Rockin’ With The Riders – West Coast Style
I am just coming around from a great trip to California after seeing three NRPS shows. It was a non-stop traveling party of good times with good people and good music. What more does one need? Not much I say.
The excitement of this trip was magnified by the fact that I hadn’t been to California in seven years. I lived out there for just a few years, but it always seemed like a much longer span. I guess I crammed so much fun in such a short period of time, it felt longer. No matter how you cut it, seven years is just too long. This trip wouldn’t have been possible without an old friend helping me out, and for that I am grateful. I’m blown away. Her kindness got this trip off the ground so it could become reality. Thanks!
I was able to get time off from work - Thursday/Thanksgiving to the following Wednesday. Just enough time off to make this happen. My flight left at 2:00 PM on Thursday and it turned out to be a good day to travel, as most were at home during that hour stuffing their faces with Turkey and such. Everything went smooth on the way, right up to checking into the hotel in Oakland. They had a bar downstairs so I went and had some Guinness. Good thing I went, as it was just the bartender hanging out. It was dead, as it was Thanksgiving night, when most folks were home riding the couch after eating too much. The beer was good and it felt good to be in California, much warmer air for one thing. Off to bed as it was now about 4:00 in the morning for me, coming from the east coast. Big day tomorrow – the NRPS in San Francisco!
Five hours of sleep and I am ready to roll. Shuttle to the rental car, where I tell the guy at the counter I am on my first vacation out here in seven years. He asks me if I want a convertible and I ask him how much. Same price as the super small car I had reserved. Sure, why not! I head out to the parking lot and it’s a bright red convertible. I wasn’t sure I would fit in the thing, as I’m a big guy, but I did - so off I went, driving by the Oakland Coliseum Arena – a sight of many a good time. I think it said it was the Oracle Arena now. Oh well. Still was quite a place to see some music. I can still remember up on Phil’s side, in front of the upper booth with the space mural on the wall. But tonight is about the NRPS in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall. I had only been there one time, to see The David Bromberg Band in 1991.
The drive over to San Francisco was short and sweet, no traffic and I didn’t get lost. Checked into my hotel easy like and went for some lunch. I don’t know where I ate – I just saw a Guinness sign in the window – good enough for me! I walked around the city for a while, checking things out and then took a nap before the show. The three-hour time change is just enough to tweak you a little bit. I also knew that when tonight’s party wound down it would be real late east coast time.
Now it’s time for the NRPS, but first I met up with some great folks from the PhilZone for some beers and food. We then head over to the Great American Music Hall and get there about half way through Moonalice’s set. Here we go, music time! And what music they played! One long set of rocking NRPS.
11/28/08, Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA
Rocky Road Blues, I Don’t Know You, Contract, Henry, Ghost Train Blues, Whatcha Gonna Do, Blues Barrel, Peggy-O, Higher, Minglewood Blues ^, Big Six, Garden Of Eden, The Last Time, Garden Of Eden, Sliding Delta, Where I Come From, Panama Red, * Ripple
^ with Pat Cambell on bass, along with Ronnie.
Before the NRPS came out I got to meet up with some new and old friends, enjoying great company and cold beer. Good stuff!
The NRPS came out and started with a nice Rocky Road Blues. Contract is a song I could hear every show and not tire of it. Nelson really has the emotional part of this song down pat. Then came a killer Ghost Train Blues. This one has really developed into quite a monster. They have the jams down. This is another one they should play every show. Blues Barrel got good and slinky, roots-down-in-the-swamp music that just snakes and grooves along. Really all the new songs are being played at a high level. I am really excited for the album to come out and hear what they cooked up in the studio. From Peggy-O on they were firing on all cylinders and the fans were soaking it up, dancing up a storm. It was a treat to hear David sing both Peggy-O and Ripple on the same night. That kind of sweetness stays with one for a long time. It feels good. The Minglewood Blues with two bass players going at the same had a deep beat to it. Nelson was picking and bending – one of my favorites of the evening. Scrow and Little Toast had the sound real nice in the show and the place wasn’t that crowded so it was easy to get around. I checked out the sound all over, but my favorite was right on the floor towards the back.
Garden Of Eden stretched out and provided the jam for the evening. The interplay between Buddy and David on this one always goes cool places. They really can play together, locked in a weave of wildness. Perfect! The remaining songs, all sung by David were great. Where I Come From has really gotten better. I enjoy it a lot more then when it first was played. Panama Red was rocked the set to a close. All in all, a great start to the run of shows. No complaints here. Thanks NRPS! Finally, a big thanks to all the great folks that treated this east coaster so kindly, before and during the show. Much appreciated. Next stop, Petaluma.
