Jam Band Purist Full Halloween 2021 Review and Vlog: "Witches, Horrors, Bears, and Cults" Oh My
While the Jam world looks to Phish and their Halloween spectacular in Vegas, I was stuck in Virginia trying to make the best of my Halloween weekend. Halloween for me is a palpable holiday unlike many ie: the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Easter. Halloween is real and can be manifested in many different ways. I have always taken it upon myself to find something to do during this All Hallows’ Eve, Samhain, or whatever pagan ritual it’s descended from. Music, movies, books, entertainment, and ghosts stories all fill this season to the brim with consciousness, making it more alive than most other holidays. So in the spirit of Halloween, in the spirit of being ALIVE, I got out and did something, anything. Even if it killed me...
The weekend began on Friday with a small show from the band, Litz. There are very few shows that come around my small Virginia hometown and I try and support these small shows as much as I can. The Golden Pony, like many of the downtown bars and small venues, has been going through hard times due to covid restrictions and unemployment. It’s sad to see these great small bands only get a handful of patrons when there is a huge college community. Either way, there was more room to dance and space to move around. There were no costumes to be seen except for a solitary Witch that sat in the corner practicing some sort of divination or casting spells on us all. Litz exceeded my expectations and put on a quality show. Each musician seemed familiar with the music, their instruments, and each other. I brought along some family members since it was a local show and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Litz is solid, in-sync, and fun. By the end of the night, the crowd would gather in the center of the dance floor and boogie. While it may have been a smaller show, Litz played like it was sold out and that, in itself, is a success. I highly recommend checking this Electro-Jam-Funk band out anytime you can.
Saturday's big plan was to see the Rocky Horror Picture show live presented by James Madison University students. I have always loved Rocky Horror even as a child I can remember dressing up and singing like a "Sweet Transvestite," or doing the "Time Warp" again. The show was an unrestrained good time and my first time seeing it with performers. While I enjoy the music, the rock & roll vibe, and the lyrics, I wasn’t much for the yelling and distractions from the storyline itself. Still, this is quite the experience that every red-blooded American should have before they kick the great bucket.
Halloween night my friends and I would gather together to see Andy Frasco and The UN in Charlottesville Virginia at The Southern. I adorned my Grumpy Bear onesie and we caught the opening act, Nick Gerlachs Cult Conference. It was danceable and fun to gather with friends and talk about whatever Halloween things people talk about. Witches? Ghosts? Goblins? The overall atmosphere changed drastically when Andy and The U.N. got onstage and the onslaught began. While this wasn’t the most high-energy or wild show I’ve seen from this band, something was growing beyond all the antics. Perhaps an air of maturity? Andy did not crowd surf but The Southern is a small venue and it was far from capacity. It was more like a low-key evening with the band than anything. I kept to the corner and tried to observe, record, and write as much as possible. The crowd was entranced and enthralled in the musical rapture that is the mystery cult of Frasco. What he says goes, he is Simon. He is the creepy Korean kid statue yelling, "Redlight, Greenlight." He is the leader. He is the ONE. He will transcend the JAM and into pop culture. God Speed. It’s just his world and we are living in it for the night. I will always see Frasco in my mind's eye, aboard my very first Jam Cruise, literally smoking dabs taking mushrooms, and crowd surfing across the entire venue. Pink boxing outfit, ready for battle. Andy, you are a treasure to this community and this world. Stay original.
After the show, we would catch a few songs from Seleus, a local Virginia band that played some Classic Rock songs mixed with their unique jam style. I wish I could have stayed longer but my group started to feel under the weather. We all came down with the dreaded covid. This is the main reason for this review and the accompanying VLOG is so late. It has taken all of a month to start to feel normal and I have also been very busy starting my Tik-Tok channel!
