The 34th annual French Quarter Fest (FQF) made a magnificent mark last weekend in New Orleans. This is an incredible festival for anyone with an open musical mind. The festival nestles 23 stages throughout the French Quarter including several stages right along the Mississippi River. The music encompasses a wide variety of genres from classical, Mardi Gras Indian music, every shade of jazz in the spectrum and a lot of what you would expect from New Orleans, a large helping of funk, R&B, zydeco, Cajun music and rock and roll. Continue reading French Quarter Festival 2017→
The 8th installment of Johnstown PA’s, Flood City Music Fest, managed by Lucky Dog Productions was a solid success. Placed amongst the mountains of western Pennsylvania, Flood City Music fest has been growing steadily every year, producing a lineup for this year’s event that wowed festival goers. The fest made a move to open on Thursday night, and put up Grace Potter to headline the main stage.
Grace Potter showed her considerable range from slow and thoughtful acoustic ballads to raging rock and roll, leaning more heavily on the latter. The packed crowd was left buzzing from the set in which Potter mixed her powerful voice with a well-honed front woman’s craft, energetically running around the stage while playing guitar and keyboards.
Friday of the festival had many treats in store including main stage headliners, The Revivalists. As the Revivalists have been doing in towns on their first visit all over the country for the last several years, they asked for a show of hands of those who have never seen them before. This was most of the crowd. Then the band did what they do best, made fans. By the end of the set the crowd was passionately hooked, screaming for an encore.
Another festival highlight took place earlier on the pavilion stage when Samantha Fish sat in with Tab Benoit for two songs. Fish had crushed her set beforehand, opening many eyes and Tab was doing the same, but when the two blues guitarists played together, the energy was incredible.
The breakout band The Record Company also played a good set, as did the New York artists London Souls. The Pittsburg punk-meets-Irish band, Bastard Bearded Irishmen, capped the night in the Oil House. Their high energy set was perfect for the late night crowd, showing you should never miss a band that has three guys wearing kilts.
Saturday saw even more top shelf acts, headlined by the potent New Orleans musician, Anders Osborne. Osborne has played in Johnstown many times and has garnered a huge following there. He mixed songs from his newest release Flower Box, like “Different Drum,” “Fool’s Gold” and the title track, to go with well-worn staples like “Road to Charlie Parker” and “Sarah Anne.”
Preceding Osborne was fellow Louisiana musician, the blue-eyed soul singer, Marc Broussard. It was another set that turned heads as Broussard wove through his catalog of funk and soul originals, such as “Home” and “Come Around” as well as covers like Al Green’s “Love and Happiness.”
Earlier in the day Love Canon played their unique take on 80’s pop hits in the style of bluegrass, creating plenty of laughs and loud sing-a-longs. Local favorites Derek Woodz Band, Jimmy Adler Band and the R&B powerhouse Commonheart also raged on the festival grounds. The night was finished off by the amazing light show and music of TAUK.
Flood City Music Fest is growing quickly. It is well run and is in a beautiful location, well worth the effort to get there. The lineups have gotten stronger every year with “A” list headliners and a solid and worthy undercard. Put this one on your radar for the first weekend in August next year!
The Flood City Music Fest begins its 8th year August 4-7 in Johnstown PA. There is a great vibe at this uniquely western Pennsylvania festival. Gorgeous forested mountains meet early 20th century steel work factories and dozens of beautiful old churches, giving a startling urban-meets-nature backdrop, framing a variety of major acts.
The Flood City lineup also features a wide variety of styles from blues, bluegrass, Rock-n-roll, jam band and folk in a something-for-everyone offering. A couple of top blues acts roll into the festival this year on Friday when Tab Benoit follows rising star Samantha Fish. Blue-eyed soul singer Marc Broussard plays on Saturday, as does the brilliant songwriter and guitarist Anders Osborne.
Another band on a rapid rise hits on Friday when The Record Company plays, followed by the NYC power duo The London Souls. The Pittsburg Celtic-meets-punk band Bastard Bearded Irishmen play the late night set on Friday, as does the amazing jam band TAUK on Saturday night.
