February 2, 2024


This post also appears in MusicFestNews.

Consider my Third Mind officially blown. While I’ve covered Dave Alvin for many, many years, when the first Third Mind album dropped in 2020, it was a revelation. Those six tracks were a deep dive into untethered musical spaces I sure as hell didn’t see coming from “Phil Alvin’s younger brother” (as Dave humbly put it from the Troubadour stage Friday). Definitely not your Daddy’s Dave Alvin. That this band (Victor Krummenacher on bass, David Immergluck guitar, Michael Jerome behind the kit and Jesse Sykes on vocals), led by Dave’s “just push record” fearlessness, wrapped themselves around Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda”, let alone a 16-minute plus take of Mike Bloomfield’s “East-West”, and an appropriately aching and stormy “Morning Dew”, had me at first play. Then COVID hit, Dave had his own “fuck cancer” health challenges and the prospects for a follow-up, let alone a tour, seemed kind of dim. But, Dave came out the other side, the live music world got rocket fueled and somehow, someway, he found his way back into the studio (and even better, the stage) to record The Third Mind 2, released late last year. A one-off date at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (with veteran jam guitarist, Mark Karan replacing Immergluck, and the addition of Willie Aron on keys) was a taste of possibilities, of that fearlessness to go wherever the music leads, and had me hankering for tour dates to follow. Sure enough, west coast dates were announced in November, and my calendar was circled for February 2, 2024 at The Troubadour, a legacy room if there ever was one, and a room Dave knew well, playing there many times through the years, and as recently as 2022 with the Guilty Ones.

Having snuck a peek at the seven tune (plus encores) setlist on stage, I knew it would be my kind of night. Phil’s brother with his ever-present bandana, cowboy hat and trusty cream colored ’64 style Strat. A pile of loose lyric sheets, dog eared and handwritten with school age sizing at Jesse’s feet. Now, let’s clear one thing up. The Third Mind is not a jam band.  No, they are a band that jams, and yes, there is a difference. Solos and interplay with a point and a destination almost always apparent. With each of the main set’s lucky seven tunes, the band stretched with a certain dynamic fury, Dave going at his Strat like a man possessed by a potent life force (which he clearly is). His conversations with Mark Karan were engaging and intense mutual compliments from and for both. Michael Jerome, who’s backed Richard Thompson for 19 years, played a mixed kit of percussion and traps, building textures and drama in all the best spots. Krummenacher, he of Camper Van Beethoven, among others, who’s been at ground zero with this thing, drove and drafted throughout the night, while Swiss Army everyman Willie Aron, added more layers (and deserved more flights of his own). Jesse Sykes’ Deadhead confession teed up “Morning Dew” deeper into a set that started with “Groovin’ Is Easy”, “In My Own Dreams”, “Sally Go Round the Roses” and “Tall Grass”, all off the last release. “Tall Grass”, especially, was a showcase for her bittersweet vocal style and a song built on ethereal and rumbling loam, that exploded into some serious six-string ferocity. But it was the excursive “East-West” from the debut record that gobsmacked me, building on Krummenacher’s propulsive cascade of a groove in lockstep with Michael Jerome, that somehow managed to tease both “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and “Dark Star” before exiting for Fred Neil’s “Little Bit of Rain”. And since Dave remarked in the encore “the only thing better than one Fred Neil tune is two” (or something to that effect), Neil’s “Dolphins” ensued. The lilt of that tune a deliberate counterpoint to the face biting straight dope of Dave’s spin along “Highway 61 Revisited” that sealed the night.

Everyone at the Troubadour knew this one was something special. With the West Coast behind them, The Third Mind has a handful of Texas dates coming up, and whether this was just a moment in time or a train just leaving the station, it was pretty damn unforgettable and, I for one, am hoping to see them again down the road a piece.


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