FloydFest 2019: (My Voyage Home)
Some festivals come and go while others stick with you for a lifetime. The memories may fade into obscurity but the essential conviction and power of these events stays with you, within your soul. As I traversed the Blue Ridge Parkway, all my cares and burdens seemed to be released. My senses were greeted with the flood of evocation, the smell of the Appalachia, small towns with bustling markets, the convection breeze of the mountain air. The weather was absolutely perfect and would remain so for the entirety of the weekend. Arriving on site, FloydFest is bustling with energy both musically and socially. The mountaintop looks quite like a small village or even a traveling circus. Tents spiral upwards; the stages are constructed of wood seemingly permanent, reassuring festival patrons that FloydFest will remain, as long as these wooden planks survive. The journey back to FloydFest always feels like going back home. This is my voyage home.
In my eyes, FloydFest is the ultimate, all-around, bang for your buck, beginners festival. Not only is this a well-organized festival, it is also in my home state of Virginia and it gives me great pride that we host such a noteworthy event. Virginia is for music lovers. FloydFest is also very diverse musically, allowing people who come to see more mainstream artists like, Tyler Childers, a chance to see new and provocative musical acts. I have to say early on here that I am not a fan of the Modern Country genre but I can however see the appeal. Some of these shows allowed me to take a break and rest before catching more Jam oriented acts. I will not comment on any of the acts that I found lacking but if pressed, will give my honest opinion, of course. Now that that is out of the way, I will be including some of the best acts of FloydFest here in this review. I wish I could delve deeper into all the music I was able to see but I want to begin with the highlights, in no particular order.
The War and Treaty was perhaps one of the best shows I have seen all year. I don’t say that lightly. While the vocal skills from Michael and Tonya Trotter were great, I was even more impressed with the band behind them. I couldn’t find much information about them but they all could really play. The band is the definition of “tight.” The New Orleans Jazz influence is undeniable and The Trotters add their patented R&B, Soul and Gospel to the vocal arrangements. War and Treaty would play high-energy covers of Gospel songs like, “Amazing Grace”, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “When The Saints Go Marching In.” The War and Treaty is a class act. I was front and center for this outstanding performance and will be seeing this band every chance I get. Thanks FloydFest for turning me onto another great band.
OK, I have to say it, God damn! Electric Hot Tuna was great. Jorma and Jack Cassidy’s hard-driving blues knocked the crowds socks off. These two psychedelic legends would converge inwards as the music pushed into crescendo. Jorma and Jack have seen it all from Woodstock to the psychedelic revolution in San Francisco and they still display amazing musical prowess. Jorma’s guitar tone can be heard in countless songs from the 1960s by artist who emulate his solos from classic Jefferson Airplane songs. These two are as cool as cucumbers and even during their solo acoustic set still brought original and stylistic approaches to their songs like, “Bowlegged Women.” Hot Tuna is just plain badass.
The Travers Brothership takes the MVP award for this entire festival. When these guys weren’t shredding faces off like cheddar cheese on a grater, they could be seen in the audience consuming music with the rest of us. It was a pleasure to talk shop with Eric Travers and watch his brother, Kyle perform with Keller Williams and Leftover Salmon during Buffalo Mountain Jam. The Brothership blasted off, playing numerous rocking sets at FloydFest. They have come a long way sonically and as a group but there seems only room for more growth. Integrating classic Funk songs with their own version of Southern Rock, The Travers Brothership are set to launch, all over this scene.
One of the most interesting yet perplexing performances I saw this year was The Fantastic Negrito. I seemed to cycle through all of the human emotions during this set from: anger, sadness and even humor. Commenting on today’s politics, social normalities, psychology and honesty The Fantastic Negrito was full of energy that was reflected in the strange music. The Fantastic Negrito is unique and creative, evocative and mysterious. Even today, reflecting back on the show makes me confused yet, interested. The music itself is hard and bluesy with a twist of operatic arrangement and even Zappa-like influences. I am more intrigued than ever with Fantastic Negrito who seems to be a true artist, poet, and soul. I will very likely be reviewing this band again. Fantastic Negrito would end the show with, “I love some of you.” What a true statement.
The New Orleans Suspects would bring their raw, NOLA Funk sound straight to the mountains of Virginia. Having just played one of my all-time favorite venues in New Orleans, Tipitina’s the night before, the suspects hightailed it all the way to FloydFest for their daytime set. I don’t think I stopped dancing at all during this set and freaked out as they played Professor Longhairs, “Tipitina’s” for us all. Anyone who has read my recent reviews knows my love for New Orleans and this set was an extra special treat for me.
Lukas Nelson and The Promise Of The Real was the most anticipated performance for many at Floyd Fest this year. I have been watching Lukas for many years now; watching him grow and mature as an artist and a human being. This was the first time seeing him perform that it all seemed to come together. Lukas has finally found his own voice, his own foot path into the world in which his father has built a highway on. Lukas is still blazing his own trail. A troubadour in his own right. The only man on earth who can sound like Willy and get away with it. While you can hear the patronage within his raspy voice and those melodic, Texas Swing guitar tones, Lukas has his own style, his own persona and the women find him insatiable. Rounding through fast songs and slow songs alike, it was the time when Lukas would step to the microphone in earnest, singing, “Outside Of Austin” or, “Forget About Georgia” was when the crowd leaned in, ears and hearts open to his words. Lukas has raw talent in spades. Cultivating this into something different that stands out in today’s cookie-cutter, country conglomeration. Lukas is the real deal and can focus at improving exponentially by staying humble and grinding out his own legacy.
The headlining performance from The String Cheese Incident was just what the doctor ordered. I haven’t danced that hard in quite some time. I couldn’t help but move when they played songs like “Colliding” or, “River Trance” and anyone who could stand still during these moments weren't in the same dimension as me. I can’t comment on the show too much because I was getting down so hard but SCI was a great headlining choice because their music spans many genres. The first set was much more Bluegrass/Rockabilly but the second set was more Jam oriented. I truly hope that those who had never seen them before, took the time to see this band do what it does best. Keller would make his likely appearance with String Cheese for “Breathe” while some of the members of SCI would return the favor and jam with Keller and an All-Star cast of players onstage for the Buffalo Mountain Jam which has become one of the highlights of FloydFest.
I want to include some of the other artists whom I cant review here. There were many impressive acts but let's start with Erin And The Wildfire who’s version of Chaka Khan's “Ain't Nobody” was absolutely spot on. Erin and her band play in Virginia locally all the time and I recommended seeing their live show. The Broadcast as another noteworthy band to include here. Caitlyn Krisko and guitarist, Aaron Austin really Deliver a solid performance. Chupacabras were a fun and funky local talent. While the Jon Stickley Trios rendition of “Sinister Minister” was flawless. Leftover Salmon always performs danceable soundtracks to my festival life. As Vince Herman yells, “FESTIVAL!!!!!”
Another year another voyage to FloydFest. A voyage of the heart, body, mind and soul. A voyage of music, friendship and nature. FloydFest continues to deliver a solid, stable festival every year. The hardwork and planning does not go unnoticed and that is why I continue to return to this beautiful festival every year. With every year I gain treasured musical memories and I hope to share more with you. I hope to see you all at FloydFest next year.
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
A Quick Word On 4848 Festival
While I didn’t receive media tickets for the inaugural 4848 Festival at Snowshoe Ski Resort in West Virginia, I wanted to write a short review of this festival because it was truly one of the greatest musical experiences I’ve had in many years. It’s almost like a dream come true, being able to stay in a nice condo and walk just a few hundred yards to stage areas. Most festivals rely on shuttles and buses to transport festivalgoer’s, to and from, hotels and other accommodations. At 4848, many stayed in rooms where they could watch the music from their balcony. I have never heard so many positive comments and reviews about any festival, ever. I went to six All Good Music Festivals and just couldn’t miss this event. I won’t delve too much in to the music though. Perhaps next year Jam Band Purist will have full coverage but for now, all I can say is, if this festival ever happens again, don’t hesitate just GO!
Some of the collaborations at this festival were top notch and Billy Strings seemed to be everywhere. Turkuaz was probably my favorite show of 4848. Their performances keep getting better and better and their new songs are raw and jam heavy. Railroad Earth also put on a great performance but I hadn’t seen them since the passing of Andy and it was bittersweet. They definitely have a different sound now. The Marcus King Band also graced the festival with an outstanding performance and many of the bands stuck around to enjoy music for the weekend.
4848 seems to be an all around success. Everything ran smoothly and spirits were high. I really enjoyed the luxury aspect of this festival and would definitely spring for VIP accommodations if they were affordable. Hopefully next year we will be covering the return of 4848. This festival still stands as one of my all time favorite musical experiences, right up there with Jam Cruise. I hope to see you all there next year!
New Orleans Jazzfest: (50 Years Of Music History)
If you have read any of my recent reviews within the past year, then you will know of my love for New Orleans, the origin and birthplace of American Music. Having traveled south three times this year, I couldn’t miss the 50th Jazz Fest in my favorite place on earth, the Crescent City. Crossing Lake Pontchartrain and casting my first gaze on the city, always brings up memories of music, jazz, and blues slowly drifting out of bars and down cobbled streets; fragrances of Creole food and the feeling of mischievous voodoo. There is something about this place that resides within me, resides within my soul that feels connected to this place, connected to the culture, the community, the lifestyle and most importantly, the music.
