Stephen Perkins and Tony Franklin with Willie Waldman at The HoodLab
This tight formation of Banyan consisting of Stephen Perkins, Willie Waldman, Tony Franklin, and Brian Jordan was smack dab in the middle of a two night run at Quixote’s True Blue. Banyan had a history with Summer Camp, having performed twice at the festival. Last year they performed the opening set on Sunday morning at the Moonshine stage.Perkins and Franklin arranged for a short drum and bass jam at the multi-purpose space known as HoodLab. Distributer of HoodLamb Hemp coats out of Amsterdam, HoodLab is also an art gallery and a space for live performances. Curated and owned by Adam Dunn, this place is one of the hidden gems in Denver. Opening up was self-described funk metal group Herb N’ War. They were without lead singer Eutimia Cruz Montoya. So, they played as a power trio and basically blasted through an improv set that featured heavy riffing and some tight drum work by Carter Casad. Without their voice they were left to focus on the music, and honestly this was a perfect fit for the Perkins Franklin jam.
There was a modest gathering, many of which seemed to be regulars and friends of the proprietors. Originally billed as just a drum and bass jam with Perkins and Franklin, Waldman added his horn to make it a full-blown Banyan show. Perkins unleashed his fury on the drums as the crowd settled in for thirty minutes of freeform rage. Franklin tickled his fretless bass to the delight of the audience as Waldman, without any effects or petals, created a cacophony of sound with just his horn and a microphone. At one point Waldman created distortion by inserting the mic into the bell of his trumpet. Franklin went wild on the bass causing the roof of the HoodLab to rumble as the Perkins broke into a raucous beat to blast off on another jam tangent. All in all, this entire musical journey was short but powerful. As they finished up, Herb N’ War took the stage again to close out the evening. If you get the chance spend some time at the HoodLab, this place was special, and worth the visit.
Banyan with The People’s Abstract at Quixote’s True Blue
No one puts together a lineup quite like Jay Bianchi. As I entered the newly reformatted venue, which has moved to the old Bender’s Tavern, the band Tick was warming up in the main room. Quixote’s is two stages split by a large wall. Each room contains their own bar, and it actually does work quite well. I opted to watch some docile covers by The Mighty High Band in the front room rather than get bitten by the Tick. The Mighty High Band is a basically a Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and Legion Of Mary cover band pulling out deep cuts from Garcia’s side projects. This band was a fun way to ease into the night. Performing songs like “Tangled Up In Blue,” with amazing accuracy I was happy to have caught a bit of The Mighty High Band.
As Tick cleared the stage it was time for something completely different. The People’s Abstract could be called a Zobomaze side project. However I prefer to think of them as another side of the same musical coin. With Zobo’s Sean Dandurand, this tight four piece at first glance has a lot in common with Zobo. When they start playing those similarities disappear. The People’s Abstract is a instrumental blend of jazz, funk, rock, and more. As people slowly filtered in, it almost seemed that they were caught off guard by the incredible music coming from the stage. I too found myself blown away but this unassuming quartet. Given their warm take on jazzy funk, they were a perfect fit to open for Banyan.As I mentioned earlier, this was a tight four-piece version of Banyan. I have seen this group bloated with as many as seven members, however this amalgamation of Banyan had laser focus and impeccable back and forth. With Franklin and Perkins holding down the rhythm, Jordan and Waldman were left to fill in the musical gaps. Performing two sets, over the course of a few hours, Banyan proved once again why they are not to be missed.
Banyan Live at Quixote’s True Blue on February 9, 2013.
