Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A New Chapter in My Life… 6 Months of Great Live Shows…Bring on the summer festivals

It’s been too long since I’ve updated this blog, my only excuse is I’ve been finishing off a 30+ year career at Hughes and preparing myself for life as a retiree. It has been a great experience working with a wonderful group of people and it is with a mix of trepidation and excitement that I enter Chapter 3 of my life. (Chapter 1 = childhood/student life, Chapter 2= professional career/husband/father. Of course I’m still a husband and father, but I’m dropping the career).  June 1 is my official termination date, but I’ve been on vacation since May 1 so it feels like I’ve already slid over the edge.  A couple of weeks ago the company threw a really fun party for me, nice speeches and great gifts.

But despite all of this work and life changes I have managed to see a good number of excellent live music shows over the last few months, I will quickly mention them here for posterity and hopefully present more current updates as the summer festival season is in full swing.

In January we saw the U.S. Navy Commodores Jazz Ensemble at George Mason University.  They were performing as part of a “saxophone symposium” there at the college and they had Branford Marsalis as a guest performer. The Navy has some very talented jazz musicians in their group and it appeared that Branford enjoyed playing with them.  But I have to admit it’s a little weird listening to jazz in an auditorium, with all of the musicians in uniform, back straight, nearly at attention.  I would love to hear them in a club, where everyone can cut loose and improvise.  I had the same odd feeling a few weeks later when we saw the Afro-Cuban All Stars at the Strathmore.  These guys really know how to play and their music just makes you want to get up and dance. A great performance, but it would have felt more natural seeing them in a Caribbean club with a rum drink in hand.

Also in January we caught Donna the Buffalo at the State Theatre in Falls Church. The Roy Jay Band opened up, didn’t care so much for them, but DTB always puts on a first rate show.  

In February we saw Robert Plant and the Band of Joy at the DAR Constitution Hall. This show really impressed me, Robert Plant continues to push the musical envelope and not simply rely on his legacy from the seventies.  We saw him with Alison Krauss a few years ago and that was also really special. He’s assembled a great set of musicians, Patty Griffin sings great, Buddy Miller is the band leader and the rest of the guys are all professionals. They had just the right mix of acoustic and electric, old Zep songs and new songs, everything was just right. Warming up was the North Mississippi Allstars “Duo” (basically just Luther and Cody Dickinson without their bassist) and they were a lot of fun also. They played tunes from their new album “Keys to the Kingdom”, which is quite good and worth picking up if you don’t have it. I usually don’t like shows at the DAR, but I was very glad I made an exception for the Band of Joy.

While visiting the boy in California later in February, we went the El Rey Theater in LA to see one of our favorites, Jackie Greene. That was a fantastic, rocking show, every time we see him it’s better than the last time.  He surprised us with a medley of “Heard it Through the Grapevine/Brick in the Wall/Shakedown Street”. Totally fun show in a fun venue.

In March we saw Grace Potter & the Nocturnals at the 9:30 club and then again just a few weeks ago at the Ram's Head Live. She puts on a rocking good show every time and is a lot of fun to watch. We've noticed that the band is adding more space-like jams to their show, will be interesting to see if that trend continues.

On St. Patrick’s Day we saw a very nice Furthur concert at George Mason University. In honor of the day (I guess) they did “Whiskey in a Jar” which made me miss Jerry. But it was a nice, tight show, they really sounded on this night as tight as I’ve heard them in some time.  We look forward to seeing them in July at the All Good Music Festival.

April gave us another opportunity to see Jackie Greene, this time at the Birchmere, one of my favorite venues. After having to sit through two warm up acts, Jackie came out and did not disappoint. This guy has so much talent.

It has been a busy 2011 and now we’re ready for the summer festival season!

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