The hub for the Midwest music scene, Chicago, Illinois houses some of the finest music venues in the region. The Vic Theater located in the Central Lakeview area is one of the top contenders in the well-known realm of Chicago venues. Built in 1912 the ostentatious five-story vaudeville house still has most of the original ornate wall sculptures within and accommodates 1400 people. The eclectic neighborhood is home to great restaurants, theater, and shopping. One of the greatest perks of the venue is the Vic’s parking garage directly across the street and the easy access to the train for ease to and from the venue.
2015 Ghoul Train Hulaween
Spirit of the Suwannee
Live Oaks, Florida
Photographer: Brad Kuntz
Writer: James Kastriches
If your Halloween wasn’t spent at Suwannee this year, you really missed out, the third annual Hulaween, in Live Oak, Florida was by far the best Hulaween to date, a complete success in every way. This year the festival topped all other festival attendance at the park to date breaching 21,000 freaky people!
The weather was breathtaking, compared to last year’s bone chilling nights, cloudy but in the upper 70’s for the duration of the weekend. It actually was a bit too humid during the day the 2nd half of the weekend but bearable.
The art installations, live paintings and decorations that are scattered throughout the park seem to get better each year, the creativity is unsurpassable. Spirit Lake is a treat in itself with the spectacular light show that lasts all night long, casting patterns of color onto the tall cypress trees and the long tangles of dangling Spanish moss and the adult playground in a Spirit lake area with its own stage, fire dancers, fire statures, swing sets, moving lights, mazes and mouths to sit in and pose with, landscape art and much more.
This year’s lineup was stacked, capable to suit all. Bluegrass, EDM, Jam rock, whatever you wanted, was only a stage away, at most times. With headliners String Cheese Incident (of course..7 sets), Railroad Earth, Pretty Lights, Primus, STS9, Slightly Stoopid, Lettuce, Elephant Revival, Papadosio, etc.
The Thursday night pre-party included 5 bands on the amphitheater stage. A relatively light crowd compared to the weekend, making a slightly more intimate setting. EOTO really got the party started, the duo made up of Jason Hann and Michael Travis of SCI, the dynamic drummer/percussion duo, paying their version of electronic jam.
Dumpstaphunk donned costumes and had an epic cover of Ramble On. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, arguably the best touring Grateful Dead “cover band” with an all-star cast super group of musicians, playing their own twist of Dead tunes, belted out a spectacular Estimated Prophet (SM) -> Eyes Of The World (TH) -> The Music Never Stopped -> Jam # -> The Music Never Stopped Reprise +-> Jam $ -> Help On The Way (TH) -> Myxomatosis Jam %+ -> Slipknot! -> China Cat Sunflower Jam +-> Jam ^ -> China Cat Sunflower to end the evening around camp fires, guitars and Spirit lake and stars.
Friday got started on the Main stage with Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds followed by Railroad Earth and then The String Cheese Incident. After just finishing up fall tour, The String Cheese Incident are absolutely on top of their game, pulling out rare treats, musicianship is top notch. Cheese started off Friday with ‘Song in my head’, followed by ‘Can’t wait another day’. Tim Carbone and Todd Sheaffer of Railroad Earth sat in for ‘Sometimes a River’, a song Keith Moseley and Todd Sheaffer co-wrote in 2005 in Colorado. It was clear the barefoot boys wanted to get those songs out of the way and get straight to the jam. The rarely played ‘Indian Creek’ had an appearance, as well as Kang’s rendition of the old tune, ‘red haired boy’: ‘Valley of the Jig’. ‘Round the wheel’ had some really psychedelic elements in the middle of the song that were really unique, as a huge fan, it’s most definitely my favorite version that I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. ‘On the road’ also had some killer jams added to its usual sound.
The second set started out strong with a funky ‘Colliding’. This set was packed full of fan favorites such as, ‘Restless Wind’, Joyful Sound, Mouna Bowa. Shantytown was a favorite of the night, for obvious reasons, it’s such a fitting song for Suwannee. We got a Zeppelin cover for the encore, ‘Ramble On’, an excellent way to end the first incident.
