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 Vapes the Vogue Theater
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
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…
Dark Star Orchestra
Jim Thorpe, PA
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.”
12/6/73 – Public Hall, Cleveland, OH
Black Throated Wind
They Love Each Other
Beat It On Down The Line
Greatest Story Ever Told
China Cat Sunflower >
I Know You Rider
Around And Around
Ramble On Rose
Me and My Uncle
Here Comes Sunshine
Dark Star >
Eyes of The World >
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.
“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.
Steve Kimock & Friends: A Tribute To Jerry Garcia
Ardmore Music Hall
This statement rang true when Steve Kimock & Friends performed some of their favorite Jerry Garcia tunes at Ardmore Music Hall. Over four decades of performing live the guitar wizard became close friends and has had the opportunity on many occasions to share the stage with The Grateful Dead. With the psychedelic Bay Area group celebrating fifty-years, it is fitting that Kimock pays homage to his friend and Grateful Dead guitarist/vocalist, Jerry Garcia. A group of accomplished musicians joined him onstage this evening, Bobby Vega (Bass), Bill Vitt (Drums), John Morgan Kimock (Drums), Jeff Chimenti (Keyboards/Organ), and Dan Lebowitz (Guitar/Vocals).
As the band took the stage in front of a capacity crowd on Sunday night there were hoots and hollers in anticipation of what the super group was going to start the evening off with. “High Heeled Sneakers” kicked off the set, with Kimock’s smooth guitar and Chimenti’s steady keys starting off the tune. This was a perfect beginning to the night. Dan Lebowitz, from ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) took the opportunity to let his voice shine on the opener. With the funky bass of Vega and Kimock’s tasty guitar licks, “Merle’s Boogie,” brought a smile to everyone in attendance. Chimenti took center stage during the song with a flawless solo on his organ. You could hear a pin drop as the band started into a perfect rendition of the classic number, “Black Muddy River.” Drummers Vitt and John Morgan Kimock laid down a nice soothing backbeat as the elder Kimock took the spotlight with his graceful lap steel.
Vega started out “Expressway to Your Heart” with a bassline that led Chimenti and Steve Kimock to join in the tune seamlessly. This number during the first set reminded everyone in attendance why Vega is considered one of the most well rounded bassists in the jamband world. The extended take on the Soul Survivors classic gave each band member time to shine throughout the seventeen-plus minutes. To conclude the opening set guitarists Kimock and Lebowitz stepped up to the microphone to sing
“Money Honey” which was first recorded by Garcia and longtime friend and musician, Merl Saunders, on The Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings. As the band was introduced the sold out Ardmore Music Hall was smiling from ear to ear and waiting to hear what the group had in store for them during the second set.
As the band took the stage and the capacity crowd settled back in the sextet opened the second set with “Aiko Aiko,” which made Ardmore feel like it was down in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. The band then pleased the capacity crowd by performing a stellar rendition of The Grateful Dead classic, “Bertha.” With a deep, prominent bass groove and the backing of Vitt & Kimock on drums, with the pair sounding just the rhythm devils Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman, the band really connected with the fans on this one. Lebowitz lent his vocals and acoustic guitar expertise and Chimenti performed a solo for the ages. You could feel the energy in the room that was going back and forth between the band and crowd during “Bertha.” It was pure magic. Next Kimock quieted the crowd with a moving rendition of “Stella Blue,” that was laced with some of his chilling pedal steel work.
The band threw a curveball into the mix when they started out with the Grateful Dead classic “Help On The Way,” which slid easily into its common partner “Slipknot!” before throwing the crowd for a loop as it then transitioned smoothly into the Jesse Stone number, “Don’t Let Go,” which then moved into a perfect segue into “Philadelphia Mambo.” The group capped the night off paying homage to J.J. Cale with a version of “After Midnight,” that included The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby.”
To say Derek Trucks has come a long way is an understatement. For every child prodigy that has continued success in their field, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, that disappear from the public eye.
Well, Trucks made it.
That’s not news to anyone.
But, years removed from the Derek Trucks Band and months removed from the Allman Brothers’ final shows, the guitarist’s current outfit, the Tedeschi Trucks Band is his best “solo” act yet. The fully-formed Tedeschi Trucks Band is a powerful beast on all fronts, and provides a depth that Trucks never had with his self-named group. With two drummers the band has the percussive heft that the Allman Brothers had, but the horn section provides a different facet – a funk and soul dimension that propels the group to heights that weren’t really possible inside the Allman Brothers’ setting.
Simply put, this is one heavy group, and they proved it at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis.
Willie Watson opened the show, and set the table with his brand of bluegrass/folk. Watson, formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show, delivered songs tinged with a wry wit and sense of humor that retrospectively provided a foil to the main act. Watson is a great story-teller, but unfortunately there’s only so much one man can do on stage on his own, and after several songs they all seemed to blend together. He shook things up by switching between banjo and guitar (with some harmonica thrown in), but it’s became hard (for this ignorant writer) to differentiate one tune from the other.
When the Tedeschi Trucks Band finally hit the stage, the room was pretty full. While not a sell-out, the crowd was rowdy and ready for anything. The band started off with “Made Up Mind,” the title track from their latest album, and never looked back.
Watching Derek Trucks is simply a treat. There’s no flash or frills – just mind-blowing slide guitar and finger picking. Over the course of two hours, it was an absolute clinic on how to play guitar with ego set completely aside.
