday, not bad! The Rt. 29 Revue was organized by the Old Crow Medicine Show and had a superb lineup and a very affordable ticket price.

On my arrival Justin Jones was playing, he's a DC based singer songwriter, a nice sound but honestly I was hitting the bar and checking out the crowd so I didn't give him a fair listen.

He was followed by the Felice Brothers, a band I had heard good things about so I found my seat in the pavilion and got focused. This guys are nuts. They came out with a ton of energy and played their own brand of rocking Americana music. The drummer sets up similar to Levon Helm (more about him below), the fiddle player did the first song on his knees for some reason, the keyboards were also set at a low level (not volume, but height from the floor) and they all played like their lives depended on it. They were joined on stage by a couple of guys from Old Crow and this was all in all a very enjoyable set. I particularly enjoyed "Whiskey in my Whiskey" which is about a guy who shoots his girlfriend. "I put some whiskey in my whiskey, I put some heartbreak in my heart, I put my boots on that ole dance floor, I put three rounds in my 44". Depressing when you read it, but fun to listen to...

Next up was Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, we had seen her last month at the FloydFest and it was great to see her again. Her musical style was different than the other bands at the Rt. 29 Revue, but honestly I can't get enough of her performances. Each band was scheduled to play about 45 minutes and she ran a little long but the crowd was definitely into it. One of my favorite songs of hers is "Joey", which is also sort of depressing since it's about a woman in an abusive relationship (Joey also has a "44"). But the tune is great and it appears that the law has caught up with this bad guy. Anyway, she finished with "White Rabbit" the Jefferson Airplane classic, just like she did at Floyd and left the crowd begging for more.

The next band was "Iron & Wine" which is actually one guy who sings and plays acoustic guitar. I needed a musical break so we went back to the shade trees and listened from afar. Actually the sound was pretty good, but he's a little too mellow for me.

Levon Helm was next on stage with his big band and the tempo was back up to full throttle. Levon (a survivor of throat cancer) was under doctor's orders to not sing, so guitarist/producer Larry Campbell handled most of the vocal chores. They had a horn section and played a lot of great songs from the Band of course. But they also played some good Dead tunes, "Tennessee Jed" is on Levon's latest album, they did a nearly a capella version of "Attics of my Life", and a nice version of "Deep Elem Blues" (which is not an original Dead tune, but they certainly played it a lot). Even without Levon singing, they were very entertaining, joined onstage by some of the Felice Brothers for some raucous times and all in all a great set.

Finally the Old Crow Medicine Show took the stage, we had seen them earlier this year at the DelFest where they revived the crowd after the horrific storm. These guys put a modern spin on old time music, they have the bluegrass instrumentation (plus a guitar/banjo hybrid called a "guitjo") and, like the Felice Brothers, they bring a lot of energy and great songs to the stage. I'm particularly fond of "Wagon Wheel" which was co-written by Ketch Secor (of Old Crow) and Bob Dylan. But the twist is that Bob sang the chorus to himself in a tape recorder in the early 1960's and never did anything with it, some 30 years later Ketch heard the tape and filled in the rest himself. Subsequent to that, he and Dylan reached an agreement on the songwriting credits and now it's Old Crow's signature song and covered by several other bands. You can click here to see their "Wagon Wheel" video on youtube.

I have to admit that after two days of music, summer sun (and a few drinks) I had enough and I checked out before the Old Crow boys finished. But it was a super weekend (thanks to Dan and Jack for hanging with me) and I'll see Old Crow again soon.

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