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.
Stephen Perkins and Tony Franklin with Willie Waldman at The HoodLab
This tight formation of Banyan consisting of Stephen Perkins, Willie Waldman, Tony Franklin, and Brian Jordan was smack dab in the middle of a two night run at Quixote’s True Blue. Banyan had a history with Summer Camp, having performed twice at the festival. Last year they performed the opening set on Sunday morning at the Moonshine stage.Perkins and Franklin arranged for a short drum and bass jam at the multi-purpose space known as HoodLab. Distributer of HoodLamb Hemp coats out of Amsterdam, HoodLab is also an art gallery and a space for live performances. Curated and owned by Adam Dunn, this place is one of the hidden gems in Denver. Opening up was self-described funk metal group Herb N’ War. They were without lead singer Eutimia Cruz Montoya. So, they played as a power trio and basically blasted through an improv set that featured heavy riffing and some tight drum work by Carter Casad. Without their voice they were left to focus on the music, and honestly this was a perfect fit for the Perkins Franklin jam.
There was a modest gathering, many of which seemed to be regulars and friends of the proprietors. Originally billed as just a drum and bass jam with Perkins and Franklin, Waldman added his horn to make it a full-blown Banyan show. Perkins unleashed his fury on the drums as the crowd settled in for thirty minutes of freeform rage. Franklin tickled his fretless bass to the delight of the audience as Waldman, without any effects or petals, created a cacophony of sound with just his horn and a microphone. At one point Waldman created distortion by inserting the mic into the bell of his trumpet. Franklin went wild on the bass causing the roof of the HoodLab to rumble as the Perkins broke into a raucous beat to blast off on another jam tangent. All in all, this entire musical journey was short but powerful. As they finished up, Herb N’ War took the stage again to close out the evening. If you get the chance spend some time at the HoodLab, this place was special, and worth the visit.
Banyan with The People’s Abstract at Quixote’s True Blue
No one puts together a lineup quite like Jay Bianchi. As I entered the newly reformatted venue, which has moved to the old Bender’s Tavern, the band Tick was warming up in the main room. Quixote’s is two stages split by a large wall. Each room contains their own bar, and it actually does work quite well. I opted to watch some docile covers by The Mighty High Band in the front room rather than get bitten by the Tick. The Mighty High Band is a basically a Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and Legion Of Mary cover band pulling out deep cuts from Garcia’s side projects. This band was a fun way to ease into the night. Performing songs like “Tangled Up In Blue,” with amazing accuracy I was happy to have caught a bit of The Mighty High Band.
As Tick cleared the stage it was time for something completely different. The People’s Abstract could be called a Zobomaze side project. However I prefer to think of them as another side of the same musical coin. With Zobo’s Sean Dandurand, this tight four piece at first glance has a lot in common with Zobo. When they start playing those similarities disappear. The People’s Abstract is a instrumental blend of jazz, funk, rock, and more. As people slowly filtered in, it almost seemed that they were caught off guard by the incredible music coming from the stage. I too found myself blown away but this unassuming quartet. Given their warm take on jazzy funk, they were a perfect fit to open for Banyan.As I mentioned earlier, this was a tight four-piece version of Banyan. I have seen this group bloated with as many as seven members, however this amalgamation of Banyan had laser focus and impeccable back and forth. With Franklin and Perkins holding down the rhythm, Jordan and Waldman were left to fill in the musical gaps. Performing two sets, over the course of a few hours, Banyan proved once again why they are not to be missed.
Banyan Live at Quixote’s True Blue on February 9, 2013.
Weaving their way through jazz, rock, and Middle Eastern inspired jams, Banyan is as fluid as any group you will see live; in essence with a rotating pool of players you have to see. Perkins just wows the crowd as he slowly peels off layers until he is left in his signature black wife beater. Watching Stephen Perkins in a tiny room playing jazz to forty of fifty people is something everyone should experience. He is a force behind the kit that literally unleashes an all out attack on the skins. Waldman back on stage with his effects is able to paint sonic murals that fly around the crowd. Franklin too is a beast who simply shreds. Brian Jordan, continues to impress with his virtuoso guitar work. They sounded fantastic together and I would love to see this lineup continue to tour regularly, as it was too much fun. If you’ve never heard of them, download the show, take a listen, and get inspired. This type of free form musical exploration is a rare treat in today’s paint by numbers scene. It’s definitely worth checking out and it could change your perspective on what jam can be.
