Author: Elizabeth Bayne

7 Walkers Friday, Sept. 2, 2011 at the City Winery in NYC

The eponymous 7 Walkers album has been in constant rotation in my car stereo this summer (my iPod recently took a suicide dive at the gym, unfortunately for me… and my iPod).  The album has the perfect summertime down-South kind of feel.  Not only does it make me feel like I could be driving down to the bayou in Louisiana instead of the beach in New England, but I find every song to be endlessly interesting.  There’s always something more subtle to notice about a track, or a new lyric that speaks to me. Each song is distinctive enough to appreciate but each contains the same Southern sparkle.

Even in grey downtown NYC last Friday, the 7 Walkers were able to channel that Summertime sunshine.

The cool thing about the City Winery is that it’s a restaurant and bar, too.  I arrived an hour before the show and dined on crispy chicken and grilled cactus (!).

When the band came out, they began with a warmup jam, creating space and mood for their music to flow.  After a few minutes, they sidled into the classic Grateful Dead tune He’s Gone.  Papa Mali and Matt Hubbard, the keyboard/harmonica/trombone/organist, shared some sweet vocal harmonies during the choruses.

Sue from Bogalusa revved up the slower mood by injecting a youthful energy to the show.  It’s a song about lighthearted puppy love that has a distinct Southern twist.  The driving music is a blend of old time rock’n’roll (think: the Twist) and blues.  Rockin’ guitar and harmonica solos totally brought it home.

The next two songs were covers – the bass player, George Porter Jr., belted the Meters’ I Just Kissed My Baby while Papa Mali artfully copied the funkadelic guitar licks.  Despite sitting on tall, uncomfortable bar stools, we all managed to groove pretty hard to that one.  Bob Dylan’s song Positively 4th Street was especially appropriate when performed so close by to the real thing!  This cover was modeled more after Jerry Garcia’s version than the original.

For those of us who were still in our seats, an energetic I Know You Rider did the trick.  The bluesy Southern twist was played up with a slide guitar and thumping piano accompaniment.

The psychadelic rocker Let the Good Times Roll was led by George Porter Jr. again, while he belted out the soulful verses in true Hendrix style.  The song was expanded with a rhythmically complex drum solo from Billy Kreutzmann.

After we got some good old fashioned covers out of the way, the band returned to some of its own material, including King Cotton Blues.  The music ambled through the winery with its own time and its own agenda – delicate jazzy organ licks layered over Papa Mali’s seasoned voice and the bass strove on to drive the piece.  There are some songs that are way better in concert than on the album, and this is one of them.  Everything seems so much more alive.  (How ironic, then, that the song is about execution?) Matt Hubbard left the organ and pulled out a trombone, which he promptly used to blast the circusy outro, which gives a totally different type of sound from the album’s version of the song.  A treat!

During New Orleans Crawl, a soprano sax player joined the band and gave a solo, which was artfully turned into a duo with Matt Hubbard on the trombone.  It was beginning to look like a regular N’Orleans brass band!  After a few verses that showcased some nice vocal harmony, the guitar, bass, keys, and soprano sax traded solos again.  I like the taste of New Orleans jazz world that the 7 Walkers bring to their shows, especially with this song.  It’s on my bucket list to visit the Southern city one day for its jazz (and food – let’s be honest).

The Grateful Dead tune Love Light ended the set on a high, energetic note.  Bluesy harmonica solos interspersed with verses gave it the 7 Walkers touch.

A long, slow-moving and slightly-jazzy organ solo lead into the encore, 7 Walkers.  Papa Mali sang the tune with some true soul – with a little help from Robert Hunter, the lyricist.  Even after all these years, these lyrics prove that he can still spin magic.

Phish Friday 10 June 2011 @ Camden, NJ

Phish usually stops by Camden to lay down some killer jams and funky grooves.  Last Friday night was, at times, no exception.  The band delivered a stellar first set and finished with a somewhat lackluster second.

