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.
Let me just clear the air, Cornmeal is alive and well and playing at a venue near you soon. Seriously, since the departure of long time fiddler Allie Kral fans have all but written off this once majestic centerpiece to the jamgrass scene. The fact of the matter is people grow and times change. I can say without a doubt this isn’t your mammy’s Cornmeal, but before you run away to a Hot Buttered Rum show take a minute and read on.
Long time Colorado jamgrass stalwart Whiskey Tango took the opening slot at Hodi’s Half Note. For a band who is almost a Denver institution they rarely seem to make it up to Northern Colorado, but maybe I’m not on the proper mailing list. Their set was an energetic romp bound to entice a few new fans to their flock.
Set 1; Annalisa, Brown Eyed> Space> Coal Creak Shakedown, Ear, Bull Dog, Galileo, Thicker, Loving Cup, Star Fucker, Betwixt, Wrong Way
(Great Whiskey Tango made me write Fucker.)
This band is very much like a nascent Cornmeal, but with a bit more of that dirty twang. The juxtaposition of their clean vocals add much to their overall authenticity. Whiskey Tango opened with an original “Annalisa” which was a high gear step on the gas. These guys are truly a product of their youth. They are a bluegrass filter that does not discriminate by genre. We were treated to grass versions of both The Beatles’ “Bull Dog” as well as the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup.” However the most poignant song was their original “Betwixt.’ They were a great fit, by the end of their set the room was filled in nicely.
Okay back to the matter at hand… Cornmeal. My love affair with this band began back with the original lineup at the second Summer Camp. I remember seeing them on what would become the Moonshine stage and saying, these guys can pick. Twelve years and one of the most dynamic female fiddlers in the scene later we find ourselves at the precipice of a new era for this highly venerated group. How can a band survive if three fifths of their members leave within a year? The answer is they can, but not without growing pains. Cornmeal is not stranger to transition. So before we get steeped in the past, let’s look at whom Chris Gangi and Wavy Dave brought on the road with them.
Backyard Tire Fire’s Scott Tipping has solidified his spot on lead guitar and vocals. In fact he seems to have blossomed since I last saw him at Summer Camp, but let’s hold back a second. Drew Littell joined the same time as Scott and seems to really be finding his footing in the group. The newest and perhaps most controversial addition is fiddle player Molly Healey. Ms. Healy is all business. These three may feel they need to tip toe, but the fact is we are all happy they are aboard and keeping this band touring. They opened with “Drinking Away.”
Set 1: Drinking Away, Coming Back Home, Feet On The Ground, Rain Your Light, All Things Must Change, That’s That, River Gap, Goodnight My Darling, Dear Prudence, The Road, Long Hard Road
The set list itself seems to be a declaration of sorts. The combination of “All Things Must Change” followed by “That’s That” is especially notable. The “River Gap” had me dancing. Dave and Chris know these songs by heart. So it’s interesting to see how Scott and Molly interpret them with their musical framing. They too played a little Beatles with a perfectly executed “Dear Prudence.” Their closing two songs too seemed to give a nod to the trials that lay ahead.
For a band that had been blasting across the country performing 100 plus shows for the better part of a decade it can be difficult to stop and rebuild. However that is exactly what they are doing. This will be the first time in twelve years that they don’t play at Summer Camp Music Festival. There is just too much history and although all of the personnel departed on good terms, the fan base has not fully healed. In my all my touring it’s hard to think of a group more dedicated than the Corn Stalkers, and with this reinvention, they too must evolve. The road ahead may in fact be long and hard for Cornmeal, but this band is no stranger to adversity. Time will tell how it all plays out. For now I’m just happy to see Cornmeal on the marquee.
The first night of February seemed doomed for a mediocre turnout. For reasons unbeknownst to me, this incredible musical collaboration that included Eric McFadden, Norwood Fisher, Willie Waldman, Paulo Baldi, & the legendary Mr. Herman Green was moved across town to Donkey OTs. You may remember in 2012 when Banyan opened up Sunday at Summer Camp with Green and Waldman. That live collaboration including Stephen Perkins, Rob Derhak, and Clint Wagner as well.
This lineup performed an early set the previous night opening for Stir Fried with Michael Kang and Allie Kral. The move for Saturday seemed silly for a number of reasons. Let’s take a step back. Firstly when a bar is known as Quixote’s why on Earth would anyone name another venue Donkey OTs? (Say it phonetically, I know it took me a second too. DON-key-0-Ts). Well apparently that complaint has not fallen on deaf ears, as it will be transitioning to the name of Darkstar Lounge at some point in the not to distant future. Secondly, as usual this show was so under promoted that the turnout beyond friends and family could be counted on two pairs of hands. This is nothing new of course, but when they had a perfectly good model from Friday night why change it up? I can only believe that someone actually cares about the venue and wants to provide good talent. It isn’t exactly clear to me what situation caused this show to be moved.
So for the record lets take a second and evaluate who was in the room to play music. Eric Byron McFadden is a guitar virtuoso from the psychedelic school of San Francisco. His background in traditional jazz, Gypsy, Flamenco, Punk, Rock, and more has given him the ability to play with absolutely anyone. McFadden’s history with drummer Paulo Baldi, of Cake and Les Claypool’s Fancy Band, fame goes back to 1994 when they were in the group Liar. Baldi and McFadden currently play together in the Eric McFadden Experience when they get the chance. Willie Waldman is a founding member of Banyan and an amazing musical collaborator who has performed live with everyone from Jane’s Addiction to Snoop Dog. One of the founding members of the seminal west coast cult band Fishbone, John Norwood Fisher was there to lend his flawless bass skills. Last but most certainly not least Herman Green, this guy has played with everyone from Dave Brubeck to Miles Davis to John Coltrane. He is the founder of the influential Memphis group Freeworld, which was a band from Waldman’s formative years. I said all that to ask why would you move this group to club on Federal with no advertisement? That’s too much talent to waste on a show that literally no one knows about.
