There can be nothing more disheartening for a touring band than to show up and see a crowd of nine people is the total of your audience. This is exactly what happened at The Aggie for Moksha’s headlining gig. Touring with an amazing guest horn section consisting of Skerik, Peter Apfelbaum, and longtime Summer Camp alumni Jennifer Hartswick, the lack of people seemed even more tragic. I arrived early with a few friends and we were immediately confronted with the sweet reggae fusion sounds of Funkmaster.
Funkmaster aka Matt Grundstad, moved to Colorado with world music ensemble and Summer Campers, Euforquestra. They have since parted ways, giving Matt more time to focus on studio collaborations, performing with Dubskin, and his solo work. The Funkmaster setup has been a long time in the making. I first saw him utilize his muliti-instrumentalism along with a looping board all the way back in college. Needless to say the show has progressed immensely into a polished set of music that demonstrates not only his musicianship and vocal ability, but his knowledge of song craft and playing to an audience. Even if that audience is only a few hearty souls. He got our attention with a spot on version of Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” built from the ground up. The highlight of his set was a massive mashup of Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, Parliament Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under A Groove” and “The Thong Song” among others. He ended his set with a nod to Toots and The Maytals who were just at The Aggie by playing “Bam Bam.” Toots will be as Summer Camp with is trio this year, so don’t miss that.
Up to the stage next was Smooth Money Gesture who jumped on Moshka’s run for their last two nights in Colorado. Smooth Money has been MIA as of late so it was nice to see them back on a bill in Fort Collins. SMG is quintessential Nederland jam with a touch of funk and rock influences. Smooth Money played a set that was just short of an hour, but they sounded fresh, considering they have been on a mini-hiatus for the last few months. They are back playing locally and are definitely worth checking out.
Moksha came to the stage and despite the lack of an audience ripped through an hour and a half of the funky jam.
Set 1: BNJ, Blind, Seed, Bobbin, Sexy M.F., Bathcat, Gettin, Awaken, Rite Away, Island, You Haven’t Done Shit
Although they cut their headlining set short, they can’t really be blamed. Musically they took us on a sweet ride, that actually left me wanting more. They had a strong focus musically, and the horns only added to the overall quality of the performance. Peter Apfelbaum is a jazz savant who can literally play anything, Skerik is a machine, and Jennifer Hartswick is the one-two punch of powerful trumpet and beautiful vocals. My one complaint is that these three seemed almost pushed to the back of the stage, and did not seemed to be featured on solos as much as I would have liked. Either way it was amazing to see these three with Moksha as they plowed through a wide array of their originals. The highlight of the show was the set closing Hartswick sung, “You Haven’t Done Shit.” It may have been somewhat disappointing for the band, but I have to say I was not let down. This ended up being a private show for me and a few other lucky individuals who made it down. You can literally hear the absence of people in the videos I shot, making for a surreal experience. That being said, I had a blast and will definitely be waiting for the return of Moksha.
Here is a video I shot and edited with MusicMarauders featuring Summer Camp veterans The Henhouse Prowlers. In case you don’t know HHP is a Bluegrass Powerhouse out of Chicago, Illinois. Their traditional tone and attention to solid picking has made them a cut above the rest. The video features a ten minute interview with the band and HHP performing a couple original songs. They also talk about their experience with Summer Camp and how the festival itself helped lead Dan to join the band. Take a look.
The world renowned drummer of the Grateful Dead Mickey Hart came to town for a MusicMarauders Presents show at The Oriental Theater in the Highlands of Denver. Mickey and his band, which includes Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools along with Crystal Monee Hall on vocals, Joe Bagale on vocals, guitar, and keys, Gawain Matthews on guitar, Sikiru Adepoju on the talking drum, and Greg Schutte on kit, were in the midst of a three blast across Colorado. With stops in Boulder, Denver, and Aspen as part of larger spring tour, the band was in fine form for a Friday night on the Front Range.
