July 08 2022 the Range at Marty’s Drive In welcomed Max Creek to Mason New Hampshire
Having been to the first appearance of Max Creek at the Range in 2021, I knew that I could not miss the next annual installment. My wife and I put our bus on the road out of northern Mass, and took the backroads to Mason New Hampshire, through tiny towns like Fitzwilliam and Rindge. Now, the bus is not the way to move yourself the quickest, and it takes some attention to driving, but traveling in your own abode is really quite something. We traveled the fifty miles in about eighty minutes, taking in the scenery and experiencing every second of Live Free or Die.
We pulled into Marty’s, and the first thing we noticed was the expansive parking lot that has been built since last season. This new aspect of the venue eliminated the biggest challenge from last year, the wait to get in and parking. We got situated, and took an easy five minute walk into the venue through a nice wooded path. Creamery Station were set up in the beer garden location and fired up as the gates opened. The pandemic years saw Creamery Station somehow touring to the West Coast and back and also finding time to woodshed. They sounded much tighter than I had seen than the last time and their progress is palpable.
But it was Max Creek we were here to see, and the band hit the stage with gusto for a heater not to be missed. From the “Orange Sunshine” opener, it was clear that the band came to play. The Scott Murawski opener segued directly into The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek” as sung by Mark Mercier. John Rider’s “Dark Water” completed the opening suite and we were settled in nicely in the incredibly beautiful location as the sun was descending toward the horizon. The heat abated just the littlest bit but the night would stay plenty warm throughout the entire show.
“Willow Tree” was an early treat, and the first hint that we were in for quite a night. This has always been among my favorite Max Creek songs and continued what was a very strong opening to a very strong night. Mark Mercier brought in the first of the three bust-outs for the night. “Gone at Last” premiered and continued the keyboard player’s love affair with the great American songwriter Paul Simon. The original appears on the 1975 album Still Crazy After All These Years and the original featured the great singer Phoebe Snow. The Max Creek version was a rollicking boogie woogie honky tonk in the vein of other Mercier material and the heat that the band brought to the arrangement showed that this show was not going to slow.
Murawski would not let up and unleashed the third classic from his personal catalog, “She’s Here.” I can’t emphasize the strength of the song writing prowess here to have three amazing songs from Orange Sunshine to Willow Tree to She’s Here from a single songwriter in a band filled with songwriters. “She’s Here” segued into another bust out, this time from bassist John Rider. Bob Dylan’s “Angel You” was fast paced and fancy free. Rider led the crowd in a call and response section calling for “More More More” in the vein of other Rider songs like “You’re the Only One for Me.” This closed out the set and left a curious audience wondering what a second set might bring.
Set two opened with Mercier belting out the Mark Knopfler / Dire Straits classic “Calling Elvis” off of the On Every Street album. Mercier was getting loose and his keyboard playing was shining. This song segued into the third bust out of the evening, and perhaps the most perplexing. Bill Carbone showed that his influences stretch from the classics that influence the more mature guys in the band to newer material by bands less ‘classic.’ The song was “Rio’ and it wasn’t the classic early Duran Duran song, but rather a song by Philadelphia indie rock band Low Cut Connie. It would be difficult to illustrate the range of influences that make up the current lineup of Max Creek more than this obscure indie rocker that Carbone unfurled with enthusiasm.
Murawski was not done heating the night though. A twenty-two minute “Emerald Eyes” was so packed with tastiness that no description could do it justice. Solo after jam led to solos and jams, and proved why this band is so beloved after fifty years. It felt like the jams would never end so the ensuing Buddy Holly classic “Not Fade Away” made perfect sense.
A thoughtful rendition of John Prine’s “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” altered the full speed ahead pace of the show thus far, and the intimacy that it brought was welcome. The only member left who had yet to sing this night seemed as surprised as anyone else when Scott Murawski brought forth the referential notes of “Down in the Jungle” and summoned Jay Stanley from behind the percussion set to center stage. Once there, Stanley unfurled a lengthy introduction on thumb piano which was exploratory and expanded on the typical themes. This version was a heater and the crowd was super stoked for the show that continued to amaze song after song.
The three veteran members of Max Creek closed the show with a song each from Murawski’s “Mama Are You Ready?” to Rider’s “Peaceful Warrior” to the set closer, Mark Mercier’s rendition of “Late in the Evening.” The latter featured an extended solo from every member of the band. Stanley stretched out on percussion layering rhythm over rhythm, taking tasty bits from cultures all over the world. Bill Carbone stretched out on the drum kit in a way that I’m not sure that I have seen within Max Creek, taking a little bit of the cultural sampling that Stanley had done, but relied more on an extended jazz rock solo more akin to Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich. This whole show was a solid display of each member of Max Creek’s individual prowess, and of their collective strength and ability to bring these unique talents together to form a sound that is uniquely Max Creek.
After the briefest of departures from stage the band returned for a rocking version of “Magic Carpet Ride” that brought a close to one of the finest Max Creek shows I have seen in a long time. This night at Marty’s featured everything you may want, from bust out songs to classics, from solos to emotional renditions of the great American songwriters. This night proved that home is in fact… at the Range.
Can’t get enough of Creek? Live near Granby CT? Then don’t miss the Sunset Concert Series featuring Max Creek and special guests The Kings at Salmon Brook Park in Granby on Saturday, July 23rd! Tickets available at THIS LINK.
The Range Mason, NH
Opening Act: Creamery Station
Set 1: [7:22PM]
Orange Sunshine >>
Up On Cripple Creek
Gone At Last (Paul Simon)*
She’s Here >>
You Angel You (Bob Dylan)
Set 2: [8:59PM]
Calling Elvis >>
Rio (Low Cut Connie)*
Emerald Eyes >>
Not Fade Away
Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness
Down In The Jungle
Mama Are You Ready >>
Peaceful Warrior >
Late In The Evening
Magic Carpet Ride
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