Friday, January 04, 2008

The End of 2007: A Musical Blowout

What follows is an account of a phenomenal five-day stretch of music in New York City, the likes of which I hadn’t seen in a long, long time. I caught a bevy a great bands in concert, and the crazy thing is there were many excellent acts I missed, such as The Greyboy All-Stars, moe., The Disco Biscuits...(okay, not The Disco Biscuits).

12/27/07 The Word – Terminal 5

Unlike many of my brethren, I had never seen The Word perform live. I don’t particularly know why, but perhaps their few performances occurred way back when I was playing all of the bad white guys in a touring musical about the Underground Railroad. I didn’t own their album, but I knew that a supergroup like this playing gospel-inflected music was a no-brainer. Moreover, it had been a few years since I had seen pedal steel phenom (he’s probably too old to be called that now) Robert Randolph in concert, and I felt a palpable urge to see him perform quality material instead of his now-standard lowest-common-denominator pop songs with off-key vocals.

After suffering through the inhospitable Terminal 5 for two otherwise enjoyable Ween shows, I briefly contemplated selling my ticket for The Word. With its bad sightlines, lousy sound, eternal entrance and coatcheck lines, and ludicrous bar policy that makes it a real challenge to buy a drink, Terminal 5 is probably the worst concert venue in the city. (Terminal 5 is so bad that it makes me pine away for the notoriously awful Roseland Ballroom.) I had no desire to go back to this 11th Ave. hellhole, but the ticket was purchased long ago, and interest in this show was waning enough to make it a buyer’s market. Then the venue and/or Ticketbastard decided to play some sort of game with ticketholders by notifying us that the show would start at an incomprehensible 7PM. That being said, a friend on the inside insisted that the show would go off at the previously scheduled 8PM starting time. I had a bad feeling about this—- it just seemed as though the writing on the wall was saying that this show would really suck.

Thankfully, I rarely read the writing on the wall.

It quickly became crowded on the floor, but the pre-show soul and funk music had me in a great mood. Then The Word appeared on stage. Right from the get-go, they sounded great, reveling in their holy sounds. Of particular note was a beautiful tune that I’m fairly certain is called “Louis Collins,” a song I only know because Jerry Garcia and David Grisman used to play it. When they kicked into “Down By The Riverside->When The Saints Go Marchin’ In,” the vibe was really uplifting. This was exactly what I wanted from John Medeski, Chris Chew, Luther and Cody Dickinson, and The Talented Mr. Randolph. Every song seemed to serve as a little trampoline for these guys to bounce into a little improv of sorts. They weren’t quite launching pads, as they never really got “out there,” but there were plenty of nice jams, especially a ragged but fun second set spur-of-the-moment exploration of The Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster,” in which Randolph forced Medeski to engage him in lighthearted chicanery. Initially, Medeski was hesitant, but then he seemed to say “Ah, fuck it,” and really let his hair down. Okay, he doesn’t have hair, but if he did, it would have been down.

The first set also featured a cover of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army." We had already been tipped off to this, so it wasn't a surprise, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless:

Randolph was really the star of this show, although he wasn’t hot-dogging like he used to. Sure, he would whip out a killer line or two, but his real virtue on this night was serving as an All-Star point guard, dishing out assists to the other players around him. Determined to get everyone involved in the game, he was confident, decisive, and his unselfish play certainly made Medeski, Chew, and the Dickinson boys sound great.

I left Terminal 5 (for what I hope will be the last time ever) thinking that I had just stepped into The Wayback Machine. Outside of Jazzfest, I hadn’t really experienced a jam-laden show like this in 6 or 7 years. It made me nostalgic for the good ol’ days of The Wetlands Preserve, when you could pay 10 bucks and see four bands who would open things up and knock your socks off. That kind of loosey-goosey vibe no longer flies in today’s post-9/11 indie-pop-obsessed world, but this evening’s nostalgic treat was delicious.

