In Remembrance of Turk Gaines: An Interview
It's with a heavy heart and thoughtful reflection, that I release this exclusive review with Turk Gaines of D.C. Funk band, Suga Grits. In a tragic turn of events, Turk unfortunately passed away before I could get this out and I want to extend my sincerest well wishes to Turks relatives and the Suga Grits family as a whole. I have decided to publish this review, as is, with the hopes that Turks words shine through and his love for music is clearly evident. I feel fortunate and blessed to have been in contact with Turk even for a short time. Thanks go out to Ragin' Randy for setting this interview up, I wish Turk were here today to read this. While the future of Suga Grits is up in the air, I want to also share their recent album release. Here is where I think Turks voice truly comes out.
Suga Grits sound is filled with Funk, Hip-Hop and Rock Elements, all meshing together to form some high-powered elastic jams. I have been digging these Street Funk volumes the past month and am glad that these recordings will always be available and the voice of Turk lives on within. https://sugagrits.bandcamp.com/album/street-funk-vol-2
Interview with Turk Gaines from Suga Grits:
JBP: Sorry it’s taken me so long to get this out. There are so many things happening in the music world! How and when, did you form Suga Grits and get that interesting name?
Turk Gaines: First, thank you for taking the time to interview me. I am humbled and inspired that you would like to get to know the guys and me. The name comes from an equation we consider to be: (1 part sweet) + (1 part Grit) = Funk. When we were deciding on a name, we were transitioning from another band so, it was easy to agree upon because we sound like the name itself. And we all like grits but some of us don’t like sugar in our grits.
JBP: Are you a native to the D.C. Area?
Turk Gaines: Yes, I am a D.C. native and I attended St. Gabriel’s Catholic school and Holy Comforter St. Cyprian (K-8), as well as, Duke Ellington School of the Arts. (9-12)
JBP: What kinds of music do you take influence from?
Turk Gaines: I am influenced by Funk, Jazz, Go-Go, House, World Beat, and Reggae. I listen to a lot of music. Music has always been an important part of my life. To be able to create something of importance that brings happiness has always been my attraction to music. My influences come from all music that moves me when I hear it, digest it and understand it. If I had to individualize my influences they would be George Duke, Stevie Wonder, J. Dilla, Robert Grasper, and of my band mates, just to name a few. We actually learn a lot from each other.
JBP: You seem to have a lot of Hip-Hop and R&B influence, how has this affected working with real musicians and instruments or how does it translate differently?
Turk Gaines: My Hip-Hop and R & B experience is actually one of my strongest suits. It hasn’t affected working with musicians in a negative way at all and it has actually made musicians gravitate towards me. It helps me become an anchor in the sound, as a whole.
JBP: Do you prefer to play live shows or work within a studio setting?
Turk Gaines: I prefer the stage however I have found a new love for recording. We have taken a rogue approach to completing our music and it’s helping us find our sound. It’s helping us learn how to communicate appropriately with producers and engineers so; we know what we want when we decide to work with other people. A lot of bands don’t take the time to find out who they are whether it’s onstage or in the studio but I love to perform live.
JBP: Is it a collective environment when writing new songs?
Turk Gaines: Some songs are collective and some are pseudo-collective. My chemistry with James and David is different than my chemistry with Dev and David. Different combinations within the band influence the writing itself. It’s amazing because our writing formulas are so varied we haven’t even discovered them all. So hold on to your seats because our song catalogue is going to be epic!
JBP: What are your plans for further endeavors? Taking over the world?
Turk Gaines: We are releasing a single every month this year. We are also releasing 4 videos at the end of summer and beginning of fall. 2 live videos, recorded properly and 2 produced videos, which we are stoked about. We are planning some incredible East Coast and Southern tour runs for winter and spring. We are also writing and recording constantly so… the future is busy.
JBP: What are your thoughts on this new mumble rap craze?
Turk Gaines: The mumble rap craze has its place; it doesn’t bother me because the youth are allowed to like what they want. My parents didn’t like what I listened too and their parents didn’t like what they listen too. If the people like it, leave them alone.
JBP: Wise words. Any crazy stories from touring or live shows?
Turk Gaines: We play a lot of shows but I can remember one night in VA, I will leave the venue anonymous, at the end of the show, there were 2 fights inside the venue and one in the parking lot. I guess we definitely brought “The Funk” that night. This interview could be one giant, “Turk tells all of his road stories” but we will leave that for a different interview.
JBP: Thank you so much for this interview and I wish Suga Grits all the best!
LOCKN’ Music Festival 2018 Review (Dead and Festival)
For the past six summers, I have spent my days counting down to the annual LOCKN’ music festival. This is where it all started for me and where my pursuit as a musical writer became realized. LOCKN’ is always a grand musical experience, filled with constant collaborations and sit-in performances from the Jam worlds biggest acts. This year's festival was one of the smoothest and well-run I have ever been too. After six years, LOCKN’ seems to be listening to its patrons and striving to make every year better than the last.
Thursday’s musical performances included: Umphreys McGee and Lettuce back, to back, to back. These LOCKN’ alumni brought the heat to an otherwise gorgeous evening but before we get to the headliners; The Firecracker Jam, opened up this year and I used them as background while I explored Infinity Downs and the new festival layout. What I did hear from, Firecracker Jam, was high powered and fun. Again, Erin and The Wildfire, cross JBP paths and I was even more impressed with Erin and her band this time around. Having just seen them at Floyd Fest this year, it was interesting to compare both performances. Each set was vivacious and full of magnificent vocal work from Erin Lunsford. If you haven't seen or heard of Erin And The Wildfire, do yourself a favor and check them out.
It was quite a night for Lettuce fans as they came out strong, like a powerhouse of Progressive-Funk-Jam. I stuck around for most of their set but had to skip out on UM and the utilization of the rotating stage. Because I live within an hour of Infinity Downs, I have been driving back-and-forth, sleeping in the comfort and luxury of my own home for the past few years. The ride through the Blue Ridge is peaceful and quiet, the perfect way to decompress after being surrounded by people and loud music. I was able to stream most of the sets that I missed from my phone while I drove home. Thanks to Relix for making that happen. I truly enjoyed Joe Russo's Almost Dead's performance before I passed out in my own bed.
I arrived at LOCKN’ on Friday, ready for a raging night of amazing music. Friday seemed to have the best band schedule of the weekend with collaborations galore and some amazing acts coming together, many for the very first time. This is also where I must remind readers that, “The opinions expressed on this site may differ from their own.” Just keep this in mind while continuing to read below. My 3rd, Ghost Light, show did not disappoint and it was possibly the best I've seen from this band; as they get tighter and better, every time I see them. I look for Ghost Light to continue touring and making more studio albums and new material available soon. If you have a chance to check out, Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling, on stage together, don't miss out. Band Of Changes was an interesting mix of music with a cast of characters: Russo, Metzger, and Dreiwitz, with addition of some other players I was unfamiliar with. It was more Alt-Rock than Jam but still an interesting sound that brought the audience in early.
Turkuaz is up for one of the best sets of LOCKN’ 2018. I was so impressed with their entire performance and really enjoyed shaking my bones to their Post-Apocalyptic Electro-Funk. I have a hard time describing this band but I sure love their catalog of music. I know they must have been quite hot in those suits onstage. I chilled in the back for, Toots and the Maytals, which was fun, laid-back reggae. Taj Mahal would join the band onstage for a few songs, I think he was playing a ukulele and didn't add much to the overall sound. This was still a fun sit-in and it is good to see Toots back in Virginia. We are all still very sorry for what happened. Thanks for bringing LOCKN’ some true reggae music.
