Although Railroad Earth has only graced the Summer Camp bill in 2010 they are still part of the family. They have a dedicated fanbase and are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the scene. For the second time in two years, I headed down to the Ogden to catch Railroad Earth for a night of their New Year’s run. Last year I saw them with Great American Taxi on NYE. This year I headed down on the 30th mainly because the show included a sit-in with Kyle Hollingsworth, another Summer Camp alumni. Including my trip to Chicago, this would be the fifth time in a month seeing Kyle live. Amy picked me up from work and we headed out to a nice sushi dinner before heading over to the box office. We hit up Pete’s Monkey Bar to catch a bit of the Phish live stream from MSG before walking back to The Ogden to see the opening act.
Railroad Earth came onto the stage around 9:30 PM. Kyle’s keys were set up but he waited a few numbers before making his way to his rig. They opened with a funky Walk Beside Me, led by Andrew Altman on electric bass. Here is the rest of the setlist from Archive.
SET I: Walk Beside Me, Lordy, Lordy, Bread and Water, Little Bit O’ Me, Stillwater Getaway, The Hunting Song, Mourning Flies, Said What You Mean, Long Way To Go
SET II: Old Man and the Land, Head> Will it Go Round in Circles, Bringin’ My Baby Back Home, The Forecast> The Man Who Invented Sin> Mighty River> Like a Buddha, Elko
Encore: I’ve Just Seen a Face, Bird in a House
Note: Kyle joined on The Hunting Song and stayed for the remainder of the show.
The audience recording is available on ARCHIVE, thanks to Gerry Gladu for posting.
The first stet ebbed and flowed as far as the energy level was concerned. The 16 and up age limit made for an interesting mix in the crowd. From screaming x-handed noobs to old deadheads, the fanbase was as diverse as the music performed. The rolling and tumbling Lordy, Lordy got everyone’s juices flowing. The Bread and Water succeeded keeping the vibe at a fever pitch before the Little Bit O’ Me deflated the room a bit. Musically, Railroad Earth sounded as tight as I’ve seen them, but without the urgency of their opening set at Red Rocks this summer. They meandered into the show with a confidence and comfort often reserved for night two of three-night runs. Carbone played the fiddle beautifully on Stillwater Getaway, jumping back and forth between an almost symphonic presentation and an outright hoedown. Kyle Hollingsworth took his place at the keys on The Hunting Song. Kyle added the ragtime feel of an old-timey saloon. Inherently there are certain gaps in RRE’s sound; them being a Newgrass band, Kyle’s keys filled them in nicely. It was great to see Andrew Altman really stepping it up on bass. He alternated between electric and standup and really seemed to be finding his footing in the band. I was also truly impressed with Sheaffer’s vocals, which went from clean and crisp to almost Dylanesque as in Said What You Mean. They closed the set with a raucous sing-along on Long Way To Go.
The second set overall had a much more consistent flow and vibe. Railroad eased into set two with a bouncy and scenic Old Man and the Land before ripping into a massive 18 minute Head. The jamming showed some serious tightness and ability from all of the members including Kyle. Everyone was ready to lock in and take the ride. They ripped into a Kyle-led version of Billy Preston’s Will It Go Round in Circles. The haunting melody of The Forecast segued into the instrumental The Man Who Invented Sin. The Mighty River went quickly before RRE exploded into a powerful Like A Buddha. Againg clocking in at over 18 minutes this was by far the highlight of the entire show. They closed the second set with an equally strong Elko. It was like the band just turned on the turbo boosters on the last four songs of the show.
They encored with a quick I’ve Just Seen a Face and fun Bird in a House. The crowd left happy and energized from this stellar show. While the first set came on slower, the second set, particularly the end, more than made up for it. As we exited into the cold night of Denver we were stoked on the whole experience. Railroad Earth has a habit of performing remarkably. They have such a strong fanbase and have continued to play exceptional shows out on the Front Range, that I see nothing but good things for them. I was happy to catch a night of RRE’s New Year’s run and would recommend that everyone do the same. However, it was time to head home because I opted to see The Motet and Euforquestra for New Year’s Eve in Fort Collins. That would prove to be another solid choice.
Cornmeal decided to make yet another pilgrimage to the great state of Colorado before 2011 wound its way down the drain of life. They were doing a two night run hitting The Aggie and The Fox before gearing up for their December run on the east coast. I got a chance to sit down with Wavy Dave and Chris Gangi from Cornmeal before the show. It was a great conversation about everything from their new release of Live In Chicago Volume 2 and their upcoming studio album to Summer Camp and New Year’s runs. It was an enlightening talk and we will be featuring some our conversation in video form as well as on our MusicMarauders Live podcast next month.
Magic Beans, who currently call Boulder their home, are an eclectic mix of all things jam. I listened to some of their tracks online before the show and I was struck by their prowess with acoustic songs. At the Aggie, it was immediately apparent that they were young. They had solid musicianship, but other than their Rocky Top opener, they seemed to stray away from the sound that had drawn me to them in the first place. I will say that their second song, Band Camp, was like a washing machine full of jam on the spin cycle. It was a fifteen-minute opus that showed the wide variety of their skills. They ended their set with some Bisco sounding playing that, given the fact that they were opening for Cornmeal, seemed a bit out of place. Given the fact of their age, I was impressed with their musicianship and I look forward to seeing them evolve as a group. With a little more focus, they could powerful force on the jam circuit.
