A week into the new year, it’s time to look ahead to all of the musical excitement that this year has to offer. But first, it’s always fun to reflect back on the year I just had…
After 2012, I had been to 105 total concerts – which isn’t too many, I know – but considering I’ve been an athlete my entire life I have other priorities that take precedence over live music! 2013, however, was a milestone year for me in music as I fortunate enough to attend 45 shows, nearly twice as many as I saw in 2012. A lot of this is due to my first ever attendance of a camping festival (Summer Camp), and then of course my annual celebrations at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Let’s start with…
The Most Frequent Bands I Saw in 2013
Roster McCabe – 9 shows: I’ve written extensively about this band (now known as Night Phoenix) before, so this is nothing new. The Midwest “electro-rock” tours heavily throughout the year and I was able to catch them 9 times, putting my career tally at 20 Roster McCabe shows.
Umphrey’s McGee – 4 shows: No surprise here – my first UM show occurred in 2004 when I was just 12 years old. In 2013 I was at all 3 Scamp shows and also their set at Summerfest, making it 4 on the year. I have seen the improg group at least once every year since ’07.
Michael Franti & Spearhead – 2 shows: My favorite feel good musical choice, Michael Franti & Spearhead rolled through the Midwest in 2013 in support of his latest album, All People. I caught the “rebel rocker” at the Minneapolis State Fair in late August and about a month later in Madison with Moon Taxi.
Nahko & Medicine for the People – 2 shows: I had never heard of this band until about a week before they showed up in La Crosse, WI for a show at my favorite bar The Popcorn Tavern, which was a memory I’ll write about further down the page. A similar sound to Michael Franti and Matisyahu, Nahko just has a radiance of good vibes glowing off him that the rest of the band and crowd feeds off of.
Other notable acts: Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Moon Taxi, moe., Victor Wooten & Friends, Thievery Corporation, Blues Traveler, Dark Star Orchestra, 311, EMEFE, Steez, and Dark Star Orchestra covering The Rolling Stones.
My Top 5 Shows of 2013:
Of the 9 shows I saw Roster McCabe perform in 2013, why this one? Perhaps because it was only one set, which means it was a straight up dance party. Also, this was on Thursday at Summer Camp – the pre-party – so it was just a great way to set the tone for the entire weekend. The Camping Stage was a great spot right on the outskirts of the woods to draw in all the campers – and everyone LOVED it! The crowd didn’t stop moving through the entire – most of them unaware of Roster – but loved discovering a new band to get down to. They closed the set with a cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky that turned into a frenzy.
4) Umphrey’s McGee, 2013-07-02 Summerfest – Big Backyard
So many great things about this show. My hometown, in the front row with all my friends, Kevin Sinclair sit-in, Pink Floyd cover, 4 song encore (!!!) that included rarity Dear Lord, this show is a must download!
3) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 2013-06-28 Summerfest – Marcus Amphitheater
This was my 6th Tom Petty show, and possibly my last. A sell-out crowd at the Amp sang along with all the hits and had great energy, as always. Petty loves Milwaukee, he makes that very clear every time he comes (all 6 times I’ve seen him came at Summerfest) and even showed a surprising amount of improv jams in a couple songs!
2) Trey Anastasio Band, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Sunshine Stage
This would be #1 if not for the unfortunate fact that the show was cut short. Due to the extreme rainstorm. But wow. This was my most listened to show of the year by far. I can’t imagine a better band to make such miserable weather conditions tolerable.
1) Everyone Orchestra, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Red Barn
The lineup included Victor Wooten, Joel Cummins, Al Schnier, Vinnie Amico, Allie Kral, Alex Steele, Mike Dillon, Roosevelt Collier and a few other I can’t remember, all conducted my Matt Butler. This show just completely blew my away from start to finish. 100% improv! What else could you ask for from an all-star lineup?!
Conclusion and Looking Towards 2014
The only regret I have from 2013 is that I didn’t get to see my all time favorite band, Phish. I had tickets for all 3 nights in Chicago but unfortunately it didn’t work out with some other things that popped up. I have a good feeling they’ll return to Alpine Valley for 2 nights this summer though!
