Whiskey 1803, Annapolis, Maryland
Hamilton Street Festival, Baltimore, Maryland
Quarry Lakes, Pikesville, Maryland
July 24-26, 2009
As bands begin to grow and tour nationally on a regular basis, it is a bitter sweet moment for their hometown fans. On one hand, you are happy to see your favorite band gain the national attention they so richly deserve, but on the other hand you miss those nights of seeing your band night after night in small intimate clubs in your hometown. That is what made the last full weekend in a July so special for Bridge fans in their hometown of Baltimore.
The band has spent much of the past few years on the road, and the time between stops in their hometown has grown with each year. Over a wet July weekend, the band played three (well three and half shows, more on that later) in three days, and it was a chance for those hometown fans to party like days long gone.
The band (Cris Jacobs – guitar, Kenny Liner – mandolin, Dave Markowitz – bass, Mike Gambone – drums, Patrick Rainey – sax, Mark Brown – keys), got the weekend started Friday night with the first of a two night stand at the Whiskey 1803 in Annapolis. The evening seemed to be a look towards the future as the band’s set was heavy with material from their most recent album, Blind Man’s Hill, as well as featuring three newer songs, “Chavez,” “Spill Over” and “Colorado Motel,” that have found their way into band’s regular setlist rotation. The star of the evening though was the debut of another new song “Rosie,” a Jacobs-led funky up-tempo rocker that featured a Little Feat-esque keyboard groove.
If Friday was a look forward, Saturday was a nod to the band’s rich past. Liner and Jacobs started the day with a mid-afternoon acoustic set at the Hamilton Street Festival in Baltimore (the half show.) The acoustic duo set was a reminder of the band’s earliest roots, two young musicians discovering their sound and starting to play for their friends before those simple acoustic jams evolvedinto a full-fledged band. Jacobs and Liner’s short set in the hot afternoon sun was a mix of early Bridge songs and covers the two have long incorporated into their stripped down sets. The brief afternoon show ended with the closing combo of Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues” that gave way to Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.”
That look back continued later in the evening as the band’s two sets that night at the Whiskey highlighted the older material in their arsenal. The first set was all about the segues, with the “Super Funk > Chains > Super Funk” sandwich, and the exploratory jam between ‘Bad Locomotive” and a cover of JJ Cale’s “The Call Me the Breeze” dominating the first half of the show. “Jomotion,” one of the oldest songs in the band’s catalog, opened the second set and set the tone for all that was to come. Old school classics doted the rest of the night, as versions of “Drop the Beat,” “Good Rhythm” (which included a hugely-intense Gambone drum breakdown), and a powerful “Jeremiah Jones,” reminded many of long-gone sweaty nights at the Funk Box.
Sunday The Bridge ventured just outside the Baltimore city limits, to the small town of Pikesville, to play a free outdoor show before a crowd of a couple thousand at Quarry Lakes. Liner proudly declared the show was only four blocks from where he had grown up. With a subtle reference to the late-afternoon thunderstorm that delayed the start of their set, the New Orleans flavored “Heavy Water” opened the night. The large crowd was full of familiar friends and family, and the band made sure to include some of their longtime friends in the show. Keyboardist Mookie Siegel (Phil Lesh & Friends, David Nelson Band), a long time ally of the band, joined in for a rousing “Easy Jane.”
The band wrapped up their show Sunday night with a cover of the Robert Palmer classic “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley.” The tune served as the closing number for a weekend that provided a snapshot of The Bridge; Friday night’s show was a look forward for the band and Saturday a reminder of their past. Sunday, however, was simply a celebration of the band and where they have come from.