Jason Bonham was definitely the highlight of the, Umphrey's McGee, set Friday and with the addition of Derek Trucks, and even, Taylor Hicks from American Idol fame, were topnotch and outstanding musically. These collaborations will go down as some of the best in LOCKN’ history; still never topping that Mad Dog and Englishmen set. The covers of Led Zeppelin classics like, "When The Levee Breaks", “Good Times, Bad Times”, and “Whole Lotta Love” may remain the best, Led Zeppelin, music I have ever seen live, even beating Robert Plant. This is what makes LOCKN’ so special, the once-in-a-lifetime musical experiences.
P-Funk was one of the wildest, strangest and chaotic musical experiences of my life. I won't lie and say that it didn't have its moments but for the most part it was a complete train wreck, musically and otherwise. From the guy with his ass hanging out to George Clinton falling down, I couldn't keep my eyes off the stage. I was forced to watch some strange. Bird-like dancer with a long nose, sexually provoke the audience. The music was more Hip-Hop oriented with elements of Hard Rock rather than straight Funk that I was used to from Parliament Funkadelic. The entire performance was not lost when the band slimmed down from 15+ people to play “Maggot Brain.” This was one of the best renditions I have ever heard live and they even closed the set with Frank Zappa's "The Slime" which made up for all the nonsense beforehand.
Widespread Panic came out strong with Jimmy Herring lighting up the solos during “Sell, Sell, Sell,” into “Love Tractor.” Dave Schools leading in on the base as the band would develop strong transitions; moving pieces around like a musical game of chess. “Drums” would go on while Margo Price and a horn section was added to the stage. I was all around impressed with Margo and her vocal abilities. She did a good job adding her vocals to WSP staples like, "Up All Night" a song that I am only used to hearing JB sing. Panic and Margo would go on to cover “Honeybee” and pay respects to Aretha Franklin with “Rock Steady” which I still think was not quite the right voice for this song. I was looking through Twitter and saw Margo must have taken some LSD that night and was truly in the spirit of psychedelic music.
Saturday began with, Big Something, the North Carolina band that has been making the rounds in the Jam community for quite some time. I have had the privilege of seeing them perform many times and they always put on a great performance, even in the middle of the afternoon. Big Something will continue to grow their followers and released a new album, ‘The Otherside’ this year. Keller and the Keels, Virginia natives and Bluegrass legends, play all the hits from their album. ‘Grass’ and even covered Pink Floyd's “The Wall.” Keller is always a staple at LOCKN’ and having seen many iterations of his bands, I would just like to see Keller solo at LOCKN’. His improvisational solo sets would fit well within this lineup.
The Foundation Of Funk (basically The Meters) was by far my favorite set from LOCKN’ 2018. All the classic Meters songs were played with the addition of most of Dead and Co including: Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann and John Mayer. This would actually be my first time ever seeing John in person and he did not distract from the experience, staying in line while George Porter called the shots. Tedeschi Trucks Band is on another level from any other band out there today. Soulful and Bluesy in one moment and on the verge of a Jazz meltdown in the next, TTB keeps audiences on their toes while delivering solid powerful performances. Covers like, “Whipping Post”, “Little Martha” and “A Song For You” highlighted the first night and I was really looking forward to seeing them again on Sunday.
I know most of you will condemn me for skipping, JRAD on Friday and Lettuce on Saturday but I decided to opt-out for the free Relix stream so I could stay clearheaded for Dead and Company's performance both nights. With an over abundance of Grateful Dead covers afoot, I went into Dead and Company open-minded and ready to have my mind blown. While I have had and still have, apprehensions towards Dead and Company, I had to give them an honest chance, John Mayer included. I wasn't off put by his guitar playing and can't deny his talent on the instrument. Dead and Company would open up with “Hell In A Bucket” which was a straightforward delivery. Bobby seemed in high spirits but the transition into “Scarlet Fire” was sloppy. Oteil would help bring it back with his expert bass playing. This entire set was a bit slow, the song selection seemed like a sing-along, letting the audience add their voices and spirits together. Everything was going fine until John attempted falsetto vocals and I cringed but during “Brown Eyed Women” John's voice sounded much better. Jeff Chimenti shines during his solos and he seems to be the backbone of this band; always smiling and having fun. “Ramble on Rose” was another slow sing-along, Chimenti and John having a lot of musical banter, which I really enjoyed. “Alabama Getaway” was basic but still a lot of fun and not one that I hear much live. “Deal” and a short break had me reflecting on my first Dead and Company show for the rest of the next set. I think Bobby sees his younger self in John and while John Mayer isn't my first or even second choice of guitarist to play Jerry's part but he certainly has Jerry's flares and solos down pat and in the end my opinion is of little consequence. It's good to see people enjoying The Grateful Dead’s music in any setting or format.
Sundays at LOCKN’ are always bittersweet. Spafford basically blew the metaphysical doors off of Infinity Downs. They would play only 4 songs, “Broken Wing”, “Slip and Squander”, “Electric Taco Stand” and “All In.” I bet many Spaffnerds were kicking themselves for missing this scorcher but Sunday was the hottest day on an otherwise perfect weekend of weather. I am always thoroughly impressed with guitarist, Brian Moss and his musical abilities and Red is the kind of Uncle we all wish we had; ready to show you what good music is all about. Spafford deserves a much later set next year if they return to LOCKN’. Keep killin' it! Having never seen The Blues Travelers live, I had a blast checking out John Popper and his crew trying out new songs and playing their radio hit, "Run Around." Popper himself was humorous with witty banter about losing his cell phone and being scared to try new things onstage. I would certainly check The Blues Travelers out again anytime and was surprised how good they were.
Tedeschi Trucks Band would again impress the audience with Jazz laced blues songs. The Indian influence in Derek's guitar playing are evident and when Branford Marsalis would join the stage for “Mahjoun”, a dual of sax versus guitar would begin and end in a cacophony of climactic musical conclusions. Derek Trucks with a rare smile seen across his face. When Eric Krasno joined the stage, I was exuberant. I love when Kraz sits-in and his improvisational technique's are out of this world. He is the ninja of the Jam world. Other notable songs from this set were “Statesboro Blues”, “Alabama (Neil Young)”, “Night Time Is The Right Time” and “Space Captain.”
By the middle of Dead and Company's first set on Sunday, I had forgotten all about John Mayer and was really enjoying his back and forth with Jeff Chimenti. John would inch closer to Bobby, trying to get around the plexiglass barrier that stood between them. Bobby, arms brandished, would shoo him away, taking us all to the gun show that night. The second set opener of “Shakedown Street” was noticeably slower in tempo, so much so, that I was completely thrown off. I don't know who is to blame for this but it was almost comical. John Mayer certainly has all of Jerry's guitar riffs, arpeggios and tone down but I think he may be relying on the envelope filter (Q-Tron) a bit too much. I would've loved to have heard some different guitar tones from time to time. Dead and Company are extremely improvisationally heavy and Jammy, much more melodic with fewer build-ups (crescendos) then I would like. They are chaotic at times, seemingly free-form and can expand into new territory at anytime. When Branford Marsalis took the stage, everything changed and this interpretation of “Eyes Of The World” was possibly the best I have seen live. Oteil really getting the VIP award while Branford and John would go head-to-head in many moments.