2014 will be a great year. Of course Summer Camp already has an amazing lineup announced and it will only get better. Particle reunited and is on a heavy tour for 2014 – don’t miss out on these guys! One of the founding bands of the electronic jam scene next to the Disco Biscuits and STS9.
Happy new year, and see ya on the road!
The breezes bellowed through the hallowed halls of Red Rocks Amphitheatre on our nation’s birthday. Many fans spent most of the day grilling and imbibing in the parking lots that surround the venue in the hours leading up to show time. Blues Traveler’s 4th of July concert has been going on for literally decades and always draws a large audience. This year with moe. supporting I felt sure it would sell out. I was wrong. While the crowd exceeded our original quote from the box office that only 5000 tickets had been sold, it was still not quite to the brim. Storms had threatened all afternoon with only a single drop or two actually hitting me in the Upper North Lot. As we headed inside the winds continued, but it never rained on the parade.
moe. came on right on time around 7:30 PM. Their set at Red Rocks was much more of a crowd pleaser that the previous night’s intrepid journey in Boulder. This was obviously to be expected. They opened with a crunchy “Tailspin.”
Set 1: Tailspin> Captain America> Akimbo, Crackers*, Plane Crash*, Haze> Jazz Wank> Rebubula, New York City
*w/ John Popper and Ben Wilson
You can listen on Archive, thanks to Pat and Corey for posting.
moe. performed a fan favorite rampage through some of their most widely loved songs. Unlike the previous night’s performance in Boulder where they extrapolated and gave the sour with the sweet their Red Rocks show was all sugar. It has been three years since their last tenure on the famed stage, and they seemed truly happy to be back again. Opening with a syrupy segue that included “Tailspin” into a sublime “Captain American” followed by a rowdy “Akimbo.” It was enough to warm the heart of even the most disenfranchised music fan. In fact they whipped the nascent crowd into frenzy as they started their seventy minute set. They invited both John Popper and Ben Wilson out for Rob’s newest homage to his progeny now called “Crackers.” They stayed for the most interesting song of the set, “Plane Crash.” Popper ripped up his harmonica, which seemed to fill any innate gaps in this classic moe. tune. Chuck took the reigns on “Haze” before the band took on the only real extended musical jam with “Jazz Wank.” Looking out across slowly filling audience for “Rebubula” reminded me that many in attendance were there to see moe. The body of people seemed to sway and bob during this incredible rendition.
“How great is this? Are we lucky or what?” – Al Schnier
After a nod and a wink for Al moe. finished their set with another classic “New York City.” All in all their hour plus set went exactly as expected. They refrained from any extended jamming in favor of running the gambit through a collection of songs sure to please. Musically the band was spot on, and given the fact they only had a hair over sixty minutes they performed as expected.
After a fairly long stage change, Blues Traveler made their way out to their instruments. At this point in the evening the sun was hiding behind the Front Range and darkness was the backdrop. Blues Traveler had announced weeks before their show that they would be performing their album Save His Soul in its entirety. Oddly enough they played the entire music video for “Defense and Desire” before they ventured out into the spotlight. Of course they opened with “Trina Magna.”
Set 1: Trina Magna> Love and Greed, Letter From A Friend, Believe Me*, Go Outside and Drive**> Low Rider**> Go Outside and Drive> Blister In the Sun**> Go Outside and Drive**, Defense and Desire> Drums/Bass/Keys, Whoops, Manhattan Bridge, Love of my Life, New York Prophesies, Save His Soul***> Drums/Bass/Keys, Bullshitter’s Lament> Conquer Me, Fledgling
Encore: Star Spangled Banner, Cara Let The Moon, La Grange@, Hook
*w/ 13 year old Caspian from Seattle on guitar
** w/ Jim Loughlin from moe. on xylophone
***w/ Al Schnier from moe. on guitar
@w/ Caspian and Jaden Miller (age 12), both on Guitar, Ben Wilson on lead vocals
I’m sure for true Blues Traveler fans this show was the cat’s pajamas. However for many in attendance this show fell a bit flat. In fact soon after it began a steady trickle of people made their way to the exit until only a few thousand remained prior to the encore. This is understandable as many had to work on the 5th, but it still felt wrong. The rendition of the album lasted well over two hours showcasing some songs that had not been performed by the band in well over five years. The first treat of the show was a version of “Believe Me” with thirteen year old on guitar Caspian. I don’t know if BT put out a craigslist ad, but this kid could shred. They performed a back and forth rendition of “Go Outside and Drive” with Jim Loughlin on xylophone that featured some quick jams on “Low Rider’ and “Blister In The Sun.” They played “Defense and Desire” again, that saw some incredible bass jamming from Tad Kinchla.
