A week into the new year, it’s time to look ahead to all of the musical excitement that this year has to offer. But first, it’s always fun to reflect back on the year I just had…
After 2012, I had been to 105 total concerts – which isn’t too many, I know – but considering I’ve been an athlete my entire life I have other priorities that take precedence over live music! 2013, however, was a milestone year for me in music as I fortunate enough to attend 45 shows, nearly twice as many as I saw in 2012. A lot of this is due to my first ever attendance of a camping festival (Summer Camp), and then of course my annual celebrations at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Let’s start with…
The Most Frequent Bands I Saw in 2013
Roster McCabe – 9 shows: I’ve written extensively about this band (now known as Night Phoenix) before, so this is nothing new. The Midwest “electro-rock” tours heavily throughout the year and I was able to catch them 9 times, putting my career tally at 20 Roster McCabe shows.
Umphrey’s McGee – 4 shows: No surprise here – my first UM show occurred in 2004 when I was just 12 years old. In 2013 I was at all 3 Scamp shows and also their set at Summerfest, making it 4 on the year. I have seen the improg group at least once every year since ’07.
Michael Franti & Spearhead – 2 shows: My favorite feel good musical choice, Michael Franti & Spearhead rolled through the Midwest in 2013 in support of his latest album, All People. I caught the “rebel rocker” at the Minneapolis State Fair in late August and about a month later in Madison with Moon Taxi.
Nahko & Medicine for the People – 2 shows: I had never heard of this band until about a week before they showed up in La Crosse, WI for a show at my favorite bar The Popcorn Tavern, which was a memory I’ll write about further down the page. A similar sound to Michael Franti and Matisyahu, Nahko just has a radiance of good vibes glowing off him that the rest of the band and crowd feeds off of.
Other notable acts: Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Moon Taxi, moe., Victor Wooten & Friends, Thievery Corporation, Blues Traveler, Dark Star Orchestra, 311, EMEFE, Steez, and Dark Star Orchestra covering The Rolling Stones.
My Top 5 Shows of 2013:
Of the 9 shows I saw Roster McCabe perform in 2013, why this one? Perhaps because it was only one set, which means it was a straight up dance party. Also, this was on Thursday at Summer Camp – the pre-party – so it was just a great way to set the tone for the entire weekend. The Camping Stage was a great spot right on the outskirts of the woods to draw in all the campers – and everyone LOVED it! The crowd didn’t stop moving through the entire – most of them unaware of Roster – but loved discovering a new band to get down to. They closed the set with a cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky that turned into a frenzy.
4) Umphrey’s McGee, 2013-07-02 Summerfest – Big Backyard
So many great things about this show. My hometown, in the front row with all my friends, Kevin Sinclair sit-in, Pink Floyd cover, 4 song encore (!!!) that included rarity Dear Lord, this show is a must download!
3) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 2013-06-28 Summerfest – Marcus Amphitheater
This was my 6th Tom Petty show, and possibly my last. A sell-out crowd at the Amp sang along with all the hits and had great energy, as always. Petty loves Milwaukee, he makes that very clear every time he comes (all 6 times I’ve seen him came at Summerfest) and even showed a surprising amount of improv jams in a couple songs!
2) Trey Anastasio Band, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Sunshine Stage
This would be #1 if not for the unfortunate fact that the show was cut short. Due to the extreme rainstorm. But wow. This was my most listened to show of the year by far. I can’t imagine a better band to make such miserable weather conditions tolerable.
1) Everyone Orchestra, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Red Barn
The lineup included Victor Wooten, Joel Cummins, Al Schnier, Vinnie Amico, Allie Kral, Alex Steele, Mike Dillon, Roosevelt Collier and a few other I can’t remember, all conducted my Matt Butler. This show just completely blew my away from start to finish. 100% improv! What else could you ask for from an all-star lineup?!
Conclusion and Looking Towards 2014
The only regret I have from 2013 is that I didn’t get to see my all time favorite band, Phish. I had tickets for all 3 nights in Chicago but unfortunately it didn’t work out with some other things that popped up. I have a good feeling they’ll return to Alpine Valley for 2 nights this summer though!
2014 will be a great year. Of course Summer Camp already has an amazing lineup announced and it will only get better. Particle reunited and is on a heavy tour for 2014 – don’t miss out on these guys! One of the founding bands of the electronic jam scene next to the Disco Biscuits and STS9.
