Wed, 10/03/2018 - 6:23 pm

This past Saturday, the Williamsburg area in downtown New York City returned with one of its most anticipated musical events of the year, Brooklyn Comes Alive. Across three music venues, The Brooklyn Bowl, Rough Trade, and Music Hall of Williamsburg, over fifty musicians jammed, sang, and tributed together in fifteen sets of unique, supergroup type fashion. Ever since its first year, Brooklyn Comes Alive has been a one-day, can’t miss occurrence, and every year, through this past weekend, the stars align and hardly fail to let us down in terms of serving up the magical kind of musical interaction city-dwelling music fans crave.

Cory Henry

Many of the performers making this year’s lineup guest or sit-in together often, either in planned settings or impromptu happenings on tours or at other music events, and this is the case with BCA every year. Brooklyn is the musical home for these superstars, as it is the musical home to the massive and super dedicated crowds attending every year. This event is a chance for people who have come out of and grown up in this artistically vibrant and prolific community to do what they do best, alongside others whose talents they respect and admire. It’s equally a chance—or a privilege, really—for us lucky patrons living in and around the area, to watch them do this, most of the time with our jaws dropped (or our limbs akimbo).

George Porter Jr. with the next generation of funky jammers

The familiarity between lineup artists being acknowledged, every year the sets of Brooklyn Comes Alive manage to present configurations of interaction not ever really quite seen or heard before. The big ticket this year were two back-to-back sets of The Jam Room, presented by Jam Cruise (a no-brainer connection given that winter season event’s equally star-powered, jam-driven atmosphere). The first one, hosted by legendary Meters bassist George Porter Jr., was a full course meal of funk ranging in style from New Orleans to Latin to elsewhere. Porter rocked out beside the likes of Adam and Bobby Deitch on percussion and Nick Cassarino and Craig Broadhead on guitar. Broadhead, lead guitarist for Turkuaz, hosted his own improv session right after beside Karina Rykman, best known as the current bassist for Marco Benevento. This second superstar party, delving into more of a modern funk-rock atmosphere, powered on until almost four in the morning, giving an idea of the kind of tenacity and hunger for live entertainment for which the Brooklyn scene is known.

Brooklyn Comes Alive

Similarly, much of this whirlwind day of music contrasted itself in cool ways, in terms of the varying styles of jam music that were offered by the different performing groups. Katharsis, for example, a recently formed supergroup that features Chuck Jones, Todd Stoops, Dave Watts, and Marcus Rezak, wrenched open the door to the day at Music Hall of Williamsburg, electrifying an early afternoon crowd with their more gritty, intense take on all-improv funk. Not long after that, Jones made an appearance with his Dopapod bandmates Rob Compa and Eli Winderman, when the bassist sat in on the latter two’s version of “Off The Cuff.” Michael Carrubbuba, friend and regular collaborator of all three, handled the drum kit for this set at Rough Trade which was nearly a full Dopapod “tribute” set. Along with “Cuff,” the trio covered the prog-rock jamband’s “Brookline Bridge,” “The Witching Hour,” and more, and this was no doubt very special for many present, as Dopapod has been several months into their previously announced hiatus.

Brooklyn Comes Alive

But as night fell upon a busy Brooklyn, psych and prog rock morphed stealthily into heavy soul and smooth jazz. Adam Deitch performed with his previously established quartet ensemble, which includes the deft talents of Wil Blades and fellow Lettuce members Ryan Zoidis and Eric Boom. Bloom later on played front and center in a jam session with established keyboardist Robert Walter and living legend drummer Johnny Vidacovich. Bloom’s set with these two at Rough Trade felt like a masterclass in freeform jazz, or some well-kept secret treasure. The intimacy and comradery of the collaboration here couldn’t be found at this level in any other kind of event than at Brooklyn Comes Alive. With these three, Rough Trade had a swirling, shifting trio of adventurous, experimental players. The three invited up trumpet player Maurice Brown, whom Bloom, a friend of Brown’s for almost two decades, dueted with fantastically.

Skerik & Mononeon

While Brooklyn Comes Alive does not have “artists at large” like other big musical festival events, they more or less do have exactly that every year. Maurice Brown, for example, sat in with so many groups this time around, from Bloom’s trio to the Brooklyn Bowl jam later on with Cory Henry and Skerik and Mononeon, to George Porter Jr.’s Jam Room, that it’s actually a bit comical that his name was nowhere on the lineup list. But, for that, he was like a secret weapon for the day, because for great stretches of time in various sets he stole the spotlight again and again.

Brandon "Taz" Niederauer

Towards the middle of the day, BCA presented two of its bigger planned acts, the tribute sets. Bringing so many random players together as these tribute sets did, to play material that is not their own, the skepticism at the results lurk beforehand. But, considering the names invited this Saturday, the chances were high that in all the mix there was going to be at least a handful of fantastic moments. Young gun guitar hero Brandon “Taz” Niederauer dominated much of the multi-tribute set to Col. Bruce Hampton, Gregg Allman, and others, and he was given the floor to take many of the lead solos on songs. But, not lacking in any kind of confidence or stage presence, the guitarist shined. He and recent break out singer Elise Testone had a lot of fun taking up the front together and wringing out the most of their passionate talents side by side. Not nearly an hour later, when Taz sat in with the “Switch Hitters” set at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Lettuce keyboardist Nigel Hall joked about the inviting someone up to play that was “not legally even allowed to be in here right now.”

The most massive group of this year’s BCA, physically and musically, was the tribute to Steely Dan, conceived and hosted by Motet keyboardist Joey Porter. In addition to being just outright powerful, and arguably the most wholly cohesive jam session of the day, the Steely Dan tribute had its serendipitous pairings. Vocalists Haley Jane and Sammi Garrett, laughing and synchronizing dance moves as seamlessly as they did, seemed like they had toured together before. Guitar impresarios Tim Palmeri and Nick Cassarino had several moments throughout of competitive soloing, which amped up a number of Steely’s more rocking tunes at their apex points. Michelangelo Carubba and Nate Werth, similarly, meshed together to handle the low end, making the immense grouping of players sound even larger than they already were.

Scott Metzger | Brookyln Comes Alive

In the Brooklyn Bowl session throwing together avant-garde saxophonist Skerik, Brooklyn session guitarist Scott Metzger, Nth Power drummer Nikki Glaspie, bassist Mononeon and keyboard wizard Cory Henry, there was lots of fun to be had even in a more or less off the rails show. Members found plenty of opportune moments to stylize a peculiar set with their individual, trademark sounds. Metzger, most recently known for his role in Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, would hang back a bit often, being the practiced session player, he is. But when it cames time to take the lead or solo, the “wolf” was released, and his unique brand of twang sounded pretty cool next to guys like Cory Henry. Skerik had lots of enthusiasm, especially pairing up with guest sit-in Maurice Brown. Henry, meanwhile, gave one of the finest performances of the entire day in this same set. The Funk Apostles leader shined through both his freakishly good keyboard playing and his charming lead vocals, especially on the group’s set-ending, jammed-out cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Think.”

Brooklyn Comes Alive

The jam room sessions carried Brooklyn on into the late night, along with Purple Party, a truly packed tribute to Prince. Multiple female crooners, from Megan Letts to Haley Jane to both Turkuaz singers, multiple keyboardists in Casey Russell and Steve Swatkins, horn players in Mike Maher and Chris Bullock—it was almost too much musical swag to handle. A highlight here was the slowed down, crunchy version of “Kiss,” which featured traded off lead vocals and solos all around.

Fri, 10/19/2018 - 5:09 pm

Jazz keyboardist Cory Henry returned to legendary NYC music club The Blue Note this past Monday, for the third night of his weekly residency at the venue, which is taking place for this entire month of October. Whereas previous nights in the last two weeks showcased Henry’s most recent record, Art of Love, here on night number three Henry performed material from his 2014 release First Steps and was joined by that album’s bassist Jay White and drummer Colin White. 

Colin White | New York, New York

Most of the night was more expressive than funky, displaying Henry and his First Steps ensemble’s flair for a lurid, extra jazzy style. But there were no doubt a couple of points in the evening in which Henry and his drummer and bassist let it all hang out, with help from their uncannily impressive technical chops. A few numbers into the set, the trio played a piece which started out innocently enough, but then managed to burst the open the evening as they went from a groovy jog into a full running sprint. Alongside Henry’s own dizzying style, Colin and Jay White were both given brief stretches of solo action, and Colin’s furious drum break must have had many jaws falling towards the floor. 

Cory Henry | The Blue Note

The crowning moment of the night, however, came in one of those more tender segments, in the high point of the keyboardists’ instrumental tune “Heart.” Henry introduced this song as being about his mother, whom had showed him music early on and had also put him on an organ in church at just three years of age (there are YouTube videos documenting this early genius). “Heart” was a magnificent piece of music that was grandly performed. Delicate and yet precise, and emotionally stinging, Henry’s synth sounds on this slowly moving yet very sweet song sliced through the air like a child’s voice inside a deep cave. The blue note became a musical meditation room, silent enough to hear the traffic hum by outside and every single ear within waiting for each next note the organist played. Jay and Colin White carefully followed Henry step for step towards the song’s dramatic, building climax. 

Cory Henry | October 15th, 2018

The trio wasn’t quite done even after that, instead inviting up a guest saxophone player to rip it up in a solo-for solo-battle with the keyboardist. Henry then sent off The Blue Note with a big performance on Leon Russell’s 1970 mega hit, “A Song For You.” It’s a unique style that introduces vocals for the first time in the night on the very last song of a set. But Henry knocked it out the park here too, and made it as intense as his mother’s song, confirming for many in the room that his vocal chords could be as lethal as his fingers. 

Cory Henry | The Blue Note

Cory Henry’s residency at The Blue Note continues for two more Mondays, with next week’s performance billed as “The 4 Deacons” and set to include musicians Sharay Reed, TaRon Lockett, and Isaiah Sharkey. 

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 6:38 pm

Twenty-four years, twenty-seven albums—to call Keller Williams a prolific artist is an understatement. Last week, the multi-instrumentalist talked with Grateful Web about record number twenty-seven, this year’s all-instrumental Sans. Immediately after that, he performed a special album release party at famed NYC venue The Brooklyn Bowl and displayed a fully-loaded palette of his guitar picking styles. Across his colorful career, Keller has performed with dozens of different musical lineups, but The Bowl show featured only himself and stand-up bassist Danton Boller—termed unofficially as The Keller Williams Duo.

Danton Boller & Keller Williams | Brooklyn Bowl

Boller has served as a session bassist for many mighty names, like Antibalas, Jon Fishman, Patti LaBelle, and others, but he’s also been in Williams' corner for a long time now, and this show may have helped to prove why. Keller is so fluid, sometimes even dizzying, in his musical ideas on stage, and Boller was more than deft enough to match his acoustic bass playing to the changing grooves of Keller’s repertoire. Boller also has an intense way of hitting his bass strings, a style that mirrors Keller’s hard-plucking style terrifically. Together, the two truly are a dynamic duo, and in this show, they delighted in dog-legged tempo shifts and unexpected bluegrass breakdowns shooting out of jazzier dance numbers. “The Cabella Vibe,” one from Sans that they offered at this show, is a prime example of this, offering almost hip-hop feeling beats that shift back and forth behind Keller’s looping, electronic sounds.

Keller Williams | Brooklyn Bowl

Interestingly, for an album release show celebrating the new material of Sans, Keller dove into slightly older, and way older, material pretty early on. Soon enough after the start, he was offering a nicely stripped-down take on Vape’s “Mantra,” digging at the crowd on their attempt to sing along. Later on, that same record’s “The Drop” saw both a killer improvised bass riff from Boller and a sneaky tease on Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The guitarist’s classic “Breathe” also saw extra lengthy improvised treatment, with Keller and Boller cruising confidently on a powerfully cascading intro jam.

Keller Williams & Danton Boller | Brooklyn Bowl

What would a special night be without his signature “Bird Song” and “Birds of a Feather” mashup? On this night, perhaps given the instrumental mode of Sans, Keller left the Phish jam as an instrumental itself, a cool switch-up. This jammed out sandwich might be one of the more anticipated cover treatments in Keller’s more recent show history, and it never fails to elicit excitement from his no doubt Phish and Dead-loving fanbase.

Danton Boller & Keller Williams | Brooklyn, NY

As they went on, and certainly by the time set number two was in motion, Keller and Boller had command of the room. Sans sees Keller scaling back to a completely instrumental, very musical aesthetic, and this release show perfectly displayed the two’s ability to translate that aesthetic to a live stage. The pair’s adventurous, multi-colored way of playing and getting down on songs managed to showcase their raw prowess over their instruments while keeping the crowd engaged the whole way through.

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 1:04 pm

The four-day music and arts festival known as FloydFest is set to return to its home of Floyd, Virginia on July 25 to 28, 2019, and today has announced its initial lineup of performers.

Topping this coming year’s lineup will be two big debut performers in Phil Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band and The String Cheese Incident. Joining them will be a number of veteran FloydFest performers in Brandi Carlile, Karl Denson and Tiny Universe, Tyler Childers and more.

Floydfest 2019 lineup

Every year, FloydFest adopts a creative theme, with this year’s chosen as Voyage Home. Past themes have included Freedom, Rise and Shine, and Breaking Ground, and past musical performers have included the likes of Gov’t Mule, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, The Lumineers, and Trampled By Turtles, and many more.

With this being FloydFest’s initial lineup announce, patrons can most likely expect more announcements to be made in the coming months. Early-bird tickets are on sale now, and will be listed at the current price until an increase on December 31, 2018. To find out more info and purchase tickets, head to the event’s website at http://floydfest.com/

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 4:42 pm

An old-school sign hides in plain sight on a busy Manhattan street, and it directs you to walk up three flights of apartment-style stairs, but then you’re there: the charming secret that is NYC jazz spot Club Bonafide, and on a regular basis at this hub you can hear great jazz standards sung beautifully by vocalist and recording artist Chloé Perrier.

Club Bonafide | New York City

This past weekend, to a full house, Perrier fronted her French Heart Jazz Band and performed a complete cover set of popular standards from the “jazz age” of the 1920s and 30s. By the end of this special and intimate evening night, couples were ditching their dinner tables to dance in the intimate aisle space, and back-and-forthing with Perrier in hand clapping, table-drum-beating, and foot stomping.

Chloe Perrier

Perrier, who has extensive early training in the performing arts, has simply a remarkable voice. At times it is bouncy and playful in more light-hearted songs like “Little Croquette,” and at other times meditative and affecting in more serious numbers like “Guilty.” In any phase, though, the voice sells you on the pure sound of it alone: smooth and natural, like a dreamy ending to an old black and white movie. Perrier’s stage presence suggests a similar kind of ease. In between songs, the singer engaged the crowd subtly and with small quips of wit, getting laughter time and again from her audience and prepping them up enthusiastically for each next song.

Chloé Perrier and The French Heart Jazz Band | NYC

The singer also fronts a sharp collective of musicians. Various nights she may have other instruments in the mix, but on this night helping Perrier out were her drummer, bassist and guitar player, and, for a portion of the show, a clarinet player. Much of the evening was given to these musicians in the style of solos in round, and they impressed at each turn, ushering along the grooves of multiple styles of jazz, from smooth to romantic to devilish and snazzy in the style of Django Reinhardt or Benny Goodman.

Chloe Perrier | New York City

Perrier, vocalist, and bandleader, fit comfortably into these varying musical moods as well. And when the songs handed back the responsibility back over to her, she never failed to reclaim the attention of every ear and eye in the room.

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 3:08 pm

Progressive jamgrass outfit Yonder Mountain String Band have been making their way through the east coast this week, and last Sunday the quintet had a tremendous stop at Fairfield, CT’s The Warehouse. With good showing from all members and multiple highlights, The Warehouse definitely saw an all-around very strong show, in what seems to be a strong season for Yonder.

Ben Kauffman, the bassist of YMSB, eagerly argued just as much to the crowd when they walked out on-stage Sunday night. “We’ve been having a pretty good week musically, and there’s no reason tonight should be any different!”

Ben & Adam | YMSB

By the time they were making their way through “Winds of Wyoming,” an old-school Yonder tune penned by banjo player Dave Johnston, this assertion had rung true. “Wyoming” was one of the most musically satisfying offers of the night, with the band really taking their time on this one, and put their heart and their mind into the strings. The tune, which kicked off from its chorus with a fantastic soloing from Johnston, wound its way through a comfortably flowing groove, even congealing out into space grass territory temporarily, before its momentum was bolstered up again by a round of soloing from all members. The last of these featured a wretchedly terrific solo from Allie Krall, a modern phenom on her instrument.

