Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - November 16 - Baltimore, MD

This show was billed as Grace Potter and the Nocturnals "co-headlining" with Brett Dennen. I was most impressed by Ms. Potter's performance at Floydfest this past summer and I saw her again in August at the Rt. 29 Revue. So I knew that I was guaranteed at least 50% of the show was going to be good. They snuck in another band to start things off, Pete Francis. He sucked. Just too much of a pop, soft rock, smooth sound for my taste. But Grace and her band came out next and they put on a fantastic show. She seemed truly happy to be in Baltimore, said she found some great tapas restaurants in the area and had so much fun hanging out in Charm City that they decided to stay over an extra day (they were performing the next night at the 9:30 in DC).

The Ram's Head Live was only about 2/3 full, which makes it a much more enjoyable space compared to when it's sold out and we were able to get right up front. They played several new songs which will be in their new album scheduled for release in the spring. One new one was "Oasis" which really rocked and I really liked "Medicine", with the refrain "I got the medicine that everybody wants". Indeed!

The current Nocturnals includes two great guitarists (Scott Tournet/Benny Yurco), their new bass player Catherine Popper (who is very easy on the eyes), and drummer Matt Burr. And of course there's Grace alternating between the Flying V guitar and the Hammond B-3 organ. I was standing close enough to the organ to see several labels on it that said "Customized for Grace Potter". Would be interested to learn more about that. A young guy next to me was looking quizzically at the Leslie cabinet with the spinning speaker, I told him it was a Leslie speaker and it was commonly used with the Hammond organ. He said "I have no idea what you're talking about". Darn kids with their iPods, where is their appreciation for musical heritage?

Anyway Grace puts so much energy in her singing and playing it is truly infectious and you really don't want her to stop. Couple that with her ability to write songs that are full of hooks and memorable lyrics and I imagine that she will be at the top of the charts and a household name in another year or two.

Based on what I've read, it seems like the project that she was working on with producer T-Bone Burnett has been cancelled and instead she's teamed up with another producer for the new album. I had high hopes for what T-Bone could do with her, but in the meantime she's still tearing up the concert circuit.

But don't take my word for it, take a look at this video from the show that my buddy Dan made or better yet, go see her the next time she's in town. I'll be there!

Oh, and Brett Dennen? We left after 1.5 songs, just a little too cutsie for my taste, but the 15 year old girls seemed to be enjoying him.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dark Star Orchestra - November 13 - Washington, DC

Just 48 hours after seeing a sort of lackluster performance of DSO I decided to give them another chance and tagged along with Davis to the 930 club to see them again. The club was completely sold out and I luckily found someone with an extra ticket. What a difference! They totally ROCKED the house with one of the best musical performances that I have ever seen from this band.
The setlist was from the June 27, 1976 Grateful Dead show and each song was performed better than the one before it. Special kudo's to the second set In the second set they played a spectacular version of "Wharf Rat", followed by "Samson & Delilah", and a "Help on the Way->Slipknot->Franklin's Tower" sequence that whipped the crowd into a real frenzy. All of the hippies, yuppies, and college kids were dancing and singing together as it should be. Then they finished with a very powerful "Sugar Magnolia". For the encore it was "US Blues" which was the end of the '76 show. But DSO showed their appreciation by playing a few more, "Midnight Hour", "Easy Wind", and "Brothers and Sisters".
We left hot, tired and fully satisfied from a night of great music, it's just amazing how different a band can be from one night to the next. I'm really looking forward to celebrating another New Year's Eve with this band, this time they have promised an acoustic set as well as special guests Jeff Mattson and Donna Jean Godchaux.

Dark Star Orchestra - November 11 - Hagerstown, MD

It was cold and raining when we headed west on I-70 to Hagerstown. But as we crossed over South Mountain the rain stopped and the sky lifted so when we pulled into downtown Hagerstown it turned out to be a lovely evening. Last time we saw Dark Star Orchestra it was at the AllGood Festival and we still had fresh memories of seven live Dead shows. So Dark Star seemed a little too much like "let's pretend this is a Dead show". But now it's five months later and we're ready for some live Dead music, even if it's not being played by the real guys.
For this show DSO was celebrating their 12th anniversary, certainly a longer run then they must have envisioned when they started. As with any DSO show you spend some time trying to guess the period, year, and date (if you're really good) of the Grateful Dead show that they are "recreating". On Wednesday night it was pretty tough as they played several older tunes that were not part of the regular repertoire and they finished with some songs from the 1980's. They also threw in a very nice version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". The guessing game ended at the conclusion of the show when they usually announce the date of the original show, this time they said "I guess if it's your birthday you can play whatever the fuck you want". Well of course, you should be able to play whatever the fuck you want on your 12th birthday.
But the music still seemed a little lackluster, not much energy, nothing really wrong, but just didn't get us moving.
The real star of the show was the Maryland Theater in downtown Hagerstown which is almost 100 years old and restored to beautiful condition. As their web site says, "The marvelous acoustics are only surpassed by the wonderful ambiance" and I could not agree more. The room was beautiful, the sound was perfect, there was a great bar in the lobby and the little old ladies taking tickets at the door were enjoying the music as much as the audience. It looked like there were several nice bars and restaurants in the same neighborhood, I will definitely have to get back up here soon to more concerts.
So we headed home not really musically satisfied and as we climbed South Mountain the rain started again and it was back to the real world.
As for Dark Star Orchestra, see my more recent post for the rest of the story....