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.
Two-time Summer Camp alumni Zeta June came to Avogadro’s Number in Fort Collins for a night of resolute dance music. They brought along recent Colorado transplants by way of Iowa City, Tallgrass along for the ride.
Avo’s is a less known but highly regarded oasis for live music. Unfortunately each time I’ve went to shoot a band there the turnout has been sparse. This night was no different. I arrived and found a seat up front. Tallgrass came on promptly at 9:30 PM.
As they played, the room was almost uncomfortably silent. From time to time I tried to break the palpable calm with limited success. Tallgrass calls themselves, ‘Dirt Stomping Soul;’ I would add that they are an utterly rare intermingling of folk, gospel, indie, bluegrass, and more. To say that they are an original musical undertaking would be quite the understatement. Tallgrass is eloquent almost poetically jazzy in their delivery of said ‘dirt.’
Adam Morford blends elements of African and World percussion with more traditional rock and folk beats. They went into their captivating original “Never Try.” Adam’s drums were a distinctive juxtaposition to Matt Skinner’s raspy but clean vocals here and throughout their hour long set. Adam’s brother Austin Morford rounds out the band, he is a tight pocket bassist and holds it all together. They gave the crowd chills with an acapella version of the African traditional spiritual “Down To River To Pray” as the noiseless crowd stepped out the beat on the hardwood floors. They immediately went into the title track off their new album Better Than Medicine. They seem to be pushing into a slightly heavier sound utilizing all the rhythmic focus that this power trio has to offer. There set was a great way to spend a Thursday night and we still had the headliner.
Zeta June is a much different beast than Tallgrass. In fact the only real connection musically is their roots in Iowa City. I went to school at the University of Iowa and I can tell you the area is a bastion of music in a relative desert for good live shows. So it makes sense that both of these original acts would come from there, even though they sounds may not really mesh well.
By this time there were about 20 people in the room many of them there for Zeta June. A large led light background had been constructed, which gave off a very different vibe than Tallgrass’s acoustic set. Zeta June is a dance focused jam band that dabbles in electronic and funk with a solid rock foundation. Their set at Avogadro’s did a lot to show the variety of music that they can perform live. Originals like the boisterous “No Tell Motel” and a rocking “Resume To Consume.” We were treated to a spot on rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” At one point they ripped into a huge EDM inspired song utilizing some snap beats and spacey jams.
“That’s our version of the dubsteps.” – Zeta June
Overall it was a great night of Iowa music in the heart of Fort Collins. I look forward to Tallgrass working their way deeper into the local scene. Since their arrival late last summer they’ve only have the opportunity to play a handful of shows here. My hope is that people will begin to realize how original and fun this band is. Zeta June continues to be a young and dynamic group that fuses diverse genres of music together incredibly well. Both of these bands are definitely worth your time and consideration.
Avogadro’s Number is a tiny oasis of live music in the sometimes-overwhelming Fort Collins music scene. This venue has been a showcase for acoustic and folk music for a number of years. Off the beaten path of Old Town Avo’s as it’s affectionately called houses a bar, a stage, and a restaurant.
On a cool fall night in October, Avogadro’s opened its stage up to Summer Camp favorites Caravan Of Thieves. Hailing from Connecticut this band had been described as a unique blend of swing, jazz, and high intensity jamming. Fuzz Sangiovanni from Deep Banana Blackout fame along with his wife Carrie Sangiovanni form the foundation of the band with Ben Dean and Brian Anderson filling out the lineup of pickers.
Arriving early I caught the last half of the opening set by The Cantrells. They are a duo from a bygone era with a true gift for the art of performance. The majority of the small but dedicated audience seemed to be there in support of opener. The multi-instrumentalist Cantrells focused on their own style of acoustic swing following a more traditional approach than the headliner. They had a folksy way about them that made you feel like you were at a picnic with your extended family. The only cover they played that I was familiar with was a Leadbelly tune. Overall they were a gentle way to get the night started. They had a passion for swing and string music and seemed to fit the bill nicely.
The Caravan Of Thieves took the stage for their single set that went just over ninety minutes. They opened up with their original “I Don’t Wanna.”
Set 1: I Don’t Wanna, Shim Sham, Psycho Killer, Eat You, Wasting, Monster, F Got You, She’s Learning, Kiss, Dance
Encore: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band> I Get By, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, When I’m 64, Raise The Dead
A very nice set of music with an encore that featured several of the Sgt. Pepper’s tunes they worked out for Halloween. We were also treated to a couple selections including “I Don’t Wanna” and “Monster” off of their new album Funhouse as well. This band is truly mesmerizing in both their delivery and their energy. Fuzz will often swing his guitar to his back, pick up egg beaters, and begin slamming on all manner of plastic jug and metal cymbal. I’ve seen the man even begin banging on his fellow band mates instruments with any substitute for a drumstick he can find.
