Reviews

Nights of the Living Dead: A Three-Part Series - The Rhythm Devils

Greg M. Schwartz

The indefatigable energy of Grateful Dead music was strong in Ohio as drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann brought their new band, the Rhythm Devils, to the Midwest, followed shortly thereafter by guitarist Bob Weir’s Ratdog.

The Rhythm Devils

Nights of the Living Dead: A Three-Part Series - The Rhythm Devils

City: Columbus, OH
Venue: Lifestyles Community Pavilion
Date: 2006-10-19

The indefatigable energy of Grateful Dead music was strong in Ohio’s “Rock-tober” as drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann brought their new band, the Rhythm Devils, to the Midwest, followed shortly thereafter by guitarist Bob Weir’s Ratdog. Despite the bands' many differences, both succeed in keeping the music of the Dead alive by continuing to push it in new and fresh directions. Hart, Kreutzmann, and Weir may all be approaching senior-citizen status, but their vibrant careers -- now 40-plus years long -- are still going strong. It was a rainy Thursday night in Columbus when fans filed into Lifestyles Community Pavilion for the Rhythm Devils’ first Ohio show. The venue is unique in that it has two stages -- one outdoors for the summer and one inside for the rest of the year. The outdoor stage is one of the best venues in the Midwest, with a small lawn and great speakers, and there’s not a bad spot in the house. The indoor setup is nice too, with a wide pit, spacious second level, VIP balcony, and outstanding sound. Anticipation for the Rhythm Devils was high, as the band matches Hart and Kreutzmann with Phish’s Mike Gordon. Gordon is a longtime Dead devotee, and there is probably no bassist on Earth better suited to sub for the Dead’s Phil Lesh. Rounded out by Bay Area guitar luminary Steve Kimock, vocalist Jen Durkin, and Sikiru Adepoju on talking drum, the Rhythm Devils demonstrated that they are no mere percussion project but, rather, a full-on rock ‘n roll force. “Scarlet Begonias,” one of the Dead’s most beloved classics, was a masterstroke opener, both an instant crowd pleaser and an appropriate tribute to Columbus’ Ohio State Buckeyes who were the number-one-ranked team in college football and whose colors are scarlet and gray. But it was the next tune, the original “Fountains of Wood,” which really set the tone for the evening. Featuring a funky groove and bluesy riffs over a hard-driving beat and new lyrics from longtime Grateful Dead wordsmith Robert Hunter, the song established the band as more than just a greatest-hits jukebox. In fact, new songs with fresh lyrics by Hunter make up the bulk of the band’s repertoire. The Rhythm Devils took the energy of “Scarlet” right into “Fountains” and had the whole place grooving without missing a beat. Durkin’s vocals blend a bluesy Janis Joplin with a Sheryl Crow-ish pop-rock sound, one which goes well with Gordon’s dynamic deep end, Kimock’s spacey guitar, and the transcendental beats of Kreutzmann and Hart. Kreutzmann provided the backbeat as usual, and, instead of playing a full trap-kit along with him, Hart stood and played a wide variety of additional percussion, taking the polyrhythmic sound to a higher level. Adepoju added another layer of flourish, lending a bit of a world-beat sound as well, while Gordon and Kimock provided the perfect foil for Hart and Kreutzmann to do what they do best. The first set concluded with another Dead classic, the traditional “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad,” which got everyone in the house feeling good. The second set opened with three more original songs, and, though the tunes were unfamiliar, the supreme level of musicianship kept the crowd grooving. A turbo-charged “Cumberland Blues” took fans back to familiar territory, but also explored new ground as Gordon and Durkin shared vocals on the traditional worker’s lament. The high-powered jam eventually led into an intense drum jam between Hart and Kreutzmann. The surprise of the show came shortly thereafter when the rest of the band returned and busted out Phish’s “Twist Around.” It was an intriguing choice since “Twist” was a song that never seemed to reach its potential and is hardly a “phan” favorite. But Gordon must have had that in mind: this version took the bass line to a previously unheard level of funk. Together, the Rhythm Devils created a monster groove that blew away Phish’s original arrangement. “Twist” was followed by the new “Your House,” a song based around the same highly danceable beat as another long-time Dead staple, “Iko-Iko.” The band then capped the proceedings with an epic version of “Fire on the Mountain.” Durkin promised to sing the entire song (which has more verses than the Dead usually played), and she did a great job of providing those vocals while also saving fans from having to hear Hart’s awful rap version of the tune. Gordon and Kimock, meanwhile, channeled Lesh and Garcia masterfully, once again providing the pathway for Hart and Kreutzmann to conjure one of the all-time transcendental grooves of the cosmos. Check back tomorrow for Nights of the Living Dead Part 2

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image