There is truly nothing like New Orleans during Jazzfest and the days between. The entire city is filled with the best musicians from all over the country and the world. The music begins the first week of Jazzfest and never ceases until the final days. Two weeks of a full-on, musical heaven. If you are a true music fan, you must make it down to NOLA and try as you might, to see the most music humanly possible. Many nights, I would get home around 6 or 7 AM after seeing 4 to 6 bands per night. I was only in New Orleans for five days and was able to jam pack those hours with great music. With stacked lineups at every venue, I had to pick and choose wisely between some of the greatest musicians I have ever seen play. Many of the musicians played multiple shows per day and there were even smaller festivals during the week like, Crawfish Fest.
While I would love to delve deep into all the music I saw during Jazzfest and in the days between, I have to pick and choose from some of the best I witnessed and an all-around review of Jazzfest: 50 Years of New Orleans Culture and Music. What an iconic festival. We will start with Frenchman Street and the late night antics of Ghost-Note featuring members of Snarky Puppy and a slew of musical guest performers.
My head was swimming as I arrived to my favorite street in the world, Frenchmen Street. Frenchmen is the opposite of Bourbon Street where people go to get boozed up and stumble upon the puke infested asphalt. On Frenchman, people come to see live music. Hordes of music fans go from venue to venue, consuming music like rhythmic vampires. I easily found myself entranced into the Blue Nile, one of my favorite small clubs on Frenchmen. I honestly had no idea who was playing at the time until I looked at the handbill and saw that it was a Ghost-Note. I then knew, I was in the right place. The intense sound from the 10+ musicians onstage was heart palpitating. The energy in the club reminded me of some roaring 20s vibe, everyone screaming and dancing. The band would play a mix of Prince songs with bassist, Mono Neon leading the way in almost every song. Corey Henry and Justin Stanton from Snarky Puppy did come out for a few songs but with so much going on, it was hard to differentiate from who or what was playing. I stayed until well after, 3 AM and headed to some of the other clubs until I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. The city lights and people disjointed me and I had to find my bearings. The music was loud raw and loud. Just the way I like it.
One of my favorite venues in New Orleans is Tipitina‘s. The history associated and surrounding Tipitina‘s is what draws bands from around the country to this iconic venue. I have never seen a bad show at Tipitina‘s. I am immediately jumped on the chance to see Turkuaz late night. The show didn’t start until 2 AM so I was able to catch some more live music before hand. Using www.jazzfestgrids.com I tried to plan out my days in New Orleans and see as much music as humanly possible. Of course, most of the plans were tentative and I hated leaving BB Kings House Of Blues, which boasted players like, Marcus king, TAZ and even Sweet Dick, Andy Frasco. Turkuaz did not let me down. Coming on full force with their futuristic, robotic funk, Turkuaz can be truly psychedelic and when they find a groove they stick to it. While their sound can be jammy it could also be Pop and I wonder why Turkuaz has not moved beyond the jam scene. I believe many more people would find this band as fun, as I do, if only given the opportunity to listen to them or see them live. Turkuaz has been on heavy rotation since Jam Cruise this past January. Getting to see the chaos of Tipitina‘s at 4 AM was priceless. Tchapitoulas never looked so beautiful as I drove home still buzzing from the show and getting to experience and share it with my younger brother, Alexander. I had planned to go to Jazzfest Friday and Saturday but after the wild night at Tipitina’s and that all around overwhelming amount of music, we decided to just see some more music on Frenchmen. We decided to see some Jazz and a number of local blues artists and even stepping out on a few street corners to see buskers round the New Orleans staples. It’s not always about the destination but the journey.
Sunday was the day for Jazzfest and I was excited to rough the heat and the crowds for the stacked lineup of Jazz Fest 50. People crowded the neighborhood surrounding the fairgrounds, where I would learn was used for Horse Racing. So, minus the horses and add the horseshit smell. It was something that I was immediately taken aback by and it never seemed to subside. I did not even want to sit down on the ground because then I would be closer to the smell. Back to the story, I easily find a cheap ticket outside the crowded neighborhood for well under face. There were cops present but they were extremely friendly and I even saw festival patrons giving them hugs and taking pictures with them. Finally entering the festival, I realized the convoluted confused situation that Jazzfest 50 had put me in. With over five stages they really expected me to choose between Buddy Guy, John Fogerty, The Neville Brothers and Herbie Hancock?
Two weekends and I still have to choose from these amazing artist? This might have been the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my entire musical life. I, of course without hesitation added Little Feat as one of my highlighted shows. I couldn’t get as close as I wanted as I didn’t have VIP access for this one and I didn’t get a great view of any of the shows. One of the members in my party collapsed from heat exhaustion. The Jazzfest medical crew didn’t respond nor helped with the incident at all, in fact, they only made matters worse by making my friend walk over 2 miles around the venue for cab/Uber service. This incident has now made me change my review process and at the end of every festival review, I will be giving a star rating. Jazzfest is not off to a great start. The heat combined with the crowds, the smell and the overlapping lineups all add up. Anyway, back to Little Feat, who came out strong with Billy Paine’s organ turned up full blast. They started with “Spanish Moon” going into possibly the slowest “Fat Man In The Bathtub” I’ve ever heard. Still great but with no gusto, the speakers in the back couldn’t hang and the sound was warped back-and-forth throughout the crowd. John “Papa” Gross would join the band which did add quite the level of excitement, the band even getting a broad smile out of “Papa” during “Dixie Chicken.”
After walking for what felt like miles, I tried to watch Chaka Khan but couldn’t find a good spot. The crowd of onlookers surged the stage like hungry hyenas after lions had just ravaged a gazelle’s carcass. The feast was not worth the price for me and I retreated back into the blues tent where some zydeco was playing. The heat was so exhausting, I had to sit down in the shade for a rest before zombie walking to the furthest stage imaginable to see, I can’t believe I’m saying this, Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer. I’ll be honest, as I try to be with every review, the show was good and revitalized some of the energy, which the sun had taken away for me. I remember hearing about Jimmy Buffett getting in trouble for mushrooms and ecstasy not too many years ago but he looked in pretty good shape and his band had a full sound. I can’t say I could take more than 30 minutes of this reggae, island type of cookie cutter sound but it was cool to check out one time.
The real treat of the day was Trombone Shorty featuring the Neville Brothers. Trombone Shorty is the new royalty of New Orleans. While, the Nevilles are the last generation. Having these two musical icons come together was genius and almost redeems Jazzfest for musical collaborations alone. This is what New Orleans is all about, Jazz, Rock and Funk together. Trombone Shorty is strong and poised. He commands the stage and his band knows what to do. They are hard-core funk, almost Punk Rock. There is nothing like them in the music scene and only New Orleans breeds this kind of brilliant raw music. Shorty and his band would cover a powerful Meters classic “Aint No Use. The Neville’s would join Shorty and his band, Aaron Neville‘s voice shining through for “Fire On The Bayou”, “Yellow Moon” and the piece de resistance, an acappella version of “Amazing Grace.” Aaron Neville sounding like a young boy, holding his tattooed cheek, somehow channeling angels or some heavenly power. This performance made it all worthwhile.
Jazzfest Star Rating 3.5 Stars
I tried to get some rest before heading to The Maison for Andy Frasco and the UN. The show didn’t start until 10:30 and went on way later than I could hang out without an IV of Café du Monde straight into my arm. I was at least able to catch Mike Dillon nosedive off the stage with no one there to catch up. This was one of the wildest shows I’ve seen from Frasco with many more guest performances. If you haven’t checked out and the Frasco Artist Spotlight on my website do it now.
Some other notable bands that I am not able to review here: Voodoo Dead, Marcus King Band, Brandon “Taz”Neiderer, Spafford, and The Claypool Delirium. All of these shows were top notch and every musician, while seemingly exhausted; we’re all on there A game.
Jazzfest in New Orleans during this time is filled with the most music imaginable. Half the battle is trying to see the music the other half is finding the energy. Jassfest is more of an experience than it is a festival. For 50 years, this experience has become more of a cultural phenomenon, culturally significant and quite iconic. I’ve been to countless festivals, show an even six days on Jam Cruise but nothing could properly prepare me for the sheer volume of music available in New Orleans during Jazzfest. I don’t think I could ever miss another one even if, I didn’t see any other music all year, give me two weeks in NOLA and I could get my fill. See you next year!
Artist Spotlight: Andy Frasco The U.N.
Where to begin this? Should it begin as a love story? How about a horror story? A Fairytale? A Mystery? Fuck it! Let’s go all Non-Fiction as I tell you, the story of JBP and Andy “Sweet Dick” Frasco and his Dionysian Mystery Cult.
I can still vividly recall the first time I saw Andy Frasco come onstage during Jam Cruise like some fevered dream that comes in waves. I can envision him in pink boxing trunks and pink boxing gloves; his Afro was glorious but obstructed by a gauze bandage. I sat next to the guitarist for The New Master Sounds; we both looked at each other. Mouths agape, awestruck as Andy Frasco performed the wildest show I have ever seen in my life. The list of antics goes on but: crowd-surfing across the entire theatre, taking numerous illicit substances (or was he?) including but not limited too, mushrooms and even a dab from the audience, and all this with a head injury. Even with a bandage on his head, Frasco was still play fighting with his band mates and causing all around destruction onstage. I have been writing and covering shows for over three years now. I have worked with bands like, String Cheese and Widespread Panic but never have I ever seen anything like, Andy Frasco. As my friend, Vince Herman from Leftover Salmon said to me after performing with Andy on Jam Cruise, “He is the biggest thing right now...maybe ever,” his eyes getting larger and his smile growing with them. I have to agree with Vince but I have to start from the beginning and how I found out about Andy Frasco and his World Saving Podcast.
