As any good Deadhead knows, at some point in their notoriously lengthy live shows, the Grateful Dead embarked on a musical passage known as "Drums" and "Space" (or, in the notation of 'heads, some variation thereof: "Drumz Space," for example). It was a section of their shows that was pure instrumental improvisation.
"Drums" was dual drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann (or, as a recent press release accurately calls them, the "two-headed, eight-limbed, polyrhythmic engine that drove the Grateful Dead") just having some fun, making some beats and exploratory noise that always seemed geared toward the folks who stopped when they heard some freak mutter "doses" under his breath in the parking lot. "Space" was pretty much the same thing, but with the rest of the band joining in on the noise."
That section of Dead shows could be either a gigantic waste of time, or a revelation, depending on whether the band was "on" that night, and how much LSD was in one's system. For the many who didn't indulge in the taking of illegal substances, it often signified that it was safe to take a leisurely trip to the restroom.
Somewhere along the way, Hart and Kreutzmann began being referred to as the Rhythm Devils. From that same press release: "The Rhythm Devils name has its origins in the late '70s. As Hart explains, 'I remember Jerry (Garcia) looking at Bill and I one time. He shook his head and just said, 'You guys are Rhythm Devils.'" That's the sort of thing, after all, that happens when you combine a speedball with LSD.
But once the Grateful Dead broke up after Garcia's death in 1995, the rest of the band's members were left to figure out their Dead-less future, and several offspring bands sprouted: The Other Ones, The Dead, Further, RatDog—and the Rhythm Devils.
Kreutzmann and Hart surrounded themselves with other musicians and played rhythm-based music to keep the 'heads dancing. (Because, after all, who the hell is gonna pay for a ticket to watch two dudes drumming?) They've toured sporadically over the years, with a different lineup of musicians each time (the last tour was in 2006), and right now, they're in the midst of a short string of tour dates that will bring them to the Rialto Theatre.
The 2010 touring incarnation of the Rhythm Devils is notable for featuring Keller Williams, an astoundingly talented multi-instrumentalist often referred to as a one-man jam band who incorporates everything into his own shows from folk and bluegrass to reggae and funk to rock and electronica. On his own, he's headlined shows at the Rialto several times in the past. (For the second leg of the tour, Williams will be replaced by The Mother Hips' Tim Bluhm.) The band will also include Sikiru Adepoju (Nigerian talking drum), Davy Knowles (guitar and vocals) and Andy Hess on bass.
The press release assures us they'll play a lot of Grateful Dead material, reconstituted to suit the current lineup. Additionally, they'll be performing songs written specifically for them by the Garcia's writing partner, Robert Hunter.
As Hart says in the press release, "Robert Hunter is a major force in all of this. He has written his heart out in these new songs. There will also be enormous, exciting electronic sections of pulsing, throbbing, beautiful zones. There are places and sounds still unknown and unborn that we will no doubt visit."
The Rhythm Devils will perform at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at 8 p.m., Wednesday, July 28. Tickets for the all-ages show are $32 in advance, or $34 on the day of the show. For more information, head to rialtotheatre.com, or call 740-1000.
A TRUE BLUE LEGEND
In recent years, the Oxford, Miss.-based Fat Possum Records—a subsidiary of punk label Epitaph—has released albums by a hodgepodge of eclectic indie artists, including Andrew Bird, the Black Keys, the Heartless Bastards, Wavves, and formerly Tucson-based Digital Leather. However, the label began in 1992 as an outlet for recordings by largely unheard-of, aging Southern blues musicians who typically played a particularly dirty, primal version of Delta blues.
In the ensuing years, almost all of the label's original roster left this mortal coil, several of them even before their Fat Possum albums were released. Of that original roster of acts, three stood out to most, perhaps partially because they were still healthy enough to tour: The elderly Junior Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford would actually hit the road to support their Fat Possum releases, and a new generation of kids raised on bands like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion discovered them.
Kimbrough died in 1998, and Burnside passed away in 2005. But T-Model Ford remains.
Currently around 90 years old (he can't remember his own birthdate), Ford, now recognized as one of the last remaining original Delta bluesmen, still tours regularly, dishing out his patented rough-and-tumble blend of blues of the juke-joint, Chicago and Delta varieties. For the last few years, he has enlisted Seattle's GravelRoad as his backing band for most shows (he's played at least a couple of local shows with them in recent years), but for the opening leg of his current tour, which includes this week's Tucson date, he'll go solo. Not bad for a dude who earlier this year suffered a stroke (he's said to have recovered well) and got married for the sixth time.
Catch T-Model Ford while you still can, at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Wednesday, July 28. Tom Walbank and the Ambassadors will open at 9:30 p.m. Admission is a 10-spot. For further details, go to plushtucson.com, or call 798-1298.
Nobody really likes the Silos. Like most cult bands, you pretty much either love them or, likely, haven't really been exposed to them.
Formed in New York City in the mid-'80s, the Silos were part of the initial wave of alt-country revivalism, with an especially economical literary bent. The group, which still seems to be an on-again/off-again affair, is fronted by singer-songwriter Walter Salas-Humara, who has also released solo albums over the years. He'll no doubt perform both solo and Silos material when he headlines a show at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Saturday, July 24. Opening the show at 7 p.m. is Tom Freund, himself another latter-day Silo. $5 gets you in; call 622-8848 with questions.
Locals Van Gogh Rescue will headline a show at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., tonight, Thursday, July 22. A three-song demo provided by the band indicates that they trade in an amalgam of '90s alt-rock styles that incorporates indie-rock and funk. They would have sounded right at home on KFMA circa 1996 alongside bands like Geggy Tah and the Toadies (who, by the way, are playing at Club Congress the same night). Opening for Van Gogh Rescue at 9:30 p.m. are Broken Romeo and Audacia. Admission is $5. Call 798-1298 for more info.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Maps and Atlases, Cults and The Globes at Club Congress on Friday, July 23; the Summer Soundsystem Tour featuring Mike Pinto, Ballyhoo! and The Hounds at The Hut on Sunday, July 25; the Radar Bros., Young Mothers and TreeHouseFire at Plush on Friday, July 23; Boris and Saade at Plush on Sunday, July 25; Young Buck at the Rialto Theatre on Friday, July 23; Woobly, MaryClare Brzytwa and Jess Matsen at Solar Culture Gallery on Monday, July 26; Circa Survive and The Dear Hunter at The Rock on Friday, July 23; New Politics and Funeral Party at Club Congress on Wednesday, July 28; Eyes, Jesus Is Angry and Not Breathing at Solar Culture Gallery on Friday, July 23; Beyond the Firewall CD-release party with Frantic, Sleeping Violet and CCS Crew at O'Malley's on Friday, July 23; Line of Fire reunion show with Negative Feedback, First Offense and Busted Bearings at Skrappy's on Saturday, July 24; Maya Caballero and Thee Verduns at the Red Room at Grill on Tuesday, July 27; Fort Worth, I Am the Lion and the Gentlemen of Monster Island at Surly Wench Pub on Friday, July 23; Rosetta, City of Ships, Juarez, North and Long Live the Smoking Gun at Skrappy's on Sunday, July 25.