The Grateful Dead’s legacy extends well beyond LOCKN’ but it seems as though this festival is at the core of the celebration of the Grateful Deads music and surrounding culture. I feel as though this was LOCKN’s definitive year, as it has reached its maturity. Shapiro and his team really did their best to make this festival comfortable and filled with once-in-a-lifetime musical collaborations. It has been a pleasure being a part of LOCKN’ since it's inception and I look forward to a continued relationship with LOCKN’ and the Virginia community, as a whole. Live music comes and goes but this years LOCKN’ will have me reminiscing for quite some time. If I could only go to one music festival for the rest of my life, it would be LOCKN’. See you next year!
Virginia Is For Live Music,
LOCKN’ Festival Purist
Love Canon 'Cover Story' Album Review-(A Journey Through Music's Greatest Decade)
Being a proud native of Virginia and the musical community here, I have had the pleasure of witnessing Love Canon stroke out many 80s classics; morphing them into the Bluegrass form and a birthing something completely new and original. For the first time Love Canon has released an album of nine covers, which feature notable collaborations from Jerry Douglas, Keller Williams, Eric Krasno and many other staples from the Bluegrass/Jam world. Vocalist and bandleader, Jesse Harper takes the front seat for this album but Jay Starling, Andy Thacker, Darrel Muller and Adam Larrabee, all add their unique sounds to the mix.
'Cover Story' opens up with Billy Joel's "Prelude (Angry Young Man)" into "Things Can Only Get Better." Both of these songs are very well done but perhaps are not the best example of what Love Canon can do but song three, "Kyrie Eleison" leans into the Pop stratosphere of the 80s and Love Canon perfectly blends bluegrass into this genre; seamlessly allowing you to remember the original song but also enjoying something new and fresh.
"Graceland" follows up and it is straightforward Boot kickin' Bluegrass. This is one of my favorite covers on this album. The Paul Simon classic is completely reworked but the spirit of the song remains. "Islands In The Stream" is one of those immediately recognizable and sing able songs, no matter what form it's played in. Jesse Harper's vocals truly stand out in this song, as well as, Adam Larrabees banjo picking. "Solsbury Hill/Ice Caps of Pentatonia-Medley" is by far my favorite cover off of this album 'Cover Story.' I always enjoyed Love Canon covering these songs and have heard them play it on numerous occasions.
"Tempted" and "Driver 8" round out 'Cover Story' and I think this album does a great job of representing what Love Canon can bring to a live performance and also, their musicianship within the studio. The reworking and transmogrification of these classic 80s songs are one-of-a-kind and 'Cover Story' tells the story of not only the songs within but the evolution of the songs themselves and the growth of this great band Love Canon. Check out this album and more here www.lovecanonmusic.com and catch a live show performance sometime, you won't be disappointed.
80s Pop Purist
We had such an amazing time at this years LOCKN' Festival! We are excited to share our Photo Recap of the event and a Full Exclusive Review coming soon! Thanks for the continued support!
Phish-Merriweather Post Pavilion-2018:(Its All About Perspective)
When thinking about what to write here for this Phish run, I find it can be difficult trying to cover different angles and new perspectives. Seriously, you all know the set list, you know what people have said and most of you, can just listen, or were at the show anyway. What I will try to do is just give my opinion and then perhaps delve into why I have formed that opinion and give a basic overview of the show.
Phish returned to the newly renovated Merriweather Post Pavilion this past weekend for two nights. It was good to get back into Merriweather and see what the venue looked like after the collapse. I can say it is a completely different venue. Not only can you see the lighting rig but the entire stage, as well. This is a huge transformation from the previous roof which, has now been risen at least 15 feet from where it once was, making this lawn much more enjoyable. I arrived at the venue Saturday, without a ticket but thanks to my buddy, Jason, who hooked me up, I had one within 5 minutes. I was able to catch some of the sound check outside waiting in line where the foursome noodled through, "My Soul" and experimented with some Indian Raga sounding melody; Trey sounding like he was playing a sitar at times.
After adjusting to the stage setup and finding my friends, the band opened with "Blaze On" and after that, the lull seems to begin...until a welcomed, "46 days." Really, this set is entirely forgettable and the crowd even seemed to whence every time they went into another lackadaisical version of their songs like: "Breath And Burning," "Sugar Shack" and "Joy." Even, "Stash" was lacking the energy and vibrancy, I have previously heard. I had high hopes for the second set with "Sand" sounding eerily like The Doors, "Riders On The Storm." This was a great rendition but it had no gusto and certainly nothing more was notable. "Ghost" and "Mercury" would be the highlights the second set, period. There isn't much else to say about this show besides ending on a strong note with a funky and fun, "Martian Monster," a short, "Golgi Apparatus" and a fast-paced, "Rocky Top." This show was definitely not the worst I've seen but certainly not the best. In the end it's all about perspective.
Night 2: "Well, F**k My Face!"
I was lucky enough to find a great spot on the lawn with my buddy, Alex, from 215music.net and we wore out our feet dancing on the slanted lawn all night. "Llama" would began the second night on the damp Merriweather lawn. The crowd was in an uproar, all expecting a stellar show after last night. Even, Trey, acknowledging the slowness of the previous nights show saying, "Speeding things up a little bit for you." Mikes bass playing shines during “Meat.” “Big Black Furry Creature From Mars” was exactly what I needed and is such a quirky and hard song for this band.
The rendition of “Alaska” was the best I've ever heard live and was followed by a much needed and expected, “Tweezer” both Fishman and Page utterly focused on the music. The band letting some of that liveliness out during “Bathtub Gin” and Trey was ripping out some real heavy riffs during “Chalkdust Torture.” “Chalkdust” would go into jam territory extensively, until the end of the first set. I'd say things were off to a great start, especially after the previous nights energy level. I was impressed with, Chris Kuroda, making that light rig dance; lowering it so close to the stage, it looked as though it was swallowing the band and then it would open up like a blossoming flower.
The early, "Tweezer Reprise" had me excited that Phish could do some sort of Tweezerfest: Part II and they would round into “Tweezer Reprise” again, at the end of the set (jamming it during piper, as well) but certainly no repeat of that magical night in 2014. “Twist” and “No Man In No Mans Land” both would see extensive jamming and time warping improvisation. “Piper” would continue that effervescent trend and although, there weren't many powerful moments until, “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” that got me truly excited, it was a laidback psychedelic vibe for the remainder of the evening. “Harry Hood” would see the crowd giving it their all, singing along. The encore lacked any intensity until the final reprise. All in all, a solid Phish show and possibly one of the best of the tour, so far, but I'm sure that will all change come next weekend.
Phish is an American legacy; a phenomena that only happens once a generation. As they evolve and grow older, their music becomes much more refined and methodical. When I listen back to recordings from the 90s, they are raw and full of a spirit that had something to prove. Now they have proved it and are refining it down to the minutest structures they can. Reaching perfection is impossible but endeavoring to do so, is a life's accomplishment. All of these musicians are masterful within their crafts. They are as five ships sailing in unison but each captaining their own vessel of captivating music. The American dream lives on. Don't worry if the show you see is the best or the worst, just go see live music and especially, Phish. You will find something that is truly one of a kind. Have fun at Curveball and don't get washed away!
