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.
Alex did a great job running down some of the big additions in Summer Camp’s Second Round of 2014 Artist Announcements earlier on the blog. As usual the Summer Camp bill is really stacked giving fans a wide array of musical choices, and he broke down the big names that have everyone buzzing.
And while the 2nd round was certainly full of big names, I’d like to focus on a few of the bands that you might have overlooked at first glance.
Obviously the addition of Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico’s Americana explosion Floodwood is great news. Fresh off their inaugural tour of Colorado, this will be Floodwood’s third year at Summer Camp. They also played two top-notch shows in the VIP tent in both 2012 and 2013. If you like moe and acoustic music find yourself at Floodwood whenever possible.
Head For The Hills
I’m personally excited to see my hometown heroes Head For The Hills on the lineup. This has been a long time coming and in my opinion they are one of the best string bands touring today. They have an attention to song craft that harkens back to a nostalgic time. Their strong musical story telling is matched by their powerful harmonizing. Head For The Hills is sure to please any bluegrass fan.
In the last year I’ve had the pleasure of seeing jam standout Twiddle twice. They recently toured extensively with The Werks who will again be returning to Summer Camp. Twidde renews faith in the jam scene with each performance. They are rekindling my love affair with jam and quite frankly, they do it well.
The Devil Makes Three
In 2012 made their initial performance at Summer Camp. Unfortunately their bassist Lucia Turino had suffered an injury to her arm and was unable to play with the band. The fill in was fine, but I look forward to seeing the full group playing at Summer Camp they year. They are in the vein of cowpunk, but they focus on a ragtime delivery with heavy lyrics. They are some slap you in the face bluegrass.
UV Hippo or Ultraviolet Hippopotamus as they are officially known too is relatively fresh to the Summer Camp scene. This will be their third year on the lineup and the Michigan progressive improvisational outfit. They too are part of a young crop of new bands that are focusing on bringing the glory of jam back to the masses. Like Twiddle and The Werks, UV Hippo is carrying a torch that was set aflame with the likes of Phish and Blues Traveler.
Mike Dillon is a mad scientist of the xylophone. He is a percussion king and truly an awe-inspiring performer. For those that aren’t familiar Mike Dillon is a member of Critter Buggin’, Garage A Tois, and Les Claypool’s Fancy Band and has played with everyone from Ani DeFranco to Galactic. This is the second time the Mike Dillon Band has played at Summer Camp, but this group has been touring relentlessly since the release of their debut album Urn in 2012. The energetic and spunky Carly Meyers on trombone is definitely one to watch.
And last but certainly not least Greensky Bluegrass will be making their triumphant return to Scamp. They first performed at Three Sister’s Park in 2009 and this will be their fourth year at the festival. Greensky is an incredible bluegrass experience that knows their craft and delivers night after night. This summer they did a three day run that included their first performance at Red Rocks, a stop Camp Euforia in Lone Tree, Iowa, and they finished the weekend with a show at Forecastle in Kentucky. That’s some serious touring and some serious dedication to spreading their music far and wide. For real string fans Greensky is definitely a favorite.
Well there you have it – a quick rundown of my top 8 possibly overlooked, but most likely widely celebrated, additions to the Summer Camp lineup. With a hundred bands (give or take a few) seven stages, multiple musical workshops, and the random private outbursts of song, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.
Check out the full lineup here! VIP Ticket info and Late Night Shows (including details on the rumored umVIP packages) will be announced on Wednesday!
And don’t forget to buy your Summer Camp 3 Day Passes now before the prices goes up!
After a night of couch tour with the Phish from Vermont on the 30th my wife and I rounded out our 2013 with a night of String Cheese. This was the third evening with Cheese for the truly faithful fans. It’s always a little bit odd jumping in at the end of a three-night run. It can make you feel sort of like a tourist, but I stand by my decision to peruse all this New Year’s had to offer this year. I mean where on the planet is it even an option to see SCI, Yonder, or Umphrey’s all playing separate headlining shows within twenty miles of each other. The simple fact that I had to make that choice makes me thankful to live here on the Front Range.
