September 22, 2016
Hi-Fi Indianapolis, IN
Photographer/Writer: Tyler Muir
One of the meanings for revival is an improvement in the condition or strength in something, and Elephant Revival seems to never forget that. The band came back to Indianapolis, Indiana September 22nd, 2016 making it the first stop on their tour in support of their new album “Petals.” Elephant Revival’s companions on the fall tour, Dead Horses, set the mood by getting everyone comfortable at the picturesque Hi-Fi, in one of downtown’s most gentrified districts.
The Milwaukee-based trio’s acoustic set included, Sarah Vos on vocals and guitar, Peter Raboin on guitar, mandolin and vocals and the lower acoustic end Daniel Wolff on Double Bass and vocals. The band’s moral compass aligns with that of the headliner that we are all one and that love is the path to unity through the darkness to better times. Their haunting Americana Folk melodies drifted through the Hi-Fi compelling the audience to join their path of unity.
When Elephant Revival took the stage, Bonnie Paine on washboard, djembe, musical saw and stompbox, Bridget Law on fiddle, Charlie Rose on banjo, pedal steel, guitar, horns, cello and double bass, Dango Rose on double bass, mandolin and banjo and Daniel Rodriguez on guitar, banjo and double bass, the crowd settled in for a relaxing quaint evening with the band.
There were moments throughout the night where the band proved time and again how masterfully they have continued to grow and how they create their own style and genre. Several times throughout the performance Bonnie’s emotion came out showcasing her strength lies in being able to tell such a tale through her lyrics as well as stage presence. The band finds strength tying themselves around things that revolve around the universe, in their new album they have delved into things revolving around social issues. The band’s new music video “When I Fall” found them working with a non-profit agency to raise awareness and funds for the current immigrant and refugee crises.
A new, stronger sense of intimacy seemed present on stage with them. Maybe there is power in numbers, maybe each member is more in touch with themselves, or with each other, whatever seemed to bring it out, it seems strong enough to not wilt away anytime soon. The passion they brought as well is such that you could not walk away that night without being inspired, having every emotional string tugged.
Charlie Rose brings a new dynamic, his skills on the pedal steel felt right alongside the rest of the band. Another pleasant surprise was Bonnie on the electric cello. Yet another meaning of revival is an instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again. It is safe to say the band continues to show the importance of using each member’s talents to amplify one another’s. Very few bands can have their instrumental parts tell a story as much as their lyrics do.
The distance fans are willing to travel to see their favorite band says a lot about the connection they feel towards the band. Inside the Hi-Fi there were fans from all over the Midwest. Along the rail were four fans from South Bend, Indiana who had plans to catch the first four shows of the band’s tour, by the end of the night it seemed they had convinced a couple next to them from Chicago to follow them to Wisconsin to catch the second night of the tour. The common theme among the crowd was it is truly a treat when Elephant Revival comes to your town. In this day and age with everyone having a camera in their pocket and a conversation that cannot wait until after the show, a true sign of fan appreciation was shown that night by both of those things being kept at a minimum.
Monday night’s sky was full of stars and clarity, not only in regards to weather, but also what was to come for those attending an evening on The Wheels of Soul Tour. The night was a reschedule from an August date postponed due electrical storms. The great weather brought relief to many who were returning to the Sandia Casino Amphitheater from the cancelled show in August. By far, one of the hottest tours of the summer was the Wheels of Soul Tour in its second incarnation. This powerhouse tour de force consisted of the North Mississippi All-Stars, Los Lobos, and The Tedeschi Trucks Band. A characteristic of what has made these shows unique is the innumerable sit-ins and band mash-ups that occur on a nightly basis, set after set, seeing all sorts of collaborations, not only by the main names of each band, but also by the auxiliary players of the groups.
As standard for the tour, the show opened with North Mississippi All-Stars. This sibling based, driving trio presented with all the energy one would expect from a band with the term “All-Star” in its name. The group, Luther and Cody Dickinson on guitar and drums, and the deep end foundation of Danielle Nicole on bass. They wasted no time jumping right in for the eager crowd. Their 12-song set featured many blues standards infused with their own brand of improvisation and verve, notable enough that the legends that penned the tunes would have been proud.
Keeping true to their roots, the band covered such tunes as R.L. Burnside’ s “ Po Black Maddie”, Son House’ s “Death Letter Blues”, Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin” and “Got My Mojo Workin”, Buddy Guy’ s “Baby Please Don’ t Leave Me”, T-Bone Walker’ s “Mean Old World”, and Jimi Hendrix’ s “Hear My Train A Comin”. As there were many deadheads in the crowd, remarkable excitement and warm receptions were detected at the performance of Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too” and the traditional “Deep Elem Blues”.
The sit-ins began mid-set, starting off with TTB vocalist Alecia Chakour lead vocals on Levon Helm’ s “Move Along Train”. Following this blues rocker, the remaining back up singers of TTB, Mark Mattison and Mark Rivers, joined the band with Chakour on Mississippi Fred McDowell’ s “Back Back Train”. The end of the set welcomed both Susan Tedeschi and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo to lend guitar duties on “Deep Elem Blues”, “Mean Old World”, “Got My Mojo Workin”, and “Hear My Train A Comin”. The entire set was full of smiles and joyous exchanges, both onstage and off. The chemistry between the “D” brothers and Sistah Nicole is inspiring and magical. From the solid beat of the skins by Cody, the rambunctious flailing of Nicole’ s moves while being able to lay down consistent grooves and growling vocals, and the other-worldly slide work by Luther, the product of this southern equation shows that this group is as much a headliner as anyone else on the bill. It is often said that the opener for many shows leaves much to be desired, but in the case of the NMA, their exit left many only with the desire for more. With a minimal change out of equipment, Los Lobos took the stage to the raucous welcoming of the audience.
