Keller Williams played two very different sets of music at the Park West in Chicago on Friday, January 17th. The first was a familiar, one man band version of the multifaceted performer, but for the second set Keller lead an extremely entertaining funk band that appropriately calls themselves More Than a Little.
The first set presented a comfortable side of Keller with a mix of newer originals along with some old favorites. “Doobie in my Pocket”, “Best Feeling”, and “Floating on Freshies” showcased Keller’s knack for layering sounds with multiple instruments and looping them all into one gumbo of goodness. But by the time Keller arrived at “Porta Potty”, he decided to simplify. There is something to be said for a man who can hold a room’s attention with just his lyrics and a guitar. The half filled room was enamored by his presence. Looking around, I could see jaws ajar as we watched this man do what he does best.
Keller’s one man band show always has an element of simplicity to it. He executes his unique style with such ease that it seems like there is little to no effort whatsoever put into his work. But don’t let his laid back vibe and shit eating grin fool you. This guy’s timing is more on point than a metronome and his ability to layer melodies, basslines, and vocals is unlike anyone else out there.
Williams peaked his first set with the ever entertaining story of how “Gate Crashers Suck” that segued into “Scarlet Begonias”. This classic Grateful Dead cover included a blazing vocal trumpet solo that somehow fit the song perfectly. The jam eventually started to tease “Fire on the Mountain” only to break into the circus performance that is “Freak Show”. Everyone in the room finally seemed ready to let loose as they joined along with Keller as he closed out the set by journeying back into “Fire on the Mountain”.
As I mentioned earlier, second set felt like a completely different show. When the lights turned low, Keller danced his way to the middle of the stage. He was predictably barefoot, yet looking sharper than ever in an exquisitely tailored grey suite. His back up band, More Than a Little, wore all black as followed him out onto the Park West’s sage.
Keller’s band that night consisted of Gerard Johnson on keyboards, EJ Shaw on bass, and Toby Fairchild holding down the drums. These three shiny headed hairless men probably had the best view in the house since they spent all night posted up behind vocalists Sugar Davis and Tonya Jackson. The unity from each member donning all black made Keller stand out like a preacher in front of a choir.
The music of the second set kicked off with a full band jam that set a precedent for the rest of the night. Williams’ backup singers called out to to their leader, “Hey Keller,” demanding his attention as he showed off his best dance moves “…shut the FUNK up!” Keller froze as if this caught him by surprise.
Needless to say, it was hysterically funny to watch Keller Williams mesh his laid-back, don’t-take-yourselves-too-seriously vibe with a sophisticated five piece ensemble. But right from the first song you could tell everyone was on the same page in Keller’s Book of Funk. This comical juxtaposition continued until the end of the show.
There is something about “Kidney in a Cooler” that regresses Keller fans to a younger state. Yet, to hear it performed by a funk band was wildly entertaining. I can’t imagine what was like for a soul/gospel singer Sugar Davis to learn this tune and then deliver it every night with such conviction. It almost makes want to buy this tall glass of chocolate milk a double decker, double wide trailer.
Part of the reason Keller was touring with More Than a Little was to support his recently released live album, Funk. The Talking Heads’ cover “Once in a Life Time” seemed much less beatnik than the album’s version. Its strong bassline forced me to move my hips, but by this time the Park West was packed, almost to the point where it was uncomfortable. Trying to roam around the venue was virtually impossible without making others inhospitable, so I decided to watch the rest of the show from the venue’s horseshoe balcony. From this vantage point I couldn’t help noticed a neglected disco ball that quietly spun above the center of the room, yet the show was hitting full force.
Sugar Davis and Tonya Jackson kicked off their high heeled shoes to get themselves on Keller’s level during “Sampsons Wine”. This mashup of two delicious songs had Keller calling the shots as they flowed from one song to the other. One of the strongest jams of the set was “I Told You I Was Freaky”. This Flight of the Conchords’ cover captured the weird side of Keller, an element that has never faltered over the years. More Than a Little somehow understands Keller’s freaky vibe and together the group worked their way into Keller’s “Let’s Jam”, just before they slammed into a heady version of Rick Jame’s “Mary Jane”.
The night finally came to a close with a one song encore. Fan favorite, “Freaker by the Speaker” almost felt like a moment the whole room was waiting for. The group’s reggae rendition of this tune helped raise everyone’s freak flag high just before they were pushed out into the cold Chicago night.
Overall, this show’s second set put the fun back in funk. More Than a Little is a perfect name for the energy this group adds to Keller’s already entertaining live shows.
For many jamband fans, Keller Williams was like a gateway drug and over the years we have watched him solidify his place in the scene. These days Keller is throwing down with a full funky band that calls themselves More Than a Little after a classic Keller tune. Their recently collaborative release, conveniently titled Funk, is made up of ten live recordings that display exactly what this project is all about. The four piece band, along with some sassy female vocals, showcases a side of Keller that many fans have been waiting to hear.
