Back at Merriweather Post Pavilion; I like to come to this venue once a year and since Phish wasn't playing this time around, Santana seemed like the perfect occasion to return for 2017. Merriweather Post Pavilion has recently gone through some modifications and upgrades. It was quite interesting to see the venues evolution over the past years. The new wooden-modern styled buildings have replaced the old, run down carnival feel that prevailed as soon as you entered before. The pavilion roof seems to have been raised, somewhat but maybe only a few feet; which does offer some much needed viewing space.
The crowd for Santana was extremely diverse and the music seemed to bring everyone closer together no matter, race or nationality. This music speaks to everyone's souls and Santana’s music is transcending even time and space, race or anything else is of little use when understanding music and letting it is very easy to let into your heart and soul. Ecstatic, joyous music, as Santana said himself, "music is divine"
The guitar sensation took the stage for a ripping intro; high-energy rock with Latin swing, funk and soul all mixed together. Carlos Santana’s music has always been spiritual in nature and psychedelic in origin; he has never left this behind. For a 70-year-old, Santana still has amazing guitar chops and his music is still spiritual and enlightened as it ever was. He has talked on numerous occasions concerning his personal deity, known as Metatron with whom he spiritually communes with and which is directly responsible for his hit come back album, “Supernatural.”
Santana's music is the definition of Latin Fusion but on another level that no one can compete with; effortlessly combining various rhythmic and musical forms. Embodying a melting pot of musical revelation and inspiration.
Santana spoke to the crowd many times, talking about various political, social and spiritual philosophies.-
"Feels good to be loco, to be free. Normal straight people are boring. I love crazy people."
He spoke of The Grateful Dead saying, "They never played the same set. They used to tell me, ‘You have to lose yourself to find yourself.’" He also quoted many other musical artists and figures from the 1960s such as: John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and even mumbled some Dylan.
This tour was called The Transmogrify Tour 2017. Santana spoke on this term and its use within music, as well. This term can also represent some spiritual connotations; Transmogrify is to transform something, especially in a surprising or magical manner and Santana does just that, transforming his music into something completely different. Not only did Santana play great versions of his classic songs like, “Soul Sacrifice,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va” and “Evil Ways” but he seamlessly mixes themes and melodies from other songs written by many popular bands like, The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and The Police. Riffs from many Classic Rock songs could be heard intertwined within classic Santana jams.
I would absolutely love to see Santana again but next time at a music festival. He would do well at Lockn’ again or any Jam festival out there. Santana’s technical ability is unmatchable and he seems to have been through it all and back again. He can still excite any Jam Band lover and his music is beautiful and extremely powerful. Below, I have made a chart that shows what to expect when seeing Santana live. While, this experience was new to me, I had a lot of fun but I did not enjoy the cheesy 90s songs.
Jam Band Purist
Hey there everyone! Today marks my 1 year anniversary of Jam Band Purist and beginning my music writing career. I would like to share some big news, I have been working with nugs.net on their recent archival blog and it was just launched a few days ago!
I am excited to share this and get people involved. Please check this out, share, comment and let me know what you think; perhaps even what shows should be included.
Thanks to everyone who has given me support this past year from friends, family, fellow Music Fans, all the bands and musicians and especially, Grateful Music Strangers Stopping Strangers FANS - Belong Here
Thank you all so much!
It's been seven years since my last visit to Marvins Mountaintop in wild and wonderful, West Virginia. This is where it all started for me, back in the glory days of All Goods past. My first festival was in 2005, right here at Marvin's Mountaintop. My whole world had been shattered and torn from the illusion that is reality; I became one with the music and everything changed from that moment on. Now, I was back there again.
The mountaintop had seemed to stay the same, although my perception of the venue itself had been somewhat skewed and warped with time. There were far less people at Deep Roots then I had expected and it remained small and friendly throughout the entire weekend. I honestly think I meet about 50% of all the attendees at Deep Roots and although the attendance was small, I think the participants made up for it with quality over quality and with personality and kindness.
Backstage in the media tent, I got to catch up with many of the performers and musicians that came through. I got to speak with Danny Mayer and Mary Corso both from The Eric Krasno Band and they told me how much fun they were having being on the road with Kraz and their recent adventures. I last saw them perform about a month ago and their performance was even better this time around, they are growing as performers and musicians. I also got to know many of the photographers and other media backstage. All I can say is that photographers are from another world and I enjoyed watching them get their jollies off shooting people.
I checked out "Qiet" the first act up on the main stage, who brought a unique blend of funky, creole, gypsy folk. I enjoyed their sound at points but I had never heard of them before and I'm still not quite sure what they were going for musically. I felt like it was a mix-match of various genres, with no real structure but they got into a groove sometimes.