Primus and Pretty Lights closed out the night at the Amphitheater and Main stages, the grounds were peaking out, it was nearly overflowing onto the pavement at Primus and hard to see much if you didn’t get there early. Likewise at Pretty lights the field was completely packed like never before at this venue from stage to vendors and very difficult to traverse once it packed it. Both sets were amazing and full of energy. Primus played classics including Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver, American Life, My Name is Mud and Jerry was a Racecar Driver. Pretty Lights had a lot of very nice lights and tons of energy from the crowd. There was no stopping the tall flags and polls in the crowd at this show even though they were supposedly banned at this years festival. Jon Stickley and Friends played on the Spirit lake Stage until 4am, a great performance to close out the live music
Bluegrass started the day off at the main stage, first with the Jon Stickley trio beginning the dat as it had ended the night before. The the Sam Bush Band. With a Slightly Stupid detour to the Amphitheater Stage, it was SCI again for an epic Hulaween three set stand at the main stage. ‘Dudleys Kitchen’ (classic cheese instrumental) started things off and got everyone moving! The favorite from the first set was “XAI”, formerly known as “Skat”, another instrumental jam, with Kang heavy on the fiddle. Only the 3rd time played all tour, and only the 3rd time played in the last 10 years! Such a welcomed appearance. A first set ‘Rivertrance’ was also a nice Halloween treat. Michael Kang told us before walking off stage for a brief intermission, “I hope yall are wearing your fucking bell bottoms!”
Set 2, (the Halloween set), was a straight up disco, it was simply incredible. The boys came out dressed in their late 70’s-early 80’s attire, Afros and all. Along with a horn section and people professional dancers dancing on each side of the stage with RZA (from Wutang) as emcee. The crowd went nuts as the 1977 classic ‘Brick House’ began. The whole set was all songs from the disco era, that everyone whose anyone is familiar with, ‘Carwash’, ‘Dance to the music’, ‘Got to be real’, ‘I’m your boogie man’ a much different Halloween set than we’re used to seeing.
Set 3 began with the fiddle tune “Bollymunster”, waking everyone back up from the set break and it was all Gouda from there, ‘Desert Dawn’, ‘Best feeling’, ‘Exodus’, ‘Rosie’ this set was a heater. The encore was special, a ‘Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours’ followed by ‘We are family’
We closed the night with a set from the New Mastersounds at the Spirit lake Stage.
Sunday Last Day
Following a main stage opener Sunday morning from Elephant Revival, Billy Nershi announced to us that they were feeling “A little rough around the edges” as they took the stage on Sunday afternoon, and that this was the “hangover set.” But it was in every way one of the favorite parts of the festival, since it was a bluegrass hoedown! With guests Sam Bush, Railroad Earth, Elephant revival on nearly every song on the first set. The set list was out of this world, for a die-hard cheeser. Opening with a stellar version of a Flatt & Scruggs cover ‘Blue Ridge Cabin Home’.
‘Lester had a Coconut’ was dusted off, and it sounded great. It’s been years since they’ve pulled that one out of the bag. The hangover set was literally full of bluegrass favorites, ‘Catfish John’, 9 pound hammer’, ‘Will the circle be unbroken’.
They wrapped up their last set with a smaller but killer set, ‘Little Hands’, ‘Outside and Inside’, followed by ‘Windy Mountain’, ‘Bumpin Reel’ and ‘Colorado Bluebird Sky’, with a Bob Marley cover/encore ‘Could you be loved’. A perfect way to close their final act.
Lettuce played an stellar set at the amphitheater stage with some new songs off their latest album.
STS9 closed out the main stage as they had a the first Suwanee Hulaween three years before. With a new female bass player Alana Rocklin and Zach Velmer the drummer (arguably the hardest working band member and musician in general) along with tons of crowd energy and crazy awesome light show, played jam based electronic jam. Starting off with a favorite ‘Vapors’ and ‘Inspire Strikes Back’ and closing with ‘World Go Round’ and ‘Instantly’, the only thing wrong was it was just barely a warm up.
Once again, this was the best festival put on a Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and in a dead heat for best festival on land these days. We will all be back next year!
Words by Tim Newby/ Images by Tim Newby & Russell Stoddard
Firmly established as one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier one-day music festivals, The Hot August Music Festival, returned for its 23rd installment with a diverse line-up that kept alive the deep tradition of musical greatness that first started 23 years ago in founder Brad Selko’s backyard.
The line-up this year tended towards a rootsy, bluegrassy sound with the Punch Brothers, Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth, Cabinet, and the Sligo Creek Stompers all making appearances throughout the day. But as with Hot August Music Fest’s past, the line-up reflected a wide-range of musical tastes, allowing one to bounce between the three stages and satisfy all their musical desires and needs. Looking for some blustery-rock? Swing by the man stage for the guitar-thrash of Shakey Graves. Need some Electro-funk? Head over to the side-stage for the high-octane explosion of Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong. Trying to find some swampy-New Orleans soul? The Revivliasts are on right before the Stringdusters. Looking for some smooth blues? Find the stage in the woods and catch Jarekus Singleton’s scintillating set.