I had only vaguely heard of Andy Frasco musically but his podcast was picking up some major traction in the scene. I gave it a quick listen and was immediately impressed with not only the quality of the podcast but the pure honesty and candor with each guest. From Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, Marcus King, Mike Dillion to Ivan Neville, the World Saving Podcast is diverse, fun and at times, heart-wrenching. This was my beginning with Andy Frasco but certainly not the end. I then checked out his studio recordings and found his song catalogue catchy and fun, perhaps more Pop-Singer/Songwriter oriented but still entertaining. I immediately put Andy Frasco on my list of up-and-coming artist to see and review. It was almost a year before I had the chance to see him aboard Jam Cruise and honestly had no idea what I was in for. As I stated before, I have never seen a live performance so raw, uncut and honest. I didn’t think Andy and his band could top those Jam Cruise sets. With the various sit-ins and collaborations, I wasn’t sure and he could keep up this shtick but to my complete surprise, Andy Frasco And The U.N. completely demolished Roanoke Virginia in March for St Paddy’s day.
I know, I’m just getting to this review but I needed to take a break after traveling to Egypt and Europe for almost a month. I also wanted to devote my full attention to this review and Artist Spotlight. I headed down to Roanoke to Martin’s Downtown where an outdoor parking lot stage was set up. It was still a bit brisk out and the drinks were definitely present from the moment I stepped into the area. Andy Frasco’s nervously paced backstage perhaps aware of the police presence in attendance. That didn’t seem to stop Frasco And The U.N. from playing one of the most raw and rambunctious sets of live music I’ve ever seen. “Here’s to drinking in parking lots,” Andy exclaimed, as he poured a bottle of Jamison whiskey down his throat, waiting for the mushrooms to kick in. While seeing the show again, the obvious shticks are there from: the ketamine story to the switching of instruments but I don’t give a flying fuck, looking at Andy’s happy face smiling from ear-to-ear as he plays says it all. This man is truly happy when he’s performing and it’s obvious.
While the only song his mother likes is “Waiting Game” I find many of his songs catchy, toe tapping and thought provoking. While the album versions don’t have the same ass as live performances, they are well produced and easy on the ears. I can still visualize Andy, his pants pulled up, making a moose knuckle while explaining his shortcomings in the penile region. I haven’t laughed and danced so hard in my life. Goddammit Andy you’ve done it again! I drove three hours back home listening to the World Saving Podcast the entire way. It all worth it even having to deal with the drunken asshole that keeping falling into me and who began throwing ice at Andy Frasco onstage.
Andy Frasco And The U.N. are the real fucking deal; a no holds barred, orgy of musical chaos. There is nothing like it. It is perhaps the closest thing to the WWE or professional wrestling within the musical world. The gross display of complete negligence while still remaining coherent is remarkable. I’m left wondering, “Can this last forever?” I have to answer, “I sure as hell hope so!” Frasco is the shining light, the Dionysus, the one promised to enlighten us all. Being a fan of Andy Frasco is like joining some Dionysian Mystery Cult. Watching and listening to Frasco grow and be reborn again is only half the fun. This is either the greatest media ploy in existence or the realist shit out there. You decide.
As for me, I will be seeing Andy Frasco whenever and however I can. Avidly consuming his music and the World Saving Podcast on my summer adventures, covering festivals, concerts and beyond. I shall always take my memory of Frasco and guitarist, Shawn “Wildman” Eckels with me, replaying the chaotic antics of these musical lunatics. I also got to catch Frasco in New Orleans during Jazzfest at numerous venues. That review will be coming shortly. Thank you all for holding out for this Artist Spotlight and more is coming at www.jambandpurist.com soon.
This July, Jam Band Purist will return to FloydFest in the beautiful mountains of Floyd, Virginia. Last year we had such an amazing time at this festival and got some great coverage of many up and coming artists in the scene. This festival is truly one of a kind and this years lineup looks extremely well-thoughout and stacked.
I will also be taking my New Podcast (Yet To Be Released) on the road this summer and FloydFest will be one of my first stops. See you on the mountaintop!
Last years review can be found here: https://www.www.jambandpurist.com/home/floydfest-2018-the-heart-and-soul-of-the-blue-ridge
Musical Alchemy in RVA-(Pink-Talking-Fish at The National)
I barely had time to make it to The National; rushing down Broad Street to catch my second, Pink Talking Fish, show on March 15 in Richmond, Virginia. I have, in the past, tried my best to stay out of everyone’s way during St. Patties Day weekend. I’m not a drinker and I have found over the years, that many people, who go and see concerts during holidays, do not attend concerts frequently and in plain terms, cannot handle themselves or, their intake of extracurricular substances, such as alcohol. Still I decided to brave the hordes of “Irish for the weekend” and started the festivities with Pink-Talking-Fish. Meeting with a group of close friends and giving PTF another shot.
The scene outside of The National can play out like any urban city environment: people selling goods, stickers, t-shirts, drunks talking wildly, homeless persons asking to “Hold a dollar” and of course, the young kids beating on 5 gallon buckets but it was quiet for the most part. As I arrived at the box office, 22$ was easily procured from my wallet and paid to the young lady at the window who was mysterious and tall. I usually get free tickets to most concerts that I review here at www.jambandpurist.com but I decided to forgo the emails and the sometimes-tedious route of getting media tickets. I enjoyed the same experience as everyone else anyway and found it liberating for the evening.
The house was crammed with the strangest array of individuals, I have seen at a concert in quite some time. The place was literally packed and quite diverse. There were groups of rave kids in neon colored clothes, heady dreadies, deep-fried-spunions, RVA Hipsters with curly mustaches and waxed beards, the old and the crusty alike. Who do I fall in line with this crowd? I’m never sure, as I get older every second and persist in finding distinctive sensibilities. My father and Grandmother continue to wonder why, I never grew out of going to concerts. They can’t fathom how someone can enjoy live music at the ripe old age of 32! (So, I’m Probably old and crusty at this point.)
My last experience with Pink-Talking-Fish was last year at 5 Points Music Sanctuary. This was actually my first show at 5 Points and thus begun my relationship with that venue; my favorite venue in Virginia. So I can never thank them enough for making me get down to Roanoke that night. This show seemed much different than I had previously remembered and with a new guitarist, a larger audience and rising energy, PTF came out strong, I didn’t arrive on time so, I don’t know exactly what they started off with but the set list seems to closely resemble some others on this tour. I wasn’t expecting much more than a fun time from this band and my assertions were essentially correct but what I was most impressed with was the musical abilities of each member.
PTF can fucking play. That’s all there is to it. Each member brings an original energy and unique musical attribute. The keyboard player, Richard James is obviously the leader throwing the keys around like a plaything. The new guitarist, Cal Kehoe would throw his head back in pure ecstasy, while soloing, in and out, of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish songs. The band carefully melds these songs like sonic blacksmiths. Songs from the evening included: “Mike’s Song”, “Breathe”, “Cities”, “Have A Cigar”, “Psycho Killer”, an unexpected, “Martian Monster”, “Weekapaug Groove”, “Stash”, “Punch You In The Eye”, “Wilson” and even, “Roses Are Free” and my favorite, “Careful With That Ax Eugene.”
Reflecting back, I can’t help but think what this band could do with an original catalogue of material. While I enjoy a good cover act, especially with one that captures the spirit of three legendary bands, it’s always hard for me to suspend my belief and actually enjoy myself without, completing comparing it with the real thing. My mind is always critiquing and comparing, contrasting and analyzing; the truth is, I wish I could lose myself completely in the music because PTF warrants my full attention. In the end, I’m still left dreaming, “What could be?”
Jam Band Purist
Artist Spotlight: Brandon “Taz” Neideraur (The Chosen One)
The legend of Taz continues to grow, even as I write this. As it grows, so does his music ability and prowess. Taz is the Chosen One; chosen by the patriarchy of Jam. Chosen by Zambi himself. I have rarely cried from musical experiences but Taz has brought me to tears. Not just because the future of this music is in his hands, its because he can truly play with passion and palpable intensity like none I’ve seen, especially at such a young age. Embodying a much older demeanor and onstage command, Taz has already proven worthy of the title, Chosen One.
Having seen Brandon “Taz” Niederuer numerous times now; sitting in with bands like: The Marcus King Band, Widespread Panic, Spafford, The String Cheese Incident and well…just about every band in the scene, I was completely mind-blown seeing him live in Roanoke, Virginia with his own band. This band featured great musicianship including, Matt Godfrey, whom I met on Jam Cruise this past January and we enjoyed a few shows together. Matt is not only an astounding guitarist but he is also a guitar teacher and the man behind many of the young guitarist out there today. I didn’t know what to expect from this band but they truly bring an amazingly profound experience to the stage; something that seems rare nowadays. Shredding their way through originals and covers alike, I haven’t been this impressed with a band since seeing, The Marcus King Band for the first time, two years ago. While I keep comparing this band to MKB, they sound nothing alike, except for having a phenomenal guitarist at center stage. Taz and Friends are original, highly talented and that’s only the beginning.
Five Points Music Sanctuary was packed to the brim with patrons for this show. I have been quite lucky to see so many amazing shows here in Roanoke, Virginia. Every time I return, I see a show that tops the next but this may be the best I have ever witnessed in the Sanctuary. History was surely made that night. Many teenage girls littered the front row, all waiting, for Taz who is a complete Rock Star at this point. A 16-year-old with a huge blond Afro led the opening band; Taz would jam with him onstage for the Neil Young classic, “Cortez The Killer”, which went on for a little too long. It seemed as though, Taz was holding back a little before his performance. While the local show proved fun, I was still anticipating what Taz would do with his own material.
