It has been nine long months since west coast Greene fans had seen him perform. Well, aside from a quick appearance in March at Terrapin Crossroads, Phil Lesh’s place up in Mill Valley, and then in May at the Hipnic Festival in Big Sur (been happening for the past five or so years on an early May weekend, thanks to The Mother Hips), there had been no Jackie Greene shows since the three-day run at the Sweetwater Music Hall in January. Greene had accepted a spot with The Black Crowes for their “Lay Down with Number 13” tour, which will last through early December of this year. Fans that were used to getting to see this guy and his band once a month, on average, so nothing for months was a killer. Well, for those who flew east for appearances at Mountain Jam or to try and catch a few Black Crowes shows if you could find one that wasn’t sold out, was pretty much it. Heck, The Black Crowes hadn’t even scheduled a California show the whole spring tour, except for an appearance at the inaugural Bottle Rock Napa in early May. So, to get two Jackie shows in a row, at two small venues, for two good causes, was a wonderful, um, two-fer.
The weekend started with a sold out show on Saturday in Fairytale Town, a children’s park near the Sacramento zoo. Jackie has done a benefit show here each August for the past five or so years – a fundraiser, all-ages show, sometimes inviting a kid or two up on stage to sing and play along. Throughout “Story Book Park” you will see Mother Goose in her rocking chair, the shoe that the Old Woman lived in, Humpty Dumpty sitting precariously on the gate, the Thomas the Train, and Cindarella’s pumpkin that took her to the dance; there are live animals, two stages, an Alphabet Garden, Mr. McGregor’s Garden (from the Tale of Peter Rabbit), and you might see Paul Bunion hiding in the Sherwood Forest. A great place for kids, young and old. Well, its a better place for the old kids when the stage performance is rockin’ live music! Even though Fairytale Town is a kids park, they do it up nice for the adults, with food and adult beverages, so kids of all ages can have some fun. My only qualm is the number of bathrooms. Not enough. Lines are very slow and long, all night long. The park is small so you can sort-of still hear the music, sort-of is not good enough tho.
[As an aside, for most of us, the night didn’t end at Fairytale Town as we headed over to an after party at a club called Marilyn’s on K to continue the musical adventure with The Golden Cadillacs, Jeremy Plog’s band that also features Jackie’s drummer Zack Bow-chicka-bow-chicka-Bowden on, um, well, drums, who played a set before The Wooden Revolt, which is Nathan Dale’s new band along with Bruce Spencer, Jackie’s former drummer (up to 2010) . If you’ve been to a Jackie Greene show in the past five or so years, you know these fellas. If you’ve heard Jackie’s band play “Grue” or “Way Down”, then you’ve heard the singing and songwriting talents of Nathan Dale. If you’ve heard Jackie’s band funk it up on “Jeremy’s Jam”, then you know where that guy’s musical influences are. If you live in the Sacramento or SF Bay Area, go support them!]
Since the band hasn’t played together since Mountain Jam in June, and before that they hadn’t played since January, the die-hard fans in the crowd must have expected the usuals to be on the set list. Eh, but it had been so long since most of the crowd has heard them live, they all sounded so new, all over again. And it was a nice little “family reunion” for a lot of Northern CA Greene fans who hadn’t seen each other for quite some time. Nice to say hello to friends and the fellas in the band, get a hug in here and there. Well, and, there were a few moments of forgotten words and missed lines, which, if let go, can actually afford an opportunity for a little extended jam-time. Oh yeah.
The vibe at Fairytale Town could be described as nothing less than exciting, buzzing with anticipation, like an intense thirst waiting to be quenched. The show could not start any sooner! The place was packed, right up to the stage. Kids young and old, waiting, waiting, waiting in giddy enthusiasm for the band to hit the stage. Myself included. Opening with “Farewell-So Long-Goodbye”, a rockin’ little tune with a big attitude. Danceable with a swing and bouncing to the blues – well, you did me wrong, lie after lie, so, yeah, farewell then! Second up, “The Ballad of Sleepy John”, a slower, easier song apparently written about a club in Sacramento, CA called the Blue Lamp where Jackie had many late night jam sessions. “Old Kentucky” is a reference to the owner of the club who let Jackie sit in with his band at times. “I stumbled in with my guitar, bought a drink behind the bar, sat in with the band a tune or two. Then I said…..” (or is it “till after 2:00….”?)