12/28/07 Gov’t Mule with Keller Williams – The Beacon Theater

Photo courtesy of

I hadn’t seen Gov’t Mule in nearly 8 months, having backed away from them after what I thought was a very lackluster performance at the shithole known as the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans. I was holding tickets for NYE, and truthfully, I wasn’t really feeling much of a pull to see them on any other night. However, the prospect of Keller Williams intrigued me. It had been a few years since I had seen Keller. While I’ve long enjoyed Keller’s music, I eventually grew to detest the stinking heady-brah high school crowd that seemed to infiltrate his shows. The last time I saw Keller at B.B. King’s there were tour-rats outside on 42nd St. with their dogs on hemp leashes. Sadly, I'm not kidding.

I thought this was my one shot at seeing Keller in a dog-and-patchouli-free venue. The kiddies could not afford the ticket, and the agro Mule crowd would have probably beaten them into submission if they did. I came in when Keller was onstage. The crowd was sparse, and just about no one was on their feet. Nevertheless, they seemed to enjoy him.

If I could sum up Keller’s set, I would use the word “uneventful.” It was neither special, nor offensive. It just happened, and it wasn’t a bad way to pass the time. He basically re-worked all of his songs, playing them in different styles. While I appreciated this re-invention, not one single attempt was an improvement on the original. He played The Grateful Dead’s “One More Saturday Night” as a dance groove (changing it to the appropriate "Friday Night"), and the crowd seemed to dig it. There must have been some closet String Cheese Incident fans in the crowd because “Best Feeling” received a warm reception, as well.

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Everyone I know seems to say the same thing about Keller: “I like him, but I hate when he does the loop jams.” Well, on this night, the loop jams were short. Essentially, he’d play a song, and then he’d start looping on different instruments, but this would only go on for a minute or two before starting a new song. I really didn’t mind this at all, although I could have done without the cheesy electronic drums.

12.28.07 Beacon Theatre - New York, NY

Keller Williams Opening Set:
Good Evening
Rock And Roll All Night
More Than A Little
Best Feeling
Friday Night
Thin Mint
Jazz Loop

After having made it through Keller’s set without much fanfare, I began to wonder if I made the right move in shelling out seventy-some bucks for this ticket. I was going to see Mule in three days anyway, and did it really make sense to pay this much to see an opening act who didn’t do all that much?

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By the time Gov’t Mule ripped into the second tune, “32-20 Blues,” my concerns had been put to rest. Per usual, Warren Haynes was in fine form, and the place was really rockin’ with authority. “Lively Up Yourself” gave me some needed space to groove before “Slackjaw Jezebel” brought the thunderous rock back. Keller came out and Warren, who was surprisingly chatty, talked about the 1999 Summer Sessions tour, shows that featured Mule, Keller, Gibb Droll, moe., String Cheese, Galactic, and Kevin Kinney. I had a flashback to the Summer Sessions show I saw in Baltimore, a show that made me a newfound fan of Gov’t Mule and inspired me to write my first ever concert review. So if you, poor reader, have anyone to blame for having to suffer through 8+ years of my logorrhea, it’s Gov’t Mule, who really kicked ass back on 8-26-99.

Meanwhile, back at the show…

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Keller sat in on “He Ain’t Give You None,” which was fun and “For What It’s Worth,” which I thought was pretty weak. I’m not exactly sure why I disliked this Buffalo Springfield classic so much, but I felt as though it lacked the gravitas the song requires. Perhaps this can be attributed to Keller, who tends to sing with the emotional reverence of a three-year-old. Anyway, I knew that Mule’s NYE show would be dubbed “Winter of Love” and would feature covers from 1967, so I thought it was interesting that Mule was already trotting out a song from that year.

The second set really took things to another level, especially after a psychedelic “She Said She Said->Tomorrow Never Knows.” I think Warren even quipped, “You never know where that one’s gonna go." Matt Abts look a very lengthy but interesting drum solo, and it seemed as though he wanted to end it several times, but the rest of the band just wouldn't come back on stage. The crowd went apeshit during the “Shakedown Street” tease in a very intense “Unring the Bell,” and fan-favorite “Bad Little Doggie” kept the fists pumping. Just when people were really amped, “How Many More Years->Wang Dang Doodle->How Many More Years Reprise” took everyone to the edge and back for a monstrous finish. (You can see video of "How Many More Years" here.) After all of that, I had absolutely no regrets about seeing this show.