When the band took the stage, there was an immediate change in energy level and overall excitement in the Sanctuary. This band takes things to another level and I was extremely impressed with Taz’s vocals and original songs. Having never heard Taz sing, in person, this was most surprising; his voice is both soulful and clean. The songs themselves sound mature and focused. I had just listened to Taz’s episode of Andy Frasco’s World Saving Podcast and learned so much about him. For his age, then 15, now 16, Taz is beyond his years, not only as a guitarist but also as a person. It was great to hang with the band after the show and learn more about them as players and people. Taz and Friends, would cover: The Meters, “People Say”, The Grateful Dead’s “West LA Fade Away”, Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.” And at times, Taz would remind me of Prince. Many of his own songs were reminiscent of that sound, ie: R&B with a lot of soul. Taz is a musical phenom and all around powerhouse not only a guitar but vocally. This seal of approval comes with 5 stars and must see to believe label.
I don’t have anything negative to write about this experience at all. I honestly can’t believe that Taz isn’t selling out bigger venues or at least, headlining his own tour of shows. But then I remember that Taz is only 16 and is still in public school. The future for Taz is unstoppable but not yet defined. I could see Taz gearing more towards Popular music, possibly going for that platinum record which is easily attainable for him. As it stands today, Taz could be included or play in any number of studio sessions with Pop Stars, Hip-Hop Artist and a slew of other acts. Taz would no doubt blow the world away. Or perhaps he could take the true musicians road, practicing his chops, playing and writing all day, everyday. Earning fans one show at a time. Learning Jazz, cutting his teeth nightly, as he seems to do now. The future is in his hands and Taz seems to have some inspiring influences that surround him. I have great faith and belief in the music that pours out of Taz. I wish unsurpassed success for this young man for the rest of his days. May the Jam gods continue to bless you!
Five Points Music Sanctuary and Tyler Godsey, also seem to understand the importance of getting these, up and coming bands, before they blow up. This is one of many reasons I continued to see concerts at this venue and work with them as much, as I can. It was quite a treat to see this show here because I know Taz and friends, will be headlining festivals and even, Jam Cruise, in no time. I was more impressed than I ever thought I’d be. Here’s to many more shows with Taz and friends! Check out the Youtube video below!
Jam Band Purist
What's your favorite Dick's Picks?
JBP: Well, this question could be taken many different ways but I’m going to assume that you mean the collection of Live Grateful Dead albums; which is a great question. I would have to say, Dicks Pick 27 is usually my go to. Not only do they round through many classic but they even cover, The Who’s, “Baba o’ Riley.”
Do you ever get tired of it and just wanna throw it all in?
JBP: Everyday of my life! Specifically concerning my music writing? I always feel like, I am not doing enough or, not getting enough done but I continue to write and see shows. It’s hard writing when your not sure if anyone is even reading. I have taken a step back lately, playing more music and writing a little less. I have to remind myself that 1. I am on my own time schedule 2. Fuck what everyone else wants, thinks or, needs until I get paid. We shall see what the ebb and flow of life brings but music, will always remain the most important thing in my life and writing second.
What do you think of the Zappa hologram tour??
JBP: I have actually discussed this many times on my site and I will quote a few of those here.
“I will admit, I was taken aback and appalled by the holographic announcement but I have since warmed up to the idea after thinking about seeing some original members performing Zappa music; beyond the hologram, just the musical aspect. I have seen hundreds of arguments for and against this tour but after seeing a patent that Frank Zappa himself designed using some sort of optical illusion on stage, I'm willing to give it a shot and if the old band members are in then why not? I will go check it out once and I will give my honest opinion. I will be the first to tell you like it is, if this tour is an abomination, I promise, I will tell you. If I am blown away, I will also tell you. I hold Frank Zappa’s music up to the highest integrity and so I would cover this event with the upmost honesty and truthfulness.”
Best Phish show you've seen? Worst? Favorite song covered by Phish?
JBP: Great question. I am partial to the Merriweather 2014 “Tweezerfest.” I remember looking at my friend and pulling at my hair like a mad man saying, “holy shit. How are they doing this! ” Night 1 at Hampton this last year was phenomenal as well. As for worst, this past summers, Merriweather Night 1 was almost unbearable, I could hear the crowd groaning, as they continued one of the slowest sets I’ve ever heard.
What do you think about the ‘Colorado Big Game Trophy Wook hunters and all the similar groups? I feel as though it is ruining this free spirit mentality associated with this scene regardless of how funny some people act. Do you think this is having any effect on the scene itself? I personally watch how I act to avoid getting bagged and tagged even though I do not have dreads. This subconscious thought sometimes can’t distract from the show and experience, your thoughts?
JBP: I don’t have too many thoughts about this actually. If others are having fun playing the game and no one is getting hurt, go for it. I can recall laughing at a few posts I have seen on social media in the past. I guess, it’s up to the person but you should always ask permission before taking a picture of someone else and then posting it online. Don’t ruin my show and I won’t ruin yours. The golden rule. Beyond that I don’t care what anyone does. Be yourself and have fun always.
Interview with Andy Thorn from Leftover Salmon
This year has already been filled with so many musical experiences that I am having a hard time keeping up! Having seen Leftover Salmon numerous times this past year and on Jam Cruise at the beginning of this year, I had the privilege to talk with banjo extraordinaire, Andy Thorn about their upcoming tour: Floydfest, King and Strings, Roosterwalk, Jam Cruise, Boogie at the Broadmoor and so much more.
Check out the full interview below and make sure to catch Leftover Salmon on their upcoming tour! This interview will also be on the first episode of my brand new podcast coming soon! This has been an exciting journey and I look forward to what the future may bring. Thank you all.
JBP: How is the tour going so far?
AT: It’s going great, we’re having a blast. I have a broken leg so, I’m on crutches. That’s the only bummer. Ya know? What are ya gonna do?
JBP: I think I saw that on social media but wasn’t sure if it was something that you were still going through. Are you still able to play?
AT: Yea, I’m not in pain or anything which is great, it’s coming around. I broke my leg on December 20th and I had a gig with Keller Williams that night. I actually made the gig. I had surgery on the night of December 20th and woke up feeling, not so bad. I had an IV of painkillers in my arm at the time so, I did that gig and then I had to skip my Christmas plans to go to North Carolina to play with my old friends, Mandolin Orange and Jon Stickley and all of them. I did end up making the Leftover Salmon New Year’s tour and I did that, another gig with Larry Keel and by the time that was all done, I was in some severe pain. I was just playing the gigs and going to bed afterwards but when the painkillers wore off, I was not doing great.
JBP: So that’s why you weren’t able to attend Jam Cruise?
AT: I had to pull out of Jam Cruise last minute so, the guys, I mean hopefully they had so many amazing people they work with through the years. Matt Flinner is actually known as a mandolin player, is also an incredible banjo player and he has filled in with the band every time they’ve needed someone. So, he knew most of the songs. I’m sure he did a great job.
JBP: I can personally vouch that it was awesome. Brandon “Taz” Niederauer sat in with them for the first set and I literally had tears in my eyes.
AT: Nice, Jon Stickley is one of my best friends since childhood and I know they got to sit-in with him during that set, as well. We grew up playing together. So yea, I was really bummed.
JBP: You joined the band in 2010, what brought you to Leftover and how has that experience helped shape you as a musician?
AT: I actually heard about Leftover Salmon back in North Carolina. So I was a fan before ever joining and I even remember at 14 or 15, I saw Leftover live and they blew me away because they were so much fun. I bought their live record at the show and I remember listening to that shit all the time. I saw them at the Cat's Cradle, I saw them at Ziggys and then by that time, I got into college and I was a music major. I stopped going to so many shows and I had my own band. I ended up gig-less until 2008 when I joined the Emmitt-Nershi Band so, that’s how I got in touch with the band and it just happened naturally because I loved the band and I already knew all the music.
JBP: So you’ve been playing with Leftover for almost 10 years now?
AT: Yeah it’s been quite a while, still having fun. I love it. I love these guys, it’s awesome.
JBP: Are you currently doing any side projects or anything like that?
AT: I am. I have a new solo record coming out. I am actually finishing up right now, as we speak. So, that’s really exciting. That’s me and all my North Carolina friends: Jon Stickley and it’s got the folks from Mandolin Orange, they’re really good friends of mine and then Bob Britt, the fiddle player from Town Mountain. So, I have all those guys and the bass player from Big Fat Gap, Miles Andrews. So, really excited about that.
JBP: Are you still located in North Carolina?
AT: No, I’m in Boulder now. I’ve been out here in Boulder for 10 years. I miss my North Carolina friends but I love this Colorado lifestyle. Which led to me breaking my leg.
JBP: Yeah, how did that happen?
AT: Skiing. I broke my tibia and I had to have surgery. Now, I have a metal rod in my leg. It takes a long time to heal, man.
JBP: So was it worth it? Are you going to get back out there and do it again?
AT: Yeah I mean, I love skiing. I’ll be out there. I’ll get out there the second I can.
JBP: So you guys will be playing FloydFest again this year?
AT: Yeah, that’s one of our favorites. I love it. I remember my scoutmaster had been telling me about the Floyd General store and their musical jam forever. He always wanted me to go up there with him and jam. I finally got up there a couple of years ago and it’s just amazing. We’ve been doing FloydFest for a long time and it’s really fun because I usually fly home to Durham and then I go up there with my family and we just have such a great weekend. It’s a great family atmosphere or a partying atmosphere. Anyone could just have a good time there.
