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).
“That’s like a match made in Heaven for you.”
I had two different friends tell me that same phrase after it was announced Moon Taxi would be opening for Michael Franti & Spearhead in Madison in the final week of September. Both of these artists are in the exclusive group of my top 5 favorite artists, finding themselves consistently on my playlists.
This was my 2nd Moon Taxi show, with the first coming last summer when they opened for Matisyahu in Milwaukee. This show was very similar in all aspects, including a great set. Before their show, I got a chance to interview 2 members of the band thanks to my cousin (whom I’ll be writing about soon) who is close with the band. Read the interview here.
Although the set was just a half hour, the musical quality far exceeded the quantity. Moon Taxi opened their set with “Running Wild,” a fresh track of their new album Mountains Beaches Cities. A stand-out moment in their set appeared in the “Morocco,” also off their latest album, with some trancey exploration, showing off their jamming capabilities. Their set closer featured a rocking “Cabaret” that featured keyboardist Wes Bailey’s exceptional keyboard wizardry.
Moon Taxi Setlist
Running Wild, All the Rage, Morocco, The New Black, River Water, Mercury, Cabaret
After a brief intermission, the main attraction took the stage. Having seen Franti 5 previous times, I was expecting the opening song to be a track off their latest album, as the norm for Franti shows. I was not wrong, as “I Don’t Wanna Go” opened the show, from All People. Franti didn’t wait long before jumping in the crowd. In the second song of the evening, “Stay Human,” Franti hopped off the stage and navigated through the general admission pit on the lower level, stopping along the way to give high fives and dance with fans. He found his way back to the stage for “Yell Fire!”, and before “The Sound of Sunshine,” he shared a story with how he wrote that album: in the hospital after suffering a ruptured appendix. The mood quickly elevated as what seemed like a hundred of over-sized yellow beach balls came from back stage and flooded the crowd, dancing through the air after bouncing off the hands of anyone able to touch one.
A surprise “Ganja Babe,” appeared in the middle of the set, apparently inspired by whatever Michael smelt in his journeys throughout the crowd. A feel-good moment occurred in “Gangsta Girl,” in which Michael brought several fans up from the crowd with him to join as dancers, with one fan truly seizing the moment as he ran back and forth on the stage, encouraging the crowd to do the wave. After the song ended, Michael jokingly offered him a contract to the join the band.
To close the set, Michael lead the crowd in a sing-along of “Happy Birthday” to one of his crew members before bringing up members of Moon Taxi to join for an upbeat and funky “Let It Go.” As expected, he encored with his biggest hits, “I’m Alive” and “Say Hey,” welcoming any children fans on the stage for the latter, but surprised me with a very well placed “Long Ride Home” between the two for an impressive sandwich.
Michael Franti Setlist
I Don’t Wanna Go, Stay Human@, Yell Fire!, The Sound of Sunshine#, 11:59@, Closer to You@, Ganja Babe, Life is Better With You@, Gangsta Girl^, Hey World (Don’t Give Up)&, Bomb the World&, All People@, Say Goodbye@, Hey Hey Hey@*, Let It Go+
E: I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like), Long Ride Home, Say Hey (I Love You)~
@ Michael singing in the crowd
# plethora of beach balls released into the crowd
^ random fans brought on stage to dance
& Michael on acoustic guitar with Minus on djembe drum
* Get Lucky (Daft Punk) verse
+ with members of Moon Taxi
~ kids brought on stage
Moon Taxi consists of Trevor Terndrup (vocals, guitar), Tommy Putnam (bass), Spencer Thomson (guitar), Wes Bailey, (keyboard), and Tyler Ritter (drums). Before their show in Madison on September 25th, I was lucky enough to get a few minutes with Wes and Tyler for an interview. The interview was recorded and I was able to transcribe it to here.
Me: Thanks guys, for doing this. Wes Bailey and Tyler Ritter, keyboardist and drummer (respectively) of Moon Taxi. You guys formed at Belmont in ’06, is that right?
Me: First album was Live Ride?
WB: First album was Melodica. That was our first studio album, and then we waited a few years until 2009, with Live Ride, then we waited a long time, til 2012, then we released Cabaret, and we followed that up a year later with Mountains Beaches Cities.
Me: So, how would you describe how your sound has developed and changed with your first two albums, and then moving forward with your most recent 2 albums in the past year?
WB: Well, I think back then, we didn’t really focus at all on making a studio record. It was solely relying on the live setting. And then one thing lead to the next, a few bad tours lead us to the next logical option which was making a great record. We worked for about 2 years demoing and recording Cabaret, and learned a lot through that process, and we were able to record our last record fairly efficiently.
TR: The demoing process was really one of the main things that changed how we write songs. We went from writing in a room all together, like Wes was saying, for a live setting, to sitting in Spencer’s apartment on a computer and starting from scratch, making all these songs. Some got scratched and some ended up making it on the record, and just starting a good skeleton of a song and piecing it all together.
Me: When you formed at Belmont, were you doing it just to do it or were there always aspirations of becoming a nationally touring act?
TR: There were always aspirations for bigger things. You gotta realize, too, Moon Taxi existed before Wes and I were even in the band. There was a different drummer, but it’s always been Trevor, Tommy, and Spencer, and they had Moon Taxi, and the drummer left and I came on, and Wes came on about 6 months later. And, I think, I can speak for Wes too on this, we both realized going into it that it was something serious. That it wasn’t just, “Oh, let’s play some bar gigs and make a little bit of money.” We were in it for the long haul from the get-go.
Me: Correct me if I’m wrong, but, you all studied some form of music at Belmont?
WB: Actually, no. Tyler, Spencer, and Tommy studied music. I studied music business. I did private music lessons also but I was music business. And Trevor was a management / philosophy double major.
