Archive for May, 2011

Wavy Gravy’s 75th Birthday Boogie–Seva benefit
Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, CA

Bobby Vega with Zero

Bobby Vega with Zero. Click for more photos.

Wavy’s annual Seva benefit had a great line up this year:

  • Bob Weir
  • Mickey Hart
  • Chris Robinson Brotherhood
  • Zero
  • Ace of Cups (!!!)
  • Hot Buttered Rum String Band

I’d never been to Craneway Pavilion before and it was interesting. On the plus side it’s a beautiful location as you have great views of downtown Oakland and SF. On the downside it is cavernous converted warehouse and the sound is awful in back. That, and there were no seats. Some of the people that bought the VIP dinner tickets went back to the eating area and
brought their chairs out to the main floor. This was a fun but long show that lasted from just before 8:00 to nearly 2:30.

The real problem, however, was the logistics were absolutely horrible.  I arrived early and it took me  over 45 minutes to get through the will call line; I understand that people who arrived later stood in a nearly half-mile long line for well over 90 minutes. Once inside they only had too understaffed bars at each end of the venue and the lines were so long they merged in the middle.

Hot Buttered Rum String Band

I always enjoy seeing HBR but I got in late and missed most of their set.

Set List:
Mountain Song
Way Back When
Fruit Of The Vine (with Nicki Bluhm)
Blackberry Pie (with Nicki Bluhm)
Bertha (with Matt Butler)
Busted In Utah

Line up:
Aaron Redner –  fiddle
Bryan Horne –  bass
Erik Yate –  guitar, banjo
Nat Keefe – guitar,  vocals
Lucas Carlton – drums

Ace of Cups

I’ve always heard of the Ace of Cups (the first all-girl band in SF) but I know very little about them and don’t know any of their music so it was great to see them. Apparently the last original member of the band left in the early 70s and all five original members haven’t played together since the late 60s. Played about 45 minutes.

Set list:
I don’t know, I’m not familiar with their music.

Mary Gannon – bass
Marla Hunt – keyboards
Mary Ellen Simpson – guitar
Diane Vitalich – drums
Denise Kaufman – guitar


Zero (plus Barry Sless and Pete Sears but no) came on next and they really nailed it. By far the best jamming of the night but my Deadhead pedigree notwithstanding, I’m not a big jamband fan.   Enjoyable but the shortened 45 minute set was just perfect for me.

Set list:
Golden Road
Friday’s Child
Home on the Range

Steve Kimock – guitar
Bobby Vega – bass
Judge Murphy – vocals
Barry Sless – pedal steel guitar
Pete Sears – keyboards
Chip Roland – keyboards, guitar
Greg Anton – drums

Chris Robinson Brotherhood

This was the second time I’ve seen Chris Robinson Brotherhood and I liked them more this time. Weir joined for TLEO. Played about an hour.

Set list:
Tulsa Yesterday
Tumbleweed In Eden
Tomorrow Blues
They Love Each Other (with Bob Weir)
Sunday Sound

Chris Robinson – guitar, vocals
Neal Casal – guitar
Adam MacDougall – keyboards
Mark “Muddy” Dutton, bass
George Sluppick, drums

Mickey Hart

Mickey was next and I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of drum-centric music. He ended the set with “Baba Jing” that bled into a “Go Wavy” chat at which point he was joined on stage by a few dozen other drummers including Tipper Gore and they played along to a parade and balloon drop. Played about 45 minutes.

Set list:
Baba Jing -> “Go Wavy chant”

Partial Line-up:
Mickey Hart – drums
Steve Kimock – guitar
Dave Schools – bass
Dave Brogan – drums
Sikiru Adepoju   – talking drum

Bob Weir

Bob didn’t come on until 1:00 am and I was pretty spent by then. Rather than just being a Bob Weir set, this really was more like a closing jam. The core of his band was Jeff Chimenti, John Molo, and Robin Sylvester and then Steve Kimock, Henry Kaiser, Mark Karen, Chris Robinson, Neal Casa, Niki Bluhm, Barry Sless, Barry Melton, and Snooky Flowers all cycled through. The highlights for me were New Speedway which Chris sang and Sugaree which Bob, Niki and Chris traded verses and included a blistering solo by Mark. Snooky came out for the Other One and it featured a nice extended intro which reminded me of the Mardi Gras show in 1993 with Ornette Coleman where the band kept trying to reel him in during the Space -> Other One jam and he kept doing whatever he could to break down the structure. Played nearly 90 minutes.

