The Big Wu | 12.31.08 | Minnesota

Words by: Ross Blanshan | Images by: Deb Amadeck

The Big Wu :: 12.31.08 :: Trocaderos :: Minneapolis, MN

The Big Wu :: 12.31 :: Minneapolis
New Year's Eve is always a good night for a party, but Wu Year's Eve is a night to party for a good cause. In years past, The Big Wu has hosted NYE events with food and clothing drives for various local charities, and this year was just as special. Vega Productions collaborated with MJG Productions to organize an instrument drive to benefit Anthony Middle School in Minneapolis, and Schmitt Music made all ten of their Minnesota locations Vega donation sites for the weeks leading up to the event, where generous and enthusiastic fans brought trumpets, trombones, saxophones, an upright piano and even a drum kit! The goal was to raise $10,000 in donations for the children of Anthony Middle School, and that was blown away with a total of over $15,000 worth of instruments! The Vega Boardroom was filled to capacity with those who made donations, and they were treated to exclusive sets by Dean Magraw and The Feelin' with Chris Castino.

Once I got through the ticketing line, I looked back to see that it was stretched halfway around the block and it didn't wind down until after midnight. They helped to make up an essentially sold-out crowd of over 1400 people. Absolute Gruv was on the main stage as I got in, laying it down with some surprisingly tight original jams. I was rather impressed with the drummer in particular, and I hope to see these guys around more in 2009. I ventured upstairs to check out The Boardroom, and found Chris Castino picking along to a very soulful ballad by Nick Mrozinsky (The Feelin'). I found myself getting drawn in to Mrozinsky's voice and way with words while Castino's smooth guitar work was a nice little preview of things to come. Once they finished up I headed back downstairs where Hyentyte was putting on a raucous show on the main stage. There were dueling guitars on a "Reelin' In The Years" jam, and they closed with a couple of genuinely fun originals. I made my way back upstairs just in time to catch Dean Magraw doing a solo acoustic version of "Amazing Grace." I thought back to The Big Wu's benefit shows for Dean a few years ago and it occurred to me just how much "Amazing Grace" really is a terrific way to describe Dean. He's so remarkable and elegant in everything he does, and he always has that ability to just blow your mind musically. And as if he were remarking on how great it is to be alive, he jumped into a fun version of "I'm A Believer" before ending his acoustic set.

The Big Wu :: 12.31 :: Minneapolis
By then it was time to get a little rowdy, so I grabbed a cocktail and found myself some space on the floor for God Johnson. They only had an hour to play, so the set was short but sweet. Not wasting any time, they kicked off with a tight "Squirms," which turned into a rather aggressive jam. A rock solid version of "The Wrath" followed featuring some cool synth work by Scott Roerick and a hot bass jam by Jimmy Rogers. In "Life During Wartime" it was obvious that they were all having a ton of fun with Jason Fladager soloing in some crazy shades and things got really funky. It was nice to see them really into it after a year in which they retired from their regular Wednesday Night Rock Show at the Cabooze and played fewer stops on the Midwest festival circuit. Timmy Carrow had a sweet piano solo in "Pace," and Fladager tossed in some "Auld Lang Syne" teases during what turned into a killer jam. Then, Roerick got up to sing a version of "Have A Cigar" that could only be described as downright sensual. They finished off in classic God Johnson fashion with a huge funk jam in "Electric Shoes." It dropped right off the face of the Earth and then Rogers and Carrow traded licks and really worked the groove together as they brought it to a peak before bringing us gently back to Earth. Listen to the show on Archive.org

The traditional countdown to midnight was handled by Padre Pienbique, Wu bassist Andy Miller's alter ego. After a year that saw only five Big Wu shows, one of them as a four-piece, it felt like everyone in attendance was excited to get onto 2009. Everyone got their midnight kiss with opening crowd favorite "Two Person Chair." This one came out of an abstract sort of tuning jam like a hound coming out of the mists and fog in Old Ireland. From there they jumped into a spirited "Rhode Island Red" that roared on with some solid harmonies. It felt as though they were starting to settle down a little bit and find their comfort zone as they thanked the crowd for their generous donations when Miller gave a "HYEAAHHH!!!!" and we all responded in kind.

The Big Wu :: 12.31 :: Minneapolis
Things really sounded strong as drummer Terry Van De Walker gave us a "Kick In The Head." They nailed all of their changes, and then a sweet segue into "The Wheel." Keyboardist Al Oikari really worked his lap steel in this jam, and somehow it evolved into "Pinnacle." This is one of the songs that got me hooked on The Big Wu so many years ago, and the twin guitars in the jam really sounded great as they built to a triumphant peak. They followed that up with a dark "Dog's Dead" that got a little greasy when Oikari started up with the lap steel again. After this, they brought back Vinnie Hyentyte to join Dean Magraw for a whopping four-guitar "Southern Energy." That soaring guitar line sounded oh so sweet and the jam had such amazing intensity that I half expected people to be stepping on each others' toes musically with that many guitarists onstage, but the only sign of difficulty came in not wanting it to end.

