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Friday, November 16, 2018

Suwannee Hulaween 10.25 - 10.28.18

Spirit of Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL

Words by Charla Harvey
Photos by Derek Miles (Miles Photography)

Hulaween is a festival that words just can’t do justice. (But I’m going to try). This is only their sixth year, and they sold out! First of all, Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida, is absolutely beautiful. The 800-acre park is open year-round, and Hulaween only uses about eight acres of it for the festival! We were surrounded by Spanish moss-draped oak and cypress trees. The ground was mostly sand, which helped absorb some of the rainwater better than mud would have. It rained the first two days, but then it was mostly sunny in the day. It got cold at night, but most campsites had fire pits that were well-utilized. Hulaween advises people to pack for all types of weather, and thank goodness for that!

Spirit of Suwanee had amazing art installations that are only put in for this festival. There are giant wooden creatures like trolls and tree people. There was a wooden spider that you could crawl into from the backside. Spirit Lake has affectionately and aptly been referred to as a “psychedelic playground.” And though it’s fun to look at in the day, at night the art literally lights up, and it is mesmerizing. The lake has glass lotus flowers on lily pads that are lit up, and there is a hologram displayed in the middle of the lake that mostly said “Hula 2018,” but sometimes had other messages. There was a fox that breathed fire from its mouth and a gigantic flower that lit up. Someone hooked a keyboard up to the flower, and it started emitting electric waves from the top.

Also by the main stage, there were huge letters spelling “HULA.” They were solid yellow during the day but at night they displayed videos. Sometimes it just showed moving designs but other times it showed a skeleton ripping another skeleton’s head off.

Onto the main attraction! Hulaween graced us with four days of music (including the pre-party on Thursday). The impressive and generous lineup had a good variety of music genres. They had Vulfpeck, Jamiroquai, Janelle Monae, Mavis Staples, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Lettuce, Turkuaz, Garaj Mahal, Wood Brothers, Galactic, Medeski, Martin, and Wood, Knower, Trevor Hall, The Revivalists, and of course String Cheese Incident (who had seven sets!), just to name a few! This lineup was genuinely a gift.

Turkuaz dressed up as each other for their set. Shira Elias, who usually wears yellow, wore red. Josh Schwartz, who usually wears purple, dressed up as yellow. He even dyed his hair for this!

Of course Jamiroquai was a main attraction, seeing as they are from London and rarely play in the US. All day Saturday you could hear festival-goers saying “Happy Jamiroquai Day!” to their friends and anyone who passed by. One person even had Jamiroquai’s lead singer Jay Kay’s face as their totem! Jamiroquai is an acid-jazz band that formed in 1992. The name Jamiroquai stems from the lead singer’s passion for the Iroquois tribe and Jam music. He changed the spelling of Iroquois then combined the two names. Jamiroquai’s set was definitely unique. Jay Kay wore his iconic Automaton helmet, which fit well with the Halloween theme of this weekend. You can get your own here! Psymbionic and Clozee both had sets during Jamiroquai, but it seemed like the entire festival was at the main stage for Jamiroquai.

String Cheese’s sets were all different. They had a Halloween-themed one, and they had one set that focused on female empowerment. They brought out multiple different female singers to help sing covers.

Janelle Monae’s set left the entire audience speechless. That woman is a powerhouse. She exudes confidence and appreciation for the feminine. She also took the time to encourage and plead for the audience to vote in the upcoming election.

Trevor Hall brought a loving vibe. The audience was hugging each other throughout the set.

Vulfpeck brought their usual energy and sense of humor. They played at the same time as Tipper, but they still had quite a big audience. Cory Wong and Antwuan Stanley also graced the stage, lucky for us!

Members of Lettuce made guest appearances on multiple stages throughout the weekend. They played with Galactic, Vulfpeck, Break Science, and more!

Besides music, there were opportunities to do yoga, guided meditations, receive sound healing from gongs, pick from multiple silent discos, engage in conscious breathwork, etc. Kyle Hollingsworth also had his very own craft beer tent called “Kyle’s Craft Beer Corner.” They had over thirty different beer and cider options! They had multiple tastings and jam sessions. There was even an ENO station set up where people could just lay in hammocks. There was also a Ferris wheel by the main stage. Like most festivals, of course, there were plenty of shops and places to get food.