For the second night in a row I ventured down to the Aggie Theater for some live music. It was a co-bill between local favorites Euforquestra and reggae powerhouse John Brown’s Body. It had been three years since JBB last performed in Fort Collins. I first saw JBB very early in my concert-going career; in fact they were a band that demonstrated to me what was possible on any random Wednesday night in a sweaty, crowed bar. The last time I saw them was around 2006 and seeing them live in Fort Collins it was evident that this band had evolved. As we entered the room Mikey Thunder was gracing the slowly growing crowd with a tasty mix of funk and jazz backed by some palpable beats. At times in the past I’ve found Mr. Thunder’s heavier electronic sets to be off-putting, but he actually sounded really solid. The audience was unenthused and Thunder politely called them on it. He also performed during the setbreaks, which seemed to help the overall flow of the evening.
Euforquestra took the stage and hit the fans with a saucy “Obatala” into “Change Me.”
Set 1: Obatala> Change Me, Road Funk, Soup, Backbone> Wasted, Madison Square, Solutions, 64/18, All The Light I Need, Dr. Standby
Euforquestra has been going through some changes, but watching them live you would never know it. Scott Mast continues to fill in on percussion with Craig Babineau holding it down on kit. These two are really starting to gel, which culminated in a huge back and forth drum jam during “Soup.” They continue to surprise me every time I see them perform together. Speaking of surprises Matt Wright’s vocals have added a whole new dimension to Euforquestra’s sound. However the most powerful moment of the set came when Austin sang “All The Light I Need,” which was a song he wrote to honor a fallen friend. They closed their set with “Dr. Standby.”
John Brown’s Body is another band that has gone through their fair share of hardship and change. With the passing of Scott Palmer in 2006 the band underwent a metamorphosis of sorts. Through their sorrow they emerged as a more focused group blending new styles and pioneering what they call “Future Roots Rock.” They eased into the night with an organ-heavy “Ameliorate.”
Set 1: Ameliorate, Give Yourself Over, Following Into Shadow, The Grass, Plantation, Wellington Dub, Shine Bright, Make Easy, Empty Hands, Ambrosia, What You Gonna Do, 33 RPM
Encore: Peace, The Gold
The horn section consisting of Drew Sayers on saxophone, Scott Flynn on trombone, and Sam Dechenne on trumpet was the icing on the cake all night. They added a level of authenticity and panache to the JBB sound. Elliot Martin, the lead singer was as vibrant as ever and danced around the stage authoritatively. The sound had developed from the roots based songs of yore into something quite different. They were now adding elements of dubstep, hip-hop, electronica, and more to the mix in an attempt to be unique and to craft songs that are truly original. This was not your mother’s reggae. That being said they did have a nice mix of traditional and infused reggae. The highlight of the show for me was a fiery rendition of “Shine Bright.” While John Brown’s Body is not the same band I first saw in 2001 and 2003, they are continuing to blaze trails in the reggae world. They were a wonderful fit for Euforquestra and a great way to start the weekend. Let’s not wait another three years for JBB to return.
If you’re from Missouri or Illinois, I’m sure you’ve heard of or have seen Aaron Kamm and the One Drops. They are an act that no reggae, blues, or jam band lover should miss! AKOD have been around for over 4 years and have 3 studio albums out titled The Bomb and the Beast, grow, and gnu-gnu. I have all 3 albums, so if you want to check them out just ask me! Aaron Kamm himself plays guitar in which he shreds the most intense blues solos and is lead vocals with his soulfully smooth voice. The One Drops include the talented Andy Lee Dorris on bass and the Sean Raila on drums who plays beats faster than you can say “one drops!” They tend to play a couple times a month in St. Louis making them a key staple to the ever growing St. Louis music scene. They also have played several smaller festivals in Missouri and Illinois, and hit up Edwardsville, IL, Columbia, MO and Carbondale, MO at least once a month. I’ve seen them way too many times to coun, but my favorite time seeing them was in southern Missouri at Bearcat Getaway campground after a long day of floating. This is one band that I definitely would watch in 2013 since their shows are getting more and more packed by the month. So if you like reggae, blues, jam, and love to dance, then I suggest you get yourself to one of their shows soon! If you want to a taste of their sound, click here!
It was a big night in Fort Collins. The Aggie brought in an impressive lineup consisting of some of the best jazz and funk artists touring today. Hodi’s was celebrating their grand re-opening under new ownership with Dave Watts and Friends (aka The Motet) and free beer. The people that wanted to party headed to Hodi’s, the music fans went to The Aggie. I honestly would have loved to catch both, but the amazing music unfolding before my eyes kept me from moving on.
