A week into the new year, it’s time to look ahead to all of the musical excitement that this year has to offer. But first, it’s always fun to reflect back on the year I just had…
After 2012, I had been to 105 total concerts – which isn’t too many, I know – but considering I’ve been an athlete my entire life I have other priorities that take precedence over live music! 2013, however, was a milestone year for me in music as I fortunate enough to attend 45 shows, nearly twice as many as I saw in 2012. A lot of this is due to my first ever attendance of a camping festival (Summer Camp), and then of course my annual celebrations at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Let’s start with…
The Most Frequent Bands I Saw in 2013
Roster McCabe – 9 shows: I’ve written extensively about this band (now known as Night Phoenix) before, so this is nothing new. The Midwest “electro-rock” tours heavily throughout the year and I was able to catch them 9 times, putting my career tally at 20 Roster McCabe shows.
Umphrey’s McGee – 4 shows: No surprise here – my first UM show occurred in 2004 when I was just 12 years old. In 2013 I was at all 3 Scamp shows and also their set at Summerfest, making it 4 on the year. I have seen the improg group at least once every year since ’07.
Michael Franti & Spearhead – 2 shows: My favorite feel good musical choice, Michael Franti & Spearhead rolled through the Midwest in 2013 in support of his latest album, All People. I caught the “rebel rocker” at the Minneapolis State Fair in late August and about a month later in Madison with Moon Taxi.
Nahko & Medicine for the People – 2 shows: I had never heard of this band until about a week before they showed up in La Crosse, WI for a show at my favorite bar The Popcorn Tavern, which was a memory I’ll write about further down the page. A similar sound to Michael Franti and Matisyahu, Nahko just has a radiance of good vibes glowing off him that the rest of the band and crowd feeds off of.
Other notable acts: Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, Moon Taxi, moe., Victor Wooten & Friends, Thievery Corporation, Blues Traveler, Dark Star Orchestra, 311, EMEFE, Steez, and Dark Star Orchestra covering The Rolling Stones.
My Top 5 Shows of 2013:
Of the 9 shows I saw Roster McCabe perform in 2013, why this one? Perhaps because it was only one set, which means it was a straight up dance party. Also, this was on Thursday at Summer Camp – the pre-party – so it was just a great way to set the tone for the entire weekend. The Camping Stage was a great spot right on the outskirts of the woods to draw in all the campers – and everyone LOVED it! The crowd didn’t stop moving through the entire – most of them unaware of Roster – but loved discovering a new band to get down to. They closed the set with a cover of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky that turned into a frenzy.
4) Umphrey’s McGee, 2013-07-02 Summerfest – Big Backyard
So many great things about this show. My hometown, in the front row with all my friends, Kevin Sinclair sit-in, Pink Floyd cover, 4 song encore (!!!) that included rarity Dear Lord, this show is a must download!
3) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 2013-06-28 Summerfest – Marcus Amphitheater
This was my 6th Tom Petty show, and possibly my last. A sell-out crowd at the Amp sang along with all the hits and had great energy, as always. Petty loves Milwaukee, he makes that very clear every time he comes (all 6 times I’ve seen him came at Summerfest) and even showed a surprising amount of improv jams in a couple songs!
2) Trey Anastasio Band, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Sunshine Stage
This would be #1 if not for the unfortunate fact that the show was cut short. Due to the extreme rainstorm. But wow. This was my most listened to show of the year by far. I can’t imagine a better band to make such miserable weather conditions tolerable.
1) Everyone Orchestra, 2013-05-26 Summer Camp – Red Barn
The lineup included Victor Wooten, Joel Cummins, Al Schnier, Vinnie Amico, Allie Kral, Alex Steele, Mike Dillon, Roosevelt Collier and a few other I can’t remember, all conducted my Matt Butler. This show just completely blew my away from start to finish. 100% improv! What else could you ask for from an all-star lineup?!
Conclusion and Looking Towards 2014
The only regret I have from 2013 is that I didn’t get to see my all time favorite band, Phish. I had tickets for all 3 nights in Chicago but unfortunately it didn’t work out with some other things that popped up. I have a good feeling they’ll return to Alpine Valley for 2 nights this summer though!
2014 will be a great year. Of course Summer Camp already has an amazing lineup announced and it will only get better. Particle reunited and is on a heavy tour for 2014 – don’t miss out on these guys! One of the founding bands of the electronic jam scene next to the Disco Biscuits and STS9.
Happy new year, and see ya on the road!
Recently I got the opportunity to meet with a person who is an integral part of the music industry that often goes unnoticed. Dr. Charlie Kautz, DC., is a chiropractor who specializes in treating musicians before their performances. Dr. Charlie and I sat down and discussed his services.
