7 Walkers, Funk Ark & Alan Evans Trio 8.30.12
Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
& Cervantes Other Side
Words & Photos By J-man
Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend brought Phish to Commerce City, CO, leaving Thursday wide open for a pre-party of epic proportions. Oddly enough, it seemed only one venue in Denver took advantage of this opportunity. Folks flocked to Cervantes with both rooms playing host to packed crowds. Dancers, drinkers, hoopers and thinkers all assembled, the evening unfolded as if it were the weekend. Along side Mike Gordon (Phish), a ton of friends, a bunch of out-of-towners and familiar faces we celebrated the music of the Grateful Dead, funk, jazz and more. That night in Denver marked my first experience with Funk Ark, Alan's new trio and my first time seeing Bill Kreutzmann's band outside of a festival setting.
-The Funk Ark-
Having heard about Funk Ark for some time through Furthur's Lighting Director, Preston Hoffman, excitement grew for the highly anticipated set. Our entrance came a couple of songs into the set and I knew without asking that the band on stage before us, was Funk Ark. Raging funk guitar collided with a ripping lead, as the horn section tore through with authentic precision. The thick rhythm section seeped through the front lines off of the stage, moved the at first small crowd until the room was packed. The keys being the final piece to the puzzle, Funk Ark shined brightly, impressing an often chatty crowd as friends gathered during a set which felt far from an opener.
"Who are these guys?" people asked me repeatedly, to which I responded "Funk Ark out of D.C." as if I had been seeing them for years. "They're great!" was a common response as the band played what felt like an extended set. In the main room the Sam Holt Band pushed the volume to a near unimaginable level encouraging an even larger gathering of patrons on The Other Side. The evening could have ended following Funk Ark's set and folks would have been happy. Many had danced so hard that I wondered if they had any energy left for the remainder of the evening. Backstage members of Funk Ark mingled with members of The Alan Evans Trio. It felt like a party throughout the venue from the basement to the balcony of the main room. Just prior to the trio taking the stage, I took a few shots to mark the occasion.
In the Ballroom, the evening's headlining band was a handful of songs deep when we showed face. The 7 Walkers featured a fantastic cast of musicians including Bill Kreutzmann (Grateful Dead), George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Papa Mali and Matt Hubbard (Willie Nelson). Their take on the Dead's material was well-honed and psychedelic. With a backdrop of tapestries and lights flashing across them, there was a lot of motion in the room. Tight instrumentation translated to loose improve as the group explored many fan favorites.
The second set of the evening came a short time later with the band's return to the stage. Cervantes was buzzing and as we stepped back to The Other Side, we crossed paths with Mike Gordon, who was surround by a handful of girls who couldn't have been of legal drinking age. As he passed through the room, he made eye contact with everyone present, looking into their soul.
-The Alan Evans Trio-
Soulive drummer, Alan Evans brought his new trio to Denver and as they hit the stage, it was almost hard to separate their sound from Soulive's. The trio's energy was unmistakable, reminding many of the early days of Soulive. The music was captivating, danceable and well executed with each member displaying a respectable skill set on their instrument. The room was packed with fans and overflow as I went into reflection about Alan's playing. He is a great drummer who has shown his abilities in a wide variety of musical situations, though that night seeming to be one dimensional in regards to range. For Alan to step outside of a fairly prominent project like Soulive, put out similar music and call it a side project seemed odd.
As the evening grew later, the people became more and more wide-eyed. Knowing what the next couple of nights had in store for us, we began to consider our exit strategy. Feeling absolutely fulfilled with the pre-party behind us and with the main events of the weekend to come, we stepped into the open air of the Denver night. Thank you Scott Morrill and Duncan Goodman for a fantastic evening of music!
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