Saturday, January 15
Knee deep in their “Ski Tour” The Infamous Stringdusters parked themselves in Fort Collins for a pair of shows far away from any panic-inducing gondolas. They brought along The Deadly Gentlemen who initially gained attention as the band with David Grisman’s progeny on bass. However, Sam Grisman has recently departed the group passing his spot on to Adam Chaffins. Unfortunately due to my tardiness and a ridiculous line I only just entered, as they were finishing.
As I walked inside I was greeted by a six foot chain link fence separating the bar area from the rest of the Aggie. I had heard some distant rumors, but little could prepare me for what I witnessed. Due to some overzealous police work in Fort Collins and pressure from the city this was the answer to a question I can’t fathom. Regardless the end result was mayhem for this sold-out show. Fans were ass to elbow in the
‘Cage’ as it affectionately came to be called. Music fans would slam drinks before bouncing to the floor. So I’m not sure what this solves, but I digress. The Infamous Stringdusters opened with a sublime “Blockies.”
Set 1: Blockies, The Hitchhiker, Tennessee Side Of Things, Clinch Mountain Backstep, Colorado, Time To Part, True Life Blues, Rivers Run Cold, Summercamp> Walking On The Moon, Long And Lonesome Day> Gettin’ Down The Road
Set 2: You Can’t Stop The Changes, Black Rock, Get It While You Can, The Place That I Call Home, Steam Powered Aereo Plane, Angeline The Baker, Like I Do, 17 Cents, Machines, All The Same, High Country Funk, Three Days In July, I Know You Rider, Let It Go, Given More Time
Encore: Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
The Infamous Stringdusters are a one-stop bluegrass shop and on Friday they were open for business. They have it all, from their striking harmonies to their irreproachable instrumentation. This band’s dance-inducing melodies are enough to warm the heart of any string fan. Their first set was loaded with highlights including a rendition of Ralph Stanley’s “Clinch Mountain Backstep” that showcased some flawless fiddle work from Jeremy Garrett. Their love and respect for my adopted state was obvious in their original, “Colorado”. Chris Pandolfi demanded the crowd’s attention on “Time To Part” through unadulterated banjo shredding. The Infamous Stringdusters are as smooth as they are precise. Their playfully sweet homage to childhood, “Summercamp” into the Police’s “Walking On The Moon” was a nice touch. The set-closing “Long And Lonesome Day” into “Gettin’ On Down The Road” was just stellar. The combination of Garrett’s fiddle and Hall’s imposing vocals is something to behold.
They took a short set break as the masses squeezed by the fence line for fresh air. Honestly though if they hadn’t installed the fence chances are the Dusters would not have been able to play two nights at the Aggie. So by the second set I had made peace. The Infamous Stringdusters eased into set two with “You Can’t Stop The Changes” like a slice of red velvet cake. Their focus on harmonies is always a key element, but here they were especially on fire vocally. Garrett and Hall traded the spotlight on “Black Rock.” Travis Book has incredible timing on his instrument; at times he would literally startle the audience when he would thunder slap the bass. Their strangely familiar “Get It While You Can” went into the bright but nostalgic road song “The Place That I Call Home.”
“We’re gonna do a song for all the dreamers out there.” – Travis
Fans were then treated to a beautiful version of John Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aereo Plane.” The instrumental “Angeline The Baker” was absolutely huge, but “Like I Do” was a breather. Pandolfi got dirty on “17 Cents” creating some great back and forth between he and Falco on guitar. The band again went for the more composed jam with the instrumental, “Machines.” Listening to this song is admitting that anything is possible. The Dusters went into a nice grass version of The Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” before showing their spiritual side with “Let It Go.” They closed the second set with “Given More Time,” which had me wishing they were given some more time… The boys closed with a Falco sung rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Despite the confined spaces and the prodigious crowd, the show went off as planned. A few drunks got the boot, and there was an air of rowdiness at times, but that’s the same at every sold out Aggie show. The next night would give the hardcore fans a little more space as the Ski Tour rolled on.
Sunday, January 16
As far as the audience is concerned, if night one was a raging bull night two was a very friendly squirrel. Seriously the room was maybe half full, with only the hardcore DustHeads making it to the Aggie on a Sunday night.