Set list:
Playin’ In The Band
New Speedway Boogie
Tennessee Jed
Brown-Eyed Women
The Other One
Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad

Line-up, various combinations of:
Bob Weir – guitar, vocals
Steve Kimock – guitar
Henry Kaiser – guitar
Jeff Chimenti – keyboards
John Molo – drums
Robin Sylvester – bass
Mark Karan – guitar
Chris Robinson – guitar, vocals
Neal Casal – guitar
Niki Bluhm – vocals
Barry Sless – pedal steel guitar
Barry Melton – guitar
Snooky Flowers – sax


Elvis Costello and the Imposters
Fox Theatre, Oakland, CA

I was very excited to see this show as he’s only playing eight cities and I completely missed The Spinning Songbook the first time around. I first heard of it at a GD show at Kaiser where the guy sitting next to me at set break sniped the set was so ragged is sounded like it came out of Costello’s Spinning Songbook.

Elvis Costello at the Fox Theater

Elvis Costellos at the Fox Theater. Click for more photos.

If you are not familiar with it, The Spinning Songbook is a 15-foot version of Wheel for Fortune with about 40 songs on it instead of “big money”.  During the show, Elvis’s assistant selects audience members to come on stage to spin the wheel and then the band plays whatever comes. After spinning the fan watches from beside him on the stage either sipping a cocktail in the “Society Lounge” or dancing in the “Hostage to Fortune Go-Go Cage”…most people did a little of both. The wheel also has eight “jackpots” such as Happy, Girl, and Rainbow where he’ll sing medley of songs related to the theme.

It was a great show but, as my seat was in the front row right in front of the go-go cage I’m sure that colored my option a bit. What I really liked about the Spinning Songbook format was how it highlighted the breadth of Costello’s work.

Elvis came out and blasted through four songs before firing up the wheel. The second spin landed on the “I Can Sing a Rainbow” jackpot. He asked the women who spun what their favorite colors were. They responded with pink and purple and he said he could come close.  He played “Green Shirt”,   “Blue Chair”, and “Red Shoes” which flowed into the about 30 seconds of the “Purple Rain” chorus. When he ended he looked at them and said that was the only part of the song they knew.

For me the highlight of the show was “A Slow Drag With Josephine” and “Jimmie Standing In The Rain” from the beginning of the first encore. I also enjoyed “Money to Man” which I don’t believe I have heard before.

He played for well over two hours before starting the long encore block which included two trips off the stage before returning. For the life of me I can’t figure out why more and more bands are doing a single set with a hyper-extended encore.

Set List:
I Hope You’re Happy Now
Heart of the City
Strict Time
Mystery Dance
Shipbuilding (spun)
[Rainbow Jackpot (spun)]
Green Shirt
Blue Chair
Red Shoes ->
Purple Rain (I figured it would be this but I was hoping for Purple Haze)
The Other Side of Summer
Chelsea (spun)
This Wheel’s On Fire ->  (spun)
River In Reverse
Monkey To Man (spun)
Counting Darkness
Harry Worth (spun)
Alison (spun)->
Wind Cried Mary->
Somewhere Over the Rainbow ->
Somewhere ->

Encore 1:
A Slow Drag With Josephine
Jimmie Standing In The Rain
Pump It Up ->
[Girl Jackpot  (spun)]
This Year’s Girl
Doll Revolution

Encore 2:
You Belong To Me
Next Time Around
Peace Love And Understanding

Elvis Cotello , guitar
Steve Nieve, keyboards
Pete Thomas, drummer
Davey Faragher, bass

Bob Weir and the Marin Symphony
Marin Veteran’s Auditorium, San Rafael, CA

The short version, I was underwhelmed. That said, they closed with a spectacularly beautiful rendition of Attics that was worth every bit of the ticket price.

Bob Weir and the Marin Symphony

Bob Weir and the Marin Symphony

The long version. My main complaint was that including the Marin Symphony really added nothing interesting. I was expecting something similar to the surviving GD member’s performance as part of Michael Tilson Thomas’s Maverick series a couple years after Jerry’s death or the work he did with Metallica (that I’m still kicking myself for skipping). Sadly it was just a generic reworking of GD tunes. Granted, rearranging them for a symphony is probably interesting if one is into and understands musical theory but I was hoping for something more unique. I don’t mean to give the impression this was a Fiedleresq abomination (sadly, as I kid actually bought one of the worst examples of this) but there just wasn’t anything special about it either.

The first set was Bobby, Rob Wasserman, Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane, Robin Sylvester, and about a dozen members of the symphony. And that was the problem: this was essentially a Ratdog show with a backup symphony. It was fun watching the symphony members stand up for brief solos because you could many were uncomfortable soloing like that. It was even more fun watching their sheepish grins because they didn’t know how to respond to when the audience applauded after each solo like it was a jazz or bluegrass show. For me, the only part that came close to working was the Let It Grow -> Bird Song -> Cassidy that ended the set.

