The Grateful Dead and New Orleans. Two epic names. Names that will go down in history as forever changing the way we see and hear music. One a group and one a location; both giants in the world of music. Tonight at The Brooklyn Bowl, The 7 Walkers, a Papa Mali project extended from both, would bring us the greatest combination of NOLA Funk and The Grateful Dead. An epic night of music.
Being praised as being one of the finest post-Jerry/Dead projects, this band is truly amazing. The line-up is simple yet dripping in super heavy talent and experience, consisting of:
Papa Mali – Guitar
Bill Kreutzmann – Drums
George Porter, Jr. – Bass
Matthew Hubbard – Keys
What?!?! SERIOUSLY!?!?! I mean, how wonderful is that four-man band right there? Now, I don’t even know Matthew Hubbard but the energy the other three bring to the stage alone, before even touching their instruments, it’s something you can’t handle. Seriously, seeing giants like that walk out on to the stage, a mere 5 feet in front of you…your chest swells and your fingers start to tingle. I imagine I am taking in…how do I say it? It’s like they have brought the past with them. All that energy from their past gigs, their past experiences…their connections to Jerry. It was all centered right there on an intimate stage in Brooklyn aimed directly at us. And with George Porter, Jr. on bass instead of Reed Mathis…FIRE! How paralyzingly wonderful. IMAGINE!!! Bill Kreutzmann has played at every single Grateful Dead show ever. Jerry’s BOY! I mean come ON!! Talent and experience at its BEST!!! I know I say it all the time, but I WAS SOOO EXCITED!
When I first arrived at the venue it was no where close to being full. In fact, we all commented on that fact as we found it shocking. Once again, most people don’t recognize INSANELY GREAT music when it’s right in their back yard.
As I came around the bend from the bar, the dance floor was bare. That is, except for the entire front of the stage which was littered end to end by members of Funk Live to the left, Jam Cruiser pals to the right, my taper and deadhead buddies smack in the middle and other friends scattered about. I can’t forget to mention how almost every single person was wearing a Dead shirt or NOLA pride shirt. I LOOOVE the sight of my front row homies. I truly do. A line of faces all lighting up with smiles and I feel like I am with family. It was a hug fest for about 5 minutes. Always a great way to start off one’s night 🙂
(Tonight was also special because I finally got to meet up with fellow contributing writer, Brett B.!! Big hugs homie! I love what you have to say about music and your tats are hot!)
I have been to the Brooklyn Bowl a LOT. But on this night, after a while, maybe it was just me or perhaps it was the pure energy of the room, but the venue seemed brighter, the atmosphere seemed looser and the general vibe seemed lighter then most nights at The Bowl. It is hard not to feel comfortable and at ease in a room full of deadheads and hippies, especially ones colored so bright! I could feel it and my smile grew.
They came out, George’s back to the audience, Kreutzmann with a huge smile on his face getting situated. And then immediately flew into a jamming rage. First song on the set list read: SPACE, how appropriate! And SPACE they gave us, putting us all into the heady lock down that would define the night.
Right into the memory of Jerry, we were delivered DEAL. Papa Mali releases a soulful growl as he leads the lyrics: “Don’t let the deal go down.” With his guitar resting on his portly belly, Papa delivers us the first guitar rage of the night and mouths drop. To be honest, I wondered if I had ever seen him before. I’d listened to him a million times but I was seeing him play for the first time right there. He was as good as I hoped he’d be.
The next song tugged on heart strings. Men had their eyes closed and they were swaying. Something about the Grateful Dead makes men romantic it seems, am I alone in thinking this? In this case, they were thinking of their man crush, Pigpen, as Papa continued singing with Mr. Charlie. At the end of the song, Kreutzmann raged up on his legs and down on the drums. A little too hard cause the speakers to his left came crashing down on him, grazing his leg. See, the power flies right off these bastards. That power leaving the stage and slamming right into us, or in this case, the speakers. You can’t make this stuff up.
We had a little taste of The Dead. Now it was time for some NOLA flavor as Porter was tapped to sing Hey Pocky Way. I am beginning to think this is the most covered song ever. But the fact that it’s over played means everyone knows it and the crowd goes wild. And on this night, the best part about this song was the audience. Three songs in and the place was wild. WILD!! Oh, how I loved hearing Porter‘s voice. I immediately started day dreaming of the boat and what the possibilities might be. During his rage, Porter was off his chair and back down, his legs kicking him all over the place, he was IN IT!! And then it got silent as Kreutzmann picked up his drums and started striking the skins fast as lighting.
Death Don’t Have No Mercy, a Grateful Dead tune, was next. Matthew Hubbard stopped playing the keys and picked up the trombone that had been resting on the stage to his left. Such a slow song, such a soulful song, such a Jerry song. Papa gave us a killer solo that reminisced of the swagger Jerry distilled through his guitar, all the while you could hear undertones of Papa trademark bayou style. It was sultry, sexy, soulful. People were dancing all over the venue, utilizing the open space to benefit their moods and environments. It was perfect for so many reasons.
