Category Archives: Festival Reviews

Greensky Bluegrass on the river

Greensky Bluegrass
Beale Street Music Festival
Memphis, Tennessee
May 5, 2017
Words/photos by Josh Mintz

Beale Street Music Festival is an annual poor weather magnet. Each May, as Memphis in May begins with the music fest held on the Mississippi River, it’s not so much an if or when it will rain – it’s more like “how much rain are we going to get?” Continue reading Greensky Bluegrass on the river

First Weekend of the 47th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

First Weekend of the 47th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds Race Course
New Orleans, LA
Photographer/Writer: Mark Robbins

The aromas of boiling crawfish, sweet beignets stuffed with pralines, curry, pecan catfish meuniere, fried soft shell crabs and so much more blew over the fairgrounds pulling you in along with the music of Alex McMurray and His Band playing on the Gentilly Stage. The 47th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was underway!

Running for two  consecutive weekends (always the last weekend of April and the first weekend of May) the festival offers up a gumbo of musical genres, cultural activities and mouth watering dishes that help make New Orleans one of the top food destinations in the world. This year welcomed a thirteenth stage to the festival, the music of Cuba. With the easing of political tensions, Quint Davis (CEO of Festival Productions) welcomed Cuban Ambassador, Jose Ramon Cabanas, to the festival along with New Orleans Mayor, Mitch Landrieu; former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu; and Jazz and Heritage Foundation President Donna Santiago. Continue reading First Weekend of the 47th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

13th Annual Wanee Music Festival 2017

13th Annual Wanee Music Festival 2017
Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, Florida
Photographer/Writer: Tyler Muir

This year’s Wanee Music Festival, located at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in North Central Florida, delivered one of the more solid lineups of the 2017 festival season. Though it takes place in the spring, it set the bar for what a schedule should look like.

An important factor all these years for setting the bar high for Wanee was Butch Trucks. The untimely passing of Trucks in January brought the Wanee community together in an unprecedented way, to honor his life and say thanks for impacting so many over the course of his life. There was an extra sense of camaraderie – both on and off stage – the entire weekend because of the tragedy. Everyone truly realized how fortunate they were to be able to experience this year’s festival. Continue reading 13th Annual Wanee Music Festival 2017

Lucero Family Block Party 2017

Lucero Family Block Party
Minglewood Hall
Memphis, Tennessee
April 22, 2017
Photos by: Josh Mintz

With threats of severe thunderstorms in the forecast, Lucero held strong to their rain or shine plans for their annual Family Block Party held on Saturday, April 22. While the rain did indeed pound Memphis in the morning, by mid-afternoon when the music started, the precipitation had died down to a not-bad-enough-not-to-go-but-just-enough-to-be-annoying level.

Continue reading Lucero Family Block Party 2017

At the Beach with the Avett Brothers

At The Beach – The Avett Brothers (and friends)
Hard Rock Hotel, Riviera Maya, Mexico
February 09-12, 2017
Writer/Photographer: Josh Mintz

It was almost a cliche. Taking the stage on the very first night of their At The Beach festival in Mexico, the Avett Brothers kicked off their headlining set with “At The Beach.”

And, it was perfect. Continue reading At the Beach with the Avett Brothers

Summerdance Music Festival

Summerdance Music Festival
Nelson’s Ledges Quarry Park, Garrettsville, OH
September 2 – 4, 2016
Photographer/Writer: Anthony Gima

What a magical weekend! Unreal musicianship, gorgeous, sunny weather, talented painters and other artists, friends, family, cliff jumps, floating penguin rafts, and of course, Disco Pizza! Summerdance Music Festival couldn’t have taken place at a better venue, or a better Labor Day Weekend. Held at Nelson’s Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, Ohio, plenty of music fans flock to this breathtakingly unique oasis. Lotus captivated the minds, souls, and bodies of multiple generations alike, to come together, in a tribal-like unity and escape the daily stresses of the real world, in a truly enchanting place. This festival had all you needed – a place in the woods to camp with old growth-trees that provided ample shelter during the day, a beach to hang out on that leads into a water-filled quarry where you can take your time swimming or floating, relaxing on rafts during the day or find places to take a leap of faith and cliff jump. The Ohio Burn Unit provided expert fire dancers on the beach after the music was over, and of course, places to resupply and fuel up with some awesome food vendors.