Yea yea, I get it. Tik-Tok but I am using my musical knowledge to spread fun music facts and music trivia. It has already been a wild start with nearly 500k views on my first video. Please join me on Tik-Tok at jambandpurist for more. I’d love to have my readers on this platform as well. Although I always feel as though my website is our little secret and the best way to get in my head. Thank you for sticking around and much more to come even if no one is reading.
Phish Tour 2021: A New Past, A New Perspective
Let me start by saying, no band on planet earth can do it like Phish, the highest highs, the lowest lows; transfusing dark riffs with whimsical merriment. I have said a lot about this band in previous reviews and I always try and find a different angle or something new to say about their performances. In the past, I have reviewed the sets, song by song, but good lord that’s tedious and after a while redundant. It’s best I stick with the hits and talk about the best parts of these shows instead of nit-picking and going, full journalist mode.
I have always wanted to travel to Deer Creek Amphitheater (now Rouff) the venue made infamous by the Grateful Dead and the gate-crashing incident. The drive north was worse than expected and I honestly didn’t realize Indianapolis was such a big city. Arriving in town, something just wasn't right with my stomach and I missed out on the first show, which turned out to be one of the best shows of the tour, filled with 30+ minute jams and improvisation. I have since listened to this show and I am still kicking myself for missing it but I was physically unable to attend. The next day was better after a long night's sleep but still, something inside was not right, I struggled forward in the earnest hope that the music would bring me back to life and I was excited to see what Phish could bring after this long hiatus. I had been keeping up with the setlists of the previous shows and was ready for whatever may come and boy did it!
The lot scene in Indianapolis was one of the largest I had seen and my sidekick, Jack, and I were graciously accepted and welcomed. I have been traveling with Jack for over 15 years now and we have seen countless shows and even journeyed to Egypt together. Jack has cerebral palsy and I am so grateful to be his friend and to have his perspective in my life. You can check out more with Jack below on the Out Of My Mind VLOG Episodes #4-5. I just wanted to mention him here, in case anyone was wondering.
After thoroughly "wookifying" ourselves we headed into the venue to await Phish. Friday was filled with monster jams, ethereal noises, and all-around spacey jams. The improvisation was on point and they always seemed to make it back to Earth before blasting off again. Needless to say, the band couldn’t keep that up all weekend and Saturday's show was more of a rock and roll experience. Not to say it didn’t have its moments where they got downright dirty and sleazy with those riffs. I knew Sunday was going to be off the charts but I was not prepared for the "Story Of Sally." What is there to say about this set? It might be one of the most creative and hilarious Phish moments since Merriweather's "Tweezerfest" for me. The band would go in and out of various songs, creating new lyrics, combining imagery, and having a lot of fun on stage. This is what Phish is all about, taking chances, taking risks, trying something that has never been done before, and can never be replicated. The "Story Of Sally" is really just the story of Phish and their inclusion of improvisational elements from all influences and their all-around passion for music.
We drove the next long haul of about 9 hours to Hershey, Pennsylvania and I came down with one of the worst stomach pains I have ever experienced. I barely made it to the next hotel before I was about to tap out on the whole week. These things happen on tour and while it sucked, it’s only time and music seems to help everything. Fortunately, I pushed through to hang with all my friends at Hershey. These two shows solidified my short run and gave me most of the songs I knew I was going to see. It was a grand event filled with loved ones going backwards down the number line. I would say more about these shows but I honestly barely remember most of it because I was struggling with stomach pains, I do remember some great jams from Birds Of A Feather and Chalkdust. These two shows kind of just washed over me, I don't remember much but I do remember dancing and having fun most of the time. Have any of you ever experienced a concert while sick? How did you push through? I am glad I survived getting brown in Hershey town but I wish I could have carried on to Atlantic City. Cest la vie.