Weaving their way through jazz, rock, and Middle Eastern inspired jams, Banyan is as fluid as any group you will see live; in essence with a rotating pool of players you have to see. Perkins just wows the crowd as he slowly peels off layers until he is left in his signature black wife beater. Watching Stephen Perkins in a tiny room playing jazz to forty of fifty people is something everyone should experience. He is a force behind the kit that literally unleashes an all out attack on the skins. Waldman back on stage with his effects is able to paint sonic murals that fly around the crowd. Franklin too is a beast who simply shreds. Brian Jordan, continues to impress with his virtuoso guitar work. They sounded fantastic together and I would love to see this lineup continue to tour regularly, as it was too much fun. If you’ve never heard of them, download the show, take a listen, and get inspired. This type of free form musical exploration is a rare treat in today’s paint by numbers scene. It’s definitely worth checking out and it could change your perspective on what jam can be.
Sunday at Summer Camp is always bittersweet. I run around covering my shows and taking pictures, but in the back of my mind I know that it will soon be over. The last two years have seen some incredible Sunday lineups adding that cherry to the sundae in the form of a big act. Last year it was Widespread Panic, this year it was the controversial inclusion of Jane’s Addiction. I for one welcomed their inclusion into the lineup. Having never seen them it was an opportunity to jump outside my comfort zone and experience something different. Sunday began early with my routine and a trip over to see Banyan sound check. I found Willie Waldman, Clint Wagner, Stephen Perkins all up on the stage getting their sound dialed in. I’ve know Willie Waldman for ten years, since I was in college so it was great to see him at Summer Camp 2012. Perkins is a machine and I met him playing in Denver four years ago, he gave me the nod as he got his kit set up. Long time moe. fan and all around nice guy Gary was there hanging with the band. For those that don’t Gary has been a concert institution in the Midwest since I started seeing shows. His long grey beard and tie-dyed socks can be found dancing away any given night from Denver to Chicago. He’s a good man and thorough.
Banyan filled out their lineup with Rob Derhak on bass and famed Sun Records saxophone and flute player Herman Green. For those that don’t know, Banyan is a Free Jazz ensemble that blends all genres of music. Lead by the powerful rhythms of Perkins, who most definitely adds a rock edge to the mix, Banyan in any form is a great way to start the day. Throughout the show Rob built on an amazing dynamic between himself and Perkins absolutely keeping it all in check. Banyan’s rotating lineup often includes Clint Wagner. Clint is an amazing fiddle player and guitarist who adds so much texture to their overall sound. Their set ran the gambit of instrumental jamming anchored by Perkins driving percussion. I stayed until the final song before heading over to Umphey’s last set of the weekend.
The afternoon sun splashed over the crowd as Umphrey’s took the stage with an intense “Domino Theory.”
SET I: Domino Theory, Mail Package> Great American > Jimmy Stewart (w/ lyrics)> Great American, Phil’s Farm> Deeper, Partyin’ Peeps, untitled*, Booth Love> The Fussy Dutchman, Resolution> Phil’s Farm
*First Time Played, Original
You can listen to the set on Archive at http://archive.org/details/um2012-05-27.mk4_24bit – Thanks to tonedeaf for posting.
Umphrey’s sixth set at Summer Camp was a culmination of their entire weekend. It was a celebration of all things Umph and a great way for them the shut down their weekend. I have said it numerous times but this band is just ridiculously tight. Their afternoon set included a beautiful “Great American” bookend with an improvised “Jimmy Stewart” featuring lyrics. They also played a new song that is as of yet doesn’t have a title but features some brightly toned shredding. They end their set with a fifteen-minute plus “Jajunk” encore that really left the crowd satisfied. Performing six excellent sets over the course of one festival is no small feat but Umprhey’s continues to bring the heat every year at Summer Camp. That means if you are a fan you need to be there. I scooted out towards the end of the set to help CIT Jason aka Chickhead Fan with his interview with YMSB. He got a chance to chew the fat with Jeff and Ben for about twenty minutes and really had a great discussion about their origins and their history with Summer Camp.
