Thursday, March 31, 2011

Concert Review: Furthur, 3/30/11, Petersen Events Center, Pgh., Pa.

"A little bit further than you've gone before..."

Hell of a show, aside from a strange bit of business where, during the set break, some kid right outside our section apparently, according to news accounts:

1) Got into a three-point stance;
2) Yelled, "HIKE!";
3) Ran straight through an inch-thick double-pane glass window and fell about 30 feet down to the sidewalk

The Furthur shows I've been listening to at and have been good, but now that this group has been together for a year or so, they're really starting to gel. My boy always asks me to guess the first song, and with this tour, I had no clue; the setlists have run through the whole Dead catalog, and branched out in all kinds of crazy cover directions.

Set I:
Feel Like a Stranger
'Til the Morning Comes
Loose Lucy
Pride of Cucamonga
Big River
Colors of the Rain >
Mason's Children

Set II:
Estimated Prophet >
Eyes of the World >
I Know You Rider
Golden Slumbers >
Carry That Weight >
The End (tease) >
The Wheel >
So Many Roads >
The Other One >
Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks) >
Gimme Some Lovin'
E: Brokedown Palace

Earlier in the evening, I was talking about one of the NYC shows, where the band blasted through the entire B side of Abbey Road, so I was singing "Golden Slumbers" at the top of my lungs. The blues break in "Pride of Cucamonga" is also a personal favorite. One of the friends who came to the show said he thought Bobby Weir is definitely leading the band, and that might be true... John Kadlecik is filling the Jerry role admirably, but it wouldn't surprise me if he's still a little humbled at playing alongside the guys he's been playing tribute to in Dark Star Orchestra all these years. Anyway, back to Weir—he may be leading the band, but they've definitely taken some cues from Phil when it comes to the jams and transition between songs. The transitions aren't quite as nimble as Phil & Friends, but the band sounds more like the Grateful Dead than any other post-Garcia incarnation.

Thus the debate rages: Furthur or Phil & Friends? For my money, the main Phil & Friends lineup, from 2000-'03, is the greatest of the post-Garcia groups. They were so versatile, so nimble, and just so ass-kicking. They did the whole Dead catalog, they did southern rock thanks to Haynes and Herring, and then every once in a while, just for kicks, they'd break out into some Miles Davis...

[A quick side note, speaking of Miles... any possible way you get a hold of show recordings from the Allman Bros. March 2011 run at the Beacon Theatre... DO IT. They are EPIC. Derek Trucks is channeling Duane Allman almost as good as Duane Allman did. One of the shows I have opens with a jam that turns into "Spanish Key" off of 'Bitches Brew'...]

...then again, Furthur, as I mentioned, sounds the most like the original Dead. Even the backup singers fit in. When I saw The Dead at Bonnaroo in 2003, the music was good, but the band just didn't gel too well. Joan Osborne just sounded way out of place. But this band has found its stride.

• The kid who jumped out the window died from his injuries. The tox report is pending — I'm hoping he was just really drunk. It would reflect poorly on responsible faced concertgoers everywhere if he was tripping too hard and freaked out.
• Saw the drummer for theCAUSE outside the main gate.
• A couple song notes: What I presume is a new original, "Colors of the Rain," was pretty great. The only song I liked better in the first set was a hazy, spacey "Althea."
• There are advantages and disadvantages to having only one drummer in a Grateful Dead band. In a group like Dark Star Orchestra or theCAUSE, a lot of the songs and jams take on a '72-'74 feel, when it was just Kreutzmann drumming (with DSO, of course, it depends what year they're playing)... Joe Russo went the opposite route, working overtime all night and pretty much doing the work of two drummers. The result was a heady cross between that early-'70s Dead sound and the harder-swinging rock of Phil & Friends.
• The guitar filter Bobby uses, that sounds kind of annoying on the Furthur recordings, doesn't come across that way all in concert. With that said...
• ...the Petersen looks great, but it doesn't sound all that great. We were on the first level off the floor, to the left of the stage, and there was a fair amount of echo off the back wall. You also can't escape the fact that, at the end of the day, the Pete is a gigantic gym, with metal-girder rafters that don't help the soundman at all. It's like a mini-Gund-Arena, the venue where I once spent two-and-a-half hours listening The Hazy Echo of The Dave Matthews Band. My buddy went onto the floor during the second set, and he said the sound was a little better down there.
• A tough time: The guy from the event staff whose official job was "Stand Outside the Police Tape and Keep 5,423 People From Taking Cell Phone Pictures." That guy was having a rough night:

GUY: "Hey man, can you delete that, please?"
RANDOM HIPPIE #1: "Uh... okay..."
GUY: [Walks over] "Can I maybe watch you delete it?" [walks briskly to Random Hippie #2 and th same conversation ensues... this goes on for about 25 straight minutes until the second set gets going]

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pittcon, The Final Day: An Evening With Perry President

So... it's 11:45 p.m. last night, and I'm not about to drink a warm can of Coke. I snatch my room key, and as I'm heading out the hotel door I have a brief thought: "Y'know, maybe you should just throw the flip-flops on." I pause for a second.