That being said, the room itself was a spectacular place to see a live performance. The bar was being refurbished so bottles of beer or mixed drinks were the only option. That was of little concern. The venue is also home to the New Speedway Burger, which isn’t half bad. The back wall of the room is one long row of windows giving an unmatched view of Sports Authority Field and the Denver skyline. The nondescript wood paneling façade in the front did very little to indicate the picturesque scenery. In fact they have had their most profitable days when the Broncos were playing across the tracks. The room has plenty of space and if they finish the bar and get a few local micros on tap this could be an extraordinary place to see live music.
This impressive collaboration began around 10:30 PM and it was a primarily instrumental journey into the musical madness of these five players. The rapport between Baldi and McFadden was palpable and indicative of their two decades of experience playing together. Waldman has been sort of chaperoning Green around the country on a tour that began in early January. The pair had a performance with Wilco’s Nels Cline in New York and have been continuing out west. This tour has been an unusually lengthy run for the aging duo. Waldman appeared a bit more subdued on this particular Saturday than his normally boisterous self. That may or may not have been a result of the turnout.
The show began with a huge bass solo from Fisher, which served as a launching pad for Baldi. McFadden gave us searing guitar solos throughout the night. His incredible technical ability and versatility with his instrument are simply something to witness. He has been called a ‘modern day Hendrix’ and I don’t feel that’s too far off. Baldi was given the opportunity to jam on the dirty funk jazz for two sets while Fisher continued to systematically slap out the rhythm. Green and Waldman took turns lending their horns to the fill. Even at his ripe old age of 82 Green can still nail the solos that he has been playing live for sixty years. Waldman bounced in and out occasionally riffing with his old mentor.
The two sets of music were inspired and went well past 1 AM. At one point a local guitarist joined the group for a few jams. Waldman once told me, “I don’t mind playing to the dirt.” Meaning he’s down to play whenever and for whoever shows up. However I can’t help but feel this band would have been better utilized playing a co-bill with Stir Fried and Genetics supporting. All that being said and despite the lack of a crowd this show was awe-inspiring. These five talented performers fell into a freeform rage and the venue was an experience in itself. I look forward to a time when this room will be properly promoted and the day when music of this caliber will get the attention it deserves
After an incredible start to their Colorado run in Fort Collins, Floodwood spent a few nights taking in the beauty of the mountains. They rendezvoused with east coast buddies Assembly Of Dust for a two-night stand at Cervantes. This is like a dream show for me. AOD is a rare visitor to this state on top of the fact that this was Floodwood’s first trip here as well.
This show was billed as brought to you by Jambase, ListenUp Denver, Marquee Magazine not to mention the 11th anniversary of Cervantes. Sisters Of Soul, Ultraviolet Hippo, Atomga, and Tori Pater’s Big Bad Band filled out the lineup over on the Other Side. The Great Guys featuring members of The Congress, Yamn and The Whales took the opening slot on the main stage. All that being said it was also the same weekend that Railroad Earth booked two nights at the Fillmore just up Colfax. The RRE fan base directly intersects with the Floodwood and AOD audiences, in fact many of my friends opted to do a night of each.
Night One: Assembly of Dust and Floodwood with The Great Guys 1.17.14
We arrived, as The Great Guys were finishing up their set. Scott Lane stood tall shredding the guitar as fellow member of The Congress Chris Speasmaker matched him at the keys. They wrapped and Floodwood quickly took the stage. They opened up with their instrumental “Whiskey After Breakfast” into their homage to the natural beauty of Upstate New York, “North Country Winds.”
Set 1: Whiskey After Breakfast> North Country Winds, Anyone But Me, Holy Sacred, Chillicothe Clouds, Revolving Door, Long Way To Virginia, Stoney Creek, 9 lb Hammer*, Instrumental Jam*, Roll On, Stomp It, I Know You Rider, Follow You Into The Dark, In The Graveyard, Jazzy Jam, Cumberland Blues
*w/ Chris Pandolfi
This was a co-bill show with Floodwood drawing the opening spot for the first night. The boys from New York State treated us to ninety minutes of unadulterated acoustic bliss. The combination of their hard hitting originals “Holy Sacred” and Nick’s Summer Camp inspired “Chillicothe Clouds” was a big high point from a great set of music. Their moe.-esque “Revolving Door” gave way to their more traditional sounding “Long Way To Virginia.” Floodwood invited Infamous Stringduster Chris Pandolfi up to add his picking skills to the mix. This was the first of many unexpected treats from this band over the weekend. He sat in on the classic “9 lb Hammer” as well as an extended instrumental jam. Floodwood kicked it into high gear with “Roll On” and “Stomp It” before giving fans a bluegrass rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider.” “Follow You Into The Dark” was a deep, Al sung romp about conquering fear with love. The band gave us “In The Gravelyard” before going into a jazz-infused instrumental tune. They closed their set with another Dead tune, “Cumberland Blues.” This was just a really fun set of music with bassist Zach holding it down along with Vinnie absolutely sticking it in the pocket. Al is always a focal point but the back and forth between Nick and Jason is not to be overlooked. This set was a great, but it only did a little to foreshadow the epic-ness that would be their headlining set on night two.
