Live Review: The Third Mind

 The Troubador Los Angeles, CA 

Contact: [email protected] 


Players: Dave Alvin, guitar, vocals; Jesse Sykes, rhythm guitar, vocals; Victor Krummenacher, vocals; Michael Jerome, drums, percussion; Mark Karan, guitar, vocals; Willie Aron, keyboards 

Material: Renowned roots-rocker Dave Alvin has cast his musical net farther than one would expect with The Third Mind. Currently touring on their second album, the band takes '60s folk, blues and pop tunes, and rekindles their improvisatory nature. For example, the legendary "East West" raga-style instrumental by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band is given the same exploratory treatment as the original, and girl group The Jaynetts' song "Sally Go Round The Roses" is given a 10-minute workout! 

Musicianship: Every musician here was a seasoned veteran, including guitarist Karan (who's played in various Grateful Dead offshoots). His smooth-toned flowing lines were a perfect counterpoint to Alvin's overdriven and piercing leads. A veteran of indie aces Camper Van Beethoven, Krummenacher's bass kept the entire ensemble on point. Keyboardist Aron was super tasteful, providing spacey sound washes as much as occasional complex filigrees. Drummer Jerome was a rhythm wizard, upping the game by adding bongos and hand percussion, especially in the quieter moments. In short, a band of master musicians. 

Performance: Launching into songs by The Electric Flag ("Groovin' is Easy") and Butterfield ("In My Own Dream"), Dave Alvin was an affable band leader, introducing the songs and then generally letting Jesse Sykes take over on the vocals. As the band would catch fire on each song's jams, she would step back to let the dueling guitarists take over. Her voice is a bit unconventional, it's got a steely high quaver to it while still retaining conviction, like barbed wire dipped in honey. The aforementioned Jaynetts cover was a real showstopper, and the band's take on "East West" was phenomenal, with 'round robin' solos. The one original in the mix, the ethereal Sykes-penned "Tall Grass," featured some beautiful keyboards by Aron. Karan's time with Bob Weir's band made the chestnut "Morning Dew" a shoo-in to cover, and it's psychedelic possibilities were suitably mined, sealed over with Sykes' impassioned vocal. Their last encore song was a BLAZING version of Dylan's "Highway 61," with Alvin singing (most of) the verses. 

Summary: The Third Mind is a delight to anyone appreciating top-level musicianship. It's an absolute joy to see band members actively listening to each other while expanding the jamming potential of classic folky tunes. And I never thought I'd be seeing Dave Alvin using feedback on his guitar leads!