Cornmeal took the Aggie stage around 10:45 PM and jumped into a high-energy hoedown that was like watching a bluegrass volcano erupt before my eyes. Cornmeal always brings the heat in Colorado. Something about the altitude or the water out here just inspires them musically. They have become so well known out here as a band that always delivers live that they usually draw quite the crowd. A decent audience was in attendance for a Thursday night show in Fort Collins. They opted for one long set playing almost two and a half hours rather than breaking it up. Allie shredded the violin like a female bluegrass version of Hendrix. Wavy Davy showed some of his skills on the banjo and he nailed some back and fort between himself and Kris. Highlights from the show included a very nice Out Here On My Own and a Magic Stone Mountain that would get even the most jaded fan dancing in the aisle. As they were about to wrap up the set they surprised the crowd with a beautiful version of John Lennon’s Watching The Wheels.
They encored with a huge This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by the Talking Heads and Townes Van Zandt’s White Freight Liner Blues. It was a great close to an amazing show from Cornmeal. They bring so much to their live shows by creating a palpable energy in any room they play, and upping the ante for any other jamgrass band touring today. They are a fearless group that, through their twelve plus years of playing together, have become so comfortable in that they are willing to take chances and push it to the limit. Their show at the Aggie was no exception and I will continue to look forward to their regular visits to Colorado.
The weekend of August 26th and 27th was a good one for SCAMP fans in Denver. With Papadosio on Friday night and This Must Be The Band on Saturday night, it was sure to be a nice reminder of what we all look forward to in May…
Friday night at the Bluebird was host to a Papadosio show. Even though these guys are from Indiana it sure seemed to be a hometown kind of feel. If Denver isn’t their second home, it seems like it should be. I’m not positive but I think they sold out the venue, which I believe is 550 tickets, a great showing, for any band. The best part of the large crowd though was that they were all really into what was going on up on the stage. Papadosio still looks to be a really young band, and they are, but boy are they starting to figure it out. With a great mix of new technology and old school dance music, Papadosio brings a party to every city they play. Great bass lines, cool vocals, solid guitar work and a machine for a drummer all keep this band going strong. If you missed them at SCAMP check them out in a city near you soon. If not, make sure to see them in May. This band is one that is on the rise, already selling out venues like the bluebird, they are bound to make some magic happen.
Saturday was no slouch of a night either. With This Must Be The Band in town, I was super pumped to get my Talking Heads dancing requirement in for the month…oh, you don’t have a Talking Heads Dance Req? You should…just sayin…
Anyway, I got to the venue as the notes of the first song, Makin’ Flippy Floppy, were ending. Every time I see this band I am blown away by their dedication. To learn the Heads music so well and perform it in a way that gets everyone in the crowd live is a very special thing. Of course we got all the classics…Punches, Flippy Floppy, Life During Wartime, Cities…It was phenomenal.
I got a chance to catch up with the band at set break and see how everything is going. I went to school with the front man, his name is Charlie Otto and if you haven’t had a chance to meet him, head down to Martyr’s and grab a beer from him where he is also one hell of a bartender. From everything I can gather, Charlie and the rest of his band mates were stoked on the turnout at Cervantes…Considering that this was their first trip to Colorado, the 500-700 people I estimate were in there is a wonderful turnout. Really, this band is just happy to be playing music. Of course everyone is trying to “make it” and in a certain sense, these guys have. Kasey Foster, the beautiful leading lady of the band said it was her first time with a rider so she decided to throw in a bottle of wine which she enjoyed at set break…not the whole bottle, but a glass…Which is another really cool thing about the band. They were not there to get wasted. With a focus on providing a great show, This Must Be The Band achieves that and more.
Hopefully SCAMP brings them back because their impromptu set in the tent last year was G’NICE…If you didn’t catch it I assume they’ll be playing somewhere in the Chicago land area soon. Don’t miss them!
Kyle Hollingsworth has a great relationship with Summer Camp. He came this year and along with Adam from Family Groove Company hosted a home brewing class on site. So it was interesting to have both on hand for this event. Having been to the first two Brew Fests hosted by Kyle Hollingsworth I knew I couldn’t miss the third in Chicago. Family Groove Company has played a total of 8 Summer Camps slowly working their way up the lineup.
This was the finale to Kyle’s Hop On Tour, which began at the pair of KHB shows out on the Front Range. It all benefitted Boulder based nonprofit Conscious Alliance. He had been giving out golden tickets in posters throughout the tour for an opportunity to share a beer with Kyle at setbreak. As well as hosting meet and greets at breweries around the country. This was a chance for everyone to get in on the fun. We arrived and took in the layout. It was a decent sized room and the fest featured twelve craft breweries including Stone, Magic Hat, and my old hometown microbrewer Bent River.