Fans had been scurrying around for several weeks leading up to the event trying to procure tickets but the large number of fingers pointed towards the sky meant that many were not successful. The show itself had been sold out for well over a month suggesting that many would-be attendees were going to be left out in the cold. Once inside the elaborate costumes and bedazzled fairy wings dotted the hallways that surrounded the floor. The announcement that Del McCoury Band would be on the bill came late, but it was definitely celebrated by those with tickets in hand. The elder statesman of bluegrass and his band began as the fans filtered in to find their spot to watch the ball drop. They ended up performing just short of an hour. Del garners so much respect as a musician and ambassador for string music. His band includes three of his children whom he obviously raised right. All in all it was simply a prelude to the sit in that was to come very shortly.
When the String Cheese Incident came out for their first set they brought along the entire Del McCoury Band. Kang pointed out that every time they play with Del, he out dresses them. Well with all of SCI decked out in tuxedos, that would not be the case for at least this show. They opened with a stunning “Rolling In My Baby’s Arms.”
Set 1: Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms*> Shenandoah Breakdown*, Cold Rain and Snow*, Birdland**> Wheel Hoss**> Birdland**, Give Me the Love> Way Back Home, Valley of The Jig
Set 2: Water, Colliding> Sirens, Windy Mountain> Stay Thru, Las Vegas> Desert Dawn
Set 3: Rivertance> Happy New Year, Let’s Go Outside> Smile, Drums> It Is What It Is, This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)> Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band> Jam> Just One Story
Encore: Colorado Bluebird Sky
*w/ Del McCoury Band
**w/ Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury (Fiddle and Mandolin)
For many fans that love the Cheesy bluegrass, this was the perfect start to the evening. They immediately went into Bill Monroe’s “Shenandoah Breakdown.” However it was the Del sang version of “Cold Rain and Snow” gave us all collective goose bumps. Del left, but Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury remained on fiddle and mandolin respectively. The band seemed to burst into a stellar version of “Birdland” that disintegrated into an all out hoedown with “Wheel Hoss.” Carter absolutely tore it up on the violin before they returned to the “Birdland” where they began. Carter and Ronnie McCoury took a bow before they disappeared backstage. Kang wowed the crowd with an almost poetic “Give Me the Love” that seemed to end too quickly. After a clean segue they went into a massive “Way Back Home” before they closed the first set with an equally impressive “Valley Of The Jig.” This set went barely over an hour, but with two more to go I didn’t hear any complaints.
String Cheese came to the stage for set two with a powerful “Water” that just seemed to wash over the audience. Bathed in the blue light, fans danced enthusiastically to sweet sounds of the Cheese. Kyle finally got a chance to shine on his energetic “Colliding” before they went into a dark and funky “Sirens.” One of the biggest highlights of the show came with the Nershi led “Windy Mountain” which is always a treat. This was only the fourth time they’ve played the reggae-tastic “Stay Thru,” which was a very nice breather. “Las Vegas” has become a huge vehicle for Nershi to experiment with, much like “Jelly Fish” was in the early days of SCI. This rendition went to the dark side pretty quickly, with some tight and extensive give and take between the entire band. They closed with a classic version of “Desert Dawn” that seemed to shock the crowd into a dancing frenzy.
Sting Cheese returned just before the clock struck midnight. What followed was a massive spectacle the type of which SCI has been providing to fans for years now. This was a bit different though; let me attempt to explain. The band returned as the lights dimmed. They launched off into a huge “Rivertrance” that began slowly enough for all the players to get into position. A large lighting rig with a net descended from the ceiling that contained dancers and other visual performers. Women adorned long flowing dresses ensconced themselves in clear plastic bubbles that blew around confetti like one of those cash grab machines. Pairs of women climbed long silk ribbons that hung from the ceiling and treated us to a series of aerial acrobatics that would have looked proper for any Cirque du soleil show in the world. Fans on the floor were given small color changing batons that they immediately began swinging in unison. The lights splashed all over the crowd as Father Time appeared by the soundboard and began spraying sparks from a handheld tube. Pyrotechnics appeared behind the band as balloons and massive amounts of confetti descended upon the 6500 person room. 2014 had begun and the band played on. As they finished “Rivertrance” they paused and invited Del in the boys out to the stage for a toast. Billy welcomed the New Year, as everyone seemed to take a collective breath. Kyle came to the microphone for a very appropriate “Let’s Go Outside.” The band transitioned nicely to a welcomed “Smile,” before Michael Travis and Jason Hann gave us an elaborate drum jam. It may have gone interstellar a few times. The drums gave way to a bouncy, “It Is What It Is.” We were treated to a pair of sentimental covers. The first was Kyle’s now classic take on the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place” which is traditionally his nod to the hometown crowd. Next Cheese performed The Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to signify their twentieth year as the String Cheese Incident. Referring to their very earliest days when for New Year’s 1993-94 Michael Travis sat in completing the original core of the band. They proceeded to improvise for a bit with something they labeled the “2014 Jam” on LiveCheese. They ended the third set with a stunning but far too short “Just One Story.”