There was an issue online with the posted show times causing many including myself to arrive a full two hours prior to the doors opening. There was a large drum circle across the street from the venue and it being First Friday, we warmed up in a gallery. When the doors finally opened we were still a full hour away from the African Showboyz taking the stage. The story goes that Mickey was going to take part in a drum circle / workshop that was cancelled at the last minute. I thought given the circumstances Mickey should have made his way across the street to the aforementioned drum circle and jammed for the early arrivers.
That did not happen.
Up first was a group hailing all the way from a small village in Ghana, West Africa. The only description appropriate for this group of four brothers is stunning. The African Showboyz utilizing traditional instrumentation including the bind douk, bin bill and the tonton sanson, and incorporating customary dances that were simply jaw-dropping to watch live. They are touring ambassadors whose primary mission is to spread “recognition for the suffrage of the African people.” Performing Bob Marley classics such as “Redemption Song” alongside the songs of their native village made it all very approachable. The driving rhythm of the drums accompanied by the poetic voices of the Sabbah brothers was absolutely mesmerizing. They finished their breathtaking set with a simple dance and salute to the crowd. My only issue was that they performed behind the headliners rig, which seemed weird to me. The Mickey Hart Band made their way to the stage shortly after 10 PM. They jumped right into the muddy goodness with a huge “Shakedown Street” opener.
Set 1: Shakedown Street> Starlight Starbright> Franklin’s Tower> Bully Boy> Bird Song> Magic Wand> Fire On The Mountain
Set 2: Samson & Delilah> Slow Joe Rain> Playing In The Band> Morning Of The World> Playin’ Reprise> Supersonic Vision> Cut The Deck> China Cat Sunflower> I Know You Rider
Encore: Brokedown Palace
Thanks to Corey and Kind Recordings for posting the show on ARCHIVE.
The overall show was a solid mix of MHB originals and standard Grateful Dead. Hall seemed to take primary vocal duties on the majority of the songs giving an entirely new feel to some of the classic tunes. At times it was jarring, but her powerful vocals won me over in the end. Tucked in the back of the stage was Schools who even added his voice to the backup mic a few times throughout the night. Mickey stood flanked by his 360-degree personal drum monstrosity, which included electronic drum pads hooked to an array of effects. “Franklin’s Tower” was a beautiful addition to the set as the kaleidoscope lights danced on the ceiling of the historic theater. “Magic Wand” their original, was truly an energetic high. They closed with the much-expected “Fire On The Mountain.”
The second set started perfectly well with a tight version of “Samson & Delilah,” but it quickly fell apart with the alternative sounding “Slow Joe Rain.” As they were playing, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief. I can understand a band wanting to sound current, but this was current circa 1992, and just felt totally out of place. MHB quickly redeemed themselves with an extended take on “Playing In The Band” that featured “Morning Of The World” as the meat of the jam. They finished the set with a huge “China Cat” “Rider” that was enough to make any Dead fan happy. Mickey and Friends encored with a lovely “Brokedown Palace.”
It was just a solid show from a band that appears to be finding its stride. Much like Billy’s band 7 Walkers, Mickey is using his golden years to make his own mark and write his own musical chapter. None of the living members of the Grateful Dead have anything to prove, they’ve done it all and they’ve paved the way. Now, they have earned the chance to relax, perform, or not perform. Each show is a blessing and a chance to celebrate the music of the Grateful Dead. Go out and celebrate.
The final day of the year’s shortest month brought Fort Collins a little treat in form of Greensky Bluegrass performing with Ryan Montbleau Band at The Aggie. Both of these bands have graced the stages at Summer Camp several times over the years. I arrived early just as Montbleau was taking the stage with his eclectic sound brand of swing-infused rock and reggae. In fact RMB wove a rich musical tapestry over numerous genres. They opened with “Chariot.”
Set 1: Chariot (I Know), Hot Coffee In A Paper Cup, Inspired By No One, Dance, Dance, Dance, Songbird, Dead Set, I Can’t Wait
Ryan Montbleau is a name I’ve seen on festival lineups for years, but this was my first chance to see their live show. It was a bouncy fun way to start the night. “Songbird” was a fiery reggae track that blew the roof off the room. It was most definitely the highlight of a tightly packed opening set. My only criticism is that the performance barely reached the forty-five minute mark leaving many fans wanting more. They closed with a massive sign-along entitled “I Can’t Wait.” It was nice to finally see them live in my hometown.