The first set opened with Rocky Top, but not before Trey plucked out the Rocky theme song while the others assembled themselves.  Rocky Top is a countrified lamentation of the simple life in a small town in Tennessee, originally from the banjo-slinging, beard-wearing Osborne Brothers.  Surprisingly, this is one of the tunes that has stuck with me since the show – I just can’t get it out of my head.

After Trey’s last wail on Rocky Top, the band switched gears and launched into Mike’s Song.  This was the song when things got serious.  Everything clicked.  Trey’s solos were nicely structured and Page wailed on the organ like it was nobody’s business.  I was surprised at how the Mike’s>Hydrogen>Weekapaug sequence showed up so early in the night, but I was not complaining.  I just hoped it was a harbinger of more good things to come.

When Weekapaug Groove began, it became very clear very fast that we were in Mike’s House, which is part of an ongoing joke from the Makisupa Policeman that happened in Bethel, NY earlier on the tour.  The magic music continued for almost ten minutes – there was no stopping these guys.  Mike’s metallic basslines artfully peeked through exciting guitar solos.  When the words came back, everyone busted a groove and sang along.  It was like we had stepped into the end of an excellent second set.

Stash gracefully let down some of the energy that resonated from Weekapaug.  A dynamic and semi-exploratory jam followed that led us through points of contemplation, exhilaration, and everything in between.  It was definitely a high point of the set.

A short and sweet Tube picked things up and reminded us that we were still invited to Page’s House… and it seemed there was a very funky party going on.

Scent of a Mule continued with the rockabilly theme that began with Rocky Top.  Mike flubbed the lyrics in first verse, but overall it was a good ole’ foot stomper that ended with a jazzy interlude-turned traditional Jewish tune led by Page.  It slowed the tempo down, but not the energy.  Mike (who, as well as Fishman, is Jewish) picked things back up into Mule with a long-winded wail.

Trey butchered the guitar intro of Sloth after a quick Cavern, but once he made it to the verse, things improved.  I had never seen Sloth live before, so it was quite a treat.  Know what was even better?  The Curtain With (which, unbeknownst to me, is actually two songs carefully segued together, sort of like Horse>Silent).

Check out this cool HQ video that Phish released after the show.

The first set of Friday night was shaping up to be the best I had seen or heard (via LivePhish.com) the entire tour.  A cool setlist, high energy, and some hella good jams (I’m lookin’ at you, Stash).  I suspected that if the band was delivering at such a high point in the show already, then the second set would be even better.  That’s the way it usually works, right?

Not so.  The second set, while it had some good moments, turned out to be an utter disappointment.  The energy level took a nosedive right halfway through, right around Golgi Apparatus.  Blame weird placement, blame overkill, hell, blame my personal taste, but from there on in the vibe was killed.  It sounded like they couldn’t decide when to end the set, so they just kept tacking on noncommittal song after song.

I tried to ignore the feeling of déjà vu that I faced when the band opened the set with Down With Disease and then went into Free.  Both were exciting, but the leftover energy from an awesome first set may have had a hand in that.  It seemed like it was too soon to do another DWD opener – it was Bethel all over again.

I hoped that Possum would save this setlist faux pas by injecting some novelty and continue the fun of the first set.  Combined with Big Black Furry Creature From Mars (which I had never seen in its entirety at a show), I had hope.  Halfway through the song, Mike sat down with his bass onstage and finished the song from there.  (Do I hear another Rocky theme tease at 1:15?)  Trey adjusted his microphone way above his head and sang the rest of the song looking up.

Swept Away slowed things down and allowed the band to tone down the goof.  A meaty David Bowie (and another Bethel repeat) was a welcome addition to the set list.

