Alex did a great job running down some of the big additions in Summer Camp’s Second Round of 2014 Artist Announcements earlier on the blog. As usual the Summer Camp bill is really stacked giving fans a wide array of musical choices, and he broke down the big names that have everyone buzzing.
And while the 2nd round was certainly full of big names, I’d like to focus on a few of the bands that you might have overlooked at first glance.
Obviously the addition of Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico’s Americana explosion Floodwood is great news. Fresh off their inaugural tour of Colorado, this will be Floodwood’s third year at Summer Camp. They also played two top-notch shows in the VIP tent in both 2012 and 2013. If you like moe and acoustic music find yourself at Floodwood whenever possible.
Head For The Hills
I’m personally excited to see my hometown heroes Head For The Hills on the lineup. This has been a long time coming and in my opinion they are one of the best string bands touring today. They have an attention to song craft that harkens back to a nostalgic time. Their strong musical story telling is matched by their powerful harmonizing. Head For The Hills is sure to please any bluegrass fan.
In the last year I’ve had the pleasure of seeing jam standout Twiddle twice. They recently toured extensively with The Werks who will again be returning to Summer Camp. Twidde renews faith in the jam scene with each performance. They are rekindling my love affair with jam and quite frankly, they do it well.
The Devil Makes Three
In 2012 made their initial performance at Summer Camp. Unfortunately their bassist Lucia Turino had suffered an injury to her arm and was unable to play with the band. The fill in was fine, but I look forward to seeing the full group playing at Summer Camp they year. They are in the vein of cowpunk, but they focus on a ragtime delivery with heavy lyrics. They are some slap you in the face bluegrass.
UV Hippo or Ultraviolet Hippopotamus as they are officially known too is relatively fresh to the Summer Camp scene. This will be their third year on the lineup and the Michigan progressive improvisational outfit. They too are part of a young crop of new bands that are focusing on bringing the glory of jam back to the masses. Like Twiddle and The Werks, UV Hippo is carrying a torch that was set aflame with the likes of Phish and Blues Traveler.
Mike Dillon is a mad scientist of the xylophone. He is a percussion king and truly an awe-inspiring performer. For those that aren’t familiar Mike Dillon is a member of Critter Buggin’, Garage A Tois, and Les Claypool’s Fancy Band and has played with everyone from Ani DeFranco to Galactic. This is the second time the Mike Dillon Band has played at Summer Camp, but this group has been touring relentlessly since the release of their debut album Urn in 2012. The energetic and spunky Carly Meyers on trombone is definitely one to watch.
And last but certainly not least Greensky Bluegrass will be making their triumphant return to Scamp. They first performed at Three Sister’s Park in 2009 and this will be their fourth year at the festival. Greensky is an incredible bluegrass experience that knows their craft and delivers night after night. This summer they did a three day run that included their first performance at Red Rocks, a stop Camp Euforia in Lone Tree, Iowa, and they finished the weekend with a show at Forecastle in Kentucky. That’s some serious touring and some serious dedication to spreading their music far and wide. For real string fans Greensky is definitely a favorite.
Well there you have it – a quick rundown of my top 8 possibly overlooked, but most likely widely celebrated, additions to the Summer Camp lineup. With a hundred bands (give or take a few) seven stages, multiple musical workshops, and the random private outbursts of song, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.
Check out the full lineup here! VIP Ticket info and Late Night Shows (including details on the rumored umVIP packages) will be announced on Wednesday!
And don’t forget to buy your Summer Camp 3 Day Passes now before the prices goes up!
The first night of February seemed doomed for a mediocre turnout. For reasons unbeknownst to me, this incredible musical collaboration that included Eric McFadden, Norwood Fisher, Willie Waldman, Paulo Baldi, & the legendary Mr. Herman Green was moved across town to Donkey OTs. You may remember in 2012 when Banyan opened up Sunday at Summer Camp with Green and Waldman. That live collaboration including Stephen Perkins, Rob Derhak, and Clint Wagner as well.
This lineup performed an early set the previous night opening for Stir Fried with Michael Kang and Allie Kral. The move for Saturday seemed silly for a number of reasons. Let’s take a step back. Firstly when a bar is known as Quixote’s why on Earth would anyone name another venue Donkey OTs? (Say it phonetically, I know it took me a second too. DON-key-0-Ts). Well apparently that complaint has not fallen on deaf ears, as it will be transitioning to the name of Darkstar Lounge at some point in the not to distant future. Secondly, as usual this show was so under promoted that the turnout beyond friends and family could be counted on two pairs of hands. This is nothing new of course, but when they had a perfectly good model from Friday night why change it up? I can only believe that someone actually cares about the venue and wants to provide good talent. It isn’t exactly clear to me what situation caused this show to be moved.
So for the record lets take a second and evaluate who was in the room to play music. Eric Byron McFadden is a guitar virtuoso from the psychedelic school of San Francisco. His background in traditional jazz, Gypsy, Flamenco, Punk, Rock, and more has given him the ability to play with absolutely anyone. McFadden’s history with drummer Paulo Baldi, of Cake and Les Claypool’s Fancy Band, fame goes back to 1994 when they were in the group Liar. Baldi and McFadden currently play together in the Eric McFadden Experience when they get the chance. Willie Waldman is a founding member of Banyan and an amazing musical collaborator who has performed live with everyone from Jane’s Addiction to Snoop Dog. One of the founding members of the seminal west coast cult band Fishbone, John Norwood Fisher was there to lend his flawless bass skills. Last but most certainly not least Herman Green, this guy has played with everyone from Dave Brubeck to Miles Davis to John Coltrane. He is the founder of the influential Memphis group Freeworld, which was a band from Waldman’s formative years. I said all that to ask why would you move this group to club on Federal with no advertisement? That’s too much talent to waste on a show that literally no one knows about.
