Cincinnati/Deer Creek/Alpine..... An epic three nights of So Many Roads! The show in Cincy kicked off before the scheduled time with DJ Logic spinning records on the corner of the stage. There were very few people inside, it being before 6PM and on a Wednesday afternoon. The crowd hadn't grown much by the time KDTU came on stage, with Logic still spinning behind Karl's opening tune. It was a different KDTU than I'd ever seen before; Dr. Lonnie Smith replaced David Veith on keys for the show, and the band turned from its 'usual' funk sound to a pure jazz sound. Karl announced that they would be playing all of Smith's tunes that night, and there were some complex arrangements in there that was so great yet so different. The crowd grew a bit during Karl's set, and he left the stage with Logic back behind the turntables, where he even scratched "Scarlet." I wasn't too much looking forward to Rusted Root, but they were great! The crowd was real into them--it swelled significantly by the time they came onstage--and it was a really enjoyable set. After a few minutes, Keller came on stage. He was really somethin'. There was a large crowd when RatDog took the stage. Sounded like Dark Star to open till they dropped into a long and great Sailor.... Bob's hand was still bandaged and he was fighting with it but still sounded great on guitar and of course his vocals. The Bass/Drums/Jam w/ Logic was outta this world.... Funny thing... Wasserman made this weird weird sound during the jam and Bob turned to him and said "Ow don't do that." Sugar Mag was rockin and the Cassidy built up and came back down a few times. Gotta love a split Sugar Mag. Set was an hour forty-five with a sign up on stage that said "Strict Curfew." But to be honest I really don't care that it ended. It was one of the best Dog shows I've seen and coulda been 2 and a half hours for all I knew. All five acts were really great and there was a nice scene across the street from Riverbend. My aftershow notes say "MVP: MK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can it get better?????????????????"
Well, it did at Deer Creek. The KDTU set was similar to the night before. Karl still had Dr. Lonnie on keys so the band stuck to the same limited repetoire. When it was time for Logic to pickup after KDTU's set, the crew brought out Wasserman's bass, and he and Logic rocked out for a while, including a little St. Stephen jam. Rusted Root played a similar set to the night before, but they were more rockin than the night before. Keller I thought was even better than the night before, and his set included a fun Jack-A-Roe. Now, the Dog. Best Stranger I've heard the Dog do, INCREDIBLE Playin (and I'm not a huuuuge Playin fan), and the Estimated with Logic was amazingly intense. Ya know how Bob sometimes comes out in front to do his lunges. Well MK came out with him last nite and they did a little dancin around the front of the stage together (RatDog is set way back on the stage this tour). Bass/Drums was real intense again but it kinda died out when the band came out so there was no jam. But the post Drums was all great too. Great scene--no bad stuff happened. The cops were fairly cool about trying to shut down Shakedown. I mean, they drove about 20 cop cars up and down Shakedown but never stopped or got outta their cars. They didn't finally close everything down until the time that lot scum usually starts doing ugly things anyway. Incredible incredible night!!!!!!!!!
The next night was my first time at Alpine Valley. In the middle of nowhere and very cool!!!! Nice scene though there was no real Shakedown. Perfect day, almost perfect crowd (perfect size, but some really fuckedup kids). Much larger crowd for all the bands than the previous two days. KDTU was good ole KDTU again, with Veith back on keys. The funk-groove thing that KDTU does was back! Wass came out for another great set with Logic, then Rusted Root. Again pretty much the same set but the crowd was very receptive. The Ecstacy closer was really hot, with MK sitting in for the song and just blistering. Followed by another incredible RatDog set. I had some crowd issues, including being in the middle of a fight between an overzealous security guard and an asshole fan during the ultra-intense Other One, but the music still reeled me in throughout the night. Easy Answers gets a bad rap because of the lack of interest on the part of the band members when The Dead played it, but it's blossomed into a long interesting jam session with RatDog. The "Bobby sounds" of that song just make it really special. "Close youre eyes and listen to the colors of your mind!" Things got really interesting when Karl and Andy Cleaves came out for October's/Deep End. The three-man horn session was really ripping, as if the song needs the added energy. Cleaves and his trumpet left when Even So started, and Logic came out. I didn't think scratching would work on Even So, but it did in a big way! And I really couldn't count the heads that exploded during that Other One!!!!! Bass/Drums w/ Logic was a highlight for the third night in a row and I hope he comes back soon! China/Rider was rockin.... Bobby really has grown into the Headlight verse and the crowd is always happy to help. And while JGB looks like a bland encore on paper, it was rockin!
