Sunday, August 29, 2010

Big Up Festival: Sunday

Words By Brett R. Crossley
Photos By Jon Irvin

The final day of the Big Up gave us the one bit of charm every music festival, big or small, has lurking within its confines-interesting people you’ll only find at a festival. After a much needed breakfast of cheddar dogs and fiber bars, a tired looking fellow wandered into our campsite and took a seat by our small fire. He introduced himself as “Sckuzzy” (his spelling, I believe) and showed us some of his artwork. The only way to describe his work was dark, both in color, done simply in a black pen, and in manner, the drawing depicted a less than favorable situations for people. Despite it not being my taste, he seemed to put a lot of work into his art and we wished him the best as he departed from the campsite.

The next person to wander into the site went by the name “Todd 6”. It was not his real name, but to us, especially Jon who seemed to think everyone’s name was Todd, we simply gave him a number and continued with the conversation. After hosting our guest for the morning, we broke away from the site and went to check in on the Deafen by Love show which was less than impressive.

We then decided to use the break to fuel up for the big night ahead. Despite a mellow vibe throughout the afternoon, the night promised a monster RAQ set and the show stopper Headtronics capper. The afternoon at the campsite proved to be exactly what we needed as we lasted the rest of the night with no signs of slowing down.

RAQ delivered and lived up to the headliner status with a two-hour monster set. We decided to move all over during the set and take things in from backstage, the middle of the dance party, next to flame dancers, and finally the sound tower. The set was great from whichever place we elected to stand.

The music was once again amazing!

Due to RAQ being the last of the outdoor shows the festivities around the venue seemed to really explode. The previously mentioned flame dancers dominated each side of the venue while painters occupied each corner of the stage. Also, tailing off from the bonfire was a supply of “hoopers” and fans covered in all different sorts of glow stick getups.

The view from the sound tower showed a field filled with over 1,500 dancers, costumed characters, fire-dancers, and people just having a good time. The energy continued to flow through the band as they jumped into their version of “Simple Man”. Despite things really blowing up, we decided to retreat to the Shangri-La area in an effort to catch the Headtronics sound check.

As RAQ closed out the biggest set of the weekend, which was truly amazing, the true magic was beginning as we watched Bernie, DJ Logic, and Freekbass prepare for what was going to be the nastiest set of the weekend. The check was beginning to attract people from the venue and was highlighted when a lone girl stumbled in front of the band and shouted, “You guys rock!”

The check went quickly, possibly due to a broken toilet backstage or the fact each musician has notched thousands of sound checks in their careers. Whatever the reason, Headtronics was ready and prepared.

The fully improvised set opened with a pop as Freekbass slapped and popped his bass to the beat of a Logic mix and the always entertaining sounds emanating from Bernie on the boards. The show progressed as the crowed started to spill outside of the barn.

Headtronics’ first cut came to a conclusion which set the next hour up for a crazy show. It was amazing watching each member of the group lean in and then transition into a new beat a few seconds later. The three member band seemed to continue to feed off each other as the music bounced from a more electric feel to go old fashioned funk courtesy of some killer baselines by Freekbass and vocals by Bernie. The Parliament keyboardist surprised everyone with his vocal ability.

The concert then shifted back to a more bass heavy sound with a nice sampling of Logic. The sound combined perfectly as Freekbass finally displayed some of his Bootsy Collins' influence with an unreal show on the bass. He combined slapping, funk, and everything else you could think of to closeout the set. The final two songs of the set displayed the true skill of each member as each one of their styles was enhanced for the final build up.

As good as the set was, the true magic of the group was their willingness to interact with the fans after the show. Every member stopped over to talk to us. I was quick to ask Freekbass about his Buckethead shirt. We then chatted about a couple songs and he even gave us a disc for the ride home. Ott closed things out from the main Shangri-La stage and after a long weekend of perfect weather, good music, great people, and one unbelievable Headtronics show, we decided to make a break for home.

The Big Up delivered just about everywhere you’d want a festival to deliver. The people were great, those in the crowd, as well as, the staff, the weather was perfect, the line-up delivered in every sense of the word, perfectly balanced and tons of talent, great food, and a flawless campsite. Unless something incredibly unfortunate happens, this will be one which will continue to grow for years to come!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Our Inaugural Show Featuring The Henhouse Prowlers

Come on out for our Inaugural show featuring a set in The Barn featuring The Henhouse Prowlers followed by a late night campfire set featuring another one of our favorite bands... Sexfist.

Henhouse Prowlers:

Henhouse Prowlers Live at FitzGerald's on May 22, 2010.


Sexfist Live at Schubas on January 21, 2009.

Check out our event page for details...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Jam of The Day: Umphrey's McGee

Umphreys McGee Live at Masquerade Music Park on August 14, 2010.

Set One

1. Preamble > Mantis >
2. Hurt Bird Bath
3. Booth Love *
4. Prowler >
5. Passing
6. Conduit
7. Making Flippy Floppy >
8. Nothing Too Fancy >
9. Mantis

Set Two

1. Plunger >
2. Hajimemashite >
3. Plunger
4. Front Porch >
5. Cheap Sunglasses > **
6. Front Porch
7. Bright Lights, Big City

1. FF >
2. Mrs. Robinson's Strut >
3. Nothing Too Fancy
4. Encore Break
5. All In Time ^

- Rebelution opened
* - with Another One Bites The Dust teases
** - with Bulls On Parade jam
^ - with Wanna Be Startin' Something jam

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Big Up Festival: Saturday

Words By Brett R. Crossley
Photos By Jon Irvin

When the sun peaked its head over the horizon it splashed the campsites, especially the ones sitting in the middle of the fields, with bright light. Nature’s own lighting system gave us our first glimpse at the campsite we assembled in darkness and I was pleasantly surprised at our ability to erect tents in complete darkness. The light also allowed us to take in some of the amazing scenery around the sites. It was an ongoing theme throughout the weekend, but the crew who worked the festival couldn’t have done a better job.

