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Monday, March 8, 2021

Travis Book, Anders Beck & Jon Stickley 3.2.21 (Photos)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Album Review: Tyler Childers' A Long Violent History

Words by Zach O’Hare

The United States has felt like it's been in constant turmoil for most of 2020. A lot of public figures have spoken about the COVID-19 pandemic, police brutality etc. Tyler Childers, in doing his part, released an album along with a statement from his YouTube channel on September 18th. In the 6 minute long video Childers gives the audience insight to his own observations regarding America’s current events. The statement also clarifies the intentions for the title track “Long Violent History." Childers humbly explains that his objective was to create “fairly legible sounds on the fiddle” and let Long Violent History speak for itself.

In the first 8 tracks, Childers achieves his goal by covering old folk songs from various artists. Origins of the instrumental tracks range from American Civil War songs to a Broadway show tune. These tracks are sonically pleasing to even a bluegrass and folk layman, but can overall be difficult to interpret. It is speculated that a few of the songs have hidden meaning, which, considering how cerebral Childers’ is known to be, is absolutely feasible. Though, while tracks like “Squirrel Hunter” and “Send In The Clowns” appeal more to the veteran bluegrass crowd, “Long Violent History” is easily digestible for anyone willing to listen.

In the title track Childers gives an honest observation on the topic of police brutality while contrasting the issue to his own life. The first couple verses point to the general feeling of dread and distrust when consuming much of the relevant media coverage. A feeling that resonates with the general public entirely too well. Childers then goes on to question listeners on what they would gain from hearing his opinion. Given his general lack of qualifiers, being in his own words a “white boy from Hickman”(a Kentucky county that is 87% white).

Childers sings, the world has “called me belligerent, it's took me for ignorant, but it ain’t never once made me scared just to be.” Implying that while not always being looked at favorably he’s never been scared to literally be himself. After, he asks, “could you imagine just constantly worryin', kickin’, and fightin, beggin' to breathe?”, in an attempt to provoke thought and trigger self awareness into listeners.

The remainder of the song Childers tries to put things into perspective for his own demographic. “How many boys could they haul off this mountain, shoot full of holes, cuffed and layin' in the streets, 'til we come into town in a stark ravin' anger, looking for answers and armed to the teeth?” Wondering aloud if they, themselves would take matters into their own hands facing the same adversity.

Long Violent History effectively states the feelings of Childers while putting it into perspective for Americans that look like him. He continues to possess the innate ability to convey a meaningful message with the country genre, while still maintaining the high quality of music that Childers fans expect.

Proceeds from Long Violent History will be sent to the Hickman Holler Appalachian Relief Fund.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Groove-pop Rockers Mungbean Hit the Ground Running

Words by Jason Myers (Memorandum Media)

It’s no secret that midwestern DIY musicians know how to hustle. Even in the age of COVID, we’ve seen up-and-coming bands from the region release albums, perform via internet live streams, and push creativity to new heights. Take Columbus post-pop act Mungbean, for example. Merely weeks away from the release of their new LP, I Love You Say It Back, Mungbean is determined to keep the positive vibes rolling and the dancefloor moving.

MusicMarauders recently got to sit down with the band to chat about the new album and what it’s like to be a musician during a global pandemic…

MM: Hey guys, thanks a ton for taking the time to do this interview! Let's start off with a few introductory questions. Can you give us some background info on how the band was formed?

Emma: Sean and I started Mungbean in the summer of 2016. We were both in other bands at the time that were a bit more serious, so Mungbean was really meant just to be an experiment. We recorded and wrote the first two songs in his attic and released them a few months later. The response we got from friends, family and the community was so positive and encouraging that we decided to pursue it and to try performing live. Over the many years and performances, we needed more people on stage to help the songs come to life. We were lucky to have so many talented musician friends around us that we would just ask people to play shows with us for fun, and many of them ended up as permanent figures in the band.

MM: And your name, Mungbean... how did you all come up with it? Is there any inside story or meaning behind it?

Emma: Before we’d even released our first two singles, a close friend asked us to play a fundraiser / house show. She called us one morning asking what we wanted to go by, because she was at the screen printer and she needed to put a name on the poster. We must’ve been eating something with mungbeans in it… and we weren’t taking it too seriously so we told her “Mungbean Dream.” Only later did we find out that she didn’t like how long it was because it didn’t look good on the poster, so she shortened it to just “Mungbean.” It’s stuck ever since.

MM: You guys meld a lot of different genres and sounds together. How would you describe your music? What are some main influences that you would attribute to your sound?

Emma: Our sound has progressed a lot over the years and with the addition of new band members. It was like Sean and I had laid the bones of our sound, so when Colin, Ian, Max and Al came along they brought the guts, the muscle and flesh to it! Kinda gross, but you know what I’m getting at. And because we all have different influences, our sound naturally blends a lot of styles. There is a lot of music we agree on though, so I’d have to say our main influences would be artists like Radiohead, Erykah Badu, Grimes, & Pavement.

MM: Let's chat about the new album. Where was it recorded? Was there a specific sound or direction you tried to take this album in?

Sean: With this album, we really wanted to focus on what we sound like as a collective; as a full band. Up to this point, people have looked at us as just a synth-pop duo. But when the five of us officially came together, we leaned into the idea of being totally collaborative. Ian really likes Jazz and electronic music, Colin and Sean like weird guitar rock music, and Emma has an ear for interesting melodies. We all respect each other’s musical tastes, and I think that allows us to continually be inspired to push our musical boundaries.

We recorded everything at home in our personal practice space and studio, with the exception of the drums. The drums are huge on this album, so we spent a day recording those at a friend's place who has a really nice drum setup. Turns out we're all kind of control freaks, so it was important to have total creative freedom to do whatever we wanted with the record. Nothing was off limits in the recording process, so we think the result is a record that takes the listener to all sorts of places in our genre repertoire.

MM: What can we expect from Mungbean after the new album drops? Any plans for the immediate future?

Sean: Releasing this album has been such a huge goal for us for a long time, and now that it’s here and we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, a national identity crisis and political shit show, we’re really just taking it all one step at a time. We want to get back to playing shows, but we also want to be safe and advocate for the safety of our community. We definitely see more virtual and socially distanced shows in our future, but we’re also trying to figure out different ways we can engage with our local scene and with fans safely and via the internet and social media. Strange times call for stranger measures, so I guess you can expect us to just get weirder.

MM: What are you guys listening to right now? Are there any other DIY midwestern bands that have caught your eye lately?

Emma: There are so so so many amazing Midwestern bands that are KILLING it right now. Campbell, The Katy, Keeps, Hidden Places, Snarls, Van Dale, Wasp Factory, DANA… the list could go on.

MM: If you guys could send out a message that would reach everyone in the world right now, what would it say?

