Tag Archives: Interview

Chelsea ViaCava: Houses of the Holy, Swift Technique, and The Blockley

Chelsea ViaCava (2)Powerhouse vocalist Chelsea ViaCava from Philadelphia soul-funksters, The Swift Technique, recently checked in with Honest Tune.  She discussed the moment she knew she was meant to be a singer, what’s on tap for her band the Swift Technique, and some tips for singers everywhere.

 

 

Honest Tune:  At what point did you know you want to be a singer?

Chelsea ViaCava:  My whole childhood was purely music.  I was a theater nerd to the fullest. It wasn’t until I was fourteen and started vocal lessons with a woman named, Britten Reid. After hearing me sing for the first time, Britt said to me, “you’re not meant for theater, honey. You are a blues vocalist.”  After that lesson, something clicked and I definitely found my wheelhouse.

 

Chelsea ViaCava (3)HT:  After you found your calling musically and moved on from the theater who influenced you the most?

CV:  I’ve pretty much learned everything I’ve ever needed to know about singing from Robert Plant and Etta James.  Man, I listened to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy so much my CD stopped playing.  I literally wore that album out!  Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, Janis Joplin.  I owe a lot to that woman.  Janis epitomized “soul” in every sense of the word.  I’m often told that I carry a bit of a Janis persona when performing.  For me, there is no greater compliment than that.

 

HT:  You have such range vocally and seem able to do so much, what is your favorite style of music to sing? Why?

CV:  I’ve certainly found “home” in singing blues music.  So many different vocal genres are based on blues singing. Once I’ve honed in on that style, I’ve definitely been able to develop a love for other styles, such as, rock and R&B. Anything soulful really fuels my fire.

 

HT:  You joined the Swift Technique a few years back; can you give a little history of the band?

CV:  I’m one of the newest members of Swift Technique, so it’s difficult for me to accurately tell the tale. I started singing for Swift a little over two years ago, but the core has been together since 2007. The band has transitioned a lot over the past eight years. When they first started up they had a hip-hop MC fronting the band.  Eventually that MC left the group and Swift became primarily instrumental.  It wasn’t until I came into the group that they sort of revamped the feel of the music.  One thing that I love about this group is that they’ve always stayed consistent in keeping an authentic Philadelphia funk sound in every variation that they’ve seen over the years.  We definitely all have a strong bond to each other.  Swift is like a brotherhood and I think that kind of camaraderie is apparent when you see us in a live setting.  Swift Technique has always been extremely high energy, quirky, and a little bit unconventional, but we all just love having fun and making music, and that’s what it’s all about.

 

HT:  Over the years, you have played in many projects in many different venues throughout the Chelsea ViaCava (1)Philadelphia region. Is there one that stands out for?

CV:  Hands down, The Blockley.  The live music scene in Philly has not been the same since its closing.  Swift Technique actually played the last show ever at The Blockley in 2013.  I think it’s safe to assume that anyone who was there would say that it was one of the best nights of their lives.  The Blockley consistently put on such great shows and there was such a rare feeling of community at that spot.  God I miss that place.  However, I’m starting to hold the new Ardmore Music Hall in a similar regard.  Ardmore Music Hall is like The Blockley, but all grown up.

 

HT:  What advice would you pass on to aspiring singers?

CV:  Meet as many people as you can.  Perform in public every chance you get.  Don’t believe that a TV singing contest is the only way to make it as a singer.  Never stop perfecting your craft and never try to sing like someone else.  It is so important to hone in on finding the individuality of your voice and own it!

 

HT:  What does the future hold for Chelsea ViaCava?

CV:  I would love to be a background vocalist on a national tour.  It would be awesome if the future granted that wish.  Otherwise, I’ll continue moving onward and upward with Swift Technique, work with as many musicians as possible, and develop my career as a vocal coach.

A Band With No Drums: Greensky Bluegrass and If Sorrows Swim

Greensky Bluegrassedited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words and photos by Tim Newby

A band with no drums,” says Paul Hoffman, mandolinist, singer, and songwriter in Greensky Bluegrass. Hoffman had been trying to best explain his band’s sound, which is a mix of traditional style bluegrass and a more adventurous brand of roots-rock. “I used to say that we are not a bluegrass band and try to convince people that there is more involved,” says Hoffman, “but we absolutely are a bluegrass band and can play the shit out of some bluegrass. We just don’t do it all day. It is not all we do.” With a taste of the humor the gives the band much of its personality and makes them so much fun to see live, Hoffman continues with tongue firmly in cheek, “Besides the pun wouldn’t make any sense without the second word in our name.”

Hoffman is right though; bluegrass is not all they do. They are so much more than that. While their music is built firmly up the traditional bluegrass sound with their line-up of banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar, Dobro, and upright bass, the way in which they reinterpret that traditional sound is miles away from what Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs first played so many years ago. While they have those elements that one would expect to find in traditional bluegrass – acoustic instruments, fast virtuosic playing, tight vocal harmonies, and instrumental solo breakdowns – it is what they do with those simple elements that sets the band apart from the past and points towards the future.   DSCN1704

Greensky Bluegrass have always tread the line between the old and the new, moving easily from traditional tunes such as “Working on a Building,” or “Pig in a Pen,” to Bruce Hornsby’s “King of the Hill,” or Traffic’s “Light up or Leave me Alone,”  throughout the course of their high-energy live shows.  This chameleon-like ability is shown fully on their song “All Four” from their 2011 album Handguns. The song starts with what seemingly seems to be a simple finger picked banjo led-lament that quickly dissolves into a lengthy, adventurous jam the likes of which would be completely foreign to those only reared in traditional bluegrass. In concert “All Four” is even more of a beast, regularly stretching past the fifteen minute-mark. And let’s be honest your parent’s bluegrass does not regularly include fifteen-minute spacey jams that jockey for position on the interstellar overdrive highway.   It is this mix of the old and the new that has enabled Greensky Bluegrass to explode over the past couple of years and establish themselves as leaders of the new jam-grass movement.

