Friday, September 28, 2012

MM Presents: Zach Deputy Band & Skerik's Bandalabra 9.21.12

Cervantes Other Side
Denver, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis

Hopes weren't set very high regarding turnout on a night that Furthur sold out Red Rocks. Though the hopes were definitely elevated for a fantastic evening of music from two staples of the live music/jam scene. As a few die-hard fans began to trickle in, we found ourselves downstairs with Skerik for a "conversation" about Bandalabra, jazz and politics.

Following our "conversation" we made our way back upstairs to a surprising crowd as Skerik's Bandalabra took the stage. Skerik's projects bring a certain amount of energy and unpredictability to the stage and Bandalabra was no different. Each member of the new project represented an integral piece to a complex and beautiful musical puzzle. The music was edgy and complex, while channeling a clear party vibe. Under no circumstances do I anticipate seeing Bandalabra as an opening band again. They are a headlining, show-closing, late night masterpiece and indeed a tough act to follow. As their set concluded, the quickly filling venue showed their appreciation.

Backstage, Zach Deputy and his band rehearsed and prepared for the show, asking Carly Marthis what she wanted to hear. "Quarter in My Pocket" was the verdict as the band went from trying it out backstage to slipping it in as their third song of the set. By the time Zach Deputy hit, Cervantes' Other Side was packed. Young folks lined the front of the stage for a change of pace from the in-your-face fusion of Bandalabra. It was time for song-writer oriented, popular sounding compositions. If there is one thing Zach brings to the table it's soul and as he sang his songs, one could see the girls melting away in the first few rows. Zach's band was decent and fitting for the music, though I thought that his full ability was lost in the mediocrity of sharing his creative vision. Zach draws people in with his solo abilities and clearly doesn't need a band. However, that night we heard an attempted translation of Zach Deputy's solo work via the full band.

In the end, Cervantes was packed. Furthur's sell out at Red Rocks showed no effect on the young crowd that night. The music was enjoyable, the vibe was light and people turned out to get down. Denver's music community runs deep. In very few markets can you remove just under 10,000 people from the potential ticket buyers and still have a packed house.

Carly's Photo Gallery

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jomeokee Music & Arts Festival 9.14.12 - 9.16.12

Jomeokee Campground
Pinnacle, NC

Words By Lena Brodsky & Scott Shrader
Photos By Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)

The Jomeokee Music and Arts Festival that took place September 14-16 in Pinnacle, NC boasted a stellar line-up, but actually a smaller attendance than we expected. The smaller sized festival allowed for some more intimate shows, and a chance for the attendees to mingle with the acclaimed artists.

Arriving at the Jomeokee Campground we could tell there was a buzz of excitement and anticipation. Camping was spread out in all directions around the two stages, the main, “Mountain Roots Stage,” which featured mostly bluegrass and is a permanent structure on the Jomeokee grounds, and the smaller, temporary stage, the “Head Jamz” stage. Most of the camping was done in open fields, and it seemed like vehicle camping was the more popular choice, although, while drinking a nice cold beverage, we watched quite a bit of people park in a field and haul their weekend supplies up the hill. There was also VIP camping in a wooded area behind the stages, where people decked out their spots with living room furniture, fancy lights, tapestries, and one group dared to back up their old VW van on top of a cliff, which overlooked a scenic pond.

The stages themselves were at the bottom of a sloping field, so that the crowd could sit up near the top, where the art and merchandise vendors were set up, and could still see over the standing crowd. While exploring the grounds the first night, we discovered a little wooden stage hiding in the woods, labeled the “Lester Flatts Pickin’ Stage.” The stage harkens back to the 1970s, when it was the center stage of a Lester Flatt's Bluegrass festival; at Jomeokee, bands gave more intimate shows and workshops at the small stage.

The music started promptly at 12:30 on Friday, before most people had really arrived. After eating a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast burrito from the Free Lovin’ Food Eatery we wandered down to the main stage where The Heritage was starting to play. The band, from nearby Winston-Salem, NC, had a funk rock fusion sound. They did a few covers, like “No Diggity” and “Jungle Boogie,” and caught a stride with a dance groove in their last song, but overall it felt like they were lacking, and definitely had some room to grow.

The next band, Invisible III, based out of Asheville, NC had an instrumental-jazz-fusion style that got things going after The Heritage’s somewhat bland set. There was some down-tempo grooves lead by a unique bass sound and a very present organ that gave them an original and interesting sound.

From 2:30-3:30 pm things got a little weirder with “Captain Midnight.” The festival emcee decreed their sound “Waterbed Rock and Roll,” and the description actually made sense after watching their set. They definitely had a more vibrant look than any other band at the festival— the keyboardist and backup singer both wore hot pink wigs and the entire band wore creative outfits. Their “Help on The Way” cover was on point. It was well executed, but they also put their own spin on the Dead cover.