When Golgi hit, it was time for a bathroom break.  When Fluffhead began, I stood at the side of the lawn and chatted with friends.  When Joy closed the set, I was bewildered.  Joy?  I thought shows were supposed to build energy to the end of each set and leave the audience blown away and wanting more.  I usually complain when Joy is thrown into the second set because it’s a buzz kill.  Ending the set on Joy was really, really lame.  Perhaps they did it for shock value, perhaps for novelty.  Either way, it shouldn’t have closed the second set.

When they started the Hendrix song Bold as Love as the encore, there was no saving the vibe for me.  The show wasn’t over, but I was over it.  I guess the reason I was so disappointed with the song selection in the second set is because the first set blew me away.  Sometimes I guess it’s too much to ask for everything.

The McLovins 01/29/11: Iron Horse – Northampton, MA

Last Saturday The McLovins reined the Iron Horse with a ferocious gait.  They began with a quirky intro jam that smoothly turned into Caravan – it was fast-paced; it was funktastic.  The intensity gave way to a quick reprise and a solid ending.

Jeff led the group into Tokyo Tea, an intricate tune with serious face-melting abilities.  I’ve gotta hand it to these guys – they don’t save the best for last.

The fairly new (and very catchy) Cohesive and Milktoast Man worked nicely as a change of pace from the intense, energetic introduction.  The Adagio, if you will.

Then came what seemed like a blast from the past: Killing Time, YEM, and Guillotine Machine were served up in a row.  Waiter, can I get salt with that?

The second set opened with a badass Beadhead Crystal Bugger.  Shouts of recognition (and, of course, approval) began with the opening licks to Deep Monster Trance, probably the most complex and interesting song in their repetoire.  Jeff never fails to weave well-known riffs into the opening ambient jam.  The party really gets going, though, with a sudden pickup of the beat.  The crowd was into it!

I thought the remarkable thing about the middle jam was the way it led us up and gracefully brought us back down.  There was an incredible amount of energy in the house – and the boys harnessed it, controlled it, and gently let it disseminate into what I dub the Starry Night Jam.  A bit jazzy, a bit lento, and a whole lotta beautiful.

First YEM and then YYZ – Phish?  Rush?  Are we on a theme tonight?  Apparently so.

Break on Through was my favorite cover of the night.  I think The Doors needed a little bit more love, and the McLovins had some to give.  But seriously, this fun, high-energy tribute is always appreciated here at Elizabeth Incorporated.

The jazzy Conundrum and a fun Hell Yeah left the audience shouting for one more – or two, if the band was willing to oblige.  And did they oblige.  We got a tasty Virtual Circle.  It had the crowd dancing – in circles.  Or was that just me?

Overall, the night was dark, the stars were bright, and the wind just a little too cold.  Click the link to listen to the show for yourself at Archive.org.

Check out more McLovinsanity on my YouTube channel and TheMcLovins.com.

Here’s to an even more incredible 2011!

Elizabeth

Phish at Madison Square Garden 1.1.11

Generally, I have found that shows will crescendo in energy level and song selection throughout the first set to set things up for a stellar second set.  I’ve really gotta hand it to these guys: Phish did not fall privy to such an archetype for their first show of the year.  The pleasure plateau sustained and remained, if you will.

My Soul set the tone for a rockin’ start to the evening, while Tube provided a healthy dose of funk before a clean departure and rebound into the rock vibe.  A meaty Runaway Jim followed.

Mike laid the bass line down thick for the opening of Foam, as to illustrate the properties of the opaque (and apparently overwhelming) substance.  I love this tune because it’s almost erratic while it maintains a sense of cohesiveness.  Parts sound like a demented Latin groove.  Parts sound like an updated jazz standard while Page hoofs it on the keys.  And sometimes parts just sound like Phish.

Any way, I dig it.

And apparently the crowd did too.  The ground was absolutely shaking after it had ended – a sweet reminder that we were more than five stories off the ground.  Thanks for bringing me back to reality by scaring the shit out of me, MSG.