During the final hours of the show a crew member named Nick Heller informed me about some of the effort the staff put forth to make the weekend as enjoyable as possible. In order to give campers the option to camp in the woods the staff used chainsaws to cut paths and even painted the stumps with neon paint as a safety precaution. Also, the trees were then used to line the paths and some were even made into benches. Once again the staff could not have made the weekend any better!

After getting to see the campsites, and a shower, we made our way over to the venue for our first outdoor show. Another bonus of getting to see everything in the light was being able to take in the sheer size of the festival. Over 3,000 music-crazed patrons crossed the greeters at the gates, and with the sun shining over us, we knew this was going to be a treat. With the staff’s accomplishments lying in front of us, we walked over to watch the first band on the agenda, Dopapod.

The band took the stage around 2 p.m. to kickoff the early afternoon sets. We elected to watch the first part of the concert from the Shangri-la area as our phones and camera equipment hit the charges for some much needed juice. We could hear Dopapod over the mic telling the audience they were going to play a song titled “the Happy song” which seemed appropriate considering the time of day. The song appeared to do exactly what was intended because the dancers and the hoopers at the stage all looked happy to be jamming.

Dopapod displayed some real skill as they followed up the “Happy Song” with a Led Zeppelin medley. The true highlight of the sequence came when Dopapod hit the crowd with a pleaser as they broke into a nice version of “Stairway to Heaven”.

As we were taking in the show from the Shangri-La area a girl approached us with an invitation to watch a documentary about some kind of Asian beetle. We kindly declined the offer, but it was a nice sign of how much entertainment was available. Across from the “Asian beetle screening” was a building offering anyone who wanted to express themselves a chance to paint. After taking in some of the culture provided at the multiple venues, we decided to move to the main stage. With press passes, really stage passes, we moved to the back of the stage. Jon took to his normal picture taking positions as I leaned against a speaker to soak in some of the show.

BuzzUniverse broke into what I would call a nice easy, jazzy feeling tune and quickly broke away from it with a more up-tempo electric sound. The majority of their set was led by the bass player who delivered a nonstop funky rhythm throughout.

After a quick stop back at the campsite we were greeted by some of our neighbors who invited us to hangout with them. We chatted for a bit and then made our way back to the venue to watch The Indo Box. The Indo Box meshed up a great mix of electric-80’s-style-rock which brought in the night with a high energy set. The music and light show also helped to bring out the remaining campers who slept through the day. As the weather continued its perfect run into the evening, Indo Box wrapped up a great hour of music.

The night then shifted into full swing with BuzzUniverse. The band rocked the light show to life with a combination of guitar, vocals, bass, and drums. Also on stage with the group was a saxophone player.

JamAntics drew a nice size crowd in front and seemed to attract even more eyes from the back of the stage as they kicked things up with a country-style jam. The fiddle played a mean solo through the song while the band seemed to transition flawlessly. Along the way there were also some really nice break downs with some great bass holding it together throughout. The band’s electric baselines moved through the audience and created a seen which could only be called a daylight rave. The all improved set jammed on for more than an hour as two girls hopped on each corner of the stage.

With the sun set, and the long-sleeve-breeze rolling in from the mountains, the first band to truly benefit from the incredible light show took to the stage. Higher Organix provided an all improv set featuring a mix of horns, bass, guitar, and drums. The band’s bassist, Brian Ross, really stood out during most of the jams in the set. He seemed to have a funky line for piece of fusion/trance the band came up with and continued to keep a groove throughout the set. The crowd certainly took advantage of Ross’ bass as it melted into a mix of customs and glow sticks in front of the stage.

As Higher Organix rocked the night in from the stage, campers and staff worked to resurrect the giant bonfire which was located a 100 yards from the Big Up Stage. It provided the perfect sanctuary from those in the crowd looking for a break. Despite the growing bonfire, the energy from the stage seemed to grow with every song. Higher Organix blew things up with the last portion of their show and left most of the bonfire crowd returning to the stage.

Pnuma Trio was the next band up for us, and after the Higher Organix set I was anxious to see another band. It was the first time I had got to see the band and I immediately noticed the STS9 influence. The Trio used the combination of a bass, keyboards, and drums to shock the crowd with a groovy sounding, electric mix.

Pnuma Live at The Big Up Festival on August 6, 2010.

The flame dancers then officially made their entrance into the venue which only added to the craziness around the stage. The freakiness of the crowd topped out when glow sticks were added to the equation. Pnuma Trio’s electric sound waved through the audience perfectly in what was the biggest crowd of the night. The set then featured Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli on his sax which set the crowd on fire. It was the perfect way to foreshadow a great set which was on the way.

After Pnuma Trio closed things out for the night on the main stage, the still energetic crowd quickly moved into the Shangri-La stage to take on Big Gigantic’s set. It was no surprise to those in attendance they rocked the stage which was the perfect setup for the band’s electronic style.

Lalli took what he did on the stage with Pnuma Trio and added a whole new dimension to his sound as the smoke machine filled the room with a ghostly mist. The light show was amazing inside of the barn and the neon stars, once again, looked trippy with the light and smoke. Big Gigantic could have easily kept the barn filled for the duration of the weekend, but it was a good thing they stopped, because a long day of baking in the sun and listening to music was once again on top of me.