When it finally drew down, Miller gave us a great big toast to 2009 and then they brought keyboardist Timmy Carrow from God Johnson out for an awesome jam on "Loving Cup." It started out soft and mellow then quickly took on a bit of a country feel as Oikari went back to sliding around on his lap steel. "Red Sky" was most definitely one of the highlights of the evening with colored spinning lights shattering over the crowd as the boys traded thunder between them. It was like they were painting in layers the way this one built leading up to the jam.

And then came the weirdness, courtesy once again of Andy Miller. Castino and Fladager stepped aside for a moment and Padre got into his effects for a colossal duet with Van De Walker on the drums. Hunter S. Thompson once said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." And things certainly got weird, as we heard a rare vocal jam that morphed into "Minnesota Moon." This one was tight with a bouncing bass groove and a crowd sing-along. It really struck me how great it is to be surrounded by so many dear old friends that I've met through this music. The biggest surprise of the evening hit us next when instead of taking an encore break they broke out Neil Young's "Heart Of Gold." It seemed that there were some PA issues as they finished this one up and tried to go into "Jazz 88." Time was getting short but they still managed to squeeze in a nice high energy jazz funk jam.

But then in the classic style of a rock band that just doesn't want to quit, they segued right into Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone." Van De Walker got a little wild singing this one, and they really rocked it out right up until the house lights came on and they had to stop. They gave everything they could for every minute that they could and still wanted to play more. But that's all there was and we were ushered out into the night and onto further adventures.

The Big Wu :: 12.31.08 :: Trocaderos :: Minneapolis, MN
Two Person Chair, Rhode Island Red, Kick In The Head, The Wheel, Pinnacle, Dog's Dead, Southern Energy, Cheers, Loving Cup, Red Sky, Minnesota Moon, Heart Of Gold, Jazz 88, Like A Rolling Stone

Listen to the show on Archive.org

JamBase | Wu-Hoo
Go See Live Music!

http://www.thebigwu.com/

[Published on: 1/15/09]

Take full advantage of all JamBase has to offer by signing up for an account!


You'll receive

show alerts

when your favorite artists announce shows, be eligible to enter contests for

free tickets

, gain the ability to

share your personalized live music calendar

and much more. Join JamBase!



 
 

Comments

MaseBase starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 11:41AM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

MaseBase

Uhh! I miss the Wu... growing up in the midwest, the Big Wu was the best thing we had. I haven't seen then since I left years ago

msudtg Thu 1/15/2009 11:45AM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

msudtg

man... I was debating between the big wu or wookiefoot... and choose wookiefoot because of the cabooze being right next to lightrail... which means more drinking... but im not sure that I made the right call... but big wu has been playing more shows recently... maybe they'll be at 10klf again this year!

DAMONCORY starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 12:09PM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

DAMONCORY

We had a great time guys! The 15$ VIP upgrade was a great deal too. Im Not sure if I could have hung in with the youngsters on the floor? I always love the crowd at a Wu show. See ya next time. Is there going to be a Family reuinon this year?

DAMONCORY starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 12:19PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

DAMONCORY

By the way, Good review!

Ilikephish531 starstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 12:19PM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
DAMONCORY Thu 1/15/2009 12:27PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

DAMONCORY

^You like the whole place to be packed like the pit? It was plenty full.

Its called fire code capacity.

C00lmike Thu 1/15/2009 12:31PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

C00lmike

I gotta agree with ilikephish, this wasn't the best Wu show I've ever seen, that's for sure. God Johnson's set was better, and it pains me to say that, 'cause I LOVE the Wu...

C00lmike Thu 1/15/2009 12:36PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

C00lmike

Plus, Trocaderos is one of the worst venues I've ever been to, hands down...

Long live the WU!

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 12:40PM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

RothburyWithCheese

Awesome!!! These guys need to play some fests this summer.

Ilikephish531 starstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 01:19PM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
DAMONCORY Thu 1/15/2009 01:54PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

DAMONCORY

10-4. I thought it was pretty good, I did leave a little early though. We didnt want to have to stand in the cold waiting for a cab for an hour or two. It was damn cold!

theguykeator Thu 1/15/2009 03:08PM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

theguykeator

Good Review. Sounds like GJ's set was pretty stacked. I like Trocaderos btw, good sound, good views of the stage and good drink specials.

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 04:00PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Chaloupka

I miss the Wu too. Sounds like it was a fun night!

thatonewhowas starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 04:26PM
+6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

thatonewhowas

Thanks to everyone who attended. Curious why the venue was the worst ever? $3 summits, accomodated +18, bouncers who "looked the other way". The only complaints were heard were the line was too long outside the door. It was at capacity. We could not allow anymore people in the venue.

Hopefully it was a fun party and a great way to ring in the New Year. A lot of people worked hard to make it a fun night.

