And that’s a wrap! On one of the best co-billed tours of 2019, that is. San Rafael americana jammers Midnight North and Baltimore golden boy of southern soul Chris Jacobs teamed up over the last two weeks for a ten-night tour that started at famed NYC spot The Brooklyn Bowl and finished, just last night, at 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Poke Around caught this harmonious match up at it’s midpoint, at Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre, where both bands played and sang their hearts out.
While on that particular evening there was no band-to-band collaboration, the link between the two bands was the one and only Jason Crosby, the phenomenal keyboardist that performed for the majority of each of the artists’ sets. The head-to-head shredding between Crosby and Chris Jacobs on lead guitar, especially on one particular, honky-tonk styled yet rock and roll blasted song, was truly glorious and possibly a highlight of the entire evening. Jacobs, who is a powerhouse on electric, also knows his way on a cigar box, which he broke out to end his set on the stomp-blues song “Bone Digger.” You may know this banger because bands like Greensky Bluegrass and others have covered it on multiple occasions—but nobody rips it quite like Jacobs and his formidable accompanying three piece.
Midnight North, headlining each night of this last run, and thus also here at Garcia’s, also treated their stop in this east coast Deadhead hub beautifully. “Earthquakes,” coming at the head of their awesome single set performance, is a new(ish) one from the band that cranks out a sweet dose of slam country funk. This rendition at Garcia’s also featured a wild bass solo from member Connor O’Sullivan that really shot the starting gun for the night.
Elliot Peck is a pretty dynamite front woman for Midnight North, channeling the raw power and spunk of a Linda Rondstadt in her prime. She probably sets the bar for vocals, above any other artists’ version, on Blind Willie Johnson’s classic “In My Time of Dying.” Another cover that she crooned out, and that was a high ranker for best of the setlist, was the band’s stellar, reworked version of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me In The Morning.” But Midnight North’s own material shines just as much, if not more. When it comes to warm, sophisticated song writing, Midnight North are hardly if at all matched around the jam scene. “Scarlet Skies” showed a gorgeous contrast to the band’s gritty playing, especially with Graham Lesh’s awesomely rustic lead vocals. The band also recently released a brand new tune, called “Long View,” a folk rock piece on the pretty chill side. And yet, their version at Garcia’s was fleshed out very nicely, extending into a second half of sorts that was colorful, groovy, and evidential of the band members’ knack for collective improvisation.
Normally, we might cringe at the thought of two keyboards in a folk rock band. But with Crosby and Midnight North’s Alex Jordan at the helm of that wheel, it serves the music beautifully. Sometimes, one would hit the organ while the other caressed a piano sound, and the careful, subtle ways the two would combine in great ways. Lesh is also a serious guitar player, capable across a few varying styles. He can grind out a grit very similar that harkens to Chris Jacobs own flair and that pairs so perfectly with Peck’s voice, and he can also channel the spirit of the Dead with inspiring chops that keep him lightfooted in more uncharted sections of performance. Like Jacobs did, Lesh took choice moments of the show to battle with Crosby on keys, to sweet result.
Ahead, Midnight North looks forward to a performance at the 2020 Squaw Valley, CA edition of Winter Wondergrass, taking place from March 27 to 29, where they are billed beside artists like The Devil Makes Three, The Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings, and many more. For more information, head to the band’s website at http://www.midnightnorth.com.
Chris Jacobs, meanwhile, looks ahead to a headlining performance at Ram’s Head in Baltimore on December 27, as well as a spot on this coming year’s Jam Cruise Festival. For more information, check out his website at http://www.crisjacobs.com.