The Black Crowes front-man takes temporary leave from his sibling for a great side project that rocked Santa Fe Sol
“He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…” The Hollies
Question: You know Chris Robinson as:
The lead singer of the Black Crowes.
Kate Hudson’s ex-husband.
A marijuana legalization activist.
All of the above.
The answer, naturally, is 4. But he's so much more.
While his primary band The Black Crowes (which features his brother Rich on guitar) is on hiatus, Chris Robinson has put together a new side project: The ironically-named Chris Robinson Brotherhood. The band features Adam MacDougall (of the Black Crowes) on keyboards, George Sluppick on drums, Mark "Muddy" Dutton (of Burning Tree) on Bass, and Neal Casal, (formerly with Ryan Adams and the Cardinals) on guitar. This band is not to be confused with New Earth Mud – Robinson’s first solo group. Yes, there are similarities, but these guys took that concept a step further and a few points sharper.
Showtime brings the barefoot boy -- looking like a cross between civil war refugee from Andersonville (guard or prisoner?) and Tom Hanks in “Castaway” -- meandering up to the stage from the dressing room. The stage lights illuminate the mystical symbols inked into his flesh, and whatever power they bring to him, Chris wields it on stage very lazily -- like a shaman who has found all the answers to life, but only shares them when he cares to. He fiddles with the settings on his amp while the band gets their tuning down and ease into the first song. Neal Casal, a dead ringer for Jason Lee, shows his sinewy, textured tone and tasty playing style from the first notes he hits.
Those people who came expecting to hear the bar-band/Small Faces meets the Rolling Stones stomping rock and roll that made the Black Crowes famous were surely disappointed. The Brotherhood resembled a cross between the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers. A jam-type band without the self-indulgent endless, pointless meanderings that some of the newer breed of that genre wear as a badge of honor.
There was a soul revival feel to the crowd as they reacted to the music. A lot of typical Santa Fe whirling and swaying that you see at most shows here – but there was something different in the air. Mystical, religious. Like a jam band gospel happy hour without the preaching. You felt the energy, you got the message, and no one needed to say a word. Hallelujah!
Chris leads the band with a nudge, a nod, a look. Very slick. Lots of beautiful harmonies on these songs, coupled with very tight playing. Tight, tight, and tight. But they still managed to keep it loose in all the right places. Not wandering, but taking their time to get where they were going. Free-flowing but structured, the music hit you hard and deep. Like a bolt of lightening that kept your feet moving while you were being zapped with the energy.
The crowd was having a time. Everyone was into their own space, enjoying the vibe of the music – but when the band broke into the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha”, (the first time this band has ever done it on stage – video is available elsewhere on this site) you’d swear it was as if Chris was a distant nephew of Jerry Garcia – holding the crowd in thrall, and brandishing his guitar as if it was a torch to guide a new generation of flower children to the promised land of milk and honey… and jam.
No matter what label you care to put on it, this was a great rock 'n' roll show of the first degree. Different expectations, new players, unfamiliar songs, but somehow it all came together in a beautiful venue, with an enthusiastic and peaceful crowd, on a gorgeous night. What else could you want? Somewhere out there, Gram Parsons is smiling.
Check out an exclusive video from local videographer John Carr