2001 in Review: Memorable Live Shows
These selections are offered by our editors and contributing writers…
Musically speaking, 2001 was the most inconsistent
year in recent memory. I saw some of my favorite
bands fall flat (repeatedly) and was thoroughly
unimpressed with some of most popular bands on the
scene. That is not to say, of course, that there were
not fantastic moments along the way. As always,
Berkfest offered a veritable listeners delight,
including SKB's barn-burning late night show, The
Slip's marathon Saturday night set that kept half the
festival from seeing moe., and arguably the two best
Percy Hill shows ever. The soggy mountain festival
also introduced me to Hanuman, the wandering acoustic
unit that played impromptu sets throughout the
The year was dominated, however, by the Phil Lesh
Quintet. The psychedelic five-some was a powerhouse
ensemble in the fall of 2000; even so, what a
difference one year can make. The textures, teases
and constant exploration made every show a vista to
behold. Jimmy and Warren, who were oh-so-similar in
sound at the outset, have carved their own niches in
the walls of their repertoire, crafting signature
sounds that are distant yet entirely complimentary.
Similarly, Molo has loosened up and begun to work the
percussion end with increased vigor, adding yet
another layer to the band's already richly detailed
tapestry. Out of the dozen or so shows I attended two
rise above the rest. First, the 12-1 show, Friday
night at the Beacon, was a journey to never-ever land
that was so complicated in design and so sophisticated
in its rendering that it has to be heard to be
believed. But the best show of the year was 7-21 at
Hartford, with Ratdog opening. Actually the 'dog set
alone made an excellent show, but when the Quintet
took the stage, they threatened to bring the house
down. From the Truckin' > Cassidy with Bobby sitting
in, to the climactic Help > Slip > 11 > Slip >
Franklin's, this show was IT! Three weeks later, it
was still the talk of the lot on Trey tour.
Which brings us to the honorable mention of the year.
The brief reunions of Phish members certainly deserve
mention. From Page with Trey to Mike with Trey to Mike
and Trey with Page, every one was thrilling. But the
Mike and Trey acoustic encore at Jones Beach was truly
something else. The Bathtub Gin, with the audience
singing to the musicians as the duo sat listening to
the flow- that was a thing of beauty. Hopefully there
are similar moments just over the horizon.
Trey Anastasio: Higher Ground, July 4, 2001
It was quite a way to celebrate the fourth of July. Trey and the new
incarnation of his backing band debuted several songs at the intimate
confines of Higher Ground in Winooski, VT; a stone's throw from Burlington.
The octet could barely fit on the stage of the packed club and literally rubbed
elbows with one another throughout the show, as did the capacity crowd. Highlights included the majestic "Drifting," the corny, yet addictive "Moesha" and the triumphant "Push on til the Day," which included a reworked middle section
that featured Anastasio and trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick performing a somewha
t choreographed dance at center stage. While there were some miscues here
and there, overall the show was raging with festive energy. The difference between Trey's winter tour and his summer tour was night and day. It's amazing what rehearsal time can do for a band…
8 November 2001
Thompson Student Center, New York University
New York City, New York
In a year of vastly impersonal experiences experienced personally, my own
most meaningful musical moment – at a public performance, anyway – was a
fairly private one. I don't even remember what band was playing. My friend
Carol and I talked our way into a students-only Circulatory System show at
NYU. Both the Circulatory System and the opening act were members of the
Elephant 6 Recording Company — a loose collective of artists and musicians
from the Athens area whose ranks also include Apples In Stereo, The Olivia
Tremor Control, and Neutral Milk Hotel (among many others).
It was this last band, Neutral Milk Hotel, who released In The Aeroplane
Over The Sea in 1998; an album which a friend introduced me to in May,
just as I was leaving the warm comfort of the place I had made my home for
four years. The album was the most graceful and beautiful constant in my
life as I lived on my mother's couch and tried to figure out where I was
going next. Neutral Milk Hotel, I discovered, was synonymous with Jeff
Mangum, who wrote all of the songs and played many of the instruments.
Shortly after the album's release, though, Mangum had a physical breakdown
and stopped performing. By the fall of 2001, though, he was playing drums in
The Circulatory System, a band led by his high school friend Will Cullen
Hart. Off we went.
The opening band, which I later discovered to be made up of four members of
The Circulatory System playing different instruments (that's sorta how these
E6 people operate), played moody, quiet, cello-led pop ballads. It wasn't
entirely my bag. Midway through the set, the frontwoman called a friend to
the stage to help with the vocals. Jeff Mangum stepped onto the platform and
knelt. Without a microphone, he belted in a soaring voice — the same voice
that had sung me to sleep for months. It went from his mouth to my ear with
nothing in between. Softly. Quietly.
