Seven concerts, a foot of snow, and 200 miles later, we’re back with the exciting third installment of the Marc Ribot residency week at the Stone! (Previous reviews, if you missed them, can be found here and here.) Today we’ll be covering the two Marc Ribot Trio + guest shows, which were the late sets on January 31st and February 1st.
The Trio consists of Marc Ribot on guitar, Henry Grimes on upright bass and occasionally violin, and Chad Taylor on drums. I saw them a few times back in November at the Village Vanguard (see my review/video/etc. here), and after those stellar performances I was really looking forward to seeing them in the Stone with a group of good friends. I was expecting them to mix things up a bit since they had invited special guests each night: guitarist Mary Halvorson on Friday and keyboardist Cooper-Moore on Saturday. I’d seen both musicians before and knew they were both top-notch performers who could potentially add something really special to the Trio.
(Apologies for not getting a photo of Cooper-Moore, he was sitting with his back to me and I never really got a chance to get a photo of him that would show anything more than the back of his head.)
Friday and Saturday’s performances were the most crowded of the whole residency; I’m not sure how much of that was because of the appeal of the line-ups those nights and how much was because of the fact that it was the weekend, and maybe the weather played into it as well. (I can personally attest that it was painfully cold on Tuesday and Wednesday when we were waiting in line outside. Literally painful, as in “my exposed skin was really hurting right up until I lost all the feeling in my face.”) At any rate, it was packed, with people standing in the back and sitting on the floor, and people were turned away at the door after the venue reached capacity.
There are pros and cons to the general-admission no-advance-tickets strategy, but one thing it does is ensure that (with some exceptions) the people who are there are the people who really wanted to be there the most, and were committed and willing to line up for as long as necessary. That results in a really enthusiastic crowd, which I always appreciate (and hopefully the band does too). To give you an idea of our enthusiasm level, my friends and I were at the very front of the line for every night but one (we only managed the #3 spot that night because we decided to have dinner before the show, and we felt deeply ashamed for falling down on the job).
Both of the Marc Ribot Trio concerts were just… fantastic. Saturday’s show especially was one for the ages. It’s impossible to compare years-old memories of live music, really, but I can’t imagine that wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen them out of about a dozen performances (maybe it’s not a fair comparison with the special guests, though). I was extremely lucky, and I am endlessly grateful, that I was able to get front row seats for me and my friend John so that we could film most of these sets and record them for the many, many fans who couldn’t be in that room for one reason or another. Here’s a video I took of the Friday night show:
(Here’s a link to John’s playlist of the rest of that set, if you want to see more: LINK.)
As you can see, we were sitting practically on top of Mary Halvorson (gotta love the Stone!) to the point that I could have been operating some of her pedals for her and I think John could have been helping her play the guitar. It’s truly amazing to see such a technically gifted guitarist from that close up. I’ve seen her play a handful of times before and this was my favorite out of all of them. She was great, and really added some nice touches – I especially liked one extended interchange between her and Henry Grimes, as well as some of the almost bell-like tones she was getting out of her guitar (which is absolutely beautiful, by the way – not that it should matter how pretty your guitar is, but it’s hard not to notice!).
As good as Friday was, though, Saturday’s late set was the crowning glory of the whole week. We were already excited because we’d been there for the Trio’s set the night before and knew they were in great form, and they didn’t disappoint. The first piece they played was a full thirty minutes long (in an allegedly hour-long set!) and it was incendiary – every member of the band was on point, and intense. When Cooper-Moore got going I could feel it in the floorboards under my chair, and during his solos Ribot was about as animated as you’ll ever see him, rocking back and forth, shaking his head and occasionally letting out a “YEAH!”. (I actually double-checked some of my video footage of this first piece, because I thought it looked like it had been sped up… but he was just really excited compared to his usual laid-back self! 😀 )
(There’s more where that came from… check my Youtube page for another ~40 minutes.)
They went on to play another three pieces or so (concluding with, if memory serves me correctly, a searing rendition of “Sunship,” a staple of the Trio), completely ignoring the hourglass they’d set up in the middle of the stage area to let them know when their time was up. They ran over their time slot by about 50%, but the crowd leapt to their feet, applauding, stamping and shouting, and I guess they decided that as long as you’ve thrown the curfew out the window, and the band is on fire, you might as well just keep going… after 2-3 minutes of cheering they came back on stage and completely switched gears on us, playing a heart-wrenching ballad with a two-minute piano/violin intro and a great bluesy guitar solo. Incredibly beautiful – I could hardly stand it.
I was thinking they must have wisely decided to calm the audience down in preparation for us all to leave before the neighbors called the cops, but then they surprised me with a sucker-punch and segued into a loud, upbeat number with no warning whatsoever. BAM! If there was room, people would have been on their feet and dancing, I have no doubt. (Or at least trying to, right up until the inevitable Ribot-style melodic de(con)struction.) My only regret is that my camera ran out of batteries so I can’t share that encore with you. But part of me doesn’t regret it at all, because I’m so glad I didn’t have to sit still and calm and hold a camera steady for some of the best music of the whole week.
Still to come from the Ribot residency: reviews and videos of “Standards,” “Songs,” Sunday’s improv set, “The Book of Heads” and “Some of the Harmony of Maine.”