The next set belonged to Twin Cats, a progressive rock 5-piece outfit based out of Indiana. The Midwest band, which frequently plays with UV Hippo, delivered a nice taste of their synth-driven trance jams. Showcasing their funk and fusion roots style, they impressed the Jomeokee crowd and people began to really trickle in during their set.

After the Twin Cats sound there was a drastic shift to Bluegrass, and a size-able gathering instantly assembled for Larry Keel & Natural Bridge. The band rolled through a few originals from their new album: “The Classics,” “I’m No Doctor,” “Take the Time,” and “How Can it Be Wrong.” Larry’s hyper speed flat-picking guitar style had everyone’s attention. Jenny Keel was of course holding down the bass to make way for Mark and Will Lee’s ear-pleasing mandolin and banjo playing all afternoon. Larry dedicated “Ramble on Rose” to a friend and, soon enough, Keller Williams came on stage to sing the classic Dead tune with Larry and friends. Halfway through the solo Keller signaled to Larry and Keller’s signature “mouth trumpet” was thrown into the mix.

After Mr. Keel’s bluegrass, Floodwood took over on the “Head Jamz” stage. Their sound, which transcends many different genres, is definitely different from what fans of moe are used to (Floodwood includes Al Schneir and Vinnie Amico from moe). They offered a different pace and style of bluegrass for the audience. There was a heavy country influence, but they still kept it fast paced. They closed their set with a solid “Cumberland Blues.”

The Jimmy Herring band was up next. The well-known Widespread Panic member, sometimes referred to as “the White Wizard,” has been focusing on his solo project all year. It’s a sound of guitar shredding jazz-fusion backed by Jeff Sipe, Neil Fountain, and Matt Slocum. Herring delivered a high-energy set that had the audience following through every twist and turn of his guitar. They showcased two classic Beatles covers "Within You Without You" and "A Day In The Life," and also played a few tracks off the new record "Subject To Change without Notice."

Switching gears, and stages, again, the crowd turned out big for Keller Williams with the Travelin’ McCoury’s. They opened up with "Mullet Cut." Keller was very energetic and the rest of the band really seemed to be having a good time. Each member had his chance to sing a song or lead a solo or jam. A slowed down version of "Freeker by the speaker" translated well to the crowd. The band was very tight and played most of their songs from the new album, "Pick." Near the end of the set, Keller invoked the term, “clusterpluck” and brought out Jeff Austin, Larry Keel, and, for a brief verse, Del McCoury, to the stage, for “Bumper Sticker." The presence of multiple Bluegrass mainstays sharing the stage was a preview for the anticipated bluegrass jam.

The headliners for Friday night represent the two very different sides of the festival. The first was Stephen Marley, who performed a very organic reggae set that didn't stray far from his father’s roots. Marley’s very hyped intro, which went on for a song and a half before he came to the stage, was a little drawn out for some people's taste. There was a slight R&B/funk feel to the originals and to the few covers he did, “Exodus,” “Buffalo Soldier,” and “Could You Be Loved.” There was a huge energy shift when Yonder Mountain String Band came on. The band seemed very happy to be playing. They delivered a lively set with almost no slow tunes to keep the crowd bouncing into the night. The combination of “Years with Rose>Girlfriend is Better” really got the crowd excited and dancing. It was a great way to end an amazing day of music.

Saturday began like your typical second day at a camping music festival. There was grogginess, a need for coffee, sustenance, and the impossible, a shower. At least there was a band like The Broadcast, from Asheville, NC, which got things going early in the afternoon. They surprised the audience with their vintage rockin' sound. The female vocalist was a cross between Janis Joplin and Grace Slick. Their cover of “Whipping Post” threw everyone for a surprise and the band converted a handful of new fans.

After Floodwood performed for a second time, The Mantras, a “jamtronica” outfit from Asheville, came out and brought the jams from their very first song. The Mantras had unique lead vocals, but honestly the singer took away from the vibe, which was much stronger during the instrumental jams. They did an excellent rendition of Meat Puppet's "Lake of Fire," which led into a nice original titled “Hobo Ken.” We really enjoyed their set and would recommend checking them out.

Next up was the Emmitt-Nershi Band, which opened their set with "Black Clouds," a String Cheese Incident original. The song translates nicely into an acoustic style. The Jomeokee crowd got much bigger for the group. Fans representing SCI had their flags in the audience. It was a high energy set with very little slow points. "Colorado Bluebird Sky" was a personal highlight, hearing the song out of its usual context was a treat.