Greensky took the stage shortly after and immediately doused the crowd with powerful string music performed with passion. Several of the fans assembled in the diverse audience informed me that they never miss them when they come to town. Whenever I see Greensky it’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a snowy day. There is nothing more comfortable and clean than watching Greensky pick on a tune. Their set at the Aggie was a versatile demonstration of all that they do. Songs like “Cold Feet” found their way in the mix beautifully. They performed a version of the Talking Heads’ “Road To Nowhere,” that just made sense as a bluegrass number. Anders Beck continues to be a focal point on the stage with his smooth slide work on the Dobro guitar. Mike Bont holds back until the perfect moment to unleash his fury on the banjo. Mike Devol, looking like a bearded Ryan Seacrest, holds down the fort and gives the rest of the band room to solo. They continue to gel musically and play massive shows. They will be back to Colorado twice this summer, once at Telluride Bluegrass, and again at Red Rocks with Railroad Earth and Galactic. In fact their summer is jam-packed with big dates including Delfest, Electric Forest, Camp Euforia, Forecastle Festival, and Northwest String Summit. I think it’s safe to say that the good word of Greensky is spreading far and wide.
Having friends come to town is an easy excuse to head down to The Ogden for a Galactic fueled rager. The Ogden continues to be major hub for jam bands in Denver. As we entered San Francisco based band The Monophonics were already in high gear warming up the crowd. These guys brought a rowdy soulful sound to the mix. Originally formed as an instrumental group, they are currently led by keyboardist Kelly Finnigan who exudes energy from every pore. A blend of psychedelic, funk, and soul The Monophonics are a polished unit that simply gobsmacked the early arrivers. We were greeted by a flawless version of Cher’s “Bang Band (She Shot Me Down).” First of all, an unusual cover to choose, which made popular as the opening credit track for Kill Bill. “Bang Bang” fit The Monophonics like a glove. The driving original “High Off Your Love” was another nice addition to the show. They closed the set with a cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Baby I Love You.” To say, I was impressed by The Monophonics would be an understatement. They come to play and leave every ounce of energy on the stage; I hope they make it back to Denver soon.
Just prior to Galactic taking the stage Don Strasburg with AEG announced that Galactic would be at Red Rocks this summer with Greensky and Railroad Earth on July 12th. Looks like that will be yet another incredible night on the rocks.
Galactic has long been my generation’s representation of New Orleans funk. Dr John, The Indian Chiefs, The Meters, and all the early NOLA players paved the way for Galactic. Birthed from the depths of the musical Louisiana swamp, Galactic is the true torchbearers of New Orleans Jazz, Funk, and Soul. Having transitioned from the days of House, Galactic has been touring for the last year or so with Corey Glover of Living Colour fame. Playing it much like House used to, Glover floats on and off the stage transforming the band from instrumental force, to full on musical volcano. Singing songs like his hit “Cult Of Personality” and The Beatle’s “I Am The Walrus,” Glover is a powerful and incredibly controlled singer who seems to be capable of belting out anything. They ended the first set with a beautiful “Bittersweet.”
The second set would see some hip-hop make it into the mix with trombone player Corey Henry singing one and cussing profusely. Hey I enjoy that. Corey is originally from Rebirth Brass Band, but he may have found a permanent home with Galactic. Lyrics Born who was on day two’s lineup made an unannounced appearance to sing a song in his signature spitfire fashion. Stanton was a monster all night and was given a nice solo that mesmerized the capacity crowd. Galactic ended the second set with Toussaint’s “What Is Success.” After a moment they were back to encore with “Does It Make A Difference At All” into The Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil.” Wow. This was a big show with lots of twists and turns. Galactic is an assemblage of the some of the best funk players on the planet today. They have grown from a relentless bar band when I first saw them in 2001 to ambassadors of New Orleans music. Galactic continues to play with an energy and vibrancy that is a rare find in today’s music scene. Go find the funk.