P.S. Whatever you do, take care of your shoes.
Floydfest 2018 (The Heart and Soul of the Blue Ridge)
Being a Virginia native, I have always heard of Floydfest and it's eclectic lineup of Rock, Bluegrass and even, Alt-Pop-Rock. This year’s lineup caught my eye quite early on and I am so glad to finally be reviewing this festival for blueridgerocks.com Unfortunately, I couldn't make Thursday's events and seeing the lineup of Lukas Nelson and Govt Mule, I kicked myself for missing it. Early Friday, I headed down the Blue Ridge Mountains, taking the scenic route and getting on the parkway, as soon as, I could. The view from this festival is the first thing that comes into my mind when I reminisce about last weekend’s events but the music is the real memory that will last. The one of a kind musical collaboration and improvisations, the late night sets and meeting new friends and old, this is what music festivals are all about. All of these things can be found in abundance at Floydfest. Below are my thoughts and review for the festival.
Friday's Floydfest Favorites
While, there was plenty of music on Friday for patrons to consume, I really just want to start with The Antibalas, who brought their unique and energetic vibe to Floydfest. I always find myself dancing uncontrollably by the end of every one of their sets. I was highly impressed with the sound quality and beauty of the main stage and the venue itself. It was easy to get from stage to stage and there was always music being played somewhere.
Up next, Leftover Salmon was on the Hill Holler Stage. They would play "Liza" and can go from Progressive Jam to Bluegrass, in an instant. "Valley Of The Full Moon" was played while, the full moon shone overhead. Vince Herman got the crowd howling at the moon and the band went into a more Jam-Fusion sound for most of the show but returned to Standard Bluegrass at the end.
I checked out some of Foster The People but decided not to wait around for them to play "Pumped Up Kicks," the only song, I forcibly know from their catalogue. I walked over to see Magnolia Boulevard, with many of the older crowd. Magnolia Boulevard did a great cover of "Fire On The Bayou" a Meters funk classic. The lead vocalist caught my ear and delivered a great performance while the band did their best to keep up.
I checked out about half an hour of Greta Van Fleet, I wasn't entirely impressed but I saw some potential. The crowd seemed to eat them up and I can see why but as a music purist, I see too many blatant derivatives from early rock to be but so intrigued; It's been done before and better. The Broadcast kept me up until all hours of the night with their explosive vocalist Caitlin Krisko. I want to check this band out again and do a full review. I am super impressed with all the female vocalist taking charge at Floydfest 2018.
Saturday's Musical Extraveganza
Erin And The Wildfire, a Charlottesville, Virginia based band, was first on my list to see during Saturday's festivities. Here again, I am always impressed with the rising female vocalist in this scene and Erin is at the top of that list. I was only able to catch a short part of this bands set but what I did see, made me excited for a full review soon.
No BS Brass Band brought a horn heavy sound to Floydfest. I have seen these guys before but they have included several vocalists, which really adds to this bands powerful performance. All the excitement from the horns and all that energy are immediately transferred to the crowd, as they dance and throw their hands to the sky.
Coming out with a quote from Frank Zappa, “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” How could I not be entranced by the Infamous Stringdusters, as they immediately tease the Grateful Dead’s "Terrapin Station" but instead transition into Phish’s "Possum" and would continue into "First Tube?" I would honestly rate this set as the best Stringdusters set, I have ever seen and one of the best of the festival. I was excited to see them again on Sunday.
The event of the weekend was by far the Buffalo Jam, which featured Host extraordinaire, Keller William, The Antibalas, Leftover Salmon, and three beautiful vocalist: Erin Lunsford, Caitlin Krisko and Lindsey Lou. This super group would open with Lou Reeds, "Walk On The Wild Side" and continued on into "Wild Horses," the Rolling Stone classic. "War Pigs" was one of the best renditions I have ever witnessed with Vince Herman on vocals, summoning the power of Zambi himself. The Antibalas would take over and perform "Open and Close." Some other highlights from the set were Aretha Franklin "Rock steady" with Caitlin Krisko on vocals. “What it is?" “Come On In My Kitchen" featured blues banjo from Leftover Salmons, Andy Thorn. "No Sugar/New Mother Nature" was a lot of fun with Keller taking the lead and “Superstition” with Erin Lunsford on vocals was funky and vibrant. This was easily one of the most unique and impressive collaborations I have ever seen live and truly a once in a lifetime experience.
I started my day out with Monophonia, an attention-grabbing progressive rock mixture, reminiscent of Zappa and perhaps, King Crimson with thoughtful and comical lyrics. I would like to check this band out again and give them a full review but what I did see was interesting enough to captivate my attention.
Keller Williams Petty Grass featuring the HillBenders was just as I suspected it would be, Tom Petty songs arranged into Bluegrass format and while, I've never been a total Petty fan, it was interesting to hear Keller and the Hellbenders, throw a twist into his catalogue of songs. Keller can basically cover anything and I am ok with it. I even recent looked up some of his other amazing Grateful Dead covers. This man can do it all!
The Travers Brothership, whom I have covered in a previous review from Roanoke Go Outside Festival, where they opened for moe were one of the best performances of the day. Last time, I was unable to gauge a full idea of their sound and abilities but after what I saw at Floydfest, I am sure they will continue to gain followers with there Jams and progressive abilities. They can take their sound to the next level by adding some lyrical and vocal qualities that accentuate their uniqueness.
The Little Smokies, was a bit slow for my taste but they brought a huge crowd to the Main Stage where they played some standard, progressive bluegrass songs. Nothing notable but they had a fun stage presence. The Infamous Stringdusters again, blew me away; going out on a limb, trying new things and manipulating the standards of Bluegrass all together. They have truly grown as individual musicians and band mates. My first Dusters show was New Years 2012 and they grown exponentially since then. I look forward to seeing this band again whenever I can.
Old Crow Medicine Show has truly made quite a career out of one great album of music and they continue to draw a large audience around the country. While, my musical tastes have grown since my last Old Crow Show, it was fun and nostalgic for a short time. It wasn't the most exciting end to the festival but I had to get back home and traverse the Blue Ridge.
The only thing I regret about Floydfest is that I couldn't see all the music! There is truly something for everyone at Floydfest and I have never been to a festival like it. The unique lineup and diverse band schedules keep patrons coming from all over Virginia, the East Coast and Country. The ride up the Blue Ridge parkway alone is worth the journey but once you get to the festival grounds, you are on top of a mountain ridge. I would suggest Floydfest to any musical and festival lover. It is truly one of a kind. The Heart and Soul of the Blue Ridge.
Jam Band Purist
The Peach Music Festival 2018 Review (Jam Juices Overflowing)
It's always a pleasure to gain admission into such prestigious festivals like, The Peach Music Festival, which boasted one of the best lineups of the summer 2018 and that may be, a modest understatement. This year, I had to take the plunge to Montage Mountain, Ski Resort and Water Park very close to Scranton, Pennsylvania. With “The Office” theme song on an endless loop in my head, I anxiously anticipated Friday's stacked lineup but was still bummed about missing one of my favorite Jam acts, The Marcus King Band, and Marcus's various sit-ins, which always highlight his versatility and ability to improvise. For those that got to see Marcus, lucky you! I look forward seeing him, as soon as, musically possible.
