Robert Randolph (2012 Vancouver International Jazz Festival) @ The Vogue Theatre – June 30th 2012

robert randolph

One of the most under-appreciated positions in the music industry is the roadie. Every major tour has a crew of them. Each venue has some on staff. They move in near silence between sets and during performances, often in total darkness. The crew that was on-duty for the Robert Randolph and The Family Band’s show at The Vogue were top notch. It felt like it took mere minutes for the band to get the stage ready for the headlining set. Kudos to you roadie crew.

After they were done doing their thing, it was time for what the Vogue was packed to see. With his pedal steel guitar set up in the middle of the stage, Randolph came out to a boisterous ovation. It seemed more than fitting that the band kicked off their high-energy set with the song “Good Time”. After jamming the song for several minutes, Randolph shot up out of his seat and danced as he sang the lyrics that were written for a sing along – “Good time, good time. We gonna have a good time.” This song really set the mood for the entire set.

Like many of the artists on the Vancouver Jazz Fest lineup, Robert Randolph & The Family Band play a hard to describe style of music. Blending elements of funk, jazz, some soul and a bit of rock, the band plays a brand of music that is unlike many other acts out there. Lead by Randolph on the pedal steel guitar, his band joins him to create a constant, pulsing wall of sound on stage. The bassist is routinely slapping the bass, the drummer has countless percussion items at his disposal, and the guitar player moves around the stage as if he was a metal guitar god playing an arena show. While all this is happening on stage, EVERY person in the crowd is up and dancing.

The crowd on this night was a mix I have never seen live at a concert before. Since the pedal steel guitar is typically a “church” instrument, there was a large amount of churchgoers in the audience. Also, since Robert Randolph & The Family Band have been touring like animals over the past 10+ years, playing music festivals alongside the likes of Phish, Government Mule and other “jam bands”, they have amassed a large “hippie” following. These two subpopulations coexisted in a way that can only make you smile. It didn’t matter if you had church in the morning, or if this was the 8th time you’ve seen the band live in the past year. It didn’t matter if you had a tie-dye shirt on or if you were wearing pressed slacks. We were all there to have a good time, and a good time we did have.

It is of note, I witnessed another rarity on this night. As opposed to having water and or alcoholic drinks on stage, Randolph was drinking Mountain Dew all night. Not saying there is anything wrong with Doing the Dew, it was just a first for me to see that.

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