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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2013/02/04
by Vernon Webb

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Brooklyn Bowl, NYC – 1/26

Photo by Vernon Webb

I am a huge fan of the Grateful Dead. I’ve seen them more times than any band I’ve ever seen (stopped counting after 200 shows.) Since Jerry’s passing there have been innumerable bands that have covered them. Well last night, what is essentially Bustle In Your Hedgerow plus Tom Hamilton of American Babies took on the task. Bustle, who is no stranger to doing a single band’s work (Led Zeppelin). Honestly, in my humble opinion this is a natural progression especially considering one of its members is already doing just that in Furthur.

Being a Deadhead myself, and one who was very critical of even The Grateful Dead, and am typically even more so with such bands. Ok, I know, I was spoiled with having the privileged of experiencing the real deal.

My biggest complaint has been the loss of “magic,” that at indescribable moment that was felt at many a Dead shows, however this was not the case last night’s show at The Brooklyn Bowl, as this band was truly on fire. Joe Russo, who is certainly making strides with Furthur, but often times appears to be like a deer in head lights, was obviously at home with these guys, as indeed he should as his relationship with them predates Furthur, for sure. No one seemed to be trying to emulate anyone, being themselves and yet still honoring the music of The Grateful Dead. Scott Metzger was an animal on lead guitar switching back and forth with Tom on both leads & vocal. Dave Dreiwitz laying down the backbone along with Joe’s drumming more than did Phil Lesh justice. Marco Benevento simply killed it on the keyboards adding his flavor to the music and yet still honoring it enough as not to stray too far from what anyone would expect, most especially this critical Deadhead. I do not know if this is the only time they will ever do this and if so, man if you weren’t there you truly missed out. I for one pray that this configuration continues and hones what I would describe as well-oiled wheel.


There are 15 comments associated with this post

gratefulted February 2, 2013, 17:25:16

Saying that Russo is “making strides with Furthur, but often times appears to be like a deer in head lights” is a ridiculous comment…I have personally witnessed him carry that band on certain nights (along with Jeff Chimenti)...tell me he looks lost during the Dew encore from Vegas last fall…c’mon man!...(oh, and btw, I saw the GD around 70 times myself, so I’m no newbie)...

cosmicbein February 3, 2013, 09:28:11

I totally agree with the last comment by gratefulted .Russo is the best drummer around,hands down, no matter who he plays with. The writer of this article is wrong.At Furthur shows ,i often get caught up just watching Russo play and i have brought it to others attention as well,he is spectacular,the closest thing we will see to Moon and Bonham.Im a veteran of many Grateful Dead tours startin in ‘77’ when i was 12.

kerny February 3, 2013, 19:49:22

it’s cool you saw the Dead 200 times and have opinions and all…what about the actual show that apparently happened?

editor February 4, 2013, 12:40:34

I’m generally not one to harp on websites like this for typos and other minor editing mistakes in user-supplied content. However, this article makes a mockery of the English language. There are at least three non-sentences and the rest are just run-ons. This is not even high school quality writing. I think the author might have killed one too many brain cells at his hundreds of Dead shows.

peacesignguy February 6, 2013, 16:46:50

Having seen Furthur twenty plus times (and an unknown number of Grateful Dead shows ’79-‘91) I agree with gratefulted. “Deer in the headlights” just doesn’t come to mind when listening, or
watching what Joe brings to the band. Just another head’s opinion.

upful187 February 8, 2013, 14:53:39

This review made me uncomfortable. Despite the writer claiming to have seen the GD over 200 times, he writes as if he is very misinformed. The article lacks any substance. and he may want to research a bit about how this collective came together; their roots are far deeper than ‘Bustle”. no mention of “Freaks Ball”?
and the deer in headlights comment is laughable and way off base. if anything, this writer comes off as scared. and poorly informed. might be the most lacking piece of journalism i have ever read on this site. smh

Bill February 12, 2013, 12:22:14

Best drummer on the scene today.

Togo February 12, 2013, 14:54:29

“My biggest complaint has been the loss of “magic,”
That;s the problem dude, you are looking for magic when you should be listening to the music.

