It ain't easy turning Monday night in an old skating rink-turned wedding reception hall--by Baltimore Washington International Airport--into one more Saturday night, but Ratdog did it on October 20. If you got out a pizza cutter, and sliced the partyingest, most devoted segment of any Dead audience, from any era, and transplanted it to a warehouse district populated by propane tanks and jet exhaust, that would give you last night's venue. Oddly enough, it felt lucky just to be there, from the "beautiful brownies" vendor out front to the easygoing vibe inside the hall, which evoked the aura of a large wedding reception where everyone was somehow related. Toss in the house band from Shakebutt St. and you have the ingredients for a memorable Monday. Judging from the width of Bob Weir's grin at the end of the evening as the band took a bow, some kind of serious and meaningful union took place last night--one eminently worth a rocky Tuesday morning to experience.
Rich McManus, Chevy Chase, MD
Michael's 8th Avenue was a powerhouse of high energy jams. Being in a venue that's used for receptions and boxing matches, I didn't know what to expect at this show and was eager to see what the band was going to pull out of their bag.
Bobby and the band started out with an upbeat jam into an "I Need a Miracle" that got the place off to a jumpstart. Everyone started singing right away and I knew the Vibe was in the house. The soundman got his stuff right, just in time for the first lick of "Playin In The Band" that snapped out of "Miracle." "Playin" was steady and very rhythmic and punched its way into a super funky "Cold Rain & Snow." This song was one of my highlights of the first set, with Bobby throwing down some massive sustain chords at the end of each line and the participation of the crowd during the chorus parts. Two blues tunes came into the mix: "Big Boss Man" and "Deep Elem Blues." They worked perfectly together and kept the crowd in a bouncing-around-the-ring rhythm. Then Bobby surprised me with "Greatest Story Ever Told." I was not expecting this at all; it was a true Ratdog moment, you know, when the element of surprise really gets you. This was the first time I heard the band play "Greatest Story," one of my personal Bobby favorites. It was flawless with Mark ripping up the Mu-tron leads and Bobby rhythm comping his ass off. Ratdogís version put The Deadís Merriweather version down for the count! Bobby used his telecaster, and "Itís All Over Now" rang out into the audience. This song was done with a swanky feel and got the dance floor moving even more. Then when I thought it was all over now for the first set, "Two Djinn" swirled in for the closer. This song gets stronger and faster as it spins in and out of each verse. It spun the crowd into a dancing tornado that left everyone energized for the next round.
The second set started off with three acoustic tunes. A mellow "Bobby McGee," which was another first timer for me, turned into a low down and dirty "Odessa," which got the floor rocking again. This headed into a beautiful "Looks Like Rain" that had a "St Stephen" in the crescendo part of the song. The band threw in a double shot of songs that the ladies were sure to love; "Women are Smarter" started the romp and stomp dancing again and, as the ladies got into it, "Scarlet Begonias" sneaked its way into the mix, which really got the girls swinging. As the breakdown part of "Scarlet Begonias" was played, Bobby dropped the hammer! On the last note of Scarlet, "At a Siding > Terrapin Flyer > Playin Reprise" struck the venue with a thunderous blow to the ears! It was a hurricane of musical instruments. Everyone in the band was ripping it up, as great waves of sound swelled up and down throughout the audience like the tides of the ocean. One final crash and the band changed direction into a melodic and trancelike "Wharf Rat" that morphed into a well-needed "Throwing stones." This was the most interesting version of "Throwing Stones" Iíve heard Ratdog do. It started of with a reggae feel since "Women" and "Scarlet" were already in the mix, but then Bobby changed direction and added another measure in the song during each verse, stretching it out. The crowd caught on quickly and continued to shout out the lyrics the entire song, which still let the "kids dance and shake their bones" right up to the end. After a short pause and loud roars from the crowd, "Johnny B. Goode" rocked the floor one more time for the encore.
I have to say, after what I saw tonight; Ratdogís show at Michaelís 8th Avenue was a T.R.O. TECHNICAL ROCK OUT!
Neil Lewis, Stevensville, MD
Well first Ratdog show in a couple of years. This band keeps on getting better and better. This particular show had some good points and bad points but was very fun. Great to see so many friends gather on a Monday night. I didn't know what to expect of the venue, but it was a pretty cool place. The website for the venue advertised the place for wedding receptions. The place looked like a giant Banquet Hall with Bobby and the boys on stage at one end. Standing room only. The floor was the only option during set break. Got to the show a little late, part way into the Cold Rain and Snow. Couldn't help getting into the twirling zone immediately. I had to shake it a little harder when they took a sudden 90-degree turn and dropped into the intro for Big Boss Man. I knew the next day was only Tuesday and I would have to be answering to the Big Boss Man for the rest of the week, so I better get it on now. Deep Elem had a slow funky blues groove going on (as many of the songs did that night). Didn't recognize this arrangement at first, but I think it could grow on me. The transition to Greatest Story was a little awkward for the band. Too much Bobby conducting going on I think, but I have admit that the intro to Greatest Story was kind of cool. Bobby held the band (and the audience) in anticipation for couple seconds while the band crescendo and decrescendo the pounding rhythm that starts the song before dropping the cue to play the very "Footloose"-like hits. This got everybody's energy up and we were grooving all the way through the classic It's All Over Now. The highlight of the first set was definitely Two Djinn. I always liked this song. Actually got to see Bobby rehearsing this song at a sound check when it was still an instrumental back in '97. Great piano intro.... Jeff was really rockin' all night. He has definitely taken a more dominant role as a lead player in this band since the last time I saw them, which was around 2000. Kind of wanted to see Two Djinn jammed into something, but it definitely gave the hint that the second set was going to be less bluesy and more jam-oriented.
The second set started with Bob's acoustic stuff. The beginning of a set is a much better placement for this material rather then in the middle like he used to do. Odessa was different from the studio version... a slower tempo. Looks Like Rain was great.... Bobby was on, but I have to admit that I really miss Jerry's leads in that song. Woman Are Smarter... yep Ratdog definitely has the laid back New Orleans funky feel down. This particular version went on forever and lost a lot of its steam towards the end. Not that stunning of a transition to Scarlet, but they recovered quickly and Scarlet seemed to play itself. The jam was very upbeat and feet were flying. The next was At a Siding, which completely through me for a loop. The opening riff screamed Pink Floyd to me, but I knew I heard it before somewhere in the Dead catalog. I have to say that this song was the highlight of the show for me, and I can't wait to see how it will evolve in the future. Sky splitting drum fills and the lighting bolt horn and guitar riffs connected with a fairy tale-like melody and a haunting verse.... this is what it is all about. Unfortunately the show felt like it went downhill from there. Playin in the Band felt very routine to the band.... It felt like they should have been singing Slavin' in the Band, and the jam felt like a train wreck. Wharf Rat was well played, and Bobby does it well, but he struggled with Throwin' Stones and actually had the band restart it. I have to admit they had a very funky groove for the outro for the song, and the kydds were still shakin' their bones to the very last beat. Encore- Johnny B. Goode. One more time for Jeff to tear it up, and every last bit of energy was spent on a very long Monday.
I rate this show as B to B-, if that means anything. Scarlet->At a Siding peaked well, but a couple of train wrecks and weird tempos for songs kept the energy low for me. I am still going to hunt down the tapes. I spent the time after the show handing out flyers advertising my band's gig next friday (10/24) at the Grog and Tankard in Washington DC. Come on out and enjoy the show if you got nothing better to do!
Corporate Boy, Washington, DC