Friday Highlights and Montage Musings:
Arriving at the festival location, I had to park off-site and take a shuttle to the venue. This was not the easiest experience, as I was nervous and excited to get into the festivals and see some live music! I suppose I could have bought an onsite parking ticket but seeing as I was covering this event, it's difficult to spend all my hard earned dollars on extra services and fees. No camping pass was provided and no media accommodations were available but the show must go on!
When I arrived within the pavilion area, I was confronted with quite a mess of festivalgoer’s vying for coveted seats within the pavilion. This was a much different festival atmosphere than I was used to but after getting somewhat situated, I attempted to enjoy moe. one of my all time favorite bands. moe. would bring out the Turkuaz horn section for The Bands, "Ophelia." The horns would definitely add some sonic compliments. "Maybe we should have ended on that one," said Rob but out of nowhere they cover Rush’s, "Tom Sawyer;" Rob thrashing the bass with an octave pedal on full blast. I was completely lost in the music and ready for more moe. the following day and had forgotten about the seating fiasco.
Past the lazy river and beyond the lodge, at the Mushroom Stage, The Main Squeeze was my in-between before settling in to catch Leftover Salmon. The Main Squeeze seems heavily influenced by R & B and classic rock. The lead singer had a great stage presence and I was impressed by the guitarist’s full force, Game Of Thrones cover.
Leftover Salmon was up on the Mushroom Stage, which is adjacent to a wave pool, where patrons can cool off and listen to music. I got the opportunity to meet Vince Herman before their show. What a great experience and kind man. Leftover would play many of their original songs, which have lots of energy. I particular liked “Gulf Of Mexico,” “Liza” and “Aquatic Hitchhiker.” Their sound is Bluegrass, mixed with Island (Calypso), Reggae, and throw in some New Orleans Zydeco for a tasty musical gumbo and you will have Leftovers. This band is raw, eerie and danceable, the last few songs were extremely Jammy and improvisational, with very progressive movements.
Phil Lesh and The Terrapin Band, began the night with a solid but easy rendition of "China Cat Sunflower" into “Mr. Charlie" with Midnight North vocalist, Elliott Peck, accentuating the original blues quality of the early Dead. (Pig Pen style) Again, the band followed up with another older catalogued number, "Tennessee Jed." Jason Crosby’s piano playing shines through flawlessly. “New Speedway Boogie” continues this bluesy song selection but they end that musical streak with "Throwing Stones" which turned into a yelling cacophony right until the end, when they progressed into a slower rendition of "He's Gone." Never stopping, they continue into "The Other One" with Phil forgetting the lyrics but that's ok, at 78, he can do that. Grahame Lesh took the lead on the guitar and has grown up humbly and professionally. Taking these songs to a sonically singular level with the addition of a flute (Gotta be Karl Denson) to the song structure and transitioning beautifully into "Bird Song" and then returning again into "The Other One." "Truckin'" was up next and the crowd sang along at the top of their lungs. "The Wheel" and "Sampson and Delilah" rounded out the end of the set with "Sugeree" bringing it home. The audience wanted an encore and the band rejoined onstage for one final song and of course, it's Phil singing "Box Of Rain."
As I was trying to get some water from this giant water tank, in anguish with the thirst of the day, I got caught in a jazz traffic jam with horns and drums blocking my every path. At that moment Umphreys McGee comes on like a panic attack; I get anxiety just thinking about some of their songs. I did my best to make it through but in the end, my nerves can't handle the twist and turns this band brings like, a bi-polar Van Halen on Meth. While I must admit they are talented and present a much more a psychedelic experience than most of the other bands that played during the day sometimes, I just have to call it a night.
Saturday’s Musical Experience (ie; Little Feat and moe.)
Repeating the shuttle process to the festival site and having very little sleep, I continued on to catch Aqueous at the Mushroom Stage. I always have a great time with this band, they have an eclectic sound and span various genres. The Turkuaz horns join the band for the "Power Of Love" by Huey Lewis and The News followed by "The Median" and ending with an extended jam, "Don't Do It." If you haven't checked out Aqueous, reverse this song and do it! They are one of JBP favorites. (pew pew)
Staying at the Mushroom Stage for Ghost Light, I was excited to see my second performance from this very improvisational group. Warming up with Tenacious D’s "F*** Her Gently," The Turkuaz horn section would join them immediately on stage for one of their originals, "If You Want It." Tom Hamilton is the consummate bandleader, calling out the shots and leading the other musicians including: Holly Bowling, Scotty Zwang, Steve Lyons and Riana Mullen into new territories. Their compositions like "Winter War Games" and "Untitled D Riff" are intense in all the right places and can bring some solid blasting Americana Rock. I will always check out Ghost Light, any chance I can and hope they return to 5 Points Music Sanctuary soon.
I tried my best to get a good pavilion seats before the mass exodus of people beginning to descend upon the Main Stage for moe. and Little Feat. This was compacted by the fact that the rain began to come down harder and without proper VIP credentials for the 100 row seating, it was almost impossible to find any room to accommodate reviewing the performance. I was lucky enough to have found a pavilion seat with a giant beam directly blocking my view but at least I was out of the rain for this amazing feat.
This performance was the main reason I had drove 5 hours to Montage Mountain and traversed the Pocono’s at 2:30 AM. Little Feats seminal live album 'Waiting For Columbus' is one of my all time favorite records and with hit after hit, I knew moe. and the remaining members of Little Feat plus The Turkuaz horn section, would knock this one out of the park. The show begins of course, with "Join The Band” which is sung acappela. Jim Laughlin's mallet cat was the first thing that stood out to me as they went into "Fat Man In The Bathtub." Billy Payne taking over, while Al Schnier holding his own, killing on the slide guitar. Both bands kept it coming on strong, recreating these classic songs and revisiting this album. The group of musician began to jam during "Day Or Night." With Rob Barraco and Fred Tackett leading the way, skipping "Mercenary Territory" and going straight for "Spanish Moon." "Willin'" saw the Montage Pavilion singing along with Rob Derhak, arms raised towards the sky. Rearranging “Dixie Chicken,” Billy Payne brought his progressive Fusion piano skills to the table. All and all, it was a fun and solid set but I would have loved to have heard: “Mercenary Territory,” “Sailing Shoes” and “Rocket In My Pocket.” I guess I'll just have to see Little Feat again ASAP!
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead has been gaining a lot of followers within the Dead/Jam community and for good reason. They are constantly morphing, shifting and transitioning into and beyond the cosmic space of The Grateful Dead’s musical catalogue. They begin with "Cats Down Under The Stars" which goes on for, well over 15 minutes until, at the snap of the finger, they switch into "Big River." "Row Jimmy" didn't diverge from the original at all and stayed pretty low-key while "Loser" felt like it could have morphed into anything at anytime. During JRADs second set Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger began dueling on guitars, Russo keeping time and Benevento sweeping across the keys. This band has gone further than any I have I have heard before and I look for them to continue gaining mass appeal with all audiences.
Having to choose between Dark Side Of The Mule and Spafford was almost sacrilegious but I stayed for some of Dark Side Of The Mule (Govt’ Mule covering Pink Floyd, which is kind of self-explanatory) before bracing for the rain and catching Spafford. Spafford has been really gaining a lot of support, as well in this community and it was good to see so many people dancing and braving the rain. The band had some hard times dealing with the weather but they brought the jams, they just played a lot of improvisation and instrumental. The set was filled with jams like, “The Postman,” “Slip and Squander,” “Electric Taco Stand” and “Virtual Bean Dip.” Some serious Spaffnerds that I talked to really enjoyed this set and were talking about how great the improvisation was. As I am not the most familiar with the catalogue, it all sounded like Jams to me and that’s a good thing. Hopefully, I will be checking these guys out again at Lockn’ Music Festival next month.
