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Published: 2001/10/22
by Dan Alford

Robert Randolph and The Family Band, DUMBO, Brooklyn, NY- 10/21

As far as I can figure, this is the best reason to
live in a big city: fantastic free concerts on Sunday
afternoon. As part of the open studios under the
Brooklyn Bridge, St. Ann's Warehouse hosted a number
of local musicians for free over the course of the
weekend, and the final set went to The Family Band.
Making my way down the street, I wandered past a
number of galleries, and a Bread and Circus like
performance that had drawn a large crowd for the
Procession Against All Evil. I lingered for a moment,
just long enough to be freaked out by the oversized
puppets and their erratic movements.

As the name suggests, St. Ann's is a large warehouse,
but being draped in purple velvet curtains, the sound
was crisp and clear as Robert took a crowd of a few
hundred to church. The crowd consisted of a sampling
of NPR types, hip Brooklynites, young families and NYC
groove fiends. By the end of the first tune, the
volume had driven away most of the families but was
calling in many interested ears from the street. It
was one of those fantastic moments when our subculture
confidently meets the mainstream face to face. As
Robert and John traded licks, upping the ante with
each go round, the groovers rose to meet the magic.
That was when it struck me that most people are not
used to long instrumental grooves, nor are they
familiar with loose improvisation. And they certainly
don't shake their bones in public on a Sunday
afternoon. I remember watching Phish's Farm Aid set
from 98 on CMT. When they dropped down to silence and
burst out during Runaway Jim, I suddenly realized that
we've got something special happening in this
community.

The 70 minute set included some gospel tunes and a cut
from The Word, along with three familiar Robert
Randolph tunes- The March, Press On, and I Don't Know
What You Come To Do. I've seen plenty of bands
perform for free in NYC and Boston, and have even
heard some admit that they were holding back for a
show that evening, but that was not the case here.
The band tore through each tune with an abundance of
energy, pushing themselves and the audience. Robert's
stage presence is electric and by the closer he was
running around the stage, jumping on the monitors and
howling into his mic. The intensity was more than I
could have hoped for, and many groovers went home
sweaty and smiling. And those who were exposed to
Robert's unique style for the first time, if not
sweaty, were certainly smiling.

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