Being so close to Halloween, most people dressed up in costumes. What a joy to have four days to wear costumes! I even heard some people say, “I already had my Halloween,” when being asked what they were doing for October 31. Many people obviously put a lot of effort into their costumes. There was a girl dressed up as Marvin the Martian. One man wore a Mr. Peanut costume that he’d handmade out of cardboard. There was a group of friends who wore “Vote for Pedro” shirts, and one of them dressed as Pedro and one was Napoleon Dynamite! They busted out their dance moves when Jamiroquai played "Canned Heat" (featured in Napoleon Dynamite). There was also a group of friends who dressed up as the toy aliens from Toy Story, and they had the claw as their totem! Countless people donned onesies, many of which came from the seemingly mandatory pre-festival trip to the nearby Walmart.

Hulaween advises on their website: “If you are planning to celebrate by dressing up in a costume at this year’s Hulaween, consider the impact your decision might have on others. If your costume is racially, ethnically, or culturally based, ask yourself why you are choosing to wear that costume. What message are you sending? What is your intent by wearing that costume, and what might the impact be? If you do not belong to that group of people, we strongly encourage you to pick a different costume so as to respect and be inclusive toward all festival attendees." For the most part, it seemed that people heeded this message!

The security ran like a well-oiled machine. When entering the festival grounds (from the campgrounds), everyone had to have their bags checked and had to scan their wristband against a reader that lit up green to show it was valid. Security was very vigilant in making sure each person scanned their wristband. They were also always available to help when needed. Hulaween even had their own radio station you could tune to in order to facilitate smooth entry to the grounds. Also, the Hulaween app was very helpful. You could pick which sets you wanted to go to, and the app would alert you fifteen minutes before the set. You could also see which of your friends were planning on going to that set too. They also send notifications to changes, like alerting us that Action Bronson canceled his set!

There were ample spots to camp. Many people decorated their campsites or their RVs with unique decorations—often Halloween-themed. The decorations and lights helped people know they were in the right spot. It would have been helpful if there were more signs indicating where the different stages were and where the various camping sections were (A-J).

As for the environmental impact, I do wish they had better options. There didn’t seem to be anywhere to compost, and most drinks came in plastic cups. Many venues have switched to compostable cups, and I hope such a huge festival as Hulaween will follow suit soon. The trash receptacles seemed to be constantly overflowing, and there were not ample opportunities to recycle.

Overall, Hulaween is an outstanding festival. There is enough variety that each person can find something they will enjoy. The music, environment, people, art, and costumes make this festival one of the best!

Derek's Photo Gallery


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

VetsAid 11.11.18 (Photos)

Tacoma Dome
Tacoma, WA

Photos by Eric Willacker (Willacker Photography)

View Eric's Full Photo Gallery Here!


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Slightly Stoopid 11.11.18 (Photos)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Soja & Twiddle 11.4.18 (Photos)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Consider The Source & Genetics 11.3.18

Hodi's Half Note
Fort Collins, CO

Words & Photos by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

Colorado is a wonderful place for live music. It’s just that simple. The majestic beauty of the Front Range coupled with its convenience as a stopping point for any given tour means we are utterly flush with concerts most nights of the week. That also means sometimes shows don’t get the attention they deserve. There was maybe a hundred souls in and out of Hodi’s Half Note on Friday night. The fact remains that given the caliber of music on the stage this show should have been a sell out. Consider The Source is a wild ride through progressive jam music with a focus on the sounds of the Far East. Genetics puts on an utterly distinctive concert experience taking viewers on a sonic journey through a myriad of musical landscapes.

Set One: Now That’s What I Call Music, Hexagonal, Harlequin, Space Peach> Massive, Air Blower, Moose

Genetics offered up a fresh batch of tunes including some that will be featured on an unannounced, forthcoming album. They started the night with a classic switcheroo during “Now That’s What I Call Music.” Jeff Ervine abandoned his guitar trading places with Nat Snow who normally plays drums for an extended opening jam. The music was deep and dark from these road tested veterans. Phil Johnson, the most recent member of the band, on keys was on point throughout the show. The tune “Hexagonal” was possibly a nod to their own name, but regardless it was a psychedelic circus jam featuring some gritty bass work from Mr. Joel Searls. This is obviously a new Genetics with fresh material ready to go. They wrapped up their powerhouse set with an unbelievable rendition of Jeff Beck’s “Air Blower” followed by a massive “Moose.”

