Cosmic Superheroes "Big Star" Album Review
Saving the world one jam at a time, Cosmic Superheroes, has joined forces like musical Avengers to release their newest album, ‘Big Star.’ The North Carolina natives have reached out from their fortress of solitude and Jam Band Purist recently released their title track to the new album. We had a great response, reaching over 1000 views in just a few days. JBP has been working hard to get the best reviews, interviews, newest acts and album critiques that we can and Cosmic Superheroes review is up next. So, put on your capes, its time for the goods.
The opening track to this album, "Wants" is a great example of how to gain interest in the entire album itself from a good first impression. Immediately reminiscent of a more, singer-songwriter sound; lyrics and storytelling seem to be at the forefront of this bands attributes. "Wants" tells a real story and delves into the human psyche concerning the pressure of societal needs and every day life. The keyboard lick from Paul Sanders, keeps this song stuck in your head long after listening.
"Big Star" is a straightforward song with a message about the hypocrisy and duplicity within the Rock 'n' Roll industry. With great vocal harmonies, a great melody and production quality, this title track to 'Big Star' is a great platform for Cosmic Superheroes to spring from. "Lonely" takes our celestial journey back to the 1950s-60s with a very R & B feel and song structure; vocals again taking precedent in this bands sound and song writing techniques. I enjoyed the sound of this one because it harkens back to a much more innocent time in Rock 'n' Roll while juxtaposing the other lyrical songs on this album.
For me it's hard to choose a favorite between, "Moment Of Sugar" and "Sunray" as the best songs on this album but then I hear “What!” and everything changed. Mixed between these two great songs is “Top Of Our Lungs” and will let that song speaks for itself, with great drum work from Bongo John Metcalf and Paul Benner on bass. "Moment Of Sugar" comes just when I think I'm settling in for another vocal driven performance. Cosmic Superheroes completely flips the script and goes full jam mode really bringing the guitar from Brandon Mclean on this one. This is where I really start to understand Cosmic Superheroes sound and get sucked into their cosmic vibration. "Sunray" is a blistering melodic composition that accentuates the guitar and adds a little bit of electro with the keyboard synth. This song goes right along with “Moment Of Sugar” and takes Cosmic Superheroes to another level. I think “Sunray” hits the jam mark a little more than “Moment Of Sugar” but both are equally worthy of praise and show a great creative apperception.
“What!” a short but raw composition, can only be described as high-powered and ephemeral. This song reminded me a lot of Phish, as the guitar takes the lead but this one ends shortly with an echoed “WHAT!” that leaves me wanting a lot more. This is a song that could be taken to extreme jam territory at any moment during a live concert setting. If this song were just a little bit longer, it would hands down be my favorite track from ‘Big Star’ and even, Cosmic Superheroes. "Fiend" returns to the storytelling approach of Cosmic Superheroes as the narrator recounts a lost love relationship and finding themselves, down and out, on the beach somewhere. The album returns to "Big Star" for the conclusion of Cosmic Superheroes sophomore album.
Cosmic Superheroes really impressed me with songs like "What!" and "Sunray." While the singer-songwriting nature and quality of the lyrics are prominent and poignant, I still enjoy the more jam driven compositions. As with many of the bands Jam Band Purist reviews, it's often difficult to compare live performances with recorded ones. I think these songs would really shine during live shows and I hope that Cosmic Superheroes continues to grow and expand their musical diversity in the time to come. Check out the full ‘Big Star’ album at https://www.cosmicsuperheroes.com/ for more. Thanks again for taking the time to read our reviews.
Jonathan Scales Fourchestra Resound At 5 Points
I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived at 5 Points Music Sanctuary to see Jonathan Scales Fourchestra but this trio hit me like a ton of bricks from opening note to close. Let me just start off by saying, I have never seen anyone play the steel drum/pan like that, nothing comes close. Jonathan Scales takes this instrument to another level; a level which most of us are not use to especially at the forefront, leading the band. A mixture of jazz, high-powered funk, and even hip-hop, the rudiments behind each song are much like a classical composition. The skill and musical prowess of each individual member of JSF is comparable to many compositions on a progressive level; reminding me of Stravinsky, Weather Report, Zappa, perhaps even Phish. This band is far beyond some cruise ship steel drum act and should not be taken lightly. (Picture the opposite of the cheesiest version of calypso possible.)
It was a cosmic journey through the scales and many extremely difficult compositions. It was like, sitting down and watching an orchestra play an entire symphony. In the continued recap, I will do my best to explain the songs I can remember. "Focus Poem" which features Bela Fleck on the newest album, is a big influence for Jonathan Scales. The drummer was seen smiling and laughing almost the entire performance. The bassist running lines like Alphonso Johnson. At one point, Jonathan would take off on a solo section showing off his extraordinary skills. It was truly a classical composition on the steel drums and there is no other way to describe it.
"The Trap"written on a napkin in 5 minutes, has stood the test of time and is a wild ride through ups-and-downs of chaotic orchestral changes and progressions. The next song called "Fake Buddha’s Inner Child" was thought out and meticulously structured. This was one of the best performances of the night and I am wondering the story behind this songs title. The stage lights shone down into the steel drums, reflecting off the surface and bouncing back like colored waves against the ceiling, illuminating the sanctuary with an otherworldly glow. A special guest flutist would join the Fourchestra onstage for a selection of wild compositions and solo improvisational performances. The flute seems to be the perfect additional instrument to this ensemble, providing a great backdrop for these obstreperous compositions.
Jonathan took the time to teach the audience his irregular timing and worldview (7x7+6=World Peace) Jonathan was constantly calling out the shots, improvising on the fly and leading the band into new musical territories. From life changes and crazy times come great music. "Cry" from the new album is one of those that are wrought from these difficult experiences. I enjoyed this slower number and look forward to checking out the new album when it's released. It's evident that each one of these guys is just happy to be playing music onstage. "How To Rebuild Your Battleship" was an extremely difficult song but the band played through flawlessly. This one sounded as though it could be used in a film score in some action adventure or even video game.
The night would end with a cover of "Kiss From A Rose" and another well thought out and prepossessing composition. I wouldn't hesitate to see Jonathan Scales Fourchestra again, especially at 5 Points where this kind of music and sound are sacred. I hope that Jonathan and his band continue to amass followers and enlighten the musical world with his knowledge not only the steel drum/pan but composition in general. I could certainly see Jonathan Scales Fourchestra playing any number of late night sets and various music festival across the county.
Jam band Purist is excited to exclusively release Cosmic Superheroes title track "Big Star" from their upcoming album, released on May 18th.
This is the first time JBP has released an exclusive song, so go check Cosmic Superheroes out and give this song a listen via bandcamp. Full album review coming soon!
"Big Star" is a straightforward song with a message about the hypocrisy and duplicity in the Rock 'n' Roll industry. With commendable vocal harmonies, a great melody and compelling production quality, the title track to 'Big Star' is a great platform for Cosmic Superheroes to spring from.
More Coming Soon!
Travelin’ McCourys Heat Up The Lime Kiln in Lexington Virginia
One of the most beautiful outdoors venues in Virginia set in a historic site in Lexington, The Lime Kiln Theatre is a venue that includes a large Kiln used in the turn of the 20th century and the stage itself is situated amongst an earthen rock quarry. The Kiln stage has just been opened up for the first time in 6 years but with the recent renovations the entire Lime Kiln venue and The Bowl is even more beautiful than I remembered from my previous visits. Holding a decent amount of people, the bowl was filled to capacity for this seasons opening performance.
The Travelin' McCourys came out for a great rendition of The Grateful Dead's "Cumberland Blues" before the rain came in and washed the band away but they would return with "Walk Out Of The Rain" about an hour later, skipping the set break and making this a single set performance. The band continued on into a song about John Henry, the railroad laying legend. "Midnight Flyer" kept the train theme rolling down the tracks; bluegrass and trains always go well together. "I Live On A Battlefield" was one of the best performances of the evening; raw and full of emotion. Following this slower song, the McCourys would go into a blistering instrumental number that had the entire bands fingers flying.