Up first was Garrett Sayers Trio lead by bass virtuoso and local phenom Mr. Garrett Sayers. This lineup consisting of Garrett on bass, Patrick Lee on keys, and Johnny Jyemo on drums has had a longstanding Wednesday night residency at the Highland Tap & Burger. They have intrigued me for a long time, but this was my first chance catching them live. GS3 took the stage around 9:15 and dazzled the crowd for just short of an hour. It was a rollercoaster ride with this nimble trio weaving together a massive sound for such a tight unit. The diversity within the GS3, was evident from the beginning. Each member of the band seems to be coming from distinctly different musical backgrounds. The result was this amazing blending of funk, jam, jazz, R & B, and so much more percolated in and out of every song. Garrett Sayers Trio is an instrumental band as were all the bands on the bill minus Kung Fu who will occasionally feature a song with vocals. There is something freeing about going to see an instrumental band. The show doesn’t get all convoluted with silly things like lyrics. I’m being facetious but it really does allow the audience to focus strictly on the music. It was impossible not to focus on GS3 as all three members wowed the slowly growing crowd. They finished their remarkable set and headed down the road where Garrett joined his Motet band mates for their gig at Hodi’s. He really is a hard worker.
Kind Recordings has the show up on Archive. Thanks to Corey for taping the show. http://www-tracey.archive.org/details/gstrio2013-01-24.fob.mc803.kindrec
Last year jam super group Kung Fu made several visits to Colorado, and they definitely made an impression. This time they were on a 5-day mission from God that took them from Aspen through Breckenridge and down to the Front Range. This was night three of that run and their set again came in at just under an hour was truly mind melting. While the Aggie was only about a third full, I was impressed with the variety of people in the crowd. I chatted with a couple of older gentlemen who had won tickets off of the radio with little knowledge of what was in store for them. I saw young college kids mingling with middle-aged hipsters. Perhaps the most alarming thing about this show was the distinct lack of chatter during the show. As you can hear in the recordings, people were definitely there to see the music. Kung Fu is Tim Palmieri on guitar (The Breakfast), Robert Somerville on tenor sax (Deep Banana Blackout), Todd Stoops on keyboards (RAQ), Christopher DeAngelis on bass guitar (The Breakfast), and Adrian Tramontano on drums/percussion (The Breakfast). This is truly a powerhouse lineup that did not disappoint. They opened with “Do The Right Thing.”
Set 1: Do The Right Thing, Snaggle, Scapegoat Blues> Letters From Bobby Portugal> Hollywood Kisses, Chakrabarty Overdrive
Kung Fu is a hard-hitting amalgamation of funk-fueled fire assaulting the senses of all those who dare to enter the ring. It’s a constant onslaught from Palmieri who literally had to have a stagehand douse him with an extinguisher after his massive solo during “Scapegoat Blues.” “Hollywood Blues” was the only song of the entire evening that featured vocals. They closed their ‘not long enough’ set with “Chakrabarty Overdrive” which as it’s name would insinuate caused me to need to go outside for some air. Keep coming back Kung Fu, and keep playing bigger and bigger shows. Colorado needs your brand of funky goodness.
Finally it was time for the B3 master himself Robert Walter to take the stage with his 20th Congress. Now this band has had several incarnations and has a rotating list of members. Fans at The Aggie were treated to a stunning lineup consisting of Cheme Gastelum (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings), Chris Stillwell (Greyboy Allstars), and Simon Lott (Charlie Hunter Trio). Just unbelievable. They opened with a gritty “Hunk.”
Set 1: Hunk, Snakes & Spiders, Cory’s Snail and Slug Death, Sweetie Pie, Dog Party, He’s Really Gone, Rivers of Babylon, Get Thy Bearings, Who Took the Happiness Out?, Fox Hunting, Don’t Chin The Dog, Impervious, Instant Karma
Encore: Don’t Hate Congratulate
Robert Walter is best known for his work with Greyboy Allstars, however his solo band is truly not to be missed. I really felt that it has been such a long gap between his tours, that many are no longer in the know. And it’s too bad really, because the show we received from this lineup was nothing short of top notch. The lack of guitar really put the focus on Walter and Gastelum and their interplay was outstanding. The highlight of the show for me was the Phantom of the Opera-esque intro to the instrumental “Rivers Of Babylon.” They closed their set with a massive jam on Lennon’s “Instant Karma.” This is the caliber of music I would like to see more of on The Front Range. Despite the conflicting shows, I feel I made the right choice and left feeling musically satisfied in a way that I have not been in quite some time. Watching truly gifted musicians jam together is the reason I started really covering live shows. Seeing this stellar lineup on a Thursday night in Fort Collins just validates that decision.