Ian: Eat the rich.

Sean & Colin: Guillotine your landlord.

Emma: Vote.

I Love You Say It Back is available now for pre-order HERE. You can check out the video for “cool,” the first single from the disk, HERE!


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Sam Bush Band 9.20.20

Maggie Valley Festival Grounds
Maggie Valley, NC

Words by Jason Mebane
Photos by John A. Zara

About halfway between Asheville, North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park sits a sleepy little vacation town called Maggie Valley. Normally the only reasons to visit Maggie Valley are to ski at the nearby Catalooche ski area or to test your luck picking through the myriad of antique shops located there. However, this past Sunday night Western Carolina live music lovers were given another reason to make the trek out to Maggie Valley. Along the main drag, amongst the kitschy motels, miniature golf courses, and souvenir stores sits The Maggie Valley Festival Grounds. Normally this property is used for things like car shows, and craft fairs, but during a global pandemic it is also a quintessential venue for socially distanced drive up concerts. It's tucked away, barely noticeable from the road, and the way it is surrounded with hills makes it feel as if it was tailor made for events like these. There is a permanent stage structure that's ideal for large scale music events, and there is plenty of space. Enough space that each of the hundred and fifty or so vehicles have ample room to spread out and tailgate while also keeping a safe distance from their neighbors. The Maggie Valley Festival Grounds property seems so perfectly suited for concerts that I'm actually shocked it took the forced closure of traditional music venues for it to be utilized in this manner. 

The architects of this event were the team from Asheville's Grey Eagle Music Hall. In my opinion, they should be commended for the work they did at not only effectively adapting to our current climate, but also for safely putting forth a near flawless experience for the attendees. Judging by the excitement of the crowd I'm sure they'll be very successful with the rest of the upcoming shows in their Drive In Series. For this, their inaugural event, they brought newgrass legend Sam Bush and his fantastic Sam Bush Band to town. As someone that has made a career out of taking something everyone is familiar with, in his case bluegrass music, and mutating it to the point it's barely recognizable, Sam was the perfect musician for the task at hand.

As the sun began to set behind the hills and the jubilant fans settled into their "pods," the Little Feat house music faded out and a local Maggie Valley singer named Tricia Ann emerged center stage. Not having seen a supporting act listed on the bill I was little surprised to see her saunter out. However, she was not there to perform a traditional opening set, but rather to sing the National Anthem. In all my years of concert going I'd be hard pressed to remember a time when another show kicked off with a rendition of the National Anthem, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we should expect the unexpected. Don't get me wrong she did an incredible job with it, it's just that a few hundred bluegrass aficionados with their heads bowed and their hands over their hearts isn't normally how events like these begin. However, as we are learning these days, nothing is really normal anymore is it?

When she was done Sam and his comrades took to the stage and hit the ground running with a stellar version of John Hartford's "I'm Still Here." Not only was opening a show with a Hartford cover a good omen for things to come, but it also doubled as a mantra for those of us in attendance. No matter what the universe chooses to throw at us, we are still here and will continue doing whatever is necessary to push onward. Sam's original "Ridin' That Bluegrass Train" and his version of "They're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone" followed and served as sort of a warm up for the band before they settled into the meat of the set. Next on the docket was an instrumental number that served as a warm up for us in the crowd who had started to feel the crispness of the cool autumn night. I’m not familiar enough with Sam’s catalog to know what it is called but the song got nearly every person in the field boogying. Bass player Todd Parks and guitar player Stephen Mougin led their band mates through the first exploratory number of the evening, seemingly getting lost in the jam. Another pair of covers followed, "Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie" and "Roll On Buddy, Roll On." The second John Hartford number of the set paired with the more traditional feel of "Roll On" provided a perfect juxtaposition of Sam's range of style. Not only has he taken his role as genre blending bluegrass pioneer to heart, but he hasn't forgotten the tradition of the music whose humble beginnings were etched generations ago, not too far from these very same hills. Harkening back to another point of his storied career Sam then led his musical partners through a duo of Leon Russell songs, "Stranger In A Strange Land" and "One More Love Song." After the walk down memory lane it was time for Sam to hand the spotlight over to guitarist Stephen Mougin, who stepped into the bandleader role for a version of his own tune "I'm Gonna Ride." It is a masterful song that also sounds like it could've been written about these odd times we all currently find ourselves in...

"The future waits for no one, what will be, will surely be."

The collective used the next few tunes to showcase the more traditional side of Sam's cannon. Sam's own "Circles Around Me" and a cover of The Dillards' "Dooley" proved that while he is known for exploring the unknown outer limits of bluegrass music he is still steeped in the traditions of his musical forefathers. What followed was probably the least bluegrass moment of the night "Great Balls Of Fire." Seeing the bluegrass elder statesman belting out the classic 1950's rocker was quite a sight to be seen. Not what you'd expect from the mandolin legend, but he pulled it off masterfully. Another instrumental followed that essentially served as a vehicle to showcase banjoist Wes Corbett's amazing chops prior to launching into the Sam Bush staple "Howlin' At The Moon." Sam joked to the crowd beforehand “Come on, you've all been waiting six months to howl at the moon." There was only a sliver of the celestial body hovering over us, but it was enough for us all to do just that as the music pouring from the stage egged us on. Another quick instrumental that again had me wondering if this band should actually be called the Wes Corbett Band, bridged into the electrified closing portion of the set. As Sam added another layer of clothing to fend off the dropping temperatures, he also traded his mandolin for his fiddle as Stephen and Wes each switched to plugged in versions of their instruments. What followed was a version of the Buddy and Julie Miller song "River's Gonna Run" as well as a set closing instrumental that had zero traces of bluegrass music, but was more a straight rocker that proved Sam is also able to leave the entire string band genre behind and explore drastically different types of music as well. 

After a quick encore break during which the normal cheering and pleading were enhanced by a chorus of car horns honking towards the stage Sam returned, sans band, for a solo mandolin version of “Redemption Song." His spirited take on the Bob Marley classic had the entire crowd swaying along and helping Sam to sing this particular song of freedom. The band then rejoined their leader on the stage for a rollicking version of "Same Ol' River" to send us on our way. 

While Sam Bush's act may have mellowed out some over the years, one can't deny his place as a forefather of the jamgrass/newgrass genre. I think it’s safe to say, that without the defying risks Sam has taken over the last few decades, the bluegrass universe as we know it would be barely recognizable today. Without Sam's trailblazing style, the world may have never had the pleasure of watching someone like Jeff Austin bring newgrass to a whole new generation of music fans. Someone like Leftover Salmon's Drew Emmitt, may have never been given a platform to continue to blend music genres while taking bluegrass music down different avenues. 

