MEDESKI MARTIN AND WOOD at the Warehouse, December 3. Tickets: $25. Attendance: 2,000. Rating: NNN
The music and musicianship was there, naturally. But the real thrill in seeing Medeski Martin and Wood at the Warehouse Sunday was in the visuals. Here were three unremarkable-looking guys playing the most angular, skronking jazz imaginable, but playing it in a barn of a venue that was stuffed to capacity. And not stuffed with stately, dickie-wearing older jazzbos, but with a spectrum of people most bands only claim to reach. Funny how an association with a group like Phish influences your standing with the kids. There were teenage girls sitting cross-legged on the floor, hippie dudes dancing like the guys you saw on film at the original Woodstock, suburban couples on a rare night out and packs of handsome, well-dressed men and women who, despite their conservative outward appearance, thought nothing of melting completely into arms-akimbo interpretive dance when a groove struck.
No matter what one thinks of Medeski Martin and Wood's wholly abstract sound -- fleshed out further by guest guitarist Oren Bloedow -- credit them with safeguarding the health of jazz if not the lungs of their concert-goers, which were attacked at every turn by a thick, acrid cloud of pot smoke. Like, worse than at Motörhead shows. No, really.
Like their crowd, the trio are astounding to watch. Keyboardist John Medeski doesn't so much play his instrument as beat the shit out of it, while versatile bassist Chris Wood -- sometimes with bow, sometimes not -- and percussionist Billy Martin worked themselves into such a lather that a car bomb wouldn't have jolted their concentration.
It took two full sets to indulge every dweedly organ run and every shape-shifting improv tangent, but Medeski Martin and Wood held nothing in reserve. A fair trade for the freight.