What a weekend it was! Starting with a Friday night at Oakland’s Fox Theatre, then Saturday at The Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz, then out to the Performing Arts Center in Grass Valley, the Greeneheads were happily gobbling up each and every note. I hit two, Oakland and Santa Cruz, which only made me yearn to head out to the Valley, where the grass is as green as Ireland in the spring and the pretty yellow clover flowers are all a bloom.
I actually saw the SLO Brew show back in late February. When free comes your way, you have to take it. It was a long ride, but worth it as I was introduced to new music from a band out of the Santa Cruz Mountains called, The Coffis Brothers & The Mountain Men. I had not heard much of them, and (shame on me) I walked in a bit late so I missed some. But, with the first song I caught, I immediately went back to my car to get my gear to be sure to get a few snaps off of these guys. MEMORABLE is going easy on this description. Not including many pics from SLO Brew, just because horrible lighting makes for grainy shots. But, I digress…….
Since I’m going to try and include all three shows I attended, and by doing that this could be one long review……. I am going to include snippets from each. So, in the immortal words of School House Rocks and Bob Dorough, three is a magic number, yes it is, it’s a magic number. Somewhere in the ancient mystic trinity, you get three, it’s a magic number. So, with that idea, I got three things about each show, three magical things:
First magical thing about SLO Brew? The rainbows that followed me all the way to San Luis Obispo. I wasn’t planning on this show, but got gifted a ticket and a place to lay my head, so I decided to make the trip. It was raining on and off the entire ride down, but the storm clouds were moving and breaking, which enabled the sun to touch the rain drops just so perfectly to project that colorful splash across the sky. The second magical thing? Like I said, getting introduced to the music of The Coffis Brothers & The Mountain Men. This was the opening band, of which, sadly, I did miss most of their set, BUT, caught just enough to know that I should catch their whole set when they open for Jackie in Santa Cruz, so more on them later. The third magical thing about the SLO Brew show – maybe the mood of the band, knowing they were “back”, energized and ready for a spring tour. The crowd was feeling it, excited to have the scene back, the music back, the band back. There is something different, though, and it is a good different. The music sounds a little more volatile or daring, or maybe just more determined to set you on fire. Oh, and that “Five Long Years”…… I tell you what, next time she gonna get two jobs and she gonna bring home all the dough. Uh-huh. A song not written down on their prepared setlist, but was one of my requests when asked what should one play at a southern CA club, so I was as pleased as puddin’. This is not an original by Jackie, but maybe, just maybe it was penned a long time ago for him, but we didn’t know it until he sang it. Oh, and can’t get enough of “Spooky Tina” and her little sister Sandy, who sticks to boys like candy, you know, John, Jeff and Randy, they all want sister Sandy – the line when Jackie says, “shake around my tree you know I like it!” and the way Nathan tears it on down the neck of the guitar just makes me want to scream or swear or run with scissors or something else crazy my Mom told me not to do. Oh, and the giggle during, “Tell Me Mama”… OK, OK, that was more than three things, but I can’t help it…
SLO Brew, San Luis Obispo, February 28 – I Don’t Live in a Dream, I’m So Gone, A Moment of Temporary Color, Spooky Tina, Bertha, Uphill Mountain, Five Long Years, Shaken, So Hard to Find My Way, Tell Me Mama, Mexican Girl, Walking Away, Like a Ball and Chain, E. Till The Light Comes
On to my three magical things about the Fox…… I tell you what; one of them was NOT the way the VIP thang was handled. But, that is not fodder for this space, and I’m sure, well, I know for sure that Mr. Greene’s crew made it all better. So, my first magical thing about the Fox show was the set from The Mother Hips. Something said for what effect this band’s energy might have on the Jackie Greene Band. To me, the energy that night at the Fox was raw. There was a way that things were played, maybe a bit different with Adam MacDougall on the keys (whoops! Jumping ahead to my next favorite thing!!!). The Mother Hips always give good rock and soul, from the first chord all the way to the last. And that second encore, when Jackie invites the entire band to join his band for, “White Headphones”. We even got dual drums on that one, as they push out a second drum kit for Zach. The Hips played for about an hour, deeply warming up the crowd after the 30-or-so minute set from The Tumbleweed Wanderers, a young and rowdy Bay Area band (of which I have no set list and very few shots, as I was busy having a glass of birthday wine with a dear, close friend, so, I arrived a tad tardy).