Dave Johnston | Fairfield, CT

“I Know You Rider,” coming after, achieved the same amount of energy as “Wyoming” in half the time. This was a spirited version, making for an early highlight of the show, and by now the room was feeling pretty electric. YMSB kept at it immediately, soon after the well loved cover offering a take on Bruce Springsteen’s "It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City.” The band again attacked this one extensively, so that it seemed they were egging all of each other on with their own tenacious picking. A friend at the show was feeling high and impressed in this bend of the show. “Did they just do a fifteen-minute Bruce Springsteen song right now?”

Adam & Allie | YMSB

But, among these older originals and covers, YMSB introduced some fresh material from 2018 Yonder. If there’s any lurking trepidation about Yonder’s current excellence as a band (and there shouldn’t be), one could take a listen to a song like “Nowhere Next,” a very progressive bluegrass number. The song is a brand new one from the band, and according to guitarist Adam Aijala, it was molded out of a bass solo Kauffman took on stage one night. It showcases a fusion of the near-prog-rock element that Yonder does better than most with their modern sense of Americana songwriting.

Dave, Jake, & Ben @ The Warehouse

But it was really the towering segment that concluded this set at The Warehouse that the crowd most appreciated, and no doubt why. The band started at a sprint with “On The Run,” one of the most classic vehicles in the Yonder repertoire, and took it for an impressive ride before heading into the next couple of musical surprises. Just when it sounded like they were getting ready to head to the end of “Run,” they pushed forward into Phish’s “Scent of a Mule,” a rare Yonder cover offer. This really worked up the room into a frenzy, and multiple dancing, arm-swinging circles took form throughout the place.

Allie Kral | Fairfield, CT

Without skipping a beat, the band pushed on into Bill Monroe’s “Wheel Hoss,” and here the band really dug into their picking. They began to move their positions on stage, squaring off both physically and musically, trading solos again back and forth. Most notably, in a standout moment of the whole show, mandolinist Jacob Jolliff and Krall dueled in the middle of this fiery traditional breakdown and took the solo fest to cloud nine. After this electrifying part of the segment, the band pulled the reins on the tempo and Kauffman crooned out Ween’s “Piss Up a Rope,” even more of a rarity than the Phish cover, and The Warehouse lost it at that. People had to stop their dancing because, who could resist yelling out the lyrics on this one?

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By the time they brought this segment back into “On The Run,” which only came after yet another go through “Mule,” the finish was actually less dramatic than it could have been, but understandably so. The band had rocked their way through a big musical sandwich and were took it easy and clean on ending.

With a “For What It’s Worth” to encore, Yonder niftily capped off a very heady and robust night on this fall tour.

Sun, 12/23/2018 - 11:18 am

If you’ve seen Dead and Company even once, you most likely have witnessed the infectious energy and enthusiasm radiating outward from the band’s bassist, Oteil Burbridge. It’s hard not to take notice of, or even have impacted you profoundly. Whether he’s playing beside members of The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead, or JRAD, there’s never a time when Oteil Burbridge isn’t smiling or dancing around in place on stage, compelled by and compelling others to the sublime music he’s making. 

Eric Krasno will be among Oteil's friends for New Year's

At the end of 2018, it’s no surprise that the two-time Grammy-winning musician is leading his own super jam show for two nights at a legendary venue like The Capitol Theatre. On Thursday, December 27, and Saturday, December 29, the group billed as Oteil and Friends will make their debut performance at the Port Chester rock palace. In between these Cap Theatre shows, the group will play Upper Darby, PA’s The Tower Theatre with Gov’t Mule, and afterward, they will finish up with a two-night, New Year's Eve run at NYC’s The Brooklyn Bowl.

John Kadlecik & Oteil Burbridge - photo by Patrick Giblin

Oteil has some pretty fantastic friends on board for the run. Handling the guitar work for each night will be two modern phenoms of the scene, John Kadlecik, and Eric Krasno, while joining Oteil in the rhythm section will be former Primus and Furthur drummer Jay Lane, as well as the masterful Weedie Braimah on percussion. Throw in the one and only Melvin Seals on keyboards and TAB member Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet and vocals, and you have one heady concoction of players, that is sure to match Oteil’s own sense of musical prowess and passion.

Melvin Seals will join Oteil for New Year's!

Like the Dead and Company bassist himself, all of these seasoned musicians have extensive experience with the sit-in, having shared stages with bands and superjams of all kinds. They are each veterans of the impromptu, one-of-a-kind musical setting, and while we can’t really know exactly what to expect from these Oteil and Friends shows, we know they will be good.

Oteil & Friends 2018 New Year's Run

Each night at The Capitol Theatre will feature a VIP Pre-Party performance from Oteil Burbridge and John Kadlecik, and tickets for those are sold separately.

To purchase tickets for either of these Oteil and Friends shows coming up, visit The Capitol’s event page here.

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 4:49 pm

Fans may be rejoicing that there are four more nights left to go this weekend for the all-star group billed as "Oteil and Friends,” who made their debut performance last night at Port Chester’s The Capitol Theatre. For by the powerful finish of the show's “Tangled Up In Blue,” in which guitarist John Kadlecik wrung out a hard-hitting solo atop a thundering push from the rhythm section of band leader Oteil Burbridge and drummer Jay Lane and percussionist Weedie Braimah, it was clear this band had something special.

The Capitol Theatre | December 27th, 2018

Billed as “Oteil and Friends,” the group featured band leader and bassist Oteil Burbridge, along with members Kadlecik, Lane, Braimah, Eric Krasno, Melvin Seals, and Jennifer Hartswick. All-star lineup shows can, and certainly, have in the past, go any number of ways, from “it looked really good on good on paper” to “we’re a full-touring band now.” But Oteil and Friends may have found the higher end of that split, as they harnessed an impressive cohesion throughout their debut performance last night, sounding like a group that had really performed live together many times before.

Weedie Braimah, John K, & Jennifer Hartswick | Port Chester, NY

This was clear immediately after the first chorus of the show’s opener, "Cats Under The Stars,” in which the band seemed to find the perfect tempo without any strain, and then grooved without stepping on any each other’s toes. This reporter admittedly would not have bet that Kadlecik and Krasno would complement each other so well as dual lead guitar players, but the twang-stricken showdown on “Proud Mary” was proof enough alone they could do that and more. Nor would he have thought the “animal" known as Jay Lane and percussionist Weedie Braimah would be so in sync for the entire night, yet the first set’s highlight number “Fire On The Mountain” confirmed that easily enough.

Melvin Seals | The Capitol Theatre

Cohesion acknowledged, amazingly the band managed to sound as such while also still letting each of its six members step out in moments of individual style. Hartswick led a number of tunes, like “How Sweet It Is,” “The Weight” and “Piece of My Heart." Oteil, however, rivaled even her chops with his tenderly sung version of “High Time." Other noteworthy moments abounded. Quickly into “Shakedown Street,” keyboardist Melvin Seals cut into a crisp organ solo that invited a whole segment of improvisational play from the group: a stretch of double-time jamming, a drum and bongo and bass breakdown segment from Burbridge and Lane and Braimah. The Kadlecik original “What’s Become of Mary” sat as high in set two as all the Dead tunes, with the band taking their time on it and playing it out nicely.

Oteil & Friends | Port Chester, NY

With a number of nifty songs like that one sprinkled in throughout the night, it seems clear that the setlists throughout this weekend from Oteil and Friends will be pretty good. Tonight, they open for Gov’t Mule at Upper Darby, PA’s The Tower Theatre, and tomorrow night will return for show number two at The Capitol Theatre. Sunday and Monday night, the group will perform a two-night New Year’s Eve run at NYC’s The Brooklyn Bowl.

Oteil & Eric Krasno | Port Chester, NY

Check out more photos from the show.

Sat, 01/12/2019 - 1:44 pm

This past Tuesday night, in an event billed as the Jam Jar, northeastern jambands Eggy, Fondude and Peak rocked The Brooklyn Bowl three times over, giving the famed Williamsburg venue over four hours of spirited, creative live music.

Four-member band Eggy, who opened the show, come from New Haven, CT, but have been hard at work recently delivering their lively shows all across the east coast, having shared stages across multiple states with artists like Andy Frasco and The U.N., Max Creek, Haley Jane, and The Primates, and others. For their debut set, the band played a full set of original stuff, and was perhaps the perfect opportunity for them to also debut a brand-new song, “12 Pounds of Pain.” Written by keyboardist Dani Batatt and composed by guitarist Jake Brownstein, the song fittingly describes the story of a bowler named Sonny and reflects the kind of eccentricity and cheerfulness imbuing a lot of their material.

Eggy | Brooklyn, NY

When it comes time to ride songs out, Eggy seems to do so with confidence from all four members. Tune into one full set from the band and by the end, or even halfway through, you have a firm feeling for each of the members’ individual playing styles. They concluded their debut set in with a big combo of two originals, “Graceless” and “In It For The Ride.” Powerful sections of soulful rock in these last songs demonstrated the group’s knack for laying down heartfelt music at a slow crawl of a tempo. But, it wouldn’t be an Eggy set if such was not intermissoned also by a stretch of freewheeling, improvisational-leaden disco rock, which the band hit in “Graceless.”

Fondude | Brooklyn Bowl

From what seemed like a small army of friends, family and fans, whoops and hollers and booming chants of “Fondude!” greeted the next four-piece as the second act of Jam Jar. Fondude were also making their Brooklyn Bowl, and had some pretty slick tricks throughout their set, like a well-polished version of Phish’s “Cars Trucks and Buses” that was topped off with a nice power guitar solo from lead Sam Ellner.

Fondude | Brooklyn Bowl

At the center of a couple of Fondude’s sections were fantastic bluegrass-rock style solos from pianist Ben Saldinger. Near both the exciting kick off and the end of their set, dancier club jams were punctuated by these country-electro-style breakdowns that sent the room reeling. As Fondude’s set went on, they sneakily became more musically daring, little by little, so that when it came time to transition out of “Fly Like an Eagle” into The Dead’s “Slipknot,” the result was done almost inconspicuously well, and even followed suit with an extended jazzy, spacey jam.

Jeremy Hillard | Peak

Peak, the headliners for the night, are a relatively young Brooklyn outfit but have already made strong showings at a number of staple NYC venues like DROM, The Way Station, a residency at the now-defunct American Beauty, and more.

In their headlining slot for this Jam Jar night, the group gave a full spin through their colorful, varied songbook, and Peak's original songs were actually all so satisfying in a way that any ensuing jams coming out of them just felt like bonus material. At one-point halfway through, this band channeled the sound and feel of Wilco, especially the band’s lead Jeremy Hillard who sounded reminiscent of Jeff Tweedy. But Americana-flavored material like this was surrounded by groovy fusion jazz and funk, topped again and again by sonically empowering solos from lead Hillard on guitar.

Jam Jar | Brooklyn, NY

There was hope that an event billed as the Jam Jar would witness some cross-band collaboration action, and thankfully there was a little. Eggy member Dani Battat doubled up on keys for one of Peak’s last songs, performing beside the band’s Johnny Young, and helped lay down an intriguingly ethereal sounding song.

Jam Jar | Peak

Improvisational performance, in the rock and roll setting at least, often sounds really nice when it’s not forced, and rather flows out of compositional material with a sense of natural progression or build. All three bands Tuesday night at The Brooklyn Bowl seemed to successfully demonstrate this elusive ability, showcasing alongside a flair for live experimentation a reverence for the importance of vocals, hooks, and more. Shows like Jam Jar are good events to check out to assure oneself of the knowledge that jamband rock is being maintained strongly and refreshingly into 2019 by lots of up and comers.

Eggy | Brooklyn Bowl

If you’d like to check out more info or touring schedules about either Eggy, Fondude, and Peak, head here, here, and here. Check out more photos here.

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 7:45 pm

When life brings its unexpected twists and turns, some people can emerge at the end of the maze and surprise the world in the most inspiring of ways. Such is the case with singer and songwriter Maya De Vitry, whom following the disbanding of her former band—the highly acclaimed stringband trio The Stray Birds—has emerged with her debut solo album, Adaptations.

Set to be released for this Friday, January 25, Adaptations is a collection of songs born from a time period of much needed reflection and self-discovery for De Vitry. The resulting work, which articulates with delicate precision a range of important themes and messages, is both lyrically provoking and musically breathtaking throughout. While the album is foremost a showcase of De Vitry’s talent, it also features the special talents of guests like Oliver Wood, Lindsay Lou, and Courtney Hartman.

You can pre-order two tracks from Adaptations ahead of its release on Friday, via De Vitry’s bandcamp page here: https://mayadevitry.bandcamp.com.

In the meantime, De Vitry was kind enough to answer questions about her time and life surrounding the making of Adaptations.

GW: What was it like going into the studio to record solo material? Did it feel any different, or did it present unique challenges or unique experiences, as opposed to other studio work you’ve done in recent times?

Maya de Vitry - photo by Laura Partain

MD: As I got deeper into writing the material for this album, I began to realize that I really was writing a cohesive album of songs that belonged in a world together -- I was able to express a singular voice and vision. The recording itself felt effortless-- I felt so free and uninhibited and empowered. I really trusted the songs -- I had crafted them so carefully and lovingly and they just felt ready. And I trusted Dan, and I trusted the band to play with sincerity and joy-- and we did. I really loved recording this music. The challenging part was then carrying this music out of the studio -- which felt like suspended reality -- and figuring out how to find a place for it in my "real" life.

GW: What is the extent of your experience as a solo performer, and is that something you’re already familiar with, and is it something you’re eager to get into or get back to, in the context of supporting this new album?

MD: I have very little experience as a solo performer -- I played one solo show in Boston when I was 20, and first getting obsessed with writing songs. But most of my material soon became a part of The Stray Birds' repertoire. We played hundreds of shows as a band, but I don't think I got on stage under my own name again until 2017, when my friend Miss Tess asked if I wanted to play some of my new songs at her residency in Nashville. That was just 2 years ago! Since then, I've been slowly exploring different configurations-- playing totally alone, as a duo with guitars, a duo with drums, or with a full band. I'm excited to let these songs live in different settings-- I'm playing an album release show in Nashville with a full band, and then going to the International Folk Alliance in Montreal with an acoustic guitar, to give the most stripped-down raw solo performances I possibly can. Now that this music is being released, I'm thrilled to start scheming some tours-- I do really love performing, and the impermanence and connection of live music.

GW: Reading about the album, I understand your trip to Cuba contributed a lot of inspiration towards it, especially songs like “You” and “Go Tell a Bird.” Can I ask if there was anything in particular that prompted the journey in the first place?

Maya de Vitry - photo by Laura Partain

MD: While on tour with The Stray Birds, I picked up a copy of Che Guevara's "Latin American Diaries/Otra Vez" in a used bookstore in Scotland. After Che was challenged and transformed by the poverty and injustice he encountered on his "Motorcycle Diaries" journey, he spent time in Guatemala and the Mexico, eventually heading to Cuba. I remember that this sparked a tremendous curiosity in me about Cuba. I have always been interested in how societies are organized -- and at the time, Southwest Airlines was flying to Cuba, and I could get a travel visa called "People to People," which was essentially independent cultural study, just making real connections with Cubans. I lived with a family in Havana, I took guitar and percussion lessons, and I was completely immersed in a beautiful, fascinating, mysterious culture for a month. I was very isolated from the rest of the world, yet very present and engaged with where I was - though inconvenient, it is possible to get internet in Cuba, but I chose to disconnect completely, and so for one month, the only communication I had was face to face, or on a land-line telephone. That alone was transformative.

GW: Listening to an intimate song like “My Body is a Letter,” I think one of the nice things about really prolific music is listeners possibly being able to personalize meaning and connect with it in any number of ways. Have you received any reception, either from fans or from loved ones or friends, about what they think of Adaptations, or how it has impacted them?

MD: Yes -- so far, from a very small circle because the music hasn't been officially released into the world yet, but yes... and I'm hopeful that this music will inspire some vulnerable conversations.

GW: The album as you describe was born out of such a personal journey, and yet a few of the songs were co-written with what seems like close musical friends. Were these folks heavily present in your life during the formation of these songs?

MD: Yes, they really were. Courtney Hartman and I have been on a bit of a parallel journey into our own voices over the last few years, and Ana Egge has been a hero and inspiration for years as well. Co-writing with them is more of a spiritual meeting than anything. I couldn't have walked through this process alone. I'm a pretty private person, but to have some friends and artists who can meet me in vulnerability and in the messy moments of discovery... I'm so grateful for that.

