Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve 2008: The Bridge

Before I overloaded on turkey, mashed potatoes, and football, I had one task that needed to be complete…go out and see The Bridge. Every year the night before Thanksgiving, The Bridge can be found playing a gig in their beloved hometown, Baltimore. This event has become a tradition that seems to grow larger and larger every year. If memory serves me correctly, the first pre-turkey gig started at Paloma's, a now out of business nightclub that reminded me of dark and trendy dive bars in New York City. Eventually the band moved the show to the 8X10 club, the same place it holds it's summer residency shows. With ever growing popularity, and the fact that the 8X10 can't hold more than about 350 people, the band made a wise choice in 2006 to move the gig to Ram's Head Live, right in the heart of downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor. A venue more similar to DC's 9:30 club in size (it holds about 1500 people), this venue was the perfect avenue for The Bridge to market their latest CD, Blind Man's Hill.

It seems that each year The Bridge play this gig, it also serves as a reunion of friends and family from the area's surrounding the band's roots. Everyone comes home for the holiday, so why not head out the night before for some drinkin' and good music. This particular year I got a chance to hang out with 2/3rd's of The Weight's staff not only for the show, but for some good Mexican eatin' right next door to the venue.

We headed into the show just in time to catch the opening act, Ekoostik Hookah. These guys have been around since the early 90's and I recall seeing them at an All Good Festival or two many moons ago. They have a huge following in Ohio and it looked like the band even brought some of their fans out from the "Buckeye State." The played for about 75 minutes which is pretty nice when you have the warm up slot. Their sound is saturated with hints of southern rock, blues, jazz, improvisational jamming, and good harmonies. They definitely got the crowd warmed up, but for me their songs tended to sound alike.

The Bridge finally took the stage close to 11pm and immediately launched into songs from their new album. During their two sets, they managed to play almost every song from the new disc as well as some older crowd favorites. Their new songs continue to be rich in originality and feeling. Throw in some covers from Ray Charles, Robert Palmer, and Robert Johnson, and you have a typical Bridge show full of fantastic music. They even managed to hire a woman to do a trapeze routine in front of the stage. Nothing wrong with throwing in a little Cirque De Soleil to add to the mix.

Recently, The Bridge added a new member to its crew, Mark Brown on the keyboards. His abilities and style have added a new color to the band's music which compliments nicely with Kenny's mandolin. Mark hasn't been in the band for too long, but you could already see the chemistry on stage between him and his band mates. This band continues to amaze me after seeing them for eight years. Each new album brings great songwriting, catchy melodies, and phenomenal playing. Chris Jacobs continues to be the primary singer/songwriter and he pours his soul onto the strings of his guitar night after night. Dave Markowitz's back-up harmonies and impressive bass skills allows the band to creatively jam and open new doors. The Bridge has seen a few people step into the saxophone role, but Patrick Rainey is no amateur. He's got great chops and gives the band its signature sound. I will never get tired of Kenny Liner's beatbox routine and I think he has come the furthest from a musical prospective on his electric mandolin. Mike Gambone rounds it out on the drums with his consistent, hard-hitting, and on pace style.

For me the night was an A+ all around and I look forward to living out this tradition year in and year out. If you have not seen this band yet, please make it a priority…you will not be disappointed.

The Bridge continues their tour this month through the end of the year and already has dates set for early next year.
Here is the setlist from the show:

Set I
Let Me Off This Train
Old White Lightning 95
Brother Don't
Honey Bee
Poison Wine*
How Much Fun^
Bad Locomotive->
What I'd Say$->
Bad Locomotive

Set II
Come in My Kitchen%
Heavy Water
Diggin in the Cold Ground
In Dreams
Devil on Me*
Shake 'em Down
Born Ramblin'
Give it Up
Lasting Hymm
Bury My Bones in Baltimore

E: Will it go Round in Circles&

* w/ Kate Brown on trapeze
$ Ray Charles Cover
^ Robert Palmer Cover
# new original, first time played
% Robert Johnson Cover
@ Van Morrison Cover
& Billy Preston Cover