Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Peace Mobile Rally > Furthur - Oct 29/Nov 17 - Washington/Baltimore

In October there was a rally at a home in DC to support the freedom of speech, in this particular case an old VW bus painted 60's style. I've lifted the description from the Facebook Event invite.
A colorful, engine-less VW microbus stationed in the Kaplan-Allen family’s Palisades front yard since May is slated for removal by DC Department of Public Works (DPW). On September 16, DPW declared the bus “dangerous,” threatened to remove it by the end of October and fine the family up to $1000. The Kaplan-Allens brought the Peace-Mobile to their yard last spring when it ended its run as a set piece for the Georgetown Day School theatrical production of “Pippin.” Its peace signs, rainbows and hearts are not only entertaining but remind us of a more idealistic time, when, as a Pippin song says, “we all could spread a little sunshine.” All summer, passersby stopped to take photos with their cell phones and celebrate in that spirit. Now, DPW threatens to censor and shut down the display.
So a rally was held and of course we went. Musical entertainment was provided by John Kadlecik and
On the Bus. John is the former lead guitar player for Dark Star Orchestra and was recently given the ultimate promotion to play with Furthur (Phil Lesh and Bob Weir's band). On the Bus is a great Dead cover band that plays in the DC/MD/VA area, we've seen them several times and they always put on a good show.

John played acoustic guitar and a variety of songs (including some Dead songs). One that I really liked was  "Down to Eugene" which was made popular (I guess) by David Gans. John was really putting his heart and soul into performing these songs for the 20 - 40 people gathered in a DC backyard on a fall afternoon, it was a nice musical moment. And it struck me that in a few weeks I would being seeing this same musician on a big stage in front of thousands of people playing with the founders of the Grateful Dead.

John stayed around to perform with On the Bus and they did a full set of Dead tunes. It was good times, despite the fact that half of the PA system failed. And there was a happy ending to the Battle of Bus as one of the band members decided to take it to his Maryland farm and give it a complete restoration. You can see lots of pictures and comments about this event on Facebook, just search for "On the Bus" and scroll down to the October time frame.

So sure enough a few weeks later we saw John at the Baltimore Arena playing with Furthur . Furthur consists of Bob Weir (Grateful Dead), Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead), John Kadlecik, Jeff Chimenti (Dead/Ratdog), Joe Russo (Benevento/Russo Duo), and the just added Sunshine (Garcia) Becker and Jeff Pehrson.  We've seen Furthur plenty of times before, this set started out interesting because the first 4 songs were not Dead tunes. Opening with "Revolution" (Lennon/McCartney), "Smokestack Lightning" (Muddy Waters), "Crossroads" (Robert Johnson), and then back to "Smokestack Lightning" again. In the second set they also covered "Hard to Handle" (Otis Redding) and a really cool "Dear Mr. Fantasy" (Traffic) that morphed into "Hey Jude" (Lennon/McCartney). They were actually performing both songs at the same time for a while.

I like the Baltimore Arena (officially named "1st Mariner Arena"), as arenas go it's easy to get in and out and it's relatively small. But not as small as that backyard in DC!

Bob Dylan - November 13, 2010 - Smith Center, George Washington University

The Never Ending Tour stopped by GW last month. I haven't been to the Smith Center for a concert in a very long time (saw the Clash there in the '80's) and I was glad to see there is still a hall that sells General Admission tickets. We camped out on the floor hoping to optimize the acoustics. The place is small enough that any location is fine for viewing and listening.

The show opened as it always does with a deep voiced announcer on the PA:

"Ladies and gentlemen please welcome the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the 60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the 70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s. Ladies and gentlemen —Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!"

Then Bob kicks things off the show with a rollicking "Rainy Day Women" followed by one of my favorite concert tunes "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)". During this one he came from behind the keyboards and sang with animated hand gestures and played harmonica. Other highlights included "Just Like a Woman" with Bob on keyboards and band member Donnie Herron (pedal steel) keenly watching him play and shadowing every chord that Bob would play. This occurred on several songs but it was most obvious during the instrumental break on "Just Like a Woman".

In addition to Bob's hand gestures and (almost) dancing there was a large fabric hanging behind the stage that was used as a screen during several songs to show ghostly black and white live video images of Bob singing. I've never seen that before, it was pretty cool.

Other highlights were a very nice "Simple Twist of Fate" with Bob on lead guitar followed by a rocking "Highway 61 Revisited". There were also more recent tunes like "High Water (for Charlie Patton)", "Ain't Talkin'", and "Thunder on the Mountain". All in all a really great show with a nice mix of old and new.

Finally, what I liked most about the show was there were so many young people there really into the music. I remember going to a Dylan concert a few years ago at George Mason University and I literally was one of the youngest people there! I kept wondering where are all of the students? But the GW kids turned out en masse and were having a great time. At 69, Bob Dylan is an American icon and it was good to see that at least some of the next generation appreciate him.

Jackie Greene - October 14, 2010 - Ram's Head, Annapolis

As I continue to dig through the blog block I'm taking advantage of the holiday down time to remember and reminisce on the shows that I've seen this fall. In October the Bird and I slipped down to Annapolis for a nice dinner and show at the Ram's Head. If you buy the special deal you can get a dinner reservation, tickets to the show and a free microbrew after the show. Probably the nicest part of that deal is you have dinner in the restaurant and then when you're done eating they lead you through the back corridor straight into the music venue and your reserved seat. There was an opening act, Michael Wasekey, a local singer guitar player, nice enough guy but we were ready for JG.

Jackie took advantage of the intimate atmosphere of the Ram's Head and for the first half of the show he played solo accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and nuanced fills from his guitar player (I wish I could remember his name). Between songs it got kind of quiet and Jackie said we could shout out any requests we had. After a couple more songs the requests got so loud and frequent he said "Enough already!".  Although I've seen Jackie and his band play many times in the past, this acoustic set was very special. One of the highlights was a very nice version of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried". After a short break he came back with the full band, electric guitars and it was time to rock. A great mix of old and new tunes, including a couple of Grateful Dead classics. In addition to being an excellent guitarist, Jackie plays great keyboards and harmonica. I have to say that this show was one of my favorites of 2010.  

Another thing that sets Jackie Greene apart from other performers is he hangs out after the show to meet and greet. Here's a shot of the Bird and Jackie (she sure is hugging him tight?).