Gov't Mule
Set 1:
Brighter Days
32/20 Blues
No Need To Suffer
Mercy On The Criminal
Lively Up Yourself
When Doves Cry->
Beautifully Broken->
When Doves Cry->
Beautifully Broken
Slackjaw Jezebel
He Ain't Give You None* with Keller Williams
For What It's Worth with Keller Williams
Set 2:
Birth Of The Earth Jam*->
Child Of The Earth
Painted Silver Light
She Said, She Said->
Tomorrow Never Knows Jam
Streamline Woman->
Unring The Bell Shakedown Street Tease
Bad Little Doggie
How Many More Years->
Wang Dang Doodle->
How Many More Years Reprise

Long Distance Call
Thirty Days In The Hole

* First Time Played

A quick word about The Beacon Theater is needed. Now that MSG is in charge, it’s no longer the chaotic free-for-all party that it used to be. Patrons face a virtual strip search upon entry, and the security force sweeps down the aisle repeatedly asking people for their tickets. (Of course, when a fight nearly broke out behind us, the security personnel were nowhere to be found.) It’s rather annoying, and it’s strange that Madison Square Garden might be the most laid-back arena in America while their security team has turned the Beacon into Fort Knox.

12-29-07 Railroad Earth with The New Riders of the Purple Sage – Morristown Community Theater Morristown, NJ

Inexplicably, there are some bands that I rarely see these days, but every time I catch them, I have a ton of fun. Railroad Earth is definitely one of these acts. I used to live to see these guys, but for whatever reason, I always seem to miss them now whenever they hit New York. On this particular date, I hadn’t seen Railroad Earth in exactly one year, and I was only going to this show because my good friend Sunshine Bob had really poured on the Jewish guilt and practically forced me to join him.

I drove out to Morristown, taking a wrong turn along the way and going a solid twenty minutes in the wrong direction. (Oh, how I love you, State of New Jersey.) I went into the venue and discovered that most of the crowd was crushed into the lobby. This was one of those weird concert venues where you can’t drink in your seat, and very little can stand between a Railroad Earth fan and his alcohol. People were pounding beers as quickly as possible during the opening act. The theater itself was very nice and large inside, and it was staffed by septuagenarians who were probably not prepared for the raucous crowd. By the time that Railroad Earth would take the stage, seat locations on tickets suddenly became irrelevant.

However, they weren’t on yet, as a band I had wanted to see for a long time, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, were on and churning out their patented brand of cowboy psychedelia. The New Riders have undergone just shy of a million lineup changes over the years, and the current roster includes 1971 originals David Nelson and Buddy Cage, along with crusty guitarist Michael Falzarano, bassist Ronnie Penque, and drummer Johnny Markowski. In the past I have made no secret of my dislike for Falzarano, a C-list celebrity who generally does nothing on stage but whose mere presence is inexplicably believed to lend credibility to shoddy Long Island Dead coverbands. That being said, this night was the first time I’ve ever heard Falzarano contribute something to the music, and I really enjoyed his hooks.

In recent years, Buddy Cage has made waves back acting like a grizzled old bastard, openly denouncing bands that he thinks suck and hearkening back to the good ol’ days. Physically, he looks like a mean sonofabitch who spits venom, and not surprisingly, he plays his pedal steel accordingly, ripping out nasty and fierce lines. David Nelson is his counterpoint, the playful old cowboy with a rambling and bubbling guitar. Penque and Markowski really add a lot to the group, providing an infusion of energy and fine backup vocals.

It seems to be an unwritten rule that audiences in seated venues will not get into the opening act. I don’t know why this always seems to be the case, but there was only a small cluster of us grooving off to the side in the aisle, digging “Diamond Joe” and “Higher.” Of course, more people did get into it after RRE’s violinist Tim Carbone came out to add some nice licks to “Peggy-O” and a rollicking “Glendale Train” finale. The band wanted to keep going, but their time was finished. It was really kind of silly that this show began at 8PM when there were two acts who wanted to play a lot but whose time would be truncated by a union-enforced 11PM curfew. Anyone ever heard of starting the show at 7:30 or 7:00? Unfortunately, this short set forced the band to omit a couple of gems that were written on their setlist, including “Take a Letter, Maria” and “Ripple.”

