“I rolled a couple just to get me there, took a hit and let in some air, thought of you…..”.
Imagine the feeling of walking down that long corridor toward the launch site, here waiting inside the eerie pre-ignition hum sits your capsule. Cloaked in the evenings darkness and pulsating with the infinite potential of the trip about to begin. Those of us who travel within the Unicorn, California galaxy of the CRB know it all to well.
The sterile white space suits replaced with tie dyes and beads and our checklist consisting of medicinal guidance systems and a different type of flame needed to assist us into orbit. The smoke rising from the incense covered crown atop PDC let’s us know the final countdown has begun. Soon, those 5 familiar cosmiknauts will stride into view and take the stage and the controls for the next 3 plus hours of time and space exploration. A sonic soundtrack set firmly to the sounds of a band at the top of their musical game.
“Good evening……nice to see ya!……….”. (BOOM)
We talk often of those special rooms across the land. Places where the music and the vibe seem to always excel, collectively pushing both the band and our roving commune to new, exciting and mind-bending dimensions. Granted, this tends to happen regularly inside the Unicorn universe. More a state of mind than state of any union. But what can’t be denied is there are those venues and even towns where it always seems to click. The fairly new Ace Of Spades in Sacramento would at first glance appear to be an unlikely meadow for the Brotherhood’s high holographic hoedown to regularly manifest. But, it’s proven to be just that.
Beyond the sorcery coming from the stage, which we’ll get to shortly, this oddly shaped room is no match for the best sound crew on the road. The signals are both clear and direct as they enter our heads and explode into wavelengths of color and light. And in the old tradition of everything coalescing into one, the Northern California freaks and those who traveled always give their all. Pushing the mobile mothership ever higher with every note. Last year’s Sacramento show (also an Almanac entry) was one of the best. I can’t say any of us were surprised with what went down on this cool February Friday night!
A familiar opener from past tours, “Taking Care Of Business” kicked off the evening with some serious swagger and strut. It was followed by a conductive “High Is Not The Top” that carried the openers honky-tonk tempo over nicely. One of the first clear signs of the special night ahead came here at the transition into “Roll Old Jeremiah”. For nearly two minutes on the back end of HISNTT the band goes into a dreamy, slow, B-Bender led drone. Easing us down from the blistering one-two opening punch.
The rhythm section always shines in “Jeremiah” and there is no variation in that timeless script here as Jeff is working overtime. He smoothly steps up and down the neck, delivering an array of high pitched, harmony hued notes effortlessly alongside those common bone rattling, low-end bombs. Tony, as usual, locked in with his combination of powerful precision, delicate accents and assistance. They take us on a freeing romp through “Jeremiah” for over 10 minutes before slowing once again at the end. Stepping into a bubbling, blissed out groove that blends seamlessly into “Tumbleweed” and it’s dusty opening licks.
CR’s voice is as timeless and regal as ever on this night. The song’s ancient verse, direct and cinematic throughout. Our Wizard adding a beautiful layer of keys after the first stanza which gives the proceedings a hint of intergalactic sheen. Neal is our guide here, his guitar urging us to close our eyes and float effortlessly along each and every ebb and flow of the tripped out tide. The time and tempo changes and the whole thing lifts off just after the 7 minute mark. Edgy, laser-like leads surround as the jam builds into a frenzy and then once again, evaporates into a shimmering drone. Like metal sparks, shooting and dripping from the red hot core.
For a few minutes we are lost in space until Jeff’s signature opening bass-line wakes us from our psychedelic stasis for the midwestern meditations of “Tulsa Yesterday”. For the next 12 minutes we are carried through an almost weightless sojourn as “Tulsa” twists and turns it’s way through our consciousness. Never losing its musical grip through ascensions, dives, stutters and stops. A sugary, back alley march through “Only Daddy” sets up “100 Days Of Rain”. Neal and CR are feeding of each other, tossing leads back and forth. Brothers in six-stringed arms.
Always the vehicle for stomping any floor into dirt, “Never Been To Spain” soundtracks the venue wide dance party now back in full, furious swing. A few of the upcoming “Servants Of The Sun” songs have been moving around nicely in the setlist lately and here. “Let It Fall” slides into the venerable first set closing slot. Holding it down like a vet. This is a true rock & roller in every sense. Leaving our heads clear and positioned nicely for the insanity coming in set two.
The “Servants Of The Sun” vibe holds firmly intact through the Friday night break. Our dirty hippie feet find footing in the House Of Tangerine as the band burns through another new original, “Rare Birds”. This is a song that has been literally growing with every new live incarnation. The jam on the back end is getting weirder and funkier every night and this one warps the palette’s perspective for nearly 5 minutes of medicated madness.
Eventually setting us back down into one of the backbones of the Barefoot album, “Good To Know”. It’s another seamless transition as Adam rides in on Tony’s nitrous-like, echo laden reggae beat. The song unfolds like a dream sequence on Mars. Leaving us just a short, one planet hop over to a harmony filled “Venus In Chrome”.
The SOTS heavy second set continued with what to date is the newest original in rotation, “Dice Game”. Another CR lyrical classic, this song will hit home for anyone who’s ever driven down the coast to LA. Just immerse yourself in the song’s vibe and you’ll soon feel that cool pacific breeze at your back and the warmth and wonder of that westward sun. The Velvet Underground’s “Rock And Roll” breaks the previous song’s slumber, replacing it with Lou Reed’s gritty New York get down.
It’s a fitting frame with everyone moving and getting loose again in preparation for the evenings closing cosmic stretch. The driving Dead Disco feel of “Ain’t Hiding” synchronizes with every pulse. It’s a shakedown of galactic proportions all the way to the finish where a breakneck “Rosalee” waits to take us home. Making its debut in Chicago at the start of the tour, “Mr Soul” has been one of the most buzzed about covers in CRB circles. The west coast cosmic contingent was more than happy to get one of their own. A welcome sinister serenade, sending all the fine freaks satisfied and safely into the night!
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