Stephen Perkins and Tony Franklin with Willie Waldman at The HoodLab
This tight formation of Banyan consisting of Stephen Perkins, Willie Waldman, Tony Franklin, and Brian Jordan was smack dab in the middle of a two night run at Quixote’s True Blue. Banyan had a history with Summer Camp, having performed twice at the festival. Last year they performed the opening set on Sunday morning at the Moonshine stage.Perkins and Franklin arranged for a short drum and bass jam at the multi-purpose space known as HoodLab. Distributer of HoodLamb Hemp coats out of Amsterdam, HoodLab is also an art gallery and a space for live performances. Curated and owned by Adam Dunn, this place is one of the hidden gems in Denver. Opening up was self-described funk metal group Herb N’ War. They were without lead singer Eutimia Cruz Montoya. So, they played as a power trio and basically blasted through an improv set that featured heavy riffing and some tight drum work by Carter Casad. Without their voice they were left to focus on the music, and honestly this was a perfect fit for the Perkins Franklin jam.
There was a modest gathering, many of which seemed to be regulars and friends of the proprietors. Originally billed as just a drum and bass jam with Perkins and Franklin, Waldman added his horn to make it a full-blown Banyan show. Perkins unleashed his fury on the drums as the crowd settled in for thirty minutes of freeform rage. Franklin tickled his fretless bass to the delight of the audience as Waldman, without any effects or petals, created a cacophony of sound with just his horn and a microphone. At one point Waldman created distortion by inserting the mic into the bell of his trumpet. Franklin went wild on the bass causing the roof of the HoodLab to rumble as the Perkins broke into a raucous beat to blast off on another jam tangent. All in all, this entire musical journey was short but powerful. As they finished up, Herb N’ War took the stage again to close out the evening. If you get the chance spend some time at the HoodLab, this place was special, and worth the visit.
Banyan with The People’s Abstract at Quixote’s True Blue
No one puts together a lineup quite like Jay Bianchi. As I entered the newly reformatted venue, which has moved to the old Bender’s Tavern, the band Tick was warming up in the main room. Quixote’s is two stages split by a large wall. Each room contains their own bar, and it actually does work quite well. I opted to watch some docile covers by The Mighty High Band in the front room rather than get bitten by the Tick. The Mighty High Band is a basically a Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and Legion Of Mary cover band pulling out deep cuts from Garcia’s side projects. This band was a fun way to ease into the night. Performing songs like “Tangled Up In Blue,” with amazing accuracy I was happy to have caught a bit of The Mighty High Band.
As Tick cleared the stage it was time for something completely different. The People’s Abstract could be called a Zobomaze side project. However I prefer to think of them as another side of the same musical coin. With Zobo’s Sean Dandurand, this tight four piece at first glance has a lot in common with Zobo. When they start playing those similarities disappear. The People’s Abstract is a instrumental blend of jazz, funk, rock, and more. As people slowly filtered in, it almost seemed that they were caught off guard by the incredible music coming from the stage. I too found myself blown away but this unassuming quartet. Given their warm take on jazzy funk, they were a perfect fit to open for Banyan.As I mentioned earlier, this was a tight four-piece version of Banyan. I have seen this group bloated with as many as seven members, however this amalgamation of Banyan had laser focus and impeccable back and forth. With Franklin and Perkins holding down the rhythm, Jordan and Waldman were left to fill in the musical gaps. Performing two sets, over the course of a few hours, Banyan proved once again why they are not to be missed.
Banyan Live at Quixote’s True Blue on February 9, 2013.
Weaving their way through jazz, rock, and Middle Eastern inspired jams, Banyan is as fluid as any group you will see live; in essence with a rotating pool of players you have to see. Perkins just wows the crowd as he slowly peels off layers until he is left in his signature black wife beater. Watching Stephen Perkins in a tiny room playing jazz to forty of fifty people is something everyone should experience. He is a force behind the kit that literally unleashes an all out attack on the skins. Waldman back on stage with his effects is able to paint sonic murals that fly around the crowd. Franklin too is a beast who simply shreds. Brian Jordan, continues to impress with his virtuoso guitar work. They sounded fantastic together and I would love to see this lineup continue to tour regularly, as it was too much fun. If you’ve never heard of them, download the show, take a listen, and get inspired. This type of free form musical exploration is a rare treat in today’s paint by numbers scene. It’s definitely worth checking out and it could change your perspective on what jam can be.