Me: So pretty much, with all that, you had a cohesive understanding of how to get a successful band going.
TR / WB: Yeah. Definitely.
Me: With your album, Cabaret, Matisyahu has a verse on the song Square Circles. How did that relationship start up and come together?
WB: At the time we had 2 managers. 1 worked with a company called Artist Organization and Matisyahu was a part of that management group. And his subordinate was our day manager, and is now Matisyahu’s full manager. So we had that connection. We actually recorded his verse in Square Circle’s at Hangout Music Festival. On the tour bus. He literally walked off stage on came right on the tour bus after his set and we knocked it out in about 30 minutes.
Me: Very cool! So also with that you guys have toured with him. I’m curious how you approach a show coming in where you’re an opening act for someone like Matisyahu, or tonight, Michael Franti, versus when you’re out with a headliner spot at a festival like Hangout, or you had a big crowd at Forecastle, or even you’re own headlining show like Live on the Green. Does it vary?
WB: We take it all very seriously, we do our best, we bring as much energy as we can into each show, not depending on how long the set is or how big the crowd is. You know, you’re hanging out with us 15 minutes before the show, we’re not like in a huddle or anything (laughs). We’ve done it so many times we know what to expect and we’re pretty comfortable with it right now.
Me: Okay. So do you try to think of different set lists?
TR: These kind of shows, we have only 30 minutes, so we cater our time slot to what we think the crowd might be like. Honestly, with Michael Franti it’s different than what we might do with Matisyahu. We’re not playing as much darker, minor material as we might do with Matis. We’re still playing songs we feel are powerful and you know, we’re gonna draw people to our records.
Me: The song, Beaches, on your new album, has a more electronic intro. That sound wasn’t featured much on Cabaret or Live Ride. Is that more of an evolution, going with the trends of today?
WB: That one was cool because we had started that, as like Tyler was saying, as a demo, those drums that are on the album are the demo drums. And we jammed on it live and realized we like the demo drums, and we also loved Tyler really pouring the form and space into the latter half of the song. So it’s both, very electronic intro to Tyler just doing his thing.
Me: One more question. I got a chance to listen to your New Years Eve show, and you have a very cool, unique, of now what seems a tradition you guys do: a medley of the top hits of the year, about 7 or 8 minutes or so. What inspired that idea? Was it an original concept?
TR: That was your idea (to Wes).
WB: Well, yeah. I think it was 2008. We’ve been doing it a long time. 5th one coming up. We should probably start on (laughter). Cause they take a while to put it together. There’s a lot of work that goes into that. The origin, in 2008, in that year, Kids by MGMT was the big song, and it was a Gaga song…
TR: Poker face.
WB: Poker face! And I realized those two had the same chords, so I thought let’s try to mesh these together. And then, oh we wanna play this song too, so it’s like let’s just play a little bit of everything. So, Spencer and I started to demo it like we demo our records. Write down the ideas, foundations, got together and piece it together as a band pretty quickly.
Me: It’s very cool. I heard that and thought this is something special.
WB: Yeah, it’s cool, lot of work, but it’s something we look forward to for the new years show.
TR: Wes and Spencer demo the whole medley in this track, and they do a really great job picking out all the big hits from across the board. From a really Top 40 vantage. But sometimes we even throw in some really obscure songs. Like I think the first one had a Mastodon song in it.
WB: We pick songs that we like, and a few that we absolutely hate. One thing we always try to do is cap it off with a big kind of joke hit of the year, kind of like the “Hide your kids hide your wife” (laughs).
TR: Call me, maybe.
WB: Gangnam style too. Always the really goofy songs. But we always try to end it on the really weird note. And it’s always the last song of the first set, and then we come back for the ball drop. So yeah it’s a fun tradition.
Square Circles feat. Matisyahu: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCJNZQpRLjE
2012 Medley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=231suYG0jNs
While everyone is talking about Trey Anastasio sitting in with Further over this past weekend (or as I like to call it, Phurther), I’m sitting here all excited about the 3rd album release for my favorite Nashvillian rock band, Moon Taxi. If you haven’t heard of Moon Taxi, it’s not too late to hop on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride. This quintet formed at Belmont University in 2006 and has grown from a small college band, to having now rocked out festivals like Bonnaroo, Lollapallooza, Forecastle, Hangout, and our very own Summer Camp. If you caught the Umphrey’s McGee NYE run last year, you likely were blown away by Moon Taxi’s opening set on the 30th.
Although a short album (under 40 minutes), what it lacks in quantity is made up for in quality. The theme of Mountains Beaches Cities revolves around traveling and exploration, made obvious by the album and track titles. As a whole, the album offers impressive rock beats to jam out to, while also finding a balance with catchy lyrics to sing along with. This successful musical blend offers a wide range of appeal for Moon Taxi which is sure to translate to more growth for the band going forward.
All of the tracks were new to me, save for one, Change, which was debuted on tour in 2012. With that bias, Change is my favorite track on the album, although Running Wild and Morocco both immediately got stuck in my head. The New Black and Young Journey both excite me for live versions to see what sort of improvisation will emerge from it. Overall great album and highly recommended for music fans everywhere!
- Running Wild (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeQ-qZHOhjw)
- The New Black (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4TCFlD4kUA)
- Young Journey
- River Water
- Struck Me Down
Not apart of the album, but I wouldn’t feel right if I wrote a blog about Moon Taxi with including one of my all time favorite YouTube videos. Seriously, check out Wes Bailey rage your face off with his keyboard skills. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2lEfr5PdQ0
Ride the Moon Taxi on tour! http://ridethemoontaxi.com/tour/
Order the album now! https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/mountains-beaches-cities/id672018576