Tag Archives: Medeski Martin and Wood

Medeski Martin & Wood (or MMW) is an American jazz trio formed in 1991, consisting of John Medeski on keyboards and piano, Billy Martin on drums and percussion, and Chris Wood on double bass and bass guitar.

The band draws on influences from a number of musical traditions, from funk to hip hop, and is known for an unconventional style sometimes described as “avant-groove”.

Medeski, Martin, and Wood at Rams Head On Stage October 14th 2012

Over the summer MMW announced an all acoustic fall tour. I almost didn’t hear about this tour as no email was sent by the band and venues just buried it in their announcements. Fortunately I did hear about it and the last two shows of the tour were at the Kennedy Center and Rams Head On Stage. Like the show with John Scofield years ago at the 9:30 Club, I waited to long and missed tickets to the Kennedy show. So much for a mini tour.

As the show approached I was getting excited. These guys are my second favorite band and I have been seeing them for more than ten years now. They have this mix of jazz and funk that sucks you in. All the shows I have seen before have been electric so this was a change of pace. They have done this type of tour before back in ’97 I believe, well before my time seeing them live.

The Rams Head On Stage is a quite venue like the Birchmere in Alexandria. Like it, you can get food and drink at your table. Being a Fordham brewpub, I was looking forward to some micro beer and food. When I got there I had plenty of time to enjoy several styles of beers and eat dinner. Fortunately the Ravens were not playing so they had the Skins on.

Being assigned setting I walked in with five minutes to go before show time and took my seat. On the seating chart my seat looked good, in real life there were several posts that obscured my view. John was almost completely hidden from view and I could only see Chris if I moved my head way over. What was not a problem was listing to the band. The venue is small and sound envelopes the space. Billy on drums doesn’t need mics and John on the baby grand probably didn’t have a mic either. Chris on bass may have needed it but I can’t be sure. No other show I have seen from them has been like that.

They started a little late, playing by my calculation just four songs in the first set. The music flowed together real well so it was hard to tell the transitions. I would guess a lot of improv during that first set.

After a short intermission it was onto set two for the night. I was only expecting one, set getting two was extra special. The second set started acoustic but quickly Chris put down the upright bass and grabbed his electric. The second set had a few songs I recognized including a cover of Suspicious Mind made famous by Elvis, which I have never heard them do.

setlist?

After the encore the show was over just before eleven. This might sound early but it was a school night and I had a long drive ahead of me. I thought about staying to say hello to the band or even getting one last beer, I decided sleep was more important. I didn’t get home till almost one that nigh and went right to bed. These old bones can’t party like I use to.

It was a great performance by the guys in an intimate venue I have never seen them play before. The combination of a brewpub with good food and a quite venue made for a magical evening. I hope they come back to Rams Head On Stage, or better yet, The Birchmere in Alexandria.

Set 1 (start 8:13pm)
1st Set
1. improv >
2. Illmoan (w/ Drum + Bass Solos)
3. “Melodiccordian Shuffle”*
4. What’d I Say (w/ Bass + Drum Solos)
ends at 9:07pm

Set 2 (starts at 9:39pm)
1. “Fall River Blues”
2. piano solo > “Piano/Bass Chase” > Sand
3. Amber Gris
4. Ballade In C Minor, ‘Vergessene Seelen’+
5. Suspicious Minds
ends at 10:42pm

encore (starts at 10:45pm)
6. Swamp Road
show over at 10:54pm

* John on Claviola
+ John on Bamboo Sax

Medeski, Martin, and Wood 9:30 Club October 27th 2011

Medeski, Martin and Wood with Antibalas 9:30 Club Washington DC
three shows only!

This year MMW decided to role through town a little early, they didn’t contact me when putting the tour together which was unfortunate. Usually their yearly winter trek to Washington is in November.  I convinced Rob to join Jeremy and I for the show this year.

