Here I am “in the wee wee hours, between midnight and day” quoting old blues tunes that I’m too tired to remember who wrote. The reason for my weariness? The fun filled So Many Roads tour, featuring in order of appearance: DJ Logic, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Rusted Root, Keller Williams and Ratdog. I picked the tour up at Starlake Amphitheater in Pittsburgh on just it’s third day, and was subsequently treated to an evening of great music.

I should start out by describing the scene, or the lack thereof. One would think that with such an impressive and diverse collection of talent that these shows would be selling well. Unfortunately that was not the case in Pittsburgh, Rusted Root’s hometown, last night as the amphitheater held just over five thousand people and the lawn was all together closed. Judging by the dancing mass of humanity, the crowd that was there was highly appreciative of the tunes they saw, and the thumping music seemed to occupy any empty spaces.

The shows start off rather late in the day when you consider the number of acts and the nature of jam-based music. As a result each act plays a grossly abbreviated set. The good thing is that the bands are fully aware of this and thus take advantage of each available moment. DJ Logic, touring in support of his recent release The Anomaly, started the evening mixing like only he can. In an effort to maximize the available time, his set segued right into Karl Denson’s set with Logic sitting in for most of the Tiny Universe show.

Karl Denson played a high energy, funk driven 75 minute set with blazing horns and tight grooves that had the sparse crowd moving. Segueing directly out of Karl Denson’s set, DJ Logic spun tunes until his set was cut short by technical difficulties as the crew rushed to clear the stage for Rusted Root.

Rusted Root emerged to a warm, hometown welcome as people flocked to their seats to see the local heroes. They began their set with the 1995 hit single “Send Me On Me On Way” complete with the familiar penny-whistle solo. The band kept the crowd on their feet as they ran through songs that were almost too familiar making it noticeable that they band hasn’t released a new album since their self-titled 1998 release. After a riveting drum solo in which it seemed all seven members participated, they closed their part of the show with Mike Glabicki’s distinct voice leading the band through Ecstasy as the crowd “rooted” for the home team.

Next in line was virtuoso guitarist Keller Williams and his, shall we say, unique brand of music. For those who don’t know anything about Keller and what he does, here’s a brief overview: through the magic of looping and overlaying, he’ll play songs as though he has an entire band accompanying him. Set up at the edge of the stage with a curtain behind him to hide the crew, Keller opened his short 30 minute set with the comic “Stupid Questions” - accompanying himself on mouth flugel and flowing right into his take on the Grateful Dead’s “Doin That Rag.” One of the highlights of the evening followed soon thereafter as sax man Bleeding Gums Murphy, I mean Karl Denson, re-emerged to join Keller on a rollicking version of “Kidney In The Cooler.”

This wonderful, albeit condensed festival culminated with a powerful performance by Ratdog, lead by former Grateul Dead member Bob Weir. The great thing about Bob Weir closing this festival and bringing all of these bands together is the fact that none of this would probably have been possible had the Grateful Dead not kept the jam scene alive through the disco 70’s and the big hair 80’s. Ratdog did not disappoint as they turned in a great performance, beginning their set with the ever popular “Jack Straw” and mixing in covers like the Beatles “Dear Prudence.” Like Keller’s set, the pinnacle of the Ratdog show was when Karl Denson jammed with them. Denson and Ratdog’s Kenny Brooks instantly became a powerful horn section as the crowd exploded during “Throwing Stones,” “Slipknot” and “Franklin’s Tower.”

All in all So Many Roads proved to be a good time and well worth the admission price. Sure everything seemed a bit hurried but you still get your bang for the buck and for many this is a nice introduction to some great new talent. That’s all for now folks, and remember, Go See Live Music!

Mir Ali
JamBase | Pittsburgh

[Published on: 8/13/01]

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