SCI came back with a singular encore of “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” This song has truly evolved over the last couple years. Pardon the pun, but it really has gotten some wings allowing them to truly synch up as a group on this number. All in all it was a great night of music from a band that never strays too far from its roots. The inclusion of the Del McCoury Band was a solid decision and it gave Cheese the opportunity to really pick during their first set. The second set seemed to focus more on the long jam, while the third set felt like a celebration of all that this band has accomplished in their twenty years. The String Cheese Incident is and continues to be a vibrant lightening rod for music fans from across the spectrum. Their show on New Year’s Eve is just more proof that SCI is back at the top of the heap.
Happy New Year!
A veritable buffet of music descended upon the Front Range for the five days leading up to 2014. The String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, Tea Leaf Green, the massive EDM spectacle known as Decadence among many, many others were all set to perform within a twenty-five mile radius. Given my own predilection for several of the groups I opted to sample a little bit of everything.
Yonder Mountain String Band has consistently made the Boulder Theater their home for a New Year’s Run since the early years. This time around they took the opportunity to announce four nights and subsequently a fifth night to benefit Planet Bluegrass after the recent flooding. With so much going on the Saturday show for YMSB was a bit undersold. To entice fans, they announced a Cosmic Bowling League opening set. This is an exceptionally rare event that features the full Yonder lineup dressed in bowling shirts and ill-fitting mustaches. CBL claims to lean traditional and they certainly held that line by opening with the Flatt & Scruggs penned “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.”
Cosmic Bowling League
Set 1: The Ballad of Jed Clampett, Sophronie, Fox On The Run, Blue Ridge Mountain Girl, It’s Raining Here This Morning, All About You, Lost and I’ll Never Find My Way, Are You Tired My Darling, Some Things Does, Pig In A Pen
“None of you better tell nobody nothing about what you seen here tonight” – Ben Kaufmann
The lightly packed crowd was an equal mix of utter delight and mild confusion. For those in the back or perhaps not in the know, they were witnessing an odd mix of bowling, redneck, bluegrass, and shame. Their performance lasted all of forty-five minutes and included both a Jimmy Martin original and Jeff Austin’s alter ego ‘Wookie’ spitting out Doritos™ on the stage. A bluegrass version of glam rockers Sweet’s “Fox On The Run” was a treat, while Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Blue Ridge Mountain Girl” was a bit more reserved. Rolling Stones’ bittersweet homage to broken relationships “All About You” made it into the mix. CBL went back to their roots with “Lost And I’ll Never Find My Way” before a debut of The Carter Family’s “Are You Tired My Darling.” They closed the set with a snappy rendition of the bluegrass traditional “Pig In A Pen.” As fans wandered outside for fresh air I heard one girl say, “Who were those guys, I didn’t get it.” One kinfolk gingerly explained the significance of what she had just witnessed. The show continued after a short break with Yonder Mountain String Band in their usual garb.
