music is the best
Music is the Best
Since a young age, I have been interested in the world of music. In the beginning I recalled loving Michael Jackson. He was definitely my introduction to the possibilities of music. Perhaps that had something to do with my affinity for live performance, disco-funk, and upbeat music. Regardless of his possible indiscretions later in life, MJ raised the bar in music tremendously, and continues to be one of my favorites to this day.
After several years without as much focus on music, I was once again roped in when Guns and Roses' "Appetite For Destruction" was released. I had my cousins to thank for that one, as it ultimately also led me to Metallica. For a while, Metallica was my obsession. The heavy composition, intricate guitar work, and explosive energy impressed me, and I immersed myself in all the previous albums. That kept me occupied until about 1992.
In 1992, my interests once again shifted from the heavy sounds of Metallica to a slightly less abrasive style as Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and my favorite, Pearl Jam took over the music industry. When they hit the scene, I lost my mind. My friend Aaron Weaver introduced me to "Jeremy" and it was over. In 1996, Pearl Jam ended their standoff with ticketmaster, and I went to see my first real concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD. Incredible.
In 1994, my classmate George O'Brien brought a copy of the Grateful Dead's "Skeleton's from the Closet" to school. I enjoyed the mellow grooves, and rebellious lyrics, and though my passion for jamband music was not yet developed, it was this moment that opened that door.
I bought a Dead shirt, and wore it to school as often as possible. I loved how colorful the shirt was. My freshman year of high school, (while wearing the shirt) a senior named Austin Noble asked me if I'd ever heard of Phish. At first I wasn't sold, the music seemed a bit too bizarre, but I trusted Austin's opinion, and continued to listen to them... By the end of my freshman year, I was just starting to get it. As the years went by, I remained friends with Austin, and in 1998, we gathered together a group of our friends and headed to Merriweather again, this time to see my first Phish show. The show was far more amazing than I realized at the time. Looking back on 8/8/98, some of my absolute favorite songs in Phish's catalogue were played that night. I barely knew 5 of the songs at the time. But the encore of "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys sealed the deal. I knew I'd be back. If I could thank one person in the world for impacting my musical preferences, it would be Austin, who has never steered me wrong.
When I arrived at college, I realized that Phish wasn't the only game in town... Perhaps the best game in town, but not the only one. My friends and I went deep into a Pink Floyd era, where I truly explored that band for the first time. I decided they may be aliens. So I went about feverishly researching, listening to, and contemplating the most enigmatic band I'd ever heard. Drenched in psychedelia, Floyd consistently put out studio work of searing perfection. Each note, perfectly placed, each effect, perfectly executed, and the production was second to none. I was obsessed.
My friend Mike Quartuch introduced me to moe. and my horizons once again broadened. Cue the floodgates... In toppled Strangefolk, the Disco Biscuits, and more.
But in 2001, my boy Newman turned me on to String Cheese Incident. I loved String Cheese's happy sound. Across varying styles, they brought love, light, and beauty to the party. After seeing them at the Summit Music Fest in 2001, I knew I'd be seeing this band again... often.
In March of 2002, I found myself being adventurous, and flew by myself to Colorado for the first time. My best friend from 6th grade lived in Ft. Collins, and between the beauty of the Rockies, a show at the Fillmore, 2 shows in Vail, a long drive to the Grand Canyon, and a stop in Telluride, I knew I loved String Cheese Incident and Colorado. The Telluride show was on the side of the mountain, and you had to ski in to see the show. Amazing. Truly. So, that was it... I was head over heels.
Speaking of "head over heels" it was also around this time that I met the love of my life, Julie. She's probably my favorite person ever, and early on, it was her music taste as much as her personality that convinced me she was the right one for me. She took to Phish and String Cheese quickly, and especially liked Keller Williams. It was about a month into our relationship when we decided to go to the first annual Bonnaroo. The festival was amazing to say the least, and the Keller Incident there blew all of our minds. With Phish on hiatus, I dove headlong into the Cheese.
Aside from the stellar musicianship of the good jam bands, they also opened doors to lots of music I may not have ever heard otherwise. The bluegrass of John Hartford, the country of Cash and Nelson, the rap of the Roots, the funk of Parliament Funkadelic, dj's like Orchard Lounge, and the overall awesome that was the Talking Heads. It's this diversity in styles and interest that have kept me coming back. With jam bands, they can "paint" a masterpiece, and then tweak it every time they play it so it is never the same twice, but the originals are there to view for ever. You can't paint over the Mona Lisa and still have the Mona Lisa, but you can add a jam to a song and create something altogether new that doesn't undermine the original. That's living art. And I appreciate it because it grows, it breathes, and occasionally it falls on its face. My name's Brad, and I'm a show-aholic.
After more than 50 Phish concerts, and nearly 100 String Cheese concerts under my belt, one would assume that I'm a little crazy. For those that know, they know I'm not. I just love the art of music, and I truly enjoy watching people make music. It's a form of communication that transcends the drab, colorless conversation into vibrant, stimulating, emotional connections... and memories for a lifetime.
Music is the best.
Thoughts on a new year...
As we enter a new year, and perhaps a new era (if the Mayan's calendar had any validity at all) I felt an urge to write about life, happiness, and priorities. I have had an unusual few years... moving from PA to Colorado, finding new work, losing a job, finding another, leaving a band, starting to write, losing loved ones, finding others... quite a time of change. But through it all, a few things have remained constant, and they are as important to me as anything could be.
For starters, family. And I'm not just talking about relatives, though they are a very important piece. I'm also talking about those people we meet who become family. Those friends that become brothers and sisters, those loved ones that you make a new family with. These connections are some of the most powerful, inspiring, helpful, and rewarding things in my life. Your relatives are somewhat obligated to give you unconditional love, but these people choose to give you unconditional love. That is powerful.
Secondly, my attitude is still firmly steeped in optimism, and I have remained true to my goal to spread love and joy. I recognize that the world needs more of both, and am committed to doing my part to positively impact those things which I can affect. As a result, I attract some beautiful souls. We are constantly transmitting energy, and I've noticed that the more positivity in my output, the better the energy I receive. Pay it forward without expectations of reward and you often find yourself showered in good fortune. I've also noticed that I need to focus on my deeds rather than other's misdeeds. Rather than letting the sorrows of the world pollute my view of humanity, I try to use my humanity to ease the sorrows of the world.
And lastly, I try to live it up. We are fleeting, and our time on this planet is limited. Do not waste a single minute. Spend time with those you love, make art, appreciate art, have children, teach them well, be the best you can be, accomplish your dreams, leave a positive mark on the world, and when you've done all that, do it all again. We are far more powerful than we let ourselves believe. Use your power to do something extraordinary.
Best wishes for 2013, may it be the best year yet.
Cabinet is a band from Scranton, PA... and a mighty fine one at that. Their new album, LEAP from Rope-a-Dope Records showcases a unique blend of traditional,folk, bluegrass, country, calypso, dixie, and funk which has back-country Appalachia roots. The musicians are all extremely talented instrumentalists, and the Biondo's (JP and Pappy) are skilled vocalists as well. Cabinet has a blue-collar, mountain town sound that connects with sepia photographs and coal powered trains. It is amazing how they maintain a sense of tradition and innovation simultaneously, and I'm constantly debating if the tradition is added to the innovation, or if the innovation is added to the tradition in their sound. I guess in the end it doesn't make much of a difference.
The album starts with "Doors". This song begins in a light and airy bluegrass. The lyrics reference the doors we encounter in life and trying to determine which ones lead you to your place in life. The song is hopeful, yet has the feeling of our struggle to choose the right path. This song, like much of their material, has a bit of heartache, part life lesson, and ultimately some excellent fiddle-work by Todd Kopec.
Heavy Rain has a bit more unusual sound. It has a swampy, wet, sludgey feel that seems to have a bit of a bayou influence. Pappy's vocals have a super-folksy feel on this song with an enhanced Appalachian twang.
TwoTimer is a classic song about a man who's been cheated on by his love. He goes and buys some booze to ease the pain. Then he tells us the story of his misfortune. But this guy isn't gonna let no two-timer get him down. He is gonna drink some whiskey and move on. Kopec's violin makes another solo appearance as the rest of the band provides soothing harmonies and timely pickin'.
Eleanor is a little different from the other tunes. It's vibe is urgent and the subject is about a hypothetical fire and how it puts things in perspective. Kopec's violins create musical flames before Mickey Coviello's guitar segues the band back to the verse. Pappy's banjo plays a few bars of precise banjo before Kopec comes back in with more blazing strings.
Pappy's banjo rips into Susquehanna Breakdown like a chicken on the run. JP's mandolin follows like the farmer trying to catch him. Kopec won't be left out, and adds some bow work before Pappy finishes things off with a sizzling solo.
Hit It on the Head starts with easy vocals and a modern country feel when the band kicks up the dust with some toe-tapping, log cabin, front porch music. The vocal harmonies and violin work create a nice soothing effect that mimics the song's tone of comfort.
Wine and Shine is a great tune about work, wine, and moonshine. When I woke up for work this past Saturday, I had the lyrics, "if you don't go to work, then no one will" in my head, and it actually helped motivate me to get moving. This song features a lot of solos quickly changing hands in the style of traditional 1-mic bluegrass. They do it very well.
Carry Me in a Bucket has the feel of a grunge song with bluegrass instrumentation. Vocally they pull it off in a way that leaves you wondering how it sounds so cohesive with the rest of the album, but it works.
Oxygen chugs along as Pappy's banjo provides the main rhythmic tone. The vocal harmonies on the chorus are what makes this song for me. Once again Kopek takes the solo duties, and once again shines.
Diamond Joe is the second to last song on the album and has a bit of a bluesy folk feel. The shadows of Dylan and Cash stretch over this song, but my guess is that those silhouettes are smiling.
Gather All Ye is a soft song starting with a single voice and guitar. It's a lonely tune, and it oozes longing. It has a feeling of calling people together to do good deeds. But it has a sadness that resonates with the emotion-provoking music that these guys seem to create on a regular basis.
I have not yet mentioned Dylan Skursky on bass, or Jami Novak on drums. Both are impeccable, timely, and solid. They lay the foundation for all that Cabinet does so well. And, that ground floor is what allows them to be adventurous, innovative, fun, and creative on the whole. This band creates beautiful studio work and then fleshes the ideas out live in a way that lets you see the party peaking through the cracks. This band may look traditional at first glance, but if you see them live, you'll recognize this isn't any ordinary Cabinet. This Cabinet is special.