The Hips can get right deep into the groove of your bones real fast, they have an energy, a powerful force they emit from the stage, with every note, you can see it in their faces, they just love the purity of rock and roll, with a little blend of their California soul. Their newest and eighth release, Behind Beyond came out in July 2013 and was snapped up fast by loyal fans. Go get it, ya just might like it! I think my favorite Hips stuff is “Third Floor Story”, with a slower, stickier beat, but still holds onto that heavy groove in your feet. Tim on lead vocal, “God dam (yeah!) you neighbor man (yeah!)!” with Greg and Scott shouting out in between Tim’s lines. “you’re knockin’ on my roof (yeah!) with a broomstick in your hand. You lazy punk (yeah!), I said you gotta wake up (yeah!) at 6am (yeah!),?well don’t you know I don’t take my rest ’til then, sometimes.?I have to do you in?….” You can feel the energy in the room change, like there is a gravitational pull between the band and the audience in each verse, getting louder and stronger with every exchange. The heavy scrape to the guitar, thunderous beat, the way they command the song and the stage…… and the audience lets go. And I thought the crowd ate up the first few songs! Well, they feasted on this one. Ending their set with, “Stoned up the Road”, I think this has been one of my favorite Hips tunes since first I heard them play. There are only two verses (wait, three if you count the one they repeat) and lasts a short few minutes, but its got a heavy rock sound, a determined beat, kind of – in your face, see ya, I’m outta here, guess I’m getting’ “stoned on up the road!” The simplicity in the lyrics complicated by the incredible craziness in the way these fellas can lay down those shredding jams, and lay ’em down hard. They can give you some funky rock in that California soul – no holding back with this band.
My second magical thing was in Adam MacDougall. I was so giddy when I found out he would join the band for a few gigs. Love this guy’s style, his groove, his wizardry makes for some magic on stage for sure. When I try to describe this guy, I usually tell people that he makes my ears giggle. My friend once said that he makes her feel like she is bouncing around inside a video game; jumping from one sound to another, lightly, freely, gleefully, like a happy bouncing ball. The addition of all the extra sounds and noises he conjures up, tweaked each song a little more towards the psychedelic jam.
My third magical thing about that show at the Fox Theater was that acoustic interlude. Mid-set, we see some movement out of stage left (band’s stage right), as they wheel out a different drum kit and bring out a few stools. Hum…. Jackie says, “We’re gonna do a little thing here just for a few songs. A little acoustic thing for ya; invite you in, to get intimate….” and they quietly spoon feed us just a small handful of acoustic sweetness. I hope this breakdown remains a special part of many shows in the future, because as we know, playing a song with acoustic love changes every inclination, makes it that much more special. Of that interlude, my heart leaped and skipped a beat when I realized they were moving into, “Prayer for Spanish Harlem”, but what really shined was “Captain’s Daughter” – there is a way that they electrified us with this one; the passion behind the voice combined with the soul in the guitar… Must be that. Or, maybe it is because it has not yet been [studio] recorded so when we do get to hear it live, we know it is special.