I headed back to The Church to touch base and was asked to help with filming another interview for CIT Abbey with Michael Franti as well as do my own interview with The Devil Makes Three. This meant I had to get prepared, rework my schedule, and miss the beginning of moe.’s acoustic set at the Starshine Stage. Honestly I was happy to help out the CITs and Summer Camp in anyway I could. They’ve been so great to me and although I would consider myself an alumni of the Camp Counselor program, I would also like to be a bit of a mentor whenever possible. I quickly set off for moe., but stopped by the Field Day celebration, which was just getting started with a couple kegs from 311. And fortunately I made it over to the show for “Time Again into Backwoods.”
SET I: St. Augustine> Spaz Medicine, Tambourine, Chromatic Nightmare, Time Again> Backwoods, Lazarus, New York City> 32 Things, Nebraska
You can listen to the set on Archive at http://archive.org/details/moe2012-05-27.acoustic – Thanks to Travis Souza for posting.
moe. has been playing more and more acoustic shows and even did an all acoustic version of Welcome To The La Las. I for one welcome it as I think many of their songs lend themselves to an incredible acoustic interpretation. Like I said having missed the first half of the set I have to say the most compelling segment I saw was their awesome stripped down version of Lazarus. This song just keeps growing on me and I was truly impressed with this take. Keep doing this moe. it’s always so much fun and it is much appreciated.
Afterwards I quickly headed over to The Devil Makes Three. I was surprised to find only one other photographer in the pit but a massive crowd assembled. This is one of those bands I have been eager to see for quite some time. They have a powerfully rhythmic approach to bluegrass and remind me of bands like Trampled By Turtles or Split Lip Rayfield from a lyrical standpoint. Fresh off their performance at Delfest, The Devil Makes Three brought the heat to an already warm afternoon. Hard drinking songs mixed with a flair for the narrative are the characteristic of this band. I noticed that a tall gentleman behind the standup replaced their regular bassist Lucia Turino. I later found out that Lucia has been off the road with them due to a broken arm. I hope she has a speedy recovery, and this just gives me an excuse to see them with their full lineup when they come back to Denver. Highlights from their set included “Old No. 7” and a plucky version of “Statesboro Blues.” I later got a chance to sit down with the band and you can see my full interview here.
It was time for Summer Camp staples Yonder Mountain String Band; they opened with a scathing “Traffic Jam.”
SET I: Traffic Jam, One More, Loved You Enough, Pockets, Southern Flavor, Don’t Worry Happy Birthday, If There’s Still Ramblin’ in the Rambler (Let Him Go)> Shake Me Up> If There’s Time, Snow On The Pines> Follow Me Down To The Riverside> Snow In The Pines
The set is up on Archive at http://archive.org/details/ymsb2012-05-27.aud.flac16 – Thanks to ikepgh for posting.
Again it’s awesome to see Colorado bands so well embraced throughout the country. I get spoiled living on the Front Range, because so many great bluegrass and jam acts call Colorado home. So to see these bands in front of a big audience in Illinois reminds me of how good I have it. Yonder continues to be ambassadors of bluegrass. They are almost a gateway drug to this amazing genre of music. For me they helped to pave the way to my enjoyment of the music and the scene that surrounds it. A bouncy “Pockets” was a nice addition, but my call for the highlight was the enormous “If There’s Still Ramblin’ In The Ramber” which just seemed to go on and on. It showed Jeff’s true prowess on the mandolin and really got the crowd pumped.
“A wise man once said you should drink tequila in the sun once in your life… then he passed out.” – Jeff Austin
I stayed until “Snow On The Pines” before I headed back over to the Sunshine Stage for my interview with The Devil Makes Three. Michael Franti got on the stage just as I finished my interview. Franti is a ball of political angst and positive vibrations. His set at Summer Camp was a perfect blend and a nice way to spend the afternoon.
SET I: Everyone Deserves Music, Yes I Will, All I Want Is You, All I Wanna Do Is Be With You, The Sound of Sunshine, Ganja Babe, Sweet Little Lies> The Joker, Gangsta Girl, Yell Fire!, Hey Hey Hey, Life Is Better With You, I’ll Be Waiting, Say Hey, Long Ride Home
The set is up on Archive at http://archive.org/details/franti2012-05-27.at853_24bit, Thanks to tonedeaf for posting.