The album Funk kicks off with a vocal bass line that gets everyone on Keller’s level. It is followed up by backup singers, keys, an actual bass and live drums that hit you upside the head right from the get go. The first tune of the album is a comical Flight of the Conchords cover, “I Told You I Was Freaky”. As the first track continues, shit gets weird, and you are taken into the crazy domain of freak funk. It serves as a warning to all that this album is going to be filthy nasty, so be prepared to get weird.
The second tune rolls out of the first with a jazzy jam thick with keys and drum breaks. The Keller classic “More Than a Little” is true to its title. This tune is the definition of what this project is all about. Keller leads the group as they slink from one verse to the next, eventually agreeing in unison: “Now that’s funky!”
Keller’s band taps into the roots of funk and the album captures the energy of their live performance perfectly. ”I Feel Love” starts with a disco tease of Madonna’s ”Vogue”. Keller then takes the lead, calling the shots as the soulful vocalists follow suit. The tune continues to hopscotch between disco and soul before it finally lands in an era of disco funk and settles in for a nice long jam.
Overall, the album’s cover songs prove Keller Williams has mastered the art of reinterpretation. He already has his own special way of putting a spin on things and the addition of the funk band brings this experience to a whole other level. A jazzy version of the Talking Heads’, ”Once in a Lifetime” includes reverb vocals that complement Keller’s beatnik delivery of the song’s lyrics. The album also contains a tribute to Rick Jame’s “Mary Jane”, a metaphorically iconic tune that is the funkiest of the funk. If you still need convincing, check out “West LA Fadeaway” as it was performed at Summer Camp Music Festival in 2013. Keller puts his own funky spin on this Dead tune and has a few special guests to help seal the deal….
Needless to say, the soulfulness of these performances shines through every track of Funk. Better yet, funky could be the most sustainable version of Keller to date!
As your CIT, I highly recommend checking out Funk. Then go see Keller Williams with More Than a Little perform live while you still have the chance! The most recent tour is being billed as “What the Funk” and Keller will be playing two sets of music at every show. The first set will be a solo one-man-band performance and the second set will be the full band experience with More Than a Little.
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.
Few places in this great state are as picturesque and stunning as Telluride. This quant mountain town is the cultural mecca of the southwestern region of Colorado and plays host to several music and film festivals throughout the year. Telluride Jazz Festival is perhaps the most reserved and underrepresented of all of their events, but this year featured an all-star lineup at the famed Town Park Stage. It is the 37th year for Telluride Jazz, and it has been the host to some of the most renowned musicians in the genre. Galactic, John Scofield, Stanley Clarke, and Dr. Lonnie Smith were all headlining; meaning this weekend in Telluride was sure to be one for the books.
My wife and I drove though the night to reach our destination. There was a massive storm percolating over the San Juan Range, which could be seen as far away as Glenwood Springs. Lighting flashed in the distance as we rode over seven hours to Telluride from the Front Range. The one downside is just how far Telluride is from Denver. It’s a trek, but one that is very much worth the trip. As we made our way past Montrose we hit the eye of the storm. Torrential downpour threatened to wash out the road as we finally hit the highway that would take us down valley and into town. We set our tent up in the rain and darkness and quickly went to bed. With three days of music and camping ahead of us, it was time for rest.
We awoke to a beautiful blue sky on Friday morning. For those that have never been, Town Park where the venue is located is actually a campground. This meant we were a mere three hundred yards from the entrance to the festival grounds. The weather all weekend alternated between absolutely perfect to downright drizzly. The music began around 1 PM on Friday with 2013 Band Contest Winners New Sound Underground. These young men had an explosively funky sound. The entire band biked from Minnesota to Telluride. It took around 30 days. With songs like “Natural High” and “Our Thing” it was obvious why these guys rose to the top to win their place at the festival. New Sound Underground put on a great set and it was a solid beginning to this one of a kind festival.
We watched the Telluride Allstars Leaders and Alumni Quintet next on the Town Park Stage. This band had an incredibly dynamic ability just play together. Made up of alumni of Telluride’s all-star program, and lead by Bob Montgomery on trumpet as well as Josh Quinlan on saxophone. Together they direct the program and spread the joy of music. Their set had a super laid back sensibility but with a solid intensity. They ranged from tightly performed jazzy jams to all out Latin detonations. They were impressive musicians.
