Second to hot button political issues, musical history and theory is probably the one subject that has inspired the most discussion and contention at parties and living rooms alike. Whether it’s a friendly conversation about who the greatest lyricist of all time is, a drunken AUX chord battle to play “the greatest song ever,” or a sweaty hairy yelling match over whether a band is metal, or black metal-we’ve all seen how heated musical opinions can get.
That being said, if you got 100 of the saltiest, most knowledgeable music aficionados in the same room and asked them to name three groups that were most influential in shaping the modern era of American Rock N Roll, you would undoubtedly get back(in no particular order) The Band, The Allman Brothers, and The Grateful Dead-with many arguing the former had a big influence on the two latter. Not surprisingly, these three groups also hold the record for the largest paid concert audience in musical history, The Watkins Glen Summer Jam. While these three behemoths are all legends in their own right, The Band seemed to soar slightly higher- completely dominating FM radio for more than a decade with a daunting list of top charting hits like -The Weight, Ophelia, Up On Cripple Creek, Arcadian Driftwood, Makes No Difference, Rag Mama Rag, Chest Fever, King Harvest, The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down, Get Up Jake, Shape I’m In, Stage Fright, Don’t Do It,Tears of Rage, Time To Kill, Life’s A Carnival, Across The Great Divide, and many more.
As if to further prove their cultural dominance and musical longevity,”The Band” is also the only group left with members who still carry the banner. Jim Weider, and Randy Ciarlante who both played with The Band for over a decade have joined forces with Byron Isaacs and Brian Mitchell, who are two former members of Levon Helm’s (founding member of The Band) side project ”The Midnight Ramble Band” and have hit the road, and creating quite the buzz in the process. While, “The Weight” may go by another name, they embody the music, skills, and message of The Band in every way, keeping one of the greatest musical catalogues in history alive on stage.
SantaCruz.com was lucky enough to sit down with living legend and leader of The Weight, Jim Weider to find out a little bit more about the project, and what they have in store for you down at The Catalyst.
The Weight is a pretty special project, how did this all come about?
It just kinda happened, me and Randy were working with Levon until his death in the Midnight Ramble Band, and after he passed i went out and play some shows with Jimmy Vivino, Garth Hudson, Randy Ciarlante and Byron Isaacs, just a few theatre shows called “songs of the band.” We had a blast and wanted to continue playing, but Vivino plays with Conan so he couldn’t commit and we knew if we wanted to do it right we needed to find some real quality musicians. So we went out and got Brian Mitchell who had played with us all before, and then it finally came together with the addition of Marty Grebb, who played with Bonnie Raitt for over two decades, his work with vocals and sax made it clear that we could do these songs justice, I finally turned to the guys and said “let’s do this.”
Speaking of songs, The Band has quite the catalogue, how do you guys go about choosing what to play?
Well that’s the great part about this group, even though i was in The Band for 15 years and Randy was in it for 10, there are still some songs we never got to play live. So we are starting to dig deep in the catalogue, and it’s a real pleasure to do these tunes that are a little more obscure, like “the rumor”, and “look out cleveland.”,Were lucky to have such a huge catalogue of amazing tunes to choose from, but we of course play the hits as well, gotta do the chestnuts haha. You have quite the resume in rock and roll, what your favorite musical memory? Easily that would be playing The Berlin Wall Roger Waters, when it went down. It was the Largest stage i have ever seen in my life, there were tons of amazing performers and it was great to be a part of that time in history.
Having been working with The Band for 30 years now, have you noticed any changes in how people respond to the music?
Well you know, tunes like “The Weight” really transcend all ages, i see teens singing those songs because they heard them from their parents, hell even grandparents, then you see the older folks my age, and you can see for them it brings back so many memories. Also we’re from a time back when every group had a meaning so that helps. Its also great to see how many bands have been influenced by the tunes of The Band over the years. What has been the biggest change for you entering the “digital age” of music. Well i really like playing and working through new stuff live, but now we can’t really do that. If we practice it at a show it will be on youtube before we even finish the set, and we don’t want the recordings out there until it is completely finished. Back in the day you didn’t really have to worry about everyone in the crowd having a personal recorder ha. What are you listening to right now? There’s a new record from the Drive By Truckers that i really like, and a jason something , really liked his lyrics. Im also a big fan of David Gray-i like his writing a lot. I’m always open to listening to new stuff, i just love to hear great songs and i feel they are hard to come by now. Looking forward to returning to Santa Cruz? Well i haven’t been back since i played with The Band back in the 90s at The Catalyst,so i’m hoping that anybody that would like to hear those songs again will come down and throw down with us, it’s on a friday night and we’re gonna rock the town, anybody who wants to have some fun should come and join us.
The Weight plays January 1st at The Catalyst. The show starts at 9pm, Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door.