Summer Camp favorites, The Everyone Orchestra is the musical monstrosity that pairs incredible talent with the razor-sharp mind of Matt Butler. While the lineup itself takes on many forms Butler and his white board are the one constant. Prior to Phish’s three-night run at Dick’s The Bianchi Brothers arranged for a little shindig under the stars. They have produced a couple of these ‘music in the park’ type events with positive feedback. This was the first to take place in Sculpture Park in front of the Denver Performing Arts Center. Giant, androgynous statues dance in the field, and they immediately became everyone’s go-to meeting place. The Dead Phish Orchestra opened up, but we arrived just as they finished up their set. Several vendors lined the ample-sized field, with the beer garden being the biggest draw.
The lineup on this particular night was absolutely stellar, consisting of Kyle Hollingsworth (SCI, KHB) on keys, Michael Kang (SCI, Panjea) on electric mandolin, Dave Watts (Motet) on kit, Jans Ingber (Motet) on percussion and vocals, Jennifer Hartswick (TAB, JHB) on trumpet and vocals, Al Schnier (moe., Floodwood) on guitar, Kai Eckardt (Garage Mahal) on bass, and Bridget Law (Elephant Revival) on fiddle, with Butler orchestrating. Jason Hann (SCI) and Ted Tilton (DPO) both sat in during the second set as well. The sheer aptitude for music in this configuration of Everyone Orchestra is utterly mind-blowing. I’ve seen many different EO shows, but this has to be at the top of heap simply from musicianship. The show began with a vocal jam between Butler and the crowd. Watts’ lockstep beat was in full effect as Kyle tickled the keys elegantly.
This two set show featured some extensive jamming from EO. Strong vocal interplay between Jans and Hartswick were yet another highlight of this musical journey. With the majority of their “songs” hitting almost twenty minutes, they had plenty of time to pass the potato around. Al was a focal point for many all night as he simply shredded. Kai too was impressive to watch as he held it all down with his funky bass riffs. The first set was a little tame, as they got into their groove during the second set. Watching improvisation happen live can be a lot like watching a flower bloom. Sure everyone on stage is an absolute talent, but they have to be truly in synch with other musicians, several of whom they may never have met before, to actually perform together. That takes a special kind of genius. Everyone Orchestra played well into the evening as the sun set behind Sculpture Park. EO would claim that they are there to have fun, but with each show they continue to foster the spirit of improvisation. The show in Sculpture Park featured a lot of crowd interaction, more than a few vocal based songs, and epic jamming. At one point during the second set I was fairly sure they were jamming on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” This was a great way to start my weekend with Phish. EO always gets the musical juices flowing. They are a jam institution as far as I’m concerned. Butler travels all over the country paring up players, and spreading the power of improvisation. In what other venue is it even possible to see members of The Motet, SCI and moe. all jamming together onstage? It’s special every time they perform and their show in Sculpture Park was definitely a unique experience.
Word of a new musical endeavor swept up and down the Front Range this summer. At first glance many people assumed that Arise Music & Arts Festival was a yoga conference on performance enhancing drugs. They were incorrect. In one word Arise was ambitious. This aspiring event saw some of the best and brightest music producers collaborating to create a festival on the size and scope of Bonnaroo here in Colorado. Located at the Sunrise Ranch outside of the heart of Loveland, it would have been difficult to find a more picturesque and pristine place to throw a festival this side of the Continental Divide. The Sunrise Ranch is also the national headquarters for the Emissaries of The Divine Light who teach Attunement, which is the belief that “positive shifts in consciousness release healing energy.” Some have called them cultish however my experience over the weekend with members of that community did little to dredge up thoughts of Jonestown or Charles Manson. In fact what the attendees found was a holistic approach to a music festival. Workshops, activism opportunities, and panel discussions were dotted throughout the schedule, which seeded to go from sunup to sunup for all five days of Arise.
Now there were definitely a few logistical hiccups along the way, but all in all I would say Arise was spot on with scope, budget, and personnel. The biggest and most obvious issue was the fact that Arise occurred on the same weekend as Bohemian Nights: New West Fest. This yearly tradition pulls in about 30,000 people a day for three days, is free, and was headlined by Ben Harper this year. The fact is that historically New West Fest has been the second weekend in August, but this year it fell on the third weekend. So by accident really Arise took a big hit to possible attendees from the start. Secondly the festival began on Wednesday and ended Sunday afternoon. This made it hard for people to get there early and stunted the first couple days of Arise. Finally the beer situation was confusing. The Beer Garden offered mixed drinks and Odell’s, which is fine, but you were not allowed to leave the beer jail with your drink.