Fox Theater, Oakland, March 21 – The Mother Hips: Smoke?, White Falcon Fuzz, Time-Sick Son of a Grizzly Bear, Third Floor Story, Freed From A Prison, Toughie, Young Charles Ives, Rose of Rainbows, Space>?Magazine, Jefferson Army, Rich Little Girl, Stoned Up The Road
Jackie Greene Band: Gone Wandering, Uphill Mountain (this song evokes memories of my Mom who left my world just over two years ago, and I felt like Greene knew it. OK, OK, I know he didn’t really, but, for some reason, he kept looking down at me during this song. Maybe he realized I was singing along, not really taking pictures like the other six or seven HUNDRED photographers who were merely in my way, in my pit, at my show… OK, OK, there weren’t that many but there were times, in the good old days, when maybe it was just me… or just two or three of us… not this whole kaleidescope of camera lenses pointing up at the stage.), I’m So Gone (with its HUGE ending), A Moment of Temporary Color, Medicine, Till the Light Comes (just a note about this one, love this song how it is ¾ funky rock and roll and 1/3 beautiful ballad, but you have to wait for it, but when it comes, when the light is seen at the end of the tunnel, when the harmonies wash over you and Adam’s beautiful softly played baby grand up on the big stage, Jackie’s slide sings to you, tugging at the strings of your soul, asking to get closer. It is an unavoidable destiny that you are taken away by a delicate moment in this song, to a beautiful space and time, warm and inviting, soulful and serene. Enjoy every moment, until the light comes.), *Cell Block #9, *Captain’s Daughter, *Another Love Gone Bad, *Prayer for Spanish Harlem (Can we all say, rarely played so be quiet!!! I run down from the balcony to get a closer listen to the beauty of the acoustic presentation, and end up right next to a cackle of drunk girls. Oh Lord, please shut them up. My Prayer was unanswered so I moved to a new location in Oakland, I mean, Spanish Harlem.), So Hard to Find My Way, Shaken, Tell Me Mama, Animal, New Speedway Boogie E1. What’s Going On, E2. White Headphones w/The Mother Hips *acoustic
(How noticeable is it that I slipped in more “magical things”? Yeah, well, rules are meant for breaking.)
And, now, for my three magical things about the Catalyst Club. I will not say that the driving distance from my house to that Club is magical, even though compared to, say, The Fox or SLO Brew, it is 1/3 the driving time so it is magical, I will not waste one of my three things on that. However, maybe it is tied to the first magical thing because being so close to the venue, I got rock star parking and made it in for the entire set of the opening band. So, my first magical thing? Getting to the venue early enough to see the entire set from local Santa Cruz boys, The Coffis Brothers & The Mountain Men. Playing for just about an hour or so, definitely got the crowd warmed up and ready for the night. Easily danceable, there is a sound to Kellen’s voice that reminds me of Lucas Nelson (Willie’s boy) and a americana feel behind the stories they evoke. Influenced by music from another time, such as Tom Petty, Neil Young or The Band, they take to the stage as if they’ve played to crowds for decades. The lead vocals are shared between Kellen and Jamie, who also supports their sound on keys. I really liked their groove, especially the little swagger and sway they put into “Give it to Me”. Maybe it’s because I can get a little pushy sometimes too. They have a second album out, Wrong Side of the Road, has 13 originals to keep your ears and feet happy. They also did a more than respectable nod to one of their musical heroes, when they moved very sweetly and pretty seamlessly between their original, “Love of Mine” and The Beatles’ “Golden Slumber”. I could see the serenity on the faces in the crowd. And, we’ve all heard it said before, there is nothing quite like the way two siblings can harmonize; there is a definite distinction between the two, but it’s like they were made to be blended together. Well, and with Kyle’s skills on the guitar, it seems like they are just getting started on their road to many more musical highs.
My second magical thing about the Santa Cruz gig was that it WASN’T an all ages show (sorry to the under 21, but when they do that, it just messes up the flow of the room and feel of the place). While it means some can’t enjoy what others can, it also means there is a looser feel to the night, no worries about watching what we say, just like rock and roll should be (like having to change one or two of the lyrics to, say, “Spooky Tina” as they did when played the next night at the Paradise Performing Arts Center because there were some kids in the crowd).