Bass player of the year, Alan Bartram singing John Hartford’s "No End Of Love" was harmonious and well done; great songwriting and all around delivery from each player, as they delivered a mix of their own music and exciting covers. Its no wonder these guys all have awards and various honors from musical institutions. "Let Her Go" was next, originally done by Passenger but the Travelin’ McCourys make it their own, with a high-pulsing rhythms and flawless, vocal harmonies.
“Well you only need the light when it's burning low,
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow,
Only know you love her when you let her go,
Only know you've been high when you're feeling low,
Only hate the road when you're missing home,
Only know you love her when you let her go,
And you let her go”
Going Classic Bluegrass with the next song, the Travelin’ McCourys show why they are one of the best Bluegrass bands around, doing progressive to traditional. Rob McCoury letting those banjo licks roll. Another morbid, John Hartford song "Natural To Be Gone" was deep and juxtaposed the music itself.
Mixing lyrical songs and instrumentals throughout the evening, the crowd was getting the best of both worlds. "The Hardest Heart" exemplified the lyrical accents and prognostication from this group. During the next instrumental tune the band took turns soloing and showing skills on their various accoutrements; Jason Carter and Cody Kilby, both shining throughout these solos and the entire evening.
As Ronnie changed to electric mandolin someone was heard in the audience "Yea! Give It To Me, Ronnie!" as they went into some more Grateful Dead renditions. "If I Had The World To Give" would see Ronnie making that electric sing as he gently melted a string immediately before they went into "Loser" The Travelin McCourys took the vocal cues from the song and accentuated them into beautiful harmonies. Slowing down and speeding up with a taste of "The Other One" crescendos on a par with any jam act, improvisational and defined. Complete transition into another instrumental and back into "Loser" ending the set with "Travelin’."
It is always a pleasure to see these folks play bluegrass live. There is an extreme professionalism and duty to the music that is evident from these performers. Still adhering to traditional values while exploring new and interesting takes on bluegrass music. Check The Travelin’ McCourys out at DelFest at the end of this month.
Down By Downtown Music Festival Headliners moe. (Rises Again In Roanoke)
Roanoke Virginia seems to be calling my name recently, with the announcement of moe. at the beautiful Elmwood Amphitheater in the heart of Star City, many other music fans are being drawn here as well. Down by Downtown Music Festival is an annual music collaboration, unifying various business’s in Roanoke. I was only able to catch a few of the many shows that they had to offer in the downtime area but Travers Brothership from Asheville, North Carolina immediately stood out to me. Opening for the headlining act, they were reminiscent of moe. themselves; a fresh mix of funk and Southern Rock. Playing a groovy, "It's Your Thing" mixed seamlessly with Funkadelics, "Can You Get To That."
Jam Band Purist has a long history with moe. They are one of the first bands that really got me there; you know what I mean, get you THERE! When moe. took the stage, it was as though I was transported back in time to those days long since past. There was a part of me that was never sure I'd see moe. again after Robs cancer battle but boy, does it feel good to be back again. moe. has risen like Lazarus and pushed ever forward, remaining tight and flawless. While their festival sets are never as long, as I would want, I still think the band did a great job exploring many improvisational moments and highlights from their catalog of music.
Opening with a clean and effortless, "Crab Eyes" Al took the lead, as they shredded into "Big World." This combination had Elmwood Park brimming with excitement when they went for jam territory during "Ricky Martin." "Captain America" felt like a joyous reunion between my ears and my heart. Seeing Rob up there singing and doing his thing makes me extremely grateful to still be seeing moe. live. With no set break, the band quickly transitioned into "Montego" a song, which I was not familiar with. The classic "St. Augustine" was next, which collided right into an exhilarating "Tailspin."
"Blue Jeans Pizza" has been one of my favorite moe. songs since my adventure to upstate New York for moe. down 11. This "BJ" would highlight Rob's bass playing, as he remains one of the tightest bassists in the business. A long improvisational intro into "Akimbo" would end the set of music but moe. would encore with "Spine Of A Dog" for a classic but short performance. After the show, I headed over to Martin's downtown for some more music and the party continued with Grass Is Dead, as they completely packed the house for the after party.
Moe.noke seems to be becoming quite a Jam haven for the East Coast and Virginia music community. I am looking forward to the upcoming shows at 5 Points music sanctuary and will be spending more time there whenever I can. Thanks to Down By Downtown, BlueRidgeRocks.com and a special thanks to Meagan Iwaniszek at mirphotoz.com for the amazing photos!
Photo Credit: Meagan Iwaniszek mirphotoz.com
Ghost Light Energized at 5 Points Music Sanctuary
"A ghost light is an electric light that is left energized on the stage of a theater when the theater is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark."
When I first heard that Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling had joined forces to create a highly unique and original improvisational act, I was excited to hear what they could produce but when I caught a live video of their rehearsal, I knew this one would be special. So, I headed down to Roanoke to my favorite venue, 5 Points Music Sanctuary to see my first Ghost Light performance.
Starting slowly and steadily, Ghost Light eased their way into their first song, which included a hard-driving beat and vocal instrumentation. This song would be an untitled jam in D. Tom Hamilton called out "JAM HERE" and what ensued next was a once and a lifetime improvisational evening.
Ghost Lights transitions and improvisation is highly reminiscent of the Dead, as to be expected; it's as though, Tom Hamilton, has studied the Grateful Dead's canon of music at the doctoral level and these jams come straight out of the late 60s, early 70s segues and transitions, but there is more to Ghost Light then that with extremely progressive movements and 80s-90s Alt-Rock phrasing.
Always on the edge and shifting into improvisation, the next song, "Simple Gift Of Man," would again see Hamilton call out "JAM" and the band goes for it, hitting the highest reaches of improvisational atonement and enlightenment possible. This band is on another level from anything I've seen recently, as they peaked into a high-powered, "Tennessee Jed" that was, as good, as I've ever heard. Highly original and vocally provocative they still seem to adhere to the original structure of the song. This cover would extend well past the 20-minute mark, as GL returned into the original D jam and again into "Simple Gift Of Man."
By the time intermission came around I was still trying to figure this band out. I was completely lost when it came to set list schematics and began to look up there song catalog. I always feel like I am getting spoiled at 5 Points with VIP treatment and that's the coolest thing about this venue is that everyone feels like a VIP. There isn't a bad seat in the house! So, to recap the first set: "d jam" into "Simple Gift”>”Tennessee Jed”>”d jam”>”Simple Gift”= Mind blown. Working up Ghost Light set lists is like some sort of physics equation.
The second set begins with Tom Hamilton leading the way, crouching down low as Holly slowly brought up the piano riffs. Tom Hamilton is a constant bandleader, directing the band with excitement and bravado. From fairly hard riffs right into a more reggae sound at the drop of Holly Bowling's hat, GL goes into an almost punk rock sound.
Holly taking up lead vocals in "100 Years Ago" was very reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, as they all harmonized together. At this point, everything becomes jumbled into one experience and I can't decipher “Isosceles” from “Synth Driver” because Ghost Light only uses these songs as mere outlines for their improvisational performances. They also brought back refrains and teases from the songs played in the previous set.
Hard in all the right places, soft when needed, lots of smiles can be seen onstage and in the crowd. Notes on the other players: Raina Mullens harmony vocals are angelic, Steve Lyons heavy fingers are unique and steady, while Scotty Zwang showed off his skills at various points throughout the evening, proving he is one of the best freelance drummers in the Jam scene today. Together and combined, this band sounded like and eerie cosmic train chugging along an unknown industrial railroad in the dead of night; Tom Hamilton the ghostly conductor on this train to the netherworld, while the rest of the band shovels in the coal. A Ghost Light blares on the tracks ahead. Taking chances and trying something new and unique every time they play. The smile on Toms face says it all during the encore cover of “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears; reasserting that 80s vibe I was feeling earlier on.