Hailed by Lotus fans as a musical mecca, Summerdance has continued to surprise and inspire. This weekend was a special weekend for Lotus; drummer Mike Greenfield had a baby over the weekend, so who else to fill his shoes but their original drummer, Steve Clemens! Also filling in on drums was Jeff Peterson.

Playing two nights were the funky, dance-grooving, fun-loving four piece called Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. These guys are quickly gaining a huge following – to no surprise, you can’t help but feel like dancing whenever their sound waves interact with you. This year’s lineup also featured Particle, Broccoli Samurai, G-Nome Project, Octave Cat (ft. Jesse Miller & Eli Winderman of Dopapod), Luke the Knife, Genetics (ft. Chuck Morris), Eric Evasion, Sean 2:16, Thunder St. Clair.

Hidden in the forest was something truly majestic. If you wandered around long enough, you were sure to find a couple of unique campsites. At one campsite, Camp Excess, the hosts provided generators, mixers, lights, and PA systems to enable local bands and DJ’s to keep the vibes flowing during the day and when the main music was done for the night. Some artists from Pittsburgh, The Clock Reads, Shaq Nicholson, Wink, and Andrew Schillinger were among some to play sets at this campsite. Summerdance serves as a perpetual stepping stone for musicians and friends to interact and share their music with others, even if not on the big stage. One of the best things about Lotus is even though they are world-class musicians, every member is so humble and gracious. What a truly engaging, immersive, and inclusive festival.

moe. at Thompson’s Point

moe.
Thompson’s Point
Portland, Maine
June 17 – 18, 2016
Special Guests: June 17th, The Wood Brothers, Cabinet and June 18th Twiddle, Percy Hill

Photographer: Greg Gouwens

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Huck Finn Jubilee Bluegrass Festival 2016

Huck Finn Jubilee 2016
June 10-12
40th Anniversary
Ontario, CA
Photographer: Allen Erwin

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New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2016

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2016
April 28 – May 7, 2016
Writer/Photographer: Bob Adamek

The 2016 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival delivered high doses of everything you could imagine. There was sunshine and rain, an overwhelming choice of music presented on 12 stages, food vendors that outdo the restaurants in many major cities, and 425,000+ music fans ready for all of it.

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During the second weekend of Jazz Fest, the rain was often the story, coming down hard enough on late Saturday afternoon that the festival producers wisely shut the festival down. The ensuing flash flood swamped the Fair Grounds and the unfortunate result was that the sets by afternoon headliners had to be cancelled. This included Stevie Wonder, Beck, Snoop Dog, Buddy Guy and Arturo Sandoval. Stevie Wonder later showed up at Irving Mayfield’s Playhouse on Bourbon St. to sit in with Mayfield and Trombone Shorty. Meanwhile Beck found his way to Preservation Hall where he joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and members of Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket for a late night second line around the French Quarter.

A moderate steady rain persisted almost all day on Sunday as well, but seasoned festival goers geared up and saw great sets from Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Arlo Guthrie, Trombone Shorty and two much anticipated guest filled tribute sets, one for Allen Toussaint and one for B.B. King. B.B. King’s tribute set included songs lead by Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Elvin Bishop, Dr. John, Tab Benoit, Walter Wolfman Washington and Luther Kent. The set finished off with all the guests playing “The Thrill is Gone” in what was one of the festival highlights.

005 Bonnie Raitt

Earlier in the week for most of Thursday and Friday, the weather stayed very nice, allowing fans to move around with much less gear. Thursday was highlighted on the two main stages by Elvis Costello, who was energetic and happy as he rolled through 30+ years of hits. On the Acura Stage fans were treated to the Tedeschi Trucks Band with special guests Jimmie Vaughan and Billy F. Gibbons. Tedeschi Trucks are resetting the bar in live music for their incredible blend of soulful vocals and impeccable musicianship.

