Tue, 04/17/2012 - 12:33 pm

Soon, the Ozark Mountains will once again be filled to the brim with the wonderful sounds of music, people and (hopefully) tons of high fives. Those high fives will be for everything: the opportunity to see so much talent in such a small place, meeting old friends, discovering new bands and all-around good times. That’s what this is all about.

This year, you can expect exceptional acts and great variety, both from the musicians themselves and from the selection of acts. Among those returning to the mountain are Dirtfoot (gypsy-punk-country-grumble-boogie), Mountain Sprout, The Floozies, MarchFourth Marching Band, Umphrey’s McGee, Beats Antique, and many more. You can also expect art, daytime activities like a costume contest and morning yoga, unwashed humans and lots of dust (it brings us all together – to less dusty locations). If you aren’t attending the festival, then you can expect a slew of youtube videos and social media posts that convince you to just go ahead and start saving for your Wakarusa 2013 ticket. It’s that rad.

This year’s lineup features a lot fewer straight-up DJs and a lot more bands that combine electronic and live instruments. This pleases me. I’m especially excited to see Ghostland Observatory and Nadis Warriors <-- they use Tibetan singing bowls and other live instruments!  And as for Ghostland Observatory…they are just plain awesome – down to the bones. I’ve been following this group for about 5 years, and their style has changed a lot since I first heard them. It’s gone from vocally-driven, more minimalist sounds to heavier sounds and minimal vocals. They’ve also added more and more and more lasers, making the show about 100 times brighter and more amazing. If you’re the type to turn in early, I suggest you take a nap the day Ghostland Observatory is playing so you can see the show.

One of the bands I’m looking forward to most is The Avett Brothers. Often called a “traveling celebration,” I expect the band’s performance will be nothing short of that. Their organic sound, rugged vocals and vast instrumentation is sure to fill the hills with a joyous folk explosion! I’m crossing my fingers for a slot during sunset. I can see it now…the sun slowly hides behind the mountains as The Avett Brothers help welcome the stars.

The first time I heard Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, I knew I had to see them live. And from what I’ve seen through the magic of the Internet, you’ll want to see them too. During their sets, the 12+ -member band goes to great lengths to ensure their show is interactive, bright and positive. In many cases, the crowd and band both end up dancing, singing and jumping around together in a mass of hippie happiness!

While we all know it’s virtually impossible to see every show, make sure you catch Fitz and the Tantrums. Why? Because you will dance you ass off (so, hopefully it’s a night show…). The band formed in 2008 but has only recently gained mainstream popularity – partly because of their single “MoneyGrabber”, which is a funky, get-down-and-dirty tune that you can’t get out of your head, in a good way. Guaranteed, Fitz and the Tantrums will have you dancing up a dust storm and wishing you had a saxophone too.

Now, I love to dance. But I also love to just experience great talent. One of the artists I’m most looking forward to is Keller Williams. This guy is scheduled to blow away audiences, wherever he’s playing. Whether he’s whistling like a champ, playing piano or looping all of his sounds together, Keller is sure to give you a show unlike any other. He’s also billed as playing with the The Travelin’ McCourys – and here’s hoping he’ll surprise us on stage during some other shows (like his old touring buddies Umphrey’s McGee?).

There are so many other acts I’m looking forward to (basically all of them), and I intend to do my absolute best to see as many as possible. Maybe I’ll spend an afternoon at the Revival Tent then head over to Main Stage to get my daily dose of nighttime groovy dance moves. If you’re looking for some more bands that you must see, here they are:

That 1 Guy

This 1 guy invented his own instruments. They’re called The Magic Pipe, The Magic Boot and The Magic Saw. That 1 Guy has been around for quite a while, and for good reason. His performances are packed full of personality, great musicianship, silly songs and invention.

Blitzen Trapper

I’ve never seen this band perform, but I’ve been listening to them for a few years now. Chances are, you’ve heard their song “Furr”. It’s a great song, and so are a many of their others. Over the years their style has developed and changed, leaving lots of room for the band to reinterpret old songs and revisit their old styles. One of my personal favorite songs is “Black River Killer” – a wonderful ballad. Some of my other favorites from the folk-rock group are “Taking it Easy too Long” and “All the Stones”. 

Railroad Earth

I saw Railroad Earth perform at Harvest Fest last year and they blew me away. There was so many great musicians on stage and the whole crowd was in awe. From what I’ve heard, this is a usual occurrence. The span of genres the band plays and their constant improvisation mean you’ll never see the same show twice. But you’ll always be impressed.

I am, as they say, pumped about this year’s Wakarusa lineup. I can’t wait to sweat balls, relax in the sunshine and have a heart full of music. See you there! And if you’re not coming this year…see you next year.

Fri, 06/01/2012 - 1:12 pm

Thursday at Wakarusa started in the afternoon for me. After the Great Campsite Shuffle of 2012, I headed out to see one of my favorite electronic artists, Phutureprimitive. He has great technique and puts on a generally fun show! Plus, there was a sexy fire dancer lady performing on stage with him - this is always a big plus in my book.

After that, I grabbed a friend to go see Lance Herbstrong with me. I didn’t know what to expect coming in, to be honest. As it turns out, Lance Herbstrong is comprised of 3 members and is full of fusion. Classic rock mixed with electronic. Middle Eastern sounds mixed with classic rock. Groovy beats...they have it all. As for the live aspect of the show, Lance Herbstrong isn’t raucous and doesn’t blow your mind, but I’m definitely looking forward to looking into their music more. They have a very unique style and it’s obvious they are lovers of all types of sound and song. You can download their tracks for free via their website.

Next, I grabbed spot to see the first few songs of Govindas set, a dj who plays classical violin on stage and mixes the sounds together. It’s pretty cool, man! I had seen Govinda play before at a small festival outside of Fayetteville, Ark., and he was awesome then! However, I can’t say I was really impressed by this performance. To be fair, though, I couldn’t stay at the set for more than five songs, as I had to run to Main Stage for Weir, Robinson and Greene Acoustic Trio.

Now for my absolute favorite part of the night. I didn’t get to catch the first two songs of the Weir, Robinson and Greene Acoustic Trio set as I was en route to Main Stage. This fact makes me the saddest of all the ladies in the land! But the songs I did catch blew me away. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see all of these men perform on stage, especially together. To my delight, throughout the set, Bob Weir, Chris Robinson (front man of the Black Crowes) and Jackie Greene (legendary American singer/songwriter) played both together and separately. They began by playing together for the first half of the set. Then each member performed a song solo, which was a wonderful, tasty musical treat! Greene performed first, with his ballad “Uphill Mountain,” followed by Robinson, who performed a beautiful cover of Otis Redding’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is”. Then, after a survey from the audience, Weir played a more upbeat tune “Throwing Stones”. The epic song was performed perfectly and you could hear the crowd singing along and filling the mountain with some much-needed natural music. Then the band finished with about 8 more songs, including a cover of “Dear Prudence”, complete with an improvised instrumental breakdown in the middle of the song. Despite the large stage and even larger crowd, Weir, Robinson and Greene played an intimate set. All that was needed on stage was Weir, Robinson and Greene and their guitars. Pure talent, my friends. Please go see any or all of them perform - you will not regret it.

After that wonderful performance, I took a short breather and went with my friends to see Pretty Lights. It was a super fun dance party, brah. (But seriously, I was not impressed.) He seemed to just be pushing the play button, even though he said everything was mixed live.

Then, to top off the night I headed to the Outpost stage (after dealing with the massive crowd leaving Pretty Lights) to see Dirtfoot perform. I was the most pumped gal to see this show because they’re recording and performing songs for their new album, to be released late 2012. However, I was quite unimpressed with their show and the audience. The crowd was small (but it was the first night) and Dirtfoots performance was pretty low energy. Hopefully their performance on Saturday will be much better.

That is all. See you tomorrow for another groovy concert update!

Sat, 06/02/2012 - 1:53 pm

My day began a bit late on Friday. I would like to say it’s because I found a basket of kittens and was completely distracted...or that I was showering or something like that. But no...I got a late start because the moment I got to Wakarusa on Thursday...I lost my keys. I had to ride back to Fayetteville, whip up yesterday’s review and head back to Mulberry Mountain. But it’s never a bad thing to have to make that beautiful drive one more time.

The first show I saw was MarchFourth Marching Band. I’d heard them in the distance at last year’s Wakarusa, but hadn’t gotten the chance to see them. This time, I made it a point to catch at least one of their sets. I am so glad I made that decision...really, it was one of my best! Not only is a MarchFourth show super jazzy and danceable, but they also have stilt walkers on stage, acrobatic tricks, dancers and a plethora of instruments on stage. So if you’re not in a get-down kind of mood, there’s something for you, too! I highly recommend attending a MarchFourth show at some point in your life. Wakarusa would not be complete without a huge, acrobatic marching band!

After some dancing madness in the rain, I headed to The Devil Makes Three. I’d never heard this band before, but had been told many good things. Tip: They were all true. The band’s performance is simple, direct, honest and infused with whiskey. Their songs are timeless, both lyrically and aurally. The three members had most of the audience on their feet and stomping all over the Revival Tent. And when it comes to folk music, the more dust the better.

As I was leaving The Devil Makes Three, I ran into the MarchFourth Marching Band heading towards the costume contest! I didn’t get to stay as a result of needing food in like woah. But luckily, I got to preview the costumes as they paraded through the crowd. I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite costume, but luckily judges have done that for me; I’ll have to check out the results of the contest whenever they’re posted online...and you should too!

When the sun set, the fog rolled in and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros began setting up to take the stage. Unfortunately, the stage was behind schedule and the audience had to wait quite awhile for the show to start. Double unfortunately, I chose to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in lieu of seeing Blitzen Trapper. But since the stage was behind schedule, I could have caught at least some of their songs. Damn you, linear time! As for the actual show I saw, it started out pretty slow because of some technical difficulties and low energy from the band and audience. In fact, at one point the band almost lost the audience during some song selection confusion. But toward the middle of the set everyone picked their energy up off the ground, dusted it off and really go into the rest of the show. Edward Sharpe was walking through the crowd, sitting on the speakers and connecting with the audience in a way most performers do not. Their performance of “Home” was beautiful and energetic and the band ended with one of the most unifying clapping songs I’ve ever heard; it was truly beautiful. I never learned the name of the song or I would tell you. I guess you’ll just have to go see one of their shows...

Edward Sharpe left the crowd buzzing and ready for another great show. Luckily, The Avett Brothers were up next. I was basically exhausted but made myself stay awake for their 2-hour set. Thank God I did. The group performed song after song, with little talking in between. They were truly performing for us and put on one of the best shows I’ve seen from a band like The Avett Brothers. The songs they chose were old, new and in between. Some of my personal favorites that were played are “Colorshow”, “January Wedding” and “Traveling Song”. The performance was seamless, very high energy (even the slow songs) and was exactly what I wanted to see out of a show from The Avett Brothers.

After so many great shows and so much foot-stomping music, there was only one thing left for me to do: Go to bed. So I did...but it took me awhile as Girl Talk was playing his set on Main Stage, which I can hear perfectly from my campsite. I wasn’t interested in seeing Girl Talk but I must say, from what I heard, that show was damn good. If I’d had any energy left at all I would have snapped out of bed and headed to the stage for even more dancing! Unfortunately, I am weak and sleepy.

Overall, the day was wonderful. There was a bit of rain and the night was pretty cold, but every show I saw ended up being amazing and most of them were very uplifting. This music suits this mountain and all of the people inside it right now. And now I’m off to see Balkan Beat Box, for which I’m very excited!

Check out more photos from day 2 at Wakarusa.

Sun, 06/03/2012 - 12:20 pm

Yesterday’s lineup was the best of the festival, in my opinion. Starting with Balkan Beat Box and ending with The Infamous Stringdusters, there was an eclectic mix of amazing artists in between.

The first band I checked out Saturday was Balkan Beat Box. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see their whole set, but what I saw of it was great! Their sound was dynamic and high-energy. With each new beat or sound, the crowd was jumping even higher.

Next, I traveled to MarchFourth Marching Band at the Revival Tent. I decided to stop in and see them again for two reasons: They are awesome. And a change in location often changes the show, especially for a large band like this one. During Saturday’s set, MarchFourth was in the Revival Tent, which is a much smaller, more enclosed space than Main Stage. With the new location came a more intimate (but still jazzy and full of acrobatics) show. The crow was closer to the action and the band’s sound filled the tent completely. I can’t say which show I prefer: Main Stage or Revival Tent. But really, I think I just prefer MarchFourth all the time.

After catching the rest of the MarchFourth show, I trudged to Main Stage to see Fitz and the Tantrums. I’ve been excited about this show since the lineup came out, and I was right to be. This five-person band was amazing. The lead singers, Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs have a wonderful stage dynamic. They interact with each other, the other three band members and the crowd seamlessly. Fitzpatrick jumps off of things and Scaggs sings her funky soul heart out. Plus, they have a member of the band (James King) who plays saxaphone, baritone saxaphone, flute, harmonica and trumpet! With so much movement, funky instrumentals and soul, you can’t help but shake your booty. (Which is highly encouraged by the band.) The band even covered “Steady as She Goes” by the Raconteurs and “Sweet Dreams”, and they ended their show with their most popular song “Moneygrabber”, which had the crowd getting down and dirty to the max. This is definitely one of my top 5 shows so far...so if you get the chance to see them live DO IT.

Following the Fitz and the Tantrums show, I ate some food and hydrated...I knew it was going to be a long night. My next stop was Slightly Stoopid for a little bit. I hadn’t planned on going to the show, but it was on my way to Tinariwen. And I’m glad I stopped by; Main Stage was packed and with every new word more and more smoke poured out of the crowd and into the open air. The vibes throughout the crowd were really positive and it was obvious the audience was having a great, lazy Saturday afternoon.

After I hung out at Slightly Stoopid for awhile, I made my way over to Revival Tent to see Tinariwen. I hadn’t known anything about this bad until Friday, when a friend recommended I go see the show. The band, a group of musicians from Saudi Arabia, bring talent and heart to the stage. The classic West African sounds and instruments bring a new experience to audience members. I was incredibly impressed with the talent and technique of the band; the music is very complicated and features lots of syncopated rhythms and tempo changes. In fact, Tinariwen is world-renowned and won the award for best world music album at the 2012 Grammy Awards. Please go see this band if you ever have the opportunity - you will not be disappointed.

The next show I checked out was Umphrey’s McGee. I’d never seen a live show from these guys, but many of my friends are die-hard fans (like most fans of Umphrey’s). Unfortunately, the music is just not my style. But as I was watching the show, I began to really appreciate their talent and the type of show Umphrey’s gives their audience. The band is very high energy and incredibly talented. I really appreciated the variation of their sound and how easily Umphrey’s McGee carries you from one tune to another, throwing in covers and surprising breakdowns.

After stopping by Main Stage, I walked back to Revival Tent to check out Orgone. I literally had no idea what I was coming into. I’d never heard of this band until they showed up on the Wakarusa lineup. Orgone is a straight-up funk and soul band. They’ve been around since 1999 and it shows; the band’s performance was flawless. Orgone is comprised of ten members: lead singer Fanny Franklin and a slew of classic funk instruments (trumpet, saxaphone, etc.). I didn’t see anything really innovative from Orgone, but sometimes all you need is some seriously good funk. By the end of the show the crowd was begging for more of that funky get-down sound.

The second to last show I caught was The Infamous Stringdusters. My god, I was so impressed with these guys. The five-piece bluegrass band is constantly moving around on stage and collaborating on the spot with other members. The Stringdusters’ 2-hour set started off as a normal bluegrass show, but as the night progressed, they went from bluegrass to bluegrass psychedelic, to covers of amazing songs and back to bluegrass. I’ve never seen a band that collaborates on stage as well as The Infamous Stringdusters. It’s obvious nobody up there is faking it - they are all amazingly talented. By the end of their set, the Stringdusters had the crowd completely under their spell and dancing up a dust storm. Some of the covers the band performed include “He’s Gone” by The Grateful Dead and “Free” by Phish.

Overall, all the shows I saw on Saturday were super. Each had its own merits, whether it be an awesome stage presence, unstoppable talent or both. And while Sunday promises to be a much slower, more relaxed day, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I need. I may not be able to handle another day packed with so many awe-inspiring sets.

Check out more photos from day 3 @ Wakarusa.

Mon, 06/04/2012 - 12:32 pm

Boy howdy! Sunday was an interesting close to Mulberry Mountain’s Wakarusa Festival! The day started out perfectly: nice weather, a good lineup and all around happytimes. I even got to interview The Infamous StringdustersAndy Falco and Travis Book! If you haven’t seen this band - do it.

But then the clouds started growing darker and meaner. I went to the Backwoods Stage to see if Hot Buttered Rum was still going to play. There was a small crowd of about 15 people hoping to see the band play. Then over the crew’s radio we heard news of a tornado watch and that the festival was stopping music for the time being. The small crowd waiting for Hot Buttered Rum was devastated. So what else was the band to do but come out into the crowd and play an acoustic version of one of their songs? So that’s what they did; Aaron Redner (fiddle and mandolin) and Nat Keefe (guitar and vocals) played one song for the small crowd. It was such a treat! I can’t tell you the name of the song they played (I wish I’d gotten the performance on video). Unfortunately, after the song security made everyone leave the stage area to go find shelter. And yes, we had needed shelter.

After we left Backwoods Stage the rain started coming down. Then it was pouring. Then there was hail (larger than pea-sized!). Then there was calm. Then sun. And then finally...music! It took awhile to get the stages set up and organized after the storm and the schedules were really wonky due to the time spent holding our canopies and tents to the ground. So unfortunately, there was no real schedule, you just kind of had to guess. Luckily, I managed to catch a few bands that I had really wanted to see this year.

When I was wandering around the stages trying to get a handle on what was going on, I stopped by the Outpost Stage and watched a little bit of The Heavy Pets. This is definitely a jam band that rocks. While they aren’t quite my style, everybody in the crowd was having a great time dancing and avoid the puddles of rainwater that snuck under the tent.

Next up headed to the Revival Tent to see what was going down there. SOJA was playing, a reggae band based in Arlington, VA that sings about unity, peace and love. It was a very positive show and everybody was having a great time lighting up and getting down. After awhile I left to go see what was happening at the Satellite Stage. Thank god I went down there, because my most anticipated DJ duo, Adventure Club, was about to start playing. They do a lot of remixes of awesome songs like Metric’s “Collect Call”, James Vincent McMorrow’s “We Don’t Eat” and Flight Facilites’ “Crave You”. Because of the rain, Adventure Club was only able to play about six songs. They were all amazing, but I was so sad they didn’t get the stage time the duo deserved. If you’re a fan of electronic music, give these guys a listen!

After Adventure Club I headed over to the Outpost Tent to hopefully catch some of Keller Williams’ set. Luckily, I got there in time to hear “I Love California” and an epic 10-minute version of “Freakshow”. I was really impressed with Williams’ talent and innovation, as usual. It’s obvious he loves performing and creating sounds that are unusual for his genre of music. From his on-stage mouth trumpet and the looping machine he uses to the acoustic guitar sounds he uses, you can always expect something awesome and inventive from Keller Williams.

Unfortunately, I had to leave pretty quickly after I watched Williams play. So I swung by the Revival Tent to see how Matisyahus performance was going. I had been really excited to see this show, but his performance did not live up to my expectations. The stage was too large for the four-piece band, and Matisyahu was not an exciting performer. In fact, he seemed a bit egotistical on stage. The songs the Matisyahu played sounded excellent, but I’m a strong believer in live music requiring performance, not just good musicianship. I wish the last show I saw hadn’t been so lackluster, but next year will be different - I’m sure of it!

Overall, my Wakarusa experience was wonderful. There were beautiful people, fantastic music and I have some really awesome stories to tell and new music to share. The weather made the festival better (Except for the cancelled music) if you ask me. And the temperatures were perfect throughout the weekend. I couldn’t have asked for a better 4-day music extravaganza, and it’s right in my own backyard!

I hope to see at next year’s Wakarusa or at Harvest Music Festival, which will be going on October 11-13. The lineup is out, so have a look at it and I promise, you won’t have to convince yourself to go. Thanks for loving live music!

Check out more photos from day 4 @ Wakarusa.

Sun, 06/10/2012 - 11:51 am

When I first heard about the Dawg Daze of Summer Festival in Lone Jack, Missouri (July 26 – 28, 2012), I knew I needed to go. There are a multitude of reasons for this, some being: The largest swimming pool in Missouri is there, the band selection is awesome, there are hiking trails and it’s on my birthday! You probably don’t want to go to this specifically for the last reason on my list, but the first three are golden!

The main stage split-headliners this year are JJ Grey & Mofro and Yo' Mama's Big Fat Booty Band on Friday and "The Dirty Dawgz" a special performance for Dawg Daze featuring Michael Kang (of the String Cheese Incident), Steve Molitz & Eric Gould (of Particle) and Brandon Draper (of Quixotic) and Spoonfed Tribe is: "Weapons of Mass Percussion" (a special percussion based performance for Dawg Daze) on Friday. Thursday will host a special night at the Captain Kirk stage with Hearts of Darkness, Dirtfoot and Yo' Mama's Big Fat Booty Band.

I’ve wanted to see JJ Grey & Mofro for a long time – either separately or together. Since this is my first opportunity to see either one, you might say I’m the most excited little lady in all of the land. Or perhaps you – or nobody – would ever say that. From what I’ve seen and read, you can expect a set chock full of deep, down-home blues mixed with classic rock ‘n’ roll sounds, entangled in the honest, personal lyrics of JJ Grey’s songs. In any case, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for this show.

I’ve also heard a lot of talk about Yo’ Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. The official word on the street is that this band is not to be missed. As they say on their website, the Booty Band is “ready to shake the world, one cheek at a time.” I’m so in (possibly in costume). Over time the band has evolved their sound to occasionally incorporate seasoned DJs, but they’ve kept their heart and booty-shaking sounds close at hand. From groovy jams and classic rock guitar riffs to psychedelic-soul sounds, it looks like the Booty Band just wants to dance and groove with an equally rad audience.

I’m not quite sure what to expect from The Dirty Dawgz, but considering the band of musicians, we won’t be left unimpressed. The group is comprised of Michael Kang (of The String Cheese Incident), Steve Molitz and Eric Gould (of Particle), and Brandon Draper (of Quixotic). This is the first time these men will have all played together onstage; this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance (like everything in life, really…) so don’t miss out.

Perhaps my most-looked-forward-to band on this list is a Conway, Ark. group that goes by the name Don’t Stop Please. You may not have heard of them, but I promise you’ll be glad you did. Expect to see this band on more and more stages across the United States and hopefully even farther. The six-member, multi-instrument band is one of a kind, talented and multi-genre. The members collaborate onstage and off to create a sound that’s uniquely theirs. From get-down-and-shake-it songs like My Booty to jazzy tunes like Lua, expect a full range of talent from Don’t Stop Please.

Of course, I’m always excited about Dirtfoot. I’m not sure I know a single person who doesn’t love seeing Dirtfoot live. If you’ve never heard of this band, what you can expect is a raucous crowd and an equally raucous band. They love playing for people and you can’t help but stomp and swing to the jazzy, grumbly, punk sound the band creates. I’ve been a fan of Dirtfoot since the first time I saw them live – and I’m almost certain you will too.

For those who frequent summer music events, you know it’s difficult to find things like showers, shade, bodies of water or flushable toilets. Luckily, the Dawg Daze of Summer Festival has all of those amenities and more! You can also go fishing, shop vendor booths, rent cabins or RV sites, play a few sports, and even visit the restaurant and bar. This family-friendly event is perfect for those back-to-school woes I know I always faced about the second day of summer. And if you don’t have to go back to school – lucky you! While this isn’t your typical Wakarusa-type festival it looks to be a very relaxed, smaller weekend with lots of fun activities and tons of great music to fill your heart.

For more information, visit dawgdazeofsummerfestival.com. Ticket prices are currently $80 for a 3-day pass. Camping must be purchased separately. And, until June 16 at midnight, you can get a “green pass” – good for 4 adults arriving together (that’s $20 off!). As far as camping goes, 3-day passes start at $25 and you can snag lakeside or cabin passes for a higher price.  Cabins are going fast and there are only a few left, so book yours now!  Tickets and camping passes can be purchased online or at the gate for a higher price. No pets, glass or outside alcohol will be allowed inside the gates. However, there will be package beer and liquor sales available.

I hope to see the whole world in Lone Jack, Missouri for this festival. But since that probably won’t happen, hopefully I’ll at least see some of you! If you hear of somebody taking photos for Grateful Web, that’s probably me!

Tue, 06/12/2012 - 4:16 pm

If there’s anything I can say about The Infamous Stringdusters, it’s that they are wonderful musicians and beautiful people. Not only do they live to bring music into this world, but they also live to educate; this became obvious to me in less than 10 minutes after meeting Andy Falco (guitar/vocals) and Travis Book (bass) for the first time. From their live shows to their very own, self-organized festival The Festy Experience, the Stringdusters are a group of men (and a band) filled to the brim with life, love, talent and adventure. As Falco told me, they love to party; but that’s not all they do.

As far as their music accomplishments go, The Infamous Stringdusters have been recognized multiple times by the International Bluegrass Music Association. From tying with bluegrass legend J.D. Crowe for Album of the Year (for their 2007 debut album Fork in the Road) to Song of the Year (for “Fork in the Road”) and Emerging Artist of the Year, the Stringdusters are not an under recognized group. Things That Fly, the band’s third album, was nominated for Best Country Instrumental in the 2011 Grammy awards.

Of course, you can’t help be in awe of their live performance. The band collaborates on stage and shares their emotions with the audience – and they willingly share back. The beauty and honesty of their music effortlessly embraces listeners and pulls them to their feet for a better view of the band’s obvious connection. The band doesn’t need any fancy sound effects or awesome light shows to enhance their performance. They’re fantastic and dynamic on their own – shredding violins, improvising jams, constantly moving around the stage to feed off each other’s energy. As Andy Falco shared with me, this is how a bluegrass show should be; cords and extra sound equipment just slow down the collaborative process.

But music isn’t the only thing on the Stringdusters’ minds. They also spend time and energy staying fit, active and healthy. Bike rides, hiking, running and similar activities are a big part of each band member’s life. You can’t party well (or for long) if you don’t stay healthy in the process. The fullest and most-lived life possible is just as important to The Infamous Stringdusters as their music. Most of the band has moved out of Nashville where, according to their bio, “the best bluegrass players can be gobbled down the maw of session work and songwriting appointments.” And they are not about to give up their love for life for one of fame and fortune.

Among the band’s many ventures is their annual Nelson County, VA festival, The Festy Experience. The goal of this festival is to fuse music and lifestyle. With local, sustainable vendors and a lineup hand-picked and arranged by The Infamous Stringdusters, you can get a real taste of what it’s like to be a Stringduster at this festival. There’s a 5k run, a mountain bike race, rock climbing, activities for children, yoga, hiking and much more. The band plays every night, jams with other groups, takes part in the activities and stage performances don’t overlap. The festival’s focus on intermingling a healthy lifestyle and great music fosters an environment that can only be defined as unifying. This is not a head-count festival, it’s a weekend that’s meant to last a lifetime – and not in the out of your mind sort of way. The experiences, friendships and connections you find at such an inclusive and open event are beyond words, it’s an experience. Thus the name: The Festy Experience.

I don’t think I’ve ever had such a pleasure getting to know a band. Speaking with Andy and Travis was comfortable, casual and fun. I hope to experience more of The Infamous Stringdusters and I hope for everybody else in the world to, as well. Their influence is far-reaching and positive – something we need much more of these days, if you ask me.

For more information about the band, visit thestringdusters.com. For more information about The Festy Experience, visit thefesty.com.

Wed, 08/08/2012 - 5:41 pm

I decided to check out the Dawg Daze of Summer Festival this year because of three reasons: it was a great birthday outing for my girlfriend and me, I wanted to see JJ Grey and Mofro and it sounded low-key. The list of reasons I’ll be going back next year is much larger. For one, the area was beautiful – there were 4 small bodies of water that surrounded the camping and stage areas, which significantly cut down on the 100-degree blazing temperatures during the weekend. The grounds – Lake Paradise Resort in Lone Jack, MO – also had showers, flushable toilets, lots of trees and even an indoor stage! Overall, the Dawg Daze of Summer was a great time; I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing and fun experience.

Due to The Man (my day job), I wasn’t able to make the festival on its first night and most of Friday. Because of this, I missed some great shows: Dirtfoot, Hearts of Darkness (I heard they were wonderful), the first set of Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, The Stone Sugar Shakedown and Famous Seamus and the Travelbongs among others. Luckily, we drove onto the grounds Friday night just as the Booty Band was starting their final set of the weekend. Finding a camping spot was really easy, and I was ecstatic to be able to catch part of the Booty Band’s set. They were fun, jazzy, psychedelic and very energetic. This was a great evening band and the many children at the festival were eating up the songs.

One of the nicest things about the weekend was that, during the bigger shows, only the main stage was active. This meant there were no decisions to be made. So, after the Booty Band, everyone stayed put and waited for JJ Grey and Mofro to start. I was very impressed by the show. The beginning started out sultry and a little bit slow (but not in a bad way). As the evening progressed, JJ Grey and Mofro picked up the pace and really started getting into their brassier, jazzier tunes. The show was a mixture of blues, southern rock and funk, with JJ Grey doing little else but crooning his gritty, soulful lyrics to the audience. The crowd was small, but it was obvious everyone there was down to get down. JJ Grey even had to be told it was time to leave the stage due to rules or something silly like that. The audience was enthralled during the entirety of the show, which featured some great tunes like ‘On Fire,’ ‘Sweetest Thing’ and ‘Brighter Days.’

After the show ended around midnight, the main stage was closed and the crowd dispersed to various locations. I traveled to the indoor stage, which was really just a room with tile floors, bathrooms and a small bar. When I first walked into the building, ready to get my Ben Miller Band on, I was skeptical. But as it turns out, the air-conditioned building was a great place to have music. The acoustics were great, the floor was awesome for dancing and there were even chairs to sit in! I’d only seen Ben Miller Band in passing once at George’s Majestic Lounge, but I’m glad I stayed for the whole show this time! They’re a 3-man bluegrass band from Joplin, MO that features a washtub bass.

After the Ben Miller Band, we headed back to the campsite and attempted sleep. Fortunately and unfortunately, there were drum circles and acoustic jams all night long. While everything sounded pretty good, I’m not very good at staying up past 11 pm so the music was a bit incessant through the night.

The next morning, as the sun and temperature rose, I got up and wandered around the grounds for about an hour. It was a peaceful morning and I met a lot of cool people during my journey! Dawg Daze of Summer topped my list for the most awesomely low-key, family-friendly music weekend I’ve been to. I don’t want to make it sound like there were no people there, because there were quite a few, but the camping was comfortably laid out and the area was never congested. 

The musical part of the day began with a jazz group called The Clementines. They were great as breakfast accompaniment. After that, one of my favorite Arkansas bands played a show. Don’t Stop Please is a group of young, very talented musicians. They have a slew of instruments on stage at all times, from classic guitars to Latin percussion. Their sound-style travels from genre to genre, all the while holding onto their folky foundation. If there’s anything that can be said about Don’t Stop Please, it’s that they are talented entertainers. From their breezy, sultry tune ‘Luca’ to their infectious dance track ‘My Booty,’ this band carries you through their set with tempo changes, genre mix-ups and smooth lyrics. In what seemed like 5 fabulous minutes, the group’s set was over and their racy, awesome band shirts were flying off the shelves (or picnic table).

After swinging to Don’t Stop Please, my girlfriend and I grabbed some food from the fajita vendor, recommended to us by Scott of Ben Miller Band – they were delicious! My truest love is tacos. After satisfying my stomach, I wandered around until I found the indoor stage. I was mostly looking for some shade and fresh water, but instead I found a great band by the name of Deep Fried Squirrel. I didn’t get a chance to ask if they’d ever tried such a delicacy, but I’m going to assume they have eaten deep fried squirrel and thought it was so delicious they needed to start a band in honor of it! No matter why they formed, I’m glad they did – Deep Fried Squirrel’s set was an almost-classic bluegrass set. They play off each other and wander around the stage, but their sound is fused with various genres slipping in and out of the lead singer’s vocals. Occasionally there’s a hint of Irish drinking music or maybe some classic rock melded with bluegrass. The show was wonderful, but far too short – I could have listened to them for hours.

Next up was Spoonfed Tribe is ‘Weapons of Mass Percussion,’ which was nothing short of tremendous. From the beginning, when the space visuals began, I knew I could just relax and settle down for the ride. After the band came onstage, there was a buildup, then drum line shouting followed by the four members saying in unison “Welcome to a new kind of listening experience.” And it was. The drumming was dynamic and synchronized; the songs were psychedelic and heady. All of the members played hard and used multiple instruments. There was even a voice-manipulating microphone! At the end of the show Shonuff, seemingly the band’s leader, lit a marching drum on fire, walked off the stage into the fire-burning area and played away. The aesthetic was perfect for the end of their show; it was loud, vibrant and visually appealing. I highly recommend going to see these guys if they’re ever in your area.

The last show I saw that weekend was The Dirty Dawgz, comprised of Steve Mollitz, Brandon Draper, Michael Kang and Eric Gould. I was pretty excited about this show, because (to my knowledge) these guys have never played together and they are all great musicians. So I settled down on my blanket and got ready to hear some great jamming. Unfortunately, I was left a bit let down. While the guys on stage seemed to be having a pretty good time, the show was not exciting or even very interesting. Mostly, The Dirty Dawgz were just noodlin’ up a storm. I didn’t feel the songs had much variety of sound or technique. As the show progressed, it got a bit better and more upbeat. I understand it must be difficult to play a show that hasn’t been practiced, but that’s what these guys are supposed to be good at, right? In any case, I was happy to have seen these great musicians grace the stage together, but it was far too lackluster.

Overall, the Dawg Daze of Summer Festival was a bluegrass-jam smash! I highly recommend this festival to anybody, especially those looking for little to no electronic music and a super relaxed environment. This event was extremely family friendly and the campus wasn’t too large to spend most of your day walking from stage to stage. Even though the sun was scorching, two of the four stages were shaded. One of the others was by a pool, and the main stage is just for the most hardcore (during the heat of the day). I heard the attendance this year was down from last year, so be sure to share this festival with anybody you think might enjoy attending it. That’s the best way to advertise – word of mouth. I’d like to see this festival last for many years to come, because there aren’t a lot of opportunities to see a bunch of bands at once in the Missouri/Kansas/Arkansas area. Support great music and good times – I sincerely hope to see some of you Grateful Web readers next year, and also at Harvest Music Festival!

Two rad things I heard this weekend:

In reference to a guy playing saxophone in the crowd while waiting for a show to start: ‘That guy must be a registered Sax Offender.’

In reference to titties: ‘I don’t care, man. Titties is titties!’

See more photos from Dawg Daze.

Thu, 09/13/2012 - 9:33 am

Prepare your pantaloons and get ready to boogie, ladies and gentlemen – BoomBox is coming to Fayetteville, Arkansas! On September 21, 2012 you can expect to see a wonderful duo and nothing less than an enthusiastic, ready-to-dance-party crowd a George’s Majestic Lounge.From live instruments and mixed tracks to costumes, silly hats and feather boas, BoomBox is definitely a dynamic duo. Their tunes have a modern disco feel and are infectious, danceable and just plain rad. Expect a super light show, as well, which will be partially controlled by the band’s Russ Randolph as he mixes tracks alongside guitarist and neat guy, Zion Godchaux (son of Grateful Dead’s Keith and Donna Godchaux).Besides the aesthetics of a BoomBox show, innovation is really at the heart of the band’s mission. Their mixture of electronic, rock and funk is like a delicious music salad (with lasers). Randolph and Godchaux tailor each show to best entertain the crowd and suit the venue, so you’re sure to see something unique at every show. The group mixes their songs between layers of funky guitar riffs, smooth vocals and electronic beats for a full, clean sound. And while there is some great jamming at a BoomBox show, I’ve never seen any noodling, which is a good thing in my book.As each day passes, BoomBox gains notoriety in the music world. Every show I have been to or heard of has had a larger crowd than the last. As the eclectic mix of fans have realized, no matter your mood or your ability to move, BoomBox is sure to leave you feeling that your night (and your money) was well spent.Tickets for the Sept. 21st show are on sale at George’s Majestic Lounge or through Ticketmaster.

Tue, 09/25/2012 - 3:52 pm

When you go to a BoomBox show, there are some things you can expect: danceable music, an awesome lightshow and friendly faces. On Friday night in Fayetteville, that is exactly what I found at George’s Majestic Lounge.

The night began with Ishi, an band whose sound is similar to BoomBox. Ishi was great. The lead singer was dressed in Native American-style clothing (possibly because Ishi also happens to be the last surviving member of a particular Native American tribe) and was performing off stage on the dance floor. So naturally, I danced around with him while they all performed and had a great time! Unfortunately, there weren’t many folks there for the opener. Hopefully Fayetteville will realize what they missed and be sure to catch Ishi next time!

As the opening band cleared their instruments off the stage, George’s Majestic Lounge began to fill up. The crowd was electric – ready for a great show and obviously ready for the weekend. I had convinced a few of my coworkers to come with me to the show, and I can definitely say we were in the ready-for-the-weekend group.

When BoomBox took the stage, they began with their usual slow intro. Zion Godchaux played his guitar and Russ Randolph mixed smooth, creamy beats. Together, the band warmed up the audience with a delicious musical appetizer. Slowly but surely, BoomBox picked up the pace; and suddenly, everybody was throwing down their best moves. Like most BoomBox shows, each track slowly melted into the next, giving the audience the feeling of a perfectly mixed album – my favorite type of listening experience.

Except for Randolph thanking the audience for coming to the show, the stage was all music and no talk. BoomBox got down to business and we got down to fun times for everybody! Overall, BoomBox’s show at George’s was groovy, sweaty and downright awesome – everything I had hoped for. I met some people who have seen them 13 times, and some who hadn’t even heard of the band; every review for the show was top-notch and I think BoomBox scored themselves some new fans.

BoomBox is still on tour, so check out the listings and see if they’ll be in your area. They’ll also be playing a few festivals like SteelJam Festival and SnowGlobe. Visit thisisboombox.com for more information about this rad-ass band.

Check out more photos from the show.

Fri, 09/28/2012 - 2:07 pm

My god, can you believe it’s already October? Fall plants are starting to fruit, the weather is getting slightly cooler, the nights seem fresher. And if you’re a bluegrass fan, you probably know what else that means – Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival is nearing. This year’s lineup has seen a few drop-outs, but it also features some great acts, both well-known and little-known. I’ll try to give you a good list to go off if you’re at a loss for which acts to see, but be sure to wander around, meet people and see some bands you’ve never heard of.

Wednesday begins at 7 pm for the early birds. They’ll get all the worms - I just know it! Early arrivals can catch Guta, Tyrannosaurus Chicken, Deadman Flats, Grazzhopper, Sunset to Burns, Brother Bagman and Mouth. I haven’t seen any of these bands live, but I’ve heard really good things about Tyrannosaurus Chicken, Deadman Flats, Brother Bagman and Mouth. Guta is a groovy reggae band – perfect for the people just relaxing and waiting for all the action to begin. Grazzhopper, on the other hand, is a banjo-and-guitar duo. However, the band frequently invites others onstage to jam along, so expect some sweet jam sandwiches. Mouth is awesome. I’ve missed seeing them live about 4 times, and will miss them again unfortunately. They are self-described as a cyberfunk band; they meld funk and electronic sounds, ending in a jamstravaganza that will get your feet moving. If you haven’t already, you can snag an early arrival ticket for an extra $29. So get on that, and don’t miss any music!

Unfortunately, due to my dumb day job, I won’t be able to make it to the festival until Friday sometime. One of my favorite lineup days is on Thursday, so I’m basically in tears writing this portion. The day begins with yoga, hula hooping, glass blowing, bellydance lessons and poi, as well as the ever-famous Fiddlin’ & Pickin’ Contest. There are activities for children, including meditation and yoga. As for the bands, the first up is Pert Near Sandstone, they’re a classic bluegrass band from Minneapolis who have shared the stage with legendary bluegrass artists like Yonder Mountain String Band and Del McCoury. After that is one of my most recommended bands: Delta Rae. I first heard of this group when I saw an awesome video for their song ‘Bottom of the River.’ After exploring more of their music, I can honestly say: You will NOT want to miss this show. They’re a soulful country band that rocks the stage, supports gay marriage and keeps the energy high. Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings and Adam Faucett & the Tall Grass are up after Delta Rae (on different stages). I almost booked Adam Faucett for a show in Fayetteville when I worked for the university – he’s a great musician who is gifted instrumentally, vocally and lyrically. Basically, he’s your all-around talented dude.

As the evening begins to pull on the sky, you’ll be able to catch a lot of great bands, all spanning various styles and genres, so you’ll have some choices to make. Taking the Roost stage at 5 pm is one of my favorite bands: Don’t Stop Please. They are simply amazing. These talented, young folks from Conway, AR tear up the stage, get your luxurious booty moving and bring some style into the mix. All of them are multi-instrumentalists, and they don’t shy away from rearranging themselves onstage during performances. I promise, you won’t be sorry if you see this show. In fact, you’ll likely be singing their songs for days. Also playing Thursday evening is Mosey West, Delhi 2 Dublin (they’re an awesome world music band who played at Wakarusa in 2011), Stiff Necked Fools and MONTU. Playing at the Harvest Tent from 12:30 to 2 am will be The Everyone Orchestra; they’re an improv musical project that features a constantly revolving lineup. The band has featured members from Phish, The String Cheese Incident, Tea Leaf Green and many others. I’m excited to know who will be playing the show this time around. If you want to see a completely unique band that you will likely never see again (with this exact lineup), definitely be sure to put this show on your list.

Friday is another great day, and I will likely miss a few of the earlier bands as well. Early afternoon shows include Elephant Revival, an Oklahoma band that’s sweeping the bluegrass nation. Their songs are beautiful, foot-stompin’ and insightful – not always at once, but you’ll definitely witness all of these elements during their show. Also playing will be Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (sounds interesting, no?), Trampled Under Foot, Grass Crack, The Giving Tree Band and Adam Aijala and Larry Keel. I honestly don’t know a lot about the bands in the previous sentence – I’ve only done online research and looked up a few live videos, but I am absolutely certain they are all worth a listen. Don’t forget to take some time out of each day to find new music.

The lineup for Friday evening features Mickey Hart Band, whom I want to see like woah. I missed them when they came to George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville. Mickey Hart is working on a project that combines space sounds (which are awesome, terrifying and beautiful all at the same time) with his own music. I hope he plays some of the songs, as they would fit perfectly with the open air of Mulberry Mountain. Can you imagine: staring at the stars, wondering about the planets and life on Mars while listening to Mickey Hart play along with Space’s orchestra? Sounds amazing. Later that night you can see Split Lip Rayfield (always a great show), Andy Frasco, Leftover Salmon and Cornmeal.

The last day of Harvest Music Festival will come quickly; then we’ll have to return to our lives and hold on tight to our memories…until next year! The Saturday bands being at 10:45 with The Hillbenders on the Backwoods Stage – they’re a 5-person bluegrass band that has won countless awards, such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Contest and the 2010 National Single Mic Championship. Also on the afternoon lineup is Cornmeal, Split Lip Rayfield (again), Gabriel Kelley and Truckstop Honeymoon. Truckstop Honeymoon plays banjos and washtubs, and they sing about almost everything from adultery to pinball machines. I haven’t heard them live, but I’ve heard many, many great things. If you’re searching for some get-down bluegrass at noon on Saturday, head to the Backwoods Stage. And don’t worry, if you happen to miss Elephant Revival on Friday, you can see them again at 3 pm.

The final night of Harvest features a bitchin’ group of groups of musicians. YAY! Starting off the starry night will be North Mississippi Allstars. I’ve wanted to see this group for about 2 years now, so I am pretty much pumped I’ll finally get my chance. Also playing on the final night are Brown Bird, The Congress (you can find a review of one of their shows on this website), Shedding Watts (a rock, jam, blues band), Isayah’s Allstars and Mountain Sprout (one of my favorite no-holds-barred hillbilly bands). If you can’t find something you like Saturday night, you’re in the wrong place, because all of these bands are talented, fun and super unique. Mountain Sprout will have you bustin’ out your beer cans, while Brown Bird will leave you impressed with the folkin’ talent of the duo, who play grand, lyrically sound folk-Americana-everythingelse songs that tug at your heartstrings and your boot heels.

Be sure to check out Dirtfoot, who will be playing Thursday and Saturday. And I’m not sure, but if their Chompdown is happening, definitely come to that. It’s a free breakfast (usually Saturday morning) that Dirtfoot entertains for. Bring some food to throw into the mix and your own utensils, as the breakfast is all by donation of supplies and time.

If you haven’t already purchased a Harvest ticket, I suggest you do so now. Don’t think about it any longer – you know you want to be there, surrounded by music, nature, awesome kinfolk and port-a-potties! Okay, so the last thing might not be the most exciting part, but it’s definitely one of the most necessary fixtures at a music festival on top of a mountain. Be sure to bring your instruments if you play. And take part in the songwriting contest, workshops and river adventures (if there’s any water). See you all on Mulberry Mountain, where we’ll be dancing up a dust storm and finding new friends.

Fri, 10/19/2012 - 11:55 am

Despite torrential winds, hard rain and mud pits, I survived Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival along with about 5,000 other bluegrass lovers. The weekend was filled with fiddles, foot-stompin’ and delicious falafels. Due to work restrictions, I was unable to be at the festival through its entirety; but I managed to see most of the bands I was really looking forward to and I also happened upon some great bands to add to my must-hear list. Even though the weather was rainy and sometimes a bit cold, everybody there was determined to have the best time possible. And we did.

Thursday’s music began around noon with Pert Near Sandstone. I took a half day off work that day, so I arrived at the end of their set. I wish I had seen it all – the raw, energetic string chorus brought out the hillbilly in me (and a lot of other people, it seemed). Next up was probably my most-anticipated show of the festival: Delta Rae. I first learned of this band from their video for ‘Bottom of the River’. It’s a haunting, dynamic song that really grabbed me the first time I heard it. And their show far exceeded my already high expectations. The 6-piece band took the stage and held onto it until their final song. One of my favorite moments of the festival happened during this show; as the band was middle of their third (I think) song, the power on the stage went out. As any reputable band would do, they stepped to the front of the stage and finished the song. After that song was finished, they brought their most important instruments into the crowd and began playing the rest of their set. The audience circled around Delta Rae as they serenaded us with their first off-stage song, rocked the ‘stage’ with their next song ‘Bottom of the River’ and finished the acoustic part of their performance with another song. After the third song, the power was back on, so they finished their set on stage. I was so incredibly impressed by this band – they share the stage with each other perfectly and honestly. If you ever get a chance to see this band, please take it by the balls (or whatever).

After Delta Rae’s performance I wandered around and ended at the Roost stage, where I heard Lauren Gray, who apparently was an American Idol contestant, perform. She has a beautiful voice and performed mostly covers, from what I could tell. A couple of the covers included John Prine’s ‘Angel from Montana’ and an Adele song. On my way to the Roost, I caught Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings (which I heard was amazing) for one song, which was a cover of ‘Dear Prudence’. I wish I had been able to see all of the Darol Anger set, but the times just didn’t work out because of Delta Rae’s set. As an aside, one of the things I love most about the Infamous Stringdusters’ festival, The Festy Experience, is that you don’t have to make these difficult decisions about which shows to go to because there is no stage time overlap.

Next up was one of my favorite bands Don’t Stop Please. This was their first appearance at Harvest, and it was well deserved. They rocked the stage and gained a larger audience from one song to the next. You could tell the band was picking up on the audience’s energy and using it to their advantage. As the show continued, they seemed more and more at home on the stage. Wonderful! During the Don’t Stop Please show, I bounced over to the Harvest Tent (a mere 30-second walk!) to catch some of the Delhi 2 Dublin set. I saw them play Wakarusa in 2010 and it was high-energy, dynamic and unique. The band mixes sounds from various cultures into a highly danceable electronic/bluegrass/Indian extravaganza. They performed to a much larger audience than during their Wakarusa performance, and almost everybody was up on their feet jumping and dancing. Everybody was smiling from ear-to-ear, and a lot of us even tried to dance along (poorly) to a small routine the band was showing the audience from the stage.

After returning to the Don’t Stop Please show to check out their final two songs, I grabbed some tasty Chinese food with my girlfriend and we settled ourselves on the Main Stage area among the few dry patches of grass. Coming up on the Main Stage were Punch Brothers and a 2-hour Yonder Mountain String Band set. I honestly hadn’t heard the Punch Brothers, so I was excited to see a band everybody else was looking forward to so much. The show was wonderful. As the band continued to play, I noticed a style I haven’t seen in many other bluegrass bands. The only word I could come up with was ‘sassy.’ Their style isn’t just the hard-rocking bluegrass that you see a lot of, although there was some of that. Instead, they have the smooth, collaborative style of a group of musicians who are experienced with their instruments, each other and playing for a crowd. Some of their songs were quieter, with beautiful picking and fiddling. Others were dark and haunting. One song included a harsh, almost demonic interlude which, my girlfriend speculated, seemed to be part of the song played backward. HELL YES. They also did a cover of Levon Helm’s Ophelia, which was beautiful. Punch Brothers was most certainly a highlight of my weekend. And unfortunately, the last Harvest experience at all for that night, as I had to drive back to Fayetteville to work the next day. Luckily, it’s a short 45-minute drive so I got to stay a fairly long time.

I missed most of Friday, but here’s what I heard: Elephant Revival was great, as usual. Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad did not show up for some reason I’m unaware of. Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings was amazing and breathtaking and I was especially sad to have missed them. Luckily, I saw Darol Anger share the stage with both Della Mae and Elephant Revival the next day; and given his talent, I’m absolutely certain his Republic of Strings is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

When I finally returned to the mountain, I had missed the sunset and Mickey Hart Band had already started playing. So I grabbed a beer, ran down the hill to the Main Stage, chugged my beer and entered the gates. I was about 15 minutes late for the beginning of the set, which was only about 5 minutes before their first song ended! As I was running down the hill, I was pleasantly greeted by Mickey Hart Band mixing their music with space sounds. Hart’s experimentation with space sounds is what really got me into the band in the first place. I love space, I love music – why not combine them? And so he did. But unfortunately, I really wasn’t that impressed. I guess I’m not much for tons of jamming, and that’s what the majority of their show consisted of.  After Mickey Hart, I wandered around for a while, dropping in on bands and floating off to the next stage. Yonder Mountain String Band played on the Main Stage after Mickey Hart for their second set of the festival. I also saw part of Andy Frasco’s show, which was a lot more dancing fun than I had energy for, but all of the audience members were having an absolute blast. I heard a cover of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and some hard-rocking midnight tunes. Friday night went over smoothly, with no bad weather and slightly comfortable sleeping situations - Praise the Bluegrass Gods and Goddesses!

Saturday was the only full day I was able to spend on Mulberry Mountain, and unfortunately it was cut short by tornado warnings and torrential winds. The first show I went to was Moonalice. It was really fun – just some older dudes playing their songs (and some covers) for an audience prepared to take it all in. After that show, I grabbed an amazingly tasty gyro and wandered back to camp, stopping in on a few bands along the way. Cas Haley – a fun, relaxing reggae band. There weren’t many reggae artists on the lineup this year, and one of them (Dub Squad) didn’t show up. Thank god Haley was there, or all of us rastajuanians wouldn’t have gotten to commune at a reggae show!

Most of the rest of my day was spent at my favorite stage, the Backwoods Stage. It’s nestled in the woods between trees perfect for hanging hammocks among. The stage is a wooden, homey place that perfectly surrounds strings music. Really, it’s a beautiful stage. The first band I saw there Saturday was Della Mae, an all-female quintet that blew my proverbial socks off. You don’t see many all-female bands, so this was an instant plus for me. They also invited Darol Anger and Tornado Rider’s Rushad Eggelston to play onstage with them for part of their set, which was a wonderful complement to their sound. All of the women were incredibly talented, but I was especially impressed by both of the band’s guitarists. The lead singer, Celia Woodsmith, had an enthralling, beautiful voice.

Right after Della Mae’s set was Elephant Revival. They played in the day before, which I didn’t get to see, but I imagine the Backwoods Stage suits them best. From the instant their set began, the band captured the audience. Bonnie Paine’s lilting voice and washboard and djembe genius complements the strings played by the rest of the members. And Bridget Law, the animated and talented fiddle player of the band is always a joy to watch. She invited Kimber Ludiker of Della Mae, Darol Anger and Rushad Eggelston to jam onstage with them, as well as a woman I didn’t recognize (if anybody knows, please comment). One of my favorite songs they played was a cover of Handsome Boy Modeling School’s ‘The Truth’ - check it out on the YouTubes!

