Cris Jacobs & the Band of Johns fires up the hometown
Cris Jacobs & the Band of Johns
February 2, 2013
Since The Bridge called it quits just over a year ago, singer-guitarist Cris Jacobs has shown no signs of slowing down as he is a man constantly on the move exploring as much musical ground as he can cover, whether with his new project The Cris Jacobs Band (who released their debut album last year), as part of his long-time bluegrass band Smooth Kentucky, in the various guest spots and sit-ins he appears in with everyone from Anders Osborne to Los Lobos, or in his recent recording session with New Orleans legend Ivan Neville. On a night when his hometown of Baltimore was teeming with excitement in anticipation of the Ravens appearance in the Super Bowl the following day, Jacobs debuted his latest endeavor, The Band of Johns, at his home away from home, The 8×10.
Comprised of keyboardist John Ginty (John Ginty Band, Santana, Robert Randolph & the Family Band),drummer John Thomakos (John Mooney, Vanessa Carlton), and bassist Jake Leckie (Cris Jacobs Band) the quartet played together for the first time ever on this evening. With the city already brimming with energy and enthusiasm for the Ravens upcoming Super Bowl appearance, Jacobs show at the 8×10 took on the air of an almost surreal pep-rally at times, with many in the crowd decked out in purple or Ravens jerseys, including both Jacobs in a Ray Lewis jersey and Thomakos in an Ed Reed jersey. Jacobs made numerous references throughout the night to the game, and the inclusion of a couple ofr New Orleans themed covers in “Down South of New Orleans” and “Going Down to New Orleans” only served as another sly reference to the next day’s big game down in the Big Easy. But the most obvious Super Bowl reference came as the band was deep in the midst of a particularly adventurous journey through Jacobs’ old band The Bridge’s long-time live staple “Bad Locomotive.” As the song evolved into a dark swirling jam, the unmistakable driving bass and drum rhythm of the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” began to show, slowly poking its face out from underneath the familiar chords of “Bad Locomotive.” The song has become the unofficial song/ chant of the Baltimore Ravens and their faithful during this past season, with the acapella chanting of its relentlessly, driving melody becoming omnipresent at Ravens games and seemingly every Super Bowl broadcast from New Orleans. This simple jam evoked the same response from the fans packed into the 8×10 who responded with a stadium worthy rendition of the chant, before the band broke it off and led back into “Bad Locomotive.”
But this night was not all about the Ravens and the upcoming Super Bowl, though that was definitely a big part of it. The evenings setlist drew heavily from Jacobs large repertoire of material, using the new material that Jacobs has written recently for The Cris Jacobs Band (including “Dragonfly,” “Devil or Jesse James,” and “Stoned on you”), a smattering of old Bridge songs (“Heavy Water,”, “Honeybee,” and “Devil on Me” among others), and a few tasty covers (the aforementioned New Orleans tunes and “You Can Stay but the Noise Must Go”) thrown in for good measure. This highly experienced band made this wide range music all their own. Jacobs’ soulful wail echoes the southern-fried, gravely, timbre of Lowell George, and the addition of the masterful touch of Ginty and the hard-driving, precise drumming of Thomakos seemed to give his voice that much more power on the evening (or maybe it was just the excitement for the Ravens). For many in the crowd in the crowd there was an extreme familiarity with many of Jacobs’ songs, but with addition of such seasoned skillful players as Ginty and Thomakos the music found new and interesting musical paths down which to wind.
Still the overriding theme for the show on this chilly night in Baltimore was the energy that came with the anticipation of The Ravens appearance in the Super Bowl the next day, and the night would appropriately end on that note. After wrapping up their set with a spirited take on The Bridge’s “Colorado Motel,” the crowd began shouting their approval and even more boisterous version of the “Seven Nation Army” chant erupted from the crowd as they waited for the band to retake the stage. The band quickly retook the stage. Leckie and Thomakos began to play along with the crowd, churning out the hard-hitting, pulsating rhythm of “Seven Nation Army,” only this time instead a brief tease, Jacobs and Ginty picked up the rhythm and launched into a full-on version of the song that burned with a ferocity that would make the hometown team’s long revered defense proud, and as everyone in the crowd gave their full-throated best to make their chant heard, all eyes turned towards New Orleans and next day’s Super Bowl.
Author’s note – The Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl the next day, the “Seven Nation Army” chant could be heard constantly throughout the game, Baltimore rejoiced, and for just one small moment there was peace in the world.
To see all of Jordan August ‘s photos from Jacobs’ surreal pep-rally please visit here.