Words by: Greg Peeler | Images by: Kenny Pusey
HeadCount :: 11.03.08 :: Highline Ballroom :: New York, NY
There was definitely something in the air at the Highline Ballroom as we all stood on a precipice, looking down on one side at a world that would irrevocably change the next day. You could literally feel it in the air, something palpable. Amongst the usual scents wafting through the crowd - the cloying tang of patchouli, the sweet, acrid reek of world class doobie, the earthy funk of unwashed tour kid - was an undercurrent of a different nature drifting amongst the groovers and shakers at the HeadCount party on election eve in the Apple. Maybe it was the pheromone-like scent humans exude in times of great change, maybe it was the nervous energy of a jump waiting to be taken, maybe it was plain old hope. Most likely though, it was just another moldy hippie.
|Marc Brownstein :: 11.03 :: NYC|
At any rate, it was a jovial crowd assembled on this November night, and there was plenty of music to stoke the fire. ?uestlove from The Roots started things off right, warming up the crowd with a mellow DJ set of sweet grooves to get the blood flowing. By the time he was jamming James Brown, indeed the blood was movin' and groovin'. ?uestlove yielded the stage to Tom Hamilton's American Babies, who were joined after a couple songs by - wait for it - Chris Barron from the Spin Doctors, who proceeded to give the people versions of "Two Princes," "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" and Hendrix's "Spanish Castle Magic." Ah, let's just say I wasn't exactly killing myself going crazy for this section.
There was a definite change of gears as Bustle In Your Hedgerow took the stage. Marco Benevento, Joe Russo, Scott Metzger (RANA, Amfibian, Particle) and Dave Dreiwitz (Ween) do their Zeppelin cover thing very well and it's always a pleasure to hear them play. If I remember correctly the setlist was "The Wanton Song," "Ramble On" and "The Song Remains The Same." They surely kept the momentum going and despite what some have said to me in the past, I don't think Marco overindulged too much at all.
|Joss Stone :: 11.03 :: NYC|
Okay, we all kinda figured we'd see The Disco Biscuits at this party. After all it's not like Brownstein isn't a bigwig with HeadCount, right? And of course, you could tell full well who was there just hoping to see Bisco and nobody else. Well, they started out with Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar" with the now apparently ubiquitous Chris Barron on vocals. Amazingly, he sang the song better than Magner does. Maybe he should just join Bisco and they can call themselves the Spun Biscuits. They jammed on and Marco Benevento came out and raged with Magner on the keys, delivering good, good stuff and it sounded a bit like it was getting maybe a little 2001-ish, maybe. While that would have been interesting, there was no "Story Of The World."
After this, things get a wee bit blurry. Stanton Moore and John Medeski came out and there was a lot of talking coming from the stage, specifically Jon Gutwillig talking about his grandfather and Brownstein talking up HeadCount. It was just good fun, and without the usual trappings and expectations of a Bisco show. Frankly, I enjoyed the casualness of it more than a regular show.
After that, which I guess was the first "peak" of the night, we got a form of setbreak with ?uestlove again spinning tunes, which morphed into a huge session with Robert Randolph, Tom Hamilton, Dave Dreiwitz, Stanton Moore, Medeski, ?uestlove and a guitarist from Randolph's band. This was rockin'. I like Randolph a lot better when he just quits his shtick and cuts loose on the strings. Opening with heat on a Daft Punk/Missy Elliott "remix" style with random HeadCount lyrics, they threw the crowd into dance mode. This brought us into a well played "Voodoo Chile" which they just kicked the living hell out of it.
|R. Randolph & D. Dreiwitz :: 11.03 :: NYC|
Next up was Joss Stone. I'm generally not huge on chick singers in a jam-ish context but it sure does help when they look like this lovely young lady. Yeah, she could sing the phone book and I'd pretty much be down with it. But thankfully, she can sing more than well enough to justify her right to be on the stage, and I was actually impressed. Her band in all white backed her angel voice, and she won over more than just this fan with her performance.
Unfortunately, the end of Stone's set meant this wonderful night was nearing its end. The encore jam ran through Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" and Sly's "Stand" delivered with all-out excitement as Joss Stone, Brownie, Randolph, Moore, Metzger, Medeski and Magner (yeah, say those three times fast) brought the house down nicely. That's quite a bit of talent on display and they did a hell of a good job.
Then, Phil Lesh and Warren Haynes turned up direct from the Nokia Theatre and jammed with Medeski and Stanton on an unbalanced "Franklin's Tower" to get their feet wet and finished up with a "my, how topical" version of "For What It's Worth" and a blistering "Lovelight" that sent all the old Heads into a spinning tizzy to end one VERY long, VERY rewarding night on a great note.
This whole night was just a damn good time. Be it for political highs or something else, folks were in a fine mood and as well behaved as you could expect from a bunch of miscreants. We were truly standing on the verge of getting it on and I couldn't think of a better way to spend the night before America veered over the edged and took the great plunge into the future. Let's hope we can do this all over again in four years.
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