I must make mention of the 23 minute solid jam that included “Moment of Temporary Color > New Speedway Boogie > Pretty Jazzy Jam > Georgia > New Speedway Boogie”! What? Now, I’ve heard the blends of “Moment” into “New Speedway” and back again, but tossing in a beautiful jazzy jam that led into a swinging “Georgia” was surprising and delightful and really, a new way of hearing “Georgia” that I’ve not heard before. This song is rarely in the repertoire, so to hear it is a treat, but to hear it this way….. Not sure if this was planned or just felt. I did not see an actual copy of the pre-organized set list, which usually gets changed up anyway, so who knows.
Next up, “So Hard to Find My Way”, “Tell Me Mama”, “Shaken”, and “Till the Light Comes” all which came about again in Paradise, but in different places and with different spaces, showing to different smiling faces! Well, they were more warmed up for the next night’s performance so I personally felt that they were better played the next night. Never opposed to repeats, as long as they change it up a bit. Which they did. And, as per my earlier mention of not enough bathrooms, I was quite bummed to be stuck in line for “Shaken” and “Till the Light Comes”, yep, both songs, in the bathroom line, for 12 long minutes, literally walked back up towards the stage as Jackie was stretching out the last cord. One stall. Hello. Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting so I missed my favorite part of “Till the Light Comes”, which is the last verse …..I could hear it but… for this part of the song, you really have to be close, be at the stage when the song winds down into the sweetness of the harmonies, the breath into the mic, the soul of Nathan and Jackie together “how can i get closer to you? what am i to do? only thing I ask of you. ahhhhhhh, ah-ahhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhh, ah-ahhhhhhhhh, oh-owoah ahhhhhhhhh” as the guitar soars and takes you higher – just perfectly melting over you. Doesn’t get much better. G-dammit. Dude, yo, Fairytale Town, more bathrooms, and more than one stall, pu-leeze. Thanks.
My next mention is simply one of my favorite Jackie Greene songs and one of my favorite performances from both nights, “Never Satisfied”. Extra special is we see a guest keyboardist and often band-mate, one Mr. Steve Taylor take to the stage. This gives an opportunity for Greene to pick up the acoustic guitar that blends so well with Nathan’s electric on this particular one. I just love this song; it’s so sweet, so warm, so soothing, the way Jackie’s voice and guitar match the emotion the song makes you feel. “To you I’ll send a dozen roses from every town that I been in, and as long as leaves ain’t fallin, you’ll know the shape that I’ve been in.” This is one of the first songs that Jackie wrote, at a time when he was listening to Tom Waits quite a bit, so says his song book. I can hear the rolling feeling to the bass and drums from Jeremy and Zach, the deepness to Jackie’s voice, I can sense the soul of the way Nathan’s guitar tugs at you, definitely channeling the way Waits writes, indeed. Goosebumps I got, yup.
First encore was a surprise for the crowd. Inviting Adam Wade and Nick Swimley to the stage, fellow Golden Cadillacs bandmates of Jeremey’s, you could hear people trying to figure out what song it was during the intro. You could tell it was on the tip of everyone’s tongue until Adam starts in with the first verse, “Well, they call me the breeze….” There’s a little thang with Jackie and Jeremy. I may have mentioned this in a prior review. I guess, so I’m told, Jeremy gets to pick one Lynyrd Skynyrd song per tour. Well, this was quite a short “tour” with only two shows so, nice to toss one to Jeremy and the boyz. And yeah, they totally funked up this country-fried song in their own Golden Caddy kinda way.
