When you go to as many concerts as I have it’s a relatively difficult to catch me off guard. As I entered Hodi’s Half Note on a cool fall evening in October I was welcomed by the warm embrace of bluegrass lofting over a silent crowd. Colorado is such an amazing hub for live music that many of the regular attendees become blasé and often chat during any given performance. So to enter a normally raucous bar and not hear anyone but the bartender asking, “What’ll you have” and the music from the stage is just something I don’t expect. As I headed toward the front to take a few photos it was immediately evident that this was not a Bisco crowd. The majority of the silent sold out audience were there to see the vibrant Mr. Snider, but they were treated to a powerful send up from the Henhouse Prowlers. This string band continues to teeter on the edge of traditional and rage-grass. Their set began around 8:45 PM as the early arrivers staked out their spots.
They opened with “Silver Eagle” and the game of shuffleboard began. Utilizing a traditional single microphone setup, every show is like a ballet as each member rearranges himself to the mic stand. In recent years, Henhouse Prowlers had to persevere through the theft of all of their band equipment as well as some personnel changes, and they have emerged more focused and cohesive than ever. Ben Wright continues to lead by example through effortless vocals and powerful picking. The newest member Starr Moss has really gelled with the band and doesn’t miss a chance to absolutely shred his guitar. Staples like “Track Song” and “Lonesome Road” dotted their hour-long set. The highlight was their closing Syracuse into Ruby into Syracuse that has become a showstopper for the Prowlers. The Henhouse Prowlers are one of those bands that is often overlooked and with a new album out and their relentless touring its time to spread to good word. If bluegrass is your bag the Prowlers should be in it.
The ever-vigilant crowd allowed themselves to murmur during the set break before Todd Snider appeared from backstage. Snider is like a modern day Dylan and I don’t make that analogy lightly. By appearance he’s all patchwork and floppy hat, but his lyrics belie a deeper spiritual journey. One in which he is not afraid to call out fraud or injustice with his own variety of realism and humor. I first saw Snider working with Leftover Salmon and subsequently Great American Taxi. However this was my first time seeing him in a small room with his dedicated fan base. He opened up with “Play A Train Song” and quickly went into “If Tomorrow Never Comes, a kind of rowdy rollercoaster ride that extrapolates on his Catholic School days. He treated us to his song “Broke;” a humorous indictment of the current economic situation told through the eyes of regular Joe. He did an amazing version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” to round out the first set.
After a short break he returned and continued his bard-like ways. Snider is a storyteller, but that’s only if the audience cooperates. At one point he was ready to break into a tangential story when someone in the attentive audience shouted out. Snider reprimanded him by not telling the anecdote and simply launching into the next song. “Conservative Christian” was an absolute peak for the show, and it should be an anthem for any self-proclaimed hippie. Snider finished around midnight. He is a true teller of tales in every way. He entertains through his docile nature and cutting satire. The way to see Snider is by himself and hopefully with an audience as dedicated as the fans at Hodi’s. All in all it was a very good night for acoustic music.
Leftover Salmon has reestablished themselves at the top of the jamgrass heap. This last minute show demonstrates they are paying attention and willing to play a show strictly for the fans. The show was scheduled to start around 1 AM well after Phish’s last note. It was billed as Leftover Salmon & Friends, and rumors swirled around as who would be sitting in. Because of the Snowy Range Festival where Salmon was playing on Sunday names like Sam Bush and Keller Williams were dropped frequently. This would not be the case in Denver, however Bush did sit in at Snowy Range for what it’s worth.
The drive down was smooth and we arrived just before show time. Although the concert sold out immediately, it honestly wasn’t super packed. The room was definitely full, but manageable. Next-door The Pimps Of Joytime also played for those willing to venture out after Dick’s. Salmon took the stage around 1:30 AM and straight away set the pace with a ripping “Mama Boulet.”
Set 1: Mama Boulet, Little Maggie, Ask The Fish*, Two Highways, Head Over Heels Over You**, Bird Call*, Home Cookin’, Morning Sun, High Country, Doing My Time, Dance On Your Head*, Aquatic Hitchhiker#, Midnight Rider**,#
Encore: Pasta On The Mountain#, Wake and Bake**,#
Andy Hall from The Infamous Stringduster’s on Dobro for the entire show
*w/ DJ Logic on Turntables
**Andy Hall on Vocals
#Zeb Bowles on Fiddle
They chose to perform one long set rather that push it to daylight with a setbreak. Andy Hall sat in on dobro for the entire show, and he was a solid addition to the lineup. Musically Salmon is a new band open to new dynamics in their performances. Hence the pair of “& Friends” shows. DJ Logic joined the boys on a spacey and deep “Ask The Fish.” “Two Highways” featured some incredible picking by Drew Emmitt, before Andy Hall took the vocals on “Head Over Heels.” Logic came back on “Bird Call” with more of what I call subtle scratching. I call it that because despite the fact that Logic can rip it up he always seems very low over the PA and at times is inaudible in the mix. Vince gave us a driving rock tune accentuated by Hall’s dobro on “Home Cookin’.” Thorn’s banjo was the focal point on “Morning Sun” before the band went traditional on “High Country.” Logic rejoined the band for Leftover’s now classic “Dance On Your Head.” Zeb Bowles from Coral Creek appeared onstage for the insane instrumental “Aquatic Hitchhiker.” This really felt like a family affair with lots of sit ins and great musical interplay with everyone involved. They all filled a niche in the sound and created a fantastic show for all of the late night fans. Zebulon stayed on for the Hall sung version of the Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider.” This is a fun cover that I’ve seen executed poorly in the past. This take was spot on and a great close to the almost two hour set.
Leftover Salmon returned with Zeb for a chunky rendition of “Pasta On The Mountain” that went for nearly fifteen minutes. Hall sang on the show closing “Wake and Bake,” which seemed appropriate given the late or early hour depending on your perspective. Leftover Salmon has reemerged from uncertainty to a pinnacle concert experience. Thorn has truly reinvigorated this band, and musical additions like Andy Hall and Zeb Bowles deepen their sound and push their compositions further. As I left the venue and headed back to the campsite at Dick’s I was only left with two questions. Who was that drummer and where is Jose Martinez?
With the departure of Vince Herman to greener pastures in Oregon, the region has experienced a deficit in the random acts of music he would regularly bestow upon our community. He was a regular fixture in Ned, his former home, and down on The Front Range. It would be difficult not to find Vince Herman playing somewhere on any given weekend in Colorado. Now Vince is a commodity, so I made it point to head down to see Great American Taxi at the Aggie Theater. As fate would have it they were recording the entire run for an upcoming live album.
Up first were Bonnie And The Clydes, a six-piece country and rock outfit lead by Miss Bonnie Sims. They opened with “Dear Departed.”
Set 1: Dear Departed, My Love Will Keep, Lonely Love, Eye To Eye, Storm On Its Way, Rocky Mountain Town, Waltz For The Seasons, LA County, Man In Me, Darkside, Still House, Ophelia, Hold On Me
Relatively new to scene, Bonnie And The Clydes are an interesting addition to the already bountiful music of the Front Range. They are lead by firecracker Bonnie Sims, who belts it out as well as she plays a six string. She is flanked by a full band consisting of her husband Taylor Sims on electric guitar, Nancy Steinberger on fiddle, Michael Schenkleberg on bass, Chris Ramey on pedal steel, and Damon Smith on drums. Their renditions of Dylan’s “Man In Me” and The Band’s “Ophelia were spot on and really got the crowd moving. They had a rowdy tone that was a perfect fit for Great American Taxi.
Great American Taxi is the side project of Leftover Salmon front man Vince Herman. He has assembled an incredible lineup of musicians to fill out his group. In addition to Vince Taxi is Chad Staehly on keys, Jim Lewin on guitar, Brian Adams on bass, and Chris Sheldon on drums. They really seemed to have gelled since I saw them last summer. This show being part of the Snowball Tour it was the first time Vince has made it back since moving out of state. Honestly, it could have gone either way. They opened with their original “Standing All Alone.”
Set 1:Standing All Alone, Appalachian Soul, New Millennium Blues, Linning Track, Penny Arcade, Jack London, Twilight, Swamp Song, Going To Brownsville, Tough Job, Angel Dust, Poor House, Coming Home To You, Travlin’ Man, West L.A. Fadeaway, Little Liza Jane, Dirty Old Town, Instrumental, Reckless Habits, Cold Lonely Town, Great American Taxi, When I Die, Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow
Encore: Good Night To Boogie
For a Taxi fan this show has absolutely everything you could want in a live show. Their mix of bluegrass, Americana, and rock is so approachable it seems impossible not to have fun seeing them live. Songs like “Appalachian Soul” and “Poor House” address real issues in American society like the working conditions in the coal mining industry as well as the plight of the impoverished in this country. Great American Taxi really has evolved and it’s great to see them playing at this level. Their covers included everything from Leadbelly’s “Linning Track” to Ry Cooder’s “Going Down To Brownsville” to the Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway.” It really was a fun and musically eclectic night. They closed the set with their version of the Flatt & Scruggs classic “Aint Gonna Work Tomorrow.” Great American Taxi encored with “Good Night To Boogie.” With the departure of Vince to Portlandia it’s even more important for him to come back to the Front Range with memorable shows. That is exactly what Great American Taxi accomplished on their swing through the Aggie. With the live recording coming out, it will be awesome to get a greatest hits album from such a solid run
As we age in the scene, the generations change and the music evolves. Summer Camp seems to develop by leaps and bounds every year. With a lineup of over 100 musical acts offered they are constantly bringing in new groups and continuing to be an innovator in the festival scene. This year Jay Goldberg is bringing in Phish front man Trey Anastasio along with the regular cast of characters including moe., Umphrey’s McGee and so much more. As we approach the thirteenth Summer Camp it really feels like a whole new ballgame. Younger fans hopping on the bus, different styles of music all getting a chance on the array of stages, and additionally so many incredible events taking place all over the grounds throughout the four days beyond the music. They all combine to make Summer Camp one of the leading festivals in the country. As Summer Camp finds itself on the cusp of a new era, I found myself reflecting on the festival at a local show. On a recent frigid night out in Fort Collins I headed out to see Gipsy Moon.
Gipsy Moon represents a turning of the page for Americana and Gypsy Bluegrass. I’ve seen Silas Herman, son of famed front man and Summer Camp veteran Vince Herman, perform with Leftover Salmon several times. Gipsy Moon is his current foray into a touring band. Seeing the son of a musician that I admire so much, performing on his own is what got me thinking about the future of music and current state of affairs within the scene.
Gipsy Moon consists of multi-talented, multi-instrumentalists. Silas flanks live painter and singer, Mackenzie Page, who belts it out as well as she handles a paint brush. David Matters is a singer/songwriter who plays banjo as well as the guitar. Finally, Collin Huff holds it all down on bass. We arrived as Gipsy Moon was beginning their set at Avogadro’s Number. Avo’s is a series of three rooms divided by purpose. The first is a bar, the second is a quaint music venue, and the third is a restaurant. Inside the band performed for a small crowd already seated in the middle of the room. We came to find out the show was a bit of a homecoming for Page with many of her family and friends filling out the crowd. They opened up the night with “Ramblin’.”
Set One: Ramblin’, Little Maggie, Seven Seas, Autumn Leaves, The New Thing, Cowboy Vessel, Dark Eyes, Long Time Comin’, Away We Go, Trumpet and the Drum, Nocturnal, Swallow Tail Jig, Sweet Thing, Independence Day, Pensl-tucky, Angeline the Baker / Chinquipin Hunting, House of The Rising Sun, Hunger, Right Before The Dawn
The Gipsy Moon show was a mix of originals and traditional bluegrass style covers. They dub themselves “Gipsygrass” and their entire delivery had a free flowing style that was incredibly inviting. They each took turns at the microphone and mixed up the instrumentation often. Matters had a nice vocal range that harmonized nicely with Page who at times shook the room with her powerful delivery. Silas simply shredded the mandolin throughout the set even though he at times seemed to shy away from the spotlight. Covering everything from Russian and Irish folk songs to a smoking version of “House Of The Rising Sun” Gipsy Moon really demonstrated their range and ability. All in all it was a relaxing night of music with some talented musicians from Nederland. I foresee big things from this band; I hope they continue to venture down from the mountains to play for the masses on the Front Range. As I headed back home I was truly inspired by this new generation of musicians and it got me excited about Summer Camp this year. The art, music, and people will all be off the hook this year. I look forward to yet another amazing time in the heart of Illinois.
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.