We really got into the classic bluegrass when The Del McCoury band came on. Classiness and charm rose significantly, at least on the stage if not in the audience, while Mr. McCoury graced Jomeokee with his presence. Del was all smiles and provided the crowd with lots of good banter. "Blue and Lonesome" was played as a nod for Bill Monroe's 101st Birthday and there were great cheers when he played the crowd favorite, "Asheville Turn Around."

After Del, who was instrumental in getting so many big names committed to the festival, left the stage, we switched gears again to watch Lettuce. A guy’s shirt in the audience said it all, “Lettuce Turnip the Beets,” and that is precisely what they did with their heavy funk, dance party. It’s always cool to see Eric Kranso laying low and not calling all the shots. Jimmy Herring sat in for a face melting duel solo with Kranso that had the crowd jumpig up and down.

Saturday night also gave us a second set by Yonder Mountain String Band, and then after a set break, the Bluegrass Jam. Yonder kicked off the show with “Sideshow Blues” and got the crowd moving. They played more slow ballads than the night before, but the set was still solid and enjoyable. The closing segment of “Ten>Follow Me Down To The Riverside>Ten” with Jason Carter on fiddle really showed Yonder’s diversity of styles when it comes to jamming. During a heavier, darker bluegrass jam, Jeff Austin’s vocals almost sounded satanic at one point, with the effects added. After Yonder played one set they took a break and then invited many more friends onto the stage for another set. It started off with Andy Thorn and Drew Emmitt playing two John Hartford Classics “Up On The Hill Where They Do The Boogie>2 Hits and the Joint Turns Brown.” Both songs featured mandolin and banjo solos/duels from each member. From the start it was clear that this was going to be a special kind of jam. Next up, Ronnie and Robbie McCoury came to the stage to showcase their picking styles with the boys. Michael Kang and Al Schnier followed up by playing a rocking version of “Death Trip.” Closing out the night, Jason Carter was welcomed back to the stage along with Billy Nershi. The jam couldn’t have ended on a better note; a very tasty “Shady Grove>Wheelhoss>Shady Grove” closed out the bluegrass section and left the crowd feeling metaphorically high.

The last set of the night belonged to Matt Butler’s “Everyone Orchestra.” The idea is that Butler creates a new musical experience everywhere he goes with world-class musicians and never ceases to blow minds, and Jomeokee’s Everyone Orchestra was no exception. Holding it down was Jimmy Herring, Al Schnier, Jenifer Hartwhick, George Porter Jr, Jeff Sipe, Michael Kang, and that’s just dropping a few of the big names involved. The musical adventure took the crowd on an improv rollercoaster that didn’t let up from the first note. Covering all kinds of ground through out the set, Matt Butler always had the crowd involved by clapping on time, yelling cues, and so on. Every musician on stage was glowing and grinning from ear to ear. It was obvious that this was something special and there was no better way to end another phenomenal day of music.

Sunday morning was soggy and much cooler than the days before. Downpours during the night had drenched all the festivalgoers, and many were discouraged by the overcast sky and left early in the morning. Despite feeling dirty and damp, there was nothing that was going to stand in the way between us and The Del McCoury Band playing a “gospel set.” There was a nice crowd that came together Sunday morning, committed to riding out the final performances. Del and the band joked about being up so early, and also about Del telling the audience the night before the wrong time for the Gospel set, it was a good laugh shared by all. Del asked for requests, talked warmly with the crowd, and soothed our souls on the rainy morning. “Orange Blossom Special” was an instrumental request from someone in the crowd. “I’ll Fly Away” was a lovely treat to hear and, of course, no gospel set would be right without “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”
The weekend, which had been full of sunshine, blue skies, shady spots, grassy hills, beautiful views of Pilot Mountain, with what looked like a giant nipple on top (running joke through out the festival), and nonstop amazing music, seemed to be over on the damp Sunday morning. After seeing Del’s gospel set we felt it was time to make the trek back home and back to reality.

Scott's Friday Photo Gallery

Scott's Saturday & Sunday Photo Gallery

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Vital Organ 9.19.12

Highland Tap & Burger
Denver, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis & Paul Brown
Video By J-man

The highly anticipated return of Vital Organ to The Highland Tap & Burger triggered a social-networking frenzy in Colorado on this particular Wednesday. Facebook posts from Juno What, The Motet, MusicMarauders  and even Kyle Hollingsworth eluded to a special evening. Speculation surrounded rumors of Kyle's potential turnout at Tap and sure enough as the Evening's crowd began to show face, so too did Kyle. The crowd was larger than usual and there was a buzz in the air as the quartet consisting of Joey Porter, Garrett Sayers, Dan Schwindt and Daren Hahn sound checked. Before the band began, the room was packed and when they finally fired up, the room went wild.

