Friday morning dawned clear and hot in Bath NH as Jerry Jam officially opened their doors after an early bird / pre festival soft opening the night prior. (See the review of the Thursday night festivities here.)
Friday morning began with a quick set by Beef Stu which was better than I had expected from such an early morning jam. The band wasted no time jumping straight into Dark Star and transitioned in the most surprising fashion into Bob Dylan’s When I paint my Masterpiece. The transition was extremely smooth, just the stylistic difference between the songs made the combination extremely perplexing and interesting. Well done! Another surprise followed with the Talking Head’s Cities followed by more traditional choices like China Cat Sunflower into I Know You Rider and the set closer Throwing Stones.
Beef Stu audio, full set.
Up next was John Kadlecik with a second performance of his Solo Acousti’Lectric show. Usually it’s a fairly traditional solo show with John on guitar and voice. At times though he uses a looping station in order to build a whole band sound, looping rhythm parts, bass parts, and solo sections to create entire suites of sound, quite effectively.
In an interesting twist, we got another version of Masterpiece from John in this format. It led to a conversation that we had that given the tight theme and format of an event like this- it’s Jerry Jam after all- whether there could be or even should be set list coordination between bands. My idea A giant white board with every possible song listed on it, and whenever someone plays it, erase it off the board and it is no longer eligible for future sets that weekend. This of course likely would lead to a New Potato Caboose into Tons of Steel into Way to Go Home final set for some poor band on Sunday night, but it’s an idea.
John K’s set otherwise included Any Road, Reuben and Cherise, which was very well received, some John originals (Alright?) and Hard Highway which I’ve seen him do with his band and also I think Golden Gate Wingmen, and a strong finale of Unbroken Chain and Ripple which included some parts in French as he has been known to do of late.
John Kadlecik audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs.
Jerry Jam favorites August First were up next and were great! The band is making enormous strides from their roots as an acoustic Jerry Garcia tribute band (all things Jerry) to now covering numerous bands and playing nearly a full album’s worth of original music. It is a true string band without drums and led by Nicole D’Amico and her incredible voice. But others in the band sing, too and the melodic soloing and picking responsibilities are passed around without hesitation.
This band is really improving every time they get on stage. From going out west last year and missing Jerry Jam for the NW String Summit to appearances at Strangecreek, Wormtown, Old 78 and festivals around New England to nightclub plays, August First is showcasing their style and skill and will be a band to watch as they rise up in the scene.
Full show Audio for August First: use the arrows to toggle between songs (sorry about the wind noise!)
It seemed as if the set was to close with Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love which then morphed into Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine. But after a short break the band came on for an encore, impressive given the early afternoon position of their show, and the crowd welcomed them in with open arms.
In a welcome stylistic shift, the next two bands up on stage were not Dead related. Up first, Goose. The Connecticut based band is well known for their jams and have been hitting the road hard for the last couple of years defining their sound and audience. Their jams are definitely more precision driven and lean in a more Burlington / Phish direction than the SF / Dead direction common in the lineup. Their set was a tight seven songs, opening with Me and My Uncle but done in a more rhythmic and swinging style. The highlight for me was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Green River, and not just because it was recognizable in a set that was otherwise mostly originals, but the driving nature of the song made it a great addition to their set.
Full Set audio for Goose:
Up next was Swimmer, who are true representatives of the modern Burlington sound, hailing from that northern Vermont college town themselves. Like Goose, they are more progressive than the roots Grateful sound on exhibition throughout the weekend, with a more directed and up front lead guitar sound.
The two bands compliment each other very well on the lineup, providing both a break from the same sounds from band to band, and giving us a glimpse into the future of jam and progressive music. Their set opened with the declaration “Jerry Jam- Hello everybody: Here Comes the Ice Pick to the Forehead.” That might be a bit dramatic for the jam that unfolded but showed that the spirit of Swimmer, like Goose before them- is original and with a creative vision.
Three songs from Swimmer’s set (sorry I didn’t get it all, battery failure.)
A return to the more familiar end of the musical spectrum was achieved with the set that followed: Sean Kelly and Friends. This was an acoustic trio featuring Sean Kelly who became famous as the singer and songwriter fronting The Samples- Colorado’s contribution to the 90’s jamband movement. The trio included two other guitarists and vocalists to round out the sound. The trio jumped from Dead covers to Sean Kelly originals and back again with relative ease, and even had some psychedelic explorations despite their acoustic lineup. Kelly’s voice remains clear and unique- his tone and execution are truly his own, and you can instantly recognize him. He has been coming to Jerry Jam for years and is a favorite of the promoter and of the audience.
Personally I preferred his originals and non Dead covers which showcased the individual vision and voice of both Kelly and his band mates. There was nothing wrong with the Dead material of course, there were just some tasty nuggets in the Kelly original Indiana and his take on CSN’s Suite Judy Blue Eyes, which included a very interesting tease of Garcia’s Mountains of the Moon. This was a truly enjoyable set for sure.
