Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Bimbo’s 365 Club, San Francisco , 7/11</b.
Page McConnell sat in for two songs last week (July 11) with Robert Randolph
and the Family Band at Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco during a typically
high-energy set from the New Jersey pedal steel guitar virtuoso and his
The Phish keyboardist, who was in town for a concert with his new band —
Vida Blue — the following night, took the stage for the last song of the
show, "I Don't Know What You Come to Do," and the encore, The Temptations'
"Papa Was a Rolling Stone."
My friends and I began the night across the street at the Kennedy Pub/Curry House.
The Kennedy Pub is a curious establishment — part Irish watering hole, part
Indian restaurant — located in the demilitarized zone between North Beach
and Fisherman's Wharf. In the bar there are shrines to Jerry Garcia and Bob
Marley and an Internet juke box that is usually playing the Grateful Dead.
(The Kennedy Pub has the only jukebox I have ever heard play Phish's "Birds
of a Feather".) Turning left out of the front room one enters a sitting area furnished with
booths, tables and two pool tables. Across a partition is the Indian
restaurant, a high-ceilinged space dominated by a 10-foot projection screen
television. While snacking on deep-fried chicken chunks, french fries and other
specialties of the South Asian region, we discussed the possibility of an
appearance by Page, who was signing cd's a mere stone's throw down Columbus
Avenue at Tower Records, and superstitiously knocked on wood like so many
Sufficiently front-loaded, we walked into Bimbo's around 8:30 and caught the
end of the Dirty Dozen's act while sinking deep into the lavish Las Vegas
hotel lounge decor of the venue and nursing $4 bottles of Budweiser.
Randolph's set began with a slow instrumental reminiscent of Pink Floyd's
"Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Part I" that segued into something else
entirely. (Regrettably, although this is the third time I've seen the Family Band, most of the songs and their names remain foreign to me.)
Next Randolph got the crowd moving with a rollicking tune that saw him
display some of his signature on-stool gesticulations and guitar
pyrotechnics. (Randolph has the look of a college athlete and the energy of
about five men. Each concert invariably includes the sight of Randolph
wriggling and squirming around in his seat, vocally exhorting his bandmates
in authentic Gospel style, and cavorting and dancing around the stage.)
Following the next two songs, the second of which had an Allman Brothers
feel to it, and the Sly cover, Randolph launched into one of his staples,
Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile." To the delight of syndicated rerun watchers,
he threw in a zany "Sanford and Son" tease during the intro. Once the song
got going, Randolphl repeatedly swerved in and out of Black Sabbath's "Iron
Man" and on numerous occasions brought the song way down before resurrecting
it with an explosion of sound.
Cooling off in the lobby after "Voodoo Chile" was finally over, my friend
and I spied McConnell, looking somewhat lost, and former Phish road manager
Brad Sands. We realized he was probably waiting for someone to escort him
backstage. Not wanting to blow his cover, I paid my respects as subtly as I
could and headed back inside.
It wasn't long before Page entered stage right to raucous cheers. He settled
in next to Hammond B-3 organist John Ginty and played for a total of about
15 minutes. The result of his collaboration with the Family Band wasn't
overwhelming, but the crowd enjoyed seeing him up there and the band
appeared to have a great time.