MusicMarauders Presents: Two Nights of Kyle Hollingsworth Band & Soulive

Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Kevin Hahn
Audio By Peter Coffan

With one of the more entertaining and epic musically inclined weekends of the year now in my rear view mirror, I am starting to realize and truly understand why people get stuck here in our great state of Colorado. Being a non-native (Bay Area, California) I thought I knew what a hip and ultra-cool place to live in was like. Then