Consider The Source, the self described “Sci-Fi Middle Eastern Fusion” band, is a power trio hailing from New York City. They are a full frontal musical assault on the senses. Gabriel Marin plays a double neck fretless guitar with an unbelievable array of pedals and effects at his feet. The sounds he creates live are unheard anywhere else. John Ferrara uses a slap style on the 5-string bass that is mesmerizing while drummer Jeff Mann holds it all together.

Set One: Moisturize The Situation, I’ll Fight for the Imp, It Is Known, Tihai For The Straight Guy, Sketches From A Blind Man, You Won a Goat!, Complex Complex , Unfulfilled and Alienated, Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong*

Encore: Absence of a Prominent Tooth**

*Bass Solo
**Drum Solo

They opened with the space plink-o jam “Moisturize The Situation.” Did I mention they have the best names for songs? “I’ll Fight for the Imp” was a pulsating rock tune punctuated by stellar work form the rhythm section. “It Is Known” was a bit of a breather before the rapid fire jams during “Tihai For The Straight Guy.” This song was the first time it felt like there was an actual sitar in the room… but there wasn’t one present. I checked. Marin has the ability to morph his sound into anything and that includes the music of the Far East coupled, extraterrestrial, Surf, rock, funk, and so much more. He is all over the map and I mean that in the best way possible. “Sketches From A Blind Man” was an ethereal jam anchored by Ferrara’s heavy bass lines. “You Won a Goat!” featured the undeniable talents of Mann behind the kit. Consider The Source would be an excellent Bar Mitzvah band if all of the kids were on acid… that’s the thought I had around this point in the show. Mann utilized a series of samples and effect pads during “Complex Complex,” before the entire band went insane on a new track entitled “Unfulfilled and Alienated.” Ferrara treated us to an extended bass solo into the show wrapping space funk tune “Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong.” Consider The Source returned to the stage to encore with the soaring CTS classic “Absence of a Prominent Tooth.” Consider The Source is a truly unique experience. Simply put, there are no other bands out there doing what they do. They are consummate musicians with a deep knowledge that manifests itself onstage in the form of jaw dropping jams and ridiculous solos. Consider The Source is an incredible way to spend an evening; I highly recommend checking them out.

Nicholas' Photo Gallery



Friday, November 9, 2018

Billy Strings & Sammy Brue 11.1.18

Portland, OR
Revolution Hall

Words by Mitch Melheim
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media

Less than two years ago, Billy Strings was playing a small bar in Portland named Bunk Bar, known more as a sandwich shop than a music venue. In fact, it was the first and only time I’ve ever seen a concert there. Twenty months later, he returns to town for his first headlining performance since and sells out the 850-person Revolution Hall on a weekday with Greensky Bluegrass playing just a mile away. This about sums up the fiery and flamboyant picker’s rapid rise toward the upper echelon of his genre. Never have I seen a bluegrass (or jam) musician catch on so quickly with the masses. It is unprecedented, yet well-deserved.

Opening the night was seventeen year-old singer/songwriter, Sammy Brue, who Rolling Stone recently labeled an “Americana prodigy.” At eleven years old, Brue was already sharing the stage with artists like Lucinda Williams and Asleep at the Wheel. In the years since, he has toured and recorded with Justin Townes Earle and was even featured on the cover of Earle’s Single Mothers record.

Brue was backed by a minimalist two-piece band that tastefully accented his scintillating story telling. The setlist was comprised almost entirely of original songs except for a noteworthy cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” The best part of his whole set, or perhaps the entire night as it only continued once Billy Strings stepped on stage, was the predominantly older audience looking at each other in awe of what these young kids were able to pull off.

Strings & company didn’t ease into anything, opening with the blazing instrumental, “Pyramid Country,” and segueing directly into “Little Maggie.” Strings’ prison love song “While I’m Waiting Here” followed and is one of the better examples of his surprisingly great songwriting ability. Gaining popularity early on due only to sheer talent, mainly playing covers and bluegrass standards, it wasn’t until he finally released his debut album, Turmoil & Tinfoil, that the bluegrass world found out how good of a songwriter he was.

“Slow Train” and “Thirst Mutilator” went on to highlight the middle of the first set, with the latter bringing the most energy. That was until the set finale of Johnson Mountain Boys’ “Unwanted Love” and “Turmoil & Tinfoil,” the title track on Strings’ debut album. “Tinfoil” all but defines the Billy Strings sound. A little bit bluegrass, a little bit psychedelic, and above all else, dark as hell.

