Just in case you don’t know, I’m a music lover first, musician second and songwriter third. I’m gone from my family usually about 3 or 4 days a week playing shows so I don’t get to go see music as much as I like. I’m limited to Sunday through Wednesday, which is not always the prime nights for music. A couple months ago, my wife noticed a string of shows happening in my area on these nights. I was off and looked forward to these shows for a while. I need live music. I need to be in front of the speakers. I need to feel it. Like a doctor goes to a conference to learn about advances in medicine, I go to shows to study elements of music, lyrics, production and of course to dance and hopefully gain inspiration. Plus it’s a write off. These 3 days were chocked full of inspiration.
Monday night was Bela Fleck and The Flecktones with Howard Levy at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. Victor Wooten and Future Man were in perfect form as they locked into each other. Victor went on to prove his coolness and his best bass player in the world status. The man should be considered one of the worlds’ natural wonders. Future Man (playing his new sleeker drumitar as well as a few real drums and cymbals) held it down perfectly. Howard Levy is purely mind blowing with his command of the keys and harmonica. He has an incredible command of circular breathing. Meaning breathing in through his nose and out of his mouth into his harmonica simultaneously. Incredible. Bela was his normal laid-back genius self. Effortlessly ripping through complex arrangements with ease and speed. Playing selections off of the record Rocket Science as well as older songs from when Howard Levy was in the band 20 some years ago. I think the first time I saw the band was in the early 90’s at the Amphitheater at Waterside Park in Norfolk, VA. Through the years, different horn players filled Howards spot so it was exciting to see the original line up. The Birchmere is the perfect environment for this music. This incredibly over my head super complex and inspiring music.
Tuesday night I went to see Bassnectar at the NorVa in Norfolk, VA. I’ve played the NorVa a bunch, but never actually been to a show there. It’s super cool. I missed the first act, but got to see the second, which was Vibesquad. Aaron Holstein who played bass and guitar with Zilla (an improvisational group with Michael Travis on drums and Jamie Janover on hammer dulcimer and percussion) is Vibesquad. He exuded pure animated joy as he sailed through his samples. He got the place bumpin’. He also put out a kids record some time ago called Kids Are Funky Too. I’ve bought at least 10 copies for gifts as it got tons of plays on my home stereo at my kid’s request. He’s still playing kids music only it’s for the dubstep kids who are young and plentiful. I doubt my kids or anybodys would like it but I sure did. It’s an acquired taste that I have acquired. I’ve seen Bassnectar a few times at festivals but never inside. I needed to feel womp from the inside. I did. Bassnectar is one guy with a computer and some controllers and 25 crew guys. The production was incredible. Giant LED screens and a beefed up sound system made for a truly interesting experience. The energy was infectious, as I made sure I was in the dead center of the room for the entire 2 hour show. I was the gum master. I brought a bunch and it made a lot of people really excited. Simple pleasures. I really enjoyed myself and the circus that was happening around me. The music was funky, dark and psychedelic that would go right through you. I get it. I understand it. I like it.
Wednesday (like Monday night) was date night with the wife. 2 in one week is unheard of and a pure luxury. We were 6th row center at the Warner Theater in D.C. for Rodrigo y Gabriela. They are a flamenco style acoustic guitar duo with a slight heavy metal influence. The back-story is interesting. 2 flamenco guitarists from Mexico fly to Dublin and busk on the street. Soon they are playing clubs and then selling out theaters all over Europe and the UK. By the time they came to America, there was already a buzz about them. Their shows usually are just the 2 of them but this time around they are supporting a new disk featuring a full band called Cuba. It was up and positive. Half way through the show, they played as a duo and that’s when they really shine. Gabriela has a super cool, percussive style that keeps an intricate beat while playing rhythm. Rodrigo plays with lightning speed and confidence. It was quite obvious that they were having fun with this Cuban ensemble. Big smiles were everywhere as it was a pleasant night at the theater and perfect way to end my little musical 3-day vacation. Now I’m thumbing this out in the back rental mini van on the way to open for Leftover Salmon in Chattanooga. Life is good.