GW: Now that this album is coming out soon, do you have visions of what the future holds for your music? Of what you’d like to explore artistically next?

Maya de Vitry - photo by Laura Partain

MD: Yes! I am currently finishing another collection of songs.

GW: So perhaps there are no kind of ‘universal’ answers for this—but if there was some advice or wisdom you might impart to songwriters on getting the most out of reflection and retreat time and putting it towards their art, what would that be?

MD: No one else is watching. The world is extremely pre-occupied. Take as much time and space as you need to take care of yourself and your creativity. If you need to change or dismantle or redesign your life in order to do that, only you will know. No one else is waiting for you to bloom. No one else will ever make it happen for you. No one else will ever care about your true art or fight for your true art more than you will. Right now, you need to pay great, great attention to your vision. Right now, only you need to care. Only you need to believe. There may be much simmering, struggle, and self-doubt -- don't be afraid of these moments.

GW: As a last note I just want to add that the lyrics across this entire album really are quite poignant and thought provoking—have you considered a career as a professional poet?

MD: Thank you! And yes - a great deal of my songwriting is inspired and influenced by poets, and prose writers... I've spent my twenties so in love with songwriting as a way to tell a story, but I do write in other forms that I just don't really share publicly...yet!

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 5:26 pm

This week, members of The Terrapin Family Band are scheduled to perform two back to back nights in New York. On Thursday February 7, TFB members Grahame Lesh, Ross James, Jason Crosby, and Alex Koford will take to NYC’s Brooklyn Bowl to host a tribute to the late songwriter and poet John Perry Barlow. For that show, they will be joined by musicians Jerry and Aishlin Harrison, Elliott Peck, Brian Stollery, and others.

Grahame and Elliott Peck | photo by Alan Sheckter

The following night, on Friday February 8, Grahame Lesh, Jason Crosby, and Alex Koford will be performing at Garcia’s at The Capitol Theatre as The Terrapin Family Band, and they will be joined by special guests Elliott Peck and Chris Crosby.

Alex Koford | photo by Alan Sheckter

While most are probably familiar with The Terrapin Family Band as the touring jam outfit lead by legendary bassist Phil Lesh, these two shows without the Grateful Dead alum will be a unique east coast showing for the TFB core members that originally cut their teeth and performed together numerous times as the house band at the famous Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, CA.

Ross James & Grahame Lesh

As for dates featuring the full lineup, next month the whole of Terrapin Family Band are scheduled to perform two nights at Chicago’s Thalia Hall, on Thursday, March 7 and Friday, March 8. In April, TFB will perform two nights at The Joy Theatre in New Orleans as part of the 2019 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Beyond that, the band is scheduled to play Red Rocks in May as well as headline the nineteenth annual Floydfest in June.

February 7th marks one year since we lost John Perry Barlow

Tickets for both upcoming shows this week featuring members of Terrapin Family Band are on sale now and can be purchased by visiting the websites of Brooklyn Bowl here and Garcia's here.

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 7:04 pm

In a season of terrific shows, this past weekend NYC venue the Brooklyn Bowl had what no doubt was a good one. The six-hundred capacity spaced filled itself full out for a towering, full-throttle night of rock music, delivered by two northeast area bands: Brooklyn’s Of Clocks and Clouds and Connecticut’s leading jam-funk band Kung Fu. Fu were billed to play one set of original material, that was joined briefly by Dispatch’s Pete Francis, and a tribute set to The Who.

Of Clocks and Clouds

Of Clocks and Clouds, a tenacious psychedelic fuzz-rock band, have recently started to gain some proper noise around NY and beyond, and hopefully their awesome set at this night at The Bowl continues that. The band features lead guitarist Joe Salgo, along with bassist Max Devlin and keyboardist Dylan DeFeo. On this night, as a neat point worthy of mention, the band featured two additional Salgo members, brothers of Joe in Tom on additional guitar and drummer Nick Salgo.

Nick Salgo

The youngest Salgo the drummer sang vocals on” For Whom The Bell Tolls,” and this was a great one in their set, as the band well-extended the Metallica mega-hit with a uniquely groovy sort of jam. Of Clocks and Clouds ride this cool line between intense rock and improvisational rock—if you like sharp-edged guitar work and heavy push, that’s in there, and if you like some fluidity, some soft-edged cushion, that’s in there too. A hard combo to pull off, but Of Clocks and Clouds have the sound and technical to make it work.

Of Clocks and Clouds with Brittany Beckett | Brooklyn, NY

After a nice jam on their original song “Hole in My Head,” the band, while still playing, invited guest vocalist Brittany Beckett up to sing, rap, and take the commotion over the edge with a version of Rage Against The Machine’s “Bullet In The Head.” Around this point of this wicked segment, through to the end of the band’s return into “Hole in My Head,” one might have been easily mistaken that this set was meant to the whole night. Of Clocks and Clouds and their guest vocalist made it that big, that enthusiastically played, and garnered that kind of favorited reaction from their impressive crowd size.

Kung Fu | Brooklyn, NY

In their opening set, Kung Fu threw themselves into the night, which is not uncommon from this ambitious and seemingly tireless foursome. Few bands, if any really, serve up funk music as fiercely fast as Kung Fu. With technical chops to make your head spin, and levels of power that just seem to expand over sets, they’re among top dogs in the genre.  But the shred is not without its smooth. Even at their most breakneck moments, from guitarist Tim Palmieri's dizzying solos to saxophonist Rob Somerville’s husky horn sounds, Kung Fu’s songs grow in color and shape, too. There’s substance behind the hustle, like in the big first set combo of “Have a Party” melding into “Chop Suey” was multi-faceted,

Pete Francis getting set up to jam with Kung Fu

Pete Francis of Dispatch made his way onto the stage, and the fun for the night was about to really take off. Franics and Fu broke into Dispatch’s “Small Change,” a peculiar choice that nonetheless came off pretty good and was actually highly appreciated from the crowd, whom not surprisingly sang along here with the band. Their second of two collaborations was even better. Francis started having guitar issues, and Brooklyn Bowl and Kung Fu crew members jumped to action, and meanwhile, the funk foursome started up on an impromptu blues groove. Francis figured it out, but when he did, Palmeri went to fix something of his own. It was a tradeoff of tech problems and improv guitar duty, and was a nifty part of this actually very fun segment of this show.

Kung Fu crowd in Brooklyn

Once they both were set, Francis and Palmeri, before the Dispatch member went to square off with bassist Chris DeAngelis. Francis funked it up for a spell on this on-the-spot session, and made a nice exit midway. Fu continued without stopping, headfirst into what was arguably one of the most improvisational stretches of the night. The four members just took off and built up an ultrasonic, nearly jamtronic performance, entering the deep space-travel area of groovy funk music. Then The Brooklyn Bowl got its doozy for the night.    

Kung Fu | Brooklyn Bowl

When one thinks of epic-scale rock and roll, The Who have always reigned near the top. They were awarded at one point the accolade of loudest band in the world, and a number of their hits could be considered anthem material. Have their songs played to a packed Brooklyn Bowl by Kung Fu, and quite honestly you’ve built a mini atom bomb of musical energy.

Kung Fu | Brooklyn Bowl

It was pretty evident immediately that Kung Fu would be ripping apart this set of Who material. They tore the gate off on the opening “Fooled Again,” and it seemed from early key compositional parts, from Palmeri and keyboardist Beau Sasser especially, that the band had readied themselves with the material seriously. Sasser mentioned after the show that the band had only just learned and played these songs for as a band for the first time, and considering the delivery that went down, that’s rather astounding.

Beau Sasser | Kung Fu

At the finish of “Can’t Explain,” coming second, drummer Adrian Tramontano was whipping across his kit while Sasser slipped into the huge mix a sweet organ solo. Without a hitch, they moved into the Tommy segment of “Overture” -> “It’s a Boy.” On the album, the guitar intro is played on an acoustic, but Palmeri was using his electric, and it sounded extra gnarly for such.

Fu funked The Who

Once Fu was powered up in this set, they weren’t coming down, and neither was the crowd or that matter, and things boiled over multiple times. On “Bargain,” the crowd was fighting with the band on who could scream “The best I ever had” the loudest, and that was amid everybody else that was just simply screaming.

Chris DeAngelis with Dispatch's Pete Fancis

Some shows hit this certain level, between the band’s enthusiasm and the music and the crowd’s reaction, that is almost bewildering, and one has just to stand there and take it all in. At one point I’d heard a couple of women say, in “Oh my God.” I looked behind my shoulder and saw them: they were simply responding to the room, the energy, and the intensity.

Tim Palmeri | Kung Fu

Palmeri addressed the electricity of the night himself. After a great “Teenage Wasteland,” which concluded itself with a particularly sweet sax solo from Fu member Rob Somerville, the Kung Fu guitarist took a moment to pant into the microphone. He said: “Yeah, we really love this music. We love music in general, but we reallllly love this music.”

Pete Francis with Kung Fu

He wasn’t exaggerating. During this entire set, Kung Fu looked like a group of teenagers jamming out The Who in their garage. Between Somerville’s rowdy vocals on songs like “Wasteland” and “Who Are You,” bassist DeAngelis’ jumping around stage, Palmeri's endless power rock stances and everything else, the four were reveling in this music.

Brooklyn Bowl

They weren’t just monkeying around, of course, but holding down these tunes with muscle. DeAngelis, for instance, threw his own flair into the bass lines of jams like “Rock and Roll Doctor.” The bassist also sang “Drowned,” which may have been the peak of the evening. For this one, the band invited up Pink Talking Fish keyboardist Rick James to play beside Sasser, and the version here was quick but oh, was it hot.

Pete Francis with Kung Fu

In between DeAngelis’ great vocals, the band kept hammering on “Drowned”’s bright chord progression, making these blissful waves of music that washed over The Bowl. The rock was boosted, too, at this point by a beautiful coating of rainbow-colored light. The room was all smiles, and James was all smiles, too, as he had jumped into the middle of this paramount set of music. He and Sasser soloed multiple times within the fray with a sense of abandon. It’s hard to pick a high point of this night, but this is a contender.

Tim Palmeri and Pete Francis

But then, of course, there’s the end of the show, the encore to this exalted night of performance. It began with probably the biggest Who, “Who Are You,” and Somerville really grunted out the vocals on this one. Again, hitting the nail on the classic riffs just in a straightforward yet gigantic way. “My Generation” was quick, bulleted follow-up, that only precluded the real send off. Palmeri, DeAngelis, and Tramontano beat the daylights out of a spare drum kit, smashing it to bits in front of a truly crazed audience. Kicks and suplexes to the snare drum from the band, shrieks of insanity from the crowd.

Tim gives thanks to special guest Pete Francis

In addition to his note about the songs, Sasser also later mentioned that he wasn’t in the know on the band’s plan to do this, and looking back at video you can notice his reactions during the encore. If there’s a way to end a mighty and inspirational hour-long performance of The Who, that’s it.  

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 6:54 pm

Downtown New York City saw the return of an amazing yearly musical event this past weekend, The Tree of Life Benefit. Created by music lover and activist Robert S. Rosman and his family, Tree of Life gathers big names of the metro jam scene and beyond to deliver memorable nights of collaborative music in an intimate setting. It all raises funds for Ferncliff Manor, a school specializing in the care and treatment of individuals with disabilities. This year’s event, held at cool music club S.O.B’s on Saturday night, was no exception to the show’s yearly delivery, featuring members of JRAD, The Terrapin Family Band, and more spread across two dynamic sets.

Jesse Bardwell & Scott Metzger

In addition to a few hours of killer jams, ticket purchasers enjoyed a special art auction, meet and greets, and more. To start, patrons that made the generous purchase of a VIP ticket price were treated to a warmup set from singer-songwriter Elliott Peck and mandolinist Jesse Bardwell. The two were a serene pair in guitar and vocals, and they prefaced a wild night of music ahead with their delicate, sensitive performance.

Elliott Peck & Chris Crosby | Sound of Brazil

Around eight-thirty in the night, the first savory combination of musicians hit the stage: Billed as The Brothers Band, the group featured two pairs of brothers—Luther and Cody Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars on guitar and drums, and Jason and Chris Crosby on keyboards and bass. Rocking it on stage beside them were Alexander Nelson and Alex Koford, highly capable guitar geeks in their own right.

Jason Crosby & Luther Dickinson

When the band cut into their rendition of “Deep Elem Blues,” there was no doubt that this would be an extra-special evening of collaboration, if anybody rocking out SOB’s had any doubt to begin with. Luther Dickinson was in the zone from note one. The way the NMA lead guitarist plays a funky solo on a slide is something for every single fan of jam Americana music to hear. The other Dickinson brother Cody steered the traditional tune through its perfect tempo but sang lead with his pretty unique voice. Guitarists Alexes Nelson and Koford were right there with the two, gritty-ing up this first set of the night with a youthful, relentless edge.

Tash Neal with NMA

As if the Tree of Life Benefit hadn’t provided enough star power for S.O.B.’s, The Brothers Band invited up surprise guest Tash Neal, guitarist for The London Souls and most recently Amy Helm, to sing lead and shred ahead on a blistering version of Howlin' Wolf’s “Spoonful.” The band gave the stage fully to Neal, who topped out the energy of the night early with the intense performance of this one.

Perhaps referring to the long night of magic yet to come, and yet also commenting on the clear magic that was happening right then, Luther said, “Thank God we’re going first!"

The Tree of Life Benefit benefit

The Brothers Band definitely had a feel, and not to mention a notable sense of gleeful comradery around the stage, that might have suggested they would be more than just a one-off performance. There may be something to this if we’re going by Luther’s words at the close of this SOB’s set: “This is a band we’ve been wanting to get together for a long time now.” No telling, of course, if that signifies future plans for this lineup, but if such is this case, then The Brothers Band comes with recommendation if they come around again.

Scott Metzger, Alex Koford, and Katie Jacoby

The kickoff of The Tree of Life Band, SOB’s second ebullient jam session for the night, was helmed by the fearless Showdown Kids. The name goes to musical power couple Scott Metzger and Katie Jacoby, JRAD guitarist and The Who backup violinist, respectively, and the two put a very nice shine on the set’s opening “Ophelia.” Nobody, at least around the New York City scene, has a guitar tone quite like Metzger’s: big and fat and warm, perfect for a feel-good take on a Band tune. Jacoby, likewise, being a professionally trained musician doesn’t waste any time to showcase her serious chops. The Band song, and the rest of this heady jam folk session were joined again Jason and Chris Crosby, Alex Koford now on the drums, and Elliott Peck and Jesse Bardwell.

Katie & Elliott | New York City

In such a collaborative setting as these, often members will stand out in individual moments throughout the performance. Peck had her best with an awesome, foot-stomping version of “In My Time Of Dying,” one of the traditional tunes that the singer-songwriter just knocks out of the park every time she performs it. Jacoby put a kicking fiddle solo onto this one, right before Jason Crosby played a deliciously funky keyboard solo on it.

Jason Crosby | SOB's

Jason Crosby, a modern music-collaboration titan, reigns in any jam-heavy setting. This night, both Luther Dickinson and Scott Metzger were on stage near him, and each squared off with the keyboardist face to face in multiple high moments of the show, testing their technical and melodic abilities against his. In one such moment, during a nicely jammed-out performance of one of Metzger’s WOLF! Songs (the guitarist’s surf punk trio), Crosby and Metzger raced each other through a chromatic, jazzy breakdown that made heads of dancers in the audience spin.

Scott and Katie | SOB's

Also, of note here: holding down the bass on a WOLF! song, with Metzger dashing through musical ideas in his gung-ho style, is no light challenge. Yet bassist for the evening Chris Crosby handled it, and the rest of the Tree of Life material, with aplomb, delivering not only a comfortable bass lines all night but also a satisfyingly heavy and low tone (the kind a bass should ideally have).

The Tree of Life Benefit - New York, New York

“Break On Through” crooned out enthusiastically by Alexander Koford, “Good Hearted Woman” dueted soulfully by Bardwell and Peck, Jason Crosby being called out by Jacoby to take a solo on her violin—Tree of Life provided more musical gems than might normally be spread out across a whole weeks’ tour.

Scott Metzger & Luther Dickinson

For its encore, The Tree of Life Band invited up Luther to throw down on The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” beside Metzger and The Alexes and may there be no surprise that this was a highly anticipated meeting. A crowd that was weary from dancing all night, and assuredly feeling like they got all of their donations’ worth and more, said things like, “All these guys on one stage; They are just about to show one another up!” And they did, Metzger and Dickinson in particular, a couple of free-roaming (guitar) ax murderers cutting down the Tree of Life until next year.

Katie Jacoby

Check out more photos from the show.

