One More Saturday Night with Dead & Company in Atlanta July 1, 2019 14:03
Over the past fifty years, the city of Atlanta has played host to countless moments in Grateful Dead history. When looking back over the band’s illustrious career, it’s no surprise that tickets were in such high demand on Saturday night. The blazing summer heat was met with an equally hot ticket, as Dead & Company made their annual visit to Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood over the weekend. It’s always extra special returning to this venue for any Dead related project, as I experienced my first “Dead show” here on the Wave The Flag tour in 2004. While the roster has evolved and some songs might have a slightly different sound, the fact that we’re still able to gather and celebrate this music with nearly 20,000 people is truly remarkable.
When this band came together in the fall of 2015, many of us didn’t know what to think. The “Fare Thee Well” shows were a very recent memory, and I’m not sure that anyone ever expected to see John Mayer playing lead guitar alongside Bobby, Billy, and Mickey. What the Deadhead nation has witnessed since then has been nothing short of magical. The six-piece now has nearly five years under their belt, and Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti have proven to be the perfect combination for this interpretation of the Grateful Dead.
The band came out of the gate with guns blazing on Saturday night. “Scarlet Begonias” and “The Music Never Stopped” made for a beautiful pairing. “Alabama Getaway” proved to be one of the more rockin’ moments of the night. Weir has always done a phenomenal job with the Johnny Cash catalog, and “Big River” was certainly on point. It’s always a treat to hear “West LA Fadeaway,” even if D&C’s rendition is slowed down just a bit. Weir appeared the play the first few notes of “He’s Gone” before quickly aborting, switching guitars, and allowing Mayer to lead the way through a killer “Tennesee Jed.” The first set would end just as strong as it started, as “Bird Song” worked its way in and out of “Loose Lucy” before coming back in full force.
The sun was finally starting to set, and the band returned to the stage after a lengthy set break. An extended jam eventually led us to “The Other One,” which would then segue into a surprising stand alone “Franklin’s Tower.” Mayer led the band through “Crazy Fingers” in impressive fashion. Any time I’m fortunate enough to hear the “Lady with a Fan” > “Terrapin Station” combo is a very special occasion. This particular performance was perfect in every way. They eventually made their way back to “The Other One” before unleashing Hart & Kreutzmann for “Drums” > “Space.” The rest of the band returned to stage and eventually hit the opening notes of “Althea,” the song which led Mayer to discover the Dead’s music. Weir then performed one of the more coveted Garcia ballads in “Standing on the Moon,” before “One More Saturday Night” ended the set in proper fashion.
After the “Scarlet Begonias” opener, many wondered if and when we would hear “Fire on the Mountain.” Fortunately, the band returned for the encore and Burbridge finally had his chance to shine on lead vocals. Walking out of the venue, I felt that familiar since of gratitude that can only be achieved by these unique musical journeys. While I was lucky enough to stumble across the Grateful Dead’s music at a young age, it was just after the passing of Jerry Garcia. The reality that I’m able to be a part of this experience so many years later is something I'll never take for granted. These are moments that I’ll cherish for as long as I live, and hopefully, there will be many more Grateful nights to come.
Oteil Burbridge: The Luckiest Man Alive October 9, 2018 21:00
Interview by Brett Hutchins
The rumbles of the Allman Brothers freight train and the ecstatic bliss of the Grateful Dead have had one singular common thread - low end master Oteil Burbridge. As bassist for the final edition of The Allman Brothers and now the ever-popular Dead and Company, Burbridge is well aware of his place in jam history and how lucky he is. But these gigs didn’t just happen. They’ve been stewing together since birth, immersed in a musical childhood, and pried and prodded by jam philosopher-in-chief, Col. Bruce Hampton. In front of a headlining gig at this weekend’s Suwannee Roots Revival, Burbridge dove deep with Live and Listen about Col. Bruce’s life lessons, fatherhood, the similarities of church and the Grateful Dead experience, and the importance of, at the very least, remembering to always try. If luck is when preparation meets opportunity, Oteil is its preeminent example.