During the middle of the Elephant Revival set, I checked out Gabriel Kelley’s set at the Roost. He’s a singer-songwriter with a lot to say and skill for songwriting. There was such a variety of music at this year’s Harvest, and Kelley was no exception. Snuggled between rock-stomipin’ bluegrass and stringed choruses, Gabriel Kelley (and his notably awesome beard) strummed and sang his way into our Harvest hearts.

After the Elephant Revival/Gabriel Kelley adventure, a much weirder and bitchin’ show awaited me. I saw a band voted Austin, Texas’ weirdest band: White Ghost Shivers. From the start of the set to the end, I was entertained by their hilarious, raucous show. Fake mustaches, buttsex songs, piano solos and much more; apparently that’s what you can expect from a White Ghost Shivers show! After that show I visited the Main Stage to check out North Mississippi Allstars. It was muddy and about to storm, so I didn’t stay too long. The rest of my night was spent relaxing at my campsite, listening to the music wafting from the Roost. The Congress played and rocked the stage – unfortunately, I’m not sure they were able to compete with Leftover Salmon. Yonder’s set on Saturday was their 1,500th – a pretty huge landmark. Unfortunately, they got rained out due to warnings of terrible weather. By the time the show was cancelled it was around midnight, I fell asleep in the back of a Subaru with the rain pattering on the rooftop and wind blowing against the trees. The music apparently came back on around 2 am, with Wookiefoot and Dirtfoot playing after the rainstorm.Harvest 2012 was wonderful. The selection of musicians was admirable, and I can’t say I really missed The Jayhawks all the much. If you’re looking for a wonderful fall festival, consider Harvest. You’ll love the scenery and probably the drive there; and the music settles perfectly in the hills. Hope to see you next year!

Fri, 10/26/2012 - 8:51 am

Last night at George's Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, AR, a large crowd filtered into the bar to see an energetic, eclectic, graceful, bass-heavy show. As the night progressed, so did the crowd; as Beats Antique took the stage, a shoulder-to-shoulder audience cheered and roared. The opener for the show, LYNX, was impressive – with a Tom Waits cover, beat-boxing, 90s-ish rapping and a cover of the classic tune 'No Diggity.' There weren’t a lot of costumes at this show (which I expected for some reason), but the crowd’s energy made up for any lacking theatrics.

LYNX, the opening act, could be described vocally as a lyrical, intimate experience; and her sound as a folksy electronic hip-hop carnival. LYNX is a solo artist onstage, but her sound is expansive thanks to electricity and fancy gizmos! Her songs feature deep bass sounds – the kind that rumble in your stomach; along with beautiful vocals, beat-boxing, rap, live drumming and guitar (which she physically plays in the style of an electronic bass – very interesting). She has played at many music festivals in the U.S. and around the world, as well as having worked with artists like Beats Antique, Matisyahu, John Popper and Bassnectar. Definitely visit LYNX’s website, lynxmusic.org, and see if you dig her sound. And for you Colorado folks, LYNX will be performing with Beats Antique on October 27 at the Fillmore, plus a few more shows in Aspen, Milwaukee and Chicago.

After LYNX’s set finished, the medium-sized crowd that had formed dispersed to their drinks, smokes and conversation. But soon the dance floor began to fill up again, as there was an 11-year-old boy juggling light balls, balancing on a wooden barrel and then juggling knives. It was so rad! And when Beats Antique took the stage, there was nothing but pure excitement in the cheers and fist bumps of the packed house. I haven’t seen this band before. In fact, I’ve missed them about 4 times. So there was not time to waste, I was going. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the simplicity of the show surprised me a bit. It was wonderful, with just three people on stage the show seemed personal and the musicians were inviting. All smiles and bass, Beats Antique threw down. All three members of the band are professionally trained in their field, music or dance, and it shows. They have studied in non-professional environments as well; melding perfectly the technical style that often comes from formal education with the interpretation of sounds that comes from really having music and performance lodged in your heart (in a good way!).

Zoe Jakes, the dancer in the group, is a perfect metaphor for the band’s sound. Aesthetically, she’s beautiful, but Jakes also possesses a beauty that lives in her movements, strength and command of the stage. Her dance style is both smooth, but theatrical when necessary. You can tell just from watching that she takes pride in her ability to capture an audience; and all the while David Satori and Tommy ‘Sidecar’ Cappel propelled the show all through the night (until 1 am).

The Antiques’ beats were infectious. Between all of the dancing (mine and the band’s), costume changes and bass thumping, I noticed something I really like about their music: The band is meant to be danced to, but their music isn’t so hard it tires you quickly, Beats Antique’s sound is energetic without being exhausting. And for a person who gets a lot less exercise than she’d like due to a desk job, this is perfect!

The night ended uniquely. First Beats did an encore, which was followed by a raucous finale using Bohemian Rhapsody as background music. First Satori and Cappel came onstage in costume heads: a wrestler and a duck. Everybody yelled/sang the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody and cheered when Jakes came out, dressed in a checkered unitard (is that what they’re called?) and wearing a lion’s head. Drums were played, dance moves were made, and Jakes removed her lion’s head only to reveal a unicorn head. This is the time we all understood why Jakes had been stumbling around as she entered the stage for the finale – two costume heads do not make for better vision. The band played along with the song and two of the members even shot off a confetti gun. As the song ended the band left the stage and greeted some fans on their way out. Beats Antique’s second show in Fayetteville was a smash. The band seemed genuinely excited to be there, and the energy of the audience was unmistakably positive. If there’s one thing I can say about Beats Antique, it’s that their music is great but the heart of this band is on the stage. Now, go see them live. You won’t regret it!

Tue, 11/20/2012 - 3:26 pm

Folks in the Northwest Arkansas area...a wonderful experience awaits you. Be sure to dust off your creativity hats and your dancing pants, because Keller Williams is coming to George’s Majestic Lounge! (On Thursday, November 29, 2012.)

If you’ve never seen a performance from Williams, you’re in for a big treat…an enormous, delicious, musical brownie sundae treat with whatever toppings your heart desires. And really, this tasty dessert is a pretty good analogy for Keller Williams’ sound. It has a great foundation (the brownie); chock full of the best, most well-trained ingredients from all across the country. Next are the cool, indulgent vocals – from political lyrics to boob tunes. And finally, piled on top are the hot fudge and nuts; like a personally-made brownie sundae, Williams adds flavor and his own touch to every performance.

Now, maybe that analogy got away from me. Or maybe I’m just hungry for a brownie sundae and live music. But regardless, seeing a show featuring Keller Williams is a special treat. He magically weaves flawless instrumentation and vocals using a fancy looping machine. And unlike many other ‘loopers,’ Keller Williams really knows how to use it. He frequently switches instruments, records vocals and interacts with the crowd – with seemingly no effort to balance so many activities at once. Often called a one-man jam band, a show from Williams is impressive and inspiring to say the least.

Not only is Williams a wonderful solo artist, but he also has a wonderful résumé of collaborations. He’s worked with the talents of the Travelin’ McCourys, Yonder Mountain String Band, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee and many more. In 2010, he released an album for children called Kids, trying to win the hearts and dance moves of the under-10 crowd; and I’ve heard he was successful!

There’s just something about musicians like Keller Williams. He is honest and open; he writes music for children and also for adults. He works hard to support music and musicians, both through charity and on his own. Every note he plays has heart in its reverberations, and you can feel that coming straight at you from the stage.

During his show, I’m hoping to catch a well-rounded variety of songs, from instrumentals and covers to bass-heavy beats and lyrical ballads. Keller Williams’ shows are always evolving and improving, so you can expect many nuggets of awesome nestled into each and every show he plays. This is the beauty of music and innovative musicians like Williams.

The concert is November 29 at George’s Majestic Lounge on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, Ark. Doors open at 7 pm and the show starts at 9:30. Tickets are $20 in advance and $22 day of, and this show is 18+! Hooray!

Tue, 12/04/2012 - 11:04 am

Barefoot and comfortable as in his own kitchen, a slightly bearded (possibly participating in No-shave November…), Keller Williams took the stage at George’s Majestic Lounge. And on such an unusually warm night in late November, the performance was perfect. The show started almost as promptly as I have seen a show in a bar venue start – which was nice. Of course, the crowd wasn’t as large as later in the night, so it’s almost as if the punctual crowd got a personal show! As the latecomers started filtering in, the venue filled to what felt like capacity; although the show wasn’t sold out, I’d imagine it was close. So in a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, everybody grooved (including Keller himself) and sang along with Keller Williams.

I haven’t seen Williams play as many times as most of the people in the crowd, but I have noticed a certain relaxed quality to his performances – Keller Williams feels so at ease on stage even I feel more comfortable. His head is in the performance, which takes away from the crowd-to-performer interaction that so many live shows rely on. Fortunately, Williams’ shows do not need banter or clever puns to keep things interesting; instead the show relies almost entirely on pure skill. Of course, his songs are full of hilarious puns and commentary, but a Keller Williams performance is all about the music.

Williams switches easily between instruments, electronic devices and microphone. It’s almost like watching a well-practiced dance production – seamlessly and comfortably moving between components to create a dynamic and propelling show. And the audience danced along, loving every jam. Songs Williams played ranged from original favorites like Freeker by the Speaker and Gate Crashers Suck to covers like Fiona Apple’s Criminal (which was awesome). The set frequently hearkened back to songs played earlier in the evening, almost a type of pleasant Groundhog Day situation.

One of my favorite instruments Williams plays is his distortion guitar (is that what they’re called). At one point in the night he played a jazz-inspired tune and used this guitar to sound a saxophone. Then later, he changed the tone to that of a xylophone. This type of instrumentation and innovation is impressive – and the crowd loves it, too. When watching Keller Williams perform, paying attention to detail adds to the impressive nature of his set. With each new or unique instrument, loop or vocal, Williams adds dimension and largess to his sound. If you didn’t know any better walking into a Keller Williams show, it would sound as if there’s an entire band on the stage.

Williams’ show in Fayetteville, Arkansas was super – everybody had a wonderful time, danced their asses off and I think we all learned a little bit about how to be a super rad musician. The set list balanced acoustic, jam and bass – progressing perfectly from chill to lively. And when the show ended after nearly 3 hours of straight Keller Williams (it goes down smoother than cheap whisky), we all left a little happier, a little sweatier and a little more full of music.

Check out more photos from the show.

Fri, 12/28/2012 - 8:38 am

If you're in Fayetteville, AR on January 6, you can start your 2013 music season with a free show that will blow your pants off – and probably any other clothing you're wearing that night.

When Little Rock's Flameing Daeth Fearies put on a show, they go all out (and all in). The band’s music is a combination of pop and rock, with undertones of punk, funk, heavy and bubble gum; and their fashion style isn’t complete without costumes, fuzzy angel wings, dancers and rainbows. In a Sync Weekly article, the band claimed ‘If it’s interesting, we like it.’ And probably if you’re interesting, you’ll like their show! Combining cabaret, punk, various genres, costumes, light shows, bubbles and all sorts of hullabaloo, FDF are probably one of the most outright entertaining bands Fayetteville has had on the schedule in a while.

Below is a quick interview with the band, to give you a taste of something you really don’t want to miss.

Show Info

Flameing Daeth Fearies

Smoke and Barrel Tavern

January 6, 2013

10 pm


Grateful Web’s Flameing Daeth Fearies

GW: First of all, can you sum up your band in 5 words?

FDF: Viral YouTube Videos: The Musical

GW: How has a Flameing Daeth Fearies show changed and evolved over time?

FDF: We added lights, two types of bubbles, dancing girls, musicians with more showmanship. The show has a lot more polish with the DIY aspect peeking through. 

GW: How has the music and songwriting changed over time?

FDF: We started out as sex, drugs, and rock n roll, now we seem to be all about food, love, and rock ‘n’ roll.  I guess it happens as you get older, songs are more pop and dance rock grooves with undertones of the hard rock, punk, and indie.

GW: What other music/instruments/bands do the members of FDF dabble in?

FDF: Rusti plays guitar, bass, keyboard, and programming. Ginger plays bass, trumpet, and piano. Frel plays guitar, bass, drums, and didgeridoo. Zombie Hunter V has a saxophone and clarinet somewhere in the attic. Musicians sometimes fill in for other bands here and there but FDF is their constant.

GW: Do any of you have a favorite joke or two you think Grateful Web readers should hear?

FDF: We write songs about internet/nerdy stuff... So here are a few jokes in that vein. I heard there was this band called 1023MB, they haven’t got any gigs yet.

Yo mama so ugly, even the Magic the Gathering nerds won't tap her.

GW: What can Fayetteville expect for your upcoming show at Smoke & Barrel?

FDF: Songs about furries, bronies, and Bailey Jay... How we can't get a black girl... Dancing girls, bubbles, rock star posturing, and the biggest light show we could fit in the Sprinter. And the best pants you have ever seen!

Wed, 01/02/2013 - 5:56 pm

Electro-funk artist Eliot Lipp has been touring for over 8 years now, bringing his bass beats, expert melodies and unique live shows to festivals and concert venues all across the United States and beyond (hopefully soon he’ll venture into space!). As electronic music evolves, so does Eliot Lipp.His live shows are well-known as rhythmic, melodic and bass-heavy; and they typically span all of his albums along with some tasteful electro-jamming and rad remixes. While his live shows often tend toward a more hip-hop/club style, Lipp still strives to keep his performances true to his goals as a musician: to create melodic, thought-provoking and engaging music.Over the years, Lipp has added new elements, sounds and styles to his already-baller live shows. Most notably, he’s added live musicians for some of his shows – a trend that’s gaining popularity among once-strictly-electronic artists. Unfortunately, there won’t be any live musicians playing with Lipp for this set at George’s Majestic Lounge. But now you’ll just have to go see him again - and you’ll get a whole new show experience if you do!A new addition to the Pretty Lights Music label, Lipp will be promoting his newest album Shark Wolf Rabbit Snake during his winter 2013 tour. He’s going to meld genres and melt minds – so prepare your pantaloons!Show Details:January 17, 2013George’s Majestic Lounge18+9 PM$10 in advance

Mon, 01/21/2013 - 3:07 pm

On yet another unusually warm January weeknight in Fayetteville, AR, Brooklyn-based Eliot Lipp played an energetic, upbeat show. The crowd was a bit sparse, likely due to the fact that it’s a new year (people make resolutions to save money, not go out, etc.) and the show was on a weeknight. But unlike some much larger shows, it seemed each person who bought a ticket to the show was there for the music. However, pretty much everybody seemed wasted out of their bones, so hopefully a few rad folks who love Eliot Lipp have resolved this year to spend MORE time at concerts and in bars!

Starting off the show was a duo called Tilleytime & Carson Smith. They were pretty fun, and seemed to be having a great time playing for the audience! Then another duo, Wookie Disco, flooded the stage with their sweet beats and live instrumentation. Their sound consisted of funked-up beats and a jam-style twist. According to their SoundCloud bio, Wookie Disco’s sets feature ‘the addition of live instrumentation that makes each and every night different and unique.’ This time they featured congas; maybe next time it’ll be a stringed instrument or the electric triangle! Oh the possibilities!

After what seemed like a rather long set of openers (not that I’m complaining, it was good music), Eliot Lipp came onstage and immediately started throwing down. Like many electronic artists, there wasn’t a lot of talking and jabbering. And when Lipp did speak, it was only to announce the next song was new or to say ‘yeah!’ He played quite a tracks few from his newest album, Shark Wolf Snake Rabbit, as well as a few I recognized from other recent albums.

With over 8 years of experience under his belt, Lipp knows how to throw a show for a college crowd. It’s one of human’s greatest talents, I think - having the ability to adapt to your current environment. And what do you do when you’re in a college town? Remix some rap, throw in a few unique tracks and make them dance. Each of the audience members were excited about the show, to say the least. Some were pumpedohmygodyeahbrahthisshitisawesomebestdayofmylife, to be more exact. And the few others (myself included) grooved and danced and soaked up his innovative, captivating style. Lipp couldn’t have asked for a better, more enthralled audience that danced their asses off until almost closing time.

Hopefully we’ll get to see Lipp in Fayetteville again sometime soon. He seems to frequent the area more than a lot of artists these days. And if you’re reading this from afar, check out his tour schedule. He’s throwing down across the U.S. right now, and some of his upcoming shows are with Emancipator and Tor.

Check out more photos from the show.

Fri, 01/25/2013 - 5:39 pm

What will you be doing Wednesday, February 13, 2013, at 9 pm? If you live in or near Fayetteville, AR I hope your answer goes something like this: I’LL BE HAVING AN AWESOME TIME AT THE LOTUS SHOW, what about you?

Electronic/instrumental/post-rock/neat-o band Lotus will be playing the recently revamped (read: larger) stage at George’s Majestic Lounge during the Midwest/southern leg of their tour. Lotus is a group with avid fans, and a lot of heart, soul and groove – and no matter what you need out of life at the moment of Lotus’ show, they will give you what you need. Whether you’re looking for a good time, an engaging music experience or a spiritual epiphany, you can find it at George’s on February 13. But…if you can’t make to that show, they’ll be giving away fun times and sweet vibes through March 1, ending in a two-day show in Atlanta. (I hope that means they’ll be playing for 48 hours…)

While many who don’t really know Lotus’ music consider them just a jam band, they’re so much more than that. Like comedians, some excel at improvisation while others crash and burn. It’s the same for musicians, and Lotus is one of those who can pull the fantastic and beautiful out of their instruments and turn it into a coherent song on the spot. The layers of captivating rhythm combined with their rock- and jazz-inspired sound will leave you cheering for an encore; and it’s likely we’ll see one!

I think we can expect quite a bit of hip-hop mixery, as well as a few tracks from their upcoming album, Build, to be released on February 19. You can listen to some of the album’s tracks on the band’s SoundCloud. No matter what Lotus gives us, it’ll be rad and well worth the $18 ticket price.

Sidenote: Moon Hooch is opening for Lotus. They’re a Brooklyn-based trio that fuses house, dance, drum and bass, jazz, world and classical. Basically, they’re a 5-layer dip of awesome; especially considering their only instrumentation is two saxophones and a drum. Many folks, as they travel through their lives on the New York subway system, have had the pleasure of hearing Moon Hooch’s music live. And boy, do I love me some guerilla entertainment!

Show Details:

George’s Majestic Lounge

February 13, 2013

9 pm (Moon Hooch opens)


$18 in advance

Mon, 02/25/2013 - 3:25 pm

Fayetteville, Arkansas has seen a lot of different bands in the past few years. Its electronic scene is growing, as well as its jam scene. And really, all of its music is growing. So it’s no surprise George’s Majestic Lounge chose a band like Lotus to play at their venue. The band has played at this venue several times, but never on the venue’s new, much larger stage. I’m sure it was a nice change for the band, giving them even more to work with as far as their light show goes. Before the new stage, bands were cramped onstage; and a lot of fancy lighting was pretty much a no-go. To be completely honest, shows at George’s Majestic Lounge are far more bitchin’ than ever before.

Opening for Lotus during their show on February 13, 2013, was Moon Hooch. A jazzy rock (or rockish jazz) group out of New York City. I missed their set, but I heard great things and I’m now constantly reprimanding myself for not managing my time better. Luckily, I was able to hear a bit of the band’s talent as one of its members, Wenzl McGowen, serenaded the small front room crowd with his contrabass clarinet. It was awesome.

In the back room, the crowd was getting their dancegroove on to Lotus. The set started fairly calm, with a combination of Hammerstrike, Neon Tubes, The Surf and Livingston Storm. As the room started filling with fans, the tempo rose and the band played harder. One of my favorite things about a show like Lotus’ is the ability of the band to create a whole new experience for each set. Although they’re playing the same songs, Lotus rearranges the tunes, invents new mash-ups and transitions seamlessly from one song to another. No matter what, you’ll hear something you have never witnessed at any other show performed by this group. As my friend David said, ‘I’m just going where they take me’ - which is really the best attitude for a band that perfectly blends each song, flowing from one moment to the next like the movement of footsteps.

The band’s set also featured a mix of Spiritualize, Down and It’s All Clear to Me Now – during which a girl I was standing by claimed ‘this is my favorite song!’ in reference to Down. They played an epic, 12-minute version of Livingston Storm, and ended their set with an encore performance comprised of The Oaks and Break Build Burn. During my double-checking of their set list, I was lead to their forum. There, I discovered you can purchase MP3 or FLAC files of the tracks or full show for each of the bands performances. Rad? I THINK SO! Do it.

During the performance, while observing Lotus’ light show (which is awesome) I began to think about a transition I’ve noticed with the rise of light technology as a large part of live music shows. It seems a lot of bands are leaving behind a personal, active onstage performance and substituting light shows. There are probably too many reasons for this to name like more instruments and cords so there’s less (safe) mobility, the ability of lights to create a performance/mood you could never imagine, it’s easier to play instruments when you’re not jumping around and causing lots of ruckus, etc. I think Lotus’ music has the ability to travel through you and you with it, so it seems there’s no real need for an active band, because the music is really where it’s at. That being said, I miss seeing each band member’s personality translated through an audience. I think Lotus makes the right choice in letting the music be the frontrunner, as opposed to the performance – if it has to be a choice. (If anybody has any thoughts on this topic, post them in the comments – I’d love to get other opinions on the matter!)

After I followed this thought-tangent to the ends of the earth, I came back and realized I was actually at a Lotus show and thanked the music gods for creating yet another band that can simultaneously inspire, provoke thought and rock your face off. Good job, guys – and thanks!

Check out more photos from the show.

Mon, 03/18/2013 - 3:30 pm

There aren’t really any proper words in the English dictionary to describe a Dirtfoot show. However, due to my lack of knowledge of other languages (with the exception of Hermano [thanks, Arrested Development!] and countless useless German words) I am going to attempt to describe Dirtfoot using the English language. The best start is probably using the band’s personally adopted descriptors: Gypsy Punk Grumble Boogie, which is basically spot-on.I’ve been to many Dirtfoot shows, and each one has been a barrel of fun + beer. But Friday night’s show at George’s Majestic Lounge was a barrel of fun + beer + new songs – which was the perfect close to a week of working for The Man. While the show wasn’t all new songs, most of the tunes they played I hadn’t heard before. Of course, they played classics like ‘My Girl’ and ‘Rest My Head,’ which have become sing-alongs for most audiences Dirtfoot plays for.The new songs they played were tracks like ‘Sake of the Sound’ and ‘I Am a Man’ – most of which were slightly less raucous than their classics, and I thought they were stylistically deeper and more intricate. The mix of new and old songs was perfect for the smaller audience that attended the show. We danced and sang along when we could, and enjoyed new songs when they popped up.  The songs I didn’t know were a bit different than those I have heard, most notably they had a bit more musicality mixed in. Scott Gerardy (Saxophone) played more solos than I remember from other shows and J Bratlie (Banjo/Vocals) rocked really hard! I was excited to experience more of each member’s talents during this set, and the newer songs lend themselves to a more complex sound and some interesting lyrics.Dirtfoot’s perfect Friday night set also included a quick jam between the percussionist Daniel Breithaupt and drummer Derek Russell. And a surprise (to me) guest, came onstage for a few songs and enhanced them with her clarinet stylings. To be honest, I’ve always been fairly disappointed that bands don’t feature more symphony instruments onstage. The ability of classic instruments to enhance modern music is vast, often compelling and adds a lot of depth to any sound.Hearing the new songs Dirtfoot is starting to produce really makes me believe in their future success. The band is using a Kickstarter campaign to help produce their new album, so if you feel the same way as I do, be sure to donate anything you can to help. And if you can’t donate anything now, the least you can do is tell everybody you know about Dirtfoot. Unique bands like Dirtfoot deserve to be supported by their fans – they are the lifeblood of musicians (or at least the gas in the van…).Check out more photos from the show.

Tue, 04/16/2013 - 1:19 pm

Over the years, many great bands have played the stage at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, AR. And many of them have played in Fayetteville year after year. One of those bands is Elephant Revival. If you haven’t seen this band before, just go. I promise you won’t regret it. In the short time I’ve been listening to Elephant Revival, they’ve become one of my top 5 bands. Not only are they amazing musicians (sporting one of the best fiddle players I’ve seen in a long time and a lead singer with the voice of birds, humans and who knows what else), but they put on a great show. Those attributes add up to a stellar night wherever you are.Elephant Revival hails from Nederland, Colorado, but one of their members (Bonnie Paine) is originally from Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Since that’s less than a 3-hour drive from Fayetteville, it basically feels like Bonnie and I have been best friends since forever. Or not. Despite our lack of best-friendship, Elephant Revival still adds some sunshine to my soul every time I hear one of their songs, and when I see them live it’s almost as if I feel the trees around us growing with each chord and harmony progression.From their originals to their covers, the lyrics to the songs they choose (or perhaps that choose them) are deep and full of wisdom. Their music is a combination of elements from gypsy and Celtic to bluegrass and rock, so you can expect a pretty diverse show. Their sound is filled with nature-inspired majestic harmonies, conscious melodies, haunting genre-bending and some of the best washboard playing I’ve ever heard. Not only is Elephant Revival a group of great musicians, but they’re also great people. According to the bio from their website, Elephant Revival is committed to responsible stewardship of the planet and its inhabitants. They work with many organizations, like Conscious Alliance, Calling All Crows, Trees Water & People, and various other nonprofits…so you know they’re looking out for you and every other sentient being on this planet. So in turn, why not support Elephant Revival, their causes and their music. They’ll be playing at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, AR on April 24 for just $10 a ticket (in advance).

Mon, 04/29/2013 - 9:07 pm

Elephant Revival. If you don’t come out of one of their shows feeling refreshed, uplifted, happier…you may want to visit the doctor. Of course, we all change with every single action and thought, but Elephant Revival packs what seems like a whole lifetime of life lessons, revelations and beauty into a 2-hour set. So when you see them live, you’re sure to get more than just some time in a bar listening to music out of your experience. We need more of this…the conscious, deep-in-your-heart lyrical musicianship that’s infused in the music of Elephant Revival.

The band’s show at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, Arkansas on April 24, 2013, was all heart and lots of love. One of the band’s members (Bonnie Paine) is from Talequah, Oklahoma – just a short drive to Fayetteville. The venue was peppered with long-time fans of Bonnie and the band, and I heard countless times from a number of people that Elephant Revival gets better with every show. This one was no exception.

I’ve seen Elephant Revival perform one other time (at Harvest Music Festival) and this show was completely different than that one. Both were equally as awesome, though…and I am super into equality!

The show began with a great set from Meandering Orange (I think an Oklahoma band, but I’m having trouble finding any information on them besides the festivals they’ve played). They plucked and played like the best of them, and I was pretty impressed with their song selection. One of the crowd’s favorites being a tune (according to a member of the band – a song about Facebook) with lyrics that went something like: Who really cares if I get stoned/lock all the doors, stay home all alone./It’s my God-given right to do as I please./I don’t worry ‘bout you, don’t you worry ‘bout me. From the start of the night’s music to the end, the stage was filled with great musicians and special appearances. Bridget Law accompanied the band on a few songs, and improvised (I assume) beautifully. Annie Paine (Bonnie’s sister) showed up frequently onstage during both band’s sets. Meandering Orange’s set ended and the band received an enthusiastic round of applause, hoots and hollers.

Elephant Revival took the stage just after ten – my kind of start time. They opened their set with a few songs performed by Bonnie Paine, Bridget Law and Annie Paine. Many of the songs the band played at the beginning of the set were recently written and had rarely been performed. One of the songs was written by Bonnie about her trip to Ghana, Africa. It was nice to see the band performing songs that aren’t typical; after one of the songs performed by the trio, Bonnie thanked the audience for listening, saying they felt comfortable performing the song that night. The whole evening felt special, and Elephant Revival was clearly glad to be back in Fayetteville playing for their large Arkansas-Oklahoma-Missouri fan base. The music swelled and ebbed, driving the crowd though a perfect mix of music styles and sentiments.

The second ‘part’ of Elephant Revival’s Wednesday-night set featured lots of ‘turkey-in-the-straw’-type dance tunes. Annie Paine played bass on a few songs, and the other members switched instruments and wowed the audience with great mandolin and banjo solos; and as usual, Bonnie was the supreme master of the washboard. The crowd’s energy raised with the band’s and we all celebrated music together. With every pluck of the mandolin, strum of the guitar, beat of the washboard, drum of the bass, warble of the fiddle and sweet song of the vocals, the crowd grew more attentive and entranced; so entranced, in fact, that during one song the audience was almost completely silent. It was fantastic.

The third ‘part’ of the show featured some of the more popular songs. The audience shouted out requests throughout the night, many of which were worked into the set. Before the encore, Bonnie and Annie Paine did a crowd-requested, beautiful, nearly-A cappella cover of the late Richie Havens. From the way it seemed, they don’t perform this song too often, but the two did a stellar job…it brought stars to my eyes and tears to others’!

After the Richie Havens song, Annie Paine thanked everybody for being there and it seemed the band was done. But in these days of totally expected encores, Elephant Revival was most certainly not finished. The last three songs were great choices: Ring Around the Moon (the requested ‘Any song with the musical saw’…which turned out to be a perfect pick for the almost-full moon that night), Grace of a Woman, and Dance with the Gypsies. Every moment of Elephant Revivals Fayetteville set caused a stir in my heart and even sometimes brought tears to my eyes. And even in spite of the fact there was a dude (who was out of his mind) standing beside me, claiming the band was being offensive by singing about Gypsies who also had an open wound on his hand from a skateboarding accident, brah – I had a wonderful time. A woman I met who has been traveling to the band’s shows told me she cries every time she sees Elephant Revival perform…and I can relate. But the tears fall from our eyes because of happiness, beauty and truth – there is nothing sad about an Elephant Revival show…except maybe the end.

Check out more photos from the show.

Fri, 05/10/2013 - 7:47 pm

Just a week before Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas is stormed with wild country music fans for the Thunder on the Mountain music festival, the same valley will be filled with the likes of us: hippies, high-fivers, costumed, raging, party-hardy music lovers. Wakarusa. It’s coming and it’s going to be better than last year. IT’S THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY for god’s sake! With a great lineup, a strong base of festivalfans and more and more people discovering the love and music Mulberry Mountain has to offer…this year’s Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival is going to be big and bodacious.

Among the headliners are some classic jam acts, great stage shows and a few quirky acts that most people never thought they’d get the chance to see. Starting off the top of the headliners list is Widespread Panic. Then there’s Dispatch, STS9, The Black Crowes, Amon Tobin, Snoop Lion (yup.), Umphrey’s McGee, Yonder Mountain String Band, Gogol Bordello (hell yup!), Zeds Dead and Of Monsters and Men. I can keep listing bands…and I will later…but just with this selection of artists you find jam, rock, electronic, folk, bluegrass, gypsy punk and hip-hop. A well-rounded festival is always in favor and full of flavor.

On Mulberry Mountain during Wakarusa, you can find gorgeous sunrises and equally beautiful sunsets, four stages, rad Arkansans and people from all over the U.S., a waterfall, lots of room to fly kites and play Frisbee, live art, a costume contest(!!!) and much more. Music plays 24/7 and there’s even yoga, the Chompdown! (a free breakfast with background music from Dirtfoot, which will take place on Friday morning in the RV Reserved camping area) and activities for children.

If the list of bands, scenery or activities thus far don’t impress you, try this: Among the ‘non headliners’ are Rebelution, Shpongle, Son Volt, GROUPLOVE, Delta Rae, RJD2, Del the Funky Homosapien (I NEVER thought I’d get to see this show, and thus am radically excited!), The Polish Ambassador, BoomBox, Papadosio, The Floozies, Langhorne Slim, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Mountain Sprout, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Dirtfoot, Moon Taxi, Deap Vally…It seems I’ve developed a tic where I can’t stop listing off all of the great bands in store.

If you’re still not impressed…maybe this isn’t the festival for you. But if you are, buy your ticket and camping, pack up the car and wait until it’s time to jump in the car (or throw up your thumb) for Ozark, Arkansas. The rampant beauty of the mountain will leave you feeling renewed and refreshed, and the musical education you’ll get will leave you feeling…educated.

Here are some of the bands I’m looking forward to:

  • Amon Tobin – This guy will blow your mind. His music is a journey, not simply a concert. Don’t expect to dance a lot during his set but do expect to be incredibly impressed by the art you’ll experience. Tobin reminds me of a modern-day The Wall…and we need more of that in this world.
  • Gogol Bordello – This guy is among my most-looked-forward-to shows. It’s going to be loud, raucous and craymazing (<- - -  sorry…not a real word).
  • Of Monsters and Men – I think this band is going to be great live. They have a beautiful sound and incorporate a lot of upbeat/rock touches to their music. I hope they mix it up onstage and give us some unique renderings of their songs.
  • Dispatch – I’ve heard so much about their live shows. Sometimes I get bored watching jam bands, but I imagine this won’t be one of those shows.
  • Widespread Panic – A band that’s been around for so long, with such a huge following must be that way for a reason, right? I’m in!
  • GROUPLOVE – I know one song from this band, and it’s really fun. I’m excited to see what else they can do.
  • RJD2 – I imagine this will be a fairly chill show. We need more chill electronic shows. Or at least, I do.
  • Del the Funky Homosapien – Apparently Del isn’t super well-known. Or maybe just in some circles. In case you don’t know who he is, he’s part of the Gorillaz.
  • Emancipator – I’ve always liked Emancipator’s remixes. But he won me over when he remixed an Elephant Revival song. Any DJ with that good of taste in music deserves a listen – he’s also remixed Mad World by Gary Jules.
  • Nahko and Medicine for the PeopleThis group emanates peace, happiness and good feelings. I want to go to there.
  • BoomBox – I love them. I always have. I always will.
  • The Polish Ambassador – I’ve never seen this group, but they’re jivey electronic from what I can tell.
  • Moon Taxi – Upon listening, they seem to be a floaty, airy indie-folk band. They have a great vocal sound and I’m always down for this type of music.
  • Red Baraat – One of Wakarusa’s world bands. Their funky, brass, Bollywood style has me intrigued.
  • The Brothers Comatose – A classic, all-male bluegrass band.
  • Deap Vally – A female rock duo. You don’t see this a lot, and you don’t see it done well a lot.
  • Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band – My fiancée and I saw this band perform at a festival last year and they were so much fun. There’s brass, dancing, grooving…a whole lotta getting’ down.
  • ZZ Ward – A female blues/pop musician. She reminds me a bit of KT Tunstall – there’s a lot of voice and a lot of heart in her sound.
  • Zeds Dead – Yeah! Late-night dance party, ya’ll!
  • The Last Bison – Blogger hootenannie called this mountain-top chamber music band ‘organized sonic pandemonium.’ Their sound is ethereal and down-to-earth at the same time. Beautiful.
  • Holy Ghost Tent Revival – I’m a sucker for a large band with lots of strings.

You can view the stage schedule here.

Check out the preview video for Wakarusa 2013; this really is a beautiful place with fantastic people and, more importantly, amazing music.

Mon, 05/20/2013 - 2:51 pm

Grateful Web's Michelle Miesse recently caught up with J Bratlie from Shreveport, LA based Dirtfoot.  Dirtfoot, who describes their sounds as: Gypsy Punk Country Grumble Boogie. J Bratlie shared some of Dirtfoot's wake up norms, an update on their recent Kickstarter campaign, life on the road and plans for their 7th appearance at this year's Wakarusa Festival.

GW: How are you doing J?

J: Great!

GW: So you guys have Wakarusa coming up in a couple of weeks, and you're going to be playing two shows, I believe, plus the Chompdown.

J: Correct.

GW: Okay. So do you guys get tired ever?

J: Well, this year's actually going to be kind of a rest for us. I think a year or two ago we did five or six different things. And it was, you know, that was a rough one. By the end of the fest we were all pretty beat. But we are actually looking forward to this one; two sets and of course the Chompdown. The Chomp's, of course, it's a show but it's really a shot in the arm. It's kind of a booster shot for us - getting to be around all the friends, you know, and just doing something good and enjoying the commune. It's a good time - it's not work at all. It's fun.

GW: Yeah, the Chompdown is awesome. You get to feed people who are probably starving delicious food. Do you guys ever get to cook or do you just play the whole time?

J: Well, occasionally we get to do some stuff on the tail end. But we're usually pretty lucky if we can get a plate at the end when we're done. Every once in a while somebody will go snag some eggs before they're all gone...bring some eggs and bacon to us as well. But it's, you know...getting up there and playing a set, it's always just such a great time. Anyhow, there's usually Bloody Marys in the morning too and those kind of things, so that's always fun.

GW: Bloody Marys in the morning are perfect. So when you guys are playing a festival like this, how does it affect your music vs. playing in a bar or venue or something like that?

J: Well, you know, we always try to do something a little different. We've actually kind of had an evolution here in the last year with...Matt won an electric guitar when we did the John Lennon Songwriting thing and so that's kind of dirtied up the sound. You know, we also have a new drummer. Our old drummer retired after a long time on the road. So we got in a new guy and he's a little more of a rock-influenced drummer. And it's really kind of given us a different sound. We played at Old Settler's Fest in Austin recently and some guy came up to us after the set and said that we reminded him of System of a Down meets Gogol Bordello. *laughs* I said, 'Cool. Yeah, I haven't heard that one before.' So, our sound is definitely morphing. We're kind of curious to see what everyone thinks about some of the new things that we'll be doing.

GW: Actually, I was at your show in Fayetteville when you played there last and one of the biggest things I noticed was that your sound was a bit different. I felt like it was kind of like you guys were going a different direction with the sound - still the fun, gypsy punk grumble boogie thing you guys are pretty much famous for, but I felt that lyrically there was a lot of meat to it and the music just seemed to be changed. So how did you guys get Derek in the band? How did you find him?

J: Well, Derek actually jumped on stage at Waka with us about two or three years ago. He's a Shreveport boy and he was at Waka, and Scotty or Daniel had jammed with him before. He was standing on the side of the stage like 'Hey. Let me come up!' So he jumped on stage and player percussion and that's kind of how we first met him. Whenever Layne decided to retire, immediately we started putting the word out, you know about people looking for drums and if I recall the story correctly, Derek was working at a sandwich shop and Matt went in to grab a sandwich. And that's kind of how it all got started as far as getting Derek in the group. As far as the sound, I mean, you know you're exactly right. As the band has evolved we've kind of lyrically evolved; the songs themselves are...I don't want to say we're intentionally trying to do more, but as we're growing as a group and as we're aging as a group, it is kind of evolving - it's changing. You see a lot of bands go through that. We still do the same filtering process. We start working on a song and if people don't like it, we don't play it. When I say people, I mean if the band members don't like it we don't play it. If we really dig it - it goes out there. And then from there it continues to morph on the road. We have some songs that have continually changed over the years and we have to go back and listen to the originals if we want to play them like we recorded them.

GW: So, I guess you guys are always...every show you probably learn something new. Do you guys pick up new instruments ever? Do any members of the band have any outside bands or things they participate in?

J: Absolutely. Most of us are multi-instrumentalists. On this new record I put some piano down on a couple of tracks. Everybody plays in other groups for sure. Our drummer plays with a side group. Scott, the sax player, he plays with everybody. I mean, he's constantly got his horn looking for a gig whenever we're not actually doing stuff. Our bass player, he has his own group. They've recorded a record. We all stay busy with lots of projects. Because of that it allows us to have different influences and kind of keep our eyes open. When Matt got the electric guitar- how’s that going to change the sound? What's going to happen? Rather than worrying about it, we just kinda threw it in there and played with it, and we really dig it. If we didn't dig it he'd still be playing the acoustic. We kind of naturally evolve with it as it comes to us.

GW: What's your favorite instrument that you don't play?

J: I'd say probably...I, myself, pick up the guitar more than anything else. I started playing the guitar when I was a kid...so I wanted to impress the ladies and all that. You know, strum chords in church camp. Because you impress the ladies with a guitar at church camp.

GW: Yes. Church camp is a great place to impress ladies.

J: Yes, especially with an acoustic. 13 with an acoustic guitar - you can't beat it. I like to play the guitar a lot. You never know. We do have practices where we pick up other instruments, or try to do something different with what we have. So you never know what you might see...what we might do on stage. We have a couple tunes where I know that Daniel and Derek want to switch up. And Daniel plays drums and Derek plays percussion. We may end up being one of those shows where I jump on the bass and Nathan gets on the guitar.

GW: I really appreciate the ability of musicians to switch instruments almost seamlessly. You mentioned the John Lennon Songwriting Contest - can you explain that a little more?

J: The John Lennon Songwriting Contest is sponsored by the John Lennon group. They do a bunch of different songwriting contests throughout the year. They do some regional-type contests. And they had one called the NOLA Jazz Competition. It was basically to Louisiana or Louisiana-esque bands; so we decided 'hey, we're a Louisiana band...let's throw our name in the hat and see what happens.' And we put our song "Bathroom Sink" from the first record into the mix. Because to me it's got the most New Orleans kind of vibe to it. And we got a call saying 'Congratulations.' We didn't really know...we enter a lot of things and we get a lot of thank you, but...you get a lot of that kind of stuff. Those nice emails that are about 3 lines long. But we got a really nice email saying you have a Epiphone John Lennon Casino Guitar coming your way, and a ProTools 10 rig with an MBox and you get to come to New Orleans and if you can at all make it, we want to come record you on the John Lennon tour bus. And so we're like...Okay. We drove to New Orleans, met up with them in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere...jumped on the bus and we recorded "Bathroom Sink" - they mixed it, videoed it, they put the video up on YouTube and it was a fun experience. It was a great time - their crew was really cool. And, of course, the John Lennon bus travels everywhere. They do a lot of stuff with schools...music education kind of things. And they also have recorded tons of huge artists. It was an honor and definitely a privilege for us to be a part of that. And we got a cool video out of the deal, and we definitely got some great gear. Matt's guitar is just awesome. It's definitely a nice, nice electric guitar. It's really morphed the sound of the group, so it's been wonderful.

GW: That's a really nice chain of events that started off your new album, which we can go right into...the Kickstarter - that ended recently. You guys raised $20,290.

J: That is correct.

GW: So what are you guys going to do with that? Explain to Grateful Web readers what you intend to do with your $20,290.

J: Well, there's been talk of running off to Mexico. We're not sure. *laughs* The first thing is to pay the studio, because they graciously allowed us to go in and record without having any money. And basically saying, 'Okay, we're going to do a Kickstarter and hopefully it will be funded. And after it gets funded we can pay. And that will be beautiful.' It basically started with February of last year; Brady Blade, who owns the studio, he's the drummer for Dave Matthew and Friends, he's Emmylou Harris' drummer - he plays with everybody. He caught a show at Mardi Gras that we played and was just like 'Guys. I love the new sound - gotta get you guys in the studio. I'm free between this date and this date' - between Erykah Badu and a new project with Dave Matthews and Jacob Dylan and the Sexton Brothers. Brady's actually got a new band he's starting - a super group kind of thing.

So, you know, we're like...absolutely! But...'we have no money. Your studio is a 5-million-dollar studio; it's nice and swanky and all those terms you want to put on it. We don't have the funds for this.' So he says 'Tell you what - let me be the producer; I'll work out a deal.' So basically, we got the studio for about 1/3 of what we should have paid for it. He allowed us to put up a Kickstarter and hopefully we would meet our goal. We reached out to Papa Molly (he's a local musician from Shreveport). He showed up and put some awesome guitar down on one of our tracks. And then Brady had worked with the Rebirth Brass Band before on a Kenny Wayne Shepard record. He reached out to them...we actually opened up for Rebirth a few years ago so they remembered us and said 'Hell yeah we'll come on up!' We got them set up on four songs. Again, it was one of those things that started out at one point and continued to grow as we always do. We always go in planning to do one thing and spend one thing, and we do something different and do a whole lot more. Anyhow, we set up the Kickstarter and said this is the minimum number we need to have to complete the project - just to get the studio paid off and get the pressing and all that kind of thing done. We hit our goal with about sixty hours left and we said what the hell...vinyl isn't too cheap to press, but if we can go ahead and get to 20 grand we're going to do a special, limited run of vinyl. And it just shot up. Everybody started upping their pledges and we had a bit last-minute push. We did a local, secret unannounced gig here locally and all kinds of things to help raise the funds. When it was all said and done we got over the mark and we were stoked. We're very happy that we can fund the album, pay the studio...because our record would have been held hostage. We're going to be able to get it done and get it out there. This summer/fall we're going to be doing a lot of touring to help support the record.

GW: So when can we expect the record and the vinyl to be out?

J: Well, we are planning on an early fall release. We will be announcing the specifics very soon. We just got out of the studio and listened to the final mixes. And we're now working on what we want to call this thing. We had a plan at first, sort of, and as the songs kind of came together we're like 'Man, this has a whole different vibe than we were thinking,' So then we did the Kickstarter...and now we're sitting here with a few ideas of what we want to call it. It's a dirty, sexy record - it's just one of these thing where we have to find a good name for this.

GW: So what other festivals are you playing at this summer?

J: We've got a bunch of tour dates that we're about to be posting up soon. There are a few festivals coming up in the fall that we can't announce yet.

GW: How many years have you guys played at Wakarusa?

J: This will be our 7th year.

GW: Wow. That's awesome. Have you noticed a change in the festival? What do you like about it?

J: Well, I do think at first the festival had a kind of grassy vibe...I do think it's broadened a little bit. They're trying to be a little bit more of everything kind of festival. Which to me is cool - I think part of that does come in to Harvest Fest which comes in the fall. Because there is that festival now, Waka is kind of morphing itself to stand away from Harvest a bit more. All that said, Waka is one of our favorite festival every year. The staff is always great - they're kind of like extended family to us now. The grounds themselves...Kansas was fun. You had to walk 3 days to get anywhere and being where it is now is just such a great setting. Everything's close - you can walk five minutes and you're anywhere. And, of course, this year...the lineup is awesome. We're stoked to see Gogol Bordello...we cannot wait. We're going to be right up front screaming like a bunch of idiots.

GW: If somebody had never heard of you, how would you describe your band to them.

J: Well, we've always liked to call ourselves gyspy punk country grumble boogie...we may have to work on that name now because we've heard a couple of heavy metal references. We may have to throw heavy metal in there somewhere.

We are a band that basically, if you're not movin' and shakin' at the end of the set we're not doing our job. The music's got vibe, feel, a lot of call and response - we depend on the crowd to take part and to be a part of the songs. We've always had the shaker cans that show up for the gigs. And they may make a new appearance at Waka this year. We've always made those cans and we've taken a break from it for a bit because...we've made so many damn cans. What's really cool about it is that we have people who show up to gigs with their own cans. That was kind of the hope - eventually you'd see them there anyway. We never wanted to sell them...we didn't want to make it any kind of merch thing...Oh, go buy a bean can. That's part of our thing. When the crowd is up, we're up. When the crowd is giving the energy to us it makes us that much higher. You feel like you're floating. And it makes it so easy to play. The show begins and the show ends and you just hope you didn't screw up in the middle somewhere. The crowd can make it almost like a religious experience. That high that only comes from feeling like there's something bigger than yourself.

GW: The ability of music is to connect people and to give them religious experiences where they may not find them. It's so cool that you guys are able to recognize that. It think that, maybe a lot of audience members don't always understand how much you can really get out of a live show.

J: You know, we have always had that kind of primal quality. There was a fella who used to come to our shows...he was a whirling dervish. We had a song and he would literally just start to spin and spin and spin and spin as the song when on (it's one of our more gypsy songs called 'Break My Bones') and he would do it because it would bring on this euphoria and that 'holy' thing that only happens through the music and movement. That's kind of what it is for all of us; the way we move onstage, the way the crowd interacts with us, the way the crowd calls back to us in our songs...it all just helps to build when you're a part of something bigger than yourself. When you get that feeling that it's not just you - you're a tiny piece of a big thing. And that's when you get that feeling.

GW: Would you like to say anything to Grateful Web readers?

J: We want to thank everybody that, first off, helped us with our Kickstarter campaign. It's such an outpouring of love, so for anybody that donated or shared or tweeted or blogged...we are very grateful and we hope to see everybody at Waka. If you see us, come up and high five, shake our hand...whatever...we want to meet all the folks that helped us get where we are. We appreciate everybody's love and we cannot wait for you guys to hear the new music.

GW: Me neither! I am super excited about the new album. Thank you for all the work you guys do and for all the beauty you bring into our lives.

Thu, 05/23/2013 - 7:07 pm

Grateful Web caught up with Austin, TX-based Govinda just before he plays at Wakarusa. A master of combining classical music with electronic influences, Govinda discusses his musical passions, what you can expect from him at Wakarusa and his many musical influences.

GW: You’ll be at Wakarusa very soon – what can we expect to see from you this year?

Govinda: A completely unique stage show with all new dancers and flashy costumes to wake your lazy asses up. Not to mention a few new tracks specifically made for this lovely Sunday morning.

GW: You’ve played in Arkansas quite a few times; I actually saw you playing at a place called Hogridge Hollow. I’m pretty sure it was pouring rain that night. What are some of your most memorable shows?

Govinda: Well that one will never be forgotten..jaja..however, one of my faves will always be Lightning in a Bottle 2012 and Halloween at the Parish in Austin with Tipper a few years back.

GW: You’ve shared the stage with a fair number of talented musicians – who would you like to play with that you haven’t already?

Govinda: Hmmm, maybe Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance.

GW: What artists do you look up to? Who are some of music’s greatest innovators?

Govinda: Mostly classical and folk music. I love Madredeus, Shakti, and a bunch of obscure gypsy music.

GW: What’s your favorite instrument that you don’t play?

Govinda: Sitar

GW: How did you first get introduced to the idea of combining your violin talents with electronic music?

Govinda: Well, I fell in love with electronic music after college. I had been playing violin classically for many years and wanted to blend the two. It was a unique sound back then. Pre-Beats Antique and pre-Linsey Stirling.

GW: Do you have a favorite composer or movement?

Govinda: Tchaikovsky and Paganini...for different reasons of course. 

GW: How did your upbringing influence your musical career?

Govinda: I had a very unique upbringing. My parents were in the music industry. My mother is a singer/songwriter and novelist as well. I grew up with art and culture as a central focus in the heart of the internationally unconscious, Central Texas. I was striving to blend my world around me with idealism and fantasy. 

GW: What makes a great live show?

Govinda: I believe the visual aspect is just as important as the music. People are coming to "see" you. Not just hear you. I always focus on preparing a show with a healthy handful of eye candy.  I also think that keeping energy and mystery keeps a strong presence alive on stage.

GW: How does playing at an outdoor music festival vs. a show in an enclosed venue change your performance?

Govinda: the biggest differences are the amount of people and the fact that there are no sound checks and stage setups. It’s one after another. Much has to be done on the fly in a festival. Other than that? Bugs.

GW: What are some of your most influential songwriting inspirations?

Govinda: Love, sensuality, dreams, spiritual elevation, space travel and mind expansion. 

GW: As a classically trained musician, what opportunities do you see to use the combination of electronic music and classical music as an educational tool?

Govinda: It can open minds to hearing new types of music that were previously not liked. I have a lot of fans that don’t even listen to electronic music. They are drawn in by the violin and live aspect. I also have ravers and party-goers that seem to have a new passion for the instrument after hearing it played in the dance music context.

GW: How would you describe your music and live shows to somebody who has never heard of you?

Govinda: An audio-visual feast more decadent than a vampire's blood bath mixed with a sensual, mind-expanding journey through the heart of the Goddess.

GW: Anything you’d like to say to Grateful Web readers?

Govinda: Always live your dreams and dance your heart open.

Fri, 05/31/2013 - 10:25 am

Walkarusa. Mudarusa. Funarusa. There are lots of alternative names for Wakarusa here on Mulberry Mountain. Although most of them aren’t very clever we use the names anyway. So far, it’s been more Mudarusa than anything. But I’ve only been here a mere day, and I can’t wait to see what this weekend gives us!

My Thursday at Wakarusa started like this: Arrive; find a camping spot; set up tent in the pouring rain; dig an AWESOME trench around our tent in the pouring rain; try to direct our friends to our campsite; change out of sopping wet clothes. After we got set up, we tromped down to the stages…which were closed due to an impending storm. So we walked back to our campsite and waited for the rain to come. It never did.

