Avogadro’s Number is a tiny oasis of live music in the sometimes-overwhelming Fort Collins music scene. This venue has been a showcase for acoustic and folk music for a number of years. Off the beaten path of Old Town Avo’s as it’s affectionately called houses a bar, a stage, and a restaurant.
On a cool fall night in October, Avogadro’s opened its stage up to Summer Camp favorites Caravan Of Thieves. Hailing from Connecticut this band had been described as a unique blend of swing, jazz, and high intensity jamming. Fuzz Sangiovanni from Deep Banana Blackout fame along with his wife Carrie Sangiovanni form the foundation of the band with Ben Dean and Brian Anderson filling out the lineup of pickers.
Arriving early I caught the last half of the opening set by The Cantrells. They are a duo from a bygone era with a true gift for the art of performance. The majority of the small but dedicated audience seemed to be there in support of opener. The multi-instrumentalist Cantrells focused on their own style of acoustic swing following a more traditional approach than the headliner. They had a folksy way about them that made you feel like you were at a picnic with your extended family. The only cover they played that I was familiar with was a Leadbelly tune. Overall they were a gentle way to get the night started. They had a passion for swing and string music and seemed to fit the bill nicely.
The Caravan Of Thieves took the stage for their single set that went just over ninety minutes. They opened up with their original “I Don’t Wanna.”
Set 1: I Don’t Wanna, Shim Sham, Psycho Killer, Eat You, Wasting, Monster, F Got You, She’s Learning, Kiss, Dance
Encore: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band> I Get By, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, When I’m 64, Raise The Dead
A very nice set of music with an encore that featured several of the Sgt. Pepper’s tunes they worked out for Halloween. We were also treated to a couple selections including “I Don’t Wanna” and “Monster” off of their new album Funhouse as well. This band is truly mesmerizing in both their delivery and their energy. Fuzz will often swing his guitar to his back, pick up egg beaters, and begin slamming on all manner of plastic jug and metal cymbal. I’ve seen the man even begin banging on his fellow band mates instruments with any substitute for a drumstick he can find.
They managed to work in one of their favorite covers in the form of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” as well. They lead the small audience on a musical journey that involved some impeccable picking along with an array of makeshift percussion. Heading out to the bar throughout the night several people who were otherwise engaged in Broncos football would ask, “Who are these guys?” I can only assume that same question was asked by many who have passed by their stage at Summer Camp each year. Who are these guys? The reason is that their sound is wholly unique and quite intoxicating. They warned the crowd earlier about their Halloween extravaganza involving their homage to the Beatles, so it was no surprise that the encore gave us a taste of that forthcoming show. As they do with all of their covers, they incorporate their own instrumentation and styling making each song very different from the original. Their jangly strings treated the Beatles well.
The Caravan Of Thieves closed by coming down to the floor and inviting the crowd up to sing “Raise The Dead.” This intimate affair is exactly what Avo’s has become known for in Fort Collins. It’s a small retreat for music lovers and music makers alike. If you find yourself wandering the outskirts of Old Town and hear some quality picking, chances are you’ve found Avogadro’s Number.
Videos From The Show
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.