There is no question that Blues Traveler can jam, it’s just at times it very much felt like they were going through the motions. It has become all too common for bands to play their previous albums in their entirety live. This is all well and good, but it sort of lacks innovation and reeks of nostalgia. With a new album just out from BT I was hoping to hear some it live and we did during the encore. “NY Prophesies” was a real highlight and immediately after they invited Al from moe. out to jam on the title track of the album. I’m not sure if they planned it this way, but the set stretched on too long leaving them little room for anything else. Towards the end of the show a fireworks display from Bandimere Speedway could be seen and many wandered over to the stairwell to gaze. The encore was stellar including a beautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” as well as ZZ Top’s “La Grange” with another youngster on guitar in addition to Caspian. We were also treated to a new track “Cara Let The Moon” which saw some very picturesque vocals from Popper.
Musically this set was spot on, featuring some impeccable playing from one of the founding fathers of jam. It being the twentieth anniversary of Save His Soul, it was a highly appropriate choice, however there was something lacking in the rendition. It felt choppy. I think that given the history Blues Traveler has with 4th of July at Red Rocks people were expecting more of a crowd pleaser, and what they got was a trip down memory lane. Again for the hardcore BT fan I’m sure this was an epic show, however for many it was just not what we were craving. I’ve seen this band literally blow the non-existent roof off the Rocks and this just wasn’t that. Oh well, there is always next year. Happy 4th of July
My birthday. Christmas. Packers’ playoffs. Summerfest. That’s the ascending order of my favorite days of the year (at least until Summer Camp becomes a yearly tradition). I’ve been to every Summerfest since ’99 (when I was 7), and I know my parents have brought me along earlier than that, I just have no recollection of it. My father has been to every single Summerfest since the opening in ’68, but that’s a whole other story. Maybe I’ll share that in a future post. Anyways, this is the 11 day span I make sure I get off work months in advance every year. The last Wednesday of June through the first Sunday of July. Every year. The most I ever attended was 8 nights back in 2010. This year I will total 6 appearances, the first 3 I will share below.
^mid gate entrance
Thursday, June 27
Thursday morning, I had no plans of attending Summerfest. I didn’t have a ticket, there were’t any bands playing that I was real committed to seeing, and I was already going to the Brewer game in the day. Some of my college buddies were in town and had never experienced The World’s Largest Music Festival, so I had to show them a good time. Being a Thursday night, it wasn’t too crowded, so we stage-hopped around a bit. We started at REO Speedwagon, a band I am not all too familiar with (just the main radio songs) for about a half hour. They were on the Big Backyard stage, which is probably my favorite side stage on the grounds. It’s smaller and more confined, creating an intimate feel between the crowd and the band. The crowd was loving the show, as the band members displayed a lot of enthusiasm and showmanship up on stage.
The next stop was to go see Blues Traveler, the most fun I had in the night. It was my first time listening to Blues Traveler, and after seeing them, it won’t be my last. I didn’t know any of the songs, but I loved their sound – I’d describe it as a mix of southern blues jam rock.
Friday, June 28
This was the day I had marked on my calendar for some time. I got to the grounds by 6 to catch an hour long set of Roster McCabe, who was performing on the Tiki Stage. I’ve written about these guys before and I can’t say enough about their talent and potential. The sky is the limit for this small time electro-rock reggae jam band from Minneapolis. Here is a video I took of their original, Critical Speed. This song makes me feel like I’m in a video game. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0D9gEfWOu_o
After Roster McCabe, I ventured to the south end of the grounds near the Marcus Amphitheater to find myself a Tom Petty ticket. Honestly, I just would have been fine with a lawn seat for $50 (~face value). I spoiled myself a little bit, and found a ticket in about the 20th row for just $80. Such a steal. I walked through the gates into the Amphitheater with the BIGGEST smile on my face. It’s been 4 years since I’ve last seen Petty, and I was worried that I’d never get the chance again. First thing I got to say is, we need to start reconsidering the Heartbreakers as a jam band. They’re not there yet, but 3 different times during the show the band displayed some serious extended pieces of improv from their tunes, sparking more dance moves from across the stands. Highlights of this show for me include the three consecutive greatest hits of Here Comes My Girl, MJ’s Last Dance and Free Fallin’. As I’ve said before, little concert moments have compared to Free Fallin’ live. One of my all time favorite songs, as well as I’m sure the rest of the sold out crowd at the Marcus Amphitheater. Even into his old age, Petty still brings the love and energy every night and shows his passion on stage. You can just tell he absolutely loves being up there, and that he’ll do it as long as he sure can.