By now it was about 6 pm and I had seen no music, but we did arrange a super well-draining campsite. (I’m so proud of our little moat!) We traveled to the stages again to find some music. We succeeded, but only mildly. The first band we caught was a bit of the Yonder Mountain String Band set. They tore up the stage and their incredibly dedicated fans had a great time dancing in the mud. Then my fiancé and I went to the Moon Taxi show. This is one of the bands I most wanted to see; I’d listened to some of their tracks when I was researching the bands coming here this year. They’re a very talented alternative rock kind of band (although I’m kind of terrible at categorizing bands), and their show was great. They played a dynamic set with strong musicianship – the transitions between songs were smooth and the rock sound they inhabit was strong but not grating. Unfortunately, the speakers were so loud that I had to stand outside the tent at the very back.

After Moon Taxi I listened to a bit of The Black Crowes – they were excellent. I liked them better than I thought I would, actually. They played a few classics, but based on the part of their set I heard the band played a nice mixture of popular and underground songs, and I also think I heard a cover as I was walking away. After that was ZOOGMA. Of all the electronic/live instrument bands I’ve seen, ZOOGMA puts on one of the best shows. Not only is their sound really solid, but their stage presence and light show is awesome. They have really well-planned shows and they mesh live instrumentation and electronic like a perfectly woven tapestry; ZOOGMA understands not only the technicalities of creating good music and their presentation is seamless.

Closing out my night was BoomBox. As usual, they played the most chill music ever. And somehow, Midnight on the Run seemed even more chilled out than usual. The crowd was dancing to every song and loving it. But as I watched BoomBox do their thing, I wished they were more active onstage. Their light show is wonderful and syncs with the music incredibly well, so I guess I can let that compensate for their lack of physical activity? But regardless of their stage presence, BoomBox’s music always hits my musical sweet tooth. Chill music for life!!!

Unfortunately, because of the massive amount of rain, I didn’t get a lot of photos for fear of ruining my camera. And I couldn’t get too close to the front of any stage, as the mud-gloop-slosh made it both unsteady and incredibly difficult. But today is looking good – there’s not a lot of rain in the forecast and the organizers of Wakarusa have been bringing in rocks and hay to help create fewer mud pits. I wonder if anybody wrestled in them last night…

Until tomorrow, have a happy day and go listen to some music somewhere!

Mon, 06/03/2013 - 11:08 am

Friday at Wakarusa began with sunshine and high fives. It was an awesome day. Despite the fact I put on sunscreen 5 times, I still got a sunburn. But I got to see a fair amount of music and found a lot of friends I had been hoping to see. Overall, great day!

The first band I went to see was Delta Rae. Their set on Thursday got rained out and even though they only had 45 minutes to play on Friday, they used their time like a pro. They played mostly well-known songs so the audience could get the most out of the set. But Delta Rae’s show ended all too quickly. From there, I checked out Allen Stone. He has a really popular song Sleep, so I wanted to see what the rest of his songs were. Turns out, Allen Stone is awesome. He reminds me a bit of Kenny Wayne Sheppard with more positivity and soul – rock blues with some sultry mixed in. I was really happy to have had the opportunity to hear Allen Stone; there aren’t actually a lot of bands who come to the Northwest Arkansas area so it’s slim pickin’s in the blues genre.

After Allen Stone I walked back to my campsite and rested for a while, ate some food and got my beer on. Then we went to Of Monsters and Men, which was packed. It was almost impossible to get through the crowd safely, so after I took some photos in the pit I opted to watch from the sidelines. Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men is a folk rock group. They have beautiful songs with tight lyrics and a full sound. Female front, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, is adorable and has a great smile. She also wears cool hats! Big plus. Except for a frequently featured trumped, the show didn’t bring anything unique or exciting, but it was still good. They played their songs exactly as they sound on record.

Next I wandered to SOJA, which was a lot better than I remember. They played on Main Stage and packed out the standing room. I didn’t realize how musically talented this band actually is. They have a great range of style, including a drum line and a jazzy/tribal jam. It was so awesome. Their show was really spectacular, and really not what I expected. I’ll definitely be sure to check them out at the next festival.

After the great SOJA journey, I hopped over to the Satellite Stage, which I hadn’t been to yet. It was in the best condition of all the stages. There was very little mud and wood chips cover the ground to help give traction. It helps that the stage is under a canopy of trees. It’s a beautiful location.  Karsh Kale was playing at Satellite; a DJ who has written songs for Norah Jones and Sting, and is widely regarded as a pioneer in the world of global fusion and electronica. His show started out really chill with smooth, Indian-inspired beats and slow buildups. And as the set progressed, he transitioned into a more dance-happy DnB sound. I’m not often down with drum and bass, but this was definitely tolerable. Good, even! As the set ended Kale slowed it down and simmered our dancing shoes. It was a great set and Karsh Kale is definitely an artist I wouldn’t see anywhere else, at least anytime soon.

Next I checked out blues-rock singer ZZ Ward. I’d had a few recommendations to see her show, and after listening to a few of her songs I figured it would do me well to see her live. She has a strong voice. It reminds me a bit of Janis Joplin, but I don’t want to be too flimsy with comparing anybody to Janis. With only four people on stage (vocals, bass guitar, electric guitar and drums) their show took up the whole of the Backwoods Stage and it was soulful as hell. There weren’t a lot of people at the show, but there weren’t a lot of people at the smaller shows in general. Next up was Umphrey’s McGee for a bit. Their crazy-awesome light show combined with the band’s incredible musical talent creates a show that you really just have to like. I hadn’t really seen them that much, and I don’t so much care for Umphrey’s recorded music, but their live shows are simply awesome.

After Umphrey’s McGee I went to my tent and laid down because of a migraine; bright lights were not my friend. But I could hear all of Dispatch’s set and it sounded crazy awesome. Even just hearing the live show was amazing, so I can’t imagine what the visual show would be like. They played a few songs I knew, but honestly I don’t know that much Dispatch. Regardless, if I ever get the opportunity to see them again, I’m going to take it. Post-Dispatch, a raging storm took over and we all crowded into my tent and slept later than usual. It rained until about 10 AM on Saturday, and I am terrified to see what the Main Stage area looks like. I bet it’s soaked.

While a festival like this is almost always the hardest you’ll work for a fun time; and this year is twice as much work as it has ever been. But it’s been a great time regardless! My neighbors are great (they write for Festival Survival Guide) and we’ve all helped each other out. Everybody is safe, although some cars are stuck for probably forever (or at least until a tow truck can access the vehicle). It’s a blessing to be able to experience so much art and music in such a small time-frame. The privilege of the whole music festival situation is great, and I’m so appreciative to be able to be a part of all of this.

This might just be one of the most memorable Wakarusa festivals I’ve been to. What a 10th anniversary!

Mon, 06/03/2013 - 1:31 pm

Saturday at Wakarusa started late due to an overnight near-monsoon (there were actual tornado warnings for the area). But after the rain stopped, the sun came out and my friends and I cooked a delicious breakfast of eggs, beans, chicken sausage, fresh veggies and salsa. It was amazing, and the first real meal I’d eaten yet. It’s so difficult to eat real food out there, especially considering all the energy being burned from walking everywhere. I think it’s why people can drink so much out there and not get completely wasted – we’re always expending energy.

As far as Saturday’s music goes, the first show I checked out was electronic artist D.V.S*. He played really fun music but was definitely an iPad DJ…which is not all that impressive. But it was still a good time, so I guess my friends and I won that one. Next I wandered to the Backwoods Stage to see what was going on, and was very pleasantly surprised to see Rose’s Pawn Shop onstage. And watching their live show assures I will not miss another opportunity. Rose’s Pawn Shop plays unabashed bluegrass. Their sounds feels modern, though. Their music uses classic bluegrass but twists it just enough to make it their own style. I was really amazed by these guys. The show was fun and very musically sound.

The schedule for Main Stage during the afternoon was pushed back about 30 minutes, so getting to shows was basically the most confusing. And getting through Main Stage to a decent place in the crowd was a muddy, sloppy, somewhat smelly (like the smell of a cow pasture in the distance, in case you’re familiar) mess. There were probably hundreds of abandoned shoes strewn about the walkways' – I wonder what we’ll find in the mud a few years from now. Clothing, crushed beer cans, shoes, socks, tent parts, etc. Imagine the possibilities!

GROUPLOVE was supposed to play Saturday night between Rebelution and Gogol Bordello, but they canceled. I am praising the music gods that Gogol Bordello did not cancel. This was one of my most anticipated shows for Wakarusa 2013. I’ve heard a lot of the band’s music over the years, and knew his shows would be spectacular. Gogol Bordello delivered. The show was raucous and loud, punk and gypsy, amazing violin and all the fun. These guys go hard, and I was really impressed with their energy. The violinist, Sergey Ryabtsev, is amazing; he is from Russia. So he’s basically a badass hardass. Gogol Bordello’s set was impressive to say the least. They’re a different type of music than I typically listen to in my daily life, and it was refreshing to get out of my comfort zone for a little bit.

After Gogol Bordello I watched a little bit of Widespread Panic, which started out amazing. Watching Widespread got me thinking about the differences between bands who jam (like WP) and bands who play a set (like Gogol Bordello). I like both forms of show; with jam bands you get an experience that is really tailored to the experience the band members are having. The mood they are in must determine how they play and chord progressions they choose – major or minor chords, crescendo or decrescendo. Of course, these bands likely have a loose set list, but I feel like a jam show is more open and maybe even more honest. That said, I also really appreciate a set list band. Firstly, they don’t always stick to the list. And secondly, there’s an ability to create a tailored journey for the audience.

After watching some of Widespread Panic, I went to Daft Phunk, a performance of Daft Punk songs by the band Earphunk. It was AMAZING. I like Daft Punk, but I prefer this type of music live, and luckily Earphunk played Daft Punk’s songs flawlessly. I don’t know DP’s songs well enough to know how many liberties Earphunk took with the tracks, but regardless it was fantastic. The crowd for this show was enormous, and most everybody was dancing and shaking their damn booties. The band consists of six members, all playing instruments. I looked on their website, and it doesn’t appear they use a mixer of any kind, which is really impressive. Their renditions were spot on, and after two hours of playing the band barely seemed phased. That show ended my Saturday night and I went to bed pining for Sunday and all it could hold.

Mon, 06/03/2013 - 2:16 pm

Sunday, as it turns out, held buckets of fun and loads of beer. The weather was perfect, the mud was a little packed down and you could just tell everybody was waiting for this kind of day. It’s what we’d all waited for. Music, sunshine, nice weather and slightly safe walking conditions! Sunday was simply magical.My friends and I woke up early and packed everything into our car so we could get out after Snoop Lion. We ate grilled pork chops and an improvised bean salsa for lunch. Then we gathered up our things for the day and headed to the stages. We went to the Backwoods Stage first, and caught the end of Old Shoe, which could possibly be termed psychedelic rock…of which I am a huge fan! Then The Last Bison took the stage. I’d read a blog post about this band earlier in the year, and it was such a flattering write-up I made it a point to come see the band. The choice was well worth it. The large band wears prairie-inspired outfits, plays bluegrass(ish) and sings their hearts out. The sounds they use combine bluegrass with a light, airy frosting of carnival-y sounds. The music was beautiful and fun, and the band was really active onstage. They jumped, moved around, played off each other. I highly recommend seeing this band if they are anywhere near you.Then I went to a press conference with representatives from Dirtfoot, Quixotic and Rebelution. It was very interesting hearing what they had to say about different aspects of the festival. They talked about collaboration that happens between bands at festivals – a very special opportunity. The Dumptruck Butterlips show also featured members of Dirtfoot and Quixotic. Rebelution is okay with Snoop Lion doing reggae, but we’ll get to that later. And Marley Williams of Rebelution says you should check out The Green and Hot Rain. There, they discussed this year’s festival in particular. The weather makes people hungry for music and dancing, and when we’re trapped in our tents more times than not, any opportunity to see music and get out brings an extraordinary amount of energy to each show.When I went to my next show, Nahko and Medicine for the People, I was full of expectation and just plain happiness. I haven’t looked forward to many shows in the way I did Nahko. What I’d heard was true: Nahko and Medicine for the People felt like a church service (but awesome and fun). It’s uplifting, honest, good and beautiful. The looks on people’s faces were peaceful and loving, and so many friends danced among the trees with each other. Not only was the experience wonderful, but the band is also very talented. The show isn’t like a jam band’s – where individual styles shine, but instead it felt to me like a collective talent coming together to create a single sound idea. Regardless of the technicalities though, Nahko and Medicine for the people was one of my favorites this year.My Wakarusa 2013 experience was winding down. I had one show left to see, and one I honestly wasn’t that excited about. My friends wanted to go see Snoop Lion, and I was terrified about what I would see. But as it turns out, it was the second most fun show I went to all weekend. Maybe not the most well written, or the greatest light show, but it was simply fun. After the set, I was reflecting and I don’t think I heard a single reggae song. Snoop Lion was more like Snoop Dogg, as he played all songs from the old days. I danced my ass off and so did everybody else I could see. I learned two things about Snoop Lion this weekend: that guy can smoke mad blunts…and rap shows mostly survive on ego and a good beat. There was live drumming on stage, but not much of it. And I wish there were more live instrumentation onstage instead of just people walking around smoking blunts. But despite its downfalls, the show really was awesome and more fun than I’d ever imagined.This was certainly the most dangerous and interesting festival I’ve ever been to. And certainly the most memorable. Lots of bands canceled or missed out on shows, including Shpongle (although he may have played late Sunday night), Delta Rae, GROUPLOVE. But the weather brought everybody together and it made the shows better. I’m not sure if everybody has been able to leave the mud pit that is Main Venue camping, but I wish everybody luck! And I’m sure all the attendees of next week’s Thunder on the Mountain country music festival will have a ball with all the mud.My favorite shows this year: Moon Taxi, Dispatch, Rose’s Pawn Shop, Gogol Bordello, Daft Phunk, The Last Bison, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Snoop Lion

Tue, 06/18/2013 - 8:36 am

Getting to the heart of Ben Hardesty, and thus The Last Bison, wasn’t difficult. Like their music, Ben is open, honest and founded in truth; the Last Bison’s spirituality and constant drive toward joy echoes in their sound and lyrics. The band stays grounded, but light, as they recite their mantra: Every day is the best day. And for The Last Bison, it truly is.

Grateful Web recently caught up with The Last Bison member Ben Hardesty just after their adventure to the 10th anniversary for Wakarusa Music Festival and just before they head off on a grand festival tour. We made plans to fashion a rooftop greenhouse to their van and had a generally great chat.

GW: I saw you guys at Wakarusa. How was that experience for you guys?

TLB: It was kind of stressful and expensive, but the actual show part of it was really great and rewarding. We rolled into Wakarusa and when we got right into the entrance of the festival our van started hardly working. We somehow, through a failing transmission, managed to get down to our stage. But due to the rain, it felt like you were driving into a third-world refugee camp full of modern-day hippies, which was so crazy. We were like ‘Where are we? And what have we gotten ourselves into?’ We got to the stage and our van completely stopped working. Everyone was a little demoralized. Then we played…and it ended up being an absolute blast.

GW: How does the festival-playing experience differ from the bar/smaller venue experience? Have you played a lot of festivals?

TLB: We’ve played a handful of festivals so far – enough to count on both hands. I think the thing that differentiates a festival is there are tons of people who wouldn't just come to see you playing at a bar in town. Because your name is on the schedule, a lot of people who haven't even heard of you just show up to your show. [Festivals do] really good things for growth, and there's a certain energy despite the fact they've been up all night and watching music all day, and the people are just amped for a show. We played a festival in Boise, ID called TreeFort. It was crazy: 350 people packed in a room just going crazy.

GW: You are kind of a family operation...

TLB: Yeah. My dad and sister (Annah) are in the band, my mother does all of the managing, and my little sister often comes on tour. One of my best friends, Andrew, plays organ. And his brother, Jay, is also in the band. There’s Amos, who is dating my sister pretty seriously. And Teresa, who's our violinist, who is Annah's best friend. It's a pretty close-knit group of people.

GW: How did it all start?

TLB: It happened over several months. I grew up playing music with my dad and sister. Then I went to a school in England for a year just to find a foundation before I went out and did whatever I felt like I was supposed to do. I got home and said 'Dad, I want to do music. I want to see if we can do this seriously." So I naturally just grabbed the people around me: Andrew, my dad and Anna. Then over the course of four months we pulled in Amos, Theresa and Jay. Then that was us.

GW: What did your parents do before they managed/ played in The Last Bison?

TLB: My dad works two jobs, which he still tries to juggle. He works for a nonprofit summer camp here in Eastern Virginia. And he is the pastor of worship and arts in the church I grew up in. My mom is a mother and wife - she was a mother, that's what she did. They took us down to Bolivia and South America in the early 90s - they were doing mission work - and we stayed there about five years.

GW: Did you learn anything about music during your travels?

TLB: I honestly think I spent most of my time down there adventuring: running through the jungle, playing. What I did take from there was the love for adventure, which is something I like to put into music. I've been around many places in the world and I always make it a goal to hear some music that is ethnic to that area. When we were living in Bolivia it wasn't even a goal – I was around it so. I guess it did affect me in a subtle way I've never even analyzed. There is music that's unique to regions and I'm not sure what that is here, per say. There's so much music coming out of Virginia. I don't really know what the 'ethnic' music is because it's not so obvious here. There's the mountain bluegrass scene where I'm from. But if there was, what would it be? I try to encapsulate some of what Virginia sounds like in my songwriting.

GW: Have you noticed since you've traveled so much have you noticed particular differences or similarities in different countries and cultures the way they use music to support their life?

TLB: Absolutely. I've been to Asia and a lot of the ancient folk music there is used in a religious and sacred aspect. The songs have meaning. They have different songs to attributes of certain gods. I'm a good ol' Virginia boy prescribing to one god, but it's still interesting to see the characteristics of the god they believe in come through in the tones of their songs. I remember walking through this market in Thailand; there was a big-name CD with Vishnu on it, and they were playing tracks from this CD. There was really ominous chanting and I remember being really scared walking through this market. And when you go to a place like Costa Rica...I was in a salsa bar and all these locals were just dancing. There, it's festive, joyous happy; less contemplative and more joyous.

GW: What is your songwriting process like for The Last Bison?

TLB: I really want to instill joy in the people who listen to songs I write, whether it is a serious or happy/upbeat song there's something about it that's hopeful and joyous. The way that a lot of Asian songs are based in their religions, just like American hymns, there's a religious aspect to my songs that evokes some thought. I find I write really cryptically sometimes - often people don't seem to know what the heck I'm talking about. The listener, whomever that may be, is feeling joy but is also thinking and analyzing this song with me.

GW: Who is a songwriter that you really admire, whose work really affects you?

TLB: This probably sounds like a cop out answer, but it's completely true. I've been listening to U2 since I was a kid. Most folk musicians would cite Cat Stevens or Bob Dylan. But for me, Bono and his ability to continue to write songs that affect people, and the durability of his songwriting and arrangements. The emotion of the songs can be felt in the lyric. If you strip the lyric apart the music evokes the same emotion...unless of course if you're trying to put irony in a song and that might just confuse the heck out of people. But other than that, for me the [type of] song that strikes a chord with me the most are the ones where the lyric is gentle and the song kind of dies down. If it's heavy, the song goes up. There are certain moments in the song where you can make that happen, and that strikes a chord with anyone whether they know what's happening or not.

GW: What is the connection between poetry and songwriting for you?

TLB: Coming from a writer's perspective musically and lyrically, the connection depends on what you write. I don't have a method for myself - if I come up with the lyrics first I write the music around it. But if I come up with the music first, I have to play it over and over again to see how it affects me and what it’s making me feel – nostalgically, lyrically, emotionally...then I try to come up with a story that I feel fits to the tone of that song. When it's the lyrics first, I try to come up with voice and chord progressions that portray the lyrics in a way that might shed light on something that might be confusing...or the opposite - shroud something with mystery. Because music can capture the same emotion, I think, as a lyric if you put that behind a lyric that's saying the same thing it becomes all the more powerful.

GW: What is your recording process like?

TLB: I'm going to tell you a little secret. We're not very good at playing to a quick track, which is the classic way of recording. So we have done everything predominately live and then track over the base recording. It gives [our recordings] a live feel, which we like anyway. [When] working with a producer – you butt heads sometimes. There's a certain creative tension that's hard to get used to. I was like, "This is healthy, even though it's hard." Working with a producer can be stressful and hard, especially if you don't know or understand each other yet - you have to learn each other. But in the end it's a good thing. That doesn't mean I wouldn't love to self-produce – that would be awesome. Our first album was self-produced and that was more independent. It's a much easier project because you don't have to cater or compromise with someone else's opinion on the song. I think both [methods] have their benefits. One is just easier, but easier is not always best.

GW: Tell me something you've been told (advice, a quote) that's stuck with you over time...that you carry with you.

TLB: I have one written down on my phone so in times like this I can remember exactly what it is. *searches for quotation* It's a George Washington quote. I love that man; sometimes I wonder...if he were placed into America today how disgusted he would be. I think about people like our founding fathers finding out our phone calls are monitored - they'd be pissed. Do I think it's right? No, not necessarily...at all. Does it surprise me that our government is doing that? No, not at all.

*finds quotation* I hope I shall always possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles - the character of an honest man. (George Washington from 'The Right to Lead: A Study in Character and Courage')

GW: What is your goal as a musician? What do you want to give to the world with your music?

TLB: I would hope that, as a musician and as a band, we left our family of listeners with a sense of joy to go out and live everyday as best as they can; to pursue what is good and then try and live that out. If our music could somehow do that, I'd be happy. And I think music does have the power to do something like that; I hope our music can translate in that way. At the end of the day, if you asked what I wanted I would say that it would leave people feeling different than they felt before they heard it in a positive way...makes them think about things in maybe a way they didn't before. I know I'm guilty of this, but people don't often just sit down and think. Where the mind can go when you just sit down, be quiet and think is pretty amazing, we just never do that – to think as opposed to wonder.

GW: What big events do you guys having coming up in the next few months?

TLB: We are playing Firefly festival in Delaware and then at the end of July we have a 3-weekend festival tour. We are playing Newport Folk Festival, then we're heading down to Exponential Fest in Philadelphia and the next day we're down at Floyd Fest in Virginia.

GW: Anything you'd like to say to Grateful Web readers?

TLB: I wish I had a sweet quote like George Washington's...

Our motto between my group of friends and the band is: Every day is the best day ever.

I think the idea of rejoicing is kind of foreign to a lot of people because it's different than happiness or joy. Rejoicing is being content despite circumstance. To try and rejoice despite your circumstances, know there is good and truth, and that everything is going to be alright.

GW Sidenote: This motto reminds me a lot of an Andrew Jackson Jihad song, 'Rejoice' – check it out.

Wed, 06/19/2013 - 1:28 pm

Upon first listening to Caroline Rose’s America Religious (releasing July 2), I found it fresh and catchy. On my second listen, I settled in and it opened up to me – or I to it. In the lyrics I found political and social commentary nestled into the metaphors, and a little bit more of a lead foot as I drove down the road. I found a friend in her music; one who thinks similarly to me and who cares about the big picture and all its little breath-beings. The album carries you from destination to destination – as I imagine it did her.

The pure, driven Americana of Caroline Rose’s debut album is unmistakable. She carries blues, rock, bluegrass, country and singer-songwriter in her sound and it all melds perfectly. From track to track, the style changes slightly, but it’s all Americana. From the first track, a guitar-driven leavin’ song, the listener can tell this isn’t just a music album – it’s an experience Caroline Rose had and decided to share. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll really get to the heart of each song. In my favorite track, Here Come the Rain, Rose switches to a deep, soulful style that’s reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald in some parts. The lyrics and music could stand on their own, so together they make more than an impact. Rose pulls on our comfortable cord with lyrics like “Crippled man out on a crate pouring truth out of his throat/screaming,/’Can't you see it's your own air on which you choke?’/’Yes sir but people are just passersby by trade/on our way to slave away all day the highways to our graves’/’You know the language may have differed/but the Romans said the same/Don't you know things of this earth will become earth once again?’ “

I’m reminded of artists like Jenny Lewis, Joni Mitchell and John Prine throughout the album. I suppose it’s appropriate, as she’s cited John Prine as one of her favorite artists. And like those musicians, Rose uses her own struggles to personalize the album. Most songs seem to draw on themes of growth, whether it’s those of growing into adulthood or growing out of complacency.

With her partner of four years, Jer Coons, Caroline Rose has created an album that digs deep and comes up with something golden. The poetry-put-to-music feel of America Religious strips away any artificiality and delivers simple honesty.

America Religious releases July 2, 2013. Caroline Rose will be visiting Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, DC, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico, California, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky.  She’ll be bringing her music to a city near you (I hope!), so check out her tour dates here. Getcha some (live music)!

I asked Caroline a few questions about herself and America Religious. They were so wonderful I decided to leave them as is – unedited and perfectly said.

GW: What's the significance of the album title?

CR: The title's not really supposed to have a real definition, it's just an invented term, a more or less tongue-in-cheek way to describe contemporary America. You know what I mean really, because it's everywhere. The devotion to all things super---superfoods, superhighways, supermarkets, the idea that we can all be superpeople when doing basically anything at all. Meanwhile, this ideology has made everything completely backwards, because it's not at all lasting. In fact, it goes completely against our nature. The fact that all the poorest people seem to be the most overweight, and have the most crap on their lawns, which is of course all made in China, who in turn has taken over our role in all things excess but on an even bigger scale. Or our relations toward  illegal immigrants, who have become the ants maintaining the anthill, yet the most critical people don't seem to think about how important that is or how it can benefit us all. People who use the term "freedom" simply to get bills passed. I could keep going, these are just singular issues in a vast system, but I guess what I'm trying to expose, and what is the underlying thread tying all of these things together, is hypocrisy.

GW: How long did you work on this album?

CR: We recorded for about a month or so, but the mixing process took much longer, maybe another two and a half months. Once it was mastered I think the whole process was about four months. Jer and I work very differently though. I'd usually start working in the early morning and do whatever parts I'd have in my head and he'd come in later and show me how to get the sound I wanted or record another part. Most nights we slept on the floor of the studio. We probably could have done it much faster--I already knew what sound I wanted and had all the arrangements done--but it was summertime and I like to spend a lot of time outside. Anyone who's spent time in Vermont knows that summer is a coveted and precious time that should not be taken for granted!!

GW: Are there any songs from America Religious that are particularly close to your heart?

CR: I mean, I wrote them all so they are all particularly close to my heart, but I don't wanna be a party pooper and avoid the question so I will tell you that there is one song I sing at the end of every show and plan to sing at every show and it is very close to my heart...But you will have to come to a show to find out.

GW: This album strikes me as traveling music - what do you listen to when you travel?

CR: Boy oh boy, what DON'T I listen to is a better question! Well I travel quite a bit because I'm pretty much living out of my car or sofa-hopping at friends' apartments, so I've got a big collection of CDs on my front seat. Right now I've got this really great Spanish guitarist named Eduardo Fernandez in my CD player. Hmmm, there's some Kottke, Black Keys, Jay-Z, CCR, Joni, Prine, I also really love listening to Cumbia and old Rumba tunes. Tom Collins, my little '75 MGB, has a tape player, so I've also got a pretty insanely awesome tape collection I've acquired over the years from yard sales and thrift stores mostly. Most people just want to get rid of them so you can get all these amazing records for a quarter or free. Podcasts help pass the time on long drives. Radiolab is my favorite, though I've listened to them all twice through at this point.

GW: What's your favorite non-instrumental sound? (Birds, highway traffic, rain on a rooftop, etc.)

CR: You know, as a musician, you're always hearing music or going out to bars or meeting new people or driving big highways to get to big cities, so there becomes a real demand for silence sometimes. And most of us have never actually heard complete silence. I once went to Mammoth Cave in southern Kentucky, where you get to travel underground through millions of years of limestone deposits, and down there there's no sound of cars or planes or even faint traces of them. There's nothing. It's as if the whole world's muted. It's amazing and wild and would make you go totally insane.

GW: Name a really beautiful place you've been to.

CR: I was lucky to have been born to really adventurous parents, so I've gotten to see a lot of beautiful things, but there are only a very small handful of beautiful things that people still find truly sacred. I'm a big Native American history buff and so is my dad, so he and I took a trip following all the old Indian mounds east of the Mississippi, then from there went through the Black Hills (I am determined to one day find Crazy Horse's grave!!) and spent the night at Devil's Tower. I can't tell you how important I think it is that places like this are protected. There's a no-fly zone and you can't build on the land around there so that it remains silent. It'd make even the most unbelieving of unbelievers feel spiritual. Totally just hippied out on you guys. Whatever, this is Grateful Web, I'm among friends.

GW: Now that you've released your album, what's next in your music career? What about your life, in general?

CR: Well, I'd like to make some money at some point so I don't have to worry about it quite so much. So I can keep traveling. I'd like to live in Louisiana, somewhere in Arcadia, learn how to play zydeco tunes. I'd also like to go to Asia and the Middle East. I wish it weren't terribly dangerous in most of the Middle East because I'd really like to learn more about it, meet some people. I feel like our perception of Middle Eastern people is so skewed, when really, most are just normal people, living, trying to live, like everyone else.

Tue, 09/10/2013 - 6:24 pm

There’s a lot to know about the who, what and why for this year’s Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival. The number one ‘who’ is you: you should be there. What? Yes…you. Why? Because Mulberry Mountain and all its musical wonder will never leave you, even if you eventually leave the mountain. The tagline for Wakarusa, another great festival on Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas, is ‘Where music meets nature.’ That holds true for this festival, too. You can hike, go to the river, kayak, ride a Ferris wheel, pitch a hammock, dance in an open field, play a (poorly tuned) piano on a hill during sunrise, etc. And all the while, you’ll hear the sweet, sweet sound of bluegrass, folk and the like wafting through the hills.As for the music, this year’s lineup is full of talent and includes a variety of genres but sticks to a foundation of strings. However, I have one issue: there is an extreme lack of women on the lineup. After digging through the band lineups, I’ve found a total of 21 women. That’s total, out of 73 bands, most featuring at least 4 members. While this indicates a general social trend and not necessarily an issue of the festival, I’d still like to see more ladies up there onstage! Who’s with me?The lineup features some names I know but, honestly, I’m not familiar with quite a few of the acts. Luckily the Internet exists, so I’ve been listening to Spotify and other playlists to familiarize myself with this year’s selection and I’ve found a lot of bands I’m hoping to see.To start off, I’ve heard so much about Derek Trucks there’s no way I’m missing Tedeschi Trucks Band. A friend of mine mentioned he has been listed twice in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time – that’s enough for me! Tedeschi Trucks Band is made up of Derek Trucks and his wife Susan Tedeschi, plus a whole slew of other members. Susan Tedeschi has also been nominated for many Grammy awards, and is well known in the blues and soul circle.Also on the agenda is the ever-wonderful Elephant Revival. I’ve been following this band for the last two years, a much shorter timeframe than most of their fans, but I feel like their music has lived inside me for far longer. Every song is a spiritual; every note is a miracle. Elephant Revival is simply brilliant.As usual, Yonder Mountain String Band will be playing three 2-hour (or longer) sets – one each night of the festival. From an amazing light show to pure endurance, YMSB covers their bases, and probably a few of yours too. People love this band, and for good reason. Their songwriting is tight and their shows are insane (in a good way). You also bet there will be lots of special guests onstage each night. This is YMSB’s festival after all. Last year, at least one of their shows got rained out…here’s hoping there aren’t any torrential downpours this year. Clear skies FTW!I’m also really interested to see Head for the Hills. Proclaimed as having a ‘quintessential Colorado’ sound, I’m excited to hear some Colorado in the Ozarks. This band is hard to put your finger on; critics and fans alike have had a difficult time describing Head for the Hills’ sound. While it’s most definitely rooted in bluegrass, their interpretation/addition to the genre is anything but traditional. This genre-bending band is dynamic and practiced and it shows even in their fan base; Head for the Hills has been praised by members of Leftover Salmon and Relix Magazine to name two, and they’ve worked with musicians like Jack White, Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass and Billy Nershi.Everyone Orchestra, a band I missed last year, is big on my list. I’ve heard so much about the show, and I really appreciate the crowd interaction and unique foundation Everyone Orchestra stands upon. Improvisation is at the heart of bluegrass, but this band takes it to a whole new level. I’m also interested in checking out Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds and Kopecky Family Band, both of whom I’ve never seen before (read: have missed countless times).And finally, one of the lesser-known bands I’m most looking forward to is Roadkill Ghost Choir. On the playlists I’ve listened to, every song by this band has caught my attention and kept me listening. The indie-folk-rock band from Florida started out as a solo project for front-man Andrew Shepard – but soon he realized the songs needed a bigger sound. Enter: two brothers and some other dudes, several name changes, and practice. Thus, Roadkill Ghost Choir was born. RGC reminds me of an all-male Elephant Revival at times, and other times I hear some Great Lake Swimmers.  Among the other acts I’m hoping to see (god/whomever willing) are Les Claypool – of course! – Railroad Earth – unimaginably! – Dirtfoot, Shook Twins, Beats Antique, Greensky Bluegrass, Gangstagrass, Delhi 2 Dublin, Kacey Musgraves (I’m not a huge fan of country, but I like some of her liberal tendencies) and The Deadly Gentlemen. I can’t say there are any shows I’d hate to find myself at – so come hell or high water I’ll be seeing some music. Which reminds me: If you’re coming to this festival, pack for all weather. Bring a shovel (with which to dig a trench in case of rain!), extra tarps, shoes that can get muddy, sunscreen, swimming suit, etc. The weather in Arkansas has been incredibly unpredictable for the last two years, and you never know what Mother Nature will throw your way when you’re busy having fun.Be sure to check out the Fiddlin’ and Pickin’ and Songwriting contests, as well as the Chompdown, where Dirtfoot will be playing while people stuff their faces with donated food cooked by volunteers! Hope to see you on the mountain!Harvest Music Festival will be held in Ozark, Arkansas on Mulberry Mountain October 17 - 19, 2013. Tickets include camping and are still available; they can be purchased at the gate (if they are not sold out by that time), at regional box offices or online. This event is all ages and includes children's activities. Please do not bring any glass or douchiness.

Mon, 10/14/2013 - 3:45 pm

Each year, since 2008 (according to my research), MartyParty (who did this fun remix) and Ooah (of The Glitch Mob) have toured in the spring/summer doing a special show, PANTyRAiD. For me, their smooth, sexy music brings new life to electronic music. However, this is an electronic show – so don’t come expecting your run-of-the-mill nursing home acoustic group. (Do those exist? They should.) And on Halloween night, there’s no doubt PANTyRAiD will be throwing some amazing, danceable tunes mixed with familiar rap and other awesome sounds.The first time I heard PANTyRAiD I was at a friend’s house hanging out, and when my friend started playing PANTyRAiD, I was immediately interested – the songs were incredibly chill and danceable, not hard and confusing like so much electronic I seem to hear. I’ve been following the band ever since. This is my favorite song. The duo is politically active and has even sampled Obama’s DNC speech from 2008. During a show, from the second the beat drops, the dance floor becomes a massive dance party.Since the duo started touring as PANTyRAiD, their live shows have gotten increasingly better reviews. The stage show has grown, as well as the amount of ladies dancing onstage. (YAY!) We can expect lots of crazy laser beams and probably tons of costumes. The fact this show is on Halloween night will make it immensely better than any ol’ day.I’m expecting sexy, dancing, rowdy and loud. I’ve heard PANTyRAiD has been ‘trapping up’ some of their old songs (that’s not a real-world catchphrase, I just invented it) and I’m kind of hoping they don’t do too much of that. I barely know what trap is, but from what I’ve heard it sounds…erratic. But I’m also open to becoming a covert if PANTyRAiD des it well.Openers will be announced soon, you can stay up to date via their Facebook event. I’m sure the opening acts will be spectacular – especially on a night that features such great and excessive partying! In any case, I’m excited to spend the night shaking my booty with all of the other great booties of northwest Arkansas and beyond! Tickets are still available for the show on October 31, 2013, at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, AR. However, there likely won’t be tickets on the day of the show, so be sure to get them ahead of time. Purchase your tickets online or in person at the venue (their hours are kind of wonky). The concert is open to those 18+.If you’re in the northwest Arkansas area on Halloween this year, I encourage you to come to this show. Not only will it be a fantastic time, but it’s also a great opportunity to spend some time in a famous venue with lots of character. Fayetteville is a beautiful place in the heart of the Ozark mountains – so if you’re looking for a Halloween road trip and a beautiful place to visit, great live music (come early for YSMB’s Harvest Music Festival) and lots of friendly faces, drive/bike/walk/fly on over to Fayetteville, Arkansas and getcha some PANTyRAiD + other cool stuff!PANTyRAiD’s next show will be in Denver, CO on November 9, 2013, at The Fillmore. And if you’re looking to score free tickets to a show, the duo gives away the remaining spots on their guest list. All you have to do is share the event flyer with the hashtag #RAiD(nameofcity) on Facebook, tumblr, Instagram or Twitter. About a week before the show, ticket winners are selected at random.Visit the duo’s soundcloud or youtube to get a taste of their talents.

Mon, 10/14/2013 - 3:55 pm

The Ballroom Thieves. Maybe you haven’t heard of this band – I hadn’t until I received the album. But that’s okay…this band is going to be around for a while so you’ll get your chance. If you go to your local record store, chances are you might find an album, but it’s unlikely. The band has only put out two EPs since they formed in 2011. Their first EP, The Devil & The Deep released in 2012. The band’s latest, and second, EP released October 4, 2013.

Although the Thieves’ self-titled EP only has four songs, it’s a good representation of the band’s talent, sound and style. Their talent? Unmistakable. The instrumentation is well-balanced and flows beautifully. The sound: Reminiscent of Delta Rae at times (especially ‘Down by the River’), but with a more bluegrass sound. Other times, I’m reminded of nobody – the band holds itself up very well. And the Thieves’ style? It’s upbeat, well-thought-out and impressive. They journey from chain gang foot-stomp to sentimental and melodic.

The first track on the EP, Down by the River, is full. It starts strong, with a single drum beat. Then the vocals start, with cello wailing in the background. The song is exuberant, soulful, bluegrass. The band sings acapella a few points throughout the song, and I’m a sucker for solo vocals. The song builds, ending with a single cymbal crash.

The next song, Droves, takes you to a moonlight-through-the-trees graveyard. Heavy on the strings and tambourines, the song isn’t overwhelming or harsh. It makes you shake a little and throw your hands flying to the sky. ‘I’ve got a hummingbird heart/too quick to hold./My love it comes and goes./My love it comes and goes.’

Next on the EP is Coward’s Son – a tribute to one of the members’ fathers.  A perfect, calm breeze, this song flows perfectly as the third spot on the album. I imagine this album as a concert; a perfectly deliberate performance. And I think that’s what the band wants from this EP – an example of a live Ballroom Thieves show.

Armada, the last on The Ballroom Thieves, is a party song; a delicious, southern heat party song. It’s a fun, upbeat track where the instruments are used a bit differently than their other 3 songs. They seem to be pulling on a Louisiana Delta feel, playing their instruments harder and more raw. It’s swampy and thick; hot and humid. Toward the end of the song, strings and foot-stomping bring in the sunrise of whatever epic night(s) inspired this tune.

This album is great! It’s a bit of a tease, but hopefully the band will put out a full-length album soon. In the meantime, I’m going to find a show in my area and hopefully you will too. The Ballroom Theives can be purchased via their website, and I encourage you to snag a copy of the EP as soon as possible!

Here’s a quick interview with the band.

GW: Your newest EP, The Ballroom Thieves, is just four songs - was it difficult to choose which went on the record?

TBT: We had about 11 or 12 songs that were definitely in contention, but we narrowed that down to what you hear on the record now in order to present our long-time fans with a concise body of work while giving new listeners an accurate representation of our live sound. It was a tough process, but we're really excited about the four songs we chose for the EP.

What was the inspiration for each of the four songs?

We're big believers in letting music happen on a personal level, so it's tough to spell out the inspiration for each of these tunes, but we'll give it a try:

Down By the River is a grungy song with some heavy religious undertones. These topics are always pretty controversial, so it might be better for everyone to take what they will from this one. I'm only half embarrassed to admit that there's a really quick scene during the beginning credits of the show True Blood in which two men are baptizing a woman in a white dress which lended some of the initial inspiration for the song. 

We've always described Droves as being about 'love that wavers,' meaning that we all fall in and out of love with people as we grow up. We think it's a topic that everyone can identify with, as most of us have gone through some relationship issues. As it is with most emotions, there are peaks and valleys to these emotions, and while there are many songs that focus on either the highs or the lows, there isn't a great deal out there that acknowledges the process. 

Coward's Son was written for my father, who is one of my biggest fans, and one of the biggest supporters of the band. He left his home in Virginia to move (permanently) to Switzerland after finishing college, and I've always admired the courage a decision like that takes. Leaving your family and your loved ones is always tough, but relocating to a new continent without any prior knowledge of the language, customs, and traditions takes that to a whole new level. He's always been a big source of inspiration for me, so that's one of the more personal songs in the band's catalog. 

Armada is a fun tune about a night of drinking and other general debauchery. I think we'll just leave it at that...

Do you all play other instruments? Do you play in other bands?

We all dabble with numerous instruments, but we've pretty much settled into the ones we play on stage. Devin has spent some time learning piano and guitar and Martin played drums for a number of years before he started getting into the guitar. Callie played drums in high school and has some experience playing upright bass as well. Dev also wants the record to show that he crushes the bagpipes on special occasions.

The band recently lost a member, and added a new one; how has the change affected the sound? The performance? Songwriting? Tell me about her!

We're still in the middle of this transitional period, so things haven't had a chance to settle in yet, but we're all really optimistic about the direction of the band. Callie is really excited about writing her own parts to our songs, and her style of playing will definitely alter the songwriting a bit. Overall we're all enjoying spending time with the music and letting inspiration happen as it will. We'll see where it goes from there!

In a recent interview with SN Times, you mentioned this EP is like a 'rebirth' for the band...what does that mean!?

Our first EP was very much an experiment in terms of the instrumentation and the recording process. Our songwriting and our live show has evolved in the last two years, and we think we're now able to give our audience a much more accurate representation of our live performances, all without sacrificing any of the energy that is sometimes lost when converting a live sound into a studio sound. So, as far as we're concerned, this is the first truly accurate recording of the Ballroom Thieves experience.

In the song Coward's Son, these lines particularly stuck out to me: 'I say a riskless life ain't worth a thing./Useless as a wedding ring.' Can you explain them? Are you just drawing a metaphor or is there a particular opinion about marriage being stated here?

The song is about taking risks, and while I have no problems with marriage in general, I do think the tradition of a wedding ring and the monetary value that's placed on it is a bit arbitrary. It's like a dozen roses on Valentine's Day: the sentiment is nice, but is it really the most meaningful way to show your devotion to someone? 

We're definitely voicing an opinion on marriage, or maybe more on the perhaps arbitrary traditions and customs that come along with marriage. 

Based on this EP, The Ballroom Thieves tends toward more upbeat songs; is that a conscious choice?

Absolutely. Like we said, we narrowed this EP down from a field of over 10-12 songs, so we made a conscious choice of including songs that hit hard. We think our show is a lively mix of upbeat songs and slower, more introspective tunes, so these four songs are meant to give the listener a good idea of what to expect when he or she makes it to a Ballroom Thieves show. Plus, we really enjoy performing the high-energy tunes we have in our repertoire!

What place do you most want to visit? (As a band and as individual humans.)

As a band we're really looking forward to expanding our touring schedule to include new places. We're looking into some West Coast dates in 2014, so that'll be a really interesting first experience for us. Internationally, we'd love to start playing a few shows in Europe, specifically in Great Britain. We're influenced quite heavily by some great artists from England, Ireland, and Scotland, so it'd be a great experience for us to make our way over there. 

Individually, we're all big fans of traveling, so the lists are pretty long, but Devin would love to visit Scotland and the moon. Callie wants to make her way over to Iceland and France, and Martin would love to visit Nepal and Australia. 

Do ya'll have any plans for a full-length album?

Definitely, but we're also really looking forward to seeing where this initial EP takes us in the next few months.

Sat, 10/19/2013 - 9:42 am

Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival is the best that Mulberry Mountain has to offer. While Wakarusa pulses to the vibrant beat of youth culture and features many of today’s top acts across varying musical genres, Harvest offers an entirely different experience that has a way of twiddling itself into one’s heart. More “yee-haw!” than “YOLO,” Harvest brings together some of the most fun and talented artists across the bluegrass/folk/jam spectrum, with a healthy dose of indie rock. The atmosphere is a bit more subdued and family friendly than many festivals but not because people aren’t out here to enjoy the mountain and the music to the absolute fullest. The Harvest crowd feels like family, folks respect one another like friends. Upon driving through the gates, everyone in our little group wore the contented smile of someone who has just kicked off their shoes after returning home from a long day.

This year, media camping was moved adjacent to artist camping, so as we set up our campsite, we were treated to the perfect tent-pitching soundtrack: the California Honeydrops were practicing for their Thursday afternoon set. The sound of soft brass dancing its way around tents and trailers combined with the sweet crooning of the band’s singer and trumpeter, Lech Wierzynski, was a lovely introduction to what is already shaping up to be a glorious weekend. Having learned our lessons from previous stormy Harvest fests (and being a bit older and less willing to spend the weekend in Spartan camp conditions), we set up our campsite with the utmost care and concern for whatever weather conditions might possibly arise. Hopefully these precautions will prove totally unnecessary – there hasn’t been a single cloud in the sky since we arrived!

I didn’t end up making it down to Main Stage in time to see The Deadly Gentlemen, but we can hear everything perfectly from our campsite, and they sounded awesome. The first show I ended up seeing was ClusterPluck. Aside from the deviously fun band name, I wanted to see ClusterPluck because I found out that they played with Wookiefoot following the global March Against Monsanto in St. Louis. As I love Wookiefoot and despise Monsanto, I figured this band would be right up my music-lovin’ alley. Spoiler alert: I was totally right. The crowd was already grooving to their smooth-bluegrass-meets-funky-swing. The highlight of the show, for me, was a bluegrass pirate song, where they engaged the crowd in a sing-along round of “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!”

Next, I knew I had to make sure to catch Delhi 2 Dublin. I love that they combine traditional folk sounds from different cultures – mainly India and Ireland, as the band’s name suggests – with modern electronic sounds. Their opening song was one of their newer hits, which featured a lot more of the electronic, dubby influence. The crowd was moving slowly but wasn’t matching the energy the band was putting out. That changed when they launched into some of the more popular songs from their first, self-titled album, which featured more of their traditional sounds and a highlighted the band’s fiddler, Sara Fitzpatrick. Overall, the crowd appreciated the less electronic-driven songs more than their newer, drum and bass influenced sounds, and demonstrated this by cheering and dancing.

Greensky Bluegrass was every bit as fun as I expected. They opened up with “Jaywalking” and had the whole crowd feeling like they were on the run along with the band. Greensky was one of my most-looked-forward-to bands of the festival, so I was really excited to be up dancing near the stage with other dedicated fans. At one point, the blue spotlights spinning behind the mandolin-pickin’ Paul Hoffman’s head framed the entire band in a glow of badassery. A young couple jumped over the VIP fence at one point and started stomping around in the hay with us as they proceeded to thoroughly entertain the crowd, playing a blend of more traditionally twiddly’ bluegrass songs and some of their folksy fun hits.

Next up at Main Stage was Kacey Musgraves. She is unabashedly country and an unexpected breath of fresh air in a scene that has been going stale with the slew of cookie-cutter Taylor Swift-esque pop-country gals and pretty boys in cowboy hats who churn out repetitive “hits” about showing ladies “how country feels.” Her sound has a more traditional country twang while her lyrics are often socially conscious and inclusive. Around midway into her set, she covered Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” and she ended the set with my two favorite songs of hers, “Follow Your Arrow” and “My House.” “Follow Your Arrow” talks about the problem with living in a world that judges by dichotomy and how important it is to be yourself, and as a woman engaged to a lovely lady, I especially appreciated the shout out to queer folk and other people who also think “the straight and narrow is a little too straight.”

I popped back over to the Harvest Tent to catch the end of Hot Buttered Rum, playing with fiddler Allie Kral (who recently parted ways with Cornmeal). Even though it was cold and everyone was bundled up while they danced under the tent, the band had everyone hollering with a song about summer fun. While Hot Buttered Rum is always a good time, the highlight for me was watching Allie shred her fiddle like she was playing for her soul. Mind-blowingly awesome lady fiddlers seem to be a theme of this Harvest fest: first we saw Sara Fitzpatrick tear it up with Delhi 2 Dublin, then Allie Kral, and today, fiddle fans can also see Elephant Revival’s Bridget Law throwing down at 2:30 at the Harvest Tent.

The next band I saw was indie folk-rock band Roadkill Ghost Choir. While I had listened to a few of their songs on Spotify before coming to Harvest, I had no idea what a great concert experience I was about to be presented with. They played the Harvest Tent at nine, and the crowd was fairly sparse, since it seemed that JJ Grey and Mofro pulled the biggest crowd at that time slot. While I’m sure they were treated to a great show, too (I could hear them from my tent when I went back to grab a jacket – they were jamming out and the crowd was eating it up!), I feel like too many folks missed out on what I think was my favorite show of Thursday. Roadkill Ghost Choir rocked every face in the Harvest Tent with their driving indie rock songs intertwined with soft, beautiful interludes. They were lyrically very interesting, and I hope to get to listen to their music more closely in the future.  The lead singer and guitarist, Andrew Shepard, seemed to be really throwing himself into the music, and it was incredible to watch. I saw lots of members of other bands still backstage coming out and around to watch the longer the show went on, and as the crowds leaving other shows began to trickle by, many of them stopped in and seemed to be a bit bummed out that they missed most of this incredible performance.

While I meant to stay up all night and catch some of Yonder’s set and a bit of Dirtfoot, Les Claypool’s Due de Twang was the end of the night for me. But what a fantastic way to end the night! Les Claypool (most famous for Primus) is arguably one of the best bass players on the planet, and between the groovy sounds of his bass and bandmate Brian Kehoe’s guitar, the entire crowd was cheering and dancing and stomping around despite the biting cold of the night air. Les Claypool also turns out to be a really funny guy, cracking jokes about his music, the type of people who love his music, and the relation of psychedelic jokes to both. There were people spinning LED hula hoops and fire circles, and there were giant light-up puppets dancing through the crowd. Les made a joke about how he’s glad he doesn’t do as many drugs anymore or he might be a little bit weirded out by the fact that there was a giant electric octopus and a six-foot dancing piece of bacon in front of him; Kehoe– who Claypool told us he had known since high school – joked back that when you’re Les Claypool you don’t need psychedelic drugs anymore. After a few good laughs, the proceeded to play a cover of The Bee Gees’, “Stayin’ Alive,” and just went on jamming us into groovy oblivion from there.

After that show, I was completely bushed along with everyone else in our little group, so as much as I wanted to keep partying all night long, we all gave in and returned to camp. The night was cold, but this morning is beautiful! Today I am most looking forward to Elephant Revival, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and of course, Yonder Mountain String Band at Main Stage!

Sat, 10/19/2013 - 12:38 pm

It rained. It didn’t pour and ruin everything, but it rained. As I was walking through the small amount of mud created by the rain I decided to just be thankful for it. So here I am on Saturday morning…thankful for all the great I get to experience this weekend. (And the morning sun.)

On Friday, my day started with Internet issues. While frustrating, I did get the opportunity to get to know some other media folks so….blessing in disguise! After a much later start than planned, my friends and I went to Main Stage to see Dirtfoot play. They’re putting out a new album and it was nice to hear some of their new songs. Scotty was wailing on the sax and J let his hair down to properly play banjo like a boss. As usual, Dirtfoot was great fun.

Next up was Elephant Revival – one of my all-time favorite bands. They’re playing again today and intend to be there for the entire show. I had to leave Friday’s show early so I could go to a mandatory press conference. I didn’t get to see Elephant Revival’s best set, as there were lots of sound issues. Of course, they played through the storm and we all came out better for it. The band played at least one song I didn’t know and one of my favorites, ‘What Is Time.’ During the press conference I got to hear a lot about how members from Tedeschi Trucks Band, Greensky Bluegrass and Turnpike Troubadors felt about playing at festivals. A member from Greensky said playing at festivals helps him keep reality written into his songs because you’re really with the people instead of separated by a one-time show on a large stage. There was a general consensus from the artists about the many benefits (both personally and professionally) of playing at music festivals vs. regular concerts.

After the press conference I went to my favorite stage, Backwoods. It’s canopied by trees and the acoustics are great! I saw a band I’d barely heard of called She’s A Keeper…and was incredibly impressed. They played a cover by The Band, rocked sometimes, jazzed occasionally and switched up the genre but kept a foundation of bluegrass. I love bands who take you through multiple genres – it shows a great talent for understanding sound and instruments…not just the music they play.