Stinkeye Sucks February 15, 2013, 10:21:15

How Vernon Webb is still allowed photo passes to photograph concerts is beyond me. You would think that someone would get better after a couple years, but this guy just keeps reinforcing the fact that he’s just another hack with a camera who has no clue how to use it. Webb has no ability to capture the magic, instead he only offers poorly exposed photos with agonizing expressions of his subjects. You feel embarrassed for the musicians in his photos because, although it seems impossible, Webb manages to capture their best “I gotta poop” face at every concert, and then he proudly displays these wretched images to the public like a proud 2 year old who has just made doo doo in the toilet for the first time. Speaking of 2 year olds, this was written at well below the 8th grade reading level, and at times Webb doesn’t even bother to make complete sentences or thoughts. It’s insulting to the intelligent audience that Relix has built up. If Relix has anyone left on their staff that cares they should kick this burnout Webb to the curb with the rest of the garbage. Other photographers call Webb “Stinkeye” for obvious reasons. It’s a title he has earned.

Alex February 15, 2013, 12:12:58

It’s amazing how there are so many dead heads with such poor taste in muscianship. Now for me the classic dead era is 1969-1978. That period is quite diverse and each year seemed to bring something new to the table. I am often befuddled by the love for the arena-Brent years. For me, that period pales in comparison to anything that came before it.Brent was always overpowering and sounded like Michael McDonald eating a Whooper. Granted there are some interesting shows from the early 80’s, when the band is playing songs at 3x their normal speed. I speak of the Brent years because Joe Russo’s drumming reminds me of the same overpowering sound that Brent brought to the lads. Plainly stated, it just doesn’t fit the music. In fact, his drumming detracts from the music. Just one head’s opinion.

aron magner of aron magner presents aron magner's the disco biscuits February 16, 2013, 13:20:21

how is this a “show review”? you didn’t mention the music that was played that night once. anybody can make generalizations about that night and what the band might sound like. were you even there? not even one song was mentioned. do you know the names of songs, or just the names of the band members? this is not journalism. this isn’t even what i would consider a 6th grade essay. this is just absolute shit. i really don’t know why i bother reading this site anymore. where’s Jesse Jarnow and decent journalism?

aron magner of aron magner presents aron magner's the disco biscuits February 16, 2013, 15:31:45