You were immersed in the arts as a kid. How important was this to your future success?
Oteil: Absolutely crucial. Some of it you have to realize was necessity. It’s a good thing they looked at it that way. They were trying to keep us off the street. They threw everything at us - music, art, dance, acting, visual arts. They wanted to see what stuck and what we liked most. We were enjoying all of it. But for me and my brother Kofi, music was the strongest one. I also learned from my mom that your job was going to take up a huge chunk of your life time wise, so you should make it something you love. Mom enjoyed her work, and my dad not so much. I learned what kind of toll that can take on a person.
Were you and your brother having musical conversations as soon as you started banging on those instruments?
Oteil: He’s older than me, and it took me a while to be able to play anywhere near his level, which I’m still nowhere near. They discovered he had perfect pitch when he was seven years old, so he was someone that excelled at a really extreme rate. That was good for me because A - I thought that was normal, and B - it’s the mark I was shooting for. It helped me to push to where he was.
So it’s always been aspirational from you looking up to him?
Oteil: It still is. I’m still trying to catch up. By the time we were teenagers, we were starting to play together, so it took me a while.
Your name means explorer and wander in Egyptian. Do you ever feel like you were meant to play this type of exploratory music from the get-go?
Oteil: Oh yeah. And be on the road all the time. The African tradition is that your name has something to do with your destiny, so in my case, it was dead-on.
Talk about the Atlanta scene that got you started.
Oteil: When I moved to Atlanta with Kofi, we were just playing in cover bands, wedding bands, jazz bands. Anything to make ends meet. We had a rough time financially, but fortunately I met Col. Bruce, and my whole life took a complete left turn. I couldn’t have even begun to predict or envision how far to the left my career would go after meeting him. It was a great preparation for the Allman Brothers and Dead and Company. We had so much fun in that band mixing funk, bluegrass and blues, rock, everything. It was crazy. And more importantly, fun. That’s another lesson from Bruce - always have fun.
Was that relationship electric from the get go? He seems like the type of guy that as soon as you shook his hand, you knew something special was going.
Oteil: I’d say within 20 minutes of meeting him, I knew I was going to follow him.
What were the most important things he taught you, either in life or music?
Oteil: So many things. He taught me a new way of listening to music. I listened to music as a musician, but he taught me to listen as a human. He always stressed that in my playing. He wanted to hear all the other sides of you. He wanted music that sweats and bleeds and isn’t all dressed up and perfect. He liked that too, but you have to have both sides to really make it work.
You get that from a lot of folk , bluegrass, country, and blues. It does sweat. It does bleed. It’s like life. Sure you sometimes laugh and get all dressed up and perfumed up, but he wanted the pain, too. That’s something I now listen to in other people’s playing. A lot of the music I used to listen to doesn’t do it for me anymore, because it doesn’t sweat or bleed. I can’t smell it. I need more of the whole package.
So more feeling vs. thinking?
Oteil: Yes. I love intelligent playing, but if all I hear in someone’s music is how clever they are, it just isn’t enough for me anymore. When you’re a musician that’s just starting to play, and you came up in jazz and classical and all that, you’re focused on the mechanics and making sure you can actually play it. But that can quickly become the sole focus. When that happens, it’s a narrow vision of what music is capable of.
Watch Oteil performing w/ Col. Bruce & Aquarium Rescue Unit (1992) here:
You mention that back in those days you were super snobby about what you were listening to. What would Oteil from that era think about a pop star like John Mayer joining your band?
Oteil: I wasn’t even aware of him back then. I was deeply immersed in what happened in early recorded music. I had gone back to the mid to late 40’s and once Col Bruce came on board, we went back to the 20s and 30s and started studying classical as well. I had zero idea of what was going on on the radio.
Even at my age of 50, when I heard John Mayer was going to be a part of it, it surprised me. But I’ve learned you never know what’s going to happen and to never prejudge. Of course in being in the band with him, I was hoping people would give me, and us as a band, that same chance. If it wasn’t happening, it wasn’t happening. People can tell if the magic is there. We felt it as soon as we started rehearsing, but we didn’t know if the fans were going to buy it. Fortunately, they were feeling the same thing that we feel.