Rob meet me at the shop and we headed into the city early to get some food and have a few drinks before the show. We had hope to eat at a Greek restaurant but the one we found, despite its great reviews, was carry out only. We continued to walk and I saw a sign for $2 drafts at the Tap and Parlour. We needed to wait for Jeremy and his date to arrive so we headed in for a quick drink. Unfortunately for us it was the bartenders first day on the job and it showed.  It took forever for Rob and I to get our first drink and she gave the wrong change to another guy. When I got my second beer it had a huge head and was the wrong type. With all the trouble we had just getting our checks and my second beer, we were just happy to get out of there..

By now Jeremy and Sam arrived and we decided to stay for dinner and some more drinks. Thankfully the food was pretty good and the waitress was able to keep up with our simple requests for drinks. I got the crab cake sandwich and it was pretty good, Sam got some jerk chicken pasta that was really good.  We stayed here pretty late before heading to the venue.

Opening for MMW was the Antibalas, which I later found out was an afrobeat band. Michael Ruetten’s podcast has introduced me to many afrobeat bands and I dig the rhythmic jazz sound they have.  In particular, I encourage everyone to check out Fela Kuti and his music if you want to get a taste of what afrobeat has to offer.  I would have loved to catch the entire set, the few songs we heard were great.

MMW came out a little late but played a solid set. All year they have been slowly releasing songs from their newest album 20, in celebration of their 20th anniversary. The first set included a few tracks from it and a few older ones as well. At the conclusion of the set we found out it was an all request set which is something they never do.  If I had know I would have submitted my own playlist, in fact I have a well put together playlist they can use anytime.  I have a feeling that it was a Facebook thing, something I am proud to say I am not on. They also announced that they would be returning shortly with the Antibalas for a joint set. Are you kidding me!

MMW with the Antibalas
a horrible picture, but you get the idea

I used the set break to get a double shot of coffee for Rob who looked like he was about to pass out. He had been working twelve hour days leading to the show so for him to come out and stay so late was a bit of a stretch. I advised him to stay for the first set but he persevered and was staying into the second. The whole time the stage crew is setting up the stage for the Antibalas.  You should have seen the stage setup with twelve members of the Antibalas and three from MMW with their large presence on stage.

Usually when a band is about to take the stage it is somewhat of a surprise, tonight there was little. I saw the band members congregate on both sides of the stage and then it was on, took the light guy by surprise. Billy quickly addresses the crowd and announced the winner of the pumpkin carving contest, there was only one entrant.  He made a short speech about working with the Antibalas in the past and that they would collaberate in the future on more songs, onto the music.  The entire second set with both bands together kicked total ass.  The guys played a mix of both bands songs.  When they would play an Antibalas song the groove was tight, when it was an MMW song the horn section in particular added a nice rhythm to the mix.

The two bands played for a solid hour before the house lights came on just before midnight.  I couldn’t believe my luck, seeing the two bands play together like that totally made the trip worth it.  On my way home that night I was energized for some afrobeat and played Fela Kuti. It was after 1am before I finally crawled into bed and Friday I was hurting most of the day.  My old bones can’t take many late night concerts in DC and then working the next day. I hope the next tour they stick to their traditional Friday or Saturday night gig in middle November.

MMW 9:30 Club November 12th 2010

post for MMW@9:30 Club

It has become an annual tradition that I try to see a show on or around my birthday. For the last few years Medeski, Martin and Wood has toured in late fall and hit the Washington DC area on or within a few days of my birthday and I have been lucky enough to catch a couple of the shows. The one I missed and still kick myself over was when they played with John Scofield, tickets sold out before I could purchase them.

This year I saw the 9:30 Club listed for November 12th and agreed with some friends we were going to the show at any cost. I will admit, I got tickets a few weeks in advance but it was not an issue purchasing three tickets for Nancy, Jeremy and myself. Being my birthday show we decided to make it a night on the town and head to the city early to grab some dinner before the show. Doors didn’t open till 10 and I figured the show would not start till at 11 so needless to say we had plenty of time to kill.

