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Columns > Itzys Illusions - Steve Itzkowitz

Published: 2004/04/27
by Steve Itzkowitz

Out of the Rat trap and into the Fire

Greetings y’all,
I hope everyone is doing well. It’s been a little while since I’ve written one of these and I’m trying to keep my vow to keep it short. Therefore, I’ve decided to follow an outline to keep it concise and hopefully it will be . . . so without further adieu, here we go.
Ratdog The Palladium, Worcester, MA Friday(4-2-04)* I have to admit, this was the third show on the tour that I caught as the Dog had a few shows in SoCal early on in the tour and Itzy being Itzy was there in full effect. However, I was on a spring visit to Beantown and Ratdog conveniently was playing a mere half hour away from my parents house. So . . . That bring us to Worcester and the Palladium. This show I had circled on the calendar as a 'maybe' as I was flying into Boston the same day for a visit with my family plus a day trip down to Camden Yards for the Red Sox-Orioles season opener, which I'll get to later on in the column. Anyway, I got into the show as Ratdog was finishing up 'Minglewood Blues' and met up with Danzig (he's related to the band of the same name, I think they're cousins) to the left of the tapers right off the floor. Great positioning by Danzig and his crew. Bob worked his way into 'Mission in the Rain' and once again it was his version that mystified the show goers. A huge 'Lost Sailor>Saint Of Circumstance' came next and the jam into Althea was pretty tight, but it quickly became unglued. There was a huge gaping hole in Althea as the bridge was hit too early ('there are things you can replace and others you cannot . . .') , Bob threw up his hands in disgust and much to the band's credit they reformatted quite quickly and finished the song strongly despite their obvious meltdown. But then again, what's a Weir show without mistakes? The second set featured a crisp acoustic 'Masterpiece', I could hear that song every day and never get sick of it. Be it Dylan's version, the Band's version, Jerry's version or Bob's version, When I Paint My Masterpiece is a timeless classic and a personal favorite, obviously. The 'New Speedway Boogie' that followed worked the crowd into a frenzy, however it is a Ratdog show and your going to get some RD tunes as the Trilogy 'Even So>October's Queen>the Deep End' ensued after a top notch New Speedway. The Trilogy is much more accepted at a Ratdog show rather than a Dead show. I've said it before and when it happens I have to sit back and listen, kind of like putting your money where your mouth is. Anyway, a stellar Wheel came next and the jam that ensued was great because Jeff Chimenti and Jay Lane switched places from piano to drums and kept singing the 'couldn't you try' part of the Wheel chorus to a reggae beat. I really have to say that was a nice addition to the show because the jam into 'Black Peter', yes Black Peter, was energized. And the jazzy version of 'Black Peter' once again had the fans buzzing about it's uniqueness. Oh and by the way, China>Rider closed the set, speaking of things that 'didn't suck'. A nice Ripple finished the evening of and easy ride back to the 'Ham. And a nice way to start the trip. For what it's worth, I've seen Ratdog close to three dozen times since their incarnation in 1995. They've come a long way from a Matt Kelly, Rob Wasserman vehicle to a solid rock n' roll band. It was kind of cool to see the book ends of this tour. As I've said all along choosers can't be beggars and I'm just thankful that we still get the music. How odd it was it that every Grateful Dead related show I've seen in 2004 has had an 'Althea' in it? That's just a rhetorical thought, nothing more than that. _Top 5 Random Soprano's Quotes from This Season_ 1. 'What is this . . . the f***'n, UN now?'---Johnny Sac in response to Tony's idea (which he credited to Angelo) about power sharing within his family with Carmine Jr. and Angelo. 2. 'What the F**K you doin!?'---Feech La Manna (the great Robert Loggia) to landscaper Sal Vidro, moments before going house on him and breaking his arm on the curb starting a turf war with Paulie Altieri. 3. 'Do Me a Favor and Shut the F**K Up!?' Tony Soprano to Feech after learning that Feesh masterminded the wedding carjacking without his consent as well as Feesh referring to the old days one too many times. 4. 'Vito! Where the F**K is my Tupperware?' - Paulie Walnuts to Vito, Vito said his wife was bringing it by in the afternoon 5. 'Jesus Christ! She's a good looking woman. And she wants to F**K Barney Rubble?' - FBI Agent about Adrianna's sudden interest in Tony, a lot of viewer's favorite episode from this year. *The Funky Meters Pearl Street, Northampton, MA Friday April 9, 2004
Well finally a chance to see the Funky Meters. When I heard about their mini-tour I checked my own schedule and lo and behold I would be in the area with a chance to see Art Neville. Well I wasn’t disappointed, but reality is starting to set in as when Art walked across the stage with a cane, it showed me that he is doing all that he can to play.