I was really looking forward to Eric Krasno Band's set and I rode the rail with my new friends. I am continually impressed with Kraz and his guitar virtuoso skills; his improvisation and guitar technique are unmatchable in the jam-funk-rock scene today. He has become one of my favorite live guitarist and getting to meet him during his sit-in with Tauk solidifies what a great all-around person and player Eric Krasno is. He and his band performed an outstanding "Whipping Post" in honor of Gregg Allman and they rounded through many of the various songs from his album, Blood and Stone.
After torrential downpours for about an hour on Thursday evening, Lettuce took the stage to funk up the festival and it's few attendees with raw psychedelic, jammy funk but one could tell they were trying to leave, as soon as possible.
Aqueous was up late night, on top of a gigantic muddy hill, which looked like some sort of spaceship runway from a distance. I got to do a much anticipated, informal interview with Aqueous before the show and boy, do I have the scoop for you. Where to begin?
JBP: "So, what's up with the name?"
Mike Gantzer: "Well, we have been playing for 11 years now and we just..."
Dave Loss: "We chose the name along time ago."
No real answer was given but I'm sure that they get asked this question a lot. I looked up the definition later and it means "of, or containing water; typically as a solvent or medium; or like water." Fluid and always moving is a good way to describe their band.
JBP: "I really dug your set opener for Twiddle at the 9:30 club this year, what do you think about being one of the up-and-coming bands in the scene?"
Rob Houk- "Its great." (Rob didn't say much but he seemed enthusiastic... drummers)
Dave Loss- "It's truly fun and exciting."
Evan Mcphaden- (casually nods and laughs)
Mike: "Grateful for the fans. Getting fans one show at a time."
JBP: "Who are some of your favorite bands out there right now?"
(After a long pause and some questioned glances.)
Evan Mcphaden: "Twiddle, of course."
Dave: "Dopapod and Mungion."
Mike: "Definitely Mungion, those guys are awesome and if you haven't heard of them, check them out."
JBP: "Oh OK, so it's Mungion? That's how you pronounce it? I've always wondered. I have been following them for about two years now."
Dave: "Yes, it's Mungion like onion."
JBP: "I see the always tricky, silent G!"
We discussed the ins-and-outs and various uses of the silent G and the newest group in the jam scene, Mungion like onion.
JBP: "So, Mungion is one of these groups who made live videos on social media first before hitting the road and performing, how do you feel about that model of promotion vs. just getting out on the road and touring?"
Mike: "More power to them. To each their own. We have played so many shows together (after a long discussion between 900 to 1000 shows) Being on the road can be really hard."
JBP: "Speaking of that, any crazy road stories or interesting happenings on the road that you could share?"
The band laughs together.
JBP: "No, really. Anything goes, we all love the crazy details about rock 'n' roll and that lifestyle at Grateful Music."
Mike and Dave begin to tell a story which I will paraphrase:
After a show in Toronto two ladies of the night solicited Aqueous for some after show fun. Being the polite and courteous young men they are, they declined but after further rebuke, the women began to flash their private areas, making lewd gestures whilst yelling, "Pew" "Pew" "Pew" as if laser beams were shooting at the band. Needless to say, Aqueous will forever be scarred by these ladies of the night and their laser beam vaginas.
Another crazy after show experience included the band getting out of hand and throwing garbage cans in the middle of someone's yard and after that they were only permitted to sleep in the chicken coop outback. Aqueous have even tried to use the old, acoustic duo trick to stay in hotels on the cheap, they are into you guys. Time for that acoustic tour now!
JBP: "Where do you find influences for your newest music?"
Mike: "We are working on leaving more space and grooving, taking influence from hip hop lately but through our lense as a rock and roll band. We just like anything soulful and in the pocket."
Thanks to Aqueous for taking the time to meet with me and share some of their stories. I look forward to their rise in the jam scene and cannot wait to check them out with members of moe. at this years Brooklyn Comes Alive. You can check out Aqueous on nugs.net and they will be releasing their newest album, which I hope to review soon.
I headed up to Aqueous's sound check early, to see how the band interacted together on stage. This group of young guys are musically talented to epic proportion's. Their onstage chemistry is undeniable and their sound is extremely reminiscent of one of my favorite bands, moe. and that's what we need right now in this scene. They ended their late-night set with a 20 minute rendition of "Strange Times" I even got a "pew" on stage during soundcheck. I have listened back to this show many times on nugs.net and it is top notch.
I started my day out Friday at the Art exhibit tent, where I watched an amateur paint session and got to meet all kinds of freaks! There were plenty of activities and vendors at Deep Roots and Sam Bush was the first act I saw on Friday after checking it all out. Sam Bush really played to the crowd with ferocious and fierce, ball busting bluegrass. Great covers of Leon Russell, Jerry Lee Lewis "Great Balls Of Fire" and the classic "Uncle Pen." I hung with the band The Dead 27s backstage and they seemed like down-to-earth genuine fellas. They even gave me a copy of their recent album and I can't wait to take a listen.
