taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

Reviews of local & state music CDs 

The RhyThm Devils—Rhythm

Devils Concert Experience Of the multitudes of Grateful Dead side projects over the years, the Rhythm Devils, an alias for the duo of drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, have arguable been the most mercurial. They’ve long been an intrinsic part of nearly every Grateful Dead and Dead-proper performance, but sparse touring and recording have deprived them of the brand power attributed to the likes of RatDog and the Jerry Garcia Band. Fans know of their place in Grateful Dead lore merely through the “Drums” notation on the vast majority of set lists, though others may have heard their percussive explorations from their commission to create the exotic, haunting aural backdrop to Francis Ford Coppola’ Apocalypse Now. While the rest of the main band entered a five-year hiatus, the individual parties set on own their own pursuits and this opened the door for the Rhythm Devils’ 2006 reunion with a few friends in tow. Hart and Kreutzmann recruited guitarist Steve Kimock (the Other Ones), bassist Mike Gordon, jamband vocalist Jen Durkin (Deep Banana Blackout) and Worldbeat percussionist Sikiru Adepoju to round out the band for a handful of shows featuring a collection of new material penned by longtime Dead songwriter Robert Hunter. While it seems like it has all the makings of a supergroup on paper, the final result iss a rather inconsistent mishmash of jam-scene clichés and complacent noodling glossed over with pretty, but distracting, imagery Most of the songs show potential from the outset and the musical chemistry between this group of veterans is quite evident — almost to a fault, in fact. Too quickly do they settle quietly into a groove in which the same patterns, solos and movements appear, and that blueprint iss unfortunately not limited to one or a few tracks. That’s not to say that the music isn’t good, even if it isn’t Hunter’s most outstanding writing job, though “Your

House” is funny and quite charming. The sheer tedium involved throughout, however, is what abates the listening and viewing experience. While the percussive trio is the unquestioned draw after the Dead association, Phish’s Gordon is his usual ploddingly effective self, statuesquely plucking like a bobblehead doll while occasionally breaking the monotony with a variety of interesting bass effects. Kimock seems to mail in his effort through the first half, but picks it up in the latter with some incredible pedal-steel playing. Durkin seems a little lost in the mix, though. Her voice has a delightfully humble quality to it, though too limited to effectively fit into the farreaching scope of the set. If the band’s MO of wash-rinse-repeat didn’t already make it difficult enough to avoid skipping forward, the endless barrage of stock footage used to mask most of the performer’s utter lack of on-stage charisma would certainly do the trick. It takes a hyperactive blend of psychedelic imagery, Golden Age home videos and obscure cartoons and aims directly at the attentively-challenged and chemically enhanced viewer to an effect that it isolates casual viewers and Dead fans that have moved on from those kind of experiential requirements. There’s no question that this particular concert experience is intended for Dead fans and them only, but as one myself I had trouble embracing what was going on for the most part. The markings of a great concert DVD include capturing the sincere interactions between band members and depicting the raw emotion inherent in live performance, but there is very little of that to be found within. It’s quite possible that either the lineup was too “new” to have developed the feelers for organic spontaneity or so “professional” that it hampers their sense of rapport, but it quite often leaves the viewer desperate for something new. 55/100