Word of a new musical endeavor swept up and down the Front Range this summer. At first glance many people assumed that Arise Music & Arts Festival was a yoga conference on performance enhancing drugs. They were incorrect. In one word Arise was ambitious. This aspiring event saw some of the best and brightest music producers collaborating to create a festival on the size and scope of Bonnaroo here in Colorado. Located at the Sunrise Ranch outside of the heart of Loveland, it would have been difficult to find a more picturesque and pristine place to throw a festival this side of the Continental Divide. The Sunrise Ranch is also the national headquarters for the Emissaries of The Divine Light who teach Attunement, which is the belief that “positive shifts in consciousness release healing energy.” Some have called them cultish however my experience over the weekend with members of that community did little to dredge up thoughts of Jonestown or Charles Manson. In fact what the attendees found was a holistic approach to a music festival. Workshops, activism opportunities, and panel discussions were dotted throughout the schedule, which seeded to go from sunup to sunup for all five days of Arise.
Now there were definitely a few logistical hiccups along the way, but all in all I would say Arise was spot on with scope, budget, and personnel. The biggest and most obvious issue was the fact that Arise occurred on the same weekend as Bohemian Nights: New West Fest. This yearly tradition pulls in about 30,000 people a day for three days, is free, and was headlined by Ben Harper this year. The fact is that historically New West Fest has been the second weekend in August, but this year it fell on the third weekend. So by accident really Arise took a big hit to possible attendees from the start. Secondly the festival began on Wednesday and ended Sunday afternoon. This made it hard for people to get there early and stunted the first couple days of Arise. Finally the beer situation was confusing. The Beer Garden offered mixed drinks and Odell’s, which is fine, but you were not allowed to leave the beer jail with your drink.
All that being said everything else was well executed and done with great care. Solid food and vendors lined the edge of the massive main stage area. The valley floor was a huge swath of beauty dotted with incredible art installations and great music. The lineup was absolutely appropriate. One end of the festival grounds featured tall rock walls and the opposite side features a massive reservoir. It was just an incredible place to camp, convene with friends, and see live music.
On my lunch break on Thursday I headed up the canyon to Arise and set up my tent. I met with the press coordinator and got my credentials for the weekend. My wife and I wouldn’t make it back until Keller and The Keels emerged from backstage around 6:30 PM. Keller and The Keels is another demonstration of the fractional mind of Mr. Williams. He is concurrently playing with his funk band More Than A Little, continuing to play with the Travelin’ McCourys, and also playing solo looped performances. That is just in the last year. The Keels are immensely talented in their own right and add a full bluegrass sound to Keller’s picking style. They played classic versions of the Butthole Surfers’ “Pepper” and K-Dub’s opus “Breathe.” Keller stepped up to the microphone and said, “Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome acoustic reggae music,” before he went into Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” By this point music had been going all day and people were getting acclimated to the flow of the festival. Unfortunately Genetics was on at the same time as Keller so I raced over to catch a short snippet of their set.
These guys continue to add depth and range to their musical repertoire. They recently had a lowly attended show at Hodi’s. Rather than playing angry or rushing through the show they took the opportunity to host an epic instrument-swapping jam that was truly impressive. They were messing around at Arise playing heavy rock riffs for the small assemblage of people. They were by far living the closest to the fest, residing just ten minutes from the grounds. They are a band with enormous potential and true thirst to learn and play together. Genetics is most definitely worth checking out live.
The Motet played a very different set than what I witnessed in Telluride a couple weeks prior. Once again this band is showing that they are one of the most versatile groups touring today. They shredded through almost two hours of electro-pop funkiness that turned into an all out dance party. Songs like “Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed” and David Bowie’s “Fame” were obvious highlights from this crowd-pleasing set. Dave Watts continues to be one of the tightest and most dynamic drummers in Colorado. They were a great choice to play on the big stage at Arise.
We wandered around in the darkness as the various art installations took different shape under spotlights. DJs and EDM Producers played in the Syntonic Stage area until the wee-est hours of the morning. Kan’Nal also took center stage before the night was over. There was a distinct flavor to the lineup and performances. Everyone seemed to have their space with the more popular groups playing the two larger stages. We headed back to the tent to get ready for Friday.
Under the ill advice of a disc tossing wookie, my friend and I drove up to Buckhorn for an early morning round of disc golf. He said it was about 15 minutes up the road, which turned out to be just under an hour. Afterwards I jumped right back into it with Shimshai who is a crunchy acoustic singer-songwriter. He had reggae flair and powerful riff-heavy guitar work.
Earth Guardians were one of the most impressive bands that I had not heard of prior to Arise. This group of young leaders spreads positivity and change through hip-hop. Lead by brothers Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez and Itzcuauhtli Roske-Martinez they sing songs like “The Hope Is In Our Hands” and “Live as if our Future Matters.” It’s obvious that the Earth Guardians are working at a more conscious level than most other 9 and 13 year olds. They have a bouncy, approachable style that is full of optimism and encouragement.
Fort Collins favorite Better Than Bacon was up on the Solar Overdrive Stage next. They have paired down to a straight forward power trio
“Welcome to the dust bowl.” –James Yearling
Dust only really became an issue under the thousands of feet of Franti fans as he urged them to jump and or move, but we’ll get to that. Bacon only got 45 minutes, which seemed to be pretty typical for the smaller stage. They opened with their take on a boogie jam with “Texas Tune.” The band sounds trimmer and more concise with just three members. Their set was enjoyable, but I was left wanting more. They also played originals “Pounding Nails” and “Loosing You.”
On the Center Stage was Nahko & Medicine For The People. This was definitely the breakout surprise of Friday. Their acoustic bombardment is chocked full and energy and a real passion for life. Reminiscent of Rusted Root from an earlier time, Nahko leads a robustly talented group of musicians who seem very much in tune with each other onstage. With only an hour to perform they truly succeeded in leaving an impression on me. Great energy, great set.
I headed over to the press conference, which took on a very eclectic feel. Chali 2Na along Nahko & Medicine For The People would later be joined by Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez for some questions from the press. They discussed their music and eventually moved on to activism in a festival setting. Nahko talked about the variety at Arise and about his own group.
“We don’t fit into a genre, (Arise is) all types of genres and all types of vibes.” – Nahko
When the young Martinez arrived he turned heads with his eloquence and wisdom. It was an enlightening event, but I left before the end to catch Greensky Bluegrass. This band has been on fire all summer long. They tour relentlessly and continue to play to larger and larger audiences. Bluegrass was scattered on the lineup so it was nice to see a band of this caliber on the Center Stage. Their set at Arise was yet another top-notch experience from a band that is becoming known for constantly delivering. Their progressive style of bluegrass has elevated them beyond the label of a simple touring string band. Greensky Bluegrass is a powerhouse in the world of bluegrass and their set at Arise was an example of just that.
Xavier Rudd took on the headlining slot for Friday night.
“I need to watch what I say… instead of say what I watch.” – Xavier Rudd
He is yet another musician who focuses on positivity and delivering a visceral live experience. Relying on percussive instrumentation primarily, Rudd can simultaneously blow on a didgeridoo and knock out a beat on the kit. He began his set solo, but was soon joined by another drummer. This gave him leeway to bust out a guitar and demonstrate his amazing skills as a multi-instrumentalist. He is Australia’s native son and he is a true ambassador of their indigenous music. His version of Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” was impeccable. This was a real highlight of my weekend at Arise.
The night was rounded out with hippie hop favorite Chali 2Na. Perhaps it’s going back to his days with Jurassic 5, but 2Na is a member of an elite group of rappers that seems to have a real connection with jam and festival crowds. Artists like Big Boi and 2Na are well known in this realm and for good reason. Chali’s set at Arise was bouncy and a great way end my Friday. Music bumped on literally all night long with sets from The Magic Beans and Michael Menert.
Saturday saw a few more fresh faces that had made it for the final full day of the Arise Music & Arts Festival. I awoke in desperate need of a shower so I made my way over to them in general camping. I have to say this may have been the best festival shower experience I’ve ever had. As you enter, you are greeted by a Zen garden of cleanliness. Operatives offer to wash your feet as you wait for a stall to open. I declined, but it was a nice gesture. They cleaned each shower before use and were very attentive to their customers. It was a brilliant way to start my last day at Arise.
I spent an hour or so joining in an aerial photography that reenacted the logo for the festival with human bodies. It was punctuated by a massive group hug before everyone floated on. I was disheartened to hear that Grant Farm had actually performed on Friday having switched set times with another band. I opted for some activism instead and went to the Sunrise Dome for a panel discussion with Daryl Hannah and Julia Butterfly Hill moderated by Rock The Earth’s Mark Ross. Hill discussed her harrowing experience living in the ancient redwood affectionately known as Luna for 738 days. Hannah talked about her work to stop the Keystone Pipeline for which she has been arrested twice. Mark asked intelligent and wide-ranging questions that covered both of their careers and work as activists. He also fielded a number of questions from the audience. The 90-minute talk flew by and it was time for She Said String Band.
They are another local group with a very genuine approach to the bluegrass tradition. They had an almost wholesome sound that was truly inviting. TIERRO was back on the Center Stage with their fiery tribal beats. They were fun but musically Zap Mama was on another level. They are a self-proclaimed blend vocally of “Polyphonic” and “Afropop.” To me it was amazing harmonies backed by a sometimes-jazzy sometimes hip-hop flair. Zap Mama originates from Belgium and they have received international recognition for their tremendous sound.