My general aversion to electronic music is well known. Although I have enjoyed a few forays into the genre at Summer Camp last year my general reaction is not usually positive. However, I’ve seen some electronic groups that play organically, as a unit, and the music is more textural than dubstep. These are the types of electronic artists I’m drawn to. Particle is one such band. They are one of those bands that hit early Summer Camp lineups for three years between 2003 and 2005. Those early shows were a lot of fun as was their performance of 80′s tunes at The Aggie.
Up first was New Orleans natives EarPhunk. These guys are the next generation behind the Galactics and the Dumpstphunks of The Big Easy. The fluidly blend jam and funk in a balanced way that makes it fun for the audience. They did get riff-y at times, but that’s to be expected from a younger band still developing their sound. They started their set to a sparsely filled room, which would eventually get about a third full. Overall their brand funk influenced jam won me over and will give me plenty of reason to give them another listen.
Having seen Particle for the first time around 2001 in a tiny bar in Iowa, I’ve watched this band grow and evolve over the years. The recent inclusion of former full-time guitarist into the mix certainly seems to have reinvigorated Particle. Their show at the Aggie was both hilarious and technically stunning. Let’s start with the hilarious.
Set 1: Sledgehammer, Funkytown, Let’s Go Crazy, Electric Avenue, Once In A Lifetime, Pump Up The Volume> Rockit> Material Girl> Pump Up The Jam, The Final Countdown> Money For Nothing, Safety Dance> Launchpad Outro, It Takes Two>
Wild Thing> It’s Tricky> Bust A Move, Don’t Forget About Me, You Can Call Me Al, Sweet Dreams
Encore: Paradise City, Eye Of The Tiger> Sun Mar 11 Outro
From the opening guitar line of “Sledgehammer” I was grinning from ear to ear. Particle has their specific smooth style of electronica, but their take on the music of the 1980’s was fairly straightforward and strangely accurate. The setlist screams of lightheartedness, but don’t be fooled they absolutely shredded these classics. None more so the massive “Pump Up The Volume’ lead run that featured an enormous version of “Pump Up The Jam.” It was like a big musical sandwich with wheat bread on the bottom and rye on top. Particle never shied away from intricate composed pieces such as “The Final Countdown.” Perhaps the silliest moment of the night came in the form of “Safety Dance.” They ended the set with their version of the Eurythmics version of a country song, “Sweet Dreams.” The massive encore included a nod to both Guns N’ Roses as well as Survivor. It was just an amusing and entertaining show all around. Combe killed the guitar adding a new and interesting layer to their sound overall. Molitz continues to be the musical focal point with the lockstep rhythm section of Gould and Pujalet holding it all in check. Here is Particle back to their old tricks, firing on all cylinders, and truly gelling on stage. I would definitely do it all again.
Show two from moe. was on the dock and ready to jump into the icy lake that is the Ogden. After a strange first night I was ready for a more chill experience and some classic jamming from one of my favorite bands. I spent the day playing some disc golf and then lounging at the Rockmada before heading to dinner and then the show. It was a nice relaxing day that got us ready to rage one more night. Local favorites The Congress had been selected to fill the opening slot. Ironically the first time I saw The Congress was opening up for moe. a few years back in Breckenridge. Lead by the powerful vocals and bass of Jonathan Meadows, the band is now striped down into a power trio with Scott Lane on guitar and Mark Levy on kit. Scott gyrates wildly onstage ashe sets fire to the neck of the guitar. It’s great to see a rock outfit of this caliber playing in utter synchronicity. Again making the most of their forty-five minute slot, they performed a scorching set that saw an early “Jonah Gideon” energize the crowd. There seemed to be more early arrivers on night two. Perhaps people got the message from a solid set from YAMN on night one. The highlight of their set was a sweet version of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” that really demonstrated Meadows’ range as a singer. He can deliver a grumbled rock voice on one song and the sing a delicate blues number on the next go. He is one of my favorite Denver singers to see live right now. They also premiered a new song entitled “When I’ve Got The Time,” which was a rockabilly number that sounded fantastic. The Congress’ set was over as soon as it began and it was time for two more from moe.
moe. opened with the Rob sung “Paper Dragon;” this track while relatively new is a great vehicle for tight riffing and fun interplay.
Set I: Paper Dragon> Happy Hour Hero, Big World> Ricky Marten> Where Does The Time Go?, Water> Haze
Set II: Skrunk> Shoot First, Y.O.Y, Spine Of A Dog> So Long> Wicked Awesome, Sticks and Stone> Spaz Medicine, Plane Crash
Encore: Zed Nought Z> Time Ed
Thanks to Chuck Miller for posting the recording on Archive.
