Sunday, September 25, 2011

Robert Randolph and the Family Band

It's that time of year again, end of the summer in Nashville, and that means Live On The Green is back. This year, the free outdoor live concert series boasted a less than stellar line up, but this week was the standout. I was excited to see the good ol' Family Band again, as well as interested in the other bands playing.

I arrived a couple of songs into Moon Taxi's set. They are from Nashville, and I haven't seen them since the Windows On The Cumberland days, but I had heard their new song and it had been stuck in my head all week. These guys really have come a long way in those couple of years. Their funky jam-pop was polished, and their singer's voice made the whole thing sound like what would happen if Kings Of Leon smoked a bone and just chilled out a little.

The next act was introduced as being "voted Knoxville's best band three years running", which to me was like being voted best chicken plucker, probably not a huge amount of competition. I guess you have to factor in the amount of fratties and such amongst the voting fan base. Within the first fifteen seconds of the first song, it was obvious that this was a blatant Black Crowes rip off. It was like if the Crowes replaced Chris Robinson with John Mellencamp, in both singing and songwriting, but Mellencamp still tried to emulate Robinson. I was overwhelmed with cheese ball lyrics about small towns, diners, work on the docks and the like, and the rest of the band was so vanilla and bland that it made Bruce Springsteen look like the Jimi at Woodstock. I say if they play LOTG again for the next two years, they would get my vote for worst band three years running.

Finally Robert Randolph and the Family Band came out, starting with R.R. ripping of a pedal steel solo that already made me forget about the previous band's rubbish. Once the rest of the Family Band kicked in, the party was on. Their jammy funk is a lot like another popular rock family, that of Sly Stone, but with more drawn out jams, and of course the insanely talented front man on the pedal steel guitar. Randolph's chops are up there with Stevie Ray Vaughn and Duane Allman, and the rest of the band hangs right in there, often trading instruments and shining. The whole thing is like a huge party at church, with tons of energy and six dollar beers.

The thing about this night was that the Family Band started off so strong, there wasn't really anywhere else to go. After the first few songs, to me at least, it just kind of became background music as I started to run into friends and socialize more. It was rockin', don't get me wrong, and a lot of the crowd was going nuts, but by the time the clock struck ten, I had been there for almost four hours and I was ready to go. It was indeed a successful Live on the Green, and I'm excited for at least one more pretty good one.

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