Brothers Past/ Tiger Party
This weekend began with high hopes as I knew I'd be covering 2 bands from my home state of Pennsylvania. Friday at Cervantes Other Side, Brothers Past brought the livetronica fans out in full force. The club was elbow to elbow back to the lounge area in the rear. I arrived just as Tiger Party was taking the stage. Being billed with BP, I expected another electronica act, especially considering I've heard some of the members in other projects that lean electronic. The drummer, of Malah, kept a tight funk based groove going strong. Guitarist Ryan Burnett, from Signal Path, played series after series of mercurial riffs creating a morphing metallic timbre that was edgy, smooth, and sleek... Like the bad guy from Terminator 2. The band is a collaboration of musicians in several other bands, and keyboardist Blake appears to conduct the pieces, signaling for changes, and leading many of the tunes. His energy was contagious as he bounced eagerly with the music. With my memories of Brothers Past shows of yesteryear, I debated if I may be having more fun with Tiger Party than I would with the main event... Especially once they brought Atomga's Leah up on sax. Her funky accents in the composed sections were as delightful as her smoking solo. This girl can really bring the whole thing together with the sultry sound of her Baritone Saxophone. As Tiger Party wrapped up, I was convinced this would not be the last time our paths would cross.
Brothers Past came out to a packed house ready to get down. They began with an indie band vibe as guitarist Tom Hamilton sang a song that sounded a little flat, and without articulation. As I tried to make out the words, I wondered if the mix was causing the muddy vocals, but ultimately it didn't matter, as the band launched into my electronica expectations. The predictability was high, but their ability to communicate changes and execute dramatic pinpoint turns was impressive. I didn't remember the alternative/indie angle in my past experience with BP, and while it provided for many of the unexpected points of the night, I felt like the predictable parts were more enjoyable. There is no question at all the musicians are beyond proficient, the guitarist continuously delivered a blizzard of notes in our own little snow globe. I waffled at this show. I went back and forth several times as some passages pulled me in and blew my doors off, while others were driven by 1 or 2 note repetitions I found to be generic and overdone. As a fan who tends to stay on the outskirts of electronica music, I wasn't sure if BP reminded me of everything else, or if everything else reminded me of BP. It's been quite a while since I had seen them, and while some thing's have definitely changed, most of the show was exactly what I expected it to be. Tight rhythms with shades of drum and bass, house, and other blends of electronica pervaded the majority of the night.
When I write about a band that i am not as familiar with, I try to isolate the element that makes them unique. With BP, it is the intricate guitar work of Tom Hamilton that has an almost Umphrey's McGee ferocity which relentlessly rides wave after wave of dance beats. It is also the indie leaning vocal breaks. As a cast of vocalists ran through my mind, my friend looked at me and said, "you hear Duritz in there?" Not only did I know what she meant, I had thought it an instant before she said it. It's a strange juxtaposition to put the lyrical parts of your song in an alternative framework from the exploratory style that dominates your sound. That's how it felt to me. It was like seeing a mediocre coffee shop performer one minute and a polished dj the next. The changes were impeccable, but there was no continuity to the themes or ideas. The continuity that did exist was in the electro dance portions, which were at times monotonous, but had an excellent flow. The indie-alternative interludes were disruptive in my humble opinion. This coming from someone who's number one complaint about electronica is the repetition. And yet, I still preferred their dance party to their alternative side. The times when I was reminded of STS9, Lotus, and the like, I was dancing in a sea of money-maker shakers. I even considered playing "air laptop" at one point. Their drummer, Rick Lowenberg was energetic, metronomic, and adept at blending the electronic drums with a regular kit, making for a nearly constant dance party. I'd also say that when I liked what they were doing, I really liked it. The frenzy of guitar notes pioneered as the rest of the band laid the landscape resulting in a driven, methodical groove. When I'd start to think it was completely off the cuff, the entire band would change direction, usually for just a measure or two, before returning to the exploratory riffs.
In the end, I really did like Tiger Party better. It's not that BP aren't incredibly talented, its a personal preference... I like the funk beats more than the drum and bass, but it didn't stop the "nuts to butts" packed house from having a blast during BP's Denver visit.
Cabinet Rocks Quixote's
Cabinet, fine craftsmanship
This Saturday, a small coal powered musical freight train came through Denver's Capitol Hill area and collided with Quixote's True Blue. The resulting carnage brought the critters out of the hills and you could smell gopher stew wafting down 13th ave. Pennsylvania's coal crackin' cordiality oozed out of the evening as former Pennsylvanians, current Pennsylvanians, and friends of Pennsylvanians swarmed to see their pride... A relatively unknown band called Cabinet.
I hadn't seen them in a few years, since I left PA for the Rockies. They have been hard at work crafting a bluegrass experience that defies many labels, and is uniquely Appalachian. Much like Pennsylvania's farmland and mining towns, there was a party beneath this humble exterior. I almost got vertigo thinking about this band... In one sense, they're a traditional group stretching the limits towards innovation, and in another, they're pure innovation clinging to some hazy recollection of tradition... Like the sons of farmers, miners, and moonshiner's re-telling their parent's stories while sneaking off to burn one with their friends. Good folks and good times.
There were three great vocalists, but the Biondi's (JP and Pappy) were truly remarkable. Their harmonies were of a quality you rarely find in newgrass, and their musical sensibilities were sharp and palatable enough to be found on a major country record.
But not so fast, they aren't quite ready to be put in that box yet. There was still the matter of all this colorful energy they spew... Obviously that is not ready to be packaged for mainstream consumption. So, where do you go when tradition's trail gets boring, and daring's drive is roughshod? You forge new ground, blaze new trails, and create a new way to get to new places. That is what Cabinet is doing now.
There are few bands who do what Cabinet does. They have a similarity to YMSB that can be found in their lyrics, songwriting, boundless playing, and general sound, but I personally have a better appreciation for Pappy's banjo than most Yonder I've heard. JP also knows how to bring a lot of energy to the tunes without going Jeff Austin overboard. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Yonder, but there is something about Cabinet that smooths out the rough edges... that feels more authentic and less deranged. They also utilize an Appalachian kick to their bluegrass that has kinships to Railroad Earth. I know a lot of people are head over heals for RRE, and others think they are overrated, but they do bring a regional sound to their jam grass, and the Cabinet has grabbed some tricks from the same bag. While I wouldn't say they remind me of RRE, they definitely share some space... Both in location (PA/ Jersey) and also with their musical inflections that hint at coal mining and trail hiking. I think when it comes down to it, Cabinet is a little more calculated and consistent than RRE which has a looser style. Cabinet is just built a little sturdier.
At the end of the night, I was thankful that this band has invested their own money to finance a trip to CO, just to spread the word and the music. I bought a copy of their debut self titled album, as well as their new release, "Leap" on my way out because this band deserves to be paid, and I wanted to make sure they had a little gas money from me. The show was truly one of the most enjoyable concert experiences I've had at Quixote's, and I am anxiously waiting for their return, which is rumored to be in March. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to leap into my Cabinet... Care to join me?
Uh, hit me
Cervantes was overflowing with funk last night as the New Mastersounds brought their international groove-making machine to Denver. Before the show, my friend, Newman told me to bring ice for my feet... He said they'd be on fire from the dance party. Since this was my first time seeing the band, I took his advice and put on some running shoes before the show... I wasn't about to let my feet give up on me during the show.
I was standing in the bathroom when the drums of Simon Allen boomed to life with a beat tighter than jeggings. His piccolo snare drum had that super-taut snapping sound distinctive of nice clean funk, and his high-hat sizzled in staccato syncopation. Throughout the night, his beats were infectious, inspired, lively, and precise. Crisper than a PBR from the bottom of a hipster's cooler. I was reminded of Adam Deitch, and that began a night of music that continuously brought me back to comparisons to Lettuce. While we are on that subject, Eric Krasno (Lettuce, Soulive) and Eddie Roberts, guitarist of the New Mastersounds seem like they have to be cousins, right? Aside from the jazz-funk guitar virtuosity, they seem to bear a slight resemblance in appearance as well. Maybe it is just because they both have style. Roberts suit and tie set a sort of tone that matched the music… sly, sophisticated, hip, and daring in a conservative sort of way. He looked like he may have been the Master of Ceremonies for a burlesque jazz cafe with his exaggerated English facial hair, and snappy dressing, and it all added to the flair.
Roberts playing was sublime. It had a spotless tone with crisp effects, and his advanced command of jazz fusion scales and rapid finger-work were truly remarkable. His speed was on pace with fast bluegrass at times, and with the exception of a small reggae breakdown or two, the rest was pure reckless funk abandon. The smooth, full sounds that they created together were like the background music at a trendy restaurant, yet had such exquisite timing, musicality, and creativity, that demanded our attention and became foreground music. It is great entertaining music, and is also great music for entertaining.
Pete Shand, the bassist hails from Majorca, Spain and brought a certain flavor to the funk that wasn't latin in style, yet exhibited a free, fun, suave flare that jives with the Spanish lifestyle of afternoon naps, sangria sunsets, and all night parties. He was fun to listen to and appeared to have fun practicing his craft. His tone was round, thick, and punchy with a svelte side that made it aerodynamic and swift. He glided beneath the guitar and organ like a stingray of stealthy, smooth motion you could hear. Breezy, fluid, casual, yet ambitious, energetic, and vibrant. Work well done.
Joe Tatton, the group's key player had confidence and seamlessly alternated supportive rhythms and searing lead lines on organ. His work with Roberts showed a keen understanding between the two, and often lead to lofty musical peaks during the show. Tatton's playing conjured recollections of Galactic, Greyboy Allstars, and Nigel Hall. The aggressive tempo of the group's pieces were demanding musically, and Tatton, Roberts, Shand, and Allen were flawless throughout.
With such talent on display, it was easy to understand the wall to wall movement. Girls were shaking their asses, dudes, just trying to keep up. The stairs to the balcony were guarded as a VIP area. When I asked the bouncer what the VIP area was for, he said that the owners sometimes have a VIP area for when their favorite bands come to town... And NMS was apparently one of their favorites. The number of extended VIP wristbands continued to grow throughout the evening. As more and more cousins, homies, clients, associates, and drinking buddies were brought to the gatekeeper, he graciously admitted almost all of them. Vouching was the word of the day, and I saw those who were vouched for return to vouch for others. It was a charade of exclusivity, but everyone was having a great time as the colorful crowd become a writhing organism of bobbing heads and swiveling hips.