Finally it was time for the main event in the form of Michael Franti and Spearhead. Having just played a show at Red Rocks Franti is well loved and well attended here in Colorado. The fact that he was the festival headliner made perfect sense. Again his brand of positive, inviting performances is exactly what Arise seems to be all about. His use of funk, world, hip-hop and reggae stylistically in his music also demonstrates the eclecticism of the festival itself. How could Franti not headline the first Arise? His set was a series of fan favorites with a few newer tracks tossed in for good measure. Franti invited young Jayden Carlson up to the stage. At the tender age of six watching Spearhead, Carlson decided that she wanted to, “make people happy like that.” She had performed earlier in the day with her band and let me just say that kid can shred.
“It’s cool to be at Arise on the day it was invented.” –Michael Franti
Spearhead continues to be a high impact group capable of backing the full on musical assault of Franti. He regularly jumped off the stage and mingled directly with the crowd still singing into his wireless microphone. The enthusiastic crowd caused a serious storm of dust as they jumped and danced. Crowd pleasers like “The Sound of Sunshine” and “Life Is Better With You” energized the audience. The bassist took a turn at the microphone with a baritone rendition of Sly & The Family Stone’s “Family Affair.” They also ripped through a smoking version of “Say Hey (I Love You)” and teased the crowd with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” All in all it was one of the best shows I’ve seen from Franti and company.
We wrapped up our Arise experience with east coast favorite Twiddle. This band has a Phishy demeanor and rarely makes it out this far west. They are a powerfully talented group that played well into the night. They too invited young Jayden Carlson up to the stage to jam.
Twiddle blasted through originals like “Doinkinbonk!” and “Box.” However the highlight of their set was a huge jam that included “Gatsby The Great” into “Big Country” into “Divided Sky” back into “Big Country” and back into “Gatsby.” This run featured some of the cleanest jamming I witnessed all weekend. These guys need to get out west more often.
The great thing about Arise Music & Arts Festival is that it is literally the “Choose Your Own Adventure” of music festivals. The experiences had by any given attendee have the potential to be incredibly different and varied. For the activist there was plenty of film screenings and discussions. For the burner that was plenty of electronic music and wholesome community interaction. For the music fan that was literally live music happening at any given time over the course of the 96 hours of Arise. There was obviously a nascent community beginning to form at Arise and I for one am interested to see how it grows. Not only is this something we are truly lacking in Colorado, but more importantly the organizers seem to have a solid road map by which to develop this festival. Time will tell if their ambition will match the overall outcome. I hope it does.
Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.” I think what he meant was that when you return to the place of your roots years later the changes in that environment mean that it will never really be the same. My journey to Iowa for Camp Euforia is the epitome of this statement. Ten years ago a then local band bought ten kegs of beer, set up a modest stage, and put on an event forever known as the “Euforquestra Fan Appreciation Party.” For some unknown reason they asked me to be the Master of Ceremony. The concert consisted of a handful of Iowa City acts and around 200 music fans. Everything was free including beer and food. A decade later this event endures having evolved into a full blown two-day festival with both nationally touring and homegrown bands on the bill. Many of these bands have performed as Summer Camp throughout the years as well. They asked me to return this time as the official festival video producer. We culled together a small group of young, passionate videographers to help me with my endeavor and along the way we shot over thirty hours of content. Thusly I didn’t have much time to take stills; nonetheless I managed to snap a few shots on the farm.
I arrived Thursday prior to the start of Camp Euforia 2013 and set up my tent in Robert and Ritaville. Rob and Rita were and continue to be the honorary patriarchs of the musical scene in Iowa City. In college they could be found at most shows mingling with the students, music fans, and bar flies alike. They have always camped in the front lawn of the farm and that corner of the fest has since earned that prestigious moniker. The farm itself is a sprawling space of manicured grass and structures owned by festival promoter/founder Jerry Hotz. Together with Eric Quiner (former Euforquestra keyboardist) they have shepherded this event for ten years. Camp Euforia has resided here since the very beginning. Surrounded three hundred and sixty degrees by corn and soybean fields that stretch to the horizon, this is truly an Iowa landscape. The improvements to the amenities and infrastructure from that first year are immediately apparent. Gone are the truck beds and dilapidated barn that served as the various stages in the beginning and in its place is a professional setup rivaling any festival digs in the Midwest. The second stage has been built in the second barn that ten years ago was a dirt-floored hazard. Now complete with it’s own sound and light rig, it is yet another bastion of music in this palatial panorama. They have a quaint spot set up in front of the barn for late night acoustic jamming. Perhaps the biggest improvement this year is the massive bar they constructed opposite of the shed stage and made from salvaged wood panels giving it that classic Iowa look. The vibe at Camp Euforia is one of an extended family reunion. Everyone looks somewhat familiar. For an ex-Iowa City-ian I had numerous reconnections throughout the fest.
Camp Euforia is a unique experience by any standard. Perhaps the most compelling of which besides the locale is the fact that throughout both days there are no overlapping sets of music. Thursday was full of proficiently frenzied preparations that culminated with an extended sound check by Euforquestra for the crew and festival guests. Their crew is one of the best in the business and includes many who have been working this festival for years. Camp Euforia began in earnest on Friday afternoon with The Candymakers. This band is an uplifting breath of fresh soulful air steeped in quality musicianship and irreverent absurdity. They are a throwback to the days when Motown and R&B ruled the radio waves. Decked out in polyester suits the band played an hour of powerful original tunes. At one point lead singer Al Sweet spouted off about riding a unicorn into the sunset. I found out later this is an improvised segment to one of their original tunes. They have been well regarded in blues circles in the Midwest, but it is their vibrant soul that really got my attention. Their song “I Wanna Dip You In Chocolate” was a true highlight. They rounded out their set with a robust rendition of The Beatles, “Oh Darling.”
An unexpected schedule change put Pert Near Sandstone on the main stage next. They have a solid brand of string music, which they have been diligently spreading across the country for several years now. Hailing from Minneapolis this quintet deserves to be recognized for their contribution to Midwest bluegrass. From their humble beginnings as a boozy pick session, Pert Near Sandstone has blossomed into a full-blown bluegrass experience. Their set at Camp Euforia was truly impressive and a great way to get the fest into full swing.
A blast from the past came in the form of Public Property in the barn. PP came up around the same time as Euforquestra in Iowa City. In fact their festival Exodus was a huge influence on the nascent beginnings of Camp Euforia. They played their harmony-backed brand of Roots Rock Reggae led by singer songwriter Dave Bess. Dave continues to play select Public Property dates, but primarily performs as a solo artist. Their set was jam packed with classic PP with Matt Wright and sitting in on keys and Adam Grosso on bass. They were a lot of fun and another wonderful addition to the hometown lineup.
A funksplosion occurred in the form of Dumpstaphunk. This heavily anticipated act is brimming with talent, which includes Ian and Ivan Neville (heirs to the NOLA funk scene), Tony Hall, Nikki Glaspie, and Nick Daniels III. Nikki who is the most recent addition to the group is a monster on the kit and one who definitely commands attention. They eased into the show building their songs organically with lots of collaboration. It was like entering the Church of Funk and getting an hour and half sermon. They are one of if not the best funk band touring today, and they sounded magnificent live. They primarily performed originals, however they closed out their time at Camp Euforia with an incredible version of “One Nation Under A Groove.”
Dead Larry played an hour and fifteen minute set of vibrant rock before Euforquestra took to the stage with their original lineup. This was a reunion born out of necessity. Their current drummer Craig Babineau hyper extended his shoulder so they have had a rotating cast of percussionists filling in for him in his absence. Original drummer Jos Foley suggested getting Matt Grundstad, Ryan Moris-Jeter, and Eric Quiner back in the mix for a set of classic Euforquestra. What followed was the most heartwarming and compelling Euforquestra show in quite some time. For fans that have witnessed the growth of this group, this lineup was the most cohesive of its versions. The current lineup is solid but there is something utterly nostalgic and touching about seeing these seven back together again. Even many including myself. Their two-hour set was a nod to an earlier time with spectacular renditions of “Sea Miner,” “Penny,” and “Naive Melody.” They even referenced some of their early theme shows with “Life During Wartime” and a “Pure Imagination” jam from their Charlie and The Chocolate Factory show. They encored with a powerful “Tramba.”
Family Groove Company started the late night festivities in the barn immediately following Euforquestra’s encore. They shredded late into the evening eventually wrapping up around 2 AM. They invited Chris and Wavy from Cornmeal to sit in, which was their initial appearance as the festival’s first ever artists at large. They played a stellar version of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” as well. I opted to call it a night as Dave Zollo was starting on the small stage and playing until the wee hours. Dave Bess also played a solo acoustic set.
The sun came up early, immediately turning my once shade covered tent into a burning furnace. I took it as an opportunity to get an early start and continued with my duties as the festival video producer. The music of the day started at 10:30 AM with coffee with the Grosso Family Band. Adam Grosso comes from a musical ilk and his family band included his brother and father on guitar and vocals, his mother on the upright bass, and Adam himself on kit. It really did feel like a spiritual family gathering as the Family Band went through a flurry of covers. Playing everything from The Beatles to traditional bluegrass, this Camp Euforia tradition was a welcomed start to the day. The highlight was a spot on version of “Man Of Constant Sorrow.”
Maximilian Eubank played a solo acoustic set on the main stage. Max has been a member of the Euforia family since the beginning. He played a lot with Mike Tallman in their high school days and continues to perform live, mostly in Des Moines where he currently resides. His sound is a punch you in the face acoustic detonation. Utilizing hip-hop lyrical hooks combined with stunning strum-heavy guitar riffs, Max made for a great live experience. His set included an awesome version of Widespread Panic’s “Climb To Safety” as well as an impeccable mash up of his original “Chemical Imbalances” and Martin Sexton’s “Hallelujah.”