To say that I was impressed with this show is an understatement. I am extremely happy to put the JBP seal of approval on this group. This performance will remain in my memory like a ghost light shining on well after everyone has left 5 Points Music Sanctuary. I hope Ghost Light continues to perform and showcase their improvisational talents. If you haven't seen this band, do it while you have the chance.
5 out of 5
Marbin Doubleheader in Virginia:(Fueled By Chipotle Tour 2018)
It is always an extreme pleasure to see and hear my friends, Marbin perform. With the recent album release of 'Israeli Jazz,' the band seems to be heading toward a seminal era and represents a change of sound structure from this high-powered fusion foursome. Marbin continues to grow and evolve, taking influence from their past experiences. Somewhere out in the far reaches of Blues, Fusion and Progressive-Rock, Marbin immediately caught my attention two years ago with their social media movement and have since become fast friends of JBP.
Marbin returned to the Golden Pony in Harrisonburg, Virginia, followed by a great performance at Five Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke, Virginia. This Virginia doubleheader would see much the same setlists but with variations in improvisation including, solos and intros and codas that were transient and new. I will do my best to touch on most of the songs played in both performances but If I miss a few, please just check out Marbin live in a town near you; they play many small towns and cities alike.
The first song of the review is a new one, "Itchy Bun (Bum)" a very Zappa-like song with a long melodic introduction and sounds, as if, it could be found off "The Grand Wazoo" album. Dani Rabin, charismatic leader and guitarist, would go on to tell the story of "Itchy Bun (Bum),” in a segment called, "story time." While most instrumental bands come up with some random ethereal song title, like "Flowing Waters" or "Cosmic Vibrations," Marbin focuses on retelling strange occurrences and wild occasions that have happened to them on tour. "Itchy Bun (Bum)" is simply referring to two bulldogs wiping their ass on Dani's sleeping mat in some dirty ass house after a show.
"African Shabtay" included the albums long introduction and is still one of my favorite Marbin compositions of all time. This performance would see a great solo from Jon Nadel and his fret-to-fretless bass guitar. Jon Nadel has come into his own over the last two years and seems much more comfortable on stage, finding his groove musically and dancing with the rhythm.
"The Old Ways" was haunting and wild, like the ghost of ancestors creeping around some ancient cemetery at midnight. This is the opening track off 'Israeli Jazz' and for good reason. It sets a perfect tone for strange and eerie album.
"Redline" another one of my favorite Marbin classics, is always high energy and gets better every time they play it. Blake Jiracek's drumming is blistering and savage; I believe he has grown exponentially as a drummer and has also become quite the rhythmic percussionist, letting some of that angst out on the drums.
"Fisticuffs" takes place in Eureka Springs, Arkansas; a small town which reminds one of "Tuscany but with a bucket of myth of thrown on top of it." This song tells the delightful story of a town drunkard and a brawl for the honor of Marbin.
Danny Markovitch remains the mind behind the band, constantly contemplating it all, side stage when he is not shredding the horn. Dani and Danny complement and juxtapose one another fluidly, they are always on point, razor-sharp with immaculate technique; this is like the Olympics of fusion playing.
Round two at my favorite venue in Virginia, Five Points Music Sanctuary where it’s always a serious pleasure to see any band but really awesome to see Marbin. I spent a lot of the time upstairs in the balcony for this performance, where the sound was immaculate and the full light show suited Marbin very well. There was a good turnout for the band and they rounded through many of the same songs from the night before but always improvising during solos and keeping the energy fresh and exciting.
Five Points Music Sanctuary is a great place for Marbin to express themselves musically and I will be heading down to Five Points again, for Ghost Light on April 19, featuring, Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling. And then it's on to moe. at Downtown By Downtown festival on April 21st!
For more on Marbin check them out here http://www.marbinmusic.com/ and I hope to be doing an album review for 'Israeli Jazz' although, I have been hearing these songs for over a year now. Perhaps one day Marbin and I will have some wild adventures and they will write a song about it. Here's to many more Jam Band Purist and Marbin collaborations.
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John K Solo AF at the Sanctuary
I guess, I hadn't gotten enough Grateful Dead at Melvin Seals and JGB. So, I decided to head back down to The 5 Points Music Sanctuary for John K Solo and when I say solo, I mean Solo AF. I have been seeing, John K, in different bands and diverse iterations for over a decade but I had yet to check out any of his unaccompanied performances. It's seems that John K, has found his own niche within the Grateful Dead community and clearly loves the music and tunes he is playing. It is again fitting that The Grateful Deads music is continued in Roanoke, Virginia, where The Dead performed numerous legendary concerts.
Using his loop pedals to create a symphony of sound including: drums, piano and bass, John K seemed flustered at first but accurately found his sound and rhythm by the end of the evening. Beginning with a cacophony of sounds, this would mellow out as it turned into "Scarlet Begonias" which was the first Dead cover of the evening, followed by "Run For The Roses," and then, "Golden Wings" and original stolen from some 17th century poet and John K’s first stab at songwriting.
Being well diverse in the Chicago music scene, John K cut his teeth for 10 years before starting DSO and years before his collaboration in Further with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. I still recall Further at LOCKN’ 2013 as a highlight of all my festival and musical experiences. Further was the perfect balance of Grateful Dead manifestations I have witnessed in my life; fantastic musicianship and affordable venues.
John K spoke of his first time seeing The Dead in ’89. He was already playing in a band and performing live for audiences in Chicago but that's when things changed. John said both Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia have equally influenced him. And one of his first experience playing Dead related music was with Melvin Seals in a long forgotten band, The Mix.
John K continue his solo routine with "Cassidy" which has been played a great deal lately in remembrance of John Perry Barlow, who died this past year and was a co-writer with Bobby on numerous classics. A fantastic cover of John Lennon’s “Watching The Wheels,” was next with his guitar sounding exactly like a grand piano.
"Brown Eyed Women" and "Box Of Rain" would close out the first set. I saw a moth fluttering around the room during set break, serendipitously. I became aware of a small figurine perched upon John K’s stool, which would prove to be Ganesha, a Hindu god with an elephant head. This reminded me of a great post I read by John K about the hermetic principles of Phish and the spirituality of lyrics which he discussed with the notorious, Sam Cutler.
John K returned for a second-set with “Dire Wolf,” “Unbroken Chain” and many more original songs that I was unfamiliar with. This would be a more mellow evening than JGB but a good juxtaposition between evenings. "Rubin and Cherise" always brings a tear to my eye and "Fire On The Mountain" was by far the best performance of the evening; solo loops and syncopation on point. "Believe It Or Not," "Throwing Stones" and "Touch Of Grey" concluded the Grateful Dead covers but all roads lead back to Terrapin with an encore of Jim Page’s, "Down To Eugene To See The Grateful Dead," a song John K had learned from Grateful Dead historian, David Gans.
Thanks to 5 Points and John K for a laid back Wednesday night,
Jam Band Purist
Melvin Seals and JGB with Ron Holloway at 5 Points
Having seen Melvin Seals and JGB last year about this time at the Jefferson Theatre in Charlottesville, Virginia, it was only fitting that I would head down to my favorite venue, 5 Points Music Sanctuary to check them out again. It's always a pleasure to come to Roanoke and see live music with Tyler Godsey and his crew at 5 Points. I am happy to announce a partnership and look forward to working together in the coming months. I was surprised to see, Ron Holloway join the band on the stage for the evening but it was quite the added bonus. Ron has been a staple in the Jam community for quite some time and I have seen him play with numerous bands over the years including: Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic and The Allman Brothers. Ron is a master sit-in artist and his saxophone style highlights the evening’s musical extravaganza.