Next up I caught a few songs from Fayetteville, AR band Groovement with a new friend I found sitting a field. ;/ They play high-energy, Andy Frasco-type music. The crowd was loving it, so hopefully they found a few new fans. After a few minutes at Groovement I caught some of Rosco Bandana. I feel like I’ve seen them before somewhere, but maybe I just had deja-vu. Either way, these guys were great fun. They played Americana with a twinge of bluegrass. Sometimes the drummer played banjo, always they ended their songs with lots of energy and a loud applause from the crowd.

By this time in the night it had been raining most of the day. Not great, but not bad either. The mud is manageable and the temperature is chilly but not unbearable. We settled into Main Stage at our spot for Yonder Mountain String Band. I’ve seen them a handful of times, and this show was no exception. I was expecting a lot of special appearances but we didn’t get any for this set. Guess I’ll go to the Saturday show too! As usual, the lights were amazing. And the songs impeccable. One of my friends said “It sounds like they’ve been prepping for this for a year.” Another said of the banjo, “He was going balls-to-the-wall all night.” How could you not have a great time at this show!? They played a Dylan cover, and a few I noticed as covers but couldn’t place. These guys are masterful performers. They have been playing for so long a night on stage seems as simple as sleeping. The band voiced their gratitude to Tedeschi Trucks Band coming to play – they had a dream, the band said, and it came true. In the middle of the set YMSB played a song written for one of the members’ future daughters. It was beautiful and incredibly heartfelt. We closed down the set and left for our lifeblood…BBQ NACHOS.

After eating an AMAZING plate of BBQ nachos from Rub-N-Butts BBQ. They were covered in legit smoked meat, cheese sauce, BBQ sauce and jalapenos. My mouth was so incredibly happy for the nachos! We traveled back to our campsite to chow down and waited for Tedeschi Trucks Band to start. They ended up beginning the show about thirty minutes late and in the rain. By that time, I just couldn’t get out of my chair. (Remember how I got too tired to stay awake at 11 pm Thursday night…ugh, I’m so lame.) So we listened to the show from our campsite and it was amazing. Susan Tedeschi was a much more prominent feature of the show than I thought she would be. Her musicianship is incredible and her voice soulful and strong. I loved hearing her sing. And of course there’s Derek Trucks – he played like it was nothing. Like he was doing the dishes and getting super paid for it. The backup for these guys didn’t leave anything behind, either. They played just as well as Tedeschi and Trucks but simply weren’t showcased the same (of course).

After Tedeschi Trucks Band my campmates and I all snuggled into our warm-ass sleeping bags and listened to the rain patter on our tents, lulling us to sleep. What a great day. It’s Saturday morning now. We’re cooking a breakfast of eggs, sausage, potatoes, veggies, peppers and cheese. Today I’m looking forward to Beats Antique (I hope they have their awesome, new stage setup!), Kopecky Family Band, Railroad Earth, Shook Twins, Everyone Orchestra and maybe Coyote Union (if I can stay awake!).

Sat, 10/19/2013 - 1:47 pm

Yesterday’s beautiful weather didn’t last past noon. It wasn’t long before the clouds rolled in and fog began to creep around the campsites. The first beer of the morning was cracked around nine as we made breakfast and waited for more of our friends to arrive. In the meantime, we met a bunch of our neighbors – everyone we’re camped next to is really friendly! People would stop in just to say hello and ask how our night went, and we had great conversations with people who also love these gorgeous Ozark Mountains. Due to our proximity to Main Stage, we got to enjoy Useful Jenkins from the comfort of our camp chairs. Their sound was a really pleasant way to kick off the day – perfect beer drinkin’ music! When our other friends finally arrived (and we welcomed them properly with another round of beers), we set up a canopy over our campsite living room and pulled on some extra layers before heading out to the day’s new adventures!

The first show we actually made it down to was Dirtfoot at Main Stage. The rain had just really began to fall, forming fresh mud under damp straw and providing the perfect stompin’ conditions for a crowd that was ready to party. Dirtfoot is one of those bands who is perfectly in their element when there’s a little mud and lot of rowdiness. I have never seen a xylophone rocked so hard before in my life. The crowd was clearly fueled by the band’s gypsy-punk-country-grumble-boogie energy: everyone who was up closer to the stage was dancing, some with ponchos and umbrellas, some who didn’t seem to care at all about the rain. Suddenly, two huge sasquatches began dancing their way into the crowd and one of the guys from Coyote Union started dancing with one of them. He was so happy to have his picture taken at Dirtfoot with Bigfoot! I hope I can somehow stay up late enough to see their set at The Roost stage at 2 AM on Sunday morning!

I left Dirtfoot a bit early to make sure to catch Elephant Revival’s set at the Harvest Tent. After enjoying one of the most beautiful concert experiences of my life seeing them at last year’s Harvest Fest, I made a promise to never miss an Elephant Revival show that was within reasonable driving distance. They are one of my favorite bands of all time, not just because of the fact that they are all excellent musicians, but also because of the spiritual quality of their songs. Going to one of their shows is like being in church, if the thing you worship is the beauty of being alive and in love with the Universe. The first couple of songs they played were inspired by the rain, slow and beautiful that built up to a danceable frenzy. A few songs in, vocalist and percussionist Bonnie Paine, introduced a new song with the story that inspired it. The band met a girl while on tour and made a special connection with her, but she passed away shortly afterward. On their way back through, the band played at her wake and got to know her family and formed a friendship with them. The song that they played was gorgeous. I wish I could remember the name, but I had tears in my eyes. They played a couple songs from their new EP “It’s Alive” and their new album, “These Changing Skies.” Then for the end of the set, they brought out their good friends, Laurie and Katelyn Shook, from Shook Twins to sing a couple songs with them. They closed the set with “Ring Around The Moon,” which was incredible with the addition of those two beautiful voices. I really hope to catch their set this evening at The Roost stage!

As soon as Elephant Revival’s last song ended, I hustled towards the Backwoods Stage hoping to see a bit of Star and Micey, and I am so glad that I did! They were an awesomely fun group of guys, all good musicians, but the thing that struck me most was the way they harmonized with each other. It reminded me of some Mumford & Sons songs, but with much better lyrics. Their sound is really positive and uplifting and the small crowd was dancing and loving it. For their last song, they came around out into the crowd and danced around as they sang a joyous song. Everyone in the crowd was smiling and clapping and the good vibes were tangible in the jostle and sway. Afterward, the guys agreed to an interview (which I will hopefully have posted soon!) and they were some of the nicest and most personable guys I’ve ever talked to.

I stayed around Backwoods Stage to check out some of Rosco Bandana with their high-energy indie-rock jams and raucous stage presence. The crowd was really small but clearly having a blast! I didn’t get to stay for long because my stomach was yelling at me to go back to camp and eat something, but I definitely hope to get the chance to see them again someday because their sound was awesome.

Back at camp, we listened to Turnpike Troubadours while we made some fajita chicken sausages and recapped with our friends. We all decided to head separate ways after dinner: I chose to head for the Harvest Tent and see Head for the Hills. I didn’t realize I was about to have my mind blown by some sweet psychedelic bluegrass jams, but now I firmly believe that that is among the best kind of surprises. The fiddler, Joe Lessard, was incredibly charismatic, and Michael Chappell player just shredded his mandolin. They bluegrassed like rockstars and rocked out like hill people; during the course of one song there might be two or three complete changes in sound before switching back in and connecting the disparate pieces of music with each other through a great bass riff. I was so entranced, it took me a while to remember that I needed to take photos! (Don’t worry! You’ll get to see them!) When Michelle and I met back up at Yonder, we were both babbling about the bands we just saw, so make sure to read her recap of She’s A Keeper! Which brings me to my next point….


No one seemed to care about the rain or the mud or the crowds or anything else except for dancing through the mud and cheering for the sweet sounds floating off the stage and into our grateful earholes. It was glorious. Our bff and campmate, Robbie Sams, gave the following review: “They played ‘Forty Miles from Denver’early on, and I love that song. But the thing I disliked most about Yonder is… that they don’t live and play in my house all the time.” It was really nice to be in their house last night, those guys seem to love sharing themselves and their music with a crowd of happy people. The energy they were giving out had everybody happy to be alive. Each of the band members seemed to be giving us the best of themselves, professionally fun and on point like string-slinging snipers; I was particularly struck by Dave Johnston with his passionate picking. We also watched a live painter work near the stage, and it seemed almost like Ben Kaufmann was directing his paintbrush with the rhythm-working magic he was performing on stage with that bass. Overall, the experience was wonderful, and I was especially happy to be seeing them with our friends (who are bigger fans than I am) enjoying a Yonder show for the first time. Any band that can make that many people so excited to be in the middle of a field in the cold and the rain is something you should make it a point to experience at least once, and since they are the hosts of Harvest, you can catch them here every night of the festival every year. I can’t wait to see what they give us tonight!

After Yonder, we grabbed some food at Rub-N-Butts BBQ and ended up staring down the most amazingly delicious BBQ nachos I have ever put in my mouth. I have also never gotten such a generous amount of food at a festival truck! As I was waiting for our friends to order, I realized upon looking at the menu again that the truck is from a local business out of Fayetteville, AR. There have been a lot of local food vendors this year, which is really awesome, as I totally support the “Think Globally, Shop Locally” mindset. Harvest Festival is a pretty conscious place – they are really serious about recycling, there is a place to drop off food bank donations, Dirtfoot’s Chompdown allowed everyone to have a decent meal while they’re living in the woods for a few days, and the local food vendors were a nice touch. My favorite part of this festival is the way it works like a family for a few days, all of these people here to genuinely enjoy the company of other music fans and lovers of Mulberry Mountain. It revives my faith in people every time.

We ended up going back to camp to eat, and the rain picked up again even harder. We were planning on going to see Tedeschi Trucks band, but they didn’t seem to be starting on time and after we had all snuggled into our blankets and beer in our campsite, roll-out living room, we had pretty much decided that since we could enjoy the show from here, we were all staying put. I was exhausted, but midway through their set, I wished I was down at the stage! Susan Tedeschi’s voice was stunning and incredibly powerful, and the wail of Derek Trucks’ masterful guitar mixed with the steady rain on our canopy was so awesome. I fell asleep much warmer (or much more tipsy) than Thursday night, and this morning I am ready to go slog through the mud with my fellow music fans to partake of the final day of this awesome Harvest Festival! Things I will not be missing: Elephant Revival’s second set, Gangstagrass, Beats Antique, Shook Twins, and an awesome time!

Tue, 10/22/2013 - 3:29 pm

Saturday was a wonderful day! It started with sunshine, birds and bluegrass and ended with stars, hippies and bluegrass. The day promised to be a great one just because of the fact it was the last day of the festival. The lineup was just as good as the other days, leaving nobody disappointed. I think the only person who was sad about Saturday was the nearly-legally-blind dude I met this morning who lost his glasses. Bummer.

Saturday was a day I chose to spend a lot of time at single shows. At music festivals it’s difficult to always see an entire set – there’s so much to see and we can’t shift time to our preferences; so sometimes the individual concert experience suffers. So the first band I chose to see was Elephant Revival. Their set today was much better than the previous day’s, mostly due to the fact they didn’t have as many sound issues. The band played about six tunes from their new album, Changing Skies, including ‘Birds and Stars’ and ‘Rogue River,’ a foot-stomp song that sounds like the night and drinking, and coming up for air. Suffice to say, Elephant Revival’s set was amazing and touching. They brought the Shook Twins sisters and Bonnie’s sister onstage to sing along with a few songs, including ‘Grace of a Woman.’

Next up was Deep Fried Pickle Project, a fun band that features a washtub bass and beautifully designed rectangular guitar. These guys are having fun playing awesome instruments, and they like to do it for a crowd of people. They didn’t strike me as a band that’s at the point of their music career where they want to be travelling across the universe playing shows every night in a different city. DFPP invited a few members of ClusterPluck to the stage, adding a washboard, banjo and fiddle to fill out their sound. I loved seeing these two groups play together – they were clearly having fun just jamming onstage.

Once Deep Fried Pickle Project ended their set I wandered to the Harvest Tent to catch some of Gangstagrass. Their instrument lineup includes a slide guitar and banjo. I was surprised by how much fun I had at the show! I loved the sound, and I enjoy rap so I guess it makes sense I had fun at the show! The band fit in really well with the Harvest lineup, and there were a lot of people at the show – more than I expected! Later that day I saw Gangstagrass riding a Festi Cab and we exchanged some chats about how awesome they were and how much fun I had at their show; during the press conference I went to on Friday, the sentiment that festivals are so great because it connects you with the people watching your shows was echoed across each band. I imagine most bands feel this way.

Next up was Beats Antique. I was hoping they would bring their new stage setup for their Main Stage set, but maybe there wasn’t time, space or manpower to do that. My absolute favorite part of the Beats Antique set was their cover of ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk. First off, I love that song and I love Daft Punk. Secondly, any band who covers an awesome song like that gets ten extra points in my book! They also played a song that featured Les Claypool acting as the devil. It was plucky and twangy, just like most of his songs. I can’t say I loved the song but I also can’t say I didn’t like it. A lot of fans turned out for the show, including a girl who was going to pay me $10 to watch her bag while she jumped onstage. Unfortunately, her plan was immediately derailed and I didn’t think it fair to ask for the $10. Their show ended with a chaotic barrage of costumed mushrooms, a giant old man statue and enormous fish dancing onstage with the band.

As the sun fell I wandered around trying to decide which show to go to next. I caught the beginning of Ugly Lion, who was playing to an audience of just twelve or so people. Reggae isn’t my favorite item on the music platter so I only stayed for a couple of songs, but the crowd grew significantly by the time I left. It’s true, time doesn’t really exist during music festivals, so how could we be expected to start shows or show up to them on time? (Although sometimes I wish time did exist.) After leaving Ugly Lion I caught what ended up being my favorite show of the whole festival: Shook Twins. Their music is haunting, beautiful, soul, strings, passionate. The harmonies and instrumentation is perfection with a touch of silliness sometimes infused. Bridget Law (fiddler for Elephant Revival) joined the 4-person band for much of their set, and Bonnie Paine and Dango Rose both joined for a few songs. They all played a song by ThaMuseMeant, a band that’s no longer together – ‘Rubber Ball’ and closed the set with a song by John Hartford. The audience for this show was huge, even though they were playing at the smallest stage. Nice touches of the band, besides their sweet skills, were the big golden shaker egg with (I think) a map printed on it and a glittery telephone microphone that added an awesome effect to some of their lyrics.

After Shook Twins we headed back to camp and relaxed a bit before Yonder’s final set. The crowd was large and ready for a final night with Yonder Mountain String Band. The night air was slightly warmer and much less damp than the previous night so everybody was in wearing costumes, had brought their light-up hula hoops or trucked the kids in on a wagon and wrapped in blankets. The last night of a music festival always feels like a celebration. The energy is electric and vibrant – you can almost touch it. The Yonder set finished with a special appearance from Railroad Earth members. By that time in the night I was ready to settle into my bed of blankets and snuggles. As I feel asleep I heard Everyone Orchestra. Reviews I heard from the show were typical: ‘Fantastic.’, ‘Innovative!’, ‘The best show I’ve ever seen.’ and ‘They ended the show just shredding –everybody was shredding their instruments and it was amazing.’ Good reviews, I’d say. I also heard the ‘end’ of Andy Frasco’s set – which actually ended after he played the ending about 10 time and then allegedly sent a bottle of whisky to somebody in the crowd, then crowd surfed to the whisky, took a shot and crowd surfed back. This is quite possibly the best ending to a show I’ve heard of yet.

My favorite show of the festival, hands down, was Shook Twins. And a close second after that was YMSB’s Friday night show. I found a lot of bands I hadn’t heard of before – but I’m a quick convert when it comes to music. I saw Star and Micey play one song off-mic in the middle of the crowd and it stole my heart. I also loved She’s A Keeper and Hot Buttered Rum ft. Allie Kral. There was only one day that had lots of rain – and that wasn’t the worst. We all survived and are better for it now. I am so thankful to have this music festival in my backyard – a quick 45-minute drive. I have met some fantastic musicians, heard amazing bands and met so many people I’m incredibly happy to know. Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival isn’t large, but it has a huge heart. It’s family friendly and relaxed. The lineup is always perfectly chosen and its diversity is growing. Hope to see you on Mulberry Mountain next year!

Check out more photos from Harvest Music Festival 2013.

Wed, 10/23/2013 - 10:06 am

Our final day on the mountain broke with the most gorgeous fall morning – the smell of camp stoves firing up simple breakfasts, the sound of distant birds giddy with the extravagant catch afforded them by the night’s rain, and the sweater-weather wake-up nip of a crisp autumn breeze tousling wet grass and sleepy-head hair all seemed like the sweet morning song of mother nature calling us forward and into the bright world to dance our joy into the soft, wet earth. I worked on my Friday update while my campmates prepared breakfast and shared stories and drinks with our neighbors and other random passersby. As the day crept toward noon, we could hear several of the stages in the distance being set up for the day’s shows. I got to hear part of Mountain Sprout’s Main Stage set before heading to the media building to send my update, and I’m really sad I had to miss them! They are such a fun band, and they play around Northwest Arkansas a lot so if you live up here in this area, be sure to catch them sometime!

Due to some internet issues (and promising a drunk friend I would wait for him), I ended up not making it to the Backwoods stage to see Kopecky Family Band. I saw them once in Fayetteville last year and really enjoyed the show, so I hope they come through again sometime soon. I had to make sure I was at Main Stage for Elephant Revival, in keeping with my promise to never miss one of their shows. They mostly played songs from their new album and once again brought up Laurie and Katelyn Shook (of Shook Twins) to sing with them. The crowd was dancing like crazy and singing along; after they finished their set, people cheered and screamed for an encore. The performance was great, but I really think that Elephant Revival is one of those bands who benefit greatly from a more intimate setting than a huge festival stage can provide. If you are able to see them in a smaller, more contained venue, I promise you will be overwhelmed with their uplifting music.

I had my first press conference at 3:00 Saturday afternoon, and being the nerd that I tend to be, I figured I’d try to get there early. I was really sad that I couldn’t go see Rayland Baxter, but I did get to hear some of his rich, twangy voice coming out of the Harvest Tent. Festivals are really great for getting to see some of your favorite artists and bands all in the same place, and it’s awesome getting to camp out and rock out with friends both old and new, but having to pick and choose who you get to see can be distressing sometimes! It gets especially difficult when you are trying to balance getting all the coverage you need to write about the festival, seeing the bands you most passionately want to see, discovering new music, and working with your friends’ schedules. That last bit gets a little bit more complicated when some of said friends are inebriated somehow or end up disappearing for a while! Festivals are a juggling act, tossing around stage schedules, social schedules, stomach schedules and sleep schedules. Inevitably something will get dropped. Having a press pass is both a blessing and a curse. You get access to the VIP section and sometimes have the chance to talk to artists you admire and ask them questions. Then sometimes you have to go take photos but you don’t want to abandon a friend who is a little too far out to deal with the crowd without a buddy nearby, other times you feel guilty having the best seat at the stage when throngs of people are mean muggin’ your badge and your camera.

I was a bit disappointed at first to have to miss some shows to go the press conference, and I also realize now that I was really nervous about going into that building alone and putting on my professional pants around all those seemingly more experienced festie journalists and incredible musicians! It turned out to be a really cool experience though. The press conference included Harvest’s hosts and headliners, Yonder Mountain String Band, along with Beats Antique, Elephant Revival, Railroad Earth, Everyone Orchestra conductor Matt Butler, and Al Schnier from moe. (which is kind of random, since moe. wasn’t playing at Harvest! Turns out, he was with Butler to play with Everyone Orchestra).

Much of the conversation seemed to focus on the collaborative spirit of Yonder and their festival – every member of the other bands had something to say about the first time they ever experienced a Yonder show. Members of Elephant Revival described being inspired by their expert musicianship, Matt Butler was influenced by the way they collaborate with other artists, and members of Beats Antique talked about how Yonder helped demonstrate the way seemingly disparate scenes and styles of music can be used together to bridge those differences. When asked about how those magical collaborations work one of the members of Yonder (I am kicking myself for not being able to remember who was actually speaking, so feel free to want to kick me too!) explained simply, “We are playing with our friends, and we want to make our friends feel comfortable. Sometimes we just see someone and pull them on stage with us, but usually it’s about who’s around and who we can get to come play with us. Some just want to know what key it’s in, others want to know a bit about the progression of the song – ‘Oh, it goes on like this and then this bit is tricky’ – and that sort of thing. You don’t invite someone into your house and not tell them that you have a moat!” I really think that that spirit of friendship and fun is what makes Yonder Mountain String Band and their wonderful festival stand out. They all seemed like really great, genuine folks, and that sort of thing is apparent by the sort of festival atmosphere they create and the people that it draws. After Yonder had to leave, someone asked a question that led to my favorite part of the press conference: “What bigger cause or message do you hope that you and your bands’ music seek to represent?” The overwhelming themes seemed to be environmental issues, collaboration, and the importance of storytelling. Without hesitation, Bridget Law of Elephant Revival answered simply and immediately, “Protecting the planet.” Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth mentioned a feature on the band’s website called The Forecast where people can keep up with issues affecting climate change and stay informed. He then spoke specifically about his personal passion for protecting our planet’s water, especially our precious rivers. Bonnie Paine of Elephant Revival also spoke on the importance of water and how it connects everyone on the planet. Everyone Orchestra’s Matt Butler talked about the magic of connecting people, of mixing and working with individuals’ “alchemical properties” and harnessing that creative, collaborative power to make a difference, especially in getting music into kids’ lives and inspiring young people to use music as a tool. The members of Beats Antique all talked about the importance of storytelling throughout human history and it’s place in today’s music scene. Beats member Zoe Jakes explained a little bit about the band’s new concept album telling the story of Joseph Cambell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces,” and the role of archetypes in understanding the human experience. She said that as an electronic act in today’s youth culture, their band was in a great position to help today’s young seekers connect with the threads of the human story and be more conscious and aware of creating that story.

I didn’t get the opportunity to ask any questions myself, but I was really happy to have been able to be in that room and learn more about what drives these artists that I admire. Each person in each of those bands is clearly driven by a passion for what they do. There was even a really neat moment where David Satori (of Beats Antique) and Tim Carbone connected on new ways for bands to use their music to help local charities on tour. The whole thing was a surreal experience, and I am very appreciative!

I caught a Festi-cab back down to Backwoods Stage hoping to at least see the end of Deep Fried Pickle project, but I only got to hear the last bit of their set. They seem like a pretty fun band, and their show really had a “front porch” feel to it. I could imagine myself sitting in a plastic lawn chair in someone’s yard, sipping sweet tea (or moonshine) and swatting away mosquitos while listening to these guys jam.

One of the shows I was most looking forward to this year was Gangstagrass – I was curious to see what would happen when combining two genres as seemingly different as bluegrass and gangsta rap. A fusion like that could either be as awesome as peanut butter and jelly or as awkward as peanut butter and ketchup. As I approached the Harvest Tent and could hear the brutal bars and rhythmic banjo pluckin’ of the group’s catchy track “I Go Hard,” I knew immediately that I was about to nom on a delicious PB&J. The stage show was really interesting, as the songs’ verses were spit by rappers R-SON and Dolio the Sleuth and the hook was typically sung by the folks playing instruments. When the rappers weren’t destroying the beat with their tightly wound lines and clever metaphors, you’d never know that you were listening to anything but traditional folky bluegrass. The transition was seamless and the whole crowd was definitely loving the mashup happening on stage before their eyes; everyone packed into the tent was bobbing their heads and stomping their feet. I was also surprised to see Head for the Hills fiddler Joe Lessard on stage with the group; I guess their fiddler couldn’t make it, but Lessard did a really great job and nothing sounded out of place.

Next up, after a quick camp break for dinner and a bit of rest, was Beats Antique at the Main Stage. I was really hoping to see the new stage show for their new concept album and A Thousand Faces tour, but was a bit disappointed to see that it wasn’t going to happen. I suppose that doing an outdoor festival venue in a time slot that spans daylight to dusk probably wasn’t a conducive environment to establish the atmosphere necessary for such a production. My disappointment was only shallow and didn’t last long, because as soon as Beats launched into their set, everyone at main stage was dancing hard. A unique combination of global fusion music and dance – especially Balinese and Indian traditional dances – Beats Antique is a real treat to watch. Musicians David Satori and Sideshow Tommy kept the music going the entire time, even covering Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” at one point, causing the whole crowd to go nuts. The group also played a song from their new album in which Les Claypool features as the archetypal character of the Devil. The most interesting thing was the change in the crowd’s rowdiness during the songs where Zoe Jakes would come out in a new and stunning costume and perform one of her carefully crafted, storytelling dances. The crowd energy was still high as ever, but it was a more focused energy, everyone carefully watching and appreciating the technical beauty of motion expressed through dance. The end number involved a bunch of crazy masks and costumes, and the band had invited up some of the many awesome giant puppets and costumed folks who had been roaming around the festival. It was so weird and fun! And I saw many of the festival’s other artists dancing in the VIP section around us!

Railroad Earth was up on Main Stage next, and the crowd that began to gather for them was huge and excited. I wanted to stay and see them, because I’ve been to a Railroad Earth show and it was a lot of fun and the energy that the band puts out is really powerful and positive, but I knew I had to leave and make my way to The Roost stage to see Shook Twins, since I’ve never seen them and wasn’t very familiar with their work besides knowing that many of my friends love them. I am so glad that I went. It was one of the best shows I saw during the festival this year. Shook Twins consists of multi-instrumentalist, identical twin sisters, Katelyn and Laurie Shook, and bandmates Niko Daoussis and Kyle Volkman. The set started out with an ethereal and somewhat creepy vibe, but every song was stunning and beautiful. Adding to the dreamlike effect was the telephone mic that Katelyn would sometimes sing into – I really have no idea how to describe this properly, but it’s basically an old-school telephone handset attached to a microphone and when one uses it, it kind of sounds like you’re hearing someone far away, through a phone. It was a really neat addition and added a whole new layer of sound to their already heavily layered songs. Throughout their set, instruments were switched around and various members of Elephant Revival would hop up on stage and play with them (including, at one point, Daniel Rodriguez playing a giant shaker egg). They played a really lovely song about the rainy Northwest weather, and one of the most fun parts of the set was when they covered ThaMuseMeant’s “Rubberball.” This is a band that you just have to go see at some point to really take in the intricate and beautiful work they do on stage. This was probably one of the highlights of the festival for me.

Yonder Mountain String Band’s final set of Harvest Fest was mindblowing. I have no other way to describe being at that show. The crowd was fantastic and full of people in costume, people waving around huge, glowing rage sticks, and circles of fire dancers and glow dancers scattered across the field. The band opened with intense, exciting energy and never let up. It was almost unbelievable to me that the quality of music I was hearing was being made by live and in-person human beings – it was that good. As I watched and danced along, I remembered a sentiment that kept being repeated at the press conference by the members of other bands: these musicians were so inspired by Yonder because of the way they are able to take their music beyond preconceived ideas of “folky bluegrass band” and blow audiences away with how they rock out on stage. Yonder is such a great band because they are able to bring together all the important threads (or strings, if you will!) that make up greatness: each band member is a flawless musician, they know how to entertain a crowd, they lift people up, and they are all good human beings who believe in the power of music and fun and the collaborative spirit. Partway into the set, they brought up members of Railroad Earth to play with them, which only made everything even more fun and awesome. Unfortunately, at this point I was exhausted and shivering and began the trek back to the campsite. On the bright side, I got to listen to more of Yonder while drinking beer around our neighbors’ fire pit!

I was really sad that I wasn’t able to stay out long enough to see Everyone Orchestra. I saw an Everyone show at Harvest Festival last year, before I knew anything about what I was going to see, and it was one of the coolest concert experiences I’ve ever seen. I love the idea of random musicians working together to create a one of a kind impromptu experience for each audience, every time. And some of my favorite musicians were going to be participating in this year’s EO experience! But sadly, tiredness and the cold kept me at camp. I feel like that was a major downfall for me during this festival. It’s hard trying to rush around from stage to stage to see and do everything, especially when wearing clunky rain boots. And the cold really takes a lot out of you when you aren’t prepared for it; I didn’t think I’d need to bring a coat and just layer up with shirts and hoodies, since it wasn’t nearly as cold last year. This was, as you can imagine, a terrible idea!

I get a little bit better at festivals with every one that I attend. What I learned from this year’s Harvest is that no matter how prepared you think you are, weather can be a trickster. And I had to learn the hard way that you can’t go to every show or you’ll wind up too tired to stay up for other shows. Making those decisions can be so hard, but it’s necessary to take care of oneself amid all the excitement! I have also decided that I need to get a watch, because phones are not very reliable. And I am going to invest in a real raincoat instead of the awkward, thin plastic poncho I ended up spending half the festival in.

The real lesson of this weekend though is that it really sealed the deal on my love for Harvest Festival. If I ever have to pick between the Mulberry festivals, I will always choose Harvest over Wakarusa. The atmosphere is friendly and inviting and I never felt nervous around anyone or afraid that my neighbors would break into our campsite or go on a rampage inspired by the synthetic drugs they bought from a shady schwagger. I also really appreciated the family atmosphere – I could see myself going to a festival like Harvest every year, maybe someday even bringing kids of our own. Even the drive home was perfect, the Ozark hills were dotted with trees that were sporting their seasonal best and our hearts were full of music and memories. I already can’t wait for next year’s Harvest Festival. Thanks to Grateful Web for letting me experience Harvest in a whole new way. J

Check out more photos from Harvest Festival 2013.

Thu, 10/31/2013 - 12:38 pm

On the fateful day after extended taxes were due, October 16, 2013, I sat down with [and interviewed) Fayetteville, Arkansas-based band Don’t Stop Please. During the interview there were many jokes, lots of sarcasm and some discussion about music, including insight on their newest album, the creation process and that pesky (now historical) government shutdown. This is the first time I’ve interviewed an entire band together and it was certainly interesting!


GW: You guys play a lot of different genres in your music...is that a conscious choice?

Anna: I don’t think so. We all just have so many influences we draw from; when we get together it ends up to be like that.

Joel: With the Internet I was listening to every type of genre growing up.

Will: I get bored listening to the same thing, so I expect other people to be the same.

Anna: Diversity is the spice of life.

Nick: What if we’re spice rock?

GW: You did a Kickstarter to raise money for your latest album (Don’t Stop Please) and your last EP. Why did you decide to use Kickstarter? Any tips for Kickstarter novices?

Joel: Make really good prizes that are worth getting. Make sure you get a big group of people behind it before you even launch it.

Will: Making a record is pretty expensive no matter how you go about it. Just shoot for covering the costs that are absolutely necessary and then all that other cost you may have to eat, at least you’ll have your necessary costs covered.

GW: How long did it take you to create this new album?

Anna: Should we answer this honestly? We started in December of 2011, but then it didn’t work out with this other studio…

Will: It’s one of those albums where the band has to find a balance between touring and playing shows and actually working on the product. It’s a different process than some bands go through when they record.

Nick: I think we had to do that - we couldn’t just sit down for a really long time and record. First we had to play shows just to buy some of the equipment we needed to record the album. Then after that we had to make money and survive. That’s a big part of why it took so long.

Anna: When we started most of us were still in school, too.

Will: Not to mention we have a lot of horns, strings and vocal harmonies in it and those things take awhile to get done exactly the way you want them to sound. So that took us awhile - fine-tuning our playing. We also learned how to record our own album by doing this. By the end of it we were moving at a much faster rate. [A lot of time was spent] messing with EQs and compressors...understanding how to make everything sound ‘of the same product.’

GW: Do you like working with the technical side of it?

Anna: Not particularly.

Robert: I enjoy it a lot.

Joel: I’m starting to like it more now that we have it down. It’s hard to learn anything as a group of six without a teacher.

Will: Yes and no. I’d like to work with someone who’s way more knowledgeable on the next record we do.

Joel: Diplo, I think is who we’re going to get…

Willie: I want to learn more about the process, but I don’t want to try to have to learn the world of recording while I’m trying to stay in the mood to make the music happen - it’s just an overload. Sometimes you just get real high, and then you’re all real high…and something’s wrong and *chaos*

GW: Most of the songs on your new album are 6 minutes or more…

Anna: It’s definitely a long one.

Joel: It’s a grower, not a shower.

GW: Do you ever play really long songs.

Anna: We have a really long song on [the album] - it’s about 10 minutes.

Joel: I would for fun, but not necessarily in a band setting.

Will: We don’t ever intend to make a long song. We don’t ever intend to make a song anything...or at least we haven’t yet. We just figure out what feels right and go with it. The song ‘Dogsmile,’ that Will [King] sings ended up being 10 and a half minutes long. You know...I don’t want it to be any shorter than that.

Robert: You should have heard the 22-minute cut.

Joel: A lot of heavy vibes in that one...

GW: What do you feel like the main vibes of this recording are?

Joel: Guilt rock.

Robert: Mushrooms.

Nick: Plasma babies.

Will: What was the question again?

Will: I think it’s a fairly dark record.

Anna: Don’t go chasing waterfalls.

Joel: If we could have written that song we would have, I’ll tell you that.

GW: Do you have any other band or projects you play in or work with?

Anna: Handmade Moments is Joel, Nick and I. We do a lot of shows.

Nick: Don’t forget CoBro

Will: Comfortable Brothers is Will, Robert, myself and Dick Darbin.

Joel: I’m really excited about Alaskan Firedog. They’ve got some really groundbreaking material.

Will: Yup. Icebreaking material, even.

Robert: The government has paid us not to release it.

GW: So did you guys have to work during the shutdown, then?

We’re all furloughed.

Anna: This is when Occupy Wall Street should be protesting. Alright, fuck you guys...you can’t get the National Guard out here now so let’s protest.

Joel: They’ve got Blackwater now…

GW: You’ve played a few festivals, right?

Joel: We played at Dog Days of Summer in Missouri.

Anna: We played at a sweet festival in Boise, Idaho last March called Tree Fort Music Festival. Then we played Harvest Fest. We played Riverfest.

Nick: We had our debut show with Sugar Ray [at Riverfest]. It was a dream come true.

GW: Did you actually watch Sugar Ray play? How was it?

Robert: Eh..not very good.

Will: There were only one or two of the members and the DJ’s not in the band anymore.

Nick: He sang pretty out of tune in a few spots.

Anna: Oh yeah, it was kind of sad.

Joel: They aged like an open bottle of wine.

Anna: That’s true, I’d agree with that. When I was 13 years old I fuckin’ loved Sugar Ray. I’m watching this later at 23, it was surreal.

Robert: I loved Sugar Ray. Let’s just say that. They were the best touring band in the nation and we played with them.

GW: So how has your music changed over time, since obviously Sugar Ray’s has changed over time.

Will: We’re going from pop back to metal...that’s our natural progression.

Robert: Fine aging.

Joel: We’re smoking our songs before we put them on the burner now.

Anna: Some of it’s getting sharp, you know?

Nick: It feels like we’re heading toward our arena rock phase. It’s going to be super epic and reverb-y.

GW: Maybe Sugar Ray will open for you.

Robert: I’ll talk to Mark about that.

GW: You guys should write music for a commercial.

Joel: Who should we write for? We can write one right now?

GW: Celi’s Mexican Restaurant.

[commercial jingle materializes]

GW: Do you have any favorite shows or places you’ve played as a band?

Anna: I really liked Chicago. We played at this sweet bar that had art hanging up called The Gallery Cafe.

Will: The Deli in Norman has incredible sound and the crowd’s never huge and they all just listen...so we play really good.

Nick: I always like our Whitewater shows, it feels homey. It’s a venue in a neighborhood in Little Rock.

Joel: It’s the classic Little Rock dive bar that always gets good music and a great crowd  of music lovers.

Robert: I really enjoyed the public theater we played in Little Rock.

Will: I like playing at Stickyz - the crowd sings along and they all cheer when we go onstage. And you’re just like ‘fuck yeah, man.’

Will: That’s the only show we’ve played for a large crowd...300 or something like that.

Anna: At Crystal Bridges we played an acoustic show in this big, reverberant room called The Grand Hall. Getting to play acoustic shows with this band it really cool because it’s a different dynamic, and we get to bust out some songs and sweet part writing we don’t get to play electric.

GW: Do you play a lot of acoustic shows?

Joel: I’d say about 15% of our shows are acoustic.

GW: Why do you [play acoustic concerts]?

Anna: It’s just good sometimes. House shows are easy to play acoustic and we like to get used to playing acoustic because when you’re on the road it’s nice to busk and make money. You make new fans in places where you’re busking outside playing acoustic instruments, selling CDs and just getting out there.

Will: You get to play songs that wouldn’t work on a stage in front of a bunch of drunks.

Joel: Yes. That’s what we call our fans, ‘the drunks.’

GW: Do you play a lot of shows where people are intently listening or do you play mostly in bars?

Anna: We have a really good listening population at our shows.

Joel: We get the attention of our crowd. We’re something different...we have all the instruments up there. They’re at least going to listen for the first couple songs because they’re wondering ‘What in the world is going on up here? What are all these barefoot kids throwing instruments?’

Will: The show we were at in St. Louis the other night, when we brought the dynamics down the crowd was quiet and they were listening. That was nice. We’d never played there before in that entire city.

GW: Are there any bands you want to play with?

Will: The Kansas City Bear Fighters.

Joel: I’d love to play a show with Wilco one day, The Violent Femmes would be great. Paul McCartney.

Anna: Is Spoon still playing shows? I really dig Spoon.

Robert: I wonder if The Shags are still playing shows. It’d be cool to play with them.

Anna: There’s a lot of cool band out there. It’s really hard to put us on a bill with a band sometimes. A lot of bands from the Midwest are really bluegrass...and we’re kind of all over the place. I’ve heard a lot of great bands lately, like The Mike Dillon Band.

Joel: I’ll play with anybody that wants to play with us. I even like playing with bands that suck. People that play in bands usually end up being cool people. It’s a new experience, it’s a new vibe. Maybe you can get some ideas from them.

Anna: Also Dr. Dog would be cool to play with. Neil Young would be sweet. Willie Nelson - I’d love to play at their farm festival. That’d be so sick.

Joel: Farm Aid!

GW: You guys are a pretty big band as far as bands go. How many instruments do you usually have onstage?

Joel: 12-14. We play guitars, banjo, bass, upright bass, cello, ukulele, drums, keys, trumpet, trombone, percussion.

GW: What’s going on next for you guys? You just got back from a small Chicago tour, you’re releasing your album Nov. 2. So what’s after that?

Joel: We’re going to take a break for a month and a half. Being a touring band is a lot of fun, but unless you have a big, national fanbase it can be a hard way to make a living. So we’re going to take some time off and work some real jobs; take that time to write and work on music. When you’re done with a day’s work you pick up a guitar and feel like you’re really lucky instead of getting done with the tour and thinking that playing music is work. I think that happens to everybody when you go on tours; music becomes work instead and not creative, fun, explorative art-making process. I’m excited to do that in the next few months. Then we’re going to hit it hard in January or February.

Robert: That’s the plan: a new LP by the end of next year.


Album Review - Don’t Stop Please (self-titled)

Don’t Stop Please is releasing their first full-length album on November 2, 2013. A delicious jambalaya of instruments and harmonized vocals, Don’t Stop Please plays a little of everything. The band’s self-titled, self-produced album is a great way to ease into their wacky and wonderful world. Well-balanced vocals and distinct instrumentation are the foundation of this record, while a multi-genre whirlwind keeps listeners guessing what whimsical or beautiful corner they’ll come around next.

Half of the main vocals for this opening track are from Joel Ludford where he croons along with the piano, sax and swaying percussion. A breezy, jazzy song that’s calming and cool. Main vocals for this opening track are from Joel Ludford where he croons along with the piano, sax and swaying percussion. Instrumentation on this track is very distinct and each instrument is allowed to shine. ‘Fire Palace,’ a well-thought-out first track, introduces you easily into Don’t Stop Please. While the song is calm and relatively quiet for this band, their signature elements (vast instrumentation, tempo changes, multiple genres) still shine through a thin, quaint veil.

Owning the music of bands that are great live is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with their music so you can fully immerse yourself during a live show. For example, the second song on the album, ‘Backyard Dogs’ does not start with the lyrics ‘Backyard dogs in parking lots/’til I turn my head.’ Next time I go to their show I’ll be able to properly sing along instead of adding my own version of nonsense to the performance. But really, on this song, there’s no need for me to sing along; the percussion and smooth vocals from Anna Horton alongside simple harmonies and a few awesome breakdowns make this track a truly good work.

As the album progresses the mood changes a bit. ‘Long List of Numbers’ is less acoustic than the first three tracks; they’re using their instruments differently, but the change is welcome - an album of entirely slowish songs from this band wouldn’t be my glass of beer. This song lends itself to a powerful, big band sound. In fact, about halfway through the song Nick Caffery blazes in with a big, brass trombone...and it’s perfect.

The next song’s main vocals are performed by Willie Krzeszinsk. This is another slow track, but instead of jazz there’s a southern, candlelit feel to the song. I imagine sitting in a cabin with the wind almost inaudibly whistling through the cracks in the logs. Here, you notice everything; each note, your breath in time with the song, the deep strings of the bass and understated power of the trumpet. Here, time continues but with such great awareness of the surroundings.

‘Infinite Whirl’ ends abruptly and ‘Pirates’ Handprints’ begins with noise (which I’m not too fond of). Then quickly the song finds its place in electric hallelujah. Strong, rough sounds burst from saxaphone and guitar while vocals smooth the landscape. But then suddenly the song switches into a lounge jazz breakdown. And then just as suddenly, back into hallelujah.

The next track, ‘Henry & The Great Salt Lake,’ features an instrument we haven’t heard from yet: the banjo, played by Joel Ludford. This is a great singalong and it feels like the ocean but somehow it has a folk-bluegrass sound and includes a nice breakdown about ¾ of the way through. The lyrics, a well-written story, are easy and simple.

Song #8, ‘Missed Echo,’ is the shortest on the album, clocking in a 4:52. The song begins with some non-musical ocean sounds and a deep moan from upright bass, then enter vocals from Willie Krzeszinski and Joel Ludford + some European-style accordion and guitar work. This track is a sway of slow strings and soothing vocals and the harmonies between Willie and Joel complement each other in an almost haunting way. The near-whimsical nature of the instrumentation in conjunction with the haunting vocals make for a beautiful song.

The penultimate track, ‘Dogsmile,’ is written and sung by Will King - a rarity as most main vocals come from Joel Ludford, Willie Krzeszinski and Anna Horton. It begins slowly in the style of a post-rock band. Vocals on the track are reminiscent of Pink Floyd - the song feels like a 60’s psychedelic slow jam to me. The longest on the record, ‘Dogsmile’ doesn’t feel too long and it ends abruptly, taking you out of a meditative state just as easily as you were called into it.

The last song on the album, ‘Antithesis,’ features sobering lyrics and instrumentation, and an uplifting chorus. Don’t Stop Please rarely plays a tune that focuses on a single emotion. These songs are journeys, not simple rhyme and predictable rhythm.

This album is truly a collaboration between musicians. Each member of Don’t Stop Please plays various instruments, adds to the vocals and writes music - there is no frontman in this band. The album makes it evident the band has a mission to bring good, unique, interesting songs to your lives. DSP likes to disrupt the senses, taking you from one place to another, but only momentarily. I only have a few issues with the album. The first is that ‘Fire Palace’ seems a bit longer than it needs to be. But the biggest qualm I have with DSP’s album is it just doesn’t truly exhibit the band’s ability as live musicians - so pick up their album, familiarize yourself and check out one of their live shows. Like was mentioned in the interview above, DSP isn’t going to be touring until a couple months from now so you have all sorts of time to get cozy with this album.

Don’t Stop Please can be purchased starting November 2, 2013, at their shows and on Bandcamp, Amazon, and iTunes. You can also stream the album on their website, Spotify, SoundCloud and Pandora.

Wed, 11/06/2013 - 9:59 am

Most of Fayetteville, AR loves any reason to go out and get down. What’s one of the best reasons to hit the town? Halloween, of course! With shrouded faces and awesome costumes, fans of PANTyRAiD (and partying in general) filled George’s Majestic Lounge to the brim. This show sold out four days before the day of the show - people were ready to put on their favorite dance panties and groove the night into sunrise (which I am no longer physically capable of doing).The Halloween bash at George’s started with a set by Drummadic, a pretty fun DJ from Tulsa, Okla. He played a lot of smooth, bass-heavy tracks that were danceable but not overly annoying or hard-hitting. That’s how I like my electronic music…danceable, relatively chill and not confusing or disruptive. There’s a place for artmusic (which is sometimes confusing/disruptive), but for me this year that was not on Halloween night. Subkulture played a 45-minute set and as the crowd trickled in they took notice of the DJ on stage…but most folks were just there to get on down to PANTyRAiD town.Well after my normal bedtime, around midnight, PANTyRAiD took the stage to a loud and roaring crowd. Most people in the audience were dressed and PANTyRAiD gave costumes a small effort by wearing half masks. Although speaking from experience, it’s difficult to do anything onstage in a group of people when you’re out of your comfort zone. The duo’s set started out a bit lackluster for me. It seemed the two just weren’t all that into playing for Fayetteville. But as it turned out, I think the masks were holding PANTyRAiD down. Once the two ripped off their masks the music got heavier, louder and overall more pleasant to listen to.There was a host of people in the audience - from adults who just love George’s Majestic Lounge and mid-20s adults bobbing to the music to the under-21 crowd (which was most of the crowd). George’s is an 18+ venue and most of these kids were having the best time of their life – or at least their best Halloween…or maybe just the best night that night. Suffice it to say these guys were damn pumped to be at that show. They were sweaty (most of us were) and dazed, enjoying all the lasers and drinking lots of water. I think this is PANTyRAiD’s crowd whether or not they like it (and I have no idea if they do).The show featured popular songs like Beba, as well as some new tunes. And I think I even heard something about a Fayetteville-specific song; but as at most electronic shows, most of the songs just faded from one to another and, to me, the show was just one big dance tune! Around 1:30 am PANTyRAiD shut it down; the crowd was begging for an encore but no dice – George’s had to end the show. No matter what happened and who was at the show, PANTyRAiD was a great way to ring in the first of November! There were lots of great costumes, a rarin’-and-ready crowd and I danced my face off with my friends and favorite lady. That’s really all I wanted from this show.  I can’t say this show changed my life, but I did have a damn good time. Thanks, PANTyRAiD!Check out more photos from the show.

Tue, 12/17/2013 - 3:02 pm

On an icy, cold night in Fayetteville, AR I traveled (safely and slowly) to George’s Majestic Lounge for an epic evening with The Infamous Stringdusters. They’ve played a couple times on Mulberry Mountain but never in Fayetteville so it was a treat for us. Unfortunately, the show was scheduled on a day that fell just after our area had been covered by ice and snow. The crowd was miniscule at best, but hopefully those who couldn’t make the show were able to watch their live stream of the concert. I’m not sure if the Dusters frequently stream their shows or if they did because of the circumstances. Either way, top-notch idea guys!

Because of the sparse crowd I think the show was allowed to become more intimate and, in a way, more free. Most of the shows I’ve seen from these guys have been in front of large crowds of drinking and stomping bluegrass lovers, and the band feeds off that energy. But on Wednesday we experienced something a little different. Don’t get me wrong, they still put on a rousing show but the intimacy was palpable. Despite the small crowd there were three photographers there, including myself. This show was a big deal.

The show started on time, with Paper Bird opening for The Stringdusters at 8 pm. They followed the performance at 9:15 and played until sometime after 11. Since the show was on a Wednesday, I was grateful for a band that I didn’t have to watch until 1 am – I know…I am pretty lame (and sleepy!).

The band played for over 2 hours, showing off their traditional bluegrass skills, insane collaborations and modern twists. From turkey-in-the-straw tunes, Irish breakdowns, Latin interjections and a church song, The Infamous Stringdusters impressed. George’s Majestic Lounge is the perfect venue for bluegrass, it’s an intimate wooden building with an inviting stage, good lighting and great seating for those who might want to have a bit of a rest. I didn’t need a seat for this show; the 5-piece band kept the crowd dancing and enthralled. Their beautiful musicianship travels through time and space flawlessly – syncopation feels melodic somehow and their long jams seem to fly by in seconds.

One song The Stringdusters love to play within and around is Winds of Change. They faded in and out of the chorus throughout the night; in between Andy Falco shredded the guitar in a long solo. The other members visibly encouraged his playing and occasionally chimed in. It’s amazing the way these guys function together; they are both a team and a single unit – an almost perfect representation of the way a group must function. They play like traditional bluegrass bands, moving around on the stage from one grouping to another, playing off each other’s notions and whims. It’s fantastic to see a band not glued to their mics and, instead, glued to their music.

Each member has a very different personality. There’s Travis Book. He strums his bass always with a beaming smile and seems to move around the most onstage despite his large instrument. Chris Pandolfi plays the banjo. And he plays it usually with a look of serenity on his face until he’s – at that point his brow furrows in concentration and he grins passionately. Jeremy Garrett on fiddle is always concentrating, lifting from one musician to the other – he moves around almost as much as Book. Garrett makes it look easy to play his parts, but I assure you they are not, especially in front of his sister (who was in the audience for this show). At one point during the set he even somehow made his fiddle trumpet. There’s Andy Hall on dobro with a fun, get-down style. His slides are enthusiastic and picking is intricate. I’m always fascinated by the dobro. Andy Falco plays the guitar with passion and fervor; he takes on long, difficult solos and throws himself into each note and melody.

This band’s style impresses me. They combine so many different sounds and harken back to various songs and melodies throughout their set. They give their instruments new life encased in traditional-sounding songs, and they experiment with modern twists. Their church bluegrass choice was a fast and lively amen. They jammed into a new song with a melodic-swing fiddle. After they left the stage the small crowd called for an encore. The Stringdusters graciously and happily brought their instruments onto the floor. We encircled them as they decided which song to play, then heartily threw themselves into the last tune of the night. This show was wonderful. It was peppered with strong vocals and stories of past times playing at George’s; Book had played with Yonder Mountain String Band and Pandolfi had played at George’s while touring alongside headliner Dark Star Orchestra. The guitar was electrifying. Bass hit our hearts with each beat. Dobro sang loudly and impressed the crowd. The fiddle was a flying carpet ride through bluegrass city. And the banjo brought us all back to the roots of the music.

I once interviewed Andy Falco and Travis Book my first Wakarusa working for Grateful Web. I can’t say it was the best interview because I was so nervous (legally I cannot say it was the best interview)…and I may have lost the notebook with the interview in it after leaving the interview. And then I found a message in my secret Facebook message inbox 6 months later that a girl had found the notebook, but sadly she never responded to my plea for her to mail it to me! But it was a great and important experience nonetheless, and the two were incredibly kind. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with them. Let’s just say this event went a lot better. Seeing the band play in one of my favorite cities in the world, in which I am lucky to live, was a fantastic and rare opportunity. It’s a tragedy so few people were able to show up, but those of us who could will be forever glad we had the chance.

The Infamous Stringdusters will be playing in late December, a few dates in January and lots of dates in February. Visit their website to find if they’ll be in your area! If not, you can usually catch them at festivals around the U.S., as well as at their own October festival The Festy.

Check out more photos from the show.

Sat, 02/08/2014 - 6:54 pm

This interview has been sitting in my ‘need to write’ pile for longer than I’d like to admit. Honestly, I’m not sure my lowly English words can do this band justice. Their music seems part of my heart; some days it pumps my blood others it lifts me into smiles and dancing. There is so much meaning in each word Cloud Cult writes. They speak from experience and plug in the connection we have with every thing – this growing up we’re all doing together, every day, for our whole lives. If Carl Sagan and Cloud Cult could meet, I’m sure they’d become fast friends. And perhaps in some other cosmic universe, they are.

The band features a wide berth of instruments and musicians. Craig Minowa, main vocalist and guitarist is also the songwriter. He pulls on life experiences, and every album that has come from the hands and voices of this wonderful band has a foundation of storytelling. Their sound lifts the listener into an ethereal, introspective mood. Their lyrics whisper, and sometimes shout, of love and loss; of hardship and the pulling through.

Not only is Cloud Cult’s music sustaining and seemingly always pertinent, but their business practices are as well. The band plants 10 trees for every 1,000 albums sold to help reduce their carbon footprint in the production of the albums. They have turned down many large record interests in order to keep their values and work environmentally friendly.

The band’s sound has changed a lot since they began released their first album (about one every year) in 2001. But since their 8th work, Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes), the band has released music that harkens the group’s individual growing up. The albums feel more mature, like the hardships have been deeper, somehow more tragic and more difficult to wade through.