Assembly Of Dust is such a rare treat in Denver. They just don’t tour too far beyond their home base in the Northeast. However, the last two years we’ve been lucky to get the band out for a night or two so maybe we are seeing a new trend. Formed by ex-Strangefolk front man Reid Genauer AOD is an Americana band that plays with an emphasis on rock and roll. You could call them Heavy Folk… ehem. After a Kickstarter funded release of their latest album Sun Shot last year they seem to be open to playing around more. Since their initial formation they have had some turnover on percussion and keys but the core three of Reid Genauer, Adam Terrell on lead guitar and John Leccese on bass has always been same since their inception. Their show at Cervantes was everything that fans have come to expect from this underrated group. They opened with a sublime “Samuel Aging.”
Set 1: Samuel Aging, Bootlegger’s Advice, Weehawkin Ferry, Zero To The Skin, Man With A Plan, Tavern Walker*, Deal*, Sun Shot, Lost and Amazed, Truck Farm, All That I Am Now, Whistle Clock, Bus Driver, Roads
Encore: 40 Reasons, Harrower
*w/ Al Schnier
Reid has an innate understanding of song craft as well as striking the right balance for ebb and flow. Peaks and Valleys are his specialty and the set got off to a rocking start a forceful “Bootlegger’s Advice.” By this point the room was full with the upstairs being closed off. I’ve seen this done at other venues but not at Cervantes. It kept the kids on the floor and made sense given attendance. The dual ticket for the night also allowed people to float back and forth between shows at The Other Side. So at any given time half of the audience could be next door. That being said the majority of fans were there for Floodwood and AOD. Finally the herd seemed fully assembled by “Weehawkin Ferry.” The band brought it down a little with the bouncy “Zero To The Skin.” AOD pulled out a classic with, “Man With A Plan” before they invited Al to sit in. The funk gospel sound of “Tavern Walker” exploded into a huge psychedelic jam with Terrell, Crosby, and Schnier all trading licks. They transitioned into a crowd-pleasing version of the Grateful Dead’s “Deal.” Apparently it was that kind of a Friday night. Next we were given the delicately bluesy title track to Sun Shot before they went into the equally arresting “Lost and Amazed.”
After a rowdy “Truck Farm” AOD performed what has become their anthem, “All That I Am Now.” I had been chatting with an older gentleman who told me this was the first Assembly of Dust song he ever heard and he fell in love. I could see that. Another long jam came with “Whistle Clock” which eventually gave way to sentimental “Bus Driver ” that featured Crosby’s violin. They closed their almost two hour set of music with a punchy “Roads.” They came back with a two-song encore “40 Reasons” into an incredible “Harrower.” It was a great night of music in 5 Points. My hope is that the lighter turnout caused by the other show doesn’t’ sour the bands on performing in Colorado. It’s bound to happen in a place so saturated with live music opportunities. Not to mention that this is the time of year that winter and spring tours are in full swing. That being said it was a pair of top-notch performances from two bands who are a rarity in this state. Both Floodwood and Assembly Of Dust brought the heat. On night two they would trade places and things would get a little strange.
Night 1 Gallery
Floodwood and Assembly Of Dust with The Great Guys 1.19.14
Night two was a literal flip of the coin with Floodwood taking the headlining spot and Assembly Of Dust supporting at Cervantes. Again we arrived as The Great Guys were wrapping up this time sans Chris Speasmaker. They were a rocking, rowdy group that seemed an odd amalgamation of all the bands that they were comprised of. I ducked next door to catch a bit of Ultraviolet Hippo and met up with J-Man and Carly from MM. We chatted briefly as the Michigan progressive rockers melted a little face with their fiery brand of jam. During set break back over at Cervantes we got chance to do a little video with Floodwood for all the Summer Campers. I’d like to give a big thanks to Zach, the crew the band that made it a quick and easy shoot. After a drink AOD was taking the stage. The room was about equally as packed as the night before. They opened with an incredible “Valhalla.”
Set 1: Valhalla, Edges, Harrower, Vaulted Sky, Rachel, Elixir, Cluttered, Growin’, Love Junky, Arkansas Down, Honey Creeper, Second Song, Sinner, Speculator*
*w/ Al Schnier
Reid’s powerful vocals floated over the crowd as the night was flicked into second gear. The brooding “Edges” came next with its deliberate and straightforward progression. “Harrower” was nice but “Vaulted Sky” went big. Crosby pulled out his violin for the hoedown that was “Rachel.” “Cluttered” was a simple rock tune off Sun Shot, but “Love Junkie” was a funky highlight. Adam Terrell has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in all of jamdom. His intricate picking along with his intense attention to detail combine to give him a leg up on most players. The bubbly track “Arkansas Down” is just another example of how strong Reid is as a songwriter. “Honey Creeper” was dark and raucous, but “Second Song” was all tenderness. They gave us a tight “Sinner” before they invited Al Schnier out for the set closing “Speculator.” Al and the boys joined in an embrace and took a bow before they all wandered backstage. Assembly Of Dust continues to be a high water mark in the world of Americana, Folk, and Rock. Their knack for crafting infectious tunes, with intricate and substantial lyrics keeps me coming back. If given the chance, go see this band you’ll thank me later.
Finally, it was time for the main event. Floodwood took the stage for what would be an epic three-hour throw down with several unexpected twists and turns. Jason led the charge on “Spend Some Time.”