I arrived early having missed The Deadly Gentlemen on the first go around. I did not want to make the same mistake twice. This group has intrigued me since hearing a few of their early recordings online. They have a distinctly original sound that seems to be so well steeped in all the string music that came before. They went on early just after 8 PM. Their set was just under an hour, and the early arrivers were treated to a nice sampling of what the Gentlemen do. The lead guitarist Stash (a nickname based on his last name Stanislaw) alternates between a straightforward bluegrass delivery to screaming vocals. Greg Lizst is perhaps the most renowned member of the group having toured with Crooked Still and played with Springstein’s live band during his Seeger Sessions Tour. The newest member Adam Chaffins has honeyed vocals that are a total juxtaposition to his slaphappy bass style. Their show was certainly worth making the trip early. The highlight was tight version of the Rolling Stones’ “Let It Bleed.” If The Deadly Gentlemen are in your town go see them live.
The Infamous Stringdusters came to the stage with a high-speed “Ain’t No Way Of Knowing” into a spot on version of Earl Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”
Set 1: Ain’t No Way Of Knowing> Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Light And Love, One More Bridge, When Silence Is The Only Sound> Night On The River> Well, Well, Middle Fork, Fork In The Road, Sunny Side Of The Mountain*, Old Joe Clark*
Set 2: Road to Boulder, Jack-A-Roe, Once You’re Gone, I’ll Get Away, Heady Festy> In God’s Country, Get On With It, 3×5, Home of the Red Fox, Try Try Try, Paypal Jamgrass, Fire, Cripple Creek, Echoes of Goodbye, Moon Man
Encore: He’s Gone, Head Over Heels In Love With You
“We got a little more elbow room tonight… and now we’re gonna play a lot of music.” – Travis
“Light And Love” sounded like it could have been written by Bill Nershi, but the refrain was all Duster harmony. “When Silence Is The Only Sound” into “Night On The River” into “Well, Well” made up the meat of the first set. This whole sequence of songs built upon each other creating a rich musical tapestry for the listeners. Their ability to crisply segue between songs also demonstrates how this band has truly blossomed since their formation in 2007. “Fork In The Road” was another highlight with some amazing give and take again between Falco and Pandolfi. Eventually, Garrett jumped in to steal the solo. I will just say that I may or may not have told Chris Pandolfi he was, “…an attractive man.” For the record that is merely an observation. The band invited Dominick Leslie on mandolin and Mike Bennett on fiddle from The Deadly Gentlemen up before Travis sang us “Sunny Side Of The Mountain” by the King Of Bluegrass himself Mr. Jimmy Martin. Bennett and Leslie stayed for the set closing “Old Joe Clark.” which is either a traditional Appalachia folk tune or an instrumental homage to a tough but innovative principal.
The Infamous Stingdusters again showed their Red, White, Blue, and Yellow with their original “Road To Boulder.” Their version of the Grateful Dead’s “Jack-A-Roe” featured some of their most extended jams of the evening. Travis drove the bus on “I’ll Get Away.” “Heady Festy” was beautifully executed as was the segue into “In God’s Country.” “3×5” featured some impassioned vocals again from the bassist after which we were treated to a ripping version of Bill Emerson Jr.’ s “Home of the Red Fox.” “Try Try Try” was a quiet moment before the rowdy “Paypal Jamgrass.” Their original “Fire” is sung from the perspective of a smitten lover. The Dusters went into a bouncy version of The Band’s “Cripple Creek” “Echoes” featured some shredded violin from Garrett, and they again went to the Dead catalog to close with “He’s Gone.” They encored with the Flatt and Scruggs classic “Head Over Hills In Love With You.”
This was two nights of The Infamous Stringdusters doing what they do best; shredding strings and breaking hearts. The Sunday show had a much more relaxed vibe and even so I totally locked into the music being performed. The show was over just after midnight and as fans filtered out the ‘Cage’ was if anything a random side note to two nights of awesomeness.
On a tour that bounced on and off the summer festival circuit beginning with Summer Camp and ending with an extensive jaunt across the country, Tea Leaf Green continues to spread their music prodigiously. Their set at Summer Camp actually saw a lull in the rain this year, but it soon returned. Often underrated, this five-piece from San Francisco played sans one drummer at the Aggie. I headed down early to see local classics WhiteWater Ramble open. Having watched these guys evolve and transform since my arrival in Colorado it’s good to see them gelling in a live setting. WWR has always been a jamgrass contender, but at times their sound has been inconsistent. Their show at the Aggie was a smooth groove that was highlighted by a number of fun covers. In particular a spaced-out version of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” that was a true mix of psychedelic and string. A pair of Grateful Dead covers came in the form of “Althea” and “The Wheel” as well. WhiteWater Ramble finished up with a sweet take on “Nellie Kane.” This band continues to develop and their local shows always seem to be a blast.