That being said, the room itself was a spectacular place to see a live performance. The bar was being refurbished so bottles of beer or mixed drinks were the only option. That was of little concern. The venue is also home to the New Speedway Burger, which isn’t half bad. The back wall of the room is one long row of windows giving an unmatched view of Sports Authority Field and the Denver skyline. The nondescript wood paneling façade in the front did very little to indicate the picturesque scenery. In fact they have had their most profitable days when the Broncos were playing across the tracks. The room has plenty of space and if they finish the bar and get a few local micros on tap this could be an extraordinary place to see live music.
This impressive collaboration began around 10:30 PM and it was a primarily instrumental journey into the musical madness of these five players. The rapport between Baldi and McFadden was palpable and indicative of their two decades of experience playing together. Waldman has been sort of chaperoning Green around the country on a tour that began in early January. The pair had a performance with Wilco’s Nels Cline in New York and have been continuing out west. This tour has been an unusually lengthy run for the aging duo. Waldman appeared a bit more subdued on this particular Saturday than his normally boisterous self. That may or may not have been a result of the turnout.
The show began with a huge bass solo from Fisher, which served as a launching pad for Baldi. McFadden gave us searing guitar solos throughout the night. His incredible technical ability and versatility with his instrument are simply something to witness. He has been called a ‘modern day Hendrix’ and I don’t feel that’s too far off. Baldi was given the opportunity to jam on the dirty funk jazz for two sets while Fisher continued to systematically slap out the rhythm. Green and Waldman took turns lending their horns to the fill. Even at his ripe old age of 82 Green can still nail the solos that he has been playing live for sixty years. Waldman bounced in and out occasionally riffing with his old mentor.
The two sets of music were inspired and went well past 1 AM. At one point a local guitarist joined the group for a few jams. Waldman once told me, “I don’t mind playing to the dirt.” Meaning he’s down to play whenever and for whoever shows up. However I can’t help but feel this band would have been better utilized playing a co-bill with Stir Fried and Genetics supporting. All that being said and despite the lack of a crowd this show was awe-inspiring. These five talented performers fell into a freeform rage and the venue was an experience in itself. I look forward to a time when this room will be properly promoted and the day when music of this caliber will get the attention it deserves
After an incredible start to their Colorado run in Fort Collins, Floodwood spent a few nights taking in the beauty of the mountains. They rendezvoused with east coast buddies Assembly Of Dust for a two-night stand at Cervantes. This is like a dream show for me. AOD is a rare visitor to this state on top of the fact that this was Floodwood’s first trip here as well.
This show was billed as brought to you by Jambase, ListenUp Denver, Marquee Magazine not to mention the 11th anniversary of Cervantes. Sisters Of Soul, Ultraviolet Hippo, Atomga, and Tori Pater’s Big Bad Band filled out the lineup over on the Other Side. The Great Guys featuring members of The Congress, Yamn and The Whales took the opening slot on the main stage. All that being said it was also the same weekend that Railroad Earth booked two nights at the Fillmore just up Colfax. The RRE fan base directly intersects with the Floodwood and AOD audiences, in fact many of my friends opted to do a night of each.
Night One: Assembly of Dust and Floodwood with The Great Guys 1.17.14
We arrived, as The Great Guys were finishing up their set. Scott Lane stood tall shredding the guitar as fellow member of The Congress Chris Speasmaker matched him at the keys. They wrapped and Floodwood quickly took the stage. They opened up with their instrumental “Whiskey After Breakfast” into their homage to the natural beauty of Upstate New York, “North Country Winds.”
Set 1: Whiskey After Breakfast> North Country Winds, Anyone But Me, Holy Sacred, Chillicothe Clouds, Revolving Door, Long Way To Virginia, Stoney Creek, 9 lb Hammer*, Instrumental Jam*, Roll On, Stomp It, I Know You Rider, Follow You Into The Dark, In The Graveyard, Jazzy Jam, Cumberland Blues
*w/ Chris Pandolfi
This was a co-bill show with Floodwood drawing the opening spot for the first night. The boys from New York State treated us to ninety minutes of unadulterated acoustic bliss. The combination of their hard hitting originals “Holy Sacred” and Nick’s Summer Camp inspired “Chillicothe Clouds” was a big high point from a great set of music. Their moe.-esque “Revolving Door” gave way to their more traditional sounding “Long Way To Virginia.” Floodwood invited Infamous Stringduster Chris Pandolfi up to add his picking skills to the mix. This was the first of many unexpected treats from this band over the weekend. He sat in on the classic “9 lb Hammer” as well as an extended instrumental jam. Floodwood kicked it into high gear with “Roll On” and “Stomp It” before giving fans a bluegrass rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider.” “Follow You Into The Dark” was a deep, Al sung romp about conquering fear with love. The band gave us “In The Gravelyard” before going into a jazz-infused instrumental tune. They closed their set with another Dead tune, “Cumberland Blues.” This was just a really fun set of music with bassist Zach holding it down along with Vinnie absolutely sticking it in the pocket. Al is always a focal point but the back and forth between Nick and Jason is not to be overlooked. This set was a great, but it only did a little to foreshadow the epic-ness that would be their headlining set on night two.
Assembly Of Dust is such a rare treat in Denver. They just don’t tour too far beyond their home base in the Northeast. However, the last two years we’ve been lucky to get the band out for a night or two so maybe we are seeing a new trend. Formed by ex-Strangefolk front man Reid Genauer AOD is an Americana band that plays with an emphasis on rock and roll. You could call them Heavy Folk… ehem. After a Kickstarter funded release of their latest album Sun Shot last year they seem to be open to playing around more. Since their initial formation they have had some turnover on percussion and keys but the core three of Reid Genauer, Adam Terrell on lead guitar and John Leccese on bass has always been same since their inception. Their show at Cervantes was everything that fans have come to expect from this underrated group. They opened with a sublime “Samuel Aging.”