All that being said everything else was well executed and done with great care. Solid food and vendors lined the edge of the massive main stage area. The valley floor was a huge swath of beauty dotted with incredible art installations and great music. The lineup was absolutely appropriate. One end of the festival grounds featured tall rock walls and the opposite side features a massive reservoir. It was just an incredible place to camp, convene with friends, and see live music.
On my lunch break on Thursday I headed up the canyon to Arise and set up my tent. I met with the press coordinator and got my credentials for the weekend. My wife and I wouldn’t make it back until Keller and The Keels emerged from backstage around 6:30 PM. Keller and The Keels is another demonstration of the fractional mind of Mr. Williams. He is concurrently playing with his funk band More Than A Little, continuing to play with the Travelin’ McCourys, and also playing solo looped performances. That is just in the last year. The Keels are immensely talented in their own right and add a full bluegrass sound to Keller’s picking style. They played classic versions of the Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper” and K-Dub’s opus “Breathe.” Keller stepped up to the microphone and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome acoustic reggae music,” before he went into Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” By this point music had been going all day and people were getting acclimated to the flow of the festival. Unfortunately Genetics was on at the same time as Keller so I raced over to catch a short snippet of their set.
These guys continue to add depth and range to their musical repertoire. They recently had a lowly attended show at Hodi’s. Rather than playing angry or rushing through the show they took the opportunity to host an epic instrument-swapping jam that was truly impressive. They were messing around at Arise playing heavy rock riffs for the small assemblage of people. They were by far living the closest to the fest, residing just ten minutes from the grounds. They are a band with enormous potential and true thirst to learn and play together. Genetics is most definitely worth checking out live.
The Motet played a very different set than what I witnessed in Telluride a couple weeks prior. Once again this band is showing that they are one of the most versatile groups touring today. They shredded through almost two hours of electro-pop funkiness that turned into an all out dance party. Songs like “Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed” and David Bowie’s “Fame” were obvious highlights from this crowd-pleasing set. Dave Watts continues to be one of the tightest and most dynamic drummers in Colorado. They were a great choice to play on the big stage at Arise.
We wandered around in the darkness as the various art installations took different shape under spotlights. DJs and EDM Producers played in the Syntonic Stage area until the wee-est hours of the morning. Kan’Nal also took center stage before the night was over. There was a distinct flavor to the lineup and performances. Everyone seemed to have their space with the more popular groups playing the two larger stages. We headed back to the tent to get ready for Friday.
Under the ill advice of a disc tossing wookie, my friend and I drove up to Buckhorn for an early morning round of disc golf. He said it was about 15 minutes up the road, which turned out to be just under an hour. Afterwards I jumped right back into it with Shimshai who is a crunchy acoustic singer-songwriter. He had reggae flair and powerful riff-heavy guitar work.
Earth Guardians were one of the most impressive bands that I had not heard of prior to Arise. This group of young leaders spreads positivity and change through hip-hop. Lead by brothers Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez and Itzcuauhtli Roske-Martinez they sing songs like “The Hope Is In Our Hands” and “Live as if our Future Matters.” It’s obvious that the Earth Guardians are working at a more conscious level than most other 9 and 13 year olds. They have a bouncy, approachable style that is full of optimism and encouragement.
Fort Collins favorite Better Than Bacon was up on the Solar Overdrive Stage next. They have paired down to a straight forward power trio
“Welcome to the dust bowl.” –James Yearling
Dust only really became an issue under the thousands of feet of Franti fans as he urged them to jump and or move, but we’ll get to that. Bacon only got 45 minutes, which seemed to be pretty typical for the smaller stage. They opened with their take on a boogie jam with “Texas Tune.” The band sounds trimmer and more concise with just three members. Their set was enjoyable, but I was left wanting more. They also played originals “Pounding Nails” and “Loosing You.”
On the Center Stage was Nahko & Medicine For The People. This was definitely the breakout surprise of Friday. Their acoustic bombardment is chocked full and energy and a real passion for life. Reminiscent of Rusted Root from an earlier time, Nahko leads a robustly talented group of musicians who seem very much in tune with each other onstage. With only an hour to perform they truly succeeded in leaving an impression on me. Great energy, great set.
I headed over to the press conference, which took on a very eclectic feel. Chali 2Na along Nahko & Medicine For The People would later be joined by Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez for some questions from the press. They discussed their music and eventually moved on to activism in a festival setting. Nahko talked about the variety at Arise and about his own group.
