Welcome Home! - WMO returns to Winstons

report file 4/12/00 - 6:47 am - Sure is nice to have Wise Monkey back in town! The long US Winter Tour 2000 is finally over, coming to a climactic grand finale on Saturday night. The show at Winstons was epic! Not only did Dave Ellis sit in on tenor, this was my first opportunity to see the new lineup. Wow!

Marty Schwartz on guitar oozes authority bouncing between wah-wah laced, James Brown style get-down-with-your-bad-self rhythms and scorching, hot and bluesy solos. The guy is a very fiery player. On drums, Bruce Stadola is perfectly suited to the polytextured and syncopated beats that are a big part of WMO's distinctive grooves. Both guys have been playing with WMO nonstop for the past four or five months and it really shows. The chemistry is definitely there.

Saturday night's show was a jam packed 'welcome home' love 'fest between the band and its hard-core, hometown faithful. Not a particularly large club, the couple hundred folks in the house were mostly on a first name basis. Big Don, a surprise visitor and longtime friend of WMO from Vermont was there, as was Jason from Vegas. It's always fun to have out-of-town monkey grinders drop in for some unexpected merriment! Jason brought his digi-cam to the show and got increasingly snap happy as the festivities ensued. We've also posted Jason's photos from WMO's recent show at the 14 Below in Santa Monica.

Although the first set was excellent, many of the show's highlights came in the second set. One of the best was the outstanding post-percussion jam between Chad on bass, Schwartz on guitar and Stadola on drums, after everyone else cleared the stage An opportunity to showcase Schwartz's prowess on the fretboard, he did not disappoint - the entire room was mesmerized with his compelling and passionate six string stylings.

Another magical moment was former WMO drummer Ed Fletcher jumping on stage. Starting with bongos tucked between his knees as he sat on the drum riser, Fletcher was clearly having a grand time jamming with his old mates. The crowd certainly got off on seeing the popular time keeper onstage with the band again. Ever present and enhancing whatever is going on around him, Reed (WMO's manager) rushed through the crowded dance floor to the front of the stage, then tilted an unused mic. over Fletcher's bongos to send the additional percussion through the PA. On the next tune, Stadola handed the drum sticks to Fletcher, who played with his customary intensity, enjoying himself immensely.

Finally, the encore, a raging cover of Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" brought down the house. As the fuzz box assault erupted from Schwartz's amp, Alley took complete control, belting out the audio thunder with a wry smile, and blowing the room away in the process. Man-o-man... what a night!

Not only was it a great show, 'Big Board' Bob from Hideaway Studios was in the house (well, actually in the alley due to cramped space inside) and recorded the gig for an upcoming live album. If all goes well, WMO will release a new live album this summer, and then another album, all studio material, will be released in the fall. We'll keep ya posted as those projects develop.

In other news: had the pleasure of speaking with John Bell of Widespread Panic the other day for the Relix book. JB was great to talk with, very open, easy going and informative. His insights into Relix role during the early years of the HORDE Tour, continuing into the post Garcia era were chock full of good quotes, and we're very excited about having his views in the book...

Finally broke the ice on getting back into the CD review groove, with a look at Cool Water Canyon's new double album, Far From Home. Also sent off the April column for Jambands.com (All Better - The Annual All Good Festival Comes Full Circle With a New Venue) on Monday, and in turn, posted the March column, Happy Camper - Almost two decades apart, a couple of summer camp adventures make for one long, strange musical trip.

Winding up WMO's US Winter Tour 2000, we've posted a new entry to AG's tour journal, as well as the new photo gallery from Jason we mentioned earlier. Look for an announcement on the winners of the WMO PHOTO and WMO STORY contests when we update the website next week.

'Til then - have fun where you find it....