We'll Do It Live

Chris Robinson Brotherhood

05.16.11 | San Francisco, CA

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CRB by John Margaretten

Better and better, by and by.

This thought seizes me early in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood‘s first set. It doesn’t just occur or pop into my dome, but it grabs me somewhere inside, reminding me with a semi-playful tug why Robinson and those he collaborates with are worth one’s time and money. There’s the appealing surface stuff to this new-ish band – a Grateful Dead friendly vibe, a smidge of right good California country, weaving & unruly guitars, lil’ blue-eyed soul, original material that’s a good stretch from The Black Crowes but imbued with its own heady charms – but what’s more significant with the Brotherhood is the collective intention and spirit of this music, right down to where they’ve chosen to birth it – i.e. smallish venues up & down California. There’s a patient intimacy built into the Brotherhood, and the mostly full houses they’ve played to have been largely filled with folks eager to ramble and evolve with them (that sure seemed the feeling in the room at this Independent show). It’s an uncommon relationship both for these times and for a well-established rock star like Robinson, but the dividends are surely paying off.

Thick into the second set, already rattled nicely by strong readings of originals “Someday Past The Sunset” and “Tulsa Yesterday” as well as standout covers of O.V. Wright’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” and Dylan’s “Tough Mama” in the first set, I felt the current grow even stronger, a wobbly-legged, green feeling crawling over me – rock moss of a sort. I still find myself vaguely amazed at how moved and tickled four shades of pink Robinson’s music makes me after more than 20 years of following his movements intently.

But he doesn’t do it alone, and hearing the full band version of early acoustic solo number “Reflections On A Broken Mirror” made me appreciate even more what Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Adam MacDougall (keys, vocals), George Sluppick (drums) and Mark “Muddy” Dutton (bass, vocals) bring to the table. These guys seem to get Robinson – quirks, curiosities and all – and he comes off more relaxed onstage these days. ‘Chemistry’ about covers it for a descriptor but it’s chemistry tangible to those facing the stage, too. It’s fun to see them muscle through passages that don’t flow immediately, to bounce around ideas, and even attempt to find what life remains in a well-worn chestnut like “Blue Suede Shoes.” Not all of it works but it’s a blast to watch them wrestle this thing to the ground (or just as often, give it wings), so who the fuck cares if everything isn’t fireworks and cherry pie? This is a fine rock band getting their legs under them. It’s clear we’re nowhere near the end of their potential, and hopefully the stars smile on them and we get a studio album and a lot more growing-in-the-moment on stages countrywide in the days ahead.

The Brotherhood is taking a much needed break but plays a handful of Northern California dates in late June, starting 6/25 in Grass Valley. Then, the group heads out of state for the first time in late July, starting an eastward run in Milwaukee, WI on July 26th. Find full tour schedule here.

Fortunate for the Impound, our buddy with a camera John Margaretten was at this gig to snap some cool images for us to share.