The day was chocked full of local acts including Chasing Shade from Iowa City. The members of the band have headed up the Green Team at Camp Euforia for the last few years. After their dedication they were finally asked to play a set at the festival. Last year they diverted over 800 pounds of compost from landfills and this year they continued their hard work. Their music has a bluesy rock feel and they were definitely entertaining. Next on the main stage was The Breaker Brother Band. Comprised of highly regarded musical educators, many of who gave lessons to the members of Euforquestra in the early days. They are primarily a cover band, but the better description would be that they are paying homage to the music that sparked their passion for teaching and performing. Amazing versions of Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” as well as Eric Clapton’s “White Room.”
Recently off their performance at Summer Camp, Zeta June was on the lineup in the barn. They are a young group of musicians, with a heavy sound, and a commanding stage presence. They did a massive cover of “Comfortably Numb” during their 60-minute slot. Des Moines favorites Mr. Baber’s Neighbors and The Solar String Band, which included Mike Tallman on mandolin, represented the first bluegrass band of the day. Tallman joined the band when he was 19 and continues to play with them from time to time. They focus on a traditional styling, with an original twist. Lead by Jeff Blanchard who looks like a grizzled vet from Ice Road Truckers. He was actually very nice and spoke eloquently about the music scene in Iowa and Camp Euphoria, which they have performed at numerous times. They are absolutely some astonishing homegrown Iowa pickers, so check them out if you find yourself in that neck of the woods.
I spent much of the afternoon wrapping up interviews so I missed Fire Sale and The Uniphonics. I’m almost exaggerating with the term “missing” as the music from all of the stages is completely audible from anywhere onsite. The Pimps of Joytime hit the main stage around 5:30 and annihilated the audience with their funky assault. Blending elements of blues, jazz, rock, soul, and electronic music with their funk-focused sound the Pimps Of Joytime are a sight to see. They emerged from the murky waters of Brooklyn and have bounced around the country and festival circuit spreading their stellar approach to live music. Two incredible female vocalists and percussionists flank Brian J their bandleader; their show was a non-stop blast to the senses.
Finally it was time for the heavily anticipated Greensky Bluegrass. These guys tour relentlessly. They basically made a pit stop at Camp Euforia after playing Red Rocks the previous evening and heading to Forecastle Music Festival in Kentucky for a Sunday night show. What band does that? They wadded into the show with “Double Overtures.” Their set felt like going to an extended picking session around the campfire.
The regaled the audience with an almost silly version of John Hartford‘s “Steam Powered Aeroplane” again with Chris and Wavy from Cornmeal.
“It’s good to find brethren every once in a while… like the good, Midwestern, shit-talking, diesel drinking kind of people that Cornmeal are.” –Anders Beck
Greensky also did a bluegrass breakdown on String Cheese Incident’s “Can’t Stop Now,” before they closed with “Atlantic City.” Greenksky always pleases whenever they play live and I’m happy that they went the extra miles to peform at Camp Euforia.
Michiganders Ultraviolet Hippopotamus stormed the barn stage prior to Euforquestra’s final headlining set. On Saturday they performed with the regular lineup minus Craig who was replaced by Tallgrass’s Adam Morford on kit and Robert Espe on sax. Songs like “Wasted” and “Free” invigorated the crowd who was out in full force for this set. With around 800 people in attendance the farm looked its fullest at this point. Maximilian Eubank and Eric Quiner sat in for one of Max’s originals. The highlight of the show was Kim Dawson’s appearance for most of the second half of the set. She adds a vibrancy and beauty to Euforquestra’s wide-ranging sound. It was a solid show that rounded out the festival nicely.
The late night was filled with some rowdiness from That 1 Guy, Jaik Willis, and Tallgrass. The fans stayed up late and partied hard not wanting this great event to end. There was a combined energy of joy in the air as this special festival came to a close. It was like the end of a family reunion where no one really wants to go back to their day-to-day. Camp Euforia is unique to say the least and deserves to be recognized as such. In an era of cookie-cutter festivals Camp Euforia stands out in the crowd.
Stay tuned for the multitude of video I will be sharing on Camp Euforia’s Facebook page. – https://www.facebook.com/campeuforia
The breezes bellowed through the hallowed halls of Red Rocks Amphitheatre on our nation’s birthday. Many fans spent most of the day grilling and imbibing in the parking lots that surround the venue in the hours leading up to show time. Blues Traveler’s 4th of July concert has been going on for literally decades and always draws a large audience. This year with moe. supporting I felt sure it would sell out. I was wrong. While the crowd exceeded our original quote from the box office that only 5000 tickets had been sold, it was still not quite to the brim. Storms had threatened all afternoon with only a single drop or two actually hitting me in the Upper North Lot. As we headed inside the winds continued, but it never rained on the parade.
moe. came on right on time around 7:30 PM. Their set at Red Rocks was much more of a crowd pleaser that the previous night’s intrepid journey in Boulder. This was obviously to be expected. They opened with a crunchy “Tailspin.”
Set 1: Tailspin> Captain America> Akimbo, Crackers*, Plane Crash*, Haze> Jazz Wank> Rebubula, New York City
*w/ John Popper and Ben Wilson
You can listen on Archive, thanks to Pat and Corey for posting.
moe. performed a fan favorite rampage through some of their most widely loved songs. Unlike the previous night’s performance in Boulder where they extrapolated and gave the sour with the sweet their Red Rocks show was all sugar. It has been three years since their last tenure on the famed stage, and they seemed truly happy to be back again. Opening with a syrupy segue that included “Tailspin” into a sublime “Captain American” followed by a rowdy “Akimbo.” It was enough to warm the heart of even the most disenfranchised music fan. In fact they whipped the nascent crowd into frenzy as they started their seventy minute set. They invited both John Popper and Ben Wilson out for Rob’s newest homage to his progeny now called “Crackers.” They stayed for the most interesting song of the set, “Plane Crash.” Popper ripped up his harmonica, which seemed to fill any innate gaps in this classic moe. tune. Chuck took the reigns on “Haze” before the band took on the only real extended musical jam with “Jazz Wank.” Looking out across slowly filling audience for “Rebubula” reminded me that many in attendance were there to see moe. The body of people seemed to sway and bob during this incredible rendition.
“How great is this? Are we lucky or what?” – Al Schnier
After a nod and a wink for Al moe. finished their set with another classic “New York City.” All in all their hour plus set went exactly as expected. They refrained from any extended jamming in favor of running the gambit through a collection of songs sure to please. Musically the band was spot on, and given the fact they only had a hair over sixty minutes they performed as expected.
After a fairly long stage change, Blues Traveler made their way out to their instruments. At this point in the evening the sun was hiding behind the Front Range and darkness was the backdrop. Blues Traveler had announced weeks before their show that they would be performing their album Save His Soul in its entirety. Oddly enough they played the entire music video for “Defense and Desire” before they ventured out into the spotlight. Of course they opened with “Trina Magna.”
Set 1: Trina Magna> Love and Greed, Letter From A Friend, Believe Me*, Go Outside and Drive**> Low Rider**> Go Outside and Drive> Blister In the Sun**> Go Outside and Drive**, Defense and Desire> Drums/Bass/Keys, Whoops, Manhattan Bridge, Love of my Life, New York Prophesies, Save His Soul***> Drums/Bass/Keys, Bullshitter’s Lament> Conquer Me, Fledgling
Encore: Star Spangled Banner, Cara Let The Moon, La Grange@, Hook
*w/ 13 year old Caspian from Seattle on guitar
** w/ Jim Loughlin from moe. on xylophone
***w/ Al Schnier from moe. on guitar
@w/ Caspian and Jaden Miller (age 12), both on Guitar, Ben Wilson on lead vocals
I’m sure for true Blues Traveler fans this show was the cat’s pajamas. However for many in attendance this show fell a bit flat. In fact soon after it began a steady trickle of people made their way to the exit until only a few thousand remained prior to the encore. This is understandable as many had to work on the 5th, but it still felt wrong. The rendition of the album lasted well over two hours showcasing some songs that had not been performed by the band in well over five years. The first treat of the show was a version of “Believe Me” with thirteen year old on guitar Caspian. I don’t know if BT put out a craigslist ad, but this kid could shred. They performed a back and forth rendition of “Go Outside and Drive” with Jim Loughlin on xylophone that featured some quick jams on “Low Rider’ and “Blister In The Sun.” They played “Defense and Desire” again, that saw some incredible bass jamming from Tad Kinchla.
There is no question that Blues Traveler can jam, it’s just at times it very much felt like they were going through the motions. It has become all too common for bands to play their previous albums in their entirety live. This is all well and good, but it sort of lacks innovation and reeks of nostalgia. With a new album just out from BT I was hoping to hear some it live and we did during the encore. “NY Prophesies” was a real highlight and immediately after they invited Al from moe. out to jam on the title track of the album. I’m not sure if they planned it this way, but the set stretched on too long leaving them little room for anything else. Towards the end of the show a fireworks display from Bandimere Speedway could be seen and many wandered over to the stairwell to gaze. The encore was stellar including a beautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” as well as ZZ Top’s “La Grange” with another youngster on guitar in addition to Caspian. We were also treated to a new track “Cara Let The Moon” which saw some very picturesque vocals from Popper.
Musically this set was spot on, featuring some impeccable playing from one of the founding fathers of jam. It being the twentieth anniversary of Save His Soul, it was a highly appropriate choice, however there was something lacking in the rendition. It felt choppy. I think that given the history Blues Traveler has with 4th of July at Red Rocks people were expecting more of a crowd pleaser, and what they got was a trip down memory lane. Again for the hardcore BT fan I’m sure this was an epic show, however for many it was just not what we were craving. I’ve seen this band literally blow the non-existent roof off the Rocks and this just wasn’t that. Oh well, there is always next year. Happy 4th of July
moe. continues to be one of the most prolific jambands ever to take the stage. Their catalog includes hundreds of songs allowing them to weave amazing musical tapestries on any given night. Their touring schedule has receded a bit in recent years, however they never leave fans waiting too long for their return. After an awesome two-night run at the end of November last year at The Ogden, moe. returns to Colorado. They played two more nights that included an opening slot for Blues Traveler’s yearly 4th of July celebration at Red Rocks. However the highlight of their run has to be the two sets of carnage that occurred at The Boulder Theater on the 3rd.