They managed to work in one of their favorite covers in the form of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” as well. They lead the small audience on a musical journey that involved some impeccable picking along with an array of makeshift percussion. Heading out to the bar throughout the night several people who were otherwise engaged in Broncos football would ask, “Who are these guys?” I can only assume that same question was asked by many who have passed by their stage at Summer Camp each year. Who are these guys? The reason is that their sound is wholly unique and quite intoxicating. They warned the crowd earlier about their Halloween extravaganza involving their homage to the Beatles, so it was no surprise that the encore gave us a taste of that forthcoming show. As they do with all of their covers, they incorporate their own instrumentation and styling making each song very different from the original. Their jangly strings treated the Beatles well.
The Caravan Of Thieves closed by coming down to the floor and inviting the crowd up to sing “Raise The Dead.” This intimate affair is exactly what Avo’s has become known for in Fort Collins. It’s a small retreat for music lovers and music makers alike. If you find yourself wandering the outskirts of Old Town and hear some quality picking, chances are you’ve found Avogadro’s Number.
Videos From The Show
As we age in the scene, the generations change and the music evolves. Summer Camp seems to develop by leaps and bounds every year. With a lineup of over 100 musical acts offered they are constantly bringing in new groups and continuing to be an innovator in the festival scene. This year Jay Goldberg is bringing in Phish front man Trey Anastasio along with the regular cast of characters including moe., Umphrey’s McGee and so much more. As we approach the thirteenth Summer Camp it really feels like a whole new ballgame. Younger fans hopping on the bus, different styles of music all getting a chance on the array of stages, and additionally so many incredible events taking place all over the grounds throughout the four days beyond the music. They all combine to make Summer Camp one of the leading festivals in the country. As Summer Camp finds itself on the cusp of a new era, I found myself reflecting on the festival at a local show. On a recent frigid night out in Fort Collins I headed out to see Gipsy Moon.
Gipsy Moon represents a turning of the page for Americana and Gypsy Bluegrass. I’ve seen Silas Herman, son of famed front man and Summer Camp veteran Vince Herman, perform with Leftover Salmon several times. Gipsy Moon is his current foray into a touring band. Seeing the son of a musician that I admire so much, performing on his own is what got me thinking about the future of music and current state of affairs within the scene.
Gipsy Moon consists of multi-talented, multi-instrumentalists. Silas flanks live painter and singer, Mackenzie Page, who belts it out as well as she handles a paint brush. David Matters is a singer/songwriter who plays banjo as well as the guitar. Finally, Collin Huff holds it all down on bass. We arrived as Gipsy Moon was beginning their set at Avogadro’s Number. Avo’s is a series of three rooms divided by purpose. The first is a bar, the second is a quaint music venue, and the third is a restaurant. Inside the band performed for a small crowd already seated in the middle of the room. We came to find out the show was a bit of a homecoming for Page with many of her family and friends filling out the crowd. They opened up the night with “Ramblin’.”
Set One: Ramblin’, Little Maggie, Seven Seas, Autumn Leaves, The New Thing, Cowboy Vessel, Dark Eyes, Long Time Comin’, Away We Go, Trumpet and the Drum, Nocturnal, Swallow Tail Jig, Sweet Thing, Independence Day, Pensl-tucky, Angeline the Baker / Chinquipin Hunting, House of The Rising Sun, Hunger, Right Before The Dawn
The Gipsy Moon show was a mix of originals and traditional bluegrass style covers. They dub themselves “Gipsygrass” and their entire delivery had a free flowing style that was incredibly inviting. They each took turns at the microphone and mixed up the instrumentation often. Matters had a nice vocal range that harmonized nicely with Page who at times shook the room with her powerful delivery. Silas simply shredded the mandolin throughout the set even though he at times seemed to shy away from the spotlight. Covering everything from Russian and Irish folk songs to a smoking version of “House Of The Rising Sun” Gipsy Moon really demonstrated their range and ability. All in all it was a relaxing night of music with some talented musicians from Nederland. I foresee big things from this band; I hope they continue to venture down from the mountains to play for the masses on the Front Range. As I headed back home I was truly inspired by this new generation of musicians and it got me excited about Summer Camp this year. The art, music, and people will all be off the hook this year. I look forward to yet another amazing time in the heart of Illinois.