Nigel Hall has long been known for his work with Royal Family Records. He is currently recording with Chapter 2 as well. His set took on an almost gospel feel as he blended jazz, funk, R&B, and more. They played for just under ninety minutes during which we got a little bit of rain. It was hardly enough to dampen anyone’s spirits. Front Range favorites The Motet lead by Dave Watts took the stage next. They have a sleeker lineup with Jans Ingber on percussion and vocals. With a performance of “Shake Your Booty” the crowd was in sync. They sun began to drift down the valley basking the canyon walls in a beautiful Alpenglow light. The Motet continues to be one of the most versatile bands playing in Colorado. They can pretty much play anything on cue and have spent the last two summers bouncing around the festival circuit. Their set at Telluride was truly spectacular. They invited Nigel Hall back up to the stage to sing on their closing tune.
The John Scofield Uberjam Band closed out Friday night in high musical fashion. This super group is comprised of Scofield on guitar, Adam Deitch on drums, Andy Hess on bass, and Avi Bortnick on guitar and samples. This is an insane collection of talent and their set at Telluride was flawless. Instead of sticking to their straight funk and groove sound they are known for from their first album, they pushed it up a notch utilizing samples and some far out sounds. They performed songs new and old including “Every Night is Ladies Night” and “I Brake 4 Monster Booty.” They recently release a second album, which was the impetus for an extended tour. This group defies genre by simply playing together and riffing off of each other. This was straight avant-garde jazz at it’s finest. At times they included some electronic sampling that was a little off putting, but overall they played an incredible set of music. As Uberjam finished up we walked the short distance back to our camp and called it an early night.
On Saturday Morning I opted out of the first couple bands and made my way via gondola up to the disc golf course. They have recently expanded the course to eighteen holes and it was a lot of fun. We made it to the Town Park Stage for the Doug Lawrence Organic Trio. The word “organic” defines this group nicely. They incorporated some soaring sax work from Lawrence, and focused on some swing-heavy jazz. Musically they were intrepid and impressive. They truly created full sound, which might not be expected from a three-piece group.
Latin Jazz extraordinaires Son Como Son were on the stage next. This eclectic group featured some of the most dance-centric music of the entire weekend. Hailing from New Mexico, this salsa band has the ability to play a wide range of Latin music. From bolero to the cha-cha, Son Como Con lead by Cesar Bauvallet is a nonstop musical powerhouse. This elevated energy Latin experience was yet another highlight from this amazing weekend in Telluride. During their set the festival featured a very popular wine tasting for all of the attendees.
Up next was fan favorite Meshell Ndegeocello. Her sultry voice played a little bit more down key for the audience, but she was definitely a sight to behold. She is a ten-time Grammy nominee; making her one of the most celebrated acts to perform all weekend. She defies categorization by playing off of a wide range of styles and sounds. Her set at Telluride was a gentle trip with an almost minimalist approach, accentuated by impeccable vocals from Meshell. Her set was delicately beautiful. It was another chance to witness some serious talent that many including myself have not had the pleasure of seeing live. She and her band played an awesome version of The Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”
The festival headliner Dr. Lonnie Smith had been getting rave reviews all day from his set the previous night at the Sheridan Opera House. He only played for about an hour but people were talking about it all day. As he took the stage on Saturday night it was obvious why. This man is a monster on the organ and he has enough tools and tricks to suck in even the most jaded of music fans. His set was a bit delayed due to some technical issues, however he was finally underway around 6:45 PM. The crowd seemed to squeeze in a bit as the Dr. got going. His music was hypnotic, sucking you into a trance like state. This was intense music ranging from straight up funk to all out acid jazz. His set was fire.
Co-headlining the night was Mr. Stanley Clarke and his bass. He is widely renowned for his work, which again seems to defy genre. He is perhaps best known for his project with Chick Corea, but he is truly established in his own right. He has done it all from film and television work to actually inventing two instruments. His set in Telluride was one of the best we saw all weekend. His show went a bit late pushing back all of the Jazz After Dark festivities along with it.
I trekked up the gentle slope to the Sheridan Opera House to see the New Orleans Suspects. They are playing a long set of music in this historic room. This group is like taking all of the greatness of the music of New Orleans and juicing it down into a single serving. The band is made up of members of The Neville Brothers, The Radiators, and Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Does it get any more NOLA than that? They got the crowd moving by playing a massive “Food For Thought.” I hung out for a while, but headed over to Fly Me To the Moon Saloon for a little bit of The Stooges Brass Band. These guys are like a younger Dirty Dozen or Rebirth Brass Band. They are high energy and almost playful at times in their delivery. They had some humorous exchanges especially on “Got A Big Fat Woman.” They were hard hitting funky brass jam. It was enjoyable. They also busted out their own take on “It’s All Over Now” made famous by the Rolling Stones. I headed back to my tent in the moonlight and got ready for day three.
