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7 Walkers at Revolution, October 22

7 Walkers

With Bobby Lee Rogers Trio
Revolution, Fort Lauderdale
Friday, October 22, 2010

Long before any band took the stage at Revolution Friday night, a full moon rose over the city, evoking pre-show howls from peeps eager to celebrate the lunar occasion with one of the most beloved deep space drummers of all time, the Grateful Dead's Bill Kreutzmann and his new project, 7 Walkers, which features Papa Mali on guitar and vocals, George Porter Jr. on bass, and Matt Hubbard on multiple instruments. As many of those moon-glow baskers would later find, a light was destined to shine inside the club as well, though not without bits of flickering and dim spells. Friday night, patience was tested and rewarded.

Once 7 Walkers eventually stepped onstage, they lead things off with a

nice, long, spacey jam which resolved into a party-starting "Bertha,"

the first of many old Grateful Dead favorites that would pop up over the

course of the evening. With the following song, the slow and swampy

"King Cotton," the band revealed to the new audience one of their great

virtues, their originals. Each was very distinct from the songs of the

Dead, but flowed seamlessly in and out of them. The first set was nicely balanced with

originals, Dead songs, jamming and structured playing. Highlights

included "7 Walkers," "I Know You Rider," and "Death Don't Have No Mercy," a

song the Dead often covered which was brought into full, funky swing by

Porter and the trombone of Matt Hubbard. "Wharf Rat"

featured Kreutzmann's most creative playing of the opening set.

After the closing number, many were surprised to hear the band announce that they'd be "right back" before leaving the stage. It felt like the end of the show, and it was so late at that point, that there seemed to be a slight sense of frustration among fatigued audience members with the fact that they were now somewhat obligated to wait more, and stay in the club much later than anticipated. Over the course of the 45-minute set break, which began at 12:30 a.m., much of the crowd left the building. Then, when the band came back out at a quarter past one, and went into two consecutive slow songs, the room cleared out even more.

A mid-set "Sugaree" with Porter on vocals, breathed some life into the place, but wasn't enough to stop the slow and steady trickle out the door. After a raging "Deal," which featured a long jam which Kreutzmann brought to an explosive peak, the band eased into the lovely original "Evangeline". Despite that song being an early fan favorite (it was the only song shouted out as a request), the slow song inspired the last wave of audience departure. By the time the song finished at around 2:30 a.m., only the most (ahem) Dead-icated peeps remained. There were maybe 150 heads in the house, which allowed lots of space for joyous, hippie dance-flight. Everyone who was left wanted to be there, and wanted it to be worth it. Each individual hoot and cheer could be heard and felt. We had arrived at a very energetic intimacy. And the band went into a jam.

It begun as a full band, funky improv. Lots of interesting playing from all the members within a thick collective groove. After reaching the first of several high points, Papa Mali and Hubbard both faded out, leaving Kreutzmann and Porter conversing vivaciously as a duo. New Orleans and psychedelia were pushing and pulling the jam in wild and tense ways, without ever weakening the ryhthmic bond. Slowly, the other two members rejoined. Papa Mali came back in with lots of tapping, dancing notes, sounding a lot like Jerry Garcia -- more so than at any other point in the night. Eventually, 20 minutes after takeoff, at 2:50 a.m., the band broke into "Lovelight" in what this reviewer recognized as a big, beautiful shout out to the moon and the howlers who made it all the way to the end. "Let it shine, shine, shine!" Indeed, at 3 a.m., seven hours after the doors opened, Revolution was bursting with light. Then, the small group of glowing people rejoined the moon outside.

The slow pace was set earlier in the night when Bobby Lee Rogers Trio took the stage for a mostly empty room about two hours after the doors had opened. Their set, which featured good jams, but less exciting songs, appeased, but did not thrill, the entertainment-hungry audience. The group mostly works as a platform for Rogers' amazing guitar work, which is impressive and soulful enough to make up for the rather predictable arrangements and un-noteworthy accompaniment. Aside from Roger's playing, the most exciting part of the band was "The Blade," a facial contortionist, bass player, and Fort Lauderdale native. As his face morphed joyously and passionately with the jams, many in the crowd envied his apparent pre-show ecstacy intake.

Critic's Notebook

Further than: Furthur, the current Dead re-incarnation featuring other former members Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. In my view, 7 Walkers approach to a post-Jerry project is fresher and more exploratory. Thus, they may be pushing it a bit further than Furthur at the moment. Plus, they've got Hunter on board, which is really just... far out, man!

Random Detail: After the show I talked with Kreutzmann for a moment outside the Poorhouse next door. Here's his review of the show: "That was fun!"

The Crowd: In the words of my friend and show companion Mike McNerny-- "Diverse crowd. We've got the happy hippie with dreads and tie-dye leanin' on a poll, stung out; 'been on tour for four weeks, bro.' Then we've got the yuppie in boat shoes drinkin' a Miller Light, having the time of his life."

By the Way: 7 Walkers' self-titled debut album is set to hit stores Nov. 2, and Billy will be back at Revolution with Micky Hart for a post Jam Cruise Rhythm Devils show on January 9. 

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Travis Newbill

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