It’s such an awesome feeling when you see a band for the very first time and they rock your socks off. It’s even cooler when they are local to your area! That band is AjamajA, and they are quickly making their name known!
AjamajA’s band name is something that sticks with me. It’s catchy and hard to forget; but anyone can have a cool name. It’s the music that really counts, right? Well I was pleased to have seen them live last week opening up for the very talented, Zach Deputy!
I knew of the band, and I had already heard some of their recorded material, so I was really looking forward to the show. They came right out jamming, and I had a great time dancing. You see, living in Buffalo in the winter gets pretty cold. It’s always awesome grabbing a few beers and catching a live show that gets you moving to keep ya warm and fuzzy. AjamajA did just that! Check out some of their material for yourself:
I was able to catch up with guitarist and vocalist Jason Staniszewski.
Kyle - What are some of your biggest music influences as a band?
Jason - moe. , Grateful Dead, Phish, Ween, Talking Heads, Umphrey’s McGee, Bob Dylan, Lotus, Brothers Past, Primus, Toots & The Maytals, Bob Marley, Lettuce, Miles Davis…. We listen to just about everything and are willing to dive into any situation. Music is here to be heard and we are all about that. Crossing genres.
Kyle - AjamajA is a very unique name. How did the name come about?
Jason - The name is very unique and that is what we wanted. We wanted something non genre specific and somewhat easy to remember, but still leaving it open ended. (Jason) My brother and I were on the phone the one night and he said you should name your band JamaJ. I dug it, but thought of the Austin Powers movie where he says Fajah for his Father. So I said AjamajA. After going in numerous directions we all agreed that this would have to be the name.
Kyle - What’s the bands writing process like?
Jason – It varies from one song to another. Sometimes a member will bring a full song in with lyrics and we will then analyze an adjust. Other times someone will catch a cool riff and we will play with it for a bit. We are very open minded to everyone’s ideas and want to keep each song moving in a new and different direction.
Kyle - Buffalo has an awesome music scene. What is your favorite part of starting out here?
Jason - The fans. The people here are really into the original music scene, they are willing to come out and support bands most any day of the week. That is a testament in its own. People love dancing and getting funky here in Buffalo!
Kyle - What got you into the jam scene?
Jason - Me personally, I have to give credit to my Aunt & Uncle. They hooked me up when I was a kid with Grateful Dead albums and some live Phish shows. I didn’t really get it until I was 12-13. My dad was always into classic rock and a big Neil Young and Allman Brothers fan. Cat Stevens, James Taylor and The Beatles were also played a lot. The jam scene just suited me and my personal beliefs more. Exploring and creating something out of nothing is an amazing thing to witness.
Kyle - What makes AjamajA stand out as a band?
Jason - We are a group of humble fellas that love to play. Our openness on stage allows not only us, but our crowds to be themselves.
Kyle – Thanks Jason! Anything else to add?
Jason - We can’t wait to get out on the road and expand our horizons. Music is everything to us, it’s in our bones, it’s a passion!
A highlight of their set for me was when they closed with ” I Know you Rider “ by the Grateful Dead. Anytime I have a chance to see Grateful Dead music performed live, I get excited. I’m always way more judgmental when a band performs covers of songs that I like. It’s hard not to especially when a band changes the song up a bit. I thought they did an awesome job! The vocals and instrumentals were spot on!
Here’s a clip of them performing their original song, “A Simple Life” from the show.
I’m already anxious to see them perform again! Keep an eye out for these guys, as I’m sure they will be playing shortly in a town near you!
Until next time…
AjamajA Live at the Waiting Room Photo Credit: Lindsey Robinson Photography
This year I ended my festival season with a bang by making the trek from MI all the way to Oak Ridge Farm in Arrington, VA for the first ever Lockn’ Music Festival. What I found special about this particular event was the stacked line-up of epic jam mixed in with the idea of making the music never end in a seamless fashion. I was determined to not miss this one.
Luckily I got hooked up with a photo pass and had the time of my life shooting some of the most amazing artists all weekend long. In case you weren’t aware, Lockn’ featured three sets from both Furthur and The String Cheese Incident including special guest appearances and collaborations all weekend long. Widespread Panic, Warren Haynes, Trey Anastasio Band, Zac Brown, John Foggerty, The Black Crowes, and Tedeschi Trucks give you a good sense of what the festival entailed.
What made the festival so amazing for me was the fact that it was the first opportunity I have had to photograph many of these legendary artists. I was definitely one of the happiest souls in the photo pits all weekend long.
