Set list for Joe Russo’s Almost Dead 2015/12/12 show at the Fox Theatre in Oakland
- Greatest Story Ever Told
- Scarlet Begonias
- Fire on the Mountain
- Dancing in the Streets
- Franklin’s Tower
- One More Saturday Night
- China Cat Sunflower
- I know You Rider
- Shakedown Street
- Spoonful Jam
- Lady with a Fan
- Terrapin Station / Transit
- Not Fade Away
Sources: Experience, Lahti’s texting to his lady friend, and setlist.fm – who will, over time, hopefully have YouTube cuts from the actual concert. For now, they have the songs from other sets. Still worth listening to.
They should also be showing up soon on Archive.org. When they do, I’ll update. Go check out some of their other shows if you haven’t already. In the meantime, here’s a sample of what they sound like live:
So, for the second night of Lahti’s adventures here in Bay Area, we hit up the Fox Theatre in Oakland to check out Joe Russo’s Almost Dead show. Lahti’s been raving about them since he found out they would be playing in Bay Area when he would be up. He was also right that it would be a wonderful contrast to seeing the timeless John Prine and Rambling Jack Elliott the night before.
Full disclosure, Lahti has a buddy in the band: Tom Hamilton, who typically plays and sings the Jerry parts.
So, sure, who hasn’t heard a Grateful Dead cover band or 10? Everyone who likes them claim that the last one they heard was the greatest Grateful Dead cover band ever (And, Best, if you’re reading, “Happy Belated Birthday” we can compare fav Dead Cover Bands soon).
I’ll tell you what, I can see why Joe Russo’s Almost Dead gets to tour back & forth across the country playing gigs, and having Bob Weir sit in with them on random moments – if the stories the crowd were telling us last night were true.
Who is Joe Russo’s Almost Dead?
They’re a cover band formed by, guess who, Joe Russo, a drummer whose performance last night was somewhere between, “Oh my God,” and “Holy Shit”. He seemed to soak in all the best jazz drummers had to offer, as the best music drummers seem to do.
He’s got former Ween bassist Dave Drewitz and jazz keyboardist Marco Benevento laying down the foundation. Scott Metzger actually looks like a younger Bob Weir when he scrunches his face when playing the Weir Part. And, tell you what, Tom Hamilton emulates not only Jerry’s flat-picking style, but even emulates the facial hair and the glasses. Now, if he could only grow out his beard and eat a few more brownies, he’d be spot on.
First, the emulate the band’s music details.
They get a lot of the musical details right. So much so that they had me question at one point whether or not the music was tracked from old Dead shows. It’s not easy to emulate a band, even one as rootsy as The Grateful Dead. With technology it’s pretty easy to get the sound right, but to get the inflections and nuances that come from a band member’s personal affinities over time is about impossible. It’s like shuffling a deck of cards for an hour, then laying the cards on the table, and having the order of the cards be exactly the same in repeated instances. That said, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead did it as well as any I’ve ever heard.
Other details the got right included multiple sets, song combos that were band favorites including China / Rider and Scarlet / Mountain, slowing down and speeding up for the fans listening to them simultaneously on multiple planes of existence, and never coming close to having the same set list on back to back shows.
Then, they use the Dead’s sound from the mid-70s as a blueprint
Russo mimics a lot of the best of Hart & Kreutzmann on his own, an incredible achievement in its own right. Yes, I won’t say the name of who he reminds me of out of fear of sacrilege, but let’s say he reminded me of some of Parliment’s best funk rhythms. Then he takes it up a notch by adding a lot of up-tempo jazz-influenced percussion that keeps the tempo seemingly a half-step quicker than the original inductions of the song. He never dragged, thus even the slowest of the songs never sounded like they were mistimed between hits.
Lastly, they used the blueprint as a the framework to create
To me, what separated Joe Russo’s Almost Dead from other Dead Cover bands that night was the fact that they knew exactly where to branch apart from the original template: in the solo work. Hamilton and Metzger were incredible with their volleys. Their riffs and runs never bogged down. Benevento was pure genius, providing a momentum inverse that allowed folks to rest but kept them engaged in their delights. And not to be outdone, Lahti turned to me several time mimicking Drewitz’s bass lines because he was so enamored – for great reasons.
The result: DeadHeads a-Plenty
In the greatest of ways, pure DeadHeads remind me of The Walkers on The Walking Dead: the moment they hear a noise they flock to it and they smell fresh, untainted meat, they’ll leave their body parts behind in order to feast. Last night, they showed up in herds and continued to push through the front of the crowd to hear more. Spinning dancers, tripadaisical head-bobbing, and a few assholes who almost got their pockets picked when they tried to use me as a turnstile to break the 4th dimension and get closer to the stage – for there was no room in the front for the other three.
All in all, I’ll be keeping myself on the lookout to see when they come back through, and I’ll keep checking Archive.org to hear the latests taper’s delight. They also look to record with two GoPro cameras on the stage, and actively post on YouTube.
Fav song: Scarlet Begonias. I know, trendy. Bite me.
Surprise delight: Shakedown Street. It’s always great, but they funked it up just a touch during the jam. It got your ass shaking more sensuously than you’d expect from the song.
Favorite moment: When they did the soft walkdown to a hush in Franklin’s Tower, teased another direction for a few minutes, then turned it right back into Franklin’s Tower and made the whole place wanna go-whole-awesome for another 8 minutes. Incredible moment.
Did you see it? If, “no”, would you see it?
PS: I’ll be pre-drinking at Pacific Coast Brewering Company in “Old Oakland,” from now on.
Incredible find. Strong Hoosier ties as well – thanks to Lahti for having friends literally everywhere. Had that, “Favorite downtown bar back home” feel with the old brick buildings, high ceilings, wood floors, ornamented bars – so much so I’m told they keep the look within specs of the historical society so they can keep their status. It’s a timeless place.