“Paul & Silas,” the Josh White tune made famous by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, provided the most excitement in the first half of set two with Strings’ ominous social commentary on “Dealing Despair” a close second. The Grateful Dead’s “China Doll” then took the show into a decidedly psychedelic direction and would’ve easily been the jam of the night if it weren’t for the always-raging “Meet Me at the Creek” that came later on. The “China Doll” performance was special though because it showed how Strings can play slow, emotional music just as well as he can rip it. In my opinion, that made this the most impressive display of music I saw from him all night.

“Dust In a Baggie,” the first original tune most people heard from Strings and still the catchiest to this day, came toward the end of the set and eventually led to an “On The Line” encore. “On The Line” is his 2018 version of “Eyes of the World,” speaking on behalf of a misunderstood generation’s lifestyle. The way he weaves these meaningful songs in and out of face-melting jams and deep psychedelia is reminiscent of fellow Michiganders Greensky Bluegrass, Strings’ “mentors,” if you will. We now know the heights in which that formula has taken them, but the question is; can Billy Strings take it even further? Well, he damn near outsold them on this night in Portland. There is no telling what the future holds for this kid.

Coleman's Photo Gallery



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Mac Sabbath & Franks and Deans 11.4.18 (Photos)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Yak Attack 11.2.18 (Photos)

Rhythm & Rye
Olympia, WA

Photos by Eric Willacker (Willacker Photography)

View Eric's Full Photo Gallery Here!


Monday, November 5, 2018

High Pulp, The Cumbieros & General Mojo’s 10.31.18

Nectar Lounge
Seattle, WA

Words by Maximo Menchaca
Photos by Papo Vazquez

I have a confession to make: I hate Halloween. And it’s the one holiday I can’t escape by staying home. Going out isn’t much better – the constant question of “Where’s your costume?” would haunt me all night. The best I can do is to head to a show. Not only is it loud enough to evade any questions, but it is a music-lover’s holiday. Everyone is eager to explore: the musicians are a little looser, and so is the audience (but that might have something to with their bar tabs). Yes, even with the extra layer of extravagant costumes, there’s a closer connection and an extra electricity at a Halloween show. The Doom Funk line-up at the Nectar Lounge was no exception for 2018’s edition of All Hallow’s Eve. Three exciting local bands (General Mojo’s, Los Cumbieros, and High Pulp) provided and fed that spark in the air.

After that General Mojo’s set, WOW – I am a convert. Their poppy psychedelia is captivating. The high-energy driving opening song, powered by drummer Sam Veatch and singer Heather Thomas (who also drums for local group Bad News Botanists), featured a keys solo by Eric Vanderbilt-Mathews. The second song featured bassist Dune Butler, the driving core of the band. The timbre of his voice has a conversational earnestness that paired beautifully with Thomas.

While the early crowd stuck mostly to the fringes of the floor during the early part of the set, I was not surprised to see everyone rush up to the stage when asked. Every musician is engaged and having fun on stage - every member contributes to the song writing and singing of this labor of love. Their nods to Halloween (besides the costumes) were tasteful: a tease of “Werewolves of London” and a cover of ELP’s “Karn Evil 9”. That is not an easy band to cover, but Mojo’s pulled it off with aplomb. The group is about to embark on a “Psychedelic Circus” tour down the West Coast. Alert your friends in Oregon and California!

In contrast, The Cumbieros are more of a known entity to me: a refreshing Latin flavor to an awfully white city. The band’s rotating cast of members makes it difficult to pin down who was on stage tonight, but the two female vocalists dolled up in calavera make-up reminded me of my childhood celebrating Dia de los Muertos with my family in Chicago. (And for me, the Mexican-American Halloween hater, that’s the holiday we SHOULD be celebrating.)

Cultural melding doesn’t have to be so damn dance-able, but I’m not complaining. The cumbia is Columbian, and while many of the dectet’s members are not of Hispanic descent, they are cumbieros to the core – sultry, warm brass, snake-charming percussion, and hip-shaking bass lines. One audience member was swaying and grooving hypnotically, even while squeezed into a clearly uncomfortable tight-fitting onesie.

The groups’s covers were amazing. I’m not sure how much traction Mon Laferta’s “Amárrame” had up here in Seattle, but the song was HUGE last summer throughout Latin America. And nothing beats hearing the Mexican Madonna Selena’s “Coma La Flor”.

The floor quaked beneath a brigade of stamping feet. Behind the soundboard at the Nectar is a clock that also displays the temperature. After The Cumbieros’ set, it read 80 degrees. Do you like to dance? That’s all you need to know.

