Words & Images by: Phil Santala
Jerry Joseph :: 08.15.08 – 08.17.08 :: Banditos Bar :: Virginia City, MT
Virginia City, Montana. Never heard of it either, huh? Before last weekend I couldn't even have pointed it out on a map. This off the beaten path tourist trap remnant of the Old West is where Jerry Joseph made his last stand of the summer. This was, with good reason too, because Virginia City and the Banditos Bar are both classic examples of the best kind of "America-cana;" "Montana-cana" style. Proprietor Scott Kelly and the town of Virginia City may both be a little off the usual road, but both welcomed Jerry and his fans like we'd been there all our lives.
The now annual event has been a natural progression for Joseph and the Banditos Bar. Skeptical, Jerry played one night in 2005. Two nights were subsequently booked for '06 and '07. The inaugural third "Acoustic Dinner" show was added to the event for the 2008 run.
Being at a Jerry Joseph show these days is like listing to a static filled AM radio station. While the melody of the tune is ever present, there are times the beats and lyrics of other artists creep in and over the top of his songs. This make you wonder, was that Salt-n-Pepa's "Lets Talk About Sex" in the middle of "Savage Garden?" Pink Floyd's "Dogs" barking their way into the "North" > "Nicaragua" > "North" on Saturday night, along with Eric Clapton's "Let it Flow," which soaked into "Both of You." Sunday's mash-up pre-encore "Drive" was so long that it should have been called "Commute." Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" was present, and so was the unexpected and outlandishly placed Terrance Trent Darby song "Wishing Well."
Don't get me wrong, it's not just the placement of covers and raps that surprised and floored me during the weekend. Time and time again, the fluidity and ease with which both JR Ruppel and Steve Drizos followed the trickling steam and raging torrent of Jerry's singing and heavy guitar riffs struck me. The band's manipulation of their songs was beautiful and poetic. "Ho Chi Minh" off The Denmark Veseys self-titled debut was played for the first time on Friday coupled with the mantra chanting of "Shalom Salam" and the fast paced, heavy hitting "Road To Damascus." It was played for the second time on Saturday in a jam featuring "Ray of Heaven" and Aesop Rock's "None Shall Pass." It was during Sunday's acoustic "Ho Chi Minh" that I really heard its biting lyrics jump out at me: "When you lick your American hero stamps, don't forget John Walker Lynn."
|Jerry Joseph :: 08.16|
Saturday came together slow, but built up its moment like a freight train. Closing out the second set was a brilliant "Conscious Contact" > "Rama Sita" > "Amazing Grace" > "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" > "Conscious Contact" jam fest. The "Amazing Grace" wasn't the Jerry Joseph version, but an arrangement of the traditional. It was prophetically placed in a song about higher powers, about attachments beyond the here and now. The Van Halen cover left me scratching my head but still shakin' my hips. The rap during "Conscious Contact" was a throwback for sure. This rap has gone thru some changes, and this one was the closest to the one I fell in love with circa 2002. It was all there, "many kinds of fruits and vegetables... and Mexican black tar heroin... headed for a new life up north of the border." The rap slowly built, began to flow and ebb with Jerry scratching out the rhythm on his guitar. Then like a flood with "it's not all good, and it's not supposed to be," it began to run over the banks of the river and wash over us. When the song slowed down for this rap it was truthful and magical, and when it took off again out of this rap with the "it's all we've got... hell, I say just give it up... hand over the wheel" portion, the torrent was absolutely bloodthirsty. This is perhaps one of the most powerful and moving slow to fast transitions out there. Its' easily up there with the stuff in Traffic's "Low Spark" or the Widespread Panic blow-out "Postcard."
A slow tempo "Speedwater" closed out the second night. Slowing down this tune is like putting the brakes on a freight train - when it hits you it's not gonna make much of a difference. Chemicals, for all their wondrous glory, have cut a destructive path through many people's lives. They can change you, just like Jerry changed the lyrics "sometimes the stand on the side of the righteous just stinks" to "sometimes the painkillers, they just make the pain feel worse." That's when "Speedwater" hit for me, and man, it hit hard. Well, at least when music hits you feel no pain.
The third night started off with The Denmark Veseys playing acoustic. This scene was a little weird, with about 30 people choosing to sit down in front of the stage. "World Will Turn" with Panic's "Porch Song" wedged into it was enthusiastically received; a real treat because Panic does cover Jerry Joseph all the time but I've never heard/seen it go the other way around. Stockholm Syndrome has played "Airplane" as a tip of the hat to the late, beloved Mikey Houser, but that's about it.
|Mosley, Drizos, Joseph :: 08.17 :: Montana|
Bret Mosley, is according to Jerry, "one of greatest songwriters I've met in a long time." He joined the band onstage for the second half of the first set, and the beginning of the second set. Over the course of the weekend he helped write "Mile High, Mile Deep," which premiered as the second set opener Sunday night. "We Will Go Down" was jammed into "Good Sunday," which somehow turned into The O'Jays' hit "Love Train." The aforementioned 20-minute "Drive" jam closed out the second set, and had a few of us commenting, "Never, never miss a Sunday show!" At one point during the climax of the night and the weekend Jerry was so moved he took off his guitar and waded out into the audience "just looking for the love" and hugging anyone he could gets his hands on.
Jerry may be a self-proclaimed "hero to some, villain to others," but in the Banditos Bar for three hot August nights he was a hero to all. "With rising gas prices and middle age staring you in the face," Jerry explained how life on the road can start to take its toll. Far away places with names like "Deathpoint" can start to take their toll. Rooms of people who couldn't care less that you are pouring your heart out onstage and sweating like a pig doing it, all start to take their toll. Before the third night encore, Jerry thanked those in attendance, for being there for this weekend with him. It was from the bottom of his heart. It was touching, it was eloquent and it was totally unnecessary. His joy, his gift, his thanks to us was evident and obvious. Jerry Joseph poured his heart out for three nights, and left it all on the stage, every thought, every thanks, every feeling, and that feeling, well, "it's what I live for."
JamBase | Montana
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