Since forming in 2000 in Kalamazoo, Michigan around the trio of banjo-picker Michael Arlen Bont, guitarist Dave Bruzza, and mandolinist Paul Hoffman, the band has seen a steady, rapid growth.  They added bassist Mike Devol in 2004 which was soon followed by a win at the prestigious band contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2006. Shortly after, 2007, they rounded out their line-up when they added Dobroist Anders Beck.  The addition of Beck helped solidify the band’s progressive take on bluegrass. DSCN2452edited

In 2010 at the annual Delfest the band had a coming-out-party of sorts. They played three sets over the course of the weekend and with each set seemed to see their audience increase in size each time. The three sets also served to showcase all the far-ranging aspects of Greensky’s diverse musical personality. They started the weekend playing along with Del McCoury and host of guests when their main stage set was rained out and they moved inside to the Music Hall and played as part of the songwriter showcase.  Their set inside ended up being more a showcase for Greensky and their traditional chops as they played a set that was nothing but old covers and bluegrass songs. The following morning the band started the day again inside the Music Hall playing a set list that was entirely made up of rock covers that do not normally rear their heads in the bluegrass world, which allowed the band to exhibit their unmatched ability to meld completely diverse styles of music into something wholly unique. Greensky’s final set of the weekend was to a packed field at the side stage during which they played nothing but original material. It was the perfect capstone to the weekend as the band had shown all facets of their vast musical spectrum over their three sets and defined what truly makes up the music of Greensky Bluegrass, a mix that Hoffman describes as “our material, bluegrass, and those weird covers and other things we bring to bluegrass or we bring bluegrass too.”   2014-09-07_12-16-01

This diversity of the band’s musical persona is perfectly captured on the band’s latest album, the stunning If Sorrows Swim. The album, like the band, veers from style to style, yet does so while maintaining an identity that is wholly Greensky. The album was built around the skeleton of twelve songs written by the band’s primary songwriters Hoffman and guitarist Bruzza, yet arranged by the whole band. Hoffman says the band’s approach this time was different than on previous albums. “We had worked on the songs some before we got into the studio, but this time more than any other album it was undecided what the shape of it would be until we got into the studio. It was pretty drastic sometimes. We would say, ‘Let’s play this song bluegrassy, let’s try it halftime, folky, swingy,’ there was a lot of freedom and possibilities.” The songs slowly developed and took shape both on stage and in the studio. For Hoffman one of the toughest things was finally saying a song was finished, “Each song morphed and changed and that is one of the hard things of making a record, that commitment to the song and the final draft of it.”

The final draft of If Sorrows Swim is a schizophrenic mix, bouncing from the heartfelt lament of album opener “Windshield,” toGSBG the classic banjo roll on “Letter to Seymour,” to the rocking one-two punch of “Kerosene,” and “Demons,” but a schizophrenic mix that has a unifying, cohesive feel to it. “Working song arrangement and order was a challenge with this record,” explains Hoffman, “This is not a concept album where clearly this song goes before this one and leads into this one like Dark Side of the Moon that is all in the key of A and B and all relative pitch wise and it just goes the way it goes because that’s how it goes.” To help with the sequencing of the album, Hoffman says the band thought of it like one of their lives shows and paced it like they would a set list. “When we write a set list we pay attention to how it’s going to flow and where to put the fast ones in and where to put the spacey ones in. So I think the album flows like that.” This approach to pacing and song-order was born from the band’s desire to always keep things interesting on stage. “Early on we didn’t want to just play bluegrass all night long because that would be boring to just go chucka-chucka all night,” says Hoffman, “Sometimes we want to go boom-boom!” This live set list approach to the sequencing of the album rewards a long attention span, as it moves and peaks like a concert and takes the listener on a sonic, emotional journey.   DSCN2458edited

The album opens with the slow-burning build-up of “Windshield.” “Windshield” is a powerful opener Hoffman describes as a “real four-on-the-floor, downbeat, back chop which is sorta the opposite of what we are supposed to do.” It is precisely the kind of huge song U2 would have written in the eighties if they had decided to ditch their pretentious rock-leanings and grab acoustic instruments and pick some bluegrass. The song is a compelling statement from Greensky about what they are capable of and where they are going musically. While it hints at the band’s bluegrass roots, it highlights their ability to take those roots and push them all over the musical map. The rest of the album follows this exploratory template laid down in the first song. Over the course of If Sorrows Swim Greensky uses inventive song structures, tasteful melodic phrasing, and unique sonic textures to create an album that pushes the limits and boundaries of bluegrass-inspired music into the stratosphere, going to realms never visited by the banjo and mandolin before.

The dynamics of having two primary songwriters, with Hoffman’s more rock-styled tunes and Bruzza’s elegantly traditional sounding songs, help create a contrast of themes and styles that work to flesh out the personality of the album. Hoffman DSCN1483editedmentions some of the new ideas and chances he has been taking in his songwriting and how they have been influenced by some unlikely musicians:

I like to listen to something that I can get an idea about song structure and melodic tendencies from because folk and bluegrass stays pretty formulaic. What’s great about our band is I can write great songs that stand alone with me singing and playing guitar, but we are also a rock band that does all this exploratory stuff and can open it up and explore every night and there is a real balance between the two.

I listen to an album by a band like Alt-J and it is all about textures and I love the feel and mood of the music. Then I will listen to Jason Isabell’s new record and be like, man, this guy can write some friggin’ lyrics and I am inspired by both things in a different way.

DSCN1736editedGreensky Bluegrass has been on a steady trajectory upward since their first days as a band. They have seen half-full venues become packed the next time they visit, they have seen early-afternoon side-stage timeslots grow into main stage headlining slots at festivals, and they have seen their fan base organically grow as Hoffman proudly declares, “a handful of fans at a time.” With the release of If Sorrows Swim and the way it will appeal to a broad spectrum of fans, those fans will most likely grow at a rate much greater rate than a handful at a time. If Sorrows Swim seems to herald broad, new horizons for the band; Hoffman says that while they are excited they look took to keep things in perspective. “I hope this record gets as much attention as it can get, but we don’t want anything we don’t deserve. I would love to see some more of that crossover to fans of something like Jason Isabell who didn’t think they liked bluegrass, but they really like one of our songs or a fan of Alt-J who can listen and think ‘Wow, these guys can make some nice textures.’ Just like I cross over in my tastes, I want people to not be afraid that we are a bluegrass band, so that they will actually sink in and realize they like it. And that seems to happen more and more every year and the more that happens the prouder I am,” Hoffman pauses before finishing his thought, “It is all about good music. It is either good or it is not.”

Andy Hall from the Infamous Stringdusters: Crack Open a Beer, Hang Out, Check out Music

 

 

 

     Since first bursting onto the scene with 2007’s Fork in the Road, the Infamous Stringdusters have established themselves as one of the truly cutting edge bands of the of the rootsy, Americana movement that finds bands ranging from Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Justin Townes Earle, and Mumford and Sons all digging deep into the soul of old-time American string band music and reinventing it for the 21st century.  While the Infamous Stringdusters roots may start with bluegrass, they have developed a sound and style that is much more than that, incorporating hints of whatever the five Stringdusters (Travis Book – bass, Andy Falco – guitar, Jeremy Garrett – fiddle, Andy Hall – dobro, Chris Pandolfi – banjo) can get into their ears, creating music they call High Country.  Their latest album, Silver Sky, is the physical extension of this.