Set 1: Samuel Aging, Bootlegger’s Advice, Weehawkin Ferry, Zero To The Skin, Man With A Plan, Tavern Walker*, Deal*, Sun Shot, Lost and Amazed, Truck Farm, All That I Am Now, Whistle Clock, Bus Driver, Roads
Encore: 40 Reasons, Harrower
*w/ Al Schnier
Reid has an innate understanding of song craft as well as striking the right balance for ebb and flow. Peaks and Valleys are his specialty and the set got off to a rocking start a forceful “Bootlegger’s Advice.” By this point the room was full with the upstairs being closed off. I’ve seen this done at other venues but not at Cervantes. It kept the kids on the floor and made sense given attendance. The dual ticket for the night also allowed people to float back and forth between shows at The Other Side. So at any given time half of the audience could be next door. That being said the majority of fans were there for Floodwood and AOD. Finally the herd seemed fully assembled by “Weehawkin Ferry.” The band brought it down a little with the bouncy “Zero To The Skin.” AOD pulled out a classic with, “Man With A Plan” before they invited Al to sit in. The funk gospel sound of “Tavern Walker” exploded into a huge psychedelic jam with Terrell, Crosby, and Schnier all trading licks. They transitioned into a crowd-pleasing version of the Grateful Dead’s “Deal.” Apparently it was that kind of a Friday night. Next we were given the delicately bluesy title track to Sun Shot before they went into the equally arresting “Lost and Amazed.”
After a rowdy “Truck Farm” AOD performed what has become their anthem, “All That I Am Now.” I had been chatting with an older gentleman who told me this was the first Assembly of Dust song he ever heard and he fell in love. I could see that. Another long jam came with “Whistle Clock” which eventually gave way to sentimental “Bus Driver ” that featured Crosby’s violin. They closed their almost two hour set of music with a punchy “Roads.” They came back with a two-song encore “40 Reasons” into an incredible “Harrower.” It was a great night of music in 5 Points. My hope is that the lighter turnout caused by the other show doesn’t’ sour the bands on performing in Colorado. It’s bound to happen in a place so saturated with live music opportunities. Not to mention that this is the time of year that winter and spring tours are in full swing. That being said it was a pair of top-notch performances from two bands who are a rarity in this state. Both Floodwood and Assembly Of Dust brought the heat. On night two they would trade places and things would get a little strange.
Night 1 Gallery
Floodwood and Assembly Of Dust with The Great Guys 1.19.14
Night two was a literal flip of the coin with Floodwood taking the headlining spot and Assembly Of Dust supporting at Cervantes. Again we arrived as The Great Guys were wrapping up this time sans Chris Speasmaker. They were a rocking, rowdy group that seemed an odd amalgamation of all the bands that they were comprised of. I ducked next door to catch a bit of Ultraviolet Hippo and met up with J-Man and Carly from MM. We chatted briefly as the Michigan progressive rockers melted a little face with their fiery brand of jam. During set break back over at Cervantes we got chance to do a little video with Floodwood for all the Summer Campers. I’d like to give a big thanks to Zach, the crew the band that made it a quick and easy shoot. After a drink AOD was taking the stage. The room was about equally as packed as the night before. They opened with an incredible “Valhalla.”
Set 1: Valhalla, Edges, Harrower, Vaulted Sky, Rachel, Elixir, Cluttered, Growin’, Love Junky, Arkansas Down, Honey Creeper, Second Song, Sinner, Speculator*
*w/ Al Schnier
Reid’s powerful vocals floated over the crowd as the night was flicked into second gear. The brooding “Edges” came next with its deliberate and straightforward progression. “Harrower” was nice but “Vaulted Sky” went big. Crosby pulled out his violin for the hoedown that was “Rachel.” “Cluttered” was a simple rock tune off Sun Shot, but “Love Junkie” was a funky highlight. Adam Terrell has to be one of the most underrated guitarists in all of jamdom. His intricate picking along with his intense attention to detail combine to give him a leg up on most players. The bubbly track “Arkansas Down” is just another example of how strong Reid is as a songwriter. “Honey Creeper” was dark and raucous, but “Second Song” was all tenderness. They gave us a tight “Sinner” before they invited Al Schnier out for the set closing “Speculator.” Al and the boys joined in an embrace and took a bow before they all wandered backstage. Assembly Of Dust continues to be a high water mark in the world of Americana, Folk, and Rock. Their knack for crafting infectious tunes, with intricate and substantial lyrics keeps me coming back. If given the chance, go see this band you’ll thank me later.
Finally, it was time for the main event. Floodwood took the stage for what would be an epic three-hour throw down with several unexpected twists and turns. Jason led the charge on “Spend Some Time.”
Set 1: Spend Some Time, Red Hill Road, Somewhere In Kansas, Spoon Kicks, Promised Land, Friend Of The Devil, Magnolia Row, You And Me, 315, Blue Eyed Son, I’d Fall For You, St. Regis, Hello Woman, Everything Here, Jambalaya On The Bayou*, Waiting In Vain*, Molly & Tenbrooks*^, Rocky Top*^, Working On A Building*^, Me And My Old Banjo*^
Encore: The Hobo Song
*w/ Briget Law
^w/ Tim Carbone and Andy Goessling
This set was an absolute barnburner for all those lucky enough to be in attendance. Railroad Earth had a sold out show at the Fillmore on Saturday, so it obviously hurt ticket sales a bit. Nonetheless Floodwood delivered one of the best shows I’ve seen in quite some time. “Red Hill Road” demonstrated the bands bluegrass skills. The Al penned “Somewhere in Kansas” about a road trip to Colorado after a TransAmericans show at the Iowa State Fair invigorated the crowd. (Ironically I was as that show.) They proceeded to bust out the old TransAmericans track, “Promised Land.” We were all treated to another Grateful Dead tune, this time “Friend Of The Devil.” I like a band that’s not afraid to toss in a little Dead. The beautiful “Magnolia Row” is a bluegrass variation of the intro to moe.’s “Tambourine.” They performed the playful sounding “You And Me” before their homage to their hometown area code “315.” Floodwood pulled Al’s “Blue Eyed Son” which has been in the rotation more on the road with moe. We got the Nick sung “I’d Fall For You which was a nice treat.