Similarly, without the ability of production teams to adapt we may be forced to live in a world with no live music until we are able to figure out a way to dig out of the deep dark hole that is the Coronavirus crisis. I for one am glad that so many of the major players in the Asheville music scene are forcing themselves to explore new avenues rather than just sit and wilt away as the virus wreaks havoc on the industry. Without adapting, the entire live music landscape could just vanish, and I for one am not willing to let that happen. So yeah it may be weird to drive 30 miles out of town to sit in a field with a cooler while your car stereo doubles as a PA system. Additionally, it may seem foreign to not have the collective energy one gets from the communal aspect of a sweaty packed room. But hey, at least we have something, and something, like they say, is better than having nothing at all. So kudos to the Grey Eagle and their partners for finding new ways to push on. Cheers to artists like the Sam Bush Band for taking the risk, and getting out on the road to do the only thing they know, playing music to starved music fans. I'm already looking forward to returning to Maggie Valley as often as there is a reason to do so. Heck my next time out there I may even give myself enough time for a round of putt putt before the show.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Space Kadet Stands Ready for Blast Off

Words by Jason Myers (Memorandum Media)

Atlanta live-tronica act Space Kadet wants you to know that COVID-19 isn’t slowing them down. In fact, the funky quartet have shown that, even in such uncertain times in the music world, they can be just as productive and creative as ever. Fresh off the release of their new EP, Human Being, the band is brimming with energy. MusicMarauders recently sat down with the group to chat about the EP and what it’s been like navigating the music world during COVID-19... 

Jason Myers: Thanks a bunch for doing this interview guys! Let’s start with a quick introduction. Can you give a brief history of Space Kadet that includes a description of your sound? 

Rohan: Space Kadet started as a 5 piece band in Alex and I’s hometown of Auburn, AL in early ‘15. Eventually Alex started making more moves to Atlanta around 2017 and Thomas joined the band in late 2017. From then on, we took this project very seriously and treated it like our baby. Not that we didn’t treat it that way before, we just knew that we needed to take further steps to make this project blossom. We started hitting the road much more for tours and festivals and released our first EP later that year. Our sound has evolved a long way since then and we dropped our first album last year and our second EP a few months ago. I would consider our sound instrumental electronic music with a psychedelic funk, drum and bass, hip hop and dub influence with a progressive rock twist. We have songs where we focus heavy on improv and we have songs that are tight knit electronic compositions.

JM: Is there any specific meaning behind the name Space Kadet?

Alex: It started out as a joke name in our friend group for when we would zone out or go into a wild tangent about something. But it slowly started to become a more exploratory term, like taking an idea into new unexplored territory. I like to think that we keep that in mind while we create new songs or distort old ideas and improvisations

JM: Can you guys give us a breakdown of your equipment? 

Alex: Currently for my Bass I usually use a fender Jazz 5 going into an Eden Navigator Pre-amp and out an Agular 4x12 cabinet. Bass synth consists of a Moog Subfatty with a dry signal to the board and a line to my amp for a thicker sound for myself on stage. I use ableton Live 10 currently and control it with an APC40 MKII as well as a few other drum pads for glitch effects. I also run a small Modular rig through a multi-FX pedal for wild live electronic improvs. 

Rohan: I endorse SJC drums and Bosphorus cymbals. I have a turquoise pearl custom SJC drum kit with gold rims (10’, 12’, 14’, 16’ toms, 20’ kick, 10 and 14’ snares). Bosphorus antique and gold series cymbals + Yamaha DTX electronic drum pad. 

Thomas: I use an array of Marshall and orange amplifiers with some choice effects from earthquaker devices, MXR, Line 6 and some other brands. My favorite guitar to play is definitely my Gibson es-335 however, I love Ibanez guitars and like to travel with an Epiphone Les Paul.

JM: Let’s talk about your newest EP, Human Being. What was the writing/recording process like for this disk? What was it like releasing new music in what has been a rather turbulent year for the music industry?

Rohan: The process of recording this EP was more hands on than on our last couple of records. Usually either Bambi and I would produce a track in ableton and then bring it to the table for us to jam out on and for Thomas to get his licks down during practice and then expand the tracks from there. For this, everyone was involved in the production aspect of things and I feel that this showcases a more organic, instrumental side of our music. The track "Extempore" is basically a modular improv, I also played tablas (Indian hand percussion) on this one. "Human Being" part 1 and 2 was initially one song but we had to split them into two tracks because it was 12 minutes long. We tracked all the music at Prana recording studios in Atlanta with our good friends Will and Andy, they also mixed down the tracks and then Anthony from Papadosio mastered the tracks. It was my favorite recording process to date. 

JM: How have you guys adapted as a band to the challenges presented by COVID-19? How have you stayed productive as musicians?

Rohan: I feel that we’ve all been productive in different ways even though we live in different states. We all live two hours away from each other though so we make it a point to get up at least once a month to jam and work on music here at our studio in Atlanta. I’ve been producing a lot of new tunes myself and I have started a producer side project called ROHAN SOLO that I’m excited about. 

Alex: It has been interesting, it's given us a good time to better ourselves and our individual craft, and thankfully I’ve been able to put more into my side project Bambi - let me figure out how I can bring more intricate and cohesive ideas to the table. The hardest part is staying with it and keeping the momentum.

JM: If Space Kadet could play any music venue in the world, what would it be and why?

Rohan: Red Rocks is an obvious pick but also Valhalla in Sweden, an amazing outdoor quarry amphitheater. Those are major goals, though. I’ll start with Red Rocks. 

Alex: Red Rocks and The Gorge. Those two are bucket list status and to play where some of my favorite bands have played would be a dream come true. 

JM: What have you guys been listening to lately? Can each of you suggest an album to the masses? 

Alex: The new Tom Misch X Yussef Dayes "What kinda Music" is fire. 

Thomas: Lots of roots reggae bands. Early Outkast records especially chopped and screwed versions, and liquid dnb.

Rohan: I've been listening to lots of Dnb; Upgrade, LTJ Bukem, Netsky as well as some future funk stuff like Griz, Manic Focus and The Floozies. An album I would recommend is 3 by Netsky.

JM: Any final words you’d like to leave us with? 

Rohan: You can expect lots of music from us in the coming weeks/months. We are already starting to book some cool shows for next year too, so please everyone, wear your mask when you go out in public, let's do our part to play it safe and bring live music back. The music industry is hurting worse than ever right now and we must do our part to help bring live music back. 