The Big Up Festival: Friday

Words By Brett R. Crossley
Photos By Jon Irvin

The scenic drive over the Rip Van Winkle Bridge signaled we were within an hour of our intended destination. The bridge's snail like speed limit added some clarity into its name along with doing little to calm our eagerness to reach the festival. We were now on the final leg of our journey to The Big Up Music Festival at Sunnyview Farm in Ghent, New York.

The mist against the lighted backdrop as we approached created silhouettes of the friendly staff about to greet us at the media tent. Unfortunately, because of our fashionably planned arrival the supply of laminated press passes had exceeded limit and we were forced to go at it with red wrist bands as opposed to the normal green. The slight mix up ended up being the least of our concerns after we attempted to assemble the campsite in the dark.

After our campsite was assembled with minimal light from the moon and one LED flashlight, we marched out of the woods to find our first show of the night. Once the necessary supplies were together, we moved to the indoor venue to watch the last couple songs of horiZonwireLess' set which had the early crowd buzzing.

The venue was easily spotted thanks to the neon paintings lining the walls of the Shangri-La barn and the ultra sleek lighting system. Also emanating from the barn turned music stage was an unusual amount of smoke which we later discovered was a smoke machine located behind the bands. Shame on you if you believed it was smoke from anything other than a smoke machine.

Ultraviolet Hippopotamus followed with an incredibly upbeat set. The band transitioned from long jammy tracks to faster up-tempo guitar heavy cuts.
UV Hippos' set opened with a bang which ripped through the audience like a sonic boom. Heads snapped up in attention after the first couple notes strummed on the guitar hit with an incredibly bright flash from the lights. The band's make-up featured two guitars (both transitioned from lead to rhythm), a bass guitar (always essential), keyboards, and two drum sets (a standard drum kit along with a bongo set).

The light show provided a whole new dimension to the set as it danced with the notes from the stage in shades of blue and red. The band's musical shifts were met flawlessly with each changing sequence in the light spectacle. The band shifted from an up-tempo song with vocal hooks to long, trippy jams showing many in attendance why they are one of the fastest growing bands on the scene.

Their set ended with a morphed version of a Russian dance which had the crowd kicking their legs in the air with folded arms. The only thing missing were oversized fur hats and long thick beards. The song was a perfect way to closeout the set as the crowd could interact more with the music displaying Russian dancing skills and clapping along to the beat. The dancing was far from synchronized, but the effects were positive as people moved and encouraged others to join the fun. A brief 'thank you' was then shouted to the fans which meant the weekend was officially underway, at least for us.

After some sampling from DJs to keep the crowd moving while bands swapped stages, the Breakfast opened and took the energy down a bit with a much more mellow sound when compared to UV Hippos' over-the-top ending dance song. The Breakfast was led by it's guitarist who took center stage, literally, during most of the featured longer jams of the set. They opened with their vocals doing most of the work, but went on with limited singing and substituted vocals from more instrumental leads.

The jams continued as the lights followed each of their movements on stage as cameramen in front of the stage jockeyed for position. The Breakfast’s second song gave the crowd something to fist pump with as they used a fast paced beat and hook to amp up the early crowd.

The dancing and energy from the crowd almost induced a spill of my recently purchased Magic Hat from the beer’s vendor tent located near the outside venues. Along with offering an enjoyable selection of beers, the group of Magic Hatters offered games and prizes too with a wide selection of drinks. The near spill might not have brought the show to a screeching halt, but it would end the life of an extremely tasty beverage.

Whatever troubles I, or my beer, were having on stage, the third song in The Breakfast’s set made up for it. As my slight beer buzz began to take ahold, I was approached by a guy who asked me if I was the bassist for Particle. It saddened me to inform him that I was not the guy he was looking for, but it was a nice way to break the ice.

We started to chit chat as he told me he just arrived from Colorado and literally came from the airport to the festival. Colorado then offered me a beer as my Magic Hat finally disappeared with the last sip now resting inside my stomach. I cringed at the thought of following a tasty Magic Hat with a Bud Lite, but like the old saying goes, “there’s nothing bad about a free beer”. And I was more than happy to accommodate the beverage.

Breakfast broke into it's third song which sent the crowd into a frenzy. It was after the song started I realized there was a giant monkey painted in neon colors dancing in front of the band. I continued to hold my spot behind the stage and thanked Colorado for the beer.

The Breakfast Live at The Big Up Festival on August 5, 2010.

The set continued in much the same fashion rocking the crowd and getting them ready for a long, enjoyable weekend. The Breakfast broke from their last song and yelled to the crowd, “This place has some great energy and we’re picking up the vibes! It’s going to be a great weekend!”

Emancipator followed which helped The Breakfast’s statement about a great weekend as it seemed all the more true. It was at this point the drive in, setting up camp in the dark, and a long day of music began to creep up and tire us out. Emancipator was definitely an act I was excited to checkout so I knew it was going to take a little extra push to make it though the show. Emancipator accomplished that little push as his first song hit and sent the room back into neon colored dance parades.

The true party people of the festival rocked Emancipators hour long set of spacey jams and mixes which seemed to take on a much more personal level as he mixed them live on stage. Emancipator’s music lacks vocals, but that certainly didn’t take away from the emotion behind every track. The skill displayed as he landed a nice punchy bass line into his song was unbelievable. Emancipator also surprised many when he whipped out his guitar to add even more depth to his music.

I met up with Jon after the show and we both were blown away at the first night of music. When I came to the festival I truly thought that nonstop music might have been a little much for three days of coverage, but after the first night, it might not be enough.

Along with boasting and an incredibly nice group of people working their butts off, the Big Up clearly thought of those in attendance as the first night of music left many wanting more. After the first day of music, I couldn’t have agreed more with The Breakfast when they said, “It’s going to be a great weekend!”