For the second night in a row I ventured down to the Aggie Theater for some live music. It was a co-bill between local favorites Euforquestra and reggae powerhouse John Brown’s Body. It had been three years since JBB last performed in Fort Collins. I first saw JBB very early in my concert-going career; in fact they were a band that demonstrated to me what was possible on any random Wednesday night in a sweaty, crowed bar. The last time I saw them was around 2006 and seeing them live in Fort Collins it was evident that this band had evolved. As we entered the room Mikey Thunder was gracing the slowly growing crowd with a tasty mix of funk and jazz backed by some palpable beats. At times in the past I’ve found Mr. Thunder’s heavier electronic sets to be off-putting, but he actually sounded really solid. The audience was unenthused and Thunder politely called them on it. He also performed during the setbreaks, which seemed to help the overall flow of the evening.
Euforquestra took the stage and hit the fans with a saucy “Obatala” into “Change Me.”
Set 1: Obatala> Change Me, Road Funk, Soup, Backbone> Wasted, Madison Square, Solutions, 64/18, All The Light I Need, Dr. Standby
Euforquestra has been going through some changes, but watching them live you would never know it. Scott Mast continues to fill in on percussion with Craig Babineau holding it down on kit. These two are really starting to gel, which culminated in a huge back and forth drum jam during “Soup.” They continue to surprise me every time I see them perform together. Speaking of surprises Matt Wright’s vocals have added a whole new dimension to Euforquestra’s sound. However the most powerful moment of the set came when Austin sang “All The Light I Need,” which was a song he wrote to honor a fallen friend. They closed their set with “Dr. Standby.”
John Brown’s Body is another band that has gone through their fair share of hardship and change. With the passing of Scott Palmer in 2006 the band underwent a metamorphosis of sorts. Through their sorrow they emerged as a more focused group blending new styles and pioneering what they call “Future Roots Rock.” They eased into the night with an organ-heavy “Ameliorate.”
Set 1: Ameliorate, Give Yourself Over, Following Into Shadow, The Grass, Plantation, Wellington Dub, Shine Bright, Make Easy, Empty Hands, Ambrosia, What You Gonna Do, 33 RPM
Encore: Peace, The Gold
The horn section consisting of Drew Sayers on saxophone, Scott Flynn on trombone, and Sam Dechenne on trumpet was the icing on the cake all night. They added a level of authenticity and panache to the JBB sound. Elliot Martin, the lead singer was as vibrant as ever and danced around the stage authoritatively. The sound had developed from the roots based songs of yore into something quite different. They were now adding elements of dubstep, hip-hop, electronica, and more to the mix in an attempt to be unique and to craft songs that are truly original. This was not your mother’s reggae. That being said they did have a nice mix of traditional and infused reggae. The highlight of the show for me was a fiery rendition of “Shine Bright.” While John Brown’s Body is not the same band I first saw in 2001 and 2003, they are continuing to blaze trails in the reggae world. They were a wonderful fit for Euforquestra and a great way to start the weekend. Let’s not wait another three years for JBB to return.
If you’re from Missouri or Illinois, I’m sure you’ve heard of or have seen Aaron Kamm and the One Drops. They are an act that no reggae, blues, or jam band lover should miss! AKOD have been around for over 4 years and have 3 studio albums out titled The Bomb and the Beast, grow, and gnu-gnu. I have all 3 albums, so if you want to check them out just ask me! Aaron Kamm himself plays guitar in which he shreds the most intense blues solos and is lead vocals with his soulfully smooth voice. The One Drops include the talented Andy Lee Dorris on bass and the Sean Raila on drums who plays beats faster than you can say “one drops!” They tend to play a couple times a month in St. Louis making them a key staple to the ever growing St. Louis music scene. They also have played several smaller festivals in Missouri and Illinois, and hit up Edwardsville, IL, Columbia, MO and Carbondale, MO at least once a month. I’ve seen them way too many times to coun, but my favorite time seeing them was in southern Missouri at Bearcat Getaway campground after a long day of floating. This is one band that I definitely would watch in 2013 since their shows are getting more and more packed by the month. So if you like reggae, blues, jam, and love to dance, then I suggest you get yourself to one of their shows soon! If you want to a taste of their sound, click here!