During setbreak I ran into incredible bassist and all around nice guy Reed Mathis just relaxing outside before his set. I talked to Reed about Summer Camp and his extensive touring. Throughout the last 5 months he has hopped from Tea Leaf to Mickey Hart Band shows with several one offs in between. Before we split ways Reed inquired if I had any requests. I simply asked that he, ‘rip it up.’
“I will rip it up, it shall need mending… possibly stitches.” –Mathis
So with that we headed back inside in anticipation of the ripping. The show was on a Wednesday night so the audience numbered only around a couple hundred. This allowed for a very relaxed feel and easy maneuvering. They opted to play one long set rather than split it up. They opened up with “If It Wasn’t For The Money.”
Set 1: If It Wasn’t For The Money, Someday (In The Wake), Penny Saved, One Reason, Space Hero Pt. 3, Space, Hero Pt. 4, Forgiven, Don’t Go, Taught To Be Proud, We Aren’t Done, Franz Hanzerbeak (JoJo), Two Parts, One More Chance, Fallen Angel> Germanating Seed
Encore: Pretty Jane, All Washed Up
This beefy set from Tea Leaf Green featured classics as well as several newer tracks. Musically they are playing in lockstep. I was a little bummed they were performing without their other drummer, but considering their length of time on the road it’s understandable. Trevor Gerrod continues to be the consummate performer utilizing both his skills at the keys as well as the microphone intrepidly. The “Space Hero” duo was a real highlight. Reed was a true focal point for the duration of the show. There is something incredible about watching someone who is truly skilled at a craft. For Mathis that craft is face melting bass shredding. Tea Leaf closed out the set with a pair from their second album Radio Tragedy!; “Fallen Angel” into “Germanating Seed” was a real treat. I still believe that Tea Leaf Green is a top-level jam band with the potential to give a huge performance on any given night. Their show at the Aggie again proved that hypothesis. They have musically and stylistically evolved into a true road-worn rock band, but their live shows demonstrate an amazing ability to improvise and harmonize sonically. They encored with a “Pretty Jane” into “All Washed Up.” If you’ve let Tea Leaf Green fall off your radar, revisit them post haste. They are still doing it right.
The Werks have played their fair share of sets at Summer Camp. However this was my first time catching them live. So I hustled down to see them in Old Town. Howerver arriving at 9:30 PM meant that by the time I grabbed my first beer, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong were exiting stage left. What I heard sounded like a promising blend of electronic, funk, and jam. Forming in 2009 and averaging over a hundred shows a year this four piece has a lot of potential. In fact all three bands on the bill were four man outfits that have developed their own brand of improvised composition. Some have pontificated that we are in a post jam era where the music has become split by genre and focus. However when I witness performances like what I saw from both Twiddle and The Werks, my faith is jam is somewhat restored.
Now Twiddle has not performed at Summer Camp, but they would be a fine additon to next year’s lineup. The band came on after a short set break and kept the night moving smoothly. It was homecoming weekend at Colorado State and there was an abundance of youth in attendance. It seemed like Twiddle had gained a few fans from their performance at Arise Music & Arts Festival in Loveland, CO mid August. They are an impressive unit who finally seems to really be branching out beyond their Vermont roots. Much of the basis of their music comes from the school that Phish built. Beyond that they have a drive and musical prowess that absolutely makes an impact. Deep intrepid jams highlighted this set that culminated with a huge psychedelic style trance jam. As this is just my second time seeing them I am still unfamiliar with their songs. What I can say is that Twiddle can play, and they have a genuine enthusiasm about performing together. Their set at the Aggie seemed to end far too quickly.
Again after a short set change The Werks emerged for their extended headlining slot. They opened with “O.G.”
Set 1: O.G., Heading South, Light, BG, Duck Farm, Hard To Find, Moetry, G Funk, 2001> No Diggity> 2001
Encore: Killing In The Name Of
I’m unsure how many can relate but at times with different bands no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to make seeing them life happen. The Werks has been one of those bands for me. I have listened to their recordings for a number of years but despite my best efforts failed to see them play live. That is until now. The Werks began performing together in 2004 and released their first album in 2007. Since then they have been touring across the country with several stops at top festivals like All Good and Wakarusa. They currently host their own yearly event called The Werk Out Music Festival. Their show at the Aggie much like their opener Twiddle was first-rate.