12/29/07 (Sat) Morristown Community Theatre - Morristown, NJ
Set 1: I Don't Know You, Contract, Henry, Absolutely Sweet Marie, Diamond Joe, Higher, Peggy-O*, Glendale Train*

* w/ Tim Carbone-Fiddle

I forgot to mention how Sunshine Bob had scored some killer seats. We were in the second row, and my seat was absolutely dead-friggin'-center. It was the perfect spot.

Railroad Earth didn’t come out firing on all cylinders, choosing to open with the mellower but profound “Everything Comes Together.” However, everything would change with the opening notes of the speedy “Dandelion Wine.” Instantly, the venue was transformed into a wild hoedown, and everyone was going crazy as the band pushed the tempos dramatically, which they would do for the next couple of songs. When “Peace on Earth” hit, I realized that Railroad Earth just might be the most jubilant band on the planet, as it’s really hard to listen to their music without being swept into their celebratory groove.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops with these cats, as the lengthy jam through the dark and intense “Seven Story Mountain” would demonstrate. Buddy Cage’s sit-in on “For Love” was really kind of pointless and was almost an afterthought, considering that he was practically hidden offstage. However, the old gem “My Sisters and Brothers” really brought the room together. I often tend to forget about the amazing family atmosphere at Railroad Earth shows. The audience is filled with good-natured, salt-of-the-Earth people, and even a cynical asshole like me can let down his guard and join in the positive vibes that seem to flow freely throughout the generous crowd.

Once again, I left the venue thinking, “Dammit, I need to see these guys more often!” Granted they’re not always around, seeing as how this was apparently their first appearance in their native New Jersey in 400 days (or so said a homemade banner that several people were adamant that the band see). Regardless, I can’t think of another group with so many virtuosos. Mandolinist John Skehan has really mastered the art of counterpoint at breakneck speeds with his dexterous foil Carbone, and multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling’s actions never ceases to amaze, including simultaneously playing tenor and alto saxes and making them each sound really soulful and beautiful-- sort of like Rahsaan Roland Kirk in a Motown band.

Unfortunately, a tight schedule forced me to quickly bolt out of the venue before being able to see all of my Jersey friends of years gone by, but I’m gonna be sure to drag my tail to another RRE show soon.

12/29/07 (Sat) Morristown Community Theater - Mayo Center for Performing Arts - Morristown, NJ
Set 1: Everything Comes Together, Dandelion Wine, Little Rabbit, Loving You, Peace on Earth, Seven Story Mountain, Old Man and the Land, Waterfountain Quicksand, For Love *, Railroad Earth, My Sisters and Brothers, Long Way To Go

E: Head, Keep Moving On **

* w/Buddy Cage (NRPS) on pedal steel guitar.
* First Time played, Sam Cooke cover.

12/30/07 (1:30AM) P.B.S. Porter, Batiste, and Stoltz – Gramercy Theater

I hauled ass to get back to Manhattan, knowing that it wouldn’t be easy to score a ticket to the sold-out gig for George Porter’s seemingly endless 60th birthday celebration. I think George has been celebrating his birthday in New York and New Orleans for three weeks running, but as long as the funk master keeps playing, I’m not complaining. There were about 10 people in front of the theater trying to nab a ticket, and I noticed that this short scalper who always wears a baseball cap at the Beacon was also there looking for tickets and making the competition even more intense. I hate scalpers, but I’m not stupid, and I watched what this guy was doing, as he ran back-and-forth across the street to catch every arriving cab. Everyone else was standing on the north side of the street, but I knew that more cabs were likely to arrive from the Beacon on the south side, so I stood over there and was determined to beat the scalper at his own game. Several minutes passed with no luck, and then Curtis, Rama, and Eddie stumbled out of a cab. As I was talking with them about needing a ticket, one of their friends was standing right next to me, and quietly sold his ticket to the scalper. I was livid. This was the same guy who went on a populist rant on the previous evening about how the Beacon should not be allowed to sell water bottles without their caps, and here he was supporting a leach in the marketplace. He claimed ignorance, but honestly, everyone in New York knows who the scalpers are, and it really takes next to no effort to find a ticket buyer who actually wants to see the show.

