The evening was beautiful – my first time seeing Medeski Martin & Wood and my first visit to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Being there, I remembered how I love plants (not just the ones you smoke ;). I felt an instant sense of peace when I walked through the gates. The flowers and the greenery were in full bloom, little hippie children were running around, and the weather was ideal. I made a spur of the moment decision to go to the show, so I figured it would be a solo venture. Luckily, Amanda had the day off and accompanied me.
We got there about midway through the opening band’s set. Homemade Bread they were called, and they sounded pretty good. Their style was funky and jazzy, and the vocals were solid. The saxophone player, David Gay I believe, really impressed me. Definitely want to check out more from these guys, but I’m having difficulties locating them on the web, can’t even find ‘em on Myspace. I think they need my marketing assistance ;o)
EDIT: I came across this snippet about Homemade Bread on the Haymaker Festival website.
I used the break before MMW to wander around and snap some more pictures of the gardens. Gorgeous! I can’t believe I go to Richmond so frequently and don’t take advantage of that place.
The stroll through the plant labyrinth (along with the beers) had me nicely relaxed and primed for the MMW set. The crowd cheered as John Medeski made his way over to the piano, with Chris Wood and Billy Martin following shortly there after. They each took their time warming up – Medeski getting used to the feel of the piano, Wood tuning his upright bass, Martin organizing his giant arsenal of percussion equipment. Unlike a rock ensemble, where the first song is like a blast to the face; Medeski, Martin, and Wood slowly built up to their introductory number. (Disclaimer: I wasn’t able to identify the tunes by name since I am not very well versed in the MMW catalog). They started off with a straight-up jazz piece. As the intensity built, Martin and Wood brought the rhythm, laying the foundation for Medeski to show his stuff. It wasn’t long before he was standing and strumming the strings of the grand piano as if it were a stringed instrument (well, it is technically, but you know what I mean). For the second song, Medeski pulled out his melodica and Wood switched to the electric bass, and the sound shifted from jazz to world music. They got into some deep grooves throughout their 90 minute set, but the highlight was definitely the encore cover of “What’d I Say?”. People who had been seated all night got up and joined the rest of us in the hippie shuffle. MMW was exactly what the doctor ordered for me, but I heard some folks commenting that it was too jazzy for their tastes. My guess is that most of these people miss the guitar. I thought it was a refreshing change to have the focus be on the piano; I miss that instrument in music. Definitely seeing this trio whenever they come around Virginia again.