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.
With all the gallantry and smackdabbery of Christmas behind us it was time to get down at the first of three nights with The String Cheese Incident in The 1stBank Center. It has been fifteen years since SCI has played a New Year’s Eve show in Colorado; this run marks the first time ever that they are ringing in the New Year on the Front Range. The first night saw a continuation of their momentum from the summer tour. They put a huge effort into practicing prior to these runs and it showed when they hit the stage.
I took the opportunity to hop on the Quixote’s bus. At $24 after fees it seemed a bit expensive, but how can you put a price on a safe ride. I arrived and quickly made my way inside. With temperatures in the single digits, it didn’t make much sense to hang out in the Lot. Inside, the kids adorned in capes and glittery accoutrement swooped about in anticipation of the night’s show. The first of a three-night run usually calls for a lighter turnout, and at the height of the evening the floor was full, but there was still plenty of seats available throughout the venue. They opened with a tasty “Round The Wheel.”
Set One: Round The Wheel, Sometimes A River, Yo Sé, So Far From Home, Born On The Wrong Planet, Betray The Dark, Close Your Eye > Black Clouds
Set Two: Rollover > Out On The Road, Give Me The Love, Eye Know Why, Jellyfish > Kashmir, Rivertrance, Sirens > Rollover
Encore: Time Alive, Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms
String Cheese continued with a floating rendition of “Sometimes A River” before the show exploded with an excellent “Yo Sé.” Kyle Hollingsworth’s fingers danced on the keys and showcased his Latin flair. Jason Hahn too stepped into the spotlight blasting away on the bongos. Billy Nershi took the helm on the rockabilly bluegrass number “So Far From Home,” before the highlight of the first set came in the form of “Born On The Wrong Planet.” SCI chilled out the crowd with a funky and brooding “Betray The Dark.” They closed the set with a one two punch “Close Your Eye” into a massive “Black Clouds.” Other than the set stretching out a bit, it was fairly standard, with somewhat restrained playing. The second set would be their chance to really let loose.
They opened with an unfinished “Rollover,” that many fans assumed would come on New Year’s Eve. String Cheese transitioned smoothly into an extended rendition of “Out On The Road,” again showcasing Kyle’s dirty organ tricks. Michael Kang’s vocals gave a gentle feel to “Give Me The Love.” Kyle busted out one of his tunes with “Eye Know Why.” The crowd was slightly stunned with the intro to “Jellyfish,” again thinking this would come later in the run. However, Nershi found himself fumbling with the lyrics before restarting the song and settling back in nicely. The audience laughed it off, as this song saw some of the best jamming of the night before they ripped into Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Kang again took the microphone and belted out this song intensely. It was a quick but solid version.
Cheese brought a bit of that old-fashioned dance party whomp with “Rivertrance,” but again it was tasteful and I found myself focusing on Kang’s fiddle anyway. They again ended the set big with “Sirens” into “Rollover Reprise.” The band seemed to be gushing a bit over the crowd, having mentioned several times throughout the night how happy they were to be in Colorado for New Year’s. They encored with a Travis-fronted song entitled “Time Alive,” that came off as rock opera-esque by the end. They followed up that with a short take on the bluegrass standard “Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” It was a solid start to the three-night run with the second set coming out on top. They got more comfortable as the night progressed and it manifested itself in the interplay between the musicians. With two more nights to go it would be interesting to see if they can keep up this pace.
Kashmir Video – http://youtu.be/-HUCymKySVM
Kyle Hollingsworth has taken part in a wide array of events at Summer Camp. From sitting in with moe. on “Happy Hour Hero” to hosting a seminar on brewing beer, he’s definitely a welcomed guest at the festival. Back near his home in Boulder, Colorado it’s becoming a winter tradition that Kyle takes a trip down the Front Range sharing good music and first-class beer. This year he upped the ante by including Soulive as well as a couple fresh brews. He warmed up for two nights in Denver by bringing Eric Krasno to sit in for the show at Hodi’s in Fort Collins. Kyle also brought a variation on Avery’s dry-hopped Winter Day IPA that he collaborated on with the brewery. It was a spicy ale, balanced by an abundance of hoppy goodness. It’s definitely a nice holiday beer.
Video Link – http://youtu.be/tJdcdEImhEE
I headed down to Bohemian Nights on Sunday around 3 PM for Widow’s Bane. Widow’s Bane is not a Summer Camp band, but maybe they should be. For those that don’t know this self-proclaimed “Zombie-Death-Polka” band performs adorned in face paint and blood. Led by Mortimer Leech who was poisoned by his wife a few hundred years ago, The Widow’s Bane does not shy away form playing to the crowd. They invited a friend to serve cotton candy to the mass as they performed. They were the surprise of the festival, playing up their characters and making for an intriguing blend of rock, folk, and cowpunk.
The rest of my afternoon was filed with a pair of Summer Camp Alumni, Great American Taxi, and Kyle Hollingsworth Band. Both Vince and Kyle have had interesting positions at Summer Camp over the years. Vince Herman played the role of master of ceremony in 2006 and Kyle Hollingsworth lead a discussion on home brewing and sat in with Everyone Orchestra in 2011. I took my time heading back over to the Old Town Square Stage for Leftover Salmon side project Great American Taxi. It had been two years since GAT had played at Bohemian Nights and they definitely drew in the people. The highlight of their set was a beautiful rendition of “Silver Fiddle.” With Vince Herman at the reigns this band never disappoints.
I went to see a bit of Sunday headliners Gipsy Kings before ending the weekend at Kyle Hollingsworth Band. Kyle of The String Cheese Incident has assembled an all star side project including Garrett Sayers on bass and Dave Watts on kit. They played everything you would want to her from them including an epic set closing “Rosie.” I left the event happy to have covered it, and elated with how well it came off. It’s impossible to live in Fort Collins and not make it down for at least a day or two of Bohemian Nights. Even if you don’t like many of the bands there is always plenty to see and do. I took the opportunity this year to pick my very own 10-show weekend, which is easy to do given the fact that so many bands played the event. It was well run and a great time, now let’s see moe. headline a night next year. Thanks to the Bohemian Foundation and the Downtown Association for all the hard work.