They started the show by delving into a wide variety of their catalog. Slicing through musical styles like instrumental ninjas The Werks demonstrated why they are so revered. Songs like “Duck Farm” and “Moetry” punctuated a fantastic set of songs. . They closed with their version of Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” split by a bridge in the form of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” The crowd went absolutely nuts. However The Werks came back to the stage to drop an even heavier encore. They covered Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of.” Stoic keyboardist Norman Dimitrouleas took the microphone for this spot on rendition that left fans mesmerized. I have to say it was a fun night out. With a bill that consisted of names like The Werks and Twiddle it would be easy to overlook this Friday night but that would have been a mistake. One I’m thankful I didn’t make. Both of these bands deserver your attention, so take a deeper look. Apparently in some corners of the country jam is alive and well.
Leftover Salmon is a Colorado tradition. They are the source from which so much jam and bluegrass flows. String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, and so many others would not be what they are today if it wasn’t for the trail blazed by Salmon on a cold night in Crested Butte over twenty years ago. After an incredible set at Summer Camp i figured it was time for an update from the mountain state. Leftover has gone through some transitions through the years. The passing of Mark Vann, the departure of Jeff Sipe and Bill McKay, the search for formidable replacement on banjo that ended with Andy Thorn have all had an effect on the band. They have persevered and their music is as vibrant as ever.
Their show at The Aggie Theater in Fort Collins was completely sold out meaning tight quarters were the order of the night. I staked my spot Vince side on the rail. They took the stage just before 10 PM with a quick “Liza.”
Set I: Liza, Gulf Of Mexico, Voodoo Queen Marie, Aquatic Hitchhiker, Gold Hill Line, Sing Up To The Moon, Morning Sun, Highway Song, BooBoo*, You Can Find Some Other Man, Lonesome Johnny Blues**, Danger Man**
Set II: Gonna Have A Party, Here Comes The Night, Walking Shoes, Bend In The River, Light Behind The Rain, Riding On The L & N, The Other Side, Mr. Wrong**, Come On Baby**, Out In The Woods**, Railroad Blues**, River’s Rising
*W/ Friends on Drums
**W/ Johnny Hickman on Guitar, Harmonica, and Vocals
Big thanks to Rob O’Brien for taping and posting on Archive. http://archive.org/details/los2013-04-13.24bit
This show was a non-stop shredfest that showcased the new era of Leftover Salmon. The setlist is a mix of fresh and classic with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. “Gulf Of Mexico,” which is basically an indictment of BP and the devastation they caused to the costal waters, was a nice touch. Their Zydeco was showing with “Voodoo Queen Marie,” but it was “Aquatic Hitchhiker” that made jaws drop. This instrumental song built so beautifully, relying heavily on Andy Thorn’s banjo. Andy really has revitalized this band in a big way and continues to keep the energy at peak level. “Gold Hill Line” was a quick, but passionate version with Drew on vocals before they invited a few friends to help with percussion on “BooBoo. “You Can Find Some Other Man” kept up their breakneck pace before they called their old friend Johnny Hickman to the stage. Hickman is from the alternative rock group Cracker and he along with David Lowery recorded bluegrass versions of their songs with Leftover Salmon performing as the backing band. The result was an album entitled O Cracker Where Art Thou?. Hickman is an accomplished guitarist with a rowdy, bluesy feel to his style. Much like what Bill McKay brought to the table, Hickman transformed Leftover Salmon into a rocking bar band. They blasted through two Cracker tunes, “Lonesome Johnny Blues” and “Danger Man” before taking a short set break.
Thirty minutes later the band and opened up round two with “Gonna Have A Party.” We were treated to a subtly stunning “Here Comes The Night,” before coming back to one of their newer songs, “Walking Shoes.” There seems to be a more tuned in consciousness in their lyrics than some of their early work. There is a maturity that only comes with being on the road for two decades and it is seeping into everything they do. Drew busted out his fiddle for “Bend In The River,” which is always a treat, but the highlight of the show was the Andy Thorn sung “Light Behind The Rain.” They slamgrassed us with “Riding On The L & N,” before Drew’ mandolin took the driver’s seat with the Salmon classic “The Other Side.” They invited Hickman back to the stage for a four-song run of both Cracker and Salmon tunes that left fans happy. The version of “Out In The Woods” was yet another highlight in show filled to the brim with high points. They closed the set with an absolute barnburner rendition of “River’s Rising” that showcased the evocative vocals of Mr. Emmitt. There is something about his voice that stays with you long after the amps have been put away for the night.
Leftover Salmon came back to the stage with a quick “Euphoria” and as quickly as it started it was over. This is the type of show that leaves you all bubbles and sunshine. The rain had begun to drizzle as the capacity crowd filtered out into the night. Exhausted smiles dotted the faces of the people as they wiped the sweat from their brows. It was a good night of Salmon and an energizing way to spend a Saturday evening in Fort Collins. For a band that has been on the road for so long it would be easy for them to become blasé as well. However LoS is always innovating, inviting guests, and generally leaving it all out on every stage they play. This a new dawn for this band and I for one am happy to be witnessing their rebirth.