Sunday came far too quickly and it was arguably the best day on the lineup. It began with a parade through the streets of Telluride lead by The Stooges. They all met up at the entrance to Town Park for a jam in the street before Boulder’s own Springdale Quartet started the show. Fresh off of the release of their new album Heist, which was produced by Alan Evans, Springdale has been performing all over Colorado. They won the band contest three years prior and were invited back to play in 2013 at Telluride Jazz. For this special set they decided to play all of Heist for the crowd. It was an excellent chance to see all of the new tracks live. Their performance was absolutely stellar with “IBM 22” and their instrumental version of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” really demonstrated how this band has evolved. Tight bass lines from Jordon Roos accented by Chase Terzain’s keys made for a stunning set. They closed with “Noise Factory” off their first album.
Although I’m highly familiar with Mike Dillon’s work with Garage A Tois and various projects over the years, this was my first chance seeing his new solo group. It’s a percussive collision of the best kind. The band consists of Dillon on vibraphone, Carly Meyers on trombone and percussion, Adam Gertner on drums, Patrick McDevitt on bass, and they also added Johnny Durkin on percussion as well. Their set in Telluride ran from playful to downright sinister. The focal point was an energetic Meyers who bounced around the stage between solos. There were several all out drum and percussion jams that punctuated an incredible performance of music. One jam featured a sit in from Stanton Moore.
“We’re gonna end with 10 minutes of punk rock.” – Mike Dillon
The Stooges Brass Band continued the New Orleans vibe, which would be the theme for the remainder of the evening. They are a bold new addition to the NOLA brass tradition. The Stooges engaged the crowd with their song “Wind It Up” and subsequent dance of the same name. Their energetic stage presence and strong musical ability are truly worth seeing live. They closed with a funked out version of “Hey Baby.” The New Orleans Suspects followed and just as the night before they shredded through a long set that was utterly reminiscent of all things Louisiana. This band seems to distill that Mardi Gras sound down to it’s root elements and just play with them in every tune. Everything about the band is fun. They have a familiar sound without being nostalgic. The New Orleans Suspects are another fresh approach to a music with a very long history.
Appropriately, Galactic headlined the last night with their set starting right around 7 PM. This band has toured relentlessly since they formed 18 years ago as a Mardi Gras band. They invited Mike Dillon out who sat in on percussion for the entire show. Corey Glover who has been touring with the band for the last couple years was there to add his prodigious vocals to the mix. Their performance sparked an all out dance party as the stars became visible in the sky. Galactic invited members the Mike Dillon Band, The New Orleans Suspects, and The Stooges Brass Band to close out their set. It became a massive clusterfunk as the musicians passed around solos and simply jammed it out for the very attentive audience. This was the true highlight of the weekend; witnessing stellar collaboration happening on the fly in Telluride. Galactic finished around 9 PM and the field slowly emptied.
As the eclectic audience headed back to their tents I was struck with a feeling of gratitude to be in Telluride. It’s good to know that festivals like this have a special place. Telluride Jazz Festival is truly a unique experience. It’s a slightly older crowd. There seemed to be more locals in attendance. It is by far one of the most family friendly environments I’ve ever seen at an event. Children ran around in the backfield and played throughout all three days. There were no overlapping sets, so everything felt relaxed. There was plenty of time to head back to the tents, which were only a few steps away from the gate. Security was lax and friendly. As I drove back the next day I was hard-pressed to think of one bad thing about the weekend. If a chill festival experience with some top rate musicians is what you are looking for, get to Telluride Jazz.
Dumpstaphunk played the House of Blues in Chicago on Friday, July 19th as Phish’s official late night show. In all honesty, this show was the highlight of my evening, especially since Phish was forced to cancel early due to a nasty storm that swept through the city. Along with opening act, The Revivalist, Dumpstaphunk threw down one top notch funky dance party that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
Chicago actually holds a special place in Dumpstaphunk history. Drummer Nikki Glaspie played her first show as an official member of Dumpstaphunk in Chicago just two short years ago. I got a chance to talk with Nikki before her show on Friday and let’s just say this chick is FIERCE! Her addition to the current lineup has elevated this band’s energy to a whole other stratosphere and her 15 minute drum solo Friday night completely blew me away.
Today, Dumpstaphunk will be releasing their latest album, Dirty Word, and this is the band’s first studio album since Nikki Glaspie joined the group. In the past she has helped produce, arrange, and record tracks in the studio for many other projects and artists, but Dirty Word is the first album where Nikki recorded material that she had also written.
Dumpstaphink is basically a super group of funk musicians, and Dirty Word showcases the musical range this band brings to the table. While each member has a notable musical background in funk, Nikki Glaspie is the only member not rooted in the New Orleans funk scene. Needless to say, her vocals pack quite a punch and her influence on the new album is obvious. ”I brought some of the rock element to the album. Whereas Nick Daniels brought the blues element and Ivan (Neville) brought a rock element too but a different type, almost like a Who-ish type vibe, and I brought just straight hard rock.”