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 6:55 pm

Toronto, Canada’s jam funk hybrid After Funk have been touring all over the US in support of their newest album, Santa Barbara, bringing a refreshing live show to both west and east coast, and musical spots in between. Bridgeport, CT’s The Acoustic Cafe was one such lucky place to get a stop on this extensive cross-country tour, last Thursday evening. After Funk lit up the Black Rock music joint along with highly satisfying opening acts in New London, CT rock band No Mind and Boston, MA producer Lee Ross.

Lee Ross | Bridgeport, CT

Lee Ross is a veteran of probably many shifting music scenes over the years, having performed with countless big names, and in that showing his inexhaustible versatility. Later this week, for instance, he will be joining Richard James of Pink Talking Fish for his Krewe Orleans project, along with members of Trey Anastasio Band, moe., and more. For someone to be able to throw down with a crew of that magnitude, it should hint at what musical abilities they can bring to the table.

Lee Ross | The Acoustic Cafe

Ross is not just a one-man band, but a one-man groove machine. He mixes beats, effects, instrumentation, vocals, and more into one superfused, yet very homogenous sound. Quite a lot comes together with ease and makes for a very clean, very catchy presentation. In addition to his production skills, Ross is clearly a multi-instrumentalist, and most of The Acoustic set had him wailing away on great saxophone solos.

Lee Ross

On what sounded like must be a current favorite hit of his, “Cookie Jar,” Ross picked up a flute and laid that down onto the musical pile. Imagine an alluring jazz flute solo capping off deep space dub funk in a song about Cookie Monster, and you have a sense into the world of Lee Ross.

No Mind | The Acoustic Cafe

Also joining After Funk for their album release show was Connecticut’s own five-member rock fusion band No Mind. Having been around for a few years now, but hitting the scene of late with a renewed fervor, No Mind is working up a buzz about themselves, one that they’ve met with an appropriately strong performance.   

No Mind | Bridgeport, CT

Their performance at The Acoustic was no exception to this, with not one tune from the band lacking with not one tune from the band lacking in either enthusiasm or the fullest musical effort from any of the five members. Even before After Funk closed the place out with style, No Mind had The Acoustic worked up and moving about the place.

No Mind | The Acoustic Cafe

Take all of the better bands coming up in your music scene, and the best ones of that selection probably have a fair for good songwriting. No Mind’s material penned in part to guitarist Trevor Giles brims with in-the-moment satisfaction and memorability—the kind of material that might stick with you long after it affected you pretty well at the moment. Lead singer Cody Urban delivered this set of original ballads from the band that either furrowed dead ahead into straight power rock or took on a more singer-songwriter sensibility.

Issac Young | No Mind

But most of them also gave the band the proper platform to be adventurous with their playing, and No Mind just hammered away with enthusiasm on every song they played. To start, Urban has a cooly unique guitar tone that may become as recognizable as the songs themselves—think Steve Kimock playing for Morphine or Stone Temple Pilots—and he works both slide and finger technique together.

Max Schiavone | No Mind

“Raise Me Up,” performed midway through this set, was a great example of the band’s bold delivery style. It kicked off with incredibly dynamic basslines from member Max Schiavone. Schiavone, who held down the low end of tunes with a deep bass tone, was almost so creative in his playing he was nearly a lead soloist himself. And at the end of this particular song, keyboardist Issac Young took a sharp synthesizer solo that ushered the whole band into a sprinted ending. A lot of the material from No Mind powered things in this way, with Young back-halfing a song to welcome extended jams from the band. This was No Mind’s first show with a new drummer, Rob Madore. Again, this was a terrific showing from this band, but if one needed evidence as to whether Madore was part of that, at one point, the music became so intense, certainly owing in part to the wild energy of the room, that the drummer broke his drumstick in half mid drum fill.

After Funk | The Acoustic Cafe

After Funk, too, treated The Acoustic right and delivered from what seemed to be their natural and finest form. The four-member funk-jam group delivered an extremely well-oiled live show, a set full of first-class musicianship that traversed a wide spectrum of musical color. If you were to take a listen to the band’s new Santa Barbara album, the band might win you over pretty quick with their outright feel-good, smooth material. But live it all kicks into overdrive, with surprising tempo and key changes and a building intensity that threatens a ceiling burst all the way through.

Phil Tessis | After Funk

Helping to emphasize this tenacious live set was their effortless maneuvering through tempo and key changes. Songs from After Funk will trade off several relentless measures of crashing, in your face hard funk for a complete one-eighty into something incredibly chill, or tender and delicate. The effortless switch between these contrasting styles seemed to be part of their charm as a performing group.

Yanick Allwood and Justin Bontje | After Funk

No doubt one of the more upfront things to notice was lead singer Yanick Allwood, who has a voice of neo-soul gold, but also keyboard chops to compliment. On one of their more incendiary songs, Allwood dueled with guitarist Phil Tessis for a particularly electrifying moment of improvisation. Tessis is also a downright confident player, who whiplashed heavy guitar solos into A-Funk’s songs with an unexpected attitude. A crunchy, pocket-funky number out of nowhere would suddenly for its ending take on had a face-melting performance from either him or Allwood or the other two members.

After Funk | The Acoustic Cafe

For instance, soon after Allwood and Tessis had their moment, bassist got his: One of the last tunes to end After Funk’s set, featured a slap bass solo from Steinwell that garnered hollers from the crowd and transitioned the song into a porno funk mode. Except, it’s porno funk at 4X the speed. Again, After Funk’s specialty seemed to gravitate around totally shaking up musical genres and sub-genres—presenting both new and old school styles that you thought you knew boldly.  Well into their set, even by its end, After Funk was still introducing more styles, they could handle with both technical deftness and a cheerful, inviting outlook. Lots of bands call themselves, or are called by others, to be “refreshing,” but After Funk deserves the term.

Mon, 03/11/2019 - 5:49 pm

Singer-songwriter Tim Bluhm himself affirms below in this new interview with Grateful Web: “I never come up short when it comes to songs.” And It’d be really hard to discredit the man. The California-bred musician has been touring professionally for the better part of thirty years, many of those as the frontman for the legendary Mother Hips, but also during that time as a prolific individual artist, putting his unique mark on modern country. Later this month, Bluhm will release his brand-new solo album, Sorta Surviving, on March 29, which features the new singles he has recently released, in addition to a few fantastic covers. The album release will come with a tour through California starting on the same day and stretching through the beginning of April.

Ahead of all that, Bluhm talked briefly with Grateful Web and answered a few questions about the material on the record along with some of his current artistic inspirations.

GW: The record is almost out. How do you feel about the release coming out? Excited, nervous?

Tim Bluhm: Sorta Surviving

Tim: I’m excited to get it out, yeah. It’s been done for a while, and I’m definitely ready for people to listen to it. And maybe I should be nervous about it…I think people will like it, and hopefully, some people that I don’t even know about it will like it, that would be really cool. But people that already like my music, I think they’ll like it, even though it's a little bit different.

GW: Have you have chance to perform a lot of this material live yet?

Tim: I have. I’ve done it with a band, and I’ve done it a lot solo. It goes pretty good, I have to say, part of my goal for this record was to make sure that the songs would sound good playing them by myself, and of course, playing them with a band. But yeah, I think all of the songs on the record just kind of work as solo performance.

GW: For the album, you took it out to Tennessee to record. What prompted that move?

Tim: Well, I was definitely interested in doing a record outside of California. I’ve been involved with the making of lots and lots of records, and I don’t think any of them have ever been outside of California. And, Dave Schools the producer had just finished a Todd Snider record at the Cash Cabin, outside of Nashville, and he was fired up to go back there. So, when I heard about that, I was very interested in making a record at Cash’s studio.

The Mother Hips | Boulder, CO

GW: Do you have an idea about what Johnny Cash would’ve thought about your record?

Tim: (Laughs) I’d like to think he’d like it, for sure. But who the hell knows, you know? And that’s the thing, also. I’ve been a professional musician for like thirty years, and you don’t always get to totally love everything you do. But sometimes you just have to do what works.

GW: On a solo record, as opposed to something, say, with The Mother Hips, do you have to be the boss more than usual? And do you like that role?

Tim: Well, with The Mother Hips they’re still mostly my songs, although Greg writes some of the songs, too. But with them, there’s such an unspoken arrangement. We’ve been doing it for so long; I generally know exactly what they’re gonna say, or what they’re gonna do with a song. It is different because it’s a bit of a committee when it’s a band. You need to honor the contributions of all the band members, that’s what being in a band is. Otherwise, it’s not going to be a very fun band to be in, for anybody. So yeah, when you’re the solo artist, you are definitely expected to be more in charge. Although I wouldn’t say you have to be, especially when you’re surrounded by the caliber of musicians that I was lucky enough to be surrounded by.  

Tim & Greg | photo by Alan Sheckter

GW: So the session musicians...did you find that you really connected with them, playing on this album? Or that they connected with your vision for the record?

Tim: Yeah, they did! Especially Dave Roe, the bass player. He was kind of like the quarterback, writing up all the charts and everything. He’s a really sincere guy, and I think he was into it. He certainly said some nice things about it. And Gene Chrisman he’s awesome, he reminded me of my Grampa. But all of the musicianship, really, it was exciting to watch the music being made. It would’ve been exciting even if they weren’t my songs, if I were just watching from the control room. They’re so damn good.

GW: I’ve gotten to see Jason Crosby perform a couple of times recently. He’s a very cool musician.

Tim: He really is, and I’ve been lucky enough to be his friend, and to have him play on pretty much all of my recordings since I’ve met him. He’s just such a pleasure to be around, and to listen to him play is rapture.

GW: How did you go about choosing the particular cover songs you did for this record? Did they resonate with the theme of the album, or were they ones you just enjoy doing?

Tim: They were just songs I just really enjoy doing. I have mixed feelings about putting cover songs, especially multiple cover songs, on a record. That’s the first time I’ve put more than one cover on a record. Because I have so many songs, I never come up short when it comes to songs, and that was the case for this record as well, I had plenty of songs. And when you’re choosing songs, you just have to be as objective as you can and choose which recordings sound the best.  That’s really what matters; it doesn’t matter who wrote them at that point.

Tim Bluhm

GW: Were you aiming to emulate the covers’ original style, or do them totally in a new way?

Tim: A little bit of both. One of the covers from the record, “Kern River,” is probably the most faithful to the original recording, the arrangement and the structure and all that. “I Still Miss Someone,” which is the Johnny Cash cover, Jason Crosby and I sort of rearranged that song. We put a couple of different chords underneath the same melody, and so it has a bit of a different feeling. I think it’s a little more mournful than the original. The original is a little sad, too, but musically it’s not. It’s jaunty. And I wanted to see what would happen if we made the chords a little sadder.

GW: Actually, this is brings to mind “Where I Parked My Mind,” from the album. I think that song is a good example of something that sounds very laid back and almost cheerful, while the lyrics are telling something totally different. I really like when that happens in music, that duality.

Tim: Oh yeah, I do too. I like how the colors of a song can make you feel one way, and the lyrical content another way, and they don’t always work in unison, sometimes they’re out of phase. For “I Still Miss Someone,” what I was trying to do was, there’s this Neil Young song…well he didn’t write it but there’s this recording of “Oh Lonesome Me,” and I can’t remember who wrote it but I’d like to have that down on the record so hold on a second….

GW: Don something...

Tim Bluhm

Tim: Don Gibson, right! So, I didn’t know it was a cover, at first listening to the record, but it’s so sad, and Neil makes it his own in such a cool way. And then when I found out it was a Don Gibson song, and I heard his version of it, it was that thing where the tone of the music didn’t really match the mournfulness of the lyrics. And the way I was used to hearing it, with Neil sounding like he’s just about to start crying, I always thought that was so cool how he did that, I always admired that. I came to thinking over the years that I want to try and find a song that I could try and do something like that too, and so Jason helped me do it with “I Still Miss Someone.” I don’t know if we succeeded, but that’s kind of what I was going for.”

GW: I think you did succeed. It’s a nice version.

Tim: Well thank you for that. (Laughs) I was nervous though, because Johnny Cash’s son, John Carter Cash, he lives on the property there and he came down to hear that version of the song, so I was super nervous. He’s super nice, but he’s kind of intimidating. But he sat down at the desk and listened to it. He said it sounded like “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Sat, 03/16/2019 - 3:57 pm

Jam scene visionaries Joe Russo’s Almost Dead are underway on their current 2019 winter tour, and this past week performed at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA, the following night at College Street Music Hall in New Haven, CT, and last night at The Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ. The tour has featured fully-flourished, creative setlists from the band, linked end to end with a musical that has seemed to show JRAD is as confident and engaged in their live show as they ever have been.

Joe Russo | Penn's Peak

Among the most notable efforts from this week of shows, the band performed a two-night version of "Terrapin Station,” starting the Dead epic in the extraordinary end of Penn’s Peak set two, and completing it as a rare encore treat in New Haven the following night.

Marco and Tom Hamilton | JRAD

The Wednesday night tour starter was JRAD’s debut performance at Penn’s Peak, and what an inception it was. The band kicked things off in what is now typical fashion for them, an improv-laden intro. Eventually, the band turned it into a rich, lurid version of “Peggy-O” to start. Even starting early in this first set, both nights from JRAD were aplomb with strongly executed segues, making for a lot of musical flow across each night. Interestingly enough, many of the segues were telegraphed inconspicuous style, with the band’s flair for teasing jams and songs signaling what directions the group was taking.

Scott Metzger | JRAD

For instance, the first night’s “Loose Lucy,” which first featured a hefty guitar solo from Scott Metzger, was powered by Russo into a “Let It Grow,” but you could hear it starting to happen before it even did, and it’s both fun and satisfying when it happens like that. Later, the “Women Are Smarter” heading offset two would blast upwards into a paramount, explosive version of “The Eleven,” complete with a great moment of Hamilton-Metzger dual soloing, but only after bassist Dave Dreiwitz started clearly bumping out its baseline at the point of segue.  

Joe Russo's Almost Dead | Jim Thorpe, PA

As one of the standout segments of this run so far, Penn’s Peak night two set two not only featured that Eleven but also a “Black Throated Wind” that the band imploded with an unexpectedly dynamic jam. On Tom Hamilton’s inspired solo on the song’s outro, the band double-timed the Bob Weir original for a type-two breakaway, and sailed into “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad.” The Jim Thorpe venue and it’s crowd was jubilant around this point of the show, and even more so when the band shifted further from GDTRFB into “Fire On The Mountain.” And when they connected FOTM with a big, raucous version of “Terrapin Station” to close out the show, it solidified the band’s debut here as truly one to remember.

Drew Dreiwitz | Penn's Peak

Throughout both shows, JRAD showed a versatility in their presentation of a live performance, in which they mixed their well-known brand of blistering super-improv with many in between moments of quieter, more delicate music.

Joe Russo's Almost Dead | Penn's Peak

Penn’s Peak for instance, engined much of the segue work via sections of fast space, with Russo and Dreiwitz keeping a groove under the rest of the band’s delicate playing. A grand, Tommy-helmed performance of “Stella Blues” to end set one showed this. New Haven’s near spiritual version of “Mission In The Rain,” along with its blessed encore of “Reuben and Cherise->Terrapin Station,” were a few more examples.

Mon, 03/18/2019 - 5:33 pm

In a little over a week, on March 29, veteran roots-rock band O.A.R. will release their ninth studio album, The Mighty. In a career pushing past two decades that has seen them sell out both Madison Square Garden and Red Rocks, the alternative-rock leaders seem to be striding confidently ahead, with this new record that meets their more classic musical tastes with a new, exciting sounds. This summer, starting on June 5th, the band will embark on an extensive, cross-country tour, starting along the east coast and then heading through the south to the Midwest, northwest and finally the southwest with shows in Texas. Their final date in the tour will be a home-state show in Maryland that has a special guest yet to be announced.

Marc Roberge is O.A.R.’s amiable lead singer and rhythm guitarist, with a Zen-like personality that discussed with Grateful Web band the state of the band, as well as a breakdown of the new record, with ease.

GW: Marc Roberge, thanks for taking the time today. How’re you doing?

Marc: I’m pretty good! (laughs) That’s a good question. You know, literally, no one ever starts with that.

GW: Yeah, why not? But I have just a few questions about you and the band, and of course, the new album coming out. The Mighty is all finished and set to come out in a couple of weeks.

Marc: Yeah, I worked on the album until the late-night hours of February 1st...and we just had to turn it into the label, so we were working up to the very last minute. I lost my voice; I just could not give anything more to the tracks. But we turned it in; we called it a day.

