Saturday night, relative new kids on the psychedelic block Ghost Light made Fort Collins the final stop of their short but sweet spring tour. Hitting the road for the first time since early 2020, this group set out to trip the sound fantastic once again for eleven shows over 16 days. Performing through California, the Pacific Northwest, and ending things on a Rocky Mountain high note here in Colorado, their final venue, the pearl of FOCO, Washington’s, was the scene to close this chapter on what many hope to be a continued creative tale. The group ripped through two sets stacked with original sound, distinction, and improvisation that had everyone hoping it would not be another two years before the ethereal chemistry of the band would be unleashed once again.
Although, this assembly of talent is young as a group, performing less than two hundred shows since 2018, each of the members have reputable resumes. Philadelphia guitar goddess Raina Mullen has played with many giants of jam and seeing her on stage avails any doubt as to why she is on the VIP invite list. With powerful vocals and an axe to match, this talent has earned her place undeniably.
Anyone familiar with the modern jamband scene is familiar with the affect and effect of Mr. Tom Hamilton. From the rootsy American Babies to the lightning in a bottle JRAD to the iconic Billy and the Kids, this man gives it his all ALL the time. The word limitation is unknown to him as he has proved himself time and again as not only a competent multi-instrumentalist, but also as proficient scribe.
Holly Bowling’s notoriety is one that anyone who loves a great rising tale appreciates. Her ability to dole out the keyed experience is deliberate and precise, and her stoic appearance reveals the seriousness of her playing as she appears to be incessantly and intensely listening so that she can add to that which is going around her.
Sitting in the timekeeper’s throne, Scott Zwang has been playing drums since the age of eight. Scott has built a name being a session artist as well as a valued member of Dopapod, RAQ, and Conspirator. He makes good on whatever style he plays and is adept at both the quiet and the thunderous. The newest addition to the group, bassist Taylor Shell is certainly the perfect fit for the other four. His infectious dynamic is certainly not limited to his instrument, as this man channels his inner child without inhibition, often carrying a wide smile for minutes on end as he exchanges looks with his compatriots, all the while bouncing around the stage unable to sit still with everything he has running through him.
Set one opened with American Babies selection “Old Fashioned.” With a Leon Russell echo to it, this stomp shook the building, got everyone in the mood, and started this Saturday night off right. With great singing and blistering solos, it was evident that those who chose to show up were in for a real treat. Four minutes in, the group shifted the high-octane inferno into a murky, cyclical whirlpool that had many swaying and intently listening. In the wake of the serene structure, Bowling took to the piano sound and rolled out multiple bars that washed over the crowd with soft emotion. This one also showed how well the band harmonizes together, revealing early on that the talent does not stop at the instrumentation.
18 minutes later, without pause, the group transitioned into the Mullen led “Faces in the Moon”. This comforting number showed Mullen’s strong vocal capabilities. Hamilton switched it up here and donned the mandolin for the short piece. The pop vibe gave the audience the chance to see that the group is not a one trick pony that is always trying to impress by the endless shredfest. At the close of “Faces,” Hamilton took a moment to simply thank the crowd before moving into another American Babies selection, “This Thing Ain’t Going Nowhere.” This one reads like a Velvet Underground track and Hamilton’s vocal performance sounded like he was channeling Lou Reed’s ghost light. More great Bowling soloing in this one for sure. Taylor’s performance on the higher registry and Scotty’s driving tempo gave this track many opportunities for tension and release from all members of the band.
“Isosceles” off the band’s 2019 release Best Kept Secrets was up next and its root captured that feeling one might imagine it to be like when tumbling through space, without horizon or shore, and this dynamic was only reinforced by the echoey vocals. The tune eventually gave way to a punchier structure, providing stability and a raucous crescendo before breaking through to more great improvisation. Closing out the set, “Fever Dreams” was a cacophony of exuberance, played at a blinding speed and had even the talkers in the house paying full silent attention while the whole of the venue got off on the sweat inducing sear and drove the smiling and energized crowd at its end to the watering hole for refreshment and recap conversation.
Set two opened with the Hamilton-led “The Healing.” This one truly shone on the fact that the driver’s vocal range is broad, as his offering was so high more than this listener thought that Bowling was delivering the lyrical content. From here the band kept everyone on their feet for nearly an hour without reprieve. During that time, the quintet seamlessly transitioned through “Streets of Brooklyn,” “Synth Driver,” “Leave Light On,” and “Joeline” before finally giving everyone, including themselves, a chance to breath. The improvisation and talent demonstrated during this part of the show is why so many fans of these five wants to see and hear more for years to come. The music was well developed and novel and kept the attention of everyone in the house. On the tail end of a lively and animated opener, the band shifted to the slow, soulful ballad “Bring It in Close.”
“Up Here Forever” brought Mullen back to the driver’s seat. This one is infused with the influences of the bands Heart and Black Sabbath and combined perfectly the feminine vocal with the hard-edged and driving force of the construct. The tune eventually disintegrated into a vibe that felt like “The End” by The Doors and finally morphed into the second and closing portion of “Synth Driver” to bring the set to a close.
Pressing their luck against the curfew and under the anxious eye of management, the band made their way back to deliver one more American Babies’ song with “Winter War Games.” Even the encore was spirited and hit the eight-minute mark, ending the night and the tour with a memorable bang.
Although the band played only one tune off their Best Kept Secrets album, it was clear at the close that they could have played Perry Cuomo’s Greatest Hits and what would have been delivered would have been nothing short of epic, creative, and worth seeing again. For these ears, mistake or flub were not in the evening’s vocabulary and the conversation that was had was engaging, diverse, and worth a trip to the afterlife with these five inspired spirits. The group demonstrated a great desire and skill at synergizing multiple genres and sounds, both musically and in lyric, calling upon the ethos of jazz, funk, pop, and the psychedelic, producing in the end something original and refreshing.