The afternoon also included a two set show by local jam powerhouse Family Groove Company. FGC started the first with their classic brand of Janis fueled funk. They have an interesting integration of both instrumental songs and Jordan Wilkow lead jazzy numbers. I was impressed with their musicianship all around. I had seen them several times back in my college days but due to the fact that they rarely make it out to Colorado now it has been a while since I’ve caught them live so I’m a little rusty on their solo setlist. I can tell you that they straight jammed and brought a power and dynamic that turned the heads of the boozy patrons and quickly transformed the room into an all out dance party.
Kyle came to the keys as Jordan stepped down. Taking the lead Kyle opened up his portion of the show with a Taxman jam. Kyle is pretty much always in a good mood at his beer fests and today was no exception. He busted out his now classic Song In The Key of Beer and segued nicely into a rocked out version of Way That It Goes. It was an interesting change up from not only the KHB version but also what SCI has been doing with this song on the Roots Run Deep tour. Additional highlights included a funky version of Let’s Go Outside and a set-closing take on Billy Preston’s Will It Go Round In Circles. Kyle bid adieu as he obviously had places to be.
At setbreak I wandered over to check out Conscious Alliance’s silent auction. They had a ton of awesome gear on hand including signed posters, a Summer Camp running jacket, and an autographed copy of moe.’s Smash Hits CD.
Family Groove Company came out for another set as the room slowly cleared with kids that had gotten warmly drunk on the high ABV beer selections. They closed their show with a funked out Subterranean Homesick Blues. It was truly a fun afternoon, which again reaffirmed my belief that this is a not to be missed event. Whenever they offer up a chance at a Kyle’s Brew Fest I just jump on it because they are always such a blast. I would suggest that if one comes to venue near you, go. As we headed home to get ready for one more night of String Cheese we were left with warm feelings and happy thoughts. Thanks for yet another great event Kyle and Family Groove Company.
It’s been quite some time since the Leftover Salmon’s full band peformed at Summer Camp in 2004. I was there that year I and remember it being one of the highligts of that particular lineup. However Vince Herman has a long history with the fest taking on MC duties in 2006. He did everything from introducing bands, playing tweener sets on stage, and even playing an impromptu acoustic show in front of the barn with Chuck Garvey. He was also there with his side project Great Ameican Taxi and as an artist at large in 2007. So it would be an understatment to say that seeing them on 2012′s lineup would make me very happy. I’ve been touting the reemergence and reinvigoration of Leftover Salmon for months. It was obvious after seeing them on their River Run this summer that any sign of burning out or winding down was a distant memory for the members of LoS. I was again reminded of how far they’ve come at their show at The Ogden.
I headed down early to get a good spot for some shots and ended up hanging out on the rail for most of the show. Head For The Hills opened up the night with a string filled bang. Now Head For The Hills has never had the opportunity to play at Summer Camp but I honestly believe they would be an asset to any festival. Furthermore, I just want to start off by saying that Matt Lowen is the Bassnectar of bluegrass, holding down the rhythm with his thick licks and nasty bass bombs. He was most definitely driving the bus. Now I’ve had the pleasure of seeing H4TH a few times but when they arrived onstage adorned in their tracksuits and screaming out, “Turkey Sweat” to the rapidly growing crowd I knew we were in for a treat. They took this run seriously, which is evident in the tape from Kind Recordings.
You can listen to it on ARCHIVE, thanks to Corey for posting.
It is shows like this that just fill my heart with so much goodness it is simply impossible to wipe the smile from my face. As I was snapping pictures I found myself pausing just to soak up all the righteousness oozing out of the band in front of me. They have this indescribable mix of being both current and yet old-timey. Their contemporary take on the classic and ability to harmonize so well is what sets them apart from other bluegrass acts touring today. They opened with a beautiful One Foot In The Grave that showed everyone what is possible vocally with Head For The Hills. They performed massive version of My Angelie, which has to be my favorite jamming vehicle of theirs. Beautiful and musically perfect versions of Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill and Pink Floyd’s Fearless were highlights from their set as well. Joe Lessard’s fiddle was both powerful and subtle as he traded main vocal duties with Adam Kinghorn. They each took turns with hand-blurring solos as they ripped through their repertoire. By the end of the set my head was spinning from what I was witnessing. Mike Chappell on mandolin was the glued that held it all together as he at times held back and at other times literally made the earth move. They closed their set with Ray Charles’ Unchain My Heart, which took on a tone that was both unexpected and crispy. Once again Head For The Hills showed us why the are Colorado’s best bluegrass band two years running (as decided by the Westword) and why they are a not to miss show. This Thanksgiving I was thankful that they were on this run with Salmon.
It was time for the main event, which as a two set extravaganza from the one and only Poly Ethnic Cajun Slamgrass outfit from the mountains of Colorado, Leftover Salmon. They opened with a rowdy Carnival Time that just set the mood for what was about to go down. Here is the rest of the setlist from Kind Recordings.