After all that the day ended with a nostalgic blast from The Counting Crows who showed that twenty-years on they still have it as they plowed through set that was chock-full of some of their greatest hits, “Rain King,” “Omaha,” “Long December,” and some choice covers, Bob Dylan’s “Ain’t Going Nowhere,” and The Velvet Underground’s “Elizabeth.”
With fourteen bands, spread over three stages at the picturesque setting of Oregon Park, Hot August Music Festival was quite simply a treat for the musical soul.
Click the thumbnail(s) for more images from the fest by Tim Newby…
Click the thumbnail(s) for more images from the fest by Russell Stoddard…
Railroad Earth will be returning to the Sherman Theatre in Stroudsburg, PA for their annual two-night run 11/27-28. The shows are not only a homecoming for the band but a favorite destination for fans over the Thanksgiving weekend, with late night shows featuring local artists in other venues adding to the fun.
Still on Railroad Earth’s calendar for 2015:
9/18 Red Rocks Amphitheatre, featuring Bill Kreutzmann’sBilly And The Kids, along with Snarky Puppy.
9/19 Boulder Theatre Boulder, CO
10/2 House of Blues Boston, MA
10/3 Mohegan Sun Uncasville, CT
10/17 American Roots Festival Raleigh, NC
10/22-24 RRE’s 5th Annual Hangtown Halloween Ball Placerville, CA
10/30 Hulaween – Live Oak, FL
11/27-28 Horn O’ Plenty Stroudsburg, PA
12/10-13 Strings & Sol Puerto Morelos, MX
12/30-31 Vic Theatre Chicago, IL
Look for Railroad Earth Live at Red Rocks on Palladia running throughout 2015.
Ashes and Dust from Warren Haynes Featuring Railroad Earth is available on Concord records.
For more information, please visit http://www.railroadearth.com
Huck Finn Jubille
June 10 – 12, 2015
Featuring sets from Bela Fleck, Sierra Hull, Hot Rize, Del McCoury Band, Steep Canyon Rangers, Ricky Skaggs & The Kentucky Thunder, Steve Martin, Jeff Austin Band, Railroad Earth, Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Greensky Bluegrass, and Leftover Salmon.
Railroad Earth has announced a return to Red Rocks Amphitheatre Friday 9/18, with special guest Snarky Puppy. The night at Red Rocks will be followed by a special show at the Boulder Theatre the following day 9/19. Tickets to the Boulder Theatre show will only be available as a two-day pass that includes the Red Rocks show.
Fan club tickets will be on sale Wednesday 4/8 at noon MDT and will be only two day passes and in limited quantity. Visit http://railroadearth.com for more information and to purchase. Public on sale will follow shortly.
Red Rocks Live at Red Rocks DVD was recorded at last year’s performance and is available at http://www.liverailroadearth.com.
The scheduled dates, currently 3/13-3/22, include kick off shows at The Independent in San Francisco on 3/13 and a 3/14 headliner at the beautiful Fox Theatre in Oakland with the Infamous Stringdusters. Tickets are only available for The Independent performance with purchase of tickets to the Fox Theatre show. Other dates to mention are 3/19 at the El Rey in Los Angeles, 2 nights (3/20-21) at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, CA and the Brooklyn Bowl 3/22 in Las Vegas.
Tickets will be available for pre-sale on 11/3 and will only available through RRE ticketing at Railroadearth.com
Fans are encouraged to visit http://www.railroadearth.com to purchase.
Upon its January 2014 release, RELIX touted Last Of The Outlaws as what “may become Railroad Earth’s identifying recording—the moment where they laugh in the faces of the critics who’ve lazily dubbed them the ‘folk-pop-Celtic-bluegrass-roots-and-rock act from Jersey.’”
3/13 The Independent San Francisco, CA
3/14 Fox Theatre Oakland, CA
3/15 Crystal Bay Room Crystal Bay, NV
3/18 Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ
3/19 El Rey Theatre Los Angeles, CA
3/20 Belly Up Solana Beach, CA
3/21 Belly Up Solana Beach, CA
3/22 Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas, NV
String Cheese Incident
The inaugural 2014 Phases of the Moon Music and Art Festival is scheduled to take place September 11th – 14th in the 3000 beautiful acre Kennekuk County Park located in south central Illinois. The POTM is rolling out a stellar line up for its first ever festival that includes two nights of the String Cheese Incident; a Lunar Landing Conspiracy (all-star set curated by SCI); two nights of Widespread Panic; Grace Potter & the Nocturnals; Railroad Earth; Tedeschi Trucks Band; Gov’t Mule; JJ Grey & MOFRO; Leftover Salmon (with Bill Payne of Little Feat); Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe; Chris Robinson Brotherhood; Robert Randolph & the Family Band; Jackie Greene; Donavon Frankenreiter; Sam Bush Band; Cornmeal; Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers; David Gans (artist in residence) and many others.