Organomics Live at Highland Tap & Burger on September 19, 2012.

The funk/jazz vibe that overtook the room was intense and driving. Each member of the band output a frenzy of impressive notation. Joey's keys sounded as funky as ever, with Garrett digging deep into the pocket and filling with mind-blowing bass work. Daren's range fused the compositions together from genre to genre as Dan just about stole the show with ripping guitar work. A few songs into the set Joey stepped aside for Kyle, who fit right in as his whole band was on stage except for instead of Dave Watts, Daren would rounded out the rhythm section. The crowd was excited, as evident by all of the unholstered cell phones, texting away that one of their favorite musicians just showed up at one of their favorite bars to play. Kyle called the shots during "Seventh Step" which translated beautifully.

The room reached near capacity as Garrett gave a birthday shoutout to Kevin Hahn and for the remainder of the evening, folks danced and got down to some of the most enjoyable funk/jazz that Denver had to offer. That night in Denver was a reminder of the potential of the HTB Free Music Showcases. Imagine having a friendly bar in your neighborhood where your favorite musicians would turn out, maybe to enjoy the music and a drink, or possibly to step up and play. Imagine that this bar boasts fantastic food and drink menus, a fantastic crowd of local heads from the live music scene... Oh, and admission is free. Now stop imagining and come on down to The Highland Tap & Burger in Denver's Lower Highlands every Wednesday!

Carly & Paul's Photo Gallery

Monday, September 24, 2012

MM Presents: Juno What w/ Bedrockk & Sunsquabi 9.28.12

Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
Denver, CO

MusicMarauders Presents Juno What?! this Friday, September 28th at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver, CO! Join us for an evening of "Shameless" electro-dance music from one of our hometown favorites! Opening for Juno What?! will be Bedrockk & Sunsquabi!

Purchase Tickets Here!

Umphrey's McGee 9.15.12

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Words & Photos By J-man

From the beginning, this show was the most highly anticipated of the three night Umphrey's McGee/Railroad Earth run, if not the most anticipated show of the summer for Colorado jam fans. First, it was RRE's sold out show at The Boulder Theater, then UM and RRE's near sell out at Red Rocks. Lastly, would be a sold out Saturday night in Boulder with UM at The Boulder Theater. The line in front of the beautifully lit venue extended down the block and around the corner. There was a buzz in the air that night as those who had already obtained their tickets knew that they were in for a treat, and those who had not, reflected pure hope into the universe. Friends from all over the country embraced, as that evening would mark one of the handful special occasions in which travelers would reconnect. This wasn't your normal show from a local band, this would be an experience from one of the most ragingly precise national touring groups on the live music scene. Umphrey's McGee at The Boulder Theater would mark a sort of pinnacle for the summer.

With the theatre packed to the brim, UM took the stage and opened the evening with "Jekyll & Hyde." Joel Cummins' haunting keys danced around the room, easing into the set before the rest of the band stepped up with heavy chord strikes. The vibe felt intense already as the band transitioned right into "White Man's Moccasin." Finger taps on the guitar further elevated the already huge start as the first vocal lines of the evening came into play. The rail-riders sang along word for word with their eyes closed as they took in their favorite group of talent. Brendan Bayliss smiled at the crowd while the attention shifted to Jake Cinninger on the opposite side of the stage.

"What's happening, Boulder? Yup, still got a little gas left in your tank for tonight, right?" Brendan said  following their first couple of songs. The crowd went absolutely wild.

"Comma Later" featured Kris Myers' crisp/crucial drumming and Andy Farag stepping in with percussive fills. Ryan Stasik's heavy bass weighed in on the musical conversation with deep low end. The composition went from mild to spicy and featured a solid mid section jam. "Bridgeless" came next to the delight of the adoring crowd! The intensity peaked yet again. Bayliss' a-tonal vocals lead the charge before some high octain instrumentation collided with yelling from the crowd. UM stopped and started on the drop of a dime, jumping into progressive metal, then melodic sweeps. The twelve minute song was one of the instant highlights of the first set and reflected the capabilities of a well oiled machine.

"Yeah, how are you guys doing out there?" Bayliss asked following "Bridgeless." "This has been a great weekend, we can't thank y'all enough. Every time we come to Colorado you guys help us raise the bar," he went on to say.

