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Roosevelt Collier’s California Get Down: Somehow the Crazy Horse is Still Standing

untitled (153 of 187)Everyone knows that autumn is the most happening time in Nevada City. The leaves change, rain finally starts to fall, the population surges exponentially and many of the best bands tend to be on tour. When the calendar flipped into November, the music scene at the Crazy Horse shifted into overdrive. We consider our year-round lineup to rarely have a dull moment, but this month has clearly represented a giant leap forward in regards to reeling in high profile artists.

On Thursday, November 5 we welcomed Roosevelt Collier‘s California Get Down. When people inquired about this show in advance, the explanation required quite a mouthful. What we were dealing with here was a “super group” – four musicians with off-the-chart talent coming together for a limited time only. Collier is a pedal steel guitarist with gospel origins. His name has been popping up everywhere over the past couple years as he has shared the stage with heavyweights like The Allman Brothers, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Umphrey’s McGee and String Cheese Incident, just to name a few.

untitled (127 of 187)Probably the most recognizable of the four was lead guitarist Eric McFadden who previously toured with Parliament/Funkadelic, Stockholm Syndrome and Eric Burdon and the Animals. Bassist Norwood Fisher is a longtime member of the punk-rock pioneers – Fishbone. The young gun on the drums was Duane Trucks – brother of Derek, nephew of Butch and currently touring with both Widespread Panic and Hard Working Americans. Despite their lofty credentials, most people hadn’t heard of these guys, but those who had knew we’d be lucky to get through the night with the walls still standing.

McFadden and Fisher have played together quite a bit, but this was the first time the whole lineup had performed together in public. One could sense the raw spontaneity, but the immediate synergy of the group was undeniable. Certainly powerful enough to believe they knew each other very well. The first notes were like opening your front door during a hurricane. The band attacked the moment, instantly scraping the sky with soaring jams. We expected the show would feature a blend of rock, funk, blues and soul. This proved to be accurate as they traversed all those moods, sometimes during the course of one song.

untitled (47 of 187)The early part of the show leaned heavily on the funk, much to the crowd’s delight. Fisher was the wild card throughout the night; laying down gooey bass grooves, both rebellious and refined. Who knew he was going to be this funky? Well, his appearance certainly was with dark sunglasses and a long, thick dreadlock sprouting from the center of his bald head, crooking its way down, like a bent antennae tuned in to a far out frequency.

Collier’s sacred influence resonated in his presence as he gave off this elevated air of pure joy, gratitude and communion with everyone in the room. Unlike certain steel guitarists, he showed thoughtful restraint, asserting himself in the most tasteful way possible. He was all about supporting his bandmates. That instrument can really scream when it wants to and he clearly knew how to coax all its finest nuances. McFadden was the resident alpha dog, unleashing volcanic fury from his axe with skinny dreads flying in iconic fashion. All the while Trucks – the mild-mannered, baby-faced, Southern gentleman – sat in the eye of the storm, laser focused on pounding out ferocious rhythms.

untitled (103 of 187)The second set featured an extended segment of blues along with a palpable shift in moods. The capacity crowd embraced every moment, clearly understanding how fortunate we all were to bask in this level of talent. The show was brought to a thunderous finale with a string of songs reflecting the roots and creative essence of the band. First McFadden led an extended take through a medley of Parliament/Funkadelic favorites, culminating with “Standing on the Verge of Getting it On.” If that wasn’t enough, he followed with a no-holds-barred run through “Foxy Lady,” even attempting a little teeth on the strings action. The breathless audience gobbled up one last smoldering cover with “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” It was the perfect selection for Collier to show off the range of his instrument. He stared out beyond the dance floor – his gentle smile giving off the emotion of overflowing satisfaction.

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