The Human Being EP is available to stream HERE.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Travis Book Happy Hour 9.2.2020

The Grey Eagle
Asheville, NC

Words by Jason Mebane
Photos by J. Scott Shrader Photography

Back in early March when the entire world was thrown into chaos by the arrival of the Coronavirus, we as humans were forced to learn how to adapt to a world we never could've imagined. Like everything else, the live music landscape was drastically altered. If you were at all like me, you initially turned to the plethora of live streams our favorite musicians began broadcasting. Bouncing around between Facebook Live and IGTV we were able to find some semblance of normalcy while acquiring the live music fix we needed to soothe our souls as we attempted to navigate our strange new world. Perhaps at some point you stumbled upon "The Travis Book Happy Hour," a bi-weekly series of streams presented in the vein of an old school variety TV program. If you haven't tuned in to any of these unique streams let me set the scene for you...Travis, best known as the bass player and singer for the Infamous Stringdusters, invites a few musical friends to pick some songs and have a conversation about the struggles of making their way through the murky waters they have been tossed into. It was after one of these "Happy Hour" tapings that I was blessed to find myself sitting at a patio picnic table with Travis discussing, not only the series itself, but also the feelings that he's been having over these past few months. I asked him what his initial thoughts were when, he came to the realization that he, and his fellow musicians had essentially been thrust into unemployment....

TRAVIS: "I wasn't too stressed out. I kind of had a sense that we'd be taking a long time off. I feel like I sort of saw the writing on the wall pretty early on. The last 'Dusters show was on March 11th and I had a really strong sense coming out of that show that it was going to be a while. So my first response was actually probably a lot like how I felt after the election, which was just a ground reversal. Where everything that I sort of thought to be true, all the things that I was orientating my life around, were changed. All of the assumptions I had about how the universe worked and what my purpose was...all those things sort of changed. It was almost like an out of body experience for a while. I was just kind of hanging out in limbo. I wasn't as concerned about my career or about making music as I was just kind of like 'wow this is going to be really interesting'."

Fortunately for Travis's fans he didn't keep his mind off music for too long. He began hosting these "Travis Book Happy Hour" performances back in late June and has produced one every other week since. Unlike many live streams, which are oftentimes just a musician sitting on their porch or their living room couch, Travis chose to take it a step further. Inviting some of his musical friends to join him, and broadcasting them from an actual music venue, Asheville's famed Grey Eagle. Also unlike some musician's streams, Travis has put his own twist on things by setting aside a portion of the show to interview his guests, discussing the trials of what one former guest, Lindsay Lou, dubbed "The Great Pause." Listening to our beloved musicians open up gives fans the feeling they are not only trying to work through these weird times for their own benefit, but also perhaps help the viewers at home make sense of this crazy new world. These conversations get so deep each week that I even saw one Facebook comment jokingly refer to the "Happy Hour" as "The Travis Book Existential Crisis Hour."

I asked Mr. Book why he decided to take these "Happy Hour" broadcasts to the next level, why he wanted to do more than simply just play music, and why he choose to do it in a real venue with in person collaborators...

TRAVIS: "I had sort of been bouncing around the idea of doing some sort of a variety show for a long time. When I started doing some streaming and stuff from my home I found that there were a lot of things I wanted to talk about. Enough people were giving me some positive feedback that it occurred to me that there was an opportunity to do something more than just play music, and there were enough people who were interested in continuing to conceptualize their own experiences. That there were people that welcomed the opportunity to try to talk through some of these things, to be part of a one way dialogue about these sort of existential questions. About what it means to be alive, to be a creator, in these very interesting times. So it was not the first time that it occurred to me to try to do something different like this. Then I came up here (to the Grey Eagle) to play a show with Kyle Tuttle and Lyndsay Pruett and was able to check out the infrastructure. I saw the way that it was streaming, and I saw that we could be socially distanced, and it felt pretty good. That was really the last little push I needed, just having a place to do it, and a crew, and a venue that was interested in trying to do something different."

He also touched on how different this format is for him, than the shows he was used to playing before the "great pause"....

TRAVIS: When I play shows I try not to talk too much, especially with the Stringdusters. It's kind of a big thing for us, we try not to talk, but now there are things I want to talk about. I want to talk with my fellow musicians. I wanted it to go beyond 'what are you trying to sell these days?'.  I was much more interested in taking the opportunity to kind of dig into things a little bit and see what was under the surface. I wanted to try to scare out some of these perspectives that people have about life, and for lack of a better word, about matters of being, matters of spirit. Without getting too heavy into spirituality or any of that kind of stuff, but to dabble in it because, that, to me is ultimately all I'm really interested in. Trying to understand what to do with myself while I'm here. To me that's largely a spiritual question. That is my orientation and a lot of that is decided by my perspective on what the point of being here is, knowing how to move through my life."

Travis says he saw the idea of mixing music and spirituality as something that could be beneficial in these odd times....

TRAVIS: "When I get together with my musician friends this is the kind of shit we talk about and no one else is really addressing this space. I think it's an uncomfortable place for a lot of people, talking about these things, but I'm into it. I'm obsessed with it. It's kind of like that once these existential questions get their claws in you what else is there to talk about? Like we can shoot the shit about meaningless stuff all day long and that's totally fun too, but there's some fucking juicy shit to talk about right? So like let's get down to it."

Another thing that sets the "Travis Book Happy Hour" apart from most of the live streams is that the Grey Eagle is set up to host a small handful of fans to make up a socially distanced studio audience. For me, this has been a welcomed bonus, watching actual musicians making live music in an real venue rather than only being able to enjoy it remotely. Don't get me wrong attending these tapings is very surreal. We can't get up and dance, we can't interact with other concert goers. We just show up, in masks, have our temperatures taken and get escorted to tables spaced safely away from all the other fan's tables. However just being there, as odd as it seems, does something for the soul that watching on a laptop or a TV screen at home cannot. Make no mistakes, the main focus of the "Travis Book Happy Hour" is on those watching at home, we are just an added bonus, a prop if you will. Cheering when it is time to cheer, laughing when it is time to laugh and hopefully giving the musicians on stage some small sense of normalcy. I asked Travis, that as the type of musician that feeds off audience interaction, how having a in person audience, even one of just 15-20 people, added to the experience for him...

TRAVIS: "It's huge having a studio audience. It's great to have people in the room at the very least just because you need a clap track. However, something that's been an ongoing process for me is getting away from NEEDING that. When I realized I was dependent on an audience reaction I realized that I had largely lost control of the situation. So that has been an ongoing process of sort of taking it back, taking back the reasons I'm doing this. Taking back my whole ownership over what it is that I'm doing. Not needing to do it in the context of that immediate feedback. That's all just made up shit in the mind. You're basing your subjective experience on someone else's subjective experience of something that is subjective to start with. I think fundamentally our role is almost like a service. What I bring to the world and the reaction I get, or what it does for people, I have no control over that.  I mean somewhat I do because I'm presenting it, but as soon as my mission is to get a reaction, or to get feedback, or to get more fans, or to make more money then I'm missing the ultimate point. Which is to basically tune in to something and act as like a conduit and to channel whatever it is. Music coming from the cosmos, the vibe that's happening on stage with my band mates bringing songs into form, and offering it up. I feel like as a musician, if at that point of offering it up, you need something right then, that's a really vulnerable place to be. You're much better off if you can just offer that up and sort of experience equanimity no matter what you're getting back. In a very roundabout way, I guess what I'm saying is part of what I'm trying to practice is being able to play without that. Being able to just be in the moment and play, and be myself, and channel the music and be as deep into it as possible while also being completely detached from the outcome."

Adding that basically..."You do your work, you do the best you can, you pretend as though it all matters while also acknowledging that it doesn't matter. You offer it up but then you allow it to just be. So for playing in front of  people just sitting around tables, or even streaming live on my phone, some people feel like there's something missing there but I don't feel like there's anything missing from that type of experience. I know that ultimately what I'm trying to do is essentially like a TV show, where it's something that's happening elsewhere, it's hitting people elsewhere. They're having whatever reaction they want to have to it and that's totally fine. When I'm at my best I go on stage and that's sort of like a prayer I say 'let me be whatever I need to be for people tonight'. If people need to loathe me or love me, I don't fucking care. Allow me to show up and be whatever everybody needs me to be. That's my role, and that's kind of what I try to bring to the live stream. I'm just gonna do what I do and I can't let the amount of donations or the number of viewers be the way that I assign value to what I've done that night."

"Existential Crisis Hour" indeed. Beyond the soul searching and spiritual journey there is also music. On this particular night Travis welcomed Mimi Naja of Fruition as well as fellow Carolinian Lyndsay Pruett. I asked Travis how he chooses his "Happy Hour" guests...

TRAVIS: "It's largely, who is available and who is willing to leave the house in the Covid era. Mostly it is who will come up for no guarantees of money and who has nothing better to do. Because I don't really have much of a budget. I can't really offer a lot of money for my friends to come out, but there are people that I want to play music with, people I want to have in my house for a day or two, people I can get into this deep stuff with. Mimi is a prime example of someone who is all about going there because she's done a lot of searching on her own. She's done a lot of looking into herself and understanding who she really is as a person. And it's not been a simple conversation she's had, which makes someone like her a perfect guest to talk through some of these things with. That's really where it starts for me. It's personal relationships and a desire to make music with people."

Speaking of the music, the music on this night was great. In my opinion it was easily the best episode of the season. Each episode Travis and his guests focus on a specific theme, for this particular broadcast the theme was "travel." Wearing many hats, Travis Book the announcer introduced Travis Book the host who in turn introduced Travis Book the musician who in turn dove head first into the first tune of the evening, a solo guitar version of the Infamous Stringdusters song "It'll Be Alright." It's a very special treat to hear stripped down versions of these songs, as well as hear how proficient he is, as primarily a bass player, on acoustic guitar. This particular song, with it's message of hope, was the perfect opening number. Travis then went into one of his happy hour monologues admitting he didn't know if that song is actually true, and that we don't  know if it really WILL be alright. That's what makes Mr. Book's personality perfect for a show like this. Even while admitting his anxiety and the uncertainness of these current times, he somehow manages to add a bit of optimism to everything. He can actually conceptualize that in the grand scheme of things none of us really matter, while also admitting that in our own perspectives we truly do matter. For the second song of his portion of the show he touched on the travel theme with a cover of Shawn Camp's "Travelin' Teardrop Blues." In keeping with his positive nature he delivered this somewhat sad set of lyrics with a hint of hopefulness. After another quick dialogue about how the journey we all take between the beginning (birth) and the destination (death) he closed his solo portion of the show with a cover of Benny "Burle" Galloway's "Give Me Some Wings."

After a quick break to ask for donations, because let's face it, if we as fans don't donate to these types of things they may cease to exist at all, Travis introduced tonight's guest of honor, Mimi Naja. Mimi seemed as excited as those of us in attendance were, gladly proclaiming "we are in a venue, WOW!", admitting that this was one of the first times she'd actually been in a real venue with a real crowd since the pandemic started.

It must be somewhat bizarre for these musicians attempting to dip their toes back into their normal lives after months and months of not playing in front of actual fans. As mentioned earlier, the interviews Travis does are the most unique part of "The Travis Book Happy Hour." Not wanting to spoil it for those of you that may want to watch this week's episode, they touched on the theme of traveling in regards to touring musicians, and how not having to do so has helped both Mimi and Travis relearn how to play music. How to play it for themselves again instead of just for their fans. Reminding them what they really love about playing music, and how this pause is helping them reevaluate how they will proceed when the pandemic is finally over. They spoke of how they're attempting to put a gratitude lens on this whole Covid thing, as well as the fears they have in their own existence.

After the interview portion of the evening Travis yielded the stage to Mimi who ran through a quick set of solo songs on her acoustic guitar that all touched on the evening's theme. Like Travis it was a nice treat to see Mimi's proficiency on an instrument that isn't the one we most closely associate her with. She began with a beautiful cover of "California Stars" that made it seem like both Woody Guthrie AND Wilco had her voice and musical style in mind when they each wrote their respective parts of the song. She followed that up with an enjoyable cover of the Mason Jennings song "Jackson Square." It not only fit the travel theme with it's lyrics about New Orleans, but it also fit perfectly into these confusing times with its words seemingly alluding to this chaotic moment we currently find ourselves in. The Richard Berry penned "Have Love, Will Travel" rounded out the solo portion of Mimi's set before a fiddle toting Lyndsay Pruett and the evening's host joined Mimi on the stage for a rousing version of Bill Monroe's "Gotta Travel On." With each of these three musicians having backgrounds based in bluegrass music, this version turned into a rollicking barn burner of a hoedown, that undoubtedly had some viewers at home hopping off their couches and dancing around their homes. Not to be pigeonholed into bluegrass music the trio then took the Roger Miller classic "King Of The Road" for a spin, with Travis on guitar and Mimi thumping along on the bass whilst adding amazing harmonies to Travis's take on the country classic. Afterwards Travis professed his love for country music even joking that if the 'Dusters don't get back together soon he may have to attempt to follow in Blake Shelton and Kenny Chesney's pop country footsteps. What followed was a three song run of Fruition's most loved tunes. "Beside You," "Northern Town" and what in my mind was the highlight of the evening, and my personal favorite Mimi tune, "Santa Fe." The latter of which saw Travis's harmonies almost putting Mimi's Fruition bandmates to shame. After one more plug for the evening's sponsors, and another request for Paypal donations the makeshift ensemble ended the show with an amazing song called "Things In My Life" by early bluegrass legend Don Stover. This was the only song of the evening Mimi played her mandolin on, and she fit enough of her remarkably authentic shredding into this version to make up for not having played it all night. The lyrics to this song seemed to tie everything we are experiencing together. With some lyrics seemingly having predicted the pandemic we find ourselves in, "For we often lose some things in life that makes us wonder why," as well as our longing for things to return to normal, "I live in hopes and dreams that we'll meet again someday."

