By all accounts, the Blue Rags‘ recent re-reunion show came off like a well-greased prom dress after a six pack of Mickey’s Big Mouths in the back of Daddy’s Buick.
But despite the apparently fruitful union, don’t expect too much from the Rags, at least in their classic lineup, any time soon — bassist Bill Reynolds has relocated to Ithaca, N.Y., to concentrate full time on his role in feel-good folk pack Donna the Buffalo.
The Rags’ show also saw another finale of sorts, with the founding trio of local divas Menage playing together for the final time. Following this mutual split with Rhett K. Thurman, the optimistic Mary Ellen Bush assured Xpress that Menage will not remain monogamous for long: She and co-founder Sarah McDonald are already playing gigs with Alabama native Allison King. This “highly possible” replacement brings fiddle, keyboard and singing prowess to the lineup. “Plus she’s cute,” Mary Ellen insists. (Thank heavens.)
Catch the new Menage at Westville Pub Saturday, Oct. 30 for a sultry Halloween throwdown.
Bob Roberts Week in Asheville; Perpetual Groove at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem (Saturday, Oct. 9).
I know it’s an election year and all, and that this is, after all, activist Asheville. But good gravy — on the first full week of October, the political air around here was thicker than month-old bacon grease. For starters, Col. Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains made a brilliant, if slightly partisan, romp at The Orange Peel Oct. 5.
That evening, bass maestro Les Claypool felt moved to invoke the crucial vice-presidential debate going on at the same time, amid C2B3’s otherwise phenomenal renderings of some new Iraqi-minded songs.
The thing is, I don’t want to think about Dick Cheney when rocking out to Buckethead and Claypool — not ever. That was precisely the democratic brouhaha I was trying to forget about in the first place when I went out on the town that evening.
Meanwhile, the next night at the Civic Center, one-time grunge masters Pearl Jam played their own poly-sci gig to the tune of 50 bucks a pop on the local leg of the Vote for Change swing-state tour.
Bob Roberts himself, Mr. Tim Robbins, appeared on stage with front man Eddie Vedder for what I’m sure was a stirring guest appearance. The brainchild of Jersey boy Bruce Springsteen, Vote for Change includes a slew of pro-Kerry touring this fall, boasting everyone from The Boss himself to Dave Matthews, from Pearl Jam to Jurassic 5 (who closed out Political Week here with a Sunday, Oct. 10 gig at The Orange Peel).
Even the seemingly apolitical, Big Easy/Deep South pairing of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the North Mississippi Allstars — at the Peel the day after Pearl Jam — reverberated war drums all its own. Admittedly stirring versions of the Temptations’ ’70s-funk, sociopolitical opus “Ball of Confusion” and the old traditional “Down by the Riverside (Study War No More)” unfolded with DDBB and NMAS, respectively.
Ultimately overcome by this wartime nostalgia and the familiar stink of politics permeating local air, I retreated to nearby Winston-Salem to preview a straight-up, two-set rampage with Savannah’s Perpetual Groove.
In support of a fantastic new record, All This Everything, they’re toting along an $80K, 5.1 Dolby Digital surround-sound rig. This is serious business: inspired, loop-happy rock ‘n’ jam piped through 37 strategically placed speaker cabinets — built specifically to freak people out who do lots of drugs.
Even without drugs, this is a must-see, Star Wars-esque saga in the making.
And yes, as the name Perpetual Groove implies, this is a jam band. All that should mean is good music, usually best consumed in person, making frequent use of improvisation. If we have to think of ganja goo-balls, Jerry’s legacy or “Trey is a Jedi” every time somebody mutters the word “jam” anymore, then we should rename the genre after some kind of jelly or preserves.
For $8, and a post-String Cheese-friendly start time, you’ll find PGroove dishing out plenty of that “sweet, sweet jelly so good” — in surround sound, with Wookies and all — at The Orange Peel on Friday, Oct. 22.
Score: On the Star Wars-characters scale, Bob Roberts Week in Asheville scores a band of Ewoks: well-intentioned and cute, but arguably ineffective and annoying.
[Asheville-based music writer Stuart Gaines, a contributing editor at An Honest Tune, can be reached at email@example.com.]