It was a big night in Fort Collins. The Aggie brought in an impressive lineup consisting of some of the best jazz and funk artists touring today. Hodi’s was celebrating their grand re-opening under new ownership with Dave Watts and Friends (aka The Motet) and free beer. The people that wanted to party headed to Hodi’s, the music fans went to The Aggie. I honestly would have loved to catch both, but the amazing music unfolding before my eyes kept me from moving on.
Up first was Garrett Sayers Trio lead by bass virtuoso and local phenom Mr. Garrett Sayers. This lineup consisting of Garrett on bass, Patrick Lee on keys, and Johnny Jyemo on drums has had a longstanding Wednesday night residency at the Highland Tap & Burger. They have intrigued me for a long time, but this was my first chance catching them live. GS3 took the stage around 9:15 and dazzled the crowd for just short of an hour. It was a rollercoaster ride with this nimble trio weaving together a massive sound for such a tight unit. The diversity within the GS3, was evident from the beginning. Each member of the band seems to be coming from distinctly different musical backgrounds. The result was this amazing blending of funk, jam, jazz, R & B, and so much more percolated in and out of every song. Garrett Sayers Trio is an instrumental band as were all the bands on the bill minus Kung Fu who will occasionally feature a song with vocals. There is something freeing about going to see an instrumental band. The show doesn’t get all convoluted with silly things like lyrics. I’m being facetious but it really does allow the audience to focus strictly on the music. It was impossible not to focus on GS3 as all three members wowed the slowly growing crowd. They finished their remarkable set and headed down the road where Garrett joined his Motet band mates for their gig at Hodi’s. He really is a hard worker.
Kind Recordings has the show up on Archive. Thanks to Corey for taping the show. http://www-tracey.archive.org/details/gstrio2013-01-24.fob.mc803.kindrec
Last year jam super group Kung Fu made several visits to Colorado, and they definitely made an impression. This time they were on a 5-day mission from God that took them from Aspen through Breckenridge and down to the Front Range. This was night three of that run and their set again came in at just under an hour was truly mind melting. While the Aggie was only about a third full, I was impressed with the variety of people in the crowd. I chatted with a couple of older gentlemen who had won tickets off of the radio with little knowledge of what was in store for them. I saw young college kids mingling with middle-aged hipsters. Perhaps the most alarming thing about this show was the distinct lack of chatter during the show. As you can hear in the recordings, people were definitely there to see the music. Kung Fu is Tim Palmieri on guitar (The Breakfast), Robert Somerville on tenor sax (Deep Banana Blackout), Todd Stoops on keyboards (RAQ), Christopher DeAngelis on bass guitar (The Breakfast), and Adrian Tramontano on drums/percussion (The Breakfast). This is truly a powerhouse lineup that did not disappoint. They opened with “Do The Right Thing.”
Set 1: Do The Right Thing, Snaggle, Scapegoat Blues> Letters From Bobby Portugal> Hollywood Kisses, Chakrabarty Overdrive
Kung Fu is a hard-hitting amalgamation of funk-fueled fire assaulting the senses of all those who dare to enter the ring. It’s a constant onslaught from Palmieri who literally had to have a stagehand douse him with an extinguisher after his massive solo during “Scapegoat Blues.” “Hollywood Blues” was the only song of the entire evening that featured vocals. They closed their ‘not long enough’ set with “Chakrabarty Overdrive” which as it’s name would insinuate caused me to need to go outside for some air. Keep coming back Kung Fu, and keep playing bigger and bigger shows. Colorado needs your brand of funky goodness.
Finally it was time for the B3 master himself Robert Walter to take the stage with his 20th Congress. Now this band has had several incarnations and has a rotating list of members. Fans at The Aggie were treated to a stunning lineup consisting of Cheme Gastelum (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings), Chris Stillwell (Greyboy Allstars), and Simon Lott (Charlie Hunter Trio). Just unbelievable. They opened with a gritty “Hunk.”