There can be nothing more disheartening for a touring band than to show up and see a crowd of nine people is the total of your audience. This is exactly what happened at The Aggie for Moksha’s headlining gig. Touring with an amazing guest horn section consisting of Skerik, Peter Apfelbaum, and longtime Summer Camp alumni Jennifer Hartswick, the lack of people seemed even more tragic. I arrived early with a few friends and we were immediately confronted with the sweet reggae fusion sounds of Funkmaster.
Funkmaster aka Matt Grundstad, moved to Colorado with world music ensemble and Summer Campers, Euforquestra. They have since parted ways, giving Matt more time to focus on studio collaborations, performing with Dubskin, and his solo work. The Funkmaster setup has been a long time in the making. I first saw him utilize his muliti-instrumentalism along with a looping board all the way back in college. Needless to say the show has progressed immensely into a polished set of music that demonstrates not only his musicianship and vocal ability, but his knowledge of song craft and playing to an audience. Even if that audience is only a few hearty souls. He got our attention with a spot on version of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” built from the ground up. The highlight of his set was a massive mashup of Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, Parliament Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under A Groove” and “The Thong Song” among others. He ended his set with a nod to Toots and The Maytals who were just at The Aggie by playing “Bam Bam.” Toots will be as Summer Camp with is trio this year, so don’t miss that.
Up to the stage next was Smooth Money Gesture who jumped on Moshka’s run for their last two nights in Colorado. Smooth Money has been MIA as of late so it was nice to see them back on a bill in Fort Collins. SMG is quintessential Nederland jam with a touch of funk and rock influences. Smooth Money played a set that was just short of an hour, but they sounded fresh, considering they have been on a mini-hiatus for the last few months. They are back playing locally and are definitely worth checking out.
Moksha came to the stage and despite the lack of an audience ripped through an hour and a half of the funky jam.
Set 1: BNJ, Blind, Seed, Bobbin, Sexy M.F., Bathcat, Gettin, Awaken, Rite Away, Island, You Haven’t Done Shit
Although they cut their headlining set short, they can’t really be blamed. Musically they took us on a sweet ride, that actually left me wanting more. They had a strong focus musically, and the horns only added to the overall quality of the performance. Peter Apfelbaum is a jazz savant who can literally play anything, Skerik is a machine, and Jennifer Hartswick is the one-two punch of powerful trumpet and beautiful vocals. My one complaint is that these three seemed almost pushed to the back of the stage, and did not seemed to be featured on solos as much as I would have liked. Either way it was amazing to see these three with Moksha as they plowed through a wide array of their originals. The highlight of the show was the set closing Hartswick sung, “You Haven’t Done Shit.” It may have been somewhat disappointing for the band, but I have to say I was not let down. This ended up being a private show for me and a few other lucky individuals who made it down. You can literally hear the absence of people in the videos I shot, making for a surreal experience. That being said, I had a blast and will definitely be waiting for the return of Moksha.
The final day of the year’s shortest month brought Fort Collins a little treat in form of Greensky Bluegrass performing with Ryan Montbleau Band at The Aggie. Both of these bands have graced the stages at Summer Camp several times over the years. I arrived early just as Montbleau was taking the stage with his eclectic sound brand of swing-infused rock and reggae. In fact RMB wove a rich musical tapestry over numerous genres. They opened with “Chariot.”
Set 1: Chariot (I Know), Hot Coffee In A Paper Cup, Inspired By No One, Dance, Dance, Dance, Songbird, Dead Set, I Can’t Wait
Ryan Montbleau is a name I’ve seen on festival lineups for years, but this was my first chance to see their live show. It was a bouncy fun way to start the night. “Songbird” was a fiery reggae track that blew the roof off the room. It was most definitely the highlight of a tightly packed opening set. My only criticism is that the performance barely reached the forty-five minute mark leaving many fans wanting more. They closed with a massive sign-along entitled “I Can’t Wait.” It was nice to finally see them live in my hometown.
