B List: 10 Bands That Didn’t Escape The ’00s

9. New Earth Mud


[Photo by FiveLowNotes]

The knock on Chris Robinson’s Black Crowes hiatus band was that it sounded like a much more stoned version of The Band. To which I say: I agree. Sure, the psyche- and folk-toned New Earth Mud originals were super mellow at times, and couldn’t hold a candle to the Crowes at their blues-rockingest, but these shows – especially when Paul and Jeremy Stacey were in the band – often delivered the goods. It was great to see Robinson in small clubs again, too, even if songs like the lovey-dovey Katie Dear are queasier in retrospect.

8. Porter Batiste Stoltz (PBS)


It’s not like you won’t see these guys anymore. You’ll probably see them together again, too, in one of the endless combinations of world-class musicians the New Orleans music scene breeds on a nightly basis. But PBS, which according to Porter played its last official show in October 2009, had a tight-knit, yet laid-back chemistry that didn’t feel like just another supergroup getting together to jam for the millionth time on Look A Py Py or Big Chief (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

7. Oshe


Anyone else remember Oshe? When they were on, these upstate New Yorkers sounded like the Headhunters marinated in Radiohead and Pink Floyd. They could veer psychedelic – even ambient – but just as soon jolt you with a screeching guitar progression or get seriously groovy. I had these guys pegged as the next big fusion jamband. Alas…

6. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals


The end of this strong chapter in the output of one David Ryan Adams is exacerbated by the recent death of bassist Chris “Spacewolf” Feinstein. Who knows what’s next for either Ryan or the band, but for a few fun years, the Cardinals seemed to “get” Adams better than any band he’s had in the past, at least since Whiskeytown. At the very least, they’re a crack country-rock outfit, though hardly limited to that idiom. Here’s hoping we haven’t seen the last, with Adams or without.

5. Steve Kimock Band


I love Crazy Engine. Love it. And I’ll open my wallet to see the protean Kimock even if his next project is playing children’s music on contrabassoon – every Kimock group has something resonant. But in the earlier part of the decade, the Steve Kimock Band — the Kimock, Rodney Holmes, Mitch Stein combo, with at various points Arne Livington, Alphonso Johnson and/or Jim Kost – was a spellbinding ensemble, towering in its musicianship and magical in its improv. Few shows have ever hypnotized me like theirs used to circa 2002-2004.

4. Derek Trucks Band?


We know it’s on hiatus, but is the Derek Trucks Band over and done with? A lot of insiders seem to be saying so, though neither Trucks nor his bandmates have confirmed as much. If it’s really the end, what a run it was. If the DTB could at times feel too clinical and even antiseptic, they could also dig deep – really deep — into any number of styles. With all due respect to singer Mike Mattison, it was often their dazzling instrumental showcases that had the most fireworks.

3. Addison Groove Project


I have a soft spot for Addison – they were my college band, on the up-and-up in local clubs during my years at Boston University, and gigging mostly on weekends – and bassist John Hall’s death in 2004 deeply affected me. I also still feel like they could have “made it”– they were just grabbing national attention around that time – but I’m content with happy memories. Among my fondest: numerous ragers at the Paradise in Boston (including 10/16/04, the night we thought all was lost for the Red Sox and the opening act was a just-arriving Hasidic Reggae Superstar), a 5/22/04 Hartford show with Hall joining in for the Beat Me Til I’m Blue encore in his last public appearance with the band, and the megawatt Vermont throwdown on 4/3/04 that drew in Trey, Fishman and Jen Hartswick as guests.

2. Phil Lesh Quintet


What heady times these were, the 2000-2003 run of the mighty Q: his Philness, uncle Warren, fleet-fingered Jimmy Herring, Molo on the kit, Barraco on the twinkling keys. I loved how streamlined it was, too: five members, those brilliant harmonies between Lesh, Haynes and Barraco, nightly journeys and plenty of head-cutting with the Herring-Haynes tandem, and some of the most flavorful excursions of the post-Jerry era of Grateful Dead music. Argue all you want: these guys were the best, and on a particularly good night, could hit the most fiery peaks and get into some deep, deep space. I savor my favorite Q bootlegs (4/29/01, 7/14/01, 11/21/01, 4/4/02 with Derek Trucks, 7/12/02 also with Derek, to name just a sampling) like drams of single malt scotch.

