A semi-impromptu reunion of the Old Glorys featuring Melissa “Tree” Jackson highlighted the annual outdoor barbeque and block party of Lucky 7, a popular tavern on 2nd and Coles. Because of some prior commitments, I wasn’t able to catch the entire show but of course I made the effort to see the set by Tree, which was originally billed as the debut of Small Batch, her new band of Kentuckians. Clips of them playing have appeared on Facebook, inspiring hopeful expectations. But some last minute scheduling issues for some Small Batch members meant that only Tree would be representing the Blue Grass state, so the Old Glorys were reformed, rising again from The Ashes.
Last year, Tree reunited Any Day Parade for a visit and aninebriated march down musical memory lane. This time, she reunited the Old Glories, lastseen in these parts playing her farewell party, a year earlier.
Tree, a key musician of the Jersey City music scene before there was even a scene, moved back to her old Kentucky home of Lexington two years ago. She looked healthy and happy and sported a deep tan (she started a landscaping company down there in Bluegrass Country).
I blogged about The Ashes here. A fine bunch of musicians, this latest edition is edgier, electrified Americana. Its as if a fiddler and a banjo player wandered off their porch and down the mountain one Saturday night to sit in with the house band at the local biker bar.
The Block Party Old Glorys set was energetic, brisk and very ragged. The band had to compete with absurdly loud generators. There seemed to be two of these deafening gizmos, one near the stage and one near the beer truck, about a ¼ of a block away from the stage. Only about the size of a lawn mower and only two (at least I saw only two), they sounded as if there was about a hundred generators on the street. For the musicians, it was like playing on the tarmac when planes are landing and taking off. You could not escape the sound.
The block party was just that, 2nd street was basically cordoned off with temporary barricades for the afternoon. It was a fun, relaxed scene. Chicken and pork were grilled over charcoals and you could smell the sauce in the thick wafts of smoke. Children played in an inflatable pool.
But the relentless, inescapable roar of the generators echoed between the houses. The music was nice and loud and it drowned out the noise, but the decibel level of the generators was so high that it unnerved, causing an aural discomfort that diminished any sort of listening pleasure. In terms of outdoor production values, this deal was strictly amateur hour.
The musicians told me after the set they couldn’t hear themselves on the stage and it was obvious, and probably accounted for much of the rush of their playing. They were in a hurry to catch up with what they thought they should be hearing. Tree’s voice, already on the hoarse side, was torn to shreds as she shouted over the machinery din. But they rocked out well, a highlight being Drivin You, a ballade made more up-tempo by the accelerated vibe of the set. Sunny Side, the Carter Family classic and the traditional final song of the song of the Old Glorys days, had the crowd singing along some, a few people danced. Always a fun song, the more electrified version was groovy.
Then a surprise, Joe Daly, guitarist with Any Day Parade, came on stage, borrowed a guitar and the encore was an even more impromptu jam, a sloppy but enthusiastic melding two Tree bands (Pat Byrne, drummer with the Ashes was also the drummer with Any Day Parade. They performed an Any Day Parade song (Broken Lamps)? The fiddle player seemed befuddled, the guitarist took the bass and Shane had fled the stage. Tree replaced some lyrics by singing, “I can’t remember the lyrics,” and of course, because of the generators, by then her voice was a raspy shout.
History was made I guess, technically a public jam with two Tree bands. Everyone was laughing, shaking their heads. The final jam was a happy mess. The music stopped and generators filled our ears.
The set had its moments and it was fun, more in concept than reality. A beautiful summer day, no humidity, one of the nicest days of the year. Very sunny, the light was great for taking pictures. So I took a lot of pictures.