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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Jeff Austin Band, Larry Keel & Laney Lou & The Bird Dogs 4.19.19 (Photos)

Ghost Light 4.17.19

Asheville Music Hall
Asheville, NC

Words by Jason Mebane
Photos by J. Scott Shrader Photography

I have no clue exactly when or how Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling came together to form Ghost Light, but us Ashvillians like to think they have their founding roots here in our small mountain city. A few years ago, during Warren Haynes' annual Christmas Pre-Jam, not only did Holly join The American Babies for their entire set, but Holly and Tom both were a part of Bob Weir's backing band as well. It may not have been the very first time the two shared the same stage, but it was definitely an early moment in their musical relationship. This past Wednesday night Ghost Light rolled into town almost a year to the day after their first stop at The Asheville Music Hall. I remember walking out of their April 2018 show having had my mind blown. I remember thinking that I hadn't seen a brand new band playing original music that had impressed me the way they did in a very long time.

Wednesday's show did not impress me quite as much as the first time I saw them, but it was still an extremely enjoyable experience. I think the main difference that I noticed a year later was that, at least on this night, Ghost Light seemed far less of a collaborative effort and more just a group of musicians playing in Tom Hamilton's backing band. It may have been just my perception, but it appeared none of the other band members wanted to step up and help Tom navigate the sound-scape, instead being content just riding along with him as he led them down a musical path. Don't get me wrong Holly did take the reigns from time to time, and there were moments that each player stood out, but it just wasn't the same beast I had remembered. Perhaps part of it had to do with the fact that they have a new bass player on this tour. Perhaps part of it had to do with the sound issues they were clearly having during the early part of the show, or perhaps it was just Tom's night to step up. Of course it doesn't hurt that over the years Mr. Hamilton has grown into one of the most interesting guitarists on the live music scene. There are very few musicians that can do the things he does in an improvisational setting, and improv is what Ghost Light is all about. Much like Tom's other current band, JRAD, Ghost Light seems to use songs only as jumping off points into musical exploration.

From the minute the band hit the stage and started noodling their way from a spacey opening jam into a cover of the Shins' song "Simple Life," you could tell those of us that had ventured out late on a weeknight were in for a treat. Before we found ourselves at the end of "Simple Life" an hour had passed and we had wandered our way through a pair of American Babies Songs and an old Brothers Past holdover. The first part of the sandwich was "An Epic Battle Between Dark and Light" which was very reminiscent of the original version. Thumping techno like bass lines with Holly working her synthesizer knobs more than the keys gave this version the electronica feel that we have come to expect from Tom Hamilton projects. The jam out of "Epic Battle" was when Holly first really stepped up as she slowly yet deliberately led her band mates into the next ingredient of the sandwich, "They Sing Old Time Religion." At which point we were even treated to the rarity of hearing Holly's singing voice as she and guitarist Raina Mullen harmonized perfectly behind Tom's powerful lyrics. A quick run through of Brothers Past's "State Police" followed before Ghost Light found their way to the end of the opening "song" and at the first break in action since they hit the stage. The cool down only lasted long enough for Tom to introduce his band mates and shed his patented, button adorned, jacket while explaining that since it was a weeknight they were just going to "play through" instead of taking a set break.

What followed was another hour long journey that found the band wandering in and out of jams stopping on certain songs only long enough to regroup for a few moments before again jumping off the deep end together. The first song of this portion of the show was also the first Ghost Light original of the evening, "Best Kept Secret." They used "Best Kept Secret" as a central theme for the remainder of the evening, revisiting it at least two more times before the end of the show. As a matter of fact there were a handful of songs that re-appeared from time to time over the course of the evening. If one were keeping a written set list of the show there would have been lot of "intos" and "reprises" and "teases" to notate. A couple of tunes that really stood out during the second portion of the set were "This Thing Ain't Going Nowheres" and Ghost Light's own "Beyond/Before." The former including a few sublime moments of Holly and bass player Dan Africano creating a haunting sonic landscape while drummer Scotty Zwang kept a gentle beat, the latter, an instrumental in which Tom used a unique guitar tone to create the part of a song that the lyrics would normally reside.