Set 1: Spend Some Time, Red Hill Road, Somewhere In Kansas, Spoon Kicks, Promised Land, Friend Of The Devil, Magnolia Row, You And Me, 315, Blue Eyed Son, I’d Fall For You, St. Regis, Hello Woman, Everything Here, Jambalaya On The Bayou*, Waiting In Vain*, Molly & Tenbrooks*^, Rocky Top*^, Working On A Building*^, Me And My Old Banjo*^
Encore: The Hobo Song
*w/ Briget Law
^w/ Tim Carbone and Andy Goessling
This set was an absolute barnburner for all those lucky enough to be in attendance. Railroad Earth had a sold out show at the Fillmore on Saturday, so it obviously hurt ticket sales a bit. Nonetheless Floodwood delivered one of the best shows I’ve seen in quite some time. “Red Hill Road” demonstrated the bands bluegrass skills. The Al penned “Somewhere in Kansas” about a road trip to Colorado after a TransAmericans show at the Iowa State Fair invigorated the crowd. (Ironically I was as that show.) They proceeded to bust out the old TransAmericans track, “Promised Land.” We were all treated to another Grateful Dead tune, this time “Friend Of The Devil.” I like a band that’s not afraid to toss in a little Dead. The beautiful “Magnolia Row” is a bluegrass variation of the intro to moe.’s “Tambourine.” They performed the playful sounding “You And Me” before their homage to their hometown area code “315.” Floodwood pulled Al’s “Blue Eyed Son” which has been in the rotation more on the road with moe. We got the Nick sung “I’d Fall For You which was a nice treat.
This is about the time where things began to get crazy. Suddenly Al is welcoming the lovely and talented Bridget Law from Elephant Revival to the stage. Law and Schnier got the chance to play together last summer at the Everyone Orchestra show that preceded Phish Dick’s. They went into Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Jambalaya On The Bayou.” Law and Piccininni battled back and forth on the fiddle before they went into Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain.” Suddenly Al hands his guitar to Nick and races off the stage. The band continues with their bluegrass reggae stylings as a sound guy appears. It’s obvious some shit is going down. Al reemerges from the darkness as they finish the tune. Keep in mind is was already around 2 AM at this point. Al proceeds to welcome Tim Carbone and Andy Goessling from Railroad Earth to the stage. That’s right we had a full-blown clusterpluck on our hands. And this was not the type of cluster pluck where 15 pickers stand around waiting for a solo. No, this was a pluck with laser beam focus and amazing stringed prowess.
After some tuning and hand shaking they went into the traditional “Molly & Tenbrooks.” They blasted off into “Rocky Top” as the dwindled audience boogied. I looked to my tired wife and said, “You know I’d go, but… “ And she simply nodded in agreement. “Working On A Building” featured a three-fiddle standoff as Carbone, Law, and Piccininni fired up their bows. Law retreated and let Carbone and Goessling finish up with “Old Banjo.” A solo Floodwood encored with “The Hobo Song.” Honestly I may be missing a song or two in there, as the setlist kind of went out the window when you have so many welcomed guests. Needless to say the late night sit-ins were a lot fun and proof again of why Floodwood needs to keep coming to Colorado. They obviously have a lot of friends out here, Al is volunteer Ski Patrol in his home state, and Colorado loves bluegrass… I could go on. This was a spectacular night of music and a really unbelievable combination of bands to play in this great state. Happy 11th Anniversary Cervantes, let’s hope we have at least 11 more.
Night 2 Gallery
I have personally been harassing Floodwood’s management for the better part of the last two years to get them to come out to Colorado. Given Al’s predilection for skiing it’s kind of a no brainer. Ever since first seeing them at Summer Camp I have been smitten with their sound. Floodwood’s brand of punchy acoustic music anchored by two members of jam powerhouse moe is the perfect fit for any music fan. So finally it was announced that Floodwood would be embarking on their inaugural tour of Colorful Colorado. Their schedule included a short run into the mountains before two nights with Assembly Of Dust in Denver. Their first stop was a Tuesday night in Fort Collins. The evening began with local acoustic favorites, Gipsy Moon from Nederland.
Gipsy Moon is an utterly fun experience. Their music imparts an impression of a romanticized nomadic existence framed by the kind of strings that you would hear around a roaring campfire. Silas Herman son of famed bandleader Vince Herman takes the silent lead. He is quiet on stage by he simply shreds on the mandolin. Live Painter turned live musician; Mackenzie Page is another focal point from this young but impressive group. Their set lasted about an hour before they disappeared into the darkness behind the stage.
Al came out and gave us all a warm welcome before informing us that this was in fact Floodwood’s first time performing in the state. They opened with a tight but twangy original “In The Gravel Yard.”
Set 1: In The Gravel Yard, Revolving Door, You And Me, Spoon Kicks, I Know You Rider, Mother, Long Way To Virginia, Caught, Blue Eyed Son, Waiting In Vain, North Country Winds, 315, Nine Pound Hammer, Spend Some Time, Somewhere In Kansas, Chillicothe Clouds, Holy Sacred, Stomp It, Roll On, Waiting For The Punchline
Encore: Old Banjo, Cumberland Blues
Given the fact that it was a Tuesday and turnout was decent but only approaching half capacity, Floodwood opted to play one long set of music. This included several tracks off their new album including “North Country Winds” and a sublimely rowdy “Stomp It.”
“Every time I come to Colorado I can’t help but wonder why the fuck I don’t live here.” – Al
However the big news of the night was the release of their new live album This Is Live, which was available for purchase for the first time. Traditional bluegrass renditions of “Long Way To Virginia” and Merle Travis’s “9lb Hammer” took on a fresh feel while maintaining their nostalgic roots. We were treated to Al’s tribute to his autistic child “Blue Eyed Son,” which has become a regular on moe set lists as of late. Covers like Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain” and The Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” were sprinkled in throughout the set for good measure. Nick Piccininni absolutely tore up his original instrumental “Chillicothe Clouds” which was a tune he wrote about his first experience at Summer Camp Music Festival.