Greensky took the stage shortly after and immediately doused the crowd with powerful string music performed with passion. Several of the fans assembled in the diverse audience informed me that they never miss them when they come to town. Whenever I see Greensky it’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a snowy day. There is nothing more comfortable and clean than watching Greensky pick on a tune. Their set at the Aggie was a versatile demonstration of all that they do. Songs like “Cold Feet” found their way in the mix beautifully. They performed a version of the Talking Heads’ “Road To Nowhere,” that just made sense as a bluegrass number. Anders Beck continues to be a focal point on the stage with his smooth slide work on the Dobro guitar. Mike Bont holds back until the perfect moment to unleash his fury on the banjo. Mike Devol, looking like a bearded Ryan Seacrest, holds down the fort and gives the rest of the band room to solo. They continue to gel musically and play massive shows. They will be back to Colorado twice this summer, once at Telluride Bluegrass, and again at Red Rocks with Railroad Earth and Galactic. In fact their summer is jam-packed with big dates including Delfest, Electric Forest, Camp Euforia, Forecastle Festival, and Northwest String Summit. I think it’s safe to say that the good word of Greensky is spreading far and wide.
The Aggie was host to a funk filled evening with local electro-juggernauts Juno What and dirty jazz impresarios Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. This combination lent itself to some stellar collaboration during the opening set. With Karl D being added to the bill at Summer Camp I thought it would be a good idea to freshen up on his material. Once again the crowd was slow to arrive, but that didn’t stop Juno What from bringing the heat early and often. Consisting of Motet members Joey Porter, Dave Watts, and Excellent Gentlemen keyboardist Steve Watkins, Juno What is rapidly becoming the biggest dance party on the Front Range. The set consisted of a lot of Juno What originals including some new songs. Matt Pitts of The Motet sat in early to add his horn to the mix. They debuted a song entitled, “Rage And Rally” a funky voice box tune about the need for persistence in partying. “Stranger” was another new one, but classics like “Shameless” and “What You See Is What You Get” made it into the rotation. The room quickly filled and soon it was a tight mesh of hippies, beatniks, and college kids. The highlight of the show was a Tiny Universe parade through their set that included sit-ins from guitarist DJ Williams, Karl Denson as well as the Cosmic Horns. They rounded it all out with a massive version of Eddy Grant’s classic “Electric Avenue.” Juno What has continued to bring the fun as every time they perform. Got get yourself some electro-funk whenever possible.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe were joined for much of the night by The Cosmic Horns a three-piece section included Slightly Stoopid’s DeLa. I have to say that the additional brass really filled out the overall sound. The Tiny Universe has long been a favorite of mine, going back to seeing them for the first time in a sweaty dive bar in Iowa. They bring veracity to their playing that is simply infectious and can cause even the most foot-planted fan to dance absurdly. Early in the set a version of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” got everyone’s attention. KDTU also performed their incredible original “Stealin’” which is a funk fueled indictment of the rich and powerful. Local standout Kim Dawson has recently been performing across the country with Karl Denson and the Aggie was no exception. She took the microphone for an interstellar version of The Doors’ “Light My Fire.” Denson himself transitioned from sax to flute to the mic seamlessly, truly playing the role of bandleader. Williams on guitar is an absolute shredder who just sits back and does his thing. The band quite simply sounded fantastic. “My Baby” was yet another highlight in a show jam-packed with musical highs. It’s nice to see KDTU making the festival circuit this year. With already announced sets at Jazz Fest, Summer Camp, and Wakarusa Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will be making plenty of waves this summer. I hope KDTU continues to tour regularly and spread that good gospel of funk.
Fort Collins has a vibrant music scene; case in point the monstrous bluegrass tainted event at the Aggie featuring the homegrown duo Head For The Hills supported by The Holler!. Much of the time Fort Collins is overlooked when it comes to local music, or seen by touring bands as a warm up show. Over the years I’ve tried to share some of the incredible music that happens here on a weekly basis. This show is a prime example of why I’m happy to call FoCo my home. The Holler! who are usually relegated to playing festival stages, or smaller venuess, found themselves with plenty of room for activities on the Aggie stage. I worried that they would sound thin, but from their opening notes it was clear that they came to play.
Set 1: Kitchen, Karakoram, Wildwood, Beyond The Mirror, You’re So Bad> Come Back Home, Climb, Just Like You, Red Dress> Peak, Memory, Gratitude, Song Remains The Same, Peace Frog
The at times delicate sound of The Holler! filled the room as the few that were already inside wandered toward the stage. They eased into the set with a few originals, before waking up the crowd with a cover of Tom Petty’s “You’re So Bad” into their own beautiful “Come Back Home.” By this point the crowd was steadily growing and they were definitely drinking The Holler! Kool-Aid. Arms flailed as the Friday night crowd showed they were there for a good time. The highlight of the set was an impeccable jamgrass version of Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains The Same.” And after that when everyone thought the dance party was over, they closed with The Doors’ “Peace Frog.” I have to say this was the best I’ve seen The Holler! perform, and I look forward to them hitting The Aggie stage again soon.