 

After a particular busy year, which saw the Stringdusters release  Silver Sky digitally in the spring, re-release a deluxe edition of the album in the fall on CD and vinyl, host their annual multi-day festival, The Festy, and continue to be the road-warriors they always are as they toured non-stop throughout the year, the band is already gearing up for their next album.  They show no signs of slowing down the rest of the year, as they  are still currently on the road and will close out 2012 with a New Year’s Eve run that will find them ringing in the New Year at the Jefferson Theatre in Charlottesville, VA.

 

Dobro-player extraordinaire Andy Hall took time out from all of this to chat with Honest Tune about their stellar new album, plans for the future, and the forgotten experience of really listening to music.

 

 

 

Honest Tune:  You guys are re-releasing your latest album Silver Sky as a deluxe edition.  It was originally released back in May, you have now had a couple of months to kind of live with the album.  How do you feel about it now a few months down the road?

 

Andy Falco: We feel great about it. We have teamed up with SCI now.  When we released Silver Sky we didn’t do any distribution on it at all. We didn’t put it any stores, so this is an opportunity to send it to independent retailers.  It is not going to be in a Wal-Mart and places like that. We want to encourage people to go to their small record stores in their town. We really feel good about it [the new album].  We combined it with the live record [We’ll Do It Live] and added the bonus track [The Grateful Dead’s] “He’s Gone”.

 

HT:  I love that track.

 

Andy: Thanks.  It wasn’t really intended as anything when we did it, we were just hanging out picking and Billy Hume [producer of Silver Sky] recorded it.  He video taped it. We were really just hanging out jamming and there was just a nice feeling to it and it was a way to pay homage to one of our heroes the Grateful Dead.

We feel great about the album, and are excited that people can go to their independent record stores and get it, and if its not there they should order it.

 

HT:  I am old-school and still love to have my albums on viny or CD.  It’s great to hear someone supporting independent local music stores.

 

Andy: Yeah in this day and age with digital music, you don’t have to buy our music if you don’t want to. We also have an archive with all of our live shows which you can access from our website and they go up pretty quickly after each show. So there is that experience with the digital thing, and that is great for getting music out there and into people’s ears.

Then there is the whole record buying experience which I think people, especially young people, are not experiencing music that way anymore. And I think they should.  When we got our test pressing of Silver Sky on vinyl that was the first time I had ever done an album that was on vinyl. I was checking the pressing to make sure everything sounded right, and it was the first time in years I had sat down with a vinyl record and had the whole listening experience, which is such a different thing than listening to tunes on your iPhone or computer. I am psyched that we are trying to get people to listen to music that way again.

 

HT: It is a whole different experience.  There is such an ease now to listen to music anyway you want, that the idea of making listening to an album an event gets lost.  The idea that I am not going to turn the on TV, I am instead going to grab a beer, sit in my chair, and really listen to this album is kind of forgotten.

 

Andy: Yeah exactly, you pour yourself a cocktail or crack open a beer with a buddy and you hang out and check out music. You experience it, rather than just having it on. Entertainment just moves so quickly and I think people forget to stop and smell the roses. Music almost becomes almost a background soundtrack to people’s lives – which it always was – but they are missing the experience of it, the social experience of it. 

 

HT:  That ease with which people can get new music also takes away that sense of searching out and discovering new music. You lose the thrill of finding something new.  There is no more build-up or anticipation for new music; you don’t have to wait until you can find some random copy or import of something at your local store. Or having to hope you see this small band you’ve just discovered open for someone so you can buy their album from their merch table.

 

Andy: {laughs} Do you remember the days when you actually had to take a chance on bands? I remember going to the record store with $10-$15 and browsing around and picking up a record and saying, “I heard this is good, but I don’t really know, I guess I will try it.”

 

HT: I have a large CD collection with some albums that I took a chance on that turned out to be not such a wise move.

 

Andy: {laughs} Yeah man, people have gotten really used to how easy it is to get new music.  I saw something on Facebook where people were freaking out because; someone young was on there just telling the truth by saying that she doesn’t buy music. Her attitude was why would anyone buy music these days?  And she was right. Younger people who weren’t there in the age of Tower Records and whatnot – when that is how you had to get your music – don’t know any other way to get their music.  So I think it is important to still provide an online way for them to get music, but still also have a physical copy in the record stores.

 

HT:  I think what people forget is that someone has to make this music, and if everyone goes and gets it for free, that band who worked their ass off to make that album isn’t getting any kind of reward and they may have to say, “We can’t afford to do this anymore we have to find real jobs.”

 

Andy: I fully support people who want to go out and use Spotify or YouTube or our archive and don’t pay a cent to listen to our music, I am fine with that.  But what I remind people is that if you do that with us or any other band, remember when that band comes to your town go to their shows, pick up a t-shirt or something. If you are not going to pay for the music, you can still support the band in someway. It’s important to always do that.  Just get a ticket to the show and be part of the scene. If you want to help a band out it doesn’t always have to be with money. If a band posts a video and you like it, share it with your friends.  Help them out, spread the word. That is all stuff that falls under supporting the band. That helps out bands a lot.

 

HT:  That’s a really good point, I think people do not always remember the different ways they can support a band they like besides just buying their albums.  Swinging back to the new album, what did you do differently or the same this time around when writing and recording Silver Sky?

 

Andy: You know what seems to be the same on every record is that we always have a little bit different of an approach. You are always trying to grow as an artist, band, and as songwriters.  In this instance we had a producer Billy Hume, who is amazing, who we met through our manager. He is just an amazingly creative guy. He doesn’t make bluegrass records. He is more known for his work on hit rap records, but he has a folk background and he is just a really creative energy that brought a whole other thing to our table. I feel his mark on the record is that he was able to match the energy of our live shows and bring it to the record.  It was an amazing experience to work with Billy and I expect to work with him many more times in the future.

 

HT: Since The Stringdusters and Billy kind of come from different musical worlds, was there every a time when there was a “language” issue when trying to describe or explain something to each other?

 

Andy: I think when you bring two different worlds like that together you are always learning from each other, finding that “that’s cool how you do that” moment.  But the end product is making a record, and whether its bluegrass, or rap, or rock, it is all the same thing.  You go in trying to make the best album you can, with the best songs you have, get the performance you can, and make the best statement you can with the record.  So there is definitely a universal language there we relied on.

 

HT: I think what you said about the album capturing your live energy is true. Your live show is one of your many strengths and Silver Sky really captures the energy of what you guys do on stage.  Do you find you write  songs for the stage and try and take them into the studio or you write songs in the studio and then try and work them out for your live performance?