Moon Taxi was up next on the main stage and I wasn't that impressed to be honest. The crowd seemed to get into it but I believe it was a bit too pop oriented for my taste. Kraz did sit-in for another version of "Whipping Post." I did like the lead singer's hat but I wish he would have worn it the whole time. Stay cool my Amish friend. I caught just a bit of Cabinet, enough to see the dog come onstage for a sit-in performance
I was truly impressed with Tauk and Eric Krasno just makes everything better. I had seen Tauk previously and had enjoyed the music thoroughly but I had commented that they needed some vocals or possibly even needed to add lyrics to their songs and this time they did just that. The drummer sang "Come Together" very well and with passion. Why not utilize this talent? Eric Krasno again shows he is the master of improvisation while sitting in with Tauk for one of their original songs, learning on the fly in the key of E. No quarter, no lyrics. I am excited to see more of Tauk in the future and I hope that they continue to grow and expand their repertoire. They have a very funky, Jam sound and I could see more layers and details added to this equation.
The only band I saw on Saturday was Billy Strings and it was well worth waiting around for. Billy Strings may be young but he is the next voice of Bluegrass. His vocal stylings harken back to Appalachian war calls and High vocal singers like Bill Monroe and even Del McCoury. Billy uses electric pedals to put his acoustic guitar playing on the edge of heavy metal and rock, while still adhering to the traditional bluegrass standards, playing songs like "Throw The Wood Pile Down" and even mixing in some Grateful Dead "Samson and Delilah." Well done transitions and changes from this young man and I really look forward to seeing what he will do next.
The weather on Saturday did not relent and storm after storm seemed to cover Marvins Mountaintop. Soaked and pruned from the rain, I decided to head back home before Yonder Mountain and Dr. Dog. I heard that they did ended up playing for a little while. What a mess that must have been and I applaud everyone who made it all the way through!The weather at this years Deep Roots may have been dreary but the attitude and vibes of this festival cannot be matched: everyone seemed to come together and help each other out. This is much different than the larger festivals out there today. Deep Roots was truly a revival of Marvin's Mountaintop and reminds me of the musical magic that can happen at these smaller festivals. Next year, Deep Roots should be learning from this years experiences and I hope they are even more successful next year. I would love to see the Mountaintop filled with tens of thousands of people again. Until next time.
Jam Band Purist
I was recently contacted by the band, Morgan Washam and Bloodmoon to check out their newest album, recorded live at the Markay Cultural Arts Center in Jackson, Ohio. I was pleasantly surprised when I put on the first song "Upside Down World" and was immediately transported to this performance and enthralled by the country-rock feel that this song exudes. I felt a real connection to this music immediately.
“Upside Down World” has a simple and smooth melody that is overlaid by killer guitar work and solos from Matt Simpkins, lots of reverb and some delay really accentuates the sound of Bloodmoon. I must say I was impressed with the guitar work on the song and the lyrics match the songs feel and vibe, political and reverent. Almost Bowie like in vocal qualities and The Band like in others. The saxophone adds so much to the song and makes it a great album opener.
The next song, “Nevermind” begins with acoustic guitar chords and great vocal styling’s from Morgan Washam. This song is reminiscent of Jethro Tull, flute included. Very passionate and epic in it's transitions and changes. While Bloodmoon isn't technically a Jam Band they have all the qualities to rival any band with extended solos and transitory changes. The music is classic rock driven and I am positive any music fan can find something in this song that catch’s their fancy. At 7:57 in length Morgan and Bloodmoon are showing off their life performance prowess.
“Been Lying To You” takes a slower and more mellow, country approach. Morgan's voice is distinct but changes for the song to sound more like a Neil Young or original singer-songwriter feel. This song, while country through and through, adds a lyrical quality that is well beyond what is on today's popular country charts. The lyrics to “Been Lying To You” tell a poignant story and over arching theme of truth and despair that every good country song must have. Track 4, “Worlds Apart” from the first album is played very well and again the saxophone from Nicole Sherburne takes this song even further. I went back and listened to this song on the original album cut and I prefer this live version. Morgan and Bloodmoon show versatile musicianship and great lyrical approach in “Worlds Apart.” This is one of my favorite tracks off this album. While very reminiscent of many songs from different genres, Bloodmoon adds these influences together to form something cohesive and original.
“Crawling On Back To The Sea” is a great southern rock song with lyrics to match. I am increasingly impressed with Morgan Washam and Bloodmoon. The recording itself is very well done and the sound is studio quality. This live album is proof that this band is worth going to see live. “Butterfly” starts out much harder than some of the other songs on this live album and takes a groovy turn with lots of tremolo via the guitar and an upbeat rhythm section: Josh Heber on drums and Jordan Lombardo on bass. This song is groovy and makes me want to get up and dance. With songs like this, Morgan and Bloodmoon could play many festivals, including Jam festivals but most definitely Country Rock-Roots Festivals. They could easily find new fans in this scene that would be eager to listen to what they had to say and play.
