We’re back with another edition of our Staff Picks series, highlighting the favorite songs and shows from our nugs.net team members. This third volume comes from our stream technician, Jacob Lima. Over the past year, Jacob’s been all over the world working to beam shows to your living room. Take a peek at his favorite shows from across the years.
So I’ll start off this list with one of my favorite recent shows. Talk about a Denver barn burner.. this show was it! With most Colorado shows ending well before the 2 AM state-mandated liquor curfew, when Goose came on at about 11:30 PM everyone was ready for a standard Cervante’s Other Side 90 minute set, but what we got was a screaming two-set show going well past 3 AM. Wasting no time and starting off with a killer Madhuvan they carried the energy not just through the entire night but for the rest of their four-night Colorado run as well!
I have always been a huge fan of Artifact and believe the album encapsulates perfect jamtronica harmony, with the post Artifact years being my favorite STS9 era. While I was tempted to pick any show from the amazing 5 night run at Boulder Theater, also in 2007, I’d say this is my personal favorite tribe show ever! Starting off the night with Interplanetary Escape Vehicle in its entirety, unbeknownst to the audience, the last time early Tribe staples HB Walks To School and Quests would be played live, this show is full of Sector 9 classics from start to finish.
An instant favorite since the first moment I heard these guys, almost any of their shows would fit this list. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them more than a few times and have never left a show short of mesmerized. Acoustic guitarist Billy Strings has the classic bluegrass chops to pick with the likes of Del McCoury and John Grisman, and then jam with Widespread Panic the next day.. talk about spectrum. His shows are the way.
Coming in hot into Boulder Theater directly after headlining Red Rocks, the monster Hangover encore from this show is not to be missed. One of my all-time favorite Umphrey’s songs, and still the best version I’ve heard to date, closed out a fantastic 2 night Colorado performance. I love a long noodly jam as much as the next guy.. but this ain’t it. Hangover highlights Umphrey’s ability to change time signatures on a dime with no less than five changes in this six-minute song.
Any time Sam Bush and Cheese get together, especially on a Sunday, you know you’re in for a good time, and this show does not disappoint. The Whiskey Before Breakfast and Lonesome Fiddle Blues > North Plains Jam > Lonesome Fiddle Blues from Set I are some great examples of some nice Cheesy bluegrass with the Rivertrance from Set II also showcasing the spacey jam side of Cheese.
The Jeff Austin years of Yonder will always hold a special place in my heart and while all the shows from this five-night run were amazing I’m gonna have to pick the NYE show as it contains a great Half Moon Rising and a killer rendition of New Speedway Boogie to close out the run. Oh and did I mention Darol Agner sat in on fiddle for the ENTIRE show??
I joined the Dead & Company family this year and hopped on tour with these guys to facilitate all the live video streams and my favorite moment of 2019 is a flub. You heard me right. Although I don’t pick this moment for the musicianship of the band, but for what it says about us, the fans. I think Deadheads and other jamband fans, at least in general, are a pretty open-minded, relaxed, accepting bunch. If you spend any time on the Internet forums you might have a different opinion but in-person jam shows are like Olive Garden, when you’re here you’re family. And how do these fans react when the band they hold to very high esteem makes a huge glaring error and has to completely restart a rare Box of Rain? With one of the loudest cheers, I heard all year. It’s a perfect metaphor for the mentality of (in my humble opinion) one of the coolest music fan groups. Understanding that we’re all human, we all make mistakes, but we’re also all in this together and being loving and accepting of your fellow man, warts and all, is one of life’s true kernels of meaning.
Subscribers can listen to highlight’s from Jacob’s picks in the nugs.net app!
May’s Third Man Thursday is here just in time for the holiday weekend with a very special release. Oberlin 2000 was a cornerstone moment for The White Stripes and now the transformative show is available to stream in the nugs.net app. Ben Blackwell, The White Stripes’ official archivist returns this month with a recap of the show below.
