A Taste of Colorado
August 29, 2008
About half way through "Spanish Moon" I started thinking about the concept that I didn't really need to be at this show because I just saw Little Feat back in May and again last summer. But isn't that kind of like saying, "I just had dinner last night, why have it again tonight?" Look, if one of your all-time favorite bands from the 70s is playing a free outdoor show on a beautiful summer night only 30 minutes from your house, you go! Would you skip dinner tonight just because you ate yesterday? I don't think so. Conga player Sam Clayton growled gritty lyrics about hookers and hustlers and bad cocaine to laid back funk, while keyboardist Bill Payne's synthesized horns punctuated the groove, and I ate it up. By the time the band tore through "Let it Roll" for their encore, I was stuffed and satisfied.
On the night after the Democrats and Obama wrapped things up, Denver launched its annual Labor Day festival, A Taste of Colorado featuring beaucoup food and extra servings of free live music. The tastiest band in the lineup (I thought) was my old favorite, Little Feat. As you may know, they serve up a cornucopia of styles: rock, jazz, funk, country, Cajun, bluegrass, blues, R&B and a little folk. It's a mix of ingredients pleasing to the musical palette. Many of the same dishes are served at about any Little Feat show, for example "Fat Man in the Bathtub," "Willin,'" "Let it Roll" and of course (and appropriately for a food festival) "Dixie Chicken." They also tend to ladle on scrumptious side dishes that change from show to show, like "Spanish Moon," "Day or Night," "Feels Like Rain," "Cajun Girl" and "Drivin' Blind." They have to play "Willin'/Don't Bogart That Joint," because that's the part of the show where they solicit offerings of cannabis from the crowd. People actually throw joints on stage for the band, which I imagine saves the band members a lot of trouble. No more trying to find a connection in each new town they travel to, or having to transport the stuff across state lines.
Little Feat always had a jam band aspect to them, and they got right to it in their first tune, "Fat Man/Get Up, Stand Up/Fat Man" which went about twenty minutes and allowed every band member some solo time. "Day or Night" stretched out to nearly a similar length and was another solo vehicle. "Dixie Chicken," of course, is the classic tour de force that features band members coming and going from the stage as different soloists with different backing combos morph back and forth. The song itself has changed more times over the years than recommendations on the best diet. The constant reworking of the old favorites is a big part of what keeps these guys interesting. "Get Up, Stand Up," sandwiched in the middle of "Fat Man" had a reggae/funk groove. "Day or Night" went way beyond the original version and had some great soloing by guitarists Barrere and Tackett. Neither is a guitar hero, burning up the neck with lightning fast licks. What you'll hear instead is often an angular, slightly off-kilter approach with a huge dollop of blues.
Another aspect of jam bands is getting together with other musicians. Friday night, Feat brought on a banjo player (whose name I didn't get) and Bill Payne's daughter on washboard (of all things). This resulted in a three-way zydeco fest on "Cajun Girl" with those two joined by Tackett on mandolin for about a ten-minute jam, which turned out to be much better than any stadium rock-show pyrotechnics. Another highlight was the sound mix which finally put Clayton's congas into the sonic stew. The last couple of times I've seen the band, his percussion work was simply lost in the sonic swirl.
So mix it up, stir it up, serve up the musical gumbo; the more Little Feat the better, I say.
Set List: Fat Man in the Bathtub/Get Up, Stand Up Jam/Fat Man; Drivin' Blind; Time Loves a Hero; Day or Night; Willin'/Don't Bogart that Joint/Willin'; Cajun Girl; Spanish Moon; Feels Like Rain; Dixie Chicken; Encore: Let it Roll.
The Band Paul Barrere: lead and backing vocals, guitar; Sam Clayton: percussion, backing vocals; Kenny Gradney: bass; Richie Hayward: drums, backing vocals; Shaun Murphy: lead and backing vocals, percussion; Bill Payne: keyboards, lead and backing vocals; Fred Tackett: guitar, mandolin, trumpet, backing vocals