Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stanley Clarke's "Stanley Clarke Band"

Words By Benjamin Michael Solis

Stanley Clarke’s self-titled Stanley Clarke Band won the Grammy for “Best
Contemporary Jazz Album” this year at the prestigious music awards ceremony. It deserved album of the year.

Keeping in line with his jazz-rock-fusion roots, the record is a stunning
achievement for the genre, and Clarke as well.

“I Want To Play For You Too,” a track of solid, old-school funk, revisits Clarke’s
ability to slap over chord changes – a feat most of his predecessors were unable to accomplish.

Songs like “Soldier” (penned by Israeli pianist and band member Ruslan
Sirota), “How’s The Weather Up There?” and “Larry Traveled 11 Miles and Waited A Lifetime for Vishnu’s Report” are all heavy bangers in the purest sense of what the fusion of hard rock and straight ahead jazz should sound like.

Even SCB’s reworking of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever masterpiece “No
Mystery” is heavier. Cleaned up by modern recording technology and a new
arrangement, this song in particular offers a stronger back-beat and cleaner licks.

And the comparison of the two bands is palpable. Guitarist Charles Altura, Sirota, pianist Hiromi Uehara all eerily resemble Corea, Clarke and RTF guitarist Al Di Meola, while drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr.’s playing pays homage to Billy Cobham and the late Tony Williams.

If you didn’t know any better, you would assume that this was all new material
released by RTF.

“I don’t care what they do with it,” Clarke told The Washtenaw Voice,
commenting on the future of jazz and his young backing band. “It’s their thing and they can take it where they want.”

Music Legends Clarke & Wooten Share Stage

... and respect on new world tour

Words By Benjamin Michael Solis

Jazz icons Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten can’t throw a bowling ball to save their lives. But what they excel at is establishing the bass guitar as a melodic instrument in all forms of modern music.

Celebrating the re-release of Wooten’s seminal 1996 album “A Show of Hands,” and Clarke’s Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Jazz Album” for “Stanley Clarke Band,” the two musicians have paired up for a new world tour.

Setting up his equipment on stage before their gig two weeks ago at The Ark, Wooten told The Washtenaw Voice that having the chance to share the stage with a musician who heavily influenced his own playing is a dream-come-true.

“It’s incredible,” said Wooten. “As kid coming up playing, Stanley was it. And if you got to see him play at least once a year, you were lucky.

“Now I get to see him every night.”

Yet this is not the first time the two bass giants have collaborated live. In 2008 both Clarke and Wooten participated in the triple-threat pairing titled “SMV” with fellow four-string guru Marcus Miller.

And even though Wooten said that it is always hard to feel like an equal around Clarke, who was made famous for his involvement with Fusion pioneers Return To Forever, the 46-year-old musician has every reason to feel like a contemporary.

Starting his musical journey when he was only 3 years old, Wooten and his five brothers have been in the spotlight since before they were teenagers. Considered by some as the Jackson 5 of jazz, the Wooten Brothers have been playing together on and off since the late 1970s.

This tight-knit family connection was instrumental in shaping Wooten into the virtuoso he is today.

“When I was a kid, I saw what they did and wanted to do it, so they gave me a toy guitar to play with,” he said. “I was learning how to play at the same time I was learning how to talk. And the process is the same. So when I went to actually play the bass, it was natural.”

Even his signature technique, a type of upward and downward slapping that allows him to play blazing fast rudiments akin to drumstick strokes and flamenco guitar, was taught to him by his older brother and band-mate Regi Wooten.

It was this technique, along with Wooten’s universal spirituality, that garnered him the attention of industry heavyweights Bela Fleck, Dave Matthews, Chick Corea and Prince – to name a few.

With Regi and Joseph Wooten acting as key members of his band for this tour, Wooten said that the family affair helps him “feel at home all the time.”

“When I have my family and my brothers around me, I feel comfortable,” he said. “It is very rare to see me play live without someone in my family.”

Aside from the obvious blood-connection, Wooten said that his brothers are more importantly great players and they play in a way that showcases his own talent.

“It’s really big of them to do that, seeing that they are both my older brothers,” said the youngest Wooten, who acknowledged that having them there helps him relax while sharing the stage with a former idol and mentor like the legendary Clarke.

Wooten also confessed that he is becoming more comfortable with Clarke at each show they play.

“When I was on the SMV tour, there was Stanley and then Marcus and then me, and even at 46 I felt like the kid,” said Wooten. “We’re separated by a couple of (musical) generations and influenced me so much, it took me a while to feel comfortable around him.”

Yet Clarke had no qualms about describing Wooten as a peer.

“I met him when he was about 7-8 years old,” Clarke said in a backstage interview after playing at The Ark. “So I’ve known him a long time.”

Clarke, 59, whose band contains musicians ranging in age from 23-30 years old, is used to bringing along young new talent.

“It’s got to move forward,” he said. “It’s got to be passed along. But overall this tour has been a lot of fun. Victor is very good at what he does.”

So how do two bass legends spend their quality time together? In the allies, of course.

“We went bowling the other night,” Wooten said. “Neither of us are any good at it. We threw gutter balls almost all night long.”

Thursday Jazz: Snarky Puppy

Words By Zach Zeidner

Snarky Puppy at The Boiler Room August 10, 2010. <--- Direct Archive Link

After an incredible show Monday night at Cliff Bell’s Jazz club in Detroit, MI, I have had nothing on my mind but these cats. Snarky Puppy absolutely threw it down, each member of the band exemplifying their virtuosic abilities whilst at the same time laying down a danceable layer of groove that had the whole room erupting in excitement. The energy this band brings to the stage is unlike most bands that I have experienced. They were just as excited as the crowd, if not more to be playing in this beautiful venue. I have written about these guys before in a previous Thursdays Jazz covering their newest album "Tell Your Friends". Enjoy this incredible hour and ten minute recording of Snarky Puppy from last August. This show will undoubtedly convert you if not at the least make you get on up with it. Don’t make the mistake of missing them on their current tour!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New Artist Feature: Rubblebucket

Words by Greg Molitor (ReMIND Photography)

When Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth met at an art show in Vermont back in 2007, neither was satisfied with the typical roles horn musicians often play in performing acts. The duo felt the necessity to create a group focused around horns and driving rhythms, and thus, Rubblebucket was born. The eight-piece horn-centric group that now calls Brooklyn its home has recently enjoyed national touring success coast to coast, and considering how hard the band works both on and offstage, any fruits of labor that Rubblebucket receives are well deserved.