Yonder Mountain String Band
Set 1: Troubled Mind> 20 Eyes> Troubled Mind> Elzic’s Farewell> Sideshow Blues, Illinois Rain, Just Like Old Times*, Catch A Criminal*, Lonesome Letter*, Fingerprint*, Kentucky Mandolin*> Death Trip*
Set 2: What The Night Brings, 40 Miles from Denver, You’re No Good, Honestly, If There’s Still Ramblin’ in the Rambler (let him go)> Mother’s Only Son> If There’s Still Ramblin’ in the Rambler (let him go), Rag Doll*, Don’t Worry Happy Birthday*, Pockets*, Straight Line*, Robot Jam*> Whipping Post*
Encore: Steep Grades Sharp Curves*, 2 Hits And The Joint Turned Brown*
*w/ Roy Wilfred Wooten aka Future Man
They basically designed both sets to be the same. Beginning with just the string band and then about half way through inviting out Future Man who was playing on a regular kit. This as opposed to his usually performance with the Drumitar. The boys launched into the main event with the Kaufmann sung “Troubled Mind,” which segued nicely into “20 Eyes” before going back to where it began. Yonder didn’t miss a beat as they blasted into the traditional “Elzic’s Farewell,” a song thought to be played first by a French carpenter as he went off to fight in the Civil War. Mr. Austin led the boys on an intense ”Sideshow Blues,” but “Illinois Rain” was a bit of a lull in the action.
YMSB brought out Future Man for “Just Like Old Times.” Whenever Yonder adds a drummer they are immediately transformed from a string band into a bombastic jamgrass group. It gives them a wider range and the ability to shake up their normal dynamic. I’ve seen them with Jon Fishman as well as Future Man previously and the addition of percussion always makes for an entirely different musical result. Ben again took the microphone on “Catch A Criminal,” but it was Dave Johnston that absolutely shredded the banjo on this track. Future Man held it all in place, as he and Kaufmann truly gelled on stage. The set closing “Kentucky Mandolin” into “Death Trip” was absolutely jaw dropping.
The snow began to lightly fall outside dusting the roads nicely. The temperature had dropped significantly, but it was still a very pleasant December evening. Yonder came out for their third set just after midnight, meaning this one was going to go late. They opened with a beautifully constructed “What The Night Brings.” We were treated to some classic YMSB with “40 Miles From Denver” and “You’re No Good.” “Honestly” was Adam Aijala’s best performance of the night. The category of facial hair notwithstanding; Adam was the only one during the CBL set to show up with some real some authentic Joe Dirt style red neck chin curtain. “If There’s Still Ramblin’ in the Rambler (let him go)” into Mother’s Only Son” into “If There’s Still Ramblin’ in the Rambler (let him go)” is as epic to write as it was to see live. This was a nonstop rip through all the things that make bluegrass good.
They again invited Future Man out for the remainder of the set, which continued delicately with an intricate Austin led “Rag Doll.” They slowed it down with the Dave Johnston sung “Don’t Worry Happy Birthday” before Adam regaled us with their pop bluegrass original “Pockets.” They ended the second set with a transcendental Robot Jam into a perfect rendition of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.”
Future Man really added an extra bit of zing to a stellar performance. Yonder Mountain String Bands is a group that can take on many forms within the realm of bluegrass. The fact that they opened for themselves as a bunch of burnt out bowling leaguers fixated on privacy and snacking proves that much. They encored with “Steep Grades Sharp Curves” before giving a little nod to the impending recreational sales with “2 Hits And The Joint Turned Brown.” As usual YMSB out did themselves as they continue to push their craft to the next level. The lackluster turnout on Saturday would be followed by two sold out shows including a star-studded fundraiser that demonstrates Yonder’s dedication to this community. This show felt like the sleeper of the run and it was only Saturday.
Night two would take us downtown to the Fillmore for Umphrey’s McGee. Review coming soon!
Colorado at times can seem like a parade of yearly musical traditions. Denver, being a massive music hub, is a place where many performers pass through around the same time each year. One nascent tradition is the Keller and His Compadres shows in Keystone, Colorado. Last year’s shows originally marked the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. Well fortunately for K-Dub the world continued and so do these concerts. It’s a chance for the normally solo performer Keller Williams to grab a few friends and just jam. This year he got a chance to playe with Michael Kang and Michael Travis from String Cheese Incident on Friday and Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon on Saturday. I opted to catch Saturday’s show, which turned out to be a wise decision.