We left Cincinnati later than we should have. A visit to Shake-It Records looms large in my memory and we definitely rolled straight to the club, Dionysus. On the campus of Oberlin College and apparently run by the students there, what could be an easy target to shit on is actually pretty damn cool. I mean, hell, the college I was enrolled in that semester wasn’t booking Sleater-Kinney.
The show itself still sticks out as one of the most transformative the White Stripes EVER played. Like if there was ever so clearly a “before” and “after” moment in the history of the White Stripes live shows, I’d push the pin firmly into the date September 16th, 2000.
I don’t recall the crowds the previous two nights (Chicago and Newport, KY) necessarily “getting” the Stripes. Sure, the performances were solid, folks may have even picked up on it a little, but they were big rooms, law of averages probably explains it. But at Dionysus, man, it’s a small room, maybe 400 capacity, and with a low stage, the space felt like a basement…hot and sweaty, probably not being utilized for its intended use and primarily populated with kids who’ve got NOTHING better to do. Receptors open, transmissions receiving…just give ’em something worthwhile and the response will be wild.
Watching from the merch table at the back of the room, you could feel the band take off. The show starts off interestingly enough (can’t ever recall “Your Southern Can Is Mine” appearing so early in a set) and from around “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” onward, its as if afterburners are on full throttle, every move just of-the-moment and powerful and important and happening right in front of your face.
After futzing around for months, the fuzz feedback mainline of “Dead Leaves” is finally firmly established in the way all would come to know and love it. “Death Letter” is the raucous rail-splitter while the placid verses of “Stop Breaking Down” achieve the song a tempered duality as leveraged by the absolute savage slide of the choruses, while the uncharacteristic off mic screaming in “One More Cup of Coffee” has you realize that mind-bending covers of Son House, Robert Johnson and Bob Dylan poured out one after the other in rapid succession, a most holy trinity of White Stripes heroes if there ever was one.
From “Astro” forward…there’s so evidently a transcendent musical connection between the two entities on stage, of the same brain, taking action without thought, a Darwinian evolution that should crawl across millennia transpiring in matter of mere minutes. On a Saturday night. In Ohio.
Listening back now, nearly 20 years later, it STILL gives me goosebumps. The way “Jack the Ripper” (a song they’d goofed on a handful of times previously) melts into “Farmer John” (a song they’d NEVER previously goofed on) and straight into, hands-down, the best version of “St. James Infirmary” the band would ever perform and arguably epicenter of the aforementioned “before” and “after” designations.
To lay ears to the recording now is to hear “St. James” evolving in real time as an arrangement heretofore unknown, just exploratory explosive accents primally bashing away as entree to the song, unrecognizable from its released version, pummeling inauspiciously into the first verse, Jack’s voice rich, full, expressive, like a vase holding ten thousand orchids hand-painted by O’Keeffe. Then completely out of left-field, Jack offers the second verse double time, damn near jazzy or show tune(ful), humbly paying respect to the roots of this Cab Calloway composition. In my recollection of the evening, I feel like I was holding my breath at this moment. As if to ask, timidly, scared, fearful of failure or catastrophic collapse “can they do it?” And wildly, with abandon, Meg is RIGHT there with him, never missing a beat for the next TWO verses. Weeks, days, shit a half HOUR early this would have been impossible. The chops were not there, the telekinetic o-mind wavelength was, previously, nonexistent. And without ever telegraphing the move, out of nowhere, Jack calls verse four back to the explosive accents, half-time, reigning it in with a delightful smirk, at this point completely showing off how shit hot he and Meg are. Just making it up as they go at this point, verse five crosses back to double time, the intensity somehow amplified, improbably kicked up a few notches and culminating into one solitary, strong expositional statement, like a goddamned full-body statue of Teddy Roosevelt, arm outstretched, pointing, confidently, ready to decimate whatever gets in the way. And that, you little maniacs, is when the White Stripes first hit that apex, as if levitating, where they could do no wrong. Exquisite beauty. The reason we are all here today.
