Ghost Light Energized at 5 Points Music Sanctuary
"A ghost light is an electric light that is left energized on the stage of a theater when the theater is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark."
When I first heard that Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling had joined forces to create a highly unique and original improvisational act, I was excited to hear what they could produce but when I caught a live video of their rehearsal, I knew this one would be special. So, I headed down to Roanoke to my favorite venue, 5 Points Music Sanctuary to see my first Ghost Light performance.
Starting slowly and steadily, Ghost Light eased their way into their first song, which included a hard-driving beat and vocal instrumentation. This song would be an untitled jam in D. Tom Hamilton called out "JAM HERE" and what ensued next was a once and a lifetime improvisational evening.
Ghost Lights transitions and improvisation is highly reminiscent of the Dead, as to be expected; it's as though, Tom Hamilton, has studied the Grateful Dead's canon of music at the doctoral level and these jams come straight out of the late 60s, early 70s segues and transitions, but there is more to Ghost Light then that with extremely progressive movements and 80s-90s Alt-Rock phrasing.
Always on the edge and shifting into improvisation, the next song, "Simple Gift Of Man," would again see Hamilton call out "JAM" and the band goes for it, hitting the highest reaches of improvisational atonement and enlightenment possible. This band is on another level from anything I've seen recently, as they peaked into a high-powered, "Tennessee Jed" that was, as good, as I've ever heard. Highly original and vocally provocative they still seem to adhere to the original structure of the song. This cover would extend well past the 20-minute mark, as GL returned into the original D jam and again into "Simple Gift Of Man."
By the time intermission came around I was still trying to figure this band out. I was completely lost when it came to set list schematics and began to look up there song catalog. I always feel like I am getting spoiled at 5 Points with VIP treatment and that's the coolest thing about this venue is that everyone feels like a VIP. There isn't a bad seat in the house! So, to recap the first set: "d jam" into "Simple Gift”>”Tennessee Jed”>”d jam”>”Simple Gift”= Mind blown. Working up Ghost Light set lists is like some sort of physics equation.
The second set begins with Tom Hamilton leading the way, crouching down low as Holly slowly brought up the piano riffs. Tom Hamilton is a constant bandleader, directing the band with excitement and bravado. From fairly hard riffs right into a more reggae sound at the drop of Holly Bowling's hat, GL goes into an almost punk rock sound.
Holly taking up lead vocals in "100 Years Ago" was very reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac, as they all harmonized together. At this point, everything becomes jumbled into one experience and I can't decipher “Isosceles” from “Synth Driver” because Ghost Light only uses these songs as mere outlines for their improvisational performances. They also brought back refrains and teases from the songs played in the previous set.
Hard in all the right places, soft when needed, lots of smiles can be seen onstage and in the crowd. Notes on the other players: Raina Mullens harmony vocals are angelic, Steve Lyons heavy fingers are unique and steady, while Scotty Zwang showed off his skills at various points throughout the evening, proving he is one of the best freelance drummers in the Jam scene today. Together and combined, this band sounded like and eerie cosmic train chugging along an unknown industrial railroad in the dead of night; Tom Hamilton the ghostly conductor on this train to the netherworld, while the rest of the band shovels in the coal. A Ghost Light blares on the tracks ahead. Taking chances and trying something new and unique every time they play. The smile on Toms face says it all during the encore cover of “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears; reasserting that 80s vibe I was feeling earlier on.
To say that I was impressed with this show is an understatement. I am extremely happy to put the JBP seal of approval on this group. This performance will remain in my memory like a ghost light shining on well after everyone has left 5 Points Music Sanctuary. I hope Ghost Light continues to perform and showcase their improvisational talents. If you haven't seen this band, do it while you have the chance.
5 out of 5
Marbin Doubleheader in Virginia:(Fueled By Chipotle Tour 2018)
It is always an extreme pleasure to see and hear my friends, Marbin perform. With the recent album release of 'Israeli Jazz,' the band seems to be heading toward a seminal era and represents a change of sound structure from this high-powered fusion foursome. Marbin continues to grow and evolve, taking influence from their past experiences. Somewhere out in the far reaches of Blues, Fusion and Progressive-Rock, Marbin immediately caught my attention two years ago with their social media movement and have since become fast friends of JBP.
Marbin returned to the Golden Pony in Harrisonburg, Virginia, followed by a great performance at Five Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke, Virginia. This Virginia doubleheader would see much the same setlists but with variations in improvisation including, solos and intros and codas that were transient and new. I will do my best to touch on most of the songs played in both performances but If I miss a few, please just check out Marbin live in a town near you; they play many small towns and cities alike.
The first song of the review is a new one, "Itchy Bun (Bum)" a very Zappa-like song with a long melodic introduction and sounds, as if, it could be found off "The Grand Wazoo" album. Dani Rabin, charismatic leader and guitarist, would go on to tell the story of "Itchy Bun (Bum),” in a segment called, "story time." While most instrumental bands come up with some random ethereal song title, like "Flowing Waters" or "Cosmic Vibrations," Marbin focuses on retelling strange occurrences and wild occasions that have happened to them on tour. "Itchy Bun (Bum)" is simply referring to two bulldogs wiping their ass on Dani's sleeping mat in some dirty ass house after a show.