Me: Dr. Charlie, your website states that you provide specialized treatment protocols for professional touring musicians. Can you elaborate?
CK: Hey thanks, Alex! I’m a licensed chiropractor and my business, “Epic Performance Integrative Chiropractic”, to put it simply, provides a service to musicians to decrease pain and increase function to allow them to focus on what is important while they perform – the music. Along with chiropractic adjustments, I utilize a soft tissue technique called Active Release Technique and the application of kinesiology sports tape in my typical treatments.
Me: What is Active Release Technique?
CK: Active Release is a technique designed to treat repetitive stress injury and there is a unique protocol for each muscle in the body. I identify the muscle that needs to be treated, based on the type of musician I am working on, and use my unique treatment protocols to improve range of motion, increase muscle memory speed and decrease pain.
Me: As a chiropractor, what happened to inspire you to focus specifically on musicians?
CK: I’ve always been a big fan of music and it’s been a huge part of my life. During chiropractic school, I had a “light bulb moment.” While everyone wanted to be a “sports chiropractor”, I spent time trying to figure out how I could be different. By becoming a “music chiropractor”, I could incorporate what I love with my professional aspirations by treating a group of people that I feel need chiropractic more than anyone. Between the repetitive stress they put on their muscles and joints everyday and traveling and experiencing the rigors of touring, every musician can really benefit from what we have to offer. My friend, Wes Bailey, is really the first musician I started doing regular work on. If you haven’t heard of his band, Moon Taxi, you need to jump on the bandwagon ASAP.Me: This sounds like a relatively new field of work. Have you come across other chiropractors that specialize with musicians, or would you say you’re starting a new trend?
CK: I’m a member of the Chiropractic Performing Arts Network (CPAN). It’s a national organization of chiropractors who share a common vision of providing natural healthcare to performance artists by enhancing performance, increasing vitality, and increasing overall body awareness. I would be surprised if there were many other chiropractors out there with the drive and motivation that I have to study musicians and their ailments, especially one who is also certified in several soft tissue techniques. It’s really a niche I feel I’ve discovered. It’s a great time working with and treating the talented people that I admire and then seeing the looks on their faces after a treatment and getting to watch them perform on stage.
Me: What does your typical work week look like? Are you more in the office or traveling to work with bands?
CK: I work Monday through Thursday at Chiropractic and Wellness on Pewaukee Lake in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. Any time bands are playing in the Milwaukee or Madison area, I will go to the venues and work with them. On weekends I do a lot of traveling between seminars and working on bands out of state. So, pretty much I am a really busy guy (laughs).
Me: So you’ve just been doing this for a few years now. What bands have you worked with? What has been the best experience so far?
CK: I’ve gotten my hands on a countless amount of musicians already but I’m somewhat limited to what I can say. I’ve received testimonials from members of Umphrey’s McGee, Moon Taxi, Roster McCabe, The Motet, Steez, Indigo Sun, and Undercover Organism, just to name a few. You can read their testimonials on my website. It was a lot of fun to be able to work Umphrey’s McGee recently during their Halloween run at The Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. They’re a great group of guys and even more talented than I ever imagined before getting to meet and talk music with them. I also recently had the opportunity to provide my services to John Densmore, legendary drummer of The Doors. That was a really cool experience for me. I discovered that at the height of their touring career, the band would have a chiropractor come to the venue at least twice a week to treat them before they played. Mr. Densmore explained that chiropractic has been a vital tool he has utilized throughout his career to help with all of the aches and pains associated with being a musician. That was great for me to hear and offered a sense of validity to the mission of my business and what I can offer.Me: What aspirations do you have for Epic Performance Integrative Chiropractic going forward?
CK: I’d really like to expand my services to music festivals and connect with event organizers and promoters. I’ve been able to connect and work 1-on-1 with the bands really well so far, but one of my goals is to totally redefine artist hospitality at the big summer music festivals by taking the pre-show massage to a whole new level. While a massage feels great, it doesn’t address the underlying structural problems often associated with pain symptoms and dysfunction. I’d also like to establish some sort of “residency” with the bigger venues in the states that I’m licensed in, like I’ve done with some of the venues in the Milwaukee and Madison areas. Who knows, maybe you’ll see me at Summer Camp (laughs).
Halloween is a BIG weekend for the infamous Umphrey’s McGee. These novelty shows usually follow a tradition of busting out a handful of debut covers in a variety of ways, including combining them together into one beastly monster called a ‘mash-up’. I knew I couldn’t miss a single night of this year’s mash-up run, so I took up residence at a hotel suite directly across from the Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater along with ten of my closest friends. The first night of the run was actually on Halloween, plus all three shows were being streamed and taped for later release. I guess it goes without saying that this weekend was destined to be mashed to another level.