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
Gov’t Mule/David Gans
The festival is geared to create a conscious awareness and express the uplifting power of music and its relationship with nature. Along with four unique outdoor stages there is also the Sanctuary, an oasis for relaxation and rejuvenation where tired bodies can receive massages, energy work, sound healing, yoga, qi-gong, meditation and a variety of workshops and presentations. Art is also a major component of the festival from large interactive sculpture to live art there will be several exhibits to intoxicate your senses. The organic festival will also offer a food court that will feature farm to table offerings and an organic farmers market as well as craft beer.
There are several special treats on the lineup, the Jeff Austin Band will be playing during the festival as well as a special late night VIP set of Jeff Austin & Friends. Cornmeal in the Kitchen also will be playing an additional set late night, the Cornmeal Ramble.
Cornmeal in the Kitchen
There will be several interactive activities from costume themed nights (Friday night is space jam & Saturday night power of purple) to coolest campsite contests where contestants will be entered in a chance to win tickets to next years POTM festival. Tickets for the festival are available at the gate and HERE.
It’s an elusive character, explains Railroad Earth mandolinst John Skehan. He has been talking about the band’s new album and that live moment when the beauty of music is revealed; that moment when everything clicks in a song, the good, the bad, the bum notes, and all. It is that place that allows things in a song to free up, when everyone in the band is on the same wavelength and true musical bliss is found. It is at that moment when a little spark ignites. Skehan says it happens in that little place in between knowing the song just enough, but not quite enough. On their latest album, Last of the Outlaws, Railroad Earth found that elusive character over and over, crafting one of the strongest studio albums of their career. It is an album that finds the band showcasing their strengths, the always glorious songwriting of singer/ guitarist Todd Shaeffer and the live powers and improvisational chops of bassist Andrew Altman, fiddler Tim Carbone, multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling, drummer Carey Harmon, and Skehan. Railroad Earth are quite simply the closest current thing we have to The Band today with the way they tap into the soul of Americana music and their ability to subtly infuse all that they do with a bluegrass inspired, mountain born, folksy-twang, and rocking heart all at once. And Last of the Outlaws is the perfect representation of that musically inclusive, Americana soul.
The band entered the studio in October of 2012 during some down time from the road.Â They found a studio near their western New Jersey home that suited their needs.Â That combined with the knowledge that they were going to be releasing the album on their own label helped ease some of the pressure of working under a deadline and allowed the band the freedom to find a â€œspace where we could all play at the same time and record everything closer to the live environment.â€Â They imposed a rough end date of January (which is when they would be getting back out on the road) and spent the fall months of 2012 holed up in the studio working on Last of the Outlaws.
Â Whereas on their previous self-titled album in which they begin with an extensive pre-production process, this time around Skeehan says they â€œstarted out just bouncing ideas around, just going in and playing, trying things out and recording them.â€ This approach allowed songs to grow organically and has given the album an extremely live feel.Â Skehan said that throughout the process songs morphed and changed many times as the band worked out the original riffs and melodies of each tune as they combined new ideas with old and created brand new tunes every time they were in the studio.Â In particular he mentions the brooding, piano driven, title track, â€œLast of the Outlaws,â€ as a song that evolved drastically over their time in the studio.Â He said it became something â€œvery, very different from the original fills and riffs they were playing around on.â€Â After jamming on some of the ideas and musical themes they had originally worked up for the song, they set it aside for few days until singer and guitarist Shaeffer came into the studio with a brand new song he had worked up with the ideas they had been fooling around with. This new song while rooted in the basic ideas they had been toying with, was something completely different and now had the familiar slow, jazzy feel that would become â€œLast of the Outlaws.
