Irving Plaza mimicked the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion last Thursday for the First Annual Jammys Awards, what with separate queues for revelers, press, and jam-scene potentates. Wetlands owner Peter Shapiro even offered the Lifetime Achievement award to B.B. King “via satellite.” Still, Jambands.com honcho Dean Budnick wore Converse sneakers with his penguin suit. Where else would a High Times editor be a presenter? The crowd showed its first signs of enthusiasm for jazzy-folk trio the Slip, who focused their brief spot around Dylan covers and got the nasally bleat down. On their heels were the true stars of the evening, Jammy winners Soulive, a jazzy-funk trio augmented by the ubiquitous John Scofield on guitar. Their witty-reverent take on Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep” even got the preoccupied VIPs in the balcony to do the bop.
The Busta Rhymes hype-your-shit-whilst-speechifying award goes to “Release of the Year” honorees Percy Hill, getting in a few plugs as they accepted their silver bowl and imprinted plaid pajama bottoms. The most heartfelt moment came from Allman Bros. paterfamilias Kirk West, who commemorated late Dead tape-archivist Dick Latvala.
This was as solemn as the evening got, with the best performance—by Frogwings—hot on West’s heels. ABB drummer/legend Butch Trucks invested the proceedings with a sense of dignity, and there is nothing so divine as the guitar interplay between Jimmy Herring and Trucks’s nephew Derek. If the rapid succession of a tome (Budnick’s Jam Bands guide), Wetlands’ 10th anniversary, and the awards ceremony makes you fear the jam scene’s gone respectable, Frogwings’ irrepressible blues spirit cried, “Hell no!” —Kandia Crazy Horse
How Bruce Can Change Your Life
There’s nothing Jerry Bruckheimer could teach Bruce Springsteen about summer blockbusters. Broad and loud, epic and episodic, full of secondary characters but driven by one flawed yet lovable hero, Bruce’s Madison Square Garden Show—call it Gone in 180 Minutes—is the feel-good movie of the summer!
Here’s what we got on June 20: Band in street-gang black, snippets of soul songs (including “It Takes Two” with Bruce and Little Steven as Marvin and Tammi), and lots of unexpected old tunes, including “Candy’s Room,” the still-stirring “Bobby Jean,” “Growin’ Up,” and—Holy Scott Muni, are you kidding me?—”Hard to Be a Saint in the City” and “New York City Serenade.” Plus all the guises of rock’s most adventuring formalist: Folkie Bruce, Bic-Lighter Bruce, Protest Bruce, I Sure Did Love Gary U.S. Bonds Bruce, and, because the hero always gets the girl, Married Bruce. Plus a few glimpses of Chippendale Bruce: “He poses more than Naomi Campbell,” my Jersey Girl date said with a swoon. Ritual remains the show’s core: As long as the crowd, in casual-Friday dress, high-fives the very tone of Clarence Clemons’s sax, the Big Man—who has gotten even Bigger of late—won’t change a note of the solos he’s played without variation for years. But Bruce, an acute bandleader whose curiosity exceeds his range, also lets Nils Lofgren toughen “Youngstown” with an abstract solo, and turn “Murder Incorporated” darker and weirder.
So I’m delighted by “Born to Run” but more delighted by the coda to “If I Should Fall Behind,” which introduces an aching, five-part harmony. History will remember the headline-grabbing “American Skin” as minor Bruce, but tabloid reports don’t mention that it starts with Clemons’s voice, then proceeds to Lofgren, Little Steven, and Patti Scialfa before it gets to the Boss. Dramatically lit by solitary spots, this sequence uses the diversity of a superstar band to voice the tenuousness of race and violence in American life in a way that’s more meaningful than mere lyrics. —Rob Tannenbaum
Renowned for offstage acts of peerless eat-shit bravado (slapping an overflowed toilet on the cover of their second and last Virgin effort, Sweet Sixteen) as much as their increasingly streamlined, blues-dazed jukebox punk, Royal Trux sound less and less like the filthy, addled subconscious of classic rock than a savvy, reverent version of the thing itself. Their reputation as a live act has grown in tandem: A recent Melody Maker concert review gasped, “Royal Trux, Royal Trux, Royal fucking Trux, fuck me!” Horny apostles weren’t yet prostrating themselves at the foot of the Knitting Factory stage on June 16 when openers Jucifer arrived, but the duo’s goth-crunch operatics induced much pumping of fists and beers. Drummer and master showman Ed Livengood thrashed his kit (his bass read, in pretty cursive hand, “Karen Carpenter”), repeatedly headbanged his earphones to the floor, and drooled throughout.
The featured bodily secretion for Royal Trux was sweat, from the lewd two-chord grind of “Sunshine and Grease” to the splashy kicks of “Waterpark” to Jennifer Herrema’s lengthy, meditative brow-wipings. The Truxters focused on the new Pound for Pound, which builds on the Tropicalian flirtations of last year’s Veterans of Disorder, though this set was all bar-band licks and sticky-fingered lust. Neil Hagerty switched nimbly between catchy biker riffs and spiraling jam solos while Herrema gripped two mikes and growled through “Platinum Tips” (“Down-home lips and . . . “) and the anthemic “Slack Motherfucker” update “Call Out the Lions.” The couple traded scratchy pillow talk over the wah-wah pedal and porno bass throbs of “Small Thief”; when Hagerty queried, “Won’t you be my valentine?” in his steaming-asphalt voice, the prospect of growing old and ornery with Royal Trux had never sounded so good. —Jessica Winter