Folk singer songwriter Chris Smither plays on Friday and Virginia based Love Canon bring their super fun bluegrass take on 80’s pop music on Saturday. The rest of the schedule is filled by top quality local favorites, regional bands that have worked through western PA and beyond for many years.
Flood City Music Fest offers on site camping at a very reasonable price with flush bathrooms. There are a good variety of food vendors as well. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the fest is the low-key vibe. Getting up front to see a band isn’t difficult and many bands hang out long after their sets, watching the other acts. If you have never been to this little jewel, you shouldn’t miss it this year, the lineup is killer.
For more information check out http://www.floodcitymusic.com/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones are born out of a southern soul tradition. Coming from Birmingham Alabama, where the sounds of Gospel, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Booker T. and the MG’s are the sound track to hot sweaty summer nights, St. Paul stays close to that heartbeat, writing music that pays homage to those essential musical roots. The band is touring currently and stopped in at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia to play to a sold out house on a Thursday night in late October.
The night opened with a stirring set by the Detroit, Michigan band, Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas. Hernandez and company quickly won the crowd to their side with soulful vocals and a driving and tasty drum line that had gypsy flavored beats rolling constantly over the tom toms. The pounding beat got fans dancing early and screaming louder and louder as the band crushed an hour long set.
The main course, St. Paul and the Broken Bones came out of the box looking polished, grinding a fabulous instrumental version of the funk classic “Sing a Simple Song” by Sly and the Family Stone. The crowd was loaded for this band whose star is rising quickly, and exploded by the end of the song when singer Paul Janeway confidently came to center stage. Janeway did not disappoint for a minute this night, delivering passionate performance after passionate performance. He spent the majority of time striding along the very front of stage, sometimes on his knees while connecting with anyone in reach of his gaze.
The band cruised easily through all the songs from the recently released album Half the City. Sprinkled in were fresh takes on great covers like “Shake” by Sam Cooke, “99 1/2 Won’t Do” by Wilson Pickett and a very cool version of “Moonage Daydream” from David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The band closed the show with the Otis Redding classic “Try A Little Tenderness” complete with Janeway collapsing on the ground at the end of the song, exhausted and finished, only to get back and reprise the ending again and again, right out of Redding’s own playbook.
Journeyman guitarist Billy Iuso is hittingÂ his groove in the live-music scene by awakening the Dead.
â€œIâ€™m a hippie,â€ Billy Iuso says in describing himself, his musical influences, and inspirations during a recent phone interview, as he speaks through a cold during the depths of winter.
Iusoâ€™s Restless Natives opened the previous Saturdayâ€™s Anders Osborneâ€™s Holiday Spectacular at Tipitinaâ€™s in New Orleans before Iuso supplied guitar-shredding support to Osborneâ€™s set. The following Sunday, Iuso would perform downtown at The Maison with the Iko Iko All-Stars, a group of New Orleans-based, like-minded Deadheads in which he and former Restless Native C.R. Gruver (Outformation) slick the Grateful Deadâ€™s wheels with a bit of Nola grease. From his home in Uptown New Orleans, Iuso, 44, explained he was looking forward to spending the holidays at home with this wife and family before taking off in January with Osborne to gig at Govâ€™t Muleâ€™s Island Exodus IV in Jamaica in January.
While his serene summation of â€œfeeling blessedâ€ at this point in his life and career is the stuff of sage hippie wisdom, Iuso, a Port Chester, New York native of Italian heritage, applies the hippie label when discussing music. Iusoâ€™s ascent in stature and gigs (such as being named Bear Creek Festival artist-in-residence in 2011) within groovy circles is obvious in the few last few years, particularly in his recently discovered kinship with the beastly, divine rock-and-soul stew that is Osborneâ€™s sound. This ascent comes after decades of toil, triumphs and tribulations in various musical adventures, most notably to many in the Brides of Jesus, which Iuso formed just out of high school, earning fans and buzz in the early 1990s in New York City via weekly gigs at the Wetlands before moving to Athens, Georgia, where he moved the band to soak up â€œthe hip little Southern music sceneâ€.