Was there a bit of a brotherhood between you, him, and Chimenti because of not being part of the core original members?
Oteil: Of course, as much because of our age than anything.
Is there a concerted effort by the three of you to inject some adrenaline into the shows sometimes?
Oteil: Yes, but it’s nothing that’s intellectually premeditated. We have a lot of energy, and that’s naturally going to happen. It’s not something we think about, in fact, it’s often times the opposite in that we have to force ourselves to reel it in or curtail it a little bit and not go off all the way too soon.
I’ve been following John for a while, and I know how excited he can get, not only when something’s clicking musically, but also how intensely he studies it.
Oteil: It’s good to have that tension. It’s good to play with cats that are older than you, and it’s good to see both sides of it with your own eyes and feel it. It’s good for us.
How intimidating were those first days of the Dead and Company experience, and how did you conquer those fears?
Oteil: You don’t. I tell my students all the time. You have to embrace doing it afraid. That’s another thing Col. Bruce used to always talk about. He called it embracing the mirror of embarrassment. You’re essentially getting naked on stage. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it. You have to be vulnerable and be willing to let the world see everything up there. I get nervous before I play. My stomach will be knotted up, but once we’re into a few songs the joy will rise up and obliterate the nerves.
Listen to John Mayer discuss playing w/ Oteil on 'Tales From The Golden Road' here:
Did you spend any time in the church growing up? Do see much of a connection between the secular musical experience and the church?
Oteil: I didn’t grow up in church. My parents were really scarred by the church, so much so that my dad was heavily against it. I had a very spiritual experience when I bottomed out at around age forty, and that caused me to investigate it. I’m sure I’d be considered a heretic now, but I do see a great correspondence between improvisational music - the dancing, the ecstatic nature of the beast - and spirituality of all kinds, whether it’s in church or not. When you get into this trance that music will get you, then your awareness is heightened. When you do it all together with a bunch of people, you achieve this group consciousness that really has a lot of what I believe is supernatural power. I do see a lot of correspondence. Probably more of the Pentecostal churches, where the music is a huge part of it, and it’s not subdued. It’s jammin’ pretty hard.
Especially in these big crowds with the Dead and Company shows. It gets stereotyped, but the energy is there. It’s palpable. You can feel it.
Oteil: It is, and it’s not like any other crowd. I’ve seen so many different bands and crowds, and this is a whole different animal. It’s a real positive time. We’re in a stadium playing a "Bird Song" or "Dark Star" that reminds me of a Miles Davis ballad for 20 or 30 minutes, and people are really listening. That’s something. People are really tuned in. It’s a different thing that I am super fortunate to experience from the stage.
How does being a new father approach either life or music?
Oteil: It’s changed everything. Every cliche is so true. He’s three and a half, and I can’t wait for him to get home from school so we can play. You always hear that you can’t imagine the quality of love that you will feel for your child. You won’t know until you have a child. It’s different than any sort of love - mom, dad, brother, sister, even your spouse. If you embrace it though, it can even deepen your love of your spouse. When we’re together, I’m like he’s part me and part her. It’s nuts. I had him late. I had him at 50, so my mind is at a better place, so I know to savor it and how quick it’s going to go.
You’re back at Suwannee Roots Revival Thursday with Oteil and Friends this weekend. Who are your friends?
Oteil: Scott Metzger (JRAD) on guitar, John Kadlecik (Further) on guitar, Jay Lane (Ratdog) on drums, Weedie Braimah on percussion, Alfreda Gerald on percussion, Jason Crosby (Phil & Friends) on keys, who used to play with me with the Peacemakers. It’s going to be smoking.
What makes the Suwannee grounds so special?
Oteil: I’ve always loved it. I’ve played there before the Allman Brothers, maybe five years before the Allman Brothers started playing there. The very last Wanee we did with the Allman Brothers, my wife and I camped there. I don’t even know if the moon was full, but the trails were so lit up even at night that we could see how to get back to the tent. All those trails were so lit up, and it was so mystical. I just remember being like “WHOA,” this is why they call it the SPIRIT of Suwannee. I could totally feel it. After all those years playing, I finally got the full taste by camping and got the whole shabang. It’s so beautiful.
