Category Archives: Tour News

The Word reunite for Northeast dates

Longtime friends and collaborators Chris Chew, Cody Dickinson & Luther Dickinson (of North Mississippi Allstars), John Medeski (of Medeski Martin & Wood), and Robert Randolph (of Robert Randolph & the Family Band) will be reforming The Word for four very special shows this December. Tickets are on sale now.
 
Dec 26 – Hartford, CT – The Webster Theatre
Dec 27 – New York, NY – Terminal 5
Dec 28 – Philadelphia, PA – Electric Factory
Dec 29 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club

Keller Williams and the WMD’s embark on east coast fall tour

Keller Williams has been called guitar’s mad-scientist, a one-man-band for the new millennium and dozens of other clever sobriquets dreamed up by fans and music journalists trying to get a handle on his uplifting and ever-shifting style of music. Williams is considered by some but not by himself, to be a master of the acoustic guitar, known for his ability to solo over layers of spontaneously created loops. He is a generous performer who plays down to earth acoustic music that defies any effort to find a convenient pigeonhole. Keller Williams’ new album DREAM, which features a DREAM team of guest musicians, has inspired the usually one-man-band to hit the road with, you guessed it, a DREAM live band.

Continue reading Keller Williams and the WMD’s embark on east coast fall tour

The new Mofro show

Mofro has alway been about two guys:  JJ Grey and Daryl Hance.  They've had a rotating cast of supporting musicians over their career, but looking back to Blackwater and Locholoosa, the liner notes of each state "Mofro is JJ Grey and Daryl Hance."

That is, until their February 2007 release, Country Ghetto

No longer does the front of the disc read "Mofro."  It reads "JJ Grey and Mofro" and if the CD billing wasn't clear enough, things in Memphis certainly showed who was the man in Mofro. 

For several years (and possibly longer) the stage had looked as follows:  Grey on the left, George Sluppick situated at the back on drums, Hance's guitar rig in the middle, and Adam Scone's Hammond on the right.  This time things differed.  JJ's organ was situated at the front of the stage, and Hance's amp and chair were at the left and behind JJ.  Perhaps it was because there was a horn section, The Hercules Horns, (Art Edmaiston on sax and Dennis Marion on trumpet) backing up the band, but maybe it was something different.

It may be marketing, or perhaps it's just the natural evolution of a band trying to find its way in a cutthroat industry.  Either way, there has been a clear development that has unfolded over the last year – that of JJ Grey as a front man.  Grey has gone on record as stating that the stories have always been his, that he felt like he was hiding behind the name Mofro.  There's no denying that the man whose name is now top billing has always been the charismatic face of the band from Florida.

While the stage may look different, the show itself hasn't changed.  There's still as much soul as one act can pour into an evening, a night of desperate stories of women, of country living, and of place.  And if there's one man who can spin a web about where he came from, it's JJ Grey.

From the opening licks of  "Blackwater," a tale about hometown pride, it was clear who was in charge in Memphis.  As JJ oozed with passion, Daryl Hance went about his playing as he does each time out, in an unassuming fashion.  If there's any musician out there who looks like they could care less about where they sit on stage so long as they have their instrument in hand, it's Hance.  There are players who have stage presence in an "addition-by-subtraction" manner.  Derek Trucks gets on stage and it's all substance and no show – it's just guitar playing done right.  But, at least he cracks a smile every now and again, and there are once-in-a-blue-moon rare moments where his mouth opens up and he throws his head back.

Not Hance, though. 

Nope, he just sits there, and doesn't exactly seem to have the refined, expert-level chops to back up his lack of presence.  Perhaps the skill is there, and it's just he needs to be turned up in the stage mix.  But until a solo in the set-ending "War," his contributions weren't really evident.

 

 

 

Grey, though, has clearly stepped up his game.  His name's front and center, after all, and he responded.  He was all over the place, bouncing from guitar (where he made vain attempts at soloing – if there ever was a band who needs a true lead guitarist, it's Mofro, but Grey gets points for trying), to harmonica to his organ.  However, his contributions were spot on in the area he always delivers – on the vocals, where there are few out there with as much passion and feeling in their voice.