I spent the first half of Halloween day sewing together my Hell’s Belle costume, which was a mash-up of the devil and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I was definitely ready to rock and roll in my AC/DC get up and, needless to say, the members of Umphrey’s were also dressed to impress for this special holiday. Brendan Bayliss was HeisenBert Reynolds, Jake Cinninger was Silent Bob Seger, Kris Myers was Dr. Phil Spector, and Andy Farag was Paul Ryan Braun, to which the Milwaukee crowd boo’d and hissed as he was introduced. But the best costume had to of been Joel Cummins dressed as Uncle Jesse Pinkman.
The first mash-up song of the night came at the end of the first set. It featured “When Doves Cry” by Prince, blended with Umph original “Pay the Snucka” and Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”. While ”Don’t Fear the Doves, Snucka” was fairly well mashed, I felt like it didn’t have quite enough cow bell to really pull it off.
Halloween night’s second set contained the next mash-up; “Papa Can Change a Blurred Stone”. This was probably my least favorite debut of the weekend, mostly because Umphrey’s covered Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”. This pop song has haunted me at every wedding, club, and dive bar I patronized over the past six months and the fact that I had to endure it once again while watching my favorite band was the ultimate Halloween trick. Not only that, but it completely overpowered The Tempations, Marvin Gaye, and LCD Soundsystem in the process. I am not sure whose idea it was to cover that specific song but I have a feeling bassist Ryan Stasik was involved, especially since his mash-up costume was Batman & Robin Thicke.
The final mash-up of the night stayed true to the yearly Halloween Mash-up Show tradition of saving the best for last. “Highway to Electric Avenue” was probably the most well mashed song of the Halloween show and seemed deliberately put aside for the show’s encore. Umphrey’s original “The Triple Wide” helped set off the mash-up’s pace which eventually evolved into a game of double-dutch between AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue”. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that this mash-up contained a song by the same band that inspired my Hell’s Belle costume. Besides the three mash-ups, the setlist from Halloween contained heavy hitter after heavy hitter without a single song from the albums Mantis or Anchor Drops thrown in the mix. Fancy that.
Encore: Electric Avenue to Hell
 with Halloween theme (John Carpenter) jam, and Thriller (Michael Jackson) and Day Nurse teases
 debut; Papa Was a Rolling Stone (The Temptations) + Blurred Lines (Robin Thicke) + Got to Give It Up (Marvin Gaye) + I Can Change (LCD Soundsystem) mash-up
 debut; The Triple Wide + Highway to Hell (AC/DC) + Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant) mash-up
For Friday night, I signed up for Headphones and Snowcones. It basically cost me $40 for a pair of headphones that streamed a live audio mix directly from the soundboard to my tympanic membranes. This was the first time I tried the experience for an entire show and now I’m afraid live music will never sound the same. These headphones allowed me to tune out the rest of the world so I could get completely lost in the moment. This type of experience is the reason I am so in love with live music and now I don’t know how I will be able to fully enjoy a show without a set of headphones on. So it goes.
The second set on Friday opened with a DBK club sandwich and contained the night’s only debut mash-up: “The Final Teen Spirit”. Dramatic synths from Europe’s “The Final Countdown” directly clashed with Nirvana’s grunge classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. The simplicity of mashing only two songs into one seamless tune made this one of the most successful, straightforward mash-up of the weekend.
 with Simple Gifts (trad.) teases
 debut; The Final Countdown (Europe) + Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana) mash-up
 with Adam Budney on vocals
 with Baba O’Riley (The Who) teases
Brother’s Rage played a smoking after party show on Friday night that featured one of my favorite sit-ins to date. Jake Cinninger, the other worldly guitarist from Umphrey’s McGee, joined the late night act for a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Estimated Profit” followed by some spacey improv. The jam eventually slammed into the sweaty disco tune, “You Should be Dancing” originally by the Bee Gee’s and featured Mr. Barry Brown on vocals. Needless to say, a legendary dance party erupted among all who attended and continued into the early morning hours.
By the final day of the Halloween run, most of my crew was hurting. Too much bourbon and beer had our hotel room smelling like the bathroom of a Wisconsin dive bar. Saturday’s show was sold out but I ended up getting a wristband for the floor, which ended up being completely packed with people. I was forced to stand behind a guy wearing a huge mushroom head hat and next to a girl that decided to conserve space by grinding on my leg like a dog humping its favorite teddy bear.
