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Author: Subject: My Hampton 70 Recap

Universal Peach





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  posted on 5/6/2017 at 09:48 AM
Hello everybody. Many of you know how much Col. Bruce meant to me. Here is a recap of the amazing events of May 1st that I wrote in installments over the past week. It's pretty long, I hope you enjoy it.


Everybody has heard the news of Col. Bruce Hampton passing away on stage last night. This post/thread may not make a lot of sense, but Bruce would like it that way, and I've got a lot of stuff on my mind.

Let's start at the very end. Many of us have hung around backstage doors after shows before, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of our musical heroes, maybe get an autograph. You don't often hang around backstage doors because you want to see if the star of the show is still alive.

One of the most bizarre things about last night's show was the anxious crowd gathered around the Ponce De Leon side exit of the Fox, waiting on news about Bruce. When an ambulance came screaming up with lights and sirens blaring, it was obvious how serious the situation was. People milled around nervously, comforting each other, wildly speculating about what had just happened. At one point a sadly incorrect rumor circulated that Bruce was fine. My brother knew something was terribly wrong when they put up blankets and sheets to block people's view of the ambulance and asked people not to take pictures "out of respect."

Bruce Hampton was the consummate showman up to the very end. Presented with a situation where it would seem impossible to upstage everything else that had happened that night, he managed to do it. I cannot help but agree with others who say that everything from the setlist to the circumstances around the show made it seem almost inevitable and preordained that Bruce was destined to leave this Earthly realm last night. It all seems like a magnificently executed plan.

In fact, I couldn't help but think of a story about an Eastern yogi who famously left this world in a conscious way. He invited people to his side, told them he was going to die, and voluntarily passed from this world to the next. It almost seems like last night was some kind of elaborate ritual, a graduation ceremony where Bruce passed into the next world with flying colors.

In other posts later, I want to obsessively micro-analyze the music, much of which was fantastic. As tragic as the ending was, this was too good a show for the music to be forgotten. Here is a link to a decent audience recording...

https://archive.org/details/hampton702017-05-01.km184/hampton702017-05-01t0 7.flac

If you want an entry point, check out the Jessica>Time Is Free 1-2 punch. 35 minutes of pure hittin' the note goodness that will give you an idea of how special this event really was.

Now back to the beginning...

My crew was running a little late, but our timing was perfect. Just as we were walking to our seats we heard "Ladies and gentlemen, Col. Bruce Hampton!" The all-star band kicked into the James Brown classic There Was A Time and the show was on. The horn section was sounding strong right out of the gate. After they jammed the tune out, Bruce walked back off stage, and we wouldn't see him for a while.

One thing that was striking about this show is how little of it Bruce was on stage for. In a way, that is totally appropriate. Bruce was all about showcasing other people's talents. I can even see him encouraging people like Todd Snider and Kevn Kinney to play their own material, rather than covering Col. Bruce classics.

In fact, the only complaint I had about the show while it was going on is "This is all great, but what exactly does this Oliver Wood song have to do with Bruce?" It was a small complaint, and again, it may well have been that Bruce really liked those songs, and that was the connection.

One thing that deserves some words is the remarkable performance of Brandon "Taz" Neiderauer. This kid is an amazing talent, and from the second he hit the stage he captivated the crowd with his guitar shredding ability and high energy stage persona. An early highlight of the show was during Hip Shake, when Taz and Zappa/Beefheart alum Denny Walley stood about 2 feet away from each other and threw down in a musical duel. It was quite a scene, a little 14-year-old black kid with an afro and a tall skinny guy who looked like Gandalf, just going at it. The kid didn't back down an inch and held his own against a really good musician.

I want to give John Popper some credit. Often criticized for overplaying, he really seemed like a team player at this event. When he came out for She Caught The Katy and it came time for his solo, he laid back for a bit, letting the groove work, before he launched into full Popper shredding mode. A small thing, but worth giving him some props for.