Seeing Phish is like transporting myself into the past. The past me, past experiences, some past life; foggy in the haze of memory. Somehow reliving a deja vu-like dream but with new meaning, an advanced frame of mind. The pandemic has really put things into perspective and while I yearn for the past, I still look forward to what may come. Seeing Phish is like moving forward in life, not knowing what they will play, how they will play it, or how the hell they will get back down to earth. Things may be changing again quickly but one thing will never change, Phish absolutely jams and they do it like no one can.
PLEASE LIKE, COMMENT, AND SUBSCRIBE TO JAMBANDPURIST YOUTUBE CHANNEL! Links Below:
Railroad Earth at The National (The Mighty River, Rolling Along)
Railroad Earth is a band beyond description, escaping every genre while still being grounded with reminiscent sounds from America's past. Railroad Earth is a reclamation of all things Americana. Gathering a devote following, myself included, I always leave their shows mind blown, ecstatic with energy and rearing for more. This would mark only my 4th time seeing RRE but this performance certainly left a lasting impression on me and the other members of the audience.
Railroad Earth began their set with a nod to The National, who was celebrating their 10th anniversary of re-opening in 2008. It was fitting that I would be at this anniversary show because I also attended that first show a decade ago. RRE opened with "Seven Story Mountain" and a heavy extended jam sequence into "Old Dangerfield." Their improvisational segments are on the verge of haunting, almost skin crawling but they always bring it back to their roots of Bluegrass and Folk. Roosevelt Collier joins the band adding yet another instrument to this sonic powerhouse. Roosevelt has been making his rounds with many big name acts in the Jam and Blues scene alike; his opening performance was riveting and high energy.
Introspective and refined, RRE continue their set, energy and ebullience never reseeding, always on the edge of improvisation and classic composition like a ship teetering at the ends of the earth but never tipping over. RRE defines Jam grass, the spirit of America runs through them from native roots to the Grateful Dead's American legacy. Like a hobo on an endless train waiting to return to some mythical Earth, filled with steam engines and cowboys, the band continues their musical journey down the rails of life. It's almost as if this band creates their own musical world every night.
Many of their songs on this set-list were unfamiliar to me and that's a great thing. One of the best things about live music is finding new songs and harmonies to obsess over, like "When The Sun Gets In Your Blood" or "Blazin’ A Trail," while still playing crowd favorites, "Like A Buddha" and "Mighty River." Morphing their sound effortlessly into something new and different at the drop of a hat, RRE ends with a jam into The Deads "The Wheel," which was a pleasant surprise, not many bands cover that song. “If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will."
Again, RRE astound and amaze with their originality and all around vibe. This band deserves top spots at all the major jam festivals out there. Lockn, Peach, take note.
Smiling like a Buddha,
Jam Band Purist
Set 1: Seven Story Mountain, Old Dangerfield, Lordy, Lordy, Blazin' a Trail, Addin' My Voice, Walk Beside Me, Magic Foot, Luxury Liner , Wayfaring Stranger
Set 2: Cold Water, Just So You Know, Bread and Water, Only by the Light , Raven's Child, When the Sun Gets in Your Blood, The Forecast , The Berkeley Flash, Like a Buddha, Cuckoo Medley
Encores: Mighty River, The Wheel
Jon Stickley Trio Birthday Event at 5 Points Music Sanctuary
Back at 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke, Virginia which has become JBP headquarters lately with all the amazing concerts and bands being booked here. I was introduced to Jon Stickley Trio this past summer at Rooster Walk Music Festival which I hope to attend and cover again this coming May in Martinsville, Virginia. Pops Farm is always a great place to experience new music and this is where I got my first experience with Marcus King.
Jon Stickley Trio is a unique blend of instrumental Jam, Traditional Irish-Folk songs, Hard Rock and Bluegrass. With razor sharp guitar riffs and outstanding fiddle work to match, their transitions are progressive and original; I've never really heard anything like them before. While personally, I'd love the addition of lyrical and vocal qualities, it really doesn't make a difference this trio is powerful and should have a much larger following. Covering Bill Monroe's “Jerusalem Ridge”, this is a great example of how The Jon Stickley Trio are turning traditional bluegrass music on its head and doing something innovative and contemporary.