Save for a few more teases and reprises Ghost Light ended their set the same way they started it, with a cover song. This time they dug a little further back than the Shins and pulled out a version of Neil Young's "For The Turnstiles." With it's imagery of sailors exploring the unknown seas paired with the journey Ghost Light had just taken us on, it was a perfect way to end the evening. Tom gave a guitar clinic during their take on the song. At times sounding like a weathered bluesman and at times delving into dirty heavy metal style licks. After a quick encore of "Don't Come Apart Just Yet My Dear," also off Ghost Light's new album Best Kept Secrets, we were left to gather our jaws off the floor and were sent out into late hours of the night trying to comprehend what had just happened. Hopefully this band sticks it out and continues to push boundaries. In my opinion, Ghost Light is a nice outlet for both Tom and Holly to concentrate on in between doing their normal gigs. I'd imagine it is fun and refreshing for both of them to take a break from covering Dead (and in Holly's case, Phish) tunes. Additionally, it's a real treat for us music lovers to see them offer up some improvisational madness that isn't centered on cover songs.

Scott's Photo Gallery


Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Trouble Notes 4.19.19 (Photos)

Branding Iron
Nederland, CO

Photos by Ryan Fitzgerald (Jarred Media)

View Ryan's Full Photo Gallery Here!


Monday, April 22, 2019

Low Cut Connie & Electric NoNo 4.12.19

The Sunset
Seattle, WA

Words by Erica Garvey
Photos by Erica Garvey & Baiba Rubino (Broken Clock Photography)

Make no mistake: Low Cut Connie is actually quite buttoned up when it comes to their music-making. The Philadelphia-based rock and roll crusaders played the first show of a sold-out two-night run at Seattle’s Sunset Tavern on April 12. The room, from this vantage point, was too small to accommodate their large and still-growing fan base, but frontman Adam Weiner made himself at home in the tiny quarters, rewarding the friendly crowd with an intimate, energetic show.

Seattle locals Electric NoNo started the evening with a simple setup of guitar and drums. The two brothers, dressed nicely in suits as though they were playing a high school piano recital, are White Stripes-esque in their foundation of rock and roll with a tasteful touch of weirdness. Jared Cortese oscillated smoothly from pure singing to talk-singing to screaming over his electric guitar. The vocals were playfully harmonized with drummer Dominic Cortese, though at no point was the duo overly reliant on the singing or lyrics for entertainment. I could not quite figure out how they were achieving arena-level sounds, but I hope they keep doing it.

Next, main act Low Cut Connie began with Weiner, fully embodying his reputation as an entertainer, walking solo onto the stage, immediately settling in to a moderately-paced bluesy boogie on his upright piano (which reportedly goes by the name of “Shondra”). The crowd was salivating for the full Low Cut Connie experience by the time the other band members arrived on stage for the second song, which launched the performance into a series of swinging rock songs.

Low Cut Connie feels like an extension of Weiner’s self. He moves around the stage, stands on the piano, squats on the piano, reaches into the audience to touch hands, and still subtly directs the rest of the band. The rest of the band members (Linwood Regensburg and Will Donnelly on guitars, Ryan Gavel on bass, and Kim Logan on vocals, tambourine, and guitar) are purposeful enablers of Weiner’s crafted stage vibe. None of them really sat still (with the exception of Seattle-based drummer Karimi), and they all could be spotted singing and laughing at each other through the night. The music is buttoned up, but the performance is refreshingly loose.

Low Cut Connie’s overriding sound is classic piano rock, in the same vein as Elton John. The chords are predictable and about half of the songs have a woman’s name in the title, but the lyrics and melodies are more imaginative than similar rock outfits. The band’s soul shines through in the live performance to make this music feel new.

While I would love to see Low Cut Connie again in a room the size of Sunset Tavern, next time them come to the West Coast I fully expect to be watching them from fifty rows back at whatever venue is willing to attempt to contain that infectious energy.