JBP: I completely agree. I went to FloydFest for the first time this past year and saw you guys play with numerous special guest and sit-ins during the Buffalo Mountain Jam.
AT: Yeah the way that this Buffalo Mountain jam naturally happen, the first year, you know, Greg Allman had to cancel because his health was getting bad and they asked us to put together a set with Keller Williams and there you go. So, we ended up pulling all the guests and it became this Buffalo Mountain Jam and now we do it every year and it’s really really fun.
JBP: It has truly become a staple of FloydFest and I look forward to what you guys do this year. You play with a lot of up-and-coming artists. Who are some of your favorites that you have shared the stage with?
AT: Oh man, there are so many. Obviously, Jon Stickley Trio, I mean he is one of my best buddies. I love their stuff. I love Mandolin Orange and I really dig, Billy Strings, whenever he sits in with us, it’s pretty incredible.
JBP: Oh yea man! Billy Strings is crushing it right now. I’ve seen him numerous times.
AT: Yeah and some of the ladies are killing it like, Della Mae are really incredible. I love seeing the ladies play some bluegrass. It’s killer. There’s not enough female representation in this genre. Who else do I love? And then I really like a lot of the indie folk stuff that’s not as bluegrassy and that has been fun to get into.
JBP: Yes, there is all kinds of music to see at some of the festivals you play from bluegrass to Pop-Rock acts like, Greta Van Fleet at FloydFest this past year.
AT: Yeah that was my first time seeing them and it was kind of crazy.
JBP: Wild to say the least. The vote is still out for me. Billy Strings and Marcus King are two of my favorites right now.
AT: Oh man, King and Strings? Did you go to Roosterwalk last year?
JBP: I did and it was a fun time. It was my second year covering that festival.
AT: One of my best friends from college, Johnny Buck runs that festival. We actually used to write songs together. We wrote a song “All That I Can Think” in college that the String Dusters still cover today. I wish Leftover could do FloydFest and Roosterwalk but the competing radius clause does not allow it but I know Johnny has done a great job with Roosterwalk.
JBP:It certainly gets bigger and better every year. This King and Strings thing is really something to see, they are both powerful forces in the future of this music industry. What are some of your favorite places to play besides the ones we previously discussed?
AT: It’s all about the festivals like, Telluride Bluegrass that’s one of the best. I actually get to play a gig up there this year with my band from college, Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band and that's Anders from Greensky, Travis Wolf from The Infamous Stringdusters, Jon Stickley and then me and our friend Robin on mandolin. So, we’ve added Telluride this year that’s a pretty cool project. A lot of these Colorado festivals especially, the small ones are so much fun. Like Yarmony Grass and then just some of the clubs that we play are also fun. Like tonight, we are playing the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Owensboro, Kentucky. I haven’t even been inside yet. I’m about to go check all the music stuff out. We play such a wide range of theaters. We’ll play a rock club one night and then an amazing theater the next. Like the Ryman Auditorium and all these different festivals, it keeps it fresh and fun you know?
JBP: That’s what keeps you going even when you have a broken leg.
AT: Yes, precisely. This fried chicken is going to keep me going tomorrow in Memphis, that’s all I know.
JBP: Tell me about Boogie at the Broadmoor? You’ll be playing with artist like Lukas Nelson and Sam Bush?
AT: Yeah, Lucas has been winning awards left and right for being a part of that movie, “A Star Is Born.” We got to know him on Maui and he is the nicest guy. So, he agreed to do this. I’m sure it would be a lot more expensive to book him now but he is a super cool dude and we always collaborate. So, that’s pretty cool. We have the nitty-gritty dirt band which is, I mean, when I was growing up my mom was playing it all the time so, I know all their songs. That’s going to be really fun. We have a String Dusters side project featuring, Sam Bush, “Bluegrass Generals” that’s going to be pretty out of this world, and then some great local bands. Sam Bush will be there all weekend too.
JBP: And that takes place in Colorado Springs?
AT: It’s at this amazing venue the Broadmoor. It has over 100 years of history. Like, Al Capone used to hang out there and shit. It’s a pretty unreal place. We used to do it at the Stanley Hotel which is famous for “The
Shining” and we sort of grew out of it and needed a bigger place to do the gig. So we are going to give the Broadmoor a shot. It’s going to be really cool.
JBP: Well, that sounds like a wonderful weekend of music, I don’t wanna keep you from exploring the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Thanks for talking with us and I will come say, “Hey” at FloydFest.
AT: For sure man, come say, “Hey.” I hope I didn’t talk too fast, I just drank horchatas at lunch.
Jam Cruise 2019 (The Ultimate Jam Experience)
It’s been one month since my first Jam Cruise and I honestly don’t knew where to begin with this review. Jam Cruise is indescribable and something that has taken sometime to think about. If you go to Jam Cruise and don’t come back changed, then you didn’t do it right! The entire experience is something that can only be topped by pre-booking and doing it all again in 2020. Seeing so much music; 6 days filled with so many bands that it will make your head spin and not to mention, all the collaborations and sit-ins, it’s hard to remember all or write about them here. I guess, I will break them down in different categories and not worry about which day they played. Bare with me, this one is going to get wild!
Miami, Embarkation and Ports
I began my adventure with a few days in Miami. Having never spent anytime there, it was interesting to see the Latin culture that thrives like a bustling, forgotten Spanish city. The people are flashy and money culture is everywhere. I saw more Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s then I have ever dreamed of seeing or wish to see again. The food was unique and the beach was packed with the most beautiful people imaginable. I was excited and nervous to arrive at the Miami Port to embark on the Norwegian Jade. While I didn’t take any illegal or illicit drugs on board the boat, my butt was still puckered like a week old grape, as we all lined up while a dog sniffed our belongings and our person. From there, I explored the boat and got settled. This was my first cruise and I had no expectations. I would spend the next 6 days in music heaven, eating like a king and rubbing elbows with some of my favorite musical artists.
Porting in Belize, Cozumel and Progresso; Belize would be where my real adventure happened. My friends and I decided to take a tour to the Mayan Ruins of Altun-Ha, which was about an hour and thirty minutes away. We barely made it on time to explore these ruins, driving through Belize City and outskirts; learning about the local chickens and bread stores, tasting the local dishes and getting just a small taste for this English speaking Creole country. Cozumel and Progresso both had their charms but with only 8 hours at each port, it was hard to explore much.
All of the music onboard Jam Cruise was insatiable. There was not one band on this lineup that did not impress or entertain. While the new effervescent band Kraungbin, was probably the least exciting performance I saw, they were still technically proficient and after listening back, have a unique sound that just doesn’t do much for me live. Getting that out of the way, all the other performances left me mind blown and some without a mind to be blown. The music would begin with Matador Sounds, with members from The New Mastersounds funkin’ up the boat from the very beginning. For this performance, I found myself walking around every position and angle onboard, checking out each deck, finding new spots to hear the music while, watching the oceans waves crest and peak. I really enjoyed seeing the shows on the deck the most and we were blessed with great weather the entire weekend. There would only be one day that I could really feel the boat rocking and swaying. I would have to compensate walking back and forth, as not to stumble or fall down and I wasn’t even drinking.
Best On The Boat!
I had only vaguely heard of “Sweet Dick” Andy Frasco and his World Saving Podcast before getting on the boat and boy, was I in for one of the wildest experiences of my life. I have never witnessed such an orgy of musicians and wild onstage antics. Andy Frasco may just be the GG Allen of the Jam scene. My first time seeing Frasco on the boat, I was awe struck, jaw to the floor as he crowd surfed across the crowd all the way to the soundboard and back. A Jewish Dionysus who would talk about and ingest numerous substances while onstage, and have the crowd join in. I look forward to seeing Andy Frasco and The UN in Roanoke, Va on March 16th and checking out his new album “Change Of Pace” out now.
Both Kamasi Washington’s sets we’re technically and musically extraordinary. Kamasi is the closest thing we will ever see to legends like, Coltrane of Miles Davis. Kamasi seems to embody their spirit while taking jazz and these sounds to another level, a higher elevated plane. I sat across the table from him while I ate my food. I was much too intimidated to say anything of worth. He sat, stern and emotionless like a mountain. He holds his hands out in front of him, clasping his cane. He looked rough and mean but not a second later, a lady pushing a stroller with a baby comes by and Kamasi’s face lights up as he discuss how cute the baby is with everyone around him, smiling widely. I get up enough nerve then to say, “Great set Kamasi.” He responds with a deep nod.
Jam Cruise Most Valuable Performers:
This is a hard one but I would have to say DeShawn “Dvibes” Alexander followed closely by Brandon “Taz” Niederauer. DeShawn seemed to sit in with everyone on the boat this year and must have been hustling to show up in so many sets. During Andy Frasco’s second set, Dvibes would be lifted into the air, doing a handstand while playing a keyboard solo. This was definitely the most impressive feat on the boat. I think Dvibes should host his own jam on the boat next year as he is already playing with everyone anyway.
Brandon “Taz” Niederauer the 15-year-old guitar sensation, was also everywhere and at one moment while he sat in with Leftover salmon, I cried for the 3rd time at a concert in my life. The cool thing about jam Cruise is that I got to share that with him right after. Taz would sit in with almost everybody on the boat but the most memorable moments were with Spafford, Galactic and the Super Jam. The future of this music and guitar is in great hands. I just saw Taz tonight at 5 Points sanctuary in Roanoke Virginia with his very own band and was blown away! Perhaps Jam Cruise should book his entire band so, we can see what he does on his own.