It being Jon Stickley’s 36th birthday, the band would go on to play "The best set of music they have ever played" and they looked to be recording a video of some sorts. For a three-piece, this band makes a lot of noise and they communicate on stage very well together. This allows them to improvise and take their jams out into new unknown territory, every night. At many times, I would be lost in the music and completely forget what song they were playing or I found myself trying to think of a familiar riff or melody.
During the last few songs, which included a great medley with Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit” mixed with “Ripple”, The Grateful Dead classic, Jon Stickley himself would try on the SubPac; one of the musical programs at 5 Points Music Sanctuary. The SubPac was developed to make the user feel the musical vibrations in their entire body, as opposed to hearing it. I thought it was super cool of Jon to try this on and he continued to wear it throughout the performance commenting on how it felt and the benefits of these musical programs. JS3 would end their outstanding performance with “Flight Of The Derby” a high energy and contemplative song, perfect for ending this wonderful night of music and celebration.
After seeing Jon Stickley Trio again for the second time, I am even more impressed by their unique sound and improvisational abilities. I would love to see a co-headlining tour with Railroad Earth or someone of that stature. More people need to see this band and experience their live performance. Thanks again to 5 Points for having me back and facilitating such outstanding shows here in Virginia.
Jam Band Purist
Photos By: Misti Walters Photography
Kung Fu, the Connecticut based Funk-Rock band has been on my radar for quite some time now; I hadn't been able to catch a live show until recently and I'm really glad it was at 5 Points in Roanoke, Virginia. Having been quite familiar with their catalog of songs, I knew I was in for at the very least, a decent show. Opening up with “Scorpion” from their recent release ‘Ninja Cuts,’ Kung Fu came out swinging or karate chopping and I knew I was in for more than a “decent” show.
I was immediately reminded of Frank Zappa, with dissonant tonality in their transitions and tight mix of Prog-Rock, funk and even a little Jam. Guitarist, Tim Palmieri was a phenomenal soloist and knows his scale progressions backwards and forwards. Sax player, Robert Somerville had a perpetual smile that was infectious to the whole crowd.
Kung Fu would go on to cover, Steely Dan; I can't remember which song but you know “The Dan” when you hear it. After that short interlude into yacht rock territory, it was all business and there was no stopping Kung Fu, as they jammed out “Hollywood Kisses,” “Chin Music” and many more of their original songs that were filled with improvisational intros; flowering and evolving into full blast funk in your face. I'm most impressed with their transitions that seem to test of the bounds of Eectro-Jazz-Funk chord progressions and climactic crescendos.
5 Points Music Sanctuary again, comes through with an amazing act to celebrate and highlight their pursuit in the power of sound. I can't say enough about this venue and the programs they offer. https://5pointsmusic.com The show lineup is stacked and you will be hearing a lot more about this place. Roanoke seems to have a budding music scene and with the recent announcement that moe. will be playing a local festival, big things are in the works.
Kung Fu is a great name for this band and with musical chops and figurative kicks, this band is as good, as any of the hard-hitting acts in the Jam-Funk scene today; like Lettuce or Galactic. Kung Fu brings intense energy to the stage and the audience leaves it on the dance floor. I will be seeing more of Kung Fu whenever I can and you should too.
