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JJ Grey: Still Culture Rich

photos by Kent Anderson & Amanda Bell- for the Grateful Web

There's nobody who can speak about the land as a Southerner can.

Chicago and The Doobies Still Smokin It Up

Sure, the bands may be old and the music not quite up to date by the standards of today's young teens and adults, but Chicago and The Doobie Brothers showed that even in the millennium they can still draw in a crowd.

Still Time to Get Your Phix

- for the Grateful Web

Over the past six years, Phix has been to Phish what Dark Star Orchestra has been to the Grateful Dead:  an absolutely amazing tribute band performing show after show of music that nearly rivals the original.

Based in Boulder, CO the band consists of Paul Murlin (guitar/vocals), Derek Berg (keys/vocals), Chris Sheldon (drums, vocals), and Brian Adams (bass/vocals).  Of all the bands on the scene that cover the intricate music of jam legends Phish, nobody does it better.  Close your eyes during a show and at times you can hardly tell you are listening to four guys from Boulder rather than the well-known four from Vermont.

Unfortunately after playing over 500 shows the band has called it quits, perhaps again fashioning themselves after their heroes, who many feel prematurely disbanded.  However, that doesn't mean these guys are finished just yet.

The draw of playing the songs of Phish must be strong, because even since their last shows in the summer of 2007 coined Covertry (a clever take on Phish's last festival Coventry), some gigs keep popping up.

Two weeks ago at Dulcinea's 100 th Monkey in Denver the band performed an unadvertised show, much to the delight of those who caught word about this "reunion" concert.  The group jammed out Phish favorites such as "David Bowie", "Possum", "The Squirming Coil", "Harry Hood", and more with excellent timing and improvisational flair.

Though the band claims it is no longer touring, there have been more Phix performances announced as of late.  Perhaps the most exciting went down last weekend at the Langerado Festival in Florida, which just happened to take place at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, the site of Phish's historic millennium concert.

Adding relevance to the experience, the band was slated to start at 11:55pm; exactly the same time Phish took the stage for their monstrous six hour New Year's Eve celebration.  Though Phix trimmed their set down to a modest three hours, it was extremely fitting nonetheless.

Poor weather did not stop the band from belting out popular covers like "Reba", "Maze", and "Divided Sky"; along with a few deeper catalogue songs like "Destiny Unbound", "Punch You in the Eye", "Moma Dance", and "The Curtain".

It now appears the band is at least willing to get together once in awhile and recreate that infectious groove that is Phish.  Anyone curious about experiencing what Phix can do will have at least one more chance in the near future.

The group is now slated to perform at the Boulder Theater in Boulder, CO on April 4 th.  This is actually a platform for the members of the band to show off their new musical projects, but they have apparently agreed to dedicate a portion of the evening to play as Phix.

With only one confirmed show on the horizon, fans of the music of Phish would do themselves a service by checking out this extremely fun tribute band.

Still The Samples After All These Years

photos by Tim Hurley- for the Grateful Web

The first time I saw the Samples perform was at a tiny little bar in Des Moines, Iowa called Z-International (long gone now) in 1991.  I was a freshman in high school, and to me and my friend's delight it was an all-ages show.  Even at sixteen years old, I could tell I was seeing a band that was unique and ahead of their time.  Their blend of roots, rock, and reggae was on the cusp of the indie rock explosion.  I was hooked.

A lot has changed since those days.  While I went on to graduate from a small private college in Minnesota and eventually move to my current home in Colorado, the Samples went through many ups and downs.  The original gang consisting of Sean Kelly, Andy Sheldon, Al Laughlin, and Jeep MacNichol broke off and went their separate ways in 1997, essentially ending the band as most knew it.  However, singer/songwriter/guitarist Sean Kelly would not let his musical dreams lie easy, and vowed to continue performing under The Samples name.

Kelly has gone through a host of backing musicians since then with varying success, none as great as the days before the release of Outpost (the last album recorded by the original band members).  Nevertheless, as I learned recently at a show in Denver, Sean Kelly and The Samples have persevered and continue to write and record new material while still performing to large, devoted crowds.

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the inception of the Samples, and what better way to celebrate than with a pair of home state shows.  Before their well-received performance at majestic Copper Mountain, they played at a relatively new venue in Denver called The Walnut Room, where I was fortunate to see the current lineup play.

Although I was none too excited about the layout of the venue, the sound quality was very good.  And to my surprise, the music room was filled to near capacity with twenty and thirty-somethings all braving a late Thursday night to hear some old favorites and hopefully catch on to a new one.

Even after twenty years, Sean Kelly's voice and guitar work is still excellent.  And I must say that the current lineup he has assembled (Bill Mutchler on drums, Jared Johnson on bass, Karl Dietel on keys/vocals, and Dan Blondin on guitar/vocals) complements his music very well.

The evening's set list was full of songs old and new.  Fan favorites such as "Did You Ever Look So Nice" and "Feel Us Shaking" were played with almost the same energy as in the days they were written.  Other gems performed included "Weight of the World", "Taking Us Home", and the catchy pop-folk track from Outpost, "Indiana".  More recently written tunes like "Black and White", and "Young and Free" peppered the show and proved that Sean Kelly is still a great songwriter.

It was reminiscent, refreshing, and just plain fun to hear the music of The Samples again.  Sean Kelly continues to find musicians that play his music so well, and I have no doubt that the band will forge ahead and enjoy some moderate successes as they are still one of the most unsung artists of my generation.