“Freeways Of Time” takes us into introspective territory but after such a rockin’ song like “Butterfly” it feels right within the mix. “Freeway” is very southern and just like its name, takes the listener on a ride down the back roads with a blood moon on the horizon. I honestly think this song best exemplifies this bands sound and song structures. “Drifting Away” shows some great key work from Ryan Paradise, who uses the organ to perfection in this particular song. This song is slower but it is well written and played exceptionally for a live rendition. “My Brothers and Sisters In Christ” seems to be the only cover on this album and when I saw the title name, I had no idea how funky and groovy this song would be. Classic Gospel turned on its head and play differently then I never heard and I loved it. It was very reminiscent of the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band, which is something I am sure would fit right in with our world. To end the album, the song, “Hand In Hand, We Stand” seems fitting and make sense to the message Morgan and Bloodmoon are trying to create, not only musically but also on stage in a live performance.
All in all, I really enjoyed this album. It was thoroughly well done and thought out, professionally recorded and added something special to my musical catalog that I had not had previously. I particularly like “Butterfly” and I went back and listened to that song numerous times throughout writing this review. After thoroughly reviewing this live album, I would love to check out Morgan Washam and Bloodmoon live and I believe they would be a great addition to some of the festivals circuits out there today. Check this album out and look for more of this band in the future.
For some reason, when I pictured Pittsburgh, I didn't think of hills and mountainous regions but that's just what it is; the city is a hill, on a hill with hills all around it. But Phishburgh went on in style with a blistering opener and rockin' "My Soul" followed by a keyboard heavy, "NICU" Rage on Page. "Halley's Comet" came in with some doo-wop stylings from the Fab Four. I easily found a ticket outside and inside the show seemed far from sold out, everyone must be heading to NYC, for the Bakers Dozen, which is bound to be filled with mind blowing music and stellar set lists.
The new tilting light fixtures were showed off, interesting set up but still far away from the Red Hot Chili Peppers new lighting rig. Although "Halleys Comet" has a tight structure and jam, the lyrics well, not so much. But this one always goes into type II fairly quickly. Sick transition into "Undermined" which was deep dark and funky.
First set is already more up beat than the previous nights
performance in Ohio. Weak ending to "Undermind" but still solid all around.
"Divided Sky" shows complete mastery in technical ability from all the players; blistering with improvisation and raw energy; beautiful and flowering as ever. Some sort of mike song; I had never hear it before, reggae influenced. It wasn't my favorite but a nice break for those that wished to take one. Found out later it is called "Marissa" and was a Phish debut. Next was "Home" with a great jam into a "Prince Caspian" which turns out to be one of the best of all time. One for the ages. It started off slow but I truly like this song, it gets stuck in my head but it may be because I'm a fan of Narnia. I still think Gamehenge and The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday could make a killer live action movie with many of the songs taking on a life of their own already. "Prince Caspian" had wings and was by far the best jam of the tour, so far!
"Punch You In The Eye" begins the second set; we were all waiting for this! Mike and Trey do their dance. The change into the next song was ambient, long and intricate, a jam that could take this band and crowd anywhere, showing real improvisational elements. Drops into "Mr. Completely" which hasn't been played in 14 years. The next few songs were slower and included another debut "Come Together" no, not the Beatles song. This led right into a funky "Contact." I have never appreciated the lyrics to this song but the music is intricate and difficult and it has a lot to offer from: great solos to musical qualities, even audience participation. A quick but great rendition of "Axilla" into "Steam" which felt like a long, slow jam coming but that went quickly into "Backwards Down The Number Line" a complete and utter Phish classic. Who can't help but think of all their friends, family and loved ones when this song plays? They certainly know how to end a song. They always bring the heat toward the end of a performance.
The encore was lackluster but included "Rocky Top" which is always an awesome way to close out a show. We stopped as the precession of buses came by. We all waved at Trey but he had his back to us. One of the buses was broke down on the side of the highway in the way out.
I will be doing at least one night at MSG and truly hope we see a Phish that is taking chances, trying new things and improvising. I hope they blow the roof off of MSG and do it right! Don't forget about the phans guys! See you freaks there.
Jam Band Purist
Widespread Panic-Red Rocks 2017: Keeping The Tradition Alive (A Reflection On Widespread Panic) by Jam Band Purist
The ultimate southern jam band, Widespread Panic returned to Red Rocks Amphitheater this year to defend their title for most sold-out shows with 54 total sold-out performances. I have personally witnessed 12 of these concerts and this was my fourth consecutive year catching WSP Red Rocks run here in Colorado.
The yearly pilgrimage back to Colorado is well worth it once I set my feet on the rocks and feel the vibrations resonate through my body. Mind the 24-Hour Drive from Virginia and the long expanse that is Kansas... dear God. I took my time and experienced America, taking in the sights and the scenery, the feeling of the Midwest, the western plains and everything in between.