“We don’t fit into a genre, (Arise is) all types of genres and all types of vibes.” – Nahko
When the young Martinez arrived he turned heads with his eloquence and wisdom. It was an enlightening event, but I left before the end to catch Greensky Bluegrass. This band has been on fire all summer long. They tour relentlessly and continue to play to larger and larger audiences. Bluegrass was scattered on the lineup so it was nice to see a band of this caliber on the Center Stage. Their set at Arise was yet another top-notch experience from a band that is becoming known for constantly delivering. Their progressive style of bluegrass has elevated them beyond the label of a simple touring string band. Greensky Bluegrass is a powerhouse in the world of bluegrass and their set at Arise was an example of just that.
Xavier Rudd took on the headlining slot for Friday night.
“I need to watch what I say… instead of say what I watch.” – Xavier Rudd
He is yet another musician who focuses on positivity and delivering a visceral live experience. Relying on percussive instrumentation primarily, Rudd can simultaneously blow on a didgeridoo and knock out a beat on the kit. He began his set solo, but was soon joined by another drummer. This gave him leeway to bust out a guitar and demonstrate his amazing skills as a multi-instrumentalist. He is Australia’s native son and he is a true ambassador of their indigenous music. His version of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” was impeccable. This was a real highlight of my weekend at Arise.
The night was rounded out with hippie hop favorite Chali 2Na. Perhaps it’s going back to his days with Jurassic 5, but 2Na is a member of an elite group of rappers that seems to have a real connection with jam and festival crowds. Artists like Big Boi and 2Na are well known in this realm and for good reason. Chali’s set at Arise was bouncy and a great way end my Friday. Music bumped on literally all night long with sets from The Magic Beans and Michael Menert.
Saturday saw a few more fresh faces that had made it for the final full day of the Arise Music & Arts Festival. I awoke in desperate need of a shower so I made my way over to them in general camping. I have to say this may have been the best festival shower experience I’ve ever had. As you enter, you are greeted by a Zen garden of cleanliness. Operatives offer to wash your feet as you wait for a stall to open. I declined, but it was a nice gesture. They cleaned each shower before use and were very attentive to their customers. It was a brilliant way to start my last day at Arise.
I spent an hour or so joining in an aerial photography that reenacted the logo for the festival with human bodies. It was punctuated by a massive group hug before everyone floated on. I was disheartened to hear that Grant Farm had actually performed on Friday having switched set times with another band. I opted for some activism instead and went to the Sunrise Dome for a panel discussion with Daryl Hannah and Julia Butterfly Hill moderated by Rock The Earth’s Mark Ross. Hill discussed her harrowing experience living in the ancient redwood affectionately known as Luna for 738 days. Hannah talked about her work to stop the Keystone Pipeline for which she has been arrested twice. Mark asked intelligent and wide-ranging questions that covered both of their careers and work as activists. He also fielded a number of questions from the audience. The 90-minute talk flew by and it was time for She Said String Band.
They are another local group with a very genuine approach to the bluegrass tradition. They had an almost wholesome sound that was truly inviting. TIERRO was back on the Center Stage with their fiery tribal beats. They were fun but musically Zap Mama was on another level. They are a self-proclaimed blend vocally of “Polyphonic” and “Afropop.” To me it was amazing harmonies backed by a sometimes-jazzy sometimes hip-hop flair. Zap Mama originates from Belgium and they have received international recognition for their tremendous sound.
Finally it was time for the main event in the form of Michael Franti and Spearhead. Having just played a show at Red Rocks Franti is well loved and well attended here in Colorado. The fact that he was the festival headliner made perfect sense. Again his brand of positive, inviting performances is exactly what Arise seems to be all about. His use of funk, world, hip-hop and reggae stylistically in his music also demonstrates the eclecticism of the festival itself. How could Franti not headline the first Arise? His set was a series of fan favorites with a few newer tracks tossed in for good measure. Franti invited young Jayden Carlson up to the stage. At the tender age of six watching Spearhead, Carlson decided that she wanted to, “make people happy like that.” She had performed earlier in the day with her band and let me just say that kid can shred.
“It’s cool to be at Arise on the day it was invented.” –Michael Franti
Spearhead continues to be a high impact group capable of backing the full on musical assault of Franti. He regularly jumped off the stage and mingled directly with the crowd still singing into his wireless microphone. The enthusiastic crowd caused a serious storm of dust as they jumped and danced. Crowd pleasers like “The Sound of Sunshine” and “Life Is Better With You” energized the audience. The bassist took a turn at the microphone with a baritone rendition of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Family Affair.” They also ripped through a smoking version of “Say Hey (I Love You)” and teased the crowd with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” All in all it was one of the best shows I’ve seen from Franti and company.
We wrapped up our Arise experience with east coast favorite Twiddle. This band has a Phishy demeanor and rarely makes it out this far west. They are a powerfully talented group that played well into the night. They too invited young Jayden Carlson up to the stage to jam.