GW: Oh man, deadlines. Under pressure sometimes works.

Marc: Yeah, deadlines. It was very…self-imposed drama, but it was good stuff. It forced us to make some decisions. But pressure, always. I mean, you gotta get it done. You can’t overthink this; you’re just making songs.

GW: I’ve been spinning the album all week, and it’s a very empowering album. What were some of the forces or experiences in your life giving the most inspiration behind these songs?

Marc: Man, that’s a good question. It’s a direct reflection of...the need to hold it down at home, with a growing family, and with the real world, trying to make a living, making music, with your other family, and do it at the level where you want to tour every year. It’s a reflection of being a band in 2019 for your livelihood; you know what I mean? I think that’s what this thing is about; it’s about how we’re feeling while we’re making this journey together. And over the years we’ve always tried to tell stories, but at the end of the day, it’s merely you just expressing how you’re dealing with life. We’re in a pretty proud place right now; we feel that we’ve created a foundation to be digging our heels in. And so that year, last year was spent making the balance work and holding it down at the studio, at home, doing it properly, doing it together. And that’s really why we called it The Mighty; it’s a direct reflection of that.

GW: Having interviewed a number of artists, both long-timers and newer ones, I think I’ve gotten an appreciation for that grind that they all have. Sometimes you don’t realize all that goes into the behind the scenes of your favorite music.

Marc: And it’s a grind that you don’t complain about. You’ve gotten to do a job you’ve dreamed of doing…but to do that you have to make music that’s real. I mean, it has to reflect your life. Because people relate to the same things, we all relate to the same things. Once you start making music for the wrong reasons, then you get way off from what someone can relate to. Because you’re really just making up a story. And, even though we use characters sometimes, it’s always a reflection of our life. And that’s why I think people can relate to this, just like I relate to my favorite musicians because I believe what they’re saying.

GW: So, now that the album is finished, do you feel like you’ve been successful in this regard? Getting the messages out that you wanted to? Have you gone back and listened to it?

Marc: Ahh…it’s rare that I ever listen back…I’ll listen to the album feverishly, for a moment, while we make it, at the end as we’re finishing it up. In that moment of turning it in, I’ll listen to it over and over and over. And then, I’ll take a break, and then I will absolutely listen to it and celebrate it all spring and summer, and we’ll be playing it out. And then, after that, I’ll know whether I got my story across. Because, the thing with songs is, I think, sometimes you don’t really find out what they’re about, for years. You write a song; you think it’s about the time you went outside, and went fishing and learned a lesson about the stars, or some shit (laughs). But then, six years later, you realize it was because your dad was sick, or something like that. So, I think that I’ll get more clarity on that after the celebration and tour is over. And, for now, hell yeah I’ll listen to it, because I’m proud of it. That’s just the cycle. When I listen to music, I’ll listen to the same Paul Simon song for six months. And then I won’t listen to it for five years (laughs). I just go in these long patterns of certain music.

O.A.R. | The Mighty

GW: That resonates with me because my dad’s been a musician his whole life. And one time when a musician my age had come to him saying he just finished this new song, my dad had said, “Well, you’re never really done writing a song,” and that’s always stuck with me.

Marc: Yeah, with me too. Because I could have a song that I think I’ve written twenty years ago, but I’ll be playing it at a gig, and I’ll be looking out there, and I could just go off on a whole new tangent, I could make up a whole new verse, I could do anything I want, this is my world. So yeah, he’s right, it isn’t ever really finished. And that’s what I mean by writing your story; people will relate to it if it’s true. I think that’s what your pops meant. Your story’s not over, so your song’s not over.

GW: During the making of the album, did you prefer to get involved on the more detailed levels, or do you prefer more to hang back and let that be handled by those handling that part of the process?

Marc: So, over the years, I’ve sat in a lot of different chairs in the studio with O.A.R., and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. Whether it’s sitting back and watching a producer create his vision of your band, or taking part in the production of that vision, or your own, and also to now. Where, I’m like, “Okay, I know what I know, but I know what I don’t know,” and that’s really paramount to pay attention to, and find people that can fill that. So, when you’re in a room, and there’s a producer there to do a certain thing that they do really well, and much better than you do, being able to put that type of team together has been the ultimate satisfaction in making music. Being able to collaborate with other producers, other musicians, within the band and outside the band, has been my greatest time in the studio. Because, for example…if I’m sitting there, and Pom-Pom (Helen Pomerantz) is making the rhythm track for “California.” That’s a song that I recorded on a voice memo, got the chorus and lyrics from the air, and never changed it, and wrote it down in ten seconds. And then, along the way from that point, it was touched by our guitar player Richard, and then had this other part, you know what I mean? You just see it grow. To be able to sit in the chair of co-producer, or co-everything, of an album, is the best position to be in. Where you just know it’s better to work with people who make everything elevate. That’s a really long-winded answer, but what I’m really trying to say is…I’ve sat back and done nothing, and I’ve tried to do everything. The way to be is to create a team that can do it all.

GW: When you think of the longevity of a band like O.A.R., you’re not just a touring band, or a performing band, but artists trying to perfect the studio process over the years. That’s very cool that it sounds like you’ve found a process that you like.

Marc: Yeah, exactly. And I’ll mention that our saxophone player, Jerry, has co-produced so much of our work, he operates out of Ohio. Each member of the band can run a session. and that's huge. Because I can be sitting in New York, sitting with Gregg Wattenberg, working on a song, and go, “Hey, we need a horn section.” And we can record them live here in three weeks, or Jerry could send me the demo of it in five minutes, and Jerry will do it, he’ll record it and send it from home. So, everyone has their role in making this thing move forward. It’s like you said, it takes time to get there. Not perfect, but you’re perfecting what works for you.

O.A.R. | photo by Zoe Rain

GW: So, while the album comes out later this month, you have already released a few singles. Have you tuned into any feedback from fans about the new music? I’m curious as to what maybe older, much more longtime O.A.R. fans think.

Marc: So far, I’ve seen good feedback, maybe that’s because someone is funneling that to me (laughs). But I am not clueless, so I expect some sort of reaction, whether good or bad. But I’ve honestly seen so much positive feedback that I feel like people get what we’re doing, and that our fanbase is proud of us. Because, we’re just trying to tell stories, and they’re the ones telling them every time we meet them. We’re out there, like everyone else, just trying to have a great time. A couple hour break from every day. I have seen people probably be like, “Wow, this sounds different,” which is great. That’s awesome. Because you don’t want to make the same song for twenty years.

GW: I guess if the choice is between doing that or being dynamic and taking musical risks….

Marc: We make a point every time in the studio that it will not be for lack of trying. We went in there to capture where we are right now, and that’s what we did. We’ll go and play these songs from the album live, because we imagined every single one them being played live, at a summer amphitheater. I mean, that’s what’s on my mind. When I’m thinking of “All Because of You,” I’m thinking, “how are we going to stage this? Where do I want to sing it?” Because I know it’s going to be seventy degrees, with the crickets chirping, at some amphitheater. Like, "Turn it Up Slow” is a song on this album that’s totally eighties vibe, eighties all the way. Because I wanted to play it at Red Rocks, you know? (laughs). It’s selfishly open.

GW: One thing I enjoy about the album is this cool split, right around “All Because of You,” it seems to happen. The album becomes much more laid back as opposed to the much more upbeat first half.

Marc: That’s exactly right. “Nantucket is Gone” for instance, the reason that’s last; it just fit the moment. I’ve been walking around the same dock, this marina, for years, looking at the ships come and go as the season's change. Knowing the feelings I’ve had. That’s what this thing’s about; it’s about renewal. That’s the last part of the season. That’s why the songs are listed in that sort of way. “Knocking At Your Door,” that’s the beginning of the adventure when you’re on tour three thousand miles away, and you’re flying through the night from anywhere, or taking trains, buses, anything you can do to spend an extra six hours. That’s how it starts, and then you’re making songs, and then you’re in the studio…by “Nantucket is Gone,” you’re at the end of the process.

GW: When it comes to the live show, do you or other members of the band like to craft shows in that same way, a sort of story arc? Or is it more go with the flow?

Marc: We started off for years and years with zero setlists, and that was a party. And then, we had so many songs that we needed to decide “Well, what are we playing in general, tonight?” Now we’ll pick out twenty songs, and try and play those twenty. However, paramount, first and foremost, it’s not about us, it’s about the experience of everybody. I can tell when it’s time to play a faster song; I can tell when it’s time to do some sort of more rhythmic thing, or this, that or the other. The crowd dictates that, you can ask anyone. We always print a setlist, but there’s always a movement. You’re like a master of ceremonies, in a sense, like you want it to go this way, or that way, and you can tell people appreciate that. You want it to be an experience. So, I won’t ever play a setlist like it’s written out. And that frustrates our crew like crazy.

GW: In terms of the new stuff from The Mighty, what has the band gotten a chance to try out live so far?

Marc: We’ve only played “Miss You All The Time” and “Knocking At Your Door” we’ve only played a handful of times, just testing it out. So, we’re going to do a very serious rehearsal before the tour, so that when we play these things, this will be the first-time people will hear them in the proper…. form, I guess? And we’re not gonna play the whole album, and then just the old stuff. It’s going to be a real nice mix.

GW: You mentioned that you'd listen to one or a few songs forever. What is that right now?

Marc: “Lover You Should’ve Come Over,” by Jeff Buckley. I’ll be listening to that this whole month. I’ve been really into that just because it’s such a well-written, amazing thing. And, I’ve been getting back into Buju Banton, while making this record. That was a good part of my life, spent in people’s garages, listening to that. I love listening to things that take me back. If we’re talking new music, I know that I love Logic. That was on my radar early, and it was mostly watching him blast off, playing amphitheaters, and just loving the image of that because that’s a party that we would always want it to go to.

GW: On your tour this summer, you’ll be joined for pretty much all of it by American Authors. Do you know them well?

Marc: I do know those guys, we’ve played together in the past, and we’ll all know their songs. They work hard out of Brooklyn, so I’m game. They put on a good show, and they’re really good musicians, and they’re fine gentleman, so I’m down with that. I think a lot of people are familiar with our collective songs. Hunter Tones is another group that’s playing with us, for I believe the entire month of June. They’re out of Brooklyn, and they’re incredible instrumentalists. No vocals, great section, really up and coming, so I’m excited to see that.

Mon, 03/25/2019 - 5:49 pm

“This is my first time here…You know, I think I like the sound of this room.” So spoke the one and only Del McCoury at Tarrytown Music Hall this past Saturday night, towards the beginning of his performance with master mandolinist David Grisman. Moments after this quote, McCoury and the Tarrytown audience sang “Happy Birthday” to Grisman, who on this night turned seventy-four years. McCoury himself had celebrated his eightieth birthday just weeks before at the Grand Ole Opry. That would make “Del and Dawg,” as the two musicians are billed, a “combined age of 154,” as Grisman himself quipped during the evening’s show.

Happy Birthday, Dawg!

But that age is nothing for Del and Dawg, and their bountiful, plentiful evening of music and words confirmed such. From the pair’s seemingly bottomless well of song material came both timeless staples of the bluegrass canon and some rarities from their respective discographies. Grisman handled the solos for the pair, and the night really displayed his musical range in that position. On their very first song, he cut straight into his mandolin and took a blues-tinged rip. Some other solos, like the one on his Tommy Emmanuel-co-written tune “Farm and Funtime,” dipped into his background of gypsy jazz-grass. McCoury meanwhile crooned his in his legendary high lonesome way, sounding most potent on classics like Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Dark Hollow,” and with your eyes closed, you could’ve been listening to a man half his age.

Del McCoury | Tarrytown, NY

But the musicality between guitarist and mandolinist was a thing of natural beauty, sounding like something so natural that it was meant to be. No doubt this is why the two have toured as Del and Dawg a number of times in recent years. Grisman noted Del’s quintessential guitar playing at one point. “You know,” the mandolinist told the Music Hall, “there’s a lot of great players coming up today, but not too many of ‘em want to pump out that rhythm guitar the way this guy does.” And to cheers from the crowd, Grisman called it “the engine of a bluegrass band.” At a special corner of that engine are those several, up-note runs that preface with quick and brief delight choruses of countless bluegrass and country tunes. If you’re a fan of Del McCoury, or perhaps a fan of the world of bluegrass players that he has influenced (or ones that influenced him) you know what this refers to and can probably hear it in your head. One song was even built around Del’s, called “The G-Run Blues.” And yes, a joke about ‘the runs’ was tagged on the end of that.

Dawg & Del | Tarrytown Music Hall

The humorous banter from Del and Dawg was one portion of the larger vocal presentation that was as much a part of the evening as the music. The show went 50-50 on playing performance and storytelling, with both Grisman and McCoury charming the audience in and around tunes on stories, opinions, and jokes about their individual, but often overlapping, backgrounds. The story of their lauded musical careers—beginning with gigs for the great Bill Monroe, and winding around scores of players mentioned throughout the evening, like Walter Hensley, Vince Gill, Sam Bush, and many others—weaves like a rich tapestry, and the two's trade-off of telling parts of their shared history enchanted the audience as much as their instruments did. A great yarn about meeting Bill Keith from McCoury here, an amusing dig at “Rocky Top” from Grisman there (“If that’s your favorite song, you know what, that’s okay.”)

Dawg & Del | Tarrytown, NY

Props must be further given to two musicians in their seventies for being able to make the last minutes of an almost two-hour performance the most exhilarating. It’s as much or more than most performers fractions of their age could manage most nights. At the close of their Tarrytown show, Del and Dawg played one of the nicest versions of "Tennessee Waltz" I’ve heard in a while, with McCoury delivering the lyrics with a sweet-sounding mournfulness and Grisman treating the solo with proper care.

David Grisman & Del McCoury

But even that didn’t match their encore. The two walked back out on stage to a standing ovation and performed what they call “The Farewell Medley,” a two-song pairing of “Life’s Railway to Heaven” and a traditional Jewish number titled “Shalom Aleichem." Everybody knows those quintessential up runs, but this medley links together with a down-run. At the finish of “Heaven,” McCoury played a four-note descent into the minorish, strangely beautiful Jewish tune. Both are tender songs, but this latter one especially, and Del and Dawg left me rather awestruck as they pulled off the transition with a breeze.

Del McCoury | Tarrytown Music Hall

After a few shows with Dawg trio in April, David Grisman will take the stage with Del McCoury again in May for performances at The Paramount Theatre, Grand Opera House, and Camp Greensky, the music festival thrown by Greensky Bluegrass. McCoury in the meanwhile has shows scheduled with The Del McCoury Band throughout the rest of March and April and May.

Sat, 03/30/2019 - 11:27 am

In their twenty-third as a touring and recording band, roots rock leaders O.A.R., or Of A Revolution, have released their ninth studio album today, called The Mighty. The record, released via RED Music, commemorated the occasion with an exclusive album release party at Sony Square in the lower east side of Manhattan. 

Just a few dozen fans were lucky enough to score access tickets and be present for this intimate showing, in which the band both performed a song from the new album, as well as took questions in Q&A format.  

O.A.R. answers question at Sony Station NYC

Pre and post engagement with the band, Sony Square was decked out with a few cool features, such as a hall of photographs taken from both behind the scenes and on stage at past O.A.R. concerts. Another was a backdrop in which fans lined up to have their own photograph taken with the band. Adorning in huge size next to all of this was a movie-theatre size screen which played on loop clips from both the band’s life on the road and bits and pieces of the music videos made for The Mighty

O.A.R | NYC

Before the Q&A portion, O.A.R. took to the intimate lounge stage setup in one corner of the room and gave a special acoustic performance of the song “Miss You All The Time,” the leading track off of The Mighty. This was a treat to hear, especially with all six members singing parts of the song in a cappella harmony.

O.A.R. | Sony Station NYC

After the room collectively enjoyed a clip on the massive video wall from the band’s recent documentary work, the band took to answering questions from fans around the room. At the most affecting end of this, the band illuminated the experiences and values in their lives that went into forming the lyrical and musical content of their new record. They also explained the album’s cover art, the ‘mighty’ elephant, as well as dished on their favorite venues (most common answer: Red Rocks). At the most humorous end of the interview session, a fan asked the band which actors they'd have played themselves in their hypothetical bio-pic. Fans decided Remi Malek was best for Roberge. 

O.A.R. | photos by Miles Hurley

At the conclusion of their intimate NYC showing, O.A.R. decided a toast to the album’s release was in order. They requested everybody in the room that wanted to drink be given a beer( making sure to not the sponsorship support from Kona Brewing Co.) The venue and staffed were bemused but somehow managed to get a beer in the hand of anybody that wanted one. 