Padre and I took the road trip down the Mass Pike and listened to the Red Sox bullpen literally come apart at the seams in their home opener loss to Toronto. But I had bigger fish to fry as I wanted to get there so we could watch Game 2 of the Bruins-Habs series. After watching the 1st period in the lamest bar ever, the City Cafe, we headed around the corner for a much better atmosphere, FitzWilly’s, which I think was a name of an old Dick Van Dyke movie. Anyway, it was 9:25pm and the B’s game was heading into OT, but the show was about to start. So we aborted ship and headed over to the venue. Just like that the next thing I know is that we are in front of the keyboard of Poppa Funk and we eagerly awaited the arrival of the Funky Meters. Pearl Street is a decent sized room, there was plenty of room to dance as well.
Once they hit the stage, it became two stages. The reason I say this is that George Porter Jr. was playing at such a high level that he drove the band for the entire set. George would walk over to Art and instigate him while playing a funky bass line and that’s when Art would come to life and lay down some of his patented licks on the keys. For instance,during Funky Miracle George waltzed over and literally had to coerce Art into joining his jam, at least that’s what I saw. Brian Stoltz was fine on lead guitar. He had a denim floppy beret style hat on and with his white locks, he could easily be mistaken for Steve Martin ala one of the Czech brothers from SNL. True to form, the FM’s delivered their usual hits including, ‘Just Kissed My Baby’, ‘Africa’ and my personal favorite, ‘Cissy Strut.’ At one point early on in the show, I got the natural high feeling—perm-a-grin, from just seeing the FM’s back on the same stage.
We’re lucky enough to catch the Funky Meters every blue moon these days and who knows if there will be much more. This show, which clocked in around an 1:45 total was just a glimpse of the past. However, go see anything with George Porter Jr. The man is staying on the one and just having a good time up there. Russell Batiste Jr., the FM drummer, may be having too good of a time up there, if you know what I mean. Oh yeah, the B’s ended up winning that game in OT as rookie sensation Patrice Bergeron scored at 1:26 of OT, which also meant that we could’ve seen it live and seen the FM’s hit the stage within minutes of each other. BTW, thanks Dirty for hooking me up with the score and now I’m rooting for the Leafs since the B’s were eliminated on what I like to call Dark Monday, 4-19.
PHISH The Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV Thursday April 15, 2004* Once again on the road and this time JrsOne was riding shotgun as we headed to Sin City for one Phish show. And once again, my mission was to get there by 4pm so I could catch the B's game #5 before heading to the show. Well we got there right on time and headed over to the Mandalay Bay sports bar and the game was on, but the results were scary. So I wasn't in the best of moods after watching my B's get their hats handed to them on home ice. JrsOne was antsy for good reason. He wanted to get to the show and get situated and get the party going. Well sometimes things have a way of working out because as we got to the parking lot we ran into a few friends from Los Angeles, which was clutch. Then as we're walking around the Thomas and Mack center, we ran into more L.A folk, Robin and Milo, who along with Nikki are at every show that I'm at and we never go together. We ended up sitting with them about 5 rows off of the floor in sec. 109 or so. Actually it was quite interesting when I noticed that the rows in front of us we're taken up by these clean cut, well kempt PhishHeads. Think QueerEye for the Phishhead as either or the Rainbow coalition was right in front of us massaging each other. Just another show, I guess. Anyway, Phish hit the stage and came out flying with 'AC DC Bag' and delivered an up and down set highlighted by MOMA Dance and the bluegrassy Old Home Place. However, we were having a good time at the show regardless of what they were playing. After an hour break, Phish came back at hit the stage with '46 Days' which was a nice opener, but I really enjoyed their version of the Who's 'Drowned' right into an ol' staple 2001. Trey brought out Trey Band trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick (who was also in town with her band) for a cover of Jay-Z's 'Girls, Girls, Girls', which was fun, but imagine if they busted out Motley Crue's version of the same title, not song? The rest of the show was jam filled and the band seemed to be having a good time. The encore of 'Sneakin Sally' was great as Trey morphed into Nillson' 'Lime and the Coconut' (which was playing over the p.a before Phish hit the stage) and then into a rap about Fishman's dress. Whatever, they are Phish. I've said this before, but I see Phish once or twice