Head For The Hills is arguably the best musical export Fort Collins has to offer. (I’m sure many Pretty Lights fans would disagree.} They are a local band that has made good performing on the biggest bluegrass stages in the country including Telluride. They recently announced they would play at Rocky Grass this summer. H4TH continues to draw big crowds at home and across the country. They opened the hometown extravaganza with “Down The River Road.”
Set 1: Down The River Road, Instrumental, Light The Way, Instrumental, Never Does, Instrumental, Daylight Turns To Night> 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover> Instrumental, Blue Orchid, Instrumental, Take Me Back, Scrap Metal, Unchain My Heart, New Song?, My Angeline
Set 2: Call Me The Breeze*, Mind Is Moving*, Poor Boy’s Melody, Music For A Found Harmonium, Instrumental, If And When, Midnight Highway, Chili Dawg, Nellie Kane, Lover’s Scorn, High On A Mountaintop, Goin’ Down
Encore: Run To The Hills, Instrumental> Japanese Cowboy, Love Please Come Home
*w/ The Holler!
Focusing on debuting a few new songs, and delivering a top-notch romp through their repertoire, Head For The Hills gave those in attendance quite the show. I don’t know if it was something in the water or perhaps the beer, but just like The Holler! before them, H4TH came out firing on all cylinders. The level of authenticity in Head For The Hills’ lyrics and ability is so unprocessed and at the same time beautiful. First set highlights included the prolific jamming on all of their instrumental tracks, as well as a stellar version of The White Stripes’ “Blue Orchid.” The “Unchain My Heart” was perfect, they closed the first set with “My Angeline.”
The second set began with a huge hometown jam that saw The Holler! sit in on a sweet version of J.J. Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze” before they went into a gigantic version of the Holler original “Mind Is Moving.” First of all, wow, and secondly it was really nice of H4TH to support their opener by playing one of their songs. Additional highlights from the set included a sick version of “Music For A Found Harmonium,” which is a bouncy, lighthearted instrumental. “Nellie Kane” made an appearance, before they closed the set with an incredible “Goin’ Down.”
They began their encore with Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills.” First of all, nice play on words there, and secondly way to rock out the grass. Their four song encore ended with a nice “Love Please Come Home.” What a show! This hometown throw down was loads of fun, and both bands really came to the stage correct. Get out and see these guys, hopefully they will be playing together real soon.
For the second night in a row I ventured down to the Aggie Theater for some live music. It was a co-bill between local favorites Euforquestra and reggae powerhouse John Brown’s Body. It had been three years since JBB last performed in Fort Collins. I first saw JBB very early in my concert-going career; in fact they were a band that demonstrated to me what was possible on any random Wednesday night in a sweaty, crowed bar. The last time I saw them was around 2006 and seeing them live in Fort Collins it was evident that this band had evolved. As we entered the room Mikey Thunder was gracing the slowly growing crowd with a tasty mix of funk and jazz backed by some palpable beats. At times in the past I’ve found Mr. Thunder’s heavier electronic sets to be off-putting, but he actually sounded really solid. The audience was unenthused and Thunder politely called them on it. He also performed during the setbreaks, which seemed to help the overall flow of the evening.
Euforquestra took the stage and hit the fans with a saucy “Obatala” into “Change Me.”
Set 1: Obatala> Change Me, Road Funk, Soup, Backbone> Wasted, Madison Square, Solutions, 64/18, All The Light I Need, Dr. Standby
Euforquestra has been going through some changes, but watching them live you would never know it. Scott Mast continues to fill in on percussion with Craig Babineau holding it down on kit. These two are really starting to gel, which culminated in a huge back and forth drum jam during “Soup.” They continue to surprise me every time I see them perform together. Speaking of surprises Matt Wright’s vocals have added a whole new dimension to Euforquestra’s sound. However the most powerful moment of the set came when Austin sang “All The Light I Need,” which was a song he wrote to honor a fallen friend. They closed their set with “Dr. Standby.”
John Brown’s Body is another band that has gone through their fair share of hardship and change. With the passing of Scott Palmer in 2006 the band underwent a metamorphosis of sorts. Through their sorrow they emerged as a more focused group blending new styles and pioneering what they call “Future Roots Rock.” They eased into the night with an organ-heavy “Ameliorate.”