The first set was fairly standard clocking in just over seventy minutes. They opened with “Tubing The River Styx.”
Set 1: Tubing The River Styx> The Pit> CalifornIA> Bring You Down, Paper Dragon, Dr. Graffenberg> Hava Nagila> Long Island Girls Rule
Set 2: meat> Silver Sun> Sensory Deprivation Bank> meat> Recreational Chemistry> meat> Tom Sawyer
You can listen to the show on Archive. Thanks to Gerry Gladu for posting. http://archive.org/details/moe2013-07-03.16bit
They eased into the night with a dark brooding jam that included the 1-2-3 punch of “Tubing The River Styx” into “The Pit” into a bouncier “CaliforniIA.” Chuck and Al continue to be two of the most dynamic guitarists in the business. They seem to have an almost telepathic level of communication when it comes to their live performances. Rob really got a chance to shine both vocally and on bass during “Paper Dragon,” which reaches new levels every time I see it live. The real peak of the first set was the sublime “Dr. Graffenberg” as it saw a return to the dark jam that started the show. It went long and scary giving fans exactly what they were waiting for. Going classic moe. quickly riffed on “Hava Nagila” before they closed with the now rare “Long Island Girls Rule.” They have not performed it since their New Year’s run last year.
The second set was absolute dynamite beginning with the ultimate “meat” fake out. Right as moe. reached the crescendo of “meat” which would normally break into a frenzied homage to all things protein they stopped on a dime and ripped into “Silver Sun.” It was a weird feeling to say the least, but those of us in the know sensed it would return. “Sensory Deprivation Bank” was tight and clean and saw that revisit to a shortened “meat” jam that barely went past the point of tease. However, “Recreational Chemistry” was a thirty-minute plus jaunt into the outermost. Rarely can bands even pontificate on jamming on one tune for over half an hour let alone execute it so effortlessly. This was one for the books in my humble opinion. Directly following moe. went into the extended “meat” we were all craving. Between the two songs they performed almost an hour total. This is some of the most epic jamming I’ve witnessed live this year. As they rounded the bend on their twenty-minute “meat” the tone in the room changed. Jim went to the rarely used microphone for a stunning take on Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” His nasally voice was the perfect substitute for Getty Lee’s and he just nailed it. moe. came back and encored with a huge “Mexico.” This show saw some powerful jamming from a band that still has it. They can go down the road of quick romps through wide swaths of their catalog or meander through the intricacies of a single song. moe.’s show at The Boulder Theater demonstrated both approaches.
The LoHi Festival is a musical street fair tucked into the Lower Highlands of Denver Colorado. Stretching a full city block in front of the Highland Tap and Burger this event is truly a gem in Denver’s summer concert schedule. Featuring two stages, a wide array of food vendors, and a nice selection of beer, Several of the bands including Euforquestra and Kyle Hollingsworth have performed at Summer Camp Music Festival, making for a great mix of music. LoHi has everything a concertgoer could want. The day began early under a beautiful blue sky with Garrett Sayers Trio. Unfortunately due to traffic and a late start I was unable to make his set, which began just after noon. However we did make it in plenty of time to see world jam connoisseurs Euforquestra open up the Spring 44 stage.
Euforquestra recently suffered a blow when their drummer Craig Babineau hyper extended his shoulder just before their last jaunt out on the road. While he is healing Jet Edison’s Alex Johnson has been filling in quite well on the kit. Scott Mast continues to blossom on percussion as Euforquestra also invites various guests to sit in on the second saxophone spot left vacant by new father Ryan Jeter. This time The Motet’s Matt Pitts again took the space helping to fill out their already full sound. Their set consisted of some fun covers and some of their best originals. Beck’s “Nicotine and Gravy” was a real crowd pleaser, but it was “Road Funk” and “Price Is Right” that really demonstrated the legitimacy of this band.
They closed with a sick version of “Taxman.” Euforquestra is currently embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to fund their upcoming album produced by Kyle Hollingsworth. You can help out at the link below and every little bit helps.
Springdale Quartet was up next on the HTB Stage. Each set began as the previous finished so that no one missed a note of music. This primarily instrumental jazz quartet continues to amaze every time they perform. They are a tight musical formation that has the ability to detonate in a way that is jaw dropping. Their set at LoHi was a non-stop forty-five minutes that left fans wanting more. “Drop That Stick” was an explosive jam featuring some stellar drum work from Greg Russell. They entertained with an instrumental version of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.” We were told that this version would be included on their upcoming album produced by Alan Evans. Springdale was joined by virtuoso Pete Wall on saxophone for the end of their set. They closed with their original “Charlie Jean.”
Toubab Krewe is a band that defies categorization on many levels. Hailing from Asheville, North Carolina, this quintet unifies West African roots music with pure rock and roll. I have wanted to see them for quite some time, but this was my first chance. It was a beautiful set that demonstrated some of the most incredible music being performed live today. After a quick intro by Matt Butler they opened with “Marietou.”
Set 1: Marietou, Maliba, Area Code and Konkoba, Kaira, John Hardy, Cluck Old Hen, Lamine’s, Water Ritual
Blending both time-honored African music as well as riff-heavy rock Toubab Krewe’s set was hypnotic. The highlight was a fifteen-minute traditional version of “Kaira.” They closed by asking for rain by inviting all those present to drink water. It was truly a great musical experience.
Blake’s Tiger Party followed on the Tap Stage. This is a collective of musicians that specializes in funky goodness. The lineup included Pete Wall, Joey Porter, and Ryan Burnett. The Highland Tap and Burger has become a place for bands to develop and grow within the confines of a residency. Tiger Party seems to be the next band that will incubate in this environment and grow into a fully developed project. Their set at LoHi was eye opening to say the least. Matt Butler came to the stage and orchestrated another funk fueled jam. Finally they invited a female vocalist up to end their set. Tiger Party is a versatile and interesting group and I look forward to seeing them reach great heights in the Denver music scene.
The New Mastersounds were given just over ninety minutes to demonstrate their incredible brand of funky UK jazz. They opened with “Soulshine.”
Set 1: Soulshine, Dusty Groove, The Road to Fuji Rock, Yo Moma, Fast Man, Summercamp, You Mess Me UP, Take What You Need, Carrot Juice, Hole In The Bag, San Frantico, Eazin Down, Pure
The New Mastersounds were a huge draw for LoHi and an amazing addition to the lineup. Their musical output lead by guitarist Eddie Roberts is impeccable. Simon Allen engaged the audience clad in a pair of Speedos as he snapped away on the drums. The set was too much fun as the light grew golden around the buildings that framed the festival.
Poor Man’s Whiskey went on just before 7 PM with special guest Allie Kral. Allie’s departure from Cornmeal has already had quite the effect on the jam and bluegrass community. She will persevere as is obvious by her set with Poor Man’s Whiskey. Busting out tunes like “Boogie On Reggae Woman” and their original “Humboldt Hoedown.” Allie’s fiery violin was an impressive addition to the classic tone of Poor Man’s Whiskey. Their set was the longest on the HTB stage and a great close to that side of LoHi.
Finally it was time for the main event. Kyle Hollingsworth Band was given a two-hour set on the main stage. Just prior to their start Matt Butler came out and gave the microphone to two young lovers. A man proposed to his girlfriend on the stage and she luckily said yes. Following the very public proposal Kyle came out with his group consisting of Garrett Sayers, Dave Watts, and Dan Schwindt. Kyle has one the most enjoyable String Cheese side projects currently touring. The exact flair that he adds to SCI is distilled into this multi-talented band. This particular show also included Michael Kang sitting in for the extended set. They began with “Racer X.”
This was just a great musical display from KHB. After a song or two Michael Kang came out and remained for the rest of the night on the Spring 44 stage. “Can’t Wait Another Day,” Kyle’s tribute to his daughter was a great early addition. However the “Way That It Goes’ into “Slipnot” into “Boogie On Reggae Woman” was the true highlight. Matt Butler joined them for an orchestrated jam. They closed with Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.” As the moon rose over the massive crowd it was clear that LoHi Music Festival was another incredibly successful occasion in Denver. With just over ten hours of continuous live music LoHi proved to be just about all we could handle. Even with a huge late night show looming we decided to call it a night. LoHi Music Festival is quickly becoming a tradition not to be missed in Denver. I look forward to watching it grow and expand as time goes on.
Arriving at my first Red Rocks show of the summer always fills my soul with a sense of elation. Seeing the giant formations of Ship and Creation Rock cradling the most amazing amphitheater on the planet is something I’ll never grow tired of. Parking in Lower South can be a roll of the dice. It’s the area with the most pronounced Shakedown and this show was no different. All manner of wooks, puppy pullers, yuppies, and heads mingled on the red gravel paths formed by the rows of cars. Each year the fan base seems younger and younger particularly at Umphrey’s McGee shows. Dreadlocked boys lacking shirts and sometimes common sense peddle their wares. Items ranging from beer koozies to DMT are all easily available if you know what you are looking for. After meeting a few friends I headed in early to catch Delta Spirit.
I wandered up the ramp and found that the crowd was non-existent. In fact I literally walked all the way to the gate and inside with not so much as a pause. Inside, the first twenty or so rows saw a light scattering of people, which did little to instill my confidence that the show would sell out. Delta Spirit is a five-piece hailing from Brooklyn by way of Long Beach that look like they wandered out of a hipster version of an Abecrombie & Fitch catalog. Their indie sound although energetic felt somewhat misplaced in the lineup. They blend elements of electro-pop, folk, and rock with an almost Lo-Fi sensibility rooted in organic musicianship. Their live show was much heavier and punchier than their studio work. The melodic interplay of their vocals was definitely a highlight of the set. Having performed numerous times on television and at major U.S. festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza there is no question that Delta Spirit will make it to the mainstream. I’m just curious why their first time playing at Red Rocks was opening for prog jammers Umphrey’s McGee.