Jam of The Day: Larry Keel

Larry Keel Live at 123 Pleasant St. on July 17, 2010.

Set I

01. Intro
02. Unknown
03. Unknown
04. Georgia Mail
05. Banter
06. Pioneers>Unknown
07. Banter
08. Unknown
09. Banter
10. Unknown
11. Unknown
12. Banter
13. Unknown
14. Unknown
15. Unknown
16. Banter/Tuning
17. Paddy On The Turnpike

Set II

18. Banter/Tuning
19. Watermelon Man
20. Ruby
21. Banter
22. Unknown
23. Unknown
24. Unknown
25. Banter/Tuning
26. Back To The Country*
27. Yodelittle*
28. Chicken Train>Grow>Chicken Train*

Monday, August 23, 2010

Aquaphonics 8.20.10

Photos by Amy Castaldo and Joe Davidson
Words by Joe Davidson

The Aquaphonics create a unique blend of funk, jazz, electronic, reggae, and even an indie type sound. Drummer Jessiah Weston and keyboardist Alan Martinki have been jamming together since 2000. There have been numerous changes through the years including the addition of guitarist Steve Elmore in November of 2008. In July of 2009 the band announced the addition of bassist Jim Dinsmore and began their latest conquest. They have been drawing a lot of attention recently opening for Perpetual Groove and being added to the line-up at the Bear Creek festival.

As soon as we hit the southbound on- ramp en route to the show a tingly wave ran through my body. “Time for another night of marauderin’,” I said to Amy. One of my favorite feelings is that of hitting the road, rolling down the windows, cranking the stereo up, and letting loose. I was amped. The drive down to Ybor City (Tampa) was peaceful. The skies were displaying the distinct teal color that Florida offers. Intense cloud formations built up over the coast as we got closer to our destination, morphing from bright orange to a dark pink. Amazing. Soothing.

As night set in, we got off the interstate and began the process of trying to find a parking spot which proved to be quite a challenge. After 15 minutes or so I surrendered to the nominal fee parking garage and we began the search for the bar. I must say that Ybor has a large amount of booty clubs and it definitely made for some entertaining people-watching on our walk to the Crowbar. We found the venue and settled in. Amy started to scope the stage doing some photo recon as I hit the bar for a pint.

The band hit fast with an upbeat jam to start. The first thing to catch my ear is that these guys are extremely in sync with each other. It reminded me of seeing Bela and the Flecktones, very impressive. The hi-hat work from Jessiah was incredible to say the least, flawless. He made everything look so effortless, singing lead vocals while carrying on some intricate beats. He also made great use of a drum machine pad attached to his kit which melted into the foundation coming from the keyboards. The harmonies created by Jim, Alan, and Steve were stellar. They complimented each other so well conducting seamless transitions and constructing some funky, blissful melodies. The moog layer was a highlight throughout the entire show. Alan has perfectly mastered the art of complimenting a live jam without overpowering the others. Jim was absolutely sick on his six string bass. I focused on him a couple times throughout the show and was in awe, insanely talented. The guitarist Steve captured the spotlight on more than one occasion during the show. He contributes a perfectly orchestrated layer into the mix with his guitar work. Whether it’s a bluesy lead riff, a muted reggae pattern, or a jazzy rhythm part, he’s right on point at every turn.

As they transitioned into the second song I could tell that they were really honing in to each other. Steve looked over to Jim with a huge smile, both of them sharing a moment. With only 50 people on the floor they threw down like they were playing for 20,000. The energy was intense. The crowd was losing it. On more than one occasion there would be a random scream with someone throwing their arms in the air completely overwhelmed by the energy bouncing around the room.

One of the greatest aspects of this band was their diversity. They have created and stay true to a signature sound but find a way to keep it fresh through a multi-genre influence. The first few songs were along the lines of moog inspired, electronic dance songs and transferred into some reggae/dub beats. After a few more upbeat dance songs the band broke into a slow, jazzy cover of “Twist” by Phish, which was a nice change in pace. It gave everyone a moment to catch their breath before they picked it back up again. They earned a lot of respect from me by showing that they aren’t limited to just one sound or relying on a constant fast pace to keep everyone interested.

Lionel Smith from Southern Lights created a great backdrop for the band throughout the entire show. I could tell that he was into the music himself, enhancing transitions and matching the tone of each song, a great addition to the set.

Look out for this band folks. I really can’t say enough good things about them. They have found a way to create an extraordinary sound that will appeal to any music lover. It was apparent that these boys have a great time doing what they do and love to share the experience. The night felt like a private jam session for all in attendance, like we were all fortunate to be there. The band is currently working on their official debut album, but free media is available at The band will be playing shows in the South Florida area and will be performing at the Bear Creek festival in Live Oak, Fl at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.

I’m so glad that Amy and I went down to bring this band to your attention. We feel so blessed with this great opportunity. The truly “liquid” sound created can be appreciated by music lovers of all walks. Amy summed it up perfectly, saying “this is the reason you go to see live music.” Yet again, it was another great Friday night of funkin’ around Florida style.

Zingara Photography

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Late Night Jam: Hydra (Particle w/ Mickey Hart)

Hydra Live at Madison Theater on April 19, 2005.

Set 1
Heart of the Hydra
A Fine Open Cluster
Creature of Comfort >
Fire on the Mountain

Set 2
Stellar Particle >
The Good of the Evil Dr.
Luminiferous Ether
7th Gear

The Glow

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dunegrass Music Festival: Sunday

Words & Photos By Brandon Picard

Sunday August 8th, 2010:

I’ll start this Sunday review somewhere around 5 a.m. I don’t ever remember rain falling from the sky as powerfully as this. For a solid hour I sat up in the tent with a hopeless hand on the tent, somewhat preventing it from collapsing. Phil, lying right next to me, didn’t bother to even notice the madness. After the storm passed through, and the sun began to rise, I was able to catch a few more hours of sleep. Walking out of the tent in the morning, I sarcastically laughed as I saw my shade tent mangled. The storm had managed to take my shade tent spin it rapid fire into a tight knot, and break 6 of the 12 poles…….Damn.