And then it was theme song time. Matthew Hubbard gave us an amazing Organ Intro. He was REALLY good. I am a sucker for keys but man, he was GOOD. Not sure what I thought about all his “touch-down” moves he banged out after every solo but kick ass solos non-the-less. Rage! After a few minute of solid keys, 7 Walkers, new lyrics by Robert Hunter, was blasted out of the belly ‘de Papa. As I stare at him, he started to morph into one of the characters from Where the Wild Things Are and I brought myself down to reality. The music was trippy to say the least. Matt had now jumped to the harmonica, jack of all trades this guy. Papa Mali absolutely brought it with this song. At one point, I feel like they teased Shining Star.
“7 Walkers walking in the sky / 7 Walkers watching from on high / 7 Walkers offer their protection / 7 Walkers lookin’ down from heaven”
The place was on FIRE and it wasn’t close to set break. Everyone was having a grand ‘ol time at this point. The front row was littered with Dead Heads who longed for tour or just to be close to Kreutzmann. Then you had the folks there who were ragin’ cause Papa Mali and Porter are the NOLA FUNK BOMBS! Papa sang most of Lay My Burden Down and keys harmonized. Then the music stops for a bit. Porter strummin’ on the strings, keys filling in the background. Papa Mali says, “It’s nice to be back in Brooklyn. I know I can get a nice slice.” And right into The Dead’s Sugaree. Porter sang this while Matt raged the keys and Papa harmonized. There was a big group hug between a bunch of the heads to my left at that moment up front of stage. It made me so happy, so very happy. Others followed suit. The venue was at its brightest that moment. The love was palpable. The joy was visual. Exactly what this music represents, exactly what it was meant to evoke.
Wharf Rat closed out the set. A slow, soulful song. It was out of control with Papa‘s drawing voice. And they captured that quintessential Dead sound so well, probably without even trying. We were so VERY VERY pleased.
The 7 Walkers did not waste anytime kicking off the second set. Kreutzmann took a raging drum solo and into Bertha, a Grateful Dead favorite, everyone was bouncing on their toes, kicking their heels, flipping their skirts. It was a hoedown of as we all sang together. Hubbard was able to show us some of his fabulous key work. Scaling up and down the board and striking the keys with ferocity. Totally on point and captivating me. Then Kreutzmann gave us the real thing. The real solo, HIS time to rage. My buddy took a GREAT HD video of it leading into Lovelight.
Papa and Porter play off each other for a few measures before Papa pulls out to jam on his own line. Kreutzmann tapped the cymbals. And so Bottle Up And Go begins and starts to melts our faces. It was time for the trippy guitar space of Papa‘s mind to play with the audience for a while. Everyone got lost. No words. Just SPACE as Porter holds the bass line allowing our own minds to take over and find it’s own adventure.
I Know Your Rider, another crowd pleasure, brought everyone’s head from swaying down to forward facing again and singing with the band. Happy shiny people. Another great keys rage from Hubbard and the dance party continued all over the venue. Papa slide his guitar all across the stage and in our face. This was a raging jam to be sure. As I stood back and watched these masters ripe our faces off, I wondered about the other groups I love watching jam so much and how they don’t HOLD A CANDLE to the greatness that was taking place on stage.
I went on an adventure during Early In The Morning & Hey Baby Now so I don’t recall much. It’s always nice to have something to look forward to in the recordings 🙂 I was not paying attention at this point, pen down, dancing all over the front row. Bliss. I was among my favorite friends, among my favorite songs and favorite musicians in my favorite venue. How do YOU all feel when you are in that situation?? 🙂 Think about it and hold on to the good feeling you get!!
The New Orleans Crawl, I believe a new song written for the 7 Walkers by Robert Hunter, gave us a taste of NOLA again but more on the Bayou side then the funk….Professor Longhair-esque. And finally, Goin Down The Road Feelin Bad closed out the set. They had so much fun with this song. You could tell they didn’t want to put down their instruments. If they did, they were sure fooling us. High energy, dancing in the STREETS!! As they left the stage, some hard core people were litterally crawling on it to get set lists and picks and whatnot but noone moved a muscle. All screaming, the show would not be over. The audience refused to let that happen.
In a lovely tribute to the premature death of Gary Coleman earlier that morning, The 7 Walkers came out and played the Different Strokes Theme amongst Junko Partner. It was fitting and we all remembered our funny little friend as we danced around in the best of spirits.
Everyone was SO SUPER HIGH after the show. Bouncing all over the place, I said goodbye to all my favorite people. By far, this was the best turn out of MY musical krewe, forget the rest of NYC who missed an amazing musical opportunity. The turn out from tonight had allowed all my various groups and friendship circles to collide and it was AWESOME!!! To be able to turn around and look in any direction to see the WIDEST grins on my friends faces. Music brings people together and that night, The 7 Walkers had aided in bringing us all much closer.
It was a magical night in the Brooklyn Bowl, that is for sure. I PRAY that 7 Walkers comes around again. And if they do, I suggest you pick up your ticket right away because the word from this performance has already spread like wild fire and they will be sure to sell out second time around!
Check out The 7 Walkers summer tour schedule.