It’s hard for me to really delve deep into all the amazing music and sit in performances on Jam Cruise 17 but some other stand out performances were from: Turquaz, Galactic, Hot Tuna, Everyone Orchestra, Skerik, The Cleaners featuring Marcus King, Everyone Orchestra, Nth Power played bob Marley, Space Kitchen was most impressive featuring, Marc Brownstein, Danny Mayer and many sit-ins from musicians like, Eric Krasno and Karl Denson. Melvin seals and JGB, Jennifer Hartwicks super jam was absolutely fabulous. Some of the cool experiences that I can share is coming across Melvin Seals talking with some friends about Jerry Garcia and actually being a fly on the wall while he discussed Jerry’s life and habits. Talking with Stanton Moore about New Orleans and my dream of living there one day. Walking around with Dvibes meeting everyone from DJ Williams to Andy Frasco himself. Talking with George Porter Jr and Vince Herman on various occasions. All the staff on board from Veneer our room steward to “washy-washy” made this experience that much better. It would be remiss for me not to at least mention or discuss the numerous accounts of people being jailed of put on house arrest. I personally don’t know any of the circumstances surrounding anyone involved. I did hear that the number of people that got in trouble was higher than usual. All I can say to that is, it’s international travel; be safe, be smart and leave the stuff at home or on an island.
Jam Cruise is a once in a lifetime opportunity, the ultimate Jam experience and musical improv “experience “ The cultivation of the scene and the people surrounding it culminates here and I feel more at home than ever on that boat. It’s taken me quite sometime to get my thoughts focused and delve into my favorites. I will definitely be returning next year to Jam Cruise 18 lineup unseen, because it truly doesn’t get any better than 6 days of music on the open ocean.
See you on the boat,
Jam Cruise Purist
New Year, New Life, New Orleans-(Thoughts on Galactic and more)
As I sauntered down Treme, reminiscing on the last time I had been to this city. While at the same time, dreaming of the past. Envisoning New Orleans in the 1800s. This city can feel like a ghost of your own past, a ghoul of memories, a haunt of time. Zombies or regular people, I can’t tell which, go about their daily tasks. Tourists careen the streets with their gawking expressions. Am I one of those? I don’t feel like a stranger here. I feel at home, an old home. I’ve been here before, in another life, in other lives. I returned to New Orleans only two months after my first visit (in this life.) Having heard Galactic had acquired Tipitina’s, I thought it only suiting to return to see them once again at the world famous venue. My thoughts have been consumed with New Orleans; I dream of it; fleur-de-lis as my eyeballs, penetrating my mind. I would see this symbol, adopted by the entire city, everywhere. Just seeing the fleur-de-lis will instantly remind you of New Orleans the birth place of Jazz but wait, just Jazz? No, I think not. All American music can trace its roots to New Orleans or at the very least, the southern area surrounding it. (Bluegrass may be the only exclusion but their instruments are obviously inspired by African culture ie. the banjo much like New Orleans music.) There is no other city in the entire world I would rather spend my New Years than The Big Easy, NOLA, The Crescent City. Shirts with “Fuck You, You Fucking Fuck”, plaster the shops off the streets with tourist traps tempting you with cheap objects. Everyone has a game in New Orleans. Are you willing to play? It’s always better to just have your own game. Cafe Du Monde can still be found coursing through my veins like some leftover virus that beckons for more.
Heading down Tchoupitoulas towards Tipitinas, I found an awesome parking spot right in front of a church with a neon glowing sign; a neon church of Jesus. I came to see Kermit Ruffins, expecting to hear some classic New Orleans songs done in a slurred authentic fashion. The house was packed, sweaty and humid for January. Kermit was obviously having himself a great time, drinking a few and letting other players take the lead. Many of the songs on the set list can be heard on the HBO series Treme like “My Ohh Poo Pah Doo”or “Iko Iko.” Getting to hear Professor Longhairs infamous song, “Tipitina” at Tipitina’s was truly something wondrous as I delve further into New Orleans history and Soul of American music. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!
I would sample many of the taste of New Orleans throughout my visit: Crawfish everything, etouffee, gumbo and, of course, Po boys. If you can fry it, you can get it in NOLA. I chugged my Cafe Du Monde while casting my gaze upon the foggy Mississippi River, imagining the history it must have seen; the people, the lives, the times. The Mississippi is the background music to the city itself, the mouth of America open for all to hear.
Returning to Tipitina’s for Galactic on New Years Eve, I already felt at home and comfortable with my surroundings. I parked beside the neon Jesus church and talked wildly singing, “Tipitina tra la la” at the top of my lungs until I reached the entrance. Everyone was dressed in their best clothes, looking colorful and eclectic in the New Orleans style. The opening act, Mr. Washington was true blues, polished and refined. His red jacket shone like Dorothy’s slippers as she clicked them together. Mr. Washington would round through numerous blues infused songs and bring out a few unknown guests.
Galactic would come on like a jet plane. My position in the crowd happened to be right in front of the PA speakers; my ears were foolishly unprotected and by the end of the night, my head felt like a bowl of jelly, but in the best way possible. I think I can still here the hum of the PA in my head now, as clear as those horns blaring from the boats on the Missippipi. Galactic was dressed to the nines in black and gold suits. Erica Falls beautiful dress was the disco ball of the evening and her voice shown even brighter than her outfit. Bringing out numerous guests, the original lineup was present and the slew of VIP on the side stage made me wonder who was who? Having just bought Tipitina’s, I felt as though this was a truly special show for Galactic and New Orleans as Tipitina’s gets another shot at redemption. We careened out into the streets after the show was finished; smoke em’ if you got em’, drink when you can. I found my way back to the electric Jesus and back down Tchop, swaddled with thoughts of musical bliss.
I wasn’t done with New Orleans yet and Frenchman street was filled with music that would pour out into the streets like a flood of sound. I could spend the rest of my days on Frenchman and feel satisfied musically and that’s saying a lot. The raw energy, the explosiveness of the music and the wildness of the city, all converge on Frenchman. Juxtaposing Frenchman with Bourbon is like comparing Time Square to The Village. Why even bother with the crowds and the fools? Just head down Frenchman and find yourself in numerous venues with great local talent. In just one night, I saw I 6 bands for free, some not my style but all talented. Frenchman is where names are made and dues are paid. Many of the bands would run out into the streets with their horns bringing in new patrons and always carrying their tip bucket. It’s the way of life in New Orleans, the art of the hustle.
New Orleans feels like home to me. As I write this in Virginia, I am still engulfed with visions and sounds of the city. I will be returning for Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest and perhaps, I may never return and why should I? In my upcoming Jam Cruise review, I will discuss talking with a few members of Galactic about moving here and maybe one day, I will make it happen! Here is to a New Years in New Orleans; A new me, a new dawn, a new horizon, a new dream, a new opportunity, a new life, a new life in an old city.
New Orleans Purist
Jeff Austin Band with Jon Stickley Trio At 5 Points (Up In The Church Where They Do The Boogie)
The final review of 2018 is back home at 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke Virginia. It’s has been many months since, I made it back down to 5 Points Music Sanctuary and my travels have taken me all over the country. It feels good to be back in a place that truly feels like my home venue. The sanctuary always has a welcoming presence and Roanoke, Virginia is one of the most laid back cities in the country.
Jon Stickley was in fine form this evening, having just seen the trio not too long ago, it was nice to see them trying new songs and changing their style. The more I see, JST, the more I am impressed with Lyndsay and in particular, the song “Price Of Being Nice”, which is reminiscent of dance music with a bluegrass twist. The rousing performance had me excited for Jeff Austin and his band. Having left Yonder Mountain many years back, Jeff has taken his own trajectory and I can honestly say, puts on a much more riveting performance than anything YMSB has been doing as of late. Jeff Austin would tune his mandolin around Tyler Godsey while he spoke about the great things that 5 points is doing for the local community.
“Static State Of Mind” stood out to me as one of the best performances of the evening. Psychedelic-Jam-Grass there is no stopping these guys as they continued shredding all night. Jon Stickley and Lyndsay would join Jeff Austin and his band on stage for two songs; one would feature Jon on vocals. I don’t know why he doesn’t sing more? The second, a John Hartford, song “Up On the Hill Where They Do The Boogie.”
This was honestly one of the best nights of music I have ever witnessed at 5 points. I will be doing some more with 5 points in the future so look out for more reviews from this fantastic venue. Back to our regularly scheduled programs! We have many reviews and shows coming up.
Happy New Year! Bringing in the new year with Galactic at Tipitinas in the best city in the world! 🎉🎶🍌
Dr. John "Walk On Guilded Splinters" at Fat Tuesday's - Fairfax with Garst & Company. Thanks to Ashleigh Chevalier for hosting.
Jon Stickley Trio At Clementines
I have always been impressed with the Jon Stickley Trio from first seeing them at Rooster Walk, two years ago. Playing in my home town, I had to make the show and headed downtown Harrisonburg to Clementines. While the house wasn’t packed, many of the local musicians showed up for the show. The Trios sounds varies from Hard Rock, Folk and Bluegrass to even Surf-type music. A single concertgoer flailed, back and forth, on the dance floor like some earthen, stringless marionette. Clementines is a small bar venue but has some great ambiance with artistic surroundings and a trio with no bass, this band definitely brings a lot of sound.
Jon Stickley Trio uses erupting climaxes and soft landings that lead into Celtic influences that are undeniable. Jenny oozes a Celtic aura that is irresistible while, Jon takes his guitar sounds on the razors edge; beyond what Folk-Celtic music can be. An evolution of this music is taking place and I think, Jon Stickley Trio is at the center of one of these evolving, shifting musical breakers. Check them out on tour near you!