WE LOVE YOU....
glad to hear you are alright coyotte. you had me scared there for a bit. keep on rockin!
Nice review Johnny. Where are the rest? SLACKER
slacker - says the guy that still can't burn cdr's, let alone flacs. ha!
the rest will come soon. This trip really put a hurt on. work the last few days has been tough. sleep is my friend now.
It's only been a week. Thanks for all the cd's John.
Day two. Show tonight is at The McNears Mystic Theater in Petaluma, a place I had never been to. The drive over the Golden Gate was once again amazing. I could go over that bridge every day. It never is the same, but always cool. The drive up was easy and after a long nap at the hotel I was ready for some more NRPS. I took a cab over there, knowing in advance that driving home later wouldn’t be an option.
The theater sure was a nice place. I met some folks from the PhilZone there. They are a real great bunch of folks, and they know how to have big-time fun!
There was a nice beer place/food place right beside the theater. One could sit out there, enjoy a Guinness and have a cigarette, watching the big action in Petaluma unfold. Excellent.
Once the show started, which you could hear outside, all you had to do was finish your beer walk a few feet inside the theater and there was the bar – with more Guinness! There was a balcony upstairs and then seats down each side on the floor. The middle had bar tables and seats. There was flat floor for dancing up front. Just a perfect place, highly enjoyable.
Tonight the band would play two sets, which is my favorite format. A break and a few more songs is the way to go. Tonight they would kick some serious ass! Heavy-duty playing and a great song list.
11/29/08, McNears Mystic Theater, Petaluma, CA
I Set: Where I Come From, Rainbow, Henry, I Don’t Know You, Lonesome LA Cowboy, Groupie, Any Naked Eye ^, Louisiana Lady #, Deep Elem Blues %, Oh Babe, It Ain’t No Lie %, Rocky Road Blues %
II Set: Rockin’ With Nona, Contract, Big Six, Lo And Behold, Whiskey, Ghost Train Blues ^, * Rainy Day Women #12# ^ +
Chris Kontos played a second drum kit the whole show.
^ with Barry Sless, # with Pete Sears, % with Barry and Pete, + with Pat Campbell
Two drum kits set up tonight as Johnny’s brother is playing with them tonight. They were tight and in tune with each other, like brothers can be. Brothers are good to have. Other guests included Barry Sless, Pete Sears and Pat Campbell. Seems when the NRPS play here the guests are plentiful.
The NRPS came out and started with one of the new songs, Where I Come From. A good tune to get the night going, the band and audience finding the groove. They kept getting stronger each tune and really caught fire with Any Naked Eye. This must have been close to twenty minutes and was made special by a Barry Sless sit-in. From Any Naked Eye on they got on such a roll that I thought they might just be doing one set. But they were just getting going.
The Deep Elem is a perfect song for guests and this one was right in the pocket. An impressive thing with this band and the guests this evening is that they don’t step on any toes. Eight and nine players at once can be a clusterfuck, but not with this bunch. They all have plenty to say, but know when to say it. When the sound is dialed in and the house is sounding fine, it’s a joy to just grab different sounds/instruments out of the air and soak it all in. Good stuff!
Ain’t No Lie is a nice break from Peggy-O – two beautifully sung songs, just nice to hear this one every once in a while. Maybe David will get the Pretty Little Miss going again. Rocky Road Blues – a nice rocking way to end the set. The crowd was really having a ball at this point, dancing wild like. Letting it all hang out. As it should be. The band got a good boil going towards the end.
Set break was a fun time outside getting to meet some more zoners and get primed up for some more tunes.
After some tuning, Rockin’ With Nona started things off and they got a good jam going on this one. Buddy’s steel was singing and swinging along throughout. How lucky are we that Robert Hunter is still writing such great music, and that we get to hear it performed? Thanks for the good stuff. I still can’t figure out this line though, anyone know it? “Nona had soda, drink till the well runs dry. Cherry….?…maybe but what care I.”
Contract and Big Six were done just fine. “saying this man is a caution that all should avoid if you don’t want all of your illusions destroyed.” I need to listen to Big Six some more to soak it in a little better.
