Monday, August 20, 2007

Articles & interview

Kimock on Ratdog

Ticket to Ratdog was much more

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Columnist

For some reason, I didn't want to tell the kids I had a ticket to a Ratdog concert.

There were 14 of us in all in the class — 13 twentysomethings and me — and I was having a little trouble bridging the generation gap. I figured that announcing I was going to a concert by a band that had its roots 15 years before they were born would do nothing to bring us closer. So I kept silent, even as many of them were discussing plans for a night on the town.

We were part of a summer study program in Boston. They were there to explore a career in urban design. I was there to get my head together after a tumultuous couple of years. We didn't seem to have much in common.

Somehow, though, when we were walking around South Boston that afternoon, I let it slip. What happened next blew me away, as we used to say in the '60s.

"Ratdog? You're going to Ratdog? No way! We want to come. Ratdog? Tonight? Hey, freakin' Mike — he was holding out on us. Ratdog!"

They started making plans, checking their wallets and text-messaging friends. In the end, eight or nine of us headed to the show.

The kids took me under their wings. They showed me how to buy half-priced tickets. They showed me how to crash the front-row seats. They showed me that the heart of rock 'n' roll is still beating. They showed me what I already knew: Good music has a way of breaking down generational barriers.

"How do you know all these Grateful Dead songs, anyway?" I asked one of the women during the break.

"My mom taught them all to me," she said. "She's kind of a Deadhead."

So we talked and danced and sang along with every song in the second set. A perfect night.

When Bob Weir and the guys returned for an encore and I heard the first few notes of "Brokedown Palace," I knew I was in trouble. The author Ken Kesey once said that he never understood the power of art until he heard Jerry Garcia play the solo part. It's a sad, soaring lullaby that always carries me back to the thoughts I was trying to escape by spending my summer on the Mainland.

"This song always tears me apart," I said, starting to cry even as I sang along lustily with every word:

Fare you well, fare you well

I loved you more than words can tell

Listen to the river sing sweet songs

to rock my soul.

Then the beautiful young woman whose mom was a Deadhead reached out and gave me a big hug. "It's going to be all right," she said.

Once again, the music had worked its magic.

Reach Mike Leidemann at
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A night to remember and savor from RatDog and the Allmans

Updated: 08/20/07 6:52 AM

It’s such a privilege, sometimes, to go to a show such as Sunday’s and then be able to write about it. Musicians as good as those gathered on stage at Darien Lake for the Rat- Dog/Allmans gig are an absolute pleasure to watch and listen to.
When they take the time to listen to each other, and let the music take an organic form, and live and breathe, the audience member feels like a lucky soul. Sometimes music can transport us to a better place. This night at Darien, with a full house along for the trip, it did that — over and over again.

What does one say about RatDog now? The band, under Bob Weir’s leadership, has become an ensemble on par with the Dead, which gave it birth. Even with guitarist Mark Karan out battling throat cancer, and newcomer Steve Kimock still “the new guy,” RatDog played one of the most moving sets of music it has ever played in our neck of the woods. That’s saying something, if you’ve seen the bands at the Town Ballroom over the last four years.

The band opened with “Here Comes Sunshine,” morphed fearlessly into Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm,” found a smooth segue into “Loser” and had no trouble finding a sort of psychedelic blues groove for “Money for Gasoline.”

Things got very interesting during “Loose Lucy,” as Weir made it plain that he’d come to leave some blood on the stage. His singing during this tune was both raucous and invigorated. Strapping on an acoustic for the latter-period Dead tune “Victim or the Crime,” Weir was stunning, his Keith Richardsesque rhythm guitar comping laying the foundation for a transcendent Kimock solo.

This all rolled sweetly into “Half-Step Mississippi Uptown Toodle-oo,” which the band tore into with a ravenous bite. “Samson and Delilah,” from Terrapin Station followed, and it was Reverend Gary Davis taken to the Chicago juke joint on a Saturday night. “Sugaree,” “Dark Star,” “Terrapin Flyer” and “Touch of Grey” — what more could anyone want?

Seeing the Allman Brothers Band after this first performance almost made one feel spoiled. Could it get better? Well, it’s not about better, it’s about different, and the AB Band took the blues all over the map, stopping in India, Africa, Chicago, the Mississippi Delta, and frankly, the moon a few times. It can’t get better than this, in terms of musical interchange in the broad “rock” world.

“Revival” kicked it all off, and was beautifully sung by Gregg Allman, Marc Quinoines and guitarist Warren Haynes. Haynes took the first solo, and it was fantastic, a blend of old blues and some forward-looking cross-genre stuff. Then Derek Trucks played. Words haven’t been invented yet to describe the level that this guy is playing at. Suffice it to say that he’s the greatest living electric guitar player.

The Allmans gave us “Statesboro Blues,” “Midnight Rambler,” “The Sky is Crying,” and a stunning interpretation of the Miles Davis/Joe Zawinul tune “In A Silent Way,” which morphed into “Mountain Jam,” and featured Trucks and Haynes trading choruses with RatDog’s Kimock. Again, one felt privileged to be hearing musical interaction on this level.

Concert Review

The Allman Brothers Band

With Bob Weir and RatDog on Sunday at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.