Happy new year, and see ya on the road!
The Fox Theater in Boulder, CO was home to the final three shows of the fall Dark Star Orchestra tour. I had the pleasure of going to the first night where DSO played an inspired rendition of the Grateful Dead show from 10-20-78. The following nights they played the next successive Dead shows and busted out over 60 dead tunes throughout 3 nights.
Colorado is beautiful and so were the people in the Fox Theater. Everyone came to have a good time, the crowd was lighthearted, hollering and laughing throughout. It didn’t look like anyone had had too much too fast!
Highlights of the show were all over the place but I’ll just name a few that you can listen to by checking out the archive.org link below. My personal favorite part of the show was the transition from Half Step into Franklin’s Tower. Two of my favorite songs back to back that go so well together! The encores were both incredible, especially the first one when Mattson just came out and wailed on Johnny B Goode. The other highlights were mainly during the jam sessions which were some of the most energetic parts of the show.
My only regret is not being able to make all 3 nights…
SET LIST: Dark Star Orchestra – October 18, 2013
Set 1: Minglewood – They Love Each Other – Cassidy – Dire Wolf – El Paso – Tennessee Jed – It’s All Over Now Baby Blue – Loser – Lazy Lightnight > Supplication
Set 2: Miss Half Step > Franlins Tower – Dancin in the Streets > Drum > Space > Jam
Set 3: NFA > Black Peter > Around and Around
Encore 1: Johnny B. Goode
Encore 2: Shakedown – Warewolfs of London
^ South Gate Entrance
Thursday, July 4th.
A great day for America. A great day for Summer. A great day for music. Dark Star Orchestra, the well-known Grateful Dead cover band notorious for covering exact shows, was slated to headline the Harley- Davidson Roadhouse stage for 2 sets on this fine Thursday night. I saw Phil Lesh and Friends at Summerfest a few years back (coincidentally, also on July 4th), and last summer a small bar band that covered the Dead (called The Greatest Story Ever Told), and I have the Closing of Winterland DVD. I am familiar with The Dead, but I don’t want to give off the impression I know them super well. Because I don’t. I recognized maybe about half the songs that DSO played that night, but I definitely recognize great music when I hear it.
It was so intriguing to walk through the crowd and see the variety of people there. There was the old tye-dye hippies who I wouldn’t doubt have followed GD around in the 80′s. There were the young barefoot hippies dancing in the aisles having a great time. There were the middle aged adults wearing their polos who just wanted to have a good time. And everybody had a good time. The show wasn’t that crowded (in general, all of Summerfest wasn’t crowded that night, as the 4th is their slowest business day) so I was able to mingle around and get all sorts of perspectives on the show.
DSO started shortly after 7:30 and the first set lasted til about 8:45 I want to say. I was curious to what show they were covering; I had heard that they usually have a sign somewhere up on the stage that had the date. There was no sign up there this night, though. The next morning I found out that it was actually an original show. Pretty neat! DSO opened with Samson and Deliah. I may have been the only one who didn’t know all the words to this song (seemed to be a common theme throughout the night). The grooves were flowing and the bleachers were shaking from the first chords and lasted throughout the night. I understand I was not a Grateful Dead show, but it seemed to me like you could have fooled the crowd. The fans were just as into this show as the phans at every Phish show I’ve been to. I loved the energy. Alabama Getaway was the second song of the set, another frenzy the crowd loved. Other first set highlights include Mexicali Blues, Ramble on Rose, and the closing segue of New Minglewood Blues > Deal.
The second set and encore spanned nearly 2 hours I want to say. And this set brought the fire with it. China Cat Sunflower with a segue right into I Know You Rider, two of my actual favorite GD songs. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand this is actually a common second set opener for GD in their hey day. I say that because I have just one GD show on my computer, 1987-04-03, and the second set started exactly as that. Another highlight of the second set was Saint Stephen, another one the crowd went crazy for, as well as a raging epic climax to Going Down the Road Feeling Bad that segued out of seemingly nowhere into the Rolling Stones classic (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The GDTRFB put me in such a trance that while I thought I was recording it, I realized I wasn’t. Oops. I did however, catch the segue that lead into Satisfaction. Hopefully my video captures how much the crowd was enjoying this show.