Seeing as the 9:30 Club is right near U street I wanted to eat at some restaurant along the corridor. Over the last few years the whole neighborhood between 14th St. and Vermont Ave. has been revamped. Many of the rundown buildings that dotted the street and surrounding areas have been demolished and new high rise condo/retail spaces have been put up. You can still find Bohemian Caverns, Twins Jazz, and Ben’s Chili Bowl along side a bunch of yuppie cafes and boutiques. When we got to the city we cruised down U St. and quickly realized there was not going to be any street parking so got a pay lot for $15 which ends up being a deal for a guarded lot all night long. Now the hunt was on for a place to eat.

As I lead the group down the street I scanned both sides trying to find some place that looked good but was also within budget. Half the places looked like slum pits but probably had some good food and the other half were to shi shi and I would not be allowed to step foot into the place because of my attire. Quickly loosing hope we crossed over 14th and I found U-topia. From the outside it looked like a whole in the wall but inside the place was packed with patrons. Looking at the menu on the window we certainly could find something for everyone. When we walked in I was surprised by the decor splattered on the walls and low ambient light. The artwork was a nice touch and gave you something to look at and I immediately felt very relaxed and welcome when we sat down at our table.

U-Topia Bar and Grill - Washington DC
U-Topia Bar and Grill

Getting a waiter to take our order was a bit slow but once he arrived things came in rapid succession. For an appetizer we got the mussels in lemon caper cream sauce that was amazing. Nancy is not much of a sea food fan but she tried it and actually like it, eating just as many muscles as Jeremy and I. For the main course I had….actually I don’t remember, the appetizer was that good. After a few beers and some time talking we walked to the club for the show.

When we arrived just after 10pm there was a line outside the venue, the doors had yet to open with the line wrapping around the block. Waiting only a few minutes for will call tickets we got inline to actually get into the venue with everyone else. When the doors finally opened we grabbed a beer on the mail floor and headed up stairs to take up residency near the center stage bar. There was one stool remaining that Nancy took and Jeremy and I stood. It is nice to be close to the band but from the balcony we had an unobstructed view of the stage and all I needed to do was turn around to get a bar, so it worked out well.

With the late doors MMW didn’t get on stage till 11:15. Here it is close to midnight and MMW had yet to appear on stage, this was going to be a late night! Jeremy and I were debating on a two set performance or one long set. In the end it was one long sets. As the night got going I was feeling good and the music was great. Jeremy and Nancy kept feeding me beer and I was feeling just right, so when the groove of the base hit and Billy starts hitting that drum line followed by the high pitch whine of John’s keys followed suit I was in heaven. I wish I knew what the set list was but all night the song selection kicked ass. The grooves were tight and vibe was strong. After attending the MMW show with Jeremy at the Norva we were expecting a light turn out but the floor was packed well into the set. People did start dropping like flies as the time approached 1am. Jeremy and I both agreed this was a killer show and certainly in the top three of all MMW shows we have seen. It is still hard to top the double encore night at Rams Head Live! from so many years ago or the late night set at Bonnaroo in 2003, but this one came very close.

Ben's Chili Bowl, always a line
Ben's at night, Michael Williamson

When the show ended I was exhausted but satisfied. The boys put on a worthy show, well worth coming out for and staying up well past everyone’s bed time. Not wanting to end the night so soon, and being hungry, we headed back down to U Street for Ben’s Chili Bowl. I got the chili cheese fries and split them with Nancy, Jeremy ended up with a chili dog. Let me tell you, that hit the spot after a long night of dancing and drinking, making the long drive home to Stafford just a little more bearable on a full stomach.