Rubblebucket’s Big City Afrobeat radiates a glowing energy that consistently brings the heat no matter where it performs. Created freshly for the audience during each outing, the band’s polyrhythmic, horn-driven music breathes excitement into tired souls and offers those who attend its shows a chance to forget the worries of the common day, get off their behinds, and dance it through like they ought to. To get a feel for what Rubblebucket is all about, check out the video as well as the archive link I’ve provided. The band’s future popularity is inevitable, so while you can, check out Rubblebucket in an intimate setting while the opportunity lasts.

Rubblebucket Live at Some Kind of Jam 5 on April 23, 2010.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Electronic Spotlight: Burial

Words By Stevie Tee

In case you've been wondering what's been going on with Radiohead's new sound, it might have something to do with Burial. Thom Yorke recently teamed up with Four Tet and Burial for a 12" single release. The songs "Ego" and "Mirror" debuted on Floating Point's mix show when Four Tet stopped by UK radio station, Rinse FM. While we've already spotlighted Four Tet, and even your grandmother probably knows who Thom Yorke is by now, we need to take a closer look at Burial as an artist.

Born William Bevan, this reclusive producer has been making a big splash since his first album dropped in 2006. After his first single, "South London Boroughs", was released in 2005 on the Hyperdub label, Thom Yorke commissioned him for a remix of the song, "And It Rained All Night”, from Yorke’s The Eraser. Around that time, indie rockers Bloc Party were also demanding his production services. Often considered a dubstep artist, Burial's music is just as closely related to 2-step garage, house, techno and ambient. His songs also typically feature trademark vocals that are sampled and processed to fit the grainy, rough texture of his productions.

Successfully avoiding the sophomore slump, his second album, "Untrue", was released in 2007 and had a fantastic promotional mix produced by Hyperdub’s founder, Kode9. The mix debuted on Mary Anne Hobbs' BBC radio show and included bits and pieces from 17 different songs recorded for the album. It's an incredibly fluid listen for 17 tracks being showcased in 15 minutes and serves as a fantastic preview to the album as well as Burial’s catalog. Fluidity is incredibly important when it comes to mixing Burial as he specifically uses software like Soundforge to create more life-like sounding drum tracks that omit the use of trackers and sequencers. Trying to escape the too perfect, too rigid, artificial grid feel of most electronic music, Burial's music moves and breathes without being too polished.

Download or Stream Kode9's promotional mix of Burial's most recent LP, "Untrue”.

Burial and Four Tet have collaborated in the past on the Moth and Wolf Cub EP they produced together. The sound was quite a bit more abstract than what they've produced with Thom Yorke and definitely worth checking out if you've been enjoying these artists. Hyperdub will also be releasing a new solo EP from Burial this week on vinyl with a web release to follow shortly after. Expect big things in the future, but then again, collaborating with Four Tet and Thom Yorke is already humongous.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rock N Roll Resort April 1st-3rd, 2011

Words By Karen Dugan

Spring is fast approaching and the season’s first New York music festival, the Rock N Roll Resort Festival 2011, is coming to kick the season off in Kerhonkson, NY on April 1, 2nd and 3rd. For the music lovers who can’t wait till the cold season ends, who scowl at the hassle of packing and setting up camp or who just do not care to spend a music filled weekend without a comfortable bed and cool shower, this festival is for you.

What sets apart this 3-day, 4-night festival is the fact that it takes place within the lovely Hudson Valley Resort and Spa. Rock N Roll Resort Festival encompasses everything that a regular outdoor festival delivers with the added luxury of comfortable accommodations.

The Rock N Roll Resort Festival has a substantial line-up comprised of some of the region’s most talented musicians! Pulling wonderfully talented musicians, DJs and bands from up and down the East Coast, you can be sure to find something your ears will enjoy at any given time over the weekend!

Lettuce (2 sets), Deep Banana Blackout (2 sets), The New Riders of the Purple Sage (2 Shows), Max Creek (2 Sets), G.F.E. (Granola Funk Express), Eric Krasno & Chapter 2 Rubblebucket, Spiritual Rez, The Pimps of Joytime, The Nigel Hall Band, The Breakfast, Break Science, Caravan of Thieves, Sam Kininger Band, Kung Fu, Jeff Bujak, Mark Mercier Project, Nephrok! Allstars, The Alchemystics, Nutritious Sauce, Holy Water Undertoe, Darian Cunning Band, Domino Theory, The Rev Tor Band, The Tony Lee Thomas Band, Fever Train, The Primate Fiasco, lespecial, The Problemaddicts, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Sophistafunk, Coppertonic, KONG, Nardy Boy, I Anbassa, Sushi Grade Panda, The Kings, Kevin Crane & Co.


-Suite packages range from $378 for the Singles Program to $1,990 for a 4-person suite
-Day passes are $65 for Friday /$70 for Saturday and Sunday
-RV Parking on site
-Free Wi-Fi in lobby

New Mastersounds in Denver 3.12.11

New Mastersounds Live at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom on March 12, 2011.

Words & Photos By J-man
Audio Recording By Taper Corey

The exploration of new music and catching a band for the first time is a really special experience. Listening to The New Mastersounds on the Archive for the past couple of years, the time had finally come to catch them live. Cervantes was packed and vibing with the energy level through the roof before the band even hit the stage. Once they did, Cervantes was flipped upside down with funk.