Opening with a "Stop That Train" that felt spiritual in the sanctuary; the lights blazing and the ladies singing. Zach Nugget as always, stays solid and on-point with Jerry Garcia’s tones and licks always in mind but keeping a fresh and interesting approach; this wouldn't be the same without him. It would be hard to find anyone more suiting for the position. I have been following Zach, since I saw him last year and his guitar ability has only grown. I look for Zach to become even more popular as JGB tours and The Grateful Dead legacy expands.
The band would go on to play, "The Way You Do The Things You Do" and a funky "Lay Down Sally." I watched Melvin’s left foot hover over his pedal underneath his organ and it was as if he is was truly dancing behind the keys. It’s easy to see why Jerry called Melvin “The Master Of The Universe.” He was the soul of JGB and Jerry was the heart. Looking on this legendary player, I cant help but imagine all the crazy things that organ has seen; all the experiences with Jerry and beyond. I look forward to talking with him one day and maybe, I will get to ask him these questions myself.
"Eyes Of The World" included an amazing saxophone solo from Holloway, which was reminiscent of something Branford would produce. Holloway would sit solemnly in the corner of the sanctuary, just taking in the music, coming alive when it was time for his solo. “EOTW” had a little scatting from Sunshine Becker, who adds a great voice to this band. While, I originally thought she was somehow related to Garcia, she only sends similar vibrations from onstage and is not related. Melvin and JGB would round into "Midnight Moonlight" with Ron bringing in Dixie.
"Shakedown Street" was high-energy and brimming with excitement for the second set opener. This is why I always see Melvin and JGB when they come to Virginia. They can really whip the crowd into a frenzy, while still remaining calm and collective. "After Midnight" was always a Jerry favorite and this rendition highlighted Zach’s guitar work and Melvin's incredible organ playing; together symbiotically, these two have quite the repertoire with one another. "Simple Twist Of Fate" and "Harder They Come" brought the JGB original song selections and "Promised Land" highlighted the end of the performance in the sanctuary.
This band keeps the spirit of Jerry Garcia Band alive and vibrant. The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia's legacy is expansive and still touches the hearts of its devote listeners today. I immediately went home and listened to JGB 'Cats Down Under The Stars' on vinyl and I was transfixed and transported into a timeless musical moment with Jerry by my side and in my ears. It’s always a pleasure to hear Melvin and his band do their thing.
I Need More Dead,
Jam Band Purist
'Water' EP Album Review and Artist Spotlight for Surprise Attack
Up-and-coming Jam-Funk act from Washington DC, Surprise Attack, have recently reached out and we are happy to reveal and announce our Full EP Review, Interview and Artist Spotlight here at www.jambandpurist.com
Surprise Attacks most recent EP release entitled, 'Water' is an elemental achievement and coincides with their previous releases, 'Earth' and 'Fire.' This album concept is highly original and represents the level of awareness this band has as a collective. Dubbing themselves, "Mountain Funk," their influences range from improvisational, Appalachian-Folk and Funk music, which coagulates to form Surprise Attack.
'Water' begins with “M.D.M.A.” a song that highlights this bands lyrical qualities, and even includes a barbershop quartet style vocal harmony and a great Jam melody. This song expresses creative and unique songwriting structures and transitions. As an opening track, this song is well selected and while most of us think of ecstasy or some other illicit experience, after reflecting, this song has nothing to do with that at all. It's something far beyond the acronym.
Recording 'Water' in their home studio, Surprise Attack, uses what they have to produce a listenable album with a solid sound. While, I would love to hear what these guys could do in a professional studio, 'Water' is a great platform to release musical ideas, expand their repertoire and work on their band style. Danny Durazo, Ian Frye, Jay Rowe, Jeremy Begun and Tom Casey all have a unique blend of musical styles and collaborate as a cohesive unit.
"J.N.S." opens up with a strong Latin rhythm structure and great guitar licks. The vocal melody itself can be heard prevalently and the disco sound is undeniably danceable. This one could be jammed out live and with the right amount of improvisation, this song could be taken to the next level. The feeling that "J.N.S." brings forth is something greater than I think is on this recording and while this recording doesn’t capture all the intricate qualities, it does show the creative talents of this band.
"Down And Out" takes this band on a different route down I-495 using the easy pass to get out of traffic. This song is much more the "mountain" side of their sound and has a country-folk feel. The initial reaction is calm, collective and juxtaposes with the story itself of being down and out without cash in the city. This song is very relatable and at times funny and could be commercially viable if the band decided to use it in that capacity.
"Train Of Thought" is by far my favorite track from this album and comes with a high recommendation. This songs structure itself is very Zappa-esque and takes the progressive development of improvisation jam music to the forefront of this album. "Train Of Thought" caught my attention initially for its transitions, reminiscent of moe. Phish and Zappa all combined but still original. Surprise Attack should work towards making all their songs this quality and level of conceptuality.
Altogether and combined with its counterparts, 'Fire' and 'Earth,' 'Water' EP stands out as a great beginning for any up-and-coming band to promote themselves off of. D.C.’s budding music scene is expanding and many great jam acts are growing within this community. I look for Surprise Attack to attack the scene with the same intensity that they have brought to 'Water.' Check out the EP here: https://surpriseattackdc.bandcamp.com/album/water-ep and follow Surprise Attack on all social media platforms for more. Is ‘Wind’ on the way?
Interview with Surprise Attack
(JBP) What made you form Surprise Attack and start playing music together?
Surprise Attack is actually the band that we formed back in high school. We were together for about a year before moving to different towns, going to college, and more or less, going on a permanent hiatus. We’ve all been close friends for quite some time now and as our musical taste expanded, we were going to shows together, and collectively starting analyzing the music we were listening to on a much deeper level than ever before. After we graduated, we started organizing “jams in the cabin” where we’d rent out a cabin for a weekend, set up a temporary studio, and create improvised music together. It wasn’t long after starting those meet-ups that we realized just how essential music was and is, in all of our lives. We moved back to Northern Virginia, where we grew up and where Surprise Attack was originally formed and have been pushing our development as hard as we can ever since.
(JBP) What are your goals in the music industry?
Our goal is to become full time musicians and to take Surprise Attack wherever in the world we can. Granted how much the music industry has been changing, we do our best to keep up with the technology and methodologies that will enable us to be competitive with the bands that are several years ahead of us. We embrace the free content model in hopes of recreating the taper vibe that surrounded The Dead and other Jam bands. As a band that revolves around the live experience and performing a unique set every night, we put a ton effort into conveying that through our content distribution.
(JBP) Do you guys have any experiences opening up for bigger bands? Or any bands you hope to share the stage with one day?
It was a really cool experience to play with Midnight North. Watching Grahame Lesh (the band’s front man and son of Phil Lesh) on stage with The Terrapin Family Band at Lockn ‘17 after opening up for his project at Jammin' Java in Vienna, VA was beyond surreal. We, and every other jam band, pretty much owe our existence to the Dead, so rubbing elbows with someone who continues the Dead’s tradition of improvisational music just deepened our desire to become a part of that tradition as well.
(JBP) I have also met with Grahame; he is a treasure to this community. Where else do you take influence musically?
All of us have always been fans of older bands, as well as more contemporary music, and take tons of influences from Funk groups, Jazz artists, Rock bands, etc, but our first experiences with the Jam bands The String Cheese Incident, Phish, and The Grateful Dead iterations were extremely eye-opening. It wasn't until seeing these Jam veterans operate live, that we realized the potential for creating an exciting performance that incorporates elements from Funk, Rock, Jazz, Bluegrass, Latin, and Dance music. Eclectic is definitely the word that comes to mind when thinking of Surprise Attack’s taste in music and we owe that to the inspiration we've drawn from the Jam music community.
(JBP) How do you think your sound and band can evolve to become something greater and bring something fresh and original to the music scene?
