Concert Sutra Smokin’ With Chris Robinson & New Earth Mud
by terri sapp
Photographs by Leah Yetter
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
After many delays and layovers in the journey between Atlanta, Georgia and Quincy, California, Chris Robinson and the New Earth Mud was the perfect show to get Leah and I relaxed and in the High Sierra mood. My first experience with High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California was full of good times from start to finish. I could not have asked for a better start to our 2004 High Sierra than the New Earth Mud late night show on Thursday night. I do believe I have a new forth of July tradition in this wonderfully laid-back fest!
Once I got my first taste of Chris Robinson and New Earth Mud at Music Midtown in Atlanta, I took notice to the fact that these guys would be offering a late night performance at High Sierra on Thursday, July 1, 2004. These tickets were sold separately from the general festival ticket, so the number of tickets sold was significantly less than the over all tickets. This made for a truly intimate feel that comes once in a lifetime. I can’t say enough how special this show felt. We were lucky to have been a part of the fun(k) (all up in Mr. Robinson’s and Mr. Reiff’s grill)! Other than the obviously fantastic Georgia boy, Chris Robinson, on guitar, lead vocals, among other instruments, there were four extremely talented musicians. Audley Freed on guitar, George Reiff on bass, Steve Distanislao on drums, and Rob Barraco on keyboards rocked and rolled all over the Funk’n’Jamhouse.
How wonderful that they would open the show with Leah’s favorite, “Boney Maroney!” This song is a perfect example of the southern soul that Chris Robinson and New Earth Mud has come to be known for. The drummer is singing backup on some of this, which always impresses me, because I imagine a great concentration has to go into playing drums. Hats off to Steve Distanislao! The bass player, George Reiff, also contributes heavily to the backup vocals. The harmonies are wonderful. The light country twang with a hint of funk always gets the ass going.
After a little psychedelic interlude, “the Mud” gave it up to us on “LA City Limits.” A powerful beat. I absolutely love the musical changes that this song goes through. The progression and movement builds into a very relaxed music break, then a journey with guitarist, Audley Freed. Ultimately, this song is as hardcore (Mud-style) as its namesake. At the end of the song, or I should say at jam time, Chris Robinson turned around to play guitar facing the drums, at which time I caught a glimpse of the moon and star tattoo on his hand between the thumb and pointer finger (see photo gallery). VERY HOT!
If that wasn’t enough to get the ladies going, “got love?” starts, and then it’s all over…”You drivin’ me crazy…I got love if you want it!” OH MY GOD! No finer group of musicians could form such a good feeling song. I know Leah (and the other ladies) would agree. I can’t help the urge to break into the Twist, or the Jerk, or some dance from my childhood that would go along with early American Rock’n’Roll. At the end of “got love?” a girl raised her voice above the very mellow crowd (doesn’t even have to yell it is so intimate) and said, “This is the highlight of my festival, Thank You!” Starting a chain reaction of “ditto!” and “What she said!” I totally agreed!
No show would be complete without a soft, bittersweet lost love bluesy ballad like “Girl On The Mountain,” from the Mud’s first album “This Magnificent Distance,” “She spins the wheel that rolls back the sky…” To think any of these guys ever suffered in love breaks my heart, especially the way Mr. Robinson tells it with such passion. From where I stood (in front of the bass player), I could almost feel the pain coming from the guitar. This guitar player is right on. Mr. Freed along with Mr. Robinson command respect for the skills that they bring. Even though “Girl On The Mountain” is a heartfelt love song, that doesn’t mean they don’t tear it up in the end and leave the crowd moving and wanting more.