SET I: Carnival Time, Gold Hill Line, Gonna Have A Party, Shenandoah Valley Breakdown, 44 Blues, The Highway Song, Danger Man*, She Caught The Kay*, RIP Michigan Mike, Down In The Hollow
SET II: All Night Ride, I’m Gonna Live High Till I Die, High On A Mountain Top, Almost Cut My Hair, Troubled Times> Ask The Fish, Last Days of Autumn, Jokester, Bill’s Boogie, Out In The Woods, Whipping Post> God Save The Queen
ENCORE: Nobody’s Fault But Mine**
*Silas Herman on mandolin
**Silas Herman on acoustic guitar, Joe Lessard on fiddle
Here is the Kind Recording from Corey on ARCHIVE.
I guess let me start by personally saying sorry to Jose Martinez. I’ve been giving him guff mainly because I felt he has had a few weak outings with the band in the last couple years, and when Wally Ingram sat in with the band for the River Run I honestly felt like they were making a transition. That being said he was on point the entire evening and really showed me what he is capable of with Salmon. So from me to you Jose nice work, keep it up sir. Going on I really do feel that Andy has just kicked this band into high gear. I don’t know that if in my twenty or so Salmon shows I’ve ever seen Vince and Drew so happy and obviously energized. They are always fun but there was something different this time, I kept catching Vince smiling as he watched Andy play and the energy between Drew and Vince was electric all night long. The Shenandoah Valley Breakdown showed some seriously fast picking and the 44 Blues lead by Bill McKay gave everyone a chance to catch their breath as we grooved away to his crunchy vocals. Vince likes to tell stories while he is performing; he is very much a bard in that way. He informed the crowd that since the band was now 21 and of age following last year’s 20th anniversary celebrations that they would be doing some extended touring and start work on a new album.
“See if we can get some more Salmon running around the country all over the place. Both in the water and on the highway.” –Vince Herman
Drew belted it out beautifully on Highway Song again demonstrating why he is so important to the Salmon sound. Few people give me chills when they sing live like Drew consistently does whenever I see him play. Vince’s son Silas came onstage for Danger Man and She Caught The Katy, which were huge highlights of the first set. After dedicating the show to Michigan Mike the previous night Vince took a moment to honor him and announced a show at The Stage Stop the next night. His hope was that the music would help the start to heal the community of Nederland after this tragic loss. They finished the first set with another Drew tune, Down In The Hollow.
They started the set teasing Louie Louie before ripping into All Night Ride. Again this shows their playfulness and happiness to be playing together in this band. Bill McKay again took vocals on David Crosby’s Almost Cut My Hair. Now I’ve seen them cover this track but this version just blasted off. A couple times it almost felt like they were teasing Whipping Post before it broke down into a reggae-infused Vince led pick off. The Troubled Times was stunning but things got weird during Ask The Fish. With the band taking on an ethereal Doors-esque jam, Vince gave us a soliloquy about how was face to face with a fish the was roughly the size of the room. The crowd became the amebas on the mouth of this giant fish asking them to act it out for him. Using a round glow stick that had been tossed onstage earlier as a prop to signify a bubble. It was a fun moment to say the least.
“How many of you feel more like you now than you did yesterday? That’s progress.” –Vince Herman
Bill’s Boogie was fun, but the highlight of the show was the set-closing Whipping Post into God Save The Queen. They encored with a huge Nobody’s Fault But Mine inviting Joe Lessard from H4TH and Silas back out for an extended picking session. This show again reaffirmed my belief that Leftover is back to their old self. After the loss of Mark Vann they had some growing pains and it took years for them to get back to this place. I can safely say that they are ready for the road ahead and I look forward to swimming upstream with them for years to come.
After a great night of music with the String Cheese Incident in Chicago we decided that we just hadn’t had enough. Mikey and I got dropped off at the House of Blues for Sexfist. Also known as the Henhouse Prowlers this group of bluegrass dynamos brought the heat to their SCI after show. The Henhouse Prowlers played Summer Camp in 2009 and this last year in 2011. I didn’t get a chance to see them, mainly because I was so busy with my duties as Camp Counselor. So this was a great opportunity to see this incredible group. As the snow began to fall we entered the nearly empty club. Luckily for us they hadn’t started yet. Within a few minutes of our arrival we watched as four gentlemen dressed in suits saunter out onto the stage.
They eased into the show demonstrating their prowess on the strings. Fast picking and solid harmonizing seem to be the hallmark of this band. As the room slowly filled up never reaching more than about fifty or so souls I felt lucky to be there and witnessing this great music. Heavily immersed in the old timey sounds, they also brought a freshness and zeal that made for a truly interesting experience.
Highlights from the show included a zipping version of Mr. Charlie that kicked off the dust on the show weary crowd. Additional highlights from the show included Old Home Place, Midnight Moonlight. A mix of classics, covers, and original picking tunes what we witnessed at The House of Blues. For their encore the band walked off the stage and played unplugged. They treated us to a sweet version of I’m Blue I’m Lonesome before calling it a night in the wee hours of the morning. This was my first time seeing this group and I was truly impressed with the entire package. From their attire to their pick of venue to their overall style, this show was the gem in the doughnut of my weekend in Chicago.