This is about the time where things began to get crazy. Suddenly Al is welcoming the lovely and talented Bridget Law from Elephant Revival to the stage. Law and Schnier got the chance to play together last summer at the Everyone Orchestra show that preceded Phish Dick’s. They went into Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Jambalaya On The Bayou.” Law and Piccininni battled back and forth on the fiddle before they went into Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain.” Suddenly Al hands his guitar to Nick and races off the stage. The band continues with their bluegrass reggae stylings as a sound guy appears. It’s obvious some shit is going down. Al reemerges from the darkness as they finish the tune. Keep in mind is was already around 2 AM at this point. Al proceeds to welcome Tim Carbone and Andy Goessling from Railroad Earth to the stage. That’s right we had a full-blown clusterpluck on our hands. And this was not the type of cluster pluck where 15 pickers stand around waiting for a solo. No, this was a pluck with laser beam focus and amazing stringed prowess.
After some tuning and hand shaking they went into the traditional “Molly & Tenbrooks.” They blasted off into “Rocky Top” as the dwindled audience boogied. I looked to my tired wife and said, “You know I’d go, but… “ And she simply nodded in agreement. “Working On A Building” featured a three-fiddle standoff as Carbone, Law, and Piccininni fired up their bows. Law retreated and let Carbone and Goessling finish up with “Old Banjo.” A solo Floodwood encored with “The Hobo Song.” Honestly I may be missing a song or two in there, as the setlist kind of went out the window when you have so many welcomed guests. Needless to say the late night sit-ins were a lot fun and proof again of why Floodwood needs to keep coming to Colorado. They obviously have a lot of friends out here, Al is volunteer Ski Patrol in his home state, and Colorado loves bluegrass… I could go on. This was a spectacular night of music and a really unbelievable combination of bands to play in this great state. Happy 11th Anniversary Cervantes, let’s hope we have at least 11 more.
Night 2 Gallery
Two-time Summer Camp alumni Zeta June came to Avogadro’s Number in Fort Collins for a night of resolute dance music. They brought along recent Colorado transplants by way of Iowa City, Tallgrass along for the ride.
Avo’s is a less known but highly regarded oasis for live music. Unfortunately each time I’ve went to shoot a band there the turnout has been sparse. This night was no different. I arrived and found a seat up front. Tallgrass came on promptly at 9:30 PM.
As they played, the room was almost uncomfortably silent. From time to time I tried to break the palpable calm with limited success. Tallgrass calls themselves, ‘Dirt Stomping Soul;’ I would add that they are an utterly rare intermingling of folk, gospel, indie, bluegrass, and more. To say that they are an original musical undertaking would be quite the understatement. Tallgrass is eloquent almost poetically jazzy in their delivery of said ‘dirt.’
Adam Morford blends elements of African and World percussion with more traditional rock and folk beats. They went into their captivating original “Never Try.” Adam’s drums were a distinctive juxtaposition to Matt Skinner’s raspy but clean vocals here and throughout their hour long set. Adam’s brother Austin Morford rounds out the band, he is a tight pocket bassist and holds it all together. They gave the crowd chills with an acapella version of the African traditional spiritual “Down To River To Pray” as the noiseless crowd stepped out the beat on the hardwood floors. They immediately went into the title track off their new album Better Than Medicine. They seem to be pushing into a slightly heavier sound utilizing all the rhythmic focus that this power trio has to offer. There set was a great way to spend a Thursday night and we still had the headliner.
Zeta June is a much different beast than Tallgrass. In fact the only real connection musically is their roots in Iowa City. I went to school at the University of Iowa and I can tell you the area is a bastion of music in a relative desert for good live shows. So it makes sense that both of these original acts would come from there, even though they sounds may not really mesh well.
By this time there were about 20 people in the room many of them there for Zeta June. A large led light background had been constructed, which gave off a very different vibe than Tallgrass’s acoustic set. Zeta June is a dance focused jam band that dabbles in electronic and funk with a solid rock foundation. Their set at Avogadro’s did a lot to show the variety of music that they can perform live. Originals like the boisterous “No Tell Motel” and a rocking “Resume To Consume.” We were treated to a spot on rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” At one point they ripped into a huge EDM inspired song utilizing some snap beats and spacey jams.
“That’s our version of the dubsteps.” – Zeta June
Overall it was a great night of Iowa music in the heart of Fort Collins. I look forward to Tallgrass working their way deeper into the local scene. Since their arrival late last summer they’ve only have the opportunity to play a handful of shows here. My hope is that people will begin to realize how original and fun this band is. Zeta June continues to be a young and dynamic group that fuses diverse genres of music together incredibly well. Both of these bands are definitely worth your time and consideration.
After a night of couch tour with the Phish from Vermont on the 30th my wife and I rounded out our 2013 with a night of String Cheese. This was the third evening with Cheese for the truly faithful fans. It’s always a little bit odd jumping in at the end of a three-night run. It can make you feel sort of like a tourist, but I stand by my decision to peruse all this New Year’s had to offer this year. I mean where on the planet is it even an option to see SCI, Yonder, or Umphrey’s all playing separate headlining shows within twenty miles of each other. The simple fact that I had to make that choice makes me thankful to live here on the Front Range.
Fans had been scurrying around for several weeks leading up to the event trying to procure tickets but the large number of fingers pointed towards the sky meant that many were not successful. The show itself had been sold out for well over a month suggesting that many would-be attendees were going to be left out in the cold. Once inside the elaborate costumes and bedazzled fairy wings dotted the hallways that surrounded the floor. The announcement that Del McCoury Band would be on the bill came late, but it was definitely celebrated by those with tickets in hand. The elder statesman of bluegrass and his band began as the fans filtered in to find their spot to watch the ball drop. They ended up performing just short of an hour. Del garners so much respect as a musician and ambassador for string music. His band includes three of his children whom he obviously raised right. All in all it was simply a prelude to the sit in that was to come very shortly.
When the String Cheese Incident came out for their first set they brought along the entire Del McCoury Band. Kang pointed out that every time they play with Del, he out dresses them. Well with all of SCI decked out in tuxedos, that would not be the case for at least this show. They opened with a stunning “Rolling In My Baby’s Arms.”