The Hercules Horns, though, really enhanced the Mofro stage show.  They brought the much-needed soloist feel to a band that desperately needs it, a band who tours in "jamband circles," where having a stand-out musician tends to be a vital component to a successful show.  Edmaiston, a Memphis local (Gamble Brothers Band, the Grip), got his first chance to shine during a phenomenal "Nare Sugar," where he belted out a funky solo that really set the song off.  The show-ending "Ho Cake" was stellar because of Edmaiston and Marion, who were front and center, sharing a microphone and and playing their horns like it was their last hour on Earth. 

Grey was in the middle of it all.  He was singing.  He was dancing.  He was down on his knees playing his harmonica, and writhing around on his back.  He was everything that a front man is supposed to be.

So where does this leave the band going forward?  Rumor is the horns will be a steady component of the future Mofro.  It will be interesting to see how this affects the dynamic of the band, a dynamic that's already in flux.

Jimmy Herring, and why message boards suck

8 months.

That's roughly the amount of time before a segment of the message board population decided that Jimmy Herring wasn't the right fit for Widespread Panic.

"He plays too many notes–a hit of valium and he'd be perfection." 

"A lot of his solos sound more like Van Halen than Panic…"

"…he uses the "super fast" licks as kind of a "crutch"…he starts playing fast and in his own style."

"WHY CAN'T HE PLAY THE SONGS THE WAY THEY WERE WRITTEN???"

All these are quotes from various posters on various message boards on the Internet this month…the last one is my favorite.

They're all pretty unbelievable, in fact.  Widespread Panic has had its share of drama over the past few years.  They dealt with the passing of arguably the most vital member of the group in 2002, as Michael Houser, the band's namesake and essentially its sound, passed away on August 10.  Instead of taking a break, they brought on longtime friend George McConnell to take over on lead guitar.  It took very little time for the hordes to turn on George, and my, the hate was deep.

However, I'm still not certain that the criticism of Jimmy didn't come quicker.  Perhaps it's directly related to the shock of Houser's passing – many were in shock, and most still are.

Either way, though, there are just some people who are never going to get over the fact that the band has moved on.  Now, this segment of the fan base represents a mere fraction of those that hated George McConnell. 

It seems most aren't willing to give the guy the massive credit he deserves.  He was basically doomed from the start.  He was following an icon, and his sound, his tone – well, everything about his playing – was NOTHING like Houser's.  The shoes he had to fill were huge, and George's feet just weren't big enough, but no one's were.

The irony of the situation today is that Jimmy sounds more like George than he does Houser, and many more people are willing to accept Jimmy than George.

"he just ain't too good. He is extremely uncreative, repetitive and very passive in the band's shows." – 4/1999

Message board negativity is certainly nothing new, and isn't limited to music.  When basketball coach Billy Donovan decided to stay at the University of Florida instead of moving up to Lexington, Kentucky to coach the Wildcats, all hell broke loose on Catspause.com.  27,000 people were logged on to bitch, moan, and cry, and a good portion were Gator fans who logged on to goad the Kentucky faithful.

Message boards allow for a certain degree of anonymity – anyone can be anyone.  There are definitely those out there who get a kick out of stirring the pot (me included, on occasion).  People on message boards are fickle, and often a snowball effect takes place, where on person gets an idea, and it spirals out of control as the rest of the community either jump on board in support or side with the opposition.  For the most part it's all in good fun, but there are also those out there who take it too far, and a few who take things too seriously.

The bands most definitely log on and read what the masses say – to think otherwise is foolish.  I was at a Trey show one summer where he even commented on how the reviews of his previous night's concert were awful.

Back to the Herring/McConnell/Houser issue – that quote above (from 4/99) – that's written about Houser.  Even he is not immune to message board hate, although people tend to forget.