"Naaaaah. I got my key, what could go wrong?"

So I get my ice, head back, slide my card in, aaaaaaand... nothing. It's not working. And I don't mean like, flashing-red not-working... I mean, NO LIGHTS FLASHING AT ALL not-working.


So it's down to the lobby with no shoes or socks on. The night security manager sees this and already knows exactly what the problem is. "Locked out your room, sir?" Yes... yes, I am. I explain the no-lights thing, and they make me a new key. "Do you have ID, sir?" No, no I don't. I have ice. See? Here's the bucket. No ID.

So the security manager, whose name is Perry President (awesome) accompanies me upstairs with the new room card, to let me in, double-check my ID and be on his way. He slides the new key into the door, aaaaaaand.... no lights. I see a look on Perry President's face that concerns me greatly. He says, half to himself, "This is gon' be bad."

Yes.... yes, it is.

So for the next 45 minutes, me and Mr. President shoot the sh*t while maintenance comes up and DRILLS THE HINGES OFF MY DOOR. I learned about his time in the post office ("They had a military mentality in there, man, half the employees were ex-military, and a bunch of them guys were in Vietnam... they were some loose cannons, man, that's why so many of them went 'postal'..."), his impressions of Atlanta ("I'm from New York City, man, and here... I don't know, it seems like they're just tryin' to be New York") and other lovely nuggets of wisdom, and soon enough I was back in my room.

Never so happy to go to sleep....

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cruisin' in the A-T-LLLLLLL: Pittcon, Day 1

Seriously, this is one crazy-ass hotel...

So far, I'm a big fan of Atlanta. Centennial Park is really neat, and you can't argue with 72 and sunny in mid-March, especially if you're from Pittsburgh. I'll take that six days a week and twice on Sunday. Not to mention that the Atlanta Marriott Marquis is one crazy-ass hotel. It's laid out like an H.R. Giger drawing, only with much-brighter colors and no weird mechanical fetuses or aliens.

Pittcon has also been going well. No major SNAFUs except for the food-service people not cleaning up THE BIGGEST FOOD LAYOUT OF THE WHOLE DAY because "the door was locked and we didn't know what to do." Uh... how about you ask the people next door... you know, THE ONES WITH THE KEYS? Doesn't matter, though. Turns out several pub-staff members and a few volunteer media members can break down a room faster AND better than the food-service staff.

There is a pretty severe lack of shows coming to the ATL this week. I was pretty geeked up at the possibility of seeing a band at the historic Fox Theatre, but naturally this is the only week of the entire MONTH where there's literally nothing there. Oh well.

Another thing I've learned is that, with my massive, glorious beard, a lot of Atlantans think I'm Zac Brown, from the Zac Brown Band. Fine by me. I'll happily be mistaken for a country-rock star who included the tremendous lyric "And I told him lick my sack" on his latest album.

...In Which I Exhibit Hesitation at Pitt's NCAA Chances and Feign Outrage at My Dukies

The look on Brad Wanamaker's face is emblematic of my feelings about Pitt's chances to finally make a Final Four...

I love me some Pitt. I really do. Pitt basketball is the epitome of the Big East hoops aesthetic: tough defense, physical play and a grind-it-out mentality that has helped them become one of the most successful teams in one of the NCAA's best and deepest conferences.

But that depth, combined with the fact that most if not all Big East teams play a physical style, can be a real disadvantage for them in the actual NCAA Tournament. Referees in the tourney don't let Big East teams play the way they've played the entire season. Or at least, not without calling a foul every five seconds. On top of that, Big East teams beat the piss out of one another to win the conference tournament, which to my mind leaves them worn-out when the first-round games come up. For example, UConn had to play five games in five days to win the Big East tourney. Barring a miraculous continuation of Kemba Walker's seemingly unflappable stamina, I just don't see them going very deep.

But what irks me even more is the exclusion of my alma mater, Duquesne, from the NIT (Not Invited Tournament). When they went out in the first round of the A-10 tournament, I figured their NCAA chances were pretty much sunk. But you gotta be sh*tting me that, at 18-12, and 10-6 in the A-10, they couldn't get an NIT invitation?

Are you really telling me that the Dukies aren't as good as, say.... say... uh... alright... I looked at all the bottom seeds in the NIT, and they are all better than the Dukies.


Well, I guess I'll just have to settle for taking a step forward this year, and leading the NCAA in assists per game (18).

I'll likely check back in later today, when I've finished agonizing over my brackets.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tonight's Setlist: Penn Hills Coffeehouse, 3/2/11

Tonight's setlist was part of the Penn Hills Coffeehouse music series at the Penn Hills Library. It featured myself along with Howard Davidson, Greg Davis, Gordon Neidinger and a guy playing banjo whose name I didn't get. We all played a short set:

Rain Song No. 3*
Friend of the Devil (Dead)
You Can Keep It*
Brown-Eyed Women (Dead)
I'll Take a Melody (Allen Toussaint)