Set 1: Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms*> Shenandoah Breakdown*, Cold Rain and Snow*, Birdland**> Wheel Hoss**> Birdland**, Give Me the Love> Way Back Home, Valley of The Jig
Set 2: Water, Colliding> Sirens, Windy Mountain> Stay Thru, Las Vegas> Desert Dawn
Set 3: Rivertance> Happy New Year, Let’s Go Outside> Smile, Drums> It Is What It Is, This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)> Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band> Jam> Just One Story
Encore: Colorado Bluebird Sky
*w/ Del McCoury Band
**w/ Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury (Fiddle and Mandolin)
For many fans that love the Cheesy bluegrass, this was the perfect start to the evening. They immediately went into Bill Monroe’s “Shenandoah Breakdown.” However it was the Del sang version of “Cold Rain and Snow” gave us all collective goose bumps. Del left, but Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury remained on fiddle and mandolin respectively. The band seemed to burst into a stellar version of “Birdland” that disintegrated into an all out hoedown with “Wheel Hoss.” Carter absolutely tore it up on the violin before they returned to the “Birdland” where they began. Carter and Ronnie McCoury took a bow before they disappeared backstage. Kang wowed the crowd with an almost poetic “Give Me the Love” that seemed to end too quickly. After a clean segue they went into a massive “Way Back Home” before they closed the first set with an equally impressive “Valley Of The Jig.” This set went barely over an hour, but with two more to go I didn’t hear any complaints.
String Cheese came to the stage for set two with a powerful “Water” that just seemed to wash over the audience. Bathed in the blue light, fans danced enthusiastically to sweet sounds of the Cheese. Kyle finally got a chance to shine on his energetic “Colliding” before they went into a dark and funky “Sirens.” One of the biggest highlights of the show came with the Nershi led “Windy Mountain” which is always a treat. This was only the fourth time they’ve played the reggae-tastic “Stay Thru,” which was a very nice breather. “Las Vegas” has become a huge vehicle for Nershi to experiment with, much like “Jelly Fish” was in the early days of SCI. This rendition went to the dark side pretty quickly, with some tight and extensive give and take between the entire band. They closed with a classic version of “Desert Dawn” that seemed to shock the crowd into a dancing frenzy.
Sting Cheese returned just before the clock struck midnight. What followed was a massive spectacle the type of which SCI has been providing to fans for years now. This was a bit different though; let me attempt to explain. The band returned as the lights dimmed. They launched off into a huge “Rivertrance” that began slowly enough for all the players to get into position. A large lighting rig with a net descended from the ceiling that contained dancers and other visual performers. Women adorned long flowing dresses ensconced themselves in clear plastic bubbles that blew around confetti like one of those cash grab machines. Pairs of women climbed long silk ribbons that hung from the ceiling and treated us to a series of aerial acrobatics that would have looked proper for any Cirque du soleil show in the world. Fans on the floor were given small color changing batons that they immediately began swinging in unison. The lights splashed all over the crowd as Father Time appeared by the soundboard and began spraying sparks from a handheld tube. Pyrotechnics appeared behind the band as balloons and massive amounts of confetti descended upon the 6500 person room. 2014 had begun and the band played on. As they finished “Rivertrance” they paused and invited Del in the boys out to the stage for a toast. Billy welcomed the New Year, as everyone seemed to take a collective breath. Kyle came to the microphone for a very appropriate “Let’s Go Outside.” The band transitioned nicely to a welcomed “Smile,” before Michael Travis and Jason Hann gave us an elaborate drum jam. It may have gone interstellar a few times. The drums gave way to a bouncy, “It Is What It Is.” We were treated to a pair of sentimental covers. The first was Kyle’s now classic take on the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place” which is traditionally his nod to the hometown crowd. Next Cheese performed The Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to signify their twentieth year as the String Cheese Incident. Referring to their very earliest days when for New Year’s 1993-94 Michael Travis sat in completing the original core of the band. They proceeded to improvise for a bit with something they labeled the “2014 Jam” on LiveCheese. They ended the third set with a stunning but far too short “Just One Story.”
SCI came back with a singular encore of “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” This song has truly evolved over the last couple years. Pardon the pun, but it really has gotten some wings allowing them to truly synch up as a group on this number. All in all it was a great night of music from a band that never strays too far from its roots. The inclusion of the Del McCoury Band was a solid decision and it gave Cheese the opportunity to really pick during their first set. The second set seemed to focus more on the long jam, while the third set felt like a celebration of all that this band has accomplished in their twenty years. The String Cheese Incident is and continues to be a vibrant lightening rod for music fans from across the spectrum. Their show on New Year’s Eve is just more proof that SCI is back at the top of the heap.
Happy New Year!
Night two of my clandestine run started with a rendezvous in Denver and a quick cab ride over to the Fillmore. It was during their gig at Red Rocks that Umphrey’s McGee announced that they would be doing three nights on Colfax for New Year’s. They too subsequently announced a private VIP show for the 30th at the newly renovated 1 Up. The fact that the 30th was initially left open by YMSB, SCI, and UM lead many including myself to speculate that there would be a benefit on par with the 4 Mile Canyon show. However this did not come to pass, but I can’t help but feel that we missed a real opportunity for some incredible fundraising and some unforgettable collaboration. So it goes. I arrived just moments before Dumpstaphunk hit the stage and opened with their own funk explosion “Everybody Want Sum.”
Set 1: Everybody Want Sum, Blueswave, They Don’t Care, If I’m In Luck, Put It In The Dumpsta, Dancin’ To The Truth, Immigrant Song
Dumpstaphunk is a band directly descended from the New Orleans funk tradition. Led by multi-instrumentalist virtuoso Ivan Neville, the lineup is literally a super group of funk masters. Nikki Glaspie on drums with the three-pronged attack of Ian Neville, Tony Hall, and Nick Daniels III on guitar. This unique array of musicians allows for some amazing give and take. Their anthem to positive thinking, “Put It In The Dumpsta” was one highlight in a full and funky hour-long opening set. They closed with a smoking version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” that seemed to properly welcome everyone for the night’s festivities.