1. The Codetalkers featuring Col. Bruce Hampton


Quite simply one of the most musical, unpigeonhole-able and wonderfully quirky bands I’ve ever known. Bobby Lee Rodgers – a brilliant, criminally underrated and amazingly prolific songwriter and player – and Col. Bruce were a heavenly match. I think they lost a step after Hampton left the group; Rodgers was even better when he had an improvisational foil and didn’t have to carry the band on his own. When the band brought a-then-between-gigs Jimmy Herring on the road with them in 2005, it was a nightly master class, and I kick myself for not attending more of those shows.

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10 Responses

  1. I think it’s a mistake to attribute to Phil Lesh any desire to “make it” with his bands. He publicly decided to throw some musicians together and see what happens; changing lineups was part of the fun. The (disastrous) SOB’s shows in April of ’07 are, to me, the best evidence that he wanted to explore more than settle. Had he wanted to put together a longer-lasting lineup, he could have offered some competitive long-term contracts, and it’s doubtful they would have disappeared. We could collapse P&F and PLQ into one band and decide if the rotating lineup wasn’t detrimental to developing something coherent that everyone could invest in.

  2. @Ben Heckscher

    You raise a good point: Phil never stated intentions to go long with any of his bands, and in interviews throughout the decade, his consistent message was that he enjoyed the thrill of, yes, putting a group together and seeing if it could wring out some magic.

    I separate out these two ensembles from all of the other PLF lineups — you can count something like 20 different groups since 1999 depending on how technical you want to get about lineup changes — because each transcended the experiment and developed a real personality as a band. Each evolved and matured, so to speak, from its initial gigs.

    By the time the Q went on the road in 2002, for example, they — at least to me — had a command, a chemistry and a groupthink more accomplished than any Dead group of the post-Jerry era. I don’t think they’ve been matched, by a Phil group or otherwise. It’s a chemistry thing: Q shows could be transcendent, and yet, when Warren and Jimmy both toured with the Dead in 2004, the shows often lumbered along and were just never quite fluid.

    What I’d hoped to illustrate in picking the Q for a list like this is that something clicked about that collection of those five guys, with that setup, playing Dead music. I think the same happened, to a lesser extent, with the 2007-2008 group, too. I admire Phil’s determination to keep changing things up, experimenting with new combos because he believes the music can be served in infinitely variable ways. He’s also an old man; why commit to one grouping ever again when he spent nearly half his life doing exactly that and succeeding at it?

    It’s more a selfish observation on my part: I got a lot out of both of these groups and part of me is sad I’ll never get to see either reach its full potential.

  3. Damn, I just saw Porter, Batiste, and Stoltz in September. Didn’t realize they had broken up. I think you’ll see them in some incarnation sooner or later. They played close to 3 hours nonstop that night. I wore out from dancing before they stopped.

  4. My favorite band that didn’t make it from the 2000’s was Cool Water Canyon from Santa Barbara. I saw them open for Strangefolk one night and ended up going to thirty-odd shows in SoCal. Great rhythm section, decent guitar licks, great harmonies and a singer that could sometimes channel Van Morrison. They would have the whole room dancing early, and it would turn into a sweaty mess by shows end. Plus, the women in Santa Barbara are in the top five on the list of hottest women in the US.

  5. As an Atlantian The Codetalkers original line up with White Horse on Bass was phenom. A couple of other favorites that will be sorely missed: Barefoot Manner and Gran Torino

  6. the best Codetalkers line up was DEFINITELY POST-Bruce. I had to Google him to figure out why he was even on the stage with somebody as talented as BLR. To me, he was a drunk asleep on a stool. Otherwise, i agree with your placing them #1 on the list.

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