Jammin' On The River
The following is the only possible way to start a review of Sunday's events in the City of Brotherly Love:
As two noble men and a woman climbed up the rigging to take in the sails of the pirate ship docked at Penn's Landing, immediately following our arrival and preceding a five-minute inspirational pump-up performance and free-shirt-visor-bandana giveaway by an honest-to-God Captain Morgan, former Grateful Dead keyboardist Vince Wellnick's unnamed slide guitar player nailed jamband leach DJ Logic in the facial/upper chest region with an errant toss of a floppy frisbee that had been flung on stage seconds earlier, causing the Ace Cowboy to literally double over from the subsequent laughter. Full-fledged doubling on my part.
'Twas to be that kind of day at Captain Morgan's Jam on the River.
'Twas the kind of day where people of all shapes and sizes and sexes would be smacked in the back of the head with said floppy discs, as well as Commerce Bank red-and-white inflatable beach balls (fair and full disclosure: I, too, unintenionally wacked a Commerce Bank red-and-white inflatable beach ball into the noggin of another festival-goer, and I laughed heartily and mightily).
'Twas the kind of day where you could watch a toddler do a fantastic rendition of the Robot to the sweet sounds of The Duo. 'Twas the kind of day where a quintet of stoned teenagers no older than 14 could pass their community doob to the 50-year drunken, sloppy woman next to them, a drunken, sloppy woman wholly unaffiliated to the boys in the pack, a drunken, sloppy woman I'd later befriend and brighten her otherwise groggy day.
Oh yeah, and they played music there, too. Lots of music. Lots of different types of music. Lots of different types of awesome music. And that meant lots of shit-eating grins, audible gasps, uncontrollable head-bobbing and the occasional high-five when appropriate (Personally, I think the high-five should always be appropriate, but others disagree and mock).
A pair of former Grateful Dead keyboardists book-ended the excellent day -- Wellnick playing upon our arrival and Bruce Hornsby closing it out -- but it was the three-band lunchmeat that really made for a great trip: Particle, the Duo and Railroad Earth. And Particle, while playing maybe the best I've heard them so far, played only a tidy, 40-minute set and then bolted. That was fine, considering I think the appropriate serving size of Particle is about 45-60 minutes, no more.
The Duo continues to blow me away. I often find myself spacing out during their shows and fantasizing about the three of us hanging out in their Brooklyn loft or wherever, me nursin' a beer while the octopus known as Joe Russo bangs on those drums and Marco Benevento sounds like he's playing a dozen instruments at once. They were incredible as always, and this may have been my favorite of the four shows of theirs I've seen over the past 10 weeks.
I love how Marco nails Mike's bassline in Becky when Mike's not around, and I love watchin' Russo go at it like he's got four arms. There was a brief moment during their new song My Pet Goat when I swear Russo hit every drum on Earth at the exact same time. He hit every one on the kit in front of him and several down the street and a few drums over in China, all simultaneously. These men are marvels, just so much talent. I have an erection right now.
But the band that suprised us the most was clearly Railroad Earth, the bluegrass band featuring a mandolin, banjo, violin, upright bass, drums and Todd Sheaffer on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. Their set was incredible, mixing traditional bluegrass with new versions of a few From Good Homes songs that Handstand used to enjoy. People who had never seen them before (like us) were sweating from some serious dancing by the end of the set. They made a lot of converts yesterday, and if they come to your area anytime soon, you gotta go see these guys.
Bruce Hornsby closed the festival with a 100-minute set of music and high comedy. This man should not be trusted. He will make you weak with jealousy of his ridiculous talents. Sure, along with the Range he had some hits like Mandolin Rain and The Way It Is, but he's not just some schmaltzy pop guy cashing in on some old fame.
Bruuuuce can play the piano better than anyone I've ever seen, he writes beautiful songs and he puts on a helluva show. He's also a masterful performer...his mike cut out unbeknownst to him and he sang about three minutes of the song before anyone told him we couldn't hear. When he finally got the word and a new mike, he proceded to recap the song in story-telling form, catching us up on what we missed. "See what ya missed," he cried as he went right back into it. Beautiful work...good save, good sir.
Looking back, I traveled about seven hours through three states for eight hours worth of music. Was it worth it? You bet your sweet tattoo of Dana Plato's mug shot. Each band alone would have been worth the trip, but throw me five bands over eight hours for just $15 on a sunny day on the river and you got one happy little monkey right over here. Tickets were actually $30 for a one-day pass, but for the second day in a row someone sold me a half-priced ticket right outside the venue. Everything's comin' up Ace.
Much thanks go out to Handstand the Elder, who picked me up at the Manasquan, New Jersey train station and transported me the rest of the way to Penn's Landing. We met up with his three friends, and because that's just how it works with live music shows they instantly became my newest three friends. Without Handstand the day doesn't happen...so thanks. And to Ryan, a former camper of mine, who packed me a few on a gorgeous, bowl-necessary day.