March 18, 2010

The Wood Brothers Jam at Java

I'm not Irish. And unlike the throngs of Americans who don green everything on March 17th in an ode to Irish "culture", I don't really celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Fortunately for me, this year there was a great show out my back door that I could attend with absolutely no chance of hearing "Seven Drunken Nights" - the Wood Brothers at Jammin Java.

In case you're unfamiliar with the band, its a blues/roots-rock duo formed in 2006 by brothers Oliver (vocals and guitar; played with King Johnson for more than a few years) and Chris (upright bass; the Wood of Medeski, Martin, and Wood.) They are touring with percussionist Tyler Greenwell for most March sets, and for this leg of the tour with opener Joe McGuinness.

The sound wasn't spectacular, which was clear from the soundcheck all early-arrivers got to enjoy (including a bluesy ode to Jammin Java itself.) There were lots of instructions to turn this up or turn that down; this took time. So much time, in fact, that opener McGuinness had to soundcheck over Nicklecreek, the house music for the night. But the kinks were worked out during the first few songs of the set, and soon the duo was cruising through their toe-tapping repertoire sans the constant eye contact with the sound tech.

Not only did the music get where it needed to be, the band was in good spirits, easily handling a strange, fidgety crowd. "This one is based on a true story," Oliver begins. "Unlike all those other songs. All lies," finishes Chris. I really dug the easy nature of these two, especially when hearing random cries for "Hot for teacher!" from the crowd. Yes, it was an older crowd, but these folks were not timid. At one point, a gentleman interjects between songs, "I have a question. (no hesitation for response) Why are we sitting for this show?" Very cooly, the band shrugs it off citing "scientific research" that shows people who sit tend to act more civilized than those standing. Oh the irony. Also that, "What I heard about the Irish is they love sitting," according to Oliver when questioned about the strictness given the holiday. Well played sir, well played.

You can read my scorecard below for more details on the show categories. I will add this in my closing remarks: it was so refreshing to be at a show that was all about the music. That's what these guys are, musicians - not actors, not icons, not the next 'it' band - musicians. There's no buzz about the Wood Brothers; there's no, "I discovered them first" hipster attitude. And I think that's what will make a band (and show) like this timeless. Wish you were there.

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