"Water" slowed the set down just a touch and eluded to UM's "softer" side. "Water" also helped to create a sort of balance within' the rowdy first set. The mellow song built and built until once again, the Boulder Theater was erupting with energy. "Slacker" followed with Brendan's vocals as the focal point. The breakdown in "Slacker" created a spacey vibe as Jake sampled different effects from his plethora of pedals and tones. Combined with Joel's synth, it quickly became a dance party as the light work of Jefferson Waful took center stage. "Crucial Taunt" came next featuring dual lead and a sort of poppy sound. The combination of Brendan and Jake was near flawless and complimentary on a level with many of the greats. Crowd favorite and UM classic, "Resolution," began and went through some great changes over the almost thirteen minute span. The song has come a long way from it's humble beginnings. Slowly, we began to hear signs of a return to "Bridgeless" and sure enough a massive transition took us back to "Bridgeless" to close the epic first set.

Outside of The Boulder Theater folks flocked for fresh air, a smoke and some open space to recollect themselves before the second set. Speculation of what was to come ensued and before the fans knew what had hit them, it was time for round two.

"Wizard Burial Ground," making clear of their intentions for a massive second set. Without getting ahead of myself, I began to reflect on the potential of this show being one of the better that I had witnessed over the course of the summer.Arpeggio sweeps and masturbatory instrumentation followed as the sold out crowd went into a frenzy. Just then, Joel brought forth a mind scrambling solo followed by a melodic piano interlude that would segue into the second half of the beastly composition. Each stop brought a roar from the crowd followed by more over the top guitar work until the composition began to wind down then build back up for one last hurrah. I stood in awe of what a $35.00 ticket had bought the evening's patrons.

"We thought we'd start the second set off with a love song..." Bayliss said about "Wizard Burial Ground."

"August" brought direct contrast to the set opener and just like almost every other song of the evening, it built up to soaring heights. "Deeper" came next and meandered along with a touch of echo. Electronic sounding drums and guitar noodling took over as the synth howled in the background. Then, UM went right into "The Crooked One," seamlessly. Fans sang along as if no one was looking... and indeed no one was looking, as the light show captivated the twinkling eyes of the Boulder crowd. There was a moment during "The Crooked One" that I closed my eyes and was overtaken by the entire experience. It would have taken a lot to derail this train. I turned to my friends and commented about how powerful the show had been thus far and how this could be the best that I had seen over the festival season. In return I was given smiles and nods as no one disagreed.

"Andy's Last Beer" came next and kept the same consistent energy going. The band interacted a lot with one another facing off in an almost duel like fashion and ripping it up on their respective instruments. "Andy's Last Beer" went into "Liberty Echo" with heavy guitar that leveled out into an airy midsection that grew and went into the set closer, "Miss Tinkle's Overture." What an excellent choice for the closer, as "Miss Tinkle's" featured some of the most characteristic aspects of UM; heavy/wailing guitar, lots of changes, charging melodies and in this situation, a dance section that had folks breaking it down. Stasik stepped up to lay down some bass over Kris' drumming. Slowly distant guitar entered the picture with Joel's dirty synth and some electronic drum work. The band  then started their biggest climb of the evening. I shook my head in disbelief as UM melted my face. It was overwhelming. It was terrifying. It was beautiful.

"Thank you Colorado, we love you" Jake said into the mic as the band exited the stage.

A short time later, following Joel's attempt at a crowd chant for an upcoming political video, UM returned and began with "Hajimemashite." The crowd sang along with Bayliss and although it was a slow selection for an encore, it was a fan favorite that everyone knew would build, and build it did. The second encore came in the form of "Hangover" with the fans chanting the intro. Then, as the band started and stopped, the fans chanted "all night long." However, a few minutes later following one last instrumental burst, the show was over.

It was at that moment that it was confirmed for me. UM had put on the best show that I had seen  this summer. It's wasn't about the hype, the lights, the fantastic vibe of The Boulder Theater. It was about pure energy and fantastic musicianship. Pure excessive musical and energetic output. There is not a single band that I have seen over the the course of attending shows five nights a week for three to four months that touched what UM did that night in Boulder. For me, it was the highlight of the three night UM/RRE Colorado run, as well as my summer. To ask who my favorite band is wouldn't yield a quick verbal answer, but in my head I would probably be thinking "Umphrey's McGee and... Umphrey's McGee and..."