Being a local favorite for decades, the crowd’s eruption was still audible as they began their first tune. This group’s ability to effortlessly swing from Latin-infused themes to classic rhythm and blues progressions and everything in between makes them not only danceable, but intoxicating and entertaining. The highlights of the set were incredible and filled with notes that legends are made of. The first song of the evening was one of the group’ s more popular songs, “Mas Y Mas”, and featured accompaniment by Derek Trucks, TTB trumpeter Ephraim Owens, and TTB flautist, Kofi Burbidge. This salsa flavored instrumental clocked in at 14+ minutes and solos were given over to the onstage guests with equal latitude of that of the core members. The horn exchanges between Owens, Burbidge, and Los Lobos’ saxophonist, Steve Berlin, were tasteful and furious and built on each other until the release of the crescendo, leaving just as many giggling on stage as those watching. Trucks’ opportunity was not wasted either and saw encouragement by Cesar Romero to take the lead, adding a stringed complementary exchange equal to that of the preceding brass duel. Another highlight from the set was a cover of Marvin Gaye’ s “What’s Going On”. Tedeschi was employed for lead vocals and was joined by the vocal component from TTB. The piece was soulful and true to the original. Steve Berlin of Los Lobos traded duties of keys and saxophone, nailing both effortlessly. The band pulled out Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” as one of their closing tunes. With help from Trucks, they took this number over the top and really stretched it out. As the mid-section began to diminish, the expectation was a return for the last stanza of lyrics, but instead the band shifted the tune into The Rascals “Good Lovin’”, exciting the crowd, both deadheads and 60’ s rock lovers alike.
There was no shortage of rocking on this piece or the band encouraging the audience to sing along. Again, the band and guests seemed to experiencing as much exhilaration as the people laid out in front of them, shaking their bones. The energy continued to build and at the point that the climax seemed like it could be taken no further, the band dropped right back into “La Bamba”, closing the set with satiated, exhausted exaltation.
Before The Tedeschi Trucks Band took the stage, the promoter, John Nichols, came out and addressed the audience. He wanted to let everyone know that without the compassion and integrity of the bands, this evening would not have been such a great success. He added that the evening’s show was actually turned into a fundraiser by the groups to contribute to a local charity, New Day, which aids in getting teens off of the street, back into education, and re-inspiring their potential for the future. This announcement of humanity put a smile on many in the sea of faces and when Nichols finally said,”……and would you please welcome…….”, the entire venue responded with such a long and deafening salute that it was only the opening chords of the TTB original “Let Me Get By” that finally capped the revel as the third and final set took off. This energetic, bluesy gospel number was prolonged and gave all sections the ability to show for the crowd. Burbidge’ s Leslie solo stood out and received a round of rousing upon completion.
Tedeschi vocals, accompanied by the backup singers, added to the grit of the number. “Laugh About It” was up next and showcased more of Tedeschi’ s control in the vocal department. This beautiful, laid back piece is uplifting and warm. “Don’ t Know What It Means” showed that the front woman of this band has pipes that don’t bend or tire easily. This funky tune had great accents from the horn section, including a voracious solo by TTB saxophonist Kebbi Williams, who once he started blowing notes didn’ t stop, clutching his horn and shaking it. A fantastic rendition of Clapton’s “Keep On Growing”was delivered next. Its punchy structure gave way to accentuated beats of enthusiasm, both rhythmically and melodically. Lee Dorsey’s “Get Out of My Life Woman” was up next and as Tedeschi stepped away from the mic, as TTB’ s Mike Mattison took center stage to lead the band through this number.
What guitar inspired night would be complete without a number from the late Stevie Ray Vaughn? “The Sky is Crying” bought out the first sit-in of the TTB set, seeing the return of Cesar Romero. His exchanges with both Tedeschi and Trucks reinforced the fact that this man is not pigeonholed to any genre, nor his comfort or command diminished outside of his usual band members. “Right On Time”, a dark, speak-easy tune, gave rise to the spotlight of another outstanding member of the TTB horn section. Elizabeth Lea let loose on the trombone, as her swollen cheeks blew grit with every line, accompanied by great slide work and complement by both Trucks and Tedeschi.
Welcoming Luther Dickinson to the stage, the band delivered a double punch of goodness with “I Want More” and Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice”. The interplay in call and response fashion and straight ahead searing leads between Dickinson and Trucks brought obvious laughter between the two string marauders, as both appeared impressed and motivated by each other, fueling the fire of brilliance. B.B. King’s, “ How Blue Can You Get?” waltzed out of the gate in true blues fashion and gave all the dancers in the hall the opportunity to catch their breaths and witness in genuine spectator fashion the talent of the band. This number, again, showcased the front lady’ s ability to soulfully present herself on guitar and verse. The set closer came in the form of another Clapton rocker, “Had To Cry Today” and saw the return of Hidalgo to the stage. This tune has both the complements of hard-driving, distorted chords and softer, melodic vocal sections. The jam, again, seemed unending and spiraled higher and higher with every measure and continued to grab everyone’s attention.
With a curfew looming, the band returned to the stage for their final piece on this epic excursion. Bob Dylan’ s, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” was an even-keeled choice that with its lightness and smooth tempo gave everyone on stage the ability to shine one more time. The fact that this was a reschedule instead of a cancellation and that all three bands returned to the Land of Enchantment, despite that the formal tour had ended weeks ago, speaks volumes about these players and their level of commitment to their fans and the overtly obvious enjoyment they receive playing together, demonstrated by displays of affection visible on stage. All performers, whether guest or host on stage, leaves every turn with toes intact and the girth that everyone receives feels more like family than fame. The proof is in the pudding and the universe willing, if the Wheels of Soul takes on another formation, anyone and everyone should witness this amazing ensemble of talented performers.