We all love irony, right? When I saw Phil Lesh on July 4th at Summerfest in ’08, he encored with Box of Rain. So what did DSO encore with? Easy Wind, and Box of Rain. Only makes sense.
DSO – original setlist (source: DarkStarOrchestra.net)
1: Samson and Deliah, Alabama Getaway > Greatest Story Ever Told, Hey Pocky Way, Mexicali Blues, Jack-A-Roe, Cassidy, Ramble on Rose, New Minglewood Blues > Deal
2: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Feel Like a Stranger, Scarlet Begonias > Drums > Space > Saint Stephen, Aiko Aiko > The Wheel > Going Down the Road Feeling Bad > (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
E: Easy Wind, Box of Rain
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnvNhEoyvUA&feature=c4-overview&list=UU9VVC7Hq_FJB0IzMXCrpriQ
Saturday, July 6th.
“You’ve got to trust your instinct, and let go of regret. You’ve got to bet on yourself, now, star, ’cause that’s your best bet.”
311 is one of my longest favorite bands. One of my older brothers introduced them to me when I was in 1st grade (I think) with the album Soundsystem. I loved it. To this day, 311 always remains in my playlist and I see them every chance I get. 4 shows now, each one of them at Summerfest. Things work out that way when you’re from the Milwaukee area. Although I always wish that they play longer, they really put on a true rock show and it’s always a blast. Always. They love Wisconsin (lead singer Nick Hexum is from Madison) and play what we fans want to hear. I would LOVE to see 311 headlining at next year’s Summer Camp. Make it happen! They are much more insightful and conscious than they appear (they get heavy \mm/) but their lyrics provide thought provoking issues. At the end of each show Hexum says some sort of variation of “Love yourselves, stay positive.” Each summer when they go on tour it’s called “Unity Tour”, because like all other bands at Scamp, they’re about bringing people together with the common ground of music.
Highlights of the show for me was the opener of Beautiful Disaster, a fan favorite, Freeze Time (my all time favorite 311 song) and the set closing of Amber, Down, Jackpot.
311 setlist (source: 311.com)
- Beautiful Disaster, Sick Tight, Sunset in July, Don’t Tread on Me, My Stoney Baby, Random, You Wouldn’t Believe, Champagne, Time Bomb, Applied Science, Who’s Got the Herb, All Mixed Up, Rub a Dub, Come Original, Freeze Time, Don’t Stay Home, Bass Solo, Nutsymptom, Amber, Down, Jackpot
E: What Was I Thinking, Creatures
Rub a Dub, Come Original http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY7xIQM7yXk&list=UU9VVC7Hq_FJB0IzMXCrpriQ
My friend, Melody was celebrating her annual trip around the sun, so it was it great excuse to come down to The Ogden for a night of rowdiness with the Dang Ol’ Dark Star Orchestra. With the exodus for John K for greener pastures, Jeff Mattson has filled the void nicely with his spot on guitar tone and solid vocals. We met for some pre-show libations at The Snug before hitting The Ogden around 9 PM. The room was filling in properly, but it wasn’t overly packed. There seemed to be an abundance of Dead Family in attendance, which made me wonder if they were on DSO tour. The idea seemed silly, but if you are truly looking for authenticity and to relive the shows of a bygone era, it makes sense.
“I literally just got out of jail.” – Random Concertgoer
Dark Star took the stage just before 9:30 PM. They performed a show from October 9th, 1977 that took place just down the street at McNichols Arena. The show reads like a Greatest Hits album. Rob Barroco dedicated the show to fallen fan Joel Campbell, who passed away in a tragic car crash earlier this month.
Set 1: New Minglwood Blues, They Love Each Other, Cassidy, Dire Wolf, Looks Like Rain, Brown Eyed Women, Lazy Lightnin’> Supplication, Sugaree, The Music Never Stopped
Set 2: Samson and Delilah, Scarlet Begonias> Fire On The Mountain, Estimated Prophet> He’s Gone> Truckin’> Drums> Terrapin Station> Around And Around
Encore: Casey Jones
The original show is up on Archive, Thanks to Charlie Miller for posting. http://archive.org/details/gd1977-10-09.sbd.miller.109972.flac16
I’ve said it before, but Dark Star Orchestra is not really a cover band, they are historical re-creationists. They are more akin to the people reliving Civil War battles every weekend than say Super Diamond. Since I’m not talking about anything new here, I’ll just stick to the facts. They opened with a fiery “New Minglewood Blues” that certainly got the crowd’s attention. By now the room, while not completely sold out, was certainly at capacity. In fact it was the perfect amount of people in my opinion; enough room to maneuver, and plenty of people to fill in the gaps. The “Cassidy” was precise and made for a beautiful back and forth between Donna stand-in Lisa Mackey and Rob Eaton. “The Music Never Stopped” was executed perfectly as it became a huge peak prior to the setbreak.