The Marcus King Band laying it down in Charlottesville, Virginia at The Jefferson at The Jefferson Theatre this past week. No full review for this show. We are hoping to cover MKB soon!
Thanks to all of you for your continued support and readership! We have reached 10,000 views this month and its all thanks to you! More Reviews, Interviews and Concert Photos to come. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Dweezil Zappa Welcomes “Nacho De Pepe” At The Beacon Theatre, Hopewell VA
I have been waiting for quite some time to see Dweezil Zappa again. Many of you may not be aware of the family dispute that has seemingly died down. I had somehow found myself involved in this fiasco by writing a review about the upcoming Zappa Hologram Tour. Here, https://www.jambandpurist.com/home/holographic-zappa-the-continuing-saga-of-zappa-vs-zappa I stated my opinion about the upcoming tour and that I had heard, Dweezil, did not get along with some of the members from Zappa’s past bands. Little I did I know that Dweezil was reading my stuff and he personally messaged me via Twitter stating,
“I've got no problem with former members. Unfortunately, I am unable to discuss on Twitter due to current legal discovery rules so I'll leave it at that. You're welcome to reach out for a formal interview.”
I then tried to reach out for an interview on numerous occasions and got no response. Anyway, here at www.jambandpurist.com we tell the truth and the truth is, we absolutely love Dweezil Zappa and everything he does! There is absolutely nothing that could keep me from enjoying Dweezil’s extraordinary guitar work. We only want the best from the remaining Zappa’s and that being said, it looks like the family is trying to work things out. After many updates concerning the lawsuit, Dweezil has seemingly decided to quiet down and didn’t say anything about this at all, sticking to the music. Perhaps, Dweezil, will make an appearance on the hologram tour? I don’t know what will happen but I look forward to the future of the Zappa family. I guess this is also a good time to talk about the recent Bizarre World of Frank Zappa tour reveal from the ZFT. While I have my reservations especially the hologram aspect (see miniature Dio) I will still go see the closest show I can and review it. I look forward to seeing some of the special guests and Zappa band mates having only seen Dweezil and his crew.
With that out of the way, I returned to the Beacon Theatre in Hopewell, Virginia to witness Dweezil and his band play some of the most impossible live music. Hopewell, Virginia is quiet and rural, in juxtaposition to Richmond and the surrounding area. It feels, as though, many people do not even know there is a music venue here. The Beacon Theatre is one of the coolest and cleanest venues in the state. It’s basically a sleeper venue and I think that’s the way the locals like it. The crowd for the show was filled with older Zappa fans who seemed to be reliving the glory days as I long for things I’ll never see.
Opening with, “Andy”, vocalist and multi instrumentalist, Adam Minkoff, was the newest addition to the stage. While it took a few songs to warm up to his style, by the end the first few songs the crowd was impressed and happy to see someone play strange, chaotic synth music before their very eyes. The set list would go on with “Honey Don’t You Want A Man Like Me” and “Fifty-Fifty” both staple Zappa songs within his conceptual continuity.
Possibly my favorite song of the evening was, “Call Any Vegetable”, which was perfectly completed. I haven’t heard a live version like this one; filled with intricate and challenging changes and musical structures. Dweezil and his band do an amazing job of reliving this experience. “Tell Me You Love Me“ was raw and fast. “Absolutely Free” was very interesting live. “Discorporate” like some psychedelic, musical time machine. The next song finds its origins in the name of a stuffed elephant that Moon Unit once had “T’mershi Duween.” (polka version) “Dog Breath Variations” and the subsequent sequence around it, would remind me very much of Eddy and Flo doing their thing onstage. Adam playing keyboard, percussion and guitar while Sheila is always on point with her sax. “Sleep Dirt” was done in an electric-style; Adam taking some lead guitar on this song. I can see why he was chosen for this job. In fact, every member of Dweezil’s band are always phenomenal, that’s why they are up there onstage playing some of the hardest compositions known to man.
“Black Page #1 & #2” came next and I am not sure if these have ever been played live together? Dweezil would show off his Custom Gibson SG guitar with the top 3 strings being fretless for “Torture Never Stops.” The eerie sound of the sliding reminding me of some torture device itself but in the best way possible. “Valley Girl” was unexpected “like for sure, for sure.” Sheila could be seen taking selfies with the band while playing the part of a basic LA girl. I just love “Pygmy Twylite.” Play it fast, slow or, anyway you want, just give it to me. James Santiago, Sheila’s husband would sit-it on guitar and battle Dweezil, going back and forth until the cacophony concluded in a robust crescendo. James was an unknown sit-in performance that was wild and chaotic but with a palpable energy. “Susie Cream Cheese” and “Cocaine Decisions” would see Dweezil adding strange drum patterns and breakdowns, messing with the singers; calling these changes out with his hands. We would later find out it was the theme to “Psycho” as he made the band do this several times more during the show.
“Drowning Witch” has to be one of the hardest songs to perform and with the ritual sacrifice; we all know the how this story ends. “Florentine Pogan” would be played in double-time, which is off putting but one way to skip over 5 minutes and squeeze in another song. “Yellow Snow” was short and went straight into “Uncle Remus” the crowd favorite. “This Town Is A Sealed Tuna Fish Sandwich” but not, Hopewell Virginia. “Keep It Greasy” and ”Joe’s Garage” would end the show but the band would return to rip our flesh once more. Beginning with Adam Minkoff And The Pink Ones, a high pitched doo-wop sound that had Dweezil laughing onstage, this would lead into, “Cheapness”, “Son of Orange County”, (“Two Nickels To Paradise” tease) and “Trouble Everyday.” (“Staying Alive” tease) This all goes out to Nacho de Pepe! I look forward to seeing Dweezil again and I even look forward to seeing the Bizarre World Of Zappa Tour because I just love Zappa that much! Stay Weird!
I will be doing an ask the editor section on www.jambandpurist.com here readers can ask me anything they want and I will respond with my honest opinion. I do this in hopes of not only, letting the readers know more about me but me know more of what the readers like. Feel free to send your questions go firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the website to submit questions. Looking forward to hearing from all of you.
Phish Fall Tour 2018 (Hampton Stays Alive)
Phish can be elusive, evasive and, even hard to catch but when they come anywhere in Virginia, you know the Phish Purist will be there. While I have only witnessed the Mothership take off for three nights in 2013, it was high time the boys returned to keep Hampton alive!
Phish began another Hampton run with “Strawberry Letter 23”, with very little stopping between “Blaze On”; Trey finally letting the guitar take a solo. “Blaze On” is always a welcome song from an album that I don’t find many songs that I truly like but live, they bring something new to each track. Phish would go far out into space after “Blaze On” they transitioned smoothly into, “Divided Sky” which was one for the ages and the crowd would light up the arena with lighters and more phone lights than I expected; technology in the smoking department evident. “Divided Sky” would continue full force with no holding back on this ending; Page bringing it on the keys. “Roggae” while slow, is still filled with improvisation, great transitions, build-ups, twist and, turns. “Sparkle” and “Undermind” were straightforward until the jamming out of “Undermind” into something new; Kurodo somehow using the lights to eat the band. “Meat“ seamlessly fits into this set list and “Rift” was off the charts with energy and exuberance. “Walk Away” ended one of the best first sets, I have heard from this band in quite sometime.
Opening the second set with my favorite Phish song, “Carini” I was too in rapture to comment on much of it. Let’s just say, it’s always my pleasure to witness this insane musical rollercoaster. “Carini” is truly a jam vehicle, trippy and psychedelic. “Sand” seemed to sift, in and out of melodic and dynamic statements. “Sand” was immaculate and “Golden Age” went far out into a nether jam. The Mothership exploded into the sky after “Golden Age” with one of the most impressive and eerie jams I have ever seen Phish perform. They would smoothly transition into “Twist” and “Mountains In The Mist” was one I was unfamiliar with. All of Hampton Coliseum rejoiced during “Meatstick.” “Split Open And Melt” became chaotic yet formulated, diving and distorting into the encore “The Lizards.” The trick was to surrender to the flow, always and forever. Looking ahead to night two, I could see some real jamming the likes of which will only be mentioned about in the Good Book! Trey would point over to my friend and me after the show and had someone deliver us personalized picks. Thanks Trey!
I was excited to get back into the venue and score a poster before finding a solid seat front and center. The sound up front on the rail is always great but the energy can sometimes be negative and very powerful. One woman, during the first nights performance, kept pushing and physically assaulting people who were, “in her face.” I personally prefer to have a great view of the light show and seat for my tuckus. During the pre-show, the crowd would do the wave all across the stadium, excited for the night to began, like a Major League Baseball game but with much less structure.
I had only hoped to hear a, “Funky Llama” one day, as Phish opened with this rare song to begin the evening. I’ve seen “Fuego” about 20 times and while it isn’t my favorite, there is always something to find appealing about it during a live performance. Phish would jam, “Fuego”, quietly transitioning into “Run Away Jim.” After this, the band would huddle up before beginning, “Bug.” This song is a bit slower but has some powerful lyrics. “Mound” picked things up significantly, I have only heard this song a few times live but this song should be played more often; it seems to allow for a lot of fluid and solid transition work. “Tela” is an intricate song but doesn’t get my blood pumping. “46 days” is always solid but this one immediately went into a jam, which was probably my favorite of the night. I could feel a “Fluffhead” coming on and the technical ability of that song alone is outstanding. The energy was through the roof, setting the Mothership off for a nice take off during the second set.