Engagingly equal parts jaded musician and enthusiastic fan, buoyant boy and old soul, Iuso, a tattoo of Jerry Garciaâ€™s famously four-fingered hand emblazoned on his right forearm, talks after sound-check/shrimp boil for the Holiday Spectacular on the sidewalk outside Tipitinaâ€™s.
Heâ€™s asked about the magic created last Jazz Fest, which found him in a late-night jam at an Osborne show that reached full-tilt guitar frenzy in a â€œThird Stone from the Sunâ€ jam during the encore that featured Luther Dickinson, Warren Haynes, Osborne and himself. â€œIn this genre, we have a respect that makes things easy,â€ Iuso says of how the aforementioned players worked harmoniously together, â€œbecause it’s really not work. Anders and I just click. Those others guys, they know when to play and when not to play. It’s a respect thing.â€
Iusoâ€™s opening set with the Restless Natives â€” Thomas McDonald (bass), Michael Burkhart (keys), Eddie Christmas (drums), Jimmy Carpenter (saxophone) and the debut of vocalist Ginger Matthews â€” grooves with originals and covers including Jimmy Cliffâ€™s â€œSitting Here in Limbo.â€ Iuso is the first guest in Osborneâ€™s set, locking in for an extended â€œBlack Eyed Galaxy,â€ the title track off Osborneâ€™s acclaimed album from last year that announced the Swedish-born, now-sober guitarist/singer was a Dead Head and proud of it. Along with rock songstress Shannon McNally, Iuso sang and soared in â€œSugaree,â€ a staple Grateful Dead cover.
â€œIâ€™m kind of a closeted Deadhead,â€ Osborne said in a Relix magazine interview following his Holiday Spectacular and in advance of his latest EP, Three Free Amigos, of which Iuso played an integral role. â€œLately, itâ€™s just popped up more and more. One of my closest friends right now, Billy Iuso, is a huge, huge fan of the Grateful Dead and he keeps sending me a bunch of stuff.â€
Iuso moved to his adopted home of New Orleans from Georgia in 1997 at a point when the Brides of Jesus â€œstarted falling apart,â€ he recalls, and after the guidance of Meters bassist George Porter, Jr., whom Iuso began working for as road manager. Iuso credits Porter and Russell Batiste for indoctrinating an Italian hippie from New York into New Orleans, immersing him in its culture, musical traditions and community. In addition to solo albums (such as 2011â€™s Trippinâ€™ over Dragons) and works with the Restless Natives, Iuso played guitar for five years with the Wild Magnolias, the Mardi Gras Indian band initiated by Big Chief Bo Dollis, Sr., who received the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)â€™s National Heritage Fellowship in 2011. Countless miles, studio hours, sit-ins, and small-crowds at no-cover shows have schooled Iuso in the cruel realities of music as business. But those same lessons, amazingly, have not diminished his energy, a palpable draw to his infectious handling of the Fender StratocasterÂ driven with passion and intensity through his Mesa Boogie amp.
Reflecting on the attributes brought by band mates Iuso, Carl Dufrene (bass) and Eric Bolivar (drums) on Three Free Amigos in the aforementioned Relix interview, Osborne says: â€œWell, usually they bring who they are, which is why we play together. There is not a lot of pre-thinking on my part. I just throw it out there and then we design it together. The reason that we are a band is because we like to see how things turn out. They add a tremendous amount by just being themselves and playing the way they do.â€
Playing his way â€” a trippy-licks, white-boy guitarist in a funky, soulful city â€” has landed Iuso new audiences among familiar faces via uncompromised virtues of vibe and tone in a town he now calls home. â€œWhen I first got here with the buzz from Brides of Jesus still out there, I came across some haters,â€ Iuso remembers. â€œThey thought I was a tool, like â€˜Whoâ€™s this guy coming to our town?â€™ But Iâ€™ve been here long enough, played enough, that Iâ€™ve gained respect. And once youâ€™re in this community, youâ€™re in it for good.â€