I found out that Friday included a very young crowd and they pushed it to the limit. Saturday was a fairly casual affair with a slightly older audience. The show was completely sold out, meaning more than a few fans were turned away at the door. Unless the gig is billed as one of Keller’s official band projects, the format is always one set solo and one set with the guests. This night was no different. K-Dub’s first set started just after 9 PM. In his true entertainer style he began strumming his guitar backstage before emerging from the darkness. The Warren Station Center For The Arts was a square room with a bar in the back. It was cozy and by the time Keller actually started playing it was most definitely full. Classics from Keller like “Cadillac” and “Freaker By The Speaker” were sprinkled throughout the first set. Perhaps the most oddly satisfying song of the first set was an extended jam into the custom built version of Lorde’s “Royals.” Covers like this again reiterate Keller’s addiction to pop music. He rounded his solo set with a sing-along on “Gate Crashers.”
The main event could have easily been dubbed Keller Salmon or Leftover Williams. The inclusion of Vince and Drew meant there would be no shortage of bluegrass or extended musical interplay. I for one am a fan of Keller’s solo work, but for some reason I find his style so much more rewarding when juxtaposed against other musicians. They opened the set with an instrumental before going into a bouncy “Portpapotty.” Keller was playing the electric bass, with Drew on mandolin and Vince on guitar. We were treated to an incredible Drew-sung version of Dylan’s “Tangled Up And Blue.” The additional strings did a lot to fill out “What The World Needs Now,” before they went into a stellar version of Salmon’s “Troubled Times.” Keller was sure to keep it balanced with the occasional original, insert “Broken Convertible” here. The rendition of “Dixie Chicken” was the highlight of the entire night. It came in reference to their recent performances with Little Feat’s Bill Payne. Again I reiterate the need for Mr. Payne to join Leftover Salmon full time. The moment is now Bill. Vince got a chance to sing his rowdy but timeless “Fuzzy Little Hippie Girl.” The trio went into a bluegrass-tinged duo from Tom Petty with “You Got Lucky” into a set-closing “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” The crowd kind of went off the chain at this point. Keller Williams and his Compadres came out for a quick “Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie” to encore before the lights came on and it was all over.
The show just seemed to speed on by. Keller is many things, but he is always fun. His shows display a vibrancy and passion for music in all its forms. His performances become random drive through his musical consciousness. His concerts with other musicians push back his urge to just unleash whatever comes into his head, which at times gives us the more interesting outcome. Instead in these sets he plays his part, which is interesting to see from a man who built his career on going it alone.
As we left I said to my wife, “Keller Williams must be a huge Tom Petty fan,” to which she replied, “Who isn’t?”
Additional Video by Steve Wilner
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.
In this post-Kickstarter era the individual music fan has a new ability to directly support their favorite musicians. Many bands have taken advantage of this new crowd-sourcing technique that allows them to produce new music as well as facilitate additional concerts. Floodwood is utilizing Kickstarter to reach out to fans for a new album and a touring van. Floodwood features Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico from moe., but they should not be categorized as a side project. They are simply put, an amazing bluegrass experience. They really got a chance to debut at Summer Camp a few years back and I’ve been listening to them ever since. Jason Barady, Nick Piccininni and Zacary Fleitz round out this lineup of real talent.
Musically and stylistically Floodwood is pushing the boundaries while still maintaining a reverence for traditional bluegrass. Their songwriting is top notch. I am incredibly curious to see how they will develop the sequences of tracks on the album and what they will do to further the instrumentation of the individual songs. So much time and energy is put into working on a studio album. Kickstarter has become a real and viable tool to actually make new music happen. In essence a supporter is basically preordering the new album. However most campaigns offer high end off the wall rewards for large pledges. For instance if you donate ten grand Floodwood will make arrangements for a VIP weekend ski trip with the entire band. The van is important as well as I would like to see Floodwood branch out from primarily playing in the Northeast. It’s time to share Floodwood with the world.
Their campaign ends on September 4th so if you have a few bucks or are able to share this link on your various social media sites that is greatly appreciated.