Coming up with new material this day in age is often a reflection of what is already out there in the world of music. By staying true its origins, Dumpstaphunk’s mix of styles has brought funk music to a whole other level. ”We wanted people to know we are more than just a funk band,” explains Glaspie, ”We can play blues if we want to or we can play rock if we want to.”
Dirty Word was recorded in New Orleans and took about a year to complete. One of the most distinct difference between Dumphstaphunk and other funk bands is they lack a horn section. Luckily, artists Trombone Shorty and Skerik were close by to supply the horns for the album’s third track “I Wish You Would”. ”Skerik is an amazing tenor saxophone player, he’s sick!” says Nikki. They also added Rebirth Brass Band to mix for ”Raise the House,” a song that was meant to blow everyone away in true Mardi Gras fashion.
Dirty Word also contains some pretty notable contributions from artists Ani DiFranco and Art “Papa Funk” Neville. The album’s sixth track, “If I’m in Luck” is a dirty nasty Bettie Davis cover where Glaspie sings vocals and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers guest stars on bass. “It is so different than what Dumpstaphunk normally does or what people think we normally do,” explains Nikki “That was actually what we wanted for the record.” The band has been covering the tune since Nikki joined back in 2011. Just like it does in their live show, ”If I’m in Luck” adds quite a sassy flavor to the Dumpstaphunk catalog.
There is a certain stigma that surrounds funk music, which often gets snubbed because it goes against most of what pop music stands for. When asked about the album’s title, Glaspie explains how it is almost the perfect description of funk music from a funk band’s perspective. ”There is no category in the Grammys for funk,” she points out. “When we register our songs on BMI or ASCAP, there is no category to register our songs as funk songs. You know it’s like it’s not even recognized as a genre of music within the music industry. So, it’s like a dirty word.” The irony is that disco, house, EDM, and Hip-hop are all rooted in funk. Therefore without funk music, most of the pop music today would not exist and pop music is something Nikki Glaspie knows all too much about.
Nikki was fortunate to land a gig touring in an all-girl band backing up pop superstar Beyoncé. While touring with one of the most successful artists in the world is a dream come true for most musicians, it just wasn’t her thing. “Literally, if I had to play “Irreplaceable” one more time, I would have shot myself in the foot.” Nikki further explains, “I just couldn’t take it anymore.” Glaspie was at a crossroads where she felt she needed to be true to her art. Playing someone else’s music in a genre she could care less about no longer appealed to her. “I wanted to spread my wings. You know it was like I was super contained in that environment and I had to play the same thing over and over again. There was just no room for growth.”
Moving forward was a big step for her career. Funk music seemed to pull her in a direction where she knew she would enjoy being challenged. “I am a funkateer first and foremost, but I am also a rocker,” explains Nikki. Dumpstaphunk has given her a creative outlet where she can perform the same type of music she would want to listen to and see live. In other words, this is her dream job.
Nikki Glaspie has now been touring with Dumpstaphunk virtually nonstop for the past two years. While it might seem like a huge leap from the all-female pop band she traveled the globe with, Nikki didn’t find adjusting all that difficult. “We all have a certain kinship living together on the road. It’s not as much of a difference as people would think or maybe as it would be in a different type of work environment. But because we are all musicians, and kind of all do the same thing, then the gender thing doesn’t really matter.”
Dumpstaphunk will continue to tour nonstop in support of the new album, which drops today. Download here.
This weekend Phish will be taking over Chicago for a three night run at Northerly Island. With Saturday already sold out, Kuroda sporting a new light rig, and a completely revamped venue, this is bound to be a throwdown! But the party doesn’t stop there! Quite a few Summer Camp favorites are playing late night shows all around Chicago this weekend. Here’s a little heads up on some don’t-miss late nights for those of you heading to Phish….
Friday night the funk machine better known as Dumpstaphunk will be playing the House of Blues in Chicago. Their newest album, Dirty Word (available for pre-order), is about to drop at the end of the month, so this late night is guaranteed to get DIRTY!!! ”We are touring in support of the new Album, so people will definitely hear new material,” says drummer Nikki Glaspie. Not to mention that the HOB is one of the few venues in the Midwest to have a spring floor, which means you have no choice but to get down the minute the music starts and getting down is exactly what NOLA’s Dumpstaphunk is known for.
Chicago holds a special place in Dumpsta history. It was at the Mid back in 2011 that drummer, Nikki Glaspie, played her first show as an official member of Dumpstaphunk. In two short years she has brought the band to a whole other level. This late night will be a funky dance party through and through. What a great way to kick off the weekend!