In watching you play and reading your interviews, you seem like you are extremely in tune with the beauty of the world around you and how lucky you truly are. Do you have any sort of routine to keep that positivity flowing?
Oteil: It’s a constant fight on this planet. I’m trying to embrace all of it. I always say that the key to my happiness is getting closer and closer to radical acceptance. You can’t have peace all the time. It’s like the sun being out all the time. Night has to exist. I get better at not dealing with the negative stuff, but accepting it for what it is. I fail all the time. Try running through the airport with a three year old. That little guy knows he can work us. He wins sometimes, and I lose it. I try to do my best, but I’m just average.
It’s also realize easier for me. I play music for a living. I’m not driving hours to the office to a job I can’t stand. Life is going to challenge you, so just try. Trying counts for something.
Despite Hurricane Michael, this weekend’s Suwannee Roots Revival is still on at the beautiful Spirit of Suwannee Music Park.
Stream Dead & Company's Tour Opener For Free Tonight May 30, 2018 17:20
Dead & Company Tour Dates
May 30 - Mansfield, MA – Xfinity Center
June 1 - Camden, NJ – BB&T Pavilion
June 2 - Camden, NJ – BB&T Pavilion
June 4 - Cincinnati, OH – Riverbend Music Center
June 6 - Noblesville, IN – Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center
June 8 - Atlanta, GA – Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood
June 9 - Raleigh, NC – Coast Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek
June 11 - Saratoga Springs, NY – Saratoga Performing Arts Center
June 13 - Hartford, CT – XFINITY Theatre
June 15 - New York, NY – Citi Field
June 16 - New York, NY – Citi Field
June 19 - Darien Center, NY – Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
June 20 - Cuyahoga Falls, OH – Blossom Music Center
June 22 - East Troy, WI – Alpine Valley Music Theatre
June 23 - East Troy, WI – Alpine Valley Music Theatre
June 29 - Quincy, WA – Gorge Amphitheatre
June 30 - Eugene, OR – Autzen Stadium
July 2 - Mountain View, CA – Shoreline Amphitheatre
July 3 - Mountain View, CA – Shoreline Amphitheatre
July 6 - Chula Vista, CA – Mattress Firm Amphitheatre
July 7 - Los Angeles, CA – Dodger Stadium
July 11 - Albuquerque, NM – Isleta Amphitheater
July 13 - Boulder, CO – Folsom Field
July 14 - Boulder, CO – Folsom Field
August 25 - Arrington, VA – LOCKN’ Festival
August 26 - Arrington, VA – LOCKN’ Festival
Dead & Company Announces 2017 Fall Tour Dates September 7, 2017 11:45
Oteil Burbridge Reveals Lineup For New Supergroup August 22, 2017 13:46
Dead & Company Reveal Plans For 'Playing In The Sand' In Mexico July 25, 2017 14:08
Clear your calendar, Dead & Company is heading to Mexico! February 15-18, 2018 the Dead-themed supergroup will be Playing In The Sand. This event will be an all-inclusive Caribbean concert vacation in beautiful Riviera Maya. Want in early? Sign up for access to a special presale before packages are available to the public: playinginthesand.co/dc. Presale will begin August 1st, and packages will be available to the public on August 3rd. Stay tuned for further details on what is sure to be one of the most exciting events of the new year.
Bob Weir Will Lead An All-Star Cast For Jerry Garcia's 75th Birthday June 12, 2017 12:50
Join the Jerry Garcia Family in celebration of Jerry’s 75th birthday on Friday, August 4th at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO! The celebration will be led by Bob Weir & The Campfire Band and also features the Jerry Garcia 75th Birthday Band, an all-star band featuring original Jerry Garcia Band members Melvin Seals, Jackie LaBranch, and Gloria Jones plus Oteil Burbridge, Kamasi Washington, Tom Hamilton and Duane Trucks.
