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Thursday, April 30

Review and Photos: Jackie Greene - "Plugged In & Turned Up" - Sweetwater Music Hall - April 14th, 2015 - Mill Valley, CA

credit: JG Facebook
When Jackie Greene shared the news of his six nights run at the famed Sweetwater Music Hall it was an impressive announcement within itself.   Playing as an acoustic duo with Nathan Dale for the first three nights Jackie had a chance to go over his more softer and acoustic numbers, though these shows eventually brought out the ROCK in a unplugged kind of way.  Then he played a fully unplugged full band show on the 12th of April, branching out into more uncharted territory and with guests like multi-instrumentalist Jason Crosby sitting in for almost the entire show.  This acoustic-ish gig was highly touted and the beautiful “Hallelujah” encore was befitting.  But the last two nights of this week long run were dubbed as full band “Jackie Greene Plugged In & Turned Up".  It was time to pop the cork on this bottle of musical champagne.  

The setting of this event is one thing that can’t be overlooked and so I’ll just state for the record, if you’re ever in the Bay Area and you have a list of must see places, you have to take a trip to Mill Valley, CA.  It’s a 15 mile jaunt over the Golden Gate Bridge and where Phil's Terrapin Crossroads is an expansive and beautiful venue not to mention a great restaurant, I advise not to forget a stop at the magical and somewhat smaller Sweetwater. Tucked in a small valley surrounded by the quaint foothills of Mount Tamalpais this little hamlet of a village boasts not only one of the better small venues in the country but a community of very friendly and loving people.  The air is clean, the surroundings beautiful, and on this night there was a sense of calm.  Calm before the show that rocked us all just as we had wished.
Within moments of the first licks of “Don’t Let The Devil Take Your Mind” it was immediately clear that they showed up to not only blow minds but also melt faces in the process.  The guitar playing that was heard and felt throughout the two-set adventure was incredibly loose and very spacey and yet somehow it kept well within the characteristics of Jackie's folk-rock genre.  In summery, it rocked; plain and simple.  The first notable intrigue of the evening, aside from the local was how well this room is set up to handle heavy rock and roll.  
Official Event Poster

Bob Weir, the owner and a musician with a real penchant for sound quality did not skimp when it came to the sound system, as there was no place in the room where it was too loud, or distorted or soft.  It was clean, raw and real.  EVERYWHERE.  This lent to an acoustically pleasant experience, one that so many other venues could benefit from, here's to the hope that the Sweetwater set's an example here.  Adding tremendously to this sound was the dynamic rhythm section made up of Brian Filosa on the bass and Fitz Harris rocking and rolling on the drums.  
Jackie’s shows have always been flavorful and full of soul and with the addition of these two amazing musicians created a grooveable palate upon which Jackie’s story filled lyrics painted the most colorful of sound, and the string bending guitar jams easily played and bounced all over.  This was a quartet operating on all four cylinders and when you add the dimension of the room, beautiful Mill Valley, California and the sweet elongated jamming tunes, well what you had one of Greene's best shows in recent memory.   A highlight no doubt was one of the more pronounced takes on the Grateful Dead's  “New Speedway Boogie.  Jackie and Nathan took turns jamming the song out and then letting the rhythm section hold the low end down they ripped into the final verse with the entire room erupting in cheers as they danced the night away.
The second set was loaded, and was the more laid back of the evening, with elongated jams and where once there were voids, now there were fills, and where once there were fills now there was funk.  Moving through a number of his popular and rocking songs, the soul that came from Jackie and his band was hard to describe, they had turned it up to 11 for all in attendance and no one could have been happier.  Songs I had heard live twenty times before came across at times nearly unrecognizable as they bobbed and weaved and swayed all in a positive and funky direction.  We've heard that Jackie has spent time in the studio working on a new album, I'm sure his growth has influenced his playing but this band was one fire, simple as that.

An even with a new LP on the way, on this night in Marin County it felt as if his classics were reinvented, if ever so slightly, with a little more gusto, a lot of more soul, and a funky back drop that left the imagination to only wonder is this music truly limitless, because to me it felt that way.  Jackie Greene and his music is on the move.  I don’t know why but I get a sense that he’s a man in motion, with a lot going on.  And still there is a sense of peace in that, surrounded by friends and fellow musicians, he continues to stand atop a mountain and yet somehow still look everyone square in the eye.
Words: Sammy Martin
Photos: Carla Kilgore
 ©Grateful Music LLC