The PA piped the “Halloween” theme, “Frankenstein”, and “Thriller”, and the crowd stayed rowdy during the set break, primed for more. Fittingly, High Pulp’s keys duo announced their grand entrance – a Moog-heavy murk. The rest of the group stepped on stage, and with the crash of cymbals plowed into “Juiced”.

One of my favorite feelings during a show is falling right into a song, have it wrap into my ear drums, and then drift right along. My mind will awaken, take a step back, and wonder for a second, “How did the group even get here?” My ears will have to remind my brain that it doesn’t matter about the destination – the journey kicked ass. The space-y breakdown and guitar solo of “Juiced” put me there and left me thinking, “Whoa, where the hell did that come from?! Give me more!” I and the rest of the audience would have been on the edge of our seats here, if there was any ass left in one.

The group has an amusing ethos around them – the artwork of their debut album (released just months ago) is the epitome of kitsch. Tonight was as well, with the dectet coordinated as fruit (except for trumpeter Alex Dugdale, who curiously dressed up as a gorilla). Grapes, kiwi, banana, watermelon, berries… I was giggling watching the green tuft on drummer Rob Granfelt’s pineapple costume hop drunkenly as he took a drum solo during the song “Nikola”. The kitsch continued with the song “Moon Milk”, about “a psychedelic drug found only on the moon”. It’s been recorded for the already-planned new album – be on the lookout!

The group invited guests on stage to help propel the set. The first feature, Shaina Shepherd, should be a global superstar – her voice and personality were too large for the mere Nectar. Decked out as Erykah Badu, she sang Badu’s “Tyrone”.

OK, not bad. But then: Shaina commented on the heat in the room. AND started a striptease. Beneath the Badu lay a Chaka Khan cameo. Off came the white skirt and wrap, and out came a flashy red dress and frizzy mop of hair. After covers of Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” and Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody”, Shepherd had us at her mercy.

Jaylon Nazario wasn’t going to match Shaina’s big voice, but he didn’t have to: his agile vocals had the crowd moving just as much to the holiday classics. “Thriller,” this time with live instruments - and the floor erupted even harder for the reprise. Then the arm-raising sing-along of the night, “Ghostbusters.” The bounce of Scott Rixon on the bass, broad smile on guitarist Gehrig Uhles, and cocky swagger of keyboardist Antoine Martel made the connection clear – the group was having as much fun playing these songs as we were having getting down to them.

But there was still a surprise in store. The penultimate tune, “Euro Beach Club” was preceded by placing a worn wooden board down on the front of the stage. Huh? Alex Dugdale, gorilla-in-residence, came down during the tune and tap danced!

I think that embodies the joy of seeing Halloween shows in small venues. This is one of the biggest dates on the music calendar. Christmas and Thanksgiving are meant for homebodies, but Halloween, New Year’s Eve, the 4th of July – these are the parties. Every group has to bring something unique to impress familiar fans and convert new ones. Big established bands already have some perfected schtick. Go to one of their shows, and you’re getting a known quantity.

But for the real novel experience, head into a smaller show with an up-and-coming band, like tonight’s show. Every group on the bill is excited, finding their way, and blazing their path. These are the groups who are just “trying shit” at every show. The Halloween show is the culmination, the best chance to see something truly unique. This night in Seattle, there might have been other venues with bands covering “Ghostbusters”. A fun song – don’t get me wrong. But an Erykah Badu strip tease, a cover of Latina mega stars, earnest psychedelic-pop, and tap dancing? There was only one place in the city you could see that. That essence of the live experience, to feel the truly unique, the once-in-a-lifetime coursing through your veins and banging in your ear drums as you head home. That’s the joy of a Halloween show. Even a Halloween hater has got to love that.

Papo's Photo Gallery



High Pulp Setlist: Stranger Things Intro > Juiced, Hookai > Fishbowl, Serena Williams > Epilogue, Jason Williams, Nikola > FBROT, Moon Milk, Ezell’s, Tyrone[1] > Rock Steady [1], Ain’t Nobody [1], Thriller [2], Ghostbusters [2] > Sermon, Euro Beach Club [3], Smooth


[1] with Shaina Shepherd on vocals
[2] with Jaylon Nazario on vocals
[3] with Alex Dugdale tap-dancing

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Greensky Bluegrass & The Lil Smokies 10.31.18 (Photos)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Ghostemane 10.31.18 (Photos)