Royally pissed, I stormed up and down 23rd St., and ten minutes later, I found my ticket.

I used to run the box office at the Gramercy when it was MoMA’s movie theater and later an Off-Broadway house. The new management has really revitalized the space, tearing the seats out of the floor, putting some nice bars downstairs, and installing excellent sound equipment. If Terminal 5 is the worst venue in New York, the Gram just might be the best, although the drinks are a small fortune and the bar situation is rough upstairs, but hey, that’s life in New York.

P.B.S. was a blast. It was definitely crowded on the floor, but the grooves were being laid down in a nasty way. Once again, this was a band I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, having been unimpressed with their initial efforts when Art Neville was unable to tour with The Meters. Now they’re a tight unit, and I loved their Tenacious D-like self-referential songs, such as “Bring The Flood,” which cast themselves as funk superheroes.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The second set was when things got really nutty, as Warren Haynes and Danny Louis sat in for a dirty "Honkytonk Women." Well, actually, that was only the beginning of the madness, as George let Andy Hess take over the bass and decided to man the second drum kit. Then Warren and George traded as Warren gave George his guitar and took George’s place behind the kit for a ripping "Cissy Strut." And if this wasn’t crazy enough, Karl Denson, John Gros, Eric Krasno, and the Easy Dub All-stars’ horns all sat in. Eventually, Karl even made his way behind the ubiquitous second drum kit. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would ever see Karl Denson, George Porter, or Warren Haynes play the drums, let alone all three on the same night. Out of the three, Denson did a pretty good job holding his own, Porter wasn't bad, and Warren did manage to keep the beat, even finding a way to get a nice little breakdown in there.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

This show seemed to be the perfect bookend to The Word gig from Thursday. Once again, here was a band opening stuff up and jamming like crazy. It was another throwback to a different era, a time when late night jams and bizarre instrumental switches were commonplace in the city that supposedly never sleeps.

The gig ended at 4:30, but I was not ready to retire.

A friend invited me to his apartment for what is fast becoming his legendary late-night danceparty. I obliged and got down in a major way. Having been fueled by whiskey for several hours now, I switched over to water around 7AM, stating that I had to leave soon because I had to be at Shorty's for my DJ gig at noon. Seeing as how our host lived exactly one block from Shorty’s, he successfully convinced me to just stay up all night and then walk over at noon. “Why not?” I thought. I may not be young, but at least I can act like I am. Sure enough, I stayed up, DJ-ed the football games, and then went home to crash hard at 9PM. I needed plenty of sleep to get ready for the inevitable New Year’s Eve blowout.

12-31-07 Gov’t Mule – The Beacon Theater

After having been spoiled by Phish for several years, I developed an unrelenting desire to have an epic experience on New Year’s Eve. Naturally, these epic experiences have almost always revolved around music, or as the case was on 12-31-01, a home Eagles playoff victory followed by a train ride to New York to see Project Object playing Joe’s Garage at the Lion’s Den. Thanks to a girlfriend who did not see eye-to-eye with me on this subject, I had a two year drought of no NYE concerts, but that changed last year when I emancipated myself through Gov’t Mule, who put on a huge show. I knew that tonight’s show was dubbed “Winter of Mule,” which meant that they’d be doing an entire set of 1967 covers. Uh, yeah. That certainly would qualify as epic in my book.

The first set was solid with the AC/DC-like strains of “Mr. High & Mighty” really pumping up the crowd. Later, Warren played “I’ll Be the One,” and he went on a gut-wrenching, emotional solo. It was a song that I’d seen him play solo acoustic, but it became much more majestic with the backing of a full band. Warren was really in a cocky mood, which was a great thing. Of course, it’s not as if the guy ever lacks confidence, but on this night he was oozing with it and blowing everyone away with his ferocious playing and singing.