Throughout all the changes and all the years of making music, I can honestly say Cloud Cult is on the right track. They follow their hearts and make the music that flows freely from their human experiences, and with every bend and turn in the road they find a new, well-lit (at least eventually) path.

You can find Cloud Cult playing shows (some already sold out) across the U.S. this spring. They will be touring with their new, more intimate set.

GW: Does the meaning of a song ever change for you over time? What's a song that's changed; how has it come to manifest itself?

CC: Yes, the meaning of songs has changed over time, particularly with songs that came from the oldest albums. As personal philosophies change, it's sometimes necessary to adjust original intentions of songs to have new personal meanings.

GW: How was music a part of your life as a child?

CC: We didn't have a television in our living room. It was a piano that my mom played a lot, so we were around music quite a bit. I started lessons at an early age and realized by the time I was a preteen kid that I was able to express my emotions better through music than talking. I had a lot of depression, so the music helped me through those years.

GW: What's the secret to success? What is success?

CC: I'd say the secret to success is all psychological. The moment you can live fully in the moment is the moment of success (even if it was momentary). We all get caught up in baggage from the past and demands and expectations for the future which leaves little time for enjoying the present. There's never success if you're never really here.

GW: How have your songs and performances changed over the years?

CC: In the past, there was more venting going on. It's become more of a daily spiritual practice, like meditating or praying.

GW: What do you do when you're not touring or playing shows?

CC: I also compose music for documentaries and movies, so I try to do one or two of those each year. I also spend a lot of time working the land at our homestead and nonprofit institute. I also love spending time being a dad to two beautiful kids.

GW: Who are your favorite songwriters? Favorite musicians?

CC: I tend to listen to music that is totally different from Cloud Cult so that it clears my mental palate.  I listen to a lot of old time Big Band music from the 30s and 40s. Anything that makes me feel like I'm back in the Norman Rockwell days is good in my book.

GW: Is there a favorite (or a few favorite) performance that have really influenced you as a band or human(s)?

CC: We recently finished doing a run of 4 acoustic shows that were also dedicated to families in need. There's a new kind of spiritual rooting that seems to be happening with unplugging everything and performing a set that feels very vulnerable.

GW: Who has inspired you/the band over the years? Over a single, flashing moment?

CC: We get to meet a lot of fans who have been put through some amazing challenges in life and still somehow glow brilliantly and dedicate their lives to making things better. That's pretty empowering to be around.

GW: What do you think it means to be human?

CC: Interesting question:)  I'd say the human body seems to be fantastically created to provide multiple tools for educating the deeper energies that temporarily ride in this shell. The brain does a great job of creating an illusion of isolation, and from there, we get to have experiences with each other that help the universe continue to evolve by learning more about itself. Being fully human then would mean striving to be in touch with your physical body's relationship to the quiet and hidden ghost riding in it.

GW: If you could only eat one kind of sandwich ever again, what would it be?

CC: I would lean towards the guilty pleasure and say summer sausage, colby cheese, spinach, hummus, avocado, mayo and chips, all sandwiched between two pieces of fresh baked bread.

GW: What's next for the band?

CC: Well, now that I've made myself hungry, I'll probably consider making one of those sandwiches. Then it's back to work organizing the release of our acoustic live album and 2014 national tour, all of which kicks off in February.

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 10:17 am

Upon entering George’s Majestic Lounge on Sunday night I noticed something in the air. It wasn’t smoke, because you can’t smoke in George’s. But there was something else hovering in the spaces between us humans. Music wafted from the back room – a folk duo picking at stringed instruments and harmonizing light Arkansas accents. The venue was buzzing with old friends and new faces, happy hearts and big smiles. Elephant Revival was in town – a cause for celebration. And a celebration it was. Hoops, hollers, drinks and dancing lit up a full house of Sunday-night Revivalists. A somewhat different kind of revival than you’d experience in the morning…but an awakening nonetheless.

The show began with a set from Fayetteville husband-and-wife duo Smokey and the Mirror (they are also part of a band 3 Penny Acre). The band plays stripped-down, vocally driven folk tunes with some bluegrass mixed in. Their style is rooted in American folk music from days past. In fact, Brian Hembree of Smokey and the Mirror arranged an exhibit that showed at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (or, as I call it, Crystal Britches Museum of Fancypants). The exhibit focused on modern folk and bluegrass music, as well as depression-era photography and art. Brian paired the songs with individual artwork. The experience was wonderful, and wonderfully synchronized. The songs that were chosen to accompany the photographs and paintings were simply right on point. The couple also hosts the Fayetteville Roots Festival. A SXSW-style festival with shows in various venues and stages in Fayetteville. This year the festival will feature Lucinda Williams, The Wood Brothers, Anais Mitchell, Jay Farrar, Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien, Ben Kweller, and many more. Come visit Fayetteville, Arkansas – it is a beautiful city!

Smokey and the Mirror finished their set to a nearly-full house. The diversity of the audience at an Elephant Revival show really tells the tale of their breadth. Elephant Revival reaches so many people; their music floats easily through us as if they are playing to the firing of our neurons, not just our drunken sensibilities. There were people in the audience who have been there since the beginning of Elephant Revival; friends and family of Bonnie Paine (vocals, washboard, djembe, musical saw) hooted and danced to old tunes and new. And we all celebrated the band together, no matter our personal closeness with any of the band members.

When Elephant Revival gathered on the stage they were poised and professional as always. Faces dancing with smiles and heart aflutter with the promise of another performance, the band began the show with a favorite of mine, Birds and Stars. The band bounced from new songs, to old, to a few I didn’t know. They brought guests onstage with them and showcased their multi-instrumental talents. Bonnie began the show playing washboard, then to musical saw for “Satisfied”, and then onto djembe to finish the set. Meanwhile, Bridget Law sang quietly and shredded her fiddle on stage left.

Elephant Revival’s set began quietly, with a few older songs (“What’s That” and another I didn’t know), a mostly instrumental song that featured a rare jam and a somber ballad “Stolen.” The band soon invited Bonnie’s sister, Annie, to the stage; a mainstay on Elephant Revival’s Arkansas/Oklahoma/Missouri stages. Annie joined the band on two songs playing upright bass, one of which is not on any albums I have heard (“Dream Within a Dream). Next they called Smokey and the Mirror’s Brian Hembree to the stage. A musically delicious treat, the band played a song Brian and Bridget wrote together at a songwriter’s retreat that came highly recommended by Bridget, Cricket-Crow Retreat.

By this time the band’s set had really gained momentum. The crowd was yelling compliments at them every change they got and generally enjoying the hell out of themselves! Despite the heightened energy in the room, when Elephant Revival began “Remembering a Beginning” the audience was silenced and entranced. I can’t imagine what it would be like to hear this song in a perfectly acoustic venue. Just in a bar, the song had a quiet beauty to it that cannot be destroyed. Truly, that is one of my favorite songs. Dango Rose and Daniel Rodriguez often seem to stand in the background, but on this night they were all smiles and great talent, a perfect combination.

Next up were a slew of songs from their newest album, These Changing Skies. Songs like “Breathing” and “Over Over And” were thoroughly enjoyed by the audience, and they couldn’t help but clap and sing along. Hell, I couldn’t help it! After playing “Satisfied” Sage Cook (whose birthday it was!) took the fiddle and played alongside Bridget in a song I didn’t recognize, but really resonated with me. It was, as many of their songs are, about the cycle of life. With lyrics like leaves become the soil…a flower full of the departed…what’s not to love? Rounding out the last of the set, Elephant Revival played my fiancée’s favorite song: “The Obvious”. Then the band broke into a thick, full, fast instrumental that got the audience moving and shaking. Elephant Revival proclaimed the instrumental their last song and left the stage…until their returned to booming calls, and some begs, from the audience. As is customary now, but still enjoyed, the band played a 2-song encore of “Drop” and a great sing-a-long “Grace of a Woman”.

I can’t say I noticed anything new or innovated about this set from Elephant Revival. But I can say I enjoyed every second of it. From the reliable talent to the heart-moving songs they play, I couldn’t ask for much more from a live performance. Sure, the band doesn’t cart around expensive lighting systems or huge speakers like a lot of musicians these days. But it’s because they don’t need them. They don’t even need any fancy dance moves or crazy hair, just their instruments and voices. Because Elephant Revival? They have what it takes and they are using it.

Thank god.

Check out more photos from the show.

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 1:32 pm

I wanted to interview a member from The String Cheese Incident not because I have their whole collection, because I’m a huge fan or even because I’d seen a show of theirs before. Instead, the main driving force for my choice was because SCI is a mainstay in not only jam music but really in the music industry as a whole. It seems there aren’t a lot of bands these days that can keep a cohesive sound for 20+ years. So I know there’s something special about this band.

There’s a lot going on for SCI right now. They have a new album out on April 29 – their first studio album in 9 years – and they’re playing lots of festivals to support it. They’re also playing a free show in Boulder, CO on April 28, to celebrate the album release give back to the community that has given SCI so much.

Upon interviewing SCI percussionist Jason Hann I learned a lot about the band’s foundation, as well as a lot of interesting things about Hann. Something I can say for certain is I will not miss catching SCI at Wakarusa this year – just from speaking with Hann I felt the tug of the band’s message of unity, happiness and music.

I think the interview speaks for itself, so we’ll just go right into that.

GW: So this is your first studio album in 9 years? How is it different from other albums you guys have produced?

JH: It’s definitely been in the making for a long time. The songs we used for the record, we ahd been playing them live the year before. We finished recording all of them almost a year and a half ago. It was definitely time to write another album and get all these new ideas recorded. Initially we were going to use different sessions and producers for all the different styles of songs but Jerry Henderson, who is in the Talking Heads, started working with us and things clicked. The vibe was good, his engineering was great. Everyone in the band feels like this is the best representation of the band and how we sound live.

GW: Do you feel like you still want to have an album that uses different producers?

JH: Well, we have about 4 songs on the electronic side of things and we wanted to use a producer/remixer to give the songs their maximum benefit.

GW: How does this album differ from music you’ve released in the past?

JH: When you’re in the studio and you’re recording the songs and adding more textures…Jerry had the flow of us going in and doing what we thought was good. He was more of a decision man. It felt like he was getting what we essentially go for as a band. Making decisions like changing the key signature and all the feedback [from Jerry] was spot on.

GW: In the previous albums where you feel you haven’t been a well-represented do you play those songs differently or not at all?

JH: Two albums ago, Tying the Knot, was almost going for an indie-type production. Some of the stuff we couldn’t have done live; it would have been such a departure from our set. On this past album we did a song called Betray the Dark. The way we play it live we include a lot more African percussion; in the studio we ended up doing it with a thumb piano and changed the time signature. It was a quirky approach to it, not necessarily how we’d play it live. We did that song on this current album, but we did it how we would picture not only us doing it, but an African band…stacking percussion on it. That’s more how we play it live, except all the parts are more enhanced.

GW: You’ve played in a lot of non-Western cultures; what have different cultures of music taught you about music that you may not have learned from Americans or Westerners.

JH: It’s such a different approach of both deft and what is tradition, and how does that fit within the culture, as opposed to what gets played in the clubs in those countries. One thing I really enjoy is indigenous music and the way they take their individual rhythms and, as a sense of pride, combine those rhythms with keyboard and guitar. It’s an incredible wealth of pride to see the same rhythms transferred to a modern setting. Some of the singers in West Africa, after they’ve done records with keyboards and programming, there’s a trend to be more roots-y about their approach but just record everything really well.

Hold on one second, a big sheet of ice just fell on my windshield. **Fixes dangerous ice situation**

The other part is where music gets placed in someone’s day to day. Music can be completely recreational and then there’s ceremonial music that, at the very least, it’s part of the fiber of life. It’s not only fun to make people dance but when some of the music is actually about making people transcend their body and go to a completely different place is another perspective. Music from other cultures – you’re internalizing it and somehow you can turn these influences into your own kind of meaningful voice.

GW: Do you feel like ‘hit music’ is inherent in all cultures?

JH: Yeah, absolutely. But for an outsider it might be more intriguing. Like with electronic music, it felt like there was an underground bass movement going on and it was really exciting. They really wanted to bring that music from the UK. Then it was like you just got vomited on by all of this music that sounds the same. The minute it gets popular, 70% of it or more just becomes bad. I love to study current music, I can usually find some artists that are really doing something different.

GW: Are there any artists you can name who fit that bill now?

JH: If you go to Senegal there’s some names that have been the top of the generation since the late 90s, Youssou N’Dour and Baada Maal. They have access to the best musicians that are doing the most cutting-edge stuff. Miles Davis would get the best young players on the scene, even though they were playing a different style that would help him change his style. Then all of a sudden Miles Davis created this new style; but it was coming from young contemporaries and combining that with the wisdom of an older person willing to go with fresh roots.

GW: You have a Twitter campaign right now, do you like messing with that?

JH: SCI is one of those bands that sort of broke the mold for other bands. SCI decided to get in a bus, live in a bus and do 300 shows a year. We’re going to come through your city so many times you’re going to know us. So many bands ended up using that model; at the time media was expensive to come by so we just hit the road and it didn’t matter if it was playing on the radio because people were trading CDs of our live shows. Twitter is just a way to get more people talking about us the way things were being traded but a lot, lot faster. If you want to connect with people who are connecting with all these other people you have to have a presence.

GW: What drew you to play the instrument you play? What other instruments do you play?

JH: I grew up playing drums at the same time I started percussion. If I’m working on something in the studio I play bass and keyboard. I learned quite a bit of theory when I was younger so I know how to get around harmonically, but I definitely don’t have the technique to be badass on those instruments. One of my strong points is song arranging and collaborating.

GW: Do you write a lot of songs for other groups or people?

JH: If I’m in the studio doing percussion or drums on the session I’ll start collaborating. I co-wrote a song with one of the African guys I mentioned earlier. We recorded a demo and his guitar player ended up playing it for him and that became a hit song for him in Africa.

GW: Are there any instruments you wish you played?

JH: *laughs* Oh yeah, I wish I played all of them. In particular, since I have a taste for piano and do so much writing I wish I were a better piano player so I could stretch out harmonically. When I play drums or percussion I feel like I’m just listening to the music and there’s a certain fluidity, but when I’m playing keyboard…

GW: What keeps you playing on a stage every night? What do you get from the audience and from being a professional musician?

JH: That’s easy. It still inspires me and gives me a reason to get up in the day. Once percussion instrument is really a lifetime study in itself. So with access to all of these instruments that have different textures and hundreds of years of history, it’s such a treasure chest of eternal giddiness. You know, it’s still my hobby. When I’m home I’ll go to my studio and practice, write a song or invite somebody over to play and it’s still my day-to-day expression.

GW: So, what other things in your life are inherently important as music is to you?

JH: As long as my family is happy I know whatever I’m going through things will work out and be well. That sets the barometer for everything else. When you feel like you have that kind of support everything seems to line itself up in the direction of intention. In terms of importance, family and then, honestly, if I’m practicing or learning music that’s really nurturing. As far as friendships, when you find the ones you feel good being close with those are the keepers. It’s hard to find a lot of those.

GW: What would you put on the best sandwich ever?

JH: I’d have to finish it off with funfetti somehow. Even if it’s a steak it’s a steak with funfetti and maple syrup. Or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a banana, some whipped cream, hot fudge and funfetti. I hardly ever buy funfetti but I wonder how does my day-to-day exist without it? I know my teeth would probably fall out eventually…

GW: I have some friends who are super big fans of you guys, so I have some questions from them. One of them is: You are by far the best band at the build in the world, is most of that improve or is there structure at the peak of the jam/build?

JH: Sometimes if we’re writing out a set and we’re getting ready to play a song we usually play a jam on sometimes there’s a suggestion, instead of what we normally how about we use this chord structure and it will help us flow from this song to another. And sometimes it’s just…let’s throw it out the window and let’s just play and call it out onstage and morph into it. There’s so many vehicles for doing that; sometimes where you take a song energetically isn’t always predictable.

GW: Have you played in Arkansas before?

JH: Me and Travis, the drummer in the band, we have a side project [EOTO] where we’ve played at George’s a bunch of times.

GW: Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers of Grateful Web?

JH: We’re getting back to Wakarusa; we haven’t been since 2005 when it was in Kansas. Especially if you haven’t heard the band before, come check it out. It’s a truly unique experience; just being in the audience with the String Cheese fan-base is a completely other quality to it. You don’t have to bring a certain attitude, you can feel comfortable in a cape or fairy wings and people are going to prop you up and encourage your uniqueness. If you’re about just being yourself and letting go, I know between our music and our fans all of that is encouraging you to find yourself on a deeper level and letting go at a deeper level.

Visit The String Cheese Incident's website, Facebook or Twitter for more information, tour dates and to purchase Song In My Head.

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 10:26 am

When the sun peeks over the hillside, and you hear music wafting through the air coupled with the lilt of a family of birds you’ll know you’re in the right place. There will likely be a few groups of people stumbling by, chatting and laughing. Your tent will become a sauna as the sunshine fills the clear sky. You’ll crack open your first beer of the day, sip your breakfast wine or wander along the few paved paths to find some food. Golf carts will whizz by as you stop to take in the scenery, suck in a deep, clear breath and get ready for the days ahead. There will be music, friendly faces, vendors, fire poi, artists, dancing, drinks, delicious food – a weekend of freedom and nature.

June 5-8, 2014, marks the date for this year’s Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival.

Now in its 11th year, Wakarusa has moved from Kansas to Arkansas, grown tremendously and gained a large following of talent and fans. Known for its nature-meets-music vibe, beautiful scenery and great lineup, they also offer lots of activities, including music workshops, yoga, a long hike to a gorgeous waterfall, a costume contest, the Chompdown, and activities for families and children.

As a camping festival, Wakarusa boasts a community feeling. Folks are ready and willing to help with tent setup, give a thirsty traveler a drink, sit with you on the Ferris wheel or kick up the dust at a bluegrass show. Wakarusa also supports many charities, including a few that secure food for folks who need it…so bring donations for their supported charities. Not only that, but Wakarusa’s art director secured grants for artists to create interactive and live art during the festival. Be on the lookout for 15-20 national artists giving Mulberry Mountain their signature touch throughout the weekend. In this interview, Wakarusa founder, Brett Mosiman, promises this year will be ‘weirder and funkier’ than ever!

It’s evident after just a few hours on Mulberry Mountain, the host of Wakarusa Music Festival, that this place is a haven for music and art, not a commercial grab at counterculture. Of the 150 acts that will take the stage over the weekend, many are activists and supporters of a more mindful lifestyles. Bands like Wookiefoot (probably one of the artists I am most looking forward to seeing), The String Cheese Incident, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips (another favorite), and Nahko and Medicine for the People are among those who navigate through their careers motivated by love and compassion.

Edward Sharpe will play Wakarusa

There are also the bands that are just great musicians (including those mentioned above). This year, some of the stellar musicians are Reignwolf; often cited as the next Jack White and relatively unknown, the two-man band rocks hard on electric guitar and drums. Guitarist Jordan Cook appears to have a raw talent. Reignwolf’s performances are steamy and dense. Another band I’m excited to see I honestly thought I wouldn’t ever find in this area again: Murder By Death. I’ve been casually listening to the group since about 2006, but seeing them live I hadn’t managed yet. Luckily, the Wakarusa gods answered my prayers…just about 5 years later than I expected. Isn’t there some saying about those who wait…? Murder By Death is a dark folk band that harkens the tone of Johnny Cash. Their songs are ripe with deep cello and vocals, and there’s almost always a story written into their songs. The narratives are dark stories peppered with optimism and gravelly vocals. The Indiana band formed about 10 years ago, so I trust they’ve had a lot of practice and will give a stellar performance; you’d be wise to check them out.

As usual, there is a smattering of blues/soul bands playing at Wakarusa this year. Some of the bands include Nikki Bluhm and the Gramblers, which features a female lead with strong vocals and a wonderfully complimentary backing band. There’s also St. Paul and the Broken Bones, a 6-piece soul group I’ve been hearing a lot about in the last 6 months or so. The unsuspecting band performs a strong set and downright danceable music.

As Wakarusa is largely a multi-genre festival that leans toward jam bands, there are a lot of jam bands from varying genres. Of course, there are the major names like The String Cheese Incident (I interviewed Jason Hann a few weeks ago!), STS9 and Umphrey’s McGee (<--- a mainstay at Wakarusa). There are also many lesser-known jam bands like The Magic Beans, Papdosio and dance party-producing group The Werks. All of these bands feature wonderfully talented musicians, and I hope to see a lot of them playing onstage with other bands. One of the greatest aspects of music festivals is bands can collaborate with each other in environments and during shows they wouldn’t normally collaborate in. The shows are truly unique experiences for the audience members and musicians alike. And with camping being clustered together, you never know what musician you’ll run into walking from one campsite to another.

Folk, Americana and bluegrass music are also a large parts of each year’s lineup at Wakarusa. This year will feature Xavier Rudd (a longtime favorite of mine), Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, European band Treetop Flyers, Caroline Rose (see an interview and album review with her here) and Wild Child (particularly popular for this song). There are also a few indie bands on the roster, including nearly famous Walk off the Earth, The Mowgli’s, an Imagine Dragons sound-alike group, as well as Moon Taxi, who puts on a really fun show but they sound almost exactly like Kings of Leon to me.

One band I’m not sure how to classify but am looking forward to with almost no abandon is The Flaming Lips. Since I first attended Wakarusa 4 (maybe?) years ago, I have wished and hoped The Flaming Lips would play the festival. Surely, I thought, last year’s 10th Anniversary lineup would feature the band, but no. So this year, when the announcement came, I literally shouted with glee. The Flaming Lips’ earthy, but somehow electronic, sound feels perfectly fitting for Mulberry Mountain. I won’t miss their show, and I hope most of the people at the festival don’t either. I believe The Flaming Lips show will be an incredibly unique show for the band and I can’t wait to see what they do with the opportunity!

The Flaming Lips will play Wakarusa

And of course, there’s always lots of electronic music that shakes the dirt loose on Mulberry Mountain. One DJ I’m really looking forward to seeing Ott, who plays a lot of upbeat, positive, diverse tunes. His music isn’t grimy or harsh, it’s light and airy. I’ll hang up my hammock and hope for the best! Also on the lineup is somewhat recognizable DJ Robert DeLong. His song Global Concepts has been floating around the airwaves and wireless transmissions – it’s fun! Also on my list of artists to see is Govinda; he’s been quoted as saying he wants his music to ‘celebrate the senses of the body and elevate the mind through the dance and experience of the music.’ A worthy goal, in my opinion! And then there’s a band I honestly never thought I’d get the opportunity to see live: Infected Mushroom. I fully expect this show to be an almost entirely psychedelic experience, my mind will likely wander away with the music and I’ll be lying on the grass wondering what happened when I finally wake up. Every clip I’ve seen of an Infected Mushroom show is essentially a mindfuck. I can’t wait! And lastly, this year Bassnectar returns, although I can’t say I’m excited about the show. Maybe I’m getting older or maybe he’s getting worse…or both.

A few other bands I’m looking forward to that I didn’t mention are: Uncle Lucius“Keep the Wolves Away” is a great song; funktronic band The Floozies, Gathering of the Vibes veterans Twiddle, 6-piece hip-hop group Air Dubai and DJ Manic Focus.

I can’t possibly manage to go through the entire lineup in this article, but I hope this is a sufficient preview of some of the great artists performing see in Arkansas June 5 – 8, 2014. A lot of these bands will have never been to Arkansas and I hope they find it as beautiful as I do. Truly, experiencing talented musicians in such an honest, breathtaking environment is a uniquely Arkansas experience. Mulberry Mountain’s rolling hills, tightly woven forests and wide-open sky are the perfect environment for a weekend like this.

If you’re not still sold on coming to Wakarusa be sure to check out the lineup and past reviews. Even in spite of the past two years’ torrential winds, heavy downpours and blistering sunshine I’ve not heard a lot of negative reviews. Especially if you come prepared (bring a shovel, it will save your life; and yes, it will fit in your damn car) you’ll likely find yourself on packing up on Sunday, wishing you could enjoy your whole life out there.

Hope to see you on the mountain!

Click here for the full lineup

And here for ticket information

Visit gratefulweb.com/wakarusa to find reviews of past Mulberry Mountain events.

Wed, 06/04/2014 - 11:20 am

Just before Wakarusa breaks over the horizon, Grateful Web sent some questions to Wales-hailing band Rusty Shackle. A self-professed ‘dirty bluegrass folk ‘n’ roll’ band, Rusty Shackle has lots of personality and they’re bringing it to their first U.S. music festival. The 6-piece band features brass instruments, strings, percussion and vocals, not to mention some really awesome covers. Ryan Williams (trumpet, bass guitar) answered the questions, and since he’s not going to space anytime soon hopefully you’ll get to see him at Wakarusa!--------GW: In an interview with Soundscape Magazine in 2013 you cited the band as a 'folk and roll band' - is that how you would answer the question today? What changes has your sound gone through since the advent of the band?RS: Yeah we've stayed true to our own sound but still managed to develop our music and songwriting, and a lot of our old songs still make it into our sets. We're also playing more instruments live which gives us a fuller are more unique soundGW: In the same interview, I read that you guys have played a cover of 'Wild Wild West' (which you said was a flop, but I think it sounds incredibly awesome)...are there any other unusual covers you play? Any others you've tried that flopped?RS: Sadly the world wasn't ready for our cover of Wild Wild West. However they were more than ready for our other hip-hop/folk crossovers like "The Bad Touch" by Bloodhound Gang and "Bonkers" by Dizzee Rascal. The Hokey Cokey often makes an appearance tooGW: I noticed the band is playing a few festivals when you return to Europe - have you played many festivals in the U.S.RS: No this will be our first time gigging in the USA and we're really looking forward to it, as festivals are really popular in the UK and we're excited to see how they compareGW: What are you expecting from Wakarusa? RS: We're expecting everything we can't get in Britain: sun burn, cold beers and straight teeth. Wouldn't say no to a nice swim in Mulberry River eitherGW: I love traveling and seeing various landscapes and ecosystems across the globe - where is a favorite place you have traveled?RS: I would pass this question over to the McKeon brothers but they're currently in Morocco, which says it all I suppose. But for me, it'd have to be New YorkGW: If you could play in any venue or city in the world, where would you choose?RS: We'd love to play in New Orleans which was an inspiration to one of our songs called "King Kreole". We're also heavily influenced by Celtic folk music so it'd be great to do a tour of Ireland at some point. GW: What are the band members' favorite restaurants? What's the best dish?RS: Luckily our drummer, Owen Emmanuel is an excellent chef, but when we give him a night off and have take-away, it does tend to be a curry. Or Pizza. Or Fish n Chips. Ah we just love all food!GW: The band hails from Wales, if I read correctly, how is the music scene in Wales? RS: I'm proud to say the local scene is really thriving and growing fast. There's a lot of talented vocalists and songwriters emerging making it an exciting place to be a musicianGW: What's the story of how the band formed?RS: It began as a duo with our vocalist/guitarist, Liam Collins, and our banjo/fiddle player, Scott McKeon, playing a few acoustic gigs for fun in 2010. Shortly after, the rest of the band, Owen Emmanuel (Drums), Baz Barwick (Bass/Mandola) and James McKeon (Guitar) joined and they recorded an EP, which reached number 2 in the iTunes singer/songwriter charts. They released their debut full-length album, "Wash Away These Nights" in 2012, and then during the recording process of their second album "The Bones", Ryan Williams joined on trumpet. GW: Why the name Rusty Shackle? Is there any significance?RS: It might be hard to believe, but we have no idea where the name came from. I'm not even sure who came up with it! We get asked this question a lot so perhaps we should come up with a good story of how it came aboutGW: When you're doing an interview, what question(s) do you wish interviewers would ask?RS: I wish interviewers would ask what questions we wish interviewers would ask. That and questions about foodGW: If you had the chance to travel to space, but couldn't be guaranteed to come back alive...would you go?RS: No I'd rather go to Wakarusa. I hear there's more atmosphere *cringe*GW: And lastly, is there anything you'd like to say to Grateful Web readers?RS: We're looking forward to bringing our country's music to you, and hope we can see you at Wakarusa or any of our other gigs. To see our full gigs list, visit our Facebook or search for us on YouTube to hear our music.

Fri, 06/06/2014 - 6:26 pm

After a surprisingly dry and sunny first day on Mulberry Mountain, Wakarusa is off to a great start. The impending doom of rain made some people prepare a little bit more for this weekend. And maybe they'll have prepared for a reason, because there's rain on the horizon today (Friday).

I arrived at the festival grounds about 11 am on Thursday and was shocked by the amount of people who had already set up camp. There's no question the festival is much larger this year. Which I hope is a good thing. Last year the amount of trash left behind was astronomical; they even offered free tickets to YMSB Harvest Music Festival for those who helped clean up. I hope we do much better this year.

As far as the people here are concerned, everybody seems incredibly content and settled in. There is so much happiness floating through with the cool breeze. Friendly faces are popping up all over the place with smiles, high-fives, hugs and bright eyes. We are all so glad to be here, because if it's such a hassle to set up, walk ten miles (or more) a day and stand in the blistering sun all in the name of music and human connection...your weekend will be terrible.

I love it here. And I love it that so many people love it here. Now, onward to the music!

The first band I saw was Mountain Standard Time. Their set was mostly instrumental jams and some lyrics mixed in. This was my first time seeing MST and I found their songs felt familiar to me. Their onstage collaborations were stellar and moved through the songs easily. They played to the crowd and listened to the energy they were giving off, which was mostly unbounded excitement. Though the vocals were few and far between in some songs, I felt the narration of the songs as the band played. Since I'm not familiar with their music I can't give a set list. MST ended their set with a cover of a Split Lip Rayfield song, a tribute to one of their most influential bands, they said.

Next, I wandered around taking photos of people and enjoying the beautiful clouds on my way to Nahko and Medicine for the People. When I got to their show in the Revival Tent I was impressed, and so was the band, by the amount of people there. Considering their smaller crowds and sets at last year's festival the difference was probably 10-fold. Since I saw them last year the band's sound has changed, while their message has stayed the same. They added a drummer, so there is twice as much percussion onstage now. It's fantastic, large, whole and full. The music tugs at your motivation and their lyrics drive you to consider your life. Or at least, they do for me and I believe for most of their fanbase. Before I traveled to another Nahko Bear announced how thrilled he was to see Wookiefoot on the lineup - he was raised by their music. The band also played Michael Franti's "Stand Up" (he is also on the lineup), as well as a favorite of the audience: No Scrubs by TLC.

Next I visited the Vintage Trouble set. on Main Stage. I've watched a few videos of the band's live sets and I love not only their bluesy, soulful rock, but the band performs onstage. The dress fly in vintage-looking suits and move, shake, rattle and roll all over the stage. Unfortunately, the audience was meager and the lead singer had a difficult time getting the audience's energy to match his. In his red, long-sleeve suit, lead vocalist Ty Taylor was dancing across the stage and tossing around the microphone like a champ. I feel like a lot of people missed out on a great show, but unfortunately it just wasn't as amazing as some of their other live sets I've seen. I hope they gained some new fans, though!

I quickly made my way to the Convention Center to interview Mountain Standard Time, which was wonderful and I'll post that after the festival is over. After the interview I walked with a friend I randomly ran into whom I grew up with. The Backwoods Stage was calling my name and Caroline Rose was onstage with her 3-piece band of upright bass, drums and herself (vocals, guitar). I didnt get to see the whole set but what I did see was wonderful! I'm a big fan of her voice and her style, it's Americana but there's something special about her guitar style and sound.

The last show I caught in person was Wookiefoot. I'm a huge fan of this band because they have a purpose. They fight for people's rights and for good things to come back into this world. Their message resonates with me so thoroughly. Their stage setup was also awesome. I haven't seen them live before, so I was super impressed with their black-light stage decorations and clothing. The show was fun, positive and refreshing. And to add a bost of greatness to their set, Wookiefoot brought Nahko Bear onstagre for a few songs. It seems like these medium-sized festivals are bringing in a lot of activism and causes. I'm all for that because many of the people who come to these festivals are motivated to make this world a better place. I was exhausted from walking so much in the humid, blazing sun. So I kicked back in my hammock during the Wookiefoot show and went to bed afterward, falling asleep to the medicore sounds of Adventure Club.

Today I'm looking forward to seeing Rusty Shackle (if my interview doesn't go over during that time), I might go see Treetop Flyers and Robert DeLong. But I'll definitely see Murder By Death and Dr. Dog, as well as String Cheese (!!!) and Infected Mushroom.

It's starting to sprinkle right now, and they're predicting heavy winds. So we'll see where the day takes us. Hopefully I won't need my rain boots for long, and the mud will be minimal. If you could, send a few sunshine thoughts our way!

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 12:49 pm

When the threat of 50 MPH winds and impending heavy rain don't get you down - you know you're in the right place. And for a lot of people, that place was Wakarusa on Friday. Luckily, the 50 MPH winds passed us by, but our day did start off with a pretty heavy amount of rain. We're used to that by now, though.Because of the rain, several shows were cancelled, including a show I was really looking forward to seeing, Rusty Shackle. The band is from Wales and it's really unfortunate they didn't get the opportunity to perform for more people this weekend. However, I did get to see lots of great shows, especially later on in the day.One of my favorite sets so far happened Friday afternoon. In an interview I'd had with Spoonfed Tribe earlier that day, one of the members recommended I go see Robert DeLong. I had considered going, but after a rave review of his innovative music I made it a point to be there. Although the audience was a bit small, DeLong's music was everything but that. Mostly, the DJ's set consisted of high energy, happy dancing, live instrumentation and vocals. Everyody in the audience was having the greatest time, and the music inspired a tent full of people to dance and sing and sweat together. By the end of the show everybody was exhausted but walked away with big, bright smiles plastered on their faces. I left that show tired but energized, and I'm thankful to Spoonfed Tribe for recommending I go see such an excellent DJ.Next I checked out Murder By Death, a band I'd been thrilled about seeing since the day they were announced on the lineup. Unfortunately, I wasn't all that impressed by the show. Perhaps the stage was too large and audience too small, but there wasn't a lot of energy coming from the band. Their gothic folk music, complete with beautiful cello, sounded a little too similar to their recorded music for my taste. While consistency is good, I don't think it's favorable when the band's energy is low. I feel like there's a fine balance to achieve a go show, and if your music sounds just like the record, the band must compensate with performance stile. The band played some of their more popular tracks and a few 'rowdy' songs...very good for drinking and dancing. Although the audience was small, there were lots of fans there singing along with the tunes. Although I didn't enjoy the set as much as I'd hoped, I'm happy to get to cross that band off my list.After leaving Murder By Death I wandered over to Main Stage to check out Dr. Dog. Once again, I left the show feeling like their performance was lacking. Many of their songs sounded grating and sharp. But again, another band I can cross of my list, I guess.After two disappointing shows I had high hopes for Nahko and Medicine for the People on their second set of the weekend. This show took place in the picturesque Backwoods Stage - my favorite on the grounds. The first time I saw this band it was on this stage 1 year ago. They've changed a lot since then, but their heart and foundation are the same. They give positive, uplifting, encouraging music that we can take home with us and give to our friends and family. I'm so glad this band exists, and I'm so glad I have had the opportunity to see them so many times. It's always enjoyable and I love seeing the small changes the band's sound goes through.After Nahko I slowly made my way back to Main Stage, wandering to a friend's campsite and meeting people along the way. I posted up at Main Stage for the rest of the STS9 show, which was alright. I'm not a huge fan but I've heard a lot about their new female bassist. The reviews were right - she tears it up onstage!A show I'd been dying to see since I first came to Wakarusa a few years ago was slated to happen after STS9. Ever since I first came to this beautiful place, I imagined The Flaming Lips here. I pictured the mountains in the background with the band playing their most beautiful songs Instead, what I experienced was something altogether different and strange. The show 'started' 3 times: first with Wayne coming out and encouraging us to cheer, which we did; second with Andy Frasco announcing The Flaming Lips and Wayne coming onstage with a 'Fuck Yeah Wakarusa' balloon; third with the band coming onstage and actually playing music. All of these entrances happened 3-5 minutes apart, leaving the crowd in an strange mood. Once the band did start playing, of course it was a glorious spectacle: seemingly endless amounts of confetti streaming through the air and giant blowup aliens thrown into the crowd. But after that the show kind of fizzled out for me. They sounded good, but the show seemed all magic tricks and no magic.Next I checked out the first few songs of The String Cheese Incident, which were great. The Revival Tent hosted the band last night, and it was packed. The guys played with lots of energy and there was a nice exchange between the band and the audience. I didn't stay long enough to find out if there were any special guests at that show, but I imagine there were, and I'm sure there will be at their long show tonight. This is my first time seeing SCI, so I'm really excited to check out their entire set tonight after Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. I plan to post up at Main Stage, get comfortable and settle in for the night.Since SCI plays Saturday as well, I decided to visit the Infected Mushroom set. And boy am I glad I did! Their visuals were impressive and the show wasn't what I imagined it would be. I thought I'd experience a lot of borderline creepy visuals and some sort of intense journey. Instead, I happily danced and stared at the visuals as the band played what I decided is the electronic music version of a metal concert. It was loud and grating, but somehow danceable and fun!By the time I left the Infected Mushroom show it was about 4 hours past my bedtime...so I went to one last show: The Floozies. I've heard so many great things about this Lawrence, Kansas band but for some reason hadn't ever seen them perform. I regret every show I have missed of theirs, because it was so much fun. The 2-piece electronic duo features a guitar, live mixing and drums, but the sound is dynamic and huge. The drops they throw at the audience are perfectly timed and easily danceable. The Revival Tent was packed with sweaty, dancing zombies and almost every single person in that tent must have been having the greatest time. I sure was! Next time The Floozies are in my area I'll be there for sure - I'm now convinced of their greatness.Today the wind is blowing hard, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a storm thing. I guess we'll find out! On my must-see list today is: Xavier Rudd, Reignwolf and The String Cheese Incident. Other bands I might check out are Dirtfoot, Uncle Lucius, Phutureprimitive and Bassnectar. If you could again, send some sunshine thoughts our way today. We may need it!

Tue, 06/10/2014 - 9:39 am

On Saturday, the third day of Wakarusa in Ozark, Arkansas, my morning began at about 5 am when I woke in my hammock being pelted with rain. Those who were still up, roaming the campsites like zombies, seemed to enjoy the cool rain dropping from the clouds. But me? I was tired and wet. Luckily, I managed to snag a little bit more shut-eye throughout the day so everything turned out alright. There was mud, but not an astronomical amount, so those of us who were at Wakarusa last year found the state of the ground to be rather pleasant, comparatively.

The lineup for the day was great; full of large bands and artists I never thought I'd get to see live, plus an awesome musician, Reignwolf, whom I hadn't heard of before the lineup. I missed a few bands I was really hoping to see, but I don't think I've ever made it to all the shows I wanted to at a music festival. Despite all my efforts, there just isn't enough of me to go around (to all the shows).

The music part of my day started by seeing part of the Walk off the Earth set. They're a large band that sounds a lot like some popular bands like Imagine Dragons. You know, that full, bursting sound with trumpets and timpani-sounding drums; lots of sailing vocals and crescendos. It's a great festival sound, because the music travels through tent city and gets people bobbing their heads and tapping their toes in the dirt (or, in this case, mud...). Near the end of the set one of the band members tossed their guitar to the other, who did not catch it. Nothing seemed terribly broken, though, so I guess that brand can take a beating. Walk off the Earth also had a lot of crowd participation, which I love in a large enough crowd. In a smaller crowd the participation often falls flat, so it's usually a terrible idea.

After my first band of the day I wandered around taking photos of festivalgoers and relaxed a little bit at the Satellite Stage. It's a wooded, shady area on a hillside that has lots of trees for hammocks and leaning against, so it's a great place to chill for awhile. But, of course, I had shows to get to so I didn't get to relax for long. Next up was Xavier Rudd, a musician I didn't think I'd get to see ever! Since I first heard a song of his, Food in the Belly, I wanted to see a live show of his. I love his concentration on non-Western instruments. A learned musician makes much better music, I think. And it shows with Rudd. His set wasn't a huge production, just 3 folks onstage playing their hearts out. I really enjoyed watching the bassist, he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his time playing for the Wakarusa crowd.

After Xavier Rudd I stayed at Main Stage to see one of my top choices for the weekend: Reignwolf. He's been compared to Jack White, which is definitely a comparison I agree with. Reignwolf shredded the guitar, threw out tons of energy to the crowds (and they threw it right back) and performed to the crowd, not just for himself. This man has pure talent. Again, this band was small with only 3 musicians onstage, but they covered the whole stage. I can't say enough good things about Reignwolf. He plays true rock music and he is incredibly technically talented.

Next, I traveled to the Revival Tent to check out a band Walk off the Earth recommended, The Mowglis. They were very similar to Walk off the Earth, but I still really enjoyed their set. They also featured a lot of crowd participation, and the audience was rather large, especially for an afternoon show, so it worked out really well.

After grabbing some dinner I settled down at Main Stage for the next two shows: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and The String Cheese Incident. In a press conference earlier that day a journalist asked Edward Sharpe how the show would differ now that his female counterpart, Jade, is no longer with the band. Sharpe stumbled through his answer awkwardly and ended with 'it'll be a good show.' And honestly, this last show of their tour was good, but it wasn't great. I wish I could say the band's foundation is not in the perfected harmonies and the jubilant duets between Jade and Edward Sharpe. But I can't say that. The show lacked luster, and perhaps in a few months the band will have found the diamond, buffed it and come back to the stage with a fantastic set. But for now, I'm very sorry to say I think the show has lost a little of its draw for me.

After that band ended Main Stage filled up with SCI fans. The String Cheese Incident hadn't been on my list of must-see bands for a long time. But after I did some research on them, interviewed Jason Hann, and saw Michael Kang and Bill Nershi perform with a few other bands, I knew I needed to check them out. Any band that can have a huge following for so long must have some salt to their performances. And salty they were. I was beyond impressed with SCI's 4-hour set. It seemed they broke up their performance into 3 parts: rock, electronic-inspired and bluegrass/folk. I think the order they chose was perfect; the two most energy-intensive sections first with a relaxing section to end the epic journey. Some of the highlights for me were a fantastic version of Ramblin' Man, a cover of Lose Yourself by Eminem and a song during the electronic-inspired set that sounded like a drum and bass song, but played with live instrumentation. The dnb-type song got me thinking about the ability of bands like SCI to cross over into other genres and draw a crowd from those groups. Through their multi-genre set I imagined people from all types of counterculture must embrace their music. For a lot of people the phrase 'jam band' has a somewhat negative connotation, but it seems to me most well-learned jam bands are more multi-genreists than they are people who just noodle all over the stage like a bunch of trippy bozos. And before I discovered this music, that's kind of what I thought jam bands were. And now here I am, raving about a 4-hour SCI set that took place on a mountainside. Oh how the tide has turned!

Speaking of turning tides, after SCI my final set to watch was BASSNECTAR. I was only half looking forward to this show because I hadn't been enjoying most of the music Bassnectar has put out in the last year or two. But my friends and I all decided to check out the show and dance our damn butts off. And dance our booties of we did! The show Bassnectar played during this Wakarusa seemed carefully selected and featured a lot of really great remixes, including 'When I Grow Up' by Fever Ray, a Sigur Ros song and a Martin Luther King Jr. 'I Have a Dream' speech excerpt. At first I was kind of put off by the MLK excerpt. Instead of focusing on the drive of the speech and its importance for society Bassnectar turned it into a song about being sure you move your body. But as I discussed the track with my spouse and friends I have changed my opinion on the matter (for now!). I think that, since his music is Bassnectar's way to connect with other humans, this is is only venue for conveying things that are important to him. So while the MLK speech use may be seem misguided on the surface, if somebody who is listening to this track is intrigued and looks up the words to MLK's speech that could change the course of the person's life. I think most people understand the ability of an exact moment to alter one's lifepath, and maybe this is the way a DJ does that.

After the Bassnectar show I headed back to camp for some sleep. I was planning on staying for the Wild Child show at 6 pm the following day, Sunday, but when I woke that morning it was pouring rain. After a few show cancellations and a look at the weather my campmates and I decided to pack up and head home. Lucky we did, too, because the rain continued throughout the day. This year's Wakarusa was wonderful. The weather was mostly agreeable and I found a lot of great new music, despite a few disappointments (namely Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and The Flaming Lips). Be on the lookout for some interviews with Spoonfed Tribe and Mountain Standard Time. And be sure to check out the lineup for Harvest Music Festival this year. It's a doozie, and in a good way!

Check out more photos from Wakarusa 2014, including loads of festivalgoers.

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 12:43 pm

GW: So who all are you playing with this weekend?Chaddy: We’re just kinda cruising around. We’ve got some buddies here. A couple of the Spoonfed guys are doing their vacation and we had the weekend off so we thought we’d come up and be a part of the magical festival here.GW: Have you guys ever been to this festival?Matt: Oh year. This is our 5th or 6th year – we’ve played here almost every year since they moved it up to the mountain. Last night we sat in with Wookiefoot and Nahko. By the weekend’s end we’ll be getting with Mike Dillon Band and perhaps Andy Frasco. They’re good buds of ours.Chaddy: It’s kind of one of those deals where you’re walking down the lane and you see your buddy that’s in whatever band and that’s how these things happen here at the festival. You’re carrying around a drum and they’re like ‘Hey come out and jam!’ You never can tell what’s going to happen.GW: Yeah – a very collaborative effort out here, I feel. So there’s been a lot of talk this weekend about a band’s ability to help change the world and help a social effort. What do you guys do to help make the world a better place with your music?Matt: I think that’s absolutely true and possible. That’s a huge part of what music does; we’re out here to heal and uplift. You have DJs that’ll bring the heat and pump people up, and people like Nahko and Wookiefoot are really conscious…Chaddy: …loving sensation I guess you could say. And of course, as we all know, music does different things for different people; regardless of the lyrics or the vibe; however it makes you feel inside, I think music has a pathway to get in your soul and do things that a lot of other things don’t really do.David: Music evokes emotion and emotion is what usually drives people to have motion in their lives.Chaddy: Sort of a never-ending relation.GW: So when you guys started being musicians, is that something you always felt you had in you or did somebody introduce you to music and all of a sudden you thought ‘Oh my god! That’s for me.’Matt: I always felt I had it in me, but when I was 6 or so my cousin was a drummer and gave me my first pair of sticks. And it was all done right there. And we’re brothers *points to Chaddy* - we’re the two drummers of Spoonfed and I have 8 years on him. As he was growing up he was always sitting behind the kit.Chaddy: I’d sneak into his room while he was at school and break all of his drumsticks for him. *laughs*David: Yeah, my mom kind of saw it in me when I was young. She would do little things like buy a tape recorder with a Sesame Street play-along and leave it in my room, and I would just go crazy with it and end up recording my own loops. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just having fun. My mom was a big part of my life to encourage me to be who I was, which she saw from the beginning.GW: Since ya’ll started out with music as children do you work with children to encourage that in them?David: Yeah, I work with this nonprofit that’s an organic garden called Promise of Peace Garden in Dallas that post-traumatic stress kids who live in the ghettos [work at]; their home environment isn’t so hot…there’s always fighting and guns going off. We get their hands in the dirt and get them growing some vegetables. It changes their outlook.Matt: We have a lot of opportunities through friends back home where we bring out drums and stuff, and let the kids play. That was heartwarming for me because I love seeing kids play music. I love seeing them want to learn and I love seeing them strive for it. Some of these schools don’t even have music programs, you know? So this is like ‘Wow!’ to them.GW: So what instruments do you really want to play that you don’t know how to play?Chaddy: I’d like to learn how to play the Bavarian Cheese Whistle. [Editor’s note: I had no idea what this was until I googled it…]Matt: You know, I’m really interested in the bassoon. I think there’s a good market out there for it these days…you don’t hear it every day.GW: Is that something you feel like you could work into your sets?Chaddy: Absolutely. There’s a little bassoon in some of our older albums. That was Jeff Barnes from Brave Combo.David: This is going to sound crazy, but I recently got into jug band music. So, a jug.GW: A question I really like asking people is: What is the best sandwich.Chaddy: Ooh! Did we mention our last name is Cocuzza?Matt: How long do we have here?Chaddy: Okay. Here’s what you want to do. You want to get a nice bread; not to soft, a little bit hard but not too crazy toasted.Matt: A little crunchy on the outside.Chaddy: Now what you’re going to want to do is take your provolone cheese. You’re gonna put that on the bottom layer, and you’re going to put a nice mozzarella on top of that. Then you’re going to take your gobbagold(sorry, I have no idea what they said here!), hard salami and some Black Forest ham – all Boar’s Head meat. Then we’re gonna take a little mixture of spicy brown mustard, mayonnaise, oil and vinegar; we’re gonna throw some hot peppers on that.Matt: Tomato, onion.Chaddy: Depending on your mood you can throw some pepperoncinis on there – who’s counting? We are sandwich coinsurers.  Actually, Matt and I have been discussing opening a sandwich shop back in our hometown. Something along the lines of Go F- Yourself Sandwiches or Forget About It…something like that?David: I like all of that, but there’s this spread that I’ve found that’s a feta cheese pepper spread. And then a little bit of that Italian mix…Italian seasoning.GW: Do you guys prefer toasted sandwiches?Matt: I was going to bring that up. On the sandwich we were going to make what we’re going to do is leave it open. Then we’re going to toast it. You don’t want to over-toast; meat warm, cheese a little melted.Chaddy: The reason you do that is you don’t want your lettuce, tomato, onion warm.GW: No. Warm lettuce is gross.David: You can go ahead and hold the lettuce on my salad.GW: Now that we got the food question out of the way. What are you guys planning with the band in the upcoming year or so?Matt: Well, we have a tour coming up with Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. In the next month or so we’re going to head up to Tulsa (Oklahoma) for the Center of the Universe Festival.David: I think it’s their second year to do this. Last year they had about 80,000 people and this year I think they’re expecting about 100,000. It’s a pretty cool festival.Matt: We’re also doing the Green Eggs and Jam festival coming up. Then a Midwest tour in September bringing us through Colorado and back through Texas. And a few of us perform in a new band called the End of the World Parade which is a 30-member, full-contact, psychedelic marching band with aerials, fireworks, mannequin parts. That’s something we started up several years ago; we only did a few shows but things really popped off. There’s so many members in that band that play with other bands that it’s hard for the planets to align. We’ve got a real nice lineup and a lot of dedicated folks getting involved. So that’s something we’re going to pursue in the next year; hopefully we’ll be back here at Wakarusa with that.Chaddy: We want to debut that out here, festival-wise. I think this would be the perfect grounds.GW: Besides the scheduling issue, is it difficult to work with so many people?Chaddy: It is. It’s a challenge to organize. Not everybody that has been involved can make a gig, but we have such a pool of performers and musicians that it’s different every time. But there is a pretty solid core. We have yet to take it on the road and we’ll see what happens in the future…but it’s something we’d like to do.GW: So do you guys mostly jam or do you have composed pieces?Matt: Several originals. We might throw in a few tricks you might have heard before.Chaddy: A lot of it has to do with filling up our bus and putting a bunch of crazy circus people in there. You drive up to some pub that doesn’t even know you’re going to show up and do some guerilla-style performances. You know, we’ll have a guy come in and set up an aerial thing, we’ll get up on a pool tables swinging lights around. We just get really interactive about it – breaking that 4th wall. People may not like it, they may feel uncomfortable.GW: So I guess you all feel like there’s a big place for interactive performances?Matt: Absolutely. When we first started in Spoonfed Tribe we did a lot of street performance with our drums and stuff. That was kind of my favorite type of performance – where the audience doesn’t know they’re about to be an audience. I think that’s a purist reaction – that’s one of the greatest parts about what we do. That’s one of the reasons we started the End of the World Parade. You have 30 plus people wandering into a space that was not intended and just see what happens.GW: There was a press conference yesterday and somebody mentioned you should have performances in front of strangers vs. professionals. It allows you to criticize yourself less. Plus it can expand a person’s view of music. Have there ever been people who came up to you and said ‘Man, I just never thought I’d like this music.’ Or has that ever happened with you guys? What types of music did you think you would never like?David: Electronica music. When I was going to school I wanted to hear people play in a band. And I still, deep down inside, love a band. I love being in a band, watching bands…but what surprised me when I first started listening to electronica music is I actually liked it.Chaddy: Spacebar jam.Matt: I love it all. You know, I have my favorites but I can get turned onto anything.Chaddy: I never thought I’d be such a Neal Sedaka fan until I found some of my parents’ 8-tracks.GW: So what about older musicians? Who are some you really look up to?David: Mike Dillon. I used to watch Mike Dillon when I was going to the University of North Texas. I was there to play chess and meet my friends every so often; and I hear this band: Mike Dillon in the next room with the Hairy Apes. He’s a multi-instrumentalist; I went from being totally focused on the trumpet to knowing that it’s okay to explore outside my main instrument. And that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life since I watched Mike Dillon. And then I went to my first festival and I was like…that’s what I want to do.Matt: Yeah, he was in a band called Billy Goat back in the day. We weren’t even old enough to get into clubs, but there was this place down the street from our house called Hippie’s Mistake and we heard this band playing, it was the first time I’d ever heard live music in our town, and me and our singer, Egg, had to go check that out. We were blown away. From that point on it was like…this is what I have to do. I’m going to follow this.Chaddy: When I was going through musical puberty I was in a band called Basilica Sam, it turned into a band called Hippogaroo…it had a bunch of weird names…going through that I was listening to a lot of King Crimson, YES, early 70’s Genesis, Peter Gabriel..and that stuff just blew my mind. It was the first time I ever smoked a joint. And then you have your Pink Floyd and Led Zepplins and stuff…you have to give it to that stuff too.Matt: There’s so much out there we’re never going to get through it all.