Full set audio for Sean Kelly Trio:
Reid Genauer and Folks featuring Melvin Seals took the stage as afternoon was turning into evening. Genauer has become a staple at Jerry Jam, and is well known to this community from his days as a band leader for Strangefolk and then for the nationally touring band, Assembly of Dust. This band was very AOD-like with the addition of Seals on the keyboards. The set was a great combination of elements.
The set list seemed to be plenty of Reid originals, and I am not well versed enough with his material to know whether they were AOD songs or Strangefolk, too. When they veered into Garcia oriented territory, it tended to be more in the JGB direction which was logical given the presence of Seals on the keyboards. JGB covers included Waiting for a Miracle and Midnight Moonlight. A really clever choice, though, was the R&B classic People Get Ready, which was a perfect vehicle for Melvin Seals’ keys playing. Giving nod to Seals’ pre JGB past as a player steeped in R&B and Gospel, this song choice illustrated the breadth of ability both of Seals and the players throughout this weekend.
AOD lead guitar player, Adam Terrell, was as always a great pleasure to see up there. His melodic guitar playing is excellent, able to ascend to great heights or to color around the edges but within the lines is the hallmark of his steady and stellar work. He can also be seen touring around New England in the JGB tribute Tore Up, which has gotten started and is gaining steam. And was that Dave Diamond I saw behind the kit? Dave’s steady hand keeps the beat for everyone from Zen Tricksters to the Jam Stampede, AOD, and countless other bands. He is a great singer songwriter himself, and fronts his own project under his own name, too.
Full set audio Reid Genauer and Folks featuring Melvin Seals:
Throughout this day, there were additional shows on the second stage situated not too far away just down vendor row / Shakedown street on the way to the stream. There were great bands there, too, from rice an American Band on THU night to Ira’s Grateful Harp Revival and others. The sound production quality has been elevated this year there, and the crew did a great job of providing some alternate entertainment for folks who weren’t up for the main stage crowd.
The night had fallen, and at long last, Robert Randolph and the Family Band took the stage. There is a reason that this band tours the nation showcasing Randolph and his skillful take on pedal steel. The band is tight, creative, and a great joy to watch and hear. Mixing elements of sacred steel and jamband sensibilities, Randolph has over the last 15 years gone from an awkward wide eyed young man new to the jam scene to commanding the stage and the festival with ease and agility.
At times Randolph introduced other members of the band with family titles like My Sister or My Cousin, and it is hard to tell if that is true or just a nod to the concept of The Family Band. But each band member was truly excellent at the instrument while understanding that their job was to support and showcase Randolph’s playing. Randolph’s ‘little sister’ was providing throaty and muscular vocals when called upon, and she is not shy!
Randolph fired a good 90 minute set or so to headline Friday night. At times there were technical difficulties so far as the sound system dealing with the heat and humidity of the night. But Randolph was unflappable continuing to play despite the issues. The audience could still here the show through the monitor system and everyone just plowed forward as if nothing was wrong.
Full show audio for Robert Randolph and the Family Band.
The final band on the main stage that night was Zach Nugent All Stars. I’ve seen sets like this before with Nugent (lead guitar for Melvin Seals and JGB) bringing in New England jammers to do a Dead set, and he anchors Dead nights in Vermont- so I thought I knew what to expect. Well, let’s just say what he brought was far in excess of expectation.
Nugent came out resplendent in trucker’s hat that said “Chill” ready to rock. On drums was Ryan Claussen of Hayley Jane and the Primates, Tony Markellis on bass from Trey Anastasio Band, on keyboards Todd Stoops (John Kadlecik Band, Raq, Kung Fu) and on rhythm guitar and vocals Rob Eaton (Dark Star Orchestra.) This all star lineup not only is of some of the top players in this genre, some of them reside far outside of New England.
The band immediately began to rip with an epic Jack Straw. Nugent took advantage of being in his own project- unafraid to tip his head back and rip solos without the constraint of fitting into a box that is defined by someone else. I’m not saying that he is elsewhere, but this being his band he could do whatever he chose. Eaton is of course the definitive pro and his command of vocals and rhythm guitar from this songbook is likely unmatched. The set continued with lengthy pieces including Loose Lucy, Let It Grow, Candyman (not my favorite either with the Dead or on this night, I find it too depressive for me), a lengthy Playin in the Band followed by an even lengthier Terrapin Station.
Full set audio Zach Nugent:
I only caught some of the Zach set because we did one of the most Jerry Jam things you could do. My friend Brian stopped by our booth (Old 78 Clothing) and said “Do you want to go on a musical adventure with me?” Well, I can’t resist that, grabbed my acoustic guitar, and we headed out into the camping zone between the second stage and the stream. We stopped in at the white bus where there were some folks jamming and we spent the next two hours playing and having a grand time with people we hardly knew when we got there, felt that we knew well two hours later, and who we probably will festival forget until next year. It was a perfect cap to an incredibly hot and jam filled day.
Way to go, Jerry Jam.