Umphrey’s McGee tours in support of “The Bottom Half”

On April 3, 2007 Umphrey’s McGee releases a double disc B-Sides album – a spontaneous and intriguing follow-up to their highly touted spring 2006 studio release Safety In Numbers. Titled The Bottom Half, disc one features ten songs that did not make it onto Safety In Numbers, while disc two offers outtakes, alternative versions of songs, a cappella recordings, and other bits from the band’s 2005 studio sessions.

As with Safety In Numbers, famed album artist Storm Thorgerson has designed the artwork for The Bottom Half.

 

Tour Dates:

February 21 Culture Room Ft. Lauderdale FL
February 22 State Theatre St. Petersburg FL
February 23 The Music Farm Charleston SC
February 24 Amos’ South End Charlotte NC
February 25 Legend’s Music Hall Boone NC
February 27 The NorVa  Norfolk VA
February 28 Georgia Theater Athens GA
March 01 The Orange Peel Asheville NC
March 02 Bijou Theatre Knoxville TN
March 05-06 Fox Theatre Boulder CO
March 14 Canopy Club Urbana IL
March 15 The Orbit Room Grand Rapids MI
March 16 Clutch Cargos Pontiac MI
March 17 Morris Performing Arts Center South Bend IN
March 22 Orpheum Theatre Madison WI
March 23-24 First Avenue Minneapolis MN
April 03 Iowa Memorial Union Ballroom Iowa City IA
April 04 The Blue Note Columbia MO
April 05 The Pageant St. Louis MO
April 06-07 Egyptian Room – Murat Centre Indianapolis IN
April 11 Calvin Theatre Northampton MA
April 12 Avalon Theatre Boston MA
April 13 Nokia Theatre Time Square New York NY
April 14 9:30 Club Washington D.C.
April 15 Water Street Music Hall Rochester NY
April 17 The Opera House Toronto Ontario
April 18 Penn’s Peak Jim Thorpe PA
April 19 The Town Ballroom Buffalo NY
April 20 Newport Music Hall Columbia OH
April 21 TBA – Green Apple Music Festival Chicago IL
May 02-03 The Workplay SoundStage Birmingham AL
May 04 House Of Blues New Orleans LA
May 05 Granada Theatre Dallas  TX
May 25-27 Summer Camp Chillicothe IL
June 02 Mountain Jam Festival Hunter NY
July 18-21 10,000 Lakes Festival Detroit Lakes MN

More dates to be announced.

Allmans, Trucks keep it in the family

It’s that time of year again.  The ground’s starting to thaw (unless you live in upstate New York), the birds are starting to sing.  Pitchers and catchers report to spring training sooner rather than later. Yep – it’s almost Spring.

 

For most in the music scene, that means new tour dates and festivals on the horizon.  But for the Allman Brothers Band, it means one thing:  the Beacon Theatre.

 

For over a decade, the Beacon has been home to the Brothers in March, as they set up camp and play an extended run.  It’s a big deal to the band; they can bring their families up to Manhattan for a little time together, even though the band is officially “on the road.”

 

This year, the band will indeed have their family up in New York again, but in a different capacity – playing their own gigs.  Everyone knows about Derek Trucks’ blood connection to the Allman Brothers – he’s drummer Butch Trucks’ nephew.  However, he’s not the only relative of a band member with musical talent.  Friday, March 23rd is the second show of the 2007 Beacon run.  Later that night, two bands will take stages elsewhere in the city.

 

Honeytribe – fronted by Gregg’s son, Devon – will be playing at BB King’s.  The second of two musical offspring of Gregg (Elijah Blue fronts Deadsy, a hard-rock act), Honeytribe has been touring heavily behind their 2006 release, Torch.   I’ve seen Honeytribe a few times.  While I can’t say I was blown away either time, I’ll say this – they’re a talented band.  At times Devon sounds so much like his dad it’s scary.  He’s got some chops on the guitar as well.   Dickey Betts’ bass player, Pedro Arevalo played with them (on slide guitar) both times I saw them.  He’s not a permanent member of the band, but he should be.