Not only was the band smokin’, but the Mud also had a smokin’ bunch of incense burning in an apple, and a boy on side stage holding some of the same. As I took note of the source of the pleasant smell and bit of smoke, a man a few people away from us started complaining to the band and people around him (example of how intimate this show was) about the smoke “killing us (him),” “we’re (he’s) dying,” “we’re (he’s) trying to breathe here” and whatnot. I mean this guy was bitching about a headache, and having the smoke in his face for an hour, blah, blah, blah, and just would not shut up!!! Rob Barraco handled the situation nicely with, “Move back if you don’t like it. If you don’t like it, move away from it. We like it.” But the guy just would not back down. When the guy wouldn’t quit, Chris Robinson took matters into his own hands by moving the apple with, “Are you alright now? For Christ sakes, man, there’s a lot of other shit happening in the world, relax with the incense, I got you.” THANK YOU!!! I was hoping someone would shut this guy up, so the show could continue, and hot damn if that good ole Georgia boy didn’t pull through! I think it was one of those nights (close to full moon) for a few of us. The vibe around High Sierra is SO chill that I was proud of the Mud standing up for their incense. Just before the show, I, myself, was being chastised for being annoyed with the people “sitting on” our tickets (which I don’t play about), but, alas, my name is terri sapp, and I am an unashamed bitch! I thought we should form an ornery club that night! Finally, back to the music (it’s like de’ja’vu’).
For the record, “Eagles On The Highway,” from “This Magnificent Distance,” is about the birds, not the band. Isn’t that sweet! Yes, a lovely performance. “Can we make it on our own? Coyotes in the canyon…” They were not fazed a bit by the annoying audience member right in their face. There are so many genres melted together in this blues-influenced melody. This may be my favorite, hard to say for sure. I love the bass player! He even has a cute face he makes when he gets on a raw jam. The bass player and guitars have several different instruments they switch out. Chris Robinson also plays several percussion instruments as well, including jingle bells, maracas, big bells on a stick, and a tambourine.
“Sunday Sound,” from the “Chris Robinson and New Earth Mud” cd, took me back to the Omni that March night when I finally saw the Grateful Dead. Of course, the Mud has its own special highly funky style, but this song in particular really is undeniably “Deady”…a very happy moment in my night. “just like water on the ground, we will find our way. Well I’d like to dance with you as the band plays on. I’d like to talk with you ‘til dawn.” I LOVE CHRIS ROBINSON & NEW EARTH MUD! Beautiful group of men. Freed’s big wonderfully curly hair and funny faces made for an ever better show! He’s got the skills to pay the bills. During the “dark star” moment before “Mother of Stone,” from “This Magnificent Distance,” Distanislao rocks the drums with a fierce determination. The cow bell keeps the toe a tappin.’ The Mud is such an ensemble, it is hard to imagine life before them! “All you children come along, sing a golden song, Mother of Stone, the war is not over, As the father weeps, about the secrets that he keeps,
Mother of stone, our hearts are not broken…” In the first hours of my trip to High Sierra, Chris Robinson and The New Earth Mud made the trek across the country TOTALLY worth it! If you haven’t heard this song (or any of these for that matter), something needs to happen.
One of the main reasons it’s hard to pick a favorite song is “Ride,” also from the “Chris Robinson and New Earth Mud” cd. Maybe the funkiest of all of their funk. The guitar even has a porn quality, you know, boun ba boun ba boun boun ba boun boun….chicka chi che ka chicka…FUN! Anywho, I love this song. Not that I need any further assistance entertaining impure thoughts standing in the presence of one of my new favorite bands, but this beat’s funky as hell jam, we’ll just say, does not help the situation. I guess the masses agree, because “Ride” was the grand finale at both their late night and Grandstand performances at High Sierra. The next time I see Chris Robinson and New Earth Mud, I will try standing in front of Rob Barraco to feel his full effect. Something tells me it’s a different show from the other side of the stage. I recommend seeing this band several times from different perspectives…that’s our latest plan.
To view the fabulous Ms. Yetter’s photo gallery from the late night Funk’n’Jamhouse show, visit: http://www.concertsutra.com/crnem7104/. For more information, a touring schedule, cool pictures, and to purchase a copy of either or both Mud cds, go to: http://www.newearthmud.net!