I sat wondering during set break if the Fab Four had blown their wad during the first set until, “First Tube” came out strong with an amazing build-up and crescendo into the much expected “Tweezer” which featured a long effervescent jam that was teetering on the edge of a heavy breakdown but instead slowly moved into “Dirt.” “Backwards Down The Number Line” was straightforward and “No Men In No Mans Land” had legs and was running for it. Two classics come next “Cavern” and “Gotta Jibbo.” “Oh Kee Pa Ceremony” transitioned straight into “Suzy Greenberg”, Page showing off during his solo. Lights flashing reminding me of the old boxing matches; flickering like tiny electric fireworks. Ending with a real tease and a groan heard round the Coliseum, the band would completely skip “Tweezer” and played some weak sauce ending. Oh well… onto night three.
“Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” leads the third and final night of another Phish Hampton run. The Mothership invites us all in early, as the weather was a bit chilly. The Coliseum was packed to the gills and patrons really had to vie for seats this night. Not leaving us wanting more, “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” was on point and had great beginning energy. “Skin It Back” was next and this has been the year of Little Feat for me. “Skin It Back” featured very few mistakes and a rousing climax. “Brian and Robert” was just slow, even if it had my name in it. Thank goodness it was short and totally redeemed by “Timber.” The lights again enveloping the band and rising up like the mast of a ship. “Simple” was wild, with a great transition into a short, “Mexican Cousin.” “Camel Walk” was funky and well done; Trey using hand motions to lead the band into an extensive jam. The funky “Camel Walk” was absolutely the best I’ve ever heard; tight and edgy. “Back On The Train” moved up and down into “Saw It Again” which was hard and dark. Phish really perfecting themselves and letting it all hang out like 90s jam but with more technique and experience.
“Waves” was an appropriate second set opener for being so close to the water. The song would go immediately into jam territory and encapsulated many of the darker moments of the evening. I don’t think I have ever heard “Rise/Come Together”, is it a sexual reference? “Light” was pretty straightforward, slow and methodical but it wasn’t about the song but the improv in between. Coming to a grinding halt they transferred into an alternative jam but then flopped into “The Line” which actually had some ass behind it; I still just don’t like the song. This is where the show seems to take a nosedive. “Wingsuit” was another slow tune that could be good but is this another sexually referenced song? Very theatrical and sounds a lot like Pink Floyd but with more notes. What really threw me for a loop was the “My Pet Cat” when we all thought it would be, “Martian Monster.” “My Pet Cat” was funky but not long enough. “What’s The Use?” What the use in this song? “Possum” was a great closer for the first set but Phish would return for some other song and then take a bow. Many of the patrons were on their way out when the band returned for “YEM” bringing out the trampolines and doing a vocal instrumental at the end.
There is just something about Hampton Coliseum and the history behind the venue itself. Not only has Phish made some historic runs but the Grateful Dead made it famous for changing their name back to The Warlocks after being banned, just to perform here. The sound in Hampton isn’t the best buts it’s loud and the entire venue shakes with intensity. Having an entire GA arena is much different and has its complications but for the most part, if you are nice, you can get anywhere in the venue. This run will be one for the ages and while it’s no, ‘Hampton Comes Alive’ the Coliseum certainly felt vibrant and full of life to me. Friday was by far the best day of the weekend although; Sundays first set was close on its heels. I am always impressed with what Phish can do when they are on and wonder why they can’t capture that every performance? There were times when it felt as though, they were ripping at the seams of time itself; using each other’s sound to tear a hole in our universe. There is something to say about a band that can melt time. Phish can be highly accessible as well, I saw many of the ushers and security people dancing and having a good time; I even witnessed the Hampton PD enjoying themselves and even though the Police aren’t my people, it was cool to witness all walks of life enjoying good music. It felt good to be back in saddle, back on the train and doing it all again with my great friends and Phamily. All my friends go backwards down the number line!
Galactic and Soul Rebels at Tipitina’s, New Orleans (The Heartbeat Of America)
There is something about New Orleans that has always captured my imagination: the history, the culture, the food, the Voodoo. I had yet to make the trek down South and decided it was about time I do so. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, Galactic, was playing at the famous, Tipitina’s, while I was there and the plans solidified. I had no clue what I was in for, from the vomit/ass smell of Bourbon Street to the beignets at Cafe Du Monde but in the end it’s all about Frenchman Street. I arrived in New Orleans after a long drive through the Deep South, stopping in Birmingham and a few other strange areas. Being in New Orleans is like stepping into some mythical land of beads bars. This is where America’s heartbeats. New Orleans is place beyond time and a place where you can feel the energy in every step you take. Every note, every tombstone every shuffle on the streets, seems to add the musicality of this city. You can feel New Orleans in the music and the culture.
Tipitina’s, seems as though, it hasn’t changed much since it’s opening. The logo, a giant hand holding a banana and the silhouette of Professor Longhair in the background, hangs high above the stage. I had to dig deep to find the history of Tipitina’s and the legend that surrounds it. I am not exactly sure which myth is true but I like to think there was a woman named, Tippy Tina, who sold fruit somewhere in the area. The opening act was vocally driven, with two lead female singers. This was a great warm up for Soul Rebels who came on like a category 5 hurricane. In fact, this entire performance was a Hurricane Michael fundraiser and was scheduled at the last minute. I had never seen Soul Rebels live and had a great time clapping and stomping in Tipitina’s to their high-energy, horn heavy, hip-hop funk.
My Air B&B was about 2 blocks from the venue so, I periodically took breaks from the great music to just relax and get my head right. I returned just as Galactic took the stage and was completely lost in this performance. While Galactic didn’t play a late set, it was filled with dynamic funk and guest vocalists. Showing their respects to New Orleans, they would play a fantastic set that was by far the best Galactic show I have ever seen.
This will certainly not be my last time in The Big Easy. I could definitely see myself living in New Orleans, seeing music every night and eating Creole food until my stomach pops. Frenchman Street was filled with amazing musicians and bands every night. Walking into a bar on Frenchman could mean seeing various Neville Brothers just hanging out, sitting in with various bands. The legacy of The Meters is still alive but I didn’t hear any true Voodoo music while I was there. Perhaps all music is laced with Voodoo in New Orleans. I truly hope to catch you all down in New Orleans!
Mad Wallace: 'Hook Line and Sinker' (Album Review)
I was up late one night recently, sifting through my emails and up popped an email from Mad Wallace. I have recently been receiving a lot of album submission for review but with limited time and festival season in full bloom, I hadn't been able to sort through them all. Reading this particular email made me excited and humbled. Fans of the site and looking for some more exposure, Mad Wallace reached out and caught my interest immediately. I had to get a review for their recent album ‘Hook Line And Sinker’ here at www.jambandpurist.com
While the music itself is super important, first impressions are everything and the album cover for 'Hook Line and Sinker' was not only intriguing but one of the coolest I have reviewed thus far. Album art and album cover art itself has gone to the wayside due to digital formatting but I still believe a good image can say a thousand words. Weird and somewhat unearthly, ‘Hook Line and Sinker’s cover art features a luminescent smiling face that can be seen eerily peering behind the hood of a figure, who is fishing by the banks of some unknown celestial water. This imagery coupled with the dynamic sounds within, make this album visual and aesthetically pleasing.
The entire album 'Hook Line and Sinker' was recorded live and sounds very fluid and conceptual adaptable. The sonic sound of this band is somewhere between Jam and Progressive. Jake Sabetta-Guitar/Vocals, Jake Lauer-Drums/Vocals, David Becker-Bass/Vocals and Jamie Rushford-guitar/vocals all bring their own unique style and point of view to this album; working together symbiotically to create something greater than any single member can bring. 'Hook Line and Sinker' never deviates from its intent and purpose, only during Mad Wallace’s appropriate cover of The Allman Brothers classic, “Midnight Rider” do things get heavier and darker. The recording quality of ‘Hook Line and Sinker’ is exceptional and highly developed; sounding full and well-mixed through my home stereo system.
“Waterfront” is a great way to set up this album. The mental picture of the album cover comes to mind and the music itself juxtaposes this image in your head. “Waterfront” lays out a great foundation for what's comes next in this album with smooth yet razor sharp, melodic transposition. “Clover” begins with some intricate guitar work that reminds me of Phish or, even Umphreys Mcgee and is probably my favorite song off of this album. It has the perfect amount of dark and light, sonic levels. The transitions and breakdowns are on point and highly thought out. There is some great scaling and transmogrify work within.
Mad Wallace’s version of “Midnight Rider” was unexpected and original. While I've heard this song covered thousands of times, I have never heard anything as heavy as this. Mad Wallace takes this original ABB classic and turns it in its head, adding elements of Hard and Progressive Rock. I always admire when I band takes chances and tries something new instead of going with a straightforward approach to a cover. Mad Wallace goes all out grunge making this song their own and creating something original.
“Hook”, “Line” and “Sinker” all seem to fit together, as one single composition rather than three individual songs. I really enjoyed these seemingly improvisational and Jam heavy tunes. I would love to have heard some lyrics and as a songwriter, even came up with some words in my head. Instrumental songs like these allow the listener to create their own universe at will and ‘Hook Line and Sinker’ as a whole album is a great beginning for Mad Wallace. I truly enjoyed these songs and see a lot of potential from this Denver based foursome. Mad Wallace will be delivering another studio album this fall and even some videos for fans to enjoy. Look for more of this band here and at http://www.madwallace.com/
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
WARNING: The views and opinions expressed on this site may not be in conjecture with your own. Be Advised
Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.