J-man's Photo Gallery

Set One: Jekyll & Hyde, White Man's Moccasin, Comma Later, Bridgeless, Water, Slacker, Crucial Taunt, Resolution > Bridgeless

Set Two: Wizard Burial Ground, August, Deeper, The Crooked One, Andy's Last Beer, Liberty Echo, Miss Tinkle's Overture

Encore: Hajimemashite, Hangover

Friday, September 21, 2012

Umphrey’s McGee & Railroad Earth 9.14.12

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Written By Nicholas Stock
Photos By Nicholas Stock & Justin Picard

After a lazy night with Railroad Earth at The Boulder Theater it was time for the main event with both RRE and Umphrey’s McGee showcasing their skills at Red Rocks. Opting out of throwing their third Red, Rocks, & Blue show around the 4th of July, UM instead, created a late summer run that included both bands playing in Boulder. Traffic was murder as all the Coloradoans sped down the road for one more summer adventure before the leaves turned. We arrived at the box office, which was swamped with all manner of wooks, hippie chicks, and lot regulars. It was like working my way through the Cantina on Mos Eisley in Star Wars complete with alien life forms and shitty oboe jams. After procuring my pass we headed to the top and parked in Upper North. The lot was full as randoms milled about waiting to head inside. Our time was short, but we managed to see a few friends and have a beer before finding a spot inside.

The show was GA again meaning that all of Red Rocks was wide open. Fans squeezed to the front as the middle quickly filled in. Railroad Earth took the stage with a massive “Seven Story Mountain” to start their almost two-hour set.

Set One: Seven Story Mountain, Happy Song, Gold Rush, Mighty River, Saddle Of The Sun, The Old Man and the Land, Elko, Mourning Flies, Lone Croft Farewell, Hunting Song, Long Way To Go, Spring-Heeled Jack, Colorado

Overall the Railroad set had more energy than the previous night in Boulder. They were playing to the crowd with long meandering jams and even playing in a borderline psychedelic style towards the end of their set. Railroad Earth is a great band that continues to grow and evolve. Every year that they come to Colorado they bring newsongs and a stylistic shift that broadens their appeal and furthers their ability to excite audiences. In just the last three years they have come so far, I can honestly say when they bring the energy they are a tough band to beat live. Last year RRE played Red Rocks with Yonder Mountain String Band, but making a shift and hoping to open up their sound to new fans, they decided to play with Umphrey’s McGee. I for one think it was a bold move on their part and an excellent way to get exposure in Colorado. Most YMSB fans would know RRE, but that is not necessarily true of UM fans. Not to mention that this set was a solid introduction for anyone who was new to seeing them live. Highlights of the show included a strong “Elko” and a stunning “Spring Heeled-Jack.” They ended the opening set appropriately enough with “Colorado.”

Umphrey’s was up next and at this point there was still plenty of room at the top of the venue. I’m not sure why UM has such a hard time selling out Red Rocks. It seems that they did everything to promote the show properly including ticket giveaways, announcing they would be filming a DVD, creating social media buzz, and more. They seem to be cursed at The Edge; they just hit a wall around 8,000 attendees every year, never really breaking that barrier. The members of Umphrey’s have been having fun with some mock political ads featuring Joel Cummins and Andy Farag for president. Both sets began with an attack ad from both sides.

After the ad they opened with a fun but quick “There’s No Crying In Mexico.”

Set One: There’s No Crying In Mexico> All In Time> ‘Jimmy Stewart’*> All In Time, Puppet String> 2x2, Miami Virtue> The Linear> Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, The Floor

Set Two: Ocean Billy, Nothing Too Fancy> Mulche’s Odyssey, End of the Road, Conduit> Nothing Too Fancy, Plunger> Puppet String

Encore: Kashmir^

Second Encore: JaJunk

*with Lyrics
^with Railroad Earth

This was a classic Umphrey’s show, featuring some solid back and forth jamming as well as amazingly tight delivery, which has been their hallmark for the better part of a decade now. The “All In Time” “Jimmy Stewart” sandwich stretched on to the 20-minute mark showing the band’s readiness to go off the deep end right from the onset. After the band caught their breath they went into another long version of “Puppet String” which was left unfinished. The “2x2” was a chance for the band to stretch out under Bayliss’s singing. “Miami Virtue” was a welcomed tune as it has been slowly developing as a crowd favorite since its release on Death By Stereo. Bayliss again took the vocals with the progressive-tinged “The Linear.” Umphrey’s surprised the crowd with the Radiohead cover “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” which was done quite well. They ended the first set with a foreboding “The Floor,” leaving many fans chomping at the bit for set two. This was a solid first set offering from UM. They established that they were ready to jam, and that they were definitely still playing at the top of their game.

The second set began another enormous jam this time on “Ocean Billy.” The “Nothing Too Fancy” built very nicely as the band layered their instrumentation quite well, before it erupted into crunchy “Mulche’s Odyssey.”