Peace and good music in 2009!

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 05:05PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Chaloupka

^^You rock Jason! Bring the Johnson to Colorado!!

Ston starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 05:48PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

As a music fan, give em a break, eh? They have rarely played as a 5 piece in several years and, as a teacher, maybe we should really be thankful for the cause of this show...raising money for instruments. Public school funding is continually cut so no need to bash 5 guys that have their priorities straight. Recently drove by the House of Wu and it brought back some great memories!

Rasta21 starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 06:11PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

One correction to make: I said that it was Terry V getting wild on the lyrics with Like A Rolling Stone. In fact it was Dean Magraw.

Hope you liked it, there's more to come!

mrblazer15 Thu 1/15/2009 07:46PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

mrblazer15

sounded like the a sick time. i missed out because i didn't want to wait a hour in line but Gj is the sickest band eva and i'm starting a petition to bring them back to the cabooze on weds.

krizaster Thu 1/15/2009 08:09PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great review! I haven't seen the Wu since the last reunion, but I'm glad that they have been playing as a five piece again. There is just something special that I love about this band (besides the fact that I'm from the midwest). Great songs, great vibes, long live the Wu indeed!

theguykeator Thu 1/15/2009 11:28PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

theguykeator

Whats your plan Mr. Blazer, I was a wed night regular and am down with the idea!@

Radio Ryan starstarstarstarstar Fri 1/16/2009 06:57AM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Radio Ryan

The devil's in the details, my friends. It felt GREAT to be around Wu Family again. It's just like a favorite food; the longer you wait to eat it, the more you appreciate it when you finally have it again. I think the Wu will be playing more this year. 4/18/09 is already scheduled at The Cabooze (which is 4/20 weekend, of course).

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Fri 1/16/2009 08:52AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Chaloupka

Big Wu and God Johnson need to go on tour together!!! Or maybe at least a mini tour through Colorado??? )

Nuts starstarstarstarstar Fri 1/16/2009 09:16AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Nuts

Definetly a solid performance. In my option, 3 steps up from the Thanksgiving show. I love the Wu and I hope they play more this year. Their originals are some of the best.

Side Note - Next Year's WYE should be at the Orpheum or 1st Ave. Trocaderos was way too small. I found myself with people lines in front of me and behind for most of the night

Vega Productions starstarstarstarstar Fri 1/16/2009 10:48AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Vega Productions

I second that - Roy Wilkins maybe???

DAMONCORY Fri 1/16/2009 10:58AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

DAMONCORY

I dont get it either? I think Trocaderos is a good spot & the sound is very good. Glad to see they are having more "jam" music, of course 1st ave. is still the best.

Looking forward to the G.J. Appetite For Destruction Valentines day show!

kirby3482 starstarstarstar Fri 1/16/2009 10:59AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

kirby3482

Sounds like I missed a rager - been a tough year for me on the concert money front....

Glad to hear the Wu are back and tight - last time I saw them it was at the Cedar, and they seemed a bit ragged. I feel like I have grown up on these guys and have loved them for about 10 years or so. Lots of great memories, and it sounds like a lot more to come! good stuff!

Nuts Fri 1/16/2009 11:19AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Nuts

Trocaderos is a great venue with great sound quality. I just thought it was too small for this size of crowd. What I should've done was bought a VIP ticket so I could've had alittle space to groove out. Oh well, live and learn. Peace

Littleo starstarstarstar Fri 1/16/2009 12:29PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Haven't seen Big Wu in a long time, sounds like a great cause. Remember when they opened the 1st Bonaroo? That was a nice way to kick it off.

Hurls starstarstarstar Fri 1/16/2009 04:54PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Hurls

Time to get it back together boys and hit the road a bit. I am dying to see my old friends play again! Colorado, here you come?

JerryBoognish starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/20/2009 12:32PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Nice review Ross!

Thoughts on the venue- I have always enjoyed my experiences at Trocs. Sure, they could have handled the line better, but other than that the sound was great, beer was cheap, and security didn't have sticks up their butts.

Thoughts on the show- got there halfway through The Squirms, the rest of the GJ set was just enough to get everyone's juices flowing. Managed to sneak up front before the Wu came on, found some friends and boogied all night long. Of the 4 Wu shows I caught in '08, this was by far the best.

Flad has begun BWFR X talk on the Wu's facebook group, check it out http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=46215703338

mychalg Sat 1/24/2009 11:20AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Rock on Wu! Come back to Chicago, please, or even better the Clearwater Theater in Dundee!!

thatonewhowas starstarstarstarstar Fri 2/13/2009 03:30PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

thatonewhowas

Hey Kidz. Please spread the word. The Big Wu is back as a 5 piece and has announced tour dates as well as the 10th Annual Big Wu Family Reunion in Harmony Park (BWFRX)!

Please check: thebigwu.com/bwfr for more information!

Psst...pass it along!

JFlad