My favorite moment of the weekend was when Trey Anastasio came out and performed with Furthur for the first time ever. He helped finish out Casey Jones of Furthur’s rendition of Workingman’s Dead (the entire album) and played other favorites including Scarlet Begonias and Truckin’
I managed to snap some of the best pictures I’ve ever shot. Have a look and get a feel for what Lockn’ was like.
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
Photos by C. Alan Crandall (https://www.facebook.com/RockyMountainJams)
Video by evenstev (http://www.youtube.com/user/evenstev)
Audio by Otterman
No band unifies the tribes like the Grateful Dead. They are the spring from which all jam flows and they are the founders of a musical lifestyle that reaches far beyond the concert. With the passing of Jerry Garcia the remaining members of the family have had to find various outputs for their creativity. The most recent and well known of these is Furthur. Helmed by Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, Furthur has been a celebration of the art that was created by the Grateful Dead throughout three decades of nonstop touring.
During this past summer Furthur experienced some hardships. Weir collapsed on stage in the spring and the band was forced to cancel a headlining spot at BottleRock Napa Valley scheduled for May 9th. So it was no real surprise when just prior to their four-night run at Red Rocks Amphitheatre that Furthur announced they would not be touring for the majority of 2014. Originally I planned on missing this run, but given this fact my wife and I opted to head to The Edge for the sold out show on Saturday.
We got on the road early but weekend traffic didn’t put us on Lot until around 5 PM. We parked in the Upper South and relaxed a bit before show time. It’s always a little odd jumping into a four day run on night three. Everyone is well into his or her flow and I end up feeling a little bit like a tourist. That being said I didn’t let it bother me as I headed up the ramp. At this point, I must give props to my good friend Tuber for securing us tickets and getting us settled in the 8th row. You’re a good man and thorough.
Rarely do I get the chance to watch any concert at Red Rocks from the first ten rows so this was a real treat. Furthur opened with a fiery “Feel Like A Stranger” that went deep into the dark side musically to begin the night.
Set 1: Feel Like A Stranger, Althea, Jack Straw> Doin’ That Rag, Fennario, Mason’s Children, Promised Land
Set 2: Dear Mr. Fantasy> Wheel, Estimated Prophet> Dark Star> Standing On The Moon> Terrapin Station: At A Siding> Terrapin Flyer> Terrapin Refrain> Unbroken Chain> Space> Shakedown Street> All Along The Watchtower> Turn On Your Lovelight
Encore: Box Of Rain
http://archive.org/details/Furthur2013-09-21.aud.flac16 (AUDIO ON ARCHIVE)
On paper this is a Deadhead’s wet dream. The beautifully executed “Althea” featured some amazing and accurate guitar and vocal work from John Kadlecik. The band gently eased into “Jack Straw” with Phil and Bobby trading vocals back and forth. The entire crowd seemed to join in on the refrain. Vocally it was fair, but Chimenti’s keys were the real highlight. “Doin’ That Rag” was spot on while “Fennario” aka “Peggy-O” was like a fresh breeze washing over the crowd. “Mason’s Children” is always a great addition, and this version was stellar. They closed with a classic “Promised Land.” Musically the band sounded incredibly tight. Joe Russo does the work of three people on the kit, watching him is like trying to focus on an octopus pulling a card trick. It’s magic. Early Furthur performances with Jay Lane were excellent, but Russo has filled the void tremendously.
The second set featured a more extensive setlist feature many songs from deep in the Dead catalog. They surprised the audience by opening with Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” It was accurate but deliberate in the rendition. The band simply exploded into a powerful “Wheel.” The rows of Red Rocks soon became a massive dance party. Furthur went dark again with a well-played “Estimated Prophet.” Both Pehrson and Becker were outstanding on the backup vocals, but they seemed present much less than previous shows I’ve seen. In fact they frequently departed the stage leaving just the core of the band to rock it out. The Dark Star continued the trek into the shadows musically, and this was an obvious high point for the second set. These two songs combined stretched to about thirty minutes and featured some of the most heroic jamming of the evening. Afterward they went into an impeccable “Walking On The Moon” with some great vocals from Mr. Weir. They went into a truncated “Terrapin” themed jam that featured a sick “Terrapin Flyer.” Phil’s sounded a bit shaky on “Unbroken Chain,” but that’s nothing new. His bass was in full effect regardless of who was at the microphone. Further went into a “Space” jam before concisely ripping into another fan favorite “Shakedown Street.” It was awesome to see Furthur perform Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” which was yet another unexpected gem. The elder statesmen of jam finished with an energetic “Lovelight.” They encored with a Phil sung “Box Of Rain.”