After driving and reflecting on this journey, I have come to realize the importance of small rural communities. These small towns make up most of the United States and are very important to the stability of American culture and American life itself. This importance in small communities can be juxtaposed with our small musical community, without which we wouldn't have such ravenous and fanatic fans and bands like, Widespread Panic could never hold sold-out records for one of the highest rated venues in the world. Without our small group of fans, Phish could never play a 13 night run at Madison Square Garden's, one of the most famous and prestigious venues in the country. Our bands do the biggest things, in the best places because we as fans support them like no other fans in the live music industry.
Mile High City has continued to thrive and grow, although the allure of the foothills has dwindled with each return, the energy inside Red Rocks is always palpable, like a proverbial powder-keg waiting to explode: light fuse, get away.
I will not delve deep into the setlist from this years sold-out performances but I'll just say Friday night was a scorcher. My favorite rendition being, "Tortured Artist." The lyrics and vibe of this songs are haunting and emotional. I hope they bring it back into rotation. JB was in rare form with an amazing solo from out of nowhere that showed off his versatile guitar skills. Jimmy Herring must be showing him a few scales and techniques, or has he always been this good? Friday night exemplified their original material and it provided one of the best renditions of "Chilly Water" I have ever heard; it was dark, ominous, foreboding and JB was wailing like a demonic barn cat.
Saturday night was all about the covers with Leon Russell's "A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall" which has been following me around all summer; a sloppy, "Ride Me High" and very expected, "New Mother Nature" culminating in an outstanding version of "Low Sparks." Before the band came onstage for the encore, NASA radio controls could be heard through the PA, a lift off countdown was started and it felt like something serious was about to happen. A space shuttle erupts into take-off, projected onto the main screen; the lights go crazy for "Disco."
Sunday was a very slow show, one of the slowest I have witnessed since 9/11/16 last year in Philly. This show marked my 70th Widespread Panic concert and although I did get some outstanding rarities, the band never seem to achieve lift-off like the night before. Very few build-ups and breakdowns for a somewhat lackluster performance. The Studio 54 logo was projected on the main screen in representation of Widespread Panic's 54th sold-out performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater.
These shows also mark my one year anniversary of starting this music journalism, writing adventure and I want to thank everyone who has supported me and helped along the way. I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for this scene and the amazing bands that drive it forward. Thank you all.
Widespread Panic continues to push forward, never really slowing down, just taking it a little easier each year. Just a few years ago fans were afraid that Panic had called it quits but Widespread Panic endures and continues headlining festivals and selling out venues all over the country, including the greatest outdoor venue in the country, if not the world. As a constant fan of this band and their musical accomplishments, I would love to see Widespread Panic dig in their heels and return to the improvisationally raw and highly formed jam techniques that they once mastered. Try new things, keep the audience on their toes, don't become stagnant, allow for freedom and looseness within the songs that we all know and love, take chances, improvise to the point of utter chaos, don't rely so heavily on drums (every night) and work on new Southern Gothic material. All that being said Widespread Panic will always be one of my favorite live bands and I look forward to seeing what they will bring this Halloween in Las Vegas. See you then.
Jam Band Purist
I can still remember jealously searching through pictures of Grateful Dead shows past and seeing Phil Leshs sons sitting atop speakers on the side of the stage, enjoying the music, capturing the essence of what their father was doing. I always dreamed of what it would like to grow up Dead. I also still remember hearing that Grahame had joined Phil Lesh and Friends on tour and barely remember catching them at All Good Music Festival that same year. Many said he wasn't ready to be playing with such high caliber musicians at the time but now with hundreds of shows under his belt with Phil Lesh and Friends, as well as, The Terrapin Family Band, Grahame Lesh has set out on a new adventure with Midnight North, releasing their brand new album, Under The Lights. I was lucky enough to grab an advanced copy of this album and checked it out. Here is my honest opinion of the album and the songs within.
First, I should start by addressing Jam Band fans; while they can definitely find something to enjoy in this album, they should not expect Jam music; no long guitar solos or improvisational progressions, just straight and to the point songwriting, much like the Grateful Dead's seminal albums, American Beauty and Working Mans Dead. Under The Lights seems to veer more in the direction of Alternative Country but with lyrics much more poignant and endearing than anything seen in country music today.
There are more than a few songs that I found interesting on this album and driving down the road, I turned them up, really delving into the writing process; trying to understand the depth of the album itself. Songs like, "Playing A Poor Hand Well" and "Headline from Kentucky" showed versatile songwriting techniques and musical arrangements that impressed me but didn't quite get me there.
