“Let no man burden with the devils schemes, we learn to live with poisonous things among us…..” There is a special type of beauty at work inside even the strangest of days. Some of our earliest rock and roll memories are painted with the darkest of shades inside frames of nightmarish density. Killers, putting their boots on at dawn, choosing a face from the ancient gallery, and marching in groove down the ornate hallway into both our active consciousness and our bridled-by-mind only, unconscious trip. Feelings forever at our mental fingertips and ready, at a single musical note, to accompany the strongest of our emotions. A bottomless lens of color through which we often ponder and question our own direction in life and the weight of our decisions and times. But perhaps music’s most ethereal experience exists only when we share our fever with others. Adding unique decorations of smile, laughter and dance to the wondrous world we enter when we pass that ticket and step inside. Deciphering through gleaming eyes our own special brand of bohemian dance floor movement and tongue. Music for the different, the odd, the uninvited. Music with open spaces on every end and new doors to discover and share around each and every ever-unfolding corner. This is our humble look back, together, at these last days of the tour leg, bouncing Barefoot across the psych-folk-rock & roll byways and highways of Freak America.
When our last weekly transmission faded, the bus was pulling out of Cleveland with an entourage of the recently enlightened and drenched in the divine devotees close behind. With I-90 and the sun as the path, love and the moon providing the archway and the banks of the Grand River the foundation, the settlement of Grand Rapids welcomed the band further westward for a Sunday of songs celebrating all of the seen and unseen things we love. The evenings first set burst brilliantly to life with Sweet Thang/Cisco and Adam taking the controls first, steering the bouncing ship through a patina colored Roan County Banjo and visiting early CRB chapters like Badlands and About A Stranger. The first true collective apex occurs during the set closing, phosphorescent exaltations within Beggars Moon. The second was sent properly up with the early 70’s California, Beach Boys (Holland-73’) intervals of Sail On Sailor. A song filled with such hope, wonder and beauty that it couldn’t help but carry its uplifting vibe into one of the tours very best 100 Days. A version so full of moments that it continued to cast colorful tapestries across the rest of the evening. Through those musically ornate optics the mood was easily made and our souls found friendly footing to fleetly dance. Merging as one across a blistering Tough Mama> Jam> Ride that truly was the convergence of the entire magical night!
A quick day off did little to slow the bands momentum heading into the capital city of Columbus, OH, where the Newport Music Hall and flowers on the stage were patiently awaiting the seasons psychedelic sequestering. The 2 smoldering sets left behind spoke loudly of a true devotion and diligence to the art of getting down. We’ve spoke at length in past posts about the often misleading topography a setlist can hold. But even the most stoned of our feathered aphonic friends sent back reports of a night easily living up to its glittering marquee of a setlist! As if barreling onto the stage and nearly splintering the floorboards with Leave My Guitar Alone was not enough, the set would soar, lock in groove and dive out of Tulsa into Cali Hymn like a skilled, skull helmeted pilot dropping bombs of love. Later, Clear Blue> Sunday Sound would bring the train to a spark-throwing stop just in time to cool down the engines for round two. The band has been putting some really great combos into the set opening slots. Good To Know & Venus In Chrome filled that barrel nicely here and lead into the vibe inducing rarity Wanderers Lament. A rowdy set settled only for Blanket and picked back up for a really BIG sci-fi tinged Ain’t Hiding> Vibration that brought it all into the light for one final esoteric exalt. A closing bow behind the VU classic, Femme Fatale, and it was off into the night to spread a little more magic westward.
Minneapolis, I believe, is one of the nations true musical portals. We all know the history of First Avenue and of course the Purple One’s compound speaks for itself. So it was with heightened senses the guys took the stage, shifting gears smoothly through Sweet Thang & Cisco and by the time they hit Roan County, the engine was running clean and cool. Has anyone else noticed just how great Roan County Banjo has been recently? A perfect example of how this bands music is forever alive and growing. Meanwhile marched into Only Daddy once again and those two have really found a tight little groove where they fit together. Neal was in the rafters the entire night and really in some sort of soul searching state during Star Or Stone’s twisting guitar passages. The evening was already a success after just the first 8 songs, but this is a band that never rests in the past and they brought it all back to the stage to drop a final psychedelic Raspberry right on top. Setlist freaks set winding spiral eyes upon the set ending quadri-boogie grouping of Good To Know/Narcissus/Burn Slow/Shore Power. It’s a journey within an odyssey of oddities and one I’m looking forward to taking again very soon.
Turner Hall in Milwaukee is yet another CRB friendly haunt where the band consistently leaves us shaking our heads and smiling in satisfied belief. The first set was packed with long time mainstays like Hello L.A. and Tulsa, hanging back with favorites About A Stranger, Boppin The Blues and Roll Jeremiah. And my personal highlight, the brain bending conversations going on during Shadow Cosmos. The second pushed the rooms energy into kaleidoscopic territory where Jeff & Tony kept the pedal buried for the rest of the night. Slowing down only once for Heart To Break, then raging through a Rosalee> Got Love that kept everyone barefoot and bouncing to the final notes.
How many Chicago shows have turned into tour highlights? The September 2012 Show was our first entry ever into the Ravens Reels Almanac! So this one had some rather large footprints to fill as the amps began to hum and the Nag Champa smoke danced invitingly through the air. The bands version of Seven Nights is a powerhouse opener and never fails in getting the room charged up and jumping. And once again, Meanwhile> Only Daddy is the preface to cosmic CRB creation. The gift of a brand new original is truly something to behold and those in attendance will surely speak of the night The Chauffeurs Daughter was welcomed into the Brotherhood lexicon. The rest of the night was full of beautiful, buzzed, mid flight madness of the most welcomed kind. A Barefoot heavy second had everyone smiling and laughing inside absolute bliss. Hark, Seer, Blonde Light, GLOW and Good To Know, all came to life in performance and you could feel the music under you, over you, all around and inside your every breath. The entirety of Thalia Hall was one, organic musical exercise in freedom and it really felt good. Lennon’s to-thine-own-self-be-true lament, Watching The Wheels, felt perfectly placed inside the settling silent storm. And for the evening at least, we all felt perfectly placed in the world. That’s what this music can do.
The last stop of the leg found the cosmic quintet taking the stage at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, WI. It was a heck of a way to close this chapter out and the opening Turnstile, Someday Past The Sunset signaled our night ahead spent touching on all the bands past studio installments. Silver Car closed every eye in a sort of swaying reflection and the second of the weeks Clear Blue> Sunday Sound synergies was maybe even sweeter than the first. The Stones title cut, Let It Bleed, let Neal do his thing and 100 Days was as grand and epic as always. Rosalee gave it’s blessing and nod to the bands West Coast destination in reminding us that “it’s all downhill, to the beach from here.” A fond farewell to the great Mel Tillis wrapped it all up nicely as the group gave one last wave and the best crew on the road packed all up for a few weeks until it’s time do it all again!
December is almost upon us and you know what that means! Ornate decorations, bountiful gifts and good will everywhere! YES, of course we all know I’m talking about that wonderful time that comes only once a year, closing the calendar with the CRB on their annual West Coast run! Where all the ancient symbols and vibrations finally lock into place and the treasures of our subconscious deep are finally revealed. The Ravens Reels Almanac will be on the road covering it all from every angle so be watching for all kinds of cool features throughout the month. And don’t forget to find us at shows, I’ll have some free RRA stickers and buttons to hand out and would love to meet more of you in person! See you all out on the road next week. Everyone travel safe and let’s all look out for each other. We love you! The CRB loves you!! Freak On brothers and sisters!!!