Max Creek, Northern Lights, Clifton Park, NY- 1/25
After thirty-two years of playing together, Max Creek is at the top of its game. Saturday night's show on the 25th was direct evidence of that. The venue was in Clifton Park, NY, at a place called Northern Lights. A small, intimate venue with tough bouncers, it is an excellent place to see live music. Max Creek, performs a blend of many musical styles, and excel in melding rock, blues, bluegrass, and reggae in a solid, organic aural landscape. I've seen them many times before, but on this particular night the band exhibited more energy than I have ever seen from them.
Max Creek opened with a roof-raising ''Thoughts'', a crispy Scott Murawski composition. ''Wild Side'', a Latin-flavored song, was next. Although possibly overplayed, this song had the whole place hopping and dancing to the beat, with the usual solos from Scott Allshouse on drums and Rob Fried on percussion. They hit joyous peaks during this song, and then took it into a rolling jam that revealed a solid ''Season of the Witch''. Mark Mercier, who plays keyboards, handled the vocals quite nicely, leading the audience deep into the smoky heart of the song. ''I Will Always See Your Face'', a reggae tune with frolicking keyboard lines, was a spectacular surprise, resulting in a climatic jam. Creek ended the set with ''If You Ask Me'', and although Saturday night's version was played slower than usual, it's a song that's hard not to dance to. Scott Murawski plays skillful guitar, adding slight effects to send his growling, choking, yet extremely smooth sound.
The second set opened with a mysterious ''Secrets'', which Murawski sang from deep inside summoning a vibe that I would describe as diving headfirst into a dark cave, leading to unknown depths. 'Secrets'' led into a rocking ''John Henry''. ''The Same Things'', another Murawski tune, featured the crowd singing the chorus while the band halted to let them sing it. ''You're The Only One'' is always a joy to hear with its upbeat bluegrass-inspired rhythm. Bass player John Rider sang from his heart, and so did the audience. The second set was capped by a tremendous ''You Let Me Down Again'', an upbeat, steady rock song that resulting in the whole place bursting at the seams.
The encores were a special treat this night, with Mark leading a captivating and mellow ''Katie Mae'', which the band then took into a Grateful Dead medley, ripping through snippets of songs like ''Bertha'', ''Scarlet Begonias'', and ''Greatest Story Ever Told.'' Ending the night was a powerful version of the Dead's ''One More Saturday Night'' featuring Scotty on vocals, roughly shouting out the chorus. Again, the band kept kicking up the intensity level.Although not much of the mellow, spacey jamming that Max Creek does so well surfaced Saturday night, this was replaced it with an abundance of energy. Thirty two years of playing and the Creek has not slowed down one bit.