Prior to the New Mastersounds sets, we had a chance to speak with Eddie Roberts, the guitarist for the band...

With the set underway, the band tore through some of the most enjoyable jazz/funk that I have heard in some time. It was easy to get sucked into Joe Tatton's organ playing. He made the keys scream with funky, delightful chops. Simon Allen's drumming was exciting and provided a groove to step to. Enter Pete Shand on bass, with solid funk precision and direction. Add Eddie tearing it up on the guitar, and you have yourself a hell of a funk party. Eddie's guitar work was great! Eddie Roberts is one of the most underrated guitarists on the scene.

That evening's show was up against String Cheese Incident's "Winter Carnival" and went unaffected boasting a massive crowd initially and an even larger crowd following the conclusion of the SCI show in Broomfield. Glancing down at my cell phone the time read "3:17 am". Confusion set in, as bars are only allowed to serve and host music up to 2:00 am typically. Then it came to me... It was daylight savings and the clock had jumped ahead. The crowd watched in wonder and excitement as the New Mastersounds played until about 3:30- 4:00 am.

The evening wound down with an excited and packed house. Many folks were there to enjoy and support a band that they have come to love. Many more, like myself, fell in love that night with a band that brings more energy and instrumental ability than most bands on the scene current day. Check out the New Mastersounds... They're fucking awesome!

J-man's Photo Galley From The Show

Jamband Spotlight: Bela Fleck & The Flecktones

Words by Greg Molitor

It’s shaping up to be a huge Spring and Summer for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. With a new album titled Rocket Man on its way, banjo wizard Bela Fleck is hittin’ the road with the original Flecktones quartet starting in May. Pianist / harmonica player Howard Levy has rejoined the group after fifteen years of absence and will be touring with the other originals members, Fleck, Victor Wooten (bass), and Futureman (drum-axe synthitar), for the months to come. Check out the shows below...both from 1991, the shows feature the original quartet ripping through classic Flecktones material like only they could do. It’s going to be great 2011 for this band, so if you get the chance, go see the new line up tear into some funky fusion-grass when it comes your way! Enjoy!

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones Live at The Catalyst on February 17, 1991.

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones Live at Kentucky Center for the Arts, Bomhard Hall, Lonesome Pine Special on August 2, 1991.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Zimmer's Picks: Dead Covers

Words By Andy Zimmer

To consider the incredible arc of the career of the Grateful Dead is a pretty impressive thing. Starting from humble roots, but quickly thrust into a role as counter-culture icons, the Dead cut their teeth by pushing back against the status-quo. At the time, in the mid-60’s, “straight” society viewed the Dead as standing for something very “un-American”, possibly dangerous, and definitely subversive. Whether true or not, the boys in the band were never fazed by the quizzical looks of those stuck on the outside looking in. Their vision need not appeal to the masses, and they were uncompromising in the creation of their art. Forty-plus years later, those of us firmly entrenched in the “Dead Community” are still letting out joyful, collective “Thank yous!” However, perhaps the most intriguing detail in the long saga of the Dead is how they have become part of the fabric of America. Without changing their tune, conforming to the norm, or compromising their ideals; the Dead went from rogues on the outskirts of society to becoming part of Americana itself. Today, the Grateful Dead represent something that is truly American. With the spirit of pioneers, and the vision of dreamers; the Dead have left an indelible, tie-dyed stamp on our nation.

With this in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to pay homage to the Dead by virtue of their peers... fellow musicians. I have compiled some of my favorite Dead tunes covered by other artists. Some of these artists have been mainstays in the “Dead Family”; some seem to have very divergent musical interests. However, they have all been connected, and moved, by a common theme... a thread that connects all of us... the music of the Grateful Dead.

First up is Adrienne Young, a folksy musician based out of Charlottesville, VA. Over the course of her short career, Young has worked with The Old Crow Medicine Show, Levon Helm, and Mark Sanders. Her cover of “Brokedown Palace”, off of her second album titled “The Art of Virtue”, gets me every time.

Wake the Dead is a Celtic-tinged Grateful Dead cover band based out of Northern California. These folks have been around for a number of years and bring a fresh perspective to classic Dead tunes. Give a listen to their take on “The Wheel”.

Catherine Russell is a female blues and jazz vocalist from New York City. She has toured with the “who’s who” of the music industry; including Paul Simon, David Bowie, and Steely Dan. Additionally, she has graced stages from the Kennedy Center in D.C. to Yoshi’s in San Francisco. In this clip, Russell is putting her spin on “New Speedway Boogie”. She gets a little help from Larry Campbell, a legend in the folk-blues-rock scene and established “Dead Family Member”.

My next two choices hardly need any introduction, as they are both icons of country and western music. For decades, Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson have had major success in the Nashville music industry... and with good reason. Both are exceptionally talented, and credible, performers. Here is Lovett’s take on “Friend of the Devil”, and the Red Headed Stranger lending his voice to “Stella Blue”.

Admittedly, I’m not incredibly familiar with the Decemberists, an indie rock outfit from Portland. But I do find myself enjoying their version of “Row Jimmy”.

Finally, our look into Dead covers could not be complete without throwing a bone to Jazz is Dead. With an original lineup comprised of Jimmy Herring, Alphonso Johnson, Billy Cobham, and T Lavitz; Jazz is Dead have serious street-cred... and the chops to back it up. If you are not familiar with them, Jazz is Dead simply plays ass-kicking, instrumental versions of Dead tunes. Listen to this excerpt of a ’98 show, where they put their spin on “Help on the Way”, and you will see what I mean.

I hope you have enjoyed what you’ve heard. If so... remember to support these incredible musicians!

Sunday Bluegrass: Grateful Dawg

Words By J-man

When it comes to Americana/folk/bluegrass music, most know of the Jerry Garcia/David Grisman Story. The combination of Jerry's "Grateful" music, crossed with David's "Dawg" music created a beautiful blend of what we now know as "Grateful Dawg." Their early bluegrass beginning with Old and in The Way (with Vassar Clements, Peter Rowan and John Kahn) helped to pave the road for a more expansive duo experience.

