Joining Bill on stage were two legends in their own right - Oteil Burbridge (bass, vocals) and Scott Murawski (guitar, vocals). You may know Oteil as the bass player for The Allman Brothers and his own project, Oteil and The Peacemakers, and Scott from Max Creek and The Mike Gordon Band. To call this group a "supergroup" would be quite appropriate, although they probably wouldn't care for the label. Having sat down with Scott and Oteil for about an hour prior to the show, I realized how humble and appreciative they are to be doing what they're doing.
The Culture Room, by all accounts, is a dump. But it's my dump, our dump, and it truly is an acoustically perfect venue. You never know what you're walkin' through or what type of drink will be spilled on you next, but that's half the fun. The open floor goes right up to the elevated stage, with a bar upstairs overlooking the audience down below. If you get a spot on the railing, you feel as though you're right on top of the artists -literally right there!! But as long as you can find a decent place to stand, it doesn't get much better, especially when it's packed-in tight and the band you're listening to is tearing it up.
From the band's opener, everyone knew, and I mean everyone, that this was going to be something special. Eyes of The World out of the gate got the juices flowing, and they sounded better than I had imagined in my wildest dreams. Tight, soulful, melodic, jazzy, potent, mad - they did justice to a song few can, and ever will. Next up was Murawski's Cruel World, which was really sweet, offering us a real good look at what Scott brings to the table. His riffs are outstanding, as are his vocals. And he pushes Oteil to the limit - you can see the interaction between these two throughout the entire night, as they bounce notes off each other while grinning from ear to ear -good stuff. The Neville Brothers Yellow Moon followed, with a twisted jam segueing seemlessly into the set closer and fan-favorite, The Dead's Bertha. Our collected breath had been taken away. Nice job guys...
After having caught their sound check earlier in the day, and hearing a blistering Help>Slip, I was more than ready for the real deal. What I wasn't ready for was a 35 minute musical novel, consisting of masterful improvisation, melodic jazz, Oteil scat-singing, and a Tower-jam that ripped my eyeballs out of my head. I really wasn't ready. Help>Slip>Tower opened her up, and I could tell Bill was definitely in 'second set' mode. I've seen that look in his eye almost 200 times before, and lo and behold, there it was again. He truly was having the best time of all, and his playing reflected the mood of the band - there were smiles everywhere!! As the set progressed, I must have seen Oteil and Scott look at each other no less than 20 times in disbelief, daring the other to take it to a higher level. Not one time did either of them back down - sensational!
Other highlights of the set: We heard 3 originals sprinkled amongst a collage of Dead tunes, and I truly enjoyed each one of them. 'Murderland', Chains of Life, and my favorite of the three, 'Fly Away All', were all great songs - both lyrically and musically. Having penned Robert Hunter to write a bunch of lyrics for their upcoming record, I was very interested to hear what kind of music would come from his words. I had only known Jerry's interpretations, but I must say, musically speaking, the Trio nailed it. And why not? All three band members have written music their entire lives, so it must have come somewhat natural to do the same with Robert's words. 'Sugaree', 'Althea', and the set closer 'Big Railroad Blues' left the audience begging for more, and more we got.
After Bill took his bows and gave props to Oteil and Scott, they broke into The Dead's Scarlet Begonias, which took on a life of its own. Twenty minutes later we were left dumbfounded as the Trio left the stage, the Scarlet truly capping a magical night spent with extended 'family' and good friends.
The one thing I got from this performance was that this band can do no wrong, because there is no 'right' or 'wrong' - they just love to play, and whatever comes of it is what it is. Now how can you go wrong with that kynd of attitude? You can't - and with Bill, Oteil, and Scott willing to go where no band has gone before, the future is as bright as they want it to be.
Download the torrent here
Read Scott and Oteil's interview here
**The band dedicated the show to Merl Saunders, who past away earlier that day. RIP Merl, you made a difference.
**Most pics and videos courtesy of AD Firtel. You can check out AD's array of videos here