Alabama Shakes – Shakes up Portsmouth Pavilion
Portsmouth Pavilion in Portsmouth, Virginia
Friday, September 16th, 2016
Photographer/Writer: Mark Robbins
When Brittany Howard sings the blues her voice defines heartbreak. The mournful, soulful sound coming from the 28 year old singer/songwriter of Alabama Shakes belies her age. Stir in some Janis Joplin, Etta James, a little Aretha and some James Brown and you have the recipe for one of the strongest female singers out there today. Friday night at the Portsmouth Pavilion Alabama Shakes with an expanded band, including backup singers, took over 2000 congregants to church. From the ground shaking “Gimme All Your Love” to the sad lament of “Over My Head” not only does Howard deliver but the three other founding members of the band, guitarist Heath Fogg, Zac Cockrell on electric bass and drummer Steve Johnson back her with perfect timing as well as shining with their own solos. It is easy to hear the difference between the material from their first album, “Boys and Girls”, and the newer Grammy Award winning “Sound and Color”. Where “Boys and Girls” is mostly Southern rock “Sound and Color” is a more mature outing with a darker sound with a heady mixture of gospel, R&B, blues and alternative rock. From the church organ opening notes of “Sound and Color” to Howard belting out the anthem-like “Don’t Wanna Fight” or presenting “Joe” almost as a spoken monologue you know you’re hearing from someone who has lived what she’s singing which is hard to believe from one so young. If their two albums and show Friday night are any indication of the future, Alabama Shakes is going to around for a long time.
Opening for Alabama Shakes was two time Grammy winner Corinne Bailey Rae. Singing material from her three albums, her third album, “The Heart Speaks in Whispers”, NPR has named as one of their 30 favorite albums of the year, Rae gave a silky smooth performance for a legion of fans who sang most of her songs along with her. Backed by a great 4 piece band and sometimes accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, Corrine Bailey Rae was a welcome start to an outstanding night of music.
White River State Park, located in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, offers one of the state’s best amphitheaters, The Lawn at White River. The venue sits on the east bank of the river and offers concert goers sensational picturesque views when the sun slips behind the amphitheater and paints the sky with stunning sunset colors. The acoustics of the venue are a match of the view – amazing.
Grammy Award-winning Tedeschi Trucks Band, along with special guests Los Lobos and North Mississippi Allstars, played the venue on July 27, 2016 as part of their Wheels of Soul Tour. This year TTB released their new album, Let Me Get By and have been celebrating the success of the album. Recorded independently in their own studio, Swamp Raga, the album recognizes the self-reliance, connection and sense of family that has grown since the inception of the band in 2010.
North Mississippi Allstars kicked the evening off as fans settled into their seats. The founding brothers Luther Dickenson (guitar, lowebow and vocals) and Cody Dickenson (drums, keyboards, electric washboard) with Chris Chew (electric bass guitar) are known for their American southern rock/blues bringing the dirty south full throttle to the Midwest before Los Lobos took the stage.
The east Los Angeles, California band, Los Lobos, snagged the stage and initiated a set of rock and roll, Tex-Mex and zydeco with “Whiskey Trail.” Luther Dickinson would take the stage with the band for a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “300 Pounds of Joy” and “Gates of Gold.” Later in the set, Susan Tedeschi appeared for a Marvin Gaye cover, “What’s Going On.” The closing number of the set, “Más y más,” included Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s horn section.
As the sun slipped behind the stage and lit up the sky in wondrous colors, the Tedeschi Trucks Band appeared on stage. They opened their set with “Laugh About It,” a tune from the new album. Derek Trucks’s guitar intro set the song with a light and airy feel, while Susan Tedeschi’s vocals added a dimension to the evening, the breadth and depth of her voice matching the sinking sun. The band seemed to relax into a groovy strut for another new song, “Don’t Know What It Means.” The funky, slink groove showcased Tedeshi’s power on guitar with heavy brass accompaniment. They rolled into a cover from the Box Tops, “The Letter,” and dipped into the new album’s title track, “Let Me Get By,” a southern rock jam featuring heavy keys and vocals.
The set continued with a boozy strut, “Right On Time,” featuring Mike Mattison on vocals. Tedeschi sang the song in a lower pitch than usual, making a fitting harmony with Mattison. Mattison continued on vocals for a ZZ Top cover, “Goin’ Down to Mexico.” Trucks’s heavy guitar intro drove the 12-piece ensemble, while mixing lead guitar with Tedeschi.
As twilight settled, TTB slowed the evening down with a dreamy Derek Trucks Band cover, “Swamp Raga,” that segued into “Midnight in Harlem” from TTB’s 2011 Grammy award-winning album, Revelator. Gentle slide guitar and cascading drums gave way to Tedeschi’s vocals that blanketed the audience with a soft, dreamy feel. They continued with another Revelator track, “Bound for Glory,” a George Jones cover, “Color of the Blues’ and another cover, Bobby “Blue” Bland’s “I Pity the Fool.” They wrapped up the set with “The Storm,” a perfect set closer. Trucks’s intro was a taste of the solo he would rip into midway through the song, solidifying the title.
The band encored with a Sly and the Family Stone cover, “Are You Ready” and a James Taylor cover, “Fire and Rain;” the latter featured Mark Rivers on vocals with Mike Mattison and Tedeschi.
The show concluded about 15 minutes early but did not let the attendees down. It was a great Wednesday evening show on the Lawn.
Railroad Earth with special guest Cornmeal The Vic Theater
December 31, 2015 – New Year’s Eve
Photographer: Amber Jennings/Crowe Light Photography
Writers: Amber Jennings/Nik Earl
The hub for the Midwest music scene, Chicago, Illinois houses some of the finest music venues in the region. The Vic Theater located in the Central Lakeview area is one of the top contenders in the well-known realm of Chicago venues. Built in 1912 the ostentatious five-story vaudeville house still has most of the original ornate wall sculptures within and accommodates 1400 people. The eclectic neighborhood is home to great restaurants, theater, and shopping. One of the greatest perks of the venue is the Vic’s parking garage directly across the street and the easy access to the train for ease to and from the venue.