Photo courtesy of

Anticipation was high for set two, and we all knew what would be coming, but no one knew exactly which gems would be covered. The house lights came down around 10:30 or so, and a lengthy speech from Martin Luther King, Jr. played alongside video footage and stills. At first, the drunken crowd was not really into it, but when Dr. Knig began making statements about opposing the war in Vietnam, it touched a nerve and people howled in approval. However, this speech seemed to go on for a very long time. I will admit that my perception of time was probably a bit skewed, but I still felt that while these were profound remarks, it was time to get on with the show. Then I wondered what would happen if they played King’s speech for an hour-and-a-half until midnight. That would have been a hilarious and bizarre way to torture the crowd.

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A WCOS DJ booth was on stage, and the guy inside served as an emcee of sorts, introducing each number while photos and swirling Petri dish images were displayed on the backdrop. “Dear Mr. Fantasy” was the opener, and I was slightly disappointed because I had heard Warren play this many times before. Of course, it was still cool, but I was hoping for a lot of rarities, and this was a bad sign. The Rolling Stones’ “2000 Light Years From Home” was the next offering, and I have to admit that I was initially unimpressed. I kept thinking, “This doesn’t sound trippy like the Stones’ song at all. It just sounds like a generic hard rock Mule number.” “Sunshine of Your Love” was an obvious but damn fine choice, and “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” was exactly what I wanted to hear at that moment. We had a couple of nice Hendrix tunes, and then Vanilla Fudge’s “You Keep me Hanging On” was a great wild surprise.

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I knew there would be at least one Grateful Dead tune from the first album, and I kept banking on “Cream Puff War,” which was not played. I don’t know why I never envisioned “Morning Dew” because this was absolutely perfect. (On a nitpicky sidenote, I was a little ticked when the screen was showing images of the Dead, Jerry in particular, that were not from ’67. I would have liked to have seen them be a little more authentic here because there were plenty of classic "Captain Trips" 1967 images to choose from.) It was during “Morning Dew” when the set really began to liftoff, and “When The Music’s Over” slingshot me into another dimension. This song was everything I envisioned this night would be: a wild, intense, sprawling psychedelic jam that pushed everyone to the verge of insanity. The unquestionable highlight of the night, it caused me to flashback to my high school obsession with The Doors, having watched Oliver Stone’s movie as a freshman and then realizing for the first time that it was okay, nee essential, to question authority.

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People needed to catch their breath after that massive fire breathing monster departed, and an Ed Sullivan impersonator came out to introduce to two most controversial songs played on his show, which anyone who is up-to-date on their 1960s pop culture history knows are “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Light My Fire.” The latter was more like the single version than the gigantic album side, but it was still cool because Warren can apparent do a very respectable Jim Morrison. Then we took a shift toward the soulful sounds of the south. James Brown’s “Cold Sweat” and Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her” were both awesome funky jams featuring guest Steve Elson’s soulful sax and Warren’s excellent vocals, particularly on the latter tune. I was grooving hard, despite the chaotic scene with drunks falling down and spilling beer all around me.

It was now 11:59, but instead of going into a countdown, the band went into “You Don’t Bring Me Water,” as images of Otis Redding appeared on the screen. I think Mule was late on their countdown last year, but this time around, it really bugged me for some reason, and I, along with everyone else, was frothing in anticipation of the now late midnight celebration. After five or so minutes, the band wound down the song, and Warren did a very leisurely countdown. We weren’t even close at this point, so I guess there was no reason to worry. He took a sip of champagne, as balloons and confetti fell from the rafters. This quickly became an odd and chaotic scene because people on the left were gently tapping the balloons in the air and having fun, while people on my side (the right) were sadistically popping and destroying the balloons as quickly as possible. These people were crazy-- stomping, crushing, burning, and stabbing balloons vindictively. While the left looked like the hippie playland of the Human Be-In, the right sounded like the horrors of the Tet Offensive. It was a little intense and at times, a tad frightening.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” was fun, and then it went into a joyous “All You Need is Love.” At this point, the mad balloon poppers stopped foaming at the mouth and decided to sing along. Everyone was really into this genuinely beautiful and positive moment.