If you are not familiar, Gamehenge was the setting of a musical masterpiece Trey Anastasio developed in college for his senior year project way back in 1987. It is basically the story of a man on a journey to get the goods. I won’t give away too much, but lets just say this album was the platform on which Phish was constructed. So in the same fashion that Phish grew into the beast it is today, Spread throws down some heavy improvisation in every song they play. They are guaranteed to split open the Hard Rock Cafe and we might even get a ”Wiiiillllllsoooon” tease thrown in the mix.
Finally, Summer Camp’s favorite late night act is doing what they do best by providing a Talking Heads dance party until the wee hours of the morning. This Must Be The Band will be playing Martyrs 7/20 and 7/21. Their first set on both Saturday and Sunday will be all request, where the loudest person in the crowd gets to choose what gets played next (so long as it’s Talking Heads music). The second set each night will be Speaking in Tongues, note by note. How neat is that?!
Needless to say, Summertime Chi is in full swing, SCampers! This weekend is going to be the type where the party just doesn’t stop…. So get out there and get your groove on!
With their first show selling out months in advance, The Meter Men decided to add a second night at The Ogden. By many accounts the second night which coincided with Page McConnell’s birthday, was the show to see. We arrived around 8:15 PM grabbed our passes and headed to Sancho’s for some pre-show libations. As we walked we passed Mike from Euforquestra, he let us know they would take the stage sharply at 9PM. After our drink we walked inside the worn walls of The Ogden to get down to Fort Collins’ Finest Euforquestra. Due to a last minute cancellation from the original openers they were asked to fill the bill just a few days prior to the show. They of course obliged and put on a forty-five minute romp of worldly music that was enough to please all of the early arrivers. At first the room was a loosely cobbled together assortment of patrons, but soon the room swelled to its proper size. They began the night with a tight and focused rendition of their now almost classic “Road Funk.” Matt Pitts from The Motet was sitting in for new father Ryan Jeter on sax. He added his own flair to the Euforquestra sound. Highlights from the set included an amazing “Price Is Right” and a jittery “Instant Coffee.” The crowd was complete as they closed the set with Beck’s “Nicotine and Gravy.”
The Meter Men consisting of The Meters sans Art Neville with Page McConnell took the stage shortly after 10 PM. We were immediately hit with their classic “Fire on the Bayou” which saw some searing guitar work from Leo Nocentelli. He would be on point all night, but with a stage filled with such talent by the end I felt like I had whiplash. During “Funkify Your Life” Ziggy Modeliste took the mic and tossed solos to both Porter and Page.
“George Porter taught me all I know about red beans and rice.” – Modiste
Ziggy was in the funk pocket for the entire two hour set and took several opportunities to tell stories and pump up the crowd. Many in the crowd were there for Page, but left as Meters fans. McConnell himself has strayed away from having The Meter Men perform any Phish tunes, but rather wanted the band to relearn some of their deeper cuts. Those early Meters tunes were the stomping grounds of jam for the Vermont quartet. After a massive “Hey Pocky Way,” that became an invigorating sing-along, they finished their set with the much-anticipated “Cissy Strut.” The Meter Men came back for the encore with a massive “Happy Birthday Jam” for Page, which was yet another high point in a great set of music. Reviews from night one seemed mixed at best. Some felt the energy from both band and crowd may have been lacking. I have to say that was not the case for this show. Seeing so much live music I rarely get totally jazzed up after a show. As I headed out into the crisp night air I was all smiles. The Meter Men are a viable project reminiscent of The Big Easy Blowout project that toured the Front Range back in 2006. The difference is that rather than a random assemblage of awesome musicians playing the music or New Orleans, three fourths of The Meter Men made the music of NOLA what it is today. Plus you know… Page. Here’s to hoping they continue to spread the funk for years to come.
There can be nothing more disheartening for a touring band than to show up and see a crowd of nine people is the total of your audience. This is exactly what happened at The Aggie for Moksha’s headlining gig. Touring with an amazing guest horn section consisting of Skerik, Peter Apfelbaum, and longtime Summer Camp alumni Jennifer Hartswick, the lack of people seemed even more tragic. I arrived early with a few friends and we were immediately confronted with the sweet reggae fusion sounds of Funkmaster.
Funkmaster aka Matt Grundstad, moved to Colorado with world music ensemble and Summer Campers, Euforquestra. They have since parted ways, giving Matt more time to focus on studio collaborations, performing with Dubskin, and his solo work. The Funkmaster setup has been a long time in the making. I first saw him utilize his muliti-instrumentalism along with a looping board all the way back in college. Needless to say the show has progressed immensely into a polished set of music that demonstrates not only his musicianship and vocal ability, but his knowledge of song craft and playing to an audience. Even if that audience is only a few hearty souls. He got our attention with a spot on version of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” built from the ground up. The highlight of his set was a massive mashup of Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, Parliament Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under A Groove” and “The Thong Song” among others. He ended his set with a nod to Toots and The Maytals who were just at The Aggie by playing “Bam Bam.” Toots will be as Summer Camp with is trio this year, so don’t miss that.
