These days, I’m so swamped with my own Biz, I rarely go out to see live music. The only bands I see are the bands I share the bill with. (It’s a shame, ’cause I risk alienating myself from my own field of endeavor.) But last night, my old drummer Dyson was here in Eugene at Luckey’s with his S. F. band Crackerjack Highway
It was worth staying out past 2:00 a.m. to watch Dyson killin’ it with this group of amazing jammers. Back when he joined my band at the turn of the century, he was raw, just out of music school, with a fondness for fancy Carter Beauford-like chops, which he couldn’t quite pull off. We had band a meeting to ask him to calm down and smooth it out for my more song-oriented material. It’s quite common with young drummers, many of whom complain about controlling singer-songwriters always putting them in straitjackets. But Dyson had a rare work ethic–the results of which became obvious on our 2002 album, Pollyanna Loves Cassandra
Nowadays, Dyson has chops in abundance–and an apt band in which to use them. Crackerjack Highway is one of those bands for whom songwriting is mostly a series of canvases on which to apply spectacular instrumentalism. A funky-ish jam band, less with the endless hippy-noodling of Phish spawn, and more with the purposeful trajectories of blues-rock, Allman, and maybe fusion. Suitable for a bill with Derek Trucks or Umphrey’s McGee.
And love those Allman-esque twin leads! Crackerjack constructs plenty of their own, but of course, with that ability, you just have to throw in “Liz Reed” and “Jessica.” And furthermore, why not segue into “Boys are Back in Town” and “Frankenstein.” I don’t care if you’re one of those anti-lead-guitar hipster short-songs-only kind of critic. When it comes to guitary indulgences, someone has got to it. (You know it’s true.) The elite few who can pull it off have a duty to do so with this much conviction and gusto. If you were at Luckey’s 1:45 a.m to hear the Pat Travers version “Black Betty,” you would know what I mean. (After-hours folks were wandering in from the streets like they were heeding a distant call.)