They came back down to planet earth with a tasty “End of the Road.” Umphrey’s blasted off with a dark take on “Conduit” which felt like the pivot point of the entire set. Kris Myers and Andy Farag brought the heat here before the band made their way back into the close of “Nothing Too Fancy.” They ended the second set with an incredible “Plunger” back into “Puppet String.” The second set was a beautiful display of how well these guys play together as a group. They listen to each other and they know what the other members of the band are thinking. Every time I see Umphrey’s live it’s like looking at a perfectly timed engine with all the components completely in synch. It is because they are so tight that they continue to attract new fans and push the limits of their musical potential.

The first encore may have been the highlight of the entire show with Railroad Earth sitting in with UM on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” RRE did get lost in the mix a bit, but it was definitely a fun experiment. I honestly thought that UM would entertain some more acoustic playing given the fact that they have performed several stripped down shows as of late. This was not the case, rather RRE played up to a heavier sound, which is definitely apparent in this encore. Umphrey’s came back for a second encore solo and played a nice “JaJunk” to close the show. It was a pleasant way to close out Red Rocks for the summer and an enjoyable show all around. The combination of RRE and UM made for an interesting dynamic. I look forward to the day when UM will become fully embraced in Colorado and finally sell out Red Rocks. They certainly deserve it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Drunken Hearts: Live For Today

Words By J-man

From the first few notes of the self-titled track "Live For Today," the listener is sucked into the sonic world of Andrew McConathy's musical vision and Tim Carbone's (Railroad Earth) masterful production. Andrew's voice powers through the ambient instrumentation with clear resemblances to Eddie Vedder's sound or the candor of Johnny Cash. The message is clear, "Live For Today," and who could argue with that? Driven by a poetic approach, songs like "Goes To Show," "Make It Out Ahead" and "Don't Go" reflect the On The Road theme. Even more clearly with "Dean Moriarty's Blues," and the chorus "I wonder if I'll ever make it home again," McConathy leans on cultural icon Jack Kerouac.

Welcoming guests like Tim Carbone, Scott Law, Chris Misner, James Thomas, Kyle James Hauser, Stephen Kerlinger & Damian Calcagne further elevates the complete sonic sound of the album with a heavy volume of additional instruments and influences. Where as many albums take a few spins to get hooked, Live For Today captivates the listener and tells a story upon first listen. Much like a page turning novel, McConathy's songs seduce the mind, causing the listener to play the album straight through. In this time of mediocrity in music and diluted messages/themes, "Live For Today" is a perfect storm of metaphors, well constructed compositions and timeless music.

*After having the album out of it's sleeve for only a couple of hours, I have listened to the album now three times through...

Head over to for more information on The Drunken Hearts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Railroad Earth 9.13.12

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By J-man, Nicholas Stock & Carly Marthis
Video By Nicholas Stock

The sun shined down on Boulder, CO as the first few leaves of the season began to fall. We found ourselves on the Pearl St. Mall scouting a location for an exclusive session that we would be doing with Railroad Earth. With the location being selected and the band wrapping up their soundcheck, I made my way backstage to provide some assistance in rounding up the group. As we walked down the alleyway from the backstage door of the Boulder Theater to the mall, I could hear Tim Carbone's fiddle bouncing off of the brick wall as he warmed up. "Today they would perform the exclusive session, tonight they would play the sold out Boulder Theater and tomorrow they would play Red Rocks alongside Umphrey's McGee," I thought to myself as the crowd on the mall came into my view. I was thrilled to see so many familiar faces and as the band tuned and prepared...

Following the session, folks made their way towards members of their favorite band to say hello and show their appreciation for the couple of songs. We made our way to the front of the venue to gather our credentials and found a moderate-sized group already assembling in a loose line to claim their space on the rail. A couple of hours later and the doors opened at The Boulder Theater.

Inside of the theater the frenzy had begun and the elevated energy was already palatable. Folks hugged, shared laughs and dipped into bags of glitter, which quickly spread throughout the floor section like a expensive party favor. As is always the case at Railroad Earth shows, the crowd ran the gambit of age groups and social backgrounds. Maybe more than any other band on our scene, RRE draws one of the most diverse crowds. There is something about the ageless music that so many can relate to. Maybe its the band's sonic output, timeless lyrics or heartfelt sound. Whatever was driving the train and all of it's passengers, it managed to sell out the 1150 person capacity venue.

Railroad Earth Live at Boulder Theater on September 13, 2012.

At first, only John Skehan III and Andy Goessling took the stage informing the crowd that Bill Monroe would have been 101 on that day. The duo began with "Ashland Breakdown" before the rest of the band joined transitioning into "Old Dangerfield" and opening up the room with expansive instrumentation. "Just So You Know" came next with consistent energy, as the crowd swayed back and forth to the music. Railroad turned it up a notch with "Drag Him Down," featuring Todd Sheaffer's characteristic folk vocals. Railroad's unique sound derives from the deep instrumentation and solo work, breaking through the usual bluegrass confines. The set slowed down for "Little Bit O' Me," only to bring the energy back with a Tim Carbone led "Daddy-O." The ever-so-beautiful "Potter's Field" followed triggering the rhythm section of Andrew Altman and Carey Harmon to shine brightly through compositional transitions. "1759" went into "Mountain Time" with the two songs clocking in at over nineteen minutes.