Skehan says that it was the ability to just play, and get into each song that truly shaped the album and gave it its personality.Â â€œWe would spend a couple of hours each day experimenting, just playing,â€Â he says, Â Â â€œWe had a couple of free-wheeling weeks like that where we did not know where exactly what was going to be on the record and it was pretty liberating.Â We were just playing and not thinking is this the take? Is this the song? What will this become next week? Instead it was just this jam that we were working through.â€Â
This free-wheeling nature led to the band relaxing and stretching their exploratory legs out and allowing each song to try on many musical guises before finally taking shape.Â The throbbing, joyous beat of â€œMonkeyâ€ was original recorded with the entire band crowded around a single microphone in an old-time jug-band style.Â The rambling stripped down approach never fully took hold.Â They redid it with the regular full-band line-up and an entirely different character of the song emerged.Â Â
“Grandfather Mountain” was what Skehan called â€œvery different for them as a slow ballad. Originally the band did not intend for the track to have the lengthy, improvised section on the end of the song, but Skehan remembers that Shaeffer came into the studio with the arrangement of the song fully finished and the band just let [themselves] run with the end, and then sat back and said well, it’s kind of long, but realized [they] were digging into it the same way [they] would live and thought â€˜this has some moments happening here, let’s just keep them . For Skehan it was just a reflection of â€œwhat the band was up to that particular day, and they were just enjoying them moment and seeing where it would go. The lengthy, improvised section also gave the band the courage to pursue another idea they had been toying around with.
The highlight of the album is the twenty-one minute multi-part suite, â€œAll thatâ€™s Dead May Live Again/ Face with a Hole.â€Â The seven parts of this majestical, long-form, musical suite is the most ambitious, inspiring piece of musicÂ Railroad Earth has ever put down in the studio.Â â€œThere was a notion of saying letâ€™s see if we can work on a long, openly composed piece, but that still contains some elements of improvisation that connect all these different ideas and see how they can all hang together and work,â€ says Skehan.Â
There was some skepticism among the band that something that complex may not work in the realm of the rest of the album, but after the success of the lengthy section in â€œGrandfather Mountain,â€ the band realized, â€œthe longer piece was more likely going to work and fit in with everything.Â It did have some of those more experimental elements and orchestral elements, but there is also some rock â€˜nâ€™ roll happening as you get to the end of â€˜Face with a Hole.â€™â€Â The piece does more than simply work; it helps define the entire character of the album.Â In its twenty-one minutes it provides a deep introduction into who Railroad Earth is a band.Â From the simple penny-whistle intro through the piano-led conclusion of â€œAll thatâ€™s Dead May Liveâ€ that gives way to the raging intensity of â€œFace with a Hole,â€ before settling back down with the lush, sparse outro â€œIn Paradisum,â€ all facets of the band are revealed, the lyrical dexterity of Shaeffer, the multi-instrumental prowess of Goessling, the tight rhythm section of drummer Harmon and bassist Altman, the dashing flourishes of Carboneâ€™s fiddle, and the adventurous hand of John Skehan on the mandolin and piano.Â
The multi-part opus is also one of the only times in recording history that the benefit of CD will be ever touted over vinyl.Â With the space limitations on vinyl, one can only imagine the twenty-minute suite being segregated to one side of the album, or even worse being neutered and split into two halves.Â But by being able to keep it as one whole piece, and better yet, by being able to perfectly place it in the middle of the album, the piece serves to hold the whole album together.Â It gives the album an almost live show feel which is perfect.Â Â [Authorâ€™s note:Â This will be the last time I praise the benefits of CDs over vinyl. Ever.]
The process of recording live as a group was one that appealed to Skehan, and one that he felt brought out the best in the band.Â â€œI have always enjoyed what the ensemble does together when recording,â€ he says, â€œTo me that is always the most interesting when you can go home and listen to the rough mixes of things, to hear us working out new stuff and capturing it in the moment that is sometimes when we get our best results.â€Â
There was no better example of this then while recording the title track. After figuring out the arrangement the band went in and blasted through a couple of takes. On their way back into the control room engineer Dean Rickard commented to the band, “That’s an impressive piece of music.” Skehan and the rest of the band quickly recognized Rickard was right. “We all realized that we shouldn’t try again as we will try too hard and didn’t think we needed to add any overdubs. We decided to just leave it along, and with the exception of some bass clarinet added by Goessling that is the take that appears on the album.”
Last of the Outlaws is a high-water mark for Railroad Earth, an album that exemplifies what it is that makes the band up musically, and a strong statement where they are going from here. It was an album that was created where the band is most comfortable, which is together, instruments in hand, just playing live with each other.
It is this dynamic that truly gives them their power and it is what made this such a special album for Skehan to be a part of. “To me my favorite part of the process is while we are in it, while we are doing it. Hearing the songs coming out of Todd and hearing not quite finished lyrics and thinking, ‘Wow, where is he going with this.’ And then when I hear it finished the next day it is always ‘Wow, I hear where he is it.’ It is the most exciting when you are doing it. It is what is then. I don’t worry about thinking about what I could change.”