Twiddle blasted through originals like “Doinkinbonk!” and “Box.” However the highlight of their set was a huge jam that included “Gatsby The Great” into “Big Country” into “Divided Sky” back into “Big Country” and back into “Gatsby.” This run featured some of the cleanest jamming I witnessed all weekend. These guys need to get out west more often.
The great thing about Arise Music & Arts Festival is that it is literally the “Choose Your Own Adventure” of music festivals. The experiences had by any given attendee have the potential to be incredibly different and varied. For the activist there was plenty of film screenings and discussions. For the burner that was plenty of electronic music and wholesome community interaction. For the music fan that was literally live music happening at any given time over the course of the 96 hours of Arise. There was obviously a nascent community beginning to form at Arise and I for one am interested to see how it grows. Not only is this something we are truly lacking in Colorado, but more importantly the organizers seem to have a solid road map by which to develop this festival. Time will tell if their ambition will match the overall outcome. I hope it does.
The breezes bellowed through the hallowed halls of Red Rocks Amphitheatre on our nation’s birthday. Many fans spent most of the day grilling and imbibing in the parking lots that surround the venue in the hours leading up to show time. Blues Traveler’s 4th of July concert has been going on for literally decades and always draws a large audience. This year with moe. supporting I felt sure it would sell out. I was wrong. While the crowd exceeded our original quote from the box office that only 5000 tickets had been sold, it was still not quite to the brim. Storms had threatened all afternoon with only a single drop or two actually hitting me in the Upper North Lot. As we headed inside the winds continued, but it never rained on the parade.
moe. came on right on time around 7:30 PM. Their set at Red Rocks was much more of a crowd pleaser that the previous night’s intrepid journey in Boulder. This was obviously to be expected. They opened with a crunchy “Tailspin.”
Set 1: Tailspin> Captain America> Akimbo, Crackers*, Plane Crash*, Haze> Jazz Wank> Rebubula, New York City
*w/ John Popper and Ben Wilson
You can listen on Archive, thanks to Pat and Corey for posting.
moe. performed a fan favorite rampage through some of their most widely loved songs. Unlike the previous night’s performance in Boulder where they extrapolated and gave the sour with the sweet their Red Rocks show was all sugar. It has been three years since their last tenure on the famed stage, and they seemed truly happy to be back again. Opening with a syrupy segue that included “Tailspin” into a sublime “Captain American” followed by a rowdy “Akimbo.” It was enough to warm the heart of even the most disenfranchised music fan. In fact they whipped the nascent crowd into frenzy as they started their seventy minute set. They invited both John Popper and Ben Wilson out for Rob’s newest homage to his progeny now called “Crackers.” They stayed for the most interesting song of the set, “Plane Crash.” Popper ripped up his harmonica, which seemed to fill any innate gaps in this classic moe. tune. Chuck took the reigns on “Haze” before the band took on the only real extended musical jam with “Jazz Wank.” Looking out across slowly filling audience for “Rebubula” reminded me that many in attendance were there to see moe. The body of people seemed to sway and bob during this incredible rendition.
“How great is this? Are we lucky or what?” – Al Schnier
After a nod and a wink for Al moe. finished their set with another classic “New York City.” All in all their hour plus set went exactly as expected. They refrained from any extended jamming in favor of running the gambit through a collection of songs sure to please. Musically the band was spot on, and given the fact they only had a hair over sixty minutes they performed as expected.
After a fairly long stage change, Blues Traveler made their way out to their instruments. At this point in the evening the sun was hiding behind the Front Range and darkness was the backdrop. Blues Traveler had announced weeks before their show that they would be performing their album Save His Soul in its entirety. Oddly enough they played the entire music video for “Defense and Desire” before they ventured out into the spotlight. Of course they opened with “Trina Magna.”
Set 1: Trina Magna> Love and Greed, Letter From A Friend, Believe Me*, Go Outside and Drive**> Low Rider**> Go Outside and Drive> Blister In the Sun**> Go Outside and Drive**, Defense and Desire> Drums/Bass/Keys, Whoops, Manhattan Bridge, Love of my Life, New York Prophesies, Save His Soul***> Drums/Bass/Keys, Bullshitter’s Lament> Conquer Me, Fledgling
Encore: Star Spangled Banner, Cara Let The Moon, La Grange@, Hook
*w/ 13 year old Caspian from Seattle on guitar
** w/ Jim Loughlin from moe. on xylophone
***w/ Al Schnier from moe. on guitar
@w/ Caspian and Jaden Miller (age 12), both on Guitar, Ben Wilson on lead vocals
I’m sure for true Blues Traveler fans this show was the cat’s pajamas. However for many in attendance this show fell a bit flat. In fact soon after it began a steady trickle of people made their way to the exit until only a few thousand remained prior to the encore. This is understandable as many had to work on the 5th, but it still felt wrong. The rendition of the album lasted well over two hours showcasing some songs that had not been performed by the band in well over five years. The first treat of the show was a version of “Believe Me” with thirteen year old on guitar Caspian. I don’t know if BT put out a craigslist ad, but this kid could shred. They performed a back and forth rendition of “Go Outside and Drive” with Jim Loughlin on xylophone that featured some quick jams on “Low Rider’ and “Blister In The Sun.” They played “Defense and Desire” again, that saw some incredible bass jamming from Tad Kinchla.