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Their songs are tuneful and their solos are thoughtful, never droning on past the point. The addition of ZZ Top’s Billy F. Gibbons and blues master Jimmie Vaughan added a high level of excitement for the fans. This was also fun for the band, as they traded off on solos, each listening intently to the other, throwing their heads back and laughing as the four guitarists threw down.

014 Jimmie Vaughan

The Acura Stage hosted another top guitar slinger on Thursday when Austin Texas’ own, Gary Clark Jr. took over. Clark’s guitar playing is raw, energetic and emotion packed, much like his soulful vocals. Simultaneously, on the Gentilly Stage, Brandi Carlile gave a very high energy set of her own after stating that it was a long awaited honor to be playing Jazz Fest.

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Jazz Fest really offers something for everyone. There is a 2500 seat blues tent, a 1500 seat jazz tent and 1500 seat Gospel tent. The Fais Do-Do stage features Cajun, Zydeco, and all other types of roots music. The third main stage at the festival is Congo Square, which featured groove-centric music like the Isley Brothers, Big Freeda, Flo Rida, Cyril Neville and Swamp Funk, Tony Hall’s New Orleans Soul Stars tribute to James Brown and the Friday headliner, Ms. Lauryn Hill. Hill has been getting beat up in the media lately for showing up late to her concerts, including two hours late in Atlanta. But at Jazz Fest she was only 15 minutes behind. She came out with flawless makeup and vestments, played guitar and sang with every bit of emotion she could squeeze out, turning in a stellar performance.

037 Ms Lauryn Hill

At the Jazz and Heritage Stage, you can see the greatest visual treat of the festival, the Mardi Gras Indian bands. Donning hand sewn suits made of brightly colored feathers and beads, the Mardi Gras Indian bands play traditional music that has been in their culture for decades. Chant styled songs like “Shoo-fly”, “Injuns Here They Come” and “Let’s Go Get ‘Em” are staples of bands like The Wild Magnolias, White Cloud Hunter, Fi Yi Yi & the Mandingo Warriors and the 101 Runners. These bands were joined on stage by some of the city’s top musicians, including Sousaphonist Kirk Joseph, drummer Ray Webber and guitarists June Yamagishi and Billy Iuso.

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Jazz Fest veterans know that the headliners aren’t really the main dish. It’s the undercard, with so many local bands playing, that really give Jazz Fest its true flavor. Some of those highlights were turned in by George Porter Jr. and Runnin’ Pardners during a rain soaked but very well attended early Thursday set. Two brass bands that almost never gig, except at Jazz Fest, played to overflow crowds. The New Orleans Nightcrawlers played on Thursday, then the wildly popular Midnite Disturbers on Saturday. Both bands are packed with the city’s best brass players from bands like Galactic, Rebirth Brass Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Big Sam’s Funky Nation. Bonerama shredded the Gentilly Stage on Friday, followed by Raw Oyster Cult (ROC). ROC has the guitarists and drummer from the Radiators, and the band was joined by the remaining Radiators mid-set for a quick reunion. New Orleans fastest rising stars gave a festival highlight set on Friday when the Revivalists were joined by guest percussionist Mike Dillon. Their incredible song writing and no holds barred stage show left the festival buzzing.

013 The Revivalists

Once a little hunger sets in the festival is well armed to accommodate. Most dishes run $5-$10, and include delicacies like crawfish/zucchini/spinach bisque, Pheasant/Quail/Andouille Sausage Gumbo, Chochon de lait Po-Boy, bread pudding with white chocolate sauce or a scrumptious Cuban sandwich.

062 Midnite Disturbers

The night time action in New Orleans during Jazz Fest is second to none. The city’s numerous clubs play host to 2 or 3 bands a night including all-star one off bands and national touring acts alike. Clubs like Tipitina’s, The Howlin’ Wolf, d.b.a., The Maple Leaf and One Eyed Jacks host amazing shows, and music flows out of everywhere through the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street.