Tickets to the Jerry Garcia 75th Birthday Concert will be available via a special fan pre-sale beginning on Wednesday, June 14th at 10am MT via Jerry Garcia Fan Ticketing. Public on-sale begins Friday, June 16th at 10am MT via AXS.com.
Stay tuned for additional line-up announcements & special guests!
Fool's Paradise Releases Complete Weekend Schedue March 17, 2017 09:31
Photos by Keith Griner: Phierce Photo
In addition to the main lineup, a number of late night shows will be hosted by some of the most talented musicians in the industry! On Friday, March 31, there will be performances from Jaw Gems, Eric Krasno Band, and the “Infinity Jam” hosted by Eric Krasno and Oteil Burbridge. On Saturday, April 1st, Dumpstaphunk will bring their unique brand of down-and-dirty New Orleans funk to the Elk’s Lodge for a very special late night set, their only performance at Fool’s Paradise. After Dumpstaphunk finishes up, they’ll join forces with members of Lettuce to form this year’s “Fools For Funk” super group.
There’s more to look forward to than just musical adventures. Fool’s Paradise is also offering exciting Florida excursions with your favorite artists! Whether it’s mini-golf with Lettuce’s Jesus Coomes, The Motet’s Lyle Divinsky, and Vulfpeck’s Antwaun Stanley, or ping-pong tournament with Adam Deitch and Adam Smirnoff, or a sailing adventure and DJ set at sea with Ryan Zoidis and Eric “Benny” Bloom, you’ll be rocking your Saturday alongside the best.
There will also be music at the Elk's Lodge on Saturday afternoon, from 1PM-4PM with performances from Ajeva, The Groove Orient, and Ben Strok & The Full Electric. More information can be found here.
With so much to choose from, St. Augustine will be crawling with adventurous opportunities. The oldest city in the United States and fabled home to the Fountain of Youth, St. Augustine’s unique scenery and historical presence sets the city apart from any other in the country. With over 42 miles of beaches, incredible restaurants and bars, jetskiing, kayaking, fort tours, parasailing, and its own distillery, attendees will have plenty to explore.
Dead & Company's First 2017 Tour Date Has Surfaced December 1, 2016 09:13
Watch Bill Walton Sit-In On "Drums" At Dead & Company's Tour Closer July 31, 2016 14:04
Saturday night's performance at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA would serve as the tour closer for Dead & Company's 24-show summer tour. This summer has been a critical time for the latest Dead-themed super group, as they were able to build off of the foundation established during the fall of 2016 and expand to the next level. With much early speculation as to whether guitarist John Mayer would be the proper fit, Dead & Company has undoubtedly won over Deadheads far and wide as this tour proved early and often.
Late in the Saturday's second set, it was time for one last psychedelic "Drums> "Space," and the band had a nice surprise up their sleeve. Drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, better known as "The Rhythm Devils," welcomed bassist Oteil Burbridge back to the stage, as well as NBA legend and famed Deadhead Bill Walton. Check out video footage from "Drums" below, as well as a complete setlist from Saturday night's tour closer.
Watch a segment from "Drums" with Bill Walton, Oteil Burbridge, Mickey Hart, & Bill Kreutzmann here:
Watch Dead & Company's "Iko Iko," "Feel Like A Stranger," and "U.S. Blues" in Philadelphia November 6, 2015 15:10
Photo by Robert Altman
The Dead & Company tour continued on Thursday night in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center. Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart have teamed up with John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti for the latest Dead-themed project. A handful of original Dead tunes were debuted during two lengthy sets, as the newly formed supergroup continued an unforgettable year of celebrating the Grateful Dead's 50th Anniversary. Tour debuts included "Candyman," "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleoo," "Casey Jones," "Iko Iko," "Standing on the Moon," and "U.S. Blues." Dead and Company's tour continues tonight in Washington D.C.