Setlist: (source: http://instagram.com/p/bJhmihyB1G/)
Rock & Roll Star, Love is a Long Road, I Won’t Back Down, Baby Please Don’t Go, Here Comes My Girl, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Free Fallin’, Woman in Love, Cabin Down Below, Band Introductions, Tweeter and the Monkey Man (Traveling Wilburys), Rebels, Melinda, Learning to Fly, You’re So Bad, I Should Have Known It, Refugee, Running Down a Dream.
Encore: Don’t Come Around Here No More, You Wreck Me, American Girl
Here are some videos I was able to capture:
Here Comes My Girl: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8vHWZu6-kM
Free Fallin’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=784Jett6cZU
Don’t Come Around Here No More: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdRutD0-_AA
^ sell out crowd at The Marcus Amphitheater!
Saturday, June 29
I do not consider myself a very big electronic music fan. I prefer the good ol’ rock and roll. A handful of talented musicians up on the stage pouring their souls through their instruments. Pretty Lights, however, is one of 2 exceptions (Big Gigantic being the other). This was my first Pretty Lights show, so I wasn’t too sure of what to expect. The Harley Davidson Roadhouse Stage was just PACKED with people, shoulder to shoulder. I will estimate about 15,000 were in attendance for Pretty Lights on this hot summer night in late June. Of all the shows I’ve been to, Pretty Lights (Derek Vincent Smith) instantly put himself in the top tier of a good time. One word to describe the atmosphere? Party. As crowded as it was, everyone there was having a blast and dancing to the best they could with limited space. I am sad to admit that it was difficult to take pictures and videos, but for good reason: the picnic table I was standing on was shaking! Too many people dancing. I suppose that’s a good problem to have at any concert! I can’t wait to see him again. The highlight for me was definitely his remix of Time by Pink Floyd, considering there was a Floyd cover band playing Summerfest earlier that day that I missed. I wish that I was closer, but if I had tried any further up there I would have been too uncomfortable to move and dance.
Let’s Get Busy, Around the Block, A Million Tomorrows, So Much in the Dark, Can’t Stop Me Now, Finally Moving, Cold Feeling, I Put a Spell on You, Done Wrong, Time, How We Do, SummerTime, If I Could Feel Again, Out of Time, World of Illusion, One Day They’ll Know, So Bright, I Know the Truth, Yellow Bird, Total Fascination, Still Night Remix, I Can See It In Your Face, Up & Down I Go, Hot Like Sauce, Exodus
Here’s my video of Finally Moving: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omCT4Bzak5U
^ my 2 best pics from Pretty Lights.
After PL finished, I caught the tail end of Roster McCabe’s set again at the Tiki Stage. I could hear their hit “Take a Breath” from a whole stage over and ran up to join the small frenzy of dancing Summerfesters. Take a Breath is the perfect song I think to set an example for Roster McCabe’s sound: a mix of reggae, rock, and EDM. Here is their released live album version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmedpaoyw34.
They encored with Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” a great cover choice as it drew the attention of even more passer-byers in and added to the fun. I saw Roster in mid June in La Crosse, where they also covered the MJ classic. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aX8ENXjfj5I
At the end of each show, Alex, the lead singer, takes a picture of the crowd and posts it to their facebook. Here is the photo, which doesn’t quite do justice to how many people were in the tiny little area
^ Roster family photo!
And that sums up my first 3 nights of Summerfest! My next recap will be Umphrey’s McGee from July 2nd, followed by another blog of Dark Star Orchestra and 311.