 

Andy: You know that’s the big question what to do with that {laughs}.  I think it is different for each song. Sometimes you have songs that never make it on an album, but become a regular part of your live rotation for the show. I think the next time around for the next studio album we are going to try and road test a few more of the songs than we normally do.  I think back in the day, when you had a record label, the label would frown upon tunes being played from the record before the record dropped.  That is an old school style of thinking.  But really does it matter? We don’t have a record label; we are our own record label so we can make our own decisions about that. So it’s like, “shoot yeah man, we want to play these tunes.”
 

It’s interesting to play something in front of an audience and see their reaction to it. That’s really cool to see your audience and see how they react to songs. It is a great way to get perspective on those songs. Because ultimately when we go back to the studio – we are a five piece band on stage - but when we go to the studio we can add other things and other elements. When you play a live show there is an energy transfer from audience to band that happens.  You don’t get that energy transfer when you make a studio recording. So one of the ways to simulate that is by adding certain things, like a little bit of piano or an organ, or percussion, or stuff like that.  Like we were talking about, listening to a studio album is a different experience; it should be a different experience than a live show where you are performing the songs and you have that energy transfer going on to fill in those gaps.  I think road testing the songs on the next record is going to be something we do, and we are just always trying to be growing as artists and songwriters.

 

HT:  Where do you find inspiration from for the next record?  What kinds of things are you listening to – something older, something newer?

 

Andy: Different guys in the band listen to all kinds of music – from rock music to electronic music to everything. I think what is interesting is the similarities between trancey-electronic music and what we do with a kind of jammy music. It is this very similar kind of thing, just with different instruments. 

 I find inspiration myself in a lot of different things, by observing what’s going on in the world, or in my own personal life, or in my family.  I went to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame a few days ago for the first time and it was inspiring. I thought it would be cool, but I didn’t realize how inspiring it would be. Holy cow, just to walk through there, it was so inspiring to see the cream of the crop of rock ‘n’ roll music. And it is really an interactive kind of exhibit the way they do it. They had a great Grateful Dead exhibit and a great Beatles exhibit. So that is where I draw inspiration from, and also from our peers.  We are fortunate enough in the summer months to play a lot of festivals and you get to see a lot of music you wouldn’t maybe get to see otherwise.  It all sort of gets in there and influences somehow.

 

HT:  Do you still draw inspiration from any of the older more traditional names in bluegrass?

 Andy: I think these days my exploration into classic bluegrass is not quite as common now as say me going and listening closely to a Beatles record or something like that.  Right now most of the classic stuff I am listening to is like Hendrix and The Beatles.  I am huge Mike Bloomfield fan – he is one of my favorite guitar players – and he is not a bluegrass player by any means.  We lost Doc Watson recently and that inspired me to go back to some Doc records and check that out again.  I have a tendency to kind of just listen to stuff that I really like, and try and put it into the context of what we are doing.

 

 HT:  What are your plans going forward the rest of the year and beyond?  Have you started writing new songs for the next album?

 

Andy:?We have our New Year’s Run which is always fun and I am looking forward to that.  We are going toTulum,Mexico in December with [Leftover] Salmon, Yonder [Mountain String Band], and Railroad Earth.

 Generally we have already started putting new songs together.  On this tour right now in particular – because we all live kind of scattered across the country – since we are all together we are really trying to maximize our time together and work on some new material. We have been working out some new songs and have been writing together. I am looking forward to getting back into the studio maybe in the spring. I think we should be ready by then.  We will be sprinkling in new material over the course of the next several months. You can count on some new Dusters material.  I want to encourage people to go to our archive and check out our shows.  Our man Drew Becker who does our front house sound and records the shows does a great job getting them up on there, so you can probably find some of the new material on there as well.

                                                       

 

Silver Sky Deluxe Edition is out now. 

To see more live photos of the Infamous Stringdusters by Jordan August please visit here.

With Friends Like These: An Interview with Dave Brogan and Steve Adams from ALO

Self-described by Zach Gill in 2008 as “Bohemian Jam Pop,” ALO (American Liberation Orchestra) is unique among most modern bands. They have known each other since age 7, have played together since they were 12, and have been in bands together since high school. The band congeals on records in somewhat abstract connectivity, only understood once you realize how long they have known each other and played together.

Honest Tune spoke with Dave Brogan (drums/vocals) and Steve  Adams (bass/vocals) individually on a cool Monday night about their latest album, Sounds Like This. Dave was in New Orleans between gigs enjoying Jazzfest and Steve was in San Francisco, taking a break from their schedule with some rest and relaxation with family and friends.

Speaking with Steve and Dave individually provided insight on how close they are and how they communicate in the studio. Their answers to the same questions were similar but had unique syntax. Like jazz musicians communicating through the trumpet and the snare, Steve was more talkative, filling any pause in the conversation with thoughts about the album or anecdotes about the band; Dave was straight forward, yet cautious in what he divulged. The dual conversations provided a glimpse into a band’s communication process – how  different voices add to the artistic process.

HT:  The press release indicates that this recording process was very different from before, in that it was a collective process. Did you all write and arrange in an overlapping process? Why was it different than before?

Steve:  Part of it yes…. We have been slowly creeping towards this [new] process. [Before] we may have written part of it at home; we always arranged together and then picked it apart to make it “ALO.” But this album was more free jamming and recording in the moment…so this album, more than any, is a collaboration. We have been trying to get to that more and more each time.

The biggest difference was that we had the live show in mind on this album, but the last few were more introspective and more studio produced. We wanted to capture our live shows well. [For inspiration] we kept picking up pictures of the fans and holding it up, reminding us who we were making the record for.

Another difference on this the record was that we recorded in San Francisco. The last one was in Hawaii, so I was only able to bring my electric bass, but I couldn’t bring the little things from home. There were three check-ins to get to Hawaii, so we couldn’t ship a whole lot and used whatever Jack [Johnson] had in his studio.

This time we were a couple blocks from Dave’s house, so we were in such close range we could fill up the car. I think this made the sound on the album broader.

Dave:  We were trying to capture the essence of the live band on the record. In the past, there are people that knew us from the live shows and people that knew us from a record. But we are a very reactive band, and we react in the environment, which affects the set list and the way we play live, [while] in the studio it’s more introspective music. The shows are more of a party, and in the new album there was intent to get the live vibe, ‘now lets picture it with the live sold-out Filmore shows.”

HT:  What was it like to record at Mission Bell?

Steve:  Lots of records have been made there lately. It was so cool! The studio had cement walls and I think it was an old bank. The studio was upstairs, and [was located] in the Mission [neighborhood in San Francisco].

Dave:  It was great! We were around good friends [who own the recording studio], and we actually used the same tape machine that Phil Lesh and The Grateful Dead used on In the Dark. The history of it was kind of inspiring in its own right. We used some modern techniques, so sometimes we would record on tape, but then maybe add something later by computer.