The biggest focus for our music and Surprise Attack as an entity is to be as genuine and authentic as possible. We love all types of music and feel like we don't ever compromise putting out a sound that is truly us. There is also an element of eccentricity to our sound that is just different; partially because we go for so many styles, which makes it hard to pin us down as an “x” band when in comes to our catalog, but also because we're just a bit odd ourselves. I think our personality really shines through in our music, which could be refreshing in a music scene that can be pretty self-serious.
(JBP) Who is the main songwriter or is it more of a collective musical environment?
We definitely view our original works, as well as covers, as the product of a collective musical environment. A lot of the time, a member will come with a certain number of parts or ideas to a song and we will have brainstorming sessions in which the final project is envisioned. We very much so operate as a democracy and welcome all ideas and criticism towards developing the most cohesive music that we possibly can put out. Refining the songs is always an ongoing process and we use our home studio to take scratch recordings as songs are coming into being and revisit the recordings to make changes on sections as a whole, transitions, and individual parts. If someone has an idea for a certain part of a song, even if we thought it was completed a while ago, we’ll try it out and see if it fits. We're still making refinements to songs we wrote years ago.
(JBP) This album was self-produced, was this recorded in a home studio and if so, can you can you share what programs you used or experiences you had recording?
This album was indeed recorded in our home studio! For our most recent EP, Water, we used Logic on our Mac Mini after transitioning away from Ableton Live. Developing our home studio has been an adventure and a half with moving in to our first band house, acoustically treating our main room, and constantly upgrading our set up. Over the past 2 years we’ve continuously invested every bit of money we’ve made into upgrading to new, better technology and methodologies that enable us to share solid self-produced studio and live recordings with the musical community for free. The recording experience has always been extremely fulfilling for us too because we get the opportunity to come back to material we’ve been performing live and really put the polishing touches on the songs to make them whole. We are all about the live environment, but recording allows us to take things we normally experience from one perspective and dissect it from a million different ones. Then we use those new perspectives to form a new and better version of the song that we can play live.
(JBP) Have you had any wild band experiences yet?
One time, when we were supposed to play an afternoon gig for a Brewery’s anniversary party we had an extremely unfortunate series of technical difficulties. We had our PA and the stage entirely set up and were preparing for sound check when our bass player realized his electric bass wasn’t producing any sound at all. We tested a bunch of different cables and inputs devices to see if we could get any signal, but alas nothing. Fortunately our drummer lived nearby and was able to quickly grab his old beat up bass. Mind you this was like a first instrument you’ve ever had kind of bass and we were extremely unsure how it was going to sound but were VERY desperate. We plugged it in and the darn thing wasn’t producing any sound either! In a frenzy, our guitar player and bass player ran to the nearest music store to buy a bass and we were able to get our set moving just after the anticipated start time. We ended up having a great time and overcoming the stress, but we still joke about all the completely unexpected technical challenges that can kick you in the butt like having 2 basses fail on you in one day!
Thanks to Surprise Attack for taking the time to reach out and letting us interview them! If you are interested in having your album reviewed by www.jambandpurist.com contact us and we will work out an option that suites your bands needs. Who else do you want to see on JBP? Let us know.
Jam Band Purist
Editor and Chief: Robert RA Fadley
Widespread Panic D.C. (This Town is Fucking Nuts)
Another D.C. Panic run in the books. This is where it all started for me; 2011 the Warner Theatre two-night run, which was my first experience with Panic in our nations Capital and I was immediately hooked. I remember the scene vividly from killer song selections to the nitrous circus during set break. This would mark my 80th Widespread Panic performance since those days long passed. (I do not say this as a brag but nearly, as a fact.) Things haven't changed much in the Panic scene and D.C. would become a madhouse for St Patrick's Day weekend. I would completely miss, “Wondering” and most of “Hope In A Hopeless World” due to the snake-like line that formed at 8 pm around the lobby of the MGM. It seemed as if, everyone showed up at once for the show. The MGM wasn't ready for the hordes of WSP fans that would descend upon “Little Vegas” and after this last Halloween the atmosphere was much the same.
The boys would mount the stage at MGM, lights shone down like stars on each member. “Rebirtha” began the evening’s musical festivities for me and then a slow transition into a massive “jam.” Jimmy Herring is lightning in a bottle, perfection on guitar. One could call his use of vibrato shamanistic. Consistently hammering us with notes and innovative progressive scales. Widespread Panic is a mystery. I am never sure what will happen next. They still remain a Southern Gothic eccentricity; a once in a lifetime quandary. “You Should Be Glad” was extended beyond proportions and the Widespread Panic rhythm section is the closest thing the premier Jam world has to the Latin-African percussions of World Music. A slow, “Travelin’ Man” would continue the set followed by, “The Take Out” which was laced with Country and Western overtones, sounding like the soundtrack to some spaghetti western with Jimmy Herring playing Clint Eastwood. Herring always brings the edge to his guitar playing, making every show some fantasy with the wizard at the helm. Arpeggios are used masterfully, scales like a reptile, taking what he has learned from his Meeting Of The Spirits Tour with John McLaughlin and sprinkling it in here. The band goes straight into, “The Shape I'm In” then “Ophelia,” which was played in reverse order. “Porch Song” had the whole crowd in motion. Jimmy Herring again, holds this band on his shoulders, taking them to new sonic heights while still respecting the original integrity of what Widespread represents.
The second set highlights for me were “Airplane,” “North” and “Come Together,” The Beatles classic, which hadn’t been played since ‘05. I enjoyed the “Jaded Tourist” but Jojo had a rough time on vocals for “Visiting Day.” This band still seeks to amaze its audience, snatching jams out of thin air and going into hard rock territory before a mandatory “Drums.” “Surprise Valley” is always a great song in any set and I love the Native American imagery that is instilled within the song.
Friday would open with a "Chainsaw City" that had reggae undercurrents that exposed those gritty lyrics and raw bass line. Jojo organ solos galore and classics like, "Travelin Light" and “Postcard.” “Good People" was on point, and stands for an example I think more fans should cultivate. "Gradle" was a rare favorite for me and always welcome. Sometimes I forget about these songs within the catalogue. "Big Wolly Mammoth" was "living in this fucked up world." This song always reminds me of some obscure Doors cover. "Greta" on point but nothing ridiculous, "Sleepy Monkey" was actually not as sleepy as usually.
The MGM itself is all around, lacking in quality of acoustics and adequate space. The venue layout is not well planned, not to mention getting in and out of D.C., is a nightmare. Out of all the D.C. Venues they choose this one? The first set would continue with “St. Louis” and “Driving Song” but the second set brought the songs we all come to see Panic play live. “Slipping Into Darkness” was incredible and what a way to open up the set. “Going Out West” and “Henry Parsons,” would add the mystical flowering to the their sound and the cover of Robert Johnson/The Rolling Stones “Love In Vain” would add slow, feel good energy to the evening.
Saturday's main event would be much more a, slay and play. Rounding through classics included in the first set: “Blue Indian,” “Honky Red,” “Thought Sausage,” “Bust It Big,” “Protein Drink > Sewing Machine,” there isn’t much more to say about that, they speak for themselves. But by this time, most patrons were wishing they had balcony seat to rest. This wouldn’t be so for those who just came to party and the more I go holiday shows, the more I see people in the audience that are there just there to talk and party. Talking goes up, drinking gets out of hand and real music fans are left wanting. Jimmy seemed back on point and showing off throughout this high-powered performance leading the way in "Fishwater" and "Red Hot Mama." Cover alert and first time played was, “Toura Loura Loura” an Irish folk song and a slow number. The old adage, never miss a Sunday show, could apply to this Saturday performance and was a solid way to end this three-night run. You can check out this full performance out on nugs.net or panicstream.com
It is always a pleasure to not only cover but also just experience Widespread Panic. I was even able to take two friends to their first shows and that's what it's all about, turning people onto good music and the power of live music, community and complete chaos. Surviving the chaos always brings you closer together. See you next time!
*Note: This review may express the chaos I experienced.