Third Annual Berkshire Mountain Music Festival, Butternut Ski Basin Great Barrington, MA, 8/1012/2001
Time management has always been one of my strengths but I still felt helplessly overwhelmed trying to manage the multiple stage schedules at the third annual Berkshire Mountain Music Festival. The Word, moe., Galactic, Les Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, Steve Kimock Band I could stop here, but I won’t Leftover Salmon, Mike Clark’s Prescription Renewal, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Soulive; the list goes on and on and on
Some decisions were made for us (e.g., Robert Walter’s didn’t show up and Steve Kimock was essentially rained out), but that didn’t eliminate the occasional need to be in more than one place at a time.
Robert Randolph and his Family Band slid in for Robert Walter’s and it wasn’t long before Walter’s was forgotten and Randolph’s pedal steel guitar was top of mind. Yonder Mountain String Band hosted a late-night gathering in a sweaty, overcrowded ski lodge and Michael Franti & Spearhead warmed up an early afternoon outdoor crowd. The sounds of Olu Dara soothed a small audience while Claypool stealthily dressed in a frog suit to hand out recycling bags on the campgrounds. Fans ignored muddy campsites and ditched wet shoes to dance to impromptu jams around the venue by Hanuman, Jamie Janover and others quintessential representations of the laid-back festival vibe that made Berkfest one of the summer’s highlights.
The All-Star Jam, consisting of John Medeski (keys), Vernon Reid (guitar), Stan Strickland (sax) and Bob Moses (drums), provided a warm and wild ending to a thankful crowd, many of whom (myself included) ran out of steam prior to the late-night gig featuring a show, billed at the time, as Jiggle’s final performance.
Since the almost-Phish reunion technically happened in 2002, my
favorite live show of this year was easily the Widespread Panic
concert of October 16th. It was a great show before Trey showed
up, but the Wish You Were Here pushed it over the top. I didn't have
much luck with concerts this year; this was the one that reminded me
why it is that I spend so much time and money going to see these
The trend in 2002 I'm most curious about – although it won't be a good
one – will be the jambands shakeout. With the slower economy, higher
ticket prices, and the rumored return of Phish1, this might be the
first year in a long time where there are fewer jambands touring.
Expect to see more bands in festivals and festival tours and fewer
bands on normal tours. It's just a guess, but it seems that we're
about that point in the economic cycle.
 Even if Phish don't return, the rumor might prevent people from
taking their vacation time and spending their money until they know
for sure it's not scheduled.
It is quite easy for me to select the show that resonates most from the past year. As I stated in the intro to my interview with Rob Derhak last month, moe's Orpheum performance on Friday, September 14 takes the honor hands down. Other personal high points include my first glimpses at Oysterhead, Project Z and the Word, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks going toe-to-toe during the ABB's Beacon run, the last night of Wetlands (although the end result was not a "highlight") and of course the Jammys (in retrospect- that evening was plenty of work).
I also look back and smile at a number of live performances on Jam Nation the weekly radio show I cohost with Jeff Waful on WMRQ in Hartford. Picture this: it's Sunday night, and as the weekend trails away I get to kick back in a performance space with bands I respect and enjoy for an hour of live music. I never fail to smile. Having said that, for one reason or another my most memorable weeks included sets from: Sound Tribe Sector 9, Lo Faber Band, ulu, Jazz Mandolin Project and the Big Wu.
RANA’s final show at the Wetlands.
I knew this would be my final goodbye to a club that had been the source for many legendary concerts. Having only been there a few times I was still familiarizing myself with its many nooks, crannies and regulars. Jarnow did his best to prepare me for the onslaught that would be RANA’s final Wetlands show, but not even he could have prepared me for what it would be like to see Jake Szufnarowski introduce his favorite band and then fall off the stage face first.
Maybe it was Scott Metzger’s guitar solo while standing on a monitor, or their note-perfect cover of Soul Decision’s "Faded", or maybe it was the look on this one girl’s face when their version of Weezer’s "Hash Pipe" hit its peak. She flashed the smile only someone who was truly digging rock and roll could smile. And if you’ve had the chance to see RANA then you know what the hell I’m talking about.
Allman Brothers Band/Phil Lesh/Susan Tedeschi @ Lakewood Amphitheater, Atlanta, 8/4/01
With the ABB and Phil tours crossing paths this summer, it was an absolute treat the two legendary acts were able to get together for four magical shows. It was only fitting that the final night of the four would take place in the ABB's hometown. The potential was almost frightening to think about: cross-jamming, an all night show, special guests, first-time played songs, you name it.
Along with opener Susan Tedeschi, it was an incredibly rare evening that satisfied one's jones for Southern fried blues rock and Bay Area psychedelia, and kept Lesh's reputation in tact as someone who puts ego aside and enjoys sharing the stage with true musical talent.