There is no question that Blues Traveler can jam, it’s just at times it very much felt like they were going through the motions. It has become all too common for bands to play their previous albums in their entirety live. This is all well and good, but it sort of lacks innovation and reeks of nostalgia. With a new album just out from BT I was hoping to hear some it live and we did during the encore. “NY Prophesies” was a real highlight and immediately after they invited Al from moe. out to jam on the title track of the album. I’m not sure if they planned it this way, but the set stretched on too long leaving them little room for anything else. Towards the end of the show a fireworks display from Bandimere Speedway could be seen and many wandered over to the stairwell to gaze. The encore was stellar including a beautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” as well as ZZ Top’s “La Grange” with another youngster on guitar in addition to Caspian. We were also treated to a new track “Cara Let The Moon” which saw some very picturesque vocals from Popper.
Musically this set was spot on, featuring some impeccable playing from one of the founding fathers of jam. It being the twentieth anniversary of Save His Soul, it was a highly appropriate choice, however there was something lacking in the rendition. It felt choppy. I think that given the history Blues Traveler has with 4th of July at Red Rocks people were expecting more of a crowd pleaser, and what they got was a trip down memory lane. Again for the hardcore BT fan I’m sure this was an epic show, however for many it was just not what we were craving. I’ve seen this band literally blow the non-existent roof off the Rocks and this just wasn’t that. Oh well, there is always next year. Happy 4th of July
moe. continues to be one of the most prolific jambands ever to take the stage. Their catalog includes hundreds of songs allowing them to weave amazing musical tapestries on any given night. Their touring schedule has receded a bit in recent years, however they never leave fans waiting too long for their return. After an awesome two-night run at the end of November last year at The Ogden, moe. returns to Colorado. They played two more nights that included an opening slot for Blues Traveler’s yearly 4th of July celebration at Red Rocks. However the highlight of their run has to be the two sets of carnage that occurred at The Boulder Theater on the 3rd.
The first set was fairly standard clocking in just over seventy minutes. They opened with “Tubing The River Styx.”
Set 1: Tubing The River Styx> The Pit> CalifornIA> Bring You Down, Paper Dragon, Dr. Graffenberg> Hava Nagila> Long Island Girls Rule
Set 2: meat> Silver Sun> Sensory Deprivation Bank> meat> Recreational Chemistry> meat> Tom Sawyer
You can listen to the show on Archive. Thanks to Gerry Gladu for posting. http://archive.org/details/moe2013-07-03.16bit
They eased into the night with a dark brooding jam that included the 1-2-3 punch of “Tubing The River Styx” into “The Pit” into a bouncier “CaliforniIA.” Chuck and Al continue to be two of the most dynamic guitarists in the business. They seem to have an almost telepathic level of communication when it comes to their live performances. Rob really got a chance to shine both vocally and on bass during “Paper Dragon,” which reaches new levels every time I see it live. The real peak of the first set was the sublime “Dr. Graffenberg” as it saw a return to the dark jam that started the show. It went long and scary giving fans exactly what they were waiting for. Going classic moe. quickly riffed on “Hava Nagila” before they closed with the now rare “Long Island Girls Rule.” They have not performed it since their New Year’s run last year.
The second set was absolute dynamite beginning with the ultimate “meat” fake out. Right as moe. reached the crescendo of “meat” which would normally break into a frenzied homage to all things protein they stopped on a dime and ripped into “Silver Sun.” It was a weird feeling to say the least, but those of us in the know sensed it would return. “Sensory Deprivation Bank” was tight and clean and saw that revisit to a shortened “meat” jam that barely went past the point of tease. However, “Recreational Chemistry” was a thirty-minute plus jaunt into the outermost. Rarely can bands even pontificate on jamming on one tune for over half an hour let alone execute it so effortlessly. This was one for the books in my humble opinion. Directly following moe. went into the extended “meat” we were all craving. Between the two songs they performed almost an hour total. This is some of the most epic jamming I’ve witnessed live this year. As they rounded the bend on their twenty-minute “meat” the tone in the room changed. Jim went to the rarely used microphone for a stunning take on Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” His nasally voice was the perfect substitute for Getty Lee’s and he just nailed it. moe. came back and encored with a huge “Mexico.” This show saw some powerful jamming from a band that still has it. They can go down the road of quick romps through wide swaths of their catalog or meander through the intricacies of a single song. moe.’s show at The Boulder Theater demonstrated both approaches.