Dr. Dog took the famed stage playing an extended hour and fifteen minute set to the now substantially larger audience. Their “old-timey” cover photo on Relix a few years back, proclaiming them “America’s Next Great Band” did much to make me excited to see them live. However their performance put my enthusiasm at bay. Dr. Dog’s sound is a combination of rock and indie, but what flows forth from this group left many in the crowd again wondering why they were on the bill. They raged through their time with verocity and power. However by the end it was obvious that the crowd was getting antsy for the main event.
When Umphrey’s finally came out front I would say that anyone in the first fifty rows probably felt like they were in a capacity crowd. However the last third of Red Rocks was left wide open. The 6500 or so Umphreaks were treated to the show that this band has been trying to play at Red Rocks for years. It was a peak performance for a band that has attempted such a feat here for quite some time. The five members drifted out from beyond the smoke and to the stage as “In The Hall Of the Mountain King” (a song I’ve seen them perform live) blasted out of the PA. As the music subsided they opened the show with “Divisions.”
Set 1: Divisions*> The Floor, Loose Ends> 40’s Theme, In The Kitchen, Frankie Zombie, Miss Tinkle’s Overture
Set 2: The Triple Wide> 1348, Push the Pig> Comma Later, Glory> Divisions> Get In The Van, August> Big Heart> August, Thunderstruck**
Encore: Preamble> Mantis
*w/ In The Hall of the Mountain King played along to PA
**w/ Clayton Halsey on vocals
It would be a night where Umphrey’s McGee’s powerful prog rock bounced off the walls as Walful’s lights danced among the boulders. Everything about this show was intensely incredible and far and away the best they’ve played at Red Rocks ever. Save for a couple songs nothing they played was highly unusual or rare. It was just classic Umphrey’s playing at the top of their game. Fresh off performances at Summer Camp and Wakarusa their Colorado run was a destination event with a second night to follow at Chautauqua. The first set was straightforward by song choice, but the technical ferocity with which they executed their performance was enough to make your head spin. “The Floor” stretched on as the lights flickered over the Denver skyline. “In The Kitchen” was the host to a gargantuan jam with a simple visit to the refrain. Their homespun mashup of “Frankie Zombie” which included a nod to White Zombie, Pink Floyd, and Frankie Says was a definite peak for the first set. They closed with a sublime “Miss Tinkle’s” complete with pyrotechnics before adjourning to the backstage.
The second set felt more progressive in nature as the riff heavy jams percolated from the abyss. Myers blasted off on “1348”
“I’d like to dedicate this next song to the lovely the lady in the Axle Rose t-shirt over here… just makes me have faith in the world right there.” – Bayliss
“Push The Pig” saw some of the rowdiest and darkest jamming of the night, which was par for the course at this point. “Glory” was done with a tenderness that allowed everyone to finally catch their breath before they went back into the show opening “Divisions.” “Big Heart” was short, but a bust out of sorts having not been played in 371 shows. They invited Clayton Halsey up for their set closing version of AC/DC’s “Thunderstuck.”
Umphrey’s McGee came back to encore with “Preamble” into “Mantis.” Everything about this show was stellar, from the extensive energy put into the overall production to the musical execution by the band. UM is always good, but when they really focus they have the ability to be out of this world. Their show this year at Red Rocks should be marked as a climax when they finally accomplished something truly spectacular at this the most divine of venues.
As my eyes adjusted to the light the distinct pitter patter of rain could be heard falling on my tent. It was one of those cool mornings that make you want to re-wrap yourself in blankets, roll over, and go back to sleep. I fought that urge knowing that music would be starting soon and it was time to get ready for the last day of Summer Camp. After the deluge on Saturday along with rain overnight the mud had finally reached an unimaginable level. The roads became a sloppy consistency that made it hard to differentiate between what was a puddle and what was solid ground. Again I have to give credit to the organizers for continuing the show even though the weather and washed out roads made that much more difficult. After getting ready I sought refuge in the Church and waited for the Pickin’ Party to begin.
This was a bluegrass clusterpluck that included members of Floodwood, all of The Henhouse Prowlers, as well as Allie Kral. What followed was some of the best bluegrass that occurred at Summer Camp 2013. It was a blend of all the things that make string music so great. Allie took the unofficial lead talking about playing acoustically and not needing a PA. Ben from Henhouse said, “These songs are all the same… but seriously they kind of are.” He wasn’t so much belittling bluegrass as much as he was pointing out a fact. Much of what the genre is built on is tradition and even though the music can be incredibly innovative it never wanders too far from its central principles. They ran through a series of songs that was enough to warm the heart of any bluegrass fan.
Next it was time for Umphrey’s last set, which was already underway.
Set 1: Slacker, White Man’s Moccasins, Tribute to The Spinal Shaft> Wife Soup, Phil’s Farm, She Caught The Katy*, Dear Lord**, Higgins, Smell The Mitten, August> No Comment> August, Miss Tinkle’s Overture
*w/ Taj Mahal and Luther Dickinson
**w/ Luther Dickinson
Umphrey’s performs midday on Sundays, which is the cherry on top of their three days at Summer Camp. A two hour set allows them to stretch out a bit before taking their final bow. This show was fairly straight forward with a couple of amazing sit-ins. They opened with Slacker and soon after that the rain again ceased for the remainder for the afternoon. “Tribute To Spinal Shaft,” Umphrey’s prog-funk tune, was pure sickness. The real highlight of the set was the appearance of Taj Mahal and Luther Dickinson on “She Caught The Katy.” This song originally performed by Taj has not been played by UM since Summer Camp in 2011. Luther stayed on for a jam on “Dear Lord.” Jake shredded while Luther slid; it was an awesome sight to behold. They finished their set with a crispy “Miss Tinkle’s Overture.”
As soon as their set was over it was time for moe. on the Starshine stage. This has been their acoustic show for the last few years and it allows for a relaxed vibe to flow out over the crowd. It’s yet another favorite set of mine to see at Summer Camp. After they dialed in their sound moe. opened with “All Roads Lead To Home.”
Set 1: All Roads Lead To Home, Sticks and Stones> St. Augustine, Shoot First> Bring You Down, Tambourine, Four
Stretching just over an hour this seven song romp took the audience through some classic moe. The highlight was the “Sticks and Stones” into “St. Augstine” which featured a great back and forth between Chuck and Al. Jim on vibraphone added a nice touch as well. “Tambourine” took on a completely new feel as Vinnie snapped out the beat on the kit and Rob belted it out for the enthusiastic fans. They closed with another crowd-pleaser, “Four.”
After moe. it was time for another class act, Taj Mahal and his trio. Taj Mahal is blues music and has brought this genre to audiences for nearly 50 years. From his early career with the Rising Sons to his solo work, Taj Mahal has remained a major influence to young and old musicians alike. Taj has also stated he prefers playing outdoor festivals, which is why he seemed right at home at Summer Camp. He played a two-hour set with his band that included Kester Smith on drums and Bill Rich on bass. Taj recently celebrated his seventy-first birthday and he is still going strong. His set at Summer Camp was truly a delight.
John Brown’s Body was up next and these guys are insane. Focusing on a more “spaced-out” sound rooted in the reggae tradition, lead singer Elliot Martin has robust approach to his craft. He moonlights as a dubstep DJ, but JBB is all organic. Their inclusion on the Summer Camp lineup was one more feather in the cap of this festival. They are an energetic face slap that soothes the soul. If you enjoy an innovative approach to roots music check these guys out.
As the Avett Brothers took the stage the skies opened and the rain came down. They started their show with a traditional English folk song, “The Cuckoo Song.”
Set 1: The Cuckoo Song, The Fall, Down With The Shine, Will You Return?, Laundry Room, Old Joe Clark, Reno Lament, Distraction #74, Paranoia in B Flat Major, Live and Die, Got To Sleep, Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise, Life, At The Beach, The Prettiest Thing, Gimmeakiss, Die Die Die, Kick Drum Heart, Geraldine, I and Love and You
Encore: Talk of Indolence
Much of the Avett’s studio work is melancholy, however their live shows are jam packed with gusto. The rain slammed on the stage as crew members hurriedly changed out guitars and banjos between songs. Alternating between drum backed songs and acoustic stand alones, they blasted their way through their ninety-minute set. They played some of their better known songs including “Down With The Shine,” “Laundry Room,” and “Live and Die.” They seemed as energized by the music as their audience. Kids danced in the mud with a vigor rarely seen throughout the entire weekend. At one point I saw a young man making mud angels for no apparent reason. They closed their watery set with “I And Love And Home” before encoring with their rapid spit-fire tune “Talk Of Indolence.” They were truly a high point for the entire festival and a surprisingly great live show.
We made our way backstage to meet up for the Private Camp Counselor Show, but due to the weather it had been moved to a small trailer behind Mooneshine. Kyle and three of his friends got a special show from moe. and Victor Wooten, but there just wasn’t any room for anyone else. I totally understood and was happy that despite the weather Kyle still got his show which included an acoustic “Kyle’s Song” and “The Weight.”
Finally it was time for Trey Anastasio Band. As lightening flashed all around the festival grounds Big Red came to the stage with his group. They wasted no time by opening with “First Tube.”