The drive up to Paradise on a Sunday afternoon was slightly familiar as I had done the exact same trip last year. As mentioned earlier, Jackie has done benefit shows for both places in the past. The Paradise Performing Arts Center show was a benefit for a local community radio station, 90.1 FM/KZFR radio, in Chico. Unlike the sold-out Fairytale show, there were still a handful of tickets left to be had for a night in Paradise. Arriving at the hotel, the receptionist was curious as to the number of guests checking in on a Sunday. “For the show at the Performing Arts Center”, I inform. She had heard of Jackie Greene but was not familiar with his music. “Google him, I’m sure you’ll find a video you can watch,” I suggest. As we left the hotel for the show, she mentioned she did look him up and then asked what time the show was set to start and end. I wonder if she did go or not, I forgot to look around the crowd for her familiar face.
We had a hint as to the mood of the evening from the get-go. Fun with two “F’s” for friggin’-fun! The MC had been telling the crowd about the radio station, the benefit and raffle, and says, “We’ll be back in a few minutes with Jackie Greene” having us all believe we had time before the show started. But, the fellas were ready to play, sneaking out on stage right just – so much we didn’t notice until Jackie himself begins to clap his own introduction – and here we go! Opening with, “I Don’t Live in a Dream”, its that easy beat that the crowd starts to clap to. Jackie says, “it’s almost time” and gets a good laugh from the fans. The song starts with just Jackie on his acoustic, strumming steadily, until Zack and Jeremy hit the bottom after the first verse. This song makes you feel like you are in a dream state, somewhere walking the earth, yet the lyrics are about facing reality, looking at those around you and thinking they are no different. Same struggles, same giggles, just a different life. My favorite line seems to fit, no matter who is in charge. “I don’t believe in politicians. I don’t live in a dream.”
Must say, “Medicine” was all Nathan Dale. I was right down in front and, when he starts in behind Jackie with the insanely heavy hit on the guitar, I think we all looked around in a bit-o-pleasure. Even Mr. Greene couldn’t help but look to his right, with clear surprise and approval. I can’t say that this song is a “favorite” but this version was perfectly played. Played seriously, played heavy, played earnestly – I don’t need your help, don’t need your advice, your ideas, your unsolicited “medicine”. Got it. Don’t mess with me. And ends with a purposeful slide of the hand up the neck of the guitar, zipping it up with finality.
“Honey, I Been Thinking About You” gets a mention that we are going back in time, a hint that there might be a chance, a small chance, that it might not be perfectly played. He says, “Let’s see if I can remember how to do this.”. Well, he did. From its title, you can tell this is one of the sugary songs. A little acoustic, a little harmonica, a little blended sweet electric, the steady rhythmic beat of the drums and bass, like the steady beat of a warm heart. It’s simple but says so much.
Someone to my left hollers, “We should go wandering!” and someone to my right counters with, “The Lord Mistreats Me“. Well, since the first one was already on the set list….. Jackie says, “What did you say? Go Wanderin’?” the crowd to my left cheers louder as he says, “Well, I ain’t deaf yet!” Everybody in the place gets up for this one. I think I hear a little Johnny Cash twang as the whole place settles in for a good romping-stompin’ number. “I should be home in bed but the notion in my head is telling me to ramble on!”
At the end of the 40-minute first set, Jackie goes up to the mic and says, “I hate to be a cock-tease but we’re gonna do a little give-away from the radio station and then we’ll come back and do more.” What did he say? You can see a few blush and hear a few giggles in the crowd…. wait, that was me….. Focus on the give-away people, well, especially if you bought raffle tickets. This one you had to be there. Not in the bathroom line. Not in the drink line. Not outside getting a bit of fresh air. But, right there when they read your number or they were moving on! I for one was hoping that no one would come back, see, cuz I was a ticket holder. The raffle prize was an acoustic guitar signed by all members of the Jackie Greene Band plus a few other musicians that have recently graced the stage at the Petaluma Performing Arts Center and who donated their signature for the fundraiser. $5 got you one ticket, or you could buy a “pull” for $20. I opted for the latter, told the guy to pull hard, pull real long and hard…. OK, I digressed to the gutter….. Or the raffle guy did….. Well, Mr. Greene did start in with the tease…. And I did not win, was a good 100+ pulls away from winning. I apparently did not ask him to pull long or hard enough. Next time.