Since I relocated to Denver, I have had a growing love for funk, and this show was no exception. While I have been listening to funk regularly, my rotation has been dominated by Lettuce. Well Lettuce finally has some competition in my book, and you can expect to hear some NMS if you go anywhere with me anytime soon.. They played from 10:30 until 2:45am with a short set break, and threw down intense dance party music with relentless authority the entire time. Simon Allen credited Roberts as musical director, and you can tell that Roberts is the focus of the sound. If boogying down isn't your bag, you might want to leave the New Mastersounds to those who enjoy shaking their moneymakers. I left Cervantes with a giddiness and excitement about the future of funk. I was glad to hear exploratory, progressive, innovative, and authentic grooves are not a thing of the past. They are a thing of the present, and the future. They are a thing of the New Mastersounds. Now, back to icing my feet.
Support Local Music
I have a new appreciation for an old idea. Since I began making music, it has been a process dependent on my friends, neighbors, and family showing their support. After all, if there are no people to watch the band, there are very few opportunities to play in public. I was very happy with the community we built around our band in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. They were mostly our friends, but there were quite a few of them, and they were all great people. The truth is, without them to push us forward, and to encourage us to book more shows, we would likely have called it quits long before I left the band. That is the power of supporting your local music scene. It gives bands the opportunity to hone their skills, it provides privately owned venues the opportunity to run profitable businesses, and it gives the "fans" a sense of community and appreciation from the band.
Recently I have begun writing for www.musicmarauders.com in Denver, CO. I have been going to see a lot of shows that I may have passed up if I hadn't been going to write. I can honestly say that I have seen some amazing talent from the opening acts to the main events, and I feel it's also extremely rewarding to support local music. So, from both perspectives, the performer and the audience, supporting local music is an incredibly rewarding thing. I encourage each of you readers to go see live music in your town at least once a month. If you can make it more, go for it. Go with an open mind, and try to appreciate the talent that surrounds you. I think you'll be surprised how many amazing artists you will find.
So, grab your party pants, call some friends, and go see some local music, you'll be sonically rewarded for encouraging artists to follow their vision. That's a win-win.
Interview with Lindsay French of the Recovery Act
The Recovery Act
During the recent Particle Halloween show at Quixote's on Lawrence Street, I had the pleasure to speak with lead singer of The Recovery Act, Lindsay French. We talked about music, life, and more.
OM: What makes the recovery act unique?
LF: Well first of all, we are not trying to pigeonhole ourselves into a certain genre. We all have such different influences. I come from like a soul and funk background, the other guys were in bands together before that were more jamband oriented so I feel like we all can collaborate and make a special sound. I think a lot of other bands kind of go towards a certain sound so you know what you're getting all the time and we're different in the way that we might do a funk song and then a blues song and then will jump to a jam for 10 minutes until you know whatever wherever that goes. So, yeah, that definitely and then there are not a lot of female front-people... persons on the scene or in any scene really, so that sets us apart I mean I hate to say that but it does.
OM: How much improvisation is involved in your shows?
LF: Right now, not a ton. Tonight there was more than it has been in our other shows. We're definitely striving to do that more often and we're getting more comfortable and being able to read each others cues, things like that just come from being in a band for a while. We just want it to be a lot more, we want it to be every other song that we will be able to improv a solo for four minutes and if someone's feeling it, they can just keep going, if someone else is feeling it, they can jump in. We dont want to have to be stuck in a song routine. And in the songs, we don't want to be held to just the structure of that song. Even if it's a cover.
OM: The next question is about being the only girl in the band. I am wondering if practice is testosterone filled or if your bandmates censor themselves because you're in their presence?
LF: They absolutely do not censor themselves whatsoever, not even a little bit. I am somewhat of a guy at heart when it comes to a few of my mannerisms and my sense of humor. I can be a little crass. And they don't hold back at all... I mean, it's a shit show.
OM: I know you had a musical career prior to this as well, but what would you say personally is your favorite venue you've ever played and what is the favorite venue that you would hope to play some day?
LF: Anywhere in the country?
OM: Anywhere in the world.
LF: My favorite place that I've played, and this isnt just because we are playing here tonight, but Quixote's is super special to me.
OM: Its super special to all of us.
LF: I know, it lead me, when I got out here, this is one of the first places I went, and I've met so many good friends here and it's just... to be in a place that amidst all of the Dead paraphenalia, and everything else, but to know that Jerry Garcia band was on the same stage 3 weeks ago, and Sam Bush will be on that stage this Friday...it's surreal. And to look out and see all of the history and to look out and feel all the energy and history of who's played here, you can just feel it. So this is probably my favorite. The place that I would most like to play, and I'm sure you get this answer all the time, is Red Rocks.
OM: You can't argue with that.
LF: You can be in the crowd at Red Rocks and feel the energy, I can't imagine what it would be like to perform there. With that many people feeling you and pushing their energy onto you...I mean I just... That would be it.
OM: If you could share the stage with anyone in the business , who would it be?
LF: Warren Haynes...Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt, Chris Robinson,and Bob Dylan.
OM: When you're singing a cover like "Son of a Preacherman" how do you emotionally connect with a song you didn't write but obviously has so much soul and feeling in it?
LF: The great thing about song is that most really good songwriters write songs that are easy for people to connect with. So when I sing a song like "Son of a Preacherman" it brings me back to back in the day when Dusty Springfield is writing about it, and I can imagine her sitting on the porch and her dad is talking to the preacher and the preacher's son, and its just that there is a common story there. I mean, you're with someone you shouldn't be with, and someone is breaking out of their shell, you know the preacher's son, and you're sneaking off. I mean we've all done things we shouldn't do, been with people we shouldn't be with. It doesn't take a lot for me, it's just really easy for me to slide into it for some reason.
OM: How did you get started?
LF: I started singing as early as i can remember like there are videos of me as like a toddler, actually i have a scar from singing and running into a speaker, so it started then. I really found my voice my first year of college I had really good friends that went on (Widespread) Panic tour together and we would come back and like relax at the house and light candles and one of my best friends played guitar, he was finding his voice also, so we started playing and I started singing and it slowly got better, you know my freshman year of college is really when it came.
OM: How did the Recovery Act form?
LF: I sat in with a local Denver band called Frogs Gone Fishing, and they had a fill in drummer and the drummer and I met after the show and talked and he asked if I was in a band. I said no, and he asked if I wanted to be in one. I said yes, of course, I was coming off of moving from Arkansas to Oklahoma, and then to Colorado, and I was getting my bearings, and I was at the point where I was ready to you know, get it going again, because starting a band is hard, leaving a band is hard. It's heartbreaking. I was finally in the right head space where I was ready to start anew, and the drummer and I decided we were going to start something, and he knew the guitar player, Dan, and Dan knew our bass player Tyler had been in a band with our keyboard player before, with Pete Kartsounes, and some other great guys back in the day and the bass player and key player were interested in starting something new, so we got together and had a practice, and it worked. It's silly.
OM: Switching gears, what's your favorite concert you've ever been to?
LF: I don't even have to think about that. I saw Paul McCartney in Oklahoma, and literally had tears in my eyes the entire time. He told a story about the song Blackbird and when he wrote it, and i had tears streaming down my face. I've never seen musician with such musicianship and energy, and of course all of the great Beatles songs that he wrote... just amazing.
OM: Denver has a thriving local music scene which are your favorite of the locals
LF: Frogs Gone Fishing, and I really like Whiskey Tango... and one of my new favorites thats one of the best albums I've heard in a while is The Drunken Hearts and they're out of Boulder. I'd probably have to say them.
OM: Has your Arkansas upbringing influenced your music in anyway?
LF: Absolutely I was raised in a southern households with three sisters and down south is a different world. I mean, there is chivalry, and "yes Ma'am" and "no sir" And also with that comes a lot of soul and blues. I was raised in my mom's van listening to bands like Bonnie Raitt, and Aretha Franklin, and Etta James and the Judd's. Those are definitely some of my inspirations, and I remember listening to them in that van and loving it... In my mom's red van. She had an old red van, so yeah, for sure.
OM: What is it about Funk and Soul that draws you in personally?
LF: The lyrics for sure, which sometimes they're so basic and simple which is nice because everybody can relate, but there's just always a driving bass,and sometimes the bass is in the pocket sometimes not, there's also, with Soul and Funk, there is always an organ, or a keyboard player and that is by far my favorite sound on this planet. If I can hear an organ, I'm good. I'm good to go. It's a very soulful sound. You can tell when somebody plays that music that its coming from their soul... and so much more than any other genre I think you can just feel it and...
OM: It's got some gospel influence.
LF: Absolutely. Absolutely.
OM: Do you have any performance related rituals or superstitions.
LF: No. Not at all. Except maybe that I don't like to play with shoes on. You know, I'm dancing around, and there's these chords and I'm jumping over pedals, and I don't like feeling constricted... So I don't like to mess with shoes . I like to feel the stage beneath my feet. You feel more connected to the stage, you can feel the bass.
OM: The Recovery Act could be a reference to the political bill or to an entertainer who saves the show after particularly bad performance, which would you say most influenced your band's name?
LF: The saving... The saving the performance one. Um, we discussed that it was a political bill, we're not political at all... I'm not. Some of the guys are, but I'm not. It has nothing to do with the actual Recovery Act. We just... also, the word "recovery"... I'm recovering from things slowly, like relationships and moving from the south, and they're also recovering from things like the bass player is newly single, the guitarist is newly single. We're all like getting over things, and so it fits. You know, "recover," we are all getting ourselves up from our bootstraps and starting over with this band.
OM: In the history of music, what is the best baby-making song of all time?
LF: Let's Get It On... Marvin Gaye. Of course. You want to tell your kids that they were conceived to "Let's Get it On," in the background.
OM: Last question... If you had to give up sex or music for the rest of your life, which would it be?
LF: Sex. In a second. Not a big deal. Music gives me the same feeling if not better than sex, but there's no dirty aftermath. You don't have to call anyone, you don't have to clean anything up, there's no question if you're pregnant. There's no, dirty aftermath, like tonight for example, there is this high you get afterwards, but there's no, "should we cuddle?" Or, "should we talk on the phone tomorrow?" There's none of that with music, like I'm going to go home tonight, and wake up tomorrow and be so happy with what we did tonight.