Set One: Here Comes Sunshine, Loose Lucy, Candyman, Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo > Bird Song, Cumberland Blues, Casey Jones
Set Two: Iko Iko > Feel Like A Stranger, China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider > Drums > Space > Playing In The Band > Standing On The Moon > Sugar Magnolia
Encore: U.S. Blues
Watch "Iko Iko" - Video by Rick McGraw
Watch "Feel Like a Stranger" - Video by Rick McGraw
Watch "U.S. Blues" - Video by Rick McGraw
Dead & Company Announce 11 Additional Fall/Winter Tour Dates September 10, 2015 07:35
Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann will be joined by John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti this Fall for latest Dead-themed side project, Dead & Company. After the initial announcement of a two-night Halloween run at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the group released eight additional tour dates and have now added 11 more.
The newly added dates come after the previously announced fall run that begins at Times Union Center in Albany, New York on October 29 and concludes at Worcester's DCU Center on November 10. Dead & Company's Fall Tour continues on November 11 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York and is now slated to run until a pair of shows in Las Vegas at MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 27 and 28. Other newly added dates include visits to Columbus, Ohio; Greensboro, North Carolina; Atlanta; Nashville; St. Louis; Minneapolis and Broomfield, Colorado. Dead & Company end the year with a pair of shows in San Francisco (December 27 and 28) and Los Angeles (December 30 and 31).
A year ago Mayer took to Twitter to share more thoughts about what made the Grateful Dead so special. Then, in February, the guitarist invited Bob Weir to perform with him on CBS's The Late Late Show. Fast forward to June when John played two shows with Phil Lesh & Friends at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, California. Chimenti was not only a member of the Fare Thee Wellband, but he was Weir's longtime sideman in RatDog and also participated in a post-Jerry incarnation of "The Dead." Burbridge is a newcomer to the world of the Grateful Dead, but has sang many a version of "Franklin's Tower" with the Allman Brothers Band.
An American Express pre-sale for tickets to the newly added shows begins September 16 at 10 a.m. local time (except Nashville which starts at 9 a.m. local time) and will run through September 17 at 10 p.m. local time. Public on-sales start September 18 at 10 a.m. local time.
Watch John Mayer perform "Althea" with Bob Weir on The Late Late Show on February 5th, 2015
Watch John Mayer perform "Truckin'" with Bob Weir on The Late Late Show on February 5th, 2015
Col. Bruce Hampton and the ARU: A Family Affair in Atlanta August 20, 2015 12:33
Col. Bruce Hampton and The Aquarium Rescue Unit’s homecoming at The Buckhead Theater was a family and friends affair of outstanding proportions. The guys blew through a two night run in their home-state of Georgia that featured a Friday night show in Atlanta and a Saturday show in Athens at the acclaimed Georgia Theater as part of their first extended tour in 18 years. Kofi Burbridge, Carter Herring, Efram Townes, and Kebbi Williams all made appearances and celebrated in the spirit of making damn fun music.
The tour was part of the 26th anniversary celebration of when Col. Bruce originally formed Aquarium Rescue Unit in Atlanta back in 1988. Col. Bruce had already established himself on the Atlanta music scene befriending and sharing the stage with the likes of Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, and many more. Known for his out-of-this-galaxy performances and erratic free spirit, The Col. had been spreading his mad influence across Atlanta for the better part of two decades. He linked up with musicians Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Sipe at the Little Five Points Pub and when the newly created band needed a lead guitar they reached out to their friend Jimmy Herring. They played in clubs around Georgia and the Southeast and built a reputation for their outward performances and unpredictable on stage antics, as well as respect for their impeccable chops and world-class style. In 1991, Hampton and ARU teamed up with other notable jam bands, including Phish, Widespread Panic, and Blues Traveler, to join forces on a mega tour along the eastern seaboard. They named it The H.O.R.D.E. Tour and it allowed the bands to break into large venues such as amphitheaters and arenas as well as grow their fan bases in new regions of the country. Over the years ARU came to embody the essence of The H.O.R.D.E Tour through their spirited playing, respect for the music and musician, and incredible skills. Col Bruce continued to influence many young musicians while on the tour, earning himself a reputation as the godfather of jam bands. ARU would eventually disband and the members would go on to continue their journey as musicians in even bigger acts but their inspiration was never forgotten.