Garcia/Grisman was very influential in helping to bring several younger generations, and "Deadheads" to the bluegrass scene with their deep-rooted, advanced rhythms and Melodies. The solid relationship both as friends and musical partners was evident in everything that David and Jerry did together. This was no more apparent than on the "Pizza Tapes", an album made over the course of two evenings, with the accompaniment of Tony Rice.

There is no better time than now to explore Garcia/Grisman...

"The Pizza Tapes" on Amazon.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Conversation w/ Preston Hoffman (Lighting Director-Furthur)

Words By Alex Pryor
Pictures By Alex Pryor & Damon Callisto

Part 2...

A. Pryor: What’s the most difficult part about your job?

P. Hoffman: The most difficult part is it gets tricky when you deal with completely different conditions every day. Conditions meaning venues and what they have available as far as every venue is different. Rigging is different, the house situation is different. Stage space is different. Loading dock is different. All the things that go into getting stuff off the truck, to in the air, to working and running the show is completely different in most venues. Arenas are somewhat of an exception to that. Arenas are pretty... they’re pretty uniform. You’re dealing with a much more level playing field when going from arena to arena than going from theatre, to club, to theatre.

Another thing that’s really trying is that every person that you work with is on a different level of experience. So you’ll usually have like one or two guys who really know their shit, a couple of people who don’t know much, and a couple guys in the middle. You have to... you have to get a feeling for what they know right off the bat. Because then you know whether you can set them on a task that repeats itself without having to supervise them.

Where as someone who is not as experienced can get really hurt by doing something wrong that they wouldn’t know by not having the experience. But at the same time they’re eager and they want to jump in and do stuff. And sometimes you have to like -- you have to keep an eye on them because what seems logical is not always logical as far as the progression of setting up and ways to do things safely.

A. Pryor: Have you ever had an accident?

P. Hoffman: Yeah, there are always little accidents. I haven’t had a major one. I’ve heard horror stories about all sorts of crazy things. I’ve always, in my line of work err on the side of caution. I’d rather it take longer and not... and have a low stress level on whether somebody’s going to get hurt.

A. Pryor: It’s a main concern of your job, then.

P. Hoffman: Oh Yeah; I mean you’re... you’re hanging thousands of pounds over people’s heads. You know? I mean there’s, there have been famous musicians that have been injured from shit falling on them like Curtis Mayfield.

A. Pryor: I bet you that lighting guy didn’t get his job back.

P. Hoffman: Yeah. The industry’s not very forgiving for that sort of thing.

A. Pryor: Dropping trusses on people’s heads.

P. Hoffman: Very unforgiving.

A. Pryor: So pretty much everything is held to a higher standard at this level.

P. Hoffman: I see safety to be the most important part of my job.

A. Pryor: That’s good, man. I don’t want to see any lights falling on Bobby or Phil.


P. Hoffman: No. Definitely not .

A. Pryor: Who was that guy that caught on fire in the eighties?

P. Hoffman: Oh, it was James Hetfield from Metallica.

A. Pryor: Yeah.

P. Hoffman: Giant Pyrotechnics.

A. Pryor: They made all those new laws right afterwards because of pyrotechnics.

P. Hoffman: Michael Jackson caught on fire too. As soon as you start entering pyro and that sort of stuff, the laws and the safety measures go way up.

A. Pryor: Do you ever have somebody you have to answer to like a safety coordinator or someone that overlooks that kind of stuff.

P. Hoffman: Yeah. Sometimes the fire marshal shows up. If you’re hanging any kind of soft goods, fabrics, or anything you have to have samples so they can do fire tests on them, fireproofing, and all that sort of stuff. There are laws... the laws are more about exits and exit signs so you know the way out. I know in a lot of they make sure there’s there are fire lane paths especially on stage. When we have a million cases everywhere, there are a lot of places where you have to have a certain width of free space. If people need to go that way, they don’t run into a wall of cases.


A. Pryor: Has your outlook changed now that you have progressed so much in such little time?

P. Hoffman: I have a much more in depth understanding now than when I first started. And my learning curve is still curving, when it comes to lighting; just on a different level. I learn new stuff every day. And it’s really nice to be at a lot of these festivals where I get to meet other LDs, because we all swap ideas. Why don’t you try doing that like this? Small things can open up whole new worlds of how to operate lights. You know you kind of have little geek-out sessions on running the Grand MA.

A. Pryor: I saw you quite focused on that board yesterday.


P. Hoffman: Well I didn’t have much time. I had to finish up what I was doing the night before. And I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do that. I ended up getting a little bit of time to finish that programming up. Yeah there was a whole bunch of stuff I had to do. I made a list.


A. Pryor: It was quite a show! Lets switch gears from Furthur for a minute, what other work have you been into?

P. Hoffman: Well I’ve been doing a lot of festivals and club level bands. The small scale is fun because it is not as intense both from a physical setting up standpoint and from a programming stand point. But really I take as much work as I can put my hands on. I do like festivals though, you get a variety of bands to work with and you can always make it a good time.

A. Pryor: Speaking of festivals can you tell us a little bit about Osyrus Fest?

P. Hoffman: Osyrusfest is a small festival my bro and I put in in Pennsylvania. It’s like everything about a festival without the bullshit that comes with a big festival. It’s more like a big party. Bands, music, and lots of lights.

A. Pryor: Lots of lights!

P. Hoffman: it’s a chance for my brother and I to experiment with new ways of setting up lights and new techniques that we have been working on. The festival is an all inclusive type of thing so for the entrance fee you get free food and beer all weekend; all you need to do is bring a tent.