Jam Band Purist
After my recent visit to the magnificent 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke Virginia, I was graciously invited back and will hopefully be working with them in the future developing content. With a great lineup of Jam/Rock acts coming up, I know I will be spending a lot more time at 5 Points one way or another. In my recent Pink Talking Fish review, I touched on the Sanctuary and its Music Therapy, Music Education, and Hearing Loss Advocacy programs. As an advocate for Special Needs and former special-education teacher, these programs are close to my heart. I support this cause and want to inform my readers about these exclusive music therapy programs that benefit the local Virginia community. Passed around at the Yarn show was a backpack, called the Subpac, which allows the user to experience the music through vibrations. When the bass pounds on stage, you feel it in the backpack. This technology is one of the many examples of the opportunities Tyler Godsey and his team are bringing to 5 Points Music Sanctuary. The story of 5 Points is an amazing example of strength and opportunity. With these programs like the Subpac Initiative, the sanctuary is truly striving to keep the power of music alive for everyone. Much more to come on this venue and with shows like: Kung Fu, Feb 8th, Jon Stickley Trio, Feb 9th and 10th, Melvin Seals and JGB March 22nd, my friends Marbin, April 5th, and Ghost Light feat. Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling on April 19th. To learn more about 5 Points and their live shows and music therapy programs, follow this link: https://5pointsmusic.com/programs/
I had never experienced Yarn, the Brooklyn Alt-Country band (wait... what Brooklyn? Country? Yes, that's right.) But I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the musicianship and songwriting originality. Yarn is a vibrant mix of country, rock, and rockabilly sprinkled with some bluegrass, folk, and stitched together with a touch of grunge. There were times when there was improvisation and the band started to jam, but Yarn stayed true to the standard old country feel. Song themes ranged from traveling down south, breaking up, and drug use; themes I think most of us relate to in one way or another. The crowd was with the band the entire time. Yarn is well beyond a bar act and something much more serious.
Tour seasoned, Yarn has been riding out troubled times and rolling with the changes, releasing a new album, 'This is The Year.' With the songs, "Carolina Heart" and "This Is The Year" highlighting the album. It does seem a different direction than the previous sound Yarn has cultivated. With lyrics like, “This is the year, we’re gonna make that change/this is the year, we start all over again/This is the year, we’re all gonna come out swingin’/we’re gonna raise a glass to a new beginning,” the band is obviously looking to change things up and push their music into high gear. The sound in the Sanctuary certainly complements this type of music and the band was tight and constructed while still remaining loose and fluid. Bass player and Dave Grohl look-alike Rick Bugal, drives the rhythm of this band forward, always in the groove and ready to take the music further. Lead guitarist Rod Hohl, reminds me of a hired gun, ready to unload when the time is right with a country and western picking style that is smooth and unstoppable. Always staying steady like a train engine, drummer Bobby Bonhomme, is the heartbeat of Yarn. While lead vocalist and guitarist Blake Christiana is the lifeblood, reminding me very much of Todd Snider, a vagabond storyteller with an old soul that leaves his heart written in the lyrics. I look forward to catching Yarn again this summer at Roosterwalk Music Festival and if you haven't listened to Yarn and you really like country–rock check them out.
~Jam Band Purist
Greensky Bluegrass (Not Out Of Control In Richmond)
Right before I left for Las Vegas for three wonderful nights of Widespread Panic (Review Coming Soon) I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Greensky Bluegrass for the 3rd time this summer. Greensky has been a staple in my musical diet since Roosterwalk this past summer, with that amazing sit-in from the man himself, Marcus King.
Greensky’s songs are evocative, thought provoking and heartbreaking at times. They are the perfect band to uplift your spirits and cause you to reflect upon, not only your life but you inner self. With songs like ‘Old Barns’ ‘Windshield’ and ‘In Control’ that include lyrics like, “Everything around me now will be reduced to the ground, At the cost of my foolish nature, Consequence and conditioning, All weighing at me, To slow my patience.” and “Old barns don't tear down, Let 'em stand proud until they fall to the ground.” With these lyrics the listener can feel and hear the spiritual mantra that is Greensky Bluegrass.
