Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola Duo have released vinyl records, a series of cover tunes on CD, and even their own lip balm. Maybe their next release should be a coffee table book—you know, one of those oversized ones with really nice photography—of the faces they make while playing live.
Watching the two is only half the fun, though, of their live show. The music is always going to be different from the recordings, and they’ll throw in jams, unexpected cover tunes, and jaw dropping solos, to boot. Watching the pair together at Mill Valley’s Sweetwater Music Hall on Wednesday was like seeing a finely polished, but largely improvised, comedy duo. After performing together for over 20 years, they know each other pretty well. They’re both so talented, that they’ll make little musical jokes inside solo sections, just to make each other laugh. And the crowd laughed along with them, because the jokes translate to non-musicians, too.
Plenty of covers dotted the evening, and each was in their own style. The thing about cover bands is that it is tempting to just be a karaoke cover band—that is, playing the song exactly as it was recorded, with maybe a couple twists for live performance. But these guys take them apart and leave only the melody, the memorable hook and some chords underneath, and make the tunes completely their own. When the crowd realized the refrain they were playing during “Walk On By” was the hook from “California Love” by 2Pac Shakur, some giggles broke out from the back of the intimate room. The mashup was so well put together that it took about six turns through to realize they were two very different songs.
Although they play instrumental music, there was a bit of singing. Before the Cars’ classic, “Let the Good Times Roll,” Hunter urged the crowd to sing along, especially during the chorus. They did so, with rising enthusiasm, and when the duo was ready to wrap up the song, Hunter proclaimed to the crowd, “Ladies and gentleman, let’s tag that shit!” Not one to disappoint, the crowd continued its sing-along three more times, holding the last note while Hunter and Amendola played out the ending. Hunter was quite pleased.
They played two sets, allowing the crowd to buy records, order fancy drinks from the bar or dinner from the cafe (I suggest the pork posole and fried calamari). Just before the break, they played a blazing bop tune, with Amendola leading on the hi-hats, grabbing them with his left hand to open and close. His fills in the two-minute jam were even faster—faster than I could even think.
It is often said that musicians speak in a different language than “regular” people. Hunter spoke to the crowd without a mic (in English), and since Sweetwater is so small it was perfectly audible. But these two musicians have refined that to their own musical language, and other musicians may be able to discern what they’re saying but cannot speak it back to them. That’s fine, because I wouldn’t be able to top the poetry of their language, anyway.
Furthur, the Grateful Dead offshoot band featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, has announced four nights at Weir’s teeny-tiny Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley on Jan. 16, 17, 18 and 19. In keeping with recent Weir/Lesh price points in Marin County, general admission tickets are $150; VIP tickets, including dinner, a “full hour of free beer and wine” and a signed poster, are $300. Think of the four-night stand as a swanky afterglow to the band’s packed three-night run at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last week.
Here’s the thing: tickets go on sale today… by fax. Yes, you read that right. In order to be entered into the lottery for the chance to buy tickets, hopeful fans need to fill out this page online and then
click “submit form”… uh, print it out, I guess, and fax it to (415) 868-9819.
By fax? This is weird. I mean, is it so there’s an analog trail of ticket requests instead of a more easily hackable digital trail? I’ve always thought it was great that the Dead ran a mailorder lottery for their NYE shows back in the day; honestly, I think it’d be easier for fans to address an envelope and put a stamp on it in the year 2013 than it would be to drag a clunky piece of dead technology out of the closet, dust it off, plug it in and send a fax.
Send your own theories to me by fax at (707) 527-1288.
On Friday night, the Sweetwater in Mill Valley hosted an intimate show with Sammy Hagar, lead singer from Van Halen; Bob Weir, guitarist and singer from the Grateful Dead, Furthur, and Rat Dog; Jonathan Wilson, Jeff Chimenti, and the Mooncussers (headed by CNBC Senior Economics Reporter Steve Liesman). Admission was $200, and for a good reason—the show was a benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps with support and rehabilitation of wounded veterans. Check out their work at woundedwarriorproject.org, and you’ll understand why Weir and Hagar support it.
The show had a fiery beginning with Sammy Hagar and the Mooncussers performing songs like Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” Hagar played a few of the songs on Bob Weir’s guitar, and later, when bringing Weir out to hand over the guitar, he announced that Bob was his neighbor and best friend. The close chemistry between Weir and Hagar was surprising considering their very different musical backgrounds. Weir took over solo duties for a few songs including “Black-Throated Wind” again followed by Jonathan Wilson joining in for “Big Boss Man,” and a personal favorite “Loser,” which Weir announced as a “sad song.” The show finished off with the whole band, minus Hagar, playing “Ramble On Rose” and “Mission In The Rain.”
For a full slideshow gallery of photos from the show, click here.