Sometimes, when you plan to write a review of a show, the words just come tumbling out. You just have to let your fingers do the walking and get out of their way.
Other times, you struggle and twist and turn, searching for that elusive lead.
And once in a while a tsunami of ideas washes over you, and it seems impossible to choose. So I won’t. You pick.
I remember seeing these words in the booklet for the Grateful Dead “Europe ‘72” LP: THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A GRATEFUL DEAD CONCERT, and I later I understood that sentiment. So now I’ll footnote that thought: THERE IS *ABSOLUTELY* NOTHING LIKE A MIKE DILLON BAND SHOW. Period. The End.
People speak reverentially about some of the soul review bands touring today. Lee Fields & the Expressions. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. Charles Walker & the Dynamites. Seen ‘em all. All very good. But not a one of those can hold a candle to Eugene Snowden and the Legendary JCs from Orlando.
When was the last time you saw two superb bands with two extraordinary trombone players? You want to talk about “Bonerama?” How about Clay Watson from the JCs and Carly Meyers from Mike Dillon’s band? Whole lotta slidin’ goin’ on!
“Hey, I’ve got an idea for a show pairing! Let’s book a punk-metal-jazz band with a rock-‘em-sock-‘em soul revue. What could possibly go wrong?” Absolutely nothing, it turns out. This was a wonderful pairing of two bands I truly love. And I feel somehow as if I am in a parallel universe where (almost) every band I see eclipses their previous performances. Perhaps it’s just selective memory or living in the moment, but I have never heard Dillon or the JCs sound better than last night, and then they collaborated!
The JCs got the show started. My main concert regret is that I never saw James Brown, but I feel that energy and that spark every time I see Eugene Snowden fronting the JCs. He is spectacular and riotously funny as well. If he ever decides to do standup, I’m there. He starts and stops and twirls and – and the band is with him every twist and turn of the way. They take you on a joyous romp through the history of soul and R&B and blues. Last night was also unofficial “Sam Cooke” night, with covers of “A Change is Gonna Come” and “Bring It On Home to Me.”
And this performance featured Nervous Turkey drummer Aaron Fowler, who had a superb night along with bassist Craig Cobb (I think). I have been paying more attention to rhythm sections recently, and these two provide a rockbed for Eugene and the JCs to dance on. Also playing was funkUs guitarist Dave Mann, a perfect fit for this evening.
Then the JCs yielded the stage to Dillon and his merry pranksters. When I first saw the Dead Kenny Gs, featuring Dillon, the best description I could muster was punk-metal-jazz. It followed to another Dillon collaboration, Garage A Trois, and then to his current band. Wild. Eclectic. High-energy. Fun. Dillon plays all manner of percussion, primarily marimba last night, and he writes the songs and the lyrics, many to punk political hip-hop rants. Again, that barely begins to describe what goes on in concert. The rhythm section (recurring theme!) of Patrick McDavitt on bass and drummer Adam Gertner stay the course brilliantly, as the songs careen from jazzy to manic and metal and otherworldly sounds.
And then there is the whirling dervish, the dancing pixie with the whistle, the trombone colossus (well, colossa), Carly Meyers. At the ripe old age of 21 (isn’t she 22 yet?), Carly is a blur on stage, dancing as if possessed while delivering deliciousness from the trombone. It’s exhausting just to WATCH her!
During “Leather On” (from the 2012 disk “Urn”), the main chorus is, as Dillon mentioned, “Mother-f’er,” allowing as how HE didn’t want to sing it in this venue but that it would be OK if WE did. So of course we did! There were a number of tunes from the brand new CD, “Band of Outsiders.” I really enjoyed “Homeland Insecurity,” “Hero the Burro” and the sing-along “Great Lakes Tuna” (“I ain’t buyin’… what you’re sellin’ to me!”).
Two other highlights of the evening: toward the end of the Dillon set, he called up guitarist Dave Mann for a couple of tunes, and he positively CRUSHED it, including that Stooges masterpiece “1969.” Then the JCs came out and totally rocked out, then invited Dillon and Carly back on stage for a 25-minute romp.
Please do NOT make me return from my parallel universe! I’m having the best time ever there!