Ardmore Music Hall Ardmore PA
January 23 2015
Submitted by Bud Fulginiti
Box of Rain brought the heat and conquered a snowstorm, to make their Ardmore Music Hall debut on January 23rd. Re-branded from Brownies 23 East in 2013, the Ardmore Music Hall is run by music lovers, for music lovers. By making significant sound, lighting, seating, booking, beer selection, and menu improvements, they have created the premiere venue of its size in the Philly area- simply a terrific spot to enjoy a fun, intimate concert.
Check out the reviews of two nights of Golden Gate Wingmen featuring John Kadlecik, Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane and Reed Mathis in Long Beach CA February 6 and 7 Night one: Check out the review of Long Beach night two here!
Before the show, I had opportunity to ask the band about their relationship with Grateful Dead music. Unsurprisingly they’re all big time Deadheads, with roots and personal experiences dating back to 1973. They credit the Dead not only with influencing and broadening their musical taste, but also informing their performing style. “If I had become a musician, and the Grateful Dead weren’t in my life, I wouldn’t have the same concept of improvising music,” reflected drummer Tim Kelly. “I do what I do only because I saw what the Dead did, which is pay attention to the other people on stage, listen when they go this way, and other people go that way, maybe follow one guy for a little while, and the jam finds its own way. No other band taught me that.”
Local favorites Flux Capacitor started the evening rolling, with driving funk grooves interspersed with monster jams. Flux brought out quite a few fans, and got them dancing hard from note one. Each time seeing this band I dig their sound more, they are on the come and belong on your radar.
After sneaking a peek at Box of Rain’s setlist, word came they were merging their two planned sets into a long one, with surprises to be added. The band opened with a straightforward version of ‘Mississippi Half-Step’, followed by ‘China Cat Sunflower’. As they gradually, gracefully transitioned into ‘I Know You Rider’, the band got in the pocket and the show was on. Lead guitarist Bob Stirner delivered primary vocals with passion and dropped Jerry riffs into all the requisite moments, while Mike Kennedy added harmony, and skillfully slipped in rhythm guitar with technique representative of Bob Weir’s quirky chordings. Bud Burroughs crushed the keys all night, contributing pretty piano color, plus soulful organ reminiscent of Keith Godchaux’s Hammond.
Box of Rain performs the Grateful Dead’s catalog from 1968 – 1974, and their full power is best felt on the Ron “Pigpen” McKernan tunes. Jon Bernstein jumps in on bluesy harmonica, with bassist Jerry Marks providing whiskey-gritty vocals amid numerous satisfying Phil bombs. Explaining, “It takes TWO guys to ‘be’ Pigpen,” they truly evoke his sound and spirit. Elmore James’ mournful ‘It Hurts Me Too’, and ‘Easy Wind’ from Workingman’s Dead were huge highlights.
My favorite part of the concert came deep in the set when Stirner and Kennedy huddled, called an audible, and launched into GD jam vehicle ‘Playing In The Band’. After a standard verse/chorus/verse/chorus structure, ‘PITB’ blossoms into an open-ended free music section before coming back to earth with closing lyrics. No two groups play it the same, and no two renditions are the same in separate performances, it’s the perfect acid test crucible in which a capable tribute band can create something new. Kelly demonstrated mastery of lessons learned, alternately driving and reacting to the action, by subtly shifting tempo and feel- not merely keeping time on the traps, but playing them like a musical instrument, making everything swing. Kelly’s bandmates deftly centered around his ever-moving target, throwing in lines and phrases, beautifully improvising rising, falling, swirling music.
Box of Rain is expanding its repertoire by digging deeper, and is currently scheduling area club dates and planning festival appearances for Spring and Summer, so to gain insight into the Dead’s early stuff, or experience a fresh take on beloved familiar favorites, be sure to catch them soon.
Box of Rain 1-23-15 Setlist:
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
It Hurts Me Too
Ramble On Rose
Playing In The Band
Eyes Of The World
Turn On Your Love Light
Check out the reviews of two nights of Golden Gate Wingmen featuring John Kadlecik, Jeff Chimenti, Jay Lane and Reed Mathis in Long Beach CA February 6 and 7 Night one: