After a night of couch tour with the Phish from Vermont on the 30th my wife and I rounded out our 2013 with a night of String Cheese. This was the third evening with Cheese for the truly faithful fans. It’s always a little bit odd jumping in at the end of a three-night run. It can make you feel sort of like a tourist, but I stand by my decision to peruse all this New Year’s had to offer this year. I mean where on the planet is it even an option to see SCI, Yonder, or Umphrey’s all playing separate headlining shows within twenty miles of each other. The simple fact that I had to make that choice makes me thankful to live here on the Front Range.
Fans had been scurrying around for several weeks leading up to the event trying to procure tickets but the large number of fingers pointed towards the sky meant that many were not successful. The show itself had been sold out for well over a month suggesting that many would-be attendees were going to be left out in the cold. Once inside the elaborate costumes and bedazzled fairy wings dotted the hallways that surrounded the floor. The announcement that Del McCoury Band would be on the bill came late, but it was definitely celebrated by those with tickets in hand. The elder statesman of bluegrass and his band began as the fans filtered in to find their spot to watch the ball drop. They ended up performing just short of an hour. Del garners so much respect as a musician and ambassador for string music. His band includes three of his children whom he obviously raised right. All in all it was simply a prelude to the sit in that was to come very shortly.
When the String Cheese Incident came out for their first set they brought along the entire Del McCoury Band. Kang pointed out that every time they play with Del, he out dresses them. Well with all of SCI decked out in tuxedos, that would not be the case for at least this show. They opened with a stunning “Rolling In My Baby’s Arms.”
Set 1: Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms*> Shenandoah Breakdown*, Cold Rain and Snow*, Birdland**> Wheel Hoss**> Birdland**, Give Me the Love> Way Back Home, Valley of The Jig
Set 2: Water, Colliding> Sirens, Windy Mountain> Stay Thru, Las Vegas> Desert Dawn
Set 3: Rivertance> Happy New Year, Let’s Go Outside> Smile, Drums> It Is What It Is, This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)> Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band> Jam> Just One Story
Encore: Colorado Bluebird Sky
*w/ Del McCoury Band
**w/ Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury (Fiddle and Mandolin)
For many fans that love the Cheesy bluegrass, this was the perfect start to the evening. They immediately went into Bill Monroe’s “Shenandoah Breakdown.” However it was the Del sang version of “Cold Rain and Snow” gave us all collective goose bumps. Del left, but Jason Carter and Ronnie McCoury remained on fiddle and mandolin respectively. The band seemed to burst into a stellar version of “Birdland” that disintegrated into an all out hoedown with “Wheel Hoss.” Carter absolutely tore it up on the violin before they returned to the “Birdland” where they began. Carter and Ronnie McCoury took a bow before they disappeared backstage. Kang wowed the crowd with an almost poetic “Give Me the Love” that seemed to end too quickly. After a clean segue they went into a massive “Way Back Home” before they closed the first set with an equally impressive “Valley Of The Jig.” This set went barely over an hour, but with two more to go I didn’t hear any complaints.
String Cheese came to the stage for set two with a powerful “Water” that just seemed to wash over the audience. Bathed in the blue light, fans danced enthusiastically to sweet sounds of the Cheese. Kyle finally got a chance to shine on his energetic “Colliding” before they went into a dark and funky “Sirens.” One of the biggest highlights of the show came with the Nershi led “Windy Mountain” which is always a treat. This was only the fourth time they’ve played the reggae-tastic “Stay Thru,” which was a very nice breather. “Las Vegas” has become a huge vehicle for Nershi to experiment with, much like “Jelly Fish” was in the early days of SCI. This rendition went to the dark side pretty quickly, with some tight and extensive give and take between the entire band. They closed with a classic version of “Desert Dawn” that seemed to shock the crowd into a dancing frenzy.
Sting Cheese returned just before the clock struck midnight. What followed was a massive spectacle the type of which SCI has been providing to fans for years now. This was a bit different though; let me attempt to explain. The band returned as the lights dimmed. They launched off into a huge “Rivertrance” that began slowly enough for all the players to get into position. A large lighting rig with a net descended from the ceiling that contained dancers and other visual performers. Women adorned long flowing dresses ensconced themselves in clear plastic bubbles that blew around confetti like one of those cash grab machines. Pairs of women climbed long silk ribbons that hung from the ceiling and treated us to a series of aerial acrobatics that would have looked proper for any Cirque du soleil show in the world. Fans on the floor were given small color changing batons that they immediately began swinging in unison. The lights splashed all over the crowd as Father Time appeared by the soundboard and began spraying sparks from a handheld tube. Pyrotechnics appeared behind the band as balloons and massive amounts of confetti descended upon the 6500 person room. 2014 had begun and the band played on. As they finished “Rivertrance” they paused and invited Del in the boys out to the stage for a toast. Billy welcomed the New Year, as everyone seemed to take a collective breath. Kyle came to the microphone for a very appropriate “Let’s Go Outside.” The band transitioned nicely to a welcomed “Smile,” before Michael Travis and Jason Hann gave us an elaborate drum jam. It may have gone interstellar a few times. The drums gave way to a bouncy, “It Is What It Is.” We were treated to a pair of sentimental covers. The first was Kyle’s now classic take on the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place” which is traditionally his nod to the hometown crowd. Next Cheese performed The Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to signify their twentieth year as the String Cheese Incident. Referring to their very earliest days when for New Year’s 1993-94 Michael Travis sat in completing the original core of the band. They proceeded to improvise for a bit with something they labeled the “2014 Jam” on LiveCheese. They ended the third set with a stunning but far too short “Just One Story.”
SCI came back with a singular encore of “Colorado Bluebird Sky.” This song has truly evolved over the last couple years. Pardon the pun, but it really has gotten some wings allowing them to truly synch up as a group on this number. All in all it was a great night of music from a band that never strays too far from its roots. The inclusion of the Del McCoury Band was a solid decision and it gave Cheese the opportunity to really pick during their first set. The second set seemed to focus more on the long jam, while the third set felt like a celebration of all that this band has accomplished in their twenty years. The String Cheese Incident is and continues to be a vibrant lightening rod for music fans from across the spectrum. Their show on New Year’s Eve is just more proof that SCI is back at the top of the heap.
Happy New Year!
New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest nights of the year for music. Some of the best memories of my life come from the times I’ve spent with friends and family getting down at a New Year’s Eve show. You can’t beat the atmosphere, the people, or the unbelievable 3 night runs so many of the artists put together. I thought I’d share where I think the top places to be this NYE as well as some clips from some of the great NYE shows of the past.
#1 – String Cheese Incident – Broomfield, CO
The photo above is from one of the greatest shows I’ve ever witnessed. String Cheese at 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, CO a couple years back in 2012. Unreal! The atmosphere was amazing and the vibe in Colorado was jubilant. The three night run included an unforgettable light show, guest spots, on stage performances, and the best people in the world all gathered to bring in the new year in the most exhilarating way possible. The three night run ended with a nearly 4 hour long, 3 set show that was truly unforgettable. My favorite part of the show is the “Sweet Emotion” cover towards the end of the first set. I was in another world listening to the reverberations of the bass as the tune echoed through the crowd.
This year promises to be even better! People who have been before have been geared up for this event for months. One of my good friends even organized a trip with over 100 people and took over an entire hotel floor! Go Steve Bannister! The video below from 2012 will rock your world! “Sweet Emotion” is about 20 minutes from the end.
#2 – Umphrey’s Mcgee – Denver, CO
Colorado is the place to be! Broomfield is only a short drive from Denver so you could hypothetically check out part of each band’s run this NYE. I came into my own as a person and passionate music fan during the early 2000′s in Chicago and I’ve attended UM on NYE at least 5 times without counting. They really bring it and you can expect something unique and special every time. They used to do a 3 night run at the Aragon EVERY YEAR much to the delight of Chicagoans, but the story is that the Aragon cancelled on them a couple years back to make way for the Black Keys. Bad move. UM has never been back and they’ve continued producing epic shows each year since. Highlights that I can remember from off the top of my head include UM playing with a full brass band, they brought an entire chorus with them another time, stage performances, and some covers I’ve only gotten to hear them do once.
UM has 4 nights in Denver so hopefully you can get into one of the shows. Here they are they Pageant in 2011, the first year they didn’t play Chicago.
#3 – Widespread Panic – Atlanta, GA
The photo above from December 31st in Charlotte last year pretty much says everything you need to know about how great the 30th and 31st are going to be in Atlanta this year! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen these guys, actually, all the way back to 2011 Summer Camp. But I’ve been in the mood for listening to NYE shows and I came across this from 2005. I immediately knew I had to add this year’s show to the list.
#4 – Sun Stereo – Urbana, IL
Personally, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling and I decided to stay closer to home. I’ll be checking out Josh Houchin, Kelly McMorris, and the rest of Sun Stereo rock the Canopy Club. This local band rocked Summer Camp and Hangout Festival last year and will without a doubt be the best show in town come NYE.
Happy New Year’s Everyone!
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
Living out in the Western parts of this country I get a chance to see a lot of bands that haven’t made a presence in the midwest yet. One of my favorites is the Oak Creek band out of Sedonah, Arizona, now living in Denver. I’m sure some of you haven’t ever heard them so I am telling you, check out this band. I’ve attached a video here:
This was the opener of there last show at Cervantes in Denver. A great way to start the night. I wish I hand;t had so many soda pops…the sugar got to me and I was not able to record the highlight of the night, a four on the floor, funked out, danced up version of The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby.
These guys just came through Martyr’s in Chicago and I am sure they’ll be back through that way soon. Take my word for it and do not miss these guys. In the meantime check them out through the google machine.
The Motet rang in 2012 with a funk-fueled extravaganza supported by Euforquestra at the Aggie in Fort Collins. Euforquestra is a multi-year alumni of Summer Camp, but surprisingly Colorado jam stalwart The Motet has never made the trek. We headed down to the show around 9 PM. The crowd was already gathering as Euforquestra took the stage soon after our arrival. They opened up with their now classic Cause A Reaction; here is the rest of the setlist.
SET I: Cause A Reaction, Road Funk, Feels Good, Melody Truck, Free >Excuse O, Berrington / Brown Medley, Fool In The Rain> Soup> Fool In The Rain, Life During Wartime, Feel Together
Their set was a high-octane journey through funk, afrobeat, reggae, and jam. There was a palpable buzz around the music as the show began. People were ready to say goodbye to 2011 in a big way with one last hurrah. Lasting around an hour and half the opening set took on a headliner feel. The temperature of the room rose as the people packed in tightly. In fact by the end of the set it was practically impossible to move around comfortably. The highlight of their set was their Fool In The Rain Sandwich with Soup taking the place of the beef. As the setlist indicated Life During Wartime was to be the close, but Euforquestra threw a cherry on the sundae with Feel Together. I was very happy with their set and by the end it was obvious they had made many new fans with this performance.
After a short equipment change The Motet took to the stage with members of Euforquestra around 11:30 PM. Opting for one long set this two-hour plus journey through electro funk and jam was the perfect way to ring in the New Year. They opened the show with Fela Kuti’s Expensive Shit. Here is the rest of the setlist.
SET I: Expensive Shit, Afrodisco Beat> NYE Countdown, I’ve Got That Boogie Fever, Power> Push> Power, Back In Love, Nemesis> Shakara, Shake Your Booty, Only So Much Oil, Roforofo Fight
ENCORE: Drop It In The Slot, Gas Money
The show might as well have been billed as Motequestra because that’s just what we witnessed. With the various members of Euforquestra bouncing on and off the stage The Motet were rarely playing alone. At times the horn section swelled to five members giving a full brass sound to many of the jams throughout the evening. These bands compliment each other so well mainly because they are both immersed in afrobeat and funk but Euforquestra has enough world flair to juxtapose nicely to The Motet’s electro edge. The New Year’s Countdown came quickly and I raced back from the front fearing I wouldn’t find Amy in time. Luckily she was waiting on the stairs for me and we got to take the leap into 2012 together. After the rowdiness of the countdown the show broke down into an all out dance-off. Arms flailed in the air as everyone shuffled for space on the floor. The Nemesis into Shakara was the highlight of the show and again demonstrated how deeply The Motet is interested in delivering the funk in a big way. The driving rhythm of Nemesis melted into the spacey afrobeat of Fela Kuti’s Shakara.
They ended their set as they began with yet another Fela Kuti tune. Roforofo Fight is another track that The Motet have pretty much adopted it as their own track and it was a great way to close the show. They encored with the one two punch of Drop It In The Slot and Gas Money. The pounding afrobeat and funky rhythms that permeated this show are the reason I see both of these bands. When they team up it makes for an incredible experience, and I was happy to welcome 2012 with them. Happy New Year everybody, I’m looking forward to another year of amazing live experiences and another year at Summer Camp.