But it’s cool.  Guelah Papyrus helped me get through it.  The catchy fan-favorite went into a quirky, nonsensical jam and ended on an upbeat, followed by silence – well, would-be silence if the crowd hadn’t gone hog-wild.  Trey began the chorus once more and pulled it all together just in time for one of my personal highlights of the first set: Divided Sky.

Except for the long pause before the closing of the main phrase, the entire thing was sublime.  But I must pick the bone with this one: the pause is positively too long.  I understand and appreciate the artistic desicion to use a pause in the music, but leaving us hanging for a minute or more?  I’d rather not.

I like my melodies just as I like my 80’s pop: straight up.

In the name of Paula Abdul and all things holy, let’s just get on with our lives.

Anway, the lullaby segment continued softly, purely, sweetly, until Page broke in with an insistent key change that gave way to a rippin’ solo.

Round Room broke out of its 2003 capsule and paid tribute MSG’s oval shape and the Eagles made a guest appearance through an incredible Walk Away.  It was high energy, an engaging solo, and totally authentic-sounding.  I’ll bite.

A thunderous Reba and Walls of the Cave closed the first set with little shenanigans involved (well, on the band’s part).

Crosseyed & Painless opened the second set, and man, did it rock.  I recently just got over listening (and re-listening) to the Coral Sky release, but now it seems I’m back where I started.

Not only is this song fast-paced and fun, but it’s by one of my (other) favorite bands. If there’s a match made in heaven, it’s Phish and the Talking Heads (sorry, Little Feat).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OENhG30tqOA&feature=player_embedded

Simple morphed into a light, ambient jam as if to say: and now for something completely different! For a while I was thinking maybe there would be a segue into Piper, but to no avail.  I’m pretty sure no one really knew what was going on, but I’m also pretty sure no one cared.  The sound was rich and new and beautiful.  Does anything else matter?

Next came Makisupa Policeman, a tune that seemed to hit home with quite a few members of the crowd.  I love how Trey always seems to come up with entertaining new lyrics (this time’s?  Went home late last night after doing the New Year’s stunt/Laid back on my couch and I rolled myself a bl– well, you know).  The audience collectively lolled.  It was marvelous.

Suddenly, the fast-paced tapping of a certain cymbal emerged through the murk – which meant David Bowie was about to go down.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-u2IT9kOgw&feature=player_embedded

And it was a great one.

After a truly unremarkable Fee, Page whipped out a keytar and decided it was time to rock.  It was Frankenstien that resonated with me for the rest of the night (maybe cause I couldn’t get over the keytar?).  The energy that had been displaced by an out-of-the-blue Fee reappeared, and everyone went home happy.

Love,

Elizabeth

(Photo and video credits go to mkdevo, Dave Bayne & Dave Vann.)

Phish at Madison Square Garden 12/30/10

Last night began with a feeling of foreboding as the stereo system buzzed, popped, and crackled ten minutes before the band went on stage.  With luck on our side, however, the set began without trouble.  In fact, it wasn’t until Camel Walk that there was a problem… but that’s a story for later.

Things kicked off with a nice bouncy Cities – appropriate for the fact that we were in the Big Apple!  The Chalkdust Torture that followed brimmed with energy, as did Gumbo.  I always love it when Page takes that sweet solo towards the end, lending an authentic ragtime feel to the music.  I have a suspicion that the boys were warming up their Creole chops for the dose of Little Feat that they delivered later in the set.

It was during Camel Walk that things got interesting.  The sound fizzed out for maybe a minute at the end of the jam section.  Trey and Mike looked at each other and kept on going, despite the fact that only those within a thirty-foot radius could hear them well.

But you know how people always tend to come together in the worst of times?  This was one of them.  When the time came for the end chorus, the band was joined with a resounding “Camel walk!” from the crowd.  Phamily phorever?  I think so.