Sunday: (The Spirit Of The Allman Brothers And Beyond)
The Allman brothers theme is visible throughout this festival but I wasn't sure to what extent this festival actually represents ABB. I can assure you the spirit of the Allman brothers is alive in well at The Peach Music Festival. We may not be in Georgia but these were some juicy musical peaches.
Sunday was filled with Allman Brother songs and many members of the bands iterations, it became a true celebration of their spirit with Dickey Betts closing out the night, Oteil and friends and of course, Waking Up With Warren. It's hard to comment on all the great collaborations but notably, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer would really impress me yet again, sitting in with various musical acts at The Peach Music Festival. While the rain subsided for some of the day, it was still quite a mess at all the stages but I don’t want to get specific here for my Sunday review. Instead, I want to take this opportunity to talk about The Allman Brothers, their legacy and the losses we have all endured over the past few years musically.
My first concert was ABB almost 15 years ago and I haven’t stopped since. It was something that truly changed my life and my outlook on live music. I daresay, I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for The Allman Brothers Band. While, I never got to experience Duane or Dickey with Gregg, what I did see was a wonderful iteration of the bands spirit and legacy; Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes intimate keepers of the flame. I did however, get to see Dickey Betts and Great Southern once and while it wasn’t such a grand experience as ABB, it was still great to see a founding member. I was always hung-up on dreams Id never see and after Gregg passed last year, things would never be the same again, I never thought I would see a celebration with that same spirit. Was it that lost forever? Not by a long shot. The Peach is the ultimate commemoration of ABB their formidable legacy will never die. The Peach may be lacking in a few overall technical issues but the music truly shone through. While the logistics were kind of a nightmare due to media limitations and overall expenses, I would return as a patron, as there are always, one of a kind musical collaborations that occur every year. I look for another solid, staked lineup next at The Peach Music Festival.
Eat A Peach,
Jam Band Purist is super excited to be covering The Peach Music Festival Full Coverage coming next week! Who will we see there? Eat a 🍑!
Widespread Panic Red Rocks 2018 (Solid Rock in Colorado)
Back at Red Rocks for my 5th year of sold out shows from Widespread Panic, one of my absolute favorite touring bands out there. While I had to really scrape up the cash to make these shows work, I can still remember dreaming of being at Red Rocks and now, I have seen 15 WSP shows here. What an experience it always is to return to Colorado for this pilgrimage. The band would open with "Solid Rock" for the megalithic rocks on each side of the audience. I have become quite familiar with them both over the years. Ship Rock and Creation Rock both, encapsulate this venue for the ages. Widespread Panic again solidify their sold out, record holding shows at Red Rocks 2018. The foundation of this music is built on solid rock!
"One Arm Steve" was short and to the point and was followed by “Glory” which was again, quick and done. "Contentment Blues" was hard and raw, finally letting Jimmy out of his cage. Stepping it up a notch with "Send Your Mind", I hadn't heard this tune in a few shows. "Sleeping Man" began with the crowd chanting, "You’re a freak of nature!" This song explores the dark, conspiratorial side of the band. A long jam was next, moving forward into "Driving Song." A woman in front of me burst into tears of joy; I want to get back to that place.
"Space Wrangler," a classic Panic song, can literally go anywhere musically. I've heard them reach the nether reaches of jam and sometimes they seem to barely take off. This “Wrangler” would see high crescendos and even a projection of Elon Musk’s Tesla car in space, journeying through a cosmic adventure before returning to “driving song.” The background image of the Tesla, would be tweeted by Elon himself, but I am not sure if he was at the show or, just sharing. Been waiting for that "Travelin’ Light" but overall a fairly short first set.
Opening the second set with "Protein Drink/Sewing Machine" making the term sewing machine itself, almost sound sinister. This song is a Red Rocks staple and this was one of the best I have heard yet. "1x1" had not heard in awhile but I wasn't sure about “Happy” until the instrumental jam, which was southern gothic in nature. If you haven’t heard my definition yet, you can check it out in some of my previous reviews. It exemplifies Widespread Panics sounds, ups and downs. This song will extend on into a improvisational jam breakdown. “B of D” and “Love Tractor” go hand in hand into another extended jam. “Drums” again and again every show…
Thank The Grand Zombie! After 8 longs years of waiting, I get another “golden splinters” and it was well worth the wait with one of the best renditions I have heard with a beat box ending into “Papa Legba.” What a perfect combination of Dr john and Talking heads songs both, oozing voodoo lyrics and dark qualities. Not much to say about “stop breaking down or the encore “You Got Yours” but I did notice Every time JB turns his back to the crowd, the jams begin.
Saturday's event would begin with “Rebirtha” and quickly into a slow jam that would meld into “Black Out Blues” which was again, a little slow warming up. “Little Kin” picked up the pace with JB whaling those vocals and Jimmy bringing in the lead.
“Radio Child” had Red Rocks on its feet and the crowd dancing. Jimmy
Herring’s final notes on the guitar were as epic, as any Red Rocks show I have experienced. Moving on quickly again to “C Brown” this songs origins lie somewhere in the peanuts comic strip with Snoopy being the dog that's as good as any man. One of the reasons I love panic is their pet and animal references many regarding them as more important than anything. “Tickle The Truth” highlights the songwriting from this group and the existentialism of WSP. “Stop And Go” would see Dave Schools dropping bass bombs on Morrison, Colorado. Bring that soup bowl home and JB shredding the slide. “Tail Dragger” to close out the first set
Second set, opening with “North,” Jojo formidable on keys. “Sharon” is always a treat, what a great cover with some interesting lyrics as JB coos like a pigeon. Should I, “Sell, Sell" all my Sunday tickets? I wasn’t quite sure. With their past track record of slow, Sunday shows at Red Rocks, I was undecided about the returning again…
“Second Skin” was pretty epic and with lyrics that are refreshing and enlightening. A wind delay would make this a 3-set show and the screen would remain off for the entire weekend. “Greta” is played for the weather and then “Cease Fire” which is still one of the best examples of Panic’s sound and musical structure. “Blue Indian” had the entire crowd singing at top of our lungs and a blistering, “Holden Oversoul” would lead into “Puppy Sleeps” a song, that I have never heard but enjoyed laughing about later with friends. “Expiration Day” is always an epic ending to any show. Lightening could be seen over Denver in the distance adding to the already spectacular light show. “Flat Foot Floozy” was American AF and so was that “Porch Song” encore.
OK...So, I didnt skip Sunday at Red Rocks completing my five full years of WSP Red Rocks run. I have climbed up that mountainous venue 30 times and decided to take a break next year. I also decided not to cover Sunday and take a breather from music writing. Festival season is upon us and I have lots of new reviews and content coming soon! We all need to take a vacation sometime. These shows at Red Rocks have meant so much to me over the years and its a good example of making your dreams come true. Red Rocks remains my favorite venue of all time and the shows seen here will go down in history forever. Thank you WSP!
