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2017 So Far: January Reflections

The first couple months of 2017 are in the books and March is already making a powerful impression at the Crazy Horse. Time flies when you’re having fun and we didn’t want all these shows to go by without a little bit of commentary. Each night can feel like a blur and often we wish we could freeze the moments to savor them again and again. Here are some highlights that stand out from January:

Friday, January 6 – Talking Dreads
The year kicked off on the most positive note imaginable as this octet bathed us in its euphoric blend of Talking Heads and reggae. Led by one of the most charismatic front men we’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing – Mystic Bowie – the crowd was transported to an exotic Caribbean realm of groove. As a former member of Tom Tom Club, the dreadlocked sage possesses a profound understanding of this material, allowing the band to reinvent the classic songs in ways no one has ever conceived. Reflecting the elation in the room, he jumped up and down throughout the show with boundless energy. Reinforced by horns, back-up singers and an arsenal of other talent, this night manifested an irie vibe unlike the Crazy Horse has ever witnessed.

Friday, January 13 – Scary Little Friends
We’ve enjoyed this trio’s soulful indie rock a few times in the past. On this occasion they filled their whole second set with Neil Young covers, revealing a more powerful scope of their jamming prowess. Guitarist Chris Jones unleashed upon his six-string in a way that would have made the author of these songs proud. The crushing rhythm duo of Jon Payne on bass and Charlie Knote on drums didn’t let us come up for air. From the moment they launched into the beloved “Powderfinger,” they unspooled a clever set list of favorites and a couple deeper cuts. It’s commonplace to Neil-heads, but “Sedan Delivery” was unfamiliar to these ears. They surrounded it with noodle-y Dead-esque jamming which kept the crowd on its toes. The whole thing was a refreshing juxtaposition to their typical repertoire.

Saturday, January 14 – Diego’s Umbrella
We’re tickled that these San Francisco ambassadors of gypsy rock have made the Crazy Horse their home in the Sierra foothills. The spell they cast on the crowd is like no other as we are whisked away to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. There is an ancient component to it while also being uber-hip in a Burning Man decompression party kind of way. Sometimes you can’t help but feel like you’re at a Bar Mitzvah (especially when they slay “Hava Nagilah” which is a guaranteed show-stopper ). Other times it’s more like a late night dance party in a dark Budapest alley. Impactful music often has a transportive quality and this certainly fits that bill. We can’t wait for their return on July 7!

BBD Jan. 17Thursday, January 19 – Band Beyond Description
Our Third Thursday monthly tradition has been going strong for awhile now and on this night it was evident how beautifully it has found its groove. Achilles Wheel’s Gary Campus (drums) and Jonny Mojo (guitar/vocals) are the curators and do such a remarkable job bringing in diverse, talented musicians to join them on their Grateful Dead adventures. It’s exciting to see how different the music will be every time as they maintain an unwavering commitment to improvisation.

Torrents of glorious magic unfolded as guitarist/singer Todd Gardner from Saints of Circumstance joined the mix. The tastefulness of these dual lead guitarists allowed them to weave so naturally, the casual observer had little idea how complex this phenomenon was. Their variant tones gelled perfectly as they intuitively knew when to solo and when to support the other with brilliant rhythmic licks. Together they soared into the cosmos with the help of keyboard ace, Jim Wendt and rock-steady bass porpoise, Mike Meagher. Deadheads came out of the woodwork and completely surrendered to the spirit of dance. The music ventured deep into the wilderness with fearless abandon. “China Cat>Rider” stands out as a particular highlight but there were many more.

Courtesy Reese Photography

Courtesy Reese Photography

Saturday, January 28 – Gene Evaro Jr.
When this band from Joshua Tree first played here last September, they were an unknown commodity. It was love at first sight as they instantly seduced us with their one-of-a-kind allure. Fresh off the release of their new live album, the six-piece unit returned to the endearment of a sold out house.

This is a band oozing professionalism. In addition to being ultra tight with their compositions, they pay special attention to their stage presence. Dressed like toned-down Sgt. Peppers moonlighting as Mumbai bellhops (if I recall correctly), they meant business from A to Z. It’s hard to take one’s eyes off of bassist Piper Robison as she exudes this effortless body language which amplifies her silky smooth style. Another clear sign of a hungry band unwilling to rest on its laurels was the wealth of brand new material which Evaro proudly introduced to us with his frequent banter. This music gets classified under the big umbrella of soul, but it goes well beyond that. We hope they keep coming back, but this might be one of those bands that outgrows the Crazy Horse with a quickness.

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