LIVE: Woodchuckwood / The Wheel @ the Low Beat, 2/6/15

February 27th, 2015, 2:00 pm by Greg

Review by Joel Patterson

Grateful Dead cover bands, in my opinion – and I’m never one to shy away from a central heresy – lots of times are far better than the original: more precise, more driving, more in command of the material, more dramatically conveying all its many colors and implications. Obviously! They’ve had years to go over it, and fine tune it, and also hopefully they’re not hobbled by wheezing, whiny, creaky voices.

The Wheel is just exactly what I’m talking about. Lead singer and guitarist Andy Morse leads this crisp quartet through Deadland with fervor and a dreamy, casual effortlessness, which you get when a lot of attention has gone into precisely mapping the unfolding of each song – musicians refer to this as arrangements, I think. His sister Meg Bassinson plays the keys with a swirling, delicate, bubbly touch. Dave Pallas (bass) and Gordon Wilson (drums) are monumentally rock solid in delivering the intricate, intoxicating motion of this music seamlessly.

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My generation was encouraged to “create your own reality,” which I took as shorthand for “aim high” or “be all that you can be” or whatever else other generations were encouraged to do. The Wheel creates a reality that says all that matters now is good vibrations, dancing, and the eternal and timeless joy of being.

It was a whole a ‘nother sensation when Woodchuckwood took the stage – lead singer and tortured artiste Matt Schueler wisely remained out of sight and offstage (which at the Low Beat took some doing) until his moment came to plunge into the first song. Good move. The whole point was clear from the get-go. This music is an attempt to purge several demons that are ruining his life, which is such a troubling exercise that it makes him shudder and bounce about the stage and knock over music stands.

“Here’s an another original song,” he joked after the first searing and revelational number. “It was originally by Elvis Costello.” And that is clearly the role model here, an agitated but romantically hopeful man confounded by the murky miseries of living. This is powerful stuff because it draws you in – I swear there is something that science will one day discover about a strongly crafted melody married to a keening lyric that makes it irresistible. Chuck Fuller on guitar sings the “happier” songs, and Rob Futterman (bass) and Nick Warner (drums) are the perfect pop sidemen. Damn, I wish I’d brought my camera!