No two names are more synonymous with pot culture than Cheech and Chong. Now I know that neither Cheech and Chong or War has ever played Summer Camp. That being said I’m positive that there are a lot of fans of these comedic greats from those that attend SCamp. Who knows? Perhaps they can come next year and MC the fest. It has been twenty-some years since this comedy duo parted ways following the release of Get Out Of My Room. With sporadic interaction throughout the last decade it wasn’t until 2008 that they finally began to perform together again. Each one is less than the sum of their collaboration. Cheech spent a long time trying to break into the mainstream including his long stint on Nash Bridges and supporting roles in several Hollywood films. Tommy tended to lay lower with reoccurring characters on various sitcoms. That is until he was caught up in the ridiculous sting, which was part of Operation Pipe Dreams. Mr. Chong was the crown jewel of this 12 million dollar government boondoggle that landed him in prison for nine months. Cheech found himself divorced and on the backend of a downward facing run in Los Angeles. They both emerged as funny and talented as they ever were, albeit slightly greyer and possibly a bit wiser.
For many it was a nostalgia trip, but for me it was a chance to see and photograph a couple of the most innovative and approachable heroes ever to play the comedy game. Thunder Mountain Amphitheater is a venue conveniently placed in front of a conglomerate of radio stations. This site holds around 4400 with a nice grassy knoll that frames a cement floor in front of the stage. There were just less than 3000 that made their way out to the show. This meant that there was plenty of room to maneuver, but a nice assemblage nonetheless.
“We humbly request that you don’t yell out any stupid shit…” – Chong
The show began with a quick set from Tommy’s wife Shelby Chong. She played the ditzy MC as she detailed the acid fueled clandestine meeting of her husband in a grocery store. She revved up the audience for the two stars of the show. At one point she reprimanded the drummer for tuning his snare while she was warming up the crowd. Cheech and Chong came to the stage amidst wild cheers and a thick smoke permeating from the spectators. Their introduction took the form of a pre-arranged Q and A where Shelby tossed them both various queries. They talked about their professional history and Chong’s short stint in the big house. They ended by inviting War out and singing a few of their classics with them including “Basketball Jones” and “Save The Whales.”
War performed for about thirty more minutes. Their sound was that smooth California funk that made them famous. They included a version of “Summer,” which seemed to energize the crowd. War is currently a seven-piece, however the only original member is Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan on keys and vocals. They closed out the set and everyone took a short break.
The second set began with a series of classic Cheech and Chong sketches. Save for a few modern references it was pretty much the typical shtick that we’ve all grown up with. They riffed on their regular characters such as “Low Riders” and “Dink Winkerson” without missing a beat. The audience roared with laughter as they ran the gambit of all the things that made them famously lovable. After a bit more back and forth War returned for an extended set of their hits. They played “Cisco Kid,” “Spill The Wine,” and the highly anticipated “Lowrider.” I have to say that these guys sounded great. I understand that most of the original members have either passed or moved on, but they are still playing the music that made them a sensation in the 1970’s incredibly well. Their smooth approach continues to be inviting and enjoyable. Towards the end of the show Chong appeared as his blues singing character “Blind Melon Chitlin.” Singing “Ding Dong” with a few fresh twists and turns. The show could have easily ended there. However Cheech appeared in his pink tutu and proceeded to shred some face. Chong returned with Cheech and they both performed “Mexican Americans” and “Born In East L.A.” Tommy proceeded to introduce the band only momentarily forgetting the drummer’s name. They closed the show with a massive sing-along on “Why Can’t We Be Friends.” All in all I found their stage show to be both highly nostalgic and utterly pleasurable. The opportunities to see these two performing together are limited so I was thankful that they chose to make a stop in Loveland, Colorado. We can only hope that these two comedic greats continue spreading their bleary-eyed joy for years to come.
Check out my crew’s Summer Camp Review!
Everyone Orchestra travels the country bringing one-time only musical experiences to the masses. They are a tradition at Summer Camp as part of the Make A Difference events at Summer Camp. If you don’t know what that is, look in your program and get involved. or check here.