OM: Thanks so much for your music and time.
LF: Of course, anytime.
I have been on the outside edge of Muse's fanbase for a few years. I have enjoyed some of the tracks that I've heard, but never took the initiative to go listen to the remainder of their repertoire. That all changed recently. "Madness" has swallowed me whole. This cut has gotten radio play on the local rock stations, and after roughly 5 listens, I was hooked enough to hunt down the album. It's a good thing I did, because Muse's new album, 2nd Law, is the real deal. The album is a little different from the Muse of old, and I imagine that this may upset some of the faithful, but I think it is a work of genius, and challenge those doubters to consider this article before dismissing the album.
The opening track, "Supremacy" begins with a metal riff that reminds me of Rage Against the Machine accompanied by strings a la "Kashmir" by Zeppelin before the lyrics drop in with a sense of brooding theatrics. Think Pink Floyd in the later phases. The first verse crescendos with a Chris Cornell like scream "The time, it has come to destroy your supremacy." The interlude that follows returns to the Kashmir feel and then returns to the vocals to finish the song with a vibe that meshes Zeppelin with Temple of the Dog.
"Madness" follows, and brings in an element of dubstep to a rock opera vocal stylings. I hear shades of Queen, Prince, and Scissor Sisters in the vocals, and the frantic synthetic bass and vocal "madness" in the background create a feeling that mimics the name of the tune. The chorus vocals add layers of harmonies each time it is played, and is orchestrated with precision and beauty. The guitar solo that plays in the middle of the song reminds me of something Slash would have written with Guns and Roses... reminiscent of the Sweet Child O' Mine riff. The vocals come back and the bridge at the end with Muse vocalist Matthew Bellamy searing a heartfelt "I need your love." The song smokes to the end, and the music video they have released features bassist, Christopher Wolstenholme playing a touch screen bass that shows the future of digital integration in a traditional instrument's body. Innovation is the word of the day when it comes to this song.
The next tune, Panic Station leans disco funk, and continues to draw my thoughts to bands like Scissor Sisters and David Bowie. There is an element of '80s cheesiness, but it is balanced out with killer horn lines, inspired vocals, and an eccentricity that brings David Byrne to mind. The overall feel is desperate, scared, and alert. The song is about a state of panic, and they do a good job of portraying the emotion of the song without making the listener uncomfortable.
"Prelude" is a stringed orchestral piece that leads into "Survival." This tune begins with a Beatles-like piano riff, and yields to a determined and creepy verse with operatic background vocals. The lyrics about survival ultimately erupt into a scream and a distorted heavy guitar riff. The triumphant guitar lines are set against a series of soprano voices to create a dramatic and theatrical piece that seems as comfortable set within a rock album as it would if it were part of a Broadway musical. The metal riffs at the end reminded me of how Les Miserables would be if Ozzy had been the musical director. The song dissolves into a Freddy Mercury scream.
"Follow Me" seems to rise from the wreckage of "Survival." This song brings back the late Floyd feel again, and creates imagery of abandoned industrial areas in my mind. Eventually the chorus hits with a subtle dubstep mix in the background before a dance-beat takes over and suddenly you aren't sure when U2 performed with the Black Eyed Peas, but you are pretty sure if they did, it might sound something like this. The song resolves to a Floyd feel, and ultimately gives way to "Animals."
"Animals" has a '90s alternative rock feel to it. The driven drums accompany a bassline that borders between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead. The guitar work on this song is really quite nice with some classical jazz riffs being amped up and creating a great bluesy ethereal vibe. The overall calmness of this song is like a cozy dim-lit room before the drums and metal guitars come in to blaze a trail towards the bridge... an ascending chord progression that drives a vocal parallel before the metal riffs break back in. When this happens, there are sounds of unrest, civil disobedience, or some other rowdy bunch of hooligans roughhousing.
"Explorers" starts with a piano that floats like clouds. The vocals come in like a whisper. It feels as though the singer is communicating to a sleeping baby. His vocals are haunting, smooth, and soft. The chorus comes off of a classical sounding interlude, and the chorus has a touch of Elton John. The strings in the background add to the feel of grandiosity, and George Martin would be proud of the production work. Again, U2 and some of the corniness can be found within the tune, but it's place in the album fits, and leads directly to the "Big Freeze."
"Big Freeze" might be the most U2 feeling tune on the album... fortunately, it is reminiscent of the Joshua Tree era. The song is about optimism, and hope for a better day. To be honest, this may be my least favorite song on the album, but again, it seems to fit with the overall presentation of the art as a whole.
"Save Me" features some very ethereal vocals as the main musical component. The accompanying guitar plays sparse and sporadic notes through the first portion of the song before a wave of harmony and drums kick the song up and lead to the deliberate vocal return. This time with kick drum accents to the minimalist guitar. Eventually some synthesizer creeps into the background and creates a symphonic cushion beneath the vocal melody. About two thirds of the way through the song, the guitars go into an echo effect that makes you feel like you're in some space vacuum. The sound reminds me of some Moe jams. The vocal softness of "Save Me," is left behind as the following song creates a stark contrast.
"Liquid State" is a metal riff driven tune with vocals that bring to mind Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots. The effected vocals have a slightly mechanical hint as the harmonies create a harmonic dissonance that creates a spooky effect in congruence with the Metallica-ish riffs.
"Unsustainable" begins with a very operatic feel. There are violins and choral vocals that create a very classical feel before the sounds of news reports bring in a digital element. This breaks into an all out dubstep passage. Ultimately the classical violins are brought back against the dubstep backdrop and Bellamy continues his Bono screams. The violin frenzy that marks the bridge leads us back to more news reports and another dubstep takeover. The song is politically charged, as is much of the album, and marks another spot where innovation and boundary-less exploration dominate throughout "2nd Law."
"Isolated System" acts as the epilogue to both the previous song and the album as a whole. The songs lyrics are simply that "In an isolated system, entropy can only increase." This quote from our now familiar newswoman replays over a series of piano driven melodies. As the song is over, you have a sense of completion, and probably expect, appropriately that the album has come to an end.
As a huge Pink Floyd fan, I am excited about this band, and I feel that they may be a modern day Floyd. After my Muse radar was activated, I visited their website where I found out they had intentions to play at the Battersea Power Station... a landmark famous from the cover of Pink Floyd's album, "Animals." (Speaking of Floyd album art, Muse's "Absolution" album featured Floyd's visual genius, Storm Thorgerson as album artist.) I don't know if Muse had intentions of letting a pig fly, but I am pretty sure the Floyd reference was intentional. Matthew Bellamy even admitted that their current tour has references to Floyd involved in the stage show, including the inverted pyramid of video screens which lowers to the stage and swallows the band. He says that the tour will be the band's answer to Floyd's The Wall tour. They know they have a similar audience.
There are so many influences on this album that frontman Matthew Bellamy says the album is, "christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia". This is actually a joke, but like most good jokes, it is funny because it's true. I will be keeping an eye on Muse, as they appear to be a band of depth and substance... the kind of band that keeps rock and roll alive, and that is inspiring.
To quote the movie Deejay's Aren't Rockstars, the definition goes like this:
"Deejay (Dee-Jay) n. a retarded individual who receives undue credit, extravagant amounts of money, fame, recognition and sexual favors in return for playing music created by other people."
My friends will tell you that I am not the biggest fan of electronic music. The definition above has a lot to do with why I wrote electronica off before I really ever gave it a chance. I have always struggled with this, because there are elements of electronic dance music that appeal to me. I like grooves, dancing, partying, and watching people get down. What I don't care for is the repetition, the simplicity, and the banality of much electronic music. I have heard the same patterns recycled through much of the electronica I've heard. In fact, I have heard the same sound effect used so much, that I associated the entire sub-genre of dubstep with this one sound. To put it in a word... WHOMP.
Last night, I attended the Break Science/ Mike Menert show at Cervantes, and decided to get a little more educated on the world of electronica. When we arrived, a DJ named Mikey Thunder was performing. I tried to start with the things that I do like. I got into a groove that drew from honky-tonk piano and Motown soul. It was accompanied by a bass drum pulse that had the room grooving. One guy was taking head-banging to a new level... he was swinging his entire torso like Gumby... a regular windshield wiper from the waste up. I can get down with that. Cartoonish dances to mashed up genres sounds good to me. Mikey Thunder was followed by an attractive young Denver DJ named Illecia. She blended her own vocal stylings in with the mix to create an ethereal and unique sound. At times, she bordered on my pre-concieved notion of electronica, but at others she had a style all her own. To my friends, it would have come as a shock that I made it this far, but I enjoyed the openers more than I expected to, and was getting more curious about what the remaining artists had in store.
The next artist, Break Science was the reason I volunteered for this assignment. I am a fan of Adam Deitch (drummer) from his work with funk band, Lettuce, as well as his production credits which includes albums by 50 Cent and Redman. This is a guy who knows how to lay down some hip-hop beats as well as the funk beats that inspired them. The element of a live drummer interests me with this DJ movement. We are essentially expecting Adam Deitch, and other electronica drummers to mimic the precision of a machine. I know musicians are good at timing, but we are talking about synchronization down to nanoseconds. Adam's counterpart in Break Science is Borahm Lee, and the two of them have blended live drums with sampling and hooks to seamlessly move between electronica, funk, soul, hip-hop, and more to blur the genre lines within electronica, and create something that fuses organic production with samples of music we love. I enjoyed the show, and I credit it to the fact that the organic element of live drums intermixed with some recognizable hooks was moving forward at all times. There weren't prolonged repetitions, there were progressions, and transitions. To put it simply, it wasn't just "Whomp Whomp Whomp" all night.
Michael Menert was the headliner and he also had a precision- driven drummer in tow. Menert got his start as a friend, collaborator, and rival to Derek Vincent Smith of Pretty Lights. In fact, Menert is a co-producer on the first Pretty Lights release. I wasn't sure what to expect, but assumed it would be similar to the Pretty Lights mixes I have heard that blend together disparate tunes to create something new and unique. I can't think of a specific one at the moment, but something to the effect of Madonna mashed together with Led Zeppelin. Pretty Lights found a niche by creating a unified sound that involved snapshots of a musical tapestry that a generation shares. He will pull a song from your local classic rock station and a tune from the old school Motown library and see how they fit together with songs from our collective radio conscious. It works. Michael Menert is a a little less predictable than Pretty Lights. His tunes had familiar nuances, but rarely a full out hook from a popular song. To add to his unpredictable flavor, his appearance was far from what I would consider the DJ cookie cutter. He had a rugged, outdoorsman appearance when compared to the clean-cut macbook tech dj image I have in my mind. I guess I am saying he was a bit more earthy than I expected. Ultimately, I think that translated in his mix. He created a blend of tunes and breaks that marked a keen ear for good grooves that fall into the deep cut/ obscure realm of music. In other words, he played songs that you like, but hadn't heard before.