a year and I tend to enjoy the show. I understand that this show was rated the weakest amongst the three shows by the PhishHeads. But if you take the show at face value like I try to do, then you'll see more positives than negatives. After the show, JRSOne and headed back to the Mandalay Bay for some recreational gaming. Big shout out to Polivy who we ran into on the way to playing black jack or should I say losing black jack as I couldn't get a run going at all. I should have listened to Polivy who didn't want to gamble saying 'she wasn't feeling it', but after all it is Vegas. I hit the road solo the next morning as JRSone was off to NYC. One thing that gets the losing Vegas blues out of your system is hearing the Grateful Dead's 'Deal' on the way home. 'It takes a lot to win, even more to lose . . ' _Top 5 Songs That Should Be Covered By Someone (if they already haven't)_ 1. Rock N' Me--The Steve Miller Band. We've all heard this song a million times, but if you were at a show and this was busted out say by Govt. Mule or perhaps String Cheese (they did do Jet Airliner with Paul Pena-who wrote it) don't tell me you wouldn't be psyched. 2. ' I Thank You'--Z Z Top of DeGuello, a great bluesy funky rockin' tune, I give this one to any David Schools project and let him run with it for a while. ' I saw you last night and You did what you did and what you did . . .' 3. 'I Feel The Earth Move' --Carole King off of Tapestry. great album, great song, I'm giving this challenge to either the aforementioned Jennifer Hartswick or even better yet, Bonnie Raitt 4. 'You Down with OPP?' Naughty By Nature, hey I almost chose 'Who Let the Dogs Out?' and 'Whoops There It Is', so be thankful, this one can be had for the low low price of free, any takers, Black Eyed Peas? Phish? Pakm Mcghee and the Express? 5. 'Can't You See?' The Marshall Tucker Band, I'm pretty sure every bar band cover band has to learn this one as a prerequisite for playing, but it's a great tune nonetheless. I hear there is a Spanish version called, Donde Va? *Gov't Mule The Wilshire Theater, Los Angeles, Saturday April 17, 2004
The 1001st show for the Mule. And if you didn’t know who played at the big show # 1000, well it was a second set that had the Dead sitting in sans Jimmy Herring with Warren for another preview of what’s to come this summer. Well, then what the hell would we get here in L.A? What we got was a solid show in a beautiful room and few guest stars to boot. Gov’t Mule is a band’s band plain and simple. It was rock n’ roll with a southern edge but yet Warren Haynes seemed to be in a good mood as he led his band into a set opener of ‘Thelonius Beck’ which got the crowd going early. The Wilshire Theatre, however, was not ready for the alcohol friendly Mule crowd as they ran out of beer (they only had MGD and Rolling Rock—Schwag) and booze by the start of the second set. But show 1001 would have it’s guest stars . . . after all it is L.A. As Ben Harper came to the stage and joined Warren, drummer Matt Abts, bassist Andy Hess and keyboardist Danny Louis for a crowd roaring ‘Lay Your Burden Down>Smokestack Lightning>Lay Your Burden Down’ to end the first set. At set break, in the lobby, at the bar there was a unusual scene as bottles went down to empty prior to the second set starting. The room started to fill up as classic Mule other wise know as ‘Soulshine>Mule’ opened the second set. A great way to get things started. A jam ensued during ‘Mule’ that when I heard the first notes I was like, ‘was that Jungle Boogie?’ It reappeared a few times and after the show I was challenged about my call. Trust me, I’m no Mule addict, however when it comes to 70’s disco funk, well I can hold my own. I actually played the Kool and the Gang classic after the show. Incidentally, the matter was solved Sunday morning over bagels and lox when the set list was posted on Pakm. A tribute to Bob Marley had the Mule delivering a extended version of ‘Lively Up Yourself’ as it was second to none as far as being the hi-lite of the night. By the way, Phish opened their second set that night with Marley’s ‘Soul Shakedown Party.’ The Mule once again asked an old friend to join them on stage as Harmonica player Hook Herrera, who played in their first show, sat in for a few blues tunes including Willie Dixon’s ‘I Ain’t Superstitious’ which they nailed right on the head. There was really a diversity of musical styles played on this night and it wasn’t more evident when ex-Black Crowe (and ex-band mate of Andy Hess) joined in for the encore of ‘Cortez the Killer’ a Neil Young standby. It had been a few years for me since I last saw Gov’t Mule and this time around it seemed to be a different band. It was definitely upbeat and rockin’, but you guys all know me, I was still bumming that I missed the 1000 show up in SF. But for what it’s worth, you never know what your going to get unless you show up.
