Railroad Earth, Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA- 4/20
What could be better than Hobos, Heads, & Happy Brigaders uniting together on 4/20 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco?! This was an epic show on all fronts and I am still glowing.
The evening opened with a spirited set from The Duhks, from Winnipeg, Manitoba. With interim vocalist Sarah Dugas (stepping in for Jessee Havey, as of March 27) they have joined Railroad Earth for the last 2 weeks of this tour. The Canadian prairie band has made their mark, playing festivals around the world, and sporting a Grammy nomination for “Heaven’s My Home,” off their most recent album entitled Migrations. Swirling around the Brazilian-Cuban influences of percussionist Scott Senor Senior, Sarah beautifully covered Tracy Chapman’s “Mountains O Things,” and the audience marveled at the fire from Tania Elizabeth’s fiddle and the deft playing of Jordan McConnell on guitar & banjo player Leonard Podolak during their 55 minute set.The train then pulled into the station, as Railroad Earth took the stage, much to the delight of the sold-out packed crowd at the Great American. This is a band that continues to elevate their playing with each tour. The group’s steady fans, the “Hobos” were in full force, riding the rails for two sets. The Bay Area has been anxiously awaiting another stop on this ride, since the band played the Fillmore back in January of 2006 in support of the release of their live 2 CD-set Elko.
The show opened with David Bromberg’s tune, “New Lee Highway Blues,” launching into the traditional “Fiddlee.” Later in the set, “Stillwater Getaway,” featured mandolin player John Skehan & fiddle player Tim Carbone gleefully glaring at one another from one side of the stage to the other, as they soared around each other’s solos. Other first set highlights included vocalist/principal songwriter Todd Sheaffer’s new song "Loving You," as well as a gorgeous cover of The Band’s "Acadian Driftwood," with Todd, Tim, & drummer Carey Harmon all trading verses.
The second set was off the rails with one of the best sets of music I have seen in the Bay area all year, starting with the frequent yet always-energetic pairing of “Dance Around Molly” and “Dandelion Wine.” Todd then joked with the crowd, saying “I guess I should say Happy Holidays to y’all,” referring to 420, then introducing the joyous John Skehan instrumental “420.” “Bird in a House,” followed, another Sheaffer-penned tune, rich in imagery.
Still it was the nearly 33 minute epic combo of “Warhead Boogie” > Jam > “Seven Story Mountain” the folks will be talking about for some time to come. The anthem “Warhead Boogie” was haunting and gritty, with the crowd yelling the line “I want a warhead of my own!” as bassist Johnny Grubb laid the low end down & Scott Senor Senior from The Duhks added a wide variety of percussion during the jam and beyond. Psychedelic lights beamed around the stage in unison with the mood of the music. The reflective “Seven Story Mountain,” that followed had some folks near me teary-eyed. They encored with “My Sisters & Brothers,” as we were treated to multi-tasking Andy Goessling playing dual saxes.
A special thanks must be given to all who participated in giving food to Conscious Alliance, for the San Francisco Food Bank (and donors received a cool poster by Robert Marx). All in all, this was a night where the music touched the soul and moved the feet in ways that those in attendance won’t soon forget.