Assembly of Strange Wine Unites Three Classic Bands

There’s something to be said about bands that continue to perform to throngs of devoted fans who turn out no matter the venue or date. When Assembly of Dust, Strangefolk and God Street Wine perform individually, their well-honed crowds come out in support, even though some shows are less frequent these days. But bringing together these three bands that defined the ’90s jam scene is no small feat, yet a two-night run in Portchester, NY, at the Capitol Theatre and in Boston, MA, at the Paradise Rock Club, led to packed houses, marathon jams and plenty of dancing each night.

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At the Cap, Assembly of Dust started the night with a short set that featured Scott Metzger on guitar, filling in for Adam Terrell who was on assignment in Mexico. The first big jam of the night opened up in “Revelry,” giving Metzger a chance to flex his ax for the crowd. “Whistle Clock” and “All in Time” brought out Jon, Luke and Erik from Strangefolk to join Assembly of Dust for the first of many superjams this weekend, while “Filter” swapped in God Street Wine for the members of Strangefolk and continued the loosely planned, well-executed jam session.

Assembly of Dust setlist: Bootlegger’s Advice, Man with a Plan, Revelry, Honest Hour, Whistle Clock$, All in Time$, Filter^, Head on Straight*
$with Strangefolk ^with God Street Wine *Reid solo

The bands were warmed up and the audience dialed in for Strangefolk, the second act to take to the stage. Opening with “Rather go Fishin,” I felt a light nod to those who opted to head to Mexico for Riviera Maya, but there was no other place I’d rather be than seeing Strangefolk perform this evening. Jason Crosby shone on “In Deep” and added just the right touch of fiddle on “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad.” All of God Street Wine joined Strangefolk for “Sometimes” and “Westerley,” two songs patiently shared among the nine musicians. From the audience it seemed that taking the stage with friends you’ve played music with for nearly a quarter-century amid a focused and receptive audience has to be nearly utopian in terms of live performance.

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Strangefolk setlist: Rather go Fishin’, Udderly Addled, Furnace, In Deep, Goin Down the Road Feelin’ Bad*, Roads*, Sometimes^, Westerley^, Songbeard*
*with Assembly of Dust ^with God Street Wine (entire set with Jason Crosby on keys/fiddle)

God Street Wine took the stage last and made their presence known with “Life on Mars?” in tribute to the late David Bowie. A clean segue into “Molly” kept the energy high and the crowd danced well into the set. An extended “Goodnight Gretchen” > “Goodbye Oklahoma” were just getting things started, but it was during “Borderline” when the line between stage and audience blurred, as the energy spilled over with raucous approval (see video below). There was a chemistry onstage during GSW’s set that built off the sit-ins during the previous sets. Whether the bands had practiced together or planned anything in advance was unimportant; onstage everything meshed together well with only the few hiccups that come with having nine musicians onstage at the same time. A “Golden Years” encore paid tribute to Bowie once again (this was a recurring theme of the weekend to come). Night one was in the books and the bar was raised even higher for the sold-out show at Paradise.

God Street Wine setlist: Life on Mars? > Molly, Bring Back the News > Goodnight Gretchen > Goodbye Oklahoma, Hellfire > Wall, Borderline*, A Good Dream, Sweet Little Angel, Cheap Utah Blues > Ballroom > 6:15
Encore: Oh Wonderful One, Golden Years
*with Strangefolk

The Paradise Rock Club in Boston is, in stark comparison to the Capitol Theatre, a small music club that holds about half as many people. As the crowd filed into the small room, there was an air of excitement that could be felt from each attendee for the second of what would be two very special nights of music. The room hadn’t quite filled up by the time Assembly of Dust took the stage only 15 minutes after the ticket time. They immediately got the crowd moving when they opened with “Paul Henry.” The lineup featured the noteworthy additions of Scott Metzger on guitar and Jason Crosby on keyboards and organ. As they pushed through the set, they showed that this would not be a simple three-band show; it was truly an Assembly of Strange Wine. As AoD finished their set with “Harrower” and with eight musicians onstage, the audience knew the night was just beginning.

Assembly of Dust setlist: Paul Henry, All That I Am Now, Cluttered, Lost & Amazed, Whatever, Ophelia, Telling Sue, Harrower
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After a brief set break, God Street Wine took the stage with “Epilog.” After moving through a few of their tunes, Crosby came back onstage and joined them on fiddle for “Chop.” Reid Genauer and Jon Trafton then came out for a handful of songs, including the newly penned “Oh Wonderful One” and Genauer on vocals for “Get on the Train,” into which he infused Strangefolk’s “Rachel” in the middle. GSW moved through the remainder of their set, which included crowd-pleaser “Imogene” and ended with “Into the Sea.” As they left the stage, the now completely packed room was waiting with bated breath for the third act.

God Street Wine setlist: Epilog, Light My Candles > Stranger > Chop#, Oh Wonderful One*, Driving West*, Get On The Train* -> Rachel* -> Get On The Train*, Lighthouse > Imogene, Waiting For The Tide, Into The Sea
#with Jason on fiddle * with Reid and Jon (entire set with Dave Diamond on percussion and Jason on keys except Chop and Lighthouse)

Another short breather allowed the audience to cool down and relax before Strangefolks’s night-ending set. Opening with “Valhalla,” they sent a message that they meant business. They saw a rotating cast of musicians throughout their set, and for “Mama,” there were 10 musicians onstage, including four percussionists, to which Genauer commented, “There will be a lot of notes.” Their energetic set ended with “Burned Down.” As they came back out for the encore, those in the crowd who had heard the GSW cover of “Life on Mars?” from the previous night wondered if there would be another tribute to David Bowie. Sure enough, the notes for “Space Oddity” were played, and as the band moved from that to Strangefolk’s “Speculator,” the entire crowd was repeating “Can you hear me, Major Tom?” along with the band. The encore came to a finale with more repeating of those lyrics at the end. Walking back out to the cold streets of Boston was quite welcome after leaving the heat from the small room and the incredible music.
Strangefolk setlist: Valhalla, Poland, So Well, Diary, Stout Hearted Man, Mama, Take it Easy > Memory of a Free Festival, Burned Down
Encore: Space Oddity > Speculator > Space Oddity

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