Keller Williams Trio (Featuring Rob Wasserman & Rodney Holmes)
The Vogue Theater
September 19, 2015
Writer/Photographer – Amber Jennings of Crowe Light Photography
On the night of September 19th, The Vogue Theater in Indianapolis, Indiana was half full when Keller Williams popped out on stage to announce the opening act for the evening, The Accidentals. The Alternative Acoustic Indie Folk band out of Traverse City Michigan consists of multi-instrumentalist, singer-song writers Katie Larson (bass, guitar, vocals), Savannah Buist (fiddle, guitar, vocals) and Michael Dause (percussion, vocals) . They opened their set with, “The Silence.” The quirky teenage band was quick to impress the crowd with incredible musical prowess and showmanship. Their set continued with “Epitaphs,” “The Sound a Watch Makes When Enveloped in Cotton,” “In The Morning,” “Memorial Day.” Keller Williams (guitar, vocals), Rob Wasserman (upright bass) joined the “orch dorks” (orchestra dorks per Katie Larson) for a favorite Keller Williams cover, “Pumped Up Kicks,” by Foster for the People. They continued their set with “The End,” a rendition of the Beatles tune, “Taxman,” into an incredibly executed cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” that featured Dause on vocals and drums. The set would wrap up with “Parking Lot,” and a mashup of Toss the Feathers (classic fiddle tune), Hysteria (by Muse), and Minor Swing (Django Reinhardt).
The Accidentals with KW and Rob Wasserman
After a nice warm up for the crowd from The Accidentals, the Keller Williams Trio would take the stage. As any Keller Williams fan knows, KW has a knack of putting together the most amazing ensembles to grace the jamband scene with each of his tours. This year’s tour would not disappoint with the addition of Rob Wasserman (upright bass) and Rodney Holmes (drums).
Keller Williams Trio featuring Rob Wasserman & Rodney Holmes
Grammy award winning upright bass player, Rob Wasserman, co-founded RadDog with Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead is also known for playing with a wide variety of musicians including Bruce Cockburn, Elvis Costello, Ani di Franco, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Rickie Lee Jones, Mark Morris, Van Morrison, Aaron Neville, Lou Reed, Pete Seeger, Jules Shear, Studs Terkel, Bob Weir, Brian Wilson, Chris Whitley, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Laurie Anderson,Stephen Perkins Banyan, Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Rodney Holmes’ impressible background includes playing with Santana, Jim Weider, Steve Kimock as well as laying down the drum tracks on mega hit single, “Smooth” with Rob Thomas. Holmes current projects consist of “Rodney Holmes’ LITHIUM TREE”, with “Project Percolator”, “Randy Brecker Group.”
The trio would kick off their set with a two minute jam that set the stage for, “Off Time Chorus Line,” from Williams’ new album “Vape.” This heavy bass tune would entrance the crowd with Wasserman’s stick-slip phenomenon before slipping into, “Breathe” the jazzy layers of Holmes on percussion blended a new feel to the favorite Keller Williams Incident tune. “The Drop,” a wispy folk blend of dark bass notes with creamy vocals would slide the crowd down the face of a musical wave into a reggae fused, “Love Ninja.”
Holmes jazzy percussion carried the Trio into, “Buena,” from Williams’ album “Bass,” the slinky bluesy grove segued to a low-end loop filled “Victory Song.” Williams known for his acoustic dance music got the crowd on it’s feet with another one off his new album titled, “She Rolls” before slowing things down with his hamer-on rhythmic cascade of acoustic blissed, “Stargate.” The wide open drifty, “Above The Thunder,” seamlessly segued into beautiful, “Bird Song.” The Trio did not stop the set for a break but kept the night going with a surprise Phish cover, “Birds of a Feather.” The Virginia Psychedelic Excursion (Va.P.E.) , “Mantra” segued into a Williams classic, “Freeker By the Speaker.” Freeker would wind down into a stellar bass solo by Wasserman as Williams and Holmes exited the stage. The two would take stage again for another off of Vape, “Making it Rain” and “Apparition” off of the album 12. Hot Rod Holmes would dominate the stage solo for a crowd-wowing percussion showcase. Williams would return to the stage as Holmes ducked off the stage for an impressive KW solo. The trio would once again reunite on stage for another Keller Williams Incident island groovy, “Best Feeling” that segued into a slow gritty groove for, “Kiwi and the Apricot.” The trio encored the set with a Joe Walsh cover, “Life’s Been Good.” Williams finger dancing upstrokes ended the night on an incredibly good note.
Two minute jam > Off Time Chorus Line, Breathe > The Drop > Buena > Victory Song > She Rolls > Stargate > Above The Thunder > Bird Song > Birds Of A Feather* > Mantra > Freeker By The Speaker, Rob Wasserman solo, Making It Rain > Apparition > Hot Rod solo, KW solo, Best feeling > Kiwi And The Apricot, E: Life’s Been Good**
**Joe Walsh Cover
Future Keller William Tour Dates:
9/24 – 9/25 Keller Williams; Resonance Festival – Pataskala, OH
9/26 Keller Williams Trio (featuring Rob Wasserman and Rodney Holmes); The Tralf – Buffalo, NY
10/1 10/3 – Keller Williams; Homegrown Music Festival – Mebane, NC
10/4 Keller Williams and the Keels; Luna Light Festival – Darlington, MD
10/8 Keller Williams; Holston River Brewery – Bristol, TN
10/9 Keller Williams Emancipator Ensemble; Creatures of the Night Music & Arts Festival – Adams, TN
10/10 Keller Williams with More Than a Little; Mustang Music Festival – Corolla, NC –
10/18 Keller Williams Grateful Gospel featuring Stu Allen; Magnolia Music Festival – Live Oak, FL
10/23 Keller Williams Trio (featuring Rob Wasserman and Rodney Holmes) with special guests Cabinet; Aggie Theater, Fort Collins, CO
10/24 Keller Williams Trio (featuring Rob Wasserman and Rodney Holmes) with special guests Cabinet); Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom – Denver, CO
10/29 Keller Williams; Boulton Center – Bayshore, NY
11/5 Keller Williams Trio (featuring Rob Wasserman and Rodney Holmes) with special guests Old Shoe; Redstone Room – Davenport, IA
11/6 Keller Williams Trio (featuring Rob Wasserman and Rodney Holmes) with special guests Old Shoe; The Waiting Room Lounge – Omaha, NE
11/7 Keller Williams Trio (featuring Rob Wasserman and Rodney Holmes) with special guests Old Shoe; DG’S Tap House – Ames, IA
11/12 An Evening with Keller Williams and EOTO; Warehouse Live – Houston, TX –
11/13 An Evening with Keller Williams and EOTO; Trees – Dallas, TX
11/14 An Evening with Keller Williams and EOTO; Scoot Inn – Austin, TX
11/27 Keller Williams with Travis Book, Chris Pandolfi, Larry Keel, Jason Carter, and Jay Starling, special guest Cabinet, The National – Richmond, VA – “Thanksforgrassgiving”
11/28 Keller Williams with Travis Book, Chris Pandolfi, Larry Keel, Jason Carter, and Jay Starling, special guest Cabinet, 9:30 Club – Washington, D.C. – “Thanksforgrassgiving”
12/3 Keller Williams Trio (featuring Rob Wasserman and Rodney Holmes); V-Club – Huntington, WV
12/4 Keller Williams Trio (featuring Rob Wasserman and Rodney Holmes); State Theatre – State College, PA
12/5 Keller Williams Trio (featuring Rob Wasserman and Rodney Holmes); Mr. Small’s Theatre – Pittsburgh PA
1/6/16 – 1/11/16 Jam Cruise – Keller Williams with More Than a Little
Words by Tim Newby/ Images by Tim Newby & Russell Stoddard
Firmly established as one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier one-day music festivals, The Hot August Music Festival, returned for its 23rd installment with a diverse line-up that kept alive the deep tradition of musical greatness that first started 23 years ago in founder Brad Selko’s backyard.
The line-up this year tended towards a rootsy, bluegrassy sound with the Punch Brothers, Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth, Cabinet, and the Sligo Creek Stompers all making appearances throughout the day. But as with Hot August Music Fest’s past, the line-up reflected a wide-range of musical tastes, allowing one to bounce between the three stages and satisfy all their musical desires and needs. Looking for some blustery-rock? Swing by the man stage for the guitar-thrash of Shakey Graves. Need some Electro-funk? Head over to the side-stage for the high-octane explosion of Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong. Trying to find some swampy-New Orleans soul? The Revivliasts are on right before the Stringdusters. Looking for some smooth blues? Find the stage in the woods and catch Jarekus Singleton’s scintillating set.
After all that the day ended with a nostalgic blast from The Counting Crows who showed that twenty-years on they still have it as they plowed through set that was chock-full of some of their greatest hits, “Rain King,” “Omaha,” “Long December,” and some choice covers, Bob Dylan’s “Ain’t Going Nowhere,” and The Velvet Underground’s “Elizabeth.”
With fourteen bands, spread over three stages at the picturesque setting of Oregon Park, Hot August Music Festival was quite simply a treat for the musical soul.
Click the thumbnail(s) for more images from the fest by Tim Newby…
Click the thumbnail(s) for more images from the fest by Russell Stoddard…
With excitement growing for the celebration of 50 years of The Grateful Dead this summer in Chicago and Santa Clara, magic is filling the air with a number of groups paying homage to the legends. Formed in 1997 in Chicago, Dark Star Orchestra has been taking the idea of homage to the next level as they have made their name by recreating full shows performed by the legendary San Francisco band. Dark Star Orchestra brought their unique ability and unmatched Dead spirit to the mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania and Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, PA.
As fans filtered into the venue from the parking lot, the band settled in and started right into the first set opener, “Bertha.” This was the perfect way to start off the group’s two night stint at the historic venue. The crowd was buzzing with excitement as they sang every word to the opening number. The quintet didn’t miss a beat with the upbeat version of “Mexicali Blues,” that followed. Slowing down the set was a stellar version of “Loser,” which was led by Jeff Mattson on guitar and vocals. The beauty of Dark Star Orchestra’s performance is they have studied The Grateful Dead so closely that if you close your eyes you feel like you are back with the original members. Drummer Dino English started out a nice introduction to “They Love Each Other” which gave guitarist Mattson a few moments to show his guitar skills. As Mattson’s fingers flowed across the strings of his guitar the crowd was fixated on every note that rang out.
As long time “Deadheads” were searching through set lists to see if they could pinpoint which year Dark Star Orchestra was performing, vocalist Lisa Mackey joined the group onstage to perform a cheerful version of “Beat It On Down The Line” with had the crowd bouncing around Penn’s Peak grinning ear to ear. Rob Barraco, sporting his usual purple bandana, shone on keys through the song. The piano virtuoso went back and forth on the keyboards performing a flawless solo that got everyone in the band smiling. As the band launched into a superb version of “Row Jimmy” you could feel the emotion flowing out of Mattson’s voice. About an hour into the performance you could see that the crowd and the band were feeding off each other’s energy. The band was firing on all cylinders this evening and the first set closer was no exception. “Greatest Story Ever Told” gave each band member a chance to solo and really show why they are one of the greatest Grateful Dead projects to perform today. The set closed with fan favorite “China Cat Sunflower” and its usual musical partner, “I Know You Rider,” that flowed seamlessly into “Around and Around.”
At set break many in the crowd began the guessing game as to what show Dark Star was recreating on this night. As the opening notes of “Ramble on Rose” graced Penn’s Peak, my buddy turned to me and said “I figured out what the date is. We’re in for a treat this second set.” He was exactly right with his guess (12/6/73 for those keeping score). The group kept the energy up as they executed a classic rendition of “Me & My Uncle.” The beauty of Dark Star Orchestra is how they bring people of all ages together just like The Grateful Dead did for thirty-plus years. As the group transitioned into a eleven minute version of “Here Comes Sunshine,” concert goers were dancing freely in the aisles of the wooden historic concert hall.
The band got loose and stretched their musical legs on the next number, a thirty-three minute version of the Grateful Dead classic “Dark Star,” that allowed the group to really explore their instrumental side. As guitarists Rob Eaton and Mattson laid down the spacey guitar licks, Vangelas contributed some deep bass grooves. Drummer English set the tone nicely with his unique style of drumming and you could tell that Barraco was in his glory tickling the ivories on the edge of the stage. The seamless transition into “Eyes Of The World” was magical to say the least. Every voice in the audience sang with the band “Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world!” The second set closed out with a mellow rendition of “Stella Blue” followed by an energized “Sugar Magnolia” that gave Eaton a chance to channel Bob Weir perfectly. The band retook the stage for their encore to hoots and hollers and concluded the night with the Smokey Robinson & the Miracles classic, “I Second That Emotion.”
The sun starts to set as The Wood Brothers take the stage at Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. Surrounded by trees and a lawn filled with folk and bluegrass fans, the band begins their set. Multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix, flanked by the brothers Chris and Oliver Wood under the red glow of stage lights, warms his hands on a chilly April evening.
Oliver Wood kicks off the show by picking out a slow folk ballad on his acoustic guitar. His brother outlines the guitar chords on an upright bass, and Rix plays a beat on his self-proclaimed shuitar – a crummy guitar he transformed into a percussion instrument with tuna cans and other noisemakers.
The band sings their stories in soulful three-part harmonies while many audience members sing along.
After opening the set with a few slower, more traditional folk tunes, Oliver trades his acoustic for a hallow-body electric guitar, and Rix takes his place behind his drum set.
Chris uses a bow to play a virtuosic classical-style solo on bass as the festival sits in awe. When his solo comes to a close, his brother comes in with an upbeat, blues-soaked funky guitar riff and Rix launches into a groovy beat on the drums. The crowd can’t help but move to the beat.
Jordan August and Phil Chorney stand off-stage surveying the scene with walkie-talkies in hand and a solemn look on their faces. The co-owners and co-creators of the festival listen to The Wood Brothers’ harmonies and impressive musicianship, but there are more pressing concerns. Will the bus that is taking The Wood Brothers to their hotel make it through the rioting downtown? Is the event running on time? Is everyone enjoying themselves? Are people going to stick around for the last few bands after it gets dark? Will they get back their security deposit on the park? Is the festival living up to its reputation? With so many things that can go wrong, Chorney and August hardly have the time to stop and enjoy their own event.
“Baltimore is a working-class, blue-collar town, with great people, great food, great beer and great music,” Chorney says. “So let’s celebrate that.”
While protests and social unrest were bubbling into riots near Camden Yards on April 25, Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park was an oasis of peace and music as thousands attended the 3rd Annual Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival.
The festival featured performances from national and local folk and bluegrass acts including The Travelin’ McCourys, The Wood Brothers, The Seldom Scene, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, Cris Jacobs, The Bumper Jacksons, Grand Ole’ Ditch, Letitia VanSant, Chester River Runoff, Charm City Junction, The Herd of Main Street and The Manly Deeds. The event also had local craft vendors, selling everything from hula-hoops to cider, beer, banjos, bowties and falafels.
The Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival is the latest chapter in a long history of bluegrass music in Baltimore – a history that has been all but forgotten, according to August and Chorney. They share a passion for the craft of bluegrass and folk music and a love for Baltimore. This inspired them to create the festival with the intention of sharing this music, bringing money into the city and raising awareness of bluegrass music in Baltimore, a city that was once a hotbed of folk and bluegrass.
“In the 1950s, it was either Nashville or Baltimore for bluegrass, which is a wild concept because Baltimore doesn’t seem like that place,” August said. “People forgot that bluegrass was even here.”
“That’s the purpose of the festival,” August explained, “to bring back that awareness of bluegrass music that used to exist here.”
Bluegrass and folk music have been a part of Baltimore’s history for a long time. Last year the Baltimore Museum of Industry had an exhibit about the banjo – an instrument with roots in West Africa that has been a part of Maryland tradition since the 1740’s. It wasn’t until the 20th century, however, that this music flooded the streets of Baltimore.
The Great Depression in the 1930’s resulted in the mass northern migration of poor families from the South and Appalachian region. As an industrial center, Baltimore became one of many cities on the receiving end of this migration.
“The proximity of the Appalachia region and the opportunities that existed [in Baltimore] at the time were a huge motivating factor for people looking for a change,” said Tim Newby, author of the forthcoming book Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin’ Sound and its Legacy.
These migrants brought with them their families, their traditions and their cultural tastes, which included folk and bluegrass music. These new-comers were not always welcome, Newby explained. Bluegrass legend Hazel Dickens recalls seeing signs that read “No Dogs or Hillbillies” as she went about town. Often the migrants would cluster together in small neighborhoods around the city, Newby said. The areas of Hampden, Woodbury and Druid Hill Park came to be known as “hillbilly ghettos,” Chorney said. In time, Bluegrass eventually became a staple of the Baltimore music scene.