038 Tribute to BB King

Jazz Fest is a bucket list event for any music fan. But once you get a taste of this amazing event, it is hard to think of ever missing it again.

2015 Ghoul Train Hulaween

2015 Ghoul Train Hulaween

Spirit of the Suwannee

Live Oaks, Florida

Photographer: Brad Kuntz

Writer: James Kastriches

 

If your Halloween wasn’t spent at Suwannee this year, you really missed out, the third annual Hulaween, in Live Oak, Florida was by far the best Hulaween to date, a complete success in every way. This year the festival topped all other festival attendance at the park to date breaching 21,000 freaky people!

 

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The weather was breathtaking, compared to last year’s bone chilling nights, cloudy but in the upper 70’s for the duration of the weekend.  It actually was a bit too humid during the day the 2nd half of the weekend but bearable.

 

The art installations, live paintings and decorations that are scattered throughout the park seem to get better each year, the creativity is unsurpassable. Spirit Lake is a treat in itself with the spectacular light show that lasts all night long, casting patterns of color onto the tall cypress trees and the long tangles of dangling Spanish moss and the adult playground in a Spirit lake area with its own stage, fire dancers, fire statures, swing sets, moving lights, mazes and mouths to sit in and pose with, landscape art and much more.

 

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This year’s lineup was stacked, capable to suit all. Bluegrass, EDM, Jam rock, whatever you wanted, was only a stage away, at most times. With headliners String Cheese Incident (of course..7 sets), Railroad Earth, Pretty Lights, Primus, STS9, Slightly Stoopid, Lettuce, Elephant Revival, Papadosio, etc.

 

The Thursday night pre-party included 5 bands on the amphitheater stage.  A relatively light crowd compared to the weekend, making a slightly more intimate setting. EOTO really got the party started, the duo made up of Jason Hann and Michael Travis of SCI, the dynamic drummer/percussion duo, paying their version of electronic jam.

 

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Dumpstaphunk donned costumes and had an epic cover of Ramble On.  Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, arguably the best touring Grateful Dead “cover band” with an all-star cast super group of musicians, playing their own twist of Dead tunes, belted out a spectacular  Estimated Prophet (SM) -> Eyes Of The World (TH) -> The Music Never Stopped -> Jam # -> The Music Never Stopped Reprise +-> Jam $ -> Help On The Way (TH) -> Myxomatosis Jam %+ -> Slipknot! -> China Cat Sunflower Jam +-> Jam ^ -> China Cat Sunflower to end the evening around camp fires, guitars and Spirit lake and stars.

 

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Friday got started on the Main stage with Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds followed by Railroad Earth and then The String Cheese Incident.  After just finishing up fall tour, The String Cheese Incident are absolutely on top of their game, pulling out rare treats, musicianship is top notch.  Cheese started off Friday with ‘Song in my head’, followed by ‘Can’t wait another day’. Tim Carbone and Todd Sheaffer of Railroad Earth sat in for ‘Sometimes a River’, a song Keith Moseley and Todd Sheaffer co-wrote in 2005 in Colorado.  It was clear the barefoot boys wanted to get those songs out of the way and get straight to the jam. The rarely played ‘Indian Creek’ had an appearance, as well as Kang’s rendition of the old tune, ‘red haired boy’: ‘Valley of the Jig’. ‘Round the wheel’ had some really psychedelic elements in the middle of the song that were really unique, as a huge fan, it’s most definitely my favorite version that I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing.  ‘On the road’ also had some killer jams added to its usual sound.

 

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The second set started out strong with a funky ‘Colliding’. This set was packed full of fan favorites such as, ‘Restless Wind’, Joyful Sound, Mouna Bowa. Shantytown was a favorite of the night, for obvious reasons, it’s such a fitting song for Suwannee.  We got a Zeppelin cover for the encore, ‘Ramble On’, an excellent way to end the first incident. 