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 6:27 pm

Handmade Moments’ first album is a collection of fun, sultry, inspiring, thoughtful tracks. With songs stretching from political to simply lovely, the duo (Anna Horton and Joel Ludford) offers an expansive array of styles and lyrics through their 12 songs. Musically, the album is rooted in strings and jazz; bluegrass, folk and Americana float in throughout the album. Horton and Ludford’s musical and vocal styles complement each other well; her voice sails, while his tethers. There is nothing strained or uneasy about these songs – they drift through the senses lightly, but significantly, allowing the listener to reflect and contemplate. With activist lyrics and classic instrumentation, this album is difficult to put away.Among the tracks are a few love songs. Feel Alright, a smooth duet, showcases the true balance of Horton and Ludford’s vocals. Alternatively, the track Crazy He Calls Me seems a nod to Patsy Cline’s Crazy, and showcases Horton’s vocal style.Another common theme on the album is politics and human rights. Cropping up throughout the album are lyrics like those from Bubblin’ Water: Are you part of the problem or the solution/don’t forget about that constitution/protectin’ freedom and our rights./Education is the greatest armor. Having grown up in Kansas, it’s always refreshing to hear political songs that aren’t in the vein of ‘we’ll put a boot in yer ass.’ Although I can’t say I come across those songs a lot these days, but they exist and they occasionally fall through speakers.Handmade Moments’ full-length album offers a journey from bluegrass to jazz and back again. The album begins with a bluegrass-inspired track and ends with one, nicely framing the work. Style-wise, nearly every song has a unique style, something the two are well-known for. Horton and Ludford’s ability to span multiple genres in their songs with clean, easy transitions is evidence of their combination of raw talent and education in the music field. The two are practiced professionals with a natural drive to bring music to those who will listen.Handmade Moments is an album you won’t tire of. You can share it with your friends and your parents alike; nobody will be disappointed in your music taste if you have this in hand. Supporting their new album, Handmade Moments will be touring the South, Midwest and West Coast through November, including lots of stops in Texas, Colorado and California. Visit their website for all the dirty details, and to get a taste of their sound.

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 11:15 am

Ever since the Harvest Music Festival lineup has been released, I’ve been pouring through the music of slated artists to find my favorites. A lot of the musicians I wasn’t too familiar with, including Under the Willow. From the first song I heard, I knew this was a band I could easily love.

The first of theirs I heard was “We Are Cold”; a strong, vocally driven track that both floats and stands tall – I hope to hear it live in the upcoming month. As I continued through their catalog of songs, I noted the unique sound of Erin Donovan’s voice and the smoothness of the fiddle, while their guitar supports the other instruments wonderfully and banjo adds its undeniable twinge of bluegrass to the lineup. This quartet brings life to lyrical, socially conscious songs and paints classic sounds modern.

Currently, Under the Willow is hitting it hard on the concert circuit, and will be landing in Ozark, Arkansas, for Harvest Fest on October 16. Their set begins at 3:30 on the Roost Stage. You can find Under the Willow touring with top musicians like SHEL (Sept. 25 in Chicago) and Shook Twins (Oct. 1 in Davenport, Iowa).

Check out the band’s music online and find them on Facebook.

GW: What is the songwriting process like for the band?

UTW: A lot of the time a song or a progression is brought to the table and we all collaborate on piecing the rest of it together. Since we have a lot of songwriters in the band and everyone's creative process is different our songs spring from a lot of sources.

GW: Where is your favorite place to play music?

UTW: Festivals definitely. We really enjoy playing in that atmosphere. We get inspired by the musicians around us.

GW: Where is your favorite place to write music (or other writing in general)?

UTW (Erin): Passenger seat of the car while we travel.

GW: What has music taught you about how live in this world?

UTW (Erin): Music is honest and taught me my strengths and weaknesses. You learn a lot about yourself through playing music.

UTW (Pat): Everybody's got something to say.

GW: What musicians do you most admire?

UTW: A lot of the older-generation of musicians who have been touring, writing and recording for so many years.

GW: Where did you first learn how to play music?

UTW: Elementary music class.

GW: What is your earliest memory of music?

UTW (Erin): My family would gather on the back porch and listen to the radio. I remember them dancing and everyone having fun.

GW: How does your music help people?

UTW: It connects us all.

GW: How does music help you?

UTW: Music helps us the same way it helps others by connecting to something.

GW: What are some instruments you wish you had the ability to play?

UTW: Dobro or pedal slide always looked fun

GW: What’s one of your favorite live shows you've seen? Why was it so great?

UTW: Pat's favorite was at Yonder Mountain’s Harvest Fest when Poor Man’s Whiskey played Dark Side of the Moonshine late night. One of our favorite live albums of all time.

GW: How can the experience of live music be improved, either in your shows and/or in general live music?

UTW: For us, having quality sound people behind the board that know your music, their board, and want to produce the best quality sound they can. Knowledgeable and diligent sound crews.

GW: What’s one of the most difficult things about being a traveling musician

UTW: The traveling part. Being on the road with our dog, Brianna, and two cats in a small travel trailer can take a toll after a few weeks. Maintaining our vehicles helps take some of the fear of breaking down and having to cancel a gig away (some). Missing friends and family; but making new ones on the way helps.]GW: If you could interview one person (about anything), who would it be?

UTW: Bill Murray

GW: Similarly, if you could interview one musician, who would it be

UTW: That's a hard one to narrow down…but Sam Bush.

GW: What piece of advice would you give to a person who is trying to follow their dream(s)?

UTW: Planning and persistence is key.

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 6:54 pm

I can hardly believe it’s almost October – it seems it was just a few weeks ago YMSB’s Harvest Music Festival 2013 was playing its final notes. This year, The Jayhawks are slated for an IOU performance they missed last year. Also on the lineup are festival namesakes Yonder Mountain String Band – they’re playing with Jerry Douglas this year in lieu of Jeff Austin leaving the band. Trampled by Turtles is playing, as well as Papa Mali, Elephant Revival, Shook Twins and many other great bands.

If you’ve never been to the festival before, here are a few important pieces of information:

  • Sometimes (I mean, frequently) it rains. Bring rain boots – you’ll be upset if you don’t
  • It might get cold at night, so also prepare for that
  • Participate in the Fiddlin’ and PIckin’ Contest for a chance to play onstage with a big-name band
  • Early arrival is an option – if you’re a real trooper, show up on Wednesday for exclusive performances

As with almost any festival lineup, it’s difficult to see every band you want. And often, plans fly out the window the second you arrive on the grounds. But for what it’s worth, here’s what I’m going to try to see over the weekend:

Thursday (October 16)

I plan to start off my day taking it easy. One of my goals this year is to better represent late-night shows…which might mean a power nap during the afternoon or…more beer?

Mountain Sprout – An Arkansas band whose shows aren’t complete without lots of beer.

Under the Willow – A band I’ve been itching to see since the Harvest lineup arrived in my inbox. I love their sound and the power behind the quartet’s music. Check out my interview with them!

The Oh Hellos – Playing on the Main Stage, this band sounds similar to bands like The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men (both Mulberry Mountain alumni). Their sound is full and expansive; I can’t imagine a better place for their music to float than across the hills.

Shawn James and the Shapeshifters – This band hails from Fayetteville, Arkansas and they’re fantastic. With a dark, Southern blues-grass sound, Shawn James and the Shapeshifters dabbles in concept albums and story-songs.

The Jayhawks – I’ll stick around the Main Stage area for much of the night on Thursday, including checking out this band. I can’t say I’ve ever desired to see this band, but I hear so many great things about their live shows I’d be remiss to miss out on the opportunity.

Trampled By Turtles – One of my best friends loves this band, and the more I check out live videos of theirs I realize this band has a breadth of sound and some great songs. Two of my favorites are their cover of Where is My Mind and Whiskey.

Friday (October 17)

Friday is going to be one of those late nights for me, so I plan to take it easy during the day. Mostly, that means remaining at the Harvest Tent for most of the afternoon.

Paper Bird – I’ve been looking forward to this female-fronted band since I heard their song As I Am. Their sound features classic three-part harmonies, and they utilize music from classic to baroque. The 7-piece band had two sets of siblings, and interesting combination.

Jerry Douglas Band – I’d be a terrible music fan if I missed seeing at least a portion of Douglas’ show. His talent is unbelievable sometimes, and the band is made up of entirely stellar musicians. Traditional bluegrass instruments with diverse layers of sound and rhythm? I’m there!

Elephant Revival – One of my favorite bands of all time, there’s no way I’m missing this show. I’ve never seen a bad set from this band, and I don’t expect I ever will.

Papa Mali – Malcom “Papa Mali” Welbourne’s strong, Southern blues come straight out of  New Orleans, where he’s lived for most of his life – Swamp Music, as they say. His prolific career includes a band, 7 Walkers, with Bill Kreutzmann. Keep an eye out for an interview with Papa Mali on Grateful Web in the next couple weeks.

Yonder Mountain String Band – YMSB plays each night of the festival, and Friday night is their 2.5-hour set. I plan to post up at Main Stage and see where their set takes me (and the rest of the crowd).

Tea Leaf Green – For my last set of the night, I plan to see this band. I’ve had recommendations to see them live from coworkers to festheads so I figure this isn’t a show I should miss. Wish me luck for making it to their 2:15 am show…

Saturday (October 18)

And somehow the final day of the festival will come all too quickly. Feet tired, overloaded with emotion and beauty I’ll be forever grateful for my time on Mulberry Mountain every year.

Shook Twins – One of my favorite bands since last year’s Harvest, Shook Twins are playing twice and I fear I may only be able to see their 45-minute show. But I’ll be thankful for any performance I can get from this fun, fantastic group.

The Devil Makes Three – I’ve watched many videos of this band’s live performances. Some of their songs remind me of Nick Cave, and other times of classic bluegrass tunes. This band performs a lot of covers, which I love because they do them well.

Yonder Mountain String Band – In an even longer set than Friday’s, YMSB will rock our world for another night. I can’t wait to see their special guests and extensive jams.

Everyone Orchestra – Wrapping up my 2014 Harvest Festival experience will be Everyone Orchestra. I’ve never experienced one of these shows, made up of musicians from the whole festival, but the idea is an amazing one. There are so many unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences at festivals like these, but this is the ultimate experience.

Tickets are still available for the festival, and passes include camping fees so there’s no extras you’ll have to buy. You can purchase tickets online or in regional outlets throughout states surrounding Arkansas.

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 10:57 am

A mainstay in the New Orleans music scene, Papa Mali has shared the stage with the likes of Bill Kreutzmann, Willie Nelson, Henry Butler and a diverse array of other musicians. He won’t quit playing music unless it starts to feel like work, and it hasn’t yet since the mid-70s when Papa Mali first graced the stage. He has a new album coming out very soon, which has already been recorded and will be out at the very first of the year. Follow Papa Mali on social media to get the scoop.

He’ll be playing a set a Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Festival on Friday, October 17 at 6:30 pm on the Backwoods Stage (one of the most picturesque stages on Mulberry Mountain). He’s also headlining the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival with Los Lobos and Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington. We caught up with Papa Mali to discuss his life, his music and how he acquired his name.

GW: When you play [free concerts in New Orleans] do you usually have special guests or do you just do your own thing?

PM: Well, a little of both. New Orleans is the kind of town where people often drop by and sit in on your gig or vice versa. The other night I sat in with my friend Kevin Russell, who is also known as Shiny Ribs – one of my favorite, favorite new bands. I encourage everybody to check it out.

GW: When I was researching you and your music I found Honeybee with Henry Butler. How did you come to meet him?

PM: I guess he and I have known each other about 10 years or so. About 11 years ago I went into a club in New Orleans called The Mermaid Lounge where he was playing – he had heard my album and invited me to sit in with him. We talked that night about getting together and doing some recording. Eventually we formed a band called The Rhythm Council.

GW: How did you find your roots in music?

PM: I have to admit, a lot of people from my generation started with listening to the radio and seeing people like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on television. Like a lot of kids my age, we saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and we just went out and bought guitars the next day. I got my first guitar when I was 5 years old and it just evolved from there.

The way I got into roots music and blues music, living in New Orleans you couldn’t help but hear that stuff.

GW: Do you have a most-prized record?

PM: I still have the original copy of the very first record I bought with my own money. It was Surfer Girl by The Beach Boys. I still listen to it; it still sounds great and reminds me of being 6 years old, coming home and playing it in my bedroom.

GW: Is there a band or record you didn’t like when you first listened to it, but it grew on you and now it’s become a big part of your life?

PM: Absolutely. My parents used to listen to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in the 60s – I thought it was just this pop, square music they listened to. For the last 15 years or so I’ve rediscovered it and now I love it. In the late 60s I was into heavier stuff like Hendrix and Cream, but some of the music my parents listened to was really cool and I didn’t want to hear it because it was my parents’ music.

I got heavily into jazz when I was in my early 20s and kind of a snob about certain types of rock music that was coming out in the 70s. So I missed it the first time, then went back and listened to it and now I love it more than ever.

GW: Is there a type of music you wish you were better at playing?

PM: There used to be, but for the last 20 years or so I’ve become more comfortable in my own style. Once you feel like you’ve found your own style, I don’t wish I was different – I want to get better at being Papa Mali. I always want to be a better songwriter.

GW: How do you improve your songwriting?

PM: More than anything else writing songs with Robert Hunter made me a better songwriter. He’s one of the best…ever. I realized I had to elevate my game a little bit.

GW: Who do you think is one of the best guitarists?

PM: Currently, Derek Trucks. He’s one of the most amazing guitar players I’ve ever heard. I think Steve Kimock is really fantastic. There’s lots of others, but those are two of the guys I’m always inspired to hear and work with.

GW: Are there any special guests we can expect onstage this year for your Harvest set?

PM: Well, my band is going to feature Reed Mathis [of Tea Leaf Green] on bass – he’s incredible, and he’s the original bass player for the 7 Walkers. And then on drums I’m going to have Doug Belote who’s one of New Orleans’ finest drummers and plays nationally with a lot of other people too.

GW: Are [your covers usually] songs that are really important to you as a human being, not just a musician.

PM: Oftentimes I pick my covers that way, but sometimes I want people to realize I’m not taking myself too seriously. I want everybody to have fun. Ever since 7 Walkers I love pulling out the Dead covers. That’s something everybody knows, and they’re so much fun to play. I had to learn dozens of Grateful Dead songs when I was playing with Bill [Kreutzmann]. I still love playing those songs, people love to hear it. After playing those songs with Bill Kreutzmann, it’s kind of hard to play them with other people.

GW: Did you listen to the Dead a lot when they were in their heyday?

PM: Oh yeah. I didn’t ever follow them around because the truth of the matter is I was busy being a musician myself during those days. I bought all of their albums on vinyl and I did go see them a few times. Back in those days my favorite bands were The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, The Band, the Grateful Dead (not necessarily in that order).

GW: When you were working with Bill Kreutzmann are there any things you learned about the Grateful Dead you wouldn’t have known otherwise?

PM: Bill and I became really good friends. Hearing things from his point of view was really interesting. The one thing I learned more than anything else is: don’t pay attention to the stuff everybody says about the Grateful Dead on the Internet. If that’s all you read, you would think they hated each other. That’s just not true, they love each other. All four surviving members of the Grateful Dead are like brothers. I know there’s a lot of love between those guys – they all know they can never go back to those days when Jerry was alive. Still, they’re all musicians so they have to play.

It drives me crazy sometimes seeing the comments that Deadheads make about the Grateful Dead. They’ve already done such brilliant work – they’ve influenced our lives and changed the world. How can you say anything bad about them?

GW: Have some respect!

PM: You know, have respect – they’re just humans. They’ve done such beautiful, beautiful work. And if you pay attention you can tell that they’re still doing beautiful work. I was backstage with Bobby, Mickey and Bill one time and I just couldn’t believe the love in that room. I know that they all feel that way for Phil, too. There’s a lot of love there and some people aren’t privileged to see that firsthand. I think they all laugh about what people say about them. They’re humans – think about it if you had to age in public, you know what I mean? Not everybody has to have their lives scrutinized, especially past the age of 60.

GW: You keep saying ‘they’re humans, they’re humans’ – what does it mean to you to be human?

PM: It means to have faults and fears and insecurities. But also to have beauty, light and self-worth for who you are, not your achievements.

GW: What does it feel like to play your music in front of a really large audience?

PM: I got a good taste of that at Lockn’ Festival and it felt so good. Every chance I get to play with Billy I love it – he’s my favorite drummer. Bill just kind of developed this unique, original style of drumming; I’ve never heard anybody play like him before. The style of drumming Billy invented is very, very free. It’s like a combination of the best jazz drummers and the best rock drummers and the best country drummers. It’s something unique and visionary. I don’t think anybody has ever played like him before or since, really. Anytime I get a chance to play with Billy Kreutzmann that’s some of my favorite moments, but getting to walk onstage with him in front of 50 or 60 thousand people, that’s even better.

GW: Do you get nervous?

PM: Walking out in front of that many people – all I feel is joy. I don’t feel nervous at all, I just feel excited and happy. What really makes me nervous is when I’m playing at a club I’ve never played before and I don’t know if anybody’s going to show up or not.

GW: What are some non-musical elements that help drive your life?

PM: My wife and my kids. And my life here in New Orleans. Other people’s music and art. I love to cook, I love to garden. I like to walk out and look at the stars at night and feel the breeze blowing off the river and thank those stars that I’m still here to enjoy them. That’s where I’m at.

GW: If you had a chance to go to space but you didn’t know if you would come back would you do it?

PM: Yeah! I absolutely would.

GW: I have never gotten a yes from anybody on that.

PM: Are you kidding? Yeah, of course I would. I feel like that’s what people do when they explore their inner such space. Sometimes they go places not knowing if they’re going to get back and when you get back you’re better for it.

GW: Who’s a non-musician who really inspires you?

PM: The Dalai Lama. There’s a lot more, but he’s the first one who came to mind.

GW: Have you ever seen the Dalai Lama in person?

PM: Not yet. But I still feel a special connection with him. I’m not sure why but I just do.

GW: What is one of your biggest remaining goals as a musician?

PM: The fact that I’ve gotten to work with as many people as I already have is amazing; I never would have believed I’d get to work with Robert Hunter, Bill Kreutzmann, Henry Butler or so many of these people I’ve gotten to work with. So when people ask me that question now, I always say I’d love to work with Bob Dylan. I don’t expect it’s going to happen but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.

Putting your intentions out into the universe is the first step to make your dreams come true. It may sound far-fetched, ambitious or egotistical for me to say that. But it’s true – I never dreamed I’d get to record with Willie Nelson.

GW: I have a possibly strange question for you, when I told my coworkers who don’t know your music I was interviewing you they responded with ‘Oh, pop a molly, huh?’ Does that happen to you a lot?

PM: I have been asked this question many times, and here’s the answer: I received that nickname over 30 years ago when nobody was using the expression ‘Molly’ for ecstasy. Ecstasy was new on the scene, and not to mention the fact I wasn’t really interested in that drug. Long after people started calling it Molly I had no idea. I would have these kids coming up to me saying “Ohhhh, Papa Mali…I get it.” Finally, somebody filled me in on what was going on.

GW: It’s one of those things that happens when the world changes around you.

PM: I received the name from a Jamaican band. I was on tour with the Burning Spear Band back in the 80s. If you check out reggae music almost everybody has a nickname so they decided to give me a nickname. My real name is Malcom – they started calling me Mali. One day they came to my house and saw I had a bunch of children and they called me Papa Mali from that day on. While we were on tour we kept doing interviews and they introduced me as Papa Mali. I had very little to do with choosing my nickname, it chose me.

GW: Is there anything you’d like to say to Grateful Web readers or potential Harvest Fest attendees?

PM: Every day I am humbled and very, very grateful for all my fans and all the people I get to play music for. And the people I get to play music with. It’s been an incredible dream come true getting to play with some of the musicians I’ve gotten to play with over the years. There’s not a moment I don’t appreciate my audience.

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 12:30 pm

People are rejoicing here on Mulberry Mountain this year. After 3 years of poor weather during Harvest Music Festival, it's finally a perfect weekend. Sunny, cool and breezy...I guess climate change is working in our favor right now. Folks are rolling in and setting up camp, but the crowd seems smaller this year, but it's only the second day - and a Friday, to boot.

Yesterday (Thursday) I started my day here with a show from Arkansauce, an awesomely named band that hails from Fayetteville, Arkansas. They're a 5-piece bluegrass group - they don't play just classic bluegrass but it's the bulk of their set. Arkansauce graced the Roost Stage for their first time at Harvest and the crowd was enthusiastic about their music, cheering throughout their set with a strong fanbase. I'm certain we'll see them on the mountain again, and hopefully with a better time slot.

Next up I visited the Harvest Stage for Under the Willow, also playing for the first time at this festival. They're a group from Chicago that often plays with Old Shoe. Their set was powerful, with beautiful crescendos and driving instrumentation. The band's harmonies were simple and strong; their instruments full and sweeping. Under the Willow played a cover of a cover: Chris Thile's version of Gillian Welch's Wasted on the Way. It was a wonderful rendition, and I'm typically a big fan of bluegrass covers. (Have y'all heard the bluegrass covers of Modest Mouse? They are awesome!)

On my way back to camp from the show, I caught a bit of Rose's Pawn Shop on the Main Stage. Every year, I somehow manage to see this band...typically not because I'm trying. I always enjoy their music, but I'm not drawn to it in the same way I am to other bands. It seems they've had a lineup change, though. I remember there being a female in the band the previous two years I've seen them.

The next show I saw was the end of The Steepwater Band. The group was made up of four clearly practiced musicians - they were dressed nicely and rocked hard. An incredibly professional stage presence. It was such a great set, and I wish I'd had the privilege of seeing the whole set. They had long interludes in songs, trading solos and duets throughout the set. They played a fantastic cover of ZZ Top's Boom Boom Boom Boom. (I don't know if that's the name of the song, but the Internet out here is spotty...)

For my last show, I saw The Jayhawks. Though I don't know lots of their songs, I'm familiar with a handful. The group was slated to play Harvest last year, but had to cancel at the last minute. The crowd was enthusiastic and singing along confidently. However, the audience was a bit older and the band knew it, so they joked the crowd about cell phones and new technology. The band played some of their more popular songs, like Angelyne and Blue. And the drummer sang a cover of Midnight Special, which was delightful. Just as the song was beginning, a cool breeze blew through - a perfect addition to the band's cool, lighthearted set.

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 12:35 pm

Yet another beautifully sunny day graced us on Friday at Yonder Mountain String Band's Harvest Music Festival. Not a drop of rain and enough sunshine to charge cell phones (a rarity among the few most recent Harvest festivals.) There is such happiness floating through the campsites and stages, families are playing and wrangling children, and barbeque nachos are in my near future. Life is good.

Yesterday, my day started with a hearty breakfast of grilled veggies, potatoes and a fried egg. Top that off with great music all day and I'd say this weekend is huge success so far! The first band I ventured out to see was Paper Bird. I'd been very excited to see the show because of the videos I'd seen of Paper Bird online. But their set a was much different than I imagined it would be; instead, we got less a capella harmonies and more indie folk sound. The band was by no means terrible, but the show just didn't excite me.

Next, I caught the end of the Jerry Douglas Band set, which was amazing. As we walked up to the show, the group was playing a somewhat orchestral-sounding piece, something you don't hear a lot on these stages. After that song, they sent us rockin' to the moon. Heavy sound and strong technical work makes this band incredible, their attitude and obvious joy for their work makes for a really fun show. The band ended their set with a song he wrote in Scotland, Who's Your Uncle.

Following Jerry Douglas, I wandered to the Main Stage for Elephant Revival's first set of the weekend. As usual, their set was beautiful, pristine, and energetic. The band played to a crowd that mostly already knew their songs, so they played lots of favorites like Rogue River, Birds and Stars and Over Over And. I didn't catch any new tracks during the set, but I'm still waiting to see what today holds for us!

Next up, I grabbed a quick rest at the campsite then headed to Shook Twins, one of my favorite bands from last year's Harvest. I've essentially been singing along to their album Window since this time last year. Their set was magical, lilty and fun. Two of my favorites the band played were a cover of Mad World, complete with beatboxing; and their song Window, snuggled with a Grateful Dead song. They sang a balanced range of well-known tunes and some others less familiar. Unfortunately, I had to leave their set early to catch another show.

Fortunately, I was leaving Shook Twins to go see Papa Mali at the Backwoods Stage. I interviewed him earlier and was really impressed with his expertise and attitude. I brought a few of my friends with me to Papa Mali's set and they were very impressed. The band was playing experiences, not just music. He sang a tune he had recorded with Willie Nelson, and invited the Tim Carbone from Railroad Earth to play on a few songs. The band's Reed Mathis loved every minute of the set, as was evident by his throwing his entire body into seemingly each note he played. Papa Mali played to a fairly sizeable crowd, and it grew as his set went on...echoing through the trees and bouncing between cars.

I next made my way to The Roost stage to catch part of Old Salt Union, who I interviewed earlier in the day. They are a young band, but Main Stage material for sure. My spouse was very impressed with their set, particularly the violinist's obvious long-practiced talent. They played a collection of moderned-up bluegrass, interacting with the crowd and playing off the energy the crowd gave them. After the Old Salt Union set I also caught a bit of Joplin, Missouri band Totojojo's show.

I topped off my fantastic Friday with Yonder Mountain String Band's set. My friends and I posted up on our blankets and in our chairs to enjoy the show. Their set, no surprise, was fantastic. Jerry Douglas and Allie Kral shared the stage with the band; the two play off each other fantastically. His strong slide guitar paired with her smooth fiddle complemented Yonder's sound perfectly.

Today, on the festival's last day, I plan to definitely catch Big Sam's Funky Nation, The Devil Makes Three, Elephant Revival, Railroad Earth, Yonder Mountain String Band and Everyone Orchestra. The weather is chilly today and the sun is hiding, but I won't be complaining about the weather so long as it doesn't rain.

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 2:50 pm

The final day of Harvest was one of celebration. We managed to have perfect weather, and even Yonder Mountain String Band was singing the praises of clear skies. As usual, some of the best shows happened on Saturday, the day when we all try to cram in as much music and fun as possible…ready-but-not-ready for our journey home the next day.

My morning started with a delicious meal of breakfast skillet tacos, followed by a great show on Main Stage from Shook Twins. As is typical for the band, they sang brightly and with, well, sass. This band’s songs are whimsical but meaningful, something that’s a bit of a rarity in popular music these days. Shook Twins feels good about telling quirky stories and laughing onstage; it’s a type of professionalism only some can master.

Next I checked out Big Sam’s Funky Nation at the Harvest Tent. A few friends of mine mentioned they were a surprise favorite at another festival, and I wasn’t at all disappointed. The band brings loads of energy, big brass and even dance moves. There’s nothing bad about Big Sam’s Funky Nation, and let me tell you…they bring the funk. Their set was a nonstop party with the crowd dancing and boogieing along with the band.

Afterward, I swung over to That 1 Guy. He’s a mainstay at the Mulberry Mountain festivals, but I hadn’t gone to one of his shows in a year or so. I feel as though was even more energy coming from That 1 Guy than I had seen before. His shows are typically full of dancing and silly songs, but his performance was stronger this time. I hope to see him again next festival – hopefully on the same track as this year’s set.

Next up I caught a few minutes of The Devil Makes Three on Main Stage. Although this was one of my most-looked-forward-to performances, I can’t say I fell in love at that set…or even much in like. Though their musicianship was great, I think the stage and time of day just wasn’t working for the band. But perhaps one of the marks of a great band is the ability to give an electric performance anytime, anywhere.

Following The Devil Makes Three, I headed to my campsite for a short rest, readying myself for the second Elephant Revival set of the weekend. The band’s second show took place at the Backwoods Stage, allowing for a far more intimate set. Elephant Revival invited a few guests onstage, including Shook Twins. They beatboxed and played a song I’ve been waiting for them to cover since the first time I saw the band about 4 year ago: The Truth by Handsome Boy Modeling School. If you have a chance to find their cover of this song, find it – it’s magical.

As the sun set and night began to take hold, I watched the last bit of Railroad Earth’s set, waiting for Yonder Mountain String Band’s nearly 3-hour set to being. As it was for the whole weekend, Allie Kral and Jerry Douglas joined the band onstage. The whole band tore up the stage, playing like mad from beginning to end. I’m constantly impressed with the band’s ability to keep it going so many nights in a row. But they did, and they always do. The crowd was hungry for the band’s Saturday set, as it’s always a great send-off into the real world.

For my final show of the festival, I saw Everyone Orchestra for the first time. I’ve talked about catching a show pretty much since I started doing this job, but never made it because I am a tired-ass lady by that time of night. But this year, I was determined to schedule my day accordingly…and I did it! The hype around Everyone Orchestra is worth it. An exercise in instant collaboration, I think Everyone Orchestra is one of the greatest ideas for musicians. Basically, Matt Butler creates a once-in-a-lifetime super group experience. This year’s group included both Shook twins, Anders Beck, Tim Carbone, Zach Deputy, Adam Smirnoff and Ryan Zoidis from Lettuce, Andrew Alman, Ivan Neville, and Alvin Ford Jr. One of my favorite moments of the show was when Carbone and Zoidis battled on their respective instruments…I had never realized how similar the fiddle and saxophone can sound until Saturday night.

Hands down, this is one of the best Harvest Festivals I have ever attended, and those who have been attending longer than I mentioned multiple times how fantastic this year’s fest was. I always feel so grateful to get to experience music in this capacity – both in its largess and surroundings. I cannot imagine many things more fulfilling than hearing this type of music in the type of environment Mulberry Mountain provides. Thank you music gods, thank you nature gods, than you everybody for making this weekend fantastic.

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 5:05 pm

The Wood Brothers warmed the George’s Majestic Lounge stage last night with the first stop on their winter tour. The band has been doing some recording in Nashville for their upcoming album, working with many great musicians and technicians, including Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. The Wood Brothers’ set in Fayetteville, Arkansas last night seemed a welcome change of pace for the band. They gave a stellar performance, with nearly 2 hours of music that floated through the rafters of the bar and into the hearts of longtime fans and first-time listeners (like my husband).

The band took the stage in front of a crowd that was ready for a great show. After a few days of ice and snow, a little jazzy folk blues was just what most of us needed. The crowd was on the older side (not a lot of dubstep fans in the crowd, probably…) and the brothers joked about next-day work obligations they knew most of us would have.

The Wood Brothers set started off strong, but slowly. They crooned their beautifully written songs, and Oliver and Chris Wood broke into masterful duets throughout. Oliver commanded the stage with strong vocals and fantastic guitar solos; whereas Chris set the mood with his instrumental prowess on the upright bass and signature dance moves. Percussionist Jano Rix added a lot of depth to the Wood Brothers’ songs and used unique instrumentation, including a Shuitar.

With all three members of the band being seasoned musicians, and heavily instrumental, the songs have a certain professionalism and technical soundness to them. The structures of their songs entwined with the incredible lyricism lead to songs fit for bars and performance centers; large stages and small. Their key changes and time signature switches are seamless, their stage presence humble.

Chris impressed me with his orchestral start to “Who the Devil” and the band continued to impress with the unique style of the song. The sound created for “Who the Devil” is not only fun and danceable, but it has a lot of musical depth as well. The group played a few of their more fun songs, like “Shoo Fly Pie” – a tune that seems to have been created so they can play such an awesome bass line. Other songs the band graced us with were “When I Was Young”, “The Muse” and crowd favorite “Mary Anna”. I loved “The Muse” – a story Oliver said to be true.

Toward the end of their set, The Wood Brothers brought a microphone onstage that they affectionately referred to as Big Mike. The crowd eventually grew quiet and The Wood Brothers sang a medley of songs that influenced them, including a beautiful rendition of “Ophelia”. Throughout the night, the band quipped with the audience and tossed some banter back and forth. Overall, though, we were all there for the music and The Wood Brothers knew that.

As seems customary now, the band played a two-song encore: “The Luckiest Man” and another that I didn’t recognize but had a surf-rock vibe to it. I left the show impressed and wondering how they do it. How do they meld such classic training with bar-worthy blues? How do they turn their 3-piece band into an orchestra?

The Wood Brothers played their first show of the tour last night, and they’ll be traveling all over the country. Some shows are already sold out so get your tickets fast!

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 7:30 am

Natalie Walker, a musician out of Crested Butte, Colo., is releasing her new album after 3 years of prepping and polishing. Sometimes it takes a few years to find the right footing for your next project, and Walker is on solid ground with Strange Bird. The album spans genres and stories, the songs are comfortable but not commercial, electronic and dreamy. Moving to Crested Butte gave Natalie a balance she hadn’t found in city life and that equilibrium shows in each track of her new album, which releases March 10.

GW: I guess I’ll start off with one of my favorite questions…if you were given the opportunity to go to space but didn’t know if you would come back, would you go?

NW: Oh man…I don’t think I would. I think I would if it was just me on Earth, or if I was older. Probably if I was a lot older, that would be a cool way to go out. […] I don’t know if you read this article about a bunch of people who had been in space, about how it changed their entire perspective on everything.

GW: What are some things you’ve experience as a musician or human that have given you a new perspective on the world?

NW: I’ve experienced death and loss. I’ve also learned to simplify my life; I live in Crested Butte, CO right now and have always lived in a city before. I wanted to get to the basics of my happiness, which is music, family and the mountains – being outside in nature as much as possible. That gives me this balance I wasn’t able to achieve before. That was a pretty big reality check: moving from a city to a town of about a thousand.

GW: Since you moved into this place to help reconnect with your life and music, how has living there changed your music? You haven’t released an album in three years, did this move inspire that release?

NW: I started writing the music when I lived in Denver, but I was working with a guy named Ryan Malina. I was sitting down with my brother one day and I said, “I need a mad scientist to write music with – I feel uninspired and I need a fresh approach.” My brother pointed me in the direction of Ryan. We wrote most of the music in L.A. This music was so easy with me because, with this whole mental switch from the city to the mountains, overall my mentality changed and I learned to let go of any preconceived notion of a genre or specific sound I wanted. There are so many stories behind each song that was written, and so many details of where we were. It was kind of like a big musical experiment – I’ve never written music like this before. It was all new and very different but the vibe is extremely chill.

We even had a couple of tracks where I was like “I’m going to sing to this. Just press record.” Then I got up and did a take, and just improvised the lyrics and melody on the spot – and that’s what you get. We did that with We Get One – I didn’t write any lyrics down and just went into the booth. I wanted to challenge myself to really feel the moment and the music and let the words just come out naturally.

GW: What are some nonmusical influences that inspire you?

NW: Stories from people that I know inspire me. Stories from my own life. I have this weird obsession with mortality and aging – not in a vain way…just like every day you’re getting older and one day you’ll eventually die; I think about that theme a lot. I’m inspired by nature. I’m inspired by people more than anything. Definitely inspired more by nonmusical things more than I am by musical things and bands.

GW: What was the role of music in your life growing up?

NW: Music was a big part of my life growing up. My dad plays the banjo, my mom sang in church. I would stand next to her and listen to her harmonize. Between her and Mariah Carey is how I probably learned how to sing. I was obsessed with symphonic music and Gergorian chants – I would listen to anything I could get my hands on that moved me in a certain way.

I wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music. In high school I started listening to The Beastie Boys, Silverchair, Björk, Garbage, Portishead and music became this wonderful discovery for me; just totally changed my perspective. I knew I wanted to make music for a living but when I started listening to all of that I thought “Wow, the sky really is the limit.” And I feel like that’s really stuck with me. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into any certain genre – people ask me what kind of genre I play and I have no idea what to say. I try, but I think it’s because I am so obsessed with all genres of music.

GW: What’s one of the most important developments in music that you’ve seen over your lifetime?

NW: Oh man. One of the things I get really excited about is being able to go into a studio and have several instruments and synths at your fingertips, and you can write a part really quickly. Technology is so advanced right now, the tools you can use to build a song really quickly. A combination of being able to use the synths and the programs at your disposal – the speed you can work at. For me, if I have an idea for a song it comes very quickly. It’s important to be able to put the shit down fast so you don’t forget it. Ryan and I were able to bang out songs really quickly because we were so inspired. And just with my career in general, being socially connected to my fans is incredible. It’s such a different thing than it was when I started making music when you would have to physically make fans by meeting them, playing shows and winning them over.

GW: In festival lineups, I can count on my hand the number of women in bands and it’s just so strange to me. How does that feel?

NW: I feel like it’s totally different for each gender. I don’t think about it a lot but I will say, when I was a little girl getting into music I wished I was a dude. Because I wanted to rock, I wanted that persona. In my career I have always tried to keep my gender out of the equation – out of my head when I’m making music and just make something I would want to listen to, and lot of bands I listen to are male fronted; I love Deerhunter, Bradford Cox, Thom Yorke. But I also love female-fronted bands like Blond Redhead. I like female-fronted bands that are just bold and not afraid to perform and write ballsy music. At the end of the day it’s about the music that you’re making, and if you’re making shitty, boring music people aren’t going to buy your record. There are plenty of women who have commanded attention through their music – I’m on this big Fever Ray kick right now, she’s such a badass. She performs these really dark songs, she’s just so unafraid and I’ve always love female musicians like that. It’s not that I aspire to be like that, I’m just not really that weird and I’ve accepted that. But at the end of the day, who gives a shit. I’ve had a couple experiences in the studio with staff at the studio where I’ve gotten this weird, condescending attitude…and that pisses me off. But I’ve never experienced disrespect from a man I’ve been making music with, ever.

GW: Who are some musicians you feel you want to share with the world?

NW: I discovered this girl yesterday who is just breaking, her voice is crazy…she’s so good. Her name is Jessica Pratt. People are saying she’s freak-folk genre, but her voice is so cool. She’s 25 but her voice is way beyond her years. I’ve never heard anybody sing like her before. I’ve been listening to Blond Redhead, their new album is amazing. I’ve been listening to Nick Drake, he’s not new. Alt-J, Naiia.

GW: Are you going to be taking your album on tour anytime soon?

NW: We’re probably going to do a key market tour. Oddly enough, I have a really big fanbase in Mexico City; I have a lot of awesome fans in L.A., New York and Denver. I’d like to do a lot of local mountain gigs. The album does not come out until March 10, the first single “Trust” comes out January 27 – it’s a really happy, chill vibe. If you preorder the album, you get a second single. It’s my favorite song on the album called ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ – it’s got a gritty vibe to it.

GW: Is there anything you’d like to say to Grateful Web readers?

NW: I really, really appreciate the people who buy my music. It’s tough out there right now for people making music. It’s important to support artists that you love by buying their music, or sharing it with your friends or family. Thanks for reading. Drop me a line on my website or Facebook, I run it all by myself so you’re talking to me.

Get a copy of Strange Bird here.

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 2:15 pm

“From death comes life and so on.”

I was honestly a bit wary of seeing my first Elephant Revival show sans Sage Cook. And I’m sure quite a few people felt that way. But most of me was excited to see what new journey the band was on with their new member Charlie Rose, playing a range of instruments and seamlessly adding his Rufus Wainwright-esque vocals on a number of songs. And like the lyrics above state, there’s a new life to Elephant Revival – one just as wonderful as I had hoped.

The crowd was filled with anticipation. Throughout the night I kept hearing whispers of ‘Oh, I loved that version!’ or ‘I haven’t heard this one in years.’ Elephant Revival, as they started in a town very near Fayetteville, always has a packed house in Fayetteville and Saturday’s show was no exception. Among the attendees were Tahlequah, Oklahoma residents and long-time supporters of the band, as well as college students who’d just recently learned of the band. The audience, a mixture of all generations (allowed in bars), was enthusiastic as ever – and the band’s performance reflected the joy of the crowd.

For the first few selections of their set, there was chatter from the crowd. But as the band carried on, the voices paused to give more room for Elephant Revival’s beautiful, lush sound to float through the rafters. Starting off their set lightly, Elephant Revival played ‘Raindrops’ – a soothing number with excellent sway. Next up was ‘Nostalgia #28’ featuring breezy harmonies between Bonnie Paine and Daniel Rodriguez.

Truly, nostalgia and history flowed through the band’s performance, with Bonnie recalling her first time at George’s Majestic Lounge at the age of 14. Back then, the Garden Room was truly a garden – an outdoor stage with vines twisting around the rafters. Dance floor exposed to the elements, rain started pouring during Bonnie’s first show there: Randy Crouch.

Carrying on through their 2-hour set, the band graced us with some of the crowd’s favorite songs like ‘The Pasture’ and ‘Spinning.’ The group also played a fantastic version of one of my favorites, ‘Remembering a Beginning’ which had a haunting quality to it, I think due in part to Rose’s banjo style. As is typical for a Fayetteville set, Bonnie’s sister Annie Paine took the stage to sing and play upright bass on ‘Piper’s Son’ and ‘Jet Lag’, thrilled as ever to play in front of so many great fans, family and friends.

One of my favorite moments of the night was hearing the song ‘Petals’, which I’d never heard before and was a throwback to a band Paine and her sisters had been in called Mighty Kind. Rose brought out his electric cello, named ‘The Bug’ to accompany the tune. I’m looking forward to seeing what other new songs and instruments the band has in store, and to learn more about Rose’s history as a musician.

Following ‘Petals’ the band played a song dedicated to Cook. The song, ‘The Garden’ is a rhythmic, swelling track that nestles into your heart and makes your feet move. Along with a dedication to Cook, there was a cover of Richie Havens’ ‘High Flying Bird’, and a dedication to Crouch and Paine’s father with Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’.

For the last two songs before the encore, Elephant Revival pumped up the crowd with a singalong (‘Grace of a Woman’) and an upbeat favorite (‘Rogue River’). By the time the two songs had finished, the crowd was energized as ever and ready for more. Luckily, we all got what we wanted with a 3-song encore.

Starting off the encore was the harmonic, haunting duet from Bonnie and Annie Paine, ‘High Flying Birds’. I’d heard the song before, but this time it struck me more than ever. Perfectly carving through the excitement of the last two songs, the crowd was mesmerized by such a stark difference. Next up was ‘Sing to the Mountain’, and finally a fantastic rendition of ‘Ring Around the Moon’ – a perfect closing song.

‘Ring Around the Moon’, already one of my favorite songs of theirs, was reinvented on Saturday night. With the band’s new flair, Rose’s talent and unique sound, and the crowd’s energy, I found that particular song struck me more than any of them. It was joyous, technically masterful and spiritual. There’s a reason I always leave an Elephant Revival performance feeling renewed and revived. It is church. It is a worship of music and beauty and nature and love. It is a message we all can hold onto.

Check out more photos from the show.

Wed, 06/17/2015 - 5:36 pm

On a Friday night at 6 pm you won’t usually find folks in Fayetteville, AR packed into the back room of a bar. But there are special occasions for such shows; one of which happened June 12 at George’s Majestic Lounge. Punctual as ever, the older-than-usual but rambunctious audience stood waiting for Samantha Fish to grace the stage. The crowd was buzzing with the anticipation of the fantastic blues rock show at hand.

Though they’re just a 3-piece band, the Samantha Fish sound is powerful. It rocks, it wails, it carries the crowd through the night with time seeming to pass by as quickly as the train that blared its horn at the perfect moment during the opening song “Road Runner.” With prowess and power, Samantha Fish band sped through the 2-hour set with near perfection.

I’d have to say this was one of my favorite performances I’ve seen at George’s. For my majority of experience, the bar has been graced with sloshed early-20s college students ready to PARTAY (!!!). But for Fish’s show, the crowd was attentive, appreciative and dancing with little to no abandon. From the enthusiastic woman letting loose in the front row to the smattering of couples dancing lovely together as if it was their wedding day, I didn’t see a single soul who wasn’t enjoying the shit out of the band’s set.

All three members of the Samantha Fish band are talented and function as a team. They vibe off each other and gain an impressive amount of control over the stage for just having 3 instruments. I love seeing small bands because they can’t pretend they know the music when they really don’t (at least not for long) and they can’t fake enthusiasm for an entire show. So when you see a small, powerful band like Samantha Fish…you know they’re in it to win.

Supporting their new album, Samantha Fish played a set that harkened back to older songs and featured an impressive selection of tracks from the new album, Wild Heart. The dedicated crowd sang along when they could and danced along when they didn’t know the words, creating an absolutely perfect crowd-musician exchange that truly solidified the perfection of the evening.

As the set came to a close, you could tell the crowd was nowhere near ready to shut it down. Feeding off the energy of the audience, the band took the opportunity to play a favorite of Fish’s, “Go Home.” The slower, softer song struck a chord with the audience and everybody just sort of fell into the melody. After “Go Home” the band pulled out their energetic, fun “Bitch on the Run” – a song Fish claims is one of her favorites to perform, and appears to also be a crowd favorite. At the end of the song, the audience was roaring for more. And one more fantastic song we did get.

Ending the set, the band played one of their newest covers, “Sympathy for the Devil.” Everybody on the floor loved it, dancing and singing along with unbridled enthusiasm. They swooned at Fish’s solo and I think we all turned into fanboys as the band exited the stage, ready to meet the audience and sign merch. The line at the merch table was long, a great sign for musicians these days.

I left that show feeling I had never seen a more respectful, enthusiastic crowd at a venue like George’s – and honestly the only other shows I’ve seen with such a fantastic exchange between the audience and performers was at intimate, acoustic, sit-down shows. I couldn’t have asked for more from the Samantha Fish band or the audience that night. You, too, can enjoy a Samantha Fish show this summer as the band tours supporting their new album. One of blues rock’s most impressive young stars, you’ll want to be one of the people who gets to say “I saw her before she was ridiculously famous.”

Mon, 07/06/2015 - 6:57 pm

Samantha Fish, a young and incredibly talented guitarist, visited Fayetteville, AR for a show recently. Grateful Web sat down with her to discuss her experience as a musician and her new album, Wild Heart.

GW Describe your music to someone who hasn’t listened to it before.

SF It’s always been categorized as blues based, but there’s a lot of elements like Americana, rock ‘n’ roll and there’s some country flavoring. Roots rock is a good term for it. The new album is still bluesy but it’s a little more on the rock side.

GW So this is your first time co-writing an album. What was that experience like?

SF Well, I went to Nashville and ended up hooking up with a guy named Jim McCormick. He’s a big writer out there for a lot of different country acts. That’s where the writing capital of the world is for me and to work with somebody who works on that caliber and that genre…it was nice to stretch and see somebody else’s process while they’re writing. It was nice to be able to bounce ideas off each other.

GW What are some other ways this album was different than your previous?

SF I had a different producer for the first time. Mike Zito had produced my last two solo studio albums and a collaborative effort I did before that. I chose Luther Dickinson from North Mississippi Allstars and Black Crowes. He played bass and we went to Blade Studios in Shreveport and Luther played drums. It was different because Luther and Mike’s styles are so different. Luther’s a great guide but at the same time he was like ‘Just be yourself.’ I got to stretch out; he really wanted to put what I do out there. I think I’ve come a long way in a couple of years when I listen back to recording from the last few years.

GW What are some songs you really feel connected to that are from before your improvements.

SF I always enjoy playing “Down in the Swamp” off the Runaway record. “Black Wind Howlin’” is really fun because I can rip it up on the solo. I always try to pay attention to what people really danced to and got into.

GW I read in an interview that you said you think musicians should change up their shows. How do you do that?

SF Keep growing. You want to keep writing and putting new material out there. It keeps the creativity going and the passion. That’s what I really mean. I’m always trying to keep my wheels turning for writing and to do covers.

GW Are there covers you’re interested in learning?

SF We just started doing “Sympathy for the Devil.” And people are diggin’ that.

GW Do you remember the first time you heard somebody really rip or the first thing that really stuck with you?

SF When I was about 18 years old I would go with my dad to this place called Knuckleheads in Kansas City. I’d see all these different musicians from all over the country. I’d always seen musicians as someone who came to play in amphitheaters. I didn’t know there was something in between. It was cool to see up to close to something like that. The first band I ever saw at Knuckleheads was Papa Chubby, this crazy, guitar-playin’ who just shreds – I was blown away and had no idea this thing existed. Guys like Mike Zito, Michael Burkes and Tab Benoit affects me.

GW You’ve played with all of those people – what is something you’ve learned from playing with those types of musicians?

SF I grew up watching their hands to try and see their technique and the way they would hold their guitar. I would always focus on the way they facilitate the lick. I love it when guitarists let the song breathe and sometimes I’m a little too much coffee, too much Red Bull. It’s nice to watch somebody who can put some air into the solo. It adds a lot of dynamic and drama.

GW Have you found that as you’ve gained musical talent are you able to center your brain more and find those breaks?

SF I have to actively say “Slow down. Chill out.” I think that may be nerves. I think that’s human nature; when you’re really nervous you try to get through it really quick.

GW You’ve watched so many musicians play onstage. What are some surreal moments as you being one of those people?

SF Getting to share the stage with those guys is always surreal. If I think about it might freak me out in the moment. It’s really cool to share the stage with guys I look up to. Just that people will take time out of their day to come see a show – I appreciate it and it kind of freaks me out a little.

GW We should always be a little freaked out maybe.

SF I think so – it keeps an edge; you’ve got to keep an edge. I want to keep that balance of ball of nerves and breathing.

GW How does growing up [in Kansas and Missouri] inform your songwriting?

SF I think it’s kind of a traditional thing – you write about the landscape and what you grow up around. We travel so much now that I’m getting overstimulated with all the different landscapes. The earlier songs were really Missouri-based – and KC is such a blues town too. It was hard not to be influenced by the sounds there.

GW What is your favorite instrument that you can’t play?

SF I bought a lap steel and I can’t play it at all; I love pedal steel. I think it’s because I listened to it a bunch when I was a kid. My babysitter listened to sappy country music so pedal steel is pretty much all I heard. It’s so dramatic but it’s so hard. I wish I could play that. The piano would be cool too. It’s good for songwriting – it changes how you visualize music.

GW Who are some musicians who aren’t in your genre that you admire, listen to or model after?

SF I’ve got a lot of them. It kind of goes back to growing up listening to rock ‘n’ roll. You know, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty…that classic rock stuff. I really started getting into songwriters when I was a kid so I love Tom Waits and John Hiatt; Sheryl Crow was huge for me and guys now like Jason Isbell.

GW What do you feel is your most personal song?

SF Off the new record, I didn’t expect it to be my favorite but “Go Home”…I wrote that sometime last summer but it turned out really beautiful. The girls that came in to sing on it, Risse Norman and Shontelle Norman-Beatty, laid down some beautiful harmonies on it.

GW What about the most fun?

SF The rock record is really fun. “Bitch on the Run” is really fun to play; “Highway’s Holding Me” and “Wild Heart” – they’re all fun in their own way. I guess I’m just not sick of them yet. Ask me in a few years and I’ll be like “None of them. I hate them all. I need to write a new record.”

That’s what’s so neat about refreshing the show – I have to do it for myself. I do it for the fans too but I’d go crazy if I had to keep playing the same songs.

GW What about your most honest song?

SF I go back to that “Go Home” one because it’s so personal. That one was a pretty raw, honest song. I started writing it about a friend who passed away and it kind of took on a life of its own. It’s a song about being a hypocrite and always thinking you know how somebody should live their life and then you don’t do the right thing yourself either. It’s a self-realizing, self-loathing hypocrite song. Anytime you’re trying to self-realize it’s like therapy…it can get pretty real.

A lot of the record is pretty personal.

GW I noticed a lot of bluegrass elements on the new record. Do you play bluegrass?

SF When I was a kid my father’s friends would come over. They all brought their guitars and sat around playing bluegrass. That was one of the reasons I wanted to play, because the grown-ups did it. They were playing all kinds of bluegrass and country. I think it’s always been there and I’ve been fiddling with it for years. I try to put everything into it, your influences. I think that’s how you put the most honest music out there – just be yourself and everything you’ve got.

