The Chris Robinson Brotherhood Hit Santa Cruz’s Cocoanut Grove – It’s a Sweet Trip on the Good Ship Lollipop |

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood Hit Santa Cruz’s Cocoanut Grove – It’s a Sweet Trip on the Good Ship Lollipop

Photos and Review by Linda Tulett 

That funky little space; it adds an extra layer of adventure for show-goers, located down on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk where crazy lights and electronic sounds fill the air. Maybe the stage doesn’t have much of the “crazy lights” thing happening, but the air was packed with sounds to fill your senses, waifs of Champa as you walk through the door, and the smell of happiness the rest of the night. They always bring it when they play Santa Cruz. The layout and lights of the Cocoanut Grove just completes the circus.

The show started on Santa Cruz time, which is not unlike Hawaiian time – you know, when they’re ready, which does not always match with the clock. The anticipation kills me, as I’m an early arriver to get my spot up front stage for the start of the show. But, it also gives me time to chat up my fellow freaks, and this night I would meet a traveler from farther away than any of us in the crowd that night. Here on business from Japan, he came down from San Francisco for the night to catch his third CRB show. And, he was bearing a gift for the band, a bottle of Sake, which was initially taken away at door but eventually made it’s way to the correct recipients. I’m always amazed to meet fans from so far, from different countries, different cultures, different languages. Ah, but you see, we all speak the same Freak. Nice to boogie with ya my new friend.

With two full sets planned, the night was young as they opened the first with, “Seven Nights to Rock,” a rowdy boogie tune that sure gets the place going quick. For me, there were definitely a handful of tunes that I’ve not seen them perform before. New is always a treat. It kind of throws you for a minute, as you try to figure out the beat. Its like putting on a new coat; ya have to get used to the fit of it – and, the more you wear it, the more comfortable it is on you. “The Chauffer’s Daughter,” was not the first to try on for the band and maybe some in the audience. While only played just six times thus far, according to those who create the sets at, there was a familiarity to it, a built in comfort, as I could hear some quietly singing along with Chris… “…The road gets narrow, the road gets wide. When the road gets rocky, she’s my easy ride….” It’s super funky, has an easy groove until they pick it up in the middle, change it a tad, get a little stronger on the funk side…”…and then she takes my hand, oooh yes, you might understand, sometimes a dream is to be believed. Can you believe? Can you believe?” Yeah, I’m gonna like this one. Could become a favorite coat.

Drawing from their new release, Barefoot in the Head (2017), “High is Not the Top,” starts out with a little soft keyboard work from Adam and it’s upbeat and easy to feel in your feet. Its played with an easy sound, warm and full until about mid-way, with Jeff and Tony holding it in the pocket, there is a wide open space for some southern funkified guitar twang. It’s short, but it sure is sweet. There’s a lesson in the lyrics, if you listen closely, as Chris sings, “Keep your cool and show a little cunning; and out of this fire you will walk. Sweet your sour with a little honey, sometimes high is not the top.

Scattered throughout were staples, so to speak; tunes that have become a part of their repertoire that when they go missing for a while, it seems like you start to have this craving. “Jump the Turnstile,” that song so gooey it sticks to ya, and it’s got that funky break where Adam just goes off on the keys and the band chimes in, “Call me gone….” With, “Clear Blue Sky,” the sound seems to paint a picture of dreaming of better days, dreaming of clear blue skies (“If the song you sing can’t make you happy, then you really got the blues, you really got the blues, the only game that you can lose.”). The song kicks into this rhythmic jam after the last verse, there’s so much sound built into it, it’s hard to separate and describe as your ears bend to sense who is playing what. Neal’s guitar work is very, well, Neal, and there’s a rip and almost tornado-like swirling of Chris’ rhythm that encircles what Neal is doing, and you can hear Adam moving between soft jazz to rockin’ blues as he turns his attention from the synthesizer to the piano behind him. What we can get used to at times, is one song leading to another. We almost expect it, so when they don’t do it, there’s almost an anticipation of, “will they??” Well, there was no, “Good Doctor,” but we did get our medicine with another new one for me, “Loose Lips.” Which, ya know, give me some funky blues, lyrics that jump and scat, and harmonica and I’m happy as a clam can be. This is an old blues song by, Percy Mayfield, a song I would maybe never have run across my ears if it hadn’t been for the CRB. And, Chris was singing and playing the harmonica at the same time, like singing through the harmonica, changing the sound of his voice to this lower, almost vibrational moan. Good gosh, I really dig the way they laid that tune down.