Oh well. I cleaned up the mess and made my way down my usual path to see what was going on. There was a clear sign of destruction. Tents were collapsed all over the field. I didn’t feel as bad about my tent. I grabbed my coffee from the kind vendor and made my way over to my shady spot for some writing.

Again, the weather was perfect. For the third straight day, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. People were packing their gear and taking off, but I was surprised still that the main stage area was as crowded as the previous days.

I caught the second half of the “Gospel Hour” set. A set I would assume that is open to any musicians playing the festival. The group that gathered was Rachel Davis, Josh Davis, a man on guitar I did not recognize, and fittingly, “The Reverend” Mike Lynch on keys. I sat and wrote about the previous day, with the gospel songs playing in the background. After a quick writing session and a cup of coffee, I made my short walk back to camp to wake up the late riser, Phil. The next 4 hours of music were bands that hadn’t been noted to me, so we took our daily trip down to the lake for some rejuvenation. Instead of taking the shuttle and risking the chance of having to hitchhike back again, we smartly decided to drive ourselves.

Arriving at the beach, it was overly crowded. That’s not what we were looking for. After a solid mile walk south, down the beach coast of Lake Michigan we halted. A massive sand dune sat right next to us. The distance we put ourselves from the main beach area allowed for little crowdedness and some peace and quiet. Phil was extremely giddy to make the climb up the dune. From where we stood, it looked easy. Boy, were we wrong.

We began the trek up the massive sand hill stopping for breaths every so often. Phil’s giddiness quickly turned to sadness as he realized how tough it actually was. Yeah, when I was 8 I could wheel up that sand dune 15 times and not think twice. Now 24, with a fat gut full of nonsense, I struggled to make it up the dune once…….but I did make it, and did take a nap on top.

In no rush to get back to the festival, we kicked it in the water for while. Much like the day before, the water temperature was perfect. Not too cold, yet refreshing. We dried off, made the hike back into town and headed back to Dunegrass.

The first act we caught of the evening was Detour Bluegrass, or just Detour as they liked to be called. I was extremely impressed with the talents this group possessed. The well structured six-piece band showed more confidence on stage than anyone I had seen all weekend. With a beautiful female at the forefront, the harmonies created were untouchable. As I reached for my camera to get some pictures, I came to the realization that my camera had died, and my charger was left on my mantle at home. Hopefully you can create your own images of what’s to come. Anyhow, you could tell folks were impressed. To me, Detour Bluegrass is a band that you may become very familiar with in the new future. With the majority of their songs up tempo, my foot tapped the entire set. From blues to funk, and gospel to bluegrass, Detour Bluegrass was my “sleeper set” of the festival.

After a quick bite to eat, and a gander around deteriorating festival grounds, we were back at the stage for the last few sets of Dunegrass 2010.

Josh Davis, completing his third and final set of Dunegrass, was playing with his band Fool Rooster. I didn’t catch enough of the set to warrant myself a review, but Josh Davis is definitely a talented musician.

The Macpodz were up next, a group that I heard and read a lot about, but had never seen. Hailing from Michigan’s Ann Arbor, the enthusiastic group brought the heat. I was pleased with the grooves they produced. The crowd was visibly excited as well. The jam/jazz band brought an array of tunes. The diverse sounds of The Macpodz had me moving my feet the entire time. I was really happy to see that the majority of folks attending Dunegrass had stuck around for the festivals entirety. The Macpodz completed a solid whirlwind set of musical options, that I was pleased to be a part of.

The final band performing at Dunegrass was Covert Operations. I remembered seeing this band a few years back opening for Particle in Detroit. Like The Macpodz, Covert Operations was musically well rounded. Producing sounds of rock and roll to a steady gospel jam, the group was first-rate. Dropping improv after improv, each musician was able to give their two-sense on which direction the music was heading. As like the two previous nights, there was no shortage of dancing. Many people who had been sitting down the entire weekend must have gained the courage to get their boogey on for the last set, as the front stage area was as crowded as I had seen it. We danced our asses off until the music ceased. Musical acts of Dunegrass 2010 had come to an end.

We stumbled out of the stage area amongst the herd of people. While roaming the camping area, bouncing in between a few musical happenings, I received a phone call. It was nearing 2 a.m. J-man calling from Pennsylvania. “Hey Brandon, I’ve got somebody I want you to talk to” he said. “Ummm, okay” I replied back. “Hey Brandon!” an excited voice chimed in on the other end. “Hi” I replied back. “It’s Bernie” he said. I thought my jaw was going to hit the ground. It was Bernie Worrel, a legend, master of keys, and my idol. I managed to gasp a few senseless words out, and sat back and took in the magical wisdom he offered. “Find the pocket and stay in school” he told me. We chatted for a bit and I told him I looked forward to meeting him someday. We said our goodbyes and hung up. This was the icing on the cake for an amazing weekend.