So one band that I didn’t get to catch this year at Summer Camp was Peoria natives and 7 time festival alumni Brainchild. I heard they were making their way to Fort Collins as part of a three-night Colorado run. So on a crispy Saturday night in the Fort I headed down with Amy and on old friend to Road 34. As we entered more than one person in the Lot out back commented on the fact that I was the Summer Camp Counselor. Road 34 is a bar / bike shop and a great place to see live music in an intimate setting. The opening band was the local group, Twine! They have been working their way around the scene and playing some strong performances on the Front Range. They are certainly young but I was fairly impressed with how far they’ve come in just a couple short years. Sure they are loose and they missed a few cues but to be honest they have a ton of potential. Mainly playing instrumental tunes they broke into some solid jamming heavily anchored by their rhythm section of Michael Vargas and Sam Mitchell. Ben White took on a silly front man role with the irreverent Skate Legs. However, they actually reached a serious high with Paradox, which included a nice Zeppelin nod. I see them making waves as long as they can hold it together for a few more years.
For more info and some streaming music check out their Reverb Nation page at,
The main event of Brainchild took the stage and they blasted through their almost two-hour set with an alarmingly powerful musical prowess. I had heard good things about them but little could prepare me for the talent they brought to what was essentially a bar stage. They literally audibly assaulted the crowd of thirty or so with strong jamming and interesting lyric. Everyone that had come to Road 34 that night could not help but be impressed for the amount of musicianship they received for the five-dollar cover. They played classic Brainchild songs like Follow The Mornin’ Sun which lasted almost 17 Minutes and saw a wide variety of sonic transitions in the form of epic jamming. They also busted out an instrumental version of Billie Jean into Smooth Criminal, which was certainly a crowd pleaser. I don’t get out to the bar shows that often as my music schedule is jam packed but this was one night I was very happy that I made it. Elements of funk, jazz, and jam all made their way into this eclectic show. Probably the most interesting pieces of the puzzle were the vocal inter-layering between Ponce and Mooberry. The crowd began as a sort of loose affiliation of kids out enjoying a drink and broke into an all out dance party. They encored with a stunning version of Rage Against The Machine’s Killing in the Name Of. There were maybe 20 people left at this point and the front of the stage became a borderline mosh pit. Most bands try to leave the audience mellow, as they finish, not Brainchild. They tore it and worked the attendees into a frenzy before bidding them goodnight. I grabbed a quick photo with Roy and he kicked me down a couple of CDs so that I could dive a little deeper into their repertoire before Summer Camp next year. I can honestly say that if they are on the bill next year, and I hope they are, I will not be missing them. Thanks for an awesome night of music Brainchild; you killed it.
Summer Camp Counselor
Keller and The Keels at The Mishawaka
So my good friends Sean and Cristi raced to get into town early for Phish so they could meet us before heading up to The Mishawaka. It was time for some old fashioned K-Dub goodness up the canyon. The second of his two-night stand featured not only Keller’s looped set but also The Keels to open. The four of us hopped the shuttle and took the drive up arriving at the venue just before 8 PM. It was relatively empty so I got ready to take some photos while the rest of my gang got food and drinks for the festivities. The Mishawaka is a gem in the Poudre Canyon, it is located right on the river and it has an ambiance that is hard to match by any standards. Needless to say but I love seeing live music here.
Keller came on stage a little after 8:30 PM with Jenny and Larry Keel in tow. It was time for a bluegrass extravaganza at The Mish. I tried to keep track of the setlist but this is most definitely incomplete so if anyone has it shoot it over. They opened with a bouncy version of Rehab; here is the rest of what I was able to get from the show.
SET I: Rehab, Pepper, Don’t Cuss The Fiddle, Another Brick In The Wall, Play This, Local Outdoor Organic, New Horizons, Mountain Song, Connie Chung, Loser, Climb, Uncle Disney> Goofballs>?
SET II: The Shape of M&M’s, California, Birds of a Feather, Convertible, Moon Dance, Kidney in a Cooler, Vacate The Premises, Gate Crashers, Scarlet, Freeker, Star Trek, Dupree’s Diamond Blues, Port-a-Potty, Mary Jane’s Last Breakdown
ENCORE: Boob Job
The Keels set was everything you’d expect with most of the Grass album seeing rotation. J-man and I took our photos for the first three songs and ventured away from the front of the stage. We had all access but respected the wishes of the band and also did not want to get in people’s way. The crowd was fairly full but not so packed that you couldn’t move around. It was the perfect size in my opinion. The Play This was strong and the back and forth guitar work between Keller and Larry was mesmerizing. They play so well together it becomes a beautiful musical tapestry with Jenny holding down the edges. Keller is a guitar virtuoso but he is also a strong bandleader. I love seeing him in the different roles, which has been much more frequent in the last couple years. The Connie Chung was truly energetic and throughout the set I wandered around seeing old friends and watching people dance. Everyone just seems to really enjoy themselves at Keller shows. To me Keller equals fun and it was apparent that those in attendance felt the same way. I took a moment to stop by the Conscious Alliance tent in the back and thank them for all their hard work. For those that don’t know Conscious Alliance runs food drives at concerts and in exchange for donations they give out show posters. They do amazing work and are truly a Colorado tradition.