And just like that the program was over. The in person crowd, small as we were, cheered like we numbered in the hundreds, the camera man switched off his cameras, the musicians began packing up their gear, and we all wandered off into the night not knowing when we'll ever get to ingest live music the way we are used to. You could tell each and everyone of us felt blessed to have experienced what had just happened. My mind wandered to the people watching at home. I wondered how receptive people have been of these broadcasts. So I asked Travis how the response has been...

TRAVIS:  "The people who want this kind of thing, or are looking towards their community to discuss these deeper matters of being, or looking for music with a little more context than just a song, those are the people who are really into it. Not everyone's into it. Our overall viewership has probably gone down over the course of the series but the overall engagement of the people that are involved has gone way up. So by some metrics it's becoming more successful and by some metrics less successful. But in general there seem to be some people who are really psyched."

With things finally starting to open up a little more, and the music industry attempting to find new ways of adapting, I asked Travis if this was something he felt like he would continue to do until the dust has settled...

TRAVIS: "I don't know if my schedule is gonna allow me to fit in a lot of these shows, but I want to keep doing this. I don't know exactly what form it will take but it would be nice if I could continue doing it. I feel like I'm finally starting to get the hang of it and starting to figure out exactly what I need to do, but it's also really challenging. The whole monologue element and the conversation element is much harder than I thought it was going to be. So I'd like to continue but in reality I'm basically just kind of killing time until the Stringdusters start back up again. Once the 'Dusters are firing on all cylinders I'll be too busy doing that to do anything else. In a way I'll be back to where I was (before the pandemic), but certainly at some point I won't be playing Stringdusters music day in and day out every day. I need to spend a little more time with my family, I want to spend more time around here and doing this type of thing locally. I absolutely want to do some more of it and more than anything continue to play music with other people. That has been the single most rewarding part of this whole Coronavirus thing is getting to spend time at home and see the seasons change and getting to play music with all these other musicians.  Before this I feel like my role was so simply defined as bassist, and singer, and role player in the Stringdusters, and there was no time for anything else. I've been writing a lot of music and I'm working on recording with some of these other ensembles and in a lot of ways it's a much more interesting existence now than it was pre-Corona. But I do miss getting up on a big stage with a full sound system turned up to eleven, and cranking off a set of jam grass in front of a bunch of fired up field hippies. I mean there's still nothing better but this has given me, and I think everybody else in the industry, a lot of perspective."

As music fans we also miss it, and we too are gaining a new perspective. In the mean time we will continue to adapt as best we can. We are finally at a point where in most places we can go see some local band playing at some local brewery, or if we are really lucky go see some of our beloved musicians playing in makeshift places like drive-in movie theaters. However, having been able to go to an actual venue and see actual musicians making actual music means more to this writer than I could even begin to explain. Additionally, seeing a musician take a risk and try to put something like "The Travis Book Happy Hour" into the universe makes me glad to see that these musicians not only care enough about us, their fans, to give us something with some actual content, but also that they care about themselves enough to not let the weirdness of 2020 bring them down. Seeing them try to work through the things they need to work through so that we as a community all make it through to the other side stronger than we were before the pandemic. We all know it's going to be over at some point, but it's the small things like this that make it a little easier on us to keep pushing through the unknown. My fingers are crossed that even as the live music scene takes baby steps back to normalcy we all learn something from this and use what we have learned to make the world a better place. To help each other fully realize what our actual purpose in this life is.

If  you haven't experienced any of these "Travis Book Happy Hour" streams, please, I urge you to seek them out. They will not only get your toes tapping, but they will open your minds to the things in life that really matter. Or at the very least help you realize that the things you think matter in life don't really matter at all.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Lotus Dives in Head First with New Album, Free Swim

Words & Photos by Jason Myers (Memorandum Media)

Music in the year 2020 certainly looks a bit different from the past. Venues are empty, stages ungraced, and touring schedules are essentially non-existent. But with the vast amount of change the music industry has gone through, one constant remains the same: the album. This fact has come to the forefront for jamtronica outfit Lotus who will be delivering their 10th studio LP,  Free Swim, to the masses on August 21, 2020. 

Sometimes soaked in sun-glossed disco dance grooves - other times projected with blissed-out melodies, Free Swim is a portrait of a band confident in their style and direction. Opening track “Catacombs” works as a hyperactive dancefloor jump starter, while other songs such as “Land of the Lush” send listeners floating through a world of relaxation and euphoria. The overall combination of these 10 new tracks provides for a listening experience that is both captivating and extremely satisfying. 

MusicMarauders recently got to sit down with Luke Miller (guitar, keyboards) and Jesse Miller (bass guitar) of the band to chat about the new album…

  • Let’s start with talking about the new album, Free Swim. What was the writing/recording process like for this? How was this process different from your last LP, Frames Per Second?

Luke Miller: The writing process was fairly similar to Frames Per Second. Jesse and I were each working on demos, then when songs were fairly complete we’d collaborate on finishing them - then rehearse the demos with the band to work out the nuances. For me personally, I was trying to streamline my workflow on writing demos. So, some of that was just getting some new plug-ins and soft synths that I could use very quickly without having to set up extra equipment. 

Jesse also built a home analog studio and really finalized some of his gear so he could more easily access different hardware and outboard gear. He ended up mixing the album from his home studio, which is the first time we’ve done that. Not having a ticking clock of studio time for that scenario really let us get into the details without wasting time on periphery things.

We recorded 18 songs basically live in the studio, with the whole band set up at the same time. That is how we did Frames Per Second, as well. Working fast and not overthinking things makes things efficient and comfortable for us. From those 18 tracks, we picked 10 that we thought worked together the best for the album. The studio, Spice House Studio, was a different one than the previous album. They had some nice gear that we used like a grand piano, vintage bass amp, Hammond organ and Leslie. The engineers were great at getting a good sound fast, so we didn’t spend a ton of time messing with drum mics and could just focus on playing.

  • You guys mentioned that you drew a lot of influence from disco and French music for this album. Can you elaborate on this a bit more and touch on how you were able to incorporate these styles of music into the classic Lotus sound?

LM: The line from disco to French Touch producers is pretty linear. The French producers sampled disco and funk tracks and then did a lot of looping and filtering. For us, the groove of a song is usually the foundation since there aren’t lyrics. In disco, there is a certain level of sophistication without being overly complex, because (at the end of the day) disco and French Touch are all about dancing. Hitting that zone of energy, something to dance and groove with, while still being chill is very much in the classic Lotus sound. So, recording the songs live is more from the disco influence, and then some of the electronic elements and effects in post-production are a nod to the French sound. 