O.A.R. saying thanks and good night to their fans

The band's upcoming summer tour begins on June 5th at The Hampton Beach Ballroom in Hampton, New Hampshire, and will stretch through July and August as the band performs across the north and southeast, midwest, and out west. Check out all those dates and more information at https://www.liveoar.com

Mon, 04/08/2019 - 5:51 pm

Last week, the musical world witnessed the extraordinary live debut of The Allman Betts Band, the legendary-in-the-making collaborative project between Devon Allman (son of the late great Gregg) and Duane Betts (son of the still rocking Dickey). The duo’s new rock outfit also includes Barry Oakley Jr., son of the late Allman Brothers’ bassist, along with keyboardist John Ginty, drummers John Lum and R. Scott Bryan, and slide guitarist John Statchela. Earlier this year, The Allman Betts Band recorded their debut album, Down To The River, and then soon afterward announced plans to embark on a massive national tour, fittingly called the “Down To The River Tour." Last week this mega tour kicked off with a terrific, show-stopping start at NYC's Brooklyn Bowl.

Duane Betts | Brooklyn, NY

While the band’s name certainly implies a bit of tribute responsibility, given their new album but also the respective songbooks of solo material from Devon Allman and the others, The Allman Betts band already have a full list of their original material. The Brooklyn Bowl, and the tour, properly opened up in this original style, with a campy, soulful tune called “All Night.” “Taking Time,” a Duane original, similarly let the guitars take the full ride, with an easier groove for a while but then getting truly rocking for a huge ending. An original even took the spot of the first encore of the night in “Good Ol’ Days.”

Devon, Duane, and John Statchela

The impressive songwriting of the band being noted, there were, of course, a few choice Allmans classics in the mix, along with some other even more exciting covers. Perhaps most paramount, pretty much all of the songs showed the continued back and forth guitar mightiness of Duane Betts, John Statchela, and Devon. “Blue Sky” was the first place all three wrenched out some of their grittiest solos. Then two more big-time ABB staples, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” and “Dreams” were treated in full by the group, with all seven members laying into the songs to be long, highly improvisational versions. “Reed,” which came in the first set, ended up in its last minutes on a tremendous, exciting organ solo from John Ginty. In a couple of moments like this one, he stepped forth and showed he was as ferocious a player as the others. “Dreams,” to no surprise, let the drummers light up the night on their own for a spell.

Barry Oakley Jr. and Devon Allman

As a whole unit, The Allman Betts Band makes for a sum that is even greater than its impressive parts, and the result is a show that is moving and full of color and emotion. But, it's also capable of the kind of rawness and electricity that the fathers of the group's founding members’ have always commanded. Barry Oakley Jr. is a powerful bass player and was present in the most heated and rocking moments as all three guitar players. On the “Left My Heart In Memphis,” a song from Devon’s days with Royal Southern Brotherhood, Oakley and the two-person drum section held down a very cool, hypnotic groove, and together with the melodies made this one a gorgeous folk-rock tune with an outlaw kind of sound.

The Allman Betts Band | Brooklyn BowlWith some exceptional tunes thrown in by Devon on acoustic, the Allman Betts Band’s debut seemed a full range of what they have to offer musically, and it’s a wide range. At one point, the band had invited up guest singer Jessica Lynne for a very solid version of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” and that might’ve been the most intriguing song choice for this Americana jam outfit, had it not been for the night’s second encore. The last song of the night was a sendoff with The Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street,” and a darn fine one at that.

The Allman Betts Band's first show wraps up

The Allman Betts continue with their ambitious tour this week, playing in Reading, PA at Berks Jazz Fest. Then, this week will see them perform in Norfolk, VA, Homer NY, Newton NJ, and Beverly, MA. For info on the whole tour and more, visit the band’s site at http://allmanbettsband.com/

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 4:03 pm

In just a couple of months, on July 18-21, North Plains, Oregon will see the return of one of the country’s premier bluegrass and roots music festivals, Northwest String Summit. Hosted every year by presiding band Yonder Mountain String Band, the four-day event will see top-billing sets from other veteran performers like The Infamous Stringdusters and Trampled By Turtles, as well as invite newcomers from across the musical spectrum, like Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Dark Star Orchestra, Galactic and more.  

The Infamous Stringdusters | NWSS

Bluegrass and otherwise, fans returning to the festival’s hosting grounds, the mystical locale known as Horning’s Hideout, know it to be one of the long-standing meccas of modern day, live Americana music. One such patron is Skye McDonald, who fell in love with this place so easily he became the event’s co-owner in just a year.

DSO will make their inaugural appearance at NWSS

"You gotta go to really experience it,” says McDonald. "It is like no other space I have been to. When you get there, you descend into this valley of old growth, spur trees, and fir trees—it’s like that book Where The Red Fern Grows.” And String Summit, nestled away in this storybook-like expanse just outside of Portland, Oregon, is like a little world removed. "Once you’re there, you’re there with everybody,” McDonald says. “Eighty-five percent of our patrons all camp on site, and so many people that have returned every year have built these communities that have taken on a life of their own. And people wander around; they have reunions. Although it’s close to civilization, it’s about as far removed as you can be while being that close.”

Greg Ormont | Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

While String Summit is close physically to those musical hotspots like Portland, but also Eugene, Oregon, it’s close culturally too—in that the festival, like those cities, has built up a reputation as being quite the resume-making place for an artist to play. McDonald tells Grateful Web: “We have become a great resource for up and coming bands. We’re kind of an incubator of sorts, definitely for the west coast market. I love to be able to grab a band from Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York Upstate, wherever, and introduce them to the market via our festival. When they’re making waves in their local region, we can bring them out, and then there’s a real translation between playing at String Summit and coming back around and playing a small club here, opening for a larger band, and organically building a fanbase and a hard ticket sale. That’s something that I really like, and that works well with a lot of agents."

Holly Bowling | Ghost Light

Perhaps that is what has helped String Summit throw this year what is perhaps its most diverse lineup yet, and in the excitement of that, we just had to ask about some of the artists. We started by mentioning how cool it was that the festival garnered a set from one of the most promising new jambands on the music scene. “Oh Ghost Light, totally,” McDonald says. "What they’re doing is authentic, and they jam so well together, and it’s reminiscent of the origins of the jam music scene, you know? Holly and Tommy are just incredible together, and I am too stoked. I’m glad we got them too."

Northwest String Summit

When I asked him about which acts he was personally most excited for; he had a lot to say, starting with Hawktail, also a relatively new band on the scene that is made up of veteran bluegrass players. "Hawktail, yeah that’s a top-notch band right there. I hope they get a lot of traction and continue on while their other larger respective projects are taking time off. I’m also really excited about Steve Poltz coming to String Summit for the first time. He’s amazing, and I know he’s not new, he’s got a cult following that I’m excited to bring in (laughs).”

Northwest String Summit

He went on with some other favorites. "Ley Line!" I don’t know if you know these girls from Austin? This multi-cultural, all-female acoustic band that cannot be pigeonholed to any one genre. They do these Flamenco songs singing in Portuguese, and then they have some folky tunes, they harmonize brilliantly. I saw them in Boulder back in the fall, and they blew my mind. And then another one that’s a pretty traditional type bluegrass band and that has been making waves in Colorado, is Wood Belly. They won the Telluride band competition. Their players are local to where I am in Colorado, and their talent on their instruments is incredible, along with their vocals and songwriting. They’re gonna be going places. I see a lot of The Lil Smokies in them, maybe even some Steep Canyon in there too."

The Lil Smokies

Much like other larger scale, mega-successful music weekend events, what seems to keep Northwest String Summit a favorite for fans is its grassroots spirit in spite of its size. Even on its level of production and high attendance, longtime patrons return knowing they’re coming back to the same atmosphere and the same sense of kinship. "We try to maintain a good rapport with other promoters, and try to build allies to benefit everyone,” McDonald explains. "You know, as a cutthroat industry, it could easily turn ugly. But at this level, there’s no reason for that. We’re doing it homegrown, and we want to make relationships with other folks that are doing it homegrown, and when the AEGs and Live Nations of the world can easily take over markets. It has definitely garnered an amazing community that we couldn't survive without.”

Trampled By TurtlesTickets for this year’s Northwest String Summit are available now. To purchase and learn more information, head to the festival’s website at https://stringsummit.com/

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 11:14 am

Unlimited Devotion, the two-day musical throwdown held annually at the Ardmore Music Hall, in Ardmore, PA, returned this past weekend, and this year’s lineup may have been the best it’s ever pulled together. The weekend always acts in large part as a tribute to the music of The Grateful Dead, and this year offered a full performance of a Dead album each night—Workingman’s Dead on night one, and American Beauty on night two. The performers tributing these albums were also many of the performers starring in the unique collaboration groups each night, like The String Cheese Incident’s Bill Nershi, John Kadlecik, and indie soul singer Leslie Mendelson. While night one saw also saw special sets from the likes of Circles Around The Sun, John Kadlecik’s Fellowship of The Wing, and others, night two mixed bluegrass and funk into one, swirly and starry evening of musical excellence. The collaborations, starting from the night’s first notes to its end, were incredible in both a musical and an emotional, community kind of way. Singers you’d never thought would have even met on stage were dueting into the microphone, hugging and shaking hands afterwards, trading solos back and forth in between.

Unlimited Devotion | Ardmore Music Hall

First up on night two were The Gravy Allstars, a supreme stringband lineup which was led by Keller Williams and joined by Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone, String Cheese Incident’s Bill Nershi, JP Biondo and Pappy of the (currently defunct) string-jam band Cabinet, and Reed Mathis, the truly one-of-a-kind bassist of Golden Gate Wingmen, Tea Leaf Green, and many other bands.

JP Biondo and Pappy with Keller Williams

Pappy and JP Biondo were a highlight in this supergass set, and Bill Nershi acknowledge the fact himself. Into the microphone, the String Cheese Incident lead guitarist said of JP and Pappy: “I love meeting people on stage. I haven’t had the chance to play with these guys yet, so this is great. And the way these guys play says a lot about who they are.” The two of them truly did show their best, from JP’s wonderful vocals on a very chill version of “Mississippi Moon,” to Pappy’s rocking banjo break on “The Race is On,” on which Tim Carbone also delivered a strong solo. The two also lead on “Shady Grove,” which is a funky-grass specialty for the Cabinet pair, and that tune grooved long and great from the whole band. Even just to hear Keller Williams and Nershi pick and then harmonize side by side into one microphone, in this intimate room, was extremely special, a treat in an night of treats. String Cheese has a Keller Williams Incident planned for Red Rocks later this summer and so this was almost like a secret preview to that.

Unlimited Devotion | Ardmore, PA

But, in all the fray of the evening, the trio of female singers of Amy Helm, Leslie Mendelson, and Chelsea ViaCava were, at many points in the night, the most energetic and enthusiastic performers on the stage. Some of the most goosebumps-inducing performances went down right when the Gravy All-Stars brought these ladies out, like the tremendous and seriously-handled version of “Morning Dew,” or the over-the-top fun of "Yes We Can Can.” ViaCava, who the Ardmore crowd knew well as the lead singer of Philadelphia’s own soul-funk rockers Swift Technique, was an instant standout. She has a bold, explosive style, becoming the center of the action with a huge voice. Amy Helm is always in the moment, and she sounded awesome belting out “Quinn The Eskimo” and others next to Nershi and Keller. Mendelson, meanwhile, showed her confident flair for the stage immediately, throwing skat-like vocal play with Keller’s intro on “They Love Each Other.” She also stirred souls on the Meters-style version of Neil Young’s “Birds” in the next set.

Chelsea ViaCava & George Porter Jr.

That next set was George Porter Jr.'s Funk Revue, and it was the musical beast of the night—the longest, biggest set, and just so on from start to finish. For this portion of the evening, the legendary Meters bassist took the stage with a of friends: Keyboardist Todd Stoops, Soulive drummer Alan Evans, ALO’s Lebo, and the one and only Steve Kimock. Kimock, who knocked every solo out of the park in this set, switched between his guitar and lap steel. On the slide, he channeled the sound of New Orleans swamp funk, a perfect pairing with George Porter. In this heady box of players, George Porter Jr. was in his element, smiling for a straight two hours or so and charming the whole room. He brought out Nershi and the three singers to make the stage as full as could be, and the music hit quite a high point. “Just Kissed My Baby,” for instance, was a bevy of musical surprises, including solos from Nershi, but also a Kimock and George Porter Jr. solo battle set over a fat drumbeat from Alan Evans.

Keller Williams & Billy Nershi | Ardmore Music Hall

Ardmore carried the music well into the AM with the last set, a Grateful Dead set from local tribute act Splintered Sunlight, and GW caught a little bit of this. Pappy and guitarist John Kadlecik, who were special guests for this set, played a couple of glorious solos in Franklin’s Tower that really made the song shine, and right after that all members of Splintered Sunlight contributed to a beautiful version of the rare Brent Mydland tune “Blow Away.”

Unlimited Devotion | Ardmore Music Hall

There are those special venues around the country that stand out for their colorful resumes of musical collaboration. On this side of the country, no venue does that quite like the Ardmore Music Hall.  Keller Williams said it best in the early part of this second set: “This is a fun gig. Thanks for inviting us to your party."

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 7:15 pm

Three quarters of the way into Speed’s opening track, “Little Too Late,” guitarist Larry Keel continues a scorching bit of lead guitar soloing underneath the near shouting vocals of frontman Keller Williams and bassist Jenny Keel, and the Nicki Bluhm cover gets an excitingly intensifying ending—and the album never really lets up from there. Somehow, all of the single word titles to Keller Williams’ albums end up perfectly encapsulating their essence. Speed, the bluegrass singer-songwriter’s latest studio album that was recorded with The Keels, is yet another achievement in the same, with the title being the perfect word to evince the record’s hair-raising, downhill sprint-like stringband treatment of radio favorite songs (and a few originals). 

Of all the musicians Williams has formed a band with (and of course there’s A LOT), bassist Jenny Keel and guitarist Larry Keel are probably his most apt sidekicks. Nobody fits into the enigmatic puzzle that is the one-man-band’s acoustic ninja-like nature, with the constantly shifting time signatures and the off-the-wall musical ideas, quite like this husband and wife duo. Nobody else, for instance, could navigate the headfirst dives into and out of slower tempo grooves like “La Vida Loco” and “Medula Oblongata,” or provide the kind of sinister, low-register back-up vocals for "Hash Pipe," and sound so at place in doing so. Speed, unpredictable and intriguing from end to end, presents The Keels as not just any ordinary musical trio but as some three-headed, single-entity, instrumental monster. Yet The Keels maintain a sense of old school, bluegrass mastery in their individual styles as well. Larry gets to rip solo after solo, and in doing so, often blends beautifully with Williams’s own rhythmic playing. Jenny meanwhile stays on the heels of the two every step of the way, laying down beats on that stand-up bass that are just as agile, yet huge and grounding.   

The album goes all around mood-wise, though much of it, title implying, is intense, with most songs kicking their endings or middle sections into frenzy mode. But bits of songs round out the record with great color, such as the way the trio matches the peacefulness of “Slow Burn.” Remember how melancholy that “Peaches” song from the nineties sounded? Come chorus time on Keller and The Keels’ version, the song beams with feel-good rays of old school bluegrass. “Criminal” also holds down an easier groove, and also makes one consider that Keller is a big Tim O’Brien fan. One very specific thing about the Fiona Apple cover to which we will also allude is the magnificent little nod to Williams’ original “She Rolls.” In a single quick thrice-repeated moment, Williams reveals his sense of humor and cleverness.  

Speed is as downright fun as anything Williams has put out, and most definitely one shot after the other of acoustic adrenaline (take caution when actually spinning the record while you drive in your car). But with a sound that is rustic and raw throughout, and with many unexpected tricks and treats along the way, it’s a vibrant new offering as well.

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 2:18 pm

Premiere Connecticut jam and jazz fusion bands Eggy and Zillawatt teamed up Thursday night for a Halloween show in Worcester, MA, bringing between the pair of them an evening full of creative, festive, and most definitely funky jams to regionally famous venue Electric Haze. The top of the evening saw a special opening acoustic set from Mike MacDonald, lead guitarist of Boston jamtronica band Strange Machines.

The bands honored the spirit of the day and flaunted Halloween costume, Zillawatt opting for characters from the likes of Blues Brothers and King Of The Hill, and Eggy presenting a unit tribute to the protagonist athletes of the animated classic Space Jam, The Toon Squad. Appropriately, behind each of the band’s sets was a projector screen that played the entirety of Space Jam end to end along with other nostalgic cartoons. 

