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.
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.
Hey Scampers, one week till Scamp time! Yesss!
I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to attend Summer Camp 2012 as your Counselor in Training. It truly is an honor and a dream come true. I’m going to tell ya a little bit about myself so you can get to know your CIT a little better, and then I’m going to tell you what I’m most excited for at SC.
Since 2005 I’ve been attending 1-2 music festivals each year, and they have more or less turned into my home away from home each summer. I always choose which festival I attend each summer based on who has the best lineup for my tastes. And this year it was a no brainer, Summer Camp 2012 all the way! (I must admit though that I do have a soft spot in my heart for Wakarusa and the Harvest festival with their spectacular scenery up on Mulberry Mountain. Just check out this breath taking aerial shot!) In St. Louis, I’m always attending shows. Especially the shows of Aaron Kamm and the One Drops (check them out!). One thing that’s great about my city is that there’s always free shows going on year round, which is a great way to get into and support local bands. I usually attend shows at small venues such as the Firebird, Broadway Oyster Bar, the Old Rock House, Lemmon’s, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the Schlafly Tap Room, and the Schllafly Bottleworks. As for the larger shows, I usually go to the Pageant or Pop’s.
As for SC, I’m most excited to see some Gogol Bordello. I’ve seen these accordion playin-fiddlin’ strummin’-wine splashin’-gypsy punks several times, and their energy is enough to blow your face off! If you need a quick energy boost to get ya through the rest of Friday night, make sure you check out this band. (Just don’t forget to find me during their set and dance with me in the front!) I also can’t wait to see some Umphrey’s, I’ve been seeing these guys 2-3 times a year since 2005, and like everyone knows, every show is always different and better than the last! Now let’s just hope that we can all make it to every one of their 5 of their sets in 3 days at SC. And I can’t wait for some Primus, especially since I haven’t seen them since they put out their new album Green Naugahyde. It’ll be quite a set with some new tunes in rotation. Plus, you can never go wrong with the lovely bass playin’ of Les Claypool, side project or not, he always puts on a spectacular show. I also can’t wait to get on my dancin’ shoes and hit up some Rubblebucket! This will be a first for me, but just the sound of Kalmia Traver‘s sultry voice puts me in a romantic daze. I’m also excited for some Keller Williams, Galactic, The New Orleans Suspects, The Infamous Stringdusters, Gov’t Mule, Michael Franti, G. Love, Common, Jane’s Addiction, Wooten, Zoogma and many more!
Once I first found out that I made it to the top 6, the planning and packing began. Well, mostly because I had a horrible nightmare that I showed up to SC with only my tent and the clothes on my back. That was frightening. But anyway, my festival essentials include my eno hammock, lots clean under drawers, costumes, sunscreen, baby powder, apples, and my blow up mattress. I’m always lookin’ out for the Scamper, so I purchased some goodies to give away to my fellow Scampers such as hundreds of glowsticks (for glowstick wars), glow paint, and fuzzy pink moustaches. I am also apart of the Umphrey’s street team, so you can expect some sweet Umphrey’s goodies from me as well! As your CIT, of course I will give you a personal perspective of my SC experience through technology, but I’m all about you, the Scamper. I can’t wait to get to know you and make lifetime friends in the process. I’m going to be running around in costumes half of the weekend, so if you’re dressed in a costume too, I wanna meet ya and award you with a fuzzy pink moustache! And as promised, I will be bringin’ those apples! So if you’re a fan of the apple, be ready to catch one headed in your direction. Also, I’m coming to SC with my main squeeze Adam. If you watched my contest video, he was the dude that was trying to “rob” me. One of our favorite things to do together is swing dance, so you’ll probably see us bustin’ some swing moves during sets and especially at Gogol Bordello. I’ll also be hangin’ with my friend Joe (who I met some years ago through my best girl E-Flat) and his friends who are SC veterans.
I am excited and proud to say that this is going to be my first Summer Camp! And I can’t wait to spend it with you. So if you see me out and about, don’t be shy, come say “hi”! I’d love to chat it up with you or dance our booties off together to some tasty tunes. So let’s make it the best one yet! (Not only because my birthday is on Thursday of SC, but especially since I heard some crazy rumor that the world is supposed to end sometime late this year…it’s probably a buncha psssh, but let’s do it up anyway!)
Love, hugs, and thugs,
St. Patty’s Day, the drinkingest day of the year was also night two of Galactic’s Paddy Gras run at The Ogden in Denver. Galactic made the trek to Summer Camp in 2007, and are on the bill this year as well. When I saw the recent announcement of their inclusion on the lineup I knew I had to cover them here.
I arrived early and witnessed smeared shamrocks on the faces of the bleary-eyed patrons which acted as the unofficial war paint for the evening, as the sea of green filled in for the sold out show. Shirts adorned with leprechauns, cartoon characters, and various shades of emerald were the informal jersey of the dance battle, which I was immediately confronted with upon entering.
DJ Logic was on stage spinning his brand of jazzy funk-infused house music while kids were break dancing on the floor. Logic is an interesting cat; he is known for sitting in with numerous bands from the Blues Traveler front man John Popper in the Popper Logic Project to Widespread Panic. He gained notoriety at the inaugural Bonnaroo by performing with over a dozen artists and filled the role of the DJ at large in a big way. Logic spun for close to an hour keeping fans happy as the show got underway.
Los Angeles-based band The Aggrolites performing their own brand of self-proclaimed “Dirty Reggae” was next on the bill. Elements of rock and soul find their way into the mix. They rely heavily on crowd reaction and develop an energy that is contagious. The few fans that were familiar with The Aggrolites congregated in the front as the band eased into their set. Jesse Wagner blasted out his vocals on the microphone as the audience joined in the vibe. Riff heavy songs shot out the PA like musical bullets. Having no familiarity with the band, I quickly found myself dancing and chanting along with the group. Normally The Aggrolites find themselves playing alongside bands like 311, Flogging Molly, and Social Distortion, but they were a great way to get the night started. They ended their set with a powerful cover of The Beatles “Come Together”.
After a quick stage change Galactic took their places and opened with a funky “Boban”, here is the rest of the setlist.
SET I: Boban, Total Destruction To Your Mind, Heart of Steel, Break In The Road, Balkan Wedding, Manic Depression, Hey Na Na, Night People, Out In The Street, Bittersweet, Ha Di Ka, Shibuya, Funky Bird, Boe Money, From The Corner To The Block, Crazy Horse Mongoose, How Many More Times
ENCORE: Ash Wednesday Sunrise, Goin Down
The driving drums of Stanton Moore immediately took center stage and didn’t leave the spotlight for the rest of the evening. The man is a beast and he shows his prowess with ever hit of the snare. Rebirth Brass Band’s Corey Henry on trombone was a distinctly awesome addition to Galactic’s performance. The back and forth between Henry and Ben Ellman was thrilling. Corey Glover originally of Living Colour fame, took over vocal duties for the show. It was reminiscent of the Galactic days of yore that saw Theyrl Houseman DeClouet on the mic. The instrumental version of Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” was a highlight to be certain. Glover came back to the stage to hit it hard for a run of tunes that made up the meat of the set. The staggering crowd was treated to some classic Galactic funk with “Shibuya” and “Funky Bird” before Moore soloed on the kit for “Boe Money”. They ended the show with a stellar “How Many More Times”. They encored with a sick “Ash Wednesday Sunrise” into “Goin Down”. Galactic brings the heat when they play. They are a funky force to be reckoned with and continue to perform with an energy that is impressive to say the least. They are truly worthy of their place at the top of New Orleans exports and I’m truly looking forward to seeing their set at Summer Camp this year.