Melvin Seals Guests With Jerry’s Middle Finger In Vallejo
Los Angeles-based act Jerry’s Middle Finger have steadily built a fanbase across the West Coast with their one-of-a-kind Jerry Garcia Band tribute shows since 2015. On November 14, they finally graced the stage for the first time with the man who powered JGB’s organs himself for 15 years: the one and only Melvin Seals, for a special drive in show at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, California.
With Melvin’s empty Hammond B3 patiently waiting on stage right, JMF kicked off the first set with the Garcia/Hunter original “Rhapsody In Red” followed by oft-covered “Catfish John” and Daniel Lanois’ solemn “The Maker.” The sextet continued with a Jimmy Cliff sandwich starting with “Struggling Man” before Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” and then Cliff’s somber and lilting “Sitting In Limbo.” As fans honked from the sold-out distanced crowd, the set was topped off with Bonnie Bramlett & Leon Russell’s “Lonesome And A Long Way From Home” before closing out the frame with the apt Jagger/Richards rocker “Let’s Spend The Night Together.”
The night’s real magic began when that cosmic B3 organ no longer sat empty. The crowd roared as Seals took the stage for the second set, bringing together two well-respected keepers of the Garcia Band flame into one powerhouse band. It was impressive from the first note and a dream come true for many of those in attendance and certainly for the members of Jerry’s Middle Finger.
Kicking off with the Garcia original, “Cats Under The Stars,” JMF lead guitarist Garrett Deloian and Melvin had instant chemistry. Seals’ powerful, intergalactic organ sound highlighted a high-energy second set as the now seven-person band moved through Garcia/Saunders repertoire classic “Like A Road Leading Home,” and two JGB favorites, “Tore Up Over You” and “They Love Each Other.”
Even when masked faces hid wide smiles, the joy and inspiration was front and center in both body language and in the fierceness and beauty of the musicianship itself. JMF landing that spaceship with Melvin during the solo in next up “Lucky Old Sun” was a moment for the history books, before finishing set two with a raucous “Money Honey,” delicate “Dear Prudence” and appropriately rocking “Midnight Moonlight.”
Fans were sent home with a two-song encore of Jimmy McCracklin & Don Robey’s “Think” followed by a tune that perfectly summed up this musical pairing and the entire evening itself, the Eric Clapton-popularized “See What Love Can Do.”
Fan-Shot Videos (Captured by Ted Silverman)
Set One: Rhapsody In Red, Catfish John, The Maker, Struggling Man, You Never Can Tell, Sitting in Limbo, Lonesome & A Long Way From Home, Let’s Spend The Night Together
Set Two w/ Melvin Seals on Organ: Cats Under the Stars, Like A Road Leading Home, Tore Up Over You, They Love Each Other, That Lucky Old Sun, Money Honey, Dear Prudence, Midnight Moonlight
Encore: Think, See What Love Can Do