Dumpstaphunk is a great addition to any bill, but they were especially fun at The Fillmore. After a quick instrument change the lights dimmed and Umphrey’s McGee emerged from the darkness. This show was being streamed live and the room was just short of capacity. They opened with the Kris Meyer’s tune, “Flamethrower.”
Set 1: Flamethrower> Mulche’s Oddessy, Miami Virtue> Plunger > Day Nurse, No Comment> Plunger, Nemo> Dear Lord> Nemo, Dump City*
Set 2: Der Bluten Kat> Amble On> Der Bluten Kat**, Wife Soup, Ringo, River People^
*w/ Ivan Neville on keys
Joshua Redman sat in for the entire 2nd Set and Encore
**w/ Jaden Carlson on guitar
^First Time Played (Weather Report Cover)
The band bounced along almost innocently before ripping into a face-melting “Mulche’s Odyssey.” The prog-tastic “Miami Virtue” always makes me feel like I’ve just been plopped smack dab in the middle of a dance off scene in a John Hughes film. Plunger went dark and flashy before they dipped into a sneaky “Day Nurse,” which featured some sick synthesizer work from Joel Cummins. The song broke out into a tight but frenetic jam, which dissolved into funky “No Comment.” In classic Umph fashion they went succinctly back into “Plunger.” The somewhat rare “Dear Lord” jam during “Nemo” was a very nice touch. Umphrey’s invited Ivan Neville out for their set closing “Dump City.”
Umphrey’s diverged into a world of deep and intricate jams for set two. I’ve talked before about the magic of six song sets. It all began inconspicuously enough with a textbook “Der Bluten Kat” opener. However the segue into “Amble On” and back into “Der Bluten Kat” contained some of the most poignant and extended jamming of my entire New Year’s run. The inclusion of Joshua Redman on sax for the entire second set obviously added a level of class, but more than that it elevated the entire band. Umphrey’s has performed with a number of different horn players over the years, but Redman is simply a powerhouse of sophistication.
During the return to “Der Bluten Kat” the boys also invited local guitar phenom Jaden Carlson up to shred with Jake and Bayliss. For those that don’t know this kid is akin to a young female Derek Trucks. Just barely a teenager she is playing gigs many three times her age would kill for. She is definitely one to look out for and it’s awesome that Umphrey’s McGee took the opportunity to invite her up to play. “Wife Soup” was massive and contained perhaps the best back and forth with Redman and UM of the show. The “Ringo” was sublime and again went to the deep end. They closed with a debut of a “Weather Report” cover “River People.” It seemed to fit the mood of the evening very well. The encore again featured Redman for a fully realized “1348.” For many the 29th night may have lacked the pizzazz of the two following nights. However, Umphrey’s McGee is one of the most technical and musically elaborate bands touring today. Their show on Sunday was like bowing down at the altar of funk, jazz, and progressive rock. The genre bending and the amazing collaboration was definitely worth the price of admission.
A veritable buffet of music descended upon the Front Range for the five days leading up to 2014. The String Cheese Incident, Yonder Mountain String Band, Tea Leaf Green, the massive EDM spectacle known as Decadence among many, many others were all set to perform within a twenty-five mile radius. Given my own predilection for several of the groups I opted to sample a little bit of everything.
Yonder Mountain String Band has consistently made the Boulder Theater their home for a New Year’s Run since the early years. This time around they took the opportunity to announce four nights and subsequently a fifth night to benefit Planet Bluegrass after the recent flooding. With so much going on the Saturday show for YMSB was a bit undersold. To entice fans, they announced a Cosmic Bowling League opening set. This is an exceptionally rare event that features the full Yonder lineup dressed in bowling shirts and ill-fitting mustaches. CBL claims to lean traditional and they certainly held that line by opening with the Flatt & Scruggs penned “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.”
Cosmic Bowling League
Set 1: The Ballad of Jed Clampett, Sophronie, Fox On The Run, Blue Ridge Mountain Girl, It’s Raining Here This Morning, All About You, Lost and I’ll Never Find My Way, Are You Tired My Darling, Some Things Does, Pig In A Pen
“None of you better tell nobody nothing about what you seen here tonight” – Ben Kaufmann
The lightly packed crowd was an equal mix of utter delight and mild confusion. For those in the back or perhaps not in the know, they were witnessing an odd mix of bowling, redneck, bluegrass, and shame. Their performance lasted all of forty-five minutes and included both a Jimmy Martin original and Jeff Austin’s alter ego ‘Wookie’ spitting out Doritos™ on the stage. A bluegrass version of glam rockers Sweet’s “Fox On The Run” was a treat, while Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Blue Ridge Mountain Girl” was a bit more reserved. Rolling Stones’ bittersweet homage to broken relationships “All About You” made it into the mix. CBL went back to their roots with “Lost And I’ll Never Find My Way” before a debut of The Carter Family’s “Are You Tired My Darling.” They closed the set with a snappy rendition of the bluegrass traditional “Pig In A Pen.” As fans wandered outside for fresh air I heard one girl say, “Who were those guys, I didn’t get it.” One kinfolk gingerly explained the significance of what she had just witnessed. The show continued after a short break with Yonder Mountain String Band in their usual garb.
Yonder Mountain String Band
Set 1: Troubled Mind> 20 Eyes> Troubled Mind> Elzic’s Farewell> Sideshow Blues, Illinois Rain, Just Like Old Times*, Catch A Criminal*, Lonesome Letter*, Fingerprint*, Kentucky Mandolin*> Death Trip*
Set 2: What The Night Brings, 40 Miles from Denver, You’re No Good, Honestly, If There’s Still Ramblin’ in the Rambler (let him go)> Mother’s Only Son> If There’s Still Ramblin’ in the Rambler (let him go), Rag Doll*, Don’t Worry Happy Birthday*, Pockets*, Straight Line*, Robot Jam*> Whipping Post*
Encore: Steep Grades Sharp Curves*, 2 Hits And The Joint Turned Brown*
*w/ Roy Wilfred Wooten aka Future Man
They basically designed both sets to be the same. Beginning with just the string band and then about half way through inviting out Future Man who was playing on a regular kit. This as opposed to his usually performance with the Drumitar. The boys launched into the main event with the Kaufmann sung “Troubled Mind,” which segued nicely into “20 Eyes” before going back to where it began. Yonder didn’t miss a beat as they blasted into the traditional “Elzic’s Farewell,” a song thought to be played first by a French carpenter as he went off to fight in the Civil War. Mr. Austin led the boys on an intense ”Sideshow Blues,” but “Illinois Rain” was a bit of a lull in the action.