Set 1: First Tube, Cayman Review, Last Tube, Alaska, Pigtail, Dark And Down, Money Love and Change, Drifting, The Land of Nod, Tuesday, Push On Til the Day
Set 2: Mr. Completely*
*Show ended due to severe weather
Trey and his band consisting of Ray Paczkowski, Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman, Russ Lawton, Tony Markellis, and James Casey seemed undaunted by the rain. They pressed on with a show that features a stunning series of guitar solos from Trey. He simply shredded his way through “Cayman Review” and “Last Tube.” “Alaska was a real crowd-pleaser and gave the rest of the band a chance to breathe. “Dark And Down” seemed incredibly appropriate and was the song that featured some the most intrepid jamming of their first set. As lightening continued to flash all around the rain subsided momentarily. “The Land of Nod” was epic, but the set-closing “Push On Til The Day” sent this show over the top.
The setbreak went for about 45 minutes, during which time I am assuming crew debated whether or not to let the band back on. Finally, probably from Trey’s insistence they did return. Trey uttered, “You guys are amazing,” as he came back, and as he did fat drops rained down from the sky. Trey and company went into “Mr. Completely,” as a small boy danced furiously on the other side of the rail. The crowd went nuts as the weather we had feared all weekend was finally hitting us. The small child waving his arms defiantly danced on until finally they finished what would be their only song of the second set. Trey walked up and gave the kid a fist bump before he was signaled to stop. He went to the microphone and informed the crowd that they were making him quit, but that he would be back. The audience slowly dwindled down to a few hundred as the steadfast fans, including my wife and myself stayed to see if the band would return. After about a half hour of the worst rain and lightening we had seen all weekend, Ian Goldberg appeared on the stage. “We know who the hardcore fans are…” He told us that unfortunately the rest of the show would be cancelled, but that he hoped moe. would still play their final set. At that moment I was completely soaked. I could not have been wetter if I had fallen into a pool with all my clothes on. We luckily snagged a golf cart ride back to our camp and got dry knowing there was little chance that moe. would be able to perform.
We got a good night’s sleep and awoke to the aftermath of the storm. Tents and gear were scattered all around the grounds and people were desperately trying to get their cars out of the now rut ridden lot. We loaded up our gear and got on the road back to Chicago. The festival seemed to just fizzle out rather than end with the bang many of us are used to. That being said with that much rain and lightening there is little that can be done, and ultimately the safety of the patrons is paramount to the music. Like I said before, I give credit to the promoters of Summer Camp that really only two sets of music were cancelled all weekend. The fact that we encountered so much rain, it would be easy to understand more shows getting cut. This was not the case, because of a high level of organization and perseverance by the staff. Sure we got some mud, but that was a minor inconvenience compared to all the amazing music I witnessed over the course of four days. Memorial Day Weekend in central Illinois is a crap shoot weather-wise. This year we got rain, last year we got sun, that is part of the overall experience at Summer Camp. However no one can complain about the musical collaboration that took place and the wonderful experiences shared by thousands at a tiny park in the middle of miles and miles of farmland. Until next year Summer Camp… Cheers.
After a brilliantly beautiful day a Summer Camp we woke up to overcast skies and a light drizzle. That sporadic rain would continue on and off throughout the day culminating with an absolute downpour during Umphrey’s first set. We’ll get to that. I began the day by stopping by the partner-hooping workshop put on by the Masquerade Tribe. This is just one of the many things happening all weekend long. From yoga to music and educational clinics so much is happening. In the nooks and crannies of this festival hides some the most amazing opportunities and experiences. Another such event is Field Day.
Field Day is an all out color war on the grounds of Three Sisters Park. Members of the Purple, Blue, Yellow, and Red team compete in a variety of activities including a Spelling Bee, Tug-O-War, Dodge Ball, a Photo Scavenger Hunt, and a Pizza Eating Contest. It’s a chance to blow off some steam and share some camaraderie with fellow scampers. Field day is competitive to say the least, but it’s all in good fun. This year the Red Team was victorious by one point with the rest of the teams tied in second place. Their name will again grace the Summer Camp Cup and their flag will fly high over the festival.
The bass workshop began in the Church around 12:30 PM featuring Victor Wooten and Reed Mathis. They began with a back and forth jam before answering questions from the attendees. These workshops often take the form dictated by their audience. It’s really a chance to pick the brains of some tremendous artists in a way that both musicians and fans can truly appreciate.
The rain continued to sprinkle so I sought shelter with Floodwood in the VIP Lounge. Last year’s unannounced set in there was a highlight for me, so honestly I wouldn’t have missed it. Floodwood is marketed as a moe. side project, however they are actually an Americana powerhouse in their own right. The band features Vinnie Amico and Al Schnier and truly these guys deserve their own headlining nationwide tour. This was the first of three sets Floodwood performed on Saturday at Summer Camp including a late night show at the Campfire Stage that went until around 5 AM. The most intriguing member is violinist Nick Piccininni who is pretty much self-taught and cleanly rips it up. They opened with “Stomp It,” which as its name would insinuate was a rowdy call to action for the crowd who was just beginning to dry out. They also played a wonderfully Appalachian tinged tune entitled “North Country Wind.” They are one of my favorite new bands and I’m just waiting for them to come west of the Mississippi to my home state Colorado. They played for about an hour in the VIP, which with utter flawlessness.
On the Camping Stage was Chicago’s own Henhouse Prowlers, who have been spreading their variety of string music far and wide. The rain continued on and as this superb quartet played to the rain soaked crowd. The Henhouse Prowlers have toured relentlessly over the past few years and despite some lineup changes they have maintained their high level of performances. They are another not-so hidden gem at Summer Camp; making a strong impression on anyone who catches them live. If you are a fan of real bluegrass I would recommend checking these guys out.
Tea Leaf Green was getting started on the Starshine Stage. I have to give credit to the festival organizers for persevering through the weather and making sure that the music continued. The drizzle is enough to wreak havoc on monitors and the PA, but they pushed ahead skillfully. In fact right after they dialed in the sound, Reed Mathis exclaimed that it had finally stopped raining. The overcast sky loomed, but for the moment the clouds had ceased leaking. They opened with “Germinatin’ Seed.”
Set 1: Germinatin’ Seed, Someday, Penny Saved, Mr. E. and The Cosmic Receptacle, Space Hero pt. 4 (Letters Home), Don’t Go, Space Hero pt. 2, One Reason
Tea Leaf Green is one of the most underrated bands in the scene today. They continue to tour across the country and put on stellar shows, but despite their efforts they seem to only to make a minor splash. They sounded incredibly tight. Reed has now been with TLG for a couple of years and he finally sounds in synch with the rest of the band. They are dialed in and firing on all cylinders. They have a deep understanding of groove-oriented jam and they are worth catching whenever possible. I was able to take a few pictures and catch the beginning of their set however just across the road something very special was happening and I had to ramble.
At Sunshine it was Cornmeal performing their last show with fiddler Allie Kral. It was bittersweet to say the least, and I know she will be sorely missed. She is moving on with her life after touring with Cornmeal for over a decade. The band did little to convey the gravity of the situation other than a distinct heaviness in the air. Fans seemed entranced with the music slurping up each note like a desert flower after a rare storm. Newcomers Scott Tipping and Drew Littell added vibrancy to their sound, but they mostly toed the line during this set. “River Gap” was a definite peak and seemed to reference Allie’s years on the road with Cornmeal. Before their last song band mate Chris Gangi gave a heartfelt goodbye.
“We’ve fought like sisters, but we played music like brothers…”
They closed with another appropriate road song “Hillbilly Ride.” There was many teary eyes in the crowd as Allie made her final bow with a band she has become synonymous with for the last ten years. I wish her the best.
After Cornmeal I raced back to the VIP Lounge to catch Victor Wooten and Friends. Before the set even started Victor addressed the band saying, “We have nothing to prove to each other,” before telling they crowd they were just going to have a jam session. What followed was a musical journey that focused on the funky side. The band consisted of Victor, Jordan Wilkow, Janis Wallin, Roosevelt Collier, Roy Ponce, and more. They just played, passing around solos and generally shared in the musical dance. Victor referred to Janis more than once as the, “Mistress of Groove.” They were impressive and yet another reason why VIP was worth the money this year.
Karl Denson took the same stage after a quick changeover. Few bands have the ability to break out the dirty funk like Mr. Denson and his Tiny Universe. Incorporating tight jazz riffs to fill out their sound, this group is something to behold. A Greyboy Allstars alumnus, Karl Denson leads his own group comprised of powerfully funky musicians. Utilizing elements of afrobeat and rock as well, KDTU is another fully capable band that really pleases the crowd. They played for just over an hour to a packed field.
On my way back to camp I checked out a bit of Thievery Corporation on Moonshine. There is so much going on in their live performance that it is almost difficult to break it all down. Formed by the DJ duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton they have an assemblage of incredible musicians that add an organic flavor to their electronic edge. It’s safe to say there is almost a softness to their sound, which is why I wandered over like a moth to a flame. They integrate elements of Middle Eastern, Indian, acid jazz, reggae, dub, and Brazilian into one substantial melting pot of sound. They are high energy without being abrasive to the ears. I really enjoyed catching part of their set at the festival.
Finally it was time for the moe. and Umphrey’s leap frog extravaganza that has been a tradition on Saturdays at Summer Camp for a number of years now. Let’s begin with the Umphs. They launched off with a colossal “Depth Charge” into “Hurt Bird Bath.”