Packing into a sold-out show in the heart of Buckhead, the collective anticipation of the audience was manifesting itself in eager grins on what seemed to be EVERYONES’ faces. It was as if everyone knew each other, not personally, but in the sense that everyone shared in knowing that what was about to take place on stage tonight would not only be one of the greatest demonstrations of musical skill and talent, but also the highest understanding of what it truly means to communicate using music and improvisation.
“Phantom on the Curb” kicked things off, giving Matt Slocum and Herring an early chance to speak their minds. Herrings voice would be prominent throughout the night, and rightfully so. The man is a true guitar master and was really feeling it from the get-go, offering up dazzling guitar play and perfect timing. The classic Hampton cover tune “Fixin to Die” was followed by another in “Yield Not to Temptation” which featured Efram Townes of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band delivering a warm golden solo on trumpet. The band ran through Hampton songs “Elevator to The Moon” and “Jack the Rabbit” as well as “Another Man” before Oteil stopped and welcomed his older brother Kofi (from The Tedeschi Trucks Band) to the stage. Next they kicked off “Rampage” giving the audience their first taste of some new material for the evening. This tune, featuring a slick baseline by Oteil, is an awesome jam vehicle that allowed everyone to chip in and add to the conversation… including Kofi whose flute swayed tastefully along as the musical discussion ebbed and flowed. The classic ARU ballad “Time Is Free” would close the set as Jeff Sipe fiercely drove this jam on as the guys got a few more things off their chest. Col. Bruce preached and to the audiences delight managed to channel the spirit of the jam through himself as he regurgitated his signature nonsense rap into the microphone. Herring and Oteil responded assuring The Col. they were on the same page delivering impeccable solos featuring immaculate taste and control. When these men play together they exhibit an obvious intent to share positive energy with each other and the audience.
The second set commenced with “Brothers House” and then “Isles of Langerhan”, before the guys stopped to welcome Herrings son Carter to the stage. They moved into the Bobby Bland cover “Heartache”. Carter delivered a VERY refined solo and showed great patience during his jam not rushing his notes and allowing his voice to develop over time. Whether he was shaking off the nerves or not, it was impressive enough for Col. Bruce to tease the elder Herring that he had no chance of topping his son. In a show of tough love Jimmy reminded everyone who the man of the house was by rattling off a sweltering solo before playfully trading licks with Carter. Another Hampton staple “I’m so glad” followed. This Skip James cover really gave Col. Bruce’s abilities as a soul and blues singer a chance to shine as he baptized the audience in its joyous melody. Carter took the first solo in this number and did not hold back in the least, demonstrating superb technique and touch. Looking from face to face of the band members, hearing father and son trading licks on stage, Oteil had not stopped smiling all night, Sipe hammering away gloriously on his kit, and Hampton just basking in the freedom - I was really “so glad” I could be there to witness it. “Space is the Place” came next, followed by the super catchy ARU song “Working on the Building” featuring Oteil on vocals. Two new songs surfaced next as the band broke into a particularly hard hitting “1911” and hot blues number “The Dragon” to close the set. The encore featured a jam featuring Kofi, Sipe, Oteil and Kebbi Williams of The Tedeschi Trucks Band that segued into a resounding “Compared to What”
When speaking of Hampton’s impact on others, John Bell of Widespread Panic said that “he knows there is something more… other folks catch the wave off of his movement through this world”. ARU is truly the product of “The Hampton Effect”. Not only do these guys physically kick your ass with amazing technicality and ability, but they are in touch with that “something more”, giving them the freedom to channel energy from different sources and put spirit in a room full of bodies. As we all filed out of the Buckhead Theater into the Georgia summer night, I certainly left a richer person because of my experience with The Aquarium Rescue Unit. Experiencing organic musical synergy, with no barriers or restrictions, featuring some of the greatest musicians of our generation will put a little pep in anyone’s step. Now I know why bands like Phish, Widespread Panic, and Blues Traveler were willing to split their H.O.R.D.E. Tour profits evenly with this little crazy band from Atlanta: because they wanted in on the magic too.