Thank you RatDog for an incredible few days and an incredible lineup!!!!!
Dave Rosenberg, Athens, GA
Last night's Ratdog show at Cincinnati's Riverbend (8/22/01) lacked significant variety of "sound." Despite excellent technical performance of the music, Ratdog's setlist was one dimensional, and soon proved to be monotonous to this member of the audience. The band seemed to lack the energy and vitality that one customarily has grown to expect from Dead remnants. The acoustic El Paso number stood out in particular contrast to the rest of the set's droning.
Performing to an extremely meager early crowd, openers DJ Logic and friends should have received the message from the overwhelming lack of crowd response to their set, that their collaboration is in need of repair and revision: they seemed to have laid the foundation for Ratdog's later sound-alike-ness. Though the group displayed some accomplished musicianship, often it seemed that they, too, were only going through the motions, and remote from their largely disinterested audience. Dragging DJ Logic back out for inclusion in several of Ratdog's closing numbers failed to spark much crowd enthusiasm, and, in fact, signaled departure time for many interested in avoiding Riverbend's long-standing outflow traffic congestion.
Rusted Root provided noteworthy diversion from the evening's monotony, had much of the crowd on their feet dancing to the rich variety of rhythm, melody and harmony, and gauging crowd reaction, were largely the favorites of the evening. Their friendly style and demeanor prompted a mutual exchange of energy with their audience, unlike the rest of the evening's offerings. Their love of performing, evidenced by the satisfied smiles on their faces, and the prominent role of their vivacious feminine elements, is a crowd-pleaser, and much in contrast to the granite-faced, lackluster stylings of Ratdog. Rusted Root, then Ratdog, is analogous to a spicy lemon picante salsa appetizer, followed up by a plate of meat, potatoes and onions, with Weir sauce on the side.
Every circus has to have a "freak" show, and this one is no exception. The one-man Tiny Universe has to be given credit for audacity. But really, get serious, show promoters, in a show named Many Roads, this is an irritating detour, a pit stop at best. Save the chorus sound-building machines for the freeway interchange hotel lounge, please. People paid more attention to the canned music from Satellite Radio during the evening's prior breaks. Witnessing the mass exodus of audience members from the pavilion to restrooms and refreshment center fare did not seem to put a damper on the Tiny One's determination, however, at all. His half-hour in the limelight seemed to drone on forever, leaving plenty of time to hit the head and grab a refill.
We would hope and predict that an already Tiny Universe would continue to deflate, perhaps achieving negligible molecular size or completely fading into obscure darkness.
But, once again, the sheer boredom of Tiny Universe did not achieve the desired effect of setting up a welcomed polar contrast for Ratdog. After all, how many pirate/cowboy/male chauvinist oriented, sometimes downright mean-spirited, hard-assed Weir stylings can a person listen to before they all begin to sound like the same old likewise boring, tiny universal, worn-out theme? Give us a break, Bob. But that's the point of the words and thought behind much of Weir's and Ratdog's music: seldom does anybody get a break.
This show is a tribute to the divisiveness that has sent the individuals that were the Dead off on these many roads. Perhaps dwindling ticket sales and concert attendance numbers will convince them that they need to yield and merge. Otherwise, how can they not fade away?