  • You guys have a pretty well-established fanbase at this point, but, alike any artists, drawing in new fans is always a goal. How cognizant are you guys of this when you write new music?

LM: I used to think about that more, but nowadays I tend to just go with intuition and what I’m feeling at the moment. With that being said, I’m always trying to grow as a composer and music listener. I’m certainly a different person from when Lotus started when I was a college freshman to now, and if the music I was writing was exactly the same, I think I would feel stagnant as an individual.

Jesse Miller: I think if you try to play the game of guessing what new fans versus existing fans will enjoy, the end results won't be very interesting. I want to write music that excites me and that I think will work well on stage for Lotus or on an album. If you are hyper-focused on always trying to please your existing fans, you would end up writing the same songs over and over. And alternatively, if you were hyper-focused on grabbing a mass audience, you'd probably write dumbed-down, bland and formulaic music.

  • Over the past few years, Lotus has performed select shows filled with covers of other band’s songs. You’ve done a Talking Heads set at Red Rocks. You covered a handful of Flaming Lips songs at a recent Denver show. Do you have plans to do more cover sets like this in the future? Are there any bands in particular that you guys have fantasized about covering?

JM: I always thought The Clash, New Order or Television would be great. It’s always a challenge to find something that is somewhat original (not already covered by many other bands), but also known widely enough that at least a fair amount of the crowd is familiar with the original versions. Also, it needs to be something that can be adapted to fit Lotus's instrumentation. Aphex Twin would be an interesting and difficult challenge. Radiohead would be fun. They have great arrangements, but I would want to have the right singer for that.

LM: I don’t have a band I’ve fantasized about covering, but I’ve had this fantasy of playing a shrunken set. The whole band would be squeezed onto one drum riser and we’d all be playing tiny instruments. The drums would be like a toy set, the percussion would be those tiny shakers, a mini keyboard, etc. But the sound would be this huge in a lo-fi way. 

  • If I were a fan that wanted to check out a live Lotus soundboard, what shows would you guys suggest I start with? Are there any shows from the past few years where you guys felt like you were clicking on another level?

LM: Last year we played at The Caverns in Tennessee. It is literally a cave an hour outside of Nashville. I thought that show was great because of the super unique setting and the reverberation from the cave. It gave the show a very cool and special vibe.  

JM: We've put a few select live shows on our Bandcamp page. That would be a good place to start as those are typically shows I thought had interesting and well-played group improvisation. 

  • If you guys could play alongside any current band or musician right now, who would it be any why?

LM: Just off the top of my head - Radiohead, Anderson Paak, Tame Impala, Wilco, Floating Points, Aphex Twin.

  • What have you guys been listening to lately? Any music recommendations for the masses? 

LM: Chicano Batman - “Invisible People,” Floating Points - “Bias” and “Crush” 

JM: Four Tet Sixteen Oceans, Ross From Friends (various singles), Nicolas Jaar/Against All Logic (A.A.L.) (various mixes and albums)

  • If you guys could send a single message out that reached everyone in the world right now, what would you say?

LM: Man…I don’t know. I’ve thought about this before. Like if I had a billboard, what message would I put on it for maximum effect to help the planet? I don’t think there is a right answer. It’s a cliche to say we are living in a post-truth world, but it really feels like it. Instead of the power to send out a message that reached everyone, I would like the power to hear the message that everyone else is sending.

Free Swim is available now for pre-order HERE. You can check out "Catacombs," the first single from the disk, HERE!


Monday, August 10, 2020

Jeremy Garrett 8.8.20 (Photos)

Friday, July 10, 2020

Neil Young & Promise Of The Real 7.9.15 (Photos)

Monday, July 6, 2020

Marc Rebillet at The Drive-in 6.22.20

The Holiday Twin Drive-in
Fort Collins, CO

Words, Photos & Video by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

Shit’s been heavy all around; from the pandemic to politics there seems to be no respite for the weak-hearted and weary. Given the current state of affairs it is a time to be serious and it is most definitely a time for change. That being said after four months of quarantine we all need a release and Marc Rebillet’s socially distanced show at The Holiday Twin Drive Inn in Fort Collins was just that. A chance to blow off some steam before going back to the real work that is at hand in our various communities.

Cars began lining up at the gate around 6:00 PM and soon the traffic snarl snaked down the road as eager fans queued up for the “Cinema Experience” that was about to go down. Gates opened around 6:45 PM to ease the rush and early arrivers had their choice of spots. Masks were mandatory and people were encouraged to stay in or by their cars if not heading to the bathrooms or concessions. That didn’t stop some old friends from saying their hellos and others from completely isolating in their vehicles. It felt a bit surreal to be at a show where you could only mingle with your immediate group and smiles were obscured by masks on the way to grab a beer.

Logistically the event posed some issues mainly that Marc was set up in a green screened E-Z UP in the center of the venue. He was projected on both screens while performing in his compound. Meaning that some eager to get a glimpse would occasionally gather before security would disperse the clumps of people. Personally, I would have liked them to move his spot to a central but more isolated location to give people a place to look and also keep eager fans at bay. All that being said, this is a first for everyone involved and I commend Mr. Rebillet and his team for even attempting to pull off a live show during a pandemic let alone an entire tour. You can see from my photos that people respected space and generally followed the rules.

The setting sunlight gleamed off the silky robes of Rebillet devotees as people partied in their respective areas. Finally after much anticipation, at dusk the show began with what can only be described as three experimental short films. Specifically one was a POV torture film about being a piece of sushi and another featured animal orgies on Noah’s Ark, as well as a zombie apocalypse. Suddenly a drone could be heard overhead and a golf cart appeared in the distance. Marc gripped the roof with one hand and held a mic in the other as he proclaimed his love to the audience as the cart drove him around row by row.

After arriving at his aforementioned compound he got to business with a series of dance heavy loops that prompted us out of our camping chairs. He jumped the barricade early and was quickly flanked by security as he talked to a couple masked members of the crowd. One woman exclaimed “I love your penis,” which became a launching pad for another looped track. Marc’s own robe soon disappeared as he played on enthusiastically. He took a call from the crowd à la his Quaranstream tour which resulted in the suggestion of “Sensitive Nipples” for a song. Marc was happy to oblige despite the repeated objectification of his body as subject matter for the music. He’s not a piece of meat people he’s a damn human being! I digress. The surround sound effect of the music being pumped through all of the various car speakers made for a unique auditory experience as well.