HCTM: (Freakin' At The Beacon)
We are back again with the undead funksters, Here Come The Mummies. To be honest, I just can't get enough of this solid, funky band and had never been to the Beacon Theatre in Hopewell, Virginia. I arrived at the venue right as The Mummies were coming onstage and took my seat beside what seemed to be an older crowd. I guess the older folks are the freakiest and this is usually the case at most HCTM shows. I am not sure why the younger generation hasn’t caught onto one of the most creative bands out there.
The Mummies enter the theatre in style like, Egyptian kings; the jackal god Anubis at their sides. They are the freak among freaks, as they opened up with “My Party.” I can only explain HCTM as Progressive undead, sexual funk. They all wear athletic shoes from the 80s, ripped up clothes and face paint. I imagined the shadowed Greek figurines on the wall of the beautiful renovated Beacon Theatre as mummies, grinding and humping the other Greek figures on the wall.
There is always an exuberant amount of stage antics, confetti, throwing drums sticks back and forth, even tossed stuffed fish. Each one of these mummies are highly talented and have their own personality onstage. They kept the freak theme going with "Freak Flag" which has some great lyrics; “Crack it, Like the Liberty Bell, Smack it, With a rebel yell, Shake it, Like a salad toss, Stitch it, Like Betsy Ross!”
“RA RA RA” was next and this song delves into the sexual side of the Egyptian religion. Every song that HCTM brings to the stage are filled with sexual innuendos and that’s the way we like it. “Fenk Shui” and “Tight Rope Walker” are both oozing sexual entendres and double meanings. During “Friction” Anubis’s Army would bring out chains and grinders onto the stage, throwing sparks and banging with the beat. Bring that “Booty” down, went into a New Orleans sound with tuba and all. “No Vaseline” sounded like a 60s sci-fi tv theme and I would love to see HCTM explore this sound even further. It really is reminiscent of old horror films, which even included mummies. “Pants” literally had the crowd jumping to their feet; even the older people couldn't help but sing along. This seems to be HCTM most popular song and I can see why.
“I'm coming in my pants, my shirt,
It's my best suit baby,
Gonna pick your flower,
Gonna be there in an hour,
Coming in my pants, shined shoes,
In my neck tie honey,
I'm so excited I hope that I don't come too soon!”
“Attack Of The Wiener Man” was phenomenal and again, reminds me of The Blob or some other Sci-Fi horror movie but with a sexual twist. I couldn't scream cause my mouth was full. This song was followed by “Make It Shake,” a song about getting busy during a natural disaster.
Here Come The Mummies have been accused of being too horny so, they gave us 4 horns at the same time for the encore performance. I am looking forward to seeing HCTM this Halloween in The Underground Caverns in Tennessee.
I'm telling all of my weirdo freaky friends to go see Here Come The Mummies!
Roosterwalk Music Festival 10: (The Legend of King and Strings)
Festival season has officially begun and we are excited to share the JBP review for Roosterwalk Music Festival 10, which is not just a music festival but a haven for the jam community here in Virginia. We can't cover all the wonderful music at Roosterwalk but I hope this recap does some of this musical experience justice.
Friday's Musical Highlights:
I arrived at Pops Farm much later than I had anticipated and after hauling gear and getting things set up, I had missed a great portion of music that began early on Friday. Billy Strings first performance was totally eclipsed by even the notion of King and Strings, while I only caught a few songs, Billy is always high strung and exhilarating but I kept wondering what he was planning with Marcus later on that night. Sanctum Sully was up on the Pine Groove stage, doing some jamming, including a rendition of Phish's, "Stash" into "Fixin To Die." Ending in a great cover of Tom Petty's, "Nightwatchmen." It felt good to be in the reminisce of the Pine Grove; there have been some great sets of music played here. Historic even.
The Jerry Douglas Band on the Bassett Main Stage was a mix of hard driving blues and bluegrass. Busting out a "Hey Joe" cover that was vastly different than the original. This would be my first time seeing JDB and I found the dobro style played originally with modes and transitions, more classically structured. Nominated for a Grammy, the album and song, "What If" was moving and very composed, classically driven with a long introduction. "Battle Stick" featured Mike Seal heavily on guitar. I happen to have went to high school with him in Bridgewater, Virginia and cannot believe his skills on the axe.
Newest Act Alert:
Vocally determined, Sister Sparrow at the Lake Stage had me excited for the future of female vocalist in this scene. I wasn't able to catch the entire performance but what I did catch, made me want to see more. I will be doing a full review of Sister Sparrow whenever I can get a chance to see them again.
JJ Grey and Mofro were dressed to impress in all black suits. Coming out with that creole; soulful and full of spirit, really respecting and representing an older style of music. Rounding through, "Brighter Days" and "Country Ghetto," JJs southern banter would bore a hole in my mind, making me hungry with all that talk of home cooked, country food. The classic cover "Seminal Wind" had this show going country but overall JJ reminds me of Dr. John, without the eccentricity. Closing out with "Glory Glory Hallelujah."
The Main Event:
I was extremely excited for the King and Strings duo set at the Pine Stage. Both of these young players are phenomenal and I had no idea what to expect. Meeting just 4 hours before the show both, Marcus King and Billy Strings, are highly talented and pulled together quite the tight performance. The added bonus of Jeff Sipe on drums made this even more exclusive. Sipe, who is always a solid and professional drummer, has played with many of the jam world’s greatest legends.
Opening with an MKB song, "Guitar In My Hand", The band would go into Billy Strings, "Dust In A Baggie." The two would take turns soloing and dueling it out during, "Swinging Doors." Quite the dynamic cover of Marshal Tuckers, "Can't You See"; King is methodical and like a cat on the prowl while, Strings is loose and wild. Such a palpable stage energy between these two. Billy takes out the electric (PRS) for "Johnny B Goode" which was hard and fast, almost punk rock. The Grateful Dead's, "It Hurts Me Too" sees Billy taking the slow notes while, Marcus rips the solo a new one. Two unique and distinct styles meshing together to form something improvisationally fantastic. Calling songs on the fly and trying new things both of these players are wise beyond their years. "Compared To What" was by far my favorite song and jam of the set; full of raw energy and bristling with excitement. "Hey Joe" was on point. I swear I saw the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughn somewhere in the back during “Born To be Wild” writhing violently behind the stage. No joke. The future of music is in great hands. King and String would also cover Led Zeppelins, "Good Times Bad Times," “Spoonful", “Sweet Leaf” and “Rocky Top.” Encoring with “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.” There's not much more to say about this performance. You will just have to watch below and judge for yourself.
Best Light Show Of The Weekend:
I was only able to catch the last 4 minutes of Tauk at the Lake Stage due to the overlapping sets but they hands down had the best light show of the weekend and have been taking on vocal covers more often. Tauk is talking!
Saturdays Musical Highlights:
The Marcus King Band took the stage to a voracious crowd, hungry for more jams. A new steel pedal sat onstage and would be an additional instrument for Dean Mitchell. Opening with “Sharry Barry” the band goes for it right of the bat, keeping the MKB tradition alive at Roosterwalk. As much fun as the King and Strings set was, it's always great to see one of my favorite bands live and back in Virginia. Justin Johnson’s playing was shining as bright, as his trumpet in the sun. Marcus laying down some slow melodic riffs, perhaps preparing mentally for the late-night performance. Soulful and powerful, "Good Man" highlight this performance. I got a close look at Marcus’s pedal board and it's slim, with very few effects because he doesn't need to them to sound great. Blistering progressive scales and blues always from this band. "Where I'm Headed", the first single off new album, was great and I can't wait I hear the album version. Closing with "Virginia", Ron Holloway would sit-in as, artist at large for the day. I look forward to hearing ‘Carolina Confessions’ when it is released and will hopefully be doing a full album review.