When it comes to MMW shows I have never been disappointed with there performances. Sure they have their off nights *cough* Norva 2010 *cough* but never a bad performance every. This one is near the top of my list all time and being a birthday show made it that much more meaningful. I hope they tour again soon, still trying to make it out to a show in another country, and hopefully a return to DC around my birthday in 2011! I can’t thank Nancy and Jeremy enough for coming out and partying with me all night, especially for all the beer and extra special for Nancy driving my drunk ass home that night. When we finally did get home around 3am my ass crashed hard. The following day we were headed to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore for a special night to celebrate my birthday further. I will get the details of that wild night posted shortly (Update: finally got that post written).

Set 1 starts at 11:14pm
?
ends at 1:22am

encore starts at 1:25am
ends at 1:42am

MMW at Norva Theatre June 14th 2010

Medeski, Martin and Wood
MMW

Oh the long awaited return of MMW!  I was last able to see the guys for a two night run at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond and the following day at the Rams Head Live! In Baltimore. This was suppose to be a two-day mini-tour with Jeremy, unfortunately he couldn’t make the tour and I had to go it alone.  This time around it would be another two-day mini-tour, but would be MMW at the Norva and Phish the following day at nTelos.

MMW kick a whole lot of ass and I have been catching their live performances for almost 10 years now. They just have this jam, this groove, this funk that I just love. It is only three people but they play some amazing stuff. For an added bonus there was the possibility of Trey from Phish sitting in.  Phish had Monday off before their show Tuesday at nTelos Pavilion and that left the door open for a possible appearance by Trey as a special guest. Years ago Jeremy and I saw MMW at the 9:30 Club and we noticed Trey in the VIP balcony area. We were hoping to see him join the band, but that never materialized.

Getting down to Norfolk proved to be a bit of a hassle. We got such a late start I was worried we might miss the opening set. When Jeremy finally did get down to my house he forgot the parking pass at his house. Luckily we found an open spot in the general parking lot so they wouldn’t toe his car. Finally just after 5 we hit the road, in time for rush hour traffic. Just over three hours later we arrived at the hotel and checked in real quick before driving 6 miles down the road to the Norva.

The Norva marquee
The Norva marquee

We arrived at 8:30, what turned out to be early. The “special guest” was an opening act that we walked in on near the end of their set. Not bad, but I certainly could have missed them and been just fine. I was just happy to make it to the venue before MMW came on stage.  After a short intermission the band took the stage just after 9pm and started with some heavy jams.  We took up a spot along the upper balcony and had a pretty good view of the stage.  For the second set we moved down stairs to get a little closers to the stage.  Not surprisingly the venue was pretty empty.  I was torn about this issue.  I always like small intimate shows, but there is just something about a large crowd jamming to the music.  I also fear that if ticket sales are poor they will not be invited back.  But then that just means they might come to a smaller venue.  What they need to do is come back to the Birchmere again.  That is the perfect size venue to hear them in.

I would say the performance was standard for them.  There were no bust out songs or long series of jams like in shows past.  Just a solid peformance.

Set 1 start time 9:10
1. ?
End time 10:15

Set 2 start time 10:48
1. ?
12:09 set ends

Encore start time 12:12
2. ?
End 12:18

MMW at Rams Head Live June 5th 2009

Friday was the second straight show of Medeski, Martin and Wood I was going to see.  Of the two this was definitely the one I was most looking forward to.  Yeah the Lewis Ginter was a new venue for me, but the last time I saw MMW at Rams Head Live it totally kicked ass.  Plus it was a Friday in Baltimore so that was it’s own fun right there.  For this show I planned on doing a little drinking and there is always Sabatino’s for some after show dessert and coffee.

Medeski, Martin and Wood
Medeski, Martin and Wood

Unlike last nights show, this one started at a more reasonable hour.  The doors didn’t open until 7 where as with the Lewis Ginter show, by 7 MMW was getting ready to take the stage.  The extra time allowed me to put in a full day of work with plenty of travel time before the show started.  I couldn’t leave work till 6pm but even at this late hour traffic was not an issue and I was in Baltimore just after 8.  When I got into the venue The Wood Brothers were already on stage, but only a couple of songs into their set.   Not my favorite band.  They play really well and it was certainly different just having a due on stage.  I like to call it hard core bluegrass, it was mostly time to get drinks and mingle with the other fans.