Dunegrass 2010 once again, for me, proved to be a truly wonderful experience. Like any Festival there were some hardships, but nothing that stopped the great times of a great weekend. I would without a doubt recommend Dunegrass to any music lover looking for a memory filled weekend in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dunegrass Music Festival: Saturday

Words & Photos By Brandon Picard

Saturday August 7th, 2010:

I was woken up Saturday morning by the feeling of a cool breeze steadily making its way through my tent. I sat up on my newly acquired foam mattress, took a deep breath, and smiled. The sensation climbing out of my tent was pure joy. My man Phil is late a sleeper so I took it upon myself to get the day rolling. After a quick cleanse, I was off. There was something about this particular day that made me feel added delight. Again, the weather was perfect! I cannot express enough what I mean by perfect. The sky was the bluest of blues. The temperature at that time, around ten o’clock, was 72 degrees. A gentle breeze, just like Friday, hit you whenever necessary. Perfect. Anyhow, I made my way around the outside path of the festival grounds to see if anything interesting was happening. Being somewhat of a family oriented festival, I wasn’t surprised to see many children with their parents doing arts and crafts under the Dunegrass provided “Kids Tent”. It was so great to see the joy on these kids’ eyes, knowing also that their parents were surely having a wonderful time. As I approached the stage area I could hear the finishing touches of an open mic set. Mornings at Dunegrass in my past experience have all been extremely mellow times. The field scattered with a community of resting citizens. Many blankets covered with comfortable people catching some last minute rest before the day began. I grabbed a coffee from a very kind local vendor and made my way to what eventually would be my “morning writing spot”.

I began simply free writing about the previous day. About the great times that took place. I then found myself indulging about the day to come. The things I was excited about. Catching myself about a half an hour later, I had written 3 full pages about Saturday, before noon. I laughed for a moment and allowed myself some relaxation time, understanding the day hadn’t yet begun.

The first act I caught on Saturday was Marco and Asim. It was a perfectly fitting set for the morning. A very relaxing acoustic set with catchy poetic lyrics driving the group in the simply direction they undoubtedly strive for. After my delightful cup of coffee and a soothing set from Marco and Asim, festival promoter Ryan Lake and his daughter Mia were due up. In meeting Ryan the day previous, I immediately took a liking. He is the kind of person that with a brief conversation you feel as if he’s been a friend for some time. I was anticipating his performance since the day before. I was pleased to see that it was noted of Ryan’s efforts with Dunegrass, and he was warmly welcomed to the stage. Ryan and Mia made their musical talents evident right away.

The soothing harmonies of Ryan and his daughter echoed throughout the main field area as I made my way closer to the stage for some pictures. The sand in front of the stage made for a rather comfortable seat as I enjoyed their songs. While Ryan and Mia finished up I made my way back to camp to grab Phil and make our way to Lake Michigan.

Attending Dunegrass in 2008, the festival site laid right in the heart of downtown Empire, just blocks from Lake Michigan. This year however, the site was moved inland about 8 miles. The festival had arranged for a shuttle to take festival goers to and from the lake as they pleased. We jumped on the first shuttle out, around noon. There were set to be three stops. First stop was the town of Empire, where there was a market, local pub, and a couple other knick knack shops. Stop two was the beach, just blocks away from the town. And of course the third stop was the festival, about 15 minutes inland from Lake Michigan. The shuttle was set to continue this route all day long, and folks could jump on and off as they pleased. I was really excited to see that a shuttle was provided. We were dropped off in town and made our way to the market from some cold beverages and snacks before heading to the beach. Walking through the town many folks attending the festival were also roaming. You could tell this was exciting for the town folks as many sat a gawked at the magnitude of people that their small town was enduring.

Phil and I made our way slowly through town and towards the beach. With the sun making its way towards the top of the sky, it was the perfect time for a dip. We tossed our backpack and towels in the sand and headed for the water. I had been swimming in Lake Michigan many times before, and every time was the same, beautiful.

The water was so refreshing. In past years, I remember the water being frigid. Not today. We kicked it in the water for a solid hour, thoughtlessly playing in the water like two 4 year olds. After an uplifting swim in the lake we made our way back in to town to grab some beers and catch the shuttle. We were told by the shuttle driving when being dropped off that his continuous loop from town, to beach, back to festival would take roughly 25 minutes. We found a comfortable spot right in front of the market that we had been dropped off at earlier, and waited. And waited. And waited. We began seeing a large number of Dunegrass attendees lining up near the shuttle drop off. You could see the concerned look on many faces as the minutes turned into an hour. There was no shuttle. Even if the shuttle did end up showing up, how were they going to fit the crowd that had stacked up over the past hour in this small conversion van? People began getting irritated, including me. I was looking forward to Rachel Davis’s set and here it was 3:15, half way through her slot.

With one main road to and from the festival, I thought our best bet was to begin walking and try to catch a ride. Again, the festival grounds, from where we were, was a solid 8 miles. Case of beer in hand, we started walking. Thumbs out sideways, isn’t that the national sign for pick me up? Car after car flew by, pulling into the other lane as to avoid us scoundrels. I began to worry, just a bit. Not that I was in danger, but that I was missing some important acts. 8 miles would surely take a couple of hours. About a mile into our trip, we saw a car pull off in the distance. It worked. We had successfully hitchhiked. Lovely Laura, a local writer for a family newspaper in Empire was kind enough to give us a lift. “You’re heading to Dunegrass right?” she asked. “How could you tell?” I answered back. She happily drove us the remaining miles back the Festival. We thanked her the whole way. Arriving back at the festival, it was close to 5:00.

We said our goodbyes to Laura and made our way to our camp, to grab a change of clothes and quickly get over to the main stage and salvage what was left of the evening. As we approached the field, we saw many people leaving the stage area. I looked at Phil with concern. We both shrugged and continued on. Getting closer, I could see a group of musicians performing in the field, but no one on stage. It became distinctively clear what was going on. The power had gone out. There we stood, after hitchhiking back, to find a musical festival with no power. Laugh, was all we could think to do.