They went into the fan favorite “Happy Hour Hero” that became a massive sing along. It was a smooth way to ease into the set before a nice but quick “Big World.” It was obvious that they were beginning with a quicker pace as opposed to the spaced out playing we witnessed on night one. The segues as always were clean especially so during the transition in and out of “Ricky Marten.” “Where Does The Time Go?” was a late set breather before a ridiculous “Water” ignited the fuse. Chuck’s graceful guitar licks hypnotized the audience. “Water” was the first extended jamming of the evening but never really getting too far off the beaten path. They ended the set with a stellar “Haze” that seemed fit in that spot like a well-time Tetris line.
moe. began the second set with a rowdy “Skrunk” that featured some the most intense jamming of the night. Chuck settled everyone down with a bouncy “Shoot First” before moe. pulled out the now classic “Y.O.Y’. moe. continues to be one of the tightest bands touring today. The longevity of the project has really allowed all of the members of the band to meld musically in a way that should be the standard. There are very few of groups in the scene who can say they have been around for over twenty years with not one serious breakup or extended hiatus. They treated fans to another standard with a quick “Spine Of A Dog” that a utilized a riff on Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” (Better known as the “Assembly Line Song”) as the segue into “Wicked Awesome.” Al killed it on “W.A.” which is tribute to the radio that shaped his love of music. “Sticks and Stones” is a personal favorite, so it was nice to see it in the mix. “Spaz Medicine” was well executed, but the “Plane Crash” was by far the best jam of the night. Reaching over fourteen minutes, it was an invigorating take on “PC” in its traditional set closing spot.
moe. encored with a very tranquil “Zed Naugh Z” before absolutely jumping over the edge with a huge “Time Ed.” All in all this was a very nice show although somewhat more bottled than night one at times. These two shows demonstrate the versatility that moe. has with each and every outing. They can walk stage and play four songs for an hour and a half or deliver fifteen-song sets. Each one of their tunes is like a piece of play dough that they can stretch or shrink based on their needs for that particular time and place. Much of that comes from their endurance as a band over time. moe. has already announced initial lineups for both Summer Camp and moe.down. Both look incredibly promising and if other festivals follow suit, we’ll be looking at another amazing summer of music. Wait what month is it? …
For some turning forty is a day for celebration and remembrance, Dave marked his fortieth trip around the sun by lighting the fuse to a powder keg and blasting down the hill in style. Dave arranged for both Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger from Umphrey’s McGee to play a special two-set acoustic show in his living room. With both The Magic Beans and The Drunken Hearts supporting the entire event promised to be one not easily forgotten. I headed up with a few friends from Denver and arrived at Dave’s north of Denver around 7 PM. There was already a decent crowd assembled mingling amongst the massive potluck spread complete with a keg of Ranger. It was obvious that this was going to be a stellar night and it was just starting.
We kicked off our shoes into the massive pile by the door and got to it. So many sock-footed friends and familiar faces dotted the room, as the birthday boy chatted with his guests. Bayliss and Jake were sitting on the couch watching their alma mater Notre Dame square off against USC to complete an unbeaten season. The house was perfectly set up for what was about to occur. The UM Duo would perform in the living room and downstairs there was a literally a stage on the carpeting complete with lights and a soundboard. The basement was basically a large L with plenty of room for everyone.
The Drunken Hearts got started a little after 8 PM and quickly warmed up the crowd. There was a party atmosphere so people seemed to float in and out the basement. They played a sweet variety of Americana cut with a bit of rock and roll. Hailing from Vail, Colorado and labeling themselves Alternative Grass Rock, The Drunken Hearts are a new force on the scene. Andrew McConathy’s deep and colorful voice resonated off the basement walls. His tone has a unique quality to it that makes it very versatile and well suited to the genres of music that they play. Early in their set there was a short power outage when the band blew the breaker. The Drunken Hearts very professionally continued to play in the dark. Towards the end of the song the room was again filled with the iridescent green light from the towers. They played a tight version of the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” and I was told that Bayliss sat in on kit for a song. Honestly they were a lot of fun and a very smooth way to ease into the night. They recently released Live for Today, which was produced by Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone, and features sit-ins from both Tim and Scott Law.
Everyone filed upstairs and quietly took their place throughout the kitchen and living room. The stage was simple, two chairs, a couple lights, a small plaque commemorating the life of Sarah Elizabeth Gewald, Brendan, and Jake. Notre Dame had won and it was time to get down. Dave politely told everyone to be respectful and the show was on. They opened up with a fully developed “40’s Theme.”
