Phish, one of our BIGGEST bands, played three giant shows last week; this week, five of our BEST bands play seven shows.
On Friday, NRBQ plays the Green River Festival, where the Tedeschi Trucks Band (TTB), Los Lobos (LL) and the North Mississippi All Stars (NMAS) play on Sunday; then NRBQ plays Club Helsinki on Wednesday while TTB, LL and NMAS play Saratoga Performing Arts Center; and on Saturday, Wussy plays the Low Beat.
Last July, the Tedeschi Trucks Band brought openers Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and Doyle Bramhall II to SPAC on their Wheels of Soul tour. “The 12-piece TTB’s 100-minute headline set showed off a big band beautifully balancing rock power, blues pathos, jaunty jazz and R&B grit,” I reported, noting they closed with rambunctious Sly and the Family Stone covers.
“The more gigging you do and the more time you put into it, the better it gets,” said Derek Trucks last week, proud of the band he co-leads with wife-guitarist-singer Susan Tedeschi. “There’s a lot of moving parts in this band, and we’re finding everybody’s strengths and the sweet spots,” he said. “This band gets better and better with time.”
Specifically, they’re finding new freedom improvising, though they’re too tight, soulful and song-oriented to pigeonhole as a jam band. “This band has become comfortable deconstructing any song,” said Trucks. “Everybody is right there if we want to veer left or veer right,” he said. “The talent inside of the band is so strong that there’s not a lot of places it can’t go.”
TTB chose openers LL and NMAS for that same flexible talent on this year’s edition of the Wheels of Soul run. “Los Lobos have been heroes of ours for a long time, one of the great unsung American rock bands,” said Trucks.
“They’ve been doing it forever, the right way, and the amount of talent they have onstage is great,” he said, noting (guitarist David) Hidalgo “is a bad ass!” then praising Hidalgo’s bandmates in turn. Hailing NMAS for preserving “that electric delta blues thing,” Trucks said, “They just stick to their guns and play the music they believe in; we believe in it too, and we love that!”
Surprise and delight
NRBQ famously follows a similar rootsy-and-right musical path with singular determination: making music from fresh ingredients, improvising and stirring surprise into rich confections that make listeners feel happy, young. NRBQ plays Friday at the Green River Festival (three stages, at Greenfield Community College, Greenfield, Mass.) along with Peter Wolf & the Midnight Travelers, the Dustbowl Revival and Charles Neville; starting at 5 p.m.
Starting at noon Saturday, it’s Dawes, Shakey Graves, Shovels & Rope, the Suffers, the Felice Brothers, Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds, And the Kids, Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers, Greyhounds, Anthony D’Amato, the Soul Rebels, Oh Pep!, Mister G, the Alchemystics and more. On Sunday, also starting at noon, it’s the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos, the North Mississippi All Stars, Birds of Chicago, Margo Price & the Price Tags, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Sonya Kitchell, Winterpills, Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear and more. $119 full weekend, $99.99 Saturday and Sunday, $24.99 Friday only, $64.99 Saturday only, $$74.99 Sunday only. www.greenriverfestival.com
The Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos and the North Mississippi All Stars also play Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Rts. 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs) on Wednesday. 7 p.m. $79.50-$20 inside, lawn $20. 800-745-3000 www.concerts.livenation.com
That same night, NRBQ also plays Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson). They were typically terrific starting 2016 off right at Saratoga City Center last New Year’s Eve, with rock tunes, blues tunes, soul songs – even a hymn played perfectly on hand-bells. 8 p.m. $20. 828-4800 www.helsinkihudson.com
Wussy at Low Beat
Plain as a corncob, more powerful than, well, almost anybody, Wussy returns on Saturday to the Low Beat (335 Central Ave., Albany) where two previous shows hit everybody’s top shows of the year lists. The Cincinnati rock quintet’s new “Forever Sounds” album may be the best of their 14 releases, all on small indie labels and all worth finding. 8 p.m. $10. 432-6572 www.thelowbeat.com
Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at firstname.lastname@example.org