Jam Band Purist is proud to Partner with 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke, Virginia. We share a similar mission and believe in the power and sanctity of music itself. We couldn’t be happier to announce this Partnership and look forward to many great things to come! Virginia is for music lovers!
Jam Band Purist is excited to be Co-Hosting the Jam Fish Pre-Shindig event at Basic City Brewing in Waynesboro, Virginia. We have been working to help promote and hold events for some time and this will be my first time working with the Virginia community, sponsoring an event. Looking forward to seeing you all there and checking out some local bands. If you haven't checked out www.jambandpurist.com or liked my page do it now! Thanks everyone for the continued support and I hope to see you April 14th. More Details to come!
Triple Header in Richmond( Electric Love Machine, Jazz Is Phish, Squaring The Circle
Baltimore’s, Electric Love Machine, opens up for my second Jazz is Phish performance in this JBP Triple Header. ELM has a unique vibe and sound with a lot of musical production onstage. Their songwriting is well done but their stage performance could be enhanced with less gear, or perhaps more room onstage to groove. ELM is still improvisationally vibrant, but perhaps a little heavy on the electric part for my tastes, but hey, it's in the name after all. Their new song, "Ultra-Marine" was a mix of Electro-Disco-Funk and I began to understand their sound a bit more, but only right before they finished their opening set. I will have to give ELM another chance when I can. No formal opinion made at this time.
Jazz is Phish begins with my all time favorite Phish song, "Carini. Since my first time hearing "Carini" live in Hampton at the famed Mothership, this song has stayed with me.
The steady rhythms from, Adam Chase, keep this band tight and ready to change and add improvisational elements on the spot. While his brother, Matt Chase, is a consummate guitarist and complements the rhythm section of this band perfectly. I am always impressed with the Chase brothers and the talent they seem to generate around them; always changing lineups and keeping a fresh perceptive on the arraignments and musical compositions. The band would rip into a very gospel sounding "Julius" and tight and groovy, " Gumbo" before morphing into an ecliptic jam that brought it all back around.
Jazz Is Phish is more that just a Jazz cover of Phish classics, its an all instrumental with a tinge of Jazz, Funk and every other genre mixed together to form something greater than its predecessor. This isn't as much as a cover band, as it is, an extension of the Phish cannon or catalogue. “46 Days” another favorite saw a different approach to this song. Improvising on the spot, Jazz is Phish, allows for fluid solos, transitions and changes; the band, working together as a cohesive unit with Matt calling out shots on the fly. Stand out performances included "NICU" very exploratory and reminded of Frank Zappa’s seminal album, ‘The Grand Wazoo.’ "Brother" and "Lawn Boy" were both bristling with energy and the “Stash” itself was masterful. One of the main reasons this band works so well is because the musicians are so talented. I caught “Maze” before I quickly headed over to Cary Street Cafe to see another Baltimore based band, Squaring the circle, who specilize in Jam Funk Prog-Rock. I had missed their show after MKB NYE and wanted to catch up with them while they were in Virginia.
Squaring The Circle was in full force at Cary Street Cafe, the only Grateful Dead themed bar in Richmond. I sat back and contemplated STC's sound and musical dynamics. I was instantaneously impressed with this forceful quintet, who put out a lot of sound and can round through a slew of classic and progressive rock covers including, but not limited to: Frank Zappa, Rush, Steve Kimock, The Grateful Dead and John Scofield. Before performing a special Zappa medley just for me, the band played some original music that I found highly progressive and creative. I picked up one of their free CDs with an eclectic mix of covers and would love to hear a full album of all originals. The Zappa medley was appropriated from The Mothers Fillmore East 71 Live album, which included; “Little House,” “Mud Shark,” “Latex Solar Beef,” and “Willy The Pimp.” STC’s would add a delightful “Pygmy Twylyte” that was totally on point that I couldn’t help but sing along. None of Frank Zappa’s music is easy to play, and Squaring The Circle did an excellent job, not only covering, but exploring these sonic masterpieces and raveling them together to form an outstanding medley. STC would go onto to Cover Soulive’s "Right On" with a sit in sax player but I was still reeling from those Zappa tunes. It is always a pleasure to hear Zappa played live and when it’s well done, even better. I look forward to catching Squaring The Circle as they grow and evolve in this music scene. Keep it improvisational.
Jam Band Purist
Photos from Ron AdelBerg Photography
Vieux Farka at 5 Points Music Sanctuary (Sounds From The Sahara)
Vieux Farka, Malian singer-songwriter, brings his African guitar styling’s to 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke. Known as the Hendrix of the Sahara, Vieux is truly original and has worked with many of the Jam world’s biggest guitar legends like, Eric Krasno, Jon Scofield and Derek Trucks. Although unknown to me before this show, I was instantly immersed in his guitar style, which is both unique and alluring. Mixing Blues and African scales, the sound is reminiscent of a vast desert; although desolate, travelers gravitate to it and make it their home. This spirit that can be felt from Vieux’s music; a nomadic sound that is truly vibrant and alive.
Vieux Farka Toure keeps the rhythms of the past within their sound; chaotic yet, simple at the same time. The overall sound and song selections keep the audience on its toes. The band, quickening their pace by the third song, went full force into Rock territory. This is the definition of Vieux’s style, very Hendrix-like but with a folk almost bluegrass tinge. There was no way of knowing the specific meaning behind the lyrics on the fly but they were emotionally evocative and I could feel what he was tying to tell us.
The second set was heavy and filled with improvisation. I was very impressed with the vocal qualities and amazing guitar solos. This band reminds me of an African Cream, psychedelic and heavy. Improvisation was used mostly during solos but they could totally add any number of jam segments into the mix and are very capable of doing anything onstage. Vieux’s guitar skills are reminiscent of fast Spanish flamenco guitar but with a different tone altogether. Taking riffs from Bob Marley’s "I Shot The Sheriff" and mixing them in “Homafu Wawa," my favorite performance of the evening, as well as, song off his recent album ‘Samba.'
It's easy to hear the history of this music, as it travels from Africa to the Caribbean and into America. Influencing every type of music: Blues, Country, Rockabilly and even Bluegrass. The roots of the Blues specifically can be heard within African music, and this blending of the two in a modern setting is just what the music scene needs. This music is influenced by western culture but begins in Africa. Having a Grammy award-winning artist as a father and performing for millions of people at the Olympics, Vieux Farka is not stranger to the spotlight; I hope he remains in it for quite some time. Let's hope that North America can catch on to this outstanding and unique style of music.
Ears Always Open,
Rooster Walk Music Festival 10 Full Lineup
I am proud to be covering Rooster Walk again, this coming May in Martinsville Virginia. Last year on Pop’s Farm was an amazing weekend filled with great music. I was even introduced to one of my new favorites, Marcus King and really enjoyed the festival grounds themselves. JBP hopes to see all of you out there for this event and a very special collaboration between, Marcus King and Billy Strings, two of this music scenes most talented performers. I had put the idea out there about these two collaborating after seeing a post between the two about “picking” together. Rooster Walk took this initiative further and have announced King And Strings, a once in a lifetime collaboration between these two guitar powerhouses. Here is the full lineup and more information about this great collaboration. Thanks again for your continued support and I look forward to seeing you all at Rooster Walk 10!
Marcus King, Billy Strings to combine for ‘King & Strings’ set at Rooster Walk 10
Martinsville, VA -- Marcus King and Billy Strings, two of the hottest names on today’s music scene, will join forces for a world-debut “King & Strings” set on May 25th at Rooster Walk, the festival announced today.
King will join Strings and his band for the duration of a late-night, 2-hour set at RW10, and iconic drummer Jeff Sipe will also sit in for the latter portion of the performance.
The two have never met, let alone played together, but each calls himself a fan of the other’s music. The current plan involves an unscripted jam that will begin in the bluegrass/acoustic world native to String, before evolving into something more electric and rock-based, with Sipe on the kit.