With the first sets conclusion, a mass exodus towards the doors ensued. Sweaty faces poured out onto the street in front of the theater as folks headed in all directions into the beautiful Colorado night, only to return a mere twenty minutes later for the second set.

Railroad eased their way back in with a thirteen minute plus "Birds of America." "Lordy, Lordy" came next and was followed by "Been Down this Road," which slowed the show down once again and reflected Railroad Earth's range. "Came Up Smiling" kept the tempo slow, as did "A Day On The Sand," "For Love," "Black Elk Speaks" and "Way of The Buffalo" before the band transitioned into "Stillwater Getaway" to keep the energy alive. Tim Carbone's solo on "Stillwater Getaway" was absolutely stunning and blew the minds of most in attendance. It seemed that the band was reserving it's energy and barn-burners for the following night's performance at Red Rocks as they fired back up with a slow "Long Walk Home" that transitioned into the powerful Irish-sounding "The Green Roofs of Eireann."

The next transition sparked an energetic rush in the crowd as the opening notes of "Smiling Like A Buddha" kicked in with instrumental brilliance. In that moment, most knew that the highlight/climax of the show was upon us as "Smiling Like A Buddha" slowly turned into "Give That Boy A Hand" to close the second set. The whole run of transitioning songs clocked in around twenty eight minutes. The encore came in the form of "I Ain't Got No Home" featuring Andy on the sax. Just prior to the final song of the evening Tim spoke up and said "We can't decide if we want to play a fast one or a faster one... Fast? Faster?" with the crowd going crazy after Tim said "faster!" Then the band went into a moderate tempo version of "Ragtime Annie Lee" that built and built to an all out string frenzy to close the evening.

The show had it's moments, but overall reflected a band just getting warmed up. The following night at Red Rocks would be a whole different ballgame. Railroad Earth fans seemed satisfied, however, many Umphrey's fans who had purchased the three day pass seemed puzzled with the band's slower song selection. Overall the production was flawless and on par with everything that I have come to expect from Railroad Earth. I felt grateful for the exclusive session on the mall, appreciative of Railroad's ability to bring together the community and mostly satisfied with the show. As expected, the following night's show at Red Rocks would reveal a different side of Railroad Earth.

Carly Marthis' Photo Gallery

J-man & Nicholas' Photo Gallery

Sunday, September 16, 2012

magicgravy 9.9.12

Quixote's True Blue
Denver, CO

Words, Photos & Video By J-man
Audio By Ed Simon (
Kind Recordings)

Every band, regardless of it's size and/or popularity, has its fan base. It just so happens in magicgravy's case, their core group of fans is a group of gentleman whom I have a lot of respect for. The name magicgravy gets tossed around the Denver scene like an underground cult classic movie title, shared only between those with intimate knowledge of its existence. Comprised of Dan Lebowitz (Animal Liberation Orchestra), Garrett Sayers (Garrett Sayers Trio, The Motet, Kyle Hollingsworth Band) & Dave Watts (The Motet, Juno What), magicgravy is a music fans dream! The rarity of the project also helps to elevate the anticipation and demand, however on that Sunday, only the hardcore fans/insiders turned out to Quixote's to mark the occasion.

magicgravy Live at Quixotes True Blue on September 9, 2012.

Lebo's funk chops opened up the show with Colorado's most infamous rhythm section diving in behind him. The trio smiled as each measure unfolded with intention and a well-timed delivery. Lebo's utilization of the acoustic guitar reflected an incredible mastery and a fairly electric approach. Garrett watched Lebo intently, filling in the composition with massively tasteful bass bombs. Dave, normally reserved emotionally on stage, had a huge smile on his face as the trio explored the space in which they laid out. Together, MagicGravy reflected years of experience and delighted the super fans who turned out in limited numbers.

The two to three "song" set extended to an hour and fifteen minutes, reaching into some expansive space and exploration. A trio like MagicGravy is a pure powerhouse, but with Lebo living outside of Colorado, its existence is sparsely maintained. If Gravy were to record an album, book a run of dates and spread its touring wings, it would be quite the force to recon with. However, with a name that not many are familiar with, no promotion what-so-ever and it being a Sunday night, no more than fifteen to twenty people were present for what was incredible performance.

J-man's Photo Gallery