“Pretty good for a Tuesday Night, pretty good for any night really.” – Nick
The audience was definitely comprised of a lot of moe fans that spent time yelling out silliness like, ‘Play Rebubula.’ Overall, the crowd was pretty attentive and definitely appreciated of the music. They closed with an amazing acoustic version of “Waiting For The Punchline.”
Floodwood returned for a two-song encore. First up was the bouncy “Old Banjo” followed by a bluegrass interpretation of the Grateful Dead’s “Cumberland Blues.” According to the setlist the last song was an audible. This was just a top-notch night of music from two of my new favorite bands. Gipsy Moon is definitely worth catching live whenever possible. Floodwood is an acoustic barnstormer that can’t help but impress music fans across this great country. I for one am thrilled that they finally made it out to Colorado. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a new tradition for Floodwood.
Night two of my clandestine run started with a rendezvous in Denver and a quick cab ride over to the Fillmore. It was during their gig at Red Rocks that Umphrey’s McGee announced that they would be doing three nights on Colfax for New Year’s. They too subsequently announced a private VIP show for the 30th at the newly renovated 1 Up. The fact that the 30th was initially left open by YMSB, SCI, and UM lead many including myself to speculate that there would be a benefit on par with the 4 Mile Canyon show. However this did not come to pass, but I can’t help but feel that we missed a real opportunity for some incredible fundraising and some unforgettable collaboration. So it goes. I arrived just moments before Dumpstaphunk hit the stage and opened with their own funk explosion “Everybody Want Sum.”
Set 1: Everybody Want Sum, Blueswave, They Don’t Care, If I’m In Luck, Put It In The Dumpsta, Dancin’ To The Truth, Immigrant Song
Dumpstaphunk is a band directly descended from the New Orleans funk tradition. Led by multi-instrumentalist virtuoso Ivan Neville, the lineup is literally a super group of funk masters. Nikki Glaspie on drums with the three-pronged attack of Ian Neville, Tony Hall, and Nick Daniels III on guitar. This unique array of musicians allows for some amazing give and take. Their anthem to positive thinking, “Put It In The Dumpsta” was one highlight in a full and funky hour-long opening set. They closed with a smoking version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” that seemed to properly welcome everyone for the night’s festivities.
Dumpstaphunk is a great addition to any bill, but they were especially fun at The Fillmore. After a quick instrument change the lights dimmed and Umphrey’s McGee emerged from the darkness. This show was being streamed live and the room was just short of capacity. They opened with the Kris Meyer’s tune, “Flamethrower.”
Set 1: Flamethrower> Mulche’s Oddessy, Miami Virtue> Plunger > Day Nurse, No Comment> Plunger, Nemo> Dear Lord> Nemo, Dump City*
Set 2: Der Bluten Kat> Amble On> Der Bluten Kat**, Wife Soup, Ringo, River People^
*w/ Ivan Neville on keys
Joshua Redman sat in for the entire 2nd Set and Encore
**w/ Jaden Carlson on guitar
^First Time Played (Weather Report Cover)
The band bounced along almost innocently before ripping into a face-melting “Mulche’s Odyssey.” The prog-tastic “Miami Virtue” always makes me feel like I’ve just been plopped smack dab in the middle of a dance off scene in a John Hughes film. Plunger went dark and flashy before they dipped into a sneaky “Day Nurse,” which featured some sick synthesizer work from Joel Cummins. The song broke out into a tight but frenetic jam, which dissolved into funky “No Comment.” In classic Umph fashion they went succinctly back into “Plunger.” The somewhat rare “Dear Lord” jam during “Nemo” was a very nice touch. Umphrey’s invited Ivan Neville out for their set closing “Dump City.”
Umphrey’s diverged into a world of deep and intricate jams for set two. I’ve talked before about the magic of six song sets. It all began inconspicuously enough with a textbook “Der Bluten Kat” opener. However the segue into “Amble On” and back into “Der Bluten Kat” contained some of the most poignant and extended jamming of my entire New Year’s run. The inclusion of Joshua Redman on sax for the entire second set obviously added a level of class, but more than that it elevated the entire band. Umphrey’s has performed with a number of different horn players over the years, but Redman is simply a powerhouse of sophistication.
During the return to “Der Bluten Kat” the boys also invited local guitar phenom Jaden Carlson up to shred with Jake and Bayliss. For those that don’t know this kid is akin to a young female Derek Trucks. Just barely a teenager she is playing gigs many three times her age would kill for. She is definitely one to look out for and it’s awesome that Umphrey’s McGee took the opportunity to invite her up to play. “Wife Soup” was massive and contained perhaps the best back and forth with Redman and UM of the show. The “Ringo” was sublime and again went to the deep end. They closed with a debut of a “Weather Report” cover “River People.” It seemed to fit the mood of the evening very well. The encore again featured Redman for a fully realized “1348.” For many the 29th night may have lacked the pizzazz of the two following nights. However, Umphrey’s McGee is one of the most technical and musically elaborate bands touring today. Their show on Sunday was like bowing down at the altar of funk, jazz, and progressive rock. The genre bending and the amazing collaboration was definitely worth the price of admission.
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!
Moe. has reliably made Colorado a part of their annual winter tour schedule since the late 90’s. This year was no exception. We were treated to two nights of the boys from New York at what has become their winter home in Denver, the Ogden Theater. Moe. at times has had trouble gaining a real foothold in Colorful Colorado. The dedicated .rons will always make it out. Despite being full for both shows, neither night was completely sold out. This particular run happened to fall smack dab in one of coldest streaks we’ve had in Denver this year. As we drove down from Fort Collins, the mercury was dipping well below zero.
moe. with Magic Beans 12.6.13
The Magic Beans are a Boulder band that has made great strides in developing a devoted fan base on the Front Range. Their bouncy jam infused sound is wholly approachable and quite enjoyable. They opened with their original, “Luck” that featured Casey Russell trading licks on the keys with Hunter Welles on guitar.