Overall, I would say that both Break Science and Michael Menert touched on areas of electronica that have turned me off in the past, but they diluted them with variety, drive, and innovation. It's sort of like how I feed my dog her medicine in peanut butter. I think she knows it's in there, but the peanut butter makes her forget that she doesn't like the medicine.
I won't lie... I got bored at times, and probably won't become a huge electronica fan, but I am beginning to understand where the talent lies, and also that a lot of the electronica fan-base also understands that there are a lot of talentless hacks giving electronica a bad reputation. I will continue to struggle with one aspect though... My college music professor told me that the most important thing in music is truth. He said that the music that can stand up to the test of time is music that is true. That is where the depth lies, and I am wondering where the balance lies for true artistic expression, and cutting edge innovation. Should music be made solely to push boundaries, or should there be an element of universal truth, substance, and soul in our expressions? Perhaps there is room for both, but I believe I will always err on the side of truth.
Cake is it's Own Icing?
In recent years, some unlikely performers have snuck a look at the jamband community. Some of them have been spotted taking in shows, others have been booked to participate in festivals. Bonnaroo has lead the way with a dazzling array of musicians and comedians to add to the standard lineup of "Cup'O Noodle" jambands. Big names like Conan O'Brien, David Cross, Aziz Ansari, and more have joined the ranks of Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Tool, Radiohead, etc. to draw in a mainstream crowd to mingle with the "hippies." Moe's annual Moe.Down Festival has also recently featured some unexpected bands including the President's of the United States of America, and the topic of this article... Cake.
I'll begin in 1996... I was 16, and my buddy threw a party. There were lots of guys and girls from my class there. One of my friends was intoxicated, and as the party went on he continued to lose his inhibitions (not uncommon for him) and decided to put on a little "show." He went to the middle of the living room (also the middle of the party) and proceeded to strip naked and jump on an elliptical machine. As he trotted on the machine, he sang The Distance by Cake. I don't know if a song ever makes you think of something or someone or somewhere... but when I hear The Distance... I think of Aaron, butt naked.
As a result of this misfortune, I shelved my Cake album, and put them out of my mind for over a decade. As with a few other musicians, it took Conan O'Brien (Jake Shimabokuru is another CoCo find, check him out!!!!) to bring them to my attention. In the case of Cake, it was in December of 2010, and Cake performed "Sick of You." The lead singer, John McCrea did some audience participation, and the song was really good. At this time, I decided to give them another shot, but I still kept my "distance" from The Distance. I enjoyed their quirkiness, and thought that they were way funkier than I had remembered.
Last year, a friend sent me the Cake discography. The whole thing is great, but I am absolutely hooked on the album "B-Sides and Rarities." This album is in heavy rotation in my car, living room, and anywhere else I control the iPod. It literally ranges from "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath to "Strangers in the Night" by Frank Sinatra. One listener heard "Mahna Mahna" and said it reminded her of a Muppets song... upon a closer listen, we realized it actually IS famous from Sesame Street, another Jim Henson creation. This is a fun album, and is now my favorite post-show listen. I love seeing a band like Phish, and then driving home listening to the "TechCountryFunkCroonerToonRock" tracks of Cake. You may not understand that description if you listen to just one track on the album, but if you listen to it all, I think you'll find it's the only adjective that fits.
So, aside from the musical diversity that this album displays, McCrea's voice is strong and unique. It has a charm that matches his witty, humorous takes on losing love and his dream girl... a business woman... one with a short skirt and a long jacket. The fun factor also adds to the album's allure. I find myself smiling at the lyrics, the musical choices, and the subject matter regularly. The horns strengthen a funky spin to all of the songs, and the bass grooves through tune after tune of tomfoolery and fun.
And, when you think you've heard it all, listen to the song, "Conroy." This tune starts with an electronic rhythm followed by some melodic beeping until eventually the sitar joins in. When the synth and bass drop in, guitar matches them with a funky descending rhythm, and suddenly you aren't sure if you are listening to Cake, Beck, or some DJ. It's deceptively un-Cake-like. And, it might be the icing on the Cake album.
I am undoubtedly late to a lot of parties... Cake is one, Beck was one, and there are many more to add, but I can say that it's refreshing to know that there are still things that surprise me in wonderful ways. For now, I'm having a party, (without the naked elliptical show) and Cake is it's own icing.
MSG NYE 2010
New Year's Plans
What are your New Year's Concert plans?
New Year's Eve Announcements
As a member of the crowd that plans their lives according to tour schedules, this week offered some direction for year's end. I know, I know... the Mayans. Well, Umphrey's McGee, Sound Tribe, and the Biscuits were definitely thinking of the Mayans, because Mayan Holidaze takes these bands to the heart of the Mayan world for the countdown to oblivion. Sound Tribe is scheduled to do a midnight set to coincide with the possible polarity shift and I am sure they are hoping to turn the world upside down at the same time. But enough about Mexico... I'm not fortunate enough to be going.
What I can do, barring a Mayan disaster, is choose between a plethora of New Year's Eve acts, of which many seemed to come to light this week. Before I discuss the options, I'll discuss the aspects that come into play with making a decision like this. First and foremost is the bands. I realize that the band is going to probably make 45% of the decision for you right away. There are just some bands you dig, and some you don't. Second is probably money. There are some shows that are within the price range, and some that aren't. The next one also is affected by the money also, and that's proximity. Sometimes the ability to get to another part of the country is limited and you may have to do something local. Work is a consideration also. Do you have to work the day before, the day after? That can put some restraints on the fun as well. And lastly, where are your friends going? This is also a huge factor when choosing a show... after all, what's a party without your friends? These are the things that I think we all consider with each tour announcement. So now, let's take a look at our options.
First, Phish returns for 4 nights at the most famous venue in the country... Madison Square Garden. This promises to be a great time. New York City is a great place to party for New Year's, and the excitement that surrounds Phish at the Garden is incredible. I just want to take this moment to truly take it in... Phish, a band that gets little mainstream respect, has a standing invitation to play the most famous venue in the world, in one of the biggest cities in the world, on that city's biggest night of the year. If anyone wants to debate Phish's talent, take that into consideration. This is definitely a great option, and if I still lived on the east coast, would likely be where I'd be.
Second, The String Cheese Incident announced and sold tickets to their first New Year's show since 2006-2007, and their first New Year's show in their home state of Colorado in over 15 years. The venue (The 1st Bank Center) in Broomfield, CO is not my favorite, but I have enjoyed my experiences there. I have seen 3 Cheese New Year's runs, and the last 2 in San Francisco were some of the most amazing shows of my life. The atmosphere inside was like a psychedelic carnival, and the overall experiences were enhanced by other artists, 2 theatrical/ art installation companies, various circus style performers, and the excitement of the bay area's vibe. This year, I do not expect to be wowed on such a grandiose level. From what I have seen, Cheese will continue to use members of the Boulder Circus, and other performance artists to augment their show, but not to the extremes that they have in the past with the involvement of companies like Peak Experience, and Anon Salon. With that being said, the return to Colorado for a NYE run will likely put a little gas in the tank, and I expect the boys will take that baby for a spin.
Umphrey's McGee has been working hard. Their tour schedule is one of the few that have a scheduled Halloween show and a New Year's show... but hey, don't forget about Mayan Holidaze. As usual, Umphrey's McGee is working overtime. This band is spreading the fun around too. From Maryland's Fillmore on Halloween to the beaches of Mexico for Mayan Holidaze, to Atlanta for 4 nights in the Tabernacle for New Year's, this band has all their bases covered. And in between... tour. I've made my case for UM before (and against UM before also), but if you enjoy seeing live music, this band is a good thing to check out... they actually tour... all the time. But, as with the other bands, that can only last so long. So, if you want to see a band that will come back to your area more than once a year, these guys are a good bet. I don't personally know anything about this venue, and have only been to Atlanta briefly, but my guess is, if UM is in town... you'll have fun.
Widespread Panic will be in Charlotte, NC. They haven't played as much lately (is this starting to be a trend?) but are planning on giving it hell in Carolina for New Year's Eve. My friend's will tell you that I am not a Panic fan, but I certainly recognize that they are a talented band that has massive popularity and a thoroughly dedicated fan base. This band continues to sell out show after show, and have been doing it as long as anyone else in the jam world.
Yonder Mountain String Band will once again occupy Boulder Theater for a 4 night run. This band is among my favorites, they bring a high-flying energy to bluegrass that rips down the genre's barriers and let's in the outside world. It gives me great pleasure to see them rip into newgrass versions of Talking Heads, Pink Floyd, Beatles, and other covers. It also gives me great pleasure to see them perform their Sheriff Songs, and I assume that Boulder Theater is in for it's fair share of all of the above. The Theater is a sweatbox, but it will be cold out, so maybe that's better?
Sound Tribe Sector Nine will also be in Colorado at Denver's Fillmore for 3 days over New Year's Eve. They will be fresh from their Mayan Holidaze performances, where they intend to play through the end of the world. Since the return of David Murphy after his health issues, STS9 has been playing with a new fervor. They undoubtedly have learned that life is a blessing and that they should be living each day to it's fullest. I expect that the Mayan Holidaze and New Year's runs will be among this band's best shows ever.
The Disco Biscuits last show was at Camp Bisco in July, until this weekend when they come to the Mann Theater for a 2 day "City Bisco" fest, they are playing in Baltimore Friday followed by a little Bisco fest in Philly. After these shows, it will be Mayan Holidaze before their New York NYE run. The band will play at the Best Buy Theater for 4 nights, and will be taking a night off before playing the MSG Theater underneath Phish on NYE, where their show will not begin until 11pm.
Furthur has not released their New Year's plans, but I am guessing it will be in the Bay Area, and that it will also be a fun time. Phil recently told a Marin newspaper that Furthur will be playing shows only in New York and San Francisco after 2012. Phil will still deliver music, but probably from the comforts of Terrapin Crossroads, TRI Studios, or other local venues. I imagine the NY shows will be occasions where Phil wants to visit his east coast fans.