Musically they blend rock and reggae with tracks like “All I Want Is You.” Franti relies heavily on crowd interaction at one point getting off the stage and venturing out into the audience with his microphone in hand. I find his fanbase to be perhaps the most energetic crowd in the scene, oftentimes jumping in synch with the bandleader. I get tired just watching the crowd, but there is something to be said for a singer who connects with his audience in this way. The highlight for me was a special request from, “the prettiest girl at the festival,” “Sweet Little Lies” into Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker.” It was a fun set and afterwards I met up with CIT Abbey for her interview with the man himself. You can see it here.
I caught a few songs of Sphongle live but I had the Private Camp Counselor show starting soon so I headed over to grab Amy and get posted up for it. We met up with the golf cart caravan and drove our way up into the woods beyond VIP. In many ways it was much like my show last year. Just down the path from where the magic happened. Maria was set up with her friends on the VIP path and ready for the experience. The carts parked and all the members of moe. filed out with a little help from Greensky Bluegrass. It was time for a picking session in the woods for the lucky few who made it. It was an amazing acoustic experience that seemed to strangely have the same amount of people as the year pervious. Highlights of the show include an amazing “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” and a great “Okayalright” requested by the Camp Counselor herself. It was quite the experience, and it stretched on for about five songs before it was over. I was so happy to be there and actually be able to take some pictures and video as opposed to last year where I had to just enjoy it. Graham took us back down to the backstage before giving us a ride directly to Jane’s Addiction. I told him it was much appreciated and I settled in for the headliner of the evening.
The photo pit was close so I was not able to take pictures from the pit so I opted to grab some blanket in the VIP section and relax. The concert was a whole new experience. High production value with elaborate staging and lighting. Perhaps the most disconcerting was an actor on stage who hung himself in mock fashion. Burlesque clad women dancing on the speakers were another element of the show. They played a version of “Three Days” that was simply stunning. They also brought out accompaniment for a stellar version of “Jane Says.” All in all it was something completely different from what I’m used to. I was happy to have experienced it in the comfy confines of Summer Camp.
And like that it was back to see moe. close out the weekend. They opened their final set with a massive “Rebubula.”
SET I: Rebubula, Threw It All Away, Waiting For The Punchline, ATL*, Captain America> Puebla> Tubing The River Styx> The Pit
*New Al song, First Time Played
You can listen to the show on Archive http://archive.org/details/moe2012-05-27.at853_24bit – Thanks to tonedeaf again for posting and taping throughout Summer Camp 2012.
This was arguably their best set of the entire weekend. They brought fluidity to their playing that is simply unparalleled. Opening up with “Rebubula” was mesmerizing, but the new song from Al had me leaning in with focused attention. They ended their set with a massive jam that began with a killer “Captain America.” There is something to be said about a band that can string together four songs and segue flawlessly over the course of thirty-five minutes. “The Pit” was notable for it’s incredible jamming structure. They encored with a solid “Head” to close out their weekend. I left feeling like I had once again accomplished all my goals and was totally content with the overall experience.
We headed back to the Campfire stage to see a bit of Caravan of Thieves and the beginning of Greensky Bluegrass, but given the fact that I had been running around so hard all weekend I was ready for bed. It’s amazing how much you look forward to an event like Summer Camp and as it winds down you are ready to get back to your life. I think that’s the hallmark of any great festival. They give you everything you could possibly want over the course of three or four days and by the end you are completely satisfied. As my head hit the pillow on night four of Summer Camp 2012 I felt totally pleased and amazed with all that I saw and did. Summer Camp is a beautiful thing, like a blank canvas that you can create anything you want out of. There are a million different experiences, and a million different stories that occur every year over the course of the festival. Mine is just one perspective, and I hope you enjoyed my point of view. Until next year, cheers.