HT:  Was there any moment or note that sticks out in your mind, that inspired you or was an “aha” moment?

Steve:  For me, there was one jam that we came up with on the spot, and it turned into a song, “Falling Dominoes,” and Zach helped me write the lyrics. I had song writing sessions, which was something I had never done before. Zach is the most prolific writer in the band, and he encouraged me and gave me exercises for writing lyrics. It was kind of uncomfortable but kind of exciting for me.

Another that I remember was when Zach kept pursuing an alternate ending to a song, “Blew out the Walls.” Zach had an alternate way of playing it, and we had to choose one way or the other, so we recorded both. [The alternative version is available on Itunes only] It was a cool, standout track and the alternate version kind of reminded me of Talking Heads. It was a transient jam. Because we had been playing for a half hour, we were playing different [musical] interests, and then Dan showed up. Then we went back to the original and played for a half hour again, and then they reeled it in and made it into a song. It was definitely stand out moment for me.

Dave:  The first thing that pops in my mind was “Falling Dominoes.” I loved the way it got created. This was so cool, literally, we were using the tape to record for about a half hour, and then rewind it, then we just started playing few chords and suddenly the song appeared. The tape finished, and the music just came out of thin air. The song was capturing the band. It happened from such a pure space. There are so many cool moments when you record an album.

It was a pretty intense moment and we uncovered a cool piece of music. There is good composition on this album. Nobody brought in their own music, and a lot of the versions that are on the album were recorded before there were lyrics to the song. That discovery is captured on the album. One of the cool things was hearing the songs develop on the tape.

HT:  Do you struggle with the internal pull between making money and keeping true to your integrity and authenticity as a musician?

Steve:  There is definitely a universal struggle of trying to make money. There is the infrastructure that could sell a song, and then on the other hand we are aware of the opportunity we have.

The first record was written for ourselves, with no label in mind. The two records after that, we felt a little pressure so we had to record something we could sell. This record, the conversation came up a lot, and we thought, let’s just forget about it, make the record we want to make for our fans and not over-edit it. Not over think it.

It’s a conversation we have a lot and it’s difficult. It’s a challenge, it’s a balancing act while we are trying to be proud of the music. This album is more whimsical and we let our own voice be what it is. It actually took the pressure off.

Dave:  The one thing with ALO is that it is not in our nature to focus on the business side. On the other albums we spent more time trimming things down, and we purposefully did not do that on this album. Sure, the trimming down bogs you down. It’s always the roughest thing.

We wanted to keep the live spirit. We were not setting out to make longer songs, and we didn’t want to fit the songs in the box. And we have a record label that allows us to create albums we want to. We are not trying to sell records based on the album cover, with a cookie-cutter image.

HT:  Full disclosure, I have had “Reviews (From Here to Zed)” on repeat for the past 2 days. Can you tell me about the song?

Steve:  That one was a composition groove vibe. Zach had words from another song, and the song gravitated through them and then fell into place in a cool way.

We all feel that there is always change, and with art, and sure, the reason you release it is for a little bit of validation. There are people who love us for what we do, and there are people that want us to do something they want us to do. But we wanted to have humor with it.

We did a lot more takes on the song and then we went back to an earlier one. We were throwing things to the wall and culling through things. We realized that the earlier recording was the best. Which goes back to the point of the album: to record what was part of our live shows.

Dave:  We did a bunch of takes, but the first take was the best one, the energy was so good on the first. An inspired recording is way better than precision.

HT:  You just played at Tulane University for the Crawfest [on April 21.] How did it feel to be playing in New Orleans, home to such a rich history of music?

Steve:  It was awesome! We have never played there before, but we have played Jazz Fest before. Last year was our first trip back to New Orleans in four years.

At one point Zach was talking to the crowd, and I felt like we were these California ambassadors, relating to college students, bridging the gap between USCB and Tulane. I can still relate to them because they were excited about the music, like when we played at Santa Barbara.

Dave:  Tulane was great! It was a full day of music. It was fun because we did a shoot for an ALO video for “Sweetest Dreams,” and then the show kicked off the Jazzfest.

HT:  That being said, how pumped are you to be playing at First Annual Nolafunk Jazzfest Series? [At the Republic April 27th first weekend of Jazzfest with Anders Osborne, members of the Grateful Dead & Little Feat, plus Marco Benevento]

Steve: Dave stayed in New Orleans for the whole week; good to go home, Zach and Dan flew back for their family. So much of the music that we love comes from there…Dr. John, old Jazz, Cajun music, and you go there, music all day all night for two weeks. Threaded into their cultures, live music.

Dave:  I’ve been here the whole week. I am intrigued by regional music. It is interesting these days that the lines are so blurred because everyone has access to so much music. You can see different combinations [online], but I like to find the guys that are doing the sound of the region, a pure form of the region’s music, and every region still has that, and as we travel I seek that out.

HT:  Dave, back in a 2008 interview [with HT&E] you said that you’d like to work with Amos Lee. Has that happened?

Dave:  It hasn’t happened yet! I had just gotten the new album and I love his music but we have never even met. I would stand by that! I caught him last year at Jazz Fest on my day off, and he was doing a set with the expanded band that he has now, and the band was such a bonus.

 

Sounds Like This was released May 8, 2012 on Brushfire Records.

From Chilly Water to Wood Tour: An Honest Tune Interview with John Bell

Over the past year, we have had the opportunities to sit down with Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools & Jimmy Herring, so it seemed only natural that before the book is closed on the year that marked the 25th anniversary for the jam veterans, that we would have a chat with front man, John Bell.

Though the Widespread Panic story is one of many successes, it is also one that has seen its share of bumps in the road, loss of loved ones and changes in personnel. Through it all though, the band has never wavered from the thing that seems to complete them on a level of which few other things can — continuing to create, inspire, give and receive through what seems to be the love of their life: playing music.

In a classic Panic move, the boys — who have achieved success primarily through being plugged in and electric — have decided to play their final pre-hiatus shows in as stripped down a setup as possible for the forthcoming Wood Tour.

Further, they continue to release portions of their vast archive in the form of multi-tracked discs, much as their forefathers, the Grateful Dead has done with Dick’s Picks. The most recent release, 1997 at the Fox, was released yesterday.

With all of these late occurrences in mind, Ian Rawn hopped on the phone with JB for what turned into a 45 minute discussion ranging from  –amongst many other topics — the early days with Michael Houser and his untimely passing to the lyric “an honest tune with a lingering lead,” the archive releases, the recent Tunes for Tots benefit at the Georgia Theatre and even a brief discussion about one of Bell’s latest creative passions, photography.

 

 

From Chilly Water to The Wood Tour:

An Honest Tune Interview with Widespread Panic’s John Bell

For more on Widespread Panic, log on to www.WidespreadPanic.com

 

360° at YMSB’s Harvest Festival, 2011: Photos, Review, Interviews & Performances

It’s hard to picture a more fitting setting for a Bluegrass and Americana festival than the rolling peaks and valleys of the Ozark Mountain chain in Arkansas, or a better band to host it all than the Yonder Mountain String Band. With a lineup of stellar acts ranging from the legendary Peter Rowan and Bela Fleck, contemporary explorers Cornmeal and Greensky Bluegrass to the rabble rousing bands like Split Lip Rayfield or Dirtfoot, a varied crop of acts were laid out on the musical table at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Mulberry Mountain Harvest Festival.

Yonder’s hosting the festival went as far beyond simply lending their name to the proceedings as is humanly possible. By inviting some supremely talented friends to the party and filtering out onto the festival grounds, these hosts were as hospitable as one could fathom and managed to spread the feeling of boundless togetherness through their simple love of playing music.

 

One of the Mulberry Mountain Harvest Festivals true hallmarks were the sit ins, with violinist Darol Anger proving to be the leader in the weekend’s stag hopping. Not only did Anger guest with YMSB for all three of their headlining sets, but played with his frequent partner Scott Law, joined former pupil Bridget Law (no relation) as she played with her band Elephant Revival, got into a fiddle duel and round robin with Jason Carter during the Travellin’ McCourys’ set and was never anywhere without his fiddle.

Superstars like Bela Fleck, who performed with his Flecktones that welcomed Howard Levy back to piano duties, led informative workshops that were packed front to back with aficionados and musicians alike — all eager to learn. Then there were workshops that degenerated into pure parties, as was the case when Cornmeal and Greensky Bluegrass got together for classic rock cover showcase that ended with everyone in the tent rising to their feet and dancing to the crazy configuration of the complete double band blend.

Performers actually walked the festival grounds, joining free playing buskers and campground jams with the same reverence as any onstage show. The sense that the musicians were there for the show as much as anyone in the crowd was embodied by Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon, Great American Taxi), who jumped off stage to join the crowd to watch the proceedings from the crowd.

The crowd was appreciative of all  of the “once in a lifetime music”  that they were witnessing and the buzz throughout the weekend was speculation and wonderment in regards to which player would sit it with whom and where he/she would do so.

Fans enjoyed close camping and picture perfect weather, with blue skies stretching beyond the horizon during the day, and a haunting moon in the sky reflecting not just light but love down on all below it’s luminescence.

The grounds were as alive after the official music stopped as they were during any point in the day, with campfire jams sprouting up all around. You could hear wandering musicians picking, fiddling and drumming in the distance, adding to the musically connected vibe that defined the weekend.

Most amazing of all, if you listened close enough, you could hear the strolling players meet up, and listen as they joined each other. Whole bands that would have to be billed as super groups on any official line up were born, shone brighter than any sun and then faded away as they players once again drifted in search of the next sound.

The festival promoters are to be congratulated on the stroke of brilliance that was bringing in the Yonder Mountain String Band to host the party. More than just their plethora of friends who were eager to join them, beyond their ticket selling cache and their stellar talents, the guys from Yonder are great people. Their joy is so evident when they play that you don’t want the show to stop more for their benefit more than your own. You simply want them to be able to keep enjoying themselves. Banjo player Dave Johnston alternates from intense focus to the widest grins you’ve seen, while Adam Aijala’s legendary focus seems to transcend simple attention and move into a blissful realm of pure group synergy. Ben Kaufmann lays the bass with the confidence of a man fit perfectly in a role. Front man and mandolin troubadour Jeff Austin contorts his face like a child with a fresh ball of silly putty.

Joined by Darol Anger for all three of their sets, Yonder welcomed any and all to their stage, from an amazing sit in for “Fire on the Mountain” by legendary Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann to the entire Flecktones band. It seemed as though if you played an instrument and had it handy, you were welcome on the stage.

Picking parties turned into cacophonous rising moments of distilled energy  before the band departed the stage and promising to return next year.

They appeared exhausted, smiling and proud; having spent every last drop of their musical fuel onstage and in  so doing, providing a pure example of what a festival should be about:  celebration of music and camaraderie for one and all.

 

On The Scene at YMSB’s Harvest Festival with Dead Winter Carpenters, Jay Nash & Mountain Sprout (Performances & Interviews)

 

Writin’ Home for Five and Gettin’ Ten w/ Yonder Mountain String Band (Interview)

 

Cornmeal & Greensky Bluegrass team up for a cover of “Lay Down Sally”

 

Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the fest by Rex Thomson

Photos & Video: Outtakes, Interviews and On The Scene at The Festy

Several weeks ago, we presented a two-part series consisting of exclusive acoustic performances recorded while onsite at The Festy Experience. After doing so, we quickly realized that we not only had a copious amount of content remaining, but that we had yet to do the splendid event the true justice that it deserves.

After a long summer of events — some large, some small — The Festy Experience turned out to be something that was beyond imagination. In turn, it was the perfect way to “close out” a busy summer festival season.

From location to weather, lineup, activities and overall vibe, the event truly was “an experience.” As we noted in an earlier segment, it was akin to stumbling upon a diamond in the rough. 

In our attempt to provide the blissful weekend its due representation, we present Photos, Outtakes, Interviews and On The Scene at The Festy Experience with The Wood Brothers, Brett Dennen, The Infamous Stringdusters, Larry Keel, Sarah Siskind and Emmitt-Nershi Band.

 

 

Outtakes, Interviews and On The Scene at The Festy

 

Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from The Festy by David Shehi

Live, Backstage & Unplugged with PGroove’s Brock Butler: A Trilogy of Tunes (Video)

If there is something that the world can never have too many of, it is brilliant songwriters. By its very essence, the poetic pen of a songwriter takes the vast landscape of personal emotions that are based upon thoughts or circumstances and provides a sweeping and boundary defying humanness to these. In so doing, he takes his thoughts to a place of transcendence — where others can listen, identify and share. To possess this ability goes beyond the ability to shred or melt faces, and while Perpetual Groove‘s Brock Butler is apt to do the latter on any given night, it is his ability as a lyricist that truly sets him apart as a unique and increasingly rare talent.

While in Huntsville, Butler sat down with Honest Tune to play a recent trilogy of songs that he had written and give a brief but personal glimpse into the situation and feelings from which the songs were spawned. 

The trilogy takes its listener from turmoil and loss to healing and redemption in approximately 20 minutes… and it is a beautiful journey. 

So sit back, relax, listen, watch and introspect as Honest Tune exclusively brings you Brock Butler: Live, Backstage & Unplugged, a Trilogy.    

