There’s something special about seeing live music outdoors. There’s something even more special about seeing bluegrass outdoors. One of my favorite bluegrass acts to see is Yonder and they brought their foot stomping sounds to the beautiful outer harbor in downtown Buffalo, NY as part of the free Thursday at the Harbor line up on August 1st!
The downfall of an outdoors show is you can’t count on the weather. Thursday was no exception. I woke up out of bed that day like a little boy on Christmas as I have been looking forward to seeing Yonder since their amazing sets at Summer Camp, only to see rain, rain, and more rain. Hey, it’s summer. That wasn’t going to stop me. But something amazing happened… as the concert got closer and closer, the rain started to disappear and the sun started to shine. I knew Buffalo was in for a treat!
Railroad Earth opened up the show, and they are a band I never really knew much about, but having seen them 2 times in a month’s span, I am a huge fan already. Hailing from Stillwater, NJ, this band really knows how to bring it. Tim Carbone’s violin playing brings out so much emotion on stage and into the crowd. There was more then one time where it actually gave me goosebumps, and that is a great feeling. Railroad Earth also consists of Todd Sheaffer ( guitar, harmonica, vocals ), John Skehan ( mandolin, vocals, bouzouki ), Andy Goessling ( acoustic guitar, banjo, dobro, mandolin, flute, pennywhistle, saxophone, vocals), Carey Harmon ( drums ), Andrew Altman ( bass, vocals ).
Yonder was on pretty quickly after, and boy did they get that party started quickly. The band opened up with Cuckoo’s Nest and it really did put a smile on my face, but I was far from the only one. There is something about a Yonder show that has me people watching more then usual at a show. Seriously, if you are seeing them soon, turn around where ever you are standing. Look at the smiles, because it will be hard to find someone NOT smiling which is amazing!
There’s something else to look for when you see Yonder live, and if you aren’t already smiling, then watch Jeff Austin ( mandolin, vocals ) perform. His body language and facial expressions are so fitting for their music. Watching someone play such a small instrument so fast with those expressions just makes him glow and stand out live. Jeff isn’t the only one however; playing alongside the amazing talented Ben Kaufmann ( bass, vocals ), Dave Johnston ( banjo, vocals ), and Adam Aijala ( guitar, vocals ), these guys know how to play with emotion.
Yonder stormed out with Peace of Mind right after and it got Buffalo stomping around! I went with a group of people in which a specific girl I was with have never seen a bluegrass show before. Watching her dance around was so much fun, it’s always awesome when you expose someone to music like this and it pierces their souls in such a beautiful way.
YMSB has been playing together since 1998 and an included brownie point to them playing since then is there has been no past members. They are the original line up still raging just as hard 15 years later. It’s clear when you watch them communicate on stage while they are playing that they are truly like brothers. What I really like about them live is they are the perfect blend of professional and party mixed together and blasted out in acoustic form.
Yonder’s full set list from Buffalo:
Set 1: Cuckoo’s Nest > Peace Of Mind > Shake Me Up > Peace Of Mind, Catch A Criminal, Jail Song, Belle Parker, Loved You Enough, 40 Miles from Denver, All The Time, East Nashville Easter, Troubled Mind > 20 Eyes > Troubled Mind, Polly Put The Kettle On, New Speedway Boogie**> Traffic Jam** > Little Rabbit** > Traffic Jam**
Encore: Crazy**, Angel**
**Tim Carbone on fiddle
One of my personal favorite songs from the night was their last encore song, Angel. There’s something about Adam’s guitar playing in that song that really goes right through you in the best of all ways. It was a great way to end the perfect Yonder set right next to Buffalo’s water front. Having Tim Carbone out there on fiddle during that was just an extra special treat.
If you have even the slightest doubt of seeing YMSB, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and decide to just go. You will not be disappointed! Remember what I said earlier, you will be smiling and dancing… A combo that every person needs more often in their lives. You can check out their current dates here:
A more perfect day could not have been planned for Summer Camp on Friday. Music lovers arose to the crispy, bluebird sky of central Illinois with a bright beautiful sun shinning down from above. As fans shook off the grogginess of Thursday’s pre-party they found that Summer Camp was beginning in earnest and the weather was perfect. The light rain of the prior day kept down the dust promising that attendees would not be blowing a Rorschach Test into their hankies. A light breeze blew across the fields making for a sweet balance of warm and cool as the day began. Chicago Summer Camp regulars Old Shoe got the music started with an 11 AM shotgun start.
This quintet is quintessential jam with an acoustic sensibility thrown in for good measure. As Matt Robinson donned his “Easy Scampin’” shirt it was clear that not only was Old Shoe ready to have fun, they were ready to play. This band has so much potential as their local fan base already knows, They are a blend of rock, funk, folk, and more, Old Shoe just seems to fit. As their name would insinuate there is a comfortable vibe that emulates from everything they do. Their hour-long set was a perfect way to officially start Friday at Summer Camp.
Just as Old Shoe was finishing up Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn band was getting warmed up on the Starshine Stage. These guys put the power in power trio. Their sound is reminiscent of a revving engine approaching the red line. They have a growl that would make a dire wolf question its masculinity. They opened with a roaring “That Train Song.”
Set 1: That Train Song, Something For Nothing, Easy Come Easy Go, Regular Ole’ Guitar> Peter Gun Theme, Big Blue Chevy ’72, You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover, Worn Out Shoes, Clap Your Hands, Devils Look Like Angels, Some of These Days> When the Saints Go Marching In, Glory Glory
The Rev. is as much of a storyteller as he is a rocker. Joined by his wife Breezy and drummer Ben “Bird Dog” Bussell, Reverend Peyton can rip on anything with a fret board. In fact during “Easy Come, Easy Go” he absolutely shredded on a cigar box guitar. I’ve never seen one let alone heard one sound like a Les Paul. Their hour on the stage went by far to quickly and ended with a rolling version of “Some Of These Days into a raucous version of “When The Saints Go Marching In” followed by a very untraditional take on “Glory, Glory.” Let’s just say it got spiritual.
Next up was Keller Williams in the VIP Lounge. This was the first year with an actual schedule set up for VIP, rather than just a few random sets throughout the weekend. Keller was running late, taking the stage a full twenty minutes after he was scheduled. The set began ceremoniously with an introduction from promoter and festival organizer Ian Goldberg. He is Jay’s son and basically runs the whole show. Keller began by saying, “I have no plan.” He performed an acoustic, loopless show, which is something I haven’t seen since 2005 at Summer Camp. Keller is always a sort of flow of conscience type show, but his loopless shows take it to another level. Strumming away we were treated to a set that was all K-Dub. The highlight was beautiful rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “Eyes Of The World.” I would have stayed longer, but it was time for moe.
2013 Camp Counselor Kyle Hess gave the intro, which was short but sweet. Having stood in his shoes, it’s a lot of pressure to announce your heroes to 15,000 or so people. He did so marvelously. moe. opened their festival with a huge “Captain America” into “Recreational Chemistry.” This was the equivalent of throwing down the gauntlet as far as I’m concerned.
Set 1: Captain America> Recreational Chemistry, Deep This Time> Downward Facing Dog, Puebla> Ricky Marten> Seat Of My Pants, Okayalright
moe. is one of the few jambands that has never broken up, never taken an extended hiatus, and never left their fans in the lurch. It absolutely shows in their live performances. They simply grind and for that reason I’ve been a fan for well over a decade. Their guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey are so dialed in, watching them is like witnessing a two-headed shred monster. They toss each other lead and rhythm parts like hot potatoes shot from a grenade launcher. This was a classic jam-filled set with a massive “Okayalright” to close. With five more sets on the horizon they set the bar pretty high with this show filled to the brim with badassery.
The Wailers were up next on the Sunshine Stage. I’ve always been a bit confused by The Wailers , The Original Wailers and were the two diverged. The fact that Bunny Wailer is still alive and not a member of either band is enough to make me question the namesake. Originally The Wailers was comprised of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Livingston. Afterwards the band morphed into Bob Marley and The Wailers with Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his brother Cody Barrett on drums with the I Threes. Both of the Barretts were members of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s studio band The Upsetters. So basically Aston is the only real member of Bob’s band, but they continued performing after Bob’s death. They were lead by Koolant Brown on vocals who was like a bucket of jazzercise. His energy was infectious and his tone was spot on. The other notable member is Keith Sterling on keys who was also a part of The Upsetters among other Jamaican groups. They sounded solid with awesome versions of “Africa Unite” and “Stir It Up.” The highlight of their set was a mashup of “Waiting In Vain” with Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” As I was heading over to MMW I could hear them playing “I Shot The Sheriff” to an enthusiastic crowd.
Medeski, Martin, & Wood plays jazz with a jam mentality. It’s not so much about the groove because at times they go down the trail blazed by greats like Charlie Parker. Utilizing dissonance that to the untrained ear can be unsettling. However the fact is that MMW is capable of absolutely anything. Their most crowd-pleasing shows include funkiness, which was definitely present at points during their set at Summer Camp. They are simply one of the most incredible live acts touring today and it was a pleasure to see them on a beautiful day in central Illinois.
As Keller Williams ages his projects become more and more sophisticated. No longer is he content playing alone. The last few years have seen numerous projects spring from his mind. The latest is Keller Williams and The More Than A Little. This is his most soulful endeavor incorporating two female vocalists and a full band. They started the set with the song from which they take their name. K-Dub hit the stage in a black suit, smacking his talking drum and looking pretty suave. I would have to say the man won best dressed for Friday if not the entire fest. There was smoothness to this group and a focus on the funkier side of Keller. This is probably my favorite band that Keller has formed and I hope this group actually tours rather than being just a flash in the pan. This was also the most painful overlap of the day with Yonder Mountain String Band starting just a half hour after Keller, so shortly after it started, it was time to mosey.
Colorado bluegrass ambassadors Yonder Mountain String Band have been a hallmark of Summer Camp for years now. Their main stage set this year was chocked full of stringy goodness. They started with an energetic “If You’re Ever In Oklahoma” into “East Nashville Easter.”
Set 1: If You’re Ever in Oklahoma> East Nashville Easter> 40 Miles From Denver, 20 Eyes, Irondale, Pretty Daughter, Casualty, Kentucky Mandolin*, Dear Prudence*> Raleigh & Spencer*, Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown*
*w/ Roosevelt Collier on Pedal Steel
This set was a beautiful, rambunctious journey with one of my favorite bands. Jeff Austin’s face contorted as he wore the finish off his mandolin, by straight ripping it up. They invited Lee Boy, Roosevelt Collier to the stage to play the pedal steel with the band. This added a whole new dimension to their group. He wasn’t even on the official lineup, but he ended up being an artist at large of sorts playing around all weekend long. Their take on “Dear Prudence” with him was definitely memorable as was their set closing “Two Hits.”
Finally it was time for the main event with Umphrey’s McGee. Basically Summer Camp has become their home fest as they now share the bill with moe. They have such a dedicated following and are actually from the Midwest so it makes a lot of sense. They eased into a two set extravaganza with “There’s No Crying In Mexico.”
Set 1: There’s No Crying in Mexico > All in Time > Mantis Ghetts, Nothing Too Fancy> Ringo, Eat, Believe the Lie, Conduit, Comma Later > Nothing Too Fancy
Set 2: Puppet String > Plunger > All in Time, Sociable Jimmy, Bright Lights, Big City1, Glory> Plunger > Puppet String
*w/ Dom (Big Gigantic)
Umphrey’s is the most technical band in jam and this show demonstrated just that. The boys let us know that they are still Death Metal with “All In Time.” “Nothing Too Fancy” into “Ringo” was the climax of their first set and again raised the bar from a band that might as well be professional bar raisers. “Eat” actually had me a little frightened as again their Metal was showing, before the progressive “Believe The Lie” eased the tension. Umphrey’s is not an easy band to watch. They don’t just give it to you. They make their fans concentrate in a way that no other member of the jam community does. You have to work to understand what this band is doing. They are the opposite of dubstep in that regard. They ended their first set by going back into “Nothing Too Fancy.”
Their second set was bookended by “Puppet String” and included a sit in from Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli. It was a little more reserved than the blowout that was set one. “The Bright Lights, Big City” on which Lalli sat in was a definite highlight of a set full of technical turns and rage heavy jam. Umphrey’s is a big part of what makes Summer Camp so great and this was their night to blow it all out. They did so marvelously. During “Glory” they teased The Smashing Pumpkin’s “Rhinoceros” which got fans hopeful, but I’m glad they stuck to the script. This is one my favorite UM tunes and really demonstrates a different side of their sound. With a little bit of the theatrical moes came to the stage for the encore. The Umph boys gave them a look like, “We got this,” and proceeded to bust out a highly mechanical “Rebubula.” It was a nice touch to show the interconnectivity of these two groups at this particular festival.
After Umphrey’s I opted to nap it out for bit to be ready for the late night in the Red Barn with moe. and YMSB. I arrived at the Barn around 12:45 and made my way inside. The Barn is 400-person shell complete with lasers and a high ceiling. moe. opened with “Mar-Dema.”
Set 1: Mar-Dema > Kyle’s Song > Kids, In a Big Country, Wind it up > Sensory Deprivation Bank, lylelovit. > Waiting For The Punchline
Their hour and fifteen minute set left fans wishing they would play until the sun came up. This was classic moe. with a wonderful “Kyle’s Song” as well as a bust out on “Big Country” which hadn’t been played in 929 shows. Before playing “Sensory Deprivation Bank” Rob said, “This is the most downloaded song in the history of porn… it’s true.” I’m not sure if that’s actually a fact but it was absolutely huge. The set closing “Waiting For The Punchline” whipped the crowd up into a frenzy. This was solid moe. and a fun way to spend a late night.
After a stage swap that went a little too long Yonder took to the boards. They got going with a solid sandwich in the form of “New Horizons“ into “Blue Collar Blues” back into “New Horizons.”
Set 1: New Horizons > Blue Collar Blues > New Horizons, Left Me in a Hole, Fingerprint, My Gal, Steep Grade Sharp Curves > Gut Feeling/Slap your Mammy, New Deal Train, Another Day, Little Lover, Ten
Encore: Southern Flavor
Yonder took us on a late night bluegrass romp that saw classics flirting with a few new tunes. It was simply a great day of music and YMSB was the perfect end to it all playing well into the wee hours of the morning. Additional highlights of their set included “Let Me In A Hole,” “New Deal,” and “Ten.” They encored with an awesome “Southern Flavor.”
As I walked down the trail back to my tent the birds were beginning to chirp and I knew that Saturday would be coming all too soon. Summer Camp is non-stop run and if you do take a break you are going to miss something. That’s just the nature of the beast. It’s always important to pace yourself, but it’s even more important to see as much live music as possible. Two down, two to go.
Night one of a two night stand at the Canopy Club in Urbana, IL was all you ever want from Yonder. It took me awhile to get this posted, so as I write we’re only about a month from Yonder Mountain at Summer Camp, I CAN’T WAIT. But back in March I was in great need of a Yonder fix having not seen them since last year’s Summer Camp which because of my counselor “duties” I only got to see half of!
Anyways, it was a great show. Fun atmosphere and great energy from the band as is the usual with YMSB. The set list was great and included a few of my favorites like 40 Miles from Denver & Shake Me Up. Follow the link at the bottom for the download to a truly great show.
Set 1: Part 1> East Nashville Easter, Loved You Enough, Rain Still Falls, Illinois Rain, Strophe, Sometimes I’ve Won, Fingerprint, Another Day, Kentucky Mandolin, Raleigh & Spencer
Set 2: Ramblin In The Rambler> Shake Me Up> Ramblin Reprise, Pockets, Blue Collar Blues, Althea, Sidewalk Stars> All The Time, Southbound, Straight Line, And Your Bird Can Sing, Romance Blues, Traffic Jam> Elzic’s Farewell> Traffic Jam E: 40 Miles From Denver, Hill Country Girl
Check out the awesome recording done by Don Olker!
Sunday was the one of the BEST days of my life. On Friday I heard that I might be able to interview Yonder Mountain String Band and I hoping that it wouldn’t fall through. I got up early on Sunday a little before 10 am, which was hard considering I was at the Soulshine tent seeing Sun Stereo Recreate the Beatles just 6 hours earlier. I went to write my blog from Saturday and prepare for my potential interview with Yonder. After writing my blog I went back to camp for a quick “shower” with a little soap, water, and paper towels. I spent the next hour waiting for my interview. I was nervous that it might not happen, and equally nervous that it actually might happen.
Around 2:00 pm 2011 Summer Camp Counselor Nick Stock, and I set out for the Moonshine stage where Yonder was set to play in a couple hours. Nick was doing me a huge favor and was taking video of the interview. We got there 10 minutes early and milled around backstage for a few minutes. I have spent many shows wondering what backstage looked like and now I was there! I was in complete shock. I could hardly wait to see who in the band I would be interviewing. After another minute or two Nick and I spotted Jeff Austin and Ben Kaufmen the mandolin and bass player from Yonder Mountain String Band.
We went in to a trailer to do the interview and I was getting nervous. As soon as we started I realized all my fears were unfounded. Jeff and Ben are two of the nicest people ever. They made the interview fun and easy. They shared some of their weirdest moments at a show, and talked about how Summer Camp has been good to them. I felt so honored to meet them, it was a dream come true. This was a great experience but my day was not over yet.
I got back to the press area to to offload and was surprised to see Jordan and Janis from Family Groove Company there. I was offered to do an interview with them and I jumped at the opportunity so we made plans to meet up at the Everyone Orchestra Show. I couldn’t believe I was gonna get to interview another one of my favorite bands.
I ran to the main stage so I could catch a little bit of Yonder Mountains’ set before I did my interview with FGC. It was great! I could hardly contain myself knowing that only minutes before I had talk with these guys in person. I took off for the Everyone Orchestra Show and my interview with Janis and Jordan. While seaching for Janis in the Red Barn I got to enjoy some of the show and was impressed at the wonderful music coming from this band made up of many artists from the festival. I then met up with Janis and Jordan and did their interview. They had both participated in workshops this year so we talked about that and about growing with Summer Camp Festival as they have performed at almost every Summer Camp.
My day had been great already, and I had hardly seen any shows because I had been so busy, but now was the time to make up for that. These are the shows that I was able to catch on Sunday.
My favorite show of the day was from Galactic. They got the crowd going and got them involved. We were all singing and waving our hands, just having a good time listening to them perform. These guys hail from New Orleans and got their start playing at Mardi Gras, so they know how to party. There were several guest performers throughout the night and at one point there were 10 people on stage jamming and having a good time.
I had to check out the most controversial band this year at Summer Camp, Janes Addiction. A favorite of Summer Camp Creator Ian Goldberg the announcement was big news and a dream come true for Ian. Unfortunately some fans of the festival did not seem to be happy about the addition. Other than their hits, I do not know much Janes Addiction, but I am always excited to see a new band. I hope the “haters” were as impressed as I was with Janes Addiction’s performance Sunday night. Dave Navarro is a great guitar player and the stage set-up and lights were pretty cool as well. Perry Ferrell was the highlight for me though. He is a great frontman, a little crazy, but great. He talked about his sexual escapades with well-endowed dolphins, how glow sticks remind him of his terrible step mother who would take is temperatur rectally, and threatened to choke someone who was throwing things at him. He was very entertaining and the music was great too, I am certainly glad to add Janes Addiction to the list of bands I have seen.
We finished out the festival with a final set of Moe and headed back to our campsite with the intention to see This Must Be the Band, but after the big day I had, I did not have the energy to leave. It was a great day and I needed to sleep so I could wake up and perform the worst task at Summer Camp, taking down camp and leaving.