Set 1: Luck, Dying Day, Who’s Crazy*> Zumbai
*w/ Con Te Patiro tease
Their four-song set stretched to just under an hour as the crowd quickly filled in to just under capacity. Their set was a great demonstration of what The Magic Beans do well. A very clean show that culminated with a huge “Who’s Crazy.” The version was a great musical juxtaposition of their tight but relaxed sound and the frenetic rage jam that they are also known for. It also had a striking Con Te Patiro tease. They finished just before 10 PM. Keep an eye on these guys, as they continue to develop and reinvent themselves with each live performance. They are a lot of fun.
Fans that went outside were slapped in the face with a frostbite inducing -8 degrees. Many opted to hunker down and wait for moe. They opened with a healthy “Tubing The River Styx”
Set 1: Tubing The River Styx> The Pit> Kyle’s Song> Bear Song, Lost Along the Way, Tailspin> Timmy Tucker
Set 2: Big World> Ricky Marten> Time>Hi and Lo, Oh, Hanukkah, McBain> Down Boy> Billy Goat
Encore: Spine Of A Dog
Audio by Chuck Miller
Moe. brought the power early. “The Pit” went to the dark side and allowed the boys to flex their musical muscles. The band simply exploded into an amazing “Kyle’s Song.” The jam stretched on filling up an entire twenty minutes with multiple teases including a sly riff on Birdsong. And without missing a note the band launched into a sinister and intense “Bear Song.” They gave a nod to Lou Reed with a “Walk On The Wild Side” tease. It just seemed like the band was really having fun, which will always transmit to the crowd. Fans were finally able to catch their breath during the slower, Al sung “Lost Along The Way.” They went back into high gear with a tight “Tailspin” before the very suitable closer “Timmy Tucker.” This first set of music was at a very high caliber and a great indication of what was to come.
During the break kids debated weather a smoke was worth the bone-chilling cold. Others simply mingled with their neighbors. After a short wait they came back to the stage with the brooding classic “Big World.” Moe. wasted no time by segueing beautifully into a ridiculously funky “Rickey Marten.” The unexpected highlight came in the form of Pink Floyd’s “Time,” which has been played sporadically since 2000. After a brief “Hi and Lo” they busted out “Oh Hanukah” that featured some sick surf drum riffs from Vinnie Amico. This instrumental had not been played in 643 shows. “McBain” was another journey into the deep going a full 19 minutes with all the boys settling in nicely. It also featured some of the best back and forth guitar work of the night with both Chuck and Al taking it to the extreme on their instruments. “Down Boy” into the “Billy Goat” closer was another high point in a great show.
After Alnouncements, Moe. encored with a straight forward “Spine Of A Dog” before saying their goodbyes. The first set was the obvious winner, but the entire show was just solid. Musically there are very few bands that are as tight as moe. They’ve been together for so long and play with each other so consistently that there is an apparent effortlessness to every performance. Their first night in Denver was totally worth braving the cold. Fans bundled up and flailed for cabs on the corner. Others sprinted to hotel rooms. As I happily walked out into the crisp night air I kept thinking one down, one to go.
moe. with Technicolor Tone Factory 12.7.13
Saturday felt downright balmy with the mercury hovering right around 0 degrees. Most fans spend the daylight hours either hunkered down beneath layers of blankets or they opted to go the Jay Blakesberg Jam book signing. Rumor had it that moe. would show up and they most definitely did. After a short performance and a bit of revelry for Jay it was all over and time to focus on round two. Doors again opened at 8 PM with Technicolor Tone Factory starting up right around 9 PM. I’ve seen the TTF name floating around the Front Rage scene for a short while now. This was my first opportunity to see them perform live, and I have to say I was impressed. Tight riff-heavy jams were the hallmark of a band that defies categorization. It’s as if elements of Daft Punk and Jimi Hendrix went to a secluded cabin in the woods and came back with a love child. That love child is Technicolor Tone Factory. This five-piece is one to keep an eye on. Their original “Heist” into a spot on version of Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” was a real highlight of the entire evening. Their performance at The Ogden on Saturday was both musically skillful and totally proper given the audience. I wouldn’t be surprised if Technicolor Tone Factory makes their way to a festival near you this summer.
Moe. stuck to the game plan and again made their way onto the stage a little after 10PM. They opened up the night with a crunchy “St. Augustine” that contained some serious shredding from Mr. Chuck Garvey.
Set 1: St. Augustine> Wind It Up, Bluejeans Pizza*> Waiting For The Punchline, We’re a Couple of Misfits, Jazz Wank> Buster
Set 2: Queen Of Everything> George, Captain America> Seat Of My Pants>Yodelittle> Lazarus> Yodelittle, Dr. Graffenberg
*w/ Taylor Frederick of Technicolor Tone Factory
Audio by Brad Ziegler
Night two was a literal parade of crowd pleasers, several done with a great attention to detail and with much panache. “Wind It Up” was straight forward, but they invited TTF guitarist Taylor Frederick out for a little extended collaboration on “Bluejeans Pizza.” This particular version went well over fifteen minutes and included lockstep transition into a perfect “Waiting For The Punchline.” Moe. just knows how to build a proper set. Peaks and Valleys, ebbs and flows, they get it. “Punchline” just exploded into an all out dance party before the band gave a two minute tease with their punkish rendition of a rare tune off of their 2002 Season’s Greetings album, “We’re a Couple of Misfits.” “Jazz Wank” went sort of bouncy as they built the intricate layers of that song. They segued beautifully into the set-ending “Buster.” A great closer, this tune became a giant sing-along before moe. called it a set.