"Roamin" struck a chord with me personally; the driving beat and simple lyrical structure keep me turning it back to hear it again. I think that most people can find something to relate to within this albums very well recorded songs. The recording itself is polished and rehearsed, clean and precise. I would have liked to have heard a few more guitar solos but there was some fine instrumental playing done by Elliott Peck, Alex Jordan and Conner O' Sullivan within all of these tracks. I was very impressed with female vocalist Elliott Peck, she really adds another presence to this band and they wouldn't be the same without her.
I have truly enjoyed watching Grahame Lesh grow musically and succeed in the industry his father helped create. I am so glad we have a new generation perpetuating the scene and culture that surrounds it. Even though this album lacks improvisational qualities, I am positive their live shows are quite different and if we can affect any change in Nashville and the pop country scene by an means, it's good for us all. Keep doing what you're doing Grahame Lesh and keep rollin' down the track Midnight North.
May The Jam Gods Be With You,
Jam Band Purist
As I traversed the mountains and valleys toward Rooster Music/Art Festival outside of Martinsville, Virginia, I enjoyed the rural backgrounds and scenic pastoral settings that is the Virginia landscape. Filled with small rural communities, one can truly picture themselves in the turn of the century; things move slower here and nothing is fast-paced. All is quiet and comfortable. Arriving to Pop’s Farm, the immediate feeling of this small friendly community surrounds you. This festival was a very easy in-and-out with helpful and friendly staff. The festival actually begins on Thursday night but I was unable to arrive until Friday due to prior business. I arrived as early as I could and was able to catch a great deal of music throughout the day. Pop’s Farm is a smaller festival venue, that seems to have all the options for festival accommodations.
The Pine Stage was nestled in a grove of pine trees where hammocks could be set up and all kinds of activities were available; even slack-lines where one could try their hand, or should I say feet, at balancing across like a tightrope. The Lake Stage was by far my favorite although, it got extremely hot during the day and with little shade, it seemed unbearable at times. The view makes it worthwhile and at night the trippiest lights are shown across the water. This is the perfect late night setting. The Main stage was adequate and even had good viewing from a copse of trees to the side that had great seating for patrons. One of the best things about smaller festivals is the ability to walk all the way to the railing very easily, without any hassle. There is always plenty of room for everyone to have their own space. I started my day at the Pine Stage with GOTE, a smaller local group that I had never heard of but they played a fun “Going Out West” and “Good Lovin” with an added, fiddle flair. Mason Via funk was up next on the Main stage with ripping steel slide solos and Michael Jackson songs with a banjo. The diversity of this group and their energy was fun.
Eric Krasno Band was up next at the Lake Stage. I think Kraz was the tipping point for me to come to Roosterwalk, I just had to see him again and check out his new band. They did not disappoint. Krasno can play it all, from wailing blues, progressive rock, soul, gospel, funk, R&B, Motown and improvisational jams. His band included, a great keyboard player and sexy lead vocals from Mary Corso. I also compliment the stand out solo from Danny Mayer on rhythm guitar. Kraz and his band played many songs from his most recent album, “Blood and Stone” while still shredding on many improvisational type jams and even playing to the crowd. Eric Krasno Band have a tight and distinct sound. I'd love to see them do a lot more jamming in the future.
Jon Stickley Trio from Asheville, North Carolina opened up with an instrumental rendition of “Blackhole Sun.” They continued with hard-hitting breakdowns on all acoustic instruments. They were just like a trio should be; high powered and full forced. They shredded Americana-folk, and Celtic music with a gritty edge that ran up and down the strings of the fiddle and acoustic guitar. I can't describe them without adding the obvious influence of metal into their musical structures.
The Wailers came out swinging with all the classics: “No Woman, No Cry,” “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Rasta Man Vibrations,” “Three Little Birds” “One Love,” “Jammin,” “Redemption Song,” “Could You Be loved,” “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Exodus;” need I list more? I sat in a hammock on top of the hill for some time, relaxing and enjoying music that wafted from the Mainstage. I finally got my dancing shoes on and headed down to the front, where the energy was uplifting.
Late night with the Pimps of Joytime and they played that “in the pocket-gangster-funk-shit”. The vocals and stage performance was on point. Vocal ability seems to get more and more important to me and the music I become fond of. While Pimps Of Joytime are a fantastic band they also have an electronic twist. I wasn't sure where some of those electronic sounds or ambient beats/percussive sounds were coming from; It looked as though the bass player was using his laptop to overdub the music, how much of that is used, I am not sure, just something to note. The show featured fire spinners on the side of the stage in some sort of ritualistic ceremony. I have never understood the fascination with these distractions at music festivals like painting onstage and fire type events, is the music not enough? But I stayed as far away as I could, still hoping to catch a glimpse of some dreads going up in flames. I really enjoyed POJT songwriting and easy sing-alongs like, “Joy Time Radio” and “Bring Your Body To The Party.” The lead singer has a real Prince vibe and they effortlessly mix funk, salsa, doo-wop and everything in between for an original experience. The two female vocalist were also a great addition and I loved their stage performances.