Next came a cohort of musicians including Jeff Mosier, and Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt from Leftover Salmon. This version of Working On A Building had some extra mojo to it, going Type 2 into an extended outro jam. Bluegrass was one of many components to Bruce's sound, and it was well represented at this show. I only wish Matt Mundy could have made an appearance. He has started playing around Atlanta again recently, but maybe I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up. One of the many sad things about Bruce's passing is that my dream of a full-blown ARU reunion, Mundy included, will never happen.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Todd Snider/Peter Buck/Kevn Kinney come to the stage....

I said in my earlier post that some of the songs didn't seem to have any real connection to Bruce. I didn't know the tunes Snider and Kinney played, but now that I see one of them is literally called When You Come Back Next Time You Gotta Stay, I can't help but laugh. What other purpose could this song possibly serve, other than a deep message about what was about to happen? Even the parts of this show that didn't make sense to me at the time, make sense to me now.

Play A Train Song was another song during this segment, and is apparently about finding a beloved musical mentor who died in his sleep. Again, who chose these songs? Probably Bruce. Fans like me will spend the rest of our lives studying this setlist like the Talmud, deconstructing it for clues about what the actual f*** happened on Monday.

Again, I appreciate this segment more now than I did at the time, but when Chuck Leavell and Karl Denson hit the stage I knew things were about to hit another level, and they did not disappoint. First off, some classic banter by Chuck as we waited for Karl to come to the stage, then a seamless introduction as Denson comes running to the stage. "Chuck is such a pro," I commented admiringly.

Rip This Joint, a tune from some other band Chuck and Karl are in, was a good warmup tune, but things got real with Compared To What? Leavell played on the classic version from the first ARU album, but he also knows the jazzy original version by Eddie Harris, and this version stayed closer to the Harris arrangement. Denson was tight and on point, and the jam hit several nice peaks.

Warren Haynes comes out next for Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, one of my wife's absolute favorite tunes, so that was a nice treat for her. Warren was soulful and bluesy and did his thing very well. Next up was a surprising cover by one of Bruce's favorites musicians, a ripping version of Trouble Coming Everyday by Frank Zappa. Definitely unexpected, but perfectly appropriate, and a great version of the song. Yet another song where you have to wonder is there was a message hidden in the setlist.

I think we all expected Derek Trucks to show up at some point, and when he did, he definitely brought his A game. There was a time when Derek was in the Taz Neiderauer role, the young prodigy learning at the feet of the master, but he has become the master. "Derek is just SO good," I said at one point. "There are some of the best guitar players in the world on that stage, and Derek is so much better than all of them it seems almost unfair."

The first tune they launched into was Jessica, the tune that made Chuck Leavell famous, and a tune that Warren and Derek have played literally hundreds of times. I used to work for the Allman Brothers. I have seen Jessica live dozens of times, and probably heard 100 different versions. This ranks right up there with my favorites, a tight, ferocious destroyer that hits all the marks and rings all the bells and does everything Jessica is supposed to do.

Next was the closest thing to a setbreak we had all night, about a 5 minute gap while the stage got rearranged. When we return from this break, we will revisit the little Widespread Panic mini-set that was next.

And now, a few words about the Widespread Panic portion of the evening. First off, this was not regular Panic. This was Panic on steroids, with Derek Trucks and Jeff Sipe, plus Matt Slocum in JoJo Herman's keyboard spot. At the time I called it SuperPanic.

They kicked into Time Is Free, one of the tunes everybody in attendance expected to hear. At first I was disappointed that Bruce wasn't onstage (Where is that slacker anyway? We haven't seen him in hours!) but that quickly melted away once Jimmy and Derek started destroying brains with fiery solos. The thing I liked best about this version wasn't the intensity and raw power, which was there, but the Zambi weirdness of it. Several times they branched out into odd little Zambi jams, and at one point John Bell was basically speaking in tongues, as Bruce would sometimes do on stage.