The Ogden overall seemed relatively relaxed. Perhaps the jitters of running a live music venue in the one of the first states to legalize it have finally subsided. The crowd too, seemed to be fairly docile and in tune with the band. There was a distinct lack of utter spunions dotting the perimeter. All in all, the atmosphere on Saturday night was damn near textbook. Moe. opened the second set with a tight and invigorating “Queen Of Everything.” Jim Loughlin and Vinnie Amico went back and forth on percussion, pushing the song to its absolute limit. The subtle segue into “George” did little to foreshadow the massiveness of this version. Al blasted off on vocals as the rest of the band fell into a stone groove. The band finally paused momentarily before again launching off into a much appreciated “Captain America.” Chuck and Al shared the microphone duet style for “Seat Of My Pants,” which went intensely metal towards the end. The “Yodelittle” sandwich with “Lazarus” as the baloney was the highlight of the second set. They closed with an incredible “Dr. Graffenberg” and continued the recent tradition of pushing this song into the psychedelic stratosphere through deliberate and distorted jamming.
Again Al, paid his respects before they wrapped it up with a one song encore. This time fans were treated to a high-energy burn in the form of “Akimbo.” Having seen moe. now 55 times I can honestly say that this is a band that comes to play. Night after night they throw down. Although their tour schedule has retracted a bit due to family and what not, they are still one of the hardest working bands in the live music scene today. Both shows at The Ogden were solid and despite the weather fans enthusiastically engaged in the experience. As we wandered out into the late night on Colfax I was struck by a thought. Summer Camp is just around the corner, until then moe.
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
Leftover Salmon once again treated the Front Range to a pair of post-Thanksgiving shows. This run has become a yearly tradition from Salmonheads across the country. This time around they delighted their fans with the inclusion of Little Feat’s Bill Payne on keys. This was a wise choice. Throughout their storied career Salmon has played with a number of keyboardists including Pete Sears and Bill McKay. However the addition of Mr. Payne brought something utterly special to the table. McKay supplied a bluesy rowdiness that instantly transformed the group into a bar band on steroids. Payne’s performance throughout both nights was pure class. With his whirling piano solos and delicate keystrokes Payne contributed a versatility and range that raised the bar for all future Salmon shows. I for one would like to start a petition here and now to make Payne a permanent member of the band, but I digress.
Leftover Salmon with Bill Payne – Nov 29, 2013
The cool evening was the perfect backdrop for familiar jaunt to Boulder. The sun was long gone by the time I reached my destination. After a short walk I found myself in front of the historic Boulder Theater. This venue is one of the best the Front Range has to offer and the sound is always top notch. The doors opened promptly at 8:30 PM and the eclectic crowd made their way inside. The band took the stage just after 9:30 PM and it was time. Vince introduced the Little Feat Alumnus and we were quickly underway with a raucous “Voodoo Queen Marie.”
Set 1: Voodoo Queen Marie, Gulf of Mexico, Little Liza, Two Highways, Rag Mama Rag, High Country, The Other Side, Home Cookin’, Whispering Waters
Set 2: Fat Man In The Bathtub, Sometimes A River, Midnight Blues, Morning Sun, Mama Boulet> Drums> Mama Boulet, Get ‘Er Rollin’, The Bird Call, Tu Na Pas Aller, Doin’ My Time
Encore: Alflafa’s, Better
Recording on Archive.org – Audio by Gerry Gladu
The first set featured several tracks off of Aquatic Hitchhiker including the Thorn infused title track as well as a stellar Drew-led “Gulf of Mexico.” Drew again got to demonstrate the power of his evocative vocals on “Two Highways.” The jovial atmosphere that Leftover Salmon strives to create with each live performance is absolutely contagious. Old Heads danced with young students as Leftover Salmon threw down the gauntlet. Payne’s keys were again the center of attention on the as he added a Stride piano element to “Rag Mama Rag.” Payne alternated between the ivories and the organ throughout the night. The traditional styling’s on “High Country” was a nice breather before the musical explosion that was “The Other Side.” “Home Cookin” took on a boisterous feel, but the massive set closing “Whispering Waters” was the real highlight. This somewhat rare track stretched well past the 15-minute mark.
“After midnight tonight it’s going to be Greg Garrison’s Birthday… You’ all feel like singing one?” – Vince Herman
Did I forget to mention that Vince had already announced that it was their newest member Alwyn Robinson’s birthday during the first set? In all my years of seeing this band it’s been someone in the groups birthday about 90% of the time. Robinson has now permanently replaced long time drummer Jose Martinez. Martinez is sticking to his roots in Seattle and taking a new direction in his musical journey. What Alwyn lacks in flashy fills he more than makes up for with absolute precision. He adds his jazz experience to the percussion and is quickly becoming a focal point for this talented group.
Set two was quickly underway after a brief break. They opened up with the only Little Feat song of the evening, “Fat Man In The Tub.” We were treated to a pair of crowd-pleasers in the form of “Sometimes A River” (not to be confused with the SCI song of the same name) and a smoking “Midnight Blues.” “Morning Sun” featured a fantastic reggae breakdown with Payne going gonzo on the B3. The “Mama Boulet” sandwich gave us a chance to really see Robinson groove with an extended drum solo. Again he really is gelling nicely with the band and he has a new take on percussion that we haven’t seen with Salmon before now. Leftover Salmon just seems much more content all around. They are going with the flow and not letting things like cross country moves and changes in their lineup slow them down. They persist in writing new material and expanding their catalog while continuing to bring a fresh feel to their classic tracks. “Get ‘Er Rollin’” was all rockabilly while “The Bird Call” saw some ridiculous jamming from the entire band. We got our dose of Zydeco with “Tu Na Pas Aller” before they closed with a beautiful “Doin’ My Time.”
