Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance

The 16th Annual Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance will be held from July 20-23 at the Trumansburg Fairgrounds in Trumansburg, NY.  This year's headliners include hit country singer John Anderson, politically conscious reggae hip-hoppers Michael Franti & Spearhead, African music legend Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited, Rajasthani gypsy-Indian fusion band

Grateful Fest truly Grateful

The Nelson Ledges Quarry Park Festival July fourth weekend was a Grateful Dead gathering of magic and good vibes and no hassles throughout. This was truly a good time for all in attendance, performers and audience alike. The setting is an extraordinarily beautiful park with a lake and sand beach...

Planet Drum To Tour Again

The Planet Drum 2006 Tour reunites Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, and Giovanni Hidalgo for a September series of West Coast shows in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the ground-breaking album of that name.  Planet Drum was released in 1991 on the Rykodisc label and went on to earn the first-ever Grammy in the World Music category.  The tour is the groups first in almost a decade.  It also marks the resumption of an artistic relationship – between Mickey Hart and Zakir Hussain – that goes back to the late 1960s.

Cheese-Dog @ Red Rocks

Grateful Web will have a review up shortly of Ratdog & String Cheese Incident's Saturday night Red Rocks show.  In the mean time, here's a few photos from the

Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival 2006 Part II

Thanks for waiting to read about the best part of Wakarusa! The best three shows of the festival lay here in the second half of the review. In this section, I want to tell you which bands earned my top three ribbons of the festival.  Please keep in mind that I could not possibly see all of the bands that played, although I did try to see most.

Bela Fleck & the Flecktones

Nada Surf | The Weight is a Gift | Review

In 1996 Nada Surf was on top of the world.  Their hit single, "Popular" was an anthem for depressed high school students.  The song served as a painstaking guide book to teenage popularity.  They had a major label record contract and were destined for greatness.  Fast-forward 9 years and the mainstream music scene had basically written them off.  They were a one hit wonder.  With four albums to their name, Nada Surf released "The Weight is a Gift" at the end of 2005 on Barsuk Records.  The album serves as a beacon of

Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival 2006

"There's nothing better than a music festival in the heartland of the country," said Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band on the festival's last day.  Even though I can think of some things that are better, there is a lot of truth to this statement.  Despite its sputtering start with heightened police threats, and at times clueless security, the third

The White Iron Band

photo by Mark Walentiny- for the Grateful Web

Whatever you might have heard through the music grapevine about the infamous White Iron Band from deep in the North Woods of Minnesota is probably true. Though Minnesota nice is real, these bad boys aren't called Minnesota's music outlaws for nothing. They carry a reputation for being hard drinking and always eager to settle a squabble with their fists. Yet, when it comes to their music, they are as talented and dedicated. Their hard-hitting tunes make the Kentucky Headhunters seem like lite rock, and they can sweet talk you out of a band mood with the strike of a chord or the honeyed blend of multiple-part harmonies. There's just something about they way they sing about drinking that somehow, despite their long years of actual practice in the liquid art, seem less decadent than country and almost elevating like blues.

The White Iron Band have burned a swath through Minnesota, playing everywhere they can (and being barred from a few venues in the process in their younger days). Last year, they were one of the regional offerings at the 10K Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes. They will be returning this year, bringing new fans with them. The White Iron Band also has opened for pure country performers like Sherwin Linton and Tommy Cash, as well as country legends Stonewall Jackson and Marvin Rainwater.

Their music, however, is anything but straight country. With strains of Dylan, early Bruce Springsteen, old time Hank Williams, Loudon Wainwright III, and Tex Mex, you never know what this band will pull out of its guitar cases, nor who will be added to their repertoire on stage.  Though the band has expanded and contracted like a Cajun squeezebox, they currently feature Jeff Underhill (drums/percussion), Reed Braaten (bass), and Eddie Juntenen and Nicholas Mronzinski (twin keys). These guys keep that hard-driving, honky tonk rock sound solid. Sammy Weyandt, their lead guitar player, is one of the best acoustic flat pickers around, and frontman Matt Pudas on rhythm guitar also does double duty on harmonica, making blues notes do things that ought to be banned they're so good!  Adding another musical color to the band is John Moline on fiddle.

photo by Mark WalentinyThe White Iron Band's latest CD, Take It Off the Top, has the addition of a banjo and female backup vocals. The CD is typical of the musical mix of genres that the band presents in its live shows. The White Iron Band has a broad range and the ability to handle not only a fast dance tune but a moody ballad. Their "Cocaine Train," in particular, doesn't glorify the white addiction but offers advice to the young not to get on that train. The band even does a wailin' version of that old time country standard "Walkin' Cane" that not only sends chills up your spine, but would please any old-time country fan. Laced through this musical gumbo like a shot of good bourbon is the White Iron Band's strong vocals and tight harmonies. Everyone sings except the drummer, which is a switch, since it's usually the bass man who stands silent in most bands.

The White Iron Band's music always guarantees a good time, whether it's doing a crowd-revving rendition of "Whisky River" or an organ-laced twist on that old country gem, "Stay All Night." But it is those other moments that have secured this band's loyal fan base. When they dish out a blues laden heart-breaker like "Ain't Your Man" that combines mournful fiddle and enough organ to make Herbie Hancock jealous, it's a deadly combination that is winning fans by the droves.

Come on up to the 10K Lakes Festival and pour yourself a finger of some of Minnesota's finest. The White Iron Band will make you forget your troubles.