A. Pryor: It’s a good theme. You can attract a lot of people with that.


P. Hoffman: So you don’t have to worry about feeding yourself. You don’t have to worry about going to the beer store. You don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. Take a shower? You can take a shower. All inclusive. I have a monster grill there. It’s like a hundred years old and tons of food. You just throw a couple burgers on the grill. A guy did a pig this year. Yeah, we get a lot of our stuff locally from Amish farms and stuff. So the food is pretty good. I’m right on the... right on border of Amish country.

A. Pryor: So what’s the next step for Pulse?

P. Hoffman: My brother and I have this company Pulse Lighting. We were a local lighting shop with some gear and could do small tours, shows or festivals. We work with a bunch of different bands. Pulse is now growing up and becoming less of a local lighting solution and becoming more of a lighting design firm that can work anywhere. We can take the client’s needs and budget and design something that works and either use our gear if it makes sense or use a local vendor to supply gear to the site. We don’t want to be geographically pigeon holed. Our strength is design and implementation.

A. Pryor: Do you still do Mobias Project?

P. Hoffman: A little bit. Yeah. And usually the only time that we get together is at Osyrus Fest. Because we’re all so busy now. I mean our guitar player’s in another band who we work for, Honor By August. We’re going to be doing one of his shows at the 930 Club when I get back. Paul’s really busy. He’s doing Widespread and Pulse stuff. He also does sporting stuff. He does figure skating, swimming, gymnastics and he lit the Final Four last year.

A. Pryor: Have you ever learned something you had to unlearn?

P. Hoffman: Yeah. Oh, I’ve had lots of bad habits. I’m trying to discipline myself. I know how to... I know how to do it the way it should be done. But time sometimes plays a part in that. Sometimes you just don’t have time to build things in pieces. Because a show is built like a building. You know? You have foundation stuff, and then you just build up. Components are based on the components that you built before. And they get built into the next level of elements. And they get built into the next level of elements to the point where you work up sort of pyramid. And a lot of times sometimes you just don’t have enough time and you needed a couple things that you know you need.

A. Pryor: That creates problems?

P. Hoffman: It makes it useful for that one time. But when you... when you move venues and your lights aren’t in the same place... Instead of adjusting something at the bottom of the pyramid which trickles all the way through, I mean you’re left with like something that’s... you have to remake it each time. And then if you have a whole shitload of those, you run out of time. So the idea is that you want... you want the stuff at the top to be based on the stuff at the foundation. So you go in and you change, you change one aspect of it to make it look right, and it trickles all through everything that is based off of that. And that’s the way the board... the Grand VMA is founded on that type of building process. So that if you do it correctly and you spend the time to build it that way, touring is much easier. If you do it sloppy, you’ll pull your hair out every day.

A. Pryor: So what’s the smallest show you’ve lit with Furthur so far?

P. Hoffman: Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

A. Pryor: How many people were there?

P. Hoffman: Eleven hundred maybe.

A. Pryor: What venue was that?

P. Hoffman: The Sherman Theater, it’s a famous theater, kind of rundown in Stroudsburg. What happened was we had a show booked in Vermont that got cancelled, because they pulled the permits. And so management scrambled to book another show, and that’s, the band got booked there. And we barely fit in there. It was super sold out. That place was packed to the gills and it was hot as hell. And on stage it was even hotter. It was probably 120 degrees on stage. No a/c.

A. Pryor: Did they ever, is there anything that they use to keep performers cool? Because I know it gets really freaking hot up there sometimes. Or do you try to just keep cool, keep hydrated?

P. Hoffman: They use fans. If you come offstage, you can always go into your bus, and they usually keep it like 65 degrees, nice and chilly. The only other place I had an experience like that was at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia. It was easily 110 degrees. I saw the band walk offstage and they looked like they just got out of a swimming pool. They bolted straight for their bus. And you can get sick that way, jumping right into something really cold when you’re wet. I pretty much couldn’t hang anything in that Stroudsburg Theater.

A. Pryor: So how do they decide who they are going to produce these dates with?

P. Hoffman: It’s always been kind of a mystery to me. I do know that they decided not to use Live Nation. I don’t think it was a slight to Live Nation, I don’t think it’s like a big fuck you, we’re not using you. I think it was more like everyone uses Live Nation and we want to do something a little bit different.

A. Pryor: They use Another Planet, right?

P. Hoffman: Well, Another Planet’s a lot of festival stuff. But they use AEG a lot, as the alternative to Live Nation. I don’t know whether that’s; let’s give other guy a shot, let’s give some business to the other guys.

A. Pryor: There’s a lot of Dead Heads that really don’t like Live Nation, they’ve got a thing against Live Nation.

P. Hoffman: Well, Live Nation’s just become a monster, because it’s huge, and it’s very hard to do a concert without Live Nation.

A. Pryor: I’m torn. Because I’m all for companies becoming more and more and more successful, and sometimes even at the expense of other smaller companies, that’s just how it is. But sometimes I feel like there’s got to be a limit. Like Live Nation, Ticketmaster, come on. Give me a break. I don’t want to see the same logo above very concert I go to.

P. Hoffman: Well, it’s more about; Live Nation wants to hold every aspect of live music. That’s why they now have control over ticketing. They own tons of venues. They want to be in control of promotion. It’s all a control thing. But it’s also a huge money thing. When every aspect goes into the same company, when you’re taking Ticketmaster fees, and then you’re renting the venue to the band, and you’re being paid for promotions, and you’re making all the money off concessions, you’ve got it on lockdown.

A. Pryor: Yeah. I think the larger population, the larger percentage of the population went to live music, I think it would be more of an issue. I think it might not even be allowed to happen. More people would be against it, you know what I mean?

P. Hoffman: Well, the music industry is certainly moving towards live music.

A. Pryor: Do you listen to the Dead on your own time, when you are on tour?

P. Hoffman: When I first started. When I’m at home I put on recent recordings a lot because I pick up on timing and versions that are more current. On the road when I started I would get the set list the night before and really study the songs best I can. I don’t seem to get the set lists until show time these days but I know the music much better than I did a year ago.