 

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Primus and Pretty Lights closed out the night at the Amphitheater and Main stages, the grounds were peaking out, it was nearly overflowing onto the pavement at Primus and hard to see much if you didn’t get there early.  Likewise at Pretty lights the field was completely packed like never before at this venue from stage to vendors and very difficult to traverse once it packed it.  Both sets were amazing and full of energy.  Primus played classics including Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver, American Life, My Name is Mud and Jerry was a Racecar Driver.  Pretty Lights had a lot of very nice lights and tons of energy from the crowd.  There was no stopping the tall flags and polls in the crowd at this show even though they were supposedly banned at this years festival.  Jon Stickley and Friends played on the Spirit lake Stage until 4am, a great performance to close out the live music

 

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Saturday Halloween..

Bluegrass started the day off at the main stage, first with the Jon Stickley trio beginning the dat as it had ended the night before.  The the Sam Bush Band.  With a Slightly Stupid detour to the Amphitheater Stage, it was SCI again for an epic Hulaween three set stand at the main stage.   ‘Dudleys Kitchen’ (classic cheese instrumental) started things off and got everyone moving! The favorite from the first set was “XAI”, formerly known as “Skat”, another instrumental jam, with Kang heavy on the fiddle. Only the 3rd time played all tour, and only the 3rd time played in the last 10 years!  Such a welcomed appearance. A first set ‘Rivertrance’ was also a nice Halloween treat. Michael Kang told us before walking off stage for a brief intermission, “I hope yall are wearing your fucking bell bottoms!”

 

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Set 2, (the Halloween set), was a straight up disco, it was simply incredible. The boys came out dressed in their late 70’s-early 80’s attire, Afros and all. Along with a horn section and people professional dancers dancing on each side of the stage with RZA (from Wutang) as emcee. The crowd went nuts as the 1977 classic ‘Brick House’ began. The whole set was all songs from the disco era, that everyone whose anyone is familiar with, ‘Carwash’, ‘Dance to the music’, ‘Got to be real’, ‘I’m your boogie man’ a much different Halloween set than we’re used to seeing.

 

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Set 3 began with the fiddle tune “Bollymunster”, waking everyone back up from the set break and it was all Gouda from there, ‘Desert Dawn’, ‘Best feeling’, ‘Exodus’, ‘Rosie’ this set was a heater. The encore was special, a ‘Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours’ followed by ‘We are family’

 

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We closed the night with a set from the New Mastersounds at the Spirit lake Stage.

 

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Sunday Last Day

Following a main stage opener Sunday morning from Elephant Revival, Billy Nershi announced to us that they were feeling “A little rough around the edges” as they took the stage on Sunday afternoon, and that this was the “hangover set.” But it was in every way one of the favorite parts of the festival, since it was a bluegrass hoedown! With guests Sam Bush, Railroad Earth, Elephant revival on nearly every song on the first set. The set list was out of this world, for a die-hard cheeser. Opening with a stellar version of a Flatt & Scruggs cover ‘Blue Ridge Cabin Home’.

‘Lester had a Coconut’ was dusted off, and it sounded great. It’s been years since they’ve pulled that one out of the bag. The hangover set was literally full of bluegrass favorites, ‘Catfish John’, 9 pound hammer’, ‘Will the circle be unbroken’.

 

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They wrapped up their last set with a smaller but killer set, ‘Little Hands’, ‘Outside and Inside’, followed by ‘Windy Mountain’, ‘Bumpin Reel’ and ‘Colorado Bluebird Sky’, with a Bob Marley cover/encore ‘Could you be loved’. A perfect way to close their final act.

 

Lettuce played an stellar set at the amphitheater stage with some new songs off their latest album.

 

STS9 closed out the main stage as they had a the first Suwanee Hulaween three years before.  With a new female bass player  Alana Rocklin  and Zach Velmer the drummer (arguably the hardest working band member and musician in general) along with tons of crowd energy and crazy awesome light show, played jam based electronic jam.  Starting off with a favorite ‘Vapors’ and ‘Inspire Strikes Back’ and closing with ‘World Go Round’ and ‘Instantly’, the only thing wrong was it was just barely a warm up.

 

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Once again, this was the best festival put on a Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and in a dead heat for best festival on land these days.  We will all be back next year!