Pick Up the Pieces
Did anyone catch the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame Ceremonies on VH1? It was an interesting show with Traffic, Prince, George Harrison, Rolling Stone magazine founder Jann Wenner, Bob Seger, The Dells and Jackson Browne being inducted. I enjoyed the Traffic segment, however can someone explain why Dave Mason left the group or what was the reason behind it? Also, if anyone wants some real good Traffic, I have a couple of shows (Santa Monica 72 and NYC 70— I think), then email me off list. By the way, the jam at the end had Tom Petty and Jeff Lynn of the Traveling Wilbury’s jamming with Stevie Winwood, Daniel Harrison and Prince on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’ And finally, Bob Seger hasn’t aged well and his chops sound like he’s been smoking cigarettes since they were invented. The Silver Bullet Band joined him for ‘Old Time Rock n’ Roll’, I thought Seger would need the oxygen tank after that one. And his drummer had a real bad mullet, bad enough to be worth mentioning.
Check out ol’ friend Ken Robbins’ interview with Scott Murawski of Max Creek. A veteran East Coast jamband, the Creek has gone through several members since their incarnation almost 25 years ago. Here’s the link:
Well my summer tour and JazzFest plans have been averted once again as yours truly heads to the Promised Land, Israel for a 4 week tour. I got to get on Jambase International, because you know I’m going to be needing a show at least once in July. ‘Left my home in Norfolk Virginia, California on my mind’
I’m not getting to worked up about the Red Sox right now either. Just because my B’s bowed out of the playoffs doesn’t mean I shift right to the Sox. However, I am a little miffed, no pun intended, that Francona pulled a Grady last night and left Schilling in a tie ball game in the 8th inning. That’s a no-brainer, once I peeked my head up and saw that Curt was in the game, I was like, ‘we’re not going to win this one.’ Wouldn’t you know it? Lastly, I love the Curt Schilling Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. So hilarious and the guy who plays the lockerroom attendant is veteran commercial actor, Kevin O’Connor. I worked with him in 1995 on Tony Danza’s ‘Hudson Street’ for ABC. Incidentally, Jerry Adler played the police chief on Hudson Street. Adler is now best known for his role as Hesch on HBO’s ‘Soprano’s.’ Okay Itzy enough name dropping, we’re all going to need umbrellas . . .
So I was at the Season Opener down at Camden Yards. Great ball park, great friends, (yo Mich, Muscles, Pratt and Robbie), but although the temperature was 43 degrees it felt like 23 degrees with the wind chill in center field. We had front row seats of the centerfield bleachers and I was ripping the Orioles centerfielder, Luis Matos, all game by calling him ‘PrimeTime’, however due to the fact the wind was so strong, I doubt he heard me at all . . . .
I’ve got to apologize for not watching the Apprentice. I know all you 9 to 5ers love that show, well I just missed the boat on that one. I actually can’t stand reality TV, but that’s another story entirely.
Speaking of reality TV, our good buddy, Joel Bowers of the Greasy Beats, had the honor (I guess) to sit in (along with his horn section) on William Hung’s ‘She Bangs’ performance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on April 10th. I watched it and Joel got some good face time. Check out the Greasy Beats every other Wednesday at the Temple Bar in Santa Monica. a href=‘’TARGET=J> has all the latest news.
Another random one, when I was in Washington D.C earlier this month, I was at my buddies Robbie’s place and also staying there was the girlfriend of Dan Conway, the bassist for Modereko (see last Insight). I’m like, ‘we met last month . . . in L.A and your bf’s signature is on my wall,’ (there were signed posters). Next on small world . . .
On May 6th come on down to the Cinema Bar in Culver City for a revamped line up of Rodeo Cold. I’m told they are changing their name as well. So if you have any suggestions like, Grover the Leaper or Mexican Woman Eating Chips then fire them off at, I wonder if the website will change too . . .
And as a friendly reminder, the Family Guy comes back with all brand new episodes starting in 2006, but does anyone have a start date for American Dad?
Who’s my Plus One?
‘On the Road, so you don’t have to be’
PS: Why aren’t there any Dunkin Donuts in SoCal? Someone missed the boat big time.

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