The John Kadlecik Band had chosen an auspicious location for their Western States debut; Quixote’s True Blue, sister of Dulcinea’s Hundredth Monkey and Sancho’s Broken Arrow, is set up as a shrine to the Grateful Dead, with each of the three rooms wallpapered with antique posters, paintings, glass art, and tapestries reflecting the nearly half-century of this music and culture.
They sure don’t short you on the music in this place, either; two stages operate in tandem, so there isn’t really a set break. The outdoor patio stage fires up with local acts, while the headliners take a set break. This was more like a festival than a three-day bar run; the atmosphere was relaxed, the personnel were obviously of the tribe, and there was never a dull moment from early afternoon until closing time at 2:00 am.
The opening act was a surprise to most: Melvin Seals and Ray White of Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, booked late in the game. The presence of these veterans, in a slot usually given to up-and-comers, was itself a profound compliment to the headliners. The two played with incredible chemistry; the smile rarely left Melvin’s face as his fingers flew across the keys at high velocity. Ray is an incredible player and part-time stand-up comic, rarely missing a chance to crack wise between tunes.
And this was just the opener! Perhaps the most memorable moment was Ray retelling the tale of receiving a curt missive from Robert Hunter, regarding an early performance of “Wharf Rat”. Ray had apparently taken some liberties with the lyrics, as he sheepishly admitted to the crowd, before launching into a distinctive and wholly worthy rendition which shook the house. Several fans resolved that they would personally tell Hunter that Ray White did justice to Wharf Rat in Denver, and to stop busting his chops.
Then came the moment we’d traveled a thousand miles to experience. For those who don’t yet know, JKB is a gem which has thus far only been available along the Eastern Seaboard. Started by John Kadlecik a little more than two years ago, to work out his creative muscles at home, the ensemble, made of local DC area players, has quietly been growing into a phenomenon whenever Furthur goes on furlough.
John is best known, to most fans, for his lead role in Grateful Dead-oriented units, namely Dark Star Orchestra and Furthur, but there are many other sides to his musical temperament. Together with wife Katy Gaughan on kickin’ percussion, Paul Grepps on dancin’ keys, Larry Joseloff on bouncin’ bass, Nate Graham rocking skins, and Lizzy “Loves” Friel on angel-toned back-ups, JKB shows what magic transpires when “the Kadillac” is calling the shots. There are frequent guest appearances, including Pete Wall and Justin Jones on saxophone, and, to the crowd’s delight, Melvin and Ray were again brought up to play, as was Paul Murin of the cross-pollinated Dead Phish Orchestra. As is often the case in the jam world, whatever other musicians happen to be in the house are likely to be called on for their flavor of special sauce.
The JKB repertoire is diverse, covering everything from Van Morrison to Camper Van Beethoven, but the foundation of the project is original music, dating back to the early nineties and a band known as Hairball Willie. Reliable crowd pleasers like “Sister Smiles”, “What’s Become of Mary”, “Seen Love”, and “Its Alright”, an anthem to outspoken individuality, were written in collaboration with Eric Olson and are mainstays of the set list. The songs from this era have a peppy, uplifting sound which often disguises the wisdom hidden in the lyrics. “It’s alright to be different…it’s alright to be straaange–it’s alright, ’cause everything someday must change.”
Another source of material is The Mix, a unit dating from 2004, comprised of Melvin Seals from JGB on keys, Greg Anton of Zero kicking it on the kit, along with Jeff Pevar, Kevin Rosen, and JK on point with leads and vocals. This all-star line-up, equipped with fresh lyrics from Robert Hunter, along with a few thought jewels from Eric Olson, produced an album called “American Spring” before scheduling conflicts brought the project to a halt. Hits such as the title track and “The Business” live on in JKB.
“American Spring” is a soulful ballad, capturing the heartache of a disillusioned nation. “I built your house, I laid your floors, carried your flag and fought your wars”–but in return found only “all the hopeless hopes you bring” and “all the hanging ropes you swing, all the bells…you never ring.”
And then there’s the new stuff.
“Desert Trance” is the freshest JKB original, breaking out at last year’s Labor Day run. The lyrics, written by Indi Riverflow, recount a mystic vision of mythological gods playing the music of the spheres, thus setting into motion the rhythm of life. The chorus announces the impetus drawn from this strange apparition: “It’s time to make It happen/ Just like we’ve done before,” as players and instruments in the eternal song.
John’s composition mirrors the spacey vibe, rising from a primal wandering across the scale to a set of scorching jams that keep seeming to find new peaks. “Your Mileage May Vary”, an original instrumental jam piece, showcases more of JK’s composition vision with a high-energy, looping cycle of building crescendos which evoke the whizzing excitement of journeys within and without.
The weekend held so many high points that attempting to mention them all would be futile, but some stand-outs were “Life is a Carnival”, the bouncy jam “It’s Complicated” and “Dream #11,” featuring a cameo by Indi Riverflow acid-ranting a selection from a piece called “Transmigrant Blues”. Also notable along the same lines was Sean Lennon’s “New Physics Rant,” proclaiming a new poetic understanding of the science of the soul, couched in brilliant soliloquy.
