Review of Dedicated Maniacs at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, CA
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
(By Ted Silverman © Copyright 2012; photographs by Henry Hungerland © Copyright 2012)
Since Phil and Jill Lesh opened the doors of Terrapin Crossroads this engaging Northbay Nightclub, Bar, Lounge and Restaurant has become an active epicenter of Bay Area Jam rock. The staff has quickly mastered the art of hosting patrons of both the well-moneyed and daisy spun variety, and they do it with a sense of tolerance, grace and professionalism.
With Phil Lesh’s legendary and magical musical reputation it is not difficult for him to attract capacity crowds to the “Grate Room,” and even easier to cause flocks of fans to appear on short notice for the lower key events that Phil and his musical family produce in the Barroom. The Grate Room shows and rambles are nearly always sold out and the Bar gigs max out quickly depending upon the lineup.
Terrapin Crossroads also present bands and musicians from the extended Grateful Dead musical family with recent appearances from the likes of The Rowan Brothers, J. Geils, Stu Allen, Barry Sless, Mike Gordon, Terry Haggerty and members of Ryan Adam’s Cardinals and the Chris Robinson Brotherhood to name just a few. It’s basically paradise for local Deadheads.
Last night Phil and his Family gave a turn to a burgeoning Bay Area Cowboy act called The Dedicated Maniacs, permitting the band the opportunity to show off their stuff at this elegant and high profile venue. The Dedicated Maniacs have slowly cultivated a passionate following on their own musical merits but have also gained traction via a real and virtual community of Deadheads united by their shared love of Phil Lesh. This loose assemblage of fans known as “Zoners,” congregates at a bulletin board website known as “the Zone.” (www.Philzone.org). The Maniacs put the word out about this booking on the Zone and a modest buzz began to grow.
By the time the date of the gig rolled around, the Maniacs reaped the benefit of a recent glowing review by Michael Bauer in the SF Chronicle that heaped praise upon the venue, it’s owner, it’s new chef and the wonderful atmosphere and food available there. By show time nearly every table and space was occupied and the center of the barroom lounge was populated with a crowd of Maniacs loving Zoners.
Led by the talented Michael Berry on lead guitar, and pedal steel guitar, with an equally talented crew consisting of Mike Jensen on acoustic guitar and telecaster, Douglas Garay on basses, Neil Hampton on drums and Ryan Vandenbroeck on keys, the Maniacs are a quintet that has a tight, fun musicality. The band can also swing wide for the fences and stretch out in the style of their musical influences.
The show started with Douglas Garay delivering a rollicking and well-chosen party starter: Robert Earl Keene’s The Road Goes on Forever with its catch phrase, “and the party never ends.” This acoustic configuration was working well and the band churned through a nice variety of songs from disparate sources. Songs like “Get up Jake,” and “Aint’ no Cane on the Brazos,” from The Band, Mississippi John Hurt’s Slidin’ Delta, Ween’s “I Don’t Want to Leave You On the Farm,” one from Robert Hunter, “Where I Come From,” and even an Original, “Tequila Freeway,” penned by Douglas Garay.
Interestingly, during the show members of Phil’s “Ramble Band” appeared and seemed to pay attention to the Maniacs. It was interesting to see guitarist Jon Graboff and Keyboard Master Adam MacDougal checking out the band’s chops and delivery. Phil Lesh himself came rambling through the scene armed with a huge grin and a video camera. He smiled and shot about 5 minutes of video throughout the dining room and then disappeared up the stairs to the VIP lounge. Word has it he sat on the stairs and watched the Maniacs groove for a few tunes as well.
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The set got more focused and more musical as it progressed and Michael Berry, who initially seemed tentative in his debut on pedal steel guitar, began to seem more at ease with this instrumental challenge. The rest of the boys stayed steady and powerful, mining their grooves and pushing each song forward with cool lead exchanges between Michael and keyboard wizard, Ryan Vandenbroeck. Michael Berry, Douglas Garay and Mike Jensen each took turns delivering these tunes and did a fine job of leading songs with strong harmony arrangements sprinkled throughout the set.
About half way through their set the Maniacs switched to electric instruments and performed the New Riders Classic, “Any Naked Eye.” Other tunes such as the Band’s “The Shape I’m In,” and Bob Dylan’s “Wicked Messenger,” allowed the quintet the opportunity to really stretch and improvise which motivated the fans to boogie down in the Terrapin Lounge to the point where you wouldn’t have thought it was a Wednesday Night. Roots blues, Americana, Honkytonk, swing and boogie were all deftly delivered with both a twinkle and a psychedelic gleam in the eye by the band.
The Maniac’s concluded their evenings set by covering, the Grateful Dead’s,”Cumberland Blues,” with its repeated chorus: “I don’t know now, I just don’t know, If I’m going back again.” This musical question raised the obvious quandary as to whether the Maniacs will get the chance to expand on these initial footprints at Terrapin Crossroads. Based on the quality, size and gleeful joy of the crowd I’d call it a pretty good bet we will get more chances to catch the Dedicated Maniacs and their dedicated fans at Terrapin in the future.
Road Goes on Forever>
Get Up Jake
I Don’t want to Leave you on the Farm
Ain’t no Cane on the Brazos
Where I come From>
Tequila Freeway *
Suite at the Mission*
Any Naked Eye
Five Gallon Bucket
The Shape I’m In
Garden of Eden
* w/Pedal Steel