Taking all of this into consideration, I am personally going to see String Cheese Incident. The venue is close, Cheese is my favorite party in the world, I have several good friends coming into town, and it feels like I might have to be in the area for work and other obligations. So, that's what I'm up to, How about you?
Quixote's True Blue
Denver has been a unique place to be over the past few years. There has been a bustling music scene for many years, but more recently things have changed even more. With the current political and legal initiatives in Colorado, it's magnetism has increased with the hip, young, and partying crowd. Nowhere is this more apparent than at Quixote's True Blue. This club on Lawrence Street has defined a "Deadicated" bar, and pulls in influences from some of the best places, and biggest parties in the world.
Obviously, this bar has Grateful Dead heritage, and is one of the country's most well recognized places to celebrate Jerry and company. This is what initially drew me to think about San Francisco in the late 60's. I am not claiming that we are witnessing the same cultural revolution in Denver, but I do believe that every place has it's time. The 60's were San Fran's time, and now I would say Denver is in it's prime. Quixotes celebrates not only the Grateful Dead, but all music that has lead to or developed from the Dead. This club takes elements of coffee-shops in Amsterdam, block parties in Philly, after-hour raves in Detroit, and college parties across the country, rolls them into a unique atmosphere, and plants a great big Steal Your Face on top. It is something I began to take for granted until I was recently visited by a friend. We went to Quixote's to see a friend's band... The Recovery Act. After a few hours at the club, my buddy came to me with a big smile, and said, "this place is dangerous... I could have too good of a time here." As a local, I have come to expect it as a part of Denver's culture, but I realized that this kind of club is even unique for Denver.
Today I woke to the news that Quixote's is moving in mid-November. I have no doubts that the new location will also be a significant landmark on Denver's party map, but I do think there are many aspects of the current location to be considered for the move.
First, the multi-stage aspect was a major draw to this bar. If you weren't digging what was going on at one stage, you could go and see something on another. And, if they didn't have enough bands to fill all the rooms, then they would run video of old Dead shows, or they would offer the live streams from couch tour. There was always something happening.
Second, the outdoor/ indoor area is key. It allows Denver's partying peeps to have a private area where they could smoke and not disturb the non-smokers. Great idea. It also allowed people the chance to get some air without leaving the action.
Third, the staff... this is a double edged sword. I have personally bitched up a storm about the bartenders at Quixote's. It seems to me that some of them are moody, and that it is difficult to get any service unless you are a well-known patron or friend. I have always felt that was at odds with everything else about this den of entertainment. When I think of the Grateful Dead, of the counter-culture, and of Jay Bianchi's (owner of Quixote's) idea of what this bar represents, I would expect to find friendly, jovial bartenders. This is the one area that I really hope for improvements with the new location. Beyond that, the staff is generally laissez faire and I think that is great. They allow the customers to have fun, and don't generally interfere in anyone's affairs unless it becomes dangerous to the bar, the crowd, or the individual. I have always enjoyed going to Quixote's because I feel a sense of freedom. A place where you can go meet at a public place and share the experience of a private party in your living room.
Bathrooms are always a consideration with public places. Quixote's bathroom situation is currently subpar. There are too few women's stalls, and the place is not always in the most sanitary of conditions. This is another area that the new Quixote's could improve on the current situation. I know my friends would certainly appreciate it, and I would guess that applies to most of the customers.
The decor in Quixote's is something I have always enjoyed. There are paintings, posters, and keepsakes throughout. Many of them bring me back to memories of happy days. I often find myself thinking, "I was at that show... it was the night that my girlfriend saw her first Phish show," or "man, I love that "Garcia" album poster... like Andy Warhol meets blotter paper with Jerry as the subject." I am certain that the new location will hold much if not all of the current collection, so I have no worries about missing this aspect.
Lastly, the vibe. This club has a uniquely Grateful Dead vibe. It is a patchwork of Grateful data with the good, the bad, and the ugly all in plain view. It's atmosphere has shades of all kinds. Some things that appeal to the hippies, some to the club kids, and some to the old heads. A biker could walk in and strike up a conversation with a college kid, and chances are they would get along just fine. I think that, in itself, reminds me of the Grateful Dead. Their music always has made me happy, but some of the songs are stories of crime, jealousy, revenge, and sadness. Quixote's has a similar quality in that even the aspects that are less than savory add to the atmosphere and ultimately make you feel comfortable. I think this is why they continue to see nationally touring acts rubbing elbows with the local talent. Lots of them understand that Quixote's is one of a kind.
So, one door closes and another one opens. I will certainly miss the Lawrence Street location, but I have faith that the new location will continue the long standing Quixote's tradition of excellent music, great vibes, and unique atmosphere. While I am sad to see the old location go, I am really excited that a new location may offer improvements on what is already a good thing. After all, "sometimes you may get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right."
Best of luck Jay, we're all excited to see what you have in store!
Once again, Umphrey's McGee came through town this past week and melted a lot of faces. From the Red Rocks show with Railroad Earth through the Boulder Theater show, this band has the look of a rock and roll giant in their prime... before the hype, before the bullshit, before the storm. I had the feeling that some day I will be looking back on these shows, reminiscing about seeing one of America's premier musical acts in a room like the Boulder Theater. Don't get me wrong, this band thrives on the theater atmosphere, especially when that theater happens to be The Boulder Theater. It is small enough to create an intimate vibe with amazing sound, and lights that match. That is precisely what UM has built their reputation on, and this was no exception.
Let's begin with Red Rocks. I have seen a number of shows at the most unique amphitheater in the world, and Umphrey's light engineer, Jeff Waful created the most amazing Red Rocks light show I have ever witnessed. His usage of "Stage Rock" as a canvas for his swirling array of lights was unrivaled by any other band I have seen there. The music was also amazing with "All in Time" starting the night off with a bang. The guitars lead the band through an aggressive, thunderous, break-neck show of calculated surgical precision. Their timing, skills, and execution are virtually flawless... regularly. If they can continue to work this hard and keep themselves out of trouble, this band will some day rule the world.
The Boulder Theater is way too small for the crowd and talent of Umphrey's McGee. The sweat-box was jammed so full that I thought about listening from the lobby. I will warn, UM in Boulder is like a frat party where the bath salts are complimentary with a keg cup. I have never seen so many college aged dudes trying to out-party each other in a place where the male to female ratio is somewhere around the same as it is in NHL Hockey (while I'm on the subject, I see more bra's onstage with UM than any other band I've ever seen, yet I have never seen a topless girl at an Umphrey's show, practically no girls at all actually... What gives?). That's why it is a good thing that McGee makes up for it with a night of magnificent rock and roll. From their intro music "Jekyll and Hyde" to the encore, this band simply destroyed the entire weekend. Once again, Brendan Bayliss and company delivered intricate, innovative, and simply jaw-dropping music to an overstuffed room of ravenous fans.
I have come to discover over the years of Umphrey's shows that Bayliss really is the heart and soul of this band. It is his baby. And, the musicians that help create the magic are all extremely plugged into Bayliss's vision. They are all talented beyond their peers, and hungrier than hippos. Beyond the stunt-guitars, synthesizers, bass-lines, fog, and lights, are 6 guys who work at their craft for hours and hours each day, trying not only to get better, but trying to be the best. It is evident in their songwriting, their performances, and in their tour schedule. You may already be late to the party, but if you have been waiting to get on the UM train, I recommend you do it asap. We are about to witness the pinnacle years of a band that is covering new ground on the regular, that has no sense of limits, and that has "yet to ever give you our best yet."
That's right, I am a fan of lots of music of the past, but this band is the music of the future. I am very excited to be along for the ride. So, come on and "try Umph."
Umphrey's McGee- Working Hard
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I see a lot of live music. I have seen more shows than I care to admit, have spent more money than I like to consider, and through it all, I continue to go. One of the reasons is that I love the allure that something magical may happen any given night, and often it does. In the case of Umphrey's McGee, it happens more often than not.
I admit that this band is not for everyone. I am not a huge fan of metal anymore, and UM tends to flirt with it more than other bands I see. I have also heard the argument that the music is so progressive that before you get a chance to dig into a groove you like, they have switched gears 3 times. I have found this to be true on occasion as well. It's not that I am upset with the twists and turns so much as I wish certain grooves would last a little longer because they are so cool. Lastly, there have been times when I have simply felt the band was too formulaic. I like to see bands that can deliver their material in different ways on a regular basis, and felt that the improvisational aspect of their shows was lacking at certain points in their career.
With all of that said, I am also convinced that Umphrey's McGee is the hardest working band in the business. They are constantly creating new music, taking old music in new directions, covering new ground, innovating not only in their music, but in the format that they deliver their music. Events such as their Halloween mash-ups and their annual UMBowl have them as razor sharp as the cutting edge gets. And that doesn't even begin to talk about the virtuosic musical abilities of anyone in the band. They are equally talented at dropping funk, metal, electronica, rock, reggae, and jazz as well as creating some of the most compositionally complex yet tremendously catchy songs that have been written in quite some time.
There was a time when Phish had this same hunger and determination, and Phish is arguably the greatest band I've ever seen. The level of commitment they have to their craft is unparalleled, and if they continue to drive as hard as they have so far, I could imagine them creating some of the greatest music the 21st century has to offer. That's why they are on my list of bands to see every time I can. That's why I will be seeing them at Red Rocks and the Boulder Theatre next week. They are amazing.
Leg 2 Phish Summer Tour
The second leg of Phish tour has officially ended, and I wanted to take a look back at the final 3 shows of the tour at Dick's Sporting Goods in Commerce City, CO. The venue is in Denver's industrial section, and often leaves attendees wondering why this venue when there are such beautiful places to see shows in Colorado. The main reason is that this soccer stadium holds around 30,000 people, and offers more fans to get tickets than almost any other venue in the Rocky Mountain State. Aside from the venue's surroundings, and the fact that it is located in Adams County (which is not quite as forgiving as the neighboring counties when it comes to partying), it is a guaranteed party with excellent sound throughout most of the venue. And most important of all, Phish seems to like it. From their shenanigan sets to their "Dick" jokes, the band seems to enjoy it as much as anyone.