Here's a nice video recap of most of this set by LazyLightning66:

Everyone at setbreak was concluding that whatever followed in set three would have to be a letdown. A “You Don’t Miss Your Water” reprise was an odd opener, but I guess they were determined to play it all the way through. Then the WCOS DJ talked about those who had passed away in 1967, including John Coltrane. This initiated a big spacey jam on “Expression” that immediately eliminated the word “letdown” from everyone’s vocabulary. The Temptations’ “I’m Losing You” followed in the soulful, grooving footsteps of the funk tunes from the second set, and the dance party was reinvigorated once again. The heavy and roaring “Don’t Step On The Grass Sam” that came toward the end of the set was punctuated by crew members running out on stage with giant cue cards for an audience sing-along. This nasty number also made me recall that Summer Sessions show I saw way back in ’99, as this was the song that first enabled me to *get* Gov’t Mule.

After the moving “Sad and Deep as You” encore, the lights came up on a Beacon Theater that looked as if it had been demolished. The place was covered in busted balloons, confetti, assorted garbage, empty bottles, and mysterious fluids. It was here that I wondered why I wore nice shoes to this show. Oh, well. I had no time to worry about that as it was 2:30AM, and my night was just beginning.

I went over to Curtis’ row in search of anyone who wanted to “make way for the Rebirth.” Chris and Ashley were game, and we ventured out into the night for the next part of our journey.

12.31.07 Beacon Theatre - New York, NY

Set One
Brand New Angel
Mr. High & Mighty
Lay Your Burden Down
About To Rage
Banks of The Deep End
I'll Be The One
Time To Confess

Set Two - The Winter Of Love
Martin Luther King, Jr. Speech
Dear Mr. Fantasy
2,000 Light Years From Home
Sunshine Of Your Love
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
WCOS Break
Little Wing
Spanish Castle Magic
You Keep Me Hanging On
Morning Dew
When The Music's Over
Ed Sullivan's Really Good Show
Lets Spend The Night Together
Light My Fire
WCOS Break
Cold Sweat*
I Was Made To Love Her*
Born Under A Bad Sign*
You Don't Miss Your Water*
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Reprise>
All You Need Is Love

Set Three
You Don't Miss Your Water Reprise
WCOS Condolences
I'm Losing You*
Reblow Your Horn
Don't Step On The Grass Sam
Two Thousand Ate Jam
Blind Man In The Dark

Sad And Deep As You

* w/ Steve Elson on Sax

1-01-08 (3:00 AM) Rebirth Brass Band – B.B. King’s

We raced down the subway steps and hopped on the 1 train to Times Square. Chris was nervous that our trip would take a long time, but I assured him that it would be nice and easy. Then again, if I was leading you at that time, I could understand why you’d be a little scared. Chris and Ashley were excited to see Times Square, but they weren’t quite ready to see it so empty, not realizing that the place clears out by 12:25.

We went downstairs at B.B.’s and saw that the coat check and box office were closed. The goon at the door asked for our tickets, which we naturally did not have. He then said it cost $31. I thought this was a really odd number, especially since they were selling heavily discounted tickets earlier, and there was no box office now. I was about to pay him, when Ashley said, “That doesn’t make any sense. What if we give you $20 each?”


I was very impressed with Ashley. She may be from San Francisco, but she was haggling like a true New Yorker. Later I realized that this guy at the door was probably pocketing all of the cash. Oh, well.

The scene inside was a total zoo. It was so surreal to move from an uptown, hard-rockin’ pit of chaos into a midtown funky pen of insanity, but that’s exactly what we did. We dropped our coats, figuring they’d inevitably be trampled at some point, and went right out on to the floor. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a Rebirth show I didn’t enjoy, but this was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at one of their gigs. Within seconds, we found our contingent of NYC-Freaks, and the party was on. Rebirth was scorching hot. These cats were on fire, and every song they played for a solid 90 minutes sounded like it was the grand finale. It was major hit after major hit, and each one kept topping the previous number. The energy was bursting through the roof. Just like at the Beacon, there was a host of debris all over the floor, and I kept hearing bottles breaking, but no one seemed to care. Everyone was just having too much fun to worry about broken glass.