From the mind of Matt Butler lineups are assembled and during his shows he creates themes and tangents for the band to follow. Everyone Orchestra scheduled a three-night romp through Colorado that included stops in Gunnison as well as Denver, but they began with a night at Hodi’s Half Note in Fort Collins. The lineup was made up of Matt Butler conducting, Dave Watts on drums, Steve Kimock on guitar, Anders Beck on dobro, Jans Ingber on percussion and vocals, Kai Eckhardt on bass, and for one night only Bridget Law on violin. This power packed group was certainly enough to create an amazing musical experience, but first up was Marcellus Wallace.
Marcellus Wallace is a soul, funk, rock, adventure lead by singer Devon Parker of The Nu Classics. They came out strong mesmerizing the crowd with their blend of brass and soulfunk. It was almost a throw back to an earlier R&B sound, with more than one attendee asking, “What does Marcellus Wallace look like?” With originals like “Lover” their vibe is certainly intriguing if not infectious. The highlight of the show was a sit-in by Jans Ingber on John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” If you dig a retro sound foul of soulful nuance I would recommend checking out Marcellus Wallace and finding out what he looks like for yourself.
Everyone Orchestra took us on a two set journey through rock, jam, jazz, folk, and a little bit of bluegrass thrown in for good measure. With Bridget Law only hopping on for one show of the run she was truly a featured artist. With his small dry erase board Butler wrote down things like “Ya” and “4/4 Rock Beat” during which he took to some improv on the microphone. The first set went quick going just over an hour, but the second set was a 90-minute jam that went almost to bar close. The crowd at Hodi’s again was light making for easy maneuvering but a little disappointment on my part. As I stated in my review from the week prior of Euforquestra, this is a funny time for venues in college towns. The kids are taking finals, graduating, packing up, and moving out. This makes for somewhat spotty attendance for any show. If Everyone Orchestra had scheduled this performance a month ago, I have no doubt that it would have sold out. Jans Ingber alternated between singing a few tunes and ripping it up on the congas. One of the jams featured Kai Eckhardt who I have not had the pleasure of seeing live since his days with Garage Mahal. He is as agile on the bass as ever and his harmonious notes were truly a pleasure. Kimock was great without overpowering the lineup. I’ve seen him with EO before and he honestly knows how to perform in a group dynamic. This night was no exception. Everyone Orchestra is always a treat and if you are truly a fan of the jam they are worth any amount of effort to catch them live. Butler never disappoints when choosing a lineup and they are always unique. With their upcoming show for Make a Difference at Summer Camp it might have been easy to let this one slide by, but I’m so glad I didn’t.
Euforquestra has traveled through the murky waters of change and emerged triumphant and unscathed. Musically, the adversity of loosing a founding member could be enough to rock the very foundation on which any band is built. This is not the case with Euforquestra. They continue to tour relentlessly and are currently celebrating their tenth year on the road. The one two punch of Craig Babineau on drums and Scott Mast on percussion have become the new foundation on which Euforquestra is plowing ahead. Both have rock solid licks reminiscent of the Joimoe/Trucks combo when they push past the Southern Rock and into the World Funk. Matt Wright on keys has truly stepped up and has wholeheartedly embraced playing the front man singing with a silky demeanor that really pleases. With Jeter recently becoming a father, his time on stage has been limited, which means there have been a number of local players who have sat in on second sax. This has allowed for a freshness to seep into their overall sound and it leaves room for the unexpected. One unexpected turn was their headlining set at Hodi’s Half Note.
It has been two years since their last rendezvous at this Fort Collins establishment. With headlining gigs at the Aggie and all around Colorado it was a real treat to see them playing a smaller room. The night began with Rudie Clash, a Dubskin side project featuring lead singer Jamal Skinner and keyboardist Jason Wieseler in a strange amalgamation of roots reggae and dub sonic sounds… but we’ll get to that in a minute. I arrived as Jet Edison was hitting the stage with their original “Gold.”
Set I: Gold, Places, Style Of The Times, Wasted, Simon, Wading Through The Rubble, Burn This Disco Out*, Undercover
*w/ Austin Zaletel on Sax
This tight four-piece from Boulder knows how to rock. Lead by keyboardist Phil Johnson who will occasionally pull out a trumpet too. They are a convincing jam powerhouse to say the least. With a new album due out this year, they have plenty to prove. Touring with enthusiasm, it’s impossible to go more than a couple months without catching them live here in Colorado. These four formed a bond in college through late night jam sessions and lots of time on the road. That bond is evident in their transitions and in songs like “Wading Through The Rubble,” which takes on a driving swing feel as they navigate the debris. They tossed it back with a version of Michael Jackson’s “Burn This Disco Out,” with Austin Zaletel sitting in on sax before ending the show with “Undercover.”
