Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dave Matthews Band - September 13 - Irvine, CA

The Boy and I were in Southern California checking out a college and we noticed that the Dave Matthews Band was in town. Since they are his current favorite band and I'm always up for a rocking show we decided to check it out. The venue is the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Irvine, California. Formerly known as "Irvine Meadows", this place is rather large outdoor venue (16,000+) with mostly reserved seating and a small lawn section. Nissan can hold more, but I think that is because Nissan has a much bigger lawn area. The Verizon Amphitheatre is on a steep mountainside and unlike other "sheds" it has no roof for the patrons. Everyone sits outside and the roof only covers the stage. You gotta love that California weather!

Switchfoot was the opening band, their performance was rather forgettable except when the lead singer ventured out into the audience while singing. He went way up behind the sound board singing all the while and shaking hands in the audience. Reminded me of the William Walter performance at the Hill Holler stage at FloydFest. But William was handing out CD's while he was roaming through the crowd.

The DMB put on a fine show, they have a stage with big video screens that allows everyone to see what's going on. They played a good number of tunes from their new album ("Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King"). This is a fine album and it was nice to hear the songs live. The DMB can definitely stretch out into some great instrumental jam sessions. I had seen them a couple of times before, but this was the first time I'd seen them with Tim Reynolds on electric guitar and Jeff Coffin (of the Flecktones) replacing the late LeRoi Moore (the "GrooGrux King"). They've also added a trumpet player (Rashawn Ross) in the last few years, he helps out with the background vocals. They rocked the house with a cover of "Burning Down the House" (Talking Heads). Dave seemed in good spirits, joking with the crowd between songs and pleased with the number of women's "drawers" that were being thrown on stage.

We had a lot of fun at this show and it was a nice way to end our sojourn out west.

Monday, September 7, 2009

It Might Get Loud - Documentary Film - September 6

OK, this was not actually a live music event, but I thought that it was worthy of an entry here. "It Might Get Loud" is a new documentary film that pays tribute to the guitar as a rock and roll instrument by focusing on three guitarists representing three different eras in rock history. You can get up close and personal with Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. Each spends time alone on the screen playing and taking you back to where they grew up and first began to play guitar. And all three sit down together with their guitars on a soundstage and no script and just trade stories and play together.

I think this film was put together very well, click here to see a nice trailer of the movie(click on "Trailer").

After spending 90 minutes with these three guys, I think the Edge relies a little too much on the effects and electronics, I do have much more respect for Jack White as a guitar player, and Jimmy Page is still the old master who can blow away any and all comers!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Traffic Jam - Baltimore, MD - September 5

The "Traffic Jam" was advertised as a 3 day festival at the Sonar club in downtown Baltimore. Musical acts included Leftover Salmon, the Lee Boys, Medeski Martin & Wood, Sam Bush, and the Travelin' McCourys. Some streets were to be blocked off and there would be multiple stages including an outdoor stage. Sounded intriguing so the Bird and I headed up there Saturday to check it out. We were surprised that we were able to park in a public lot right in front of the club, the street was indeed blocked off and a small festival ground was created. There were a handful of vendors with your typical festival fare but there was no outdoor stage. Apparently there had been a snag with the City at the last minute, so the Sonar club used their three indoor stages. This was our first visit to the Sonar club, which appears to be the first level of a three level parking garage converted into a night club. There are 3 rooms, sort of reminiscent of Goldilocks, each room is a larger version of the previous one. When we arrived there was a band (never caught the name) playing in the middle sized room with about 4 people watching. They had a talented left handed lead guitar player, but the sound was so loud (and very poorly mixed) that we retreated back outside. Then we found the smallest room which had a teenage trio playing some progressive '70's style instrumental rock. They were actually very entertaining (couldn't figure out their name either), the crowd size doubled when we entered that room. After listening to them for a while we went to the Main Room, which was a large open space with 3 bars, a concrete floor, and some risers on one side that you could sit on. Playing in this space was Papa Mali, a blues guitar player from New Orleans. They played some fun music for the 30 or so fans hanging in the big room.

So the pieces were in place for a downtown music "festival" but it appeared that the crowd didn't show. The Bird and I decided to take a break and we jumped in the car, headed to Fells Point and had a nice early al fresco dinner. Then back to the Sonar in time to catch the Lee Boys and Leftover Salmon. We had seen the Lee Boys earlier in the summer at the Floydfest, these guys play a style of rocking gospel that is known as "Sacred Steel", probably Robert Randolph is it's most famous practitioner. A few more people had shown up and the Lee Boys were really rocking. They were joined onstage by a local blues guitarist name Bobby Lee Rodgers and then later by a guitarist called "Mike" (apparently they forgot his last name). This turned into a really good show as the guest guitarists traded licks with the steel guitar player known as "the Dr."

Leftover Salmon brought the energy level up even further as Vince Hermann, Drew Emmitt and the rest of the boys ripped into their unique brand of "polyethnic cajun slamgrass". The crowd had picked up a little by then, the sound was good, and so was the music. We rocked through this set and even though there were more bands scheduled to follow was time for us to make the drive home.

In summary I would say this was a good idea for a festival, but several things went wrong. An outdoor stage would have made it a lot more fun, there wasn't much food to be had, and there weren't enough people there. I don't know if it was poor promotion or just the fact that no one wants to hang out in a dark club on the last weekend of summer. It would be interesting to see what Saturday and Sunday were like. I'll keep the Sonar on my list of venues to watch and hope for better things to come.