Set 1: Depth Charge > Hurt Bird Bath, The Linear > Yoga Pants > Rocker Part II, Booth Love1, I Got Love1, Andy’s Last Beer1, Wizard Burial Ground
Set 2: Wappy Sprayberry > Ocean Billy, Utopian Fir1 2 > Debra, Der Bluten Kat > Final Word > Der Bluten Kat
1w/ Mad Dog & His Filthy Little Secret horns
2It’s About That Time jam
“How you doing out there?… Round 2” – Bayliss
Umphrey’s McGee is perhaps the most technical and progressive band in jam today. They are also the last “jam” band. Their live performances are a sensory overload. Jefferson Waful operating the light board paints incredible mosaics of radiance that really boggle the mind. Their output of music over two sets was close to three hours total with lots of twists and turns. They brought out Mad Dog & His Filthy Little Horns for “Booth Love,” “I Got Love,” and “Andy’s Last Beer.” Michael “Mad Dog” Mavridoglou has a history with Umphrey’s having played on their album Local Band Does Ok, and appearing with them onstage numerous times with his full horn section. They sounded incredible and prior to “I Got Love,” Bayliss commented on the fact that they have never played this particular song with a horn section before. It turned out nicely with The Fitly Little Horns accenting the flow well. They closed the first set with a crunchy “Wizard Burial Ground.”
Their second set was equally full of classics and beefy rage rock. They started with a fourteen-minute “Wappy Sprayberry” before segueing into an even bigger “Ocean Billy.” This two-song section saw some of the most extended jamming of the entire weekend. Umphrey’s McGee is so polished that it’s nice to see them actually play for a little while. No band in the scene is tighter so when they go with the flow it can be very impressive. They brought back Mad Dog and His Filthy Little Horns for “Utopian Fir.” However the highlight of the show was their version of Beck’s “Debrah” with Bayliss on vocals. Taking an almost Prince-esque approach, this cover was a lot of fun for the entire crowd. Umphrey’s closed with a very nice “Der Bluten” sandwich. They brought the horns back again for their “Bridgeless” encore. UM just sounds so good, they keep adding to their repertoire and always tightening up. They are vying to become the top band in jam with each show.
moe. played an equally sick concert on Saturday as well. They know that fans travel from across the country to see them throw down a Summer Camp, which is one of three festivals they host throughout the year. They made a statement by opening up with “Bullet” into “Rise.”
Set 1: Bullet> Rise, Blond Hair Blue Eyes*, Crab Eyes, The Faker> Hector’s Pillow> Plane Crash**
Set 2: Rain Shine, Silver Sun> Happy Hour Hero, MacBain> George, Spine Of A Dog> Buster> McBain
Encore: In The Kitchen***
“Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes” is a new song written by Rob about his daughter. Summer Camp has historically been a place for the band to try out new tunes and this one was very sweet. “The Faker” is a favorite of mine and it was executed wonderfully. moe. just does not disappoint at Summer Camp, they have a mission and that mission is to rock. Their set ending “Plane Crash” was one of the most incredible versions I’ve seen them play. They invited Allie out for the violin intro that is featured on Tin Cans and Car Tires. It was absolutely overwhelming and another reminder of how versatile Allie is as a musician.
Their second set on Saturday was just as uncompromising as the first. Although the “Rainshine” opener felt a little strained while “Silver Sun” seemed optimistic given the weather we had already experienced. Of course the band was just playing with their set lists, showing us a little bit of tongue-in-cheek amusement on their part. “Happy Hour Hero” was a nice breather, but what followed was some of the best moe. of the weekend. The massive “McBain” bookend jam featured a sick “Spine Of A Dog” with a “Buster” thrown in for good measure. In refrence to the previous night’s antics with Umphrey’s they performed “In The Kitchen.” It felt a little more drum heavy and had a different flow than the original, but it was a perfect way to end the show.
We called it a night after moe. With one more day of Summer Camp looming on the horizon it was time to rest up and get ready. Sunday is famously jam packed with music for all of the people that opt in for single day tickets and this Sunday would be no different. Well… in retrospect, it would be a little different.
A more perfect day could not have been planned for Summer Camp on Friday. Music lovers arose to the crispy, bluebird sky of central Illinois with a bright beautiful sun shinning down from above. As fans shook off the grogginess of Thursday’s pre-party they found that Summer Camp was beginning in earnest and the weather was perfect. The light rain of the prior day kept down the dust promising that attendees would not be blowing a Rorschach Test into their hankies. A light breeze blew across the fields making for a sweet balance of warm and cool as the day began. Chicago Summer Camp regulars Old Shoe got the music started with an 11 AM shotgun start.
This quintet is quintessential jam with an acoustic sensibility thrown in for good measure. As Matt Robinson donned his “Easy Scampin’” shirt it was clear that not only was Old Shoe ready to have fun, they were ready to play. This band has so much potential as their local fan base already knows, They are a blend of rock, funk, folk, and more, Old Shoe just seems to fit. As their name would insinuate there is a comfortable vibe that emulates from everything they do. Their hour-long set was a perfect way to officially start Friday at Summer Camp.
Just as Old Shoe was finishing up Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn band was getting warmed up on the Starshine Stage. These guys put the power in power trio. Their sound is reminiscent of a revving engine approaching the red line. They have a growl that would make a dire wolf question its masculinity. They opened with a roaring “That Train Song.”
Set 1: That Train Song, Something For Nothing, Easy Come Easy Go, Regular Ole’ Guitar> Peter Gun Theme, Big Blue Chevy ’72, You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover, Worn Out Shoes, Clap Your Hands, Devils Look Like Angels, Some of These Days> When the Saints Go Marching In, Glory Glory
The Rev. is as much of a storyteller as he is a rocker. Joined by his wife Breezy and drummer Ben “Bird Dog” Bussell, Reverend Peyton can rip on anything with a fret board. In fact during “Easy Come, Easy Go” he absolutely shredded on a cigar box guitar. I’ve never seen one let alone heard one sound like a Les Paul. Their hour on the stage went by far to quickly and ended with a rolling version of “Some Of These Days into a raucous version of “When The Saints Go Marching In” followed by a very untraditional take on “Glory, Glory.” Let’s just say it got spiritual.
Next up was Keller Williams in the VIP Lounge. This was the first year with an actual schedule set up for VIP, rather than just a few random sets throughout the weekend. Keller was running late, taking the stage a full twenty minutes after he was scheduled. The set began ceremoniously with an introduction from promoter and festival organizer Ian Goldberg. He is Jay’s son and basically runs the whole show. Keller began by saying, “I have no plan.” He performed an acoustic, loopless show, which is something I haven’t seen since 2005 at Summer Camp. Keller is always a sort of flow of conscience type show, but his loopless shows take it to another level. Strumming away we were treated to a set that was all K-Dub. The highlight was beautiful rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “Eyes Of The World.” I would have stayed longer, but it was time for moe.
2013 Camp Counselor Kyle Hess gave the intro, which was short but sweet. Having stood in his shoes, it’s a lot of pressure to announce your heroes to 15,000 or so people. He did so marvelously. moe. opened their festival with a huge “Captain America” into “Recreational Chemistry.” This was the equivalent of throwing down the gauntlet as far as I’m concerned.
Set 1: Captain America> Recreational Chemistry, Deep This Time> Downward Facing Dog, Puebla> Ricky Marten> Seat Of My Pants, Okayalright
moe. is one of the few jambands that has never broken up, never taken an extended hiatus, and never left their fans in the lurch. It absolutely shows in their live performances. They simply grind and for that reason I’ve been a fan for well over a decade. Their guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey are so dialed in, watching them is like witnessing a two-headed shred monster. They toss each other lead and rhythm parts like hot potatoes shot from a grenade launcher. This was a classic jam-filled set with a massive “Okayalright” to close. With five more sets on the horizon they set the bar pretty high with this show filled to the brim with badassery.
The Wailers were up next on the Sunshine Stage. I’ve always been a bit confused by The Wailers , The Original Wailers and were the two diverged. The fact that Bunny Wailer is still alive and not a member of either band is enough to make me question the namesake. Originally The Wailers was comprised of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Livingston. Afterwards the band morphed into Bob Marley and The Wailers with Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his brother Cody Barrett on drums with the I Threes. Both of the Barretts were members of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s studio band The Upsetters. So basically Aston is the only real member of Bob’s band, but they continued performing after Bob’s death. They were lead by Koolant Brown on vocals who was like a bucket of jazzercise. His energy was infectious and his tone was spot on. The other notable member is Keith Sterling on keys who was also a part of The Upsetters among other Jamaican groups. They sounded solid with awesome versions of “Africa Unite” and “Stir It Up.” The highlight of their set was a mashup of “Waiting In Vain” with Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” As I was heading over to MMW I could hear them playing “I Shot The Sheriff” to an enthusiastic crowd.
Medeski, Martin, & Wood plays jazz with a jam mentality. It’s not so much about the groove because at times they go down the trail blazed by greats like Charlie Parker. Utilizing dissonance that to the untrained ear can be unsettling. However the fact is that MMW is capable of absolutely anything. Their most crowd-pleasing shows include funkiness, which was definitely present at points during their set at Summer Camp. They are simply one of the most incredible live acts touring today and it was a pleasure to see them on a beautiful day in central Illinois.
As Keller Williams ages his projects become more and more sophisticated. No longer is he content playing alone. The last few years have seen numerous projects spring from his mind. The latest is Keller Williams and The More Than A Little. This is his most soulful endeavor incorporating two female vocalists and a full band. They started the set with the song from which they take their name. K-Dub hit the stage in a black suit, smacking his talking drum and looking pretty suave. I would have to say the man won best dressed for Friday if not the entire fest. There was smoothness to this group and a focus on the funkier side of Keller. This is probably my favorite band that Keller has formed and I hope this group actually tours rather than being just a flash in the pan. This was also the most painful overlap of the day with Yonder Mountain String Band starting just a half hour after Keller, so shortly after it started, it was time to mosey.
Colorado bluegrass ambassadors Yonder Mountain String Band have been a hallmark of Summer Camp for years now. Their main stage set this year was chocked full of stringy goodness. They started with an energetic “If You’re Ever In Oklahoma” into “East Nashville Easter.”
