The Last Waltz Ensemble is billed as a tribute band, but the truth is they’re a rocking jam band playing the music of Bob Dylan and The Band. So when they roar into the Train Depot on Saturday for their South By Southeast Music Feast, don’t expect any mimicry. No one will be channeling Richard Manuel or copping licks from Robbie Robertson.
Founder Kris Gloer told me in a telephone interview last week, “We’re not like a wax museum. We’re a jam band. In fact, we’re two guitars instead of two keys.”
I wanted the backstory. How did this jam band wind up playing Bob Dylan tunes and The Band to packed houses all over the place? “It was 2004,” Kris began, “we had a group called Houndog in Marietta, Ga. and were playing at Fuzzy’s Place, Smith’s Olde Bar and other spots. We were all big Band and Dylan fans and decided to do a one-time tribute to The Last Waltz, the Scorcese film. So we did two nights at Fuzzy’s Place, and we packed 250 people in each night. After that, it became an annual thing and just kept growing.”
Guest performers for the initial event included Tommy Talton from Cowboy and Gregg Allman Band; the late blues great Sean Costello; and Jeff Mosier from Blueground Undergrass.
“I remember that first show,” Kris says, “Tommy Talton did ‘Caravan;’ Jeff Mosier did ‘Ophelia,’ with the banjo and Sean played ‘Mystery Train.’ Listening now to Sean’s set, it sounds like a damn release. He did ten shows with us. His last show with us was April 4, 2008.” Sadly, Sean Costello was found dead in his Atlanta hotel room a week and a half later.
The annual shows have now evolved into a regular gig. The ensemble tours throughout the southeast with a relentless schedule. Guest performers have included Oliver Wood, Susan Tedeschi, Col. Bruce Hampton, Ike Stubblefield, Rick Richards and many others.
The SxSE show will feature vocalist Jessica Sheridan along with drummer Jack Friel.
If you have any doubts that this is just another tribute band, google Last Waltz Ensemble and watch some of their stuff on YouTube. And then send an email to southxsoutheast @aol.com to reserve your spot for the show. Tickets are $25 and include dinner, wine, brew, sodas and bottled water. For more information, visit southbysoutheast.org.