Thursday, August 03, 2006

Rusted Root -- Live (2004)

Rusted Root has been awing Pittsburgh audiences with their live shows for decades. They started out doing the Pittsburgh club circuit and ended up playing back-to-back sold out shows all over town in the 90's. I never went to see them back then because, quite frankly, I thought they were just another Grateful Dead knock-off jam band. They've matured since then and grown to embrace solo careers although their hometown band, Rusted Root, binds them still (Jim Donovan a.k.a. J.D. aside).

I went to see them last Sunday and was blown away by two things: the audience and their energy. Perhaps it's because they were playing to a hometown bunch, the same dredlocked, flowing skirt, patchoulli-wearing crowd that launched their career, that evoked such energy. I can't say. Maybe it's the fact that all band members were present for this show (Jenn Wertz occasionally stays home to raise her young son). Or perhaps it was the incredible thunder storm that raged around us as they came on stage. One can't say for sure what makes an incredible performance.

It's great fun to attend Rusted Root shows. The people-watching factor is off the scale with so many fans zoned out on ecstasy and acid, floating and skipping past to the first strains of "Tree" and "Ecstasy" that you can't help but be engulfed in the pure joy of the moment. I could not COMMAND myself not to dance or sway -- the environment breeds it. I'm not the wallflower type to begin with, which helps.

I was surprised, as a new fan, to hear their rendition of Neil Young's "Powder Finger" but felt so-so about the performance for that song. Neil has a way of underplaying the gravity of the lyric that Micheal Glabicki hasn't mastered yet. Still, it was fun to sing along.

The thing that really engages me with the band is their love of family and friends. The backstage area was teaming with well-wishers that have been part of this Root tribe for a long, long time. I watched Jenn Wertz playing with her toddler, Gibson, in the rain puddles and felt the joy shared between them. Michael Glabicki spent time with his son, Tree, and Patrick Norman got to see his parents after the show. Liz Berlin is always a whirlwind of energy, saying "hello" to fans and family alike. I miss seeing J.D. around and his wife Tracy. Tracy lived a few houses down from me on two occasions and we always enjoyed catching up. J.D.'s doing a lot of work with drumming and meditations, his true passions in life.

Rusted Root is touring a lot of college towns and music festivals this year. They're playing the hits and the Roothead favorites across America. I've seen some reviews praising their efforts and some that were left "flat" with their performance. I can say this about the latter: there is more to come, either as solo artists or a band, this story is not quite finished. It's like the ebb and flow of the ocean landing against the shore -- sometimes the sound is quite hypnotic and one can't hear anything else and other times, the boy with the frisbee 10 feet away lends more meaning to the day.

However it plays out, solo or band, ebbing or flowing, this is one CD worth owning. As always, do yourself a favor and go see them live. If anything, you'll be entertained by the Rootheads. They're a great bunch to have around!

If you want to find out more about Rusted Root, check out their web site or the Wikipedia listing. For now, I'll send you on your way.


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