Saturday turned out to be hot and humid day, the bright morning sun woke me up early, beating down upon my face. I caught afternoon bluegrass with some younger players who did their best motivating the crowd and then more bluegrass with Mountain Grass, who played an interesting version of Johnny Cash’s “Wanted Man.” I caught a self proclaimed, “festival siesta set” with Mandolin Orange. All the upbeat music for the day seemed to be in VIP, the sound overlapping the slow and docile music of Mandolin Orange on the Mainstage; I can't say I didn't take a nap myself.
One of the main reasons I attended Roosterwalk was to catch up and coming star, Marcus King and his band. Before his set I got a chance to meet Marcus and talk with him about a variety of subjects including the passing of Allman Brothers Band legend, Gregg Allman. I had just heard the news and happened to be wearing an Allman Brothers shirt that day. I asked Marcus if he would be playing any Allman Brothers songs and he said, “Well, I have to?” and that he was “fucked up” from the recent news. I didn't push the subject but Marcus seemed to reflect on his memories with Gregg and slayed more than a few Allman Brothers songs during his sets that night.
I was super impressed with Marcus King and his entire band, from the groovin’ bass player to the keyboardist with the immaculate beard. Marcus King has a soulful and original voice, his roots are in southern rock and R&B. Marcus also plays guitar better than anyone I've seen at his age. He has learned all the tricks from the guys who have been doing it forever like, Warren Haynes and Eric Krasno. Marcus includes many powerful and fast breakdowns, improvising on the fly, modulating keys. He includes sweeps, arpeggios, melodic minors and shifting tempos into his playing. MKB integrates new jam music with traditional improvisational qualities. The Marcus King Band’s songwriting reminds me of the Alabama Shakes or something similar, more pop R&B orientated. I would like to see them delve deep into the lyrical process, deeper into the darkness of Marcus King. We will have to see what happens as he continues and at 21 years old Marcus King has many life lessons ahead of him and only room to grow as a musician. While I really enjoyed the addition of horns, I would also like to see Marcus in a trio just doing his thing but the horns add such an additional layer to their sound. After hearing about the death of Gregg Allman, it was my pleasure to witness the new generation of southern jam artists continue the sacred tradition of improvisational jam and southern rock.
Greensky Bluegrass was the crowd favorite by far, this band seems to have loyal fans and a large following that know all their songs. Poignant and heartfelt lyrics are what stood out to me the most and I look forward to delving into the catalog forthwith. The lack of drums is immediately apparent but this approach is much more traditional to the bluegrass standard. I liked the little fake out into the Beverly Hillbillies theme song but their sound is the epitome of progressive bluegrass. The progressive structure comes from the jams themselves and use of effects pedals on their instruments. They also have one of the best light shows I have seen from a band this size. The sit-in from Marcus King was awesome. I was so pumped that I didn't even take any notes just enjoyed the show. I do know they played the classic ABB song “One Way Out” and they all took turns soloing and trading licks. At 21, Marcus King can hang with the best players out there. I especially like the mandolin players spirit and energy, this band is all about the strings. I still say some drums wouldn't hurt anything. Drums give a driving structure to the music and if you're going to go progressive why not go all the way? But I can see there ever shifting music quality is complemented by their spacey and jammy sound. I love the cover of “Working On A Building” by Bill Monroe but I seemed to be the only person in the crowd to know the song. Greensky Bluegrass was a lot of fun and I'm excited to see them again as soon as I can.
Late night Saturday well... what happens at late night Roosterwalk stays at Roosterwalk…
No, but in all seriousness The Motet was funky and fun but I had to see more Marcus King Band and headed over to the Pine Stage until the wee hours of Sunday morning. I was completely mind blown by MKB, this kid can do it all. There's not much more to say about this set, just go see this band NOW. Go see Marcus King and see what he can do, it will truly melt your face and I don't say this lightly.
I was pretty pooped by Sunday, I ended up crashing out for most of the day, it happens. I was still reeling from MKB and my brain was still leaking out from all the amazing music of the night before. I was still able to check out some music though, like The Trongone Band from Richmond, Virginia and Yarn as well as, Yarn Gets Stoned which included all Rolling Stones covers. Obviously, I didn't want to miss the Nth power who was worth waiting for, as most of the music on Sunday I wasn't that interested in. They ended Roosterwalk on a high note with some outstanding funky performances. Sunday was a great time to reflect on the weekend and having my face melted off by Marcus King.
Roosterwalk exemplifies the best things about the Virginia music scene. The lineup caters to local bands and the local music scene, and still provides great headlining performances ie: Greensky, MKB, Anders Osborne, The Wailers. The story and the origins of this event are magnificent and the spirit of Roosterwalk is truly positive and friendly. This is the perfect festival for every music lover out there, from family to partier. I am so glad that I got to experience this festival and seeing some of these bands, mainly MKB has been the highlight of my year. I hope Roosterwalk continues to grow and be successful in its next 9 years.
