Out of over 200 live acts I was fortunate to catch this past year, here are 10 of my favorites:10. Bright Eyes: The rumor had it that this would be their last tour. Perhaps they didn’t take into consideration that The Peoples’ Key was maybe their best effort to date and would be so unbelievably well received. From the spoken word intro/outro, which was magnificent in a live setting, to the new songs filed in with classics, the shows on this tour (I saw two) were stout.
The Hi-Dive is anything but expansive. But when Other Lives played on December 14th, on the last night of their eight month tour, the progressive folk band brought cinematic space and light to the stage with a shimmering performance. The crowd at the sold out show was clearly enamored with these five, who between them played enough instruments for a small orchestra, and sounded like one, too.
For the fans of the Grateful Dead most saw the time they spent as shows as an escape from reality, a dojo where the realms of the ordinary and the everyday vanished. The counterculture that surrounded that band was not only based on the years of memories captured in the hearts of millions, but like church, a Deadhead could truly have a mind-left-body experience and be closer to their spiritual selves.
On New Year’s Eve, Railroad Earth swung into a rendition of Warhead Boogie that, when all was said and done, left me in a state of almost comical ecstasy. During the crescendo and climax, I was twirling and spinning and swirling and grinning, and, then, when even kinetic rhythm couldn’t contain my body, I jumped as high I could, over and over, like a gobsmacked pogo stick.
If there were to be a declared “newgrass” hub for the 1990s-2000s resurge of popularity, most would undisputedly agree that Colorado is that place. Sure the great states of California and Oregon have their fan base and head venues, and lets not forget that the Nashville scene is still souring with talent young and old. But all those Nashville folks never miss a single year of Colorado’s Planet Bluegrass Festivals (Telluride Bluegrass, Lyon’s Rockygrass and Folks Fest).
Having lived and worked in Boulder, CO for almost 20 years now, I can’t help but reminisce about how my life has changed since I first moved here from the East Coast in 1992. In July of 2012 I will have officially lived here longer than where I grew up.
When someone uses the term “fusion” regarding jazz, a spring-loaded thought process proceeds. Maybe it leads to thoughts of French violin composer Jean Luc Ponty’s experiments in the late 60s. Perhaps someone would think of the Miles Davis family of music, most directly In A Silent Way or Bitches Brew. Maybe another person would think of the “rock” fusion outlets of the 70s. Jeff Beck, Steely Dan, Yes, or Pat Metheney.
The show began with opening act The Radical Dads, a trio that rocked Webster Hall with a big sound despite their lack of a bassist. With two guitarists and drummer, Robbie Guertin, who also played the keyboards in headlining act, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the Radical Dads achieved a sophisticated sound that drew on garage band rock and roll without being overwhelming or muddled.
A Rastafarian and a Hasidic Jew walk into a bar… It’s not the setup for a punch line, it’s just another night at a Matisyahu show. Where else can we go to see Yamakas and Dreadlocks in the same place? The fusion of the two cultures is everywhere at a Matisyahu show, and a huge following of fans have evolved from the musical blend of traditional Jewish themes, reggae, and hip-hop that he has created.