"Playin' in the band..."
So, ever since my buddy hired them to basically play a Dead show at his wedding, I've been really into this local Pittsburgh band, theCAUSE (yes, that's spelled correctly). They're a Dead tribute band that plays original Dead sets — as opposed to a tribute band like Dark Star Orchestra, which "reconstructs" full Dead setlists — mixed in with Beatles, Dylan, and some originals.
They're a four-piece combo, with guitarist Eric "Pappy" Weingrad filling the role of both Jerry and Bob Weir, but they totally have the chops to pull it off. Pappy's guitar has the clear, cutting tone of Jerry's most recognizable axes, and bassist David Tauberg moves with much of the same fluidity as my main man Phil Lesh.
[On a side note, I have been completely obsessed with listening to Phil & Friends shows lately. I've been gobbling up as many reasonably-clean recordings of the '99 tour as I possibly can. For my money, you can't beat the 2000-'03 version of the "Friends," with Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, Rob Baracco and John Molo, but in '99, Phil was experimenting with a ton of different lineups. So you have the main lineup of Lesh, Haynes, Baracco, Molo and Derek Trucks, who opened for Dylan on his tour that year... but you also have a great run of shows I usually just call "Phil & Phish & Friends," with Molo, Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell on keys and Steve Kimock on the other guitar. Then there are just random shows like the one with Jorma Kaukonen, Kimock, Pete Sears on keys, some dude named Praire Prince on drums, and two backup singers!
People just pop in and out of the lineup, and almost all the shows are good, if not great. For great, however, you just can't top the '00-'03 run. That group is probably the most muscular, ass-kicking jam band ever. Herring and Haynes are a two-headed monster, and the interplay in the quintet allowed them to transition almost any song into any other. They could go from beautiful and delicate to rip-snorting blues riffing to a 2000 version of "Cumberland Blues" where Haynes and Herring send flying shards of guitar in all directions until you brain almost melts. Okay, might have gone a little too hippie-dippy with that last one.
Alright, back to the main review...]
Okay, so theCAUSE... they played Frankie & Georgie's 4Wood Grille (used to be PD's Pub) in Squirrel Hill. And it was pretty great:
Set I: Quinn the Eskimo, Hard to Handle, Althea, Me & My Uncle > Jackson, If I Could > When I Paint My Masterpiece, Lazy River Road, Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again > Deal
Liked it a lot. Most of the set had a sort of mid-'80s-Dead-setlist vibe to it. Real nice "Quinn," a deliberate, spacey "Althea," two Dylan covers that were constantly in the '80s sets. They played "Lazy River Road" for the first time, and I was reminded of what a great song it is. I have to remind myself, because you don't hear it very often.
Set II: Midnight Countdown > Not Fade Away > Alligator > The Eleven > The Other One > Sittin' On Top of the World, St. Stephen > Wharf Rat > Not Fade Away
WHEW. "The Eleven > Other One" combo was a real rollercoaster. There's always several moments during a Dark Star Orchestra show where I find myself thinking, "They're really channeling The Sound right now." There were a couple of those during this set.
Set III: Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower, Easy Wind, Voodoo Woman, Passenger, Casey Jones, E: Liberty, Shakedown Street
The long and short of it? The next "Pause for theCAUSE" is Jan. 22, at Moondog's in Blawnox. I'm there.