“You had these migrants who had grown up with this music and you had many younger locals who were into this same kind of music,” Newby said. “They really bonded together and created a special atmosphere that was inclusive of both migrants and those already from the city or surrounding area.”
On the evenings before work these migrants would meet up in bars and basements, bring their instruments and have informal “pickin’ parties,” keeping their traditions alive in a city that proved to be nothing like home. Baltimore was the home to many bluegrass legends, such as Hazel Dickens, Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys, Walt Hensley, and Russ Hooper, and Mike Seeger. Del McCoury (father of this year’s festival headliners, The Travelin’ McCourys), was a regular part of that early scene as well, as commuted down to play in the rough and tumble bars of Baltimore from his home in York County, Pennsylvania.
By the 1950’s, Baltimore was the 6th largest city in the United States, Newby said. Folk and bluegrass were the most popular forms of music in the city. There were many bars and clubs that featured local bluegrass musicians, such as the 79 Club, the Cozy Inn and the Blue Jay, giving musicians an opportunity to share their songs and hone their craft.
Soon Baltimore became a center for bluegrass music, with influence in the national music scene. In 1966, “The Streets of Baltimore” by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard, was one of the biggest hits on country radio.
The city is a different place than it was when it was known for bluegrass, but August and Chorney are proving with their festival that bluegrass is still here.
“The Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival is doing a great job of keeping the spirit and tradition alive of this musical legacy of the city” Newby said. “They are helping to bring awareness to Baltimore’s storied history to a generation of music fans who might be unaware of it.”
A Celebration of Music
The Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival unites people of all ages and walks of life in the beautiful Druid Hill Park in a celebration of music. Despite overcast skies, the festival is buzzing with excitement. Two stages are situated at the bottom of the gently sloping hill, an ideal spot for the stage because it is a natural amphitheater. August says that they added the second stage this year to cut down on the time between sets, allowing for the crew to set up for the next act before the previous act finishes.
People stand densely packed in front of the stage, and the hill is covered in lawn chairs and blankets where many festival-goers have settled in. To the right of the stage is the tent of one of the festival’s partners, Union Craft Brewing. As in previous years, the brewery has made a bluegrass themed beer specially for the event, a Bavarian Hefeweizen dubbed The High Lonesome Hefe. Next to the beer tent there is some fierce corn-hole competition.
Up the hill, near the conservatory, is what August calls “vendor village,” where people can choose from a range of food options and also buy items such as banjos, hula hoops, jewelry, bowties and band merchandise. Off to the left side of the stage there are a few chairs set up so that attendees can bring their own instruments and have their own pickin’ parties.
The diversity of the crowd and the vendors is matched by the diversity of the bands playing. Although they all fall under the umbrella of folk and bluegrass, some of the groups could not be more different. On one hand there is the traditional old-school bluegrass group the Seldom Scene, and the exciting and fast paced music of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen and The Travelin’ McCourys, and on the other hand you have the more folk and blues style of the Wood Brothers, and also the unique blend of jazz, bluegrass and early western swing from the Bumper Jacksons. They show the wide range of forms that folk and bluegrass music have taken over the years. The one thing the bands have in common is that they all get the crowd moving.
“A lot of traditional music, in different kinds of cultures, is dance music,” says Jess Eliot Myhre, singer, clarinetist and washboard player for the DC/Baltimore-based group the Bumper Jacksons. “I think that fundamentally people really connect with music that makes them want to dance.”
The music at the festival certainly has that effect on people. There is something simple and lovely about this old-fashioned music played on acoustic instruments, Myhre says. There is nothing standing between the listener and the musician, she explains, which is what makes folk and bluegrass so unique and genuine.
Despite all the positive vibes and good times at the festival, the mood of the event was somewhat odd. Protests and incipient riots are happening only a few miles away as a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, who was arrested only ten blocks away from the park.
“I think it was a great festival, but it was very strange playing that festival to that audience while the protests were happening so close,” Myhre says.
While Myhre feels the festival seems out of place in the city in turmoil, music can be a source of empathy and understanding.
“Folk and bluegrass tend to be music that tells stories of hardship and struggle,” Chorney explains. “Baltimore has its history of hardship and struggle, and people can relate to it.”
Pickin’ Parties, Paperwork and Permits
The Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival all started on Chorney’s porch in Hampden, a neighborhood in Baltimore. August, who is currently a musician in the Jordan August Band as well as Trace Friends Mucho and a freelance photographer, met Chorney, a marketer for Citeligher, through the Baltimore music scene. They would see each other at the 8×10, a bar at which August bar tended, and they became friends when August did a photo-shoot for Yellow Dubmarine, a reggae Beatles cover band that Chorney managed.
Soon after becoming friends the pair began to have regular “pickin’ parties” at Chorney’s. They would sit out on the porch with a case of beer and a bottle of whiskey and play into the night. Before long, these get-togethers sparked the idea for some sort of bluegrass party.
“Let’s throw a bluegrass party,” Chorney said, “let’s get all our friends together who play music… Let’s just do something cool.”
This idea eventually blossomed into the first Charm City Folk and Bluegrass Festival. They raised money and hosted the event in Woodbury at the Union Craft Brewery. The festival was a success, selling out 1,600 tickets nearly a month in advance. While August and Chorney were grateful for the opportunity Union Craft gave them, they realized they had no room to grow and began working with the city to find a new location.
The next year the pair teamed up with District 7 Councilmen Nick Mosby, who selected Druid Hill Park as the new home for the festival. In order to use the park, the festival had to undergo a long process of filing paperwork and permits, making frequent trips to City Hall, and appeasing various governmental organizations such as Parks and Recreation and the Housing Department.