Up to the stage next was Smooth Money Gesture who jumped on Moshka’s run for their last two nights in Colorado. Smooth Money has been MIA as of late so it was nice to see them back on a bill in Fort Collins. SMG is quintessential Nederland jam with a touch of funk and rock influences. Smooth Money played a set that was just short of an hour, but they sounded fresh, considering they have been on a mini-hiatus for the last few months. They are back playing locally and are definitely worth checking out.
Moksha came to the stage and despite the lack of an audience ripped through an hour and a half of the funky jam.
Set 1: BNJ, Blind, Seed, Bobbin, Sexy M.F., Bathcat, Gettin, Awaken, Rite Away, Island, You Haven’t Done Shit
Although they cut their headlining set short, they can’t really be blamed. Musically they took us on a sweet ride, that actually left me wanting more. They had a strong focus musically, and the horns only added to the overall quality of the performance. Peter Apfelbaum is a jazz savant who can literally play anything, Skerik is a machine, and Jennifer Hartswick is the one-two punch of powerful trumpet and beautiful vocals. My one complaint is that these three seemed almost pushed to the back of the stage, and did not seemed to be featured on solos as much as I would have liked. Either way it was amazing to see these three with Moksha as they plowed through a wide array of their originals. The highlight of the show was the set closing Hartswick sung, “You Haven’t Done Shit.” It may have been somewhat disappointing for the band, but I have to say I was not let down. This ended up being a private show for me and a few other lucky individuals who made it down. You can literally hear the absence of people in the videos I shot, making for a surreal experience. That being said, I had a blast and will definitely be waiting for the return of Moksha.
Having friends come to town is an easy excuse to head down to The Ogden for a Galactic fueled rager. The Ogden continues to be major hub for jam bands in Denver. As we entered San Francisco based band The Monophonics were already in high gear warming up the crowd. These guys brought a rowdy soulful sound to the mix. Originally formed as an instrumental group, they are currently led by keyboardist Kelly Finnigan who exudes energy from every pore. A blend of psychedelic, funk, and soul The Monophonics are a polished unit that simply gobsmacked the early arrivers. We were greeted by a flawless version of Cher’s “Bang Band (She Shot Me Down).” First of all, an unusual cover to choose, which made popular as the opening credit track for Kill Bill. “Bang Bang” fit The Monophonics like a glove. The driving original “High Off Your Love” was another nice addition to the show. They closed the set with a cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Baby I Love You.” To say, I was impressed by The Monophonics would be an understatement. They come to play and leave every ounce of energy on the stage; I hope they make it back to Denver soon.
Just prior to Galactic taking the stage Don Strasburg with AEG announced that Galactic would be at Red Rocks this summer with Greensky and Railroad Earth on July 12th. Looks like that will be yet another incredible night on the rocks.
Galactic has long been my generation’s representation of New Orleans funk. Dr John, The Indian Chiefs, The Meters, and all the early NOLA players paved the way for Galactic. Birthed from the depths of the musical Louisiana swamp, Galactic is the true torchbearers of New Orleans Jazz, Funk, and Soul. Having transitioned from the days of House, Galactic has been touring for the last year or so with Corey Glover of Living Colour fame. Playing it much like House used to, Glover floats on and off the stage transforming the band from instrumental force, to full on musical volcano. Singing songs like his hit “Cult Of Personality” and The Beatle’s “I Am The Walrus,” Glover is a powerful and incredibly controlled singer who seems to be capable of belting out anything. They ended the first set with a beautiful “Bittersweet.”
The second set would see some hip-hop make it into the mix with trombone player Corey Henry singing one and cussing profusely. Hey I enjoy that. Corey is originally from Rebirth Brass Band, but he may have found a permanent home with Galactic. Lyrics Born who was on day two’s lineup made an unannounced appearance to sing a song in his signature spitfire fashion. Stanton was a monster all night and was given a nice solo that mesmerized the capacity crowd. Galactic ended the second set with Toussaint’s “What Is Success.” After a moment they were back to encore with “Does It Make A Difference At All” into The Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil.” Wow. This was a big show with lots of twists and turns. Galactic is an assemblage of the some of the best funk players on the planet today. They have grown from a relentless bar band when I first saw them in 2001 to ambassadors of New Orleans music. Galactic continues to play with an energy and vibrancy that is a rare find in today’s music scene. Go find the funk.
It was a big night in Fort Collins. The Aggie brought in an impressive lineup consisting of some of the best jazz and funk artists touring today. Hodi’s was celebrating their grand re-opening under new ownership with Dave Watts and Friends (aka The Motet) and free beer. The people that wanted to party headed to Hodi’s, the music fans went to The Aggie. I honestly would have loved to catch both, but the amazing music unfolding before my eyes kept me from moving on.