"African Shabtay" included the albums long introduction and is still one of my favorite Marbin compositions of all time. This performance would see a great solo from Jon Nadel and his fret-to-fretless bass guitar. Jon Nadel has come into his own over the last two years and seems much more comfortable on stage, finding his groove musically and dancing with the rhythm.
"The Old Ways" was haunting and wild, like the ghost of ancestors creeping around some ancient cemetery at midnight. This is the opening track off 'Israeli Jazz' and for good reason. It sets a perfect tone for strange and eerie album.
"Redline" another one of my favorite Marbin classics, is always high energy and gets better every time they play it. Blake Jiracek's drumming is blistering and savage; I believe he has grown exponentially as a drummer and has also become quite the rhythmic percussionist, letting some of that angst out on the drums.
"Fisticuffs" takes place in Eureka Springs, Arkansas; a small town which reminds one of "Tuscany but with a bucket of myth of thrown on top of it." This song tells the delightful story of a town drunkard and a brawl for the honor of Marbin.
Danny Markovitch remains the mind behind the band, constantly contemplating it all, side stage when he is not shredding the horn. Dani and Danny complement and juxtapose one another fluidly, they are always on point, razor-sharp with immaculate technique; this is like the Olympics of fusion playing.
Round two at my favorite venue in Virginia, Five Points Music Sanctuary where it’s always a serious pleasure to see any band but really awesome to see Marbin. I spent a lot of the time upstairs in the balcony for this performance, where the sound was immaculate and the full light show suited Marbin very well. There was a good turnout for the band and they rounded through many of the same songs from the night before but always improvising during solos and keeping the energy fresh and exciting.
Five Points Music Sanctuary is a great place for Marbin to express themselves musically and I will be heading down to Five Points again, for Ghost Light on April 19, featuring, Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling. And then it's on to moe. at Downtown By Downtown festival on April 21st!
For more on Marbin check them out here http://www.marbinmusic.com/ and I hope to be doing an album review for 'Israeli Jazz' although, I have been hearing these songs for over a year now. Perhaps one day Marbin and I will have some wild adventures and they will write a song about it. Here's to many more Jam Band Purist and Marbin collaborations.
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John K Solo AF at the Sanctuary
I guess, I hadn't gotten enough Grateful Dead at Melvin Seals and JGB. So, I decided to head back down to The 5 Points Music Sanctuary for John K Solo and when I say solo, I mean Solo AF. I have been seeing, John K, in different bands and diverse iterations for over a decade but I had yet to check out any of his unaccompanied performances. It's seems that John K, has found his own niche within the Grateful Dead community and clearly loves the music and tunes he is playing. It is again fitting that The Grateful Deads music is continued in Roanoke, Virginia, where The Dead performed numerous legendary concerts.
Using his loop pedals to create a symphony of sound including: drums, piano and bass, John K seemed flustered at first but accurately found his sound and rhythm by the end of the evening. Beginning with a cacophony of sounds, this would mellow out as it turned into "Scarlet Begonias" which was the first Dead cover of the evening, followed by "Run For The Roses," and then, "Golden Wings" and original stolen from some 17th century poet and John K’s first stab at songwriting.
Being well diverse in the Chicago music scene, John K cut his teeth for 10 years before starting DSO and years before his collaboration in Further with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. I still recall Further at LOCKN’ 2013 as a highlight of all my festival and musical experiences. Further was the perfect balance of Grateful Dead manifestations I have witnessed in my life; fantastic musicianship and affordable venues.
John K spoke of his first time seeing The Dead in ’89. He was already playing in a band and performing live for audiences in Chicago but that's when things changed. John said both Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia have equally influenced him. And one of his first experience playing Dead related music was with Melvin Seals in a long forgotten band, The Mix.
John K continue his solo routine with "Cassidy" which has been played a great deal lately in remembrance of John Perry Barlow, who died this past year and was a co-writer with Bobby on numerous classics. A fantastic cover of John Lennon’s “Watching The Wheels,” was next with his guitar sounding exactly like a grand piano.
"Brown Eyed Women" and "Box Of Rain" would close out the first set. I saw a moth fluttering around the room during set break, serendipitously. I became aware of a small figurine perched upon John K’s stool, which would prove to be Ganesha, a Hindu god with an elephant head. This reminded me of a great post I read by John K about the hermetic principles of Phish and the spirituality of lyrics which he discussed with the notorious, Sam Cutler.
John K returned for a second-set with “Dire Wolf,” “Unbroken Chain” and many more original songs that I was unfamiliar with. This would be a more mellow evening than JGB but a good juxtaposition between evenings. "Rubin and Cherise" always brings a tear to my eye and "Fire On The Mountain" was by far the best performance of the evening; solo loops and syncopation on point. "Believe It Or Not," "Throwing Stones" and "Touch Of Grey" concluded the Grateful Dead covers but all roads lead back to Terrapin with an encore of Jim Page’s, "Down To Eugene To See The Grateful Dead," a song John K had learned from Grateful Dead historian, David Gans.
Thanks to 5 Points and John K for a laid back Wednesday night,
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.