While not my favorite Trey song (Mr. Completely, anyone?), Driver cooled things down with some soft bouncy sound after a meaty Maze.  A notable Bathtub Gin followed (made so mostly by Page’s excellent intro); the jam picked up intensity as time passed, leaving us with enough to get really excited for Fat Man in the Bathtub.  I mean, really excited.

I’m so glad I brushed up on my Little Feat this fall in preparation for hearing the Halloween show.  Not only did I realize that I actually really like their music (even though I’ve seen them live three times and they never grab me), I also realized that I really like it when Phish does their stuff.  I mean, really like it.

After a hot Golgi Apparatus came a Character Zero that couldn’t be beat.  Although I genuinely like the song, I think there’s not much to it – rather, not as much to it as some of their other tunes (read: YEM, Tweezer, Ghost).  I found myself lost in the jam just as much as anything else – and that’s always a good thing.

A transcendental Tweezer kicked off the second set.  This morning I was surprised to see on LivePhish that it was almost nineteen minutes long – it should have been longer!  The jam crept to a really interesting and different place, fueled by some offbeat rhythmic stuff that morphed the sound.

Tweezer also means the promise of a Reprise, which always makes me excited.

My Friend My Friend was short and sweet; everything was on, made apparent by the agile segue into Axilla I.  I really dig some of the darker Phish tunes (Carini, Guyute, Ester), and MFMF is one of them.

Fluffhead came next, and while well-executed in every way, I seemed to fade during the tune.  I used to get really excited when they played it, but I suppose all the sharply calibrated orchestration gets old after a while.

And then came The Funk.  The band began with a sweet Boogie on Reggae Woman which riled up the crowd… in a good way.  During the jam, Trey laid a non-diatonic chord on top of everything else, and the rest of the band slowly adjusted their way around it.  It’s always cool to see how they can react to each other’s moves.

After a slow segue into 2001 (which, apparently, was originally called Also Sprach Zarathustra; I guess 2001 is easier to pronounce.  But I digress…), things got funky.  Mike was jamming on those basslines and Page ever so gently rocked the organ.

Suzy Greenberg brought the rock and roll kind of energy back to the night which very nicely transformed into a steaming Antelope.  Hungry, anyone?

Tweezer Reprise was a stellar way to end the night by bringing back the memory of the even more stellar Tweezer that I had enjoyed so thoroughly.

Night one of my New Year’s run is over.  Next up?  Instead of ringing in 2011, I’ll be stepping back in time tonight to 1976 to hear the Grateful Dead do Cow Palace, courtesy of Dark Star Orchestra.  1/1/11 will bring me back to MSG for another night of Phish – the only way to start the new year off right!

Don’t let the security guard take your sandwich,

Elizabeth

Best Coast 19 November 2010 in Northampton, Massachusetts

Last night the Californian surf rock trio Best Coast transported us to the land of sunny shores and lazy days.  Everyone was grooving to the high-energy tunes and having a grand old time.

The band played a solid fifty-minute set, comprised of lots of short-lived tunes and an encore.  Each song seemed like a total tease – maybe they wanted to give us a sampler of what they had to offer or maybe… they’re just not Phish.  I guess jam bands have spoiled me.

Each song ended somewhat abruptly, sort on on an upbeat that you didn’t expect.  It was kind of awkward, but kind of cool.  After a while the songs blended together for me into one big fast-paced, guitar-laden mess.  A hot mess, I might add.

Here’s a taste of their sound:

The Sun Was High (So Was I) – Best Coast

There was more of a sweetheart feel to Bethany’s voice than I had expected – after listening to lots of their studio-recorded stuff, I remembered how crazy it is to expect the same onstage.  But what we got was better: I loved her rounded tones and sixties mod vibe.

(And I loved her pants!)

Her lyrics are heartfelt and occasionally touching, with lots of oohs over her gritty guitar interspersed.  There may not be too much substance to the stuff, but it’s definitely catchy.

Boyfriend – Best Coast

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Elizabeth

PS – Check out Best Coast’s MySpace page here.

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