Bob Dylan, 11/11/01, Bryce Jordan Center, Penn State University
A Phil Lesh and Friends show at Lehigh University less than a week
earlier may have reached atmospheric heights and the energy level at two moe.
shows that raged at the Scranton (PA) Cultural Center cannot be matched, but
this Dylan show has to take the cake for me. Dylan simply playing his greatest hits, or a reworking of them, is worth
the price of admission. But throw in half the tracks from "Love and Theft,"
an album that actually deserves all the critical hype it's gotten, and you
have a perfect night of song. From the understated way Mr. Dylan took the
stage and locked into an acoustic set to the searing blues-rock of "Honest
With Me" and "All Along The Watchtower," the emotionally charged show was a
perfect showcase not only of Dylan's songwriting, but his tremendous and
unique singing, guitar playing and harmonica skills. The three-guitar
interplay, including Charlie Sexton and Larry Campbell, was ferocious and
white-hot at times, and gentle and rustic at others. Dylan, on stage and on
record, is just as vital, and just as entertaining, at 60 years old as he was
in the 1960s.
My favorite live shows of the year actually came as a one-two punch this past July. I was heading down to the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, CA from my home in Portland, OR and I planned on seeing Phil and Friends in Eugene. I'm glad I did! My personal highlights of the show were the quintet's version of King Solomon’s Marbles>Stronger Than Dirt, a smoking Passenger, and an extremely powerful version of Hard to Handle. The show was just phenomenal. The players were playing off one another wonderfully with Molo's drumming fueling Jimmy Herring's ripping leads. Not to mention Warren's awesome guitar work and sultry, bluesy, raspy voice which came across so well in his singing of Hard to Handle. Tie this all down with Phil's great bass playing and some old Phil classics like the tune Pride of Cucamonga, and you have one killer show.
This powerful show took me off guard for two reasons. First of all, I had seen Phil and Friends on the second night of the Roseland stand in February, but that night was mostly very spacey and intertwined in and out of Darkstar. Don't get me wrong, it was a great show. But I was tired anyway and was sitting in the rear of the balcony, so I couldn't really "dig in." I caught Phil in the summer of 2000, but Little Feat was the back-up band and everyone agrees that the combo, while sounding nice, didn't really gel like the current line-up does. The second reason the quality and power of the show took me off guard was the fact that I was heading to High Sierra Music Festival. I had programmed myself to expect all the really sick music at Festival and not at Eugene's sweet little outdoor venue known as the Cuthbert Amphitheatre.
Which leads me to my other favorite live show of the year. This was basically my introduction to the up and coming jammers from Indiana, Umphrey's McGee (great band, lame name, in my opinion). I had caught them in Portland on recommendations from all the live music rags and was pretty much blown away. Going into Festival they were one of the bands highest on my list to see play as much as possible. One night they played a set in a tent on the fringes of the festival site. It took place after the main stage music ended, but before the late-night music began. Well, Umphrey's set actually ran over into the late-night show times, but no one there seemed to notice or care. The band just powered out jam after jam that truly amazed the entire dancing, swirling , and partying audience that were packed into that tent. Many folks left the tent shaking their heads in disbelief at the skills of this very young and talented band. I decided right then and there that I would be seeing as much of this band as possible. Now if only they would come back to the Pacific Northwest before summer!!
My favorite live show this year was Crosby, Stills and Nash at Jones Beach. It was a rainy and quite uncomfortable night, but the weather could not dampen the enthusiasm of the predominantly baby boomer crowd. The harmonies were as sharp as they were thirty years ago and the band was superb.
The surprising aspect of the show was the way Stephen Stills took command of the evening. His musicianship, never in question was augmented by his stage presence and ability to get the audience involved in the songs. The three of them molded into a perfectly tuned unit that gave a memorable two hour plus performance.
While I was looking through my ticket stubs from concerts I attended in the
year 2001, I was reminded of so many shows that I had forgotten about.
Trying to pick my "favorite" or "best" show of the year became significantly
harder than I had previously anticipated. Way back in January, I saw Uncle
Sammy play a blistering set of music at Wetlands while opening up for Tom
Marshall and Amfibian. And later in the year, Monkeys on Ecstasy blew
everyone away at the Lion's Den. But when it came right down to it, I found
only three shows that really went to "above and beyond".
