JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Famed ex-Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson has forged a second era with Chris Robinson Brotherhood (CRB). Locals may remember the band from the 2016 Rendezvous Fest when they opened for Zac Brown Band. The five-piece returns to the valley this Wednesday at the Pink Garter Theatre.
A double-guitar and keyboard attack with Crowes keyboardist Adam MacDougall, it’s cool to hear Robinson playing more guitar in this project than he did with The Crowes. Also of significant note is soaring guitarist, photographer and Robinson’s songwriting partner Neal Casal, who spent six years with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, then Hard Working Americans, while also maintaining a solid solo career.
“CRB for me has been five years of pure expansion,” said Casal prior to the local festival in 2016. “…The universe expanding and it hasn’t cooled yet, see, because we’re still in those early stages of the universe, my own universe, expanding. Chris’s concept for the band alone is what helped me expand—I’d never been in a band that played for three hours, or in a band that played two sets, or been asked to play this much lead guitar and to make as big of a contribution that I’ve been able to in this band. I’m really thankful for it.”
Like Phish or The Dead, the band prefers “an evening with” format encompassing two complete sets and long-form songs, usually with no support act. The prolific CRB also employs some of the same soulfully patient grooves, hippie rock and intricate psychedelic improvisation that The Dead were famous for. It’s a peaceful, airy vibe matched with the unexpected.
“The expansive instrumental aspects of the Grateful Dead were a starting point for us and we wear the influence proudly,” Casal added. “It can be pretty scary up there sometimes, [the improvisational moments]. I’m not the kind of musician with a lightning fast brain. I’m pretty slow, actually. So it takes me a while to come up with parts and ideas. I think the best thing that saves me in those situations is a good sense of humor. Failing is ok. Failure is welcome in this band and it makes the successes so much better, adds contrast.”
Chris Robinson also has a new band, As the Crow Flies, performing The Black Crowes catalog. Perhaps a few Crowes songs will make the setlist.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood performs at the Pink Garter Theatre at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Pink Garter Theatre. This show is sold out. Tickets are $25-$75.