There are certain songs that generate visions, and “Star or Stone,” is one of those songs for me. With the first note, I am transported back to 2015 and the Loma Vista Gardens in Big Sur. Its the lyrics, the guitar, the keys, the deep rhythms that match your heart beat, its Chris and how he sings. Yeah, it’s the guitars and that certain lick. Wait, it’s Chris and the way he sings. Either way, I get goosebumps on my goosebumps for this song. I hope I always do.

Ending the first set with the ever rowdy, the ever-boogie generating,“Hello L.A.” it’s one of those songs that you want to just cut loose, to put down everything in your hands cuz ya might drop it as your ams start to flail about, trying to help keep balance with your stompin’ feet. I swear, Neal’s guitar gave me visions of Chuck Berry doing his guitar shuffle across the stage.

The set break was quick….. or was it just me? Maybe the slow start to the first made for a quick break before getting on with the show. Before I knew it, the lights began to dim again, and I turn around from my chat to see them making their way back for more. Second set would begin with a little rock and roll of the Rolling Stone kind with, “Let it Bleed,” one that has appeared on their set list for a little over a year and a song that suits their groove style so well. As with all of their special cover selections, they show the original major respect while adding their own CRB mix to it. I say special because, well, this band doesn’t need to cover other bands, they have their own growing repertoire to pull from to have full shows. But, they are music connoisseurs and have major respect for the music that has come before them, that has influenced them, that has a place in musical history, whose sound has inspired and generated so many new sounds. 

Drawing again from new releases, they followed the Stones opener with three in a row from Barefoot in the Head, with “Hark the Herald Hermit Speaks,” [I read is] one of Neal’s favorite songs from this release and says, “Chris sings it with the conviction and confidence that only the best singers can deliver.” It has a story feel to it, a fable, it’s picturesque how Chris sings it, how he lays the lyrics down over what feels like a slower beat going on behind him. It forces you to pause and want to know what he is saying. “Behold the Seer,” gives colorful visions of the 60’s psychedelic light show, liquid gel light shows that make your eyes feel like your body is on something. The cameras are moving in and out, back and forth, moving across the floor through the whirling dancers. I really dig this song, how it starts, how it changes, the visions it gives, the message of, come on, what are you waiting for, you got nothing to lose except for a little time. I move up to the left side of the stage because I know Adam is about to get his funk on, which is typically followed by a sick jam on the harmonica and we know Chris never holds back there. So, I’m listening and watching Adam and there’s a different sound that suddenly vibrates from the other side of the stage. Was it Jeff? Chris? I could be fooled and it could have been Neal, but I think it was Chris. This is why I love this band; their sound is so full of other sounds, its a full meal, a smorgasbord of delights, a festival of fantastical ear joy. Yes, yes it is.

Continuing with tunes from their newest, “She Shares My Blanket,” gives the room a chance to slow down a bit, to change the high energy dance moves down to a slow sway, for the most part. Of course, with the CRB you always get a mid-way dance party, even if it’s a love song of a sort. “Good to Know,” starts out like it might have a bit of a stripped-down reggae beat, with Adam’s particular choice of key sounds and Jeff’s bass giving a low thump. But, when the guitars kick in, with an echo or almost vibrational after sound, that “full of other sounds,” um, CRB sound takes over.