 

My one gripe about the band is the billing – their official name is “Devon Allman’s Honeytribe.”  I’m sure this is a marketing thing – having that Allman name certainly gets a few extra bodies in the door each night.  However, this is a band that’s talented enough to get there on their own, even if it takes them a little while longer.  Dickey Betts can stick his name in front of Great Southern because he’s paid his dues and made it already – Devon can’t really say the same thing yet, so it just looks gimmicky.

 

Bonobos Convergence, fronted by Butch’s son Vaylor, will also be up in New York on the 23rd, at the Ace of Clubs.  Where Honeytribe is a band in the vein of the Allman Brothers Band, Bonobos Convergence leans a little more towards progressive rock. Vaylor plays guitar, midi-guitar, and bass, and night-in and night-out shows that his cousin Derek is not the only Trucks with guitar skills.  This band is a tight group of musicians.

 

I first saw Vaylor sitting in with the Allman Brothers back at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta in 2004.  He did nothing for me, to be honest.  I thought his style of play didn’t mesh with the Allmans at all.  However, when I finally saw his band on its own, it was a whole different ballgame.  They were, in a word, great.

 

So, if you’re looking for a little activity after the Allman Brothers show at the Beacon on the 23rd, you can keep it all in the family.  There are Allman kids and Trucks kids making music just like their fathers, and it’s pretty damn good.

Why Tea Leaf Green is the next big thing…or not

You heard it here first:  Tea Leaf Green is the next big thing.

 

Except, you probably didn't hear it here first.  You probably heard someone else, somewhere else, say those same words.

 

Naming a band the "next big thing" in the quote-unquote jamband scene is arbitrary anyway, and really means nothing.  Frankly, there probably will never be another Grateful Dead or Phish, the two bands that have carried the jamband world on their shoulders since the 1960's.  Widespread Panic, the only other "jamband" out there right now capable of selling out large venues (in the South), is playing with renewed vigor since the whirlwind that is Jimmy Herring took the stage as an official member of the band.  Once they're gone, though, someone's going to have to take up the mantle as the king of the festival circuit.

 

That will be Tea Leaf Green.

 

But, maybe it won't be. 

 

Now, I'm not even a real TLG fan.  I've only seen them twice – the first time was this past summer at Wakarusa.  Leading up to their Sunday afternoon set there, I had heard a few live shows on CD.  I owned Taught to be Proud which had received consistent rotation in my CD player.  By the third song or so, I commented to my friend, a die-hard TLG fan, how I thought they were going to be big. 

 

However, I'll generally reserve final judgment for after a second show.  After all, a band could be on fire the first time I see them.  On the flip side, perhaps my first experience is a band playing a crappy show.  So……

 

Fast forward to their show this past Saturday night (11/3/06) in Nashville, Tennessee – my second show.

 

** talk about people who had traveled – Cali, NJ, Arkansas

**who I thought was going to be the next big thing – moe., Umphrey's 

 

and it had a lot to do with a ot of other factors
tomspeed@mac.com: but there are several legitimate defitions of sucess
tomspeed@mac.com: moe. for instance or galactic or mmw
tomspeed@mac.com: have solid fanbases, sell out thousand seat theaters all over the country
tomspeed@mac.com: and have
tomspeed@mac.com: record deals or their own record companies
tomspeed@mac.com: that's success for a musician

 

Jerry v. Barney – musical options for parents

It’s hard to type with one hand, but I’m holding about ten pounds of baby boy in my left arm.  While I’m sure it’s nothing like what Def Leppard’s drummer goes through each time he takes the stage, it’s still proving to be quite the daunting task.

 

Learning to do things while holding a baby is one of the many life changes I’ve had to make since my son was born.  I’m learning to get by on less sleep.  I’m also coming to grips with the fact that I’m going to be subjected to countless TV shows, movies, and music that I’m going to hate.

 

Fortunately, there are options out there for us parents that don’t want to listen to the Wiggles and Barney.  I never really thought about it, because frankly, until about four weeks ago, it just wasn’t the issue for me that it is now.

Continue reading Jerry v. Barney – musical options for parents