Rebirth ended, and our freaks huddled together, trying to figure out where to go next. The P.A. system was playing some Meters tunes, so we all just started dancing again. Every time a song would fade down, people would go grab their coats, but then another funk classic would begin, the coats would get dropped, and it was once again time to dance. This sequence continued for about ten minutes until I was the only one left dancing, so I grooved my way up the steps and out the door. It seemed as though we were all going to gather at the site of the infamous late night danceparty, so a big group of us shuffled down the street. At this point, it was around 4:30 AM, and outside of the cops, I don’t think there was a single sober person on 42nd Street. It was a hilarious scene.

We made it to the apartment building, and a large group piled into one elevator. I knew that we couldn’t all fit, but everyone kept pleading to squeeze more people in. I thought, “This is a really bad idea,” and then I naturally ignored my instincts and crammed myself in with everyone else. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the last one, as the crowd chanted for Craemer, yes THAT Craemer, to join us. He didn’t want to do it, but the peer pressure was too great, so he followed suit and jumped in. By now, the elevator doors had been open for far too long, and they automatically closed. The elevator tried to go up, but we were too heavy. Then someone jumped, and it felt like we had somehow gotten off balance. Suddenly, we weren’t moving at all.

Oh, yes. There were 15 people, none of whom were sober, all wearing winter coats, pressed up against each other, trapped in an elevator at 4:45 in the morning on New Year’s Day. If I could possibly imagine one place I did not want to be at this time under these circumstances, this was it. Our host rang the alarm on the elevator, but the front desk attendant wasn’t paying attention. He then called the front desk and explained that we were stuck. After nothing happened for five minutes, he called again, and the same guy at the front desk acted as if our predicament was news to him. This scenario continued for several minutes like a bad Marx Brothers routine, as our host attempted to explain to the attendant that in order to free us, he would actually have to walk over to the elevator. Realizing that the attendant was not going to ever be admitted into Mensa, a call to 9-1-1 was reluctantly placed. Then there was a lengthy delay before anyone arrived because New Year’s Day is one of the busiest times for emergency personnel. Apparently, people tend to do stupid things at this time of year. Imagine that.

Amazingly, everyone in the elevator kept it together. This could have been a torturous situation. It’s one thing to be trapped in an elevator, but it’s another to be crushed in with 14 other people who are far from sober. At any point, someone could have gotten sick, had to pee, or started to smell. I did want to take off my jacket, but since I was wearing a rather sleazy vintage New Year’s outfit, I was concerned that one of the ladies might pass out at the sight of my incredibly sexy chest hair. Somehow, we remained in great spirits, aside from a couple of the guys who thought that pounding on the door would somehow solve the problem (nice one, Craemer!). There was also a woman behind me who was not part of our cadre and therefore felt free to bitch up a storm. I couldn’t really turn my head around to see her, and honestly, that was probably a good thing. Nevertheless, we kept the negativity to a minimum for the twenty-five or so minutes while we were stuck. The fire department showed up and pried the door open, and as our gang of idiots poured out of the elevator, the look on the firemen's faces seemed to indicate that they had already done this 36 times that morning.

After that harrowing experience, would we all go home? Hell, no! We needed to party, and that’s exactly what we did. The tunes came on, and we all grooved for the next three hours. Eventually, the crowd started to thin, and by 8:30, there were only four of us left. It was at this point where I finally sat down, and realized that aside from a brief minute when I leaned up against a seat at the Beacon, this was the first time I had gotten off my feet in over twelve hours. The dancing machine known as Brian Ferdman had finally ground to a halt. My legs felt brittle, and as I saw storm clouds rolling in from the east, I decided to leave. I threw on my red-tinted shades and headed out into the world. I grabbed a cab home, beat the rain, and was in bed by 9:30AM.

My New Year’s Eve was everything I could have hoped for and more. It was truly an epic event and made for one hell of an ending to 2007 and one phenomenal beginning for 2008.