While most of their songs are quite uplifting and happy, they can delve into the deeper side of not only Bluegrass but also the human psyche. There are moments within some of the Jams that feel almost dark and chaotic, they give me shivers up my spine. This is one of the reason I really enjoy this band but also one of the reasons many start talking during Greensky’s jam into progressive Bluegrass, which the name itself means to “move forward” and that's just what they do, innovating and keeping Bluegrass fresh. They seem to take influence from Arabic or Indian melodic structures, chord progressions and scales.
‘Headed for a breakdown’ was well done and jammed out beyond proportions. Included in this set list was ‘Old Barns’ and ‘In Control’ with a very special ‘When Doves Cry’ the classic Prince song. Greensky always seems to pull out a new and exciting cover every time I see them. Each show I have seen has included a new cover first-ABB at Roosterwalk , second-‘Atlantic City’ at Lockn' (The Band style not Springsteen) and finally Prince. This is one of the reasons I will continue to see Greensky Bluegrass every chance I get.
Listening back to this show on nugs.net, the rendition of ‘Broke Mountain Breakdown’ is fantastic and definitely one of the best I have heard. The encore ‘Demons’ was dark and ominous but uplifting and left the crowd satisfied.
Greensky has become one of my favorite live acts this past year they fill a niche that this genre of Progressive Bluegrass has needed since Bela Fleck and the Flecktones; extreme improvisation and dark transient compositions. Although Greensky’s music keeps reminding me of my past and brings out some heavy emotions, I continue to integrate their music into my daily life and can recall countless mornings waking up with ‘Old Barns’ or ‘In Control’ lodged inside my head, like some sort of burrowing creature. I'm sure if you give them a listen, you will find something there that is irresistible and undeniable.
About a year ago, I met and interviewed the band Marbin, a high-energy Rock/Jazz hybrid that had impressed me with songs like, 'African Shabtay' and 'Redline' on their social media/YouTube video campaign the year before. Since my first Marbin show, I have been lucky enough to see them three more times and we have become fast friends; sharing many musical interests and debating the ins-and-outs of the music industry on various occasions.
As musicians, Marbin is growing exponentially; each member giving it they’re all on stage, every night, traveling the county and the world. Their musical influences and growth can be heard in their most recent compositions, which lean more into psychedelic and ballad like movements; leaving more room for improvisation and modulation within live performances. Marbin is constantly evolving, adding new intros, outros and transitions into their already solid repertoire.
Their newest unreleased album titled, "Israeli Jazz" seems to have woken more creativity inside this band, as they play these new songs with a raw and driving intensity. 'Israeli Jazz' the title track from the newest album, is hard and transient, smooth and razor sharp. I look forward to hearing the entire album and doing a full review when it is completed.
Dani Rabin shows exceptional guitar skills, on par, if not greater than, many guitarists in the progressive Jazz and Jam scene. Dani is always growing and expanding his musical education, incorporating those Gypsy Jazz scales he loves so much, into the music he constantly creates. Danny Markovitch is the backbone of this group and although he stands to the side during solos, he is always solemnly contemplating what comes next and critically evaluating every note. Jon Nadel is the perfect bass player for this band and although, he isn't an original member, he keeps both Danny and Dani in check while bringing a masterful bass technique and skill on his fret-to-fretless bass guitar. The heartbeat of Marbin is drummer Blake Jiracek, who is always in his own world, tirelessly keeping up with the other members and pushing the rhythmic structure further and further.
While Marbin, hasn't reached the peak of their success, little by little, they are gaining attention and amassing a loyal following just waiting for them to explode on to the scene but which scene? Finding that direction is highly important to what Marbin could become in the future. I am sure that they will succeed in any musical route/niche they decide to pursue and I will be along for the ride.
I am looking forward to another Marbin performance in Harrisonburg, Virginia on April 4 at the Golden Pony. If you live in or around the area, feel free to contact me and we can meet up! If not, check this band out when they come to you locally, I am always truly blown away.
A Fan and Friend,
Jam Band Purist
WARNING: The views and opinions expressed on this site may not be in conjecture with your own. Be Advised
Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.