Here is a video of Floodwood at Summer Camp 2013
When archaeologists dig up the site formerly known as Three Sisters Park in 2000 years they will find cell phones, bottle caps, tent stakes, and much more. It’s the amazing experiences had by thousands on the backdrop of stunning musical collaboration that will be hard to discern from the artifacts they find. Summer Camp in its thirteenth year continues their tradition of having a diverse lineup with wide appeal as well as providing fans with numerous other possibilities for fun and engagement. Thursday has historically been labeled the “Pre-Party” however veterans of this festival know it’s become an essential part of the experience. Primarily they save the heavy hitters for the actual three-day calendar, but Summer Camp stalwarts like Cornmeal and Family Groove Company have gotten the party started for the past few years
Early arrivers rs on Thursday were met with the typical lines and a sporadic drizzle. Weather would play a large part in this year’s Summer Camp, but on Thursday it was barely a side note to the experience. Gates opened around 11 AM and fans hustled in to mark off their territory. The woods filled up quickly as others opted to find their place in the fields that bordered the Sunshine Stage. We found a spot in the woods of VIP. They redesigned the campsite this year, making the old VIP path part of General Admission camping, and clearing more of the woods across from the VIP Lounge for tent construction. All in all it was a good move that made for easier mobility for everyone at the festival.
After setup I wandered up to the Camping Stage for Zeta June who officially opened up Summer Camp 2013. They focused on a heavy, rocking, groove oriented sound that was reminiscent of moe. in their younger days. They managed to inject a little funk and they were a proper way to get the party started.
After meeting up with this year’s crop of CITs and the new Camp Counselor Kyle Hess, I headed over to see Stone Sugar Shakedown. This was my second time on Thursday seeing a band I have never caught live before, and I have to say I was impressed. This is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of going to any festival. If you have an open mind, it’s easy to get turned on to all manner of live music that you may have otherwise never encountered. SSS was a funk party lead by Nick Elwood and Tracy Gladden. They blend blues and jam to round out their sound in a way that is engaging and enjoyable. The dynamic between Nick’s deep vocals and searing guitar work with the delicate approach of Gladden made for a very pleasant set.
Heading over to the Starshine Stage I ran into Family Groove Company bassist Janis Wallin who had nothing but good things to say about Sun Stereo who was up next.
“They are a mix of David Byrne and The Beatles.” – Janis
This is quite the endorsement and I have to say she wasn’t too far off. Sun Stereo is all energy. They are basically a three-piece core band with a sprawling horn section which put a heavy emphasis on adding a jazziness to their straight groove. Sun Stereo is lead by keyboardist and vocalist Kelly McMorris who tosses in a bit of the theatrical to their performance. He is truly a powerhouse of a musician. The horns filled out their sound nicely as Kelly kicked back his stool and let it all out for the crowd. If given the chance check out Sun Stereo, they are one to watch.
Family Groove Company took the stage next and opened with a track from their newest album.
Set 1: The Charmer > Well In Hand, Professionals Here, A Misdemeanor’s Worth, Falling Off the Fence, One Eye Dreaming*, American Girl
*with Allie Kral on fiddle
Playing new material, it really felt like Family Groove Company was truly revitalized and ready to rage. This is their tenth year performing at Summer Camp and they truly looked comfortable up on the stage in front of a large crowd. The highlight of the set was Allie’s sit in which has almost become a ritual for their pre-party set. They closed with Tom Petty’s “American Girl”
Cornmeal took the stage at 8 PM and although the day had blossomed into a beautiful afternoon, we were hit with an unseasonably cold evening. Fans bundled up and put on their dancing shoes for what would be the beginning of Allie’s last run with Cornmeal. With the departure of the Nowaks, Cornmeal now performs with Scott Tipping on guitar and new drummer as well. Their performance on Thursday night would not leave any doubt that even through this transition Cornmeal still has what it takes to melt faces and make the crowd boogie. It was a moving hour long set that really felt like a celebration of how far this jamgrass band has come. Cornmeal also played a stellar version of “Dear Prudence” that seemed highly appropriate.
Caravan Of Thieves was over at the Campfire Stage warming hearts and minds with their brand of gypsy folk. These guys are just incredible, and it blows my mind that they are not getting more traction and playing to larger audiences. Talk about fun in a bottle, Caravan Of Thieves pulls no punches when it comes to their creation of music and sound onstage. With their new album “Bouquet” this band, evocative of the type of swing folk that made Django Reinhardt famous, continues to plow ahead and tour relentlessly. Fuzz, their guitarist, who sort of looks like Harpo Marx on speed, will often drop his instrument, pick up egg beaters, and pound out a rhythm on buckets strategically placed around the stage. This craziness is juxtaposed against the soft beauty of their other guitarist Carrie and her silky voice. Caravan Of Thieves is never dull and always intriguing to say the least.