The second set was Keller doing his looped performance and he opened with his instrumental M&M’s, which was a lot like eating some musical candy. He busted into California, which easily became, “I love Colorado,” during the course of the song. The crowd was going nuts after the first song as they tried to jump into the pit but the fans were quickly ushered back onto the floor by security. This is the sort of infectious energy that is so prevalent at his live shows. There is truly a buzz in the air and everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid. The Birds of a Feather gave me chills, while so many other jam bands will step back from covering songs by Phish or The Grateful Dead, Keller is not afraid. I’ve always seen his solo performances as a live musical flow of consciousness, and he isn’t shy about playing songs by bands that have been an influence to him. His version was crisp, clean, and out of control. I loved it. He invited The Motet’s Pete Wall out for his classic take on Van Morrison’s Moondance and I hoped up to grab some video of this live collaboration. That’s one more thing I love about Keller he is so willing to play with anyone. He sees value in the skills of other players and he is always ready to jam. The Moondance stretched on well over the fifteen-minute mark with Pete was blasting away on his flute like Ian Anderson on speed. Just when I thought it was over Pete walked off stage and grabbed his baritone sax to jam on Kidney in a Cooler. This has always been one of my favorite Keller tunes and to hear Wall nailing the bottom end gave me a whole new reason to love it. The Gate Crashers broke down into an R-Rated sing-along, which brought a smile to K-Dub’s face. He invited the Keels back onstage to close out the rest of his set, and continued to play crowd-pleasers until the very end. Dupree’s saw some sick flat-picking from Larry and Port-a-Potty was completely appropriate given the bathroom situation at The Mish. The Mary Jane’s Last Breakdown is like a bluegrass mashup of two Petty covers and it just works. I was totally stoked with the entire performance. Keller encored with his crass but true Boob Job.
Keller Williams and The Mishawaka are a winning combination. Whenever he makes the trip up the Poudre, which as of late has been a yearly tradition, he just slays the Colorado crowd. I’m glad that Keller continues to tour frequently because I know that at least a couple times a year I’ll be able to just go to a show and enjoy myself. When I was first coming up in the scene Keller was a festival whore, and I say that in the nicest way possible. The ultimate result is that I’ve seen him live over thirty times and every time I leave with a huge smile on my face. Last Saturday night at The Mishawaka was no exception.
Once again Summer Camp came through with yet another photo pass to Red Rocks. This time for the bluegrass extravaganza headlined by Scamp veterans Yonder Mountain String Band. They did an amazing job putting together a stellar supporting lineup with Railroad Earth and The Infamous Stringdusters filling out the bill. I have been waiting for this show for months and was totally stoked when I went to grab my pass at the booth. There was a rumor floating around online that Red Rocks would be releasing an additional 500 tickets. With the show selling out just the day prior there were literally hundreds of kids out roaming the lot with their respective fingers in the air. So by the time I got back down to will call around 5 PM there was a huge line of eager fans, but as I got to the window a representative came out stood on a boulder and let everyone know that the show was officially sold out. I found out from her that they only released 50 tickets rather than the bruited 500.
I quickly headed back up the hill because the doors were already open and I didn’t want to miss my chance to shoot The Infamous Stringdusters who were up first. J-Man and I made our way down to the pit and I was immediately struck by how many dear friends I was surrounded by. I noticed local videographer and documentarian Eric Abramson on stage with his trusty camera. He is my personal hero and everything I aspire to be, look out for his upcoming doc on Scramble Campbell entitled ScrambleVision. I looked up into the quickly forming crowd to see Roach, Wildo with the Team Shit Show Crew, and a ton of pink vests in honor of far too young fallen Yonder fan Lilli Trippe who recently lost her battle with a rare form of childhood leukemia. Her story is truly heartbreaking but the show of support from not only YMSB but also their fanbase is very inspiring. RIP Lilli. You can read more about her story and also make a tribute to Lilli at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/lilli.
So as the Stringusters made their way a call of “Let the fun and games begin,” was belted through the PA. They opened with a searing version of Fork In The Road; here is the rest of the setlist from Archive.