Trying to find other fans turned into a little bit of an issue as NO ONE showed up!  That is not entirely true, probably 400-500 people showed up for the show.  The last time I saw them at the Rams Head Live back in 2005 the placed was packed and I was hoping for the same amount of people.  Baltimore has got a great scene when it comes to live music and I was expecting the hoards of people to flood into the inner harbor and support the band.  Even on a Friday night and still no one showed up.  So as showtime approached I was a little apprehensive on how good the show was going to be.

Another beer and it was time to find my permanent spot on the floor to enjoy the show.  Because of the low turnout the upstairs area was closed off, so I took  a spot dead center about 20′ away.  There I meet two really cool people from Annapolis, Gretchen and Michal.  A couple of young people who were well traveled when it came to seeing concerts.  We all reminisced about various concerts we had been to and the upcoming Phish shows we were going to see.  When the lights went down the fun was about to begin.

Rams Head Live!
Rams Head Live!

The quick and dirty is that the show was 10,000 times better than last nights.  Having such a small crowd did not diminish the vibe.  The boys were on fire this night performing many of their new songs from Radiolarians II.  They also threw in some new new stuff that should appear on the third installment of this series.  The energy during the entire show was well maintained throughout.  Reliquary starts off the first set and had this building quality to it.  It sounds as if at any moment they are just going to breakout into this crazy bizarre jam without limits.  Riffin’ Ed continued in the same way.  When they got to the third song, a new one, they changed direction into something a little mellower that flowed right into Junkyard and back into an uptempo beat.  For the set closer it was all energy with two more songs from their recent album, ijiji > Flat Tires.  This left the crowd on a high and me wanting more, that second set couldn’t get here fast enough.

One last run to the bar for beer, I am responsible you know so no more drinking once the second set starts, and then to procure more real estate.  This time I was able to get within a few feet of the stage, everyone else was not as quick at getting the last beer like I was.  While waiting for the second set I meet Jennifer, now what I am about to say sounds straight out of a porno, but it is not.  She is a airline stewardess out of Detroit who was in Baltimore for the night just to see the show.  A real lovely woman to talk to and a true music fan like myself.  I don’t know many people that will travel such a great distance just to see a band.  When the lights went out and MMW stepped onto the stage it was time for my attention to shift.

copyright Tim
copyright Tim

The second set was a little more adventurous in it’s tone and arrangement.  Set highlights included three new songs, including one for the encore and another great version of Amber Gris which I have been really digging from their new album.  Right in the middle of the set they change temp and pull out Baby Let Me Follow You Down.  Not sure why when they were rocking hard they felt the need to slow things waaaaay down.  Fortunately once it was over it was time to get back to the funk and boogie.  When the set ended the crowd was pretty tired and I doubted they would be able to pull the guys out for an encore.  Fortunately we didn’t have to wait long for them to bust out a new funky jam to leave us all on a high.

At the close of the show it was not exactly time for me to drive home.  I was hungry for some dessert and besides, I needed to sober up a little.  On my way to Sabatino’s I ran across this woman throwing an orange around and I just had to ask what she was doing.  Being the gentleman I am I couldn’t just let her walk alone in the city this late at night.  When we reached Sabatino’s however we parted ways, she headed home and I was headed for tiramisu and a cappuccino.  I don’t know what it is about this combination, but it totally kicks ass and is but one reason I like coming to Baltimore for concerts.

Sober from the evenings concerts and still jamming to the tunes in my head it was time for the long drive home to my nice comfortable bed.

Set 1 9:38
Reliquary
Riffin’ Ed
unknown >
Junkyard >
ijiji > Flat Tires

set ends at 10:41

Set 2 11:13
Sweet Pea Dreams
unknown
Amber Gris
Baby Let Me Follow You Down
Amish Pintxos
unknown

encore 12:03
unknown

show ends at 12:11