Overall this was a solid outing from Furthur and I was happy that we made the trip. Red Rocks is a special place and as each year passes the possibility that Phil or Bobby will stop touring or worse rises. The fact that 2014 will see the two split ways just gave me the excuse I needed to go. Assuming they will both be touring with Rat Dog and Phil and Friends respectively means that both are looking for a different outlet right now. Lets hope that they come back energized and reinvigorated towards the end of next year. Time will tell.
Note: This article contains some excellent collaboration. Thanks to the superb Mr. Crandall for providing photos, thank you to Otterman who posted his audio recording on Archive, and finally thanks to evenstev for shooting the entire show on a tripod and posting on YoutTube. We live in an amazing time in technology where you can go online after a concert and re-experience the show in so many ways. The dedication of fans like these three makes it easy to really examine and understand the individual performances of bands like Furthur. For that I thank you all.
^ 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 world renowned drummer of the Grateful Dead Mickey Hart came to town for a MusicMarauders Presents show at The Oriental Theater in the Highlands of Denver. Mickey and his band, which includes Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools along with Crystal Monee Hall on vocals, Joe Bagale on vocals, guitar, and keys, Gawain Matthews on guitar, Sikiru Adepoju on the talking drum, and Greg Schutte on kit, were in the midst of a three blast across Colorado. With stops in Boulder, Denver, and Aspen as part of larger spring tour, the band was in fine form for a Friday night on the Front Range.
There was an issue online with the posted show times causing many including myself to arrive a full two hours prior to the doors opening. There was a large drum circle across the street from the venue and it being First Friday, we warmed up in a gallery. When the doors finally opened we were still a full hour away from the African Showboyz taking the stage. The story goes that Mickey was going to take part in a drum circle / workshop that was cancelled at the last minute. I thought given the circumstances Mickey should have made his way across the street to the aforementioned drum circle and jammed for the early arrivers.
That did not happen.
Up first was a group hailing all the way from a small village in Ghana, West Africa. The only description appropriate for this group of four brothers is stunning. The African Showboyz utilizing traditional instrumentation including the bind douk, bin bill and the tonton sanson, and incorporating customary dances that were simply jaw-dropping to watch live. They are touring ambassadors whose primary mission is to spread “recognition for the suffrage of the African people.” Performing Bob Marley classics such as “Redemption Song” alongside the songs of their native village made it all very approachable. The driving rhythm of the drums accompanied by the poetic voices of the Sabbah brothers was absolutely mesmerizing. They finished their breathtaking set with a simple dance and salute to the crowd. My only issue was that they performed behind the headliners rig, which seemed weird to me. The Mickey Hart Band made their way to the stage shortly after 10 PM. They jumped right into the muddy goodness with a huge “Shakedown Street” opener.
Set 1: Shakedown Street> Starlight Starbright> Franklin’s Tower> Bully Boy> Bird Song> Magic Wand> Fire On The Mountain
Set 2: Samson & Delilah> Slow Joe Rain> Playing In The Band> Morning Of The World> Playin’ Reprise> Supersonic Vision> Cut The Deck> China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider
Encore: Brokedown Palace
Thanks to Corey and Kind Recordings for posting the show on ARCHIVE.
The overall show was a solid mix of MHB originals and standard Grateful Dead. Hall seemed to take primary vocal duties on the majority of the songs giving an entirely new feel to some of the classic tunes. At times it was jarring, but her powerful vocals won me over in the end. Tucked in the back of the stage was Schools who even added his voice to the backup mic a few times throughout the night. Mickey stood flanked by his 360-degree personal drum monstrosity, which included electronic drum pads hooked to an array of effects. “Franklin’s Tower” was a beautiful addition to the set as the kaleidoscope lights danced on the ceiling of the historic theater. “Magic Wand” their original, was truly an energetic high. They closed with the much-expected “Fire On The Mountain.”
The second set started perfectly well with a tight version of “Samson & Delilah,” but it quickly fell apart with the alternative sounding “Slow Joe Rain.” As they were playing, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief. I can understand a band wanting to sound current, but this was current circa 1992, and just felt totally out of place. MHB quickly redeemed themselves with an extended take on “Playing In The Band” that featured “Morning Of The World” as the meat of the jam. They finished the set with a huge “China Cat” “Rider” that was enough to make any Dead fan happy. Mickey and Friends encored with a lovely “Brokedown Palace.”