As far as Umphrey’s goes, this was definitely their most animated show of the weekend. Jake and Ryan were all over the place, both musically and physically. The first set contained an unfinished version of The Police’s “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”, which made me realize that I will probably never get a chance to hear Umphrey’s cover “Walking on the Moon” live. Also, it’s about time for Umph to tackle ”Man in a Suitcase”.
The final mash-up of the weekend was “Push the Booth Deeper” and it was confusing as hell! Most of us had no clue what was going on, which song was being played or whether all three originals were being played at the same time. A friend was able to get a hold of the song’s notes and confirmed the cluster of confusion from which this mash-up was birthed. To be honest, I am still trying to wrap my head around it.
Umphrey’s McGee finally ended the second set on Saturday night by busting out the Metallica rager, “…And Justice for All”, which hadn’t been performed live in over five years. But the real highlight of the evening was the relentless “Bridgeless” encore. As the tune progressed, one particular audience member could no longer contain his excitement. This very dirty looking man ran across the stage without shoes on, only to be tackled by the stage crew in front of the sold out crowd. It was then rumored that the same wook ended up outside the venue about an hour later going absolutely insane without a single piece of clothing on his body. And thus, a Halloween weekend full of mash-ups and debauchery came to an end.
 debut, The Police; incomplete
 with Jake on keys
 debut; Booth Love + Deeper + Push the Pig mash-up
What’s better than seeing Umphrey’s McGee at Summerfest? Seeing Umphrey’s McGee at Summerfest for free. Each day, Summerfest offers admission promotions, such as a canned food drive in exchange for a free ticket. On Tuesday, July 2nd, there was no promotion. Simply, admission was free for everybody from 12-3. So without thinking twice, I of course went down to the grounds shortly after 12 to get in for free, and left right away with a re-entry wristband that is good until 7 pm. Perfect.
UM was headling the Big Backyard stage, which is my personal favorite stage at Summerfest. The opening act, Grace Weber & EMEFE, is definitely worth mentioning. I had never heard of them before, but I definitely remember them now! I was confused during the show because Grace Weber, who just sang, was only on stage for about half of the show. Turns out, Grace Weber & EMEFE are 2 different bands that collaborated just for the show. To be honest, I’m not even 100% sure how to pronounce EMEFE, but they know how to make me dance. They had about a dozen members – a horn section, drums, guitar, bass, keys – the whole 9 yards. And it’s probably worth noting every one of them had a mustache. I classify them as a funky jazz jam band. I’ve researched they are a small band from New York, so hopefully they gain enough support to tour through the Midwest again soon!
So, anyways, this band Umphrey’s McGee, brought the heat. I knew we were in for a treat when Joel told me earlier in the day via the Twitter (after I asked) that it’d be 1 extended set and an encore. A lot of my favorite UM shows are 1 setters (example: 10K ’07). Le Blitz as an opener was the perfect anticipation builder to lead into a great show. After Wife Soup, Bayliss dedicated the next song to “all the ladies who chose to spend their time with us instead of New Kids on the Block.” NKOTB was headlining the Marcus Amphitheater at the same time. So expecting to hear a poppy cover song, instead we get a gold classic heavy metal Guns n Roses cover of It’s So Easy. Lol. Well played, Umphrey’s. A few songs later, Joel introduces Kevin Sinclair to come out to join on saxophone, as they crush a Pay the Snucka into Let’s Dance by David Bowie. The lyrics were switched in Pay the Snucka to “Stasik, go have a baby, a baby, will make you tired as hell.” Small things like lyric changes are reasons I love this band so much. You never know what to expect; it’s always different and improving. Speaking of not knowing what to expect, dear lord what an encore!!! Seriously, Dear Lord. I have been in love with that song ever since I heard it at The Rave back in ’09. They had already melted my face with a raging Deeper > Tinkles, which I thought would have segued right into the ending of Snucka, but instead they snuck a blissful Dear Lord that myself and the rest of the crowd loved.
Before the encore, Joel announced the band would be returning to The Riverside Theater in Milwaukee for 3 nights of Halloween this year. Mark your calendars, people: 10/31/13-11/2/13.
Setlist (source: allthings.umphreys.com) :
1: Le Blitz > Plunger, Turn & Dub > Mail Package > Wife Soup, It’s So Easy (Guns n Roses), Robot World > Out of Order, Pay the Snucka@ > Let’s Dance@ (David Bowie), Bright Lights, Big City > Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd), 2×2 > No Comment > 2×2
E: Deeper > Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Dear Lord > Pay the Snucka
@ Kevin Sinclair on saxophone