Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hello Joisey! Hello Philly!

This past trip back east gave me my first visits to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. So here's some observations:
  1. Jersey isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Well at least this little town called Cranford is kinda cute.
  2. East Coast train transit just kicks butt over California. Just like in Boston, Jersey is set up to take some big trains from the city, then explode them out in many directions. It is very practical to commute by train out there.
  3. At the same time, these people clearly aren't interested in socializing on their train trips. If they can at all avoid sitting next to someone, they will. Check out this pic:

It's a perfect allocation of every three-seat row on the train with not a single person willing to sit in a middle seat. Nicetameetcha. Have a nice day.

New Jersey transit does a pretty good job though. You can get from Grand Central Station to Philadelphia for about seventeen bucks on NJT. That's a pretty good deal. Of course we only realized it after spending a lot more on the Amtrak ride.

Well, of course upon visiting Philly I had to do what every tourist does. Run up the Rocky steps and jump around.

That was goal #1. I also accomplished the other goals of seeing the Liberty Bell, the open market, and having a Philly Cheese Steak. The market was pretty cool (especially seeing the Amish run a pretty smooth operation), but the cheese steaks are nothing special. I prefer Jay's Cheesesteak on Divisidero.

The Liberty Bell is now housed in a full-blown Liberty Bell museum, complete with metal-detector security. It's nice to see the history of the thing, but unimpressive that all it's stature is purely iconic. It was just a city hall bell until it started going on tour and being pumped up to be some great symbol. And then it's got that big crack because it wasn't made right in the first place. And it's only about four feet across.

Still, I'm up for visiting just about any new place. I'd gladly spend more time in Philly.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

12/31/05 New Year's Eve with Gov't Mule

OK, I'm going to finally get around to talking about my New Year's this past December. Wife and I spent late December and early January in New York City. I have always loved seeing a band for NYE, since doing with the Grateful Dead for their last ten years of it was so much fun. So I lined up tickets to see Gov't Mule, Warren Haynes' band at the Beacon, which is right on Broadway.

The Beacon is a fine old place, much like the Orpheum in SF with all permanent seats, a loge, and a balcony. We were in the loge, slightly stage left, row F. I had never seen Gov’t Mule before, but I’d seen Warren Haynes with the Allman’s, Phil and Friends, and the Dead. The only Mule tune I knew was a cover, “Soulshine,” although I know from setlists they do a lot of covers. The warm up wasn’t an opening band, but they did show video from an old ‘60’s show called “The Beat.” It was hosted by a white guy but almost all the performers were black. I saw Dusty Springfield and what looked like young B.B. King and Albert Collins. The cool thing was the girl dancers in the white go-go boots.

The band came on around 9:26. They’re a four-piece band, drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards. I didn’t recognize the first two tunes, but they seemed a little boring. But then they got loosened up, and a stagehand came on to flash us huge cue cards like “Don’t be such an assh*le, Sam” so we could sing along with the chorus. They played a very sweet slow tune that built up that we really liked, including a drift into “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at the end. Then Warren switched guitars to another Gibson and he started noodling around, sounding like Jerry when he’s got the “waka-waka” sound going. I mentioned to Wife that he was sounding like Jerry, and then Warren launched into “Loser” and the place went nuts. “Loser” was great… it really rocked the house. They stuck a “Terrapin” jam in the middle, which was pretty cool. They finished the first set with “Train Kept a-Rollin’ All Night Long” around 10:35.

When the second set started at 11:10, we were completely taken by surprise as the curtain lifted to reveal a stage set up like the one from “The Beat.” The band all had black suits and ties on, and the keyboard player was wearing a big rasta wig. There was a four-piece horn section and two go-go dancers in white boots and colorful vinyl dresses (one red, one blue). There was one guest member of the band… a guy named Jimmy Vivino who sang and played a red and white Strat. Warren still hadn’t taken the stage, but after all the rave-ups, he walked on sans guitar, and also wearing a black suit. The place went nuts! The band kicked in to “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and he sang a killer lead on that. They followed with another old R&B cover, and then “I’ve Been Loving You (For So Long)” and Warren got handed his guitar from Jimmy mid-song so he could tear up the solo. This set went on and on with great covers, including “What Is Hip” and “The Letter.” That was a smokin’ great surprise! At midnight they counted down between songs and then balloons came down and they played “Night Time (Is the Right Time”) and Warren played the woman singer’s parts on his guitar.” The set closed with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” at 12:15.

The third set was back to normal, although all the musicians eventually came back. They started at 12:50 with “30 Days in the Hole” and eventually covered “Folsom Prison Blues” as an instrumental jam and then “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.” The encore was “Hurts Me Too” and finally the second encore and last song gave me “Soulshine,” leaving no stone unturned, as far as I was concerned. I don’t think there could have been another place in New York that gave me as much as I wanted as this. They f*cking delivered! It was finally all done just before 2 AM.

Full set list
12.31.05 Beacon Theatre - New York, NY
Set 1:
Bad Man Walking
Lay Your Burden Down
About To Rage
Don't Stop On The Grass, Sam
I'll Be The One
Life Before Insanity
I'm A Ram
Loser >
Terrapin Station >
Train Kept A Rollin' w/ Danny on Guitar

Set 2(w/ Ron Holloway's Holographic Horns* and Jimmy Vivino on guitar):
Intro Theme (San Ho-Say) No Warren
Can't Turn You Loose Warren on Vocals Only, no guitar
Shake Warren on Vocals Only, no guitar
I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) Warren back on guitar
Down & Out In New York City
What Is Hip?
Thelonius Beck Interlude
I Shall Return
Thelonius Beck Interlude
The Letter
Thelonius Beck Interlude
I Believe To My Soul
New Year's Countdown
Night Time Is The Right Time
Bad Little Doggie
Papa's Got a Brand New Bag w/ Danny on Guitar

Set 3:
30 Days In The Hole > w/ Jimmy Vivino
I Don't Need NO Doctor w/ Jimmy Vivino
Beautifully Broken w/ Jimmy Vivino
Effigy > w/ Jimmy Vivino
Folsom Prison Blues > w/ Jimmy Vivino
That's What Love Will Make You Do w/ Jimmy Vivino and Ron Holloway's Holographic Horns
Blind Man In The Dark w/ Ron Holloway

Hurts Me Too w/ Hook Harrera and Alvin Youngblood Hart

Encore 2:
Soulshine w/ Ron Holloway's Holographic Horns and Jimmy Vivino on keys

*: Holloway Horns are:
Chris Battistone on trumpet
David Zalud on Trumpet
Chris Karlic on Baritone Sax
Ron Holloway on Tenor Sax

Links: More pictures and the music download.