SET I: Fork In The Road, Black Rock, Get It While You Can, Ain’t No Way Of Knowing, Hitchhiker, Walking On The Moon, It Don’t Mean Nothing, How Far I’d Fall For You, In God’s Country, Can’t Put Out The Fire, Steam Powered Aereo Plane, Rain
You can download the audience recording on ARCHIVE. (Hyperlink – http://www.archive.org/details/isd2011-08-20) Thanks to Gerry Gladu for posting and posting quickly I might add. (Hyperlink – http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=taper%3A%22gerry+gladu%22)
When you are in the pit at Red Rocks it is very much a dance with the other photogs. You grab you shot and move on and try not to get in each other’s way. It was a lot of fun working with J-man and some of the other unbelievable local shooters Tobin Voggesser and Rob Tobin (no relation.) The Infamous Stringdusters seem to give a sense of real authenticity in their picking. They were steeped in the old-timey goodness that defines what real bluegrass is all about. They floated around each other in a fluid dance as each took their turn for solos while really listening to what the others were playing. They maintained a certain reverence for this genre’s true aspirations. The early arrivers were treated to a cavalcade of pure bluegrass. Songs like their version of the Police’s Walking On The Moon, In God’s Country, John Hartford’s Steam Powered Aereo Plane, and the show closing Rain were amazing to watch. I was very happy with their set and will definitely be on the lookout for their next journey to Colorado.
Railroad Earth is quickly becoming one of the most dynamic bluegrass acts on the circuit today. They are simply mesmerizing and they have the ability to basically stun their audience. They were certainly in contention for MVPs of the night and I would go so far as to say that they stole the show. YMSB has been playing this yearly pilgrimage to Red Rocks for quite some time now, but the supporting lineup this time around went a long way in helping them sell out their home venue. While J-man and I were in the Lot I asked him to hit up Tim Carbone and ask if they were planning on playing Like A Buddha mainly because I’ve geeking out on it recently, he texted him back with a, “We’ll see,” type answer. As we settled in the pit for our shots that is exactly what they decided to open their set with. I couldn’t help but give J-man a quick fist bump between photos. Here is the rest of the setlist from Archive.
SET I: Like a Buddha> The Jupiter and The 119, Potter’s Field, Warhead Boogie> Head, Black Elk Speaks, Bird in a House, 1759
You can listen to Gerry Gladu’s Recording on Archive. Thanks Gerry. (http://www.archive.org/details/rre2011-08-20)
The crowd was going absolutely nuts as I spent the first couple songs taking my pictures. RRE has a very distinct sound and twang to their style, it’s almost hypnotic and while you are dancing to it, it’s so easy to get swept up into the emotion of the song. They know how to bring dynamism to their songs erupting into a cacophony of sound before ripping out the bottom for some minimalist jams. There is no question this is by far the best Railroad Earth set that I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing from the folk rock of The Jupiter and The 119 to the almost Celtic styling on Potter’s Field, they started very strong. The Warhead Boogie into Head was in one word powerful. Tim Carbone’s violin adds a level of elegance and beauty to their songs and shows his versatility with each new number. The vocals of Todd Sheaffer are definitely distinctive, he does such a good job of annunciating and really pushing out each lyric, however the most impressive player of the night may have been Andy Goessling who is such a talented multi-instrumentalists that he can singlehandedly shift RRE’s sound depending on what he plays. They closed with a barn burning 1759. It was just a jaw-dropping set from start to finish, I was filled with a level of admiration and excitement for Railroad Earth that I have been missing when I saw them previously. They are certainly on fire and have just announced a three-night stand at The Ogden for New Year’s. Denver very much appreciates this RRE.
“… And now it’s our turn to get to play the family picnic.” – Jeff Austin
The only word to describe Yonder Mountain String Band’s performance at Red Rocks this year is energetic. From start to finish they came out with the fire in their fingers and created a set to please. People have complained that the last few years have seen lackluster performances from YMSB; this was not the case on this particular evening at The Edge. They opened with a scorching What The Night Brings; again here is the rest of the setlist from Archive.
SET I: What The Night Brings, Night Out, Criminal, Easy As Pie, Pretty Daughter, Complicated, Ten> Shake Me Up> Ten, Town, Spanish Harlem, Little Lover, Little Rabbit, Sideshow Blues
SET II: East Nashville Easter, Finally Saw The Light, All The Time, Just The Same, Too Late Now, Pockets, Lord Only Knows, On The Run, Rain Still Falls, 40 Miles From Denver, Keep On Going, Dawns Early Light> Robots> Two Hits And The Joint Turned Brown> Keep On Going [reprise]
ENCORE: Southern Flavor, Shady Grove
You can stream or download the Gerry’s recording on Archive. (http://www.archive.org/details/ymsb2011-08-20)
Yonder passes around vocal duties like Germans pass around a boot of beer. They are like the power trio of bluegrass except that there are four of them, which is certainly a minimal lineup by any the genre’s standards. The crowd was packed and definitely a little wasted from what I could tell. After I took my photos I saw a girl b-line it over the rail by the stairs to let her dinner go, and truthfully I was a little taken aback. I guess in my 17 YMSB shows I never noticed how wasted some of the fans get. There was more than one story that floated through the ether about uncouth behavior from kids at the show. Other than that one incident I didn’t really see much else out of line but seriously guys be safe and take care of each other. Despite a few rumblings from the crowd the majority were there to have a great time with their favorite Colorado band. Yonder kept the energy level high with classic renditions of Criminal and Danny Barnes’ Pretty Daughter but the highlight of set one was the Ten sandwich with Shake Me Up as the meat of the hoagie.