As a light thunderstorm struck the area, I retreated to my makeshift campsite for some R&R before the nights festivities. When the rain subsides, I got some more R&R with Robert Randolph and The Family Band, high powered blues. “I Need More Love” with a “Don't Stop Til’ You Get Enough” interlude that was fun and funky. Covering “Up On Cripple Creek“ by The Band, had the whole crowd singing along. The Wood Brothers, a trio that I was unfamiliar with but would get to know throughout the evening, played an unhurried set. Playing harmonica while playing the bass, dancing crazy legs McGee and the rest of The Wood Brothers, played many of the songs from their recent album. I thought I heard keys but only say 3 people and realized the drummer was also doing double duty playing, keyboards and drums at the same time which is quite impressive. Although sounding exactly like Weezers, "Say It Ain't So", The Woods Brothers song “Luckiest Man” is still one of my favorite tunes from this headlining performance.
Roosterwalk can't get enough of MKB and Marcus himself would play all 3 stages throughout the weekend. The CSNY "Ohio" cover was a great surprise and was well done, getting the crowd involved with some vocal reflections. "Let's get to know each other!" shouts Marcus to the audience; opening his arms and raising them in the air. “Self-Hatred” was blistering with Grateful Dead influence and ABB jam qualities. Applying the best of both these formidable American bands to his music, Marcus is not only one of the most consummate guitarist I have seen, he also plays slide, as well as, anyone I've seen, excluding Derek Trucks. Deshawn Alexander exploding on the keys, as they fire into "Slip Back", Justin Johnson bringing his vocals to this one. Improvising and taking the lead during the next few songs, Marcus includes jazz, afro-beat and even, salsa rhythms into his songs and segues. The bass solo from Campbell, shook the light-night stage and all its surroundings. The two rustic lamps that sat on the either side of the stage began to flow and emit smoke as the band busted into an ethereal, "Dreams" which included a special guest guitarist, dueling back and forth. "8am" is “a song about being drunk as hell at 8am" was slow and bluesy with a tinge of country. Marcus still amazes me every time I see him and his band. They each continue to grow and evolve musically, responding to the audience and their fans every whim. I have seen MKB 10 times since I first saw them only one year ago at the Roosterwalk 9. and I look forward to seeing them again this October at The Marcus King Band Family Reunion Festival in Black Mountain North Carolina at Pisgah Brewery.
Walking over to catch the tail end of The Mantras, playing "Immigrant Song", I kept thinking to myself, why should I have to choose between these two bands again? I had never seen The Mantras before and they were on my must-see list but I just couldn't miss MKB. Oh the woes of a musical purist. High energy and jammy much like Phish, The Mantras would play their take on Charlie Browns theme song and mash it together with “Cat Scratch Fever.” Lead guitarist and vocalist, Keith Allen, shouted out "Who let Ted Nuggent in here?" I know it wasn’t me… I will most certainly be seeing The Mantras in the future for a full review and possible artist spotlight.
Sundays Musical Highlights:
Sunday was a bit wet and I was feeling the exhaustion from the weekend but the day was filled with extremely great sets of music. Yarns rendition of the Last Waltz took the highlight of the day, while Zac Deputy was improvisational and enjoyable during his solo set. I didn't make it to as much music Sunday, as I wanted to but as festival season continues my festy legs will grow stronger.
The overall musical experience at Roosterwalk was unforgettable and legendary. I am sure the King and Strings set will become a legend in its own right. I really hated having to choose between headlining acts like King and Strings/Tauk or MKB/The Mantras but I still had a great time enjoying friends and the outdoors. Perhaps adopting a no overlapping set policy like Lockn' would benefit Roosterwalk in the future. For 10 years this festival has grown and evolved into something, not only the local Martinsville community should be proud of but Virginia itself.
Keep the jam alive!
Jam Band Purist
Consider The Source at the Bright Box in Winchester, Virginia
It's always hard for me to describe bands and each one of their unique sounds. I seem to always find myself referencing another genre or band. With Consider The Source, things get even more difficult but I have finally figured out what the bands name is all about. CTS literally wants you, the listener to consider the source of the music they are creating and morphing, combining and transforming. CTS is always unique and sometimes, I just want to give up on trying to define their diverse and obscure sounds references; many I am yet to understand or define myself. But who am I kidding? That's not me.
This would only be my second time seeing CTS live but I knew I was in for a loud and high throttled performance (I brought my ear plugs) positioning myself directly to the side of the stage. I dug in deep and tried to pay close attention to what members was doing, to better understand and acquaint myself with their musical process. I did my best but became lost and in awe of Gabe Marin's guitar rig and pedal board. Surrounded by an arsenal of sounds, Gabe's newest guitar also features a variety of midi pads and controls. I am astounded that he can make any of those noises sound like music; it's as though, he is in a rocket ship, piloting some musical spacecraft. A short list of the sounds I heard from Gabe's guitar: saxophone, xylophone, violin, voice, drums, perhaps an elephant? Somewhere in there I heard the Star Wars theme or was it Gustav Holst's Op 32?
Onto the song selection (or what I can tell you) and JBP impressions. Opening with a long intro that included great slide work, this would be very reminiscent of Indian/Hindi scales mixed with classic blues scales. I'm always immediately impressed with the musicianship from his trio. John Ferrera's stage energy is always palpable and passionate especially within the new song called "It Is Known", which was almost whimsical and far away, with lots of delay and this is where the sax effect on guitar comes in. This song went into a Motown swing, something much different than I've heard from Consider The Source before. There seems to be added space and dynamics but they always return to that high-powered, solo blistering sound. The next song sounded a lot like Primus and had my heart pumping in an eerie cacophony. CTS is not afraid to take chance and try new things with effects, sound combination and ancient musical properties from India and beyond. Touching on world music and progressive hard rock alike, Consider The Source have me considering why this type of high powered music has yet to take off? With electronic and dance acts utilizing the same build ups and effects, I think CTS is a great alternative to the bland single DJ playing loops in some "live" performance.
Organic and wild, both John and Gabe could be seen convulsing in ritualistic unison while violently shaking their instruments. Elements of Greek and Eastern European themes come to my mind. Jeff Mann’s drumming skills are off the chart and keep this band from going too far off the rails. The perfect balance between complete rhythmic destruction and light taps from Shangri-La.
Looking trough my notes, they must have played a song called "Won't You Feel Alienated?" I can't recall because I was too busy watching a sizeable women in vomit green, spasmodically shuttering and disconcertingly screaming at the top of her lungs to the beat. John begins to play so rapidly on his bass solo that she gets confused/tired and suddenly leaves the concert; quite the performance.
Consider The Source can sometimes come out of left field with their original sound and live concert experience but they are always energetic and raw. I certainly won't miss another CTS show in my area and will be delving into their musical catalogue in depth this summer, searching for inspirations and recognitions of classical world compositions. I look for CTS to gain a lot more interest in the coming years and believe many festivals will catch onto this sound. Stay original and always on the cutting edge.
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
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.