Set 1: 40′s Theme, In the Kitchen> White Pickle> Den, Rocker Pt 1, Great American> Over the Hills and Far Away> Great American>The Girl is Mine> Jane Says> Great American, Hajimemashite> Glory> Hajimemashite, Dear Prudence, FF> Gulf Stream, Can’t Find My Way Home, 2 dips, 1 bump, and a Fuckload of Pills
Set 2: Divisions> No Comment> Soul Food I^> In the Kitchen, Comfortably Numb, August> That’s The Way> August, Bridgeless@, Jake Solo$, Morning Song, Thunderstruck, The Weight Around, Black Water*, Front Porch> Resolution> Goodbye Blue Sky> Divisions
Encore: Porch**, Night Moves^Horse with no Name (America) and Run To You (Bryan Adams) verses @ W/ Don’t Stop Believing fake out $ Dedicated to “all of our fallen friends.” * W/Clayton Halsey on vocals ** Pearl Jam, 1st time played. The audio stream is online to listen to http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/27255821.
The setlist was just stupid good and the acoustic playing along with the myriad of covers set the premise for the night. The crowd would sporadically chime in to sing along with the band. Brendan and Jake are solid players; their acoustic performances really allow the listener to focus on their ability to just pick. The incredible dynamic between Jake and Brendan was as substantial in front of the select gathering in Dave’s Living Room as it is in front of thousands of screaming fans at Red Rocks. They performed “In The Kitchen” to people who were literally in the kitchen. The entire two set show was playful in this way, with gentle ribbing give to Dave by the band between songs. The jam on “White Pickle” was engaging before they segued into a rare “Rocker Pt. 1”, which has only been played once by Umphrey’s in 2009 since it’s debut in 2006. They used their instrumental “Great American” as the double bookend Jam one of the most compelling runs of the night. ”Great American”> ”Over the Hills and Far Away”> ”Great American”> ”The Girl is Mine”> ”Jane Says”> ”Great American”, I mean really? Weaving out of their own musical landscapes into Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, and Jane’s Addiction in a single strand of a performance is downright mystifying and exceptionally entertaining. Going back to the Umphrey’s songbook they played a nice sandwich of “Hajimemashite”> ”Glory”> ”Hajimemashite” before they went into a beautiful cover of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”
Dear Prudence – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BszbMv_adQ&feature=youtu.be
A favorite moment of mine was the “FF” into “Gulf Stream.” This was just a good combo back to back and seemed to exemplify the feel of the first set; relaxed and celebratory.
FF into Gulf Stream – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xa8PTMFqgRs
They again wowed the attentive audience with a rendition of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” before ending the set appropriately with “2 dips, 1 bump, and a Fuckload of Pills.” (I had to check that was really the title of the song and not setlist notes for someone.)
Friends mingled about and eagerly awaited the return of Brendan and Jake. If the first set was a straightforward shot with a few surprises, then the second set was a field of land mines being traversed on a unicycle. They came out strong with a huge “Divisions” to start the show. Dave’s friend brought a painting that was a live representation of this song to be signed, so it made sense that they would use it as the bread for the second set sandwich. “No Comment” was a bit abrupt, but the funky “Soul Food I” included “Horse with No Name” and “Run To You” verses. This was when things started getting weirder. From SF1 they launched back into “In The Kitchen” The first of two second set Pink Floyd covers came in the form of an excellently executed “Comfortably Numb.” They performed yet another back and forth with “August” into Led Zeppelin’s “That’s The Way” and back again. “Bridgeless” contained a massive Journey tease that made the whole crowd cheer. Jake played a stunning solo dedicated to, “all of our fallen friends.” Brendan and Jake played a dark “Morning Song,” which they followed up with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” They busted out a rare “The Weight Around” and the upped the ante with a version the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water.” The playful “Front Porch” is an old track seeing less of the rotation in recent years. “Resolution” disintegrated into an absolutely awesome version of Pink Floyd’s “Good By Blue Sky” before they wrapped it up with the aforementioned “Divisions.” Wow. This was just an unbelievable set of music.
Brendan and Jake encored with a first time ever played “Porch” by Pearl Jam as well as Bob Seger’s “Night Moves.” This was such an enjoyable time and a great way to spend a Saturday Night. Magic Beans took the stage downstairs as music fans basked in the afterglow of that acoustic set. The Beans are a talented group who continue to impress audiences all across Colorado and beyond. They played as the people mingled and slowly dribbled away into the darkness. Eventually too my ride indicated that it was time to hit the old dusty trail and we left as the Beans were still shredding. I want to extend a big thanks to Dave for even attempting, let alone pulling off the most incredible birthday party I’ve ever attended. Happy Birthday my friend.
