Kevin Kinsella with Jah Works 11/19,John Browns Body with Toubab Krewe- 12/1 The Jewish Mother, Virginia Beach, VA
I last saw John Brown’s Body about a year ago at this same venue (The Jewish Mother), located nearly on the breezy ocean front of VA Beach, VA. The band was in full control then, the house was packed and everything looked like nothing could, or should, ever change. But the world just doesn’t always allow for that kind of certainty.
In June of this year, Scott Palmer, JBB’s bassist since 2002, passed after a bout with cancer. Through the sadness, this kind of thing can be a catalyst for a few possible outcomes. The band can attempt to fill the position and play on, the band can split for everyone to explore their personal outlets, or everyone can just go home and try something new. Thankfully, JBB is a family of musicians and it seems the first two options won out. Longtime front man and JBB founder Kevin Kinsella has decided to hit the road with a backing band (Jah Works) and play his own music from JBB, 10ft. Ganja Plant and solo projects; he’s such an energetic ringleader. JBB is pushing on with original drummer Tommy Benedetti and another veteran JBB lead singer, Elliot Martin. All other positions have been filled by different musicians, but rest assured that they fill the slots snuggly.
For Kinsella’s date at The Jewish Mother, two weeks prior to John Brown’s Body’s, Jah Works performed mostly original tracks before backing Kinsella during the second set. Hailing from the eastern seaboard, it bears consideration that I should see them again, because they were really a fun band to take in.
Kinsella’s date was a late announcement compared to most, and it’s likely that a lot of people already had the JBB show in their datebooks once they heard about Kinsella coming. Even if his house wasn’t as packed, the music and song were as strong as ever. As I mentioned previously, his energy is potent as he jumped from the stage (a relatively low one) to dance with us mid-set, breaking that pedestal of a barrier between the stage and the floor.
Jah Works was strong and entirely right on. Kinsella took the microphone after “Walky Walk Tall” (10Ft. Ganja Plant) Dubbed out the dance floor, everyone moving like tar was underfoot, a little later came “Garden Tree” (JBB) and from the solo canon, “Can’t Win From Loving You.” When the night was done, those who made it out were visibly glad they did, and they went home with a little boasting material for the people who missed out.
Two weekends later, The Jewish Mother had a full house to feed. Toubab Krewe laid out that delicious appetizer and then JBB took stage to show us if they still had what it took to keep us moving.
Toubab Krewe was a joy. After seeing them at Bonnaroo this year it was exciting to sip the up-close vibes. Based in a West African approach with intertwined Rock and even a few Dub Reggae passages, the sound was seemingly made with these ears in mind and yours are likely to feel the same way no matter what you’re into; the music is that undeniable.
As for JBB, I was a little nervous, because the change was obvious from first sight, seeing only two original members on stage. A few notes in, though, and everyone was smiling overtop dancing feet. Martin’s new role as THE lead singer for JBB has allowed him to shine in a way that he couldn’t when he was sharing the spot. Older songs like “Resonate,” “Picking up Speed” and “33RPM” accompanied completely new material (“Check ya Later” and “We Won’t be Forgetful,” in tribute to Palmer) and within the changes a growth is evident. I think we all left happy, again, that the music continues and the family is still on the move. It’s also a comfort to note that a JBB CD is slated for sometime in ’07, so we can hear the new material.
It’s obvious what Palmer would want to happen in his physical absence: he would want the instruments to play. And they are playing. Even if the entire crew isn’t sharing a tour van, they are still vocally supporting one another and irrevocably linked through their rich musical pastthat’s always an open door for the future and we get to listen, dance and watch, with a smile.