i’m a high school drop-out and wrote this up in 30 minutes. welcome to the new school, fool. On the night of January 26, 2013 something magical happened in Williamsburg, NY. The NYC Freaks is an online community that started to help spread the word about NYC jamband shows in the late 90’s. For over 13 years, they have helped launch the careers of bands like Rana, The Duo, Bustle in Your Hedgerow and Chris Harford & The Band of Changes.
To celebrate the 13th Freaks Ball, an annual concert or weekend of concerts put together to honor the NYC Freaks List, Joe Russo (drummer – Further, Fat Mama, The Duo) put together a band of close friends to honor the music of The Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead are one of the most important bands in American Rock & Roll History, and Joe Russo has been touring with some of the remaining members of The Grateful Dead in a band called Further.
Sir Joe Russo got together with his fellow bandmates in Bustle In Your Hedgerow (Marco Benevento on keyboards, Scott Metzger on guitar, and Dave Dreiwitz on bass), and included one of his long time buddies Tom Hamilton (Brothers Past, American Babies) on guitar and vocals to form what was billed as Joe Russo’s Almost Dead to help celebrate the 13th anniversary of the Freaks Ball at Brooklyn Bowl, a concert venue in Brooklyn owned by Pete Shapiro, the former owner of the Wetlands, one of NYC’s most important jamband and alternative music venues that closed its doors in 2001.
The night was magical. It was a sold out crowd, and the energy in the room was unbelievable. Plenty of friendly and familiar faces gathered around to see what this band could offer. Judging by the talent on stage one could guess that the night was going to be fun, but I don’t think anybody expected it to be as good as it was.
The band took the stage and opened with “Bertha” a song that the Grateful Dead used to open shows up with in their day. The energy was great, and the band sounded awesome. Especially Hamilton on vocals, which if you’re a fan of Brothers Past or American Babies you know the man can sing, but here he really showed his vocal range. The band sounded like they practiced and put a lot of time into getting this show together. The next song was “Althea” which is a fan favorite and again Hamilton sounded magnificent handling the lead vocals. After “Althea” came “Jack Straw” and this is when as a crowd, I think we knew we were in for something special. “Jack Straw” is one of the Dead’s most popular songs, usually with Jerry Garcia & Bob Weir trading vocal lines. Tommy took the first verse, and when Metzger came in with the 2nd verse, sounding eerily similar to a young Bobby Weir, the place erupted. It was perfection, and both the band and the crowd knew it.
The rest of the 1st set was littered with Dead classics from through-out their career. Hamilton sounded especially awesome singing “Brown-Eyed Women” and “Shakedown Street”. This version of “Shakedown Street” was a newer take on it. If you’ve ever listened to Brother s Past you would know that Tommy’s vocals can often times be very sexy, and this was one of the sexiest versions of “Shakedown Street” ever performed. The place was just rocking. To close the set the band played a very solid version of “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know You Rider” which is one of the Grateful Deads all-time classic pairings of songs. The room had nothing but smiles from ear to ear, and then the band made us aware that they were taking a break and that there was a 2nd set to come! I thought there would only be one set, and was shocked to hear a 2nd set was coming.
After a short break, the band came back out, and started the 2nd set with “Estimated Prophet” a Bobby sung tune that was always a fan favorite that I haven’t really liked for the better part of 10 years, but this version was very solid with Metzger handling the lead vocals. It was extremely funky, with Benevento adding great layers and texture of organ, as his signature sound and very reminiscent of some of The Dead later year keyboardists, like Vince Welnik and Brent Mydland. Up next was the highlight of the whole night, with an amazing well thought out track of songs. This version of “Eyes of the World” would have made Jerry proud, and Tommy handled the vocals like a real champ. This segued beautifully into a version of “King Solomons Marbles” that proved that this band really was not messing around and could play harder compositions like true professionals.
Then we saw a “Help on the Way->Slipknot!Franklin’s Tower” that once again proved that this band was a force to be reckoned with. Everything that was played was so well thought out and planned it would be very hard to believe that this was the debut of this project. Even though 4 of the members have played in a band together for years, they have never tackled any of these songs and to add on a 5th member and make it sound so great, that’s where they show that they are true professionals. Another of my personal highlights of the night was the “St. Stephen>The Eleven” a batch of tunes that is just absolutely glorious. At the end of St. Stephen I did not think that they had the musical chops or the courage to play a song as difficult as “The Eleven” but they did, and it paid off tenfold. The room was going nuts at this point, and the band was loving it from the stage.
After two more songs that both stretched to the outer realms of phsychedelia, (“The Other One” and “Viola Lee Blues”) the 2nd set was over. The crowd was roaring for another song, and the band came out and finished the night with a very solid version of “US Blues”, another tune that The Dead has always been known for.
To say that the night of January 26, 2013 was magical is an understatement. For any fan of The Grateful Dead it was a breath of fresh air. Since Jerry’s passing in 1995 there have been many different tribute acts that play The Dead’s music, but nothing has sounded as fresh and new as Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Not only did Almost Dead pay homage to the amazingness that was The Grateful Dead, they put a fresh spin on the music and brought the music in to the 21st century.

jeremy williams February 18, 2013, 02:13:54

I have never posted on here but feel I must now. Vernon Webb has obviously not seen a Furthur show. I have witnessed Russo carry a show on more than one occasion. He is an absolute monster behind the kit. Reminds me of Molo.

gypsydaveywithablowtorch February 21, 2013, 21:00:33

Joe’s the man (or octopus). Listen to some of the King Solomon’s. Check out Jack Straw to open at the Wellmont (Phil and Friends). I thought one of the big problems with the post-Jerry Dead tours has been the lack of energy or creativity of Mickey and Billy. Not so sure what he meant by deer in the headlights. By the way, I am a veteran of over 250 dead & jgb shows starting in 77.

Magno September 7, 2013, 02:20:11

Russo? Deer in headlights with Furthur?? This article should be retracted/rewritten, Vernon Webb could not be ‘furthur’ from the truth. JRAD > Furthur

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