After a short set break, the guys were back ready to fire from all cylinders and the buzzing crowd was more than ready to continue the party. Opening the second set with a lyric-lacking funky jam written by Jeremy Plog, who normally plays bass but shows his musical talents by taking the lead guitar for this one, which moves Nathan over on bass and moves Jackie to the keys. Typically called, “Jeremy’s Jam”, or “Jeremy’s Funky Jam”, this one was referred to jokingly as “Jeremy’s Funky Toe Jam”. They certainly had fun with this one, Jeremy and Jackie trading guitar licks and keyboard riffs, mimicking one another and pushing it to new places. Jeremy and Nathan switch back, leaving Jackie at the keys for the next three songs, “Shaken”, “So Hard to Find My Way”, and “Tell Me Mama” which replaced Tore Down” on the set list.
Let me step back and give a nod to the redo and fixin on “So Hard to Find My Way”. At times, well, at most times, there is a line missing in the song. I may have, I’m sure I have mentioned this in another review, maybe of the New Year’s run in Lake Tahoe. I, admittedly, can be tenacious about this song. I seriously don’t know why, but it gets to me that a line is dropped. A good line, I’m sure a line that has purpose and meaning or maybe it wouldn’t exist in the first place. I’ve discussed this with fans, band members, and Mr. Greene as well, more than once. He says it makes the song too long. I say not. We love Poor Richard, banjo strings or not. I hear the first few notes and I will most likely shout, “don’t forget about poor Richard!” in hopes someone on stage hears me. Nope, not at Fairytale Town, but it worked in Paradise. OK, maybe complaining about it the night before helped. Well, a big thanks for that. It truly makes my heart smile. A big part of any smaller music scene is the ability to connect to the musicians, not just as they perform but often after the show. And with Jackie, he is so approachable, nice, and fairly open to meeting and talking to his fans, not just for a quick picture but to have a conversation. I guess it makes it feel OK to, um, mention this more than once. Not letting it go. As I said, I’m tenacious. Tenacious Linda.
Who doesn’t love “Hollywood”? The heavy blues to the start of this, bow-chick-a-bow-dow-dow, chick-a bow-dow-dow…… There are queens played like machines, men with diamonds, bands with big contracts, socialites with fancy appetites, drugs, denial, cheatin’ death, or not….. Yeah, Hollywood. She’s a dream….. I also love the way they can stretch this song out to a spacey jam, Jackie kneels down to mess with his pedals/midi’s/whatever they are, switches guitars and they seamlessly move into their tribute to The Beatles with, “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Taxman”, with a little tease of “Low Rider”. Love it.
This time, though, it doesn’t just end, but continues to wind down nicely into a funky “Scarlet Begonias” – a more solid and lower heavy end to the guitar vibe that Nathan chooses over the original version, or today’s Furthur. I like when other musicians put their own twist on a Grateful Dead song. After all, can’t do what they did so may as well do your own thing and take it to a new space, right? And this amazing guy invited to sit in on bass from “Hollywood” on, Jonathan Stoyanoff – I heard him add sounds with his lips and throat, I was on the other side of the stage but I could see he was doing something with his mouth. After the show, I chatted up some folks that were hanging stage right and they confirmed that, not only did he kill it on the bass, he was also a trumpet or saxophone, as well as being a human. (Who is Jonathan? He is a bass player from Chico, plays with a neo-funk-rock-fusion band called The Bumpet, formerly with Global Funk and has also supported Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Ozomatli, Michael Franti & Spearhead, The Isley Brothers, Liquid Soul and Maceo Parker, to name a few.)