As a for-profit company, the festival had to do a lot to use city property, such as making substantial donations to the city and non-profits, including the Believe in Music Program – a K-12 inner city music education program. The festival was made possible through a collaborative effort between festival and the city, embracing something that brings something artistically and culturally different to the table, Chorney explained.
“I think that’s really unique and special, and I hope to continue that partnership as long as I can,” Chorney said.
In the end, August and Chorney explained, it always comes down to money.
“We don’t make money. We’ve never made money off these events, me and Phil pay out of pocket every year to make sure this happens,” August says.
The city gets money from the permits, donations, payment to use the park and a security deposit. Being able to pay the bands is another huge expense. Then you have to factor in costs for everything from marketing, festival workers, the stage, speakers, lights and tents, all the way to porta-pots.
“Everyone always gets paid no matter what,” August said, “even when you know the bank account about to hit zero, you still make sure they get paid.”
Chorney and August are not the only ones that work to make this event a reality. It requires a lot of effort from many of their friends, who help with everything from social media to band hospitality, working with the vendors, to general volunteering on the day of the event.
With a Little Help From My Friends
On the day of the festival, Chorney, August and their team are a well-oiled machine. While festival-goers are relaxing, enjoying the music and beer, the volunteers work through the day into the night making sure things go smoothly. Between helping with parking, manning the entrance, taking pictures, setting up the equipment on stage and countless other tasks, there is no shortage of jobs that need to be done.
Chorney and August are the busiest of all. When they aren’t zipping around in a Gator truck moving equipment they are organizing the volunteers, greeting festival attendees and acting as the puppet masters, pulling the strings behind the scenes making the festival a reality. Moments where they get to sit, relax, and listen to the music are few and far-between.
August, whose life’s passion is live music photography, explains that one day he hopes he and Chorney won’t have to work the festival so August will be able to photograph his own event. Until that day, Chorney and August are working on keeping the festival growing with the help and support of their friends.
“My favorite part [of the festival] is seeingmy friends smile even though they’ve spend a 14 hour day setting up, breaking down, helping people out,” Chorney says. “And they expect very little in return except a thanks and a chance to be a part of something.”
There are actually three certainties in life…Death, Taxes and a funky good time whenever The Nth Power takes the stage, and Tax Day at the Terminal West in Atlanta was no exception to that rule. Hot off their nationally televised performance on VH1, the band came into town with a head of steam and a co-headlining band, Corey Henry and The Funk Apostles. The bands have been taking turns opening and closing each night, with The Funk Apostles lined up to close this evening’s show, and it’s almost uncanny how well the two acts compliment each other.
The Nth Power has had a couple of moments in the media of late, with their aforementioned TV gig and the departure of founding member, vocalist and keyboard player Nigel Hall. Hall’s departure to finish his solo album left the band in quick need of a replacement, and they couldn’t have found a more able replacement than Kreative Pandemonium’s Courtney Smith. Smith harmonized and sang leads, rolled massive organ runs and crisp chords and fit in as if he had been there all along. Quite a feat for a last minute addition, and his ability to seamlessly insert himself spoke volumes to his overall talents and humility.
The Nth Power has always been about love, unity and soul and guitarist and lead vocalist Nick Cassarino fronts the band with an infectious twinkle in his eye and a passionate edge to every thing he does. While his is a strong presence, one of the things that is most remarkable about The Nth Power is their balance, both musically and onstage personality wise. While Nikki Glaspie is one of the more versatile and powerful drummers on the funk scene, she and bassist Nate Edgar effortlessly cycle back and forth between the pocket and the foreground, making a statement by playing their parts. Weedie Braimah took his percussion playing to new heights, with a solo section that had the packed Terminal West crowd cheering both his playing and his over the top facial expressions and antics. No one person seems to be trying to make it “Their band” and that seems to have created a harmony that comes through easily, and is all the more impressive when you realize it’s being done with a new player added to the mix.
A stellar rendition of their TV broadcast hit “Only Love” and it’s contained and structured vibe was countered by a funky instrumental, appropriately named “420,” a tune that went on for a solid fifteen minutes of righteous interplay, round robin soloing and an obviously delighted audience. While every band thanks the crowd after a show, the heartfelt appreciation from the players was a powerful scene, as they avoided all the cliches’ and told the attendees about their love for the city, and their hope to return soon. Judging from the response to their moving message, I’m guessing it won’t be long before The Nth Power takes Atlanta by storm once again.
Snarky Puppy has made a huge, Grammy winning splash on the funk and soul scene over the last few years. A musical collective, when they come together as a whole they create devastating dancable new funk standards. When not working as a unit, the various members pursue their own side projects, and keyboardist Corey Henry brought his newest, The Funk Apostles, along for the tour. featuring an unorthodox line up of two drummers, two keyboardists, a bass player and a guitarist, The Funk Apostles crowded onto the stage. The anticipation in the crowd was interesting to watch, as most had never seen the band, and few had ever even heard them and were clearly ready to see what the fuss was about.
Opening with a droning, half time rendition of Prince’s signature tune “1999” was a bold choice, and the droning, plodding version gained an other-worldly atmosphere that was a revelation. Taking his band through and hour plus set of tunes, Corey Henry took turns on the keyboards, a keytar and even did a lil break dancing to keep the crowd guessing. Weedie Braimah came out and got his drum on for a sit in that took the drumming spectacle to a whole other level, and Henry showed a comfort-ability and versatility that comes from experience, such as touring the world with his other band. The crowd stayed to the very end, and deciding to forgo the tired routine of leaving the stage, then coming back for an encore, The Funk Apostles simply rocked the house til the stage curfew in a show of both dedication and unwillingness to let the party stop, both traits any music fan should admire.