A. Pryor: Do they not do that anymore?

P. Hoffman: They do sometimes. Sometimes they don’t. There was some time when I was studying a lot. Especially songs I didn’t know. Because as a more sort of casual Grateful Dead listener, there was a lot that was not on my radar. So there were songs like, I would look at the set list, and there would be three or four songs that I had no idea what they were. Songs like Black Peter, I would see it on the set list, and be asking our recording guy, Peter. He used to be a taper, before he became a recording guy, so he knows the Dead inside and out. He was my go to guy, give me a couple of notes on this song. He’d be like oh, it’s one of the really old songs. I’d be like was it chill? No, no dude, it’s not chill. See, the only Dead albums I really owned were, I owned American Beauty, and a couple of others, I geeked out on that for a long time. I really liked that album. That’s also one of their more commercial albums. Then on the other end of the spectrum, Blues for Allah, that’s a total trip out. At Calaveras they did all Blues for Allah. The album re-creations were pretty cool. Because there’s a lot of stuff on the albums that are not in the songs, or there are segue songs that don’t get played. They had Theresa Williams and Larry Campbell playing with them, I think it’s on Blues for Allah has some song that just a real spaced out female vocals, Sage and Spirit. There’s almost no instrumentation at all. And it’s super psychedelic. Really trippy, and I had never heard any of this stuff before. I was just trying to flow with the vibe of it. Just turn the whole stage red. Whenever anything gets real dark and eerie, I like to pull down the front lights and wash the band totally in red. I do that a lot for dark stuff.

A. Pryor: So does the band know where they’re trying to take it from here? Or does it seem like they’re just riding the wave?

P. Hoffman: I think just riding the wave now. The band’s only a year or so old at this point. I think they’re still feeling it out. I know that our fall tours are much bigger. Our east coast run is all arenas. All arenas. We’re ending with two nights in Madison Square Garden. That’s going to be a highlight. My brother and I have this little competition going on. Who can light which venue legendary venue first?

A. Pryor: Are you beating him to Madison Square Garden?

P. Hoffman: Yeah, I don’t let him forget it either. I got to light Radio City Music Hall first, and he got to light Red Rocks first.

A. Pryor: I think you beat him out with Madison Square Garden.

P. Hoffman: Yes, anytime that he tries to trump me, I always ask how many nights do you guys have booked at Madison Square Garden? That usually shuts him up pretty good.


A. Pryor: Well thank you for all the hospitality and your time for doing this; it was a lot of fun.

P. Hoffman: Absolutely; let’s do this again sometime, it was good seeing you.
I caught up with Preston Recently to see how things have developed since we had sat down in Berkley.

A. Pryor: So NYE was incredible Preston! What was it like to light the New Years gig at Bill Graham Civic?

P. Hoffman: Like I mentioned awhile back any show in SF is special for this band. It was my first new years with this band. It was an awesome time with the whole float parade and having Bill Walton on stage as father time cracked me up. There was a great energy going on as you would expect from a new year’s show. I had a great time!

A. Pryor: What kind of equipment are you using for the new rig? (Board, lights etc.)

P. Hoffman: The new rig is a lot more sophisticated than my previous rig. First of all my new spot lights are just killer, they are Clay Paky Alpha Spot HPEs which are just great lights; you will see a lot of different kinds of things coming from them. For wash lights I have Coemar infinity washes, which are nice as well. I particularly like the vertical tower feeling of the new rig. I think this rig is going to be a lot of fun in the upcoming run. For console I’m running the MA2 which is a really great board!

A. Pryor: What has led you to choose this new rig, and what differences can we expect to see from the previous one?

P. Hoffman: The new rig is great because it all ties together from floor to ceiling. The last rig was more about having a wall of light behind the band where all of the trusses were horizontal. This rig has more of a vertical feel to it with towers coming up from the stage and vertical trusses hanging down from above kind of like ice cycles. This rig is also very adaptable as we are going from very small to very large stages so it will scale nicely. This rig is also one of the first times we have toured without a backdrop sp the focus will be much more about the light beams themselves.

A. Pryor: What has been the defining moment in your career so far?

P. Hoffman: The defining moment has to be the 2 night stand at Madison Square Garden. We hung trusses with lights on the all the way around the arena in 360 degrees. That was the first time I had run lights in that room which was a thrill by itself but to run a 360 rig in that room was just amazing! I was just exhausted after those shows; they took everything out of me. I had brought a photographer to the show and he really captured the room so well I will cherish those pictures for some time to come.

Saturday Dead: Zimmer's Pick Five

Words By Andy Zimmer

This week we are throwing the spotlight on the Grateful Dead here at MusicMarauders. In the spirit of the occasion, I thought that I would spice things up a little for this week’s pick. Today I am pleased to offer up a 5-pack of some of my favorite Dead shows. To keep things interesting, I’ve picked one show from each of the four major eras in the Dead’s past (the Pigpen years, the Donna and Keith days, the Mydland years, and the later years with Hornsby/Welnick) and then topped things off with a bonus pick for the fifth show. Clearly, there were plenty of superb shows to choose from in each era, and I don’t claim that my selections a perfect. But I think that they are pretty damn good. Hopefully, you enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoy compiling them.

We start off during the Pigpen years with a 1971 show from New York City, the Dead’s home away from home. This show smokes the entire way through, and features some excellent bust outs from the late Mr. McKernan as well as some classic Dead segues (make sure to listen to the NFA>GDTRFB>NFA>Lovelight).

Grateful Dead Live at Manhattan Center on April 5, 1971.

Moving into the Donna and Keith Godchaux years of the Dead, we head down the east coast to the campus of Duke University. Even though I consistently find myself rooting against Duke whenever I see their basketball team on the court, this 1978 show from the Cameron Indoor Stadium makes me wish I was around to join the party. The first set is full of superb Garcia ballads... ”Dire Wolf”,”Peggy-O” and”Row Jimmy” are standout tracks. The second set is classic late-70’s Dead; full of innovative, exploratory jamming and intense energy.