Set 1: If You’re Ever in Oklahoma> East Nashville Easter> 40 Miles From Denver, 20 Eyes, Irondale, Pretty Daughter, Casualty, Kentucky Mandolin*, Dear Prudence*> Raleigh & Spencer*, Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown*
*w/ Roosevelt Collier on Pedal Steel
This set was a beautiful, rambunctious journey with one of my favorite bands. Jeff Austin’s face contorted as he wore the finish off his mandolin, by straight ripping it up. They invited Lee Boy, Roosevelt Collier to the stage to play the pedal steel with the band. This added a whole new dimension to their group. He wasn’t even on the official lineup, but he ended up being an artist at large of sorts playing around all weekend long. Their take on “Dear Prudence” with him was definitely memorable as was their set closing “Two Hits.”
Finally it was time for the main event with Umphrey’s McGee. Basically Summer Camp has become their home fest as they now share the bill with moe. They have such a dedicated following and are actually from the Midwest so it makes a lot of sense. They eased into a two set extravaganza with “There’s No Crying In Mexico.”
Set 1: There’s No Crying in Mexico > All in Time > Mantis Ghetts, Nothing Too Fancy> Ringo, Eat, Believe the Lie, Conduit, Comma Later > Nothing Too Fancy
Set 2: Puppet String > Plunger > All in Time, Sociable Jimmy, Bright Lights, Big City1, Glory> Plunger > Puppet String
*w/ Dom (Big Gigantic)
Umphrey’s is the most technical band in jam and this show demonstrated just that. The boys let us know that they are still Death Metal with “All In Time.” “Nothing Too Fancy” into “Ringo” was the climax of their first set and again raised the bar from a band that might as well be professional bar raisers. “Eat” actually had me a little frightened as again their Metal was showing, before the progressive “Believe The Lie” eased the tension. Umphrey’s is not an easy band to watch. They don’t just give it to you. They make their fans concentrate in a way that no other member of the jam community does. You have to work to understand what this band is doing. They are the opposite of dubstep in that regard. They ended their first set by going back into “Nothing Too Fancy.”
Their second set was bookended by “Puppet String” and included a sit in from Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli. It was a little more reserved than the blowout that was set one. “The Bright Lights, Big City” on which Lalli sat in was a definite highlight of a set full of technical turns and rage heavy jam. Umphrey’s is a big part of what makes Summer Camp so great and this was their night to blow it all out. They did so marvelously. During “Glory” they teased The Smashing Pumpkin’s “Rhinoceros” which got fans hopeful, but I’m glad they stuck to the script. This is one my favorite UM tunes and really demonstrates a different side of their sound. With a little bit of the theatrical moes came to the stage for the encore. The Umph boys gave them a look like, “We got this,” and proceeded to bust out a highly mechanical “Rebubula.” It was a nice touch to show the interconnectivity of these two groups at this particular festival.
After Umphrey’s I opted to nap it out for bit to be ready for the late night in the Red Barn with moe. and YMSB. I arrived at the Barn around 12:45 and made my way inside. The Barn is 400-person shell complete with lasers and a high ceiling. moe. opened with “Mar-Dema.”
Set 1: Mar-Dema > Kyle’s Song > Kids, In a Big Country, Wind it up > Sensory Deprivation Bank, lylelovit. > Waiting For The Punchline
Their hour and fifteen minute set left fans wishing they would play until the sun came up. This was classic moe. with a wonderful “Kyle’s Song” as well as a bust out on “Big Country” which hadn’t been played in 929 shows. Before playing “Sensory Deprivation Bank” Rob said, “This is the most downloaded song in the history of porn… it’s true.” I’m not sure if that’s actually a fact but it was absolutely huge. The set closing “Waiting For The Punchline” whipped the crowd up into a frenzy. This was solid moe. and a fun way to spend a late night.
After a stage swap that went a little too long Yonder took to the boards. They got going with a solid sandwich in the form of “New Horizons“ into “Blue Collar Blues” back into “New Horizons.”
Set 1: New Horizons > Blue Collar Blues > New Horizons, Left Me in a Hole, Fingerprint, My Gal, Steep Grade Sharp Curves > Gut Feeling/Slap your Mammy, New Deal Train, Another Day, Little Lover, Ten
Encore: Southern Flavor
Yonder took us on a late night bluegrass romp that saw classics flirting with a few new tunes. It was simply a great day of music and YMSB was the perfect end to it all playing well into the wee hours of the morning. Additional highlights of their set included “Let Me In A Hole,” “New Deal,” and “Ten.” They encored with an awesome “Southern Flavor.”
As I walked down the trail back to my tent the birds were beginning to chirp and I knew that Saturday would be coming all too soon. Summer Camp is non-stop run and if you do take a break you are going to miss something. That’s just the nature of the beast. It’s always important to pace yourself, but it’s even more important to see as much live music as possible. Two down, two to go.
When archaeologists dig up the site formerly known as Three Sisters Park in 2000 years they will find cell phones, bottle caps, tent stakes, and much more. It’s the amazing experiences had by thousands on the backdrop of stunning musical collaboration that will be hard to discern from the artifacts they find. Summer Camp in its thirteenth year continues their tradition of having a diverse lineup with wide appeal as well as providing fans with numerous other possibilities for fun and engagement. Thursday has historically been labeled the “Pre-Party” however veterans of this festival know it’s become an essential part of the experience. Primarily they save the heavy hitters for the actual three-day calendar, but Summer Camp stalwarts like Cornmeal and Family Groove Company have gotten the party started for the past few years
Early arrivers rs on Thursday were met with the typical lines and a sporadic drizzle. Weather would play a large part in this year’s Summer Camp, but on Thursday it was barely a side note to the experience. Gates opened around 11 AM and fans hustled in to mark off their territory. The woods filled up quickly as others opted to find their place in the fields that bordered the Sunshine Stage. We found a spot in the woods of VIP. They redesigned the campsite this year, making the old VIP path part of General Admission camping, and clearing more of the woods across from the VIP Lounge for tent construction. All in all it was a good move that made for easier mobility for everyone at the festival.
After setup I wandered up to the Camping Stage for Zeta June who officially opened up Summer Camp 2013. They focused on a heavy, rocking, groove oriented sound that was reminiscent of moe. in their younger days. They managed to inject a little funk and they were a proper way to get the party started.
After meeting up with this year’s crop of CITs and the new Camp Counselor Kyle Hess, I headed over to see Stone Sugar Shakedown. This was my second time on Thursday seeing a band I have never caught live before, and I have to say I was impressed. This is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of going to any festival. If you have an open mind, it’s easy to get turned on to all manner of live music that you may have otherwise never encountered. SSS was a funk party lead by Nick Elwood and Tracy Gladden. They blend blues and jam to round out their sound in a way that is engaging and enjoyable. The dynamic between Nick’s deep vocals and searing guitar work with the delicate approach of Gladden made for a very pleasant set.
Heading over to the Starshine Stage I ran into Family Groove Company bassist Janis Wallin who had nothing but good things to say about Sun Stereo who was up next.
“They are a mix of David Byrne and The Beatles.” – Janis
This is quite the endorsement and I have to say she wasn’t too far off. Sun Stereo is all energy. They are basically a three-piece core band with a sprawling horn section which put a heavy emphasis on adding a jazziness to their straight groove. Sun Stereo is lead by keyboardist and vocalist Kelly McMorris who tosses in a bit of the theatrical to their performance. He is truly a powerhouse of a musician. The horns filled out their sound nicely as Kelly kicked back his stool and let it all out for the crowd. If given the chance check out Sun Stereo, they are one to watch.
Family Groove Company took the stage next and opened with a track from their newest album.
Set 1: The Charmer > Well In Hand, Professionals Here, A Misdemeanor’s Worth, Falling Off the Fence, One Eye Dreaming*, American Girl
*with Allie Kral on fiddle
Playing new material, it really felt like Family Groove Company was truly revitalized and ready to rage. This is their tenth year performing at Summer Camp and they truly looked comfortable up on the stage in front of a large crowd. The highlight of the set was Allie’s sit in which has almost become a ritual for their pre-party set. They closed with Tom Petty’s “American Girl”
Cornmeal took the stage at 8 PM and although the day had blossomed into a beautiful afternoon, we were hit with an unseasonably cold evening. Fans bundled up and put on their dancing shoes for what would be the beginning of Allie’s last run with Cornmeal. With the departure of the Nowaks, Cornmeal now performs with Scott Tipping on guitar and new drummer as well. Their performance on Thursday night would not leave any doubt that even through this transition Cornmeal still has what it takes to melt faces and make the crowd boogie. It was a moving hour long set that really felt like a celebration of how far this jamgrass band has come. Cornmeal also played a stellar version of “Dear Prudence” that seemed highly appropriate.
Caravan Of Thieves was over at the Campfire Stage warming hearts and minds with their brand of gypsy folk. These guys are just incredible, and it blows my mind that they are not getting more traction and playing to larger audiences. Talk about fun in a bottle, Caravan Of Thieves pulls no punches when it comes to their creation of music and sound onstage. With their new album “Bouquet” this band, evocative of the type of swing folk that made Django Reinhardt famous, continues to plow ahead and tour relentlessly. Fuzz, their guitarist, who sort of looks like Harpo Marx on speed, will often drop his instrument, pick up egg beaters, and pound out a rhythm on buckets strategically placed around the stage. This craziness is juxtaposed against the soft beauty of their other guitarist Carrie and her silky voice. Caravan Of Thieves is never dull and always intriguing to say the least.
We ended our Thursday with Cornmeal’s Midnight Ramble in the Soulshine Tent. This show was based on their loosely formatted residencies in Chicago. They would invite friends and basically just have a good time playing music. They invited Al from moe. up to the stage for a few songs and really kicked it up a notch playing well into the darkness. With three days of music ahead of us, I called it a night and hit the hay. As Bayliss has put it many times, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” So with that in mind I crawled into my tent with visions of moe. and Umphrey’s dancing in my head.