If Pete could write about each and every show he sees without jeopardizing his employment status or mental health, he would totally do it. Fortunately for him, he knows better. Fortunately for us, he is just obsessive and irresponsible enough to try it anyway. Ever the enablers, we are posting recaps of each of the first eleven shows that Petey hit in 2011.
Before this show, my tenth outing of the year (which was still young at that point), the only Rusted Root song I knew was, of course, “Send Me On My Way.” I don’t even remember liking it until my high school graduation where a few kids in my class sang it on a lovely mid-May afternoon in a field in Beverly. Actually, it wasn’t so much “lovely” as it was “cold as fuck and sleeting.” Not exactly an experience I want to relive, but what can I say? Nostalgia works in strange ways.
And anyway, the ticket was free, thanks to my buddy Nick. After definitely not smoking a joint in my car in a spot that left me with a parking ticket that I definitely paid, we froze our fannies off for the short walk to the Paradise. This was my first visit to the newly refurbished ‘Dise and, I’ve got to say, it was a little disheartening to see that the makeover did not include the removal of those huge, obstructive pillars in the middle of the room (easily the worst feature of the venue). They did, however install some industrial strength cooling fans in the ceiling, which struck me as a great idea until I stood under them. They make it feel like you’re standing on a tarmac at Chicago O’Hare. Nick was optimistic that we could maneuver towards the stage and out of their path once the music started and “the hippies start hippie-ing about.” But alas, there was no accessible spot that offered shelter from the storm. Oh well, maybe I’ll be a little more grateful for the “breeze” when I go there for a show in the summertime.
What’s that? Oh right! The band! I figured I wouldn’t recognize any songs other than the big hit, but they were generous enough to include some spirited covers of “Cinnamon Girl” and “Suspicious Minds.” I later found out that two of the songs that got the biggest crowd response were closer “Ecstacy” and “Back To The Earth,” both off When I Woke. Both numbers included an epic (as in “long”) build-up – as you can imagine (I mean, they’re something of a jam band. Epic build-ups are pretty much their raison d’être right?)
Any hardcore fan reading this will likely roll their eyes, but “Send Me” was the highlight for me. Nostalgia aside, it was a notable moment for being the first time I’ve ever really felt somewhat mindblown by a hand-drum solo. Looking like he just got back from the gym in a sleeveless tee and baggy shorts, drummer Preach Freedom stepped out from behind the kit and floored the crowd with all manner of polyrhythmic pummeling.
But the main thing I learned about the eclectic Pittsburghers that night is that Michael Glabicki may be the Michael Jordan of soulful-singin’, acoustic-strummin’ white boys with knitted hats (that must have been a HUGE hit a few days earlier when they played for the snowboarders up at Sugarloaf)