No Bit of Rust Shown at Higher Ground

Joni Mitchell once said that all forms of art (painting, music, dance, etc.) are unique and appreciated in their own ways. Once a painter finishes a picture, though, it is done and regarded as a masterpiece. Unlike with playing music, no one ever asked Van Gogh, “Hey man, could you paint a Starry Night again?”

Michael Glabicki, Rusted Root’s lead vocalist-guitarist-songwriter spoke about playing live and said, “A song is an organism that has a history and has different meanings to many different people. Those people attach themselves to this organism and because of that, it’s a ritual, a way to jointly go places.” The Rusted Root concert last Friday night was definitely a perfectly balanced symbiotic relationship. Rusted Root is amazing at recreating and slowly perfecting its music live … they probably could paint the Starry Night again.

The majority of songs were from their most popular album, which came out in 1994, When I Woke, created a nostalgic atmosphere and a crowd that was hanging on every note. The audience was definitely on the older side, mainly early to mid-30s, which is appropriate considering Rusted Root began in 1988 when most of the now college-age were just learning to share.

Known for their energy filled and incredible live performances, Friday night was no exception. It was the one-year anniversary since Higher Ground’s new location has opened up and the concert Rusted Root provided was the perfect celebration. They kicked the night off with “Laugh as Sun,” and when Jim’s cymbal fell in the middle of the second verse, he just laughed and didn’t miss a beat. The second song of the night was a fusion of two classic covers, Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “All Along the Watchtower.” It definitely got the night started and when they flowed into “Cat Turned Blue,” everyone in the crowd was well on the beat wave that lasted all night.

Rusted Root kept a tight hold of their audience and tested their power periodically at the end of songs with their ‘mock’ endings. They would seem to be preparing to end the song, which made the crowd go crazy, until they would jump back into another verse. It was a cat and mouse game that made the band able to read the audience and to cater to what was being felt. They were not able to do much jamming, even with the two and a half hour set, but snuck in a few minutes of Michael and Jim soloing, which was greatly appreciated by all.

Later in the evening after “Blue Diamond,” a newer song written about Michael’s angel that has been with him ever since he was hit by a car when he was two and a half, the band took a minute to discuss where to go next and Michael commented, “We’re like the Bush campaign up here, being all secretive and shit.” There was a ridiculous cheer that pushed the band into a sweet rendition of “Back to the Earth.”

Rusted Root ended the night with “Ecstasy,” literally. The euphoric energy was pumping out of Higher Ground and even the few sober in the audience were dancing and feeling the band freely. It was as if the band were playing just for you and when only Michael walked back on stage for the encore, the audience was crawling with excitement about what would come next. Michael played “Scattered” from the Remember album and though it was only his voice and his guitar, he sounded like a full orchestra. I had never heard Michael play with such passion and vigor, which is evidence for why he has been the central member of Rusted Root since its creation.