GW Yeah, we’re all a big schmorgasboard.

SF It’s like a canvas with a bunch of shit splattered on it.

GW We’re all Pollocks.

Would you be interested in speaking to your experience as a woman in rock ‘n’ roll music?

SF I just saw something recently. There was some country analyst who said only 30% of what they play on the radio are women. He said because people aren’t just all that into it. There seems to be a lack of women. I first discovered Bonnie Raitt. And Sheryl Crow (I have no idea why I thought this because it was the early 2000s) I was like ‘Wow. I had no idea women could front a band and play all those instruments. I don’t know what kind of crazy backwoods stuff was in my brain but it stunned me and really inspired me. There’s more and more girls picking up guitars, bassists and playing piano.

People ask me if it’s harder for women. I’ve only ever been a woman so I don’t know if I’ve got a disadvantage. It has pros and cons from what I’ve seen. It’s an honor to get to be a part of these festivals and such. I try to encourage girls.

There are all things I think about that kind of freak me out at night. But it goes back to that I’m shocked that at 13 years old I didn’t know a woman could do what I saw Sheryl Crow doing. I think that’s how we raise girls – and we’ve gotta change that.

In our society it’s more about the women who raise children. You see that in music, they have wives who stay home and take care of the children. I think about it a lot – I guess I’ll do that later on. It’s not going to be a career-ender for me, we’ll figure it out.

GW: What's something you learned recently?

SF Well, I learned that Lucinda Williams is awesome. I just saw her and learned that she’s a badass. I have her record but I’ve never seen her live. I learned how to fry chicken – I learned how to make Hattie B’s recipe. We eat there every time we go to Nashville. I actually patted myself on the back when I finished.

Cooking I’m still getting into. I want to be good at that, one of those things I don’t have time to do. So I bought a deep fryer – it was terrifying because I didn’t know what the internal temperature of chicken should be. It’s 165 – I learned that yesterday! But I cooked mine to 220 degrees…

GW Do you have anything you want to say to Grateful Web readers?

SF If you want to find out more about us, look at our website SamanthaFish.com. Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We tour as much as we can – check our calendar for dates. And our new album was released on July 10th, 2015.

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 5:18 pm

Many thoughts come to mind when one hears the phrase ‘Elephant Revival.’ For some, it’s a completely abstract concept. For others, the name rings true – although the many truths Elephant Revival listeners happen upon through their music are many, there’s a connection we all feel written within each song Elephant Revival brings to the stage.

This interview with Bonnie Paine (vocals, washboard, djembe, musical saw, stomp box) strengthens our understanding of the pillars of both her musical and everyday life, although they often seem one-in-the-same. We discuss which song is a story true to her family’s history, great advice her mother gives and Paine’s experience with having lost and gained a member of the band this year.

Bonnie Paine

You can hear Paine’s lilting, impressive vocals and powerful instrumentation at upcoming shows in Colorado and beyond, including their upcoming show with Trampled by Turtles and Shakey Graves at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO.

GW: What are some of the elements that must combine to create an effective song?

BP: Listening and intentional time and space for a song. I find outdoor bodies of water or places with natural reverb like stairwells, tiled bathrooms, and empty grain silos to be inspiring and a balance of focus and patience for the song to unfold.

GW: What’s the truest song you’ve ever written?

BP: This is difficult to answer because truest could be relative to the listener and how they relate to the song. I wrote a song called Rogue River that is pretty unfiltered and true to part of my family's history.

GW: How does other people’s music influence your own?

BP: I'm not sure how it does, but it does. Artistic expression seems like some kind of communal well that when anyone drinks from it, it is somehow altered, slightly or majorly. I could describe feelings of gentle vulnerability, empowerment, curiosity, revelation, peacefulness and excitement when listening to others’ music, but I wouldn’t know how exactly it weaves its way into the ways I play music. I only know that it does. That is a beautiful aspect of art; it influences indescribably.

GW: What’s your favorite instrument that you can’t play? 

BP: Tablas, someday. The cello is my favorite instrument and I've been enjoying learning to play it.

GW: Are there any song lyrics or sayings that aren’t your own that have really stuck with you over the years?

BP: I’ve appreciated my mom saying “do you want to be right, or do you want to understand?” and “people will be unkind, be kind anyways.”

GW: Can you describe a great memory or moment you’ve shared with a fan?

BP: The other night, we were signing CDs in Fort Collins and a nice man asked if I would hold his newborn baby. She was so sweet and aware, and seemed to connect deep and directly immediately. What a delightful honor to hold the tender little being.

GW: What are some ways your music tastes have changed over the years?

BP: I seem to appreciate the space between the notes more and more, not necessarily slower music but music that breathes, and lyrics seem to have become more in focus.

GW: How did your upbringing influence you as a musician?

BP: My mom enjoyed singing anytime anywhere, especially while doing house work, so singing was a natural part of enjoying the day. When I play my hometown I still hear stories after the show from people who remember hearing her singing walking around the town or in the back of my dad’s wood shop or around our house. My sisters played drums and inspired me to play percussion. My dad became a sound man alongside being a carpenter and got a new drum set for one of my sisters, a P-bass for another sister, and an electric guitar for me. We started a band and became the backup band for an amazing man named Randy Crouch when I was about 12. We were lucky to have a very supportive musical community surrounding us. 

GW: What’s special about Colorado?

BP: The clean water is my favorite thing about Colorado. The land and people seem very healthy, which helps for a lot of great living experiences to be made possible. And so much good music!

GW: What’s something you’re trying to get better at?

BP: Playing the cello and letting go. Breathing.

GW: What’s something you’re trying to get worse at?

BP: Being late.

GW: What drives your passions?

BP: The sense that music is something that can connect people to something outside and deep within themselves. I feel like this is key for any kind of healing, be it environmental or personal. 

GW: What are some things you think about a lot?

BP: Where have we come from, where will we go? I think about birth and dying often, and how to stay present, which may be contradictory, though sometimes quiet contemplation of these things seems to lead to a sense of presence. 

GW: What’s a piece of advice you’ve received that really helped propel you forward in life?

BP: I had a dear friend who recently passed who always encouraged me to trust in the unfolding of things. This continues to help me move forward.

GW: What’s a cause that’s very special to you?

BP: Supporting alternative forms of energy and reducing waste is very important to me. This is challenging with the lifestyle of traveling around to play music, though we are researching ways to reduce our carbon footprint by installing solar panels on our bus, working with organizations to support carbon offsetting and reforestation, using bio fuels, and other creative ways to help reduce our environmental impact on this amazing planet.

I also have a dream with my mom, who is now an elementary school principal, to someday set up a school that is linked with an assisted living home for older folks where they have a shared garden and a few daily activities together like story-telling and craft time. This relationship between these generations seems increasingly important to me for comprehension of ways to improve personal, social, and environmental health. 

GW: What’s a piece of advice you’d give your 20-year-old self?

BP: Try to put less energy into what you do not want to happen and instead feed what you do want to happen with a willingness to trust and accept that most things are beyond your control, and that’s alright.

GW: What’s something you’re learned recently?

BP: Things rarely turn out completely how you might attempt to design them. In fact, most of the most amazing parts in my life have taken me by surprise in how they came about.

GW: What are you looking forward to for the band’s future?

BP: Playing at Red Rocks and someday playing with a symphony on some of the new songs. 

GW: What has your experience been losing a member and gaining a new one?

BP: This is a difficult question, of course. Most change in general is challenging, and Sage is such a good friend and amazing musical partner that it can be very hard to accept this transition. Though seeing how happy he is with the lifestyle he is able to live now with his incredible wife, I understand and am happy for them both. Charlie has been a dear friend and a musician we have admired since before the band started and one of the people I always wished we could have more time to hang and play with, so it is an honor and a joy to get to be closer again and play in the same band together. 

GW: What does Charlie bring to the band that wasn’t there before?

BP: Charlie is very playful and enthusiastic about music which has been really enjoyable. He also brings the pedal steel, which is a beautiful and otherworldly texture for some songs and he plays the cello which has helped to introduce some songs that I wrote on the cello many years ago that now feel ready to share and we have been having a lot of fun with. As it turns out, he plays almost anything and is a delight to be around. We are going to have a lot of fun together :)

Thu, 09/24/2015 - 7:04 pm

Leftover Salmon doesn’t have a lot of troubles. They’re a strong, long-lasting band that knows what it is to be professional, traveling musicians. Playing in Eureka Springs, Ark. during Hillberry 2, Leftover Salmon will surely bring the bluegrass…and the funk, and the Cajun, and the vast talent that’s been building over the last 26 years, including banjo player Andy Thorn.

GW: What are some fun experiences you’ve had during the late-night jamming at music festivals?

AT: I remember we led a Parade [at Mulberry Mountain’s  Music Festival] around with some of the Elephant Revival crew, Vince and maybe Allie (Kral] straight on stage while Cornmeal was playing. They didn’t see it coming at all; we basically paraded across the stage and off the stage, kept on going into the campground and ended up at some campsite were Elephant Revival had all of their friends. We proceeded to jam all night – I think I fell asleep in my chair with my banjo on my lap.

GW: So how do you feel about Arkansas?

AT: I haven’t played a whole lot in the state. Mulberry probably isn’t a great picture of what Arkansas really is. It definitely shows you what kind of beauty there is in Arkansas. I don’t know what the normal crowds are like for shows there but I think people come from all over to go to Mulberry.

GW: How would you describe the music of Leftover Salmon?

AT: It’s a mix of a lot of different styles. We can be a rock band one minute and a total bluegrass one minute, then we’ll throw in some Cajun. It’s just original music – they used to call it polyethniccajunfusionslamgrass. They used to be a little bit more Cajun than we are now – they used to have an accordion. Now we just go with high-country slamgrass.

GW: Why’d you move away from the Cajun style?

AT: We still do some, but they had an accordion player in the band for a few years. The instruments we have now lend themselves more to bluegrass. But we still do some, Drew breaks out the Cajun fiddle.

GW: How would you describe your style as a banjo player?

AT: I took a long time to elevate the banjo to the level of what the electric guitar does in a band, or what the piano can do. I think I figured out a few ways to take the energy a little higher than what banjo usually does. Then there’s the electric banjo, and that you can sort of play like a guitar.

GW: Are there any instruments you’re trying to learn how to play?

AT: I mess with instruments a lot; fiddle, guitar. I was a guitar major in college. I play a lot of other instruments but I try to stick to banjo – that’s what I do for a living so I have to practice that.

GW: What’s your favorite instrument you can’t play?

AT: Jazz piano. I really love that. I was a jazz major all through college and high school; I love that sound, the soft ballads. The kind of sound you can produce with one person at a piano. Bill Payne, our piano player is pretty great. I like to watch his fingers and I’m just like…wow, how is that coming out?

But fiddle is pretty much my favorite instrument to listen to.

GW: Do you have any favorite fiddle players?

AT: I love Tim Carbone from Railroad Earth; I love Allie Kral, Jason Carter from Travelin’ McCourys. I get to play with all of them often, which is pretty great. And then my old friend Bobby Britt from Town Mountain is definitely one of my favorites.

GW: Who are some musicians who have been teachers for you?

AT: Local guys. I grew up in North Carolina so a lot of the local musicians were a huge influence. They just do it for the love, but they just play – it’s kind of a way of life out there. It’s pretty inspiring to be around those kind of guys. Everybody in the band that’s been doing it for a living for so long. I try to watch and learn to keep it going…the goal is to not have a real job, you know.

GW: Who’s the longest-running musician in your band now?

AT: Bill, the piano player, was in Little Feat. He’s been on the road for about 44 years, since he was 20. He’s on tour with the Doobie Brothers right now. He’s got quite a resume when you look at his discography. The fact that he wants to still be out there doing it…he loves to play and it’s really inspiring. If I can have that kind of passion still when I’m his age that’ll be pretty great.

GW: Can you picture yourself being a touring musician for 44 years?

AT: I could if it continues to go well, yeah, definitely.

GW: How did growing up in North Carolina inform the music you play?

AT: My parents really liked bluegrass so they took me to bluegrass festivals when I was growing up. I actually saw Salmon when I was in high school multiple times. I used to go to Merlefest every year – you could see everyone there. Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Leftover, String Cheese. I had a banjo when I was 12 so I feel lucky I got going young.

GW: What’s a song that have been really influential to you?

AT: I don’t know a specific song, I’d just say really old, authentic bluegrass. It’s kind of timeless – the raw stuff like Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe. Most of the bluegrass you hear is plugged in, but authentic bluegrass isn’t what’s popular now. If you go back and listen to that it’s really true.

And our stuff, I really do like a lot of the old Salmon stuff. I used to have the album Euphoria in high school – a lot of the songs like “Highway Song” I used to love.

GW: What do you think is a special aspect of the jam band genre? What draws people to listen to jam bands?

AT: Probably that you never know what you’re going to get. If you see more of a pop show, if you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it 100 times. They even say the same jokes onstage. The things you think are spontaneous aren’t. That’s what’s so great about jam band music, there’s a lot of improv. That, to me, is much more interesting. Most jam bands have a lot of tunes so you’re never going to get the exact same show twice – we have a song list about 400 songs. I only know half of them, but I don’t really need to know all of them.

GW: Do they end up playing songs you don’t really know?

AT: Yeah, as a banjo player that’s not hard to do, though.

GW: How has being in a jam band improved or changed the way you perform outside of the band?

AT: It teaches you patience when you’re building a solo. You don’t want to blow your whole load too soon, basically. It took me a long time to get used to that because bluegrass isn’t really like that. I was never really in a group where you had a lot of time to expand your solo. Now, when I’m playing with another group, I feel like I don’t have enough time. But I don’t do that much traditional stuff anymore. Most stuff out here in Colorado is a little jammier.

GW: What are some tones you like to take with your music?

AT: I really like minor songs, those are my favorite. I really like the minor keys a lot and the kind of progressions you can have there. I like writing faster instrumentals that are in a minor key – they’re fun to play.

GW: How is being a musician different than you thought it would be?

AT: You realize it’s mostly about the traveling and the stuff in between playing the music. When you’re just watching you think it’s the best, but playing music is only about 10% of the experience. Most of it is driving around, flying around – the work part is getting there. That’s what I didn’t realize before I was actually doing it.

GW: Is something you like to do in every town you go to?

AT: If there’s anything to do outdoors, I try to do it. I go out of my way to go on a hike or ski. If we’re in the city I’ll wander around all day and look for a good restaurant. If I wasn’t doing that, I would be really unhappy on the road. So I try to get out and see whatever is cool in that area.

GW: Are there any places or landscapes that bring you a lot of peace or happiness?

AT: My favorite is skiing. If I can ski all day and play a gig all night that’s about as happy as I can be?

GW: Do you waterski?

AT: Yeah, I do. I try to. That’s what we’re going to do this weekend – we’re going wakeboarding.

GW: Do you feel like you gain a lot of energy when you’re on your breaks?

AT: Mainly I become sane again – it’s just the balance. It’s also a lot of fun around here. Last night we went to see Yonder play a surprise show at a bar.

GW: What’s one of your favorite things about being a professional musician?

AT: The people I’ve gotten to play with. We get to play with Sam Bush all the time – he was one of my heroes growing up.

GW: How do you think bands can create change in the world?

AT: I hope we’re involved in that some. Vince is really outspoken about some stuff. He’s very political, like about mountaintop removal – he’s written a few songs about that. He’s part of HeadCount, an organization that gets people to vote. So he’s trying to get a lot of stuff done. On a bigger level, look at Neil Young’s new album The Monsanto Years. He’s done a lot with FarmAid. It’s hard to get a lot done when you’re in a mid-level group like us. It’s good to see big artists get things done a really big scale.

GW: So what’s some change you believe in?

AT: Oh boy. I’m not that political. The environmental stuff is what I’m most into. So, I should probably get involved in that more.

GW: What are some good changes you’ve seen in the world? You get to see a lot more of the world than a lot of people probably do.

AT: Just the acceptance of all types of people. It’s been really cool to see that come around with marriage equality. That’s been one of the biggest things this year. And my dad is married to a man so it’s very cool, even in a state like North Carolina. There’s still a lot of headway to make.

GW: What’s a band you used to not like much that you now appreciate?

AT: I think I could say that about Widespread Panic. I thought I didn’t like their crowd a whole lot based on a couple of experiences. We got to play with JB [John Bell] and he’s a really nice guy. Meeting those guys and seeing them again gave me a new perspective on it, and it’s awesome.

GW: What’s a really good memory you have a being in Leftover Salmon?

AT: A lot of these excursions we get to do. We got to do a Hawaii tour last year – we went to Maui and a lot of those people probably didn’t know who we were. We hosted a BBQ for free at this beach and all these local people came and we ended up having this jam with all these people. We get to go to Mexico every year for Strings and Soul – those are really cool experiences.

GW: Are there many countries you haven’t visited that you would like to?

AT: Many. We haven’t played outside of the country much at all. We hope to do that in the next few years. That’s definitely a goal right now. You can only play so many gigs in America without overdoing certain regions.

GW: What do you think is on the most delicious sandwich?

AT: That question I do like. My favorite sandwich is a really good BLT. The best on in the world is from Merrit’s General Store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It’s really good local tomatoes and bacon, but they pile it high. You can get a sandwich that weighs a pound.

GW: If you had a superpower what would it be?

AT: I want to be able to teleport. Then we wouldn’t have to be in cars half our lives. It would improve everything about being on the road.

GW: Do you think if you were able to teleport everywhere you would get tired of playing music?

AT: The band broke up for a few years so I feel like everybody is good at getting along with each other. You spend so much time with those people – you know to not press their buttons and just stay on their side. But conflict does happen and you just talk it out. Everybody knows how to be with each other and be happy.

GW: What’s a quality or trait you admire about each person in your band?

AT: They’re all really great – they’re just really fun. We don’t take it too seriously, that’s my favorite thing about being in the band. It’s just music, have fun with it. We rehearse just enough to just get up there and kill – we’re the perfect level of fun and professionalism.

GW: Do you have anything to say to Grateful Web readers or festival goers.

AT: We’re excited. And love the Grateful Web – still one of my favorite t-shirts.

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:18 pm

In Handmade Moments’ second album, Eye in the Sky, you’ll find a wonderful array of classy beatboxing, great rhythms and a smattering of political commentary. The beatboxing acts as a subtle foundation for their melodies. Their rhythms are interlinked between South and Central American sounds, classic bluegrass and modern folk with a few twinges of slide guitar. And the commentary – it’s subtle as well. There are no overbearing opinions, just lightly dancing hopes for a better world.

The album begins with an upbeat, jazzy song featuring strings and great harmonies. A nice choice of an opening track for their new album. The song transitions easily into the second track, “Eye in the Sky.” Enter the first instance of the aforementioned classy beatboxing. The song is based on a true story of a friend of theirs; its smooth sound paired with the story are a perfect mix of technique and good taste.

One of the best transitions in the album is from “Don’t Hang Onto My Words” to “Home Sweet Home Again.” The contrast between the end of the first song into the beautiful, radiant next song is somehow not surprising or off-putting. It’s a fantastic example of the small touches of personal style the band folds into their work. The album has a balance of listenability and individuality.

As the album continues, unique songs like “Alien” and acoustic, flowing songs like “Familiar Stranger” and “Flavor” work together nicely. The collection of songs reaches across genres and styles; while the band does have an exactly recognizable sound in the way some bands do, its familiarity lies in the differences they explore rather than the similarities.

When you stand Eye in the Sky against the band’s first album you can hear the band’s growth, including better transitions and a clearer, more focused direction in each song. Over the past two years, the duo traveled throughout Central and South America, developing their sound and recording their album. As they stated in a local NPR interview, their travels helped the band “find a bigger sound” and added a more rhythmic quality to their songs. “We weren’t consciously trying to do anything South or Central American – we’ve been rehearsing these songs for years. There’s a little more intention to each song…we kind of cut out the slack. We got a lot of work done down there,” they said.

Eye in the Sky is being released as a precursor to the duo’s upcoming 2-year trip across America on the Handmade Moments bus. They will start in Arkansas, travel across the U.S. and eventually end up in South America. The bus is beautifully hand-painted by a friend of the band and has been retrofitted by Arkansas’ Unique Creations to use a Cummins diesel engine. One of the best features of the bus is the stage built on top, which is powered by solar panels and will travel with them through their entire journey. A truly huge undertaking, this band is on a mission to travel the continent, playing music in almost any place imaginable…or at least vehicle accessible.

Handmade Moments is going somewhere. They are accomplished, well-read musicians who work hard to perfect their craft. Eye in the Sky would be a perfect gift for anybody, including yourself. From polished genre blending to beautiful, uplifting songs like “Home Sweet Home Again” and “Open Up Your Heart” the talents of Handmade Moments will have you singing their praises and the lyrics of these fantastic tracks. Eye in the Sky will keep you company on a long road trip or provide a fantastic soundtrack to a sunny day, plus everything in between.


You can buy the album here and find some videos of their performances here. Follow the band on Facebook to get updates about their grand adventures and upcoming releases!

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 6:06 pm

Daniel Rodriguez of Elephant Revival is a dreamer. He loves the sun and its giving and giving and giving. And he looks to the new year as a time to be reborn and refinished - new moments to propel yourself toward a brighter future. There's a lot to learn about Rodriguez in this interview, both as a human being and a member of a magnificent Colorado folk band.

GW: What is a change you wish to see in the world?

DR: I wish to see the whole world going to renewable energy. I’d like to see the big gas companies do a big flip-flop and invest in wind and solar energies.

GW: Are there any ways you feel you help contribute to that propelling forward?

DR: No. In fact, I feel I play a part in compromising the atmosphere. I was just thinking about that before you called.

GW: You guys are travelling to Fayetteville (Arkansas) for a New Year’s show – what does the New Year mean to you?

DR: This particular New Year’s we are going to be there with a bunch of Bonnie’s family and friends, so this year it’s about celebrating with them. I always see the winter as dreaming about what the New Year can be. For me, it’s sowing the seeds that will come to fruition throughout the year and kind of coming into a new skin. I always loved that quote by Bob Dylan: “Those who aren’t busy being born are busy dying.” I think the New Year is all about being reborn.

GW: I feel like that creates a good connection with the way your band has realized a rebirth with Sage [Cook] leaving and Charlie [Rose] coming on. What was it like to lose such an integral part of your band?

DR: At first there was so many different kind of emotions. I was sort of thinking: Should we even keep going? Once we all, as a band, decided to keep going I think the emotion varied back and forth from really feeling the loss of Sage – we had come to such a pinnacle of sound at that point – but then also honoring what his decision was and him honoring that we wanted to keep going. We were all thinking about Charlie in that situation and so was he; he said “Why don’t you guys call Charlie?” So it was really a natural progression.

GW: What are some of the things Charlie has brought to your band?

DR: I think immediately he brought a sense of professionality. Previously he was someone who would get hired by big artists who would need that sort of ‘hired gun’ if you will. With us, with the molecule we were with Sage, we were like a family; things were kind of touchy. It was tough to have an artistic vision and speak about it in a secure way. Charlie just plowed right over that. It’s really beautiful that we can speak very frankly about the direction of a song and not feel like you’re walking on eggshells. It’s a shame we didn’t have that before, but I’m really excited that our art has that breath of fresh air. He also, like Sage, plays a gazillion different instruments and he’s really fun to be around.

GW: What’s your favorite instrument that you cannot play?

DR: The pedal steel.

GW: Are there any songs you’ve been playing since the beginning that you really love to play or feel have been reinvented since you started performing them?

DR: There’s a few of our older songs that we continuously play, but I feel like all of our older songs can be reinvented. There’s some of the older songs I’ve personally written that I feel could fit into an R&B or soul vibe. We’re writing so much new stuff that sometimes it’s tough to look back.

GW: How do you feel you, as a musician, have grown?

DR: As a musician within a band I’ve grown in listening to other people’s visions and assimilating it into my own vision. Also, Charlie went through the Berkeley School of Music and was very studied before that – I’d like to think some of that is rubbing off on me. I’ve never taken a guitar lesson and I can’t read music, but I’d like to think I’m getting better in those terms. But mostly just listening – I’m a better listener.

GW: How did your upbringing influence your drive to be a musician?

DR: My brother’s CD collection and my dad’s record collection – you couldn’t get me away from it. I was always stealing my brother’s CDs for a week, and really get to know an album. That was probably the biggest part of my upbringing.

When I got a guitar, whenever something was chaotic and I didn’t understand my emotions, I could pick up my guitar and consolidate all of my emotions into a chord progression and it really felt good. I had an uncle from Argentina [who was] a famous tango singer – he made tango popular in Argentina.

GW: What’s a song you like that stirs up a lot of emotions for you?

DR: It’s a Jose Gonzales tune: Stay Alive. I get goosebumps every time I listen to that.

GW: What’s a recent joyful experience you’ve had?

DR: I’m in Tahlequah, Oklahoma right now – where Bonnie grew up. The day after Christmas the rains just kept coming and coming and coming. There’s a creek right by her dad’s house and it just kept rising and then spilled over into his lawn – the river was 3 feet from his house. It looked like the house was going to get flooded so we evacuated and ended up at Bonnie’s sister’s house. There was this deeper bonding we all felt; everybody was glad to be safe. There was a bottle of really expensive scotch and we all shared it – there was something so joyful that came out of something potentially so tragic.

GW: How does it feel different to play these shows [in Fayetteville and Oklahoma] than shows where maybe you don’t have friends and family who have been there since the beginning?

DR: The backstage area is a really big, joyful party. If you go to a place where we don’t really have any friends and family – other than our fans…we consider them family – we’re back there, just the five of us, being very professional. At these shows we’ll be hanging out and having tons of fun with a bunch of people. Charlie’s parents will be there too and it will be Charlie’s birthday!

GW: What’s a difficult thing about your profession?

DR: One of the things I mentioned earlier was burning so much fossil fuels – it’s an ethical dilemma within me. Another one is not being able to stay in any place longer than a night or two. And not really being able to see your home as much as you want to.

But on the other hand, we’re having so many beautiful experiences. We have potentially more experiences than someone who doesn’t travel as much we do. I don’t take it for granted, but sometimes it’s very difficult.

GW: What’s something you think about a lot?

DR: I think about the nature of reality a lot – I think I think about that all the time. Sometimes it takes me out of conversations – I’m thinking about the social dynamics of what’s going on.

I think about the concepts of quantum physics a lot.

How our thinking effects every walk of our past.

I love songwriting so I’m always thinking about the moment that I’m in – and I’m always seeking the inspiration from that.

Maybe I think too much – I probably do.

GW: Are there any song lyrics or sayings that have stuck with you that you reference a lot?

DR: Definitely. A lot of Bob Dylan’s early stuff really resonates with me. The Times are a Changing is just beautiful front to back; Times of War; everything he wrote early on.

GW: So is Bob Dylan one of those records you listened to a lot?

DR: No, actually it wasn’t until Elephant Revival formed and I was in Nederland. I heard a Dylan record and then I got ahold of this “Live on Halloween” and I fell in love with every single song on that album. You can see through that mid-range harsh voice to the beauty of the songs. He’s one of the greatest.

GW: What are some of your favorite non-musical, non-instrument sounds?

DR: I love water, the ocean – falling asleep to the waves…that’s so good. Rivers running.

I love the sound of stillness in the springtime when you can feel the stillness, hear the birds, feel the intricacies of the wind blowing through the trees.

Silence. Silence is such a good sound too.

I don’t like forks and knives hitting plates, though – that’s my least favorite thing.

GW: How do you feel other people’s music influences your own?

DR: If something gives me goosebumps or a melody really sticks in and if a performer gives me goosebumps I get so inspired by that. That seems to be what my aim is too and why I’m writing. If I’m just kind of messing around and not really inspired I’ll stop playing.

GW: Are there any songs or lyrics you’ve been listening to a lot lately?

DR: I listen to Girl in the War by Josh Ritter a lot. And then of course that Stay Alive by Jose Gonzales. I always love my buddy Gregory Alan Isakov, his album “The Weatherman” was really great. I love Bonnie’s lyrics – those are always striking an E chord within me.

GW: What’s the most honest song you’ve written – whatever honest means to you in this moment.

DR: That’s tough. I feel like I won’t write a song if I’m not being honest. But I think, personally, I said a lot in Birds and Stars. I think I covered the way I feel a lot in that song.

GW: What’s something you’re trying to get better at?

DR: Just being a better person. Not letting my projections of the world get in the way of anybody else’s – especially the ones I love and spend a lot of time around. I want everybody to shine and if I’m ever in the way of that, I don’t want to be. I want to serve people – I want to be a better servant.

GW: What’s something you’re trying to get worse at?

DR: I’m trying to get worse at being a dick.

GW: What about something you’ve learned recently?

DR: Wire recording – that’s how we know about Lead Belly and all the Americana from the Appalachian Mountains. Somehow the stuff was recorded onto wire by…I can’t even say I learned it because I don’t understand it. It sounds so crazy.

GW: What is a piece of advice you’d give your 20-year-old self?

DR: Just keep going buddy. Don’t be swayed by uninspired humanity.

I think I did fine, though. It was all a necessary path. That 20-year-old Daniel Rodriguez…I wouldn’t have ended up here if I didn’t do all the stupid shit.

GW: What’s a song, piece of art or a moment that makes you feel like: FUCK YEAH! Being alive is amazing!

DR: I like the sun. The sun’s so beautiful. Just to think that the sun perpetually gives. It just keeps on giving and giving and giving. It’s this eternal process that just keeps going inward and exploding outward. It gives us the whole function of our reality and gives us electromagnetism so we can walk on the ground; it gives us light so vegetables can grow. Everything from the deep aspect to the very superficial aspect of it…the sun is just a magnificent creation. It’s pretty awesome. I’d like to jump up and down in front of that thing.

GW: What’s a goal you have for 2016?

DR: I really want to get more involved with some of the climate. First of all, I want to get Bernie Sanders in the office. I’d love to get some solar panels somehow and wherever I’m living just take the energy from the sun – that giver! – and make electricity that way. 

I just want to be more loving and more giving in 2016 than I was in 2015.

GW: What are some things with the band you’re looking forward to the most?

DR: Well, we have an amazing schedule coming up some I’m looking forward to having safe travels and great shows; and a bunch of creativity among all of us. I just really want to be inspiring and inspired, and play some really awesome shows.

Fri, 03/25/2016 - 10:19 am

In anticipation of the April 1 release of Elephant Revival’s new album, Petals, Grateful Web chatted with Bonnie Paine to learn more about the production of the album, the band’s future and Bonnie’s dreams for her own future.

Beautiful and inspiring as ever, Petals is an album you won’t want to miss. And maybe with this interview you can listen to it more deeply and with a better understanding of how it all came together.

GW: How was the creation of this album different than your last?

BP: It has a very different feel to me. There’s some edgier elements, like rock; and there’s some more delicate sides to it that are more sparse and stripped down. It has a broad spectrum. It’s our first time to use pedal steel, which Charlie plays. And I’m playing a lot of cello; and our first time to use any kind of drum besides hand drums. We’re very excited about it.

GW: Last time I interviewed you, you mentioned you were trying to learn to play the cello better. How’s that going for you?

BP: It’s nice to have a melodic instrument to convey songs with. It’s fun to be able to impart melodic ideas more easily. It’s the most similar to the human voice supposedly…it’s like singing with somebody.

GW: Do you feel like learning to play the cello has taught you anything about how you can play your other instruments differently?

BP: Yes – I do! I think trying out a different instrument opens your ears a little bit – you end up hearing and tuning into things differently. I hear more dynamic swells that the cello is more capable of, and it has different kinds of punctuation than I would have had had I been performing with the washboard, djembe or saw. The saw is kind of the opposite of the washboard – but you can do a lot of rhythmic stuff with the cello and a lot of swelling so it’s a combination of the [washboard and saw].

GW: What’s the most difficult song for you to play on Petals?

BP: Right now, the very first song on the album (“Hello You Who”) because I’m still getting comfortable playing the cello in front of people. Starting out with picks and then grabbing the bow in the middle of it, that’s been one of the bigger challenges. “Furthest Shore” is another cello song that, as a band, has been hard to incorporate because there’s a percussive breakdown with a lot of interlocking polyrhythms we recorded that’s hard to reenact.

GW: So have you guys not performed [“Furthest Shore”] live yet?

BP: We played it at the Ogden Theater in Denver one night and our bus driver came up and did the polyrhythm on the cowbell, which helped a lot. Not only is he a great bus driver, he’s a great drummer and amazing friend.

GW: Is there another folk tale you want to turn into a song?

BP: That song is part of a whole bunch of songs that started with “Currach.” It’s eventually going to be an acrobatic ballet with a symphony. In the song “Currach” there’s a boy who ends up getting washed away to sea and that song, “Furthest Shore,” is when he grows up to be a man and is retelling where he’s been; he ends up on a slave ship that’s overthrown the masters and they go on all these adventures.

GW: You often perform with acrobatics at your shows – how do you feel like that changes your performance, if at all?

BP: It’s pretty enthralling – it’s like seeing another dimension of the music come alive. I was a gymnast for a while, Bridget was a ballerina so it’s a way to kind of keep that dream alive. I feel like it brings a whole other depth to the experience of music in general. We’re about to have some rehearsals with them for Red Rocks – it’s going to be a pretty big production. I’m really excited about what we’re planning.

GW: Do you and Bridget help choreograph these or do you let the artists interpret your music as-is?

BP: We let them interpret it. They’re amazing at choreographing so I wouldn’t want to get in the way of that. Mostly it’s performers from a group called Fractal Tribe out of Colorado.

GW: Do you have a favorite song to play from Petals?

BP: “Season Song” is one of my favorite songs. It’s a very stripped-down song and it just always feels so sweet when we play it. It’s not a super climactic rock song or anything, but it’s one of the songs I get right inside of. I love all the imagery that Dan has written in it.

GW: I think it’s a very unique song. The story you’re telling there is one I think a lot of people have told, but you all do it in a beautiful way and very uniquely as well.

“Petals” is a song you wrote a long time ago for a band you’re in with your sisters, right?

BP: Yeah, it’s been around for a while but it’s just now been incorporated into Elephant Revival. The band was asking about it so we tried it out and ended up having a really good time with it.

GW: How would you describe the changes in your sound since Charlie has joined the band?

BP: There are definitely a lot more rock elements with Charlie’s electrified sound. He plays around with his amps, with the pedal steel and there’s the electric guitar solo at the end of “On and On”. On the other side of that, I feel like there’s a lot more sparsity at times. We just worked up this group acapella where we all just huddle around one mic and just sing and snap. So there’s that dynamic, too, that feels very vulnerable, but we’re really enjoying it also.

GW: What’s a sound you can make with your body that you really enjoy making – that’s not just singing?

BP: That’s an interesting question – I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that. There’s kind of a snap thing that I like to do with my first and middle finger – as your fingers come back up after going down they make a sound going down and up so you can get more rhythms out of it.

GW: I also noticed that on this album in particular your words weave themselves very closely together. In your songwriting, what are some word use techniques you enjoy incorporating into your writing?

BP: I generally will find a melody first – and then once I can hear that melody whether it’s from a birdsong, a pattern in the river, a fan, a dryer going or even the hum of the motor of a car. I’ll find a melody out of that sometimes and try to hear the shapes of words that can fit in and try to find some words that fit those shapes to give the song a rhythmic momentum.

GW: There’s a lyric on “Home in Your Heart” that says: No one said this would be easy now / But you gotta keep moving somehow – what keeps you moving?

BP: Swimming in clean water is a big one. That’s one of my goals on tour to find clean water to swim in or just sit by. And having people you love in your life is, of course, inspirational and nice. Doing yoga in the mornings, not to be cliché, definitely helps me with basic energy every day. And music! I love music. Any expression of art gives meaning of life to me.

GW: What does it feel like to release an album?

BP: It feels kind of like a relief in some ways, and it’s exciting. It can be scary if you’re worried about what people will think but that’s a temporary thing and becomes not a big deal after a while. My mom always says nervousness is just misplaced excitement. It’s exciting to share something you’ve put a lot into as a group. To collaborate with any piece of art is a dance and it takes a lot of dedication and focus. We’re really, really excited about this album and we’re really excited to see how people experience it.

GW: What’s something you learned during the creation of this album?

BP: I learned a lot about the cello; there’s always lessons of listening in different forms when you record an album. Whether it’s listening to the music differently or learning how a different rhythm could bring out something in the song rather than the first rhythm you thought you might lay down.

There’s an element of space I might have gathered from this album. Sam Kassirer’s approach to percussion was really fun to work with because he has a tendency to focus more on the space between the rhythms so more things can pop out. You give a stronger structure to the song in a way the other instruments can dance in between. You’ve gotta grow a little bit or bust – to find that flexibility to just listen to each other on a different level.

GW: Are there any songs you are wanting to learn to play?

BP: Oh yeah, always. My mom just sent me a message yesterday that said “Not to impose, but would you like to learn to play Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’?” She’s a vocal gymnast so that was fun to play around with that. She was a big influence; [I grew up with] my mom singing Joni Mitchell. I would love to be able to play a Mozart song on the cello if I could.

And as far as writing, just maybe to bring some kind of environmental awareness without preaching it is always part of the goal. To be able to communicate something that feels important to me in a way that people can actually hear…in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re being told what to do. Just bringing a feeling of awareness and connectedness to the land we get to live within.

GW: What about a song you still love to play after many years?

BP: I like playing “Ring Around the Moon” still. After a year of us being together and people requested it almost every night I wondered what would happen if I ever got tired of playing it – that could be kind of difficult. But I never have, I think there’s an opening in that song for me with imagery where I feel like the audience is different every night and it helps the song be different every night. I find that with “Sing to the Mountain” and “Single Beds”, I love playing. I still love playing “Jet Lag Blues” and “Drop”, playing the drum part is really fun for me.

GW: Name a song you loved during your teenage years.

BP: I liked Fiona Apple a lot, and Tracy Chapman. I had a bunch of Mozart albums I listened to pretty much every evening when I was doing my homework. I had kind of an outdated collection I listened to because my dad has this amazing record collection that I recorded tapes of with Otis Redding, Billie Holiday and Little Feet.

My stepdad one day brought me Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam albums and said “I just got these for you because it would be good for you to listen to music other kids your age are listening to.” It never even occurred to me, so that was a different kind of journey.

How about you?

GW: Gosh. I listened to a lot of country music – I grew up in Kansas. So I listened to a lot of those story songs, and I really liked Garth Brooks.

BP: Oh yeah, he was from Tulsa, Oklahoma, right? He used to play with my mentor growing up, Randy Crouch. They would have little jams together back then.

There’s a lot of good music in Kansas, too. I have a good friend named Allison Olassa out there, who’s one of my favorite musicians. Sometimes it’s hard to get out of Kansas – there’s this great mecca of music that I want people to hear out there.

GW: What’s something that’s been on your mind lately?

BP: This music video has been on my mind. I’m trying to visualize it – we have so many artist’s perspectives coming together. Laura Goldhammer is kind of spearheading the whole thing and she’s made amazing music videos. And my cousin Leslie is a phenomenal artist – she makes everything in the scene and then she paints it, so that will be part of the video.

My friend Bailey is also a great artist and an adventurer who’s ridden wild horses across Mexico and Mongolia is going to come and help out. And then our friend Michelle will come do the photography of it all because it’s going to be mostly stop motion. It will be very interesting to see all these perspectives weave together.

GW: How would you describe what this video will be like?

BP: The idea is to portray recognizing how we identify ourselves and how we relate to the world, which is a pretty abstract thing to start with.

There’s going to be some really interesting scenes. There’s going to be this ballroom scene in the middle that Laura’s really excited about. I can tell you how it starts: There will be a person looking into the mirror and that will be where the fantastical world is that my cousin has built. That fantastical world turns into a painting of a ballroom and there’s this wild dance in the middle of the song. It’s really hard to explain now that you ask.

So far everything they’ve made is so beautiful – it’s beyond what I had imagined.

GW: What’s something you want to do more of?

BP: I always want more nature adventures on the road – that’s a constant priority that’s hard to attain when you’re touring musicians. That’s more of my natural element than the touring lifestyle, but I’m grateful for all we get to do and see. It’s nice to have the stillness you can get from non-structure areas. And to see more family and people you love. Maybe grow a garden someday.

Other than that, to continue in the direction we’re going. I love all these places we get to play – beautiful theaters which are really fun because the sound is so strong in there. To see all these big halls reverberating, more of that would be good.

GW: What about something you’d like to do less of?

BP: Driving through the night. *laughs* But I’m grateful we have the potential to do that if we need to. Maybe doubt less – how to doubt less but still keep an open mind for potential.

GW: What’s a dream that you have for the band’s future?

BP: I would like to have a kind of music festival called The Art of All Forms. We have such an amazing community of artists that we’re part of and have it be a foundation to express whatever they’re doing as an art form. Even have the art of growing food, and cooking food, the art of sustainable living, the art of homeopathic medicine, the art of dancing, the art of communication. Just to have all of these workshops and everything people do that they feel passionate about could be represented as an art form.

Sometimes I think it’s hard for people to recognize that they are a type of artist, even if they aren’t a musician or a painter. What you’re doing is a neat form of art. It empowers people and helps break down the boundaries of what they’re doing when they approach it as an art.

We’ll probably have our first one of those in Colorado. Eventually I would love to go on a train through the U.S. and Canada, and document that whole adventure. Say we had a few stops across the country –  we’d reach out to artists from that area to have an opportunity to highlight and bring recognition to their community that these people exist.

If you’re curious about non-violent communication or a different approach to psychiatry, to help bring awareness to resources they have that might resonate more with people and how they eat, live or connect with family.

GW: As you were saying all of these things I was thinking of other forms of art that you didn’t mention. One of them is, when you said non-violent communication, there is a Tibetan Buddhist Geshe who lives here [in Fayetteville] and brings in monks who create sand mandalas. And I also thought of midwives – bringing children into the world as a form of art.

BP: I want to be a midwife someday – I think that is a very important art form. It’s immensely huge right now. Even if a person can’t have a midwife, just to have a doula can be such a beautiful part of the process.

I’ve always wanted to have a group called The Singing Doulas where we learn birth songs from around the world and get to sing during birth. I got to sing at my first birth last January – it was so amazing. I actually sang at my friend’s funeral just two days before, and I sang to her right before she passed. And then two days later my friend gave birth and asked me to come sing there. It was a neat dynamic to go from singing at a death to a birth – very impactful for me.

It’s hard to find birth songs. In case a person does end up in a hospital or unfamiliar setting that feels sterile for their birth, songs can bring you to a sense of familiarity and ground you. Help you feel connected when you are about to give birth.

GW: My next question was going to be: What’s a dream you have for your future in general? Sounds like you told me a few of those already.

BP: That’s definitely a big one; I think the way people are introduced to the world is very important. For people to feel welcomed right away is huge. I’ve witnessed a couple births in a hospital; one where the child, as soon as he came out, was wrapped up in a blanket to where his arms couldn’t move and they stuck a needle in his foot and squished this antiseptic in his eyes. It was devastating to see this little person…that was their introduction – it’s hard on a person.

GW: I wonder what small things about somebody’s brain or attitude – if things like that really do affect a person.

BP: I definitely think they do, and people underestimate that. I think there’s an idea for children and babies that they’ll just black that out. I think people really underestimate how important it is to be embraced when you come out of such a cozy little place and just worked so hard to get out of it. I would like to encourage people to take that moment, right when a child is born, to hold them.

GW: It’s like when somebody stops hugging you before you’re ready for it to end – it can be shocking.

BP: Yeah, or showing up in a place that is completely different than anything you’re familiar with. How would you want to be received into that element that is familiar?

That is definitely a big, big dream: to learn birth songs from around the world. And maybe to do the traveling it takes to find those. And also the ballet thing, the Currach story I was telling you about. I know a lot of neat dancers and performers that could help it become a really neat, neat show.

GW: It’s been awesome speaking with you – I’m glad you could give me lots of things to think about! Do you have any announcements about the band you want people to know about?

BP: We’ll be headlining Red Rocks! It’s our first time to headline Red Rocks and we’re really, really excited. With Josh Ritter and Rising Appalachia on May 22nd. And the aerial performances are going to be really neat, they’re building contraptions that we can rig to make it very special.

Wed, 06/15/2016 - 7:07 pm

In a matter of days, old fans and new visitors will flock to a hidden gem within the beautiful Ozark Mountains. Deadhead Productions will be hosting a fantastic selection of bluegrass, jam and folk bands over Fourth of July weekend on Arkansas’ Mulberry Mountain. The festival will feature big names like Yonder Mountain String Band (YMSB), Keller Williams and Buckethead. Musicians will take the stage nestled in a valley between lush, green hillsides. If you go you’ll experience the true beauty of a wide-open terrain and the sounds of some of the most-renowned bands in their genres.

Starting on June 30 at 8  am, crowds of friends, families and press will settle into their camping spots and set up for a weekend of family-friendly adventure. The sun will be shining – and so will all the attendees. Camping is included with tickets, so you can save some cash to help support local charities represented at the festival, buy delicious vendor food or support local artists and vendors.

One of the most-anticipated musicians on the lineup is Buckethead, appearing onstage for the first time since 2012. The incredibly prolific and talented instrumentalist has released over 260 studio albums in his time as a musician. He’s best known for his intricate finger-picking and shredding. Let’s hope he graces the stage with other bands – maybe YMSB or even Wookiefoot. There will be no shortage of audience members at this show, considering Buckethead’s wide pull of fans and enigmatic allure.

Another interesting set of musicians will be Yonder Mountain String Band and Jeff Austin’s new group. For those who don’t know, Jeff Austin was previously a member of YMSB. Perhaps we’ll see some collaboration between the two, or at least hear a few songs from the old days of YMSB. Both bands have gained notoriety since the split, and I’ve seen Austin’s band on many lineups for festivals and tours lately.

A set I always look forward to seeing is Spoonfed Tribe. Their shows are consistently fun and technically masterful, with a unique selection of instruments including the flute. Every time I see them on a lineup, I’m reminded of a set of theirs I once saw in which a member of the band set a marching-style bass drum on fire and proceeded to play it. It was enthralling and absurd in a great way.

If you’re looking for more than just music, you’ll find excellent hiking to a waterfall or river, with a free shuttle to the river every day. You can interact and visit the various art exhibits set up throughout the venue, and participate in workshops for adults and children alike. Workshops include a variety of yoga classes, meditation sessions, hair wrapping, tie-dye, juggling and much more. Not only can you enjoy a weekend of great music and friendly faces, but you have the opportunity to learn a lot in the process!

An interesting foundation of this festival is Deadhead Productions’ belief that all music fans are equal, meaning there are no VIP passes. With the ‘free-range fans’ model, guests can choose where they c amp on the grounds, with no expensive reserved spots besides a sold-out selection of RV reserved sites. Camp with friends and family without having to all invest in high-priced tickets, and choose your distance from the stage – whether it’s up close and personal or a gentle distance from all the noise.

Fulfilling a great need for fantastic music festivals in one of the most centrally located parts of the United States, Highberry fits the bill and Deadhead Productions is guaranteed to pull it off smoothly. The wide-open expanse of nature will have you breathing better and brighter; and the great lineup will ensure you get to see your favorite bands and discover some new ones.

Visit the festival’s website to buy tickets and check out all the weekend has to offer.

Tue, 07/12/2016 - 8:27 am

Festival season is going strong and that means week after week of bringing together great lineups and beautiful venues. One such event takes place July 21 – 23, 2016, at Byrd’s Adventure Center along the Mulberry River in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Situated nearby Mulberry Mountain of Wakarusa and Harvest Music Festival fame, the Homegrown Music Festival is sure to be a wonderful weekend with a foundation of sustainability. Headliners include The Wood Brothers, Leftover Salmon, Earphunk and many more fantastic bluegrass, folk and jam bands.

Gracing the main stage on Thursday night will be Grazzhopper, Hog Magundy, Big Still River, The Squarshers, Grandpa’s Cough Medicine and Tall Tall Trees. Each band has a unique take on bluegrass. There’s Grazzhopper’s jazz-inspired bluegrass; Hog Magundy’s high-energy foot-stomping strings; Big Still River brings traditional bluegrass twang; The Squarshers with fantastic bluegrass covers that’ll leave you dancing whether you want to or not; Grandpa’s Cough Medicine with their trio of power grass players and sublime lyrics; and Tall Tall Trees’ renowned psychedelic, experimental banjo set.

On Friday, you’ll find a great lineup that includes Outlaw Hippies, Earphunk, Leftover Salmon and Arkansauce. Saturday ends the festival with a fantastic bluegrass and folk selection. From one-man band Dance, Monkey, Dance! with its grimy, punctuated style starting off the lineup to ever-popular The Wood Brothers. Sandwiched in between are the four-piece Henhouse Prowlers and Town Mountain, famous for their fantastic cover Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire.

One of my favorite things about smaller festivals is the small amount of bands. Sure, you don’t have the extreme variety of bigger fests like Bonnaroo or even ShoeFest, but you get the opportunity to instead see almost every band without having to make tough choices.

With a major goal of being one of the nation’s top ‘leave no trace’ festivals, Homegrown Music Festival is going to great lengths to ensure a thread of sustainability throughout the festival. According to Hannah Withers, a major contributor in the execution of the festival, Homegrown Music Festival (#HGMF, for those who hashtag) will be the second fully sustainable music festival in the country. Vendors must provide food using no single-use plastic disposables and recycling is a major component of the festival’s efforts. In a fantastic show of their efforts, the festival will not print any schedules or maps on paper and will instead print maps on a reusable canvas bag provided to each ticketholder; schedules are available online as a downloadable PDF. Plus, each ticketholder will receive a bamboo spoon/fork utensil (not a spork, thank god!) they can utilize during the festival and for years afterward.

As for activities at the festival, a Fayetteville grocery store Ozark Natural Foods will provide a pop-up farmer’s market each day of the festival. Not only can you lighten your load by buying fresh foods rather than bringing them, but attendees will be supporting area farmers and businesses. HGMF has a number of local sponsors, including local breweries, food vendors, businesses and non-profits, making this a truly community-centered festival. Kids and adults alike can create crafts with recycled art materials provided by local organization Art Feeds.

This family-friendly festival along the beautiful Mulberry River will surely have a big impact on the festival scene this year, and a small impact on our carbon footprint – something I think we can all get behind. If you haven’t ever been to Arkansas, this is certainly a great first experience. And if you’re used to the greatness of Mulberry Mountain and all it offers, imagine the joy of being near water during the hottest parts of the day, music floating through the leaves and rustling our hearts.

Tickets can be purchased here or at northwest Arkansas area businesses.

Tue, 07/19/2016 - 3:08 pm

With the release of their latest album, A Riddle for You, The DuPont Brothers shine a light on personal growth – theirs, yours, a community’s. With a grander sound than their last release, an acoustic album, the duo presents bigger ideas and shows growth lyrically and musically. With the help of producer Michael Chorney and a handful of guest musicians, A Riddle for You accomplishes the great feat of bringing the listener closer to discovering their own purpose and vision.

GW: How has the tour been going so far? Any memorable moments? 

Zack: Tour is a time we always look forward to. It’s a chance for us to play in front of fresh faces and ears in new markets and continue to build momentum in the towns we’ve been returning to. Our new album is our finest work to date and our live set is in a really fiery place emotionally and sonically. We were prepped to hit the road with a lot of confidence. A stand out night on this past tour was a Nashville showcase at The Basement. We walked into a room filled with people who have never seen us and were shown nothing but serious love for the songs and performance. Being graciously accepted by one of the most notorious music industry-based and songwriting-centric cities in the country felt incredibly rewarding. We’re looking forward to returning to Nashville in the fall once our vinyl is released.

GW: On A Riddle for You you talk about people never leaving a town – are you speaking about a specific place or just the idea of the ‘small-town stickaround’?

Zack: Ah yes. The line is in the first track called “Hand Me Down Reasons”. The song’s theme revolves around the idea of staying true to yourself as an artist while facing the realities of the trade. “Waking in circles putting money down. It’s no wonder that people never left this town. It’s in their veins.” I’m digging into what it’s like for an independent act to branch out of their hometown while also honoring and never forgetting the importance of community at home base. It’s always a balancing act when transitioning from being a local band to a touring act. Burlington, VT has been a crucial scene in developing our musical maturity. Our artistic family, local bands, publications, radio, talent buyers, etc. have played a huge part in our evolution as a band. We owe a lot to our hometown and don’t ever want to forget it. 

GW: Musically, what have you done differently with this album than your last?

