The last time Old Shoe attempted to make it to Fort Collins, half the band got stranded at an airport and the other half played a few songs in a hotel lobby. This time was an absolute success in the sense that at least everyone made it to the gig. So on a Monday night in Fort Collins, Old Shoe made their triumphant return to the high desert plains. They are a recent addition to the Summer Camp family first playing at the festival in 2012. However their Chicago roots, strong attention to detail and their impressive musical interplay have quickly made them a crowd favorite at SCamp.
Up first was local group Hog MaGundy who has been making waves in the acoustic scene around Fort Collins. The room was as full as I’ve ever seen, meaning there were about thirty people scattered about the room. The audience seemed divided by allegiance with the MaGundy boys bringing a decent crowd to Avo’s. They had a nice full twang balanced by their drummer. They are essentially a jamgrass band but they describe themselves as good ol’ Colorado Slopgrass. That label was actually fairly appropriate. On the cusp of their one-year anniversary this emerging band will have the opportunity to play at Wakarusa this summer. Young Ben Hanrahan has a uniquely intricate picking style that became a focal point of their set, which went around an hour. They are a jug band on steroids with a solid understanding of the traditional. I’m glad I got the opportunity to see them live.
Old Shoe has quickly developed a fan base that stretches across the country. They are one part Dead, one part acoustic folk, and all dirty rock jam. Old Shoe has no problem bending genres to suit their needs as evident in the funky but solemn sounding “Ragweed Jones.”
Set 1: Ragweed Jones, On Your Way Down, Money In The Middle, Star, Family, Better Idea, Mystery Train, Loco Motive, High on the Mountain Top, Mouth of the Lion, Beer
Set 2: Day Rains Night, Got Me Down, Sand*, Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey*, How Mountain Girls Can Love*, Dust Bowl, Wouldstock, Let Yourself In, Kush
*w/ Garrett Burrow of Hog MaGundy on Banjo
Old Shoe went into a spot on rendition of Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down.” Greg Fundis pounded out the beat nicely on “Money In The Middle” before the funky, Dead-esque “Star.” “Better Idea” was a dark psychedelic jam tune and “Mystery Train” (not to be confused with the song recorded by JGB, Elvis, and The Band) featured Joe Day possessed by the spirit of Pigpen” at the keys. Continuing with a short-lived theme they went into “Loco Motive” before breaking away to the perquisite “High on a Mountain Top.” Both tunes demonstrated the bands picking skills before they went all gospel on “Mouth of the Lion.” They closed their first set with a thirst-inducing “Beer”
This band combines decades of experience performing live. However there is an obvious influence from the Grateful Dead that seems to be present in not only their tone but also in their progressions. This is not to say they are unoriginal, if anything they are revitalizing a sound that has been stagnant for quite some time. This combined with their ability to surf across a multitude of musical genres and filter it all through a jam mentality is what makes this band a contender. Hence as their name denotes, Old Shoe’s music is comfortable without being overly nostalgic.
They opened with a deep and dark “Day and Night” that showcased some of the most interesting improvisation of the night. In fact during much of the second set Old Shoe pushed the songs into a more experimental direction. They continued with the bluesy “Got Me Down” before inviting Hog MaGundy’s Garrett Burrow on stage for a jaw-dropping banjo-tastic version of Phish’s “Sand.” I swear I heard some Theremin, but I can’t be sure.
“You Guys Like Whiskey?” – Old Shoe
They proceeded to give us “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey,” which allowed Burrow to pick out a very nice solo with the Shoe. They kept him up for one more on the Stanley Brothers’ “How Many Mountain Girls Can Love” which is pretty much an anthem in these parts. “Dust Bowl” continued with the twang sans Burrow, but “Wouldstock” took on an almost lounge feel. “Let Yourself In” went transcendental. They opted to encore by simply asking the few remaining fans, “ You guys want one more.” They closed with a nod to Amendment 64 in the form of a sinister “Kush.” Old Shoe deserved to play to a larger audience, but that didn’t stop them from absolutely shredding for two full sets. They went on to play throughout the state and are on their way to building up a solid fan base in Colorado. I wish them luck and look for them to come back soon.