The Cookie Dusters
Northeast Tour | 05.30 - 06.01, 2002

Well, I don't know what to really say or how to start, because all three performances pretty much left me speechless. I can say that I was one of the VERY lucky few to be in attendance at all three of these incredible events.

Although my mind is still boggled nearly 33 hours after the last show (which ended at 3:30am) I will attempt to describe what I experienced. At this time, I am still trying to comprehend what actually happened on May 31st (the second show of the run). Magic was definitely in the air that night, the spirit of music's incredible potential was flowing, and the Cookie Dusters were tapped in. On the other side of the coast, on the same night, (and possibly at the same time) you had Page McConnell joining Trey Anastasio, and let's not forget Phil & Friends laying it down hard at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, my old stomping grounds during the Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia Band era.

05.30.02 | The Trocadero Theater | Philadelphia, PA

Basically, I don't even think many of the songs they played had a name, and most of the night was plain old hard-core instrumental jamming madness. Picture a very solid rock n’ roll background beat going on, with a heavy tempo powered by the two drummers; Joe Russo originally of Fat Mama, and now performing in the amazing, The Marco Benevento & Joe Russo Duo, and The Ally drummer Mike Greenfield. Bassist Ira Tuton, also from The Ally, was holding down the thumps and bumps; while Eli (no last name known, just Eli) was on second guitar, keys and bass, and perhaps a few other things. On top of this solid rock/jam background, you had Al Dimeola and John McLaughlin all rolled into one in the form of one Jon Gutwillig, laying it down, one long string of ripping solos after another, and every once in a while stopping to lay down some rhythm and let the Eli take the lead. To everyone's delight this went on and on and on, with only a few breaks that I guess count as the end of one song and the beginning of another. It was like some grand rock-fusion experiment. I really don't know if the music fits into any one genre, except the very broad umbrella of the “jamband,” and that can mean just about anything.

Set two started with one long monstrous 42 minute jam; I don't know if it was one song not, but 36 minutes after they started playing, I looked at my watch in disbelief that this insane jam was still continuing with no signs of slowing down. I was lucky enough to be on the rail for the second set, so there was nobody in the way of my view of the band.

After that, they stopped twice more during the set, so it might have been only three songs. At one point they were joined by Chris Shepherd of the Sound Sensation, who threw in several solos during one of the songs. They came back an encored with a bouncy version of David Bowie's “Young Americans.”

There was even a beautiful moment when the band stopped (and if they had stayed stopped, we all still would have been very happy) and in classic form, about two seconds later, kicked right back into it with Jon laying down a short but sharp solo. At this point they brought the music to a stop, and that was it. I forgot to check my watch at the beginning and the end of the concert, but I would say three hours plus, including the break. At least two full hours of Jon's incredible guitar soloing.

We (my best friend Amy and me) ran into Jon the next day as he was pulling into the Conduit. We just happened to be walking through, and he saw us and waved. We went over, and he asked us what we thought. We both said it was sounded excellent, some really great jamming stuff, etc.

I mentioned that they reminded me of Particle, a really good up-and-coming band that plays all instrumentals (you'll be hearing about them soon). I asked Jon if he had heard their music, and he said he had heard of them but hadn't heard their music. The reason I mentioned this is because Particle is really the only band I could think of that had this kind of "nothing but jam" concept. Once Jon hears how good Particle is, he will hopefully know how much of a compliment I intended to pay him. (OK, free plug for Particle, and any possible upcoming Cookie Dusters shows.)

The Cookie Dusters, from a conceptual and musical standpoint, can be pretty closely compared to what Particle has going on: serious, serious jamming. So hopefully that will give everybody a frame of reference, in case no Cookie Dusters tapes get out (more on that later).

As Jon left us to walk into the Conduit, he said they would be doing different stuff that night. I said we were looking forward to it.

05.31.02 | The Conduit | Trenton NJ
(billed as Jon Gutwillig on both ticket and venue)

The Cookie Dusters did the same sort of thing as they did the night before, although I am fairly sure that they were all different songs. There were several songs with a saxophone player and others with a trumpet player, and maybe both together, I don't know. I didn't recognize anything from the night before.

That being said, this night was magnanimous. This show, for reasons unknown to me other than its mind-blowing effect, was unquestionably the best of the three.

That night was simply beyond belief. I haven't seen jamming like that since the Jerry Garcia Band was on the scene. (I think the Jerry Garcia Band and the other, many incarnations of Jerry's bands - Grateful Dead included, of course - together all rank as the best bands of all time, so that is where I am coming from.)

Anyway, I don't know how to describe this night. The New Jersey Nets were in the finals, and that apparently resulted in a very small crowd (and me on the rail for the whole night). Very intimate setting, and Jon absolutely sizzled. The magic that Jon pulled out of his guitar that night was simply unbelievable; too good to be true. And that is what it is all about. There was magic in the air on May 31st, and like I mentioned earlier, these guys were tapped in and the tap was flowing.

I hope tapes of this show make it out. I heard of one guy who got in late and taped with stealth equipment, and I thought I saw one taper at the Trocadero, but I am not sure. Nor do I know about the third night. I didn't look to see if there were tapers.

06.01.02 | Galapagos | Brooklyn, NY

Galapagos has a very, very small stage - one foot raised up from the floor. This show was more like the first night. Several of the songs played the first night were played again. They also did some interesting covers that evening: “Girls, Girls, Girls” by the Beastie Boys; a Police song with changed lyrics apparently resulting from a late night drinking binge the previous evening; and “Young Americans” again.

The one thing that was extra special for me this night was that I was up front the whole night again. That basically meant I was standing about 24 inches from Jon the whole evening. My jaw remained in dropped mode for the entire show as I watched him play, so close that I could see EVERYTHING. Almost too intense.

The show, which started around 12:00 to 12:30, ended at 3:30am. It was very nice to see Jon tear it up with a different type of band than the Disco Biscuits.

It was like the difference between the Jerry Garcia Band and the Grateful Dead. Both bands rocked, yet Jerry Band was nothing but Jerry jamming his ass off with no one holding him back. Same thing with the Cookie Dusters and Jon.

I would not compare these guys to the difference between Phish and Trey band. As much as I like the Trey Band, they are a different kind of jamband than Phish, the Cookie Dusters and the Jerry Garcia Band. The Cookie Dusters were all about jams and guitar solos all night long. No lengthy horn solos, in other words.

Before the last show, Jon said to me that they were just getting better. I took that to mean that there will be more Cookie Dusters shows on the horizon. I will be looking forward to them, and hopefully, more tapers will make it out next time.

See you on the road!

Mark Kogon
JamBase | East Coast
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[Published on: 6/10/02]

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