Zack: This album was a fueled by the kindred spirit of collaboration with us, our producer Michael Chorney and the musicians who put their innovative stamps on the album. We took what we did on our last record, a self-produced acoustic duo album, and enhanced it with new minds and approaches. That’s what the future holds for us. Sharing our songs with other artists just feels right. It’s opened up a really strong avenue of creative direction and we are not looking back for the time being. 

GW: Which song is the most personal on your new album?

Zack: They are all personal numbers and are meant to evoke the inner thoughts and emotions of the listener. The vulnerability comes from our writing styles. Both Sam and I lean deeply on our intuitions of the human experience when crafting a tune. Some are about personal accounts and experiences, while a few tell the story of other people’s lives and journeys or even take on a character roll at times. We both have to believe in what sparks the song to come forward in order to write, which makes each tune very true to itself. 

GW: Which song is the most fun to play?

Zack: Oh man… To be honest we write so many songs that the new stuff is always the most fun! But of this particular batch, I really don’t have a favorite. They all bring out different sides of the writing so it keeps things current. I love the dynamic range and harmonic challenges of “Trespassers” the same as I LOVE opening up a grand finale style number like “The Arbor”. It really depends on the scene at the show. We always try to play to the room as best we can. 

GW: What’s an instrument you want to learn how to play?

Zack: I’ve always been partial to the drums. It’s just such a cool role to have in the band and a truly physical instrument. The major deterrent is the setup and breakdown process. I always think I want to play drums until I’m helping a drummer move a bunch of hunks of metal and wood on and off stage! 

GW: Are there any new musical techniques or styles you are trying to learn?

Zack: I’ve been going in for some more slide work recently. After playing with Blake Mills and always being a big Ry Cooder fan, I felt inspired to pick it up. You need such a light touch to get a nice quality note and it opens a door for another texture in the music. It’s hauntingly similar to the sound of the human voice. I’m doing my best at getting more comfortable at it and am enjoying a new challenge on an instrument I’ve been working on since a very young age. 

GW: What’s something you’re trying to get better at?

Zack: Patience… HAHAHA. Patience with my brother, myself, the people I love and within the lifestyle of a budding artist. An infinite lesson that I’m chipping away at. The more we do this, the more we understand that longevity is the key to success. It takes time to grow a band but if you’re not growing as a person you will always hit the wall. 

GW: What’s a dream you have for the band?

Zack: The dream is to continue to be realistic in what we’re doing to nurture a long-lasting and sustainable career path. The trip is not to be on TV, magazine covers or become a household name, although we certainly would honor either of those opportunities if they presented themselves to us. It’s about figuring out who we are as people and artists within the songs and helping other people relate and emote through our music. Healing, growing and learning are all tools that we have to influence our own lives in tandem with our appreciators. That shared connection is the most humbling aspect of what we do. We want to continue to work hard at what we believe in for the right reasons.

GW: You mentioned in another interview that these might be some of your most personal songs to date – can you expand on one of your songs and the story behind it?

Sam: My brother and I have always drawn from places of experience within our writing. Each tune dives deep into personal concepts, ideas, stories and observations derived from growth and the human condition. The hope is that the experience or subject matter within each song is relatable to those who choose to dig into the material. For example, “Greens and Yellows” is personally very specific. It's more or less a breakup song. But, if the focus is shifted from my own experience to the experience of the listener, different connections could be drawn. The wider ideas in the tune cover ground around loss, powerlessness and acceptance. There's a lot of room for interpretation. Perspective can make all the difference – that is just one of the many wonders of songwriting I suppose.

GW: Being so much more of a personal album, was it difficult to record or write the material? What was that experience like?

Sam: Songwriting has always been a very healing and cathartic practice for me, I use it to sift through and process my experience. I was actually very comfortable recording these songs in their complete form. Zack and I had toured on the batch of tunes a handful of times before tracking, so they all had their time to settle into themselves. The initial tracking went smoother on this album than any other project I have ever been a part of. We had keeper takes of each song by the end of day two. 

GW: ‘Ben’s Song’ seems very personal – is that the story of somebody you knew/know? It’s a beautiful song – I love the line ‘Survival suits you.’

Sam: Ben’s song is about a family member who has had a very rough time with medical issues since early in life. Survival has been the name of the game for him and at times has been his closest friend. It’s a heavy song for us and we can’t really play it every night. It's mutually important for us to keep the tune fresh. 

GW: Is ‘Trespassers’ a story based in truth? What’s the story being told there?

Sam: Trespassers is in fact comprised of all true accounts! It’s a compilation of ghost encounters and paranormal experiences I have had and heard of over the years. There are actually three separate stories in the tune. The first is from my mother, the second from a dear friend out in Arizona and the third from yours truly. They are all very literal accounts. 

GW: It seems like this new album has a lot to do with becoming who you are – how has that process gone for both/either of you?

Sam: Real growth always seems to be challenging, no matter what it revolves around. Growing a fledgling band on the road is a unique circumstance with its own specific set of challenges. It’s something that certainly takes adjustment and time and shows you exactly who you are in the eyes of new people each night. I’ll go out on a limb and say that growing “The DuPont Brothers” has been equally challenging and eye-opening for both of us. This band has been a vehicle of self reflection like nothing else ever has. It’s forced us to examine ourselves and our band in equal proportion and in turn, has made us better humans and musicians as a result.  

GW: What’s something you learned during the creation of A Riddle for You?

Sam: My main lesson during A Riddle for You was the importance of positivity and spur of the moment creative expression in the studio. Michael did such an amazing job of bringing the best out of my brother and I. The creation of A Riddle for You is a capsule in time that I will always value and cherish. The session revolved around deep trust in one another; we’re absolutely going to carry that trust into many records to come.

How does playing music help you grow and become a better person?

Sam: I’ve always believed that on a very core level, music is bigger than the musician. It is participation in something greater than yourself and that alone can be profound. It’s the feeling of connection that has always healed me. Connection to the audience, to the other musicians onstage, to musicians that have influenced us, or even complete strangers. The songs are all gifts, but the real gift is feeling others connect to them. Feeling that connection has made me a happier, healthier and more self aware person.  

GW: What’s a talent you have outside of musical ability?

Sam: Zack and I both play a mean racquetball and I hold a purple belt in Hiraido Jiu Jitsu (although I haven’t trained in about 3 years… It’s not exactly easy on the hands). We’re both also pretty good at soccer and video games.  

GW: What’s a dream you have for yourselves?

Sam: My real dream for us is that our songs continue to impact people in a positive way on a wider and wider scale as time goes on. It’s important for us to have realistic goals, it’s not about “blowing up” or “breaking out” as much as it is about just putting in the time to have this band continue to sustain itself and its members while continuing to grow in quality and outreach. We both do this first and foremost because we love it more than anything else. The hope is that the songs get heard and understood while we do our best to share them in any way we can.

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 8:46 pm

There is so much good that went down at the inaugural Homegrown Music Festival in Ozark, Arkansas. Innovative sustainability efforts, great music and beautiful landscape combined to create one of the most memorable festivals I’ve been to yet. (Plus, free actual bathrooms and showers!) Though relatively small, Homegrown made a big impact on just about everybody who attended. Since its end, I’ve heard countless tales of how much fun folks had – and how much respect they felt for the organizers’ efforts to produce a low-waste, renewable event. Among the 1,400 or so ticket-holders 2,500 pounds of material were recycled!

The organizers wanted to create this festival because they love music fests but hate the trash and negative impact festivals so often have on the land and environment, according to some interviews with organizers I read. Homegrown wanted to not only bring great music to these beautiful Ozark mountains, but to drive conscious consumption as well. Drinks were served in the stainless steel cup every attendee received; plates and utensils were washed by volunteers at the easily accessible dishwashing station; recycling opportunities were readily available throughout the venue; and throughout the weekend volunteers biked from campsite to campsite, offering to dump campers’ trash and recycling. All of these efforts culminated to create the cleanest festival I have ever been to. Notably, after the final set of the weekend, there was no trash visible at the main stage.

The stage was powered by solar energy and each band I saw was vocal about praising the efforts of the festival organizers and attendees. We were all in this together – and the bands joined in on the fun. Taakra band member Enion Pelta-Teller claimed Homegrown to be the best efforts in sustainability and the most well-run inaugural festival she has seen. Oliver Wood (The Wood Brothers) praised organizers for their enormous efforts and congratulated everybody on helping to achieve that dream. 

Of course, the music was fantastic as well. Starting on Thursday, I saw local bluegrass bands Big Still River and The Squarshers. Grandpa’s Cough Medicine was the last show I saw that night. They presented a dynamic, fairly traditional bluegrass set. However, with a twinge of darkness in the lyrics and Brett Bass’ award-winning flat-picking, their set really stood out. All three groups brought a different sound and energy to their sets and carried the crowd into the night despite the unrelenting heat.

Friday found us all sweating and, thus, swimming from sun up to past sundown. The Picking Tent was in full swing with amazing sets and collaborations. My two favorite sets of the day were NPR’s Singled Out with Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, where we learned a lot about the band’s influences and heard what drives them individually. There were individual songs from each member, including the song that won Bass the top spot in the 2015 Rockygrass flat-picking competition. The band played “Crooked Cop” which was well received by the audience. Also on the Picking Tent on Friday was a topic I love discussing: death. Musicians David Pelta-Teller (Taarka), Dana Louise (Glorious Birds) and Sage Cook (We Dream Dawn) performed together and individually, addressing the topic and all everything that surrounds it (which is, indeed, everything). Death Becomes Us was a special moment for us, and I was so happy to be able to get to know these musicians in a much more intimate way.

The second day of the festival also featured banjo duo (yes, a band with just two banjos) The Lowest Pair. Musician Kendl Winter’s unique voice (likened to the sound of Anais Mitchell) balanced perfectly with the low tone of Palmer Lee’s. Together the duo rocked the stage with beats and melodies only two banjos could create. Keep an eye out for an upcoming interview with the band.

Entering into the evening Taarka graced the stage and gave everybody an energetic, beautiful, jazzy set. It’s clear the members are well trained, which was particularly clear in Enion’s style. There’s a soft, learned style to her fiddling. With their full, swelling sound they offered the audience an instrumental depicting the experience of crossing the Rocky Mountains. Taarka is slowly becoming a favorite of mine, not only is their music rooted in traditional sounds but the band appreciates other cultures and attempts to bring that into their sound. Following Taarka was Earphunk, a favorite for many of the folks I spoke with throughout the weekend. The band was animated and energetic despite the incredible heat of the day.

Second-to-last on Friday night was a great set from Leftover Salmon. The band drew in a big crowd and the audience danced and sang along to the many familiar tunes. Leftover Salmon covered a favorite of just about everyone, John Hartford’s “Get No Better”, making Leftover Salmon the second band to honor Hartford, as The Lowest Pair gets their name from a poem by Hartford. Closing out the night was the first of two sets from Fayetteville, AR band Arkansauce. They presented a lower-energy set than I initially expected, but after their performance on the last night of the festival it was clear they were saving the best for last.

Saturday was the final day of the festival – also a great treat so all those business professionals could rest up on Sunday before returning to work on Monday. The first set I saw was from Hen House Prowlers. Another diverse band with traditional bluegrass roots, the Prowlers often circled around a single mic and moved about the stage as bluegrass bands are known to do. The band sang a variety of songs, including an Arabic tune for which they had to learn the difficult pronunciation of the language to perform, truly doing the song justice and respecting the culture from which it came. Plus, I’ve never heard an Arabic song with a bluegrass twist, although as a friend pointed out Delhi 2 Dublin also somewhat falls into that bucket.

Following the Prowlers was the highly anticipated group Town Mountain. Although I’ve been to many festivals that featured this band, I’d never seen them. What a mistake that has been! The North Carolina group played their excellent cover of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” and played a fun set that lured more and more folks to the main stage as their set drew on. After Town Mountain’s set, the crowd was eager for more music. Luckily, headliner The Wood Brothers was up next. Attendees began filing onto the grass, nearly filling up the area with folks from babies to, shall we say, seasoned concert-goers. The group tore it up, bringing out the shitaur, upright bass jams and intensely awesome showcases from each band member. The Wood Brothers seemed almost unlikely to leave the stage as their set neared its end, and the audience didn’t want them to go either. Their set was memorable and intimate, from the crowd sing-alongs to a wide array of crowd favorites (“The Luckiest Man”, “Postcards from Hell” and “Shoofly Pie” to name a few). Indeed, The Wood Brothers took the stage and immediately after took our hearts, especially when they strummed an absolutely beautiful version of “The Muse”.

Closing out the weekend was Arkansauce’s second set. The high-energy performance had a last hurrah feel to it. We all knew we’d have to go back to the real world soon and nobody was ready to shut it down just yet. So the band played on. They drove us to dance and stomp and smile and cry. They gave it their all and we did too. The organizers of the fest were out there with us, enjoying the fruits of their great, great labor.

Other notable bands I saw were Jamie Lou and the Hullabaloo, Outlaw Hippies, Dance, Monkey, Dance!, and Tall Tall Trees. Notable amenities and events include free bathrooms and showers, filtered water, a river directly beside the venue, kid’s creativity tent with scheduled activities, kid’s dance floor, educational classes and activities (herbal apothecary, yoga, edible plants hike, Ozark Highlands Trail hike, etc.).

What an absolutely above-average weekend we all had. I can’t wait for the next year, and the one after that. With more recognition of this sustainable event – and the ever-growing need for them – we’ll get an even better opportunity to contribute to improving our little world while enjoying some of the best bluegrass, folk and jam our region has to offer. If you’re even just barely thinking of attending next year, I highly encourage it.

Check out more photos from Homegrown Music Festival.

Mon, 08/29/2016 - 4:53 pm

During the hot, humid days at Homegrown Music Festival along the Mulberry River in Arkansas, Grateful Web got the extreme pleasure of chilling out on the river for an interview with banjo duo The Lowest Pair. Palmer Lee recited a poem, Kendl Winter spoke about her creativity style, and we discussed their inspirations and collaboration styles.

GW: How was your journey today? It’s kind of out of the way but a beautiful place, right?

PL: Yeah, we were just in Conway (Arkansas) last night.

KW: We were in my hometown last night.

GW: If you guys weren’t musicians what do you think a different career for you would be?

PL: Garlic farmer.

KW: I’d probably be a ranger; try to figure out how to go stay in a cabin.

GW: That’s awesome! You could do trail maintenance or something like that.

KW: Yeah, count birds…

GW: Do you like birds?

KW: I like birds! I like just a reason to be outside for some time.

GW: Do you have a favorite bird?

KW: I feel lucky when I see bluebirds.

PL: ...bluebirds, magpies, loons, swallows.

GW: How long have you guys been a band together?

KW/PL: Three years

GW: What’s the progression of your band been like – what have you been through? How have you changed?

PL: I think we’re always dreaming about what the next thing is going to be. But we’re touring almost constantly so it makes it hard to go back and hash out these dreams. We’re trying to get ourselves out of debt, as it goes with a startup. So we’re kind of on a cash diet – these things limit our aspirations a little bit. But we have dreams of putting together different types of outfits and doing unique records with string bands, rock bands, country bands…and being able to tour those records.

KW: Over the three years it’s been neat because we came together as songwriters out of string bands. I was working on a solo project and we met up under that “let’s see what happens when we play together.” It’s been really neat, as two songwriters, having a vehicle to share our songs. And over the last couple of years we’ve collaborated a bunch and written together. Or I’ll write a song that Palmer will sing – it’s neat to hear your tune with somebody else.

We’ve started adding more guitar as well. We’re both banjo players primarily, but we’re both aspiring guitar players. I like a little low end – I have a high voice and with the banjo it’s nice to get that bottom level covered. We’ve been exploring added percussion and harmonica during the last year.

GW: What’s something that each of you has learned from the other person about music or writing?

KW: Intention. Palmer is very methodical and kind of slow with his songs – but when they come out they’re kind of the most brilliant songs ever. I’ve always been kind of like: We’re just making it- this is what I feel like doing today! I have a lot more material but you have to sift through it to find the pieces that are worth sharing.

PL: I think it’s a good balance – Kendl kind of hit the nail on the head there.

KW: We saw a palm reader when we first started together and she was like “You are like a rocket ship, flying all over the place and he’s like a train – going from point A to point B.”

PL: I think what I’ve also gained from Kendl is being more comfortable putting stuff out there, opening up a little and generating more things.

GW: Besides the guitar, what’s an instrument you can’t play but would like to learn?

KW/PL: Fiddle!

KW: I’ve spend the last two Januarys working on it during the time I have at home.

PL: I’ve spent probably a cumulative four days working on it over the course of the last year.

KW: I’d also like to learn how to be good at drums.

GW: Who are some fiddle players you all look up to?

KW: Bruce Molsky

PL: Yeah, the singing with the fiddle; those slow ballads, making chords between the slow doubles and the voice.

KW: Tatiana Hargreaves – I think she’s a beautiful fiddle player.

PL: John Hartford

KW: Yeah, our namesake, The Lowest Pair, is from a poem by John Hartford.

GW: What resonated about it for you?

KW: Palmer knows the poem – do you want him to recite it?

PL: Now, first thing is to say this:
Much further out than inevitable,
Halloween's thy game.
Sky King has come and Wilma's done,
Uncertain as it is uneven.
Give us today hors d'oeuvres in bed,
As we forgive those who have dressed up against us.
And need us not enter inflation,
butter, liver, onions, and potatoes.
For wine is a shingle, and a Moore,
and a story for your Father.

The Lowest Pair – John Hartford

We were trying to come up with a band name. Initially this project just started off as the idea of collaborating between banjo-oriented song players. And then we got together and jammed and traveled a bit, and decided we should come up with a band name. We had the idea of paying homage to one of our favorite banjo-playing, fiddling, dancing

KW: …weirdos…

PL: …storybook-writing, poetry-writing weirdos. So we just went down a list of John Hartford songs that might make good band names and The Lowest Pair was an accurate name for two musicians trying to start a band together.

GW: That’s awesome! I think it’s really special that you know that poem – people don’t hear poetry a lot anymore and it’s great you can just whip that out.

You guys released two albums at once. Tell me about why you did that or what was happening there.

KW: We started a record in Minneapolis one winter and we didn’t finish it. By the time we went back to it we had another record’s worth of material. I feel like writing songs is very much a thing I’m doing as process to my life, and if people like it that’s really great. But that’s also a secondary piece of it. It’s really important for me to record and by the time we recorded a bunch of these songs we felt like we had two album’s worth to share. We had a busy touring schedule so we thought it’d be nice for us to keep our shows interesting and have a large library of songs to choose from.

They kind of capture different moods.

GW: What would you say each mood is?

PL: I think they both have a somberness to them, which has been thematic throughout our career so far. But one of them is a little more directly dark and exploratory in the arrangements, songwriting and studio production of it. Whereas the other one is a little more ballad-oriented like our first record was; pared-down arrangements, pretty low key. It strikes me as more of a songwriter’s record.

GW: Do you find each of yourselves tending to write toward a certain theme?

KW: Death is always kind of a theme because…do any of us really matter? Just the larger scope of how far you zoom in and how far you zoom out theme. I don’t think we really stick to anything, though.

PL: I feel like we go through phases, personally. I’ll be talking, thinking about a thing for a day, month, year or five years and then it just sort of switches over to something else.

KW: I think the nuances of emotion – trying to figure out the things that are quirky. The more you dig into yourself the more you can be specific about these pieces that feel really unique to your own experience…but really we’re all having these unique experiences. I like trying to dissect the miniscule pieces of my emotion in the hopes that I’m not alone in that experience.

GW: What’s something you’ve been thinking about a lot lately?

KW: The rambler. For a long time, I’ve not wanted to only write songs about being on the highway, but I’m like…you know, that’s what your life is lately. So what is that desire to travel, be on the road and leave the things you love? Really loving things and for some reason having your life take you away from them.

GW: Having that distance created between you and them…

KW: And creating that distance kind of because you have to. And then the longing being this beautiful thing.

GW: Have you written any songs that tend toward that recently?

KW: I’ve been working on some, but I wouldn’t say they’re done. I’m shaping them.

GW: What about you [Palmer]?

PL: You know…I haven’t written a whole lot of songs in the last few months – a small handful. Mostly I’ve been writing poems somewhat freely. But I think thematically it’s been returning a lot to the process of ‘okayness’ and happiness – finding that beauty in the ultimate. I’ve had an emotionally trying year or so and I think being turned on to some things and seeking and cultivating beauty has really turned me on in a big way. That’s where my mind is right now – just chewing on some of those things.

GW: If you would like to share it, what are some of those things that cultivated that wish of understanding?

PL: Well, last winter a friend of mine turned me on to the poetry of Hafiz, and specifically translations that were done by Daniel Ladinsky, who is amazingly hilarious. They’re kind of less like translations as they are interpretations. He’ll really embody what the idea of the poem is and then write what that is to him…so just retelling the poem.

So the concepts are still there, and the intention is still there – but it’s done in a more amusing, hilarious, confusing and insightful way I think those poems were intended; I really related to it immediately.

KW: Is that The Gift?

PL: Yeah, there’s a number of those.

KW: It’s good. It feels like a massage for your heart. It makes you want to be better and more loving.

GW: So is The Gift a book or a specific poem?

PL: It’s a collection of poems. It’s kind of viewed as an oracle in a way.

KW: I think it makes you a better person if you read one of those poems every day.

PL: Apparently in Iran, that particular collection of Hafiz’s poems sells more copies than the Quran.

GW: Wow! That’s awesome. Do you guys like Rumi?

KW: I love Rumi – one of our songs on our first record is called “Rumi’s Field.”

GW: So what are some other things that inspire you? We’ve got travel, poets, nature…

KW: When I go home I try to make it up to the mountains as quickly as possible. I’ve gotta return to nature as quickly as possible.

PL: The story songs of old-time tradition really inspire me a lot. Sort of that concept of beautiful sadness.

GW: Sort of that sublime beauty?

PL: Yeah, but with a real darkness to it. For some reason I have a really romanticized notion of pain – there’s something really sweet and beautiful about the intensity of the emotion. Weeping and laughing are both equally emotional. I’ll find myself being very directly inspired by something like an old coal-mining song…sort of retelling a different story in that moment of being inspired by that.

GW: Are you working on any albums or just touring right now?

KW: Well, it’s kind of festival season so we’re hitting a bunch. We’ve been enjoying the new records and we have another idea for two totally split ideas for records.

PL: Three, sort of.

KW: *laughs* Three, sort of. It’s kind of that game where you put the ball in the top and see where it lands. We have a lot of different songs and they’re kind of ending up in three different categories.

GW: Y’all seem super prolific. Are you just kind of always writing or thinking about those things in your head?

PL: I think as far as manifesting songs Kendl is more prolific than I am. I get these really lengthy dry spells – but it’s not like I’m making nothing…it’s just not always song oriented.

KW: I pretty much have something in my head all the time.

GW: Do you create any other types of art besides poetry and music?

PL: Kendl is kind of also a prolific doodler. She’s done the artwork for three of our records.

KW: I just kind of need to be in motion all of the time. If I’m not driving I’m sort of singing, writing, drawing or something. I’m just kind of a busy-head I guess. *laughs*

GW: So does that work out well for you both? [Palmer] you seem like a person who might enjoy some solitude and chillin’ out, you can’t be going all the time…

KW: I run a lot so [Palmer] gets some time in the room to himself.

PL: Yeah, it does create a little bit of tension from time to time, the different modes of operation. But, you know, just kinks to work out.

GW: Yeah, there’s a lot to learn from each other when you have those kinks to work out.

KW: It’s creating this really unique art form with the two of us together – it’s neat to see what we create together because of our contrasting modes of operation.

GW: Do you have any other collaborations coming up?

PL: Not really. I spent last winter in Minnesota and started scheming on some other projects and talking to people about some other collaborations. I think I’m going to end up in the Northwest this winter so none of that will probably manifest – for me it’s kind of back to the drawing board for me a little bit. I’ve been fantasizing for years about actually buckling down on a solo record…no promises on that.

KW: I have a lot of buddies in the northwest that I collaborate with but it kind of depends on how much time we end up off the road. We’re trying to take a good break this year and I imagine something will come out of that.

GW: So what’s something that each of you personally are looking forward to in the future?

PL: The stuff that’s really on my mind I can’t talk about. *laughs*

GW: Let’s just say you’re looking forward to something and it’s so awesome you can’t even talk about it!

KW: I’m looking forward to being home for a little bit, and just hanging out with my community. I live on a boat in Olympia (Washington) and it’s lovely to be there and really inspiring. I feel like you get on the lockdown of touring and you don’t get the time to practice and cultivate. I’m excited to have time to manifest some of those ideas I have going.

PL: Something else is the creating process is very central to us so we really want to do that. When we’re on tour creation is put on hold to an extent…you know: drive, cram in a meal, play a show, do laundry. Having time off, we actually get the time to do the thing we like that got us into this.

GW: Everybody deserves a break from their job, even if it is their life also. So what are you doing in the next few months? What kind of shows will you be playing?

KW: We’ll be in the Midwest next.

PL: We’re going back to one of our favorite festivals in the country, Boats and Bluegrass in Winona, Minnesota.

GW: So it’s bluegrass and boats…?

KW: It’s on the Mississippi River.

PL: You get a canoe rental with your ticket and you can paddle around in the backwaters.

GW: That is so cool! I guess you guys like water. It’s a good metaphor for about everything in life.

KW: It just kind of draws me in.

PL: It is life…

GW: Do you have anything you’d like to say to fans or listeners on Grateful Web?

PL: Thanks! And…stay up!

Fri, 09/02/2016 - 7:36 am

On a slightly slow Friday night in August, National Park Radio and a handful of other musicians put on a fantastic show on a small stage at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville, AR. The evening’s sounds ranged from beautiful ballads presented by opening act Willi Carlisle to the smooth bluegrass from National Park Radio. The evening began with a large crowd and ended with one, drawing folks in from outside and reverberating through the homey rafters of the venue.

The show began with Willi Carlisle and bass player Grant D’Aubin. They strummed and sang to a large crowd who thoroughly enjoyed the Arkansas-centric tunes that left listeners with a feeling of nostalgia. Like a true singer-songwriter, Carlisle offered unique tales and moving stories in his music. He sang about farm life, grandmothers and Bruce Springsteen. Occasionally, his songs had a slow country twinge to them, while other times the songs were reminiscent of John Prine. One notable moment was a singalong, in which the crowd echoed back to the band: And there’s preachers every Sunday/muscadines each fall/I’d like to die in Arkansas/if I should die at all. I could have ended the night with this set – it was beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking and artistic. One not-so-secret fact about Carlisle: He’s an excellent poet and folklorist with an MFA from the University of Arkansas – hence the masterful writing.

Next up was Eureka Springs, AR band Opal Agafia & the Sweet Nothings. Fiddly and feisty, hullabaloo and grimy get-down are words that easily describe this band. Their hard-hitting bluegrass/jazz/Americana set was fun, loud and energetic. Each band member took turns showing off their well learned skills, with a big spotlight on lead singer Opal Agafia and the band’s dobro player. All musicians, however, held up their side of the stage with melody blending seamlessly into cacophony. The band’s set was beautiful, jazzy musicianship. A perfect warm up for the headliner, Opal Agafia & the Sweet Nothings are certainly a band to see live.

Finally, NPR took the stage. Each member of the band was confident and carried their melodies perfectly. A fantastic blending of indie and bluegrass, lead singer Stefan Szabo supported the strings and percussion with his smooth vocals. The stories the band tells are driving and inspirational sometimes; other times they songs are simply beautiful. Often compared to The Avett Brothers, NPR played a great cover from the band that was just a bit brighter of a sound than the original. It was a nice, but subtle, touch to the evening. As the night carried on, the dancing picked up and culminated with happy cheers from the audience and calls for more songs.

George’s Majestic Lounge always brings great musicians to our small, but growing, city. The musicianship is consistently on point and although we don’t often get huge acts in our area, it’s almost better to be able to see these burgeoning bands as they listen and learn from each other, their audiences and themselves. With each passing day, National Park Radio gains notoriety – and for good reason. The band’s foundation of classic bluegrass intertwines with modern stories that often question meaning, relationships and existence. I can’t wait to see each of the bands from this night as they grow and prosper, both as humans and musicians.

Check out more photos from the show.

Sat, 10/01/2016 - 10:54 am

On a fine day in September, Grateful Web’s Michelle Miesse sat down with Elephant Revival's Bridget Law to discuss her inspirations, what it feels like to play alongside a symphony and some of the best things she’s learned recently. An inspiration in the folk and fiddle worlds, Law seems naturally drawn to humanitarianism and music.

GW: So where are you today?

BL: Today I woke up in Indianapolis! I woke up to the bus being parked at the Marriot and just spent my morning in the pool area doing some yoga and starting my day. We’ve been on tour for a week now in the upper Midwest. We played Minneapolis, two shows in Wisconsin – one by Lake Superior, another near Green Bay. Yesterday we were in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

GW: What’s a notable moment that’s happened on this tour so far?

BL: I got a new fiddle!

Some people are familiar with the fact that we had a bus fire in June and I lost two instruments. It’s been pretty rough, but it was a beautiful moment to connect with this violin out of Minneapolis that actually has five strings, which is new for me but really fun. It’s got this amazing pickup in it so it sounds so good when it plug it in. It’s an exciting relief and a beautiful moment; and I think it’s fun for my bandmates too because it’s got another note so we’re exploring a new register with that sound.

I was trying to think of a moment that’s more group inclusive, but instead I’ll just think of my moment and include them!

GW: Do you feel like your instruments choose you rather than you choosing your instruments?

BL: I did with this one. I’d played 10 different violins all from the same guy; I picked this one up and I felt like it told me it was my instrument before I even played it. Then I played it and went through a few different instruments and I came back to it.

I have that kind of intuitive connection with things. I think we all do – it’s really just listening to it. Material things in this world that are meant to be…you can find that sensation in it. I definitely felt that with this fiddle, which caught me off guard a little bit. You know, all 10 of these fiddles are relatively similar but this one was really it. It’s kind of like I’m falling in love with it. I keep discovering more and more beautiful aspects of it. My discovery of my connection to it and learning how to play it has been really fun.

GW: Do you feel like it’s changed anything about the way you play or the way it feels to play your music?

BL: Yeah, every instrument does. Right before the bus fire I’d just gotten a new violin I’d waited 8 months for. It was a custom-made violin that I’d had three weeks before the fire.

Every instrument changes the way I play. I feel like an instrument has a certain way of wanting to be played. It’s a delicate game of finding the way in which to draw the sound out of the fiddle. You know, you use the bow, and a different bow speed or pressure will change that [sound]; you kind of have to find the sweet spot for each instrument.

A lot of what I do, although our songs are arranged and I have a lot of melodies that I go to, I’m open to improv and just letting the melodies come through me. So dependent upon the violin and where it likes to play or how quick the sound can escape the instrument determines how fast I play or what notes I play. I’m sort of dancing with the instrument and musing its melodies out of it.

I kind of like to believe that nothing is me, but everything is being played through me.

GW: Yeah, you’re kind of a catalyst or channel.

BL: I like that belief because I believe we’re all connected and stewards of the planet; we’re all interconnected vibrational beings. Call me crazy but I’m just into that sensation of the universe playing through me.

GW: Have you over time tried to hone the skill of listening to something or do you feel like that’s a natural ability you were born with that’s pronounced?

BL: I think it’s more like clearing things out of the way and discovering that [intuition]. I spend a lot of time trying to quiet the mind and do some other kind of Buddhist practices like yoga and meditation, for example. Basically whenever you have an intuition and you don’t listen to it, generally later you’re like, “Man, I should have listened to that.” I think I’ve developed it by recognizing those moments.

I think the rest of the practice is just clearing out the extras, the things that make you question yourself or be too analytical. I think there’s definitely times for analytical thought, but when you’re trying to connect if you really want something it’s more of a feeling than a thought.

GW: Do you find in the middle of a performance that you sometimes get analytical?

BL: Yeah, definitely. It’s really easy to get into, like, “I wonder what other people are thinking” when you’re onstage. Someone yells something in the crowd and you start thinking about that. But the practice of letting all that go and just being in the moment of the music is what I live for in the music – just being in that moment, that instance of connection where the whole room is connected through this listening experience and my band-mates are connected through playing the music. So that’s what I’m looking for…to kind of ride that wave – and thoughts, self-criticisms and other thoughts get in the way of enjoying music.

That’s why I do what I do, why I’m here traveling away from home and my lover and my life, going to different cities everyday on a bus full of people every day – it’s because I live for that moment. I believe there’s something really beautiful and healing in that moment, when everybody in the room experiences [music together]. I think there’s something about that that carries a greater message about the experience of life. To do that in rooms and crowds full of people is really the best thing I could be doing with my living, breathing body in my life right now. Allowing that analytical mind to get in the way of that experience is kind of taking away from my greater purpose…so I usually try to shut it up really quick!

GW: Can you describe what it feels like to play music with a symphony that isn’t usually backed up by one?

BL: It becomes more like a dream to me. These are songs that I know very well – I know all the delicate details and how they exist as I’ve played them hundreds of thousands of times. When you add the symphony it takes this big breath into sonic space – almost like a dream does when you dream of something you experience normally but there’s all these extra things going on that don’t even really make sense. The music just kind of expands into this whole other realm where everything’s dancing around. It’s really beautiful. It’s something very special to me.

Playing with the symphony is not only a dream for me (because it is a dream for me). But also it feels like a dreamscape.

GW: It’s really interesting how those environmental changes can affect the way you perceive a performance or an art piece.

BL: It’s really spectacular that this is happening at this time in the world. You know, classical music is centuries old. Classical music and folk music used to be two entirely different worlds. Classical music was the sophisticated thing that kings and queens listened to; the composers were some of the most regarded and famous people living at the time. The folk musicians were just in the woods tinkering around and having fun – it was more freeing.

What’s happening now, in this century, is those two musical art forms are coming together to collaborate. That hasn’t been happening very long in the grand scheme of music and time. It’s really fascinating. I am so humbled by the concept that we are a part of that collaboration.

As a violinist when I was a teenager, I had to make a choice in some ways between the classical music and folk music worlds. I could have chosen to study classical music and play in orchestras and I just didn’t feel drawn to it because I was playing fiddle music with bands and such. But I love both worlds so much – for them to come together and collaborate is really exciting.

GW: I think that is a really interesting observation I hadn’t thought of before. What are some other collaborations between different forms of art or styles that you’re interested in?

BL: Well, obviously I’m really into dance and acrobatics in combination with music. In our bigger shows we tend to incorporate members of Fractal Tribe where they do performance art in conjunction with the music. It just expands the expression into a more physical and visual thing.

Do you mean outside of music or…?

GW: I asked that question because last time I interviewed Bonnie she told me about the Art of All Forms [festival Elephant Revival is conceptualizing]. I find that a really great concept because you really can think of anything as an art form and when you combine more than one form together it creates an entirely new dimension – it’s like we’re discovering an entirely new part of our universe.

So what’s something you’d like to see at the Art of All Forms?

BL: I love the idea of expanding it even more into healing arts and culinary arts. Yesterday I ate this food at this homemade Indian food restaurant. When you’re tasting food that is literally spices ground up – you know, like whole seeds ground up – I love that whole sensory experience beyond the taste of it, after you feel how you eat it. That’s something I’m really fascinated by and seek out in life. I don’t really partake in intoxicants of any kind so the way I enjoy the being alive and what my body can experience is through herbs: what happens in your adrenal glands and your system when you eat those plants. I think it would be cool to feature herbal medicine and healing arts.

I’m very fascinated by different forms of body work. I’ve explored a lot of variations of healing arts and am really fascinated by people trying new things there. I’ve had a lot of luck with some really ingenious people. Playing the fiddle is really hard on your body.

…you know what else I love, love, love right now is permaculture. The concept that with a plot of land you can heal the planet versus destroy it. Almost everything we do from when we wake up in the morning to live our life and the way society is, we’re destroying the planet. But there are things you can actually do to coexist in a more natural environment so it can actually heal, produce and be in its most natural state...which is often giving and providing to us.

GW: I agree with the cooking thing. I really think it’s an artistic experience and another way to understand yourself.

What’s something you’ve learned recently?

BL: Well, the permaculture thing was pretty amazing. Just the idea that you can heal the planet…to actually experience that and be in that environment was super impactful to me.

I learned about this plant where you eat this flower and it makes your mouth numb for about five minutes, so that was fun!

 I’ve been learning this classical music piece I’m turning into a song I can perform with the other band I play with (the Tierro Band), which is basically the house band for ARISE Festival. I took the piece and went through the score and turned it into a chart the guitar players can read. So I’m turning this piece into a rock song. It’s called ’Danse Macabre’ – it’s a thematic piece where the fiddle player goes out and wakes the dead in the graveyard. We’re performing it October 29 at Sunrise Ranch and November 5 at The Caribou Room in Nederland.

Going back and learning classical music again and pushing myself to read a six-page piece of music, and forcing myself to play things outside of my comfort zone has been neat. It also goes back to that moment where I had to choose between classical music and folk music. So that’s something I’ve learned.

I think the permaculture thing is really amazing because……oh! I remember what I learned! This is so random. *laughs* So, this woman was able to potty train her baby without diapers.

She would hold the baby kind of by the thighs so it was in a seated position in front of her and she would sing a note or whistle a sound, and the baby would eventually learn that was the cue to relax and go to the bathroom. You can tell when they need to go to the bathroom because they get kind of fussy. So she would take her and help her to the bathroom. She has this baby that is diaper free, which is so amazing! It was really something; it blew my mind. I think the baby was far healthier and she was more comfortable. Her legs could come together she held her and she was able to hold onto the body more. It was amazing.

Sat, 10/08/2016 - 1:52 pm

In just a few days, folks will be celebrating music, friends and the making of memories at The Farm in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. At the beginning of a beautiful Arkansas fall, situated within mountains constructed of quartz and limestone, and healing springs…a wonderful small festival will echo through the hillsides. Event organizers, Railroad Earth and Deadhead Productions, will welcome new bands and old friends to another surely great Hillberry Festival.

Last year’s fall festival saw many great moments – a uniting performance from Wookiefoot, a late-night bus-top set from Handmade Moments and a single stage, so you can catch as much music as possible. This year’s lineup lists headliners Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, The Travelin’ McCourys, The New Mastersounds, Elephant Revival and Larry Keel. It’s quite an impressive lineup, and the environment lends itself to intimacy. I can’t wait to see collaborations and campfire jams, new friends and beautiful Ozark art. Some great local bands taking the stage will be John Henry & Friends, Arkansauce, Sad Daddy and The Squarshers – just to name a few.

Activities are a big deal at this festival as well. Not only is there a hillside Jerry Garcia shrine, for those who are looking for a short pilgrimage, but there are countless extra circulars available. Sessions include Beginner’s Wire Wrapping, Yoga, Figure Drawing, Salve-making, Fire Safety and much more. At Hillberry, it’s safe to say you get your money’s worth.

Some of the most anticipated sets include Elephant Revival, The Squarshers, Railroad Earth, Sad Daddy and The Infamous Stringdusters (Confession: When I was just starting with Grateful Web, I had an embarrassingly beginner-style interview with a couple members of the Stringdusters. Perhaps I can remedy that this year…) There are too many great shows to list for now, but you can bet the weekend will not disappoint.

If you’re looking for a road trip, fantastic bluegrass and beautiful scenery, Hillberry is calling your name. Buy tickets online or visit a nearby outlet. See you on the Hill!

Sun, 10/23/2016 - 9:16 am

Fall bluegrass festivals are usually pretty perfect no matter where you are. There's that cool heaviness in the air and the crisp laughter of folks coming together to enjoy the natural sound of bluegrass. This year's Hillberry Music Festival in Eureka Springs, AR was no exception. The stellar lineup and fantastic scenery compelled people from all over the U.S. to travel to Arkansas for a weekend of music and meaningful experiences.

Thursday saw music starting toward the evening, giving the early birds a chance to set up camp and relax a little before taking in the 4-day string session that was sure to ensue. Bands playing Thursday night included The Squarshers, Mountain Sprout, Friends of the Phamily and Hatrick. All four bands were great, but I especially loved Mountain Sprout's hillbilly halleluiahs and Hatrick's fun set that included a cover of Elvis' Hound Dog complete with Elvis as lead singer.

Friday morning arrived with damp ground from the refreshing rain that fell overnight. We all welcomed the sun and readied ourselves for the beautiful day ahead of us. With Hillberry's one-stage model for almost all music, it was easy to catch as many bands as possible throughout the day. There were countless activities and classes for kids and adults, and art installations throughout the grounds. One of my favorite locations was called The Nest – an area within the trees that had been turned into a natural resting area, with soft moss, tree decorations, stacked rocks and a generally calming feeling. The air was heavy in there, but comforting. Kind of like nature's thunder jacket, I guess.

Music on Friday started with Arkansauce, a local favorite. I can't say I loved their set as much as I did at the recent Homegrown. Hillberry's show was more traditional bluegrass, whereas their Homegrown sets felt more experimental and innovative. I also caught sets from Travelin' McCourys, Greensky Bluegrass and The New Mastersounds. All three were great performances! Travelin' McCourys was a band I had never seen. Their expertise, epic jams and smooth transitions were delightful, and they were also just a generally fun sound to listen to. Their cover of Passenger's Let Her Go was beautiful.

The final set of main stage was a band I'd never heard, The New Mastersounds. They were a fun, funky group that really brought their energy to the stage. They invited Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass up with his slide guitar. The addition was a great touch and the crowd loved it. After main stage closed down folks headed to the Jerry Shrine atop the hill for the late-night campfire set from Ozark Travelers. I checked it out and everybody was dancing and stomping about like true bluegrass fans! The band's set was energetic and a bit funky – definitely a great choice for the last music of the day.

Saturday found us chomping on breakfast at camp with Arkansauce playing the Chompdown. Strangely, Dirtfoot wasn't playing the set for the first time I've ever experienced. As the sun rose into the sky, bands began taking the stage with trees in their background, families and friends in the foreground and a bright blue sky above. John Henry & Friends took the stage first, followed by a bright, brassy performance from Dirtfoot. It's one of their best performances of the last few times I'd seen them. They were moving all over the stage, bringing up the energy and just generally having a great time!

Next up was Fruition. I had thought I wasn't a fan of the band, but as I ate a snack at my campsite and had full view of their show, I found I'm probably a bigger fan than previously thought. I'll be sure to catch them next time. The sunset show was crowd (and personal) favorite, Elephant Revival. The sun went down and nearly full moon rose during the band's performance; it was magical. In addition to the environment's charm, Elephant Revival's show included percussion, which really added to their sound. I wasn't sure I'd like it at first, but it gave the songs more depth and largess. I can't wait to see how the band continues to develop and broaden their sound.

Headliners of the night were Railroad Earth, who also sponsored the festival along with DeadHead Productions. This was the first of two sets for the band, and they delivered a great three-hour set. Of course, when a band with as much talent as Railroad plays for three hours you get a full spectrum of sound. Tim Carbone was impressive as ever, and I really enjoyed watching Andrew Altman, the band's bassist. The band jammed like they always do, and the audience was stacked.

The night ended with Turkuaz on mainstage and a late-night campfire set from Eureka Springs band Opal Agafia and the Sweet Nothings. They sang songs about whisky and wonder, bluegrass and bad times. Their sets are always a great time, with lots of dancing and improvisation. If they're ever in your area, be sure to check them out! You can find a review of a set they did with National Park Radio here.

The last day of Hillberry was nothing to balk at. With another day of solid lineup ahead of us, we prepped some breakfast and greeted a windy and warm day. Bands who graced the stage include Crescent City Combo – a fun brass band that really go the crowd moving; Ben Miller Band; Larry Keel – which I really enjoyed, including their cover of Ophelia, they were pretty groovy!

One of my favorite shows of the weekend was the Infamous Stringdusters' performance! As usual, they moved about the stage, playing off each others' moods and styles. I always love seeing this band. Not only are they innovative, but they're fun and technically talented. I remember thinking this weekend that I believe they are some of the best collaborators in bluegrass. The rhythm they find amongst the strings and beats is phenomenal and soothing.

The night also allowed us another three-hour set from Railroad Earth. As it was the final night of the festival, the crowd was really getting down. The audience was attentive – for a festival – and we all were just grateful for another great weekend. The band pulled all the organizers onstage to thank them for their efforts, and they were met with loud applause and cheers.

Closing out the night was a campfire set at the Jerry Shrine from Sad Daddy. The quartet stroked and strummed their strings with true bluegrass passion. From songs about weed to groovy get-down music, I found myself really enjoying their set despite my tiredness. As they ended there was a small lull in the air – the feeling that comes with knowing something great is about to end, and we'll only be left with the memories and dreams of next time.

As the music drifted over the hills and tents and treetops throughout the weekend, we all welcomed the sunshine and cool breeze of the October Ozarks. Our days consisted of inventive bands, countless bubbles, puppy pets and endless laughter. There's really nothing like it, and it can be tough to step back into the real world. But there's always next time, and the time after that, and the times after that.

Check out more photos from the Hillberry Music Festival.

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 6:24 am

Fayetteville, AR’s first weekend in December brought cold weather – but that didn’t seem to stop anybody from heading to George’s Majestic Lounge for a two-night set of Steve Kimock and Friends. I didn’t catch the first night’s set. The second, however, presented a two-part show with Janis Joplin-esque vocals from Tanya Shylock and the propelling piano and ear-to-ear smiles of Jeff Chimenti; Bobby Vega and Wally Ingram driving the beat and sustaining moving jams. Steve Kimock spent most of his time in the background, subtly enthralling the audience members. Though not center-stage, Kimock’s mastery of his talent provided the foundation for the entire set.

Most of the night’s energy was held by Shylock – free-flowing and dancing, even when she stood offstage. I also found myself drawn to Chimenti’s animated melodies. He played two keyboards at once, bobbed his head and filled the songs with bright chords. I was impressed with the band, to say the least. Their wide variety of tunes, from expected Grateful Dead covers to “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith (see: Eric Clapton).

The song following “Can’t Find My Way Home” was a particular favorite. As the band played it went into a slow, chill jam. The audience settled a little bit and the song started to feel like a delightful lazy river with Kimock on the slide guitar. But just as I was really settling in, they picked up the pace with a great lead from Vega and threw some funk into the song just before Shylock brought down the house with her vocals.  They finished off set 1 with “Help On the Way” > “Slipknot!” >“Franklin’s Tower” (Grateful Dead).

Kimock and friends then took a break for everybody to gather themselves. Folks were bright-eyed and full of energy. When the band took the stage once again, they wailed and played their hearts out for the crowd to a song I couldn’t quite place, but may have been an Aretha Franklin tune “Baby, I Love You”. It’s hard to catch every song when you’re completely mesmerized by the lead. Her voice was magnetic and unbreakable.

The night continued with high-energy vocals and impressive solos from Vega and Kimock – but really everybody. Shylock dedicated “Dark Star” to a local business celebrating 25 years in business…aptly named Dark Star Visuals. As I understand it, Shylock is from Northwest Arkansas and has a home in her heart for it.

The audience spent the last bit of the set dancing their hearts out. It was getting late; the bars were going to close soon; we knew the music was on its way out, along with (some of) our nights. Kimock’s cousin, Ken Siftar, took the stage on guitar for The Monkees’ “Goin’ Down”, complete with driving keyboard. He stayed onstage to play “Mercury Blues”, a long-time Zero vehicle that also draws on David Lindley.

Steve Kimock and Friends ended their two-day stint in Fayetteville with an encore of Grateful Dead’s classic “Stella Blue” – a clear favorite of the audience. Though short, the final song ended a beautiful, late night at a revered music venue in the Ozark hills perfectly. They played until closing, so we all walked away satisfied and with nowhere to go but out into the night – whatever that means for the wild collection of folks who are inspired and influenced by the Grateful Dead, and those who they brought to life (and into our lives).

Check out more photos from the show.

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 7:22 am

During northwest Arkansas’ annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ festival near the end of September, fans of sultry Southern rock – of which there were many – enjoyed a lively set from JJ Grey & Mofro. A fairly frequent performer at George’s Majestic Lounge, lead singer JJ Grey was comfortable as ever with the variety of audience members. Bikers, bluegrass, and rock fans alike found themselves grooving along with Grey’s smooth performance.

Ben Miller Band

Starting off the evening was local group Ben Miller Band, complete with harmonica effects and some great covers, including “Don’t You Mind People Grinnin’ In Your Face” and a fantastic bluegrass version of “Black Betty.” Ben Miller Band built up the energy in the room and ended their set to rousing applause and probably quite a few new fans.

JJ Grey

Once JJ Grey & Mofro took the stage, the mood changed slightly – shifting from bluegrass with an edge to deep soul with a Southern twang. No matter the venue, JJ Grey and his bandmates always seem to woo the crowd. The South runs deep here, and love of its musical roots is no exception.

JJ Grey & Todd Smallie

Heading for a major show at Red Rocks in Colorado, the band played an energetic, but not overly active set. As always, the brass components of the music added depth to the music and Grey’s vocals. There’s nothing like good, smooth vocals brightened up by a brass duo. Bassist Todd Smallie also shone onstage, with a beaming smile nearly the entire show. To top it off, audience members even threw up their lighters during the first part of the band’s set.

George's Majestic Lounge

As the evening came to a close, the diverse crowd of avid fans cheered on the band. With so much love from this northwest Arkansas town, JJ Grey & Mofro is sure to return for yet another round of bluesy, smooth Southern rock from one of the industry’s most beloved crooners.

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 9:15 am

This year, Rising Appalachia released a new album, Leylines, played numerous festivals, and did good work for the world. On August 25, 2019, Rising Appalachia will continue that good work in Northwest Arkansas during the Fayetteville Roots Festival.

We got in touch with Chloe Smith just ahead of the band's Roots Festival appearance to learn how music connects to the deepest parts of their human-ness.

GW: How did the creation process for Leylines differ compared to previous ones?

CS: We really took our time to produce and create this album, letting it percolate in the creative stage for over four years before finalizing sounds onto the record. It’s also the first album we have created OUTSIDE the south, which alluded to some new energetics and inspiration. Lastly, we invited a producer, Jo Henry, to the table for the first time to bring some outside magic and grit into the sounds we were wanting to hear. He added a rather perfect alchemy to our eclectic style of recording.

Rising Appalachia

GW: What are you excited to share with your audiences through your newest album, Leylines?

CS: Messages of hope, triumph, and resilience through hard times. We also want our audiences to witness the deep connection of folk music traditions in Appalachia, Ireland, and Africa with this album and the aural textures of traditional instruments from all those regions of the world.

GW: Rising Appalachia incorporates a lot of different musical styles in your work. Which styles do you find yourselves interested in lately?

CS: Roots Music. Folk Music. Music that is stripped down and simple by and for the people. Music with a message that is both transcendent as well as pressing. I’m currently listening to a lot of up and coming songwriters.

GW: Are there any instruments you're interested in learning or adding to Rising Appalachia's sound?

Rising Appalachia

CS: Honestly, the current arrangement we have is our biggest dream actualized, which is such a treasure to be able to say!

GW: How do your childhood experiences and upbringing inform the music and lyrics you create today?

CS: We were raised in a community that celebrated everything with music. It was the centerpiece of our gatherings, and still is, which has illuminated for us the aliveness of art and the beauty of having it passed down from generation to generation. Aside from the stage, it’s what brings OUR family together. So, the essence of that community is in the lyrics we write today, as well as in the structure of our business and the way we move about the world.

Rising Appalachia

GW: Rising Appalachia puts a lot of work into supporting communities and the overall health of the universe. What drives that desire to provide for others?

CS: We were all activists before we were musicians in this project, and so the desire to merge the two comes from our individual passions to step off the stage and do "other" work. The permaculture. The work with kids and students. Anti-recidivism work. Somatic healing with women. Etc. It’s a simple thing really, and now that we have a platform, we have even less of an excuse to idly stand by while so much is happening in this world.  One step at a time, a drop in the bucket, and ways that we can be of service makes Rising Appalachia that much more aligned with who we are as humans.  

GW: If you’re willing to share, what is a mantra or meditation Rising Appalachia uses to maintain balance.

CS: I am a speck of dust and this world was made for me. That’s a line from “Resilient” that our father gave us as a mantra of sorts, and it’s such a deep reminder that we are both tiny and hugely impactful in this life. The interplay between the two is where the magic comes in.

GW: What are essential practices or habits that help keep your foundation as you tour and perform across the country?

Rising Appalachia: Leylines

CS: Yoga. Herbalism and wild food harvesting. Deep rest whenever possible. Visiting family on the road an prioritizing our physical and mental health over the stimulus of the road.

GW: What do you all appreciate about being human?

CS: The quirkiness of humor in the face of hard times.

GW: What is something that has recently brought you joy?

CS: Performing at a solar powered festival with my mother’s band, the Rosin Sisters, and sitting in on each other’s sets.