God Johnson

God Johnson- for the Grateful Web

In a town that has produced acts such acts as Prince, Soul Asylum, Semisonic, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and a host famous musicians, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle of the Minneapolis music scene. OK, it's not L.A. or New York, but outside of that it is arguably one of the top music markets in the United States, and definitely easy for a band to get lost in the fray.

So when any band gets a heralded weeknight house gig at one of the top venues in Minneapolis and then proceeds to keep it for two years, you begin to notice that band - God Johnson is such a band.

GJ has been holding down the Wednesday night slot at the Cabooze on the west bank of Minneapolis now for two years, recent crowds are any indication, they are just getting started good. According to the band, their maiden Wednesday brought around 30 of their close friends, and now they are use to seeing somewhere between 270 and 450.

Formed only three years ago, GJ was started by former Big Wu guitarist Jason Fladager, with Jimmy Rogers on bass, and Scott Roerick on Keyboards. Soon after Royce Rock was brought in on drums, and Kevin Sinclair on Sax. (Sinclair also handles management for GJ)

According to Fladager though, it was the addition of second keyboardist Tim Carrow a year and a half ago that brought things full circle. "From the minute Tim got here, everything just started coming together," Fladager said. "He was the missing link."

Nowadays, a gracious Fladager shares not only the front of the stage and lead singing responsibilities with Carrow, but more and more of his original music is winding up on the set list each week also. "Tim's writing is really beginning to define our sound," Fladager said.

With a full schedule on the weekends, Wednesday nights going so well, one CD, Multiples on the shelves, and a new one in the works, one could easily expect a level of pretentiousness around them, but the Johnson's will have nothing of it. In fact when asked to explain there name, it stems around them defining themselves as a bunch of normal guys. "It's a common name," they maintained.

"We're really just trying to have fun and play music," Fladager said. "If things happen, that's cool, but that's not our focus - it's about enjoying the music."

having a blast at the show...According to Sinclair, what makes the Johnson's click, is the combination of all the parts. "It's about elements," he said. Each one by themselves is good, but when we all come together, it's special."

The fact is, things are happening for GJ. They have an ongoing camaraderie with the Big Wu, and play with them several times a year, they are opening for National touring acts around the Twin Cities, and in July, will make their second trek to Detroit Lakes, MN to play at the Annual 10,000 Lakes festival, with names like Phil Lesh, Trey Anastasio, and The String Cheese Incident among others.

"We get stoked about playing this festival," Sinclair said. To be a local band and be able to represent there, and also to play on the same bill with many of the bands that we look up to, is definitely a big deal for us."

God Johnson live at the Cabooze

While God Johnson doesn't really call themselves a jam band per se, they are pretty ok with getting to play there music wherever they can, and agree tat they do seem to fit that demographic. There shows also have some free-form improvisation, and certainly the audience they draw tends to have the same vibe you see at other jam band show. But according to them, they just are who they are.

gabozeWhat you notice first about GJ, is that they don't come out from backstage with a big entrance with flash pots booming and fog bellowing. In fact, before there shows at the Cabooze in Minneapolis on Wednesdays, they are pretty much hanging out and slapping five with the crowd. In fact, if you weren't careful you could mistake them for part of the audience.

Even once on stage, during line checks they are having fun. Although you can tell they mean business, they are still laughing, making eye contact with the crowd, and waving at their friends.

When they start, you don't get four bars into the first song before their faithful following is at the front of the stage dancing - which is where they are all night.

At the front of the stage is band founder and guitarist Jason Fladager, who also sings about half of the songs. While not overpowering, his guitar work is usually tasty and well placed, and he presides over the band with an unwavering mellow, mixed with true passion for what he is doing. He is not the strongest singer in the band, but his thoughtful, socially aware but not angry lyrics can often time carry a bit of a Garcia-esque vibe that is fun to watch.

On either side of him are Tim Carrow and Scott Roerick on keys, each one having their on distinctive role. Roerick layers the overall sound and provides synth tones, while Carrow focus's on groove related clav based chops. Carrow's original songs and vocals are definitely a stand out, and his keyboard chops add a nice touch to they rhythm aspects of the band.

Also a stand out is Jimmy Rogers on the bass. His lines are progressive, but tasty, and when you here a slap, it belongs there. He also has an excitable, yet infectious presence on stage, and a guy that is clearly having fun. He and Royce Rogers seem to stay pretty well locked all night long, and again, Rogers is not flashy, but always there.

sinclairThe Sax of Kevin Sinclair is only featured on about 40% of the show, but is a nice addition to the sound. His chops are not overpowering, but tasty, and definitely a crowd favorite.

Some times pretty hard rock, usually funky, and occasionally poignant, in all the Johnson sound and stage presence is good clean fun. The fact that they have only been in this configuration for a year and a half, makes what they are doing impressive.

Their songs don't push any envelopes, although they do have some nice breaks, and a few melodic lines throughout their jams. Their grooves can often times remind you of other things, but they mix them up and change them around nicely.

In all, while God Johnson is a band well worth seeing right now, if they can stay this pumped for five more years, and keep having fun and inspiring each other, they have the potential to be a premier jam band.

Red Hot Chili Peppers | Stadium Arcadium | Review

Any successful band has to deal with the downside of knowing when they are past their prime.  Lately, there have been a lot of albums that have turned out to be major disappointments.  This is not one of them.