Vocalist Mike Mattison, who was lead for the Derek Trucks Band, took stage front for lead vocals on “Don’t Miss Me” and “Get What You Deserve,” tunes from the Derek Trucks Band days, and Susan’s vocals on the Derek & the Dominoes track “Keep On Growing” would have made Eric Clapton proud.
The band showed their versatility, toning it down a bit for “Shelter,” and paid homage to Bobby Bland with a take on his “I Pity the Fool.” The set-closing “Bound For Glory” was tremendous, and frankly Derek’s solo on the “The Storm” would have been worth the price of admission alone.
Derek and Susan have clear chemistry on stage, a good thing considering their husband-and-wife relationship. But, the bond is more than just familial – it’s musical, which is in its own right a powerful thing. It’s going to be really interesting to watch the band continue to evolve, because there are so many directions that Derek and Susan are capable of steering the ship.
Set: Made Up Mind, Do I Look Worried, The Sky Is Crying, Don’t Miss Me, Comin’ Home, Shelter, Keep on Growing, Get What You Deserve, I’ve Got a Feeling, Idle Wind, I Pity the Fool, Bound for Glory
Encore: The Storm
JJ Grey & Mofro released their seventh studio album Ol’ Glory last week and took to the road to celebrate. The band pulled into the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA on Wednesday, March 4, a night ahead of the East Coast’s most recent snow storm, to heat up the stately renovated old venue.
The nearly sold out Wednesday night crowd didn’t need much help getting into the show, but got a quick charge of adrenaline when the band opened with fan favorite “Brighter Days.” Playing such an anthem to start the night foretold that Grey had many things he needed to get to, most importantly his new material. Mofro played six of the twelve new songs from Ol’ Glory, demonstrating that Grey’s self-revealing and soulful song writing shows no indication of slowing down.
Highlights of the new material included “A Night to Remember,” a bouncy R&B song with a tasty horn track reminiscent of the best of the Stax label’s Memphis Horns. Then the album’s title track “Ol’ Glory” served as the final encore. From the opening Fender Rhodes keyboard sound and the infectious and fast horn line, the song settles on the back of the hard driving and funky bass line. This song whipped the crowd into a frenzy and left everybody wanting more.
The musical highlights of the night came on two trusted favorites. “Lochloosa” is a song that never disappoints live, and although the band plays this song regularly, the power of “Lochloosa” consistently brings out the best in Mofro. The second came during the song “Ho Cake,” which was extended to allow the band to stretch out. This was an electric twenty minutes of music showing what a group of road warrior musicians can do after playing together for years.
The scene was set for this moment with a beautiful set design. A gigantic tapestry hanging across the back of the stage depicted the new album cover and gave the sense you were looking out a picture window onto an old tree in a meadow. The stage was adorned with lamps and end tables further giving the sense you were watching these guys in the comfort of their living room.
After the initial verse and chorus, the band took off on a ride, bringing the audience with them. Bassist Todd Smallie and drummer Anthony Cole play together like they were brothers brought up in the same house. They play with joy, constantly adding little things and watching each other react. The rest of the band gets in on it as well and before long the musical conversation has gotten deep. As solos bounce around from one bandmate to the next, the supporting cast listens and reacts, displaying an understanding that was born out of hundreds and hundreds of nights playing together. Capping it off when the vocals return, Grey tries to stump the band with how he approaches the lyric’s rhythm. The band never misses a stop, leaving everyone laughing together like best friends.
JJ Grey is an honest and adept front man, building a band deserving of his heavyweight talent. This is a can’t miss tour and if you are a fan you need to get out and see it.
Govt Mule played a blistering two set show on Friday, February 20th at the Fox Theater in Oakland CA. Special guest for this tour is legendary jazz fusion guitar player, John Scofield. With a setlist that blended Mule originals with some of Scofield’s tunes plus a few choice covers, the band played a long two hour first set and in the second, the sequences of songs Beautifully Broken > Breakdown (Tom Petty cover ) > Beautifully Broken and later The Shape I‘m In (Band cover) > Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic cover) > Dreams (Allman Brothers cover ) with Scofield were particularly outstanding. Much of the material was taken from the recently released Sco-Mule cd , a live recording with original Mule bassist, the late Allen Woody, from September of 1999. Scofield’s acid jazz stylings fit surprisingly well with Mule’s harder rock and blues and it was nice to hear guitarist Warren Haynes with an additional guitarist sharing the leads.
Hammer and Nails (The Staple Singers cover)
Game Face (with “Birdland” & “Mountain Jam” teases)
Banks of the Deep End
Time to Confess
Blind Man in the Dark (with John Scofield) (with “Ain’t No Sunshine” lyrics)
Instrumental Illness (The Allman Brothers Band cover) (with John Scofield)
Birth of the Mule (with John Scofield)
Doing It to Death (The J.B.’s cover) (with John Scofield)
Beautifully Broken >Breakdown (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover) > Beautifully Broken reprise)
The Shape I’m In (The Band cover) (with John Scofield)
Low Spark of High Heeled Boys (Traffic cover) (with John Scofield)
Dreams (The Allman Brothers Band cover) (with John Scofield)
Get Behind the Mule (Tom Waits cover) (with John Scofield)