We ended our Thursday with Cornmeal’s Midnight Ramble in the Soulshine Tent. This show was based on their loosely formatted residencies in Chicago. They would invite friends and basically just have a good time playing music. They invited Al from moe. up to the stage for a few songs and really kicked it up a notch playing well into the darkness. With three days of music ahead of us, I called it a night and hit the hay. As Bayliss has put it many times, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” So with that in mind I crawled into my tent with visions of moe. and Umphrey’s dancing in my head.
Summer Camp Music Festival continues to be one of the most diverse and interesting festivals still operating today. In an era were events come and go Summer Camp has been a constant going strong for their thirteenth year. This year plays host to yet another incredible lineup that is sure to please any music fan. One of the nice things that the organizers of this festival do that is rarely talked about is the way they break up the performances. Any festival is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” type experience, but oftentimes fans of specific genres of music are left with tough decisions on whether to see on show or the next. At Summer Camp sure there is some overlap as there are at all music festivals, but for the most part they try to make it easy. By having say a bluegrass band, an electronic act, a jam band, a local group all playing at the same time you can see the show you want without missing too many of your preferred sets. With six stages not to mention the VIP bar stage there is plenty to see and do at any given moment.
Many of the events that have gone on throughout the years are back again with a few new features that are sure to add to the experience. Favorites like The Kid’s Camp, Field Day, and The Make A Difference drives culminating with the Everyone Orchestra Performance are all back. New this year there will be a Masquerade troop featuring hoopers, fire throwers, dancers, and more. The members of the troop will be paired up with specific musicians to add a visual element to their live performances. Also Make A Difference is expanding by including a Live Art Gallery for live painters at the festival. These little touches and that fact that the organizers are always expanding on them are a big part of what makes Summer Camp such an amazing experience. Kyle Hess has been named the 2013 Summer Camp Counselor making him the third ever in a short but prestigious lineage. Both of the previous counselors and several CITs will be making it back along with an entirely new crop of CITs for 2013.
Musically the lineup is top notch. Of course Summer Camp staples moe. and Umphrey’s McGee will headline again this year, but there’s so much more. Fan favorites Family Groove Company, Cornmeal, Floodwood, Brainchild, and The Henhouse Prowlers will all be there to share in the groove again this year. Electronic fans will be happy to know Zed’s Dead, Big Gigantic, STS9, and Thievery Corporation are all on the bill for 2013. Personally I am most excited about the inclusion of Trey Anastasio Band, which continues the SCamp tradition of having a huge Sunday headliner.
Words To The Wise: Make sure you bring all the essentials for proper festival raging. Sunscreen and rubber boots are must haves, but also be sure to bring plenty of water and food. Check your gear before you get to the festival to make sure your tent is in proper festival condition. Get plenty of rest prior to Summer Camp as you will most likely get very little sleep over the four days. Know that you are driving into central Illinois and police presence will be high on the way in. They will have dogs and they will search you if you get pulled over. Illinois 55 was the preferred way in, but it seems that State Patrol is savvy to this and that was where they seem to be focusing their attention. As Bayliss pointed out last year during the UM soundcheck on Thursday, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Know your limits and know when to rest. It’s easy to get caught up the excitement of the weekend and the next thing you know you’re dehydrated and in no condition to continue the party anyway. The residents of Chillicothe love Summer Campers by the way. They know how much money we bring in and tend to want us to come back. I recommend stopping by a local restaurant on Monday on your way out. You’d be surprised at the warm reception you’ll receive. Also there is a shopping center just up the road from the festival grounds, so if you forget something it’s fairly easy to hop in your car and pick up some essentials. Finally be prepared for any an all weather. Anything from rain to a blazing sun is a possibility so being equipped with warm clothes as well as summer attire is smart.
Summer Camp is a chance for all types of music fans to come together and bask and the beauty and wonder of Three Sisters Park. New friendships will be made, amazing collaborations will happen, and music will fill the air. Be safe and enjoy the ride.
Check out the video here: http://youtu.be/0XuoazFvcJs