Show Reviews

, attached to 2018-04-08

Review by greghappe

greghappe The evening started out perfectly, preceded by a perfect day. It was a day that was not quite spring, although many had noted that it had sprung. The sunshine warmed the daytime enough to fire up the chainsaw and see if the cobwebs of winter could be throttled out of the exhaust and the chain greased for another year. As a form of dedication to the soul sacrifice I would see on stage later that evening, and admitting ignorance of one of the newer releases of the Mallett Brothers Band, I cut up a pine that I had felled the previous fall. The chainsaw hummed to life as I traded my seasoned ski legs for arm muscles that had not been called upon since last fall. In a certainly defeated shutter of anguish, I could almost hear the neighbors remark to each other, ‘not another year of this?’

With the day gone by, and all the pieces of the carpool and preshow plans falling into place (thanks Jake, for the hospitality), I headed to the big city for a night of the unknown…My Mallett Brothers Band happenings had become less and less frequent, due in part to a preference to not coming into town, and although I had seen them several times since their inception (and loved every time I saw them), I was unsure of the Fishman element. I have seen Gordon doing his thing, saw Page and the Vida Blue, and was even fortunate enough to catch Trey on his first TAB tour at the State Theatre in ‘99, but I had never seen the Fishman out of water. Had never seen the Pork Tornado, Touchpants, or the Jazz Mandolin. Although I had heard that Fishman had sat in on a few local shows, I had no idea what to expect from the evening. Couple this with the certainly awkward encounters I was sure to have with people that I used to hang out with all the time before the reclusiveness of family life took me, and you begin to feel the anxiousness that was overtaking me and coupling with the uncertainty of the show.

In talking to my brother, who lives in MD and is catching a show later in the tour, and reflecting on part of the Drummer’s Resource webcast that I listed to at work a few weeks ago, we decided before the run that Fishman wasn’t going to ‘wow’ us…this isn’t the point of the endeavor. Although this conclusion had already bene reached, the anticipation of what the night would deliver when it came hung in suspension as we headed to the show…

Security was tighter than I had planned. Upon seeing this I headed to the side alley to let the line die down a little. A lucky circumstance would find the band collected on a sidewalk by the back door of the venue and preparing for their set. They weren’t surrounded by a posse of people, and were humbly hanging on the street. This sort of humbled collection of old friends gave me a warm greeting, shared some real, long hugs, and we exchanged pleasantries over how life was treating us. We congratulated each other on recent weddings, children, and made some small talk that could only be exchanged by people of comfort. Afterwards, it was in through the turnstiles, the metal detecting wand, and a quick search of my person.

After the opener finished up, the show I had come for was preparing their stage. Lights Along the River is an album that I play at home. I was excited to note that the third song of the set was the opening track and one of my favorites (Late Night in Austin). I was trying to write down the set list, and this was the first song that I knew the title of with a certainty. The darkened room and my waning knowledge of their repertoire had made writing the list difficult. Thanks and Kudos to Michael Butterfield (who I have only known as ‘Cup’ from a bouncer gig he held years ago) for providing the night’s set list.

I won’t tell you that the sound for the evening was epic. The room is a long, empty hall which does not lend itself well to acoustics. I won’t tell you that Wally’s lap steel solos were incendiary, or that Fishman ‘wowed’ us with his talent. I will tell you that Fishman sat in with a group of hometown boys done good who were welcomed back home with the fiercest of homecomings. I was pleasantly surprised by the fire of the fiddle player. Fishman sat humbled among the band, and created that ‘egoless’ dynamic that he remarked upon in the webcast. “Never miss a Sunday show” is what they say. At one point one of the Malletts engaged the crowd by welcoming and thanking us for ‘coming out on a school night.’ The dedication of the crowd, who admittedly are starting to age, for showing up on a Sunday night added to the excitement in the room. We were all accessing something that had passed us by a few years back but that we were clutching to hold onto. I spent most of the night standing behind Nick Leen’s father, Steve, who has got to be near sixty but who was raising his beer to ‘Tip em Up’ and cracking a huge smile as he watched his son play to a packed house on a Sunday night in Portland.

Of the set, I will take one major stance: I never understood or appreciated CCR. I don’t understand The Dude’s (not the Dude of Life, but The Dude) deference to Credence. I get a kick out of The Dude burning his crotch with a roach and dousing it with a beer while rocking out to ‘Lookin Out My Backdoor,’ but that is the extent of my appreciation for Credence. When the opening notes of Fortunate Son came on, and a special guest (Jana Sound?) delivered a more soul-inspired version of the tune than I thought possible, I was in awe of the workmanship. It didn’t turn me into a Credence fan, but reminded me of the reason why the Mallett Brothers Band are capable of the transformations I have witnessed in their own musical span over the course of the band’s career.

“Low Down” and “Don’t let the Bastards Get You Down” were a reminder of the album that first entranced me with their sound and turned so many of the local cats onto their scene. These were foreplay however, for “Benny” (the song which speaks of the person that everyone knows who sips on whiskey, gets in bar fights, is superman swinging a pool cue, will never get caught, and will never die). The room tore up! Enough people had admitted their own mortality to go home and sleep for their workdays, so there was finally a little room to play with that guttural theme and get our feet moving. At some point we had the realization that there was going to be no set break. The guys didn’t let up. Chuck was killing the drums and the boys were matching his charismatic playing which sometimes had him off his drum stool. The set lasted in excess of two hours, only to be followed by a triple encore which featured Dave Mallet on the harmonica. It was a pleasure to catch this show. The people who came for Fishman eventually realized this was a Mallett Brothers Show and Fishman was humbly part of the band, no more and no less, contributing to the overall evening. Thank you Mr. Fishman for the opportunity that this tour affords the Malletts for exposure to other crowds.

There’s a little of Benny in us all, supermen among mere mortals, but at the end of the night I ‘hoped to make it to the big north woods, if I didn’t run out of luck…’

Thanks for the show guys!

TMBB with Jon Fishman
PCMH 4/8/18

Viva L' Arcadie
Long Black Braid
Late Night In Austin
Losin’ Horses
Ye Roaring Falls
Tip Em Up
Fortune Son (CCR) w/ Janay
Peter Amberley
Low Down
Too Much trouble
Good as it gets
Don’t let the bastard get you down
Broke and Driftin
Getting Back
Felling of the Pine
No Rules In the game

Tougher than the rest (Dave Mallett on Harmonica)
Tiberline (High Times)
Rocking Chair
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