Up first was Garrett Sayers Trio lead by bass virtuoso and local phenom Mr. Garrett Sayers. This lineup consisting of Garrett on bass, Patrick Lee on keys, and Johnny Jyemo on drums has had a longstanding Wednesday night residency at the Highland Tap & Burger. They have intrigued me for a long time, but this was my first chance catching them live. GS3 took the stage around 9:15 and dazzled the crowd for just short of an hour. It was a rollercoaster ride with this nimble trio weaving together a massive sound for such a tight unit. The diversity within the GS3, was evident from the beginning. Each member of the band seems to be coming from distinctly different musical backgrounds. The result was this amazing blending of funk, jam, jazz, R & B, and so much more percolated in and out of every song. Garrett Sayers Trio is an instrumental band as were all the bands on the bill minus Kung Fu who will occasionally feature a song with vocals. There is something freeing about going to see an instrumental band. The show doesn’t get all convoluted with silly things like lyrics. I’m being facetious but it really does allow the audience to focus strictly on the music. It was impossible not to focus on GS3 as all three members wowed the slowly growing crowd. They finished their remarkable set and headed down the road where Garrett joined his Motet band mates for their gig at Hodi’s. He really is a hard worker.
Kind Recordings has the show up on Archive. Thanks to Corey for taping the show. http://www-tracey.archive.org/details/gstrio2013-01-24.fob.mc803.kindrec
Last year jam super group Kung Fu made several visits to Colorado, and they definitely made an impression. This time they were on a 5-day mission from God that took them from Aspen through Breckenridge and down to the Front Range. This was night three of that run and their set again came in at just under an hour was truly mind melting. While the Aggie was only about a third full, I was impressed with the variety of people in the crowd. I chatted with a couple of older gentlemen who had won tickets off of the radio with little knowledge of what was in store for them. I saw young college kids mingling with middle-aged hipsters. Perhaps the most alarming thing about this show was the distinct lack of chatter during the show. As you can hear in the recordings, people were definitely there to see the music. Kung Fu is Tim Palmieri on guitar (The Breakfast), Robert Somerville on tenor sax (Deep Banana Blackout), Todd Stoops on keyboards (RAQ), Christopher DeAngelis on bass guitar (The Breakfast), and Adrian Tramontano on drums/percussion (The Breakfast). This is truly a powerhouse lineup that did not disappoint. They opened with “Do The Right Thing.”
Set 1: Do The Right Thing, Snaggle, Scapegoat Blues> Letters From Bobby Portugal> Hollywood Kisses, Chakrabarty Overdrive
Kung Fu is a hard-hitting amalgamation of funk-fueled fire assaulting the senses of all those who dare to enter the ring. It’s a constant onslaught from Palmieri who literally had to have a stagehand douse him with an extinguisher after his massive solo during “Scapegoat Blues.” “Hollywood Blues” was the only song of the entire evening that featured vocals. They closed their ‘not long enough’ set with “Chakrabarty Overdrive” which as it’s name would insinuate caused me to need to go outside for some air. Keep coming back Kung Fu, and keep playing bigger and bigger shows. Colorado needs your brand of funky goodness.
Finally it was time for the B3 master himself Robert Walter to take the stage with his 20th Congress. Now this band has had several incarnations and has a rotating list of members. Fans at The Aggie were treated to a stunning lineup consisting of Cheme Gastelum (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings), Chris Stillwell (Greyboy Allstars), and Simon Lott (Charlie Hunter Trio). Just unbelievable. They opened with a gritty “Hunk.”
Set 1: Hunk, Snakes & Spiders, Cory’s Snail and Slug Death, Sweetie Pie, Dog Party, He’s Really Gone, Rivers of Babylon, Get Thy Bearings, Who Took the Happiness Out?, Fox Hunting, Don’t Chin The Dog, Impervious, Instant Karma
Encore: Don’t Hate Congratulate
Robert Walter is best known for his work with Greyboy Allstars, however his solo band is truly not to be missed. I really felt that it has been such a long gap between his tours, that many are no longer in the know. And it’s too bad really, because the show we received from this lineup was nothing short of top notch. The lack of guitar really put the focus on Walter and Gastelum and their interplay was outstanding. The highlight of the show for me was the Phantom of the Opera-esque intro to the instrumental “Rivers Of Babylon.” They closed their set with a massive jam on Lennon’s “Instant Karma.” This is the caliber of music I would like to see more of on The Front Range. Despite the conflicting shows, I feel I made the right choice and left feeling musically satisfied in a way that I have not been in quite some time. Watching truly gifted musicians jam together is the reason I started really covering live shows. Seeing this stellar lineup on a Thursday night in Fort Collins just validates that decision.