Other imported delicacies included Van Morrison’s “Dweller on the Threshold”, George Harrsion’s “Any Road” (now a Furthur mainstay), Pink Floyd’s “Wots…uh the Deal”, John Lennon’s “Nobody Told Me”, and a variety of others from Phish to Bob Dylan.
Fans on the Kadillac are tuning into a musical channel, both faithful and innovative with the rendering of whatever he plays, be it Beatles, Phish, Marley, or the good ole Grateful Dead. He performs “Stir It Up” with an unpretentious Jamaican lilt which would (and has) fooled dreadheaded Rastahs; “The Wedge” with all of Trey’s intense focus. Many wonder at the uncanny similarity to the dulcet guitar tones and soulful vocals which emerged from thirty years of Grateful Dead and side projects, but sounding like Jerry is only part of the magic.
Of course, it just wouldn’t be right to leave the Garcia material out altogether. Favorites like “They Love Each Other”, “So Many Roads”, and “After Midnght” appear alongside less-familiar tunes, giving a solid taste of the spot-on tribute role which brought JK to the forefront of the jam scene. Those who were drawn in by the promise of hearing these songs as Jerry meant them will not be disappointed with the healthy smattering of Captain Trips dashed into the mix.
Sunday was an outdoor patio show, the weather cooperating with a partly cloudy day just warm enough to work up a sweat. Starting with Jimmy Cliff’s “Harder They Come,” the band played on a stage labelled “Owsley” in swirling psychedelic script, before a tapestry bearing a technicolor Garcia, whose face is no stranger in these parts. Sunday’s highlights included Van Morrison’s “Dweller on the Threshold”, another cover John has made his own, followed by a Dead-ly Any Road–>Fire On The Mountain–>Any Road Re(sur)prise.
“Also Sprach Zarathrustra”, perhaps better known as the 2001 Jam, lead into Cleaning Windows, another fun Van Morrison tune. Back to the Garcia songbook, “Russian Lullaby” and “Lazy River Road” made the most of John’s way with ballads, before the flow returned to another epic “Desert Trance”.
The set wound into a classic “Not Fade Away” before wrapping it up for the weekend. Demanding one more before making the journey home, the band broke into a soulful “Sing Me Back Home” as the weekend’s encore, then with a group bow, JKB dismounted the stage with promises to return and an audience howling for it to be soon.
For now, keep your eyes on http://www.johnkmusic.net/ where you can sign up to join the email list.
Download any night from the entire Quixote’s run from Internet Archive:
DOWNLOAD: John Kadlecik Live at Quixote’s True Blue on 2012-06-08
John K. Band setlist 6/8/12 Quixote’s True Blue Denver, CO 1: Nobody Told Me, What’s Become of Mary, Seen Love, TWLWMYD*, TLEO*, American Spring> It’s Alright, Everybody’s Tryin’*
2: Second That Emotion*>The Wedge*, Sister Smiles, Desert Trance, Way to Go Home, Mama Help Me, Walking in Your Footsteps>YMMV>Page 43, Will It Go Round In Circles
E: Good Night Irene * – with Paul Murin on guitar
DOWNLOAD: John Kadlecik Live at Quixote’s True Blue on 2012-06-09
John K. Band setlist 6/9/12 Quixote’s True Blue Denver, CO w/ special guest Pete Wall on saxophone entire show
1: Life is a Carnival, Givin’ Me the Business*, Sister Smiles*, After Midnight%, How Sweet It Is%, Wot’s… uh the Deal, Dream #11@, Man Smart Woman Smarter
2: Feel Like Dynamite, Bean-O, What’s Become of Mary, Stir It Up, New Physics Rant>Outa Space>Free>So Many Roads, Complicated
E: Three Little Birds>Sisters & Brothers
* – w/ Melvin Seals on Hammond organ % – w/ Melvin Seals on Hammond organ & Ray White on guitar @ – w/ Indi Riverflow poetry reading
DOWNLOAD: John Kadlecik Live at Quoxite’s True Blue on 2012-06-10
John K. Band setlist 6/10/12 Quixote’s True Blue Denver, CO
1: One Too Many Mornings, Harder They Come*, Seen Love*, Bird Song*, Dweller on the Threshold*, Fast Enough for You*, Any Road>Fire on the Mountain>Any Road*
2: Good Guys & Bad Guys*, Also Sprach Zarathustra*, Cleaning Windows*, Russian Lullaby, Get Out of My Life*, Lazy River Road*, Desert Trance, Hey Pocky Way*, It’s Alright, Walls of Time*, Not Fade Away*
E: Sing Me Back Home
* w/ Justin Jones on saxophone
The entire three-day run was recorded by KIND Recordings: https://www.facebook.com/pages/KIND-Recordings/146345668794015