I've never been the biggest fan of JB's voice, but he did a good job on Time Is Free, then really won me over with a heartfelt version of Trondossa. This slow jam/torch song is one of the most emotive songs in Bruce's catalog, and Bell was up to the challenge. I always loved hearing Derek play on this song with Bruce, but in a very Bruce-ish head fake, Jimmy actually took the main guitar solo instead of Derek. I should have known better than to expect something at a Bruce Hampton show.

Susan Tedeschi came out next for a thick, swampy version of Smokestack Lightning that really cooked. Derek and Susan have a very busy musical life, but I'm glad they made time for this event. They both added a lot to the show. The horn section comes back out after Smokestack, for a song called Don't Cry No More. Again, setlist analysts are going to have a field day with all the cryptic songs that seem to reference Bruce's impending demise. I'll say it again--with all the other songs they could have played in this slot, why play this one? Unless it's part of a larger message, there doesn't seem to be any good reason to do so.

Next up, the grand finale, with Bruce finally returning to the stage for the first time since the first song of the evening....

And now for the final chapter....

By this time I was not assuming Bruce would be back at all, and there was a big cheer when the Colonel returned to the stage for Basically Frightened, one of his signature tunes. Elderly jazz piano legend Johnny Knapp took a spiky, Thelonius-esque solo that included a Happy Birthday tease that had the crowd singing along. Among the things Bruce was afraid of in this version were New Jersey and Cincinnati.

Next up was Fixin' To Die. Of course they would play this song, one of Bruce's standards, but lyrics like "I don't mind dying but I hate to see my children cry" took on extra meaning after the night's conclusion. This old blues classic has been played by everybody from Leadbelly to Bob Dylan, but Bruce really made it his own, and on this night he brought the huge all-star band to a rousing big finish.

Next up was Space Is The Place, and the concert went up yet another notch. The old Sun Ra staple was one of Bruce's most reliable jam vehicles, and was usually one of the few times in any Col. Bruce show when he would really cut loose on guitar. He engaged in a great bit of showmanship here, saying "Let's take the Fox Theater into outer space!" and getting the crowd amped up, building up a lot of tension and energy before releasing it with a ripping solo.

I'm So Glad was such a perfect choice next, as it summed up the feelings of all those in attendance. Bruce stepped out on guitar again, and the jam hit another gear than it normally does. The lively Fox crowd sang along lustily to the chorus, and they meant it. One friend said this was the rowdiest crowd he had seen at the Fox since the Clash in 1982, and I believe it. Everybody was on their feet, the good vibes were flowing like wine, and everyone's spirit was uplifted.

After a brief break, Jeff Sipe came out with some cue cards to play the good old Zambiland Orchestra game. He would flash a card to all the musicians that would say things like "Louder!" or "Move to the left" or other obscure directions. It was a gloriously weird couple of minutes, didn't last long, but gave us a glimpse into one of Bruce's many modes of expression.

After a little bit of that, Bruce came back out onstage. The band, surely over 20 strong at this point, kicked into Turn On Your Lovelight. Bruce was a big fan of Bobby "Blue" Bland, who first created this high energy party starter back in 1959, and he often made sure to give Bland credit when he played it. So many folks think of it as a Dead song, or maybe an Otis Redding song, but it goes back even further than that.

It's hard to overstate how intoxicating the atmosphere in the Fox was at this moment. Every single person in that room had set the gearshift for the high gear of their soul, and when Bruce motioned to little Taz Neiderauer to take a solo, he tore into it with such fury that I didn't even notice for a while that Bruce had fallen down on stage. Eventually the other musicians started to notice, and once they realized it wasn't a gag, the show ended abruptly and awkwardly.

And now we are back to the scene outside the Fox, waiting and wondering as the ambulance comes flying up, sirens blaring. One guy near us, not realizing how serious the situation was, cracked cheerfully "Hell, I almost fell out too! That was a lot of gee-tar going on up there." Yep, there sure was.

Bruce Hampton meant more to me than any other musician and wasn't really close. I will miss him terribly, but can't help but applaud his dramatic exit, the ultimate exclamation point on a life that was one long, impeccable work of art.

