– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#21)
The Shack Project celebrates MMW @25 years!
My first 2 MMW live shows. Life changed forever. I’d been listening to the band for a few years by this point, had maybe 15-20 cassettes of live gigs and was digging it and knew I had to see them live. The shows I had were all from ’95-’96, nothing from ’97, so when I went to these April ’98 gigs it was like encountering a *completely* different band. What? A DJ? Huh? What are these songs? Lots of new music … unknown sounds … and I was hooked!
The band was really working the tunes that would be released in the fall of ’98 on the album Combustication. But, most of these songs were debuted in the spring of ’97 and played throughout the year, so not having access to any ’97 recordings (mid’90s in Atlantic Canada = slow acquisition of live shows) basically meant I’d no idea what the band sounded like now … but the next 2 days would open my ears to that and beyond …
**Thursday, April 23, 1998** >>> 1998-04-23
**Friday, April 24, 1998**
– SET I –
A quick little Drum Intro gets us rolling into Coltrane’s epic classic Africa — new to MMW’s repertoire as of this spring ’98 tour, and the band is just tearing this piece apart over the tour with this night’s performance being no exception. Each performance the band gets more confident with the song, and again it’s a shame this is yet another tune lost to the ages without surfacing again much, if at all, after ’98. Thank goodness for the TAPERS! And then Africa hooks onto a tune/groove that’s been labeled “Chris & Tam” — I think this is like a groove MMW developed out of what they were doing with Africa. The two pieces seem to live in the same world, and were almost always played together during their time in the live shows. Brilliant work from illyB on the TAMbourine!
Next up is a tune that we heard the night before in Portland, but during the 2nd set — Coconut Boogaloo was an instant success in getting our asses moving. The song boils down to this cool little bluesy swirl of sound at the end of the track, which is basically a tiny intro to Just Like I Pictured It – another instant classic. That loping bassline groove is so soothing … and the title is one of my favourites – HA!
Then *SOMETHING* is played – it lasts 1min 37secs and is fantastic. Does anyone recognize this? I’ve been hearing it for almost 20 years while listening to this show so my perspective is skewed … it just sounds so familiar … but it trickles over to the start of Latin Shuffle – clever title, eh? illyB begins the Latin shuffle, John trickles in on the ivories, and Chris drops in on his acoustic – this is a nice tune and the guys rock it from the time they debuted it a year prior. The band shuffles into a short Bass Solo to finish up. Then the 3rd performance ever of Tubby, which is a super fun tune that goes through a number of phases over the years. On this night it ends the set with a feeling of positivity … and we take a break …
– SET II –
I remember the guys walking on and each banging woodblocks to start. You can hear Logic creep in under the percussive beat then gradually John and Chris move to their respective instruments and, well, chaos ensues for a wee bit. Then the sounds get a little spacey and creepy – you can hear him approaching – this ensues for wee bit until the bass drops and Dracula has arrived. He plods along for a while, until illyB kicks it in, we get some “woos” from the crowd at the breaks during this ramped up “chorus” section of the tune, and then it drops back down into its gentle approach, back and forth – and I knew this tune too, unlike the entirety of the first set, so latching onto that was welcome …
At this point, I recall looking around the theatre and noticing nobody was *not* paying attention – everyone seemed focus on the band, the music, and getting down. I always recall this set as a very warm feeling from a crowd that was completely into the moment.
The Improv that busts out the end of Dracula – because the guys play right through with a wonderful flow to the set for over 50 minutes, culminating in a piece of musical beauty, but we’ll get to that – this next Improv is just so good! Is it something? Sounds like it must be, but damn, these cats can pull this stuff from the ether … and this moves smooth and nicely into the 2nd ever appearance of the Toy Dancing melody, noted as an Improv based off the tune but it’s not quite the tune just yet – that will solidify more the next night in Philadelphia.