The first night, 8-31-12 was a night of shenanigans. Last year the first night consisted of all songs that began with the letter "S." This year, the first letters of each song spelled out "Fuck Your Face" the first night. After spelling it out, the band played the rarity by the same name. Portions of the crowd had figured it out by setbreak, and word spread after the show that it had been a historic night with a crazy prank weaved throughout. Aside from the tomfoolery, the band extended many of the songs to lofty proportions, and the "You Enjoy Myself" featured Trey dancing his ass off to Mike's bass solo. I have never seen the guitarist dance like that in my life. It was assurance that the band was having more fun than they have had in years. "Runaway Jim" also came with a humongous spontaneous composition jam that was the best "Jim" I've ever seen. Outside the box didn't quite do it justice... it was outside the planet.
Night 2 was simply big. From the Antelope opener to the Tweeprise to close the encore, there were big songs, big sets, and big sound. "Light" was other worldly, and "Mike's/ Weekapaug" had Zeppelin's "No Quarter" in the middle. The show was big, bold, and a great middle night to an epic weekend.
Night 3 was AMAZING. From my perspective, it may have been the best show they have played since their first hiatus in 2000. The first set contained several of my favorite tunes including, "Bathtub Gin," "Maze," "AC/DC Bag," "Sample in a Jar," and "Halley's Comet." Then second set opened with an absolutely ridiculous "Sand." "Ghost" and "Piper" followed, and the rest of the set was simply fantastic with a great "Lizards" and a huge "Harry Hood" to close out second set. The show ended with the band gushing about how much fun this summer was, and how much they love "Dick's." Rumor has it that they signed a 3 year agreement with Dick's, so I wouldn't be surprised if next Labor Day is filled with "Dick's." As Phish said, "Page loves Dick's, Mike loves Dick's, Fish loves Dick's, we all love Dick's."
Hope to see you next year, "Dick's!"
Back on the Train
It's official... we are back on the train. Leg 2 is well underway, and I thought I would take this opportunity to check in.
The second leg opens with Bieber Mania spilling into the Long Beach show. Actually, Bieber's guitarist is a fan of Phish, and with Phish lighting director, Chris Kuroda allegedly providing lighting for the next Bieber tour, it makes sense that the teen pop idol would want to check out the best band in the business. He and girlfriend Selena Gomez reportedly had a great time, and Bieber was extremely interested in the work of Kuroda.
The highly anticipated 3 night run at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Center was the next stop on the tour, and energy was high. The events were broadcast through livephish, and were all good shows. The Sunday night was the best of this leg so far, perhaps the entire summer. Although rumors abounded that Phil or Bobby would make an appearance, Phish delivered without any help, and Page told the crowd that they had fun and hoped they could come back and play there again.
Now the tour swings east, and hit Kansas City. I am actually listening to this show as I write this. I have just hit the "Harry Hood." So far, I would say the show is good. Nothing too spectacular or out of the ordinary, but solid playing so far.
Last night, the boys played in Alabama, and livephish provided streams once again. The show was very good, and the second set opened with "Rock and Roll> The Lizards> Halley's Comet> Sand." A pretty nice way to start a set. Twist Around with Oye Como Va teases followed before a funky Birds of a Feather. The rest of the show was full of life including a nice Boogie on Reggae Woman> 2001, Waste, and Slave to the Traffic Light before the Good Times, Bad Times encore. Great second set. Great show.
This brings us to tonight. Atlanta is ready to get down, and then many will head to Charlotte tomorrow. That leaves only St. Louis and Oklahoma City before I get to see them in Denver. I am stoked for the impending joy, and am ready to get down.
See you in 6 days!
Phish Leg Two
Welcome back Phans... we are creeping up on Leg Two of the summer tour. I have listened to every show from Leg One, and wanted to take a minute to talk about the current state of the band, and what may be to come in Leg Two.
One thing that stands out in my mind about the first run of shows is that there are several shows where the entire show changed course due to glitches, flubs, and/ or jokes. I know people who will argue both sides of the line on this one. I for one, see both perspectives.
The first is that they are flubbing things, and they aren't as focused as they could be. I get that argument... it is true that the reason we continue to see them is their musical virtuosity, and mistakes are mistakes. You don't want to see one of your favorite bands perform poorly.
The other argument is that they are looser, more jovial, and are enjoying themselves more. It's a bit like Michael Phelps 2012 Olympic performance. There were a few mistakes, but he seemed to enjoy himself and still ended up delivering one hell of a performance. You can't be disappointed in Phelps for relaxing a little bit and taking this one in... and you can't blame Phish for cutting loose and flubbing an intro or two. The direction each of the shows took was cool, and their playing returned to top form for the majority of the shows.
I believe we are on the verge of a really fun run of shows. I think the fun is back in it for the band, and that we will see a bit more of the tomfoolery and silliness we have come to know and love. And other than that, I expect them to play some READ-ICCULUS shows.
A little more than a year ago, my good friend and music enthusiast Ryan Williams of Intrepid Artists introduced me to Lettuce. I was familiar with Soulive, the 3 man jam-fusion ensemble... but the addition of the Shady Horns, Jesus, and Adam Deitch on drums turns what is already tasty into delectable.
I have seen Lettuce on 4 occasions in the last year, and I am always impressed. The intricate guitar lines weave throughout the horns with precision and virtuosity. It is the definition of "tight." If I had my druthers, every show I go to would be followed by a Lettuce late-night. They are fun, energetic, and above all, FUNKY. Dirty, dirty, funk.
Lettuce has always chosen their album titles to work with Lettuce (Let Us). In their catalog of albums, there are titles such as "Lettuce: Outta Here," "Lettuce: Rage," and now "Lettuce: Fly." And FLY is what it is and what it does. The album is the latest in the groove-laced funk perfection that I have grown to love. Stand out tunes include the title track, "Fly", a seriously intricate cut called "Madison Square," and the groovy "Jack Flask." All are thick with the characteristic bass of Jesus Coomes (punchy and funkier than hot pink bellbottoms), Eric Krasno's lick intricacies, the Shady Horns signature brass blasts, and of course, the workhorse beats of funky ass drummer, Adam Deitch. All in all, I'd give you a score out of 5, but I'm too busy grooving to this album to be bothered.
I will warn you, for me this album has really worked it's way into my rotation... I've listened to it at least once a day for the last month. So, if you are looking to get sidetracked... I recommend getting a copy of it.
Garrett Sayers at Brew Fest 2012
Horning's Hideout 2012
Over the past few years, I have gradually grown to love Garrett Sayers. My first exposure to him was a few years ago at Kyle Hollingsworth's Brew Fest. As the bass player in Kyle Hollingsworth Band, Garrett laid down some lines that left my friends and I pretty impressed. Since then, I have moved to the Denver, CO area, and have been exposed to Garrett's primary gig... The Motet. This band is beyond funky, and has impressed me again and again.
Over the last 2 weeks, I had the great fortune to see Garrett play 4 shows with 3 lineups. This guy is working hard, and it shows. From his set with KHB at Horning's hideout, to the Motet's set at the same venue, Garrett dropped funk with the ease of a master. Returning to Denver from Oregon, I had the pleasure of seeing Garrett play in a Herbie Hancock Tribute show at Cervantes with other members of the Motet, Juno What, and Big Gigantic. Smoking show... excellent renditions of jazz/ funk staples. Very well played. And then yesterday we went to check out Kyle's Brew Fest 2012. From top to bottom, this event is a blast. Well worth the price of admission every time. Garrett was once again in top form.
This guy is one to watch... his dedication to his craft is evident every time I see him. And on top of it all, he still finds time to play free Garrett Sayers Trio shows at the Highland Tap and Burger almost every Wednesday. Thanks Garrett.
Horning's Hideout 2012
Well, for the third time in my life, I ventured to the magical piece of land known as Horning's Hideout. Some things have changed, but the venue still attracts some of the scene's most colorful people, and most positive vibrations.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by a holding area as the line of cars waited to be searched and allowed entry. This was the first sign that the crowd had grown since my last visit. Once invited to descend the hill, we waited as the cars were thoroughly inspected for alcohol, and other contraband. Our "inspector" took it easy on us and simply looked in our trunk and sent us on our way. Once inside, it was a mad dash to claim camping space... and we were there really early. We established our place, and set about locating our friends as they arrived. Walkie Talkies are key... there is no service inside the Hideout. The crew linked up, and we delved into the festival. Our first venture up to see music was for Kyle Hollingsworth Band, and then we began to take in the festival grounds.
The overall festival scene reminded me of years past with three stages and vending in the usual places, but I was a bit disappointed at the art installations. In years past, I remember Peak Experience Productions working with the fans to create amazing installations. In 2005 there was the Alice in Wonderland area with black-light responsive fabric, a giant caterpillar smoking a hookah, and mushroom stools sitting everywhere. There was also a giant neon jellyfish tunnel that you could walk through, and a place for people to create music together. There were also more workshops including a songwriter's workshop and an open mic. Then, in 2007 there was the "Cubatron" which created some of the most visually incredible effects I've ever seen. This also began the recycled art era with recyclables being used to create temples and other designs of artistic expression. There were workshops on the Mayan Calendar and on the environmental impact we make. This year, the workshops were limited, and the art installations were few and far between. The one area that was decked out was the lowland near the cascadia stage, and it was limited to a few mandalas and some neon lights a la Electric Forest. The other area of art was a giant fire pit with metal statues of literary classics... the effect was an eerie book burning of sorts as the silent disco sent the late night crowd into a barely audible dance party. The plus side was that our neighbor camp was known as "The Living Room." and they were an incredibly entertaining campsite complete with a "Shardy Image: LSDHD TV" to watch such shows as the sports staple "Dizzy Bat," and the Improv Comedy Show: "Who's got my line, anyway?" The laughs were many and the fun was plenty.
Friday brought the first of the actual Cheese shows. The day featured a lot of great bands including Poor Man's Whiskey, The Motet, and Toots and the Maytals. Once the Cheese began, Horning's swung into high gear, and we were off and running. The Friday show was fire, drawing comparison's to the first night of Camp Zoe in 2007... another blockbuster show. It seemed the band and the crowd had hit on some of the superb energy that made us all gel in the first place. Smiles were abundant, and the band was excellent. The first set had a smoking "Can't Stop Now", "Water> Pack it Up", and "Hey Pocky Way" with Dumpstaphunk. Second set was another scorcher opening with "Shantytown> Howard" before launching into "Freedom Jazz Dance" featuring Stanley Jordan on guitar. For those who don't know... Stanley Jordan is a jazz guitarist with virtuosic chops. Pure ridiculousness. The show was dedicated to Sarah Gewald (a member of the Cheese community that recently passed away) and it was supremely apparent during the beautiful rendition of "Restless Wind" which segued into "Land's End." "Can't Wait Another Day> Drums> Magic Carpet Ride> Glory Chords> Rosie" wrapped up the set before the encore with Stanley Jordan... "This Must Be the Place> Restless Wind." Purple was worn by the band and the crowd to signify support for their fallen friend, and the stage was frequently washed in purple throughout "Restless Wind," "Land's End", and "This Must Be the Place." A truly beautiful show.
