Words by: April Ymbert | Images by: Jordan August
The Bridge :: 01.29.11 :: Rams Head Live! :: Baltimore, MD
When you get past the stereotypical characteristics of any city, you can truly uncover what makes the heart of a metropolis beat. In Baltimore’s case, it’s one band that can take a diverse and unusual cultural and musical landscape and seamlessly join show-goers from every venue sidewalk in the city, regardless of genre boundaries. The Bridge has come to represent a city full of celebrated icons: Old Bay, the Utz potato chip girl, the Chesapeake Bay. Their love for Baltimore is so evident that they incorporated the Key Bridge on the cover of their 5th studio album, rightfully titled National Bohemian (take note of the Natty Boh reference), whose release they celebrated at Rams Head Live!
|Yellow Dubmarine by Jordan August|
The vibe made it evident that brotherly (and sisterly) love take precedent over ego. The Bridge warmly welcomed Yellow Dubmarine to introduce the night, and the crowd was comprised of old and new friends, making borders and scene labels like hippie and bass-head irrelevant. It also marked an occasion where the combination of camaraderie, genuine musicianship, showmanship and technical merit were effortlessly brought together for what could be The Bridge’s most staggering performance to date.
To say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery in Yellow Dubmarine’s case is an understatement. We’ve all heard The Beatles catalogue imitated or butchered, which both take a lot of guts, however, it takes real courage, talent and spirit to masterfully decipher the perhaps chance correlation of The Beatles’ music to an era in Jamaica when reggae was born. These cats have more swag spilling out of their fingers than I was expecting from a group of nine white dudes, but most importantly, they recognize the music of The Beatles in a way which sings true to the spirit of what rock-steady and reggae is all about - independence and progression.
At the start of their set, the familiar bass line thud of “Come Together” drooped out of the speakers accompanied by green laser light billowing through virtual clouds. All clad in gentlemanly attire, paying tribute to the one of The Beatles’ classic looks, black suit and tie with a little modern edge - classic Adidas sported by bassist Aaron Glaser. He pivoted back on his heels with pure delight at the perceptible shift in curiosity and attention from the crowd as the horn section blared, with Patrick Rainey, resident sax alley cat for The Bridge, sitting in, jolted everyone to realize that Yellow Dubmarine had arrived.
| Patrick Rainey by Jordan August|
As they hit the refrain of “You Never Give Me Your Money,” their harmonies were so resonant and precise you could practically see them radiating out of the speakers. These fellas possess all of the crucial components of a well put together ska-outfit, yet they can move gracefully into smooth reggae and jazz on a moment’s notice. "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" was appropriately lead by a female vocalist, her stage presence coy yet her vocals alluring. She was backed with dance hall trumpets, and the room was sparked with laser-light stars.
As the good island feeling lingered, The Bridge took the stage and announced that they’d be playing National Bohemian in its entirety, which meant we’d be hearing some familiar songs that we’d been dancing to like “Rosie,” “Geraldine” and “Colorado Motel,” during the summer nights at the 8x10 and The Bridge’s traditional Thanksgiving throw-down. To top off the monumental night, Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), who produced the new record, added his winning touch to the brass section and wielded an LED tambourine for most of the set. The Bridge never disappoints and always finds a way to one up themselves and to the crowd’s delight they were backed by Yellow Dubmarine’s laser light spectacular.
There were certain parts of the set where it was hard not to notice the magnitude of talent these musicians possess. During “Rosie,” bassist Dave Markowitz’s hands shook due to the sheer force of his fingers on the strings and the flow of energy circulating through the room. As the lasers seized, the crowd was set in a melodic twilight during “A Stranger in My Own Home,” as Cris Jacobs reached his inner tormented blues-hound. He rocked back and forth, his face twisted up and beaded with sweat, as his fingers whisked us away into a dark solo. Looking towards the crowd, hands were held in the air, as if in praise.
|Cris Jacobs by Jordan August|
During “Poison Wine,” Jacobs’ slide work provoked howls from the string strings, juxtaposed by Mark Brown’s keys, which trickled in effortlessly. With a sit-in by Yellow Dubmarine’s horn section, it’s no wonder Kenny Liner reached up to stroke the laser lights like mandolin strings. During the encore, The Bridge seemed to encourage us to dosi-do our hearts out and use as much dance floor as possible. Liner, who also serves as the resident beat-boxer extraordinaire, elevated “14 Days.”
The Bridge was introduced by Erik Deatherage, morning show DJ for 89.7 WTMD, a local public radio station determined to bring people what’s best in music. Usually you can’t wait for the standard introduction to be over and for the music to begin, however, Deatherage managed to say one of the most genuine things about any band I have ever seen play: “They love Baltimore. We love them. The Bridge!”
You usually hear fans talk about how a band is “their band” and how they first discovered them six years ago at some dive bar. Usually these people have merely jumped on the bandwagon. In Baltimore’s case, we can truly say that this IS our band, and we know that’s how they’d want it.
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