My friend Jerry sits on vocals and guitar in this incredibly tight band that focuses on the music created by the Jerry Garcia Band. I was super excited when he told me about the special guest who would be sitting in on their upcoming gig in Santa Cruz. Well, technically a short drive from the Cruz up beautiful Highway 9 to Felton, to a great little spot named Don Quixote’sInternationalMusic Hall, where the Louisiana pines and the Mississippi moon meet California red wood style. How appropriate that Melvin Seals, currently calling San Francisco Bay Area home would head down the central coast to the other famous bay area, amongst the Redwoods and Pines, and join Shady Groove on the keys! JBO must send a special shout out to The Wheel Company for setting this one up. Seriously people – what a night.
The band was scheduled to take the stage sometime around 8:30. But, well, that start time was on Santa Cruz time, which means it ain’t on time! But, no one noticed (OK, except maybe this photographer, who was just dying to get snapping!). Don Quixote’s was filling in nicely, people milling about, grabbing a bite to eat from their Mexican-style menu, a beer or maybe a shot of Tequila, and just enjoying the pre-show buzz in the atmosphere before the energy in the room really hit the ceiling. People were smiling and laughing, meeting old and new friends, deciding what side of the stage they might choose, wondering what they’d play, would we get two sets or one, and of course, just waiting to boogie!
Shady Groove delivers you music that can range from the slow, sweet introspection of blues or jazz to a full-blown, high energy jamband pleasure trip. Their blend is honest and certainly grabs the audience tightly and shells out a spirit that will leave you spellbound. They offer up some funky blues, rhythm and rock, and a touch of jazz or reggae as they mainly perform the music of the likes of The Jerry Garcia Band, the Grateful Dead, and The Band, Jimmy Cliff and other blues and Motown artists, in addition to some originals. Delivering a boatload of guitar riffs on lead vocals is one Jerry Brown, who plays it like he means it, honestly and soulfully. Jerry shares the lead with Matt Hartle, who creates a sound so lyrical, so fluid that, together the interplay of the guitars expose the heart and spirit of Shady Groove. Jimmy Hubbard holds down the funk and groove on the bass, along with Dave Faulkner on keys, and Bret Bailey on drums/percussion – driving the beats and filling in the spaces, speaking in rhythm to the audience. It’s no wonder the place was packed, wall to wall, with people just burning up the dance floor and begging for more.
Opener was “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”, and lasted an incredible 14 minutes – what a way to warm up the crowd! Lots of keyboard action in this song, back and forth between Melvin and Dave, holding solid in between the guitar sounds that Jerry and Matt were sharing. Holy cow, if the first song was this long, this good, we were certainly in for one hell of a night.
Next up was a funky-struttin’ “Someday Baby” that has a beat that can take you strolling down the street leaving your worries behind. The funk of the bass was held strong throughout, and he funked it right into “Tough Mama”, as if he was dancing with us, yet on the strings, lightly but loudly, at just the right moments. I met up with him on the way out the door that night, had to tell him he was just slammin’ on the bass!
Can I just say wow – “Sugaree” was just incredible. From the soulful swing throughout that leads you to a crescendo ending the song….. The fluttering and twinkling of Matt’s guitar, Jerry giving up soothing rhythmic chords, Jimmy hitting some heavy bass, Melvin and Dave sharing the steadiness of the organ, and Mr. Baily in the background, intensely watching them all, making sure to support the boys, wherever they were heading. You know when they can hold down a 16 minute “Sugaree”, they can certainly move closer to the top of the list of the respectable jambands.
Hearing all of these Jerry Garcia Band songs really brings you back. How much influence this incredible musician had on the music scene, and still continues to affect long after he went to the great gig in the sky. Songs like “Get Out of My Life Woman”, “Rhapsody in Red”, and “Valerie” will always bring vivid memories rushing to my soul. Or, songs like “Midnight Moonlight” will always drum up a night from The Warfield when the crowd was so heavy on the floor you could stand still and still be movin’ (just like the line in the Willie Nelson/Toots and the Maytals song, “Still is Still Moving to Me”). Or, “Ain’t No Bread in the Breadbox” – now c’mon, who ya gonna think of when you hear that! Man, I love that song, “Open up your eyes little darlin’, been here for far too long. Open up your eyes little darlin’, it’s time to move along….”
Gosh, the whole night was so good I would love to go on and on about each and every song. I might encourage you to go find the show on archive dot org – I myself plan to listen to it over and over and over and over……
OK, wait – there is just one more I have, have, have to talk about! My jerryness (kind of like saying, my goodness). That “Don’t Let Go> Let it Rock> Don’t Let Go” left me speechless, and photo-less because I was pretty much taken over by over 21 minutes of musical bliss and forgot I had a camera in my hands. I remember being in front of Matt, thinking, shit, no way, this is just crazy! Matt sways and swings with the guitar, as if the notes he plays, or rather that he feels, are oozing out of his fingers, dancing and melting on the strings, swirling up the neck and out of the top of his the guitar directly into the sky. Jerry has a lean he gets; he hovers over the guitar and, well, he might be seen with that guitar player face (or tongue) – that is how you know he is lost in the shady groove. J Love it. He gets so intensely into the moment of the song that he just lets it happen to him. He seems to allow the music to come through him, sending him down the winding road to meet up with Matt and the boys along the way, and Melvin too of course. There was a lot of interplay between Melvin and Jerry on stage; I often caught Mr. Seals watching Jerry’s hands make his guitar sing, or looking over and smiling at Matt as if he was channeling a moment from the late 80’s or early 90’s when Melvin and Jerry [Garcia] shared the stage back then and gave us such lovely moments of musical joy.
Mr. Seals, with his contagious smile emanating from his warm heart, draws you in with the rumbling of the organ, the quickness to how he demands each key on his board give back the funk that he desires in the moment of the song. So many people gravitate to his side of the stage, to feel the power and the passion he gives to each note he shares with you. He genuinely looked joyous to be on stage with Shady Groove that Saturday night, watching the happy crowd of freaky hippies show him just how much he is loved.
1st Set (approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes):
Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, Someday Baby, Tough Mama, Sugaree, Get Out of My Life Woman, On Your Way Down, Expressway to My Heart, Rhapsody in Red, Midnight Hour
2nd Set (approximately 1 hour and 37 minutes):
Ain’t No Bread in the Breadbox, It Ain’t No Use, After Midnight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Don’t Let Go> Let it Rock> Don’t Let Go, She Belongs to Me, Valerie, Midnight Moonlight E. Second that Emotion