Sunday, April 21, 2019

Jeff Austin Band, Old Salt Union & Ghost Town Drifters 4.18.19 (Photos)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube & Warren G 4.18.19 (Photos)

Friday, April 19, 2019

Eric Krasno & Friends, Purple Party, Dominic Lalli & Jedi 4.13.19 (Photos)

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Electric Wizard & Oryx 4.12.19 (Photos)

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Anna Tivel & Mama's Broke 4.11.19

The Isis Lounge
Asheville, NC

Words & Photos by Jason Mebane

This past Thursday Northwest singer songwriter Anna Tivel made her second Asheville tour stop in as many months. After playing the main room at Isis Music Hall back in February she returned to bring her unique brand of folk music to their Upstairs Lounge as part of a co-bill with Canadian folk duo Mama's Broke. The Isis Lounge is a fabulous spot to enjoy live acoustic music. In addition to being one of Asheville's best sounding rooms it's size makes it one of our most intimate as well. As an added bonus recent Asheville transplant Mimi Naja, of Portland, Oregon's Fruition, was on hand to lend her voice and guitar work to Anna's songs. Mimi was an amazing addition to Anna's sound. She seemed to effortlessly read what each song needed from her at any given moment. She knew when to step up and elevate the song with lead guitar style licks and she knew when to hold back and add only haunting musical accents. You could tell Anna was happy to have her old friend Mimi along for the ride, even proclaiming at one point "well that sounded five thousand times better than when I do it by myself."

After opening with "Illinois" off last year's Small Believer album, Anna and Mimi launched into a set that consisted of tunes entirely from Ms.Tivel's upcoming album The Question. The new batch of songs are quite beautiful. Anna is a poet as much as she is a folk singer. She is one of those songwriters that portrays her song subjects in such a way that even the most minute details seem worthy of your attention. She writes in a manner that leaves the listener feeling like a voyeur observing the characters that inhabit her songs. Whether the subject is a cross dresser being watched through an apartment window ("The Question"), or a janitor sweeping up garbage after a show at The Georgia Theatre ("The Velvet Curtain") she presents them in such a way, that as an audience member, you find yourself hanging on every word. Of course it doesn't hurt that she tells these stories with the voice of an angel.

As any good folksinger would Anna also offered her take on current events. On "Fenceline" she took a subject that many of us are sick of hearing about, the border wall, and put her own spin on it. Instead of focusing on the pros and cons of building a wall, she instead told the story of a lone immigrant, beautifully painting a landscape of what might be going through his mind as he tries to cross the border in hopes of a better life for him and his family. She managed to portray his thoughts so beautifully that her character's story would've been enough to even pull on President Trump's heart strings (If he had any).

Perhaps the most powerful moment of the evening came during Anna's "Homeless Child." Anna explained that she was part of a program called Lullaby Child that paired local Portland musicians with new mothers facing various hardships to create lullabies for their children. Anna worked with a mother named Kate and explained the process as "the most powerful thing I ever did." Many songwriters would've been content sharing the song they wrote for the project, but not Anna. The experience was so powerful for her she wrote a song about Kate's baby, and she wrote it so beautifully that it brought tears to many eyes in the room.

Going into the show a long time Anna Tivel fan the second band on the bill, Mama's Broke, was an afterthought. However, after experiencing their set I was glad they showed up to do their thing. Keeping with the evening's "girl power" theme Mama's Broke was also a pair of females that were quite enjoyable to watch and listen to. One of the ladies played fiddle while the other switched between banjo and mandolin. They covered a lot of ground during their short closing set. In the opening three song medley alone, they paired what sounded like a traditional Irish song, a traditional Jewish song and a traditional Bulgarian song. There were times they sounded like they were playing circus music and others that sounded like they were wandering minstrels. Their voices were near perfect companions and their musicianship was equally impressive. It was quite obvious that they were intently playing off one another staring into each other's eyes in an effort to share one musical mind. They effortlessly took turns rotating between lead singer and back up singer, often times within the same song. There was one song where the tap-dance like stomp of their feet added to the musical landscape. There was another that they played the fiddle together, one traditionally, the other using a pair of chopsticks to hammer along on the fiddle strings. Their set was so enjoyable that they made at least one new fan in the room.

If you consider yourself a fan of folk music I would recommend checking out both Anna Tivel and Mama's Broke if they happen to pass through your town. Both have a unique sound that makes for an enjoyable live performance. While you are at it keep your eyes peeled for Anna Tivel's new album The Question out on Portland, Oregon's Fluff And Gravy Records on April 19.



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Wood Brothers & Steve Poltz 4.13.19 (Photos)

Monday, April 15, 2019

Joey Badass, Flatbush Zombies & The Underachievers 4.13.19 (Photos)