What happens when you combine a beautiful July day with legendary musicians, an energized crowd, and a majestic venue? You get a fantastic show from the Colonel and his gang.
No, it not of the Sanders variety, and his gang doesn’t consist of delicious chickens. I’m speaking, of course, of Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. The group, who recently reunited, came to the Mish as part of their cross-country tour, one of the first major tours since reuniting in 2011. The Col. and ARU jammed away in front of a near sold out crowd, comprised mostly of older Dead Heads and Phish Phollowers.
The band consists entirely of solid performers, with years of experience shared between them. Oteil Burbridge, the bassist for the group, was one of the most technical and talented bass players this blogger has ever seen. During sound check, Oteil would slap out these complicated melodies, while exerting as much effort as it takes to tie your shoes. It was so precise, I had to inspect him closeup to make sure he was actually playing the beautiful grooves that were caressing my ears. And while Oteil produces fine art with four strings, Jimmy Herring creates masterpieces with six. The lead guitarist for the group can play any style or genre, and can mix elements of multiple sounds to create an avant-garde, yet tantalizing tune. Not only that, Jimmy can take a 10 minute jam and improvise a blazing solo the entire time, all the while making it unique from previous improvs. And then there’s Jeff Sipe, the band’s drummer. If there was a percussionist who could improve the dynamics of any band or style, it would be Jeff. The complicated patterns, the jazz-influenced off-beats, and the effective use of toms made Jeff incredibly exciting to watch. You take these amazing artists, along with the voice and rhythm provided by the Col, and you get a superstar group, and a fantastic performance.
Because of its proximity to the birthday of the late, great Jerry Garcia, the Col. and ARU covered their version of a few Grateful Dead songs, along with covers from other great jam bands like Phish and Leftover Salmon. The artists mustered up enough energy to play two sets worth of material in one long, outstanding session. The group rocked the crowd for nearly two hours, and after they left the stage, begged and cheered for more jams. The Col was, of course, happy to oblige.
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