A small group of musicians began to form stage left, directly in front where we sat. I noticed, Anders and Michael from Greensky Bluegrass pull their instruments out from back stage and make their way towards us. For the next hour or so, we sat listening to a great acoustic set.

When the power was finally sorted out, Dunegrass went into speed mode, making up for lost time. Rachel Davis had fit her set in just before the disaster, so she wasn’t part of the scrambling madness. Band after band performed like rapid fire, each granted about 45 minutes. I caught glimpses of The Preservation, Ralston Bowles, Jessica Lea Mayfield and Delilah Dewylde with The Lost Boys.

Making our way back to camp we ventured through the backstage area. A Frisbee came whizzing by my head and smoked the parked car directly in front of me. “That’s not your car is it?” a voice from behind be asked. It was Michael from Greensky, playing with Anders and a couple other guys. “No” I said, “You’re lucky”. We both laughed as I continued on.

We stocked up on our refreshments for the evening and quickly hurried back over the stage to catch the beginning of Greensky's 9:00 set. The crowd in front of the stage was large, as expected. Greensky has been one of my favorite bands since I saw them about 3 years ago in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was exciting to finally see a band at Dunegrass that I knew and loved. I knew that the next hour and a half was going to be a dance off. “You all ready to party?” Anders asked over the mic. With that, Greensky dropped it. Playing some of their more popular jams to start, I was ready for some more danceable instrumentals. Phil and I had just seen Greensky the week prior to Dunegrass at the Wayfarer Bluegrass Festival in Detroit and anticipated an extremely up beat set.

With the snap of a finger, rain started pouring down. It was perfect timing for me. Everyone started cheering and dancing twice as hard as before. Realizing the situation, Greensky immediately dropped into some funky ass instrumentals. Making their way to the front of the stage were Anders on dobro and Dave on guitar. A shredding duel ensued.

In the midst of the downpour I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Want a sip?” a voice from behind me asked. Holding up a bottle of Wild Turkey, the wook smiled. “Hell yeah” I replied as I grabbed the bottle from his hand. After a quick chug, I was rejuvenated. The funkiness continued as folks on stage scrambled to get the equipment covered and out of the rain. The repetitiveness of the jam positively motivated the crowd into cheer and dance. Within 5 minutes of my warming Wild Turkey gulp, the bottle was on stage being passed amongst the musicians. For the remaining hour of Greensky Bluegrass’s set it rained. I mean it poured. Everyone was soaked, but happily dancing.

As always, Greensky dominated, showcased by dobro master Anders Beck. When the show ended, I realized I was surrounded by a lot of Greensky virgins. People talked amongst themselves excitedly about the heroic set in the rain. Greensky, per usual, rocked the house.

Conversations continued around us as Steppin’ In It got set to do their thing. The rain had completely stopped, and following a solid Greensky set, spirits were high. Steppin’ In It was a group introduced to me by a great friend of mine, Matt. A few years back, I was fortunate enough to have seen these guys perform in an intimate setting, at my friend Matt’s barn.

As Steppin’ In It got underway, I began to realize the difference 3 years had made. Instead of the lounge music I had heard in the past, Steppin’ In It was amped to a whole new level. The stage presence of all the musicians had clearly gained confidence as joking and storytelling quickly became the theme of the show. As the musicians were being introduced, my attention honed in on the organ player. “The Reverend” Mike Lynch brought it to the next level. Where did I know this guy from? I know that I had seen him before. Right then, Josh Davis, Steppin’ In Its front man introduced Mike and commented on his role with Larry McCray, a blues guitarist I absolutely love. Not only had I seen this guy at Dunegrass 08’ playing with Larry McCray, but only a week ago, I saw “The Reverend” in Detroit playing keys with a local blues phenom, Laith Al Saadi. “Wow, this guy plays with everyone” I thought to myself. Steppin’ In Its performance was instrumentally sound. With pretty boy Josh Davis leading the way, their transformation from lounge groove, to blues, bluegrass, and funk was delightfully in my favor. With some steady Hawaiian sounding slide guitar and a knee tapping slap style stand up bass, the beat was up. Along with “The Reverend” doing his gospel thing, a taste of electronic harmonica, and John Mayer sounding Josh Davis on lead guitar and vocals, Steppin’ In It proved to be a musical powerhouse at Dunegrass.

The rain by this time was completely gone, and the potent stars began to fill the sky. With very few scattered lights throughout the field, it made for a picturesque night sky.

Rootstand took to the stage for the midnight set. Having seen these guys before, I knew what I was in for. Instrumentally speaking, Rootstand is manageable. I just have an extremely hard time with the clustered, jumbled vocals. This being my third experience with Rootstand I was hoping for a possible full band transformation. I was sadly disappointed. The rap like reggae vocals are incoherently distracting. With a random “Michigan” or “Dunegrass” reference thrown in over-periodically, the crowd cheers as if something great just happened.

For me, it’s nonsense. To be fair, instrumentally, like I stated before, was acceptable. With that, we headed away from Rootstand and into the festival camp area to see what kind of shenanigans we could get up to.

With my pen and paper tucked deeply in my backpack, we sat down with a group of folks in the field singing and drinking to the acoustic sounds of a mellow guitar. Before long, as 4 a.m. approached, my eyes began to close. We managed to scuffle back to the tent and zip up for the night. Dunegrass Saturday, OUT.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Headtronics: A Night to Remember

Words & Photos By J-man

Headtronics Live at River Street Jazz Cafe August 8, 2010.

As I left a meeting, I glanced down at my phone to see that I had missed a call from DJ Logic. I sent him a text message back as I knew I would be venturing into poor cell service. Then it hit me... Headtronics was playing in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Damn! In the midst of moving back to Michigan and planning my adventures in Colorado, I had forgotten that the one project that I wanted to see the most this summer would be within' viewing range. Immediately I was irritated with myself as I had plans/work to do that evening. Then it came... an invite from the band.