Eggy | Halloween 2019

Over the course of the last touring season, Eggy has been inconspicuously fleshing out their setlists at shows with brand new material, to the repeatedly spontaneous delight of their growing fanbase. Why announce new songs when you can quietly throw them into the heart of a live set and, even more exciting, start improvising on them from the get-go? That’s what that the masterful New Haven four-piece has done with an impressive percentage of their current repertoire, and consequently, Electric Haze on Halloween night was treated to an ambitiously inventive setlist. 

It doesn’t hurt that the band’s songwriting, which combines thoughtfully constructed melodies and hooks with harmonious vocals, is at least a few steps above most other bands going in their scene. But in the live setting, the four-piece manages to time and again ride the balance between that strong compositional package and gutsy, ‘anything goes’ style improvisation, marked by relentless instrumental ability from all four members, like no other up and coming act today. 

Eggy | Electric Haze

The band treated the first half of their sprawling Halloween setlist with their newest material, like the certainly highly appreciated opener of “Twelve Pounds of Pain,” the hard-driving, bowling themed original first played live earlier this year. That was followed up with versions of more recently debuted songs, like the evening-appropriate, reggae-funked “Lake Monster” and the spirited, life-affirming song “ZugZwang.”   

The second stretch of this evening was as wild a ride as it looks like on paper. Tiny pieces or at times even brisk teases of original songs, as well as a few hat-tips to pop culture, all connected and wove around one another in “off the cuff” style, as described by fans afterward. 

Eggy | Worcester, MA

Is that “Lost and Found” your favorite Eggy song? The band dipped into and out of that one very fast, trading it off for blink-and-you-missed-it teases of “Onitsuka Tiger” after. Dig that “Ricky Gervais” tune? That came in cool reprise style at the very end of their set, as the cap off to an unexpected and frenzy-inducing headfirst rush into a jam on Phish’s “Axilla,” by chance a nod to one of the legendary Vermont band’s regular tour spots of recent years, The DCU Center, located only just around the corner from Electric Haze.  

Eggy | Electric Haze

More seasoned Eggy songs were also fleshed out with totally new ideas, like the old school hit “Watercolor Days.” While often more of a catch-your-breath tune to come at the end of a set, here Eggy sandwich it around pieces of “In It For The Ride” and “Mr. Domino,” eventually returning to its chorus in grand fashion. One of the best several minutes of the entire night was the super sharply funky jam on “Tired From Waiting.” Again, we would’ve had no problem grooving to this one forever. But with the band being constantly on the move for the night, they segued it soon enough into the very dynamic performance of “Golden Gate Dancer,” and in between manage to sneak in very neat guitar riffs of TheNightmare Before Christmas’ “This is Halloween.” 

Zillawatt | Electric Haze

Zillawatt, who opened the night up, similarly seems to be reveling in a fruitful period of musical output. The four-member funk-fusion group has their own production space (that both they and other CT bands have recently recorded in) debuted a new, pro-shot video for “Distant By Design” only hours before this Halloween set, the song of course which they also performed with confident aplomb at Electric Haze. 

With breezy, colorful solos flying over tight but heavy rhythms, Zillawatt has grooves for days, able to comfortably stretch out songs into completely realized and fully satisfying doses of soul, hip-hop and space rock. Guitarist Blake Ford channels the raw attack of Eddie Hazel as much he does the smooth sounds of John Scofield. Matt Kemp, meanwhile, experiments with freedom on both saxophone and keyboards. Connor Oyster holds down both formidable bass lines and enticing vocals while Nate Lawson keeps everything at perfect pace on drums. 

Zillawatt | Electric Haze

One of the band’s other most stellar offerings was another fairly new original called “Mr. Greasy.” While having its own intense, borderline mysterious composition that suited the night’s festivities perfectly, it was fueled up with the same amount of stylish instrumentation as the rest of the band’s set. 

Tonight, Eggy plays a sold-out show at one of their hometown musical nests, New Haven’s Pacific Standard Tavern. The performance will be an after-party for the evening’s show at College Street Music Hall with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Connecticut band Goose. Check out all things Eggy at http://eggymusic.com/

Zillawatt | Electric Haze

Zillawatt’s next scheduled show is a sweet gig at Fairfield CT’s The Warehouse opening for local funk legends Deep Banana Blackout. Check out more about them at https://www.zillawatt.com

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 12:37 pm

The Infamous Stringdusters have had quite the substantial last week or so, starting off with their Halloween escapades at the beginning of last weekend in which they were able to jam with none other than G. Love of Special Sauce. This past Monday night, the band was featured as part of the incredible celebration What The Night Brings, the musical tribute to the late mandolin master Jeff Austin, with whom of course The Stringdusters had befriended and performed beside many times. At that huge evening at 1st Back Center in Denver, the band performed a version of their still pretty brand-new hit, “Rise Sun,” and also collaborated on Jeff Austin numbers like “Cuckoo’s Nest” and more.  

The Infamous Stringdusters

Grateful Web caught the dynamic, jamgrass six-piece the night before that, at their Sunday night stop in Norwalk, CT. Here, The Infamous Stringdusters were performing at the regionally legendary Wall St Theater. Veterans of the scene may know this place better as The Globe Theater, and when it had that name it was a historic venue for nationally touring to perform at, including everybody from moe. to Strangefolk, to members of The Allman Brothers, and more.

Travis Book | Infamous Stringdusters

One might think that a rendezvous in Connecticut would be the time for a band to breathe for a bit, in the middle of such a huge weekend. But that’s not how The Dusters roll! Sunday night's show did take off tentatively, with “Night On The River” easing into the start of things. But with the song’s graceful transition into the newer Dusters song “Carry Me Away,” the elated liftoff of a prime 'Dusting' were already at hand. An extensive, three song swing dominated the first, kicking off with the band’s pop-ish but pretty tune, “Planets,” then smashing bravado style through “Nine Pound Hammer,” and finally landing on the lyrically melodically emotive “The Place That I Call Home.” 

The Infamous Stringdusters

What makes The Infamous Stringdusters one of the premier progressive bluegrass bands to see live is their subtle but unwavering balance between uniform jamming and showcasing individual members’ abilities. Stringdusters shows are always halved between a magnificently cohesive approach to psychedelic-sounding improvisation and moments of lone members standing out. In many face-melting moments, these two sides of the coin become one when members pair off for string-picking battles in the heart of dramatic jam climaxes. Nobody brings bluegrass hose-style builds and tension and release like these guys (although up and comers like The Kitchen Dwellers and The Lil’ Smokies are catching on).

The Infamous Stringdusters

That being said, all five members’ professional mind for their instruments never wavers. Here in Norwalk, “Big River,” was all Jeremy Garrett’s, who ripped apart the cover mercilessly with some awesome soloing. Alternatively, getting into the second set, Andy Hall and Andy Falco were at times the ones to listen for within the Stringdusters magnificently cosmic stringband sound, when they both supped up the sounds of their dobro and guitar, respectively, with extra heady, funky sounding guitar pedals.

Andy Hall | The Infamous Stringdusters

Consequently, The Stringdusters also construct setlists that navigate the worlds of old bluegrass and new grass with ease and without squashing energy. Their original tune “Changes” was taken very far out improvisationally, far enough to invite a neat jam on Steely Dan's “Reelin In The Years,” but wound its way back into the Old And In The Way staple “The Hobo Song.” Similarly, country-funk number “Get It While You Can,” wound the tension up to spine-tingling levels before jumping expertly into the bluegrass standard “Home Of The Red Fox.” This was an awesome flip-of-the-switch between The Stringdusters' racing, rock and roll style and a good, old fashioned bluegrass breakdown.

Chris Pandolfi | The Infamous Stringdusters

Norwalk’s show peaked in its finish, with the band dropping a big, bold version of their now classic original, “Blockies” to end the evening (before an encore). Possible alternatively known to some as “Peace of Mind,” this one has previously always been played a much slower tempo, but lately has been given the double time treatment from The Stringdusters. And that’s a welcome thing, because the alternative style kickoff speed granted it one of the most exciting jams of the whole night. 

Mon, 12/02/2019 - 4:19 pm

This year marks fifty years since Americana rock duo Hot Tuna, consisting of legendary artists Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, has been recording and performing together. What better way to celebrate than to just keep on trucking and playing? With the band still touring as enthusiastically as ever in 2019, this past weekend saw them hold a special celebration at The Town Hall in New York City, a two-night run which for extra magnificence was joined by wunderkind guitarist Steve Kimock.

Hot Tuna | The Town Hall | NYC

To hear the trio in a grand, classy room like The Town Hall was as magnificent as it should be. This uptown Manhattan venue has been seeing performances this year from other musical masters like Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, Mark Knopfler, Ry Cooder, and it’s no doubt that Casady and Kaukonen should join that rank. Fifty years later, the guitarist and bassist are as formidable on stage as they've ever been. Argue as you will but nobody hits the bass with the same kind of brutishness as Casady, and just hearing him play a simple line for a blues classic is enough to give goosebumps. Kaukonen meanwhile, is legendary as both an acoustic and electric guitar player. Acoustic jams were no doubt part of the uniqueness of Hot Tuna gigs when they were going strong with Jefferson Airplane. But on electric, Kaukonen matches Casady's raw energy. Just like Jack, Jorma could let any combination of notes fly out from his hands, and just the sound and feel that is instilled from their instruments is magic enough.

Jorma | Hot Tuna

"Walkin' Blues" really set the tone for the weekend, with Kaukonen laying into his first really righteous solo and the steam from the music picking up. This Son House cover caused a standout fan to scream, "Hot Tuna kicks ass!" to the reaction of excitable cheers throughout Town Hall. There was actually an amusingly decent amount of rowdy response from the shows' crowds, with random deadheads and such screaming either covers or just in between songs. It made the atmosphere at Town Hall electric. Kaukonen, who along with an oft beaming Casady was no doubt reveling in the spirit of the night, charmingly said into the mic at one point: "Okay, you're starting to make me nervous out there."

Steve Kimock with Hot Tuna

The addition of Steve Kimock to these two nights of special turned what was awesome into truly special. Kimock is unquestionably a masterful musician, who has colored many different types of rock and jazz with his own uber-creative style of guitar playing.  To hear him and Kaukonen perform together, and trade solos back and forth for an entire evening, was a treat of the rarest kind. Like the duo, Kimock gets after that animalistic sort of sonic fury in feverish moments of jams. At the apex of the weekend was the foursome's humongous, exploratory version of the Jefferson Airplane classic "Good Shepard." This one tune alone was worth the whole weekend's price of admission, with Tuna and Kimock taking things on a comfortable medium tempo stroll far out into psychedelic territory and bringing the evening to a sudden cliff of insanity.

Steve & Jack | The Town Hall | NYC

But Kimock's own more refined sensibility on guitar complimented Tuna's rock and roll really nicely, and he added really colorful bits to songs like "Sea Child," "Baby What You Want Me To Do," and "Easy Now," which amazingly Hot Tuna have not performed live since the seventies. At the close of each night, the trio performed a medley-breakdown style "Funky # 7," in which all band members took turns for vicious solos. On the first version, Kimock's jazz playing lent itself to a tease of "My Favorite Things," which he had jammed with SKB on many an occasion back in the day. The subtle nod got whoops from a few hardcore Kimock fans in the crowd, but Kaukonen amusingly seemed not to understand the reference. 

Hot Tuna will be playing shows throughout December

Hot Tuna have a big road ahead this winter, starting tonight with a performance at Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem, PA. Through December they'll play acoustic shows across the country, with none other than Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams joining them for the whole month. Hot Tuna will then get back to electric for New Year’s Eve in Florida, and then a set at Gov't Mule's Island Exodus in Jamaica in January. For more information, head to their website at http://hottuna.com

Sun, 01/05/2020 - 11:28 am

“This is for you, Dad.” Devon Allman said this around 8:30 PM last Saturday night, with his face and first finger pointed up toward the sky. It’s hard to imagine what he, as well as the other two Allman Brothers relatives in The Allman Betts Band, must have felt like getting to perform to a packed crowd in the historic and legendary hall that his dad’s original band championed so many countless times over. 

Allman Family Revival | Beacon Theatre

But the six-member Allman Betts Band did just that at their Allman Family Revival show at the Beacon Theatre, a celebratory night which featured a mountain's worth of special guests, and band and guests really did it upright. They chased after the songs, jams, and magic made throughout the years by these founding fathers of the jam scene, and brought it to reality for everybody present in the crowd in 2019. 

Allman Family Revival | Beacon Theatre

Amazingly (and humbly) enough, this review comes from a first-time patron of the mighty Beacon Theatre. This Allman Family Revival was my first time experiencing The Beacon, and that sounds funny to say considering how much Allman Brothers history has gone down in the place. And yet, that spirit seemed to come alive on this evening, I’m not just the star-powered moments, but in the simple moments too. In the same way, Deadheads feel the ghosts of Jerry in the walls of places like The Warfield or Madison Square Garden, the ghost of Gregg and Duane and all the rest echo in The Beacon. When The Allman Betts Band, on their own and with no guests yet, played “Blue Sky,” we had reached bliss already. It was surprising to hear one the Allmans’ biggest tunes played so early on in the night. But the band made it shine the way it’s supposed to, and the crowd responded as beautifully as a listener and onlooker could have hoped. Not even forty-five minutes into this over three-hour night of music and people were leaping out of their seats, spilling into the aisles, and dancing with abandon. After he had spoken aloud to his dad, Devon had also said, “Everybody in this room tonight is helping keep this thing alive.” And it was true. 

Eric Krasno | Beacon Theatre

After The Allman Betts Band spent some of the night on their own, gusts starting pouring out, and the momentum for the evening was on a great, gradual upswing. One of the first, and longest present, guests was jazz-funk master Eric Krasno. Krasno has become a golden boy of the scene, being a special guest of bands like Circles Around The Sun, Phil Lesh and Friends, and more. One of the ones Krasno really smoked a few awesome solos on was “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” which opened set two of the night (and what better way to open a set than with Liz Reed!). 

Allman Family Revival | Beacon Theatre

Perhaps the only guest on stage more than Krasno was JD Simo, which was appropriate and cool to see because Simo has been touring with The Allman Betts Band over the past year, and he rocks just as hard as they do. Simo, who also had no fear trekking across the stage with tons of power moves and stances, handled lead guitar and vocals on what was actually one of the best performances of the whole show, “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Tons of people cover this song of course, but Simo’s sharp-edged, volcanic approach to The Beatles classic, with the formidable Allman Betts behind him, is up there with the best. 

Brandon “Taz” Niederauer | New York, NY

Another portion of the guest performer list that was cool to see were the handful of much younger musicians invited up. It showed a bit of the future of blues and jamband rock to come. These kids, seemingly without any fear, really held their own beside everybody else on stage. Brandon “Taz” Nideraeur, the first invited up, has never seemed to have an issue tearing up a guitar as fiercely as any established player he’s shared with (and there’s been a lot). Female vocalist Ally Venable, meanwhile, absolutely nailed a version of BB Kings’s “The Thrill Is Gone.”

Taz, Alley, and Devon | Allman Family Revival

While a few guests were cool surprises, like Lily Hiatt (daughter of the great John Hiatt) who anchored down few great ones with her pristine voice, and Alex Orbison (son of the legendary Roy Orbison) who dominated a double drum team beside The North Mississippi Allstars’ Cody Dickinson, who is just ferocious on the kit.

Allman Family Revival | New York, NY

But some guests really elevated the whole evening all with their own presence on stage, and one of those was Robert Randolph, undoubtedly one of the best tabletop guitarists to ever play the instrument. As he came on stage and performed his own gospel penned “The March,” with The Allman Betts Band and Simo and a few others, The Beacon all of a sudden beamed just a little bit brother with a radiant, warming positivity. The other guest that stood out was one of the people on the stage that actually performed many times with The Allman Brothers, harmonica genius Jimmy Reed. Reed ripped the harmonica and led a great rendition of Wet Willie’s “Keep On Smilin’.”

Allman Family Revival | Beacon Theatre

The last portion of the night got interesting, to say the least, as the band moved out of Allman Brothers material and into much different stuff. Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters came up and performed “Circle,” which was played with effort by everybody involved, but just strange. Mohr’s lead on “Melissa” was nice, though.

Allman Family Revival | Beacon Theatre

Devon told the audience about Cheap Trick being his first concert ever, and lo and behold, onto the stage a minute later walked out that infamous seventies rock band’s lead singer, Robin Zander. Among a few others, he helped the band close the night off (before encores) with “I Want You To Want Me,” and it actually went off pretty decently. The crowd certainly ate it up. It was clear that this night was as much a showcase of The Allman Betts Band, who are their own modern outfit, as much as it was a celebration of The Allman Brothers. And that’s a welcome thing, at least from this reviewer, because they are not just the sons of those legendary rockers but their own band, and a damn good band at that. They can clearly tackle widely different genres and not sound pandering or silly doing it.