At one point we looked up to see fireflies dancing above the crowd. I’ve lived in Colorado for almost 15 years and I’ve never seen lightening bugs in this state. It was like our own personal, albeit subtle fireworks display. Marc’s show relies heavily on crowd interactions so it was interesting to see him navigate this potential hazard utilizing security, his mic and most importantly his mask. His set was pretty short and the whole shebang had an 11:00 PM curfew. He ended the show by inviting a request for one of his previously played or recorded tunes. At that point he was approached by some enthusiastic twerkers who put on their own show for Marc. After a soulful rendition of “Work That Ass For Daddy” he closed with “Let Me In I’m Tryna Fuck” also by request.

Marc Rebillet is absolutely blowing up right now and the reason is that he embodies the freedom and at times utter silliness we all crave. Yes, it’s all wrapped up in a silky robe, pencil thin mustache and a sultry voice, but that’s all proof that Marc is not overthinking it. He’s having fun doing what he loves; playing live music. He’s bringing a lot of joy and not only that, he’s been doing some real good for his community. Marc recently marched in New York City and donated to various causes supporting Black Lives Matter. He’s part of the movement despite his label as a “comedy act.” It’s worth mentioning because we as a society need to make some serious change from the ground up. Until that happens these “good times” will just be a distraction.

Nicholas' Photo Gallery


Monday, June 29, 2020

Andrew McConathy & James Thomas 6.27.20

Doug & Lindsay's Backyard
Morrison, CO

Words & Photos by J. Picard
Video by Carly Picard

We walked down the street of a neighborhood in Morrison, CO adjacent to Red Rocks. The fabled venue and landmark where my wife and I met a decade prior and where we spend a lot of time each summer, could be seen in-between each house we passed by, with their backyards set up like a vista over looking the majestic landscape. Over my shoulder was our fully loaded backpack cooler that the party's hosts had gifted us for our wedding a long five years ago. I looked back at Carly who's smiling eyes were peaking over her mask just a couple of steps behind, carrying our two camping chairs for the day's backyard concert. It had been almost five months since we last enjoyed the sweet habitual sound of live music. The closer we got to Doug and Lindsay's house, the clearer we could hear the music of Widespread Panic, who was supposed to be in the midst of their weekend at Red Rocks, but instead was piping through the sound system in the backyard. We headed down the driveway with the epic views ever expanding and located a distant spray painted circle on the lawn, meant to keep people six feet apart. We set up our chairs, I opened a Daisy Cutter Pale ale, Carly opened a Truly and we were in full concert mode. It felt good to be back!

Surrounded by the foothills outside of Denver/Boulder, we soaked up the sun, consumed some cannabis and enjoyed a ripping second set from Widespread Panic, among about fifty WSP fans. We said hello to Doug, who had a full quarantine beard and was dancing his ass off! The evening's performers, Andrew McConathy and James Thomas, arrived, grabbed a beer and began to set up. It was fitting that our first concert following the pandemic would be with Andrew, who is one of our favorite Colorado musicians and folks. I first met Andrew about ten years back at YarmonyGrass, a music festival on the Colorado River that he created and promoted. We've attended Yarmony with friends and family most of the years since and have enjoyed his band, The Drunken Hearts, extensively. I've booked the Hearts several times and even put Andrew in touch with Doug to play his wedding. Doug and I have also hosted The Hearts, as well as members of, at Coors Field for the Colorado Rockies Pre-Game show that Doug produces. I guess the point I am trying to make is that the "roots run deep" and this was a very fitting return to music for all of us. Not to mention J.B. who I have worked with a handful of times and who lived next door to my cousin and his wife in Denver, was running sound.

We chatted with Doug's wife Lindsay, who was bouncing around the yard being an epic host. Just before Andrew and James began, we grabbed our chairs and cooler and headed up to the front where there were a few open circles on the lawn. The set began with Widespread Panic's "Porch Song" as folks danced blissfully and soaked in the experience. The original "Goes To Show" went into "Sakajawea’s Reel" and was followed up with another older Drunken Hearts original "Don't Go" before Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." I looked over my shoulder to a full yard, comfortably and safely spaced, full of EZ-ups, blankets, chairs, coolers and familiarity and I smiled. Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is" was a fitting selection and sounded beautiful with James' piano work. Andrew featured a new original song, "I’ll Say it First" followed by "Prom Night" before going into the clear show highlight for me in the form of "Raleigh & Spencer," played in memory of Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band). In that moment I really began to reflect on the music community, but more specifically the Colorado music community and the depth of its nuances. The set was rounded out with another original, "Make It Out Ahead" and the Eddie Vedder cover, "Just Breathe," played in memory of Jude Wargo. After hearing a number of classic Hearts songs, it became clear that James was the pianist from the first Drunken Hearts album Live For Today, which holds a special place in my heart.

Hummingbirds buzzed over the outdoor "venue" as the duo saddled up for set two. They set started with one of the neighbors in white slacks and boat shoes singing an Eric Clapton cover. More entertaining than the cover itself was the man's cheesy cruise ship entertainer or MC vibe inclusive of crowd interaction and a number of jokes that fell very flat. The non-shtick was almost masterful. The duo forged ahead with Passenger's "Let Her Go," followed by one of my favorite Drunken Hearts' songs, "Dean Moriarty's Blues." I couldn't help but continuously glance off to my right to see Red Rocks towering in the distance, its Lower South lots completely empty. I had the realization that this would be the closest that we would get to a Red Rocks show this year and it was heartbreaking and strangely healing all at the same time. To my delight Andrew and James performed a couple of Lyle Lovett songs, "If I Had A Boat" and "LA County." Very fitting selections to round out the second set which concluded at 8:00 PM sharp with "Holes In My Shoes."

With our cups full, we packed up our setup and said our goodbyes. Walking uphill down the residential street felt eerily similar to our walk after a Red Rocks show. The air was sweet, the energy palpable and for a brief moment in time things felt normal. So much so, that we headed to our backyard in a far off corner of Denver for a campfire, some additional beverages and grateful reflection. Something that I continued to reflect on was the fact that here I was, a promoter and yet that day, I was getting my live music fix from music fans, creating a space for something that we all love so much. When the pandemic hit and the large companies, as well as, mid and small time promoters ceased operations; in many cases it was music fans themselves that picked up the reigns and made live music happen again...


Set One: Porch Song (Widespread Panic), Goes to Show > Sakajawea’s Reel, Don’t Go, For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield), The Way It Is (Bruce Hornsby), I’ll Say it First (new original), Prom Night > Raleigh & Spencer (traditional, played in memory of Jeff Austin), Make It Out Ahead, Just Breathe (Eddie Vedder, played in memory of Jude Wargo)

Set Two: Eric Clapton Cover (with neighbor Jonny on vocals), Let Her Go (Passenger), Dean’s Blues, If I Had a Boat (Lyle Lovett), LA County (Lyle Lovett), Holes in My Shoes