Pulling only one from, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel, (out 2016) the entire evening, they kill the crowd with a raging version of, “Narcissus Soaking Wet.” This is a song with a lot going on, a lot to grab onto if you’re out on the dance floor. Its still fairly new for them and it will probably continue to morph and expand over time. It’s got huge spaces for driving rhythms, crazy funk-ability out of the keyboards, huge guitar moments and, well, of course, opportunities for Chris to cut loose at the microphone both vocally and with the harmonica. Its got attitude, its got strut, its got ooh yeah baby written all over it. Before closing out the set, they’d draw one from even further back appearing on, Phosphorescent Harvest, with a soothing and mystical, “Burn Slow.” Oh man, this song is just so beautiful. It surrounds you, the instruments and vocals, it wraps you up in a warm blanket, sits you down by the fire and pours you a warm brandy (or hot tea or a hot toddy or a glass of bourbon or a full port or a big stout or whatever your fancy in front of a fire).

Ending second set as they did with the first, they slam down a song that is so dance-generating, so boogie barn bending, so rippin and shredding that the floor to the venue was bouncing so much that I thought the speakers were going to topple over. “Got Love if You Want It,” that old Slim Harpo tune that Chris has been perfecting since his New Earth Mud days. There’s a slide guitar out of Neal that just pulls you back and forth in between the commanding beat of the drums and bass; almost in your face telling you, yeah, I got your love, if you want it, if you can handle it. And, ya better stand back and make some room because Chris does not hold back at all for this one, at all. He is definitely driving this mustang of a song; his body language, his vocal style, his harmonica, his attitude. Now THAT’S rock and roll baby.

Before it was truly done, they’d have one more for us with a cover from Reverend Charles Albert Tindley with, “By and By.” He was often referred to as the “Prince of Preachers,” he was the son of a slave who found his calling as a Methodist minister and gospel music composer. “We are tossed and driven on the restless sea of time; somber skies and howling tempests, oft succeed a bright sunshine;in that land of perfect day, when the mists have rolled away, we will understand it better by and by.” Yes sir. It has that same feel to it, that love vibe that Jerry Garcia put out with his cover of Charles Johnson’s, “My Sisters and Brothers.” Oh, this is a wonderful add to their long list of special selections.

I and JBO have been sharing the love of this band with their fans and you all for about five years now. My first show review was from their December 2012 show at the Catalyst Club in Santa Cruz. It was titled, Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Could Be What Magic Sounds Like (although, that was not my first CRB show, as I first caught them at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in May of 2011 and again in June and December at Don Quixote’s in Felton, and then again at the Great American Music Hall up in SF in December 2011, and then Terrapin Crossroads and GAMH in October and December of 2012). I still feel that the title of that article rings very true. Even back then, when getting their sea legs on, getting to feel and grow with the songs and each other, it was magical. Now, years later, their artful magic has evolved into a little mystery. With a slight of the hand and the flick of a wrist, they can twist your perception and baffle your senses in such a way that you are forever affected by the experience. I found this recent quote from Neal about recording Barefoot; “…Our ethos is to bring the most art and inspiration into our world in order to save it from these mendacious, power-mad maniacs who are currently running it.” And, continuing to put out new songs, there is much yet to say and do to nurture this spirit of community and brotherly inspiration through music.

If you want in on their art and inspiration, tickets may still be available for shows left on their 2017 and 2018 tours:

December 8 (That’s TONIGHT!)
House of Blues, San Diego, CA

December 9
The Fonda Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

December 10
Fremont Theatre, San Luis Obispo, CA

December 12
Arcata Theatre Lounge, Arcata, CA

December 14, 15, 16
The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, CA

To buy tickets and check out their schedule for 2018, follow this link:


Chris Robinson Brotherhood
Cocoanut Grove, Santa Cruz
Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Set One:
Seven Nights to Rock, Jump the Turnstile, The Chauffeur’s Daughter, High is Not the Top, Clear Blue Sky, Loose Lips, Star or Stone, Hello L.A.

Set Two:
Let it Bleed, Hark the Herald Hermit Speaks, Behold the Seer, She Shares My Blanket, Good to Know, Narcissus Soaking Wet, Burn Slow, Got Love if You Want It

Encore: Bye and Bye

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