YMSB brought out Future Man for “Just Like Old Times.” Whenever Yonder adds a drummer they are immediately transformed from a string band into a bombastic jamgrass group. It gives them a wider range and the ability to shake up their normal dynamic. I’ve seen them with Jon Fishman as well as Future Man previously and the addition of percussion always makes for an entirely different musical result. Ben again took the microphone on “Catch A Criminal,” but it was Dave Johnston that absolutely shredded the banjo on this track. Future Man held it all in place, as he and Kaufmann truly gelled on stage. The set closing “Kentucky Mandolin” into “Death Trip” was absolutely jaw dropping.
The snow began to lightly fall outside dusting the roads nicely. The temperature had dropped significantly, but it was still a very pleasant December evening. Yonder came out for their third set just after midnight, meaning this one was going to go late. They opened with a beautifully constructed “What The Night Brings.” We were treated to some classic YMSB with “40 Miles From Denver” and “You’re No Good.” “Honestly” was Adam Aijala’s best performance of the night. The category of facial hair notwithstanding; Adam was the only one during the CBL set to show up with some real some authentic Joe Dirt style red neck chin curtain. “If There’s Still Ramblin’ in the Rambler (let him go)” into Mother’s Only Son” into “If There’s Still Ramblin’ in the Rambler (let him go)” is as epic to write as it was to see live. This was a nonstop rip through all the things that make bluegrass good.
They again invited Future Man out for the remainder of the set, which continued delicately with an intricate Austin led “Rag Doll.” They slowed it down with the Dave Johnston sung “Don’t Worry Happy Birthday” before Adam regaled us with their pop bluegrass original “Pockets.” They ended the second set with a transcendental Robot Jam into a perfect rendition of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post.”
Future Man really added an extra bit of zing to a stellar performance. Yonder Mountain String Bands is a group that can take on many forms within the realm of bluegrass. The fact that they opened for themselves as a bunch of burnt out bowling leaguers fixated on privacy and snacking proves that much. They encored with “Steep Grades Sharp Curves” before giving a little nod to the impending recreational sales with “2 Hits And The Joint Turned Brown.” As usual YMSB out did themselves as they continue to push their craft to the next level. The lackluster turnout on Saturday would be followed by two sold out shows including a star-studded fundraiser that demonstrates Yonder’s dedication to this community. This show felt like the sleeper of the run and it was only Saturday.
Night two would take us downtown to the Fillmore for Umphrey’s McGee. Review coming soon!
Colorado at times can seem like a parade of yearly musical traditions. Denver, being a massive music hub, is a place where many performers pass through around the same time each year. One nascent tradition is the Keller and His Compadres shows in Keystone, Colorado. Last year’s shows originally marked the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. Well fortunately for K-Dub the world continued and so do these concerts. It’s a chance for the normally solo performer Keller Williams to grab a few friends and just jam. This year he got a chance to playe with Michael Kang and Michael Travis from String Cheese Incident on Friday and Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon on Saturday. I opted to catch Saturday’s show, which turned out to be a wise decision.
I found out that Friday included a very young crowd and they pushed it to the limit. Saturday was a fairly casual affair with a slightly older audience. The show was completely sold out, meaning more than a few fans were turned away at the door. Unless the gig is billed as one of Keller’s official band projects, the format is always one set solo and one set with the guests. This night was no different. K-Dub’s first set started just after 9 PM. In his true entertainer style he began strumming his guitar backstage before emerging from the darkness. The Warren Station Center For The Arts was a square room with a bar in the back. It was cozy and by the time Keller actually started playing it was most definitely full. Classics from Keller like “Cadillac” and “Freaker By The Speaker” were sprinkled throughout the first set. Perhaps the most oddly satisfying song of the first set was an extended jam into the custom built version of Lorde’s “Royals.” Covers like this again reiterate Keller’s addiction to pop music. He rounded his solo set with a sing-along on “Gate Crashers.”
The main event could have easily been dubbed Keller Salmon or Leftover Williams. The inclusion of Vince and Drew meant there would be no shortage of bluegrass or extended musical interplay. I for one am a fan of Keller’s solo work, but for some reason I find his style so much more rewarding when juxtaposed against other musicians. They opened the set with an instrumental before going into a bouncy “Portpapotty.” Keller was playing the electric bass, with Drew on mandolin and Vince on guitar. We were treated to an incredible Drew-sung version of Dylan’s “Tangled Up And Blue.” The additional strings did a lot to fill out “What The World Needs Now,” before they went into a stellar version of Salmon’s “Troubled Times.” Keller was sure to keep it balanced with the occasional original, insert “Broken Convertible” here. The rendition of “Dixie Chicken” was the highlight of the entire night. It came in reference to their recent performances with Little Feat’s Bill Payne. Again I reiterate the need for Mr. Payne to join Leftover Salmon full time. The moment is now Bill. Vince got a chance to sing his rowdy but timeless “Fuzzy Little Hippie Girl.” The trio went into a bluegrass-tinged duo from Tom Petty with “You Got Lucky” into a set-closing “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” The crowd kind of went off the chain at this point. Keller Williams and his Compadres came out for a quick “Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie” to encore before the lights came on and it was all over.
The show just seemed to speed on by. Keller is many things, but he is always fun. His shows display a vibrancy and passion for music in all its forms. His performances become random drive through his musical consciousness. His concerts with other musicians push back his urge to just unleash whatever comes into his head, which at times gives us the more interesting outcome. Instead in these sets he plays his part, which is interesting to see from a man who built his career on going it alone.
As we left I said to my wife, “Keller Williams must be a huge Tom Petty fan,” to which she replied, “Who isn’t?”