Sugar Craft jumps into the flow next – hmmm sounds familiar to me at the time? From last night, right? COOL! More impressive work from Logic in here. The music moves us to Golden Lady, which I have thought was just a wacked version of the Stevie Wonder tune all these years, but I really don’t know. I have hard time singing along with MMW’s take – HA! Check out Stevie’s Golden Lady here:
… I think the bass might be the key between them, but can’t say for sure … Regardless, this is the song’s first appearance and it gets some attention through ’98, but not much after, which is too bad because it’s hauntingly intriguing. I think that’s the Mellotron John is using on this track, which interacts nicely off Logic’s work. Chris and Billy hold us steady as the lady moves along … until it’s time to Start/Stop – a very apt title. Loving this groove with Logic working well here too, he and John playing off each other. I love how this song pushes out into space, further and further, so the groove Stops, but then it Starts again and we’re dancing along. Over the years the guys will really push out that space between the groove sections, sometimes where you forget they’re even playing that song until the head comes back around.
We’re coming up to the 50min mark, and as Start/Stop fizzles out the sounds crossover into something exquisitely beautiful, starting to sound familiar from the night before again, oh yeah: No Ke Ano Ahiahi. Loved this song/melody from the first moment it took me away … the placement here is perfect at the end of 50 solidly grooving and wild minutes. Just so nice …
Then we have a 30min sequence that finishes up the set with the music getting even weirder, maybe …
Improv > My Little Suede Shoes, a Charlie Parker tune – these 2 pieces make for an interesting 10min, folks. The Improv starts out very dark, and creeping, with Chris bowing a quick riff, percussive fills all over from Billy, while John and Logic soundscape the atmosphere. This seems to grow, building more tension along the way, with spaz fills from Billy on the kit now, wild sounds from everyone else – it’s getting noisy in here! This building up gives way to a skittery shuffle from Billy, space sounds from John, but then the coolest little melody surfaces that’s sure to make you shine – or, at least make My Little Suede Shoes shine! Check out Charlie’s original:
… interestingly, MMW only ever played this melody like 3 times, with this being the 2nd. Heard again late in ’98, but not since. The next Improv comes out darkly, moving along in this dark groovy space. Again, so good it should/could be a tune, but improvisation seems just as likely. There’s this cool shift between an organ pulse and the groove, then at around 3.5min in this track the Spy Kiss bassline comes out STRONG for like 30secs, then the music veers away and begins to disintegrate … suddenly it’s just Logic and illyB in this weird techno-tribal beat, things getting kind of subdued until BANG!
Combustication combusticates all over our ears! DAMN! That’s wild! Don’t think this one sounded “familiar” to me from the previous night’s chaos – just wrapping my head around the live MMW experience was crazy enough! But this madness gives way to the closing tune, which couldn’t have been better:
NIGHT MARCHERS lead us out, and it is so raunchy and groovin’! LOVE IT!
Another unknown for me in the encore with Gonzo, but recognized from the night before in Portland, a James Booker tune you may as well check out in addition to the other covers:
… Gonzo was new on this April ’98 tour, but has stuck around in the band’s live shows since with varying consistency, used mostly as a closing tune or encore, and eventually being one of the tunes the band would bless with the acoustic outro treatment. On this night, it’s straight up electric groove and sent us out into the night smiling …
That 2 night stand changed my life, with MMW’s music taking more and more of a hold on me, until over the next few years I’m addicted beyond control … and The Shack Project is born …
enjoy the grooves,
- MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD w/ DJ Logic
Orpheum Theater, Boston, MA
Friday, April 24, 1998
Set 1: Drum Intro > Africa > “Chris & Tam”, Coconut Boogaloo > Just Like I Pictured It, Improv > Latin Shuffle > Bass Solo, TubbySet 2: Open Improv/Intro > Dracula > Improv > Toy Dancing Improv > Sugar Craft > Golden Lady > Start/Stop > No Ke Ano Ahiahi, Improv > My Little Suede Shoes* > Improv+ > Combustication^ > Night Marchers
Encore: Gonzow/ DJ Logic opening, in between sets, and sitting in the entire second set
* Charlie Parker cover
+ w/Chubb Sub tease
^ w/Spy Kiss bassline
– SET I (tracks 1-7) –
– SET II (tracks 8-21) –