The Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus and Medicine Show

by Ora “Tre” Brasel

8/14/09 @ St. Augustine Amphitheatre
Despite the fact that my journey to the show was marred by thunderstorms and bumper to bumper traffic all the way down I-95, once I arrived at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre it was clear that it was just part of an initiation to be a part of very magical event.
As I made my way down the steps to the seats that lay before the stage I spotted two of my closest friends and two of their kids I hadn’t seen in months, and my heart started to glow with happiness knowing I would get to experience this event with the very people who had introduced me to Michael Franti & Spearhead. There were hugs and smiles all around us as the excitement of being there together made us ecstatic. We found ourselves very intrigued with the large authentic circus curtains that were covering the stage, and it wasn’t long before they opened and revealed the band members of all three bands on the stage at the same time singing the appropriately named ‘Caravan’. This was a unique show in the way the bands chose to present it to the audience by rotating members throughout the show, and performing songs with one another. There were songs throughout the show where the original line-ups for the bands were the only ones on the stage, but the most memorable moments certainly came with the songs when the groups were sharing their happiness about performing each other’s songs. Despite the fact I didn’t consider myself to be much of a Counting Crows fan, or really know much about Augustana other than a couple of songs I have heard on Vh-1, I still found myself enjoying each and every song that they performed. It was nearly impossible not to have a good time and smile when you felt all the happiness emitting from the bands on the stage, and their intractions. Even though the show hadn’t managed to get close to being sold-out it never once dampened the spirits of the performers, and at every turn in their musical road all that were there were treated to a show of epic proportions.
Fans of all three bands were rewarded for coming out by hearing their favorite songs performed in a new and colorful way. Counting Crows performed almost every one of the their hits including ‘Mr. Jones’, ‘Colorblind’, ‘Long December’ and ‘Rain King’. Augustana laid down the some of their most notable songs such as ‘Boston’, ‘I Still Ain’t Over You’, and ‘Twenty Years’. Michael Franti & Spearhead primarily performed tunes off their most recently released album ‘All Rebel Rockers’ including ‘A Little Bit of Riddim’, ‘Remote Control’, and ‘Say Hey (I Love You)’. The twist of having other bands members singing on songs by the original bands made even the songs you have heard many times over a fresh and exciting new experience to hear. It also helped noticing how much the band interacted with the audience by running around in the crowd, bringing audience members onto the stage, and talking to us regularly about how much they were enjoying the experience themselves. I can’t emphasize enough how much enjoyment it added to the show. I can even say that I gained a new-found appreciation for the bands I didn’t really think I cared to see initially. The energy and joy they had performing with each other was a contagious thing. Whoever came up with the idea to combine all of the acts in this circus like rotation should be commended for making this one of the most unique and rewarding shows out there.
Most of the songs consisted of the catalogs of the three bands performing, but they also interjected many classic covers throughout the set that were met with much appreciation from the very knowledgeable audience. Michael Franti & Spearhead were the first to start peppering classic tunes into the set with their rendition of the Temptations ‘Don’t Look Back’, and even within that song they managed to squeeze in a verse of ‘Casey Jones’ by the Grateful Dead. A few songs later on their own song ‘Got Love For Ya’ they threw in the likes of Michael Jackson and Soft Cell to give extra emphasis on an already great tune. For the end of the first set all of the bands came out on stage to serenade us with Joe Cocker’s ‘Delta Lady’. Later on in the second set Augustana and Adam Duritz belted out the Dylan classic ‘Just Like A Woman’. When we got to the final encores of the evening we got the sweet surprise of everyone singing ‘Cecilia’ by Simon & Garfunkel, followed by ‘Rain King’ which became a medley including ‘A Little Help From My Friends’ by the Beatles and ‘Raise A Ruckus’ by Uncle Earl. The final song of the evening was ‘This Land Is Your Land’, also a cover song by the wonderful singer/songwriter Woodie Guthrie that was indeed a spectacular note to end the evening on, and did a great job at capping the wonderful night. Walking out the doors it was evident that this show had left a smile on everyone’s face, and given us all a bit of the happiness that all the bands were sharing with one another on stage to take home with us in our hearts.