After a lazy night with Railroad Earth at The Boulder Theater it was time for the main event with both RRE and Umphrey’s McGee showcasing their skills at Red Rocks. Seeing UM always reminds me of Summer Camp, and gets me excited for next year’s festival. CIT Tiffany was also in attendence at the show and you can read her review of Red Rocks and UM at the Boulder Theater here. Opting out of throwing their third Red, Rocks, & Blue show around the 4th of July, UM instead, created a late summer run that included both bands playing in Boulder. Traffic was murder as all the Coloradoans sped down the road for one more summer adventure before the leaves turned. We arrived at the box office, which was swamped with all manner of wooks, hippie chicks, and lot regulars. It was like working my way through the Cantina on Mos Eisley in Star Wars complete with alien life forms and shitty oboe jams. After procuring my pass we headed to the top and parked in Upper North. The lot was full as randoms milled about waiting to head inside. Our time was short, but we managed to see a few friends and have a beer before finding a spot inside.
The show was GA again meaning that all of Red Rocks was wide open. Fans squeezed to the front as the middle quickly filled in. Railroad Earth took the stage with a massive “Seven Story Mountain” to start their almost two-hour set.
SET I: Seven Story Mountain, Happy Song, Gold Rush, Mighty River, Saddle Of The Sun, The Old Man and the Land, Elko, Mourning Flies, Lone Croft Farewell, Hunting Song, Long Way To Go, Spring-Heeled Jack, Colorado
Overall the Railroad set just had more energy than the previous night in Boulder. They were playing to the crowd with long meandering jams and even playing in a borderline psychedelic style towards the end of their set. Railroad Earth is a great band that continues to grow and evolve. Every year that they come to Colorado they bring a new song and stylistic shift that broadens their appeal and furthers their ability to excite audiences. In just the last three years they have come so far, I can honestly say when they bring the energy they are a tough band to beat live. Last year RRE played Red Rocks with Yonder Mountain String Band, but making a shift and hoping to open up their sound to new fans, they decided to play with Umphrey’s McGee. I for one think this is a bold move on their part and an excellent way to get exposure in Colorado. Most YMSB fans would know RRE, but that is not necessarily true of UM fans. Not to mention that this set was a solid introduction for anyone who was new to seeing them live. Highlights of the show included a strong “Elko” and a stunning “Spring Heeled-Jack.” They ended the opening set appropriately enough with “Colorado.”
Umphrey’s was up next and at this point there was still plenty of room at the top of the venue. I’m not sure why UM has such a hard time selling out Red Rocks. It seems that they did everything to promote the show properly including ticket giveaways, announcing they would be filming a DVD, creating social media buzz, and more. They seem to be cursed at The Edge; they just hit a wall around 8,000 attendees every year, never really breaking that barrier. The members of Umphrey’s have been having fun with some mock political ads featuring Joel Cummins and Andy Farag for president. Both sets began with an attack ad from both sides.
After the ad they opened with a fun but quick “There’s No Crying In Mexico.”
SET I: There’s No Crying In Mexico> All In Time> ‘Jimmy Stewart’*> All In Time, Puppet String> 2×2, Miami Virtue> The Linear> Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, The Floor
SET II: Ocean Billy, Nothing Too Fancy> Mulche’s Odyssey, End of the Road, Conduit> Nothing Too Fancy, Plunger> Puppet String
ENCORE I: Kashmir^
ENCORE II: JaJunk
*with Lyrics ^with Railroad Earth
This is just a classic Umphrey’s show, featuring some solid back and forth jamming as well as amazingly tight delivery, which has been their hallmark for the better part of a decade now. The “All In Time” “Jimmy Stewart” sandwich stretched on to the 20-minute mark showing the band’s readiness to go off the deep end right from the onset. After the band caught their breath they went into another long version of “Puppet String” which was left unfinished. The “2×2” was a chance for the band to stretch out under Bayliss’s singing. “Miami Virtue” was a welcomed tune as it has been slowly developing as a crowd favorite since its release on Death By Stereo. Bayliss again took the vocals with the progressive-tinged “The Linear.” Umphrey’s surprised the crowd with the Radiohead cover “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” which was done quite well. They ended the first set with a foreboding “The Floor,” leaving many fans chomping at the bit for set two. This was just a solid first set offering from UM. They established that they were ready to jam, and that they were definitely still playing at the top of their game.