Additional Video by Steve Wilner
When you go to as many concerts as I have it’s a relatively difficult to catch me off guard. As I entered Hodi’s Half Note on a cool fall evening in October I was welcomed by the warm embrace of bluegrass lofting over a silent crowd. Colorado is such an amazing hub for live music that many of the regular attendees become blasé and often chat during any given performance. So to enter a normally raucous bar and not hear anyone but the bartender asking, “What’ll you have” and the music from the stage is just something I don’t expect. As I headed toward the front to take a few photos it was immediately evident that this was not a Bisco crowd. The majority of the silent sold out audience were there to see the vibrant Mr. Snider, but they were treated to a powerful send up from the Henhouse Prowlers. This string band continues to teeter on the edge of traditional and rage-grass. Their set began around 8:45 PM as the early arrivers staked out their spots.
They opened with “Silver Eagle” and the game of shuffleboard began. Utilizing a traditional single microphone setup, every show is like a ballet as each member rearranges himself to the mic stand. In recent years, Henhouse Prowlers had to persevere through the theft of all of their band equipment as well as some personnel changes, and they have emerged more focused and cohesive than ever. Ben Wright continues to lead by example through effortless vocals and powerful picking. The newest member Starr Moss has really gelled with the band and doesn’t miss a chance to absolutely shred his guitar. Staples like “Track Song” and “Lonesome Road” dotted their hour-long set. The highlight was their closing Syracuse into Ruby into Syracuse that has become a showstopper for the Prowlers. The Henhouse Prowlers are one of those bands that is often overlooked and with a new album out and their relentless touring its time to spread to good word. If bluegrass is your bag the Prowlers should be in it.
The ever-vigilant crowd allowed themselves to murmur during the set break before Todd Snider appeared from backstage. Snider is like a modern day Dylan and I don’t make that analogy lightly. By appearance he’s all patchwork and floppy hat, but his lyrics belie a deeper spiritual journey. One in which he is not afraid to call out fraud or injustice with his own variety of realism and humor. I first saw Snider working with Leftover Salmon and subsequently Great American Taxi. However this was my first time seeing him in a small room with his dedicated fan base. He opened up with “Play A Train Song” and quickly went into “If Tomorrow Never Comes, a kind of rowdy rollercoaster ride that extrapolates on his Catholic School days. He treated us to his song “Broke;” a humorous indictment of the current economic situation told through the eyes of regular Joe. He did an amazing version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” to round out the first set.
After a short break he returned and continued his bard-like ways. Snider is a storyteller, but that’s only if the audience cooperates. At one point he was ready to break into a tangential story when someone in the attentive audience shouted out. Snider reprimanded him by not telling the anecdote and simply launching into the next song. “Conservative Christian” was an absolute peak for the show, and it should be an anthem for any self-proclaimed hippie. Snider finished around midnight. He is a true teller of tales in every way. He entertains through his docile nature and cutting satire. The way to see Snider is by himself and hopefully with an audience as dedicated as the fans at Hodi’s. All in all it was a very good night for acoustic music.
Avogadro’s Number is a tiny oasis of live music in the sometimes-overwhelming Fort Collins music scene. This venue has been a showcase for acoustic and folk music for a number of years. Off the beaten path of Old Town Avo’s as it’s affectionately called houses a bar, a stage, and a restaurant.
On a cool fall night in October, Avogadro’s opened its stage up to Summer Camp favorites Caravan Of Thieves. Hailing from Connecticut this band had been described as a unique blend of swing, jazz, and high intensity jamming. Fuzz Sangiovanni from Deep Banana Blackout fame along with his wife Carrie Sangiovanni form the foundation of the band with Ben Dean and Brian Anderson filling out the lineup of pickers.
Arriving early I caught the last half of the opening set by The Cantrells. They are a duo from a bygone era with a true gift for the art of performance. The majority of the small but dedicated audience seemed to be there in support of opener. The multi-instrumentalist Cantrells focused on their own style of acoustic swing following a more traditional approach than the headliner. They had a folksy way about them that made you feel like you were at a picnic with your extended family. The only cover they played that I was familiar with was a Leadbelly tune. Overall they were a gentle way to get the night started. They had a passion for swing and string music and seemed to fit the bill nicely.
The Caravan Of Thieves took the stage for their single set that went just over ninety minutes. They opened up with their original “I Don’t Wanna.”
Set 1: I Don’t Wanna, Shim Sham, Psycho Killer, Eat You, Wasting, Monster, F Got You, She’s Learning, Kiss, Dance
Encore: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band> I Get By, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, When I’m 64, Raise The Dead
A very nice set of music with an encore that featured several of the Sgt. Pepper’s tunes they worked out for Halloween. We were also treated to a couple selections including “I Don’t Wanna” and “Monster” off of their new album Funhouse as well. This band is truly mesmerizing in both their delivery and their energy. Fuzz will often swing his guitar to his back, pick up egg beaters, and begin slamming on all manner of plastic jug and metal cymbal. I’ve seen the man even begin banging on his fellow band mates instruments with any substitute for a drumstick he can find.
They managed to work in one of their favorite covers in the form of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” as well. They lead the small audience on a musical journey that involved some impeccable picking along with an array of makeshift percussion. Heading out to the bar throughout the night several people who were otherwise engaged in Broncos football would ask, “Who are these guys?” I can only assume that same question was asked by many who have passed by their stage at Summer Camp each year. Who are these guys? The reason is that their sound is wholly unique and quite intoxicating. They warned the crowd earlier about their Halloween extravaganza involving their homage to the Beatles, so it was no surprise that the encore gave us a taste of that forthcoming show. As they do with all of their covers, they incorporate their own instrumentation and styling making each song very different from the original. Their jangly strings treated the Beatles well.
The Caravan Of Thieves closed by coming down to the floor and inviting the crowd up to sing “Raise The Dead.” This intimate affair is exactly what Avo’s has become known for in Fort Collins. It’s a small retreat for music lovers and music makers alike. If you find yourself wandering the outskirts of Old Town and hear some quality picking, chances are you’ve found Avogadro’s Number.