Leftover Salmon encored with their homage to Boulder hippie grocer, “Alfalfas.” This silly song featured the crowd-singing meow to the melody of the song, which can only be blamed on Mr. Herman.
“If I don’t see you at church, I guess I’ll see you at the liquor store.” –Vince
They finished the night with a high-speed jam on “Better.” This was an excellent show, and the addition of Bill Payne was historic. Payne performs with an elegance that is just rare these days. Leftover Salmon is quite simply one of the most enjoyable live experiences touring today. They continue to push the envelope of bluegrass, rock, and improvisation. This band is having fun, and that in turn spills onto the audience. Night one was absolutely solid, but Saturday night at the Boulder Theater would prove to be one for the books. Stay tuned.
Leftover Salmon with Bill Payne – Nov 30, 2013
After a solid night in Boulder the fans returned to the historic venue for one more night of Leftover Salmon. This post-Thanksgiving run had already given fans plenty to be thankful for, and there was still one more show to go. Friday had been a 21+ show meaning the crowd was a bit older. When the doors opened on Saturday again around 8:30 PM the younger fans got their chance to hit the rail. About thirty minutes before show time a large ear of corn made it’s way to the microphone. However it didn’t say anything, prompting some fans to accost the poor vegetable. Finally, at the appointed time the spry corn man sprung to life and introduced the band.
“Let’s hear it for corn.” -Vince
Salmon took the stage again just after 9:30 PM and there was a distinct electricity in the air. The show that would follow is the type of event that makes people lifelong fans. This one was one for the books. They opened with a massive Drew soaked “Down In A Hollow.”
Set 1: Down In A Hollow, Mountaintop, Steam Powered Aeroplane, Who Put the Pepper In The Vaseline, Breaking Through, Squirrel Heads and Gravy, Last Days of Autumn, Thompipe, Ophelia, Dixie Chicken
Set 2: Rueben’s Train, Here Comes The Night*, Keep Driving*, Walk And Don’t Look Back, Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie, Light Behind The Rain, River’s Rising, Willin’, Don’t Think Hank Done This Way> Walk On The Wild Side> Can’t Always Get What You Want> Don’t Think Hank Done It This Way
Encore: Hotcorn Coldcorn, Rock and Roll
Recording on Archive.org – Audio by Eric Wilkens
“Mountaintop” was a little lull to make sure everyone was inside, before they kicked it into high gear with John Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aeroplane.” Fans were treated to another rare track in the form of the Cajun frolic, “Who Put the Pepper In The Vaseline” which featured a nice breakdown from Robinson on the kit. Drew Emmitt has one of the best voices in bluegrass and to hear him sing is to be impressed. Bill Payne’s Hammond beautifully accented Drew’s vocals on “Breaking Through,” which went well over ten minutes. The traditional “Squirrel Heads and Gravy” became an all out hoedown before the intricately stunning “Last Days of Autumn.” The packed room swelled as the fans danced feverishly. The short “Thompipe” featured some amazing banjo action from Mr. Andy Thorn. They broke into a mind-blowing version of The Band’s “Ophelia” where the band took full advantage of Payne’s piano with multiple extensive solos. They closed the first set with the only Payne-sung lyrics of the night on the first verse of “Dixie Chicken.” Drew took over vocals for the rest of the tune. Vince coaxed the audience to bellow out the well-known melody of the refrain, which they eventually did. The band walked off stage to that sound before the room exploded in applause.
Kyle Hollingsworth had been spotted around the Boulder Theater; so, many fans including myself were expecting a sit in. After the traditional “Rueben’s Train” opener we got just that. Vince invited the long time local to join them onstage. I speculate that Kyle came down simply for the opportunity to play with one of his heroes. Who wouldn’t? It took them a minute to find their groove on “Here Comes The Night,” but with Kyle at the organ and Payne on the keys, they eventually found synchronicity. Hollingsworth stuck around for another go around on “Keep Driving” before he disappeared backstage. The remainder of the set was an absolute “Best Of” run from Leftover Salmon. Vince took the reigns on Peter Tosh’s “Walk and Don’t Look Back” which was a bit like tossing reggae and bluegrass into a centrifuge. “Up On The Hill” featured an incredible solo from Thorn on banjo before he wowed the audience with the brilliantly dramatic “Light Behind The Rain.” With all the recent flooding we’ve had in Colorado, “River’s Rising” took on a new relevance. The Vince sung Little Feat classic “Willin’” was yet another highlight in a show with far too many. The massive set closing “Don’t Think Hank Done It This Way” sandwich took a stellar show and absolutely launched it over the top. Featuring a huge shout out to Lou Reed in the form of “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” as well as a tight rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t Always Get What You Want.” They went back into “Hank” to wrap it all up neatly.
As the band left I literally had to reach down and pick my jaw up off of the floor. They of course returned with a large ear of corn in tow. The punch line came in the form of a “Hotcorn Coldcorn” encore complete with a dancing grain plant. As if that wasn’t enough Salmon finished the night with a rockabilly version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” The people filtered out into the Boulder streets with wide smiles and stories to tell. Bill Payne was an absolute delight throughout both of his nights with LoS. Payne’s experience and style meshed incredibly well with the entire band, and it’s time for a keyboardist of his caliber to be touring with them full time. It seems that recently Leftover Salmon has been on fire. They are a new band with a new energy, but above all they are having fun. They aren’t afraid to be inventive and continue to hone their craft instead of stagnating. I for one am thankful for Leftover Salmon.