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2/9/08 Freebird Cafe,
Jacksonville, FL

Way Back When, Ancient Arms, Push Comes to Shove, Wood and Stone, Voice in My Head, Locket and Key, Family Picture, Rockin' Horse, Living In Babylon, Looking for a Place to Be, Hot Tamale Baby, Love and Gasoline, Mystic Water, Blue Sky, These Are Better Days, I Don't Need a Riddle, Greatest Love of All, I Wish You Love, Conscious Evolution

Encore: This Goes, Temporary Misery

By Hambone Sparklewell

Saturday night, 2.9.08, Jacksonville Beach, Florida

My favorite annual show at my favorite concert venue in the world; 50 yards from the foaming Atlantic, 2 miles from?home,

the Freebird Cafe, owned by the Skynyrd bunch.

Old timey saloon, wraparound balconies upstairs, both inside and out,

wood floors, brick columns and walls, Guiness and Bass on tap at the dark bar off to the side.

A small stage, a gloriously beatup blackface Fender Deluxe amp,

on a folding chair, tiny red jewel gleaming on stand-by,

a battered Strat?leaning at a precarious angle, a fiddlecase, drums, tiny ornate accordion, Martin acoustic and Fender bass, most of the instruments all crooked-like, dinged-up.?

Colorful, fine people gathering, our best friends we never met yet. And a few we knew already.

Donna The Buffalo is late, but they're the best, plainest, blue collar, regular, bunch of musicians you'll see;? they wander onstage late, scratch, splendiferous in their finest Goodwill garb, and proceed to hunker down on their instruments, play all their own music?except the odd surprise.

But, quietly, mostly below the national radar thank goodness, they've turned rock and roll or Appalachian Zydeco into a psychic steam engine of sorts, see, they're rubbing picks on strings and bows on fiddles and letting the dynamics huff and puff, wheeze and shudder, the songs teeter on the brink of some calamity, barely holding together, sorta in tune, they grimace and bear down, and then...well..something might happen.These songs reflect the American stringband tradition of The Band and irie gospeland cowboy Dead and New Orleans snare drum shuffles and Appalachian hollers, and this tiny girl squeezes the accordion on one song and scrapes the fiddle on another, and scratches the washboard with sharpened spoons on a few, then strums the old Martin as she closes her eyes and launches into these songs she wrote; and Jeb never looks at his guitar, closes his eyes, trancedance conjurations,and his left hand wanders the maple neck of his guitar so busilythe maple neck looks like rosewood, and his fingerstyle Jackson Pollock approach?merges rhythm and lead and clucks and clangs and sprangles and jangles like only a Fender guitar plugged straight into a Fender amp can-?and the drummer pounds the pivot pulse with such scrutiny-he's stirring the iron cauldron, the eye of newt and purple fungus,booom-flam-a-boom-boom-bam-anyway-they get to drawing out these propulsive songs, they'll let the bottom drop out and leave only a bonesimple whisper of the song, the mere wisp of the idea of the song, then slowly pump and bob and look up from their hands as it lifts, the snare lifts and the rhythm lifts and with sweetsimple changes and rich refrains that come over you like a fine mixture of fever and the light that leaks from stained glass windows, and the crowd knows every word, and they don't spill much beer on your wife who simply cannot hold still, no one can, it turns out, and all of a sudden as the dynamics lift and the plain drummer quits beating the snare and rolls onto the tom-toms, and the plain cajun fiddling lift starts to lift the fiddle up, and the plain swirling B3 leslie lifts up, and the Fender bass thrums,

and the regular old Fender guitar clangs and pops and climb into a levitating din that's lifting you up, that's irresistable, that's sweeter than I can find keys on this keyboard to describe. And it lasts quite awhile, long enough to forget some things and remember some others, then they land it, maybe sorta crashland it now and then, and like nothing happened, pick another song, and roll up their sleeves and start again. And it will wheeze and huff and clang and teeter, but like rubbing two sticks together, no fancyass stuff, just rubbing good simple sticks together (the band and the fans, if you must know, the music tumbling us all together like the agitator in full wash cycle) this familiar thing happens where a spark meets the kindling and all are warmed by the fire. Or your whites get whiter, colors brighter, or something.So, we liked it quite well, and invite you next time.

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