Golden Gate Gramble II | 08.22 | S.F.

Words by: Justin Gillett | Images by: Dave Vann

Golden Gate Gramble II :: 08.22.09 :: Mezzanine :: San Francisco, CA

The Gramble :: 08.22 :: San Francisco
When San Francisco experiences a rare day of high temperatures masses of people take to the parks and streets to escape buildings that are typically without air conditioning systems. Hipsters flock to Dolores Park, hippies to hippie hill, crack heads to The Tenderloin, and so on. On Friday August 28, the first day of Outside Lands (read the review here), the heat was stifling and caused many festival-goers to seek shade during the day while eagerly anticipating the cool night to come. When the music in the park ended, due to the strictly enforced 10 p.m. noise curfew, festival revelers with no intention of sleeping headed downtown to Mezzanine for the second annual Golden Gate Gramble. The lineup featured a who's who of Bay Area jammers including ALO, Tea Leaf Green guitar player Josh Clark's side project Counter Clarkwise, the Beck cover band New Fangled Wasteland and a large amount of surprise guests. While there is no solid definition of the word "gramble," one of the founders of the musical event, Greg Loiacono of The Mother Hips, has said a gramble is "an undefinable word and or action." However ambiguous that definition may be, all who showed up for the second annual Gramble undoubtedly came away from the amazing show with their own unique understanding of what the word means.

Beck cover band New Fangled Wasteland played first, and is comprised of bassist Steve Adams (ALO, Big Light), drummer Dave Brogan (ALO), freelance guitar extraordinary Chris Haugen and Trevor Garrod (Tea Leaf Green) on keys. For a side project/cover band, New Fangled Wasteland is as tight and just as apt to carry on musical improvisation as any of the members' respective main bands. The group typically started off a Beck song and drifted into an extended jam that saw all the musicians playing with such commitment and skill that it's unfortunate the band only plays special engagements; a fact that makes their rare performances something to truly appreciate. Haugen's guitar style really added to the overall musical palette, especially on "Earthquake Weather," "Farewell Ride" and "Mixed Bizness."

ALO :: 08.22 :: San Francisco
Up next was Counter Clarkwise, a band formed on a whim after Stephen Perkins of Jane's Addiction suggested the name to Josh Clark while the two were touring together with Region of Darkness. With a constantly revolving cast of musicians that has included Steve Molitz (Particle), Steve Adams and Reed Mathis (TLG), Clarkwise is used as a vehicle for Clark stay busy when his time isn't consumed with Tea Leaf. The musical endeavor also provides an avenue for Clark to do some musical lampooning. Coming from the "jam scene" and living in San Francisco, Clarkwise songs like "Condescending Hippy" and "Ninja Hipster" seem to act as an outlet for Clark and playing the songs to a hometown audience is a form of therapy. While at its core, Counter Clarkwise is a country rock group, there are occasional bouts of psychedelia and free form jam that really highlight the ensemble's varied talents.

When ALO took the stage, vocalist and key master Zach Gill tried to offer his understanding of what a gramble is: "[It's] some sort of combination of grinning and rambling," although noting that his definition is still open for interpretation. Gill was in no rush with ALO, telling the crowd that the music was going to go extremely late into the night. Due to the lack of consistent touring in the past two years, the group has spent less time together as the ALO collective in recent years, instead, opting to invest time into individual solo and side projects. ALO has apparently been working on new material, though, and played some of the new songs this night. At one point, keyboards were brought out for Adams and Lebo, typically the bass player and guitarist of the band, and an electronic drum pad was carted out for Brogan. With the electronic instruments in place, the band went into an interesting version of "Girl I Want To Lay You Down." The song sounded like the end result of a lot of Kraftwerk listening, and acted as a live PA version of the ALO classic. A cover of Steely Dan's "The Fez," off the studio kings' 1976 gem The Royal Scam, was a surprise treat. Around 2 am, as the group left the stage, the crowd looked uncertain yet extremely hopeful for the annual gramble to come.

Adams, Garrod, Gill - Grambling :: 08.22 :: San Francisco
Opening up the gramble section were keyboardists Gill and Garrod, who shared keys and vocal duties on Kenny Rogers' time-honored classic "The Gambler," a truly deserving song to start off the set. With a nonstop rotation of musicians coming and going during the gramble it was hard to keep track of who was playing. All the members of New Fangled Wasteland came out and played "Devil's Haircut" and "Scarecrow," once again highlighting the underrated guitar talent of Chris Haugen.

Next out was Big Light, a band that has received much attention in the Bay Area and beyond over the past year. Going through several lineup changes, Big Light has been scaled back to a tight-knit four piece, including Steve Adams on bass. Big Light's guitarist Jeremy "Swordfish" Korpas has really grown into his own as a lead six-string shredder. When Eric McFadden and New Monsoon's Jeff Miller came onstage and picked up guitars many musicians would have been intimidated, but Swordfish rose to the occasion and met his peers with fierce, confident playing.

Artist-at-large Charles Gonzalez came out at one point to lend vocals to The Modern Lovers' "Pablo Picasso." With a ragtag cast of performers onstage, Gonzalez seemed to perfectly capitalize off the anything-can-happen mentality of the gramble. Also noteworthy was a bluegrass themed cover of Radiohead's "Creep" some time before 4:00 am, when the night wound down after an exhausting display of grambling.

Continue reading for a few more pics of the Golden Gate Gramble II...

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