When you put together an all-star team, sometimes it gels; sometimes it doesn’t. This conglomeration was spectacular!
 The unsung hero of the night was drummer Tom Damon.
 It was too damn loud at the Ringside Café in St. Pete last night.
So let’s get  out of the way. I’ll help you. “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” HA HA HA. Good one. But here is the thing, and this is down to the sound engineer WAAAAY in the back of the room. If the bass and bass drum make your chest AND the furniture vibrate, that is unnecessary and potentially damaging. And when the set break music is LOUDER than the band, to the point where you have to SCREAM TO HAVE A CONVERSATION OR ORDER A DRINK AT THE BAR, that is just silliness. Since I am obviously too old, I will be selective about what I see at the Ringside, which is a shame, because this was my first time at the relocated venue inside the old Club Detroit at Jannus Landing. It looks beautiful and is very comfortable. You could suggest that I get professional ear plugs, but somebody must be intelligent enough to have the sound engineer walk up front to check it out. Oh, yeah. I’m too old. HA HA HA.
Enough dinosaur comments.
 For any musical performance to shine (not talking about acoustic shows now), you must have a rhythm section that anchors the proceedings. The bass and drums must be simpatico. So it is mind-blowing to know that drummer Tom Damon, often a partner with Bobby Lee Rodgers, and Kenny Stadelman, bassist for CopE, had never played together before. No way you would have called that. They were superb in tandem. Damon was, for many, the unknown quantity in the all-star line-up of Lemonade, and for me he was the unsung hero, propelling the band through two wonderful sets. Mad props, Tom!
 Apparently, the concept of Lemonade has been in the talking stages for some time, uniting the Stadelman Brothers of CopE, Kenny and Dennis, with Bobby Lee Rodgers and Fil Pate. And Damon! That is an all-star line-up for certain. I don’t know if Captain Mark Glenn is taking managerial credit, but I certainly would! And understand that this was the Beta version. They deliberately chose not to work much out in advance, preferring to let spontaneity reign.
This reminded me of CopE Back Alice. That pairing first surfaced, I think, last October at the old Ringside location, and it was superb. But the double-quartet riot at the Illumi-Nation Project (07.12.14) was a fully-formed monster. I have suspicions that the next time Lemonade makes an appearance, it will be equally mind-blowing.
Not that this night’s show wasn’t amazing in its own right. In retrospect, it should have been easy to call the set opener, “Outer Space,” given that CopE often plays the Bobby Lee Rodgers composition. From there, they knocked out “Little Wing.” You might have thought that, with two electric guitars and bass, a little old mandolin might get swallowed up in the mix. Apparently, then, you don’t know Fil Pate. He is an accomplished guitar player (as I discovered at OBJ), but he is a mandolin master. Everybody had plenty of solo space, and Fil was an equal partner in all of the proceedings.
And the proceedings went bonkers on the fourth tune, when Dennis whipped out his banjo. In a night of wonderful music, this might have been the early highlight. I am at a loss to describe adequately the up-tempo bluegrassy feel of this song. After that, Dennis switched to electric banjo (the acoustic was not miked high enough, I think). And then, as Bobby Lee led them into “When the Levee Breaks,” Dennis strapped on his cigar-box guitar with the slide, and pandemonium ensued.
To slow things down just a bit, next up was “Dear Prudence,” clearly an audience favorite, with Dennis on vocal. And just when that ended, they hit a magic segue into “Planets.” A superb hour-and-a-half first set!
Just before midnight, the usual suspects took the stage again and lit into BLR’s “Firefly,” with Dennis crushing it again on cigar-box slide. To return the favor, BLR had a great solo on CopE’s “Going Home.” That’s the wonderful sort of a night it was. “Ike Stubblefield” was followed by roars as the quintet slid into “Hey Joe.” Again, Fil Pate was all over these tunes where you were not expecting a mandolin. Another excellent segue tumbled into… well, “World Keeps Tumbling Down.”
“Red House,” another crowd favorite, featured Lindsey Mercer on harmonica, Dennis singing. BLR’s song “The Freeze” was another showcase for the cigar box. After two more tunes, with the band still in fifth gear, I ran out of gas and split. My loss. Oh, yeah. I’m old. HA HA HA.
Great to meet Russ Bowers (Mr. OBJ), always great to share secrets with Captain Mark Glenn, and great to see Purple Bear and Reina Collins (but I need to hear Reina Collins again! Captain Mark, how about Downtown River Jam?). And once again I have “borrowed” PurpleBear’s superior photos!
And a totally unrelated story, except that it was on the radio on the way home, a fitting ending to the evening. I am a huge moe. fan and Zappa fan, and I have always appreciated that Zappa is clearly a big influence for moe. (listen to “Crab Eyes” if you are not convinced). AND I love the song “Recreational Chemistry” (which moe. played at Wanee this year). I caught about half of a live version of “Rec Chem” on Jam On, and once again I was blown out by Al Schnier’s guitar solo. He channels Frank as well as Dweezil does. Absolutely incredible. (You could tell me I’m wrong, that it was Chuck Garvey soloing, but I don’t think so.) Anyway…
Oh, yeah. HA HA HA. Because, you know…