Grateful Dead Live at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke U on April 12, 1978.

For the Brent Mydland era, we move back up the coast to... you guessed it, New York City. The Dead never failed to disappoint when playing Madison Square Garden, as illustrated by this show from 1987. The first set is on the short side and, although good, is nothing spectacular. Obviously, the boys were saving their energy for set two. Any time a set opens with “Shakedown Street” you pretty much know that it’s going to be something special. This show is no exception. The second set is monstrous in every way possible and the “Morning Dew” may be on par with anything from the late 60’s.

Grateful Dead Live at Madison Square Garden on September 18, 1987.

The final era for the Grateful Dead takes us across the country back to the left coast, where we find the Dead celebrating Halloween 1991 in the city by the bay. Played just days after the untimely passing of the legendary Bill Graham, this show has a certain feeling to it that is hard to describe. The boys were certainly playing with heavy hearts, but seemed to channel their sorrow into the music... creating an exceptionally inspired night. Gary Duncan sits in on guitar for most of the second set, and Ken Kesey makes an appearance during the “Dark Star” jam to eulogize Graham’s passing.

Grateful Dead Live at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 31, 1991.

The final choice in this week’s 5-pack of Dead picks is a show that gets heavy rotation on my stereo. For me to pick a favorite Dead show is absolutely impossible, but this one is right up there. It’s not a special show, a sexy pick, or one that fills up space on the internet discussion boards; but it’s one that has always been a go-to show for me. I speak of the 11-01-77 show from my home town, Detroit. 1977 shows, in general, get a lot of love in the Dead community. And there is a good reason for it……they band was simply playing out of their minds. It’s hard to find a sub-par, let alone bad, show from this period. Pick any ’77 show and you’re likely to be rewarded with a stellar concert. However, there has always been something that stands out about the 11-01 show for me. Maybe I’m biased because it’s a “home town show”... but I think it’s damn good. The seamless second set is up there with anything I’ve heard from the Dead. Make sure to set some time aside to listen to “Estimated Prophet”>”The Other One”... you can thank me later.

Grateful Dead Live at Cobo Arena on November 1, 1977.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Funky Five: Rock Band Network Songs

Words By Andy DeVilbiss

As I’m sure I have mentioned before, I’m a bit of a nerd, and one of my big-time nerd outlets is the videogame Rock Band. For those unfamiliar with this particular gaming phenomenon, Rock Band is a party-style “rhythm game” where you and your buddies push buttons on fake plastic guitars, pound on drumpads, and screech into microphones to guide a videogame band to superstardom. It’s like Guitar Hero on steroids. In fact, the Rock Band product proved itself so superior to Guitar Hero that Guitar Hero is no longer being made. Truly, there are few things more fun in the world than knocking back a few cold ones and raging some Rock Band with your crew. It’s like a badass karaoke party in your living room, except there are more participation options than just singing (Me? I have no problem playing this game by myself. A LOT. Enough that my cumulative score places me in the top one percent of the fake bass players on Xbox Live. Damn skippy I'm tootin' my extremely nerdy horn. Recognize the skillz, suckas).

One of the reasons Rock Band has come to dominate this particular videogame niche is that they are constantly evolving the gameplay and adding new content. For the latest iteration, Rock Band 3, there were some big upgrades: the addition of the keyboard; multiple vocal lines allowing harmonies, and; Pro Mode, which answered the oft-heard criticism of "you spend so much time with a fake guitar, you could probably learn how to play a real one," by enabling players to actually learn how to play real guitar, bass, and keyboards. Fender even made a new Squire guitar entirely for Pro Mode, a guitar that could be used as a game controller AND then be plugged into an amp like any other electric guitar. There's also a Pro Mode for drums, but, honestly, Rock Band drums were pretty damn close to real drums anyway.

As to new content, the Harmonix development team made that a priority from the start, releasing tunes as weekly downloadable content since they launched the first iteration of the game. Bands like the Grateful Dead could contract with Harmonix, who would have their coders diligently program their fingers to the bone to create Rock Band versions of their songs and make them available for purchase and download (They have 19 songs available in the game if you were curious. Phish has two). The only problem with this approach was that output was entirely determined by the Harmonix team's production/programming capacity.

Seeking to remedy this issue and to further bolster their reputation for promoting independent music, Harmonix developed the Rock Band Network (RBN). Through RBN, Harmonix freely provided their own software tool to whoever wanted it for use in creating Rock Band songs. Now, instead of having to go through Harmonix, artists could provide their master recordings, or, in RBN developer parlance, "stems" to freelance creators/coders to transform them into playable Rock Band songs. After going through a testing and review process, these songs would then be made available for download at price determined solely by the artist, who received a larger slice of the profits cake then they would working with Harmonix.

This resulted in a tremendous explosion of content as many bands viewed this as viable method to make money, as well as expose new listeners to their music and pick up a few fans. Currently there are 1,024 songs available through RBN out of 2,642 total downloadable songs. Besides a couple groups we'll get to in a few moments, some bands you might be familiar with who have made tracks available through RBN include Umphrey's McGee, Gov't Mule, The Slip, Surprise Me Mr. Davis, Garage A Trois, and Assembly of Dust.

With this massive expansion of content came an increased presence of different genres that previously were unusual to see in Rock Band, which usually focused mostly on classic rock, metal, pop, and punk. On RBN you could now find electronic music, blues, and indie rock options. Most importantly, you could now also find some of The Funk, a genre that had been sorely under-represented. In fact, before RBN, Harmonix offered just ONE clearly labeled funk songpack, which provided Average White Band's "Pick Up The Pieces," Earth Wind and Fire's "Shining Star" and "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine - Pt 1" by... Well, if I gotta tell you who's responsible for that tune, you need more Funk assistance than this humble column can provide.

There's still not a TON of funk available, but, given the almost total lack of that genre's presence before RBN, things are rapidly improving. At the very least, there's enough available for a Funky Five...