 

Brock Butler: Live, Backstage & Unplugged, A Trilogy (Part I)

Brock Butler: Live, Backstage & Unplugged, A Trilogy (Part II)

Brock Butler: Live, Backstage & Unplugged, A Trilogy (Part III)

 

For more on Brock and Perpetual Groove, log on to www.PGroove.com

 

Video: Looking Forward to the Weekend & moogfest 2011

With moogfest 2011 upon us, the buzz that surrounds the event is at peak levels. The folks at AC Entertainment promise that anybody who was at the event in 2010 will be  even more blown away this weekend by the experience than they were last. Well, we were there last year so we figured we would put in a call to our friend at AC, Jeff Cuellar, to let him fill us in on some of the details. And if Jeff is telling the truth — and he is a good guy so we will take him at his word — what will transpire this weekend by way of a lineup that boasts the likes of The Flaming Lips, Umphrey’s and Amon Tobin, coupled by the visual experience they have on tap, it seems that the aforementioned claim may just hold true.

 Looking forward to moogfest 2011

www.moogfest.com

360° at Austin City Limits: Interviews, Photos, Video & Review

acl_2011_day1_low_52.jpgDriving into Austin, TX is always an enlightening experience. From the megastructures and multi-tiered interstate junctions, one cannot help but be reminded of the old adage that “everything is bigger in Texas.” And so is the case with Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Mist tent? No way. Mist tents are for the minor leagues. ACL boasts a misting station that is approximately 50 yards in length and has industrial sized mist blowing fans scattered throughout the park. You will not find a water spigot in Zilker Park, the site upon which the the event sits. Rather, at ACL, Camelbak has a spot that is staffed five deep at all times who are anxiously awaiting the next patron who needs his Nalgene refreshed.

All of this fails to mention the lineup. Whether you are an undercard guy or a headliner whore, your needs will be met with choices ranging from Coldplay, My Morning Jacket or Stevie Wonder to Gary Clark, Jr., Mavis Staples or Gillian Welch. That is Austin City Limits. They do it big.

 

For ten years now, the proud liberal city that resides in one of the most conservative states in the land has played host to one of the most burgeoning music festivals in the country; an event that typically sells out of three-day passes before the lineup is even announced. And though the festival is undoubtedly large, it has not lost sight of its local flavor that allows one to have a large sampling of the Austin experience by simply attending each day’s festival festivities. From local cooking and art to bike taxis, it is all right there for the indulging.


 

Headliners

Coldplay

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With a new album due in late October (Mylo Xyloto), Coldplay is once again gracing the stage with their presence, and their performance at ACL was just that… graceful. While many bands of these Londoners’ stature might run the risk of falling victim to the “my shit doesn’t stink” rock-god mentality, Coldplay has done anything but that. I lost track of how many times front man Chris Martin thanked the audience, and the performance did not even have a hint of entitlement. Maybe Gwyneth keeps them grounded. Never mind.

Opening with the title track from the forthcoming record, the audience was immediately drawn into the set via the laser lightshow and Chris Martin’s not of this earth stage presence. But it was during the opening acoustic strum of “Yellow” and ensuing colossal riff that signaled the arena sound and European intensity — that one may have only seen on television when watching mega-events like Live Aid — that had the devout multitude of adorers at the Coldplay blokes’ beck and call. From “In My Place,” “The Scientist” and “Fix You” — that included a snippet tribute to the late Amy Winehouse — Coldplay delivered.

 

Setlist: Mylo Xyloto, Hurts Like Heaven, Yellow, In My Place, Major Minus, Lost!, The Scientist, Violet Hill, God Put A Smile Upon Your Face, Everything’s Not Lost, Us Against the World, Politik, Viva La Vida, Charlie Brown, Paradise

Encore: Clocks, Fix You, Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

 

Kanye West

acl_2011_day1_low_76.jpgCall me crazy but I just had to check out Kanye West. Maybe it was the curious nature of my live music loving soul or the fact that rumors were rampant that Jay-Z would make a guest appearance. Whatever the reason, I made the trek to witness what turned out to be the exact opposite of what was going on across the park with Coldplay, and exactly what I suspected would be the case from Kanye. But an open mind was kept, primarily because I had heard that the cat had toned it down since making a complete ass out of himself (again) with the whole Taylor Swift thing.

The open mind would soon be closed, courtesy of Mr. Kanye West. Kanye’s set was nothing short of grotesque. Though supposedly there was something deeper going on that my feeble mind must not be advanced enough to understand, from my vantage, the three “act” show was nothing more than a superficial display of lowly bravado, angry homage to materialism, and partial renditions of songs from the somewhat vast West catalogue. The stage was adorned with camel-toed goddess looking figures who were dressed anything but goddess-like. With repetitive lines such as “fuck me with the lights on” scattered amongst the pomp and circumstance of a guy who really thinks he matters, the kiddies scarily ate it up… to each their own, but I bailed when I could feel the regurgitation bubbling.

 

Setlist: H.A.M., Dark Fantasy, Power, Power (Remix), Jesus Walks, Can’t Tell Me Nothing, Hell of a Life, Monster, Flashing Lights, Good Life, Love Lockdown, Heartless, Pinocchio Story, Run This Town (Jay-Z), Niggas in Paris, Through the Wire, All Falls Down, Touch the Sky, Gold Digger, All of the Lights, Stronger, Runaway, Lost in the World, Hey Mama

 

Stevie Wonder

acl_2011_day2-18.jpgWell, yet one more person from whom Kanye West could benefit from. Stevie Wonder’s set was — sans an out of place and unnecessary plug for President Obama — pure bliss. But who is anybody to question what Stevie Wonder does? The guy is a living legend who is a master of what he does.If he finds it necessary to belt out “yes we can,” then so be it. Many waited the length of the day in order to have a good vantage from which they could see this figure of music history. Their wait was worth it and beyond.

From the opening note of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is,” grins were abound – with Stevie’s being the widest and brightest. Watching Stevie Wonder gave the feeling that one may feel if he were to marvel at a miracle in the making right before his eyes. There was nothing forced about his playing. It was perhaps the most natural exhibition I have ever witnessed. And “I Just Called To Say I Love You” was the type of material that could have gotten even the most no game having chap a spot in the sack with his better half.

 

Setlist: How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Marvin Gaye), My Eyes Don’t Cry, Master Blaster, The Way You Make Me Feel (Michael Jackson), Higher Ground, Living for the City, Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing, When I Fall in Love (Nat King Cole), Ribbon In The Sky, Overjoyed,   Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours, Sir Duke, I Wish, Do I Do, For Once In My Life, My Cherie Amour, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Check on Your Love, Superstition, Isn’t She Lovely, Fever (Little Willie John), As

 

My Morning Jacket

There is not much more that can be said about My Morning Jacket, the literal festival kings of 2011. acl_2011_day2-11.jpgWith rampant success on the heels of Circuital, the Kentucky quintet decided to close their long summer road trip in grand fashion with a performance at Austin City Limits, playing directly opposite of Stevie Wonder.