Lo And Behold, a great song for this band was excellent. They play it fast, bring it down, then get revved up again. Whiskey can also get one revved up. Pretty sure I had a cigarette for this one, coming inside right in time for Ghost Train Blues. Oh yeah! As I said I could hear this one every show and they do it just about that often. So a perfect match. Barry Sless came back out for this one. A perfect way to end the set. Drums loud and tight and then the wave of guitars comes crashing in and here we go. This version went on and on. Ending with a bang. The crowd brought the band back for one more, Rainy Day Woman – the everybody must get stoned song – and they each took a turn with their own verses. And that was it. Another great show in the books. Too much fun really, thanks NRPS! And thanks to all the NRPS fans, a great bunch! Next stop Arcata.
right on johnny! Thats a review! SLACKER
One more review to go. Will let you nap untill the writing juices flow again...
Outstanding reviews, JHT! Great seeing you at the Mystic & Arcata shows... I've got some pics from Arcata that I'll post here when you put that review up.
Re: Rockin' With Nona lyrics -- I haven't been able to figure out that line either... sounds something like "Cherry hombre-doh, maybe but what care I," but that doesn't make any sense.
Great reviews John!
Missed you guys in Eugene, Gary and John (and others). Wild show, which was extremely jammed out in a way that I've never seen the NRPS play.
Looking forward to checking out the recording when it is available.
well, here is rest of the review. again - big thanks to all the great zoners I met. thanks for the kindness!
I skipped the Santa Cruz show, instead heading up north to the Arcata area to see some friends for the night. I thought a nice mellow night would be good after two barnburners, but instead we went to see Bustle In Your Hedgerow/A Led Zeppelin thing with no lyrics, at The Red Fox in Eureka.. There was nothing mellow about it. It wasn’t my most favorite stuff, but still better then staying home and watching wheel of fortune. This is now three late nights in a row, can I make it one more night for the NRPS? Sure, if I don’t get off the couch all day on Monday. Showtime comes and we head out for some dinner and then get into the show for a Guinness. This place is small. Then I check out the layout of the place, as I haven’t been here before. It was basically a long room. A pool table at the opposite end of the stage and a bar that ran along the wall towards the back, and that was about it. It was easy to get around the place and the sound was crisp and clear. I spent the night beside, and around, the soundboard, where the sound was top notch! Here is what they played.
12/01/08, Humboldt Brews, Arcata, CA
I Set: Panama Red, I Don’t Know You, Where I Come From, Lonesome LA Cowboy, Groupie, Ghost Train Blues, Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie, Deep Elem Blues, Olivia Rose, Garden Of Eden, The Last Time, Garden Of Eden
II Set: Blues Barrel, Contract, Big Six, Henry, Rainbow, Rockin’ With Nona,
Sutter’s Mill, Louisiana Lady, Down The Middle, Friend Of The Devil, Glendale Train,
A stellar evening of music all around - a great crowd, great sound and great music. It all came together for this night, maybe my favorite of the three. The Panama Red started the night off right, being northern California and such. The Groupie was interesting in that Buddy broke a string and was out for this one, so Nelson really stepped it up with great guitar work. Buddy’s steel is such a big part of this song, so it interesting to hear it without his input. From Ghost Train on they hit the groove. I was really able to pick the different sounds out of the air here, great job Scrow and LT! My most favorite part of the night was the Blues Barrel, which got down and dirty, swamp like. The set break really helped with the frame of mind for this number. There was a moment in the jam when all was right with everything. The kind of moment I hope to have each and every time the music is going. The other highlight was the Friend Of The Devil into Glendale Train. It was a great transition, one worth listening to again. For the most part the most vivid memories of the music this night is the new songs. Like Buddy’s steel playing during Down The Middle. Wow! The transitions into and out of The Last Time were carefully done, getting a cheer of recognition from the crowd. Good stuff. Ripple was a perfect ender to the night, and that was it. Three great NRPS shows in the great state of California. What a time. Big thanks to all the great folks I met out there, you all are real kind. Rock N Roll!
Nice Johnny. Thanks for the great reviews. Worth waiting for...
Somebody should pay you for this stuff
You get a chance to transfer those photos?
Rock N Roll!
here ya go... some pics from HumBrews in Arcata, 12/1/08
band introduction by the Cap'n... "the greatest cosmic, psychedelic-country rock & roll band in the universe!" I wholeheartedly concur
straight-up NRPS -- pure, unadulterated, no special guests... a rager in Humboldt with the suds 'n budz crowd
a solid setlist with 5 of the new Hunter-Nelson songs sprinkled in, everything superbly played
From the 2nd-set opener Blues Barrel onward, the show just rocketed into the stratosphere. Could if have had something to do with the "Henry" contest at intermission? Likely so...
All in all, a GREAT night of rockin' music with fun peeps, certainly one of the top NRPS-only shows I've seen since the "renaissance" in October 2005