Saturday morning came quickly on the heels of a great party, and we found ourselves bathed in the only real heat of the festival. The sun came out in full force, and kept my campsite relatively immobilized until the afternoon. When it came time to get Cheesey, we all made our way to the main stage. They opened with "Mrs. Brown's Teahouse", and things appeared to be headed towards a Saturday scorcher. "Sitting on Top of the World" and "Mouna Bowa" followed. "Colliding" was next and I felt it sapped the energy from the rest of the set. There was a definite lull in the energy until "Birdland> Big Sciota> Birdland> Rollover" which rounded out first set. Second set opened with the ritual jam. I have seen 2 previous ritual sets, and this one was musically the best of them all. The dream dance was entertaining, and the neon jellyfish really made for quite a scene, but overall it left me missing "Peak Experience Productions." I am not sure what happened between them all, but I really wish Peak still had a hand in Horning's Hideout. They are masters of theatrics. The ritual set resolved with a giant jellyfish emerging and floating above the crowd among a sea of neon aquatic life... pretty cool looking to say the least, but the alien dance from 2010 seemed much more visually incredible. From there came "Bollymunster> Way Back Home" and then a big ol' "Jellyfish> Desert Dawn." I personally could have passed on the "Synchronicity> Las Vegas> Joyful Sound" that followed, but "Colorado Bluebird Sky" got me back dancing. The encore of "Could You Be Loved" by Bob Marley was perfect for the vibe of the festival, but not exactly the energy jolt you expect to finish off a Saturday Shebang.
Sunday was my first opportunity to see Sam Bush... he was incredibly entertaining, and knowing that he was there had me amped for the bluegrass set that typically holds down first set of Sunday shows at Horning's. The Cheese wasted no time bringing Mr. Bush out, as they opened the set with him and kept him around for "Hold Whatcha Got", "Whiskey Before Breakfast", "MLT", and "One Love (with Liza Oxnard)> Lonesome Fiddle Blues." After Sam left the stage, they continued with "Struggling Angel" about Sarah Gewald's passing, "Galactic", and "Smile." It was a solid set of music that strayed away from it's bluegrass roots pretty early on. The Sunday show was well on it's way to being a fireball. Second set opened with Sam Bush back in action for "Black Clouds> Rivertrance." "Eye Know Why followed before a Paul Simon cover, "Late In the Evening" segued into a huge "It Is What It Is." The boys then put their "Big Shoes" on before "Close Your Eyes> Rocketman> Close Your Eyes." Having seen Cheese play "Rocketman" on New Year's 2007, I was a little disappointed, but I enjoyed it more than "Synchronicity" which was played especially uptempo. The encore was "Just One Story" before Bob Horning came out to remind us that the noise ordinances were now in effect, and everyone should be safe getting home. He said he wanted us to behave so that he would be allowed to do this again and again. This idea was greeted with applause, smiles, and silent prayers.
Horning's Hideout is magic. It is a place where creative, colorful, friendly, loving, caring, positive, light-filled, happy, joyous beings gather to celebrate the finer things in life... this beautiful piece of land in Oregon, the spirit of love and laughter, artistic expression, and the music of the String Cheese Incident. Long Live Horning's Hideout!
Red Rocks in the cool Colorado Rain
So, after months of brutal dryness, the rain finally arrived in Colorado on Friday afternoon. The fans of String Cheese Incident had already gotten in one show, and the remaining two were in question. Shortly into their first set of Friday, they played the song "Rain" and were greeted by a torrential response. The fans returned to shelter for about 2 hours before they resumed with a long set followed by 2 encore sets. The night had been washed out, but the Cheese did everything in their power to give us a good show anyway.
Saturday's show also had a visit from the rain, but without the intensity and the lightening. The band played on, the fans danced on, and the rain rained on. It was a great night of music, and the stage lighting played with the rain to create steamy primal psychedelic fog. The band gave us all they had with an extraordinary version of "On the Road", before closing the Rocks to begin their tour west through Salt Lake City, Scottsdale, L.A., San Francisco, and finally Horning's Hideout.
One thing is for sure, the Red Rocks shows were a blend of great music. From the whompy new dub step influence to the classic bluegrass, String Cheese still does it all. Have a great time on tour, and I'll see you all in Oregon to wrap it up.
Hey Hey, On the road... got no worries, get in the car and go!
Electric Forest Charged Up
The String Cheese Incident dove into the bulk of their tour last night. Not a bad show for the opener, it included some points that were really fun and highly energetic, but overall, it had the feel of a starting pitcher warming up on the mound. Tonight, with one set in the bag, I think it is clearly game time.
They opened tonight's first set with the new electro-disco-funk jam "Rosie." This song is such a dance party, it is an excellent choice to open a show with some high energy. From there, they have simply rocked. It sounds like the band that has drawn me back to over 80 shows. We have another set to go tonight, another show tomorrow, and then they are heading my way for the 3 night run at Red Rocks.
I am a String Cheese Incident addict, and I am typically beyond psyched to see this band anytime, but this time is special. I moved to Colorado last year and this is the first time the boys have played in my back yard since I arrived. It is also the first time some of my east coast family is coming to visit us here. I can't wait to see them all!
Let's go Cheese!
On the Road
Thursday night, Phish hit their stride, and String Cheese Incident prepared to start their summer tour.
Granted, Phish has played some pretty good shows this tour, and they appear to be having more fun than they have in years... and String Cheese Incident has already played this summer at the Hangout Festival, but Thurday's Deer Creek show was phenomenal and String Cheese is gearing up for a pretty solid run of shows. The excitement continued Friday as String Cheese Incident played their first of three nights in the Electric Forest, and Phish delivered a second scorcher in Indiana.
While Phish dug deep into their repertoire to play such bust-outs as: Fuck Your Face, Tela, McGrupp's, Weigh, Crowd Control, Dinner and a Movie, Life on Mars, Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, Strange Design, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and Ride Captain Ride; String Cheese Incident was getting warmed up in Michigan.
Tonight will be the second night of Electric Forest, and I expect SCI to bring the energy up a good deal from last night. Phish is off to Alpine Valley before heading back east for SPAC and Jones Beach.
This is my favorite time of the year... my two favorite bands are playing, my friends are all out to have fun, and my battery gets charged once again. See you in the lot!
The Good Life
My mission in life is to make a positive impact on the lives of everyone I meet. I have always found that if I keep that intention pure, it rewards me with amazing friendships, life-changing opportunities, and the kind of life that is easy to love.
Throughout my life I have heard the sentiment repeated again and again. The Beatles told us that the "love you take is equal to the love you make." We have heard tales about good and bad karma. We have heard that you get out of it what you put into it. It all boils down to the same thing. We need to make an effort to contribute positivity into the world if we expect to receive any in return. And from my experience, it works even better if you don't expect anything in return. Do good for doing good's sake. More than not, you will be unexpectedly surprised when it does come back around.
Intentions are the key to it all. If you intend to do the right thing, spread love, and generally contribute to the good in the world... you're living the good life.
As anyone who knows me is aware, I love music. The String Cheese Incident is one of my favorite bands, and I tend to see them often. That is why I am so excited. They are just weeks away from starting their summer tour, and I have tickets to see them 3 nights at Red Rocks, and for their one-of-a-kind festival, Horning's Hideout.
For those of you who have not had the pleasure of attending a String Cheese show, I will describe it as a carnival of the senses. From the sounds (an energetic blend of bluegrass, electronica, folk, funk, calypso, and rock) to the sights (hula hooping honeys, lasers, stage lighting, art installations, theatrics, acrobats, costumes, sequin, fire-dancers, etc) you are in for an experience like no other. The band uses groovy music and conscious lyrics to create a vibe of utopia that you can bottle up and take with you. For me, attending an incident is like charging my battery... it is like plugging into the source of positivity and love. I can typically carry the energy created at a Cheese show through months of day to day living, and fortunately the boys tend to schedule another show whenever my battery is getting low.
The shows that are coming up are no ordinary Cheese shows either. Red Rocks is one of the most beautiful places (let alone venues) in the country, and it is right in the Cheese's backyard. The band is based in Boulder, and has a huge following in Colorado. From there I will meet back up with the band in Oregon for the Horning's Hideout festival. Horning's is what would have happened if your imagination was put in charge of having a festival. The port-o-pots are clean, the music is prime, the weather is perfect, the surroundings are gorgeous, the peacocks are dancing, the eye candy is stellar, and the vibration is heavenly. There is not more I could ask for from a festival, and the friendly folks at Horning's have never let us down. Nor has the band. Their dedication to making this festival the best around is tangible.
As my friends settle into Atlantic City for the first of 3 nights of Phish, my jealousy is lessened by the promise of Good Times Around the Bend. To my Cheese family, I will see you soon!
As most of my friends prepare to see their first Phish shows of the year, I sit in Denver, CO. To say I'm not jealous would be a lie. But I am encouraged by the fact that Phish will be coming to my neighborhood for Labor Day. Until then, I will be doing my best to stream what I can, and live vicariously through my friends! All I can hope is that Phish has a summer worth of great music to offer. The expectations are high, and we know that they often rise to the occasion.
The time is near, the mission's clear, it's later than you think...
Rise of the Fenix
Rise of the Fenix, Tenacious D's newest release, is a return to the sound that lead to their initial success. Jables rocks the mic with his monstrous vocals while Rage Kage provides tasty licks on the ol' guitar. The duo is in top form as they overcome the failure of their last release, The Pick of Destiny. This album is rocking, and has comedic chops as well. The final song on the album, "39" is reminiscent of a Bob Seger song about his 39 year old lady.
Overall, I would have to give this album 2 thumbs up. The comedy is there, and so is the music... it's good to have them back!
Glad I had a video camera handy
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Rainn Wilson's Chicken Soup for Your Soul, kind of.