Needless to say, the Jacket multitude was not quite what the Wonder one was, but the attendance was beyond respectable. For those that decided to catch all or a portion of MMJ, they were treated to a catalogue mixture that was not too far off base from what has been given at many other outings over the summer. This said, the highlight came when a somewhat expected deviation from the norm — a guest appearance from Preservation Hall Jazz Band — launched the evening into an electrically infused jazz eargasm for the ages.

Knowing their place, they gracefully opted for no encore. Jim James is the shit and all, but even he was cognizant of the fact that the guy behind “Fingertips – Pt. 2” was right across the way.

 

Setlist: Victory Dance, Circuital, Off The Record, I’m Amazed, Gideon, Golden, Outta My System,  Mahgeetah, Smokin From Shootin, (end of) Run Thru, Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt.2,  Wordless Chorus, Holdin On To Black Metal*, Dancefloors*, One Big Holiday* * w/ Preservation Hall Jazz Band

 

Highlights

 

Rain

Unless you have been hanging out under a rock, you know that Texas has experienced one of the worst droughts in its history. As a result of this, wildfires have sprung up across the state — which forced the festival to make it a strictly non-smoking affair (bummer) — and the devastation has been acl_2011_day1_low-90.jpgcatastrophic. The folks of Austin and Texas as a whole have been praying for rain, and on day one at ACL, they got it. Granted, it was a small shower, but it was something. Then on day two, the site actually got a true summer downpour. It was magical, even communal; not a single soul complained about being wet. Folks were more than glad to walk around in drenched clothes considering the recent state of parched affairs in the land of the lone star.

 

Gillian Welch

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings performed a set that was so stripped down that authenticity bled from the stage. Too bad the bass from Skrillex’s set ironically bled over into the purity that was taken place in Gillian’s tent. As they played their honest brand of Americana, Welch and Rawlings kept their faithful mesmerized with raw string play and sincerity in delivery for beloved tunes including “Look at Miss Ohio” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

 

Gary Clark, Jr.

Clark’s set scorched. Though played on one of the smallest of the festival, it was packed shoulder to shoulder with many catching their first glimpse of the man who many are crediting with bringing back the blues on the heels of his first major label release, The Bright Lights EP. Clark played every chord and sung every note with the fervor and depth of a man singing and playing his last; his tall, lean and humble presence only adding to the dynamic. Though comparisons to Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn remain abound, there is no mistaking Clark as being a true original and one of Austin’s proudest sons.    

 

Lowlights

 

DJ Electronica/Apple music

Do people eat this stuff up? Of course they do. Do some place these cats in the “no talent ass clown” category? Yep. This too, falls into the “each/own” category. acl_2011_day1_low_20.jpgEither way, the sweaty masses of pubescent and college aged kids who fill these tents and fields before the never ending list of DJs are not going away. The scene is a force with which to be reckoned. Let’s face it, some folks need repetitive beats so that they do not ever actually have to listen to music but can still show up at a live event and dance like they know what they are doing. However, is it really necessary that it is played so loud that Sara Bareilles — an artist of unquestionable talent — finds it necessary to comment to the effect that she can’t concentrate on her own set due to the fact that Pretty Lights‘ thuds, or hooks as some refer to them, are so low that the Richter scale in the other tent registers?

 

Austin Eats

Austin Eats, the food spot at the park, was a disappointment this year. Though everything was reasonably priced and the local fares were well represented, the fact that all of the food was located here was a buzz kill because it meant that eating had to be a scheduled event. With such a competitive schedule, making a stop on such vast grounds to grab a bite to eat should be something that can be done with impulsivity. Is this nitpicky? Probably so, but I think – as a large mammal – that reinvention of what was a good system where folks could stop off at multiple places to get their grub on was a bit of a misstep.

 

Honorable Mentions

 

North Mississippi Allstars

With Big Chris Chew back in the rotation for the first time in awhile, the NMA sound was once again fully complete. This is not to say that the duo is not enjoyable because it is. But there is something about having that trio of musicians – and on this date, Roosevelt Collier (Lee Boys) playing pedal steel – that is delightful. Plus at a acl_2011-4.jpgfestival that primarily focuses on the indie genre, a good ol’ southern jam-rock session was much needed. It was like coming home.

 

Del McCoury Band with Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Who would have ever thought that this collaboration works as well as it does. With American Legacies they proved it and the live translation was just as impeccable. What was perhaps most compelling about the set was the true love of music that shone through from these students and teachers of the sound. It was hard to tell who was smiling more, Del or the throng that came to witness the anomaly.

 

Waterloo Records Autograph Signings

Autograph signings are such a wonderful way to engage music fans, but with Waterloo Records, it is also a reminder to music fans that there are these things called CDs and also places to buy them called record stores. In a true testament to the recognition of the need to support independent records stores, artists — including My Morning Jacket, Young the Giant, TV On The Radio and others — showed up in droves this year to shake hands, kiss babies and sign whatever swag was placed in front of them.

 

Conclusion….

acl_2011_day1_low_21.jpgDue to its placement on the calendar, Austin City Limits is charged with bringing something that will make traveling festivarians put off the other big names (Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands) or make it to Austin in addition. It is quite the task, but the event once again delivered.

With enough indie to satisfy even the most tragically hip and enough of the rest to make anybody be able to find a niche, there was also a lot of room for discovery. From Big Boi to Alison Krauss, musicians brought their A-Game. Hell, Cee Lo‘s set started on time. Surely that — and the fact that Christian Bale was on the scene to shoot a film — says something about the event.

In short, Austin City Limits Music Festival remains to be one of the top dogs in an ever increasing list of events of its type, but from the top to the bottom, this event is managed with unparalleled professionalism, organization and downright courtesy. Fans come first at ACL, as evidenced by the last minute decision to add 11,000 square feet of shade structure in order to keep patrons cool. It is an event that is definitely big, but also one that prides itself on the fact that one rarely realizes that he is in the midst of 70,000+ people and it for these reasons and many more that ACL has staked its claim as a must-make event that is here to stay for years to come. Cheers to ACL 2012!

 

On the Scene at ACL with Gary Clark, Jr., Futurebirds & Ruby Jane

For more on Gary Clark, click here. For more on Futurebirds, click here. For more on Ruby Jane, click here.

 

Click the thumbnails for photos From the Fest by David Shehi

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