A few songs later and unexpectedly, Jack just starts making shit up off the top of his head. We’ve labeled it “Keep On Walking (improv)” here and that, again, you lucky freaks, is the first time the White Stripes ever just made something up in front of a crowd. Said approach would be responsible for some of my personal favorite moments from the band (including “Little Cream Soda” even though I wasn’t even there to witness it in person) and straight into “Screwdriver.” Jack teases, if only for a moment, the drawn out and confrontational manner of both the MC5’s “I Just Don’t Know” and the Gories “48 Hours” and yet somehow builds upon it. Goes further. Creates distance. Catches nirvana.
Leaving the stage after said culmination, you can hear the crowd just losing it. Apeshit. The opening act, who almost certainly no one there even knew of prior to this evening. EVERYONE was urging them to return for an encore, including the members of Sleater-Kinney, who were all but pushing Jack and Meg back onstage. Really, truly, this never happens, it should never happen, yet witnesses to history and this tape prove, “Let’s Build a Home” just smokes before the tape runs out in a brief moment of Basinski-esque disintegration.
I’m a bastard when it comes to hyperbole…I HATE when people blow shit out of proportion. I don’t have time for it. But I honestly do not think the White Stripes ever played a more perfect show. Yeah Manaus ’05 was bonkers, Tasmania ’06 is electrifying, Mississippi ’07 brings tears, Detroit Institute of Arts, Peel sessions…there’s no shortage of GREAT shows with this band. But ones where everything clicks. Where the band is almost a visage in hyper-speed while their surroundings are but props calcified in amber, where it feels like the incalculable number of nerve endings of every last synapse of every living being in the world were all connected onstage that night…well, damn, Oberlin it is. Because while those other shows may carry more emotion, may explore further depths of the catalog, or engaged multiples of more fans…September 16th, 2000 was the catalyst that enabled all of them to ever happen.
This being our fourth year on wonderful Jam Cruise, and with two sets every year, we were eager to mix things up this time around. We decided we wanted to cover something really special, but not too obvious. Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome has been a long time favorite album for Taylor, and then in turn for the rest of us over the years.
We decided ahead of time that this would be a great opportunity to get other musicians involved and do a “Turkuaz and Friends” type thing, which we almost never do. So basically we just called up a bunch of friends to do it (Karl Denson, Robert Walter and basically the entire amazing band, Ghost Note). What we didn’t realize was that the specifics and complicated nature of each song was by far the hardest cover material we’d ever learned. So many random horn lines, harmonies, things that happen 12 times, and then 5 the next, and then 17 the next. Damn near impossible to get everything right. But we practiced a bunch with our own band, and really learned the tunes to a high level of detail. Then as it got closer we thought – “man, without a rehearsal with our guests – this is gonna get interesting!” Spoiler – everyone did an amazing job, guests and band alike. So kudos to them on that! As far as winging some things and just letting it happen how it happened – It just wouldn’t be proper tribute to Parliament if it weren’t a little bit sloppy, chaotic and crazy up there. As Robert said after the show, “that was perfect, especially in it’s imperfection.” And it was a really special moment for all of us.
Oh, and we also decided not to tell anyone what we were doing and let it be a surprise. It simply said “Turkuaz and Friends – Mystery Album”. We were keeping it under wraps, but needed to try and squeeze in a quick run through.
So we sealed the doors of the theater, for the very brief (10 minute) rehearsal we had the day of the show. Thinking no one could hear what we were doing, we started playing the first song “Bop Gun” with Karl. All of a sudden, we look up and Ivan Neville is running down from the theater entrance towards the stage and ran up to the piano and started playing. He said something like “sorry to crash the party, but I mean… Bop Gun? I just had to get involved”.
Sure enough, Ivan returned for the set and became a last minute special guest. Nikki Glaspie showed up side stage during the set, and started swapping back and forth with Sput on second drum kit. Not to mention – the rest of Ghost Note were all dressed in animal costumes and had smiles on their face that seemed to imply some sort of out of body experience was happening (you can fill in the blanks yourself for what may have been going on there). Everyone played great and after the show, Sly from Ghost Note said that during the set he had experienced “the best moment of his whole life”. I’d say that’s pretty satisfying to hear from an incredible musician like him. It proved to be something that the whole boat seemed quite high off of for the following couple of days. It remains one of our favorite undertakings and sets to this day. And now we’re premiering the audio for the first time here on nugs.net Hope you enjoy (warning – it gets weird!).
