Even though I’ve been to the Innsbrook Pavilion many times before, it still trips me up that the place is nestled inside a giant office park. Not your typical location for a concert venue, but somehow the folks over there have made it work. There are some drawbacks to the area, though. For one, the crowd is normally littered with white-collar professionals who are much more interested in social hour than music (an ongoing beef of mine). Secondly, the security is tighter than the proverbial duck’s arse. While the police presence didn’t confront me none, the constant chitter-chatter certainly cheesed me off. I meandered through the crowd searching for a quiet haven to enjoy the show, which I did, right in front of the speaker. It’s sad when that’s the only place you can go and actually hear over the talking, but hey, you do what you have to do.
By the time I got settled, the sun was setting and the Aquarium Rescue Unit was already about 30 minutes in to their set. The group, considered the forerunner of the modern day jam band scene, has had an ever-changing lineup since its inception in the late 80s. Wednesday night, the ARU consisted of some familiar faces to me – founding member and “Godfather of Jam” Col. Bruce Hampton, current Widespread Panic guitarist Jimmy Herring, and the Allman Brothers Band’s current bassist Oteil Burbridge as well as Jeff Sipe aka Apt Q-258 (percussion) and Bobby Lee Rodgers (banjo/vocals) both of whom were new to me. Since this was my first ARU gig, I didn’t recognize much of what I was hearing. You didn’t have to know the songs to know it was some straight-up goodness, though. These guys rarely play together nowadays, so it was beyond a treat to have this opportunity. The band laid down some of the sickest grooves I have ever witnessed – impeccably fusing rock, bluegrass, jazz, you name it. I have heard before that Oteil is limited by the Allman Brothers Band; judging by his performance Wednesday night, that assessment is correct. He really took command over a good portion of the show, singing and scatting while dropping some scorching hot bass lines. Someone awesome captured footage and posted it on YouTube –
When Oteil wasn’t directing traffic, Col. Bruce graced us with his rough and rootsy vocals. Even though he is considered the band leader, he deserves to lay low if that’s what he’s feeling – the man is an unacknowledged legend. He just has that quality about him – you know you’re in the presence of greatness. And then there’s Jimmy Herring, who is a master of his craft. Most people know Warren Haynes is one of my favorite living guitarists, but Jimmy is now closing that gap. He shreds it and totally floors me with his solos. If he sang, too, Warren might have a real fight on his hands. See what I mean –
Towards the middle of the set, Derek Trucks came out for a few songs and we got a short glimpse of the amazing chemistry between him and Jimmy (more to come during the DTB set). Then, a very young man appeared on the drums who was later identified as Derek’s little brother, Duane. With their uncle Butch playing drums for the Allman Brothers, the Trucks family is building quite the musical pedigree. The ARU closed out their set with a splendid rendition of “Turn On Your Lovelight,” and the roadies got to work on setting up DTB ’s equipment.
If you EVER have the opportunity to see the Aquarium Rescue Unit, you absolutely should. They made a hell of a first impression on me. I have run out of ways to say amazing, so I’ll just leave it at that.PS: A special thanks to the wonderful man who made this evening possible :P