The second set began another campaign ad and another enormous jam this time on “Ocean Billy.” The “Nothing Too Fancy” built very nicely as the band layered their instrumentation quite well, before it erupted into crunchy “Mulche’s Odyssey.” They came back down to planet earth with a tasty “End of the Road.” Umphrey’s blasted off with a dark take on “Conduit” which felt like the pivot point of the entire set. Kris Myers and Andy Farag brought the heat here before the band made their way back into the close of “Nothing Too Fancy.” They ended the second set with an incredible “Plunger” back into “Puppet String.” The second set was a beautiful display of how well these guys play together as a group. They listen to each other and they know what the other members of the band are thinking. Every time I see Umphrey’s live it’s like looking at a perfectly timed engine with all the components completely in synch. It is because they are so tight that they continue to attract new fans and push the limits of their musical potential.
The first encore may have been the highlight of the entire show with Railroad Earth sitting in with UM on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” RRE did get lost in the mix a bit, but it was definitely a fun experiment. I honestly thought that UM would entertain some more acoustic playing given the fact that they have performed several stripped down shows as of late. This was not the case, rather RRE played up to a heavier sound, which is definitely apparent in this encore. Umphrey’s came back for a second encore solo and played a nice “JaJunk” to close the show. It was a pleasant way to close out Red Rocks for the summer and an enjoyable show all around. The combination of RRE and UM made for an interesting dynamic. I look forward to the day when UM will become fully embraced in Colorado and finally sell out Red Rocks. They certainly deserve it.
Bohemian Nights is the cornerstone of the summer in Fort Collins. It is a celebration of music and highlights some of the incredible homegrown acts in Colorado. The musical performers are a literal smorgasbord of everything this great state has to offer. The nice thing for any music fan is that you can pick and choose your experience to suit your tastes. Being a fan of bluegrass and jam it was easy to cull through the offerings and check out what was appealing to my preferences. In addition to the great local acts performing across six stages, New West Fest brought in several headliners that are some of the most sought after live acts touring today. With over ninety concerts over three days there was a lot to take in for everyone in attendance. Friday night witnessed a three pack of Summer Camp Alumni on the main stage, which was a nice touch.
On Friday I made the choice to stay at the main stage for Dubskin, Euforquestra, and the headliner Michael Franti with Spearhead. Dubskin began the night with their brand of fiery American Reggae. Jamal Skinner has an amazing authenticity that permeates everything he does on stage. With the power duo of Ryan Jalbert and Mike Tallman on guitar this band exudes raw talent. Their approach to the reggae genre leaves nothing to be desired. This 7-piece lineup has everything going for them right now with shows at Summer Camp, Red Rocks, and Wakarusa under their belt the future is looking bright. Their show at New West Fest was simply a blast. They brought a powerful energy and really invigorated the crowd for a night of music.
Next up was Fort Collins transplants Euforquestra. It’s no secret that I love these guys. They bring the heat every time they play. With the recent departure of bassist Ben Soltou the band has shaken up things a bit. Adam Grosso went back into the bass slot while newcomer Craig Babineau has taken his spot behind the kit. Grosso has a more “driving the bus” style as opposed to Soltou’s funky roots, which makes for a distinct change in the band’s sound. That being said, this was the first time I had the chance to see the reformatted lineup and I was definitely impressed. Awesome versions of “Soup” and “Road Funk” really hit the mark in a big way. The crowd definitely began to fill in; in anticipation of Franti. Euforquestra did a great job opening for the headliner. Their version of Beck’s “Nicotine and Gravy” was a high water mark of the show.
Michael Franti and Spearhead took the stage around 8:30 PM to a capacity crowd on Mountain Avenue. This guy is a bucket of liveliness and his show in Fort Collins was no exception. Within the first couple songs he was off the stage and in the crowd. A common occurrence at Spearhead shows to be sure, but it’s always a thrill for those in attendance. Versions of “Everyone Deserves Music” and “Hey Hey Hey” were highlights of the hour and half set. Franti bounced around the stage while Carl Young on bass and Manas Itiene on drums held the rhythm down tightly. While Franti may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I have to say his positivity is simply infectious. It was an excellent end to the first night of New West Fest.
The Bohemian Foundation in association with the Downtown Fort Collins Business Association went above and beyond in the creation of this one of a kind event. They worked tirelessly for months to make it all happen and it is one of the best-run festivals in Colorado. In their eight year the organizers continue to raise the bar every summer. With countless volunteers and some incredible staff they give local musicians an astonishing opportunity to perform in front of massive crowds.