“I think that will be the most fun, if we showcase a little bit of both. We’ll get Marcus some on an acoustic and then get me on an electric with Marcus,” said the 25-year-old Strings. “We’ll kind of do both of our worlds and make them clash.”
Already a veteran of the special guest sit in, King has played with the likes of Widespread Panic, The Allman Brothers and Greensky Bluegrass, to name just a few. He said he’s looking forward to the improvisational set at Pop’s Farm, which will also feature Billy’s band (banjo, fiddle and bass.)
“I think it’s gonna be a hoot man. If I can be frank, I think it’s a great idea, and we’re gonna have a lot of fun with it,” said King, just 21 years old.
Festival organizer Johnny Buck did not try to hide his enthusiasm.
“The word ‘excited’ would be a gross understatement,” Buck said. “To think that these two musicians will meet and play together for the very first time at Rooster Walk 10? Man, we’re just honored to host ‘King & Strings,’ and I use that word literally. It’s an honor for Rooster Walk to host this very special collaboration.”
Rooster Walk 10 will take place May 24-27, 2018 at Pop’s Farm in Martinsville, Va. Headlining bands include The Wood Brothers, JJ Grey & Mofro and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. The festival’s full band lineup will be announced Thursday, March 8. To buy tickets or learn more information, visit www.RoosterWalk.com.
The dynamic instrumental quintet, Toubab Krewe, are excited to announce the upcoming release of their third studio album, ‘Stylo’, and coinciding tour. Their newest album ‘Stylo’ will be released tomorrow March 2nd 2018 and Jam Band Purist got to check it out in advance.
The originality and inventiveness of this band speaks volumes with the debut track, “That Damn Squash”, which seems to blend African and Funk vibes throughout. Watch Below. I can’t wait to check out this band on tour soon!
Toubab Krewe 2018 Tour Dates:
2/2 - Key Biscayne, FL - Fractal Beach Fest
2/14 - Frisco, CO - Barkley Ballroom
2/15 - Ft Collins, CO - The Aggie ^
2/16 - Denver, CO - Cervantes ^
2/17 - Winter Park, CO - Ullrs Tavern
3/8 - Baltimore MD - 8 x 10
3/9 - Philadelphia, PA - Ardmore Music Hall #
3/10 - Washington DC - Gypsy Sally’s
3/11 - New York, NY - American Beauty
4/11 - Charleston, SC - Pour House
4/12 - Greensboro, NC - The Blind Tiger
4/13 - Raleigh, NC - Pour House Music Hall
4/14 - Charlotte, NC - Visulite Theatre
4/18 - Nashville, TN - High Watt
4/19 - Atlanta, GA - Terminal West
4/20 - Asheville, NC - Ellington Underground
4/21 - Asheville, NC - Ellington Underground
6/21 - 24 - Rothbury, MI - Electric Forest Festival
6/28 - 7/1 - Rothbury, MI - Electric Forest Festival^ w/ Pimps of Joytime
# w/ Melvin Seals and JGB
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
The Infamous Stringdusters in Philadelphia
The Infamous Stringdusters, brought their electric, high-energy bluegrass to The City Of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia) on Saturday night, January 27th at the Union Transfer . The five piece was nominated for Bluegrass Album Of The Year for their latest studio effort on Compass Records, “Laws Of Gravity”.
Opening up the evening was Jamgrass group, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, who were just signed to The Infamous Stringdusters new record label, Tape Time Records. The group roused the crowd and got them warmed up for the main act.
With over a decade under their belt, The Infamous Stringdusters, have become one of the hottest bluegrass acts on the road today. You could tell from the opening number, “Once You’re Gone” written by fiddle wizard, Jeremy Garrett, the audience was engaged and excited to see where the evening was going to take them. The quintet is known for their high-energy bluegrass performances that turn into an all out dance party. Diving deep into their catalog, diehard fans were surprised when the band started into “Tears Of The Earth”, sung by dobro master Andy Hall, that flowed nicely into guitarist, Andy Falco’s, number, “Porcupine Cove”. Bringing the first set to a resounding close was the instrumental, “Moon Man” that showcased all five members of the group.
Starting out the second set, bassist Travis Book, took the microphone for fan favorite, “It'll Be Alright” that segued into a rip roaring rendition of “Machines” featuring, Andy Hall, on dobro and, Chris Pandolfi, on banjo. Falco, showed why he is considered one of the best flat-picking guitarists in the scene today during the twelve-plus-minute jam.
Paying homage to the late great, Merle Haggard, “Stay Here and Drink”, was the perfect tune for fiddle extraordinaire, Jeremy Garrett, to shine on vocals.
The tributes kept coming, as the five piece outfit pulled out all stops on “How Hard I Fall” (Galloway) right into “Midnight Moonlight” (Old & In The Way). The guys were on top of their game and loving every minute of the energy coming off the crowd on Saturday evening. One of the highlights of the extended second set was an oldie but goodie, “No More To Leave You Behind”.
After a short break, the band emerged with their friends, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, with a rousing rendition of “Harvest Moon” (Young) and “Love Please Come Home”.
The Infamous Stringdusters are on top of their game in 2018. Be sure to check out the Grammy winners for “Best Bluegrass Album Of The Year” when they come to your town.
Review Written By Christopher Snyder
Photo Credit: Ron Adelberg from LOCKN" 2017
Chris Eves and The New Normal ‘Find Your Way’ Album Review and Interview
Chris Eves and The New Normal are a Syracuse, New York based Rock-Jam act. I recently reviewed their debut album ‘Find Your Way.’ I was immediately impressed with this unique blend of Alternative-Rock, Jam and Pop and wanted to share with my readers. While most of Chris Eves and The New Normal fans are from the northeast, they are looking to broaden their audience. If you haven't heard of Chris Eves and The New Normal yet, check them out on Spotify or #1 on the Reverbnation International Jam Charts. https://open.spotify.com/artist/5cJA9GZa8d5yduDZ0dCxtu?autoplay=true&v=A
From the opening song “Remember To Forget,” I was intrigued at the depth and quality of this album and the band that recorded it. “Remember To Forget” has powerful vocal qualities from Chris Eves and a hard progressive riff that takes this song into Jam territory. I will say that this song is my favorite out of the entire album and makes for a great first track. This song captivates its listeners and draws them, inviting further exploration.
“Walking On Wire” keeps the great vocal qualities going; something that can be severely lacking, specifically in the Jam world. This songs approach is more alternative-rock based but is fun and catchy with lyrics like, "maybe you and me are always walking on a wire, and with every step it seems we are only getting higher.” This sentiment is heartfelt and a great example of the writing techniques used on this album. I could see this song being used in a larger capacity and it also has some viable commercial value.
Another song that caught my attention was the title track of this album ‘Find Your Way” that begins with a clear and precise guitar intro from Jay Lock, solo guitarist for The New Normal. This song would be a great live track and could allow for some extreme improvisation on stage; in the interview below we discuss walking the line between improv and structure. "You got to be just a little bit crazy to make it through another normal day," are some of the most poignant lyrics within this album and shows the open-minded feeling that this band represents.
Again, Chris Eves and The New Normal take a different approach to their sonic sound with “The Chains You Wear” and go more alt-country with a heavy slide riff laid over the track. The lyrical qualities remain remarkable, compared to today’s pop country landscape and make this song original and different than a lot of the Southern Rock-Country bands but still very reminiscent of the Black Crowes or even, The Zac Brown Band.
“Fall” is another song that gets stuck in my head and the driving guitar makes me want to hear an exploratory and long solo, the only thing I think is missing from this recording. Drummer Sean Benz, highlights this track with impressive musicianship and keyboardist Mike D’Ambrosia plays a pivotal role in not only this song but the entire album adding rousing piano licks wherever he can. “Fall” uses Classic Rock chord structures and melodies to make the sound relatable but still remains original and imaginative.