They opened the second set with an astounding “Samson and Delilah” but it was the “Scarlet” “Fire” that got the crowd standing at attention. Around this time I found myself in the smoking section and heard this gem.
“Man, Jerry is so good tonight.” – Random Concertgoer
The “Terrapin” hit the mark before a huge set closing “Around and Around” that featured a stellar “Johnny B. Goode” tease that left me wanting more. They said their goodbyes with a quick “Casey Jones” to close the night. I have to say that DSO has never sounded better, and their attention to detail continues to impress. If you have a hankering for the Good Ol’ Grateful Dead, this will most definitely cure what ails you.
The past harmonizes. Everyone on Earth has a doppelganger. Both axioms proved to be true upon my second time seeing the Grateful Dead reenactment group, Dark Star Orchestra. As I stared onto the stage at guitarist Rob Eaton’s mouth gaping Bob Weir face, I thought to myself, “how was tonight any different than if i’d been born a child of the 60’s and gotten here through a more natural twist of fate?”
Time is obstinate — it can twist and contort, but ultimately remains constant in a relative state of mind. On this particular hazy post liberty influenced weekend, as the Chicago heat toned down from triple digits outside, inside the Park West Theater Dark Star Orchestra did their best to raise the temperature by recreating one helluva Grateful Dead set whose original audience experienced during a time and space at the Auditorium Theater on 5/13/77.
One could contend the spring of ’77 is arguably one of the best runs to be a Deadhead and if you looked around the venue last Saturday and judged by who was onstage and in the audience you might have surely thought you stepped into a wormhole that transported you back 35 years to that golden era. This particular show saw the band perform the very first “Jack-A-Roe” and had a wonderfully rare first set close with “Scarlet Begonias>Fire On The Mountain.”
Those who tell me they don’t like seeing bands that only cover one specific group with no original tunes have their right to an opinion. But imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, why wouldn’t you want to close your eyes and let your mind expand on a cosmic journey from one of the legendary groups that influenced thousands? Oh and who, by the way, changed the course of history along the way creating an entire genre. You’d have to be on a close minded ship of fools to believe you couldn’t enjoy DSO even one tiny iota.
The likeness both in playing style and appearance is palpable. During “Cassidy” the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It didn’t matter that it was Jeff Mattson and not Jerry Garcia to me onstage because this was my reality — not 1977 Dave. Besides I would like to think Jerry would like his music to live on through such a dedicated group of musicians. A Deadhead is the harshest critic when it comes to judging an audible incarnation of a legend. The artistry and skill in one’s craft needed to be able to pull off such a feat is beyond comprehension. Not one person dancing and whirling in the crowd that night knew or cared. Original hippies and neo-hippie clad youth all shouted the chorus to “Goin Down The Road Feeling Bad” with the same exuberance.
Lisa Mackey, who plays the role of Donna Jean Godchaux, returned from a brief hiatus for the bands Colorado stint. She donned her trademark headphones, spun, and whirled, lending vocals to “Stella Blue.” Later as the set closed she provided a treat on harmonica for “Next Time You See Me.”
The highlight of the show, chalked full of classics as it was, however was “The Other One” jam. Coming out of “Drums” people exploded when Rob belted out the first verse nearly 13 minutes after the song began. The past run in Chicago had DSO playing the Vic which while having a larger capacity room diminishes the intimacy factor slightly. Park West was perfectly suited to cater to a crowd that appreciated the musicianship more than the ability to consume. The high domed ceiling where the disco ball hung allowed for those with laser pointers to add to the spacey spectacle. Past and present collided and for one more Saturday night in one of the best Grateful Dead cover bands 1900+ shows it harmonized to perfection.