I was 15 years old in the summer of 1981. My friend Marc had just turned 16 and obtained his driver’s license. The previous October, my father took Marc and me to the Seattle Center Coliseum to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and that changed everything.
My parents subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine, which ran a Random Notes item that Springsteen would be doing a return leg of the River tour over the summer. With only that single data point to go on in the pre-Internet days, Marc and I would get up early and drive to the local mall every Sunday in June and July to see if, by chance, a line had formed and Springsteen tickets were going on sale. The Seattle ’80 show had gone up with no prior warning on a Sunday morning. We figured, better safe than sorry.
A Seattle ’81 show never materialized, but the story illustrates the heightened levels of anticipation for Springsteen’s summer return. If Marc and I were going to all that trouble in hopes of getting tickets to a Seattle concert that was never even contemplated, imagine what it must have been like in New Jersey when it was announced that Bruce and the E Street Band would christen the newly constructed Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford with a six-show stand to kick off their post-Europe victory lap.
Though only 32 dates in total, the Summer ’81 tour is one of the most celebrated in Springsteen’s long performance history. The epic-length sets of the previous winter had tightened up, giving the shows a sharper focus. The summer run also came after Springsteen’s first extended tour of Europe, an inflection point in his musical development that, with the introduction of three vital new songs to the set, brought with it the first indications of where his music might be going.
East Rutherford 7/9/81 is the final night of the Brendan Byrne run and a moment of culmination for Springsteen and the E Street Band. Their confidence and a new sense of purpose developed on the stages and streets of Europe drives this outstanding performance, and the audience is there to meet them. Even when Bruce assays new songs, the crowd sounds fully on board. Listen to the sympathetic clapping they add to “Follow That Dream”; the live archive version from London a month earlier has no audience participation at all.
The 7/9/81 show wastes no time getting to the meat of the matter, opening with “Thunder Road” into “Prove It All Night” and “The Ties That Bind.” Playing his sixth show in nine nights, Bruce’s voice needs a little warming up at the start, but his passion is already dialed in at 10. By “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” Bruce and the band lock into gold medal form, and the song spotlights Stevie Van Zandt’s critical vocal contributions in this era.
“Follow That Dream” is the first of the new songs, all three of which blur the line between cover song reinterpretations and originals. The Elvis Presley reinvention retains its stark, meditative arrangement debuted in Europe and closes on one of the most disquieting, chilling notes in the Springsteen catalog.
“Follow That Dream” has an especially curious place in the canon in that it feels like an extremely significant song in Bruce’s evolution as a songwriter, despite having never had an official studio release (it was recorded for Born in the U.S.A. in 1983). It’s only been performed 15 times since the Bridge School Benefit in 1986, but it shows up in every decade, as recently as Australia 2017, the last E Street Tour to date. Is there a more meaningful unreleased song?
Carrying on, “Independence Day” revisits Springsteen’s father-son narrative, but this time with a new chapter recognizing the need to say the things that need to be said, now, while there’s still time. The sentiment couldn’t be more timely in the Covid-19 era.
“Who’ll Stop the Rain” has never sounded bigger or bolder than this terrific rendition, and Jon Altschiller’s mix offers incredible instrument separation. The acoustic and electric guitar interplay is marvelous — and listen for the electric to kick in again, quite thrillingly, five seconds into “Two Hearts.” What a great version. The same can be said for “The Promised Land,” as heightened vocal phrasing brings the song to another level.
There’s an intriguing break in the mood as Bruce begins the harmonica intro to “This Land Is Your Land” only to be interrupted by the explosion of a firecracker (heard clearly in the right channel). Condemnation is immediate. “Whoever just threw that firecracker, you can do me a big fucking favor and don’t do it,” he says with total convinction. “Whoever you are, you are no friend of mine. This is a song about that respect; it’s about having respect for yourself, for the land that you live in.” Pure conviction powers Springsteen through the daunting take of “The River” that comes next as he attempts to reset following the firecracker, leading to one of the highlights of the night — if not the whole of the 1981 tour.