Second set was a bit more interesting because they brought out the full symphony but the songs were still dominated by the Rat Dog contingent. It was nice to see Bobby sit down a few times during Dark Star and just let the symphony play.

The Ripple and Attics encores, however, were amazing. It was great fun listening to truly professional singers perfectly nail the harmonies.

Set List:
Bird Song ->
Row Jimmy Row
West LA Fadeaway
Looose Lucy
Friend Of The Devil
Let It Grow ->
Bird Song ->

Playin’ In The Band ->
Uncle John’s Band ->
Dark Star (1st verse) ->
Jack Straw
Days Between
Dark Star (2nd verse) ->
Uncle John’s Band (very short) ->
Playin’ In The Band

E: One More Saturday Night
Attics Of My Life (a capella)

Bob Weir – Guitar, vocals
Jeff Chimenti – Keyboards,
Pat Klobas – Bass
Rob Wasserman – Bass
Robin Sylvester – Bass
Jay Lane – Drums
Marin Symphony – Playing that symphony thing

Fleet Foxes ~ 05/05/2011

Posted: May 10, 2011 in Folk, Fox Theater, Review
Fleet Foxes
Fox Theatre, Oakland CA
I’ve only seen them once before at the Bridge School Benefit the year before last. I really enjoyed them in the festival format but I don’t think they held up as a stand-alone act. They are quite talented musicians and I especially liked their pieces with complex harmonies but after about an… hour I got a feeling of sameness to a lot of their music. That said, I had a great time.
Fleet Floxes at the Fox Theater

Fleet Floxes at the Fox Theater

Set List (stolen from the interwebs):
The Cascades
Grown Ocean
Drops In The River
Battery Kinzie
Bedouin Dress
Sim Sala Bim
Your Protector
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
White Winter Hymnal
Ragged Wood
He Doesn’t Know Why
The Shrine/An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail
Blue Ridge Mountains
Silver Dagger (Joan Baez cover) (Robin solo)
Helplessness Blues

Robert Plant
MerleFest Day 4, Wilkesboro, NC

Robert Plant at MerleFest.

Robert Plant at MerleFest. Click for more photos.

It was bit of a culture clash seeing the LZ front man at MerleFest which is 100% alcohol- and tobacco-free and where church groups provide security. The lack of pot smoke wasn’t the only difference between this show and the one we saw a week early at The Greek.

In Berkeley, the crowd got up for all the LZ tunes and sat through everything else. At MerleFest, the audience sits politely through most everything but they did jump up and give a standing ovation to MerleFest regular Darrell Scott after his rendition of Porter Wagoner’s Satisfied Mind. This was the first time the audience got on their feet and Plant looked a bit annoyed. At this point he seem to make the spontaneous decision to go into Misty Mountain Hop rather than Uncle Tupelo ‘s Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down which usually comes next on the set list just to remind the audience that he too could get them on their feet.  He was only moderately successful and the only time he was really able to get the polite MF crowd on their feet was with the set closer of Ramble On.

The set list was quite similar to the Greek show other than they dropped Tangerine and the shortened the encore block. He continued the tradition of locally-themed encores by covering Doc and Rosalee Watson’s Oh My Darlin.

Set List:
Black Dog
Down to the Sea
Angel Dance
Black Country Woman
House of Cards
Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go (Buddy Miller)
Satisfied Mind (Darrell Scott)
Misty Mountain Hop
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Tracks of My Tears (Patty Griffin)
In the Mood
Please Read the Letter
Houses of the Holy
Ramble On

Oh My Darlin’

Line up:
Robert Plant – vocals
Patty Griffin – vocals and some guitar
Buddy Miller – guitar
Darrel Scott – guitar and just about everything else
Byron House – bass
Marco Giovino – drums

The Wayback’s
MerleFest Day
Wilkesboro, NC

Joan Osborne performs with The Waybacks for the MerleFest Hillside Album Hour

Joan Osborne performs with The Waybacks for the MerleFest Hillside Album Hour. Click for more photos.

This year The Waybacks selected Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers Band. They were also joined by The Waylin’ Jennys.

Previous years have been: Led Zeppelin II, Sticky Fingers, and Abby Road.

Lost Bayou Ramblers
Wilkesboro, NC

Lost Bayou Ramblers at MerleFest

Lost Bayou Ramblers at MerleFest. Click for more pictures.

One of the things I like most about going to MerleFest is I almost always discover great bands. I’d never heard of the Lost Bayou Ramblers but they are a Grammy-nominated Cajun band that has been around for a dozen plus years. In short, they reminded me of the Cajun version of the Knitters.

Plus, how can you not like band with a guy who can play upright bass while standing on it