It was just a solid show from a band that appears to be finding its stride. Much like Billy’s band 7 Walkers, Mickey is using his golden years to make his own mark and write his own musical chapter. None of the living members of the Grateful Dead have anything to prove, they’ve done it all and they’ve paved the way. Now, they have earned the chance to relax, perform, or not perform. Each show is a blessing and a chance to celebrate the music of the Grateful Dead. Go out and celebrate.
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.
After shaking off the night before with some wake and bacon and eggs my Friday opened with Keller Williams on the Moonshine Stage. Front row center I was able to finally witness the extraordinary one man band do his funky bass thang and was not disappointed. I’m not sure if Keller’s facial mannerisms signal anything to the other instruments onstage, but they amused the audience as they baked in the mid-afternoon sun.
Keller came out with a black bandana draped over his mouth and moved between his three guitars and a mixing board as he started looping his masterpiece. His set highlights included a throwback gem in “Freaker by the Speaker” and bass infused covers of Cage The Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and a baritone raspy version of Flight of the Concords “I Told You I was Freaky.” Keller is so tuned into the music he adapted to minor feedback issues in the monitor by simply moving it away from the speaker. Guess that’s what is to be expected considering he’s been working with the same sound guy for 15 years. For the last song special guest Al Schnier joined Keller onstage for Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.”
Our crew stepped on over to Starshine to drop by and investigate the legendary Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio. Slinking along the VIP fence I cozied up to a patch of grass just in time to hear “Truckin” which was played beautifully as cloud cover brought a hazy calm over the crowd. “New Speedway Boogie” with Chris Robinson on vocals followed with a nice little harmonization to end the Grateful Dead classic.
The soulful southern Dead classic “Deep Elem Blues” followed with Bob on vocals and transitioned into Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” with Jackie Greene playing a mean mandolin. I left after “Uncle John’s Band” and headed towards the Campfire Stage which would be my home for the next three shows. I met up with my pals in Family Groove Company for the first course in The New Orleans Suspect. FGC went to school out in Los Angeles with one of their musicians who also plays in The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and it was a nice appetizer funk fest near the Red Barn before the main course in Elephant Revival and Cornmeal later that evening.
I had missed the Thursday sets of Elephant Revival, the five piece folk ensemble out of Colorado, and was not going to let another chance pass me by as the buzz around this band has been high. After fiddling with the sound to get things just perfect they launched into a new tune opening with “Woodstock.” Wearing long white gloves and straddling a stomp box Bonnie Paine’s feathery lilting voice brought back memories of Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan. She wore a perma-smirk for nearly the entire set as she strummed her washboard to an celtic influenced sea shanty jig with Bridget Law starring on a few timely placed solos. Bridget plugged the bands release of a new song book before Sage Cook and Daniel Rodriguez provided background vocals and plucking prowess on banjo and guitar with Bonnie on lead for the water inspired “Drop.” The energy of the set was felt on a changing tempo “Old Oak River” which was played a cappella style and had a Johnny Cash type feel as the late night revelers swayed and clapped along. I’m very excited that this group is touring the summer festival circuit more extensively and will get a chance to see them again later this year at Shoe Fest.
Cornmeal’s first two sets for the pre-party I also missed out on due to schedule conflicts, but was Allie side for the annual acoustic Campfire Stage set. They brought out Elephant Revival for the first few songs. It was awesome to see Bridget and Allie smitten and smiling and showing their collective fiddle chops in addition to Wavy Dave and Sage keep the time on dueling banjos. Wavy Dave Burlingame once again had his annual Summer Camp birthday and joked around that he forgot his geritol…good thing a handle of Maker’s Mark was present to help him re-remember as he instructed “the cap be left off” to celebrate in fashion. Cornmeal brought out Giving Tree Band violinist Phil Zee for a few songs during the second half of their set. Allie and Phil chased each other taking turns on fiddle solo as Wavy and Kris kept everyone in high spirits with a menagerie of Cornmeal classics. A final special sit in occurred when Floodwood’s Jason Barady got on stage to play on mandolin. I sat there and was amazed as sandwiched between Kris and Wavy he furiously moved his fingers around the frets with ease.
Well i’m currently sitting in the Church listening to Umphrey’s McGee soundcheck for a special off the grid set for rockstar guests. I need to wrap things up so I can set up and experience my third crazy music filled day here at Summer Camp!
More pictures to come later on: