Weider, Holmes Impress at the Blind Tiger
It was barely a week before his Saturday date at the Blind Tiger that Jim Weider was jamming the Dead’s “Tennessee Jed” as a part of Levon Helm’s troupe on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Surrounded by talent, as Helm always seems to be, the band itself was a rather peculiar dichotomy of who-played-with-whom. Helm, of course, was an original member of the Band and backed Bob Dylan in his early electric years. On lead guitar, the guy who received the second-most camera time was Larry Campbell, who backed Dylan in his later years. And then there was Weider, who held down guitar for the second coming of the Band, yet seemed a little lost in the shuffle of the 11-piece ensemble crammed onto the tiny Letterman stage. Though it might have taken a little eye strain to catch a glimpse of him then, he was front and center on the Blind Tiger’s stage, backed by a powerhouse band of jazz-fusion masters that made for an interesting complement to his roots and blues upbringing. PRoJECT PERCoLAToR featured several vets of jam scene stalwart SteveKimock’s band, but more than that, they’re all capable of bringing down a house with their individual talents. It may have been Weider’s name on the marquee, and his shredding was admirable in its own right, but there were scene stealing performances all around and one in particular was absolutely jaw-dropping. The comparisons between this show and the Ugly Radio Rebellion performance back in December were quite evident — associates of legendary acts performing to scant audiences of music aficionados with tiny terrors wreaking havoc behind the kit. It was Layla Hall in that case, who was only slightly smaller than drummer Rodney Holmes, but swung just as big of a stick. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is about skillfully-executed jazz fusion that elicits bad dancing among some of its fans; maybe it’s the thumping, yet unstructured grooves that permeate the genre. There is a kind of receive-and-react ethos necessary to get down to it, but what took place front and center at Weider’s show was hands-down painful to witness. Whispers abounded about calling medical personnel to assist in the gentleman’s manic convulsions and all Weider could do was crack a sly grin, while Holmes throttled his kit so expertly that he seemed like a puppet master ambulating with violent brushes and fills. The sparse but gradually-expanding crowd eventually consumed the terrible dancing and the focus rightfully went back to the music at hand, an entirely instrumental collage of reverbed and wahwahed guitar, micro-synth bass lines and some of the wickedest drum work all in attendance had not only heard, but seen.
With a trad grip in his left hand and a French in his right, Holmes hit not only with power, but blinding speed that pushed the quartet’s relentless groove through cuts from Weider’s Percolator and Pulse albums. It speaks volumes as to his sheer ability that he can be surrounded by masters like bassist Steve Lucas and guitarist Mitch Stein and still stand out among them all. With Weider’s long history as the guitarist for the reunited Band, it comes as no surprise that he includes one of their all-times great songs in his sets. An entirely instrumental rendition of “The Weight” stood out in the first set, not simply because it was especially brilliant, though it was excellent; it was memorable simply because it was the only track that 90 percent of the audience could identify. The dub-heavy version relied on Weider’s guitar for the oh-so-familiar vocal melody while Stein laid heavily on the offbeat. Only briefly did they venture outside of the song’s beloved melancholy, but when they did it was as if a brand new piece was inserted snugly within. Holmes once again took off on a rampage while Weider and Stein traded bluesy licks.
It was impossible to believe that Holmes could land squarely on the downbeat after streaking off on a tornadic tangent, but he did without fail and led the band right back into the piece as if they had never left it. It’s merely another all-star cast for Weider, who’s certainly used to being surrounded by obscene talent at this point in his career. Unlike his Letterman performance with Helm, he’s not merely a postscript in an all-star band; he’s front and center leading the charge, though with Holmes seated behind him, he may want to get used to all eyes not being on him.