After another swinging, rockin “Ball and Chain” (I say another as it was on the list the night before, both were awesome, filled with fun energy), Jackie invites his younger brother Alex to the stage to take the lead guitar and vocals for “Mexican Girl”. Alex does a great version of this, a little different tone to his voice and guitar than Jackie, “Alex-style” maybe as it would sound with his band Walking Spanish. Maybe a little harder, or rough, or dirty rather than with a flirty-flair, for lack of better words.
Jackie has grown some chops, or his chops are bigger, maybe now his chops are stuffed with some serious Crowe seasoning, I dunno, but seems like there was a stronger, heavier energy from the stage, a good heavy, a rockin rhythm heavy, a determined heavy, the “lets play the shit outta this stuff” heavy. I’m so glad that he had this chance, I’ve seen him with The Crowes three or four times now and I’ve got a few more to see before I can’t “Lay Down with Number 13” anymore (name of the tour). Growth and travel and experience can shape how you hear music and see life, or is it see music and hear life? You decide.
And while they haven’t played together since their set at Mountain Jam in June, and haven’t played more than one set since their run at the Sweetwater in January, the whole band was energized, expansive and generous with the jams. The weekend was plentiful. Can’t wait for the New Year’s Eve run in Tahoe.
Fairy Tale Town, 8/24/2013
Farewell-So Long-Goodbye, The Ballad of Sleepy John, Uphill Mountain, Gone Wandering, I’m So Gone, Moment of Temporary Color> New Speedway Boogie> Pretty Jazzy Jam> Georgia> New Speedway Boogie, So Hard to Find My Way, Tell Me Mama, Shaken, Till the Light Comes, Mexican Girl, Never Satisfied*, Ball and Chain* E1: They Call Me the Breeze+ E2: Don’t Let the Devil Take Your Mind*
*w/Steve Taylor on keys
+w/Adam Wade on bass and vocals and Nick Swimly on guitar
Paradise Performing Arts Center, 8/25/2013
Set 1: I Don’t Live on a Dream, I’m So Gone, Moment of Temporary Color, Medicine, Farewell-So Long-Goodbye, Honey I Been Thinking ‘Bout You, Uphill Mountain, Gone Wandering
Set 2: Jeremy’s “Funky Toe” Jam, Shaken, So Hard to Find My Way, Tell Me Mama, Hollywood* >Tomorrow Never Knows*> Taxman* > Low Rider Jam* > Scarlet Begonias*, Ball and Chain E1: Mexican Girl# E2: Till the Light Comes
* Jonathan Stoyanoff on bass, Jeremy Plog on guitar
#Alex Nelson on lead guitar and vocals, Jackie on keys, guitar, vocals, you name it.
Favorite Show: Paradise Performing Arts Center, cuz I had my camera and the boys were certainly warmed up….
Favorite Performance: “Never Satisfied” Love the way the sound of Nathan’s electric pairs with Jackie’s acoustic on this one
Favorite Repeated Song: “So Hard to Find My Way”, Paradise version. Cuz we got Poor Richard back. Thanks Jackie.
Second Favorite Repeated Song: “Till the Light Comes”, Paradise version. Just because I got to hear the whole thing. The last part of the song, when they bring it down, is just so sweet and soothing. So glad they repeated it.
Third Favorite Repeated Song: “Mexican Girl”, Paradise version. Cuz we got Alex Nelson, Jackie’s younger and talented bro, on lead guitar and vocals. Should have used this as my bathroom song at Fairytale Town, but how wuz I to know?
Favorite Cover: “They Call Me the Breeze”. Cuz we got Adam and Nick on stage, and it’s Lynyrd Skynyrd for gosh sakes.
Compared Repeat: Tell Me Mama – Fairytale Town was good, but I was waiting for something deep in that song, like the performance at Mountain Jam in June (grabbed his chest, laughed out loud, let you know what he was feeling). Maybe he kept it a little less, um, sexy with the kids in the crowd. The version at Paradise, well, something in the way he sang,