The setbreak was filled in with self-proclaimed “ugly” music producers Rudie Clash consisting of Jamal and Jason from Dubskin. They too are on the cusp of releasing a new album and have developed a wholly unique sound. To say that I enjoyed it as much as seeing Dubskin would be an untruth. Jamal is a true showman and will always engage his audience with his bombastic style. That being said this blend of electronic dub and his vocals was a bit jarring. If you are a fan of roots reggae blend and electronica I would recommend you check them out.
As Euforquestra took the stage I found myself wondering why the room was only half full. With finals approaching and many students getting ready to head home for the summer perhaps they just opted out of going. This was the wrong choice. What followed was a two-hour blast through all the things that make me love this band. Opening with “Backbone” Euforquestra started the night like a freight train.
Set 1: Backbone, Cause A Reaction, Milk & Honey, Obatala, Called You, Yogi’s Day Out, The Events of December 11, Solutions*, Madison Square**, Nausea, 64:18, Price Is Right, Instant Coffee, Dr. Standby
Encore: All Light, Hang Ups
*w/ Jamal Skinner on Vocals
**w/ Phil Johnson on Trumpet and Nick on Saxophone
This was a hometown show with the warm feel of a family throw down. Huge versions of “Cause A Reaction” and “Obatala” got the show moving. They pulled out a classic Euforquestra tune “Called You,” which was originally sung by Matt Grundstad and is now crooned by keyboardist Matt Wright. Wright’s vocals can simply be described as clean. He just nails it. “Yogi’s Day Out” was a blast, but “December 11” really sucked in the crowd. They brought out Jamal to sing on “Solutions” before inviting Phil and Nick to fill out the horn section on the instrumental cover of “Madison Square.” They rounded out an epic set with a 1-2-3 punch or originals culminating with an immense set-closing “Dr. Standby.” This show had everything a music fan could want. Hard hitting percussion backing a world approach to music that has been the hallmark of Euforquestra since the beginning. They closed with a two-song encore that included a great version of “Hang Ups.” Through thick and thin Euforquestra perseveres and continues to create amazing music and incredible live performances across the country. The next time they come to your town get out and make sure you bring your dancing shoes.
Few people have so mastered an instrument as Bela Fleck has the banjo. In fact the man is so synonymous with this instrument that words like master and genius almost fall short in their simplicity. From the time he was first inspired listening to the Earl Scruggs’ recording of The Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song to his time with The New Grass Revival to forming The Flecktones it’s difficult to think of anyone who has been more innovative with their instrument. Fleck has been nominated for a Grammy in more musical categories than anyone and all with the banjo. Having just toured through town with the Flecktones he made a return visit this time for an ‘Inside The Score’ session with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
Having seen Trey Anastasio perform with the CSO last year I thought it would be a relatively similar experience. I was wrong. Firstly, despite the fact that this concert played host to a living legend the room was only about half sold out. Secondly, the crowd was more along the lines of season ticket holders rather than rabid live music fans. The result being that other than some boisterous coughing from a few souls trying to get over their spring colds, the 2600 person room was utterly quiet. This was a benefit and a curse. It was nice to be able to focus on the music and really listen, the bad was that a single click of my DSLR seemed to echo to the point of absurdity. The result was that I took all of one picture before putting my camera away amongst a few sideway glances and glaring stares.
The night began sans Fleck with an orchestrated version of Pat Methany’s “Minuano” which featured a dual time signature we were told to listen for by conductor Scott O’Neil. Fleck wowed audiences with his take on Bach and Debussy. One of the real highlights of the first set was a banjo led rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” The delicacy and attention to detail that Fleck demonstrates at times made the humble banjo seem otherworldly. The peak of the set came in the form of a piece written by Bela Fleck and dubbed “Crooked Run” which was simply an all out jam between himself and Claude Sim on violin. They finished prior to intermission with what would be the only Flecktones original “The Landing” with the full orchestration. After a short break Bela Fleck returned with a much longer composed piece entitled “The Imposter.” All in all it was a beautiful night at the symphony. Bela Fleck continues to demonstrate why he is at the height of his instrument and why he is not to be missed in any capacity when he is performing. Bela is simply mind blowing and it’s always incredible to me that he continually stuns audiences with an instrument that was long thought of as Appalachian jabberwocky. Fleck has risen the level of the banjo on par with the violin and the French horn as far as I’m concerned. He ended the night with a meet and greet in the lobby, but we opted to head home with visions of banjer in our head.
Check out the video here: http://youtu.be/0XuoazFvcJs