Set 1: Ameliorate, Give Yourself Over, Following Into Shadow, The Grass, Plantation, Wellington Dub, Shine Bright, Make Easy, Empty Hands, Ambrosia, What You Gonna Do, 33 RPM
Encore: Peace, The Gold
The horn section consisting of Drew Sayers on saxophone, Scott Flynn on trombone, and Sam Dechenne on trumpet was the icing on the cake all night. They added a level of authenticity and panache to the JBB sound. Elliot Martin, the lead singer was as vibrant as ever and danced around the stage authoritatively. The sound had developed from the roots based songs of yore into something quite different. They were now adding elements of dubstep, hip-hop, electronica, and more to the mix in an attempt to be unique and to craft songs that are truly original. This was not your mother’s reggae. That being said they did have a nice mix of traditional and infused reggae. The highlight of the show for me was a fiery rendition of “Shine Bright.” While John Brown’s Body is not the same band I first saw in 2001 and 2003, they are continuing to blaze trails in the reggae world. They were a wonderful fit for Euforquestra and a great way to start the weekend. Let’s not wait another three years for JBB to return.
Mountain Standard Time a band that immediately rose to Front Range fame, as a stalwart jamgrass group seemed to disappear almost as quickly. Over just a few years MST performed on some of the biggest stages in Colorado as well as festivals across the country. They left the scene amid rumors, but now MST emerges after all the speculation with a new lineup and a three-night Mardi Gras run with Jeff Austin. The first stop on that run was Fort Collins.
Continuing my streak of Thursdays at the Aggie, I headed down early to catch the opening set from North Lake Tahoe exports Dead Winter Carpenters. This five piece Americana, rock group has continued to endear audiences across the country. They performed a classic DWC set opening the night with “Making A Living 101.”
Set 1: Making A Living 101, San Antoine, Nothing At All, Bootleg Jack, One Foot In The Gutter, Whiskey Ain’t My Wife, Levi, Nobody’s Fault, Walkin’ Shoes, I Shot Him, Holy Moses
Jenni Charles made her fiddle purr throughout their hour-long opening set, with a special kind of veracity that made every note seem special. Song titles like “Bootleg Jack” and “Whiskey Ain’t My Wife” hint at a simpler time in music, but there is absolutely nothing simple about their performance. Blending styles of country, folk, Americana, rock, roots, and so much more; the Dead Winter Carpenters are truly worth showing up early for. Sharing vocal duties with Jenni, bassist Dave Lockhart and duel guitarists Jesse Dunn and Bryan Daines add so much versatility to what this band can do in a live setting. They finished their set by inviting Nick Dunbar to jam on the last couple songs. In all honesty with shows like this one at the Aggie, it won’t be long before they are headlining the evening.
Finally after much anticipation, Mountain Standard Time took the stage sans Jeff Austin. By this point in the evening the room had filled in with eager college students. I talked to two who seemed slightly annoyed that more people hadn’t turned out.
“Don’t people know who Jeff Austin is?”- Bleary Eyed College Student
Actually the room was fairly full compared to what I have seen on Thursdays at this venue over the last month. And for the record I’m pretty sure people know who Jeff Austin is. Mountain Standard Time opened with “Door Jamb.”
Set 1: Door Jamb> Lioness, Behind The Bar, EMS, Daises, Moon Rocks, Picture, Annabelle, Wandering, No Expectations, Tear It Down
Set 2: Oxytocin, Fairy Meadows, Katy Anne, Guitar Playin’ Man, Speckley Boy, Mamow, Kentucky Mandolin, No One Sees, Boatman, PS
Encore: Rollin, Solace
Out of the gate Mountain Standard Time ripped through their classic repertoire with a tenacity that one would expect from a band hungry to tour. The first look at the group revealed two new members including Otis Lande on bass and former Yamn! keyboardist Ryan Ebarb. Ryan’s departure from Yamn sidelined them for a bit as well, so it’s great to see both of the local jam monsters out playing again. They delivered a searing set before suddenly inviting Mr. Austin to the stage. Starting in the MST catalog they segued nicely into Yonder Mountain String Band’s “No Expectations.” This song featured some sweet back and forth between Jeff and Nick Dunbar. They closed the first set with a massive “Tear It Down.”
The second set turned it up a notch with MST coming back strong. Opening with “Oxytocin” and stepping it up a bit Mountain Standard Time was definitely up to some of their old tricks. Stanton Sutton stood like a young John Oates on the stage, shredding the guitar for the crowd. The highlight of the show was another Jeff lead Bill Monroe instrumental, “Kentucky Mandolin.” They closed their set with a fiery “PS.” Mountain Standard Time is on the cusp of coming back in a big way in Colorado. With younger and younger bands flooding the airwaves, it’s good to see MST back in business. They are a refreshing band to watch and I’m glad they decided to return to their seat at the jamgrass table.