The band was all suited up for tonight's show -
I mentioned that the band the night before had done a few interesting segways into songs from what I call 'nothing jams' - jams that have no melody, no focus, and really only last a minute or so. These jams, although plentiful tonight, seemed more connected to what had happened previously or what was about to happen. I almost liked the disconnectedness of those nothing jams the night before better - although they were spacey and kind of weird, it was cool to see where they would go and experience the segway from nothingness to the concrete.
Another technique used by the band that proved to be a theme throughout the night was tension and release. I found that there was a lot of that going on in the communal jams (where there are no prevalent solos) tonight. I really like this technique, but only sparingly.
Example A: Phish's Fluffhead has this section where it's all about buildup and unresolved leading tones; you can feel the tension being intentionally created. And then all of a sudden - the tonic arrives. Boom. You're jumping around, yelling the lyrics, and sporting a huge grin. The tension is dissolved instantly and it's the best feeling in the world.
It is cases like these that the tension/release thing is great and works like nothing else. Other times, however, I think it gets overused. Dare I suggest that the RMB is taking it a little too far? That's a question I can't answer..
And while I love Phish for their nonsense lyrics, I find myself loving Ryan for just the opposite: he uses down-to-earth, accessible poetry in his material that everyone can relate to in some capacity. I have been thinking about trademarks lately, and what makes people special. Ryan's trademark is his poetry and sensuality that he brings to his music. You don't get any other artists who seem like they're pouring their hearts out to an audience like you do with this guy. It's magic.
Another new facet to the RMB that I have really been liking is all of the vibes they've got going on. There are times when I could swear I am standing at a jazz concert instead of a Ryan Montbleau show. Similarily, there are times when I feel as if I am seeing a funked-up Bob Marley group. Then there are the times and the songs that bring a sort of 'pretty jam' element to the music. I can't find any other way to describe it than just pretty. There's a softness, a tenderness, that is used in the pretty jams that is a trademark in itself. These vibes are awesome, and it really showcases the multifaceted nature of the musicians themselves as well as the group as a whole.
Espeically 'Jason on the keys', as Ryan so aptly puts it every night. I think he's the one who really leans into these different vibes, and the rest of the band kind of responds to him. There are times when he will solo and it will sound like McCoy Tyner is in the house. Other times you'll swear there's nothing better than the sound of his organ wailing. And sometimes both will happen in one song. There's a certain sense of eclecticness that other bands just don't have.
So the show itself.
There was so much energy in the room right from the start, both in the band and the crowd. It was a big contrast from the night before, where most of the audience was sitting the whole time.. lame. When the interactive tune 'I Can't Wait' came around, the audience already knew what to shout, when, and did so: loudly. It was awesome being in a crowd with so much enthusiasm.
I found myself wondering as Bob Marley's 'Bend Down Low' went down if the RMB is on a reggae streak. The night before they played all Marley songs during set breaks, and tonight there was not only a big reggae vibe going on throughout the jamming, but there was one of Bob's tunes. (Phish did the same thing in Hartford, CT this summer - they covered two Talking Heads songs in one night after playing all of Talking Heads:77 before the sets).
The other noteworthy song from the first set was 'Gone,' from Patience on Friday. It's one of my favorite tunes off the album, and it's done live very rarely, but also very well. 'Gone' is more like a poem than it is a song - the whole tune is only a few lines long, but it's a very welcome few lines in which Ryan laments the loss of a girl in his life, and still "uses her as a hook to hang all [his] insecurities on." It's lines like this that make the RMB so special.
The second set brought lots of smiles, dancing, and the new year. We rang in 2010 with an incredible cover of Pink Floyd's 'Time' - Ryan and the boys truly outdid themselves. They really transcended the expected range of their music this time around.
Another favorite I had the pleasure of grooving to was 'Dancing in the Sunshine,' another tune that Ryan doesn't do very often, but always rocks it out for the Gathering of the Vibes shows in July. It was awesome to jam out six months early! This tune confronts some of the same philosophical stuff I myself have been wrangling with lately, but in a simpler way. It declares that "it's the simple things in life, so let's spend our time dancing in the sunshine,"implying that that's the best way to live. I can't say I don't agree...
The band topped off the night with crazy fun tunes by the dozen, including 'L.I.D.S.' (anyone knows what that stands for?), 'You Crazy You,' 'A Way With Women,' 'Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place)' (a Talking Heads cover, and one of the best grooves of the night), and 'City,' which was the tune I really wanted to between the two nights.
All in all, it was a fun night with all the jamming, grooving, and glow-in-the-dark silly string one could imagine.
I'll let the kid say it -
peace, love, and hobbits,
ps - here is the link to a very good recording of the show - enjoy!