At setbreak I went backstage, which was a surreal experience to say the least. I didn’t get down into the tunnel, but I did get up into the VIP lounge area. I took the opportunity to tell Todd and Tim from Railroad Earth that they played an incredible show and that I was very happy they were on a part of this stellar lineup. I settled down in the back corner and while the rest of the VIPs were ushered out I got ready to take some video, because when am I going to get this chance again? The bass rumblings of Kaufman got East Nashiville Easter started before they tore into the song. The sound was boomy backstage so as soon as I got my video I slipped up behind the main speakers for a few shots, before heading back out into the sea of people. All in all it was probably one of my best setbreaks at Red Rocks.
The set started a little slower than the first and saw Yonder sticking to more docile tunes. Although numbers like Too Late Now and Pockets showed glimpses of what was to come it wasn’t until On The Run literally erupted into a bluegrass volcano from which the rest of the set flowed like an ooze of magma-infused goodness. When the boys really kicked on the afterburners the rest of the set was remarkable. The Dawns Early Light into Robots into Two Hits into Keep On Going was the reason I continue coming back to see these guys. It was just a good time. They encored with punchy Southern Flavor before a beautiful Shady Grove. And just like that the 6 plus hours of bluegrass on the Rocks was over. As the kids shuffled out of the venue I couldn’t help but have a warm feeling in my stomach happy and full of pride for this great state I call home. Thanks again to Summer Camp for arranging my pass and giving me yet another astonishing opportunity to capture what I love for everyone out there. With summer coming to a close being at Red Rocks affirms everything I love about live music and I was happy to make the trip one more time.
The year after I moved to the great state of Colorado one of our treasured
refuges of music burnt to the ground. The main lodge of the famed State Bridge,
home of Yarmony and countless concerts over the years, suffered an awful fate. A
beautiful locale right on the Colorado River was the type of awe-inspiring spot that
people keep coming back to. I unfortunately never made it out before the fire but
like a Phoenix rising from the ashes State Bridge reopened this year. Renovated and
ready to host music again the new venue still retained the luster of its former glory.
Summer Camp arranged for me to make the trip out so Amy and I hopped in the car
and made the long trek to the outskirts of Bond, Colorado.
We camped at Rancho Del Rio just up the road and after we got settled we
grabbed the shuttle down the road. We got our first glimpse of the venue and took a
moment to thank Kris and Chris for putting us on the guest list. They were definitely
ready to rock and after a long tour and traveling 9,000 miles who could blame them.
It was their tour closer. I know for a fact that they always bring the heat when they
play Colorado and our surroundings would only add to that energy. When we went
inside, the venue was just gorgeous with a multi-tiered layout and plenty of room.
To the left of the stage as you entered a massive fire pit greeted you. As we roamed
around I noticed Wavy Dave chatting with some fans. That’s the type of place State
Bridge is; it was most definitely homey. It’s a place where friendships are made and
everyone is family. I was immediately struck by the warmth of all of those in
attendance at this hallowed venue. Allie came out as well and spoke with the
members of the audience before the show. I took the opportunity to thank her again
for taking part in my Private Camp Counselor set and tell her that Rex sent his love.
The ironic thing is that I actually ran into a couple people who I had the
pleasure of meeting at Summer Camp. Matt and some of the Cornstalker crew had
made it out to see their favorite band. I also saw Marc from Rock the Earth who we
stood next during our onstage set for moe. It was obvious that as Cornmeal took the
stage good people surrounded us at State Bridge. Cornmeal’s first set was pretty
straightforward and full of bluegrass goodness. Allie’s violin soared over the crowd
as the full moon illuminated State Bridge. It gave an added level of intensity to the
overall vibe. JP’s picking mesmerized me as he belted out some signature tunes.
Highlights from the first set included Calling Me Back Home, Shelter, and an
absolutely sweet Old Virginia. After a great set Cornmeal retired backstage and the
fans continued to mingle and make friends.
The second set took us to places that Cornmeal is not really known for. With
strong elements of jam and spacey psychedelic it was just an insane musical
journey. I love seeing a well-rehearsed band playing at their peak. It is something to
behold to see players at Cornmeal’s caliber playing at the top of their game. This is exactly what everyone was witnessing that night deep in the mountains of Colorado.
Cornmeal was firing on all cylinders and they just shredded the night away. For a
band to hold it together for 10 years is a testament to their belief in the goodness
that they produce. That massive range of experience definitely came into play at this
show. With incredible versions of When The World’s Got You Down and a smoking
Girl I Left Behind the second set played on until late in the evening. It was just
perfect. Cornmeal showed us why they are one of the premiere bluegrass outfits
Cornmeal has become a Summer Camp stalwart and seeing them out in my
home state is just another reason why I love that festival. Like moe. and Umphrey’s
McGee, Cornmeal has become a partner at Camp. They are another reason to make
the trip out to Chillecothe for Memorial Day Weekend. I feel blessed to be able to see
such great music on a regular basis. Thanks again to Summer Camp for getting me
out to this show, and thank you to Cornmeal for always bringing the heat in
Colorado. State Bridge was the icing on the cake of an unforgettable night in the
Summer Camp Counselor