Vince Welnick and Jack Straw
Griffin's Public House | Chicago | 03.25.02
So there I was, Sunday night at Beatle Jam in Chicago, watching Vince Welnick play in the tribute to the Beatles with Jazz is Dead and Blue Floyd. And right before Vince plays his final set with the All-Star Jam, he announces to the crowd that he has decided to play the following evening with his friends, Chicago-based jamband favorites Jack Straw! And better yet, it's going to be a free show at Griffin's, the heart of hippie-central in Chicago. This was going to be some night!
And what a night it was. The show was advertised for 8pm, which was cool because a lot of us had to work on Tuesday morning. The guys took the stage around 8:30 and opened with Barry from Jack Straw singing a soulful rendition of one of Jerry's favorites, "I Shall Be Released." As the guys started playing, above where they were playing on the TV screens Griffin's had a copy of the Dead's Two From the Vault DVD showing, with Vince playing in '91 at RFK Stadium. Vince got a kick out of that, and so did all of us! Watching him on screen playing in the Grateful Dead, and then looking down and having him right there was just too much! Very surreal. But, back to the music...
I'm not going to review every song, because there were just too many, with many guests sitting in (Paul and Mark from Mr. Blotto, Gary Gibula from The Schwag, John Sabal from Hacknwheeze, and Kevin Rosen from Dark Star Orchestra). It was truly an all-star lineup of our local rock musicians! Vince and the guys from Jack Straw did an awesome version of "Shakedown Street", with a fantastic vocal jam that had Barry eventually leading the guys into a "Vince Welnick on Halsted Street" vocal groove that really got the crowd going. Then it was Vince's turn to showcase one of his Dead classics, "Long Way To Go Home." Once again the guys seemed as if they'd been playing together for years, and the vocals were right on! Ben Wilson (Jack Straw bassist) then kicked it up a notch with his take on "Ramble on Rose", and the set closed with a great version of "Don't Ease Me In", with some great four-part harmonies. It was about 9:45pm, and the night was well under way!
The second set started about 30 minutes later, and the guests started to arrive. Paul from Mr. Blotto joined in on acoustic guitar and vocals, and the guys covered The Band's "The Weight" to get things rolling. Then the roof came off! Vince started in on his keyboards and the familiar notes of The Who's "Baba O'Reilly" came flying at us! Barry added a second keys part under Vince's, and you'd have sworn Roger Daltrey was going to walk in any moment and start swingin' his microphone in the air! But who needed Roger, when we have Vince! This man's vocal talents never, ever were truly taken advantage of in the Dead as I feel they could have been. This guy really knows how to sing. He also treated us to his other Dead favorite, "Samba in the Rain", which he joked that Jerry never really figured out how to play that one. The night continued with the guests as Gary Gibula from The Schwag came up on bass for a couple tunes, including "Dark Hollow", which had Jon Gram playing some nice guitar under Vince's and Barry's melodic keys. Kevin Rosen (Dark Star Orchestra) then took his turn on the bass for a funky and rocking "Scarlet Begonias", which turned it up a notch again! It was then Mark Hague (Mr. Blotto and Hacknwheeze) who joined the guys for a cool and trippy version of "Chinacat Sunflower/I Know You Rider." It was only 10:45 when Barry announced that Vince was up for playing, so they were going to keep in going with a third set!!!
The guys took another break and then came back for their third set which, quite honestly, was somewhat of a blur to me! (Yes, this "professional reviewer" was partying!) I do remember great renditions of "Boogie On Reggae Women", "Hey Jude", "Dire Wolf", "Drift Away", "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away", "Music Never Stopped", "Quinn the Eskimo", "Funky Bitch" and a show-closing rendition of The Beatles "Helter Skelter" that was out of the world! It was truly a night not to be forgotten. And Mr. Vince Welnick was one of the most kind and approachable beings on earth. His obvious love for Chicago and playing with Jack Straw is apparent, and he assured us he'd be back with, as he said, "my friends Jon, Barry and Ben" as soon as he could.
For anyone that missed this show, all I can say is it's quite a shame because it was something special. And if you are pissed because you didn't know about it, that's what JamBase is for! This show was up on JamBase by early afternoon on Monday, which would have given any loyal JamBase user plenty of time to log-on and find out! So thanks to JamBase, Jack Straw and especially Vince Welnick for giving us one of those truly unexpected and over-the-top musical experiences that makes us the music lovers that we are!
Your ears for the night,
Chicago Music Freak | Loyal JamBase User
Go see live music!