Jam Band Purist
Another loss to the Jam and musical community yesterday. I found the news out while at the festival Rooster Walk here in Virginia. I had just casually thrown on an Allman Brothers shirt to wear to for the day. When I looked at my newsfeed and saw that Gregg had passed, I thought that it was just another hoax but it felt surreal. My first concert ever was the Allman Brothers in Charlottesville, Va. My allegiances have always lay with the Southern Jam community and the Allman Brothers set the bar for that genre. We all know that Gregg had not been doing well but this is still a hard loss to accept. To think that I will never get to see the Allman Brothers again is mind-boggling.
Their songs live on though, in my heart and my soul and in this community and the musicians that drive this music forward. I truly hope that musicians take note of Gregg's and the Allman Brothers amazing life-changing musical legacy. I am so happy to be seeing live music this weekend and the many Allman brothers tributes from Marcus King Band and Greensky Bluegrass here at Roosterwalk. I can't imagine celebrating the life of such a great musician in any other way, dancing my blues away. We will never catch the Midnight Rider. Peace be with you Gregg, thanks for everything.
The Jam Band Purist
I arrived in gorgeous Shepherdstown, West Virginia at the local Opera House Live and wasn't sure what to expect. I was quite impressed with the little laid back atmosphere of Shepherdstown and the venue itself which was a great space to see live music. I will most definitely be returning to the Opera house and Shepherdstown in the future and will likely bring some friends along.
The Ginger Funk All-Stars, opened up the show with very well-done renditions of “Sneaking Sally,” “Reggae Woman,” “Shakedown Street,” and even “The Wall.” But I enjoyed their original songs just as much as I did the covert. There were several times within their performance that I seemed to lose myself, focusing completely on the music and members on stage. They captured my attention. Ginger Funk seems to be on the cusp between road band and bar band but with just a little bit more practice and some more original tunes, The Ginger Funk All-Stars have something palpable to work with. With some added practice and dedication this band could easily be headlining venues all around Northern Virginia and the surrounding areas. Keep up the good work boys and lets jam soon.
The headlining band for the evening was After Funk, a jam, funk, progressive rock band from Toronto, Canada, who, “brought the chill, to test our will for funk.” To be honest, I had never even heard of this band before the show but boy, was I in for a surprise when they came out and absolutely shredded, immediately swinging for the fences. The crowd may have been small but the energy on stage resonated with everyone there and I was totally blown away. This doesn't happen to me very often and especially coming as a total surprise. The lead singer, Yanick Allwood’s vocals are phenomenal but every member of After Funk brings their own style and presence to the stage. I was truly impressed with guitarist, Phil Tessis and his animated playing style. Not only does he have chops but he knows his stuff and after talking with him after the show, we share many musical similarities and connections. ( I am waiting to hear that “Peaches en Regalia.”) For me to be impressed with any live guitarist is few and far between and I respect Phil’s unique guitar playing style and ability. Drummer, Jaime Rosenberg not only impressed me musically but he seems to know the music business very well. It was reassuring to see his huge smile behind the drumkit all night, knowing he was having just as much fun as I was. Bassist, Justin Bontje is the backbone of this band, laying it down effortlessly, not only on the frets but on paper as well, with some sweet poster art.
I was unfamiliar with their original songs but After Funk seamlessly weaves teases and covers into their songs and setlists. Some notable teasers that I heard were, “Oye Como Va” Santana, “Take On Me” Aha and even “Teen Town” by Weather Report. When Yanick brought out the keytar it was something altogether different, it was as if he was bringing out the heavy fire power to slay us all. From an amazing solo of the US National Anthem to more progressive structures much like Edgar Winter's “Frankenstein” Yanick can play it all and the boys follow right in behind him.
I'm really impressed with After Funk’s original material and song writing capabilities. I was able to grab a copy of their latest Album, “Til’ The Sun Comes Up” and loved it, horns and backup singers included. I'm also highly impressed and surprised at the band's level of musicianship, especially at such a young age but this only leaves room for more growth from the members of After Funk.
This band can basically do it all: pop vocal structures, progressive rock and jazz standards solos, straight James Brown soul and funk with Motown transitions. After Funk takes one of the leading spots on my list of must-see new jam bands in the scene right now. I look forward to watching this band grow and evolve at every turn that comes their way. I can see After Funk getting as big as some of the younger bands in the community very quickly and they have the potential to get even bigger with the right business and musical maneuvers. I would love to see After Funk tour with bands like, New Mastersounds, Dopapod, Lettuce or Soulive or even Turkuaz. Look out for After Funk and take the time to check them out, I am positive you will not be disappointed. Thanks to the guys from After Funk for blowing my mind and indulging me after the show.
Keep the Jam Alive,
Jam Band Purist
Musicologist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.