Word of this incredible new song “Trapped” had even reached me on the other side of the country (again, likely through Rolling Stone). I had to hear it. Through the magic of mail order, I bought a bootleg LP called Prisoner of Rock and Roll that included “Trapped,” and I was gobsmacked. The simple start, the build, the intensity, the crescendo, then again and AGAIN, with the final release coming as Springsteen shouts “I’M TRAPPED” and the last note sustains. Mesmerizing and unlike any Springsteen song that had come before it.
“Trapped” is a cover (originally recorded by Jimmy Cliff), not an original. Cliff’s lyrics are basically intact, and fundamental melodic elements are there, too. But how Springsteen listened to this and developed the arrangement he performs in New Jersey is the alchemy of a musical genius. Hearing the song in this context—following the firecracker incident, “This Land Is Your Land” and a tentative “The River”—“Trapped” offers unmistakable catharsis.
Set one wraps with a high energy “Out in the Street” and full-tilt “Badlands,” rich with Van Zandt vocal accents, Roy Bittan piano, and plenty of Max Weinberg propulsion.
East Rutherford 7/9/81 is marked by its new songs, but it was also a summer Shore party as the second set makes clear. The festivities begin with “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch),” replete with some interesting lyrical additions where our protagonist is “going downtown, gonna buy a gun.” Love the guitar mix on this one.
From there, bang bang into “Cadillac Ranch,” Bruce’s ultimate party song “Sherry Darling,” and “Hungry Heart” (with the audience taking the first verse capably) before we’re treated to a guest appearance. Gary U.S. Bonds, whose Springsteen-Van Zandt-produced album Dedication was released that April, duets with Bruce on the traditional “Jolé Blon” (which Springsteen introduced to his own sets in the UK), and Bonds takes the lead vocal on his hit single, the Springsteen original “This Little Girl.”
The third and final new song of the show, “Johnny Bye Bye” follows. Bruce offers a eulogistic rumination on Elvis Presley to introduce the song, which, like “Follow That Dream,” draws potency from its spare arrangement. It is a compassionate farewell to The King. Paired together, “Racing in the Street” extends the elegiac sentiment in a resplendent reading led by Bittan on piano.
Time to party. “Ramrod” low rides into an extra playful “Rosalita,” as Clarence Clemons set the scene with the opening lines from Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee”: “The night was clear, and the moon was yellow. And the leaves came tumblinggggggggg.” Band intros are on point, accented by tasty Stevie guitar licks throughout and concluding, of course, with The Big Man himself, who Bruce posits could be the next Governor of New Jersey. “Sounds like a good idea. Clarence Clemons Arena, I like that,” he says, referencing the new arena named for Governor Byrne. All of which leads to “Spotlight on the Big Man” and its brief vamp on “Sweet Soul Music.”
For the encore, the most Bruce Springsteen song Bruce didn’t write, “Jersey Girl.” This performance of the Tom Waits classic is the one that would be officially released as the b-side to “Cover Me” three years later, but I don’t recall that mix bringing Van Zandt’s guitar so charmingly to the fore. A superb “Jungleland” accompanies, with sublime soloing from Stevie and Clarence, along with a pacey “Born to Run” with Bruce soaring for “girl I’m just a scared and lonely rider.”
The New Jersey homecoming wraps with an extended “Detroit Medley” which takes several exciting detours as it careens along the turnpike. The first is “I Hear a Train,” then a rare romp through Mitch Ryder’s “Sock It To Me, Baby!” (written by Bob Crewe and Russell Brown), another scoop of Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music,” and finally a generous slice of Sam Cooke’s “Shake” in what might constitute the best “Detroit Medley” ever.
The phrase “giving the people their money’s worth” would be an apt description for the final night at Brendan Byrne Arena 39 years ago. Now, it is time to return the favor. All net proceeds from the sale of the East Rutherford 7/9/81 will be donated to the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.