Allman Family Revival | Beacon Theatre

But this towering evening at The Beacon closed the way it should have, with pretty much every guest of the entire night back out on stage. If anything, it was just euphoric visually and energetically. “Ramblin Man” was an easy but certainly well-appreciated way to cap the whole celebration off.

Allman Family Revival | Beacon Theatre

Check out more photos from the show.

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 4:21 pm

Can you call Billy Strings a newcomer? Maybe not anymore, seeing as how the twenty-something-year-old virtuoso bluegrass guitarist, along with his band of three other members, is now known for selling out large venues around the country. And yet, the word newcomer feels right in the context of making important notches. Strings and his band, which has Jarrod Walker on mandolin, Billy Failing on banjo, and Royal Masat on bass, made such a notch last night with their debut performance at legendary concert space the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY. The night was the first of a two-night run that ends tonight, and one of three performances planned for The Capitol Theatre this year (the third set for April is already sold out) and all one needs to do is check Strings’ personal Instagram page for his touchingly grateful thoughts on what it was like to play at this favorite northeast venue for the first time. 

Billy Strings | Port Chester, NY

The evening was admirable even before it started. Before the show, Strings and the band wowed everybody on the scene last night with a classy and thoughtful move: bringing trays of hot chocolate outside to attendees waiting to get in. Billy and his fellow bandmates then hung around to chat and share in the excitement for the night ahead.  

Billy Strings | Capitol Theatre

For their very first song at The Cap, Billy Strings and band made an interesting choice as an opener, the ominous yet breezy original “Taking Water.” The song showed a mature approach to bluegrass picking, taking on a classic sound but humming along with a new sense of energy. “Thirst Mutilator” then dove in headfirst: gorgeous, quiet spacey playing from the band was punctuated by sharp soloing on guitar from Strings. As it picked up speed to quickly segue into “Dealing Despair,” these second and third songs showed The Capitol Theatre what this band does better than most progressive stringbands out there: follow one other across gradual tempo changes to mix different kinds of grooves. Strings is a creative lead, no doubt, but it’s his incredibly deft bandmates that help craft the very exploratory journeys. 

Billy Strings | Capitol Theatre

All the songs of their sets also showcase the band’s crisp vocal abilities, too, centered around Strings’ own husky voice, which is almost as much evidence for his popularity as his playing. The Flatt and Scruggs tune “Doin’ My Time” in this first set saw Strings crooning in such a way that he actually sounded in brief moments like Lester Flatt himself. “China Doll” was a no surprise choice for this two-night run, as the Dead tune is one Strings has covered many times. It makes perfect sense that he would highlight the first set of his first time at The Capitol Theatre, one of Jerry’s favorite venues, with a beautiful take on this one. Aiming to make the night even more special than it already was, Strings invited luminary banjo player Tony Trischka on stage for two great collaborations. The first was their very folky original tune ‘Dos Banjos,” where no doubt Trischka and Failing led the tune together expertly.

Billy Strings | Capitol Theatre

In addition to being first rate players, Billy and his bandmates seem to be making sure that their live show is one of the weirdest out there—weird in a good way. For jamband fanatics that like their live music to get as strange as possible, Strings and band are the prime choice. For most of the show, and especially most of set two, Strings and the other members of the band employed a variety of electric pedals upon their instruments, imbuing their already dynamically tight playing with all kinds of funky color. As one example, the opening of set two saw an amazing start with an immediate, pedal infused breakdown jam coming out of “Home Of The Red Fox.” With Strings and his soloing leading the pack, the band hit a long, strong stride of strict disco bluegrass. Fox sprinted ahead with a great segue into the instrumental cover “Little Maggie,” and this was instrumental fury played to melt minds and move feet all at once.

Billy Strings & Billy Failing | Port Chester, NY

Yet, next to all the weirdness, and on display alongside the picking prowess and vocals, is Strings’ songwriting tact. His newest record Home, which came out this past year, really brought that ability to larger audiences. “Enough to Leave,” one from that new album played last night, is just a flat out a great song (for reference, it’s pretty similar sounding to John Hartford’s number, “The Good Ol’ Days”). The band ended night one with one of their most coveted live songs, the devilish “Meet Me At The Creek.” Every band has their Tweezer or their Viola Lee, a song that will be a big and unique creation every time it’s played, and for Strings and Company right now, “Creek” is one of those. The band nailed its ambitious compositional parts at every turn, and in the gooey middle hit the trippiest portion of the evening’s music—in a section of deep space, Strings sounded like he was trying to communicate with aliens through his guitar.

Billy Strings | Capitol Theatre

Tonight, the band plays their second night of this historic two-night run at The Capitol Theatre, and if last night is any indication, it should no doubt be something to remember. 

Mon, 02/03/2020 - 4:23 pm

Wayne Krantz is one of those guys you probably know even if you don’t know. Gigging professionally as a collaborative musician since the mid-eighties, he’s worked time and again with jazz rock giants like Steely Dan, Michael Brecker, Chris Potter and Billy Cobham. Suffice to say, when Krantz does a multiple night run at a staple hang like Iridium Jazz Club in Manhattan, people will flock without question to see him perform.

Keith Carlock & Tim Lefebvre

The shows this past weekend had Krantz performing in his longest established outfit, The Wayne Krantz Trio, featuring himself on guitar beside bassist Tim Lefebvre (perhaps best known as Tedeschi Trucks’ bassist) and legendary drummer Keith Carlock. “So, as you know, this is a pretty new band. We’ve only been going for about twenty years or so now.” Other quick funny quotes like that from Krantz dotted very brief stretches in this evening at the Iridium. Other than those moments, the Trio was all business—no frills, no stage pizazz, just their extraordinary, raw music on display front and center.

Wayne Krantz | NYC

It’s hard to say what hit first in the set from these three musicians, because all three came tearing out of the gate at once. Krantz and Lefebvre share a satanically satisfying sound on guitar and bass. It’s too clean and focused to put the word “punk” on it, but definitely jarring enough to be some kind of bastardized jazz. If the band Primus were to attempt to make a jazz record, it might sound a lot like these guys. Krantz in this show was “lead,” in as much as his riffs and solos sound like they are executed with thought and consciousness as they came out. Like he would for a moment right before he ripped a scorching, unpredictable riff or two—and yet the swiftness achieved for stretches at a time was amazing. Lefebvre in contrast hummed along effortlessly with tasteful bass lines that, even at the band's dizzying tempo, were positioned perfectly against the backdrop of Krantz’s sounds and Carlock’s drumming.

Keith Carlock | Iridium Jazz Club

Carlock on the kit, meanwhile, was as fluid and fleeting as Lefebvre, yet also with a soft and delicate touch. The fascinating note here was that Carlock played, as he often does, with a stick in one hand and with his other hand bare on the kit. It made for a sublime sound and feel that was mesmerizing. Krantz or Lefebvre might have been able to stop playing and walk off stage at any moment and, were Carlock to keep going, the crowd would probably just fixate without murmur on his playing.

Carlock & Lefebvre | NYC

The product of all three together created incredibly contrasting pieces of music—with their frazzled angry jazz approach, the compositions navigated back and forth between light and dark, tension and melodic. But no matter which side they were on, grungy and blaring or bright and building, this band grooved hard.

Wayne Krantz Trio | Iridium Jazz Club | NYC

This masterful trio is Europe bound for the latter half of February, scheduled to start over there with shows in the UK on February 18 and 19. From their they’ll hit spots in Hungary, The Netherlands, Germany, and more. Before they do that, they have shows scheduled across the next couple of weeks for Denver, CO, Chicago, Ardmore, PA, and others. For more information head to http://www.waynekrantz.com

Wed, 02/12/2020 - 9:49 pm

Premier jamgrass group Greensky Bluegrass just finished their 2020 winter tour this past weekend, closing out with a packed show at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, Georgia. Onboard with them were hotshot psychedelic rockers Ghost Light, who had joined Greensky as the opening act for the entire Winter run. Grateful Web caught the two together during their northeast run, at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. There’s obviously a harmony between the Greensky Bluegrass and Ghost Light—this is the second winter season in a row that the bands have embarked on a multi-city tour together, and just like last season, special collaborations made a few of the shows extra special.

Holly Bowling | Ghost Light

Greensky invited up Ghost Light’s keyboardist Holly Bowling a few times throughout the run, the first at Penn’s for a few extraordinarily improvisational performances. Holly’s piano playing led beautifully on big and ambitious versions of Greensky’s original tunes ‘King Of The Hill,” “The Four,” and “Don’t Lie.” Later on, in their tour, at The Anthem in Washington DC, Bowling again sat in with Greensky on their own song “Windshield,” which received high praise from fans and jamband scene regulars alike for being particularly gorgeous version.

Paul Hoffman | GSBG

Penn’s Peak was a strong night in this tour from Greensky, in multiple ways. Known almost as readily for their witty stage banter as they are for their rock and roll treatment of bluegrass, Jim Thorpe had no shortage of quirky stage talk, especially from the band’s lead, mandolinist Paul Hoffman. At several moments throughout the night, clearly gleeful and enjoying the energy, Hoffman and other members shouted, “we’re Peaking!” to encouragement from the audience. AS is their style, band members also shouted things like this during moments in the music as well.

Greensky Bluegrass | Penn's Peak

But the show delivered on a purely musical level, as well. At only two songs into the show, Greensky offered an enjoyable version of The Beatles’ “Help,” certainly unexpected rare for them. Also, rare and something highly chased by hardcore bluegrass fans was the band’s cover towards the end of the night of Chris Jacobs’ “Bone Digger.” A funky raunchy country-esque tune, the band appropriately fueled it with a lot of tension and grit. The meat of Greensky’s set two at Penn’s Peak flourished with their brand of psychedelic bluegrass, with the band improvising heavily on a version of “Broke Mountain Breakdown,” which upped the fun with teases of Phish’s “Bathtub Gin” and “Makisupa Policeman” and segued into yet another rare choice, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World."

Tom Hamilton | Ghost Light

Ghost Light, kicking off the night, made the greatest use of their time as well, jamming without stopping from the beginning of their opening set through to the end. They were so on the ball as to be able to perform even while experiencing one or two sound issues at the start of their first song. Despite that, the band played a relaxingly groovy version of one of their most hit original jams, “Keep Your Hands To Yourself.” Heading off the last section of their improv-loaded fifty-minutes, “Old Time Religion" rocked incredibly hard, with lead guitarist Hamilton shredding furiously on guitar, and finished with a tremendous segue into their last tune, “Jolene."

Penn's Peak

Check out the full setlist from Penn’s Peak below, and also check out more photos of both Ghost Light’s and Greensky Bluegrass’ sets. 

Set One:

01 No Idea >

02 Help!

03 Steam Powered Aeroplane

04 Do Harm

05 King of the Hill

06 Whitehouse Blues

07 The Four >

08 Don’t Lie

Set Two:

01 Forget Everything

02 Worried About the Weather

03 I’m Still Here (6)

04 Broke Mountain Breakdown >

05 Everybody Wants to Rule the World >

06 Miss September

07 Frederico

08 Bone Digger

Encore:

09 How Mountain Girls Can Love 

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 5:15 pm

Circles Around The Sun was always and will always be the musical baby of celebrated rock and roll musician Neal Casal. But CATS, as they go by for short, is still as much the musical journey of band members Adam McDougall, Dan Horne, and Mark Levy. The three have put miles and muscle into popular jam scene groups like Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Grateful Shred, and The Congress, but Circles continues as their singular, collective, and unique creation. This coming month will see the release of their third studio album, a self-titled record that features the last recordings Casal did with the group.

CATS are also ready to embark on their first tour of the new year. Starting tonight, with a show at Baltimore, MD club The 8x10, the band will play a series of shows through the northeast and southeast. For these live performances, CATS has enlisted the collaboration of hotshot axeman Scott Metzger. Metzger has proved his technical abilities time and again in projects like Wolf! and The Showdown Kids, as well as his affinity for deep groove and psychedelic improv in projects like Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.  

The matchup of Metzger and CATS will undoubtedly be something unique and special to witness, but this tour is also particularly enticing as it sees the band playing intimate size spaces, such as The Sinclair in Boston on March 1, Spaceland Ballroom in Hamden, CT on March 3, and Ardmore Music Hall in Ardmore, PA on March 6. Circles Around The Sun has sets scheduled for Red Rocks and festivals like Leftover Salmon’s Boogie at the Broadmoor in Colorado and Skull and Roses Festival in Ventura, CA. But this upcoming run presents the immediate chance to experience the band’s new sounds and new visions up close and personal. 

For more information, head to the band’s website at https://www.circlesaroundthesun.com.

Sat, 03/14/2020 - 8:32 pm

Over the past few weeks, a sublime musical connection went on tour, hitting a series stages throughout the northeast: Psychedelic groove band Circles Around The Sun performing with lead guitarist Scott Metzger. This past weekend, the foursome took the show to none other than Ardmore Music Hall, where they played to a packed, super receptive crowd, playing one of their best showings yet.

Circles Around The Sun is, of course, the musical project headed by the late Neal Casal, and of that great artists at the Ardmore Music Hall last weekend an older guy, probably one of the many old heads that have found new modern favorite in the Dead-inspired magic of CATS, said at one point to his friend: “Man, I’m glad they kept this going. It could’ve all just gone to hell.”

Circles Around The Sun

It certainly could’ve, but anyone at a CATS show this last tour is no doubt happy it hasn’t, because it’s a musical project that certainly sounds to be evolving, but that also still seems to carry the sense of creative freedom that it was born with back at GD50. Whatever it is right now, it still rocks. 

Mark Levy | CATS

For starters, no band seems to get an entire room to move in this beautiful way that CATS do. It’s as if, with the kick-off of their shows, they are plugging into some cosmic power grid and flipping on an invisible switch. From their first notes, which were the extra bouncy ones of “Gilbert’s Groove,” it was just bodies immediately everywhere swaying and twisting. And CATS are a band that needs to be heard live, up close and personal, to truly be appreciated for what they are. Dan Horne’s behemoth bass sound, Adam MacDougall’s siren-sounding wail on synthesizer, and Mark Levy’s funk-style whack on the drums all fill the space of a venue like some giant immense hot air balloon. 

Scott Metzger | Ardmore Music Hall

Metzger’s addition to CATS is remarkable. Sound-wise, it’s almost just too cool for words. There’s his unmistakable sharp twang, but in this setting, with CATS the twang takes on these shades that are sometimes darker and fuzzier, sometimes just straight quixotic. Even if you’ve seen the guitarist with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead or his own project Wolf!, this kind of sound seems to be hitting new sonic territory for him. 

Circles Around The Sun | Ardmore, PA

On a technical level, Metzger is no stranger to improvisational or psychedelic experiments, and he follows in step with the other three players with a contrast of ease and exactness. They play through songs comfortably, taking them out without any force going on, but there’s also a sense of playing the notes with delicate precision. This may stem from the band’s earlier Grateful Dead influence, specifically in the way Jerry played solos: the creativity was without boundaries but there was a thoughtfulness to the notes that carefully dictated their shape.  

Circles Around The Sun | Ardmore, PA

And all members of the band just seemed to be having a good time, especially at this Ardmore Music Hall show, Metzger not least of all. On jam number two, Dan Horne was given his first bass solo section of the night, which he awesomely played in a punk-rock fashion, and as he started to improvise away you could see Metzger’s eyes widen and a wicked smile form across his face. 

Dan Horne | CATS

Horne, who seems to be the one in charge of addressing the audience these days, meanwhile said something both funny and interesting into the microphone to MacDougall, after a particularly lengthy and righteous keyboard solo: “Adam, we’ve gotta get you a vocoder—I’m starting to hear the lyrics.” This is a quip of course on the fact that all of CATS’ great, groovy output is instrumental.  

Adam MacDougall | CATS

But it could also be a hint to the kind of music that is to come from this project as it continues to grow in the future. As the night at Ardmore went on, Circles Around The Sun moved into their most recently penned material, such as the stuff featured on their self-titled record that’s set to come out in three days, March 13. The new stuff is, as the band mentions themselves, more succinct in being song-based, as well as being a more dance-y, club vibe. But it’s vintage club, like one straight out of CBGB in the seventies, and the jams Metzger has been helping the band throw down on this new stuff is as tight and as risk-taking, like anything, they’ve done in the past.