1. Carl Douglas "Too Hot To Handle"

You're not crazy if you're thinking name Carl Douglas sounds vaguely familiar. He was the man responsible for documenting the antics of funky Billy Chin and little Sammy Chung in the One-Hit-Wonder Hall of Fame song, "Kung Fu Fighting." Before finding this song, I had no idea he was still making music. Actually, I had no idea he was still alive. Turns out he's still (roundhouse) kickin'.

2. Nick Gallant "Turn Yourself Around"

Nick Gallant's got a few tracks on RBN. I'd classify his overall sound as alternative rock, but, damn, iff'n this track ain't 2:30 of righteous funky goodness. Straight-up disco-licious, bouncy fun.

3. Zigaboo Modeliste "Standing In Your Stuff"

A little NOLA flava courtesy of one of the founding members of the Meters, and one of the funkiest drummers of all time. This song is also on Dumpstaphunk's latest album and is a staple of their live shows. Considering the source, the drum part is indeed looks pretty challenging. This assessment is based entirely on this video, as my distinct lack of coordination means I generally stay away from the drums. Seriously, I'm lucky if I can play ANY song on easy-level drums.

4. Lettuce "Last Suppit"

Speaking of challenging drum tracks... OH MY SWEET LORD. Adam Deitch has always been one of my favorite drummers, and I think I appreciate his skills even more after seeing his incredible song-ending drum solo parsed out in Rock Band notes. It's just INSANE. It's not just the drums that pose a challenge. I must sadly admit I have yet to be able to get through this track on my standard expert-level bass. The final version's bass part during the guitar solo has a lot more notes than the preview version in this video. A lot of notes that are too fast for me to play without the larger split-strummer bass guitar. In short, there's a reason Lettuce's low end master E.D. Coomes is nicknamed "Jesus." No worries. You can just switch over to guitar and channel your inner Kraz (but good luck on the aforementioned solo).

5. Soulive "Too Much"

This one has quickly become one of my favorites to play. It surely endorses my belief that Neal Evans' left hand is better than a lot of actual bassists. Another scorching track from the Royal Family crew, and, since they've already put out two tracks, I'm hoping there's more to come. Might I suggest "Tuesday Night's Squad" or "Cannonball" please?

If you're a Rock Band player, I recommend you download all of these songs immediately. And if you're looking for someone to rock out with, I know of a pretty decent fake bass player from a little band called the Blue Whackadoos. He's pretty high in the Nerd Rankings, too. Like top one percent.

Steve Kimock’s Sullivan Hall Residency: 3.23.11

Words and Photos by Karen Dugan (Tiny Rager)

Guitarist extraordinaire Steve Kimock (Zero, Steve Kimock’s Crazy Engine) recently kicked off a three-night residency at Sullivan Hall in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The crowd was thin as not many New Yorkers braved the lightning, hail, and sleet storm that came through unexpectedly. Those who did, however, were delivered an intimate, magical musical treat.

Joining Steve Kimock on Sullivan Hall’s stage was the acclaimed New Orleans pianist Henry Butler, bassist Andy Hess (Gov’t Mule, Black Crowes, John Scofield), and Steve’s son, John Morgan Kimock (Crazy Engine), on drums. There were a few surprise guests as well. After one song into the first set, the foursome welcomed Donna Jean Godchaux (The Grateful Dead) and guitarist Marc Muller (Dead On: Recreating The Grateful Dead Note For Note) to the stage for the remainder of the set.

Now, just for a bit of perspective on my love for Steve Kimock, I need to throw a little info out there. When I am asked to think of a musician that closely resembles or embodies Jerry Garcia or his spirit, my mind almost always goes to Steve Kimock. There really is no other name that pushes Kimock’s out of my mind as the front runner. He is a musician that I look to as a teacher; while constantly willing to connect with his fans and nourish new talent when he discovers it, Steve Kimock is always pushing the envelope to where he can take his music with the guitar.

There was a stimulating sense of connection within the venue last night. The lack of audience members did not create an empty feel as the music filled the space magnificently. The first set was a straight-up Grateful Dead infused vibe! “Chalk Pipe” started it off with Henry Butler’s New Orleans infused keys playing over some trippy Kimock guitar work. With a unique combination of sounds hitting such a small stage, the tune was amazing. “Watch The River Flow,” an improved song with Donna Jean joining the stage for lyrics, followed. “Crazy Fingers” then brought the headiness up, up, up. The group broke into free-for-all jams that flowed for minutes at a time as the next song, “Scarlett Begonias”, showcased each artist’s talents. Kimock, seated on a stool, would close his eyes and melt into the jam from time to time. Moments like these made the audience feel the air of Garcia around them.

As for the special guests, Marc Muller couldn’t have been more on point. It took a while for Donna Jean’s vocals to warm up, but once they did, her voice and pure connection to Jerry helped stimulate the energy surrounding us. They ended the set with a killer “Franklin’s Tower” with Henry Butler making it clear to us that he was feeling the music and the spirit of Jerry within himself. I have never heard Henry Butler sound quite like he did last night.

The second set was supremely funkier. Andy Hess’s bass lines found their way to the forefront of the songs, and Chris Burger (Alphabet Soup) joined the stage for a fifteen-minute-plus freestyle rap session that featured deep, exquisite solos soulfully presented by each musician. Ironically rapping about “rain” on such a gloomy night, he reminded us of the “yin and yangs” of life. This set brought a completely different vibe than the first. With a melodic undertone that helped lead them through to the end, the remainder of the set featured a stage full of talented musicians jamming away at their leisure. After the show’s conclusion, it became time to welcome the weather that was waiting for us outside.

Next Wednesday, March 30th, 2011, Steve Kimock will be back on stage welcoming drummer Adam Deitch, keyboardist Marco Benevento, and bassist Marc Friedman (The Slip).

Here’s a short clip of the band breakin’ it down during Night One…