Let me give you a little bit of back history on this project. The project came together out of a shear desire to play together. It came together in a festival environment, in an impromptu type of situation. The legendary mix master, DJ Logic heard Freekbass, one of the funkiest bass players on the scene, and asked him on the spot if he wanted to jam. Then, the same offer was presented to key master Steve Molitz, who obliged. That night in front of an unexpecting crowd, Headtronics was born.

When I first heard about the assembly of Headtronics I was thrilled. I knew from the get go it would be a hodge podge of space and experimental freedom. For me it was just a matter of where and when I would have the opportunity to see them. What I didn't know in the beginning was how wonderful my first Headtronics experience would be. It played out like a dream.

I arrived in Wilkes-Barre early in the evening, at The River Street Jazz Cafe'. The venue had not yet opened when I arrived, so I had to be let in. The staff were preparing for the evenings affairs as the band soundchecked. I found a table in the corner, set up my mobile office and finished composing the interview that would take place. I ordered a White Russian and a Chicken Caesar Salad, from the bar. As I began posting live from the event a gentleman (assumably Headtronics manager), sporting a Shamy Bash shirt approached me with an out-streched hand.

"You must be Paul." I said with a smile.

"We're glad to have you out tonight. Let us know if you need anything..." He said in a relaxed fashion.

Paul's road resume is thick, from Parliament, to a long stint with Bootsy Collins. I could tell that Paul did good work. Headtronics was in good hands.

He returned to the band who was dinning at the bar of the empty venue.

"Justin, come over here and meet everyone!" Paul yelled across the room.

I walked across the room, re-acquainted with Logic, met Bernie Worrell (one of my musical idols), and Freekbass, whom I had never come across to date. They wrapped up dinner and we made our way backstage to conduct the interview.

Following the interview, we enjoyed a few "press" style shots...

Then came a shot with one of my musical idols, Mr. Bernie Worrell... Following the shot I was told that they had a hotel room available for me. Bernie came up to me and fumbling through a bag.

"Here, here's my room key. Logic and I are taking off tonight." Bernie stated.

"Thanks." I said with a smile.

Following the interview I got back to my drink and food, which were both excellent. I was surprised at how good the food was... You could taste the love put into it. I want to say a couple of things about River Street Jazz Cafe before I continue. The vibe was excellent, the staff was upbeat and the food was top notch. I was really impressed by the venue, all the way down to the sound. Small venues often have trouble/issues with muffled sound as well as dynamics. Not this time. River Street had it dialed in. I want to personally thank the owner Tom for his hospitality, great stories and excellent food. I am a man who appreciates good food.

The house DJ's were spinning as people began to make their way in. I uploaded some pictures as well as the interview to the MusicMarauders Facebook Fan Page. As I did, Paul approached me with another White Russian. I sat next to DJ Logic at the bar and discussed a couple of projects, our mutual appreciation for good food and good wine, as well as the up coming YarmonyGrass festival in Colorado.

As it came time for Headtronics to take the stage, the crowd thickened. It still wasn't as packed as I had hoped, given the line-up of musicians. But, it was a Sunday evening in PA. Paul stepped on stage to introduce the band and it began.

From the get go it was spacey. Bernie eased in with some characteristic Worrell phrasings. Logic, who came off as poised on the turntable eased in with some beats, and then it really hit; Freekbass came out swinging. You have heard me rant and rave about Logic before, and I have mentioned Bernie Worrell is one of my musical idols; but let me, for a second give some praise to the gentleman holding down the low end... Freekbass. I was extremely impressed by his apparent and natural connection to funk bass. The funk oozed out of this cat. His licks were so clean and powerful and where I was curious as to how he would hold his own against Logic and Bernie, he appeared to be leading the charge. If you haven't check him out, get to it.

Headtronics Weaved in and out of exploration and space, re-organizing for covers like "Red Hot Mamma" and what sounded like "Billie Jean". The sound was so unique, so funky and so innovative. I pondered to myself about the amount of time it would take this project to blow up... Or if they would just be swept under the rug, like so many other super groups before them.

I was granted stage access so I took the opportunity to get some press shots of the band as well as some video of the band doing their thing.

To me, DJ Logic is like a chameleon. He seamlessly fits, into his surroundings with such ease that it confirms his versatility and status as a top notch musician. Logic's tasteful contributions to so many progress spanning the gamete, draw a certain respect. To see him featured next to The Legend Bernie Worrell was enjoyable to say the least.

What does one say about the legend, Bernie Worrell? How can you verbally describe such a sizable contribution to music. We're talking about one of the funk-fathers as well as the most sampled musician of all time. Bernie created a language. One that was taken and reiterated by so many across so many genres. A pure musical genius. This cat played with Parliament as well as the Talking Heads... I felt compelled to express my appreciation to him personally. And I did just that.

In the end, the turn out was not huge. The energy wasn't mind-blowing... But what I will say is that Headtronics is one of the most unique and innovative bands on the scene. To harness improv as they have is impressive to say the least. I expect great things from this band, and I look forward to seeing Logic and Freekbass with Steve Molitz. I could see this project achieving greatness, as well I could see it getting overlooked. All I can do is my part in trying to get the word out about this rare super-group.

The end of the night came and I was pumped up. I thanked the band for having me out, and decided not to take the room as I would not be sleeping this evening. I thanked Tom of River Street, collected my gear and drove off towards Upstate, NY.

As I drove, I reflected on how truly fortunate that I am to be able to mingle with some of my idols... Living the dream.