My third magical thing, well, I must mention the new song. “Back to Birth”. Played as the encore, it allowed the crowd to settle down before heading off into the lateness of the night. Maybe we rolled smoothly out to the street, and strolled happily to our cars instead of rocking and stomping down Pacific Ave. I am not going to make any guesses as to the meaning behind this song, when or why it was written. But, there is a full-circle feel, melancholy, coming back to something, coming back to what it is really all about – love, family, kindness, living a good, simple life, and passing that idea on down.
As I mentioned earlier, rules are meant to be broken. I could have simply switched out one of my three magical things and been done with it. But, that is not how I roll. I’m gonna have a fourth here and can’t help it. That 15-minute “Shakedown Street” – can you say disco bus!!! A total 70’s feel to it, the way Jackie was funkin out the rhythm and Adam bouncin on the keys – and Nathan’s guitar, weaving in between them, dancing with you around the Club. There was not ONE person in the crowd who could have possibly sat still for that one. Nope. Not possible. And, just a few “holy shits” for that “Like a Ball and Chain” – I got three magical words for that song, and it was written all over the stage; In-your-face. And, I will stop here, I won’t include anything on that fifth magical moment with “1961”.
The Catalyst Club, Santa Cruz, March 22 – The Coffis Brothers & The Mountain Men: Waiting for You, I’d Do Anything, Give it to Me, Love of Mine> Golden Slumber> Love of Mine, Trouble Town, Gonna Find You, Wrong Side, Gimme More, I Ain’t Leavin’
Jackie Greene Band: I Don’t Live in a Dream, Farewell, So Long, Goodbye, I’m So Gone, A Moment of Temporary Color, Spooky Tina, Shakedown Street> Another Brick in the Wall Jam> Shakedown Street, 1961, Shaken, So Hard to Find My Way, Hollywood> Tomorrow Never Knows> Taxman> China Cat Sunflower>Tomorrow Never Knows, Like a Ball and Chain E. Back to Birth
In the big picture, in the forrest for the trees, the entire band is rejuvinated. But, in the details, if you look at the forest by studying the trees, you’ll see that the interplay, the energy, the push and pull between Jackie and Nathan has gotten bigger, louder, stronger; it is reaching a space that we haven’t fully explored just yet. Oh, and let’s not forget the other two trees in the forest either. There are times when Jeremy’s bass is a third guitar, not just participating in driving the beat, but in making the song sing in a way it didn’t before. Seeing the way Zach has changed his playing, not just hearing it but seeing it; the way he studies what everyone else is doing in the song, so he can provide the train a smooth track to ride. And, when they do the acoustic stuff, Zach now sticks around and plays with all kinds of cool toys and shakers and sound makers. (Oh, and speaking of Jeremy and Zach, they have a side-project in a band called The Golden Cadillacs, so if you are a Sac Valley music fan, keep your ears open and your dancin’ boots handy.)
And maybe not my favorite part, but shows that this guy, this band has come far in the past few years – the photo pit at The Fox Theater show was filled – I was kind of getting used to just the few of us………..And I know someone who got turned away, so that means there were a lot of photographers and music outlets that wanted a slice of the Jackie key lime Greene pie. [OK, maybe that connection was far, but lime is green, key lime is green, key lime pie is green, and Jackie is Greene.]
Please note, per the title up there, yes, the Jackie Greene Band has recently announced some dates for you East-coasters. And, get ready for this – for some of these shows, the Rich Robinson Band will also share the bill! Rich released a new CD just shortly after The Black Crowes polished off their “Lay Down with No. 13” tour, and it is good. Wait, that just seems like an easy way out. Let me rephrase this…….. You know what, nope, go listen to it yourself, with open ears, an open mind, and an open soul. Here’s a link, now go use it. http://richrobinson.net
And, here’s another link you should use – Jackie’s tour schedule, including those with Rich Robinson. I see plenty of shows through June to choose from, so no excuses! http://www.jackiegreene.com/tour/
Really, though, the rainbow colored sprinkles on the chocolate covered waffle cone (I could eat one of those with no ice cream and it would still be awesome) were getting to hang with all my JG peeps. You guys are da best. I missed sharing musical bliss with you dearly.