Set 1: Hunk, Snakes & Spiders, Cory’s Snail and Slug Death, Sweetie Pie, Dog Party, He’s Really Gone, Rivers of Babylon, Get Thy Bearings, Who Took the Happiness Out?, Fox Hunting, Don’t Chin The Dog, Impervious, Instant Karma
Encore: Don’t Hate Congratulate
Robert Walter is best known for his work with Greyboy Allstars, however his solo band is truly not to be missed. I really felt that it has been such a long gap between his tours, that many are no longer in the know. And it’s too bad really, because the show we received from this lineup was nothing short of top notch. The lack of guitar really put the focus on Walter and Gastelum and their interplay was outstanding. The highlight of the show for me was the Phantom of the Opera-esque intro to the instrumental “Rivers Of Babylon.” They closed their set with a massive jam on Lennon’s “Instant Karma.” This is the caliber of music I would like to see more of on The Front Range. Despite the conflicting shows, I feel I made the right choice and left feeling musically satisfied in a way that I have not been in quite some time. Watching truly gifted musicians jam together is the reason I started really covering live shows. Seeing this stellar lineup on a Thursday night in Fort Collins just validates that decision.
My general aversion to electronic music is well known. Although I have enjoyed a few forays into the genre at Summer Camp last year my general reaction is not usually positive. However, I’ve seen some electronic groups that play organically, as a unit, and the music is more textural than dubstep. These are the types of electronic artists I’m drawn to. Particle is one such band. They are one of those bands that hit early Summer Camp lineups for three years between 2003 and 2005. Those early shows were a lot of fun as was their performance of 80′s tunes at The Aggie.
Up first was New Orleans natives EarPhunk. These guys are the next generation behind the Galactics and the Dumpstphunks of The Big Easy. The fluidly blend jam and funk in a balanced way that makes it fun for the audience. They did get riff-y at times, but that’s to be expected from a younger band still developing their sound. They started their set to a sparsely filled room, which would eventually get about a third full. Overall their brand funk influenced jam won me over and will give me plenty of reason to give them another listen.
Having seen Particle for the first time around 2001 in a tiny bar in Iowa, I’ve watched this band grow and evolve over the years. The recent inclusion of former full-time guitarist into the mix certainly seems to have reinvigorated Particle. Their show at the Aggie was both hilarious and technically stunning. Let’s start with the hilarious.
Set 1: Sledgehammer, Funkytown, Let’s Go Crazy, Electric Avenue, Once In A Lifetime, Pump Up The Volume> Rockit> Material Girl> Pump Up The Jam, The Final Countdown> Money For Nothing, Safety Dance> Launchpad Outro, It Takes Two>
Wild Thing> It’s Tricky> Bust A Move, Don’t Forget About Me, You Can Call Me Al, Sweet Dreams
Encore: Paradise City, Eye Of The Tiger> Sun Mar 11 Outro
From the opening guitar line of “Sledgehammer” I was grinning from ear to ear. Particle has their specific smooth style of electronica, but their take on the music of the 1980’s was fairly straightforward and strangely accurate. The setlist screams of lightheartedness, but don’t be fooled they absolutely shredded these classics. None more so the massive “Pump Up The Volume’ lead run that featured an enormous version of “Pump Up The Jam.” It was like a big musical sandwich with wheat bread on the bottom and rye on top. Particle never shied away from intricate composed pieces such as “The Final Countdown.” Perhaps the silliest moment of the night came in the form of “Safety Dance.” They ended the set with their version of the Eurythmics version of a country song, “Sweet Dreams.” The massive encore included a nod to both Guns N’ Roses as well as Survivor. It was just an amusing and entertaining show all around. Combe killed the guitar adding a new and interesting layer to their sound overall. Molitz continues to be the musical focal point with the lockstep rhythm section of Gould and Pujalet holding it all in check. Here is Particle back to their old tricks, firing on all cylinders, and truly gelling on stage. I would definitely do it all again.