“The New Normal” and “Flown Away” accentuate the final tracks on this album and stay steady and slow throughout. They are both good choices and well recorded, something that stands out when listening to this album in my headphones. Mike Spadaro holds it down on bass throughout the entire length of this recording but can really be felt in the backbeat at the end of this album.
While the album ‘Find Your Way’ doesn't necessarily break any rules, it does find new and interesting ways to combine song structures and heartfelt lyrical connections. This album is very relatable to many musical listeners and Chris Eves and The New Normal seamlessly integrate many genres of music from Jam to Alt-Rock. I believe ‘Find Your Way’ is a great platform for this band to build upon and grow exponentially. Below is a short interview with Chris Eves himself where we discuss this latest album and the future evolution of The New Normal.
Interview with Chris Eves From Chris Eves and The New Normal:
JBP-Can you describe your sound, or what genres have influenced you as you wrote and recorded ‘Find Your Way’?
CE-Our sound is the sum total of the influences and personal style each member brings to the table. We all have very diverse influences and approach the music from unique vantage points. Everything from: Grateful Dead, Nine Inch Nails to Jazz greats like, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, have shaped our collective sound. One unifying band we all grew up listening to and seeing live is Phish. They were definitely the catalyst for us wanting to play improvised music. I think the five of us though, strive to go beyond our influences and are always trying to cultivate our own unique voice individually and collectively. Jay, for example, is a very different guitarist than I am and certainly has a very unique voice that’s all his own. A lot of times he’ll play something that inspires me to do something completely different than I would have otherwise. Especially in improvised music, each band member’s voice really comes through and steers the direction of the sound.
JBP-The transitions and song structures in songs like, “Remember To Forget” sounds very jammy, much like moe. or some of the other progressive Jam bands from the North East. Has this musical landscape shaped your musical evolution?
CE-Absolutely. I grew up in Central New York where moe. is from and we listened to them a lot. Chuck from moe.’s sister was our high school Spanish teacher. I’ve always been a fan of progressive music that has written out sections and jam sections, and that’s able to weave it all together into a story. The Dead tunes like, Terrapin or Help/Slipknot/Franklins, were always my favorite. moe. also inspired me to write in that direction for sure. It’s pretty cool to now be in the band Floodwood with Vinnie from moe. after listening to them for so many years.
JBP-What does the New Normal mean to you?
CE- I think it’s just a mantra to be yourself. It’s for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t fit in or been a little left of center. Normal is just a point of view and just because you might be weird according to someone else, that shouldn’t stop you from being authentic and living the life that makes you happy. Weirdos are always welcome with us!
JBP-What have been some of your greatest musical accomplishments to date?
CE-I’ve been lucky to have a lot of musical accomplishments in my career. Some of the personal highlights are sitting in with the Zac Brown Band at SPAC and jamming with Jon Fishman live.
JBP-Any plans for summer festivals or tours?
CE-We are working on both right now and are looking forward to announcing some soon
JBP-While it is hard to add layers of improvisation to studio albums, does your band stick to the song structures or improvise live?
CE-We try to strike a balance between playing the song and jamming. In the studio, for this record, I was happy that we were able to capture a lot of our jams. “Remember to Forget”, “Find your Way”, and “Fall” were all one take. When we’re live every night is different and we’re still evolving in the way we improvise. Some nights we want to play “Green and Blue” completely structured as a stand-alone song, and some nights it turns into a 20 minute funk jam. I think we’ve just started scratching the surface of where our jams can go and that’s exciting.
JBP-Can you explain your lyrical process? Who writes the songs or is it a collective environment?
CE-For this record, I wrote all the Lyrics and it’s the toughest part for me. I just try to write down thoughts on a particular subject independently of the music so I’m not locked into a specific structure at first. When I’ve got a good amount of material, I start trying to play music that fits the ideas and hopefully get the puzzle pieces to fit. I try to be open to lyric ideas all the time so, I keep a bunch of notes in my phone just in case I think of something while I’m out for a run or grocery shopping or, whatever.
JBP-Many bands that relate themselves with Jam music walk the line between different genres. How do you see yourselves adding a unique aspect to the Jam world?
CE- I hope that even though we extend our songs live, that they are still relatable to everyone. The song always comes first for us and it should stand alone as catchy and meaningful. We also try to put a lot of attention into the vocals and harmonies. I think that emphasis on songwriting and vocals gives us a unique aspect.
JBP-What are your future goals and how do you think you will evolve to get there?
CE-Our short-term goals are to keep writing, recording, and evolving our live show. Playing for more people and extending our touring are also a priority. I think it just takes a lot of hard work and a high level of commitment. We live music 24/7 so it’s more a journey than a single goal we set for ourselves that’s off in the distance.
JBP-Any crazy band/road stories you would like to share with us? (Anything goes)
CE-Honestly we’re pretty chill and not too crazy. Our drummer Sean usually finds a casino after the show and we hear about how much money he won the next day. We never hear about how much money he loses though…
Thanks Again to Chris Eves and The New Normal,
Jam Band Purist
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
I had been hearing about Pink-Talking-Fish for sometime; the mash-up of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish was quite appealing to me, as I am a huge fan of all three bands and know almost every song in each catalog. Cover shows can be disappointing but my anxious thoughts were replaced by hopeful anticipation of new, interesting combinations of songs from each band. Pink Talking Fish did not disappoint, delivering a unique blend of material. The real surprise of the night was arriving to 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke, Virginia.
This venue is one of the coolest I have been to in a long time. 5 Points is a renovated church, where the spirit of music can truly be felt. While it wasn't Sunday, it sure felt like it to me. The sound was crisp, clear and perfect; the light show illuminated the venue like an alter to the music gods themselves. The staff and security were all super friendly and helpful. I was interested to learn more about this music sanctuary. They offer outstanding music programs not only to the local Roanoke community, the local music scene, and the Virginia music scene as a whole. I fully support 5 Points in their endeavors and will gladly come back to one of their upcoming shows. If you are a Virginia resident or even a band looking for an awesome venue to play, 5 Points is a must see.
Pink Talking Fish opened up with a "Wedge" that had a lot of energy but was still a little rough around the edges. They quickly transitioned into "Have A Cigar" the Pink Floyd classic, which had the entire crowd on their feet. The solos and changes were all exact. A thread of originality ran throughout the entire set and into “Girlfriend Is Better," which is possibly my favorite Talking Heads song ever. The set list and play-by-play can be found below. The first set was good. I wasn't sure about "Famous Mockingbird" or "Colonel Forbin." Perhaps the Gamehenge canon is better left to the boys but I have no issues spreading the word of THE BOOK, especially in such a holy place. "Take Me To The River" felt very spiritual as the lights shone brilliantly throughout the sanctuary.
The second set was high powered with a significant boost in energy from the band. Their crescendos/build ups were bristling with raw energy and improvisation, taking PTF to the next level. "Run Like Hell" was jammed out beyond proportions and the rest of the set was a heady alchemical combination of classic Talking Heads and Pink Floyd songs, mixed professionally with Phish.
Setlist: Wedge, Have a Cigar, Girlfriend is Better, Col Forbin, Time>Fly Famous Mockinbird, Take Me To The River, Sheep>Down With Dieses>Sheep, Life During Wartime. Run Like Hell, Making Flippy FLoppy, Free>Us and Them, Pulled Up The Roots>Waves, What A Day That Was, First Tube.
I would love to see PTF expand their improvisational techniques and take this even further into unknown territory; developing their changes within each song to segue into each other is also a very important part in making this endeavor even more interesting. Great musicianship all around from guitarist, Dave Brunyak and keyboardist Richard James, keeping the backbeat is Zack Burwick and Eric Gould on bass. Let's be realistic, none of these songs are easy to play and PTF does a fine job presenting them in a fun and original way. I am sure I will be catching PTF again in the future and of course, I will be returning to 5 Points every chance I get.
Any time spent with music is time well spent,
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.