 
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Peach Master



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  posted on 5/6/2017 at 10:35 AM
Great write up of the evening and the your feelings toward it.
 

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  posted on 5/6/2017 at 10:38 AM
Thank you for this write up. I'm glad that the music was great and sad that it ended the way it did. I never go to see the Col. but aud recordings of his shows where always in my musical rotation.
 

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  posted on 5/6/2017 at 01:58 PM
That's a wonderful piece Rob. Some real stellar writing.

Please check your PM's.

 

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  posted on 5/6/2017 at 08:40 PM
Incredible, powerful and moving words Rob. I know what Col. Bruce meant to you. I hope that putting your thoughts into words has helped you. Reading them has certainly helped me.

 

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  posted on 5/6/2017 at 11:46 PM
Over the past week, I have read many reviews and responses to the events of that night, but Rob's write up here is far and away the best. It puts us all in the Fox for that night.

Condolences on the loss of a hero.


Does anyone know if this was filmed for a later release? I know that's a strange question given the way it ended, but I can see a good Last Waltz type concert video/documentary coming out of it.

 

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  posted on 5/7/2017 at 01:18 AM
Great writing Rob. I've had a hard time comprehending the mere existence of the Colonel much less his passing. Your passionate review of the concert helps an outsider like myself to understand just a little better the concept of Zambi. I'm sure it was cathartic for you. I glad that you seem to be doing ok with the craziness of the whole thing. I'm sure the Colonel is ok. I just wonder about some of his disciples. I haven't heard anything from Sipe or Herring or my old buddy Drew. My take on this is much the same as everyone else. The Colonel couldn't have scripted it better. Did he script it? I believe I've heard Gregg say that this is how he'd like to go out before. If I have a choice ... I'd like to go either having sex or playing guitar .:: those are really the only things I enjoy ... RIP Colonel!

 

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  posted on 5/7/2017 at 05:36 AM
Thank you for writing and posting this Rob.

 

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  posted on 5/7/2017 at 08:25 AM
It sounds like Bruce was a master of transcendence. People who "know" as in described of him regarding others, tend to also operate a bit different than most, dimensionally. From the interviews, that is what he taught some talented musicians who came to him versed already, the "story". He sounds like a musical alchemist and shape-shifter, a shaman of tones.

Nice write Rob..... you conveyed the flavor well....

I don't believe dying on stage is that uncommon, although not often. Creator allowing you to pass quickly from a moment of joy, surrounded by friends, well not so bad, maybe a Gift. It is probably only uncomfortable for everyone else

 

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Universal Peach



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  posted on 5/7/2017 at 09:22 AM
Thanks for the kinds words everybody. This was definitely cathartic and therapeutic for me.

I have found a much better sounding recording of the event here...

https://archive.org/details/hampton702017-05-01.akg483.flac16


Apart from the amazing story of that night, the music really is incredible and worth hearing.

 
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  posted on 5/7/2017 at 09:55 AM
Great write up Rob.

I really wanted to talk Braves baseball again as it was being planned for him to come back to Pawleys Island.

 

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  posted on 5/7/2017 at 12:17 PM
Rob, do you know if it was recorded and filmed for a later release?
 

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  posted on 5/7/2017 at 07:02 PM
The Fox marquee as I was leaving on Tuesday morning after the show.

 

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  posted on 5/8/2017 at 05:55 AM
WarEagle, there were definitely cameras there, as the event was being webcast on nugs.net.

I do not know if any future release was planned, but obviously I hope it does happen.

If nothing else, I am delighted by the quality of the audio that I posted here recently. For a while there I was thinking I might have to make do with mediocre recordings in order to listen to this magical night, but the John Barren source is excellent.

 
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  posted on 5/8/2017 at 09:19 AM
Great writeup, Rob --- thanks for sharing.

I was delighted to hear over the weekend Sirius Dead Channel 23 play I'm So Glad from this show.

I thought that was particularly touching given there were no real Dead family musicians on stage that night ( maybe I'm wrong about that ).

Much respect

 
 


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