In third place, Trey Anastasio at Jones Beach simply because of the
incredible encore that shook they very foundation of the ampitheater. My
second favorite show was the Sept New Deal show at Wetlands, the very first
time Jamie Shields used two new keyboards which elevated the sound of the
band to a whole other level. But when picking my favorite show, I found it
hard NOT to pick Phil and Friends with Bob Weir at the Beacon. The
expectations were so high going into the show that I thought the band would
never live up to it. But, of course they did. The whole show was
incredible and the crowd, so important in our "scene", was as happy, and as
loud, as I've ever seen one. Bob Weir led the band beautifully through Dead
songs from every time period, highlighted by an incredible Dark Star—>West
L.A.—>Dark Star in the second set. All around, that was simply the best
show I'd seen in the year 2001.
On a personal note, I want to thank everyone who contributed to this year
being as good as it was, both musicians and the fans. Those of us that live
and breathe music were treated to a fantastic year, despite the lack of
Phish. Whether it be MMW, SCI, moe., Phil. tDB, the New Deal, Trey or
whomever, seeing music as frequently as we do, its hard to complain. Thanks
By far the festival of the year in 2001 was Camp Creek. Not only were we blessed with two great days of Max Creek, but the Saturday night show was almost six hours in length. Guests roamed the stage and fans were treated with a dinner time fireworks show. This is an event that is hard to beat. Aside from the Creek, there were great performances by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Blueground Undergrass, Snake Oil Medicine Show, Psychedelic Breakfast, the Persuasions, and more. The folks at Terrapin Presents outdid themselves, and unlike the Gathering of the Vibes, the event was characterized by beautiful sunny weather. I know where I will be next July.
While we know that the jam scene will always continue on despite the presence or absence of any one member, the passing of two great members of our community will put a gray mark on the calendar year 2002. The passing of counter culture icon Ken Kesey, who helped to shape this scene without picking up an instrument, is saddening. The world will miss his literary sense, his humorous sense, and his sense of improvisation- whether through speech or action. This loss was compounded shortly thereafter by the passing of George Harrison. The first jamband, the first rock band, and maybe the ultimate band ever to have played music was largely shaped by Sir George's wit, simple yet evocative guitar leads, and his envelopment of world music into the pop world. Not satisfied with teaching us how to love music, he helped to teach us to love each other and to love peace. My Sweet Lord. Together, these two cultural figureheads will be missed by us, and everyone who loves music and artistic. expression.
Robert Randolph came to Nashville twice in the Fall of 2001. Both shows proved that exploratory music doesn’t have to be visually boring. Robert is a performer as well as a musician. He plays with an excitement that is unparalleled in jam-based music. That excitement is infectious and in September and November RRFB had a Nashville audience, a typically stoic audience, on it’s feet jumping for joy and shaking it’s hips; at the same time we were awed by his playing and the band’s connection and communication. Robert Randolph and the Family Band is a fabulous band and if the end of 2001 (press, opening for Gregg Allman, invitation to Warren’s Christmas Jam, massive tours) is any indication 2002 is gonna be a great year for them.
The most interesting show of 2001 took place at Irving Plaza in
New York City on 4-11-01. As soon as word leaked that Mike
Gordon would be screening his film, Outside Out, alongside a
performance of Col. Bruce Hampton and the Codetalkers at this
show, people started swarming to grab tickets in hopes that
they'd catch a glimpse of a Phish bandmember in action.
However, when the show date rolled around, everyone suddenly
lost interest, and you couldn't even give away an extra ticket
outside of the venue. Even the homeless people had better
things to do. Unfortunately, these people missed out on a show
that was anything but normal.
The evening began with the screening of Outside Out, while
everyone sat on the floor Indian style. The Irving Plaza
security couldn't cope with the quiet, peaceful, non-drinking
crowd, so they started yelling at everyone to stand. As for the
movie, it can be best summed-up in a word that typified the
After the film, Mike added to the strangeness of the night by
stepping up to a podium behind a bullet-proof shield to field
questions from the audience. Eventually, he felt safe enough to
step out and use a hand-held microphone. Thankfully, everyone
avoided the obvious "When is Phish getting back together?"
question, but in keeping with the odd theme of the evening, one
guy kept screaming "Mark Knopfler!" for no apparent reason.
After a brief break, the Codetalkers took the stage and were
joined by Col. Bruce Hampton, who led them through some
rollicking Zambi-influenced songs. Mike was introduced, and he
walked on and off stage in search of an instrument before
returning with a trumpet. No, that man was but a mere Mike
Gordon impersonator, as the real Mike Gordon returned with a
guitar to lead the band through a passionate rendition of
Frankie Valli's cheesy relic "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You."
A strange cover got stranger as Page McConnell walked on
unannounced mid-song to play a simple 16-measure break and then
walked off, never to be seen again. The rest of the night was
just your average concert featuring impromptu guitar and banjo
duels, a tap dance soloist, the first "Destiny Unbound" in
nearly 10 years, and a ripping encore of Johnny Cash's "Ring Of
Fire." Yeah, all of those people who chose to sit at home
didn't miss anything out of the ordinary.