Max Creek 4.20.13

Quixote's True Blue
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel
Audio By Corey Sandoval(Kind Recordings)

Max Creek Live at Quixote's True Blue on April 20, 2013.

It was 4/20, and Denver's musical celebrations were plentiful. I decided to check out Max Creek at Quixote's. The New England based jam-band have been playing as long or longer than almost anyone in the business. It showed. I've seen an embarrassing number of shows in my life, and I have rarely seen a band who is so deeply in tune with each other as Max Creek. 40 years of playing together has made them masters of musical telepathy, and they delivered some of the most adventurous and well-executed jams you could hope to find. At the heart were guitarist Scott Murawski, key player Mark Mercier, and bassist John Rider... The same as it has been since 1973. New drummer Bill Carbone and percussionist Jamemurrell Stanley brought a youthful energy to the band much as John K and Joe Russo did with Furthur... injecting vitality and vibrancy into a band that has itself reached middle age. The resulting music was lively, original, creative, and refined. Quixote's fit the band like a glove. It's tapestry-lined stage and dizzying variety of show posters felt more like a house party than a bar gig, which has always been an appealing aspect of Quixote's, and has been a standard atmosphere for Max Creek shows. It was the last of a 3 night run where the band had the opportunity to get comfortable, leave their equipment set up, and essentially move into the place. I thoroughly enjoyed the bands' stage presence. Rider alternately made bored faces during simple riffs, and overly excited faces during his complicated bass runs. Mercier grinned frequently as he connected on musical ideas with Rider, Murawski, and Stanley. It was a joy to watch these musicians perform who were still so passionate about their craft after all this time. With a sound that shadowed the Grateful Dead stylistically, the trifecta entered improvisational passages where each instrument explored vastly different ideas simultaneously and managed to maintain a modicum of continuity before ultimately converging into synchronized resolutions as uplifting as parting clouds. In other words, they were really good. At set-break, I reflected on a first set full of improvisation and psychedelia, more like a second set than a first. The cascading jams seemed to flow from an endless source of creative expression.

Second set featured some of my favorite Max Creek tunes like "Orange Sunshine> You're the Only One for Me," as well as Paul Simon's classic "Late in the Evening." But nothing compared to the encore, a three song cover throw down... "Long Train Running," "For What it's Worth," and "Eminence Front," all of which were fantastic. Eminence Front was so rocking that I immediately went home and downloaded the Who album, "It's Hard." At the end of the night I was really excited about the decision I had made. While it may not have been the hottest ticket in town, I got to see a band with similar stage chemistry to the Dead perform at one of my favorite clubs, and the generous crowd passed around good vibes and more. Max Creek has continued to make music for 40 years because they love it. I saw it in their faces, felt it in their body language, and heard it in their sound. That has always been one of my favorite parts of a show, when I can tell the band is as energized by the music they're making as I am. It was a pleasure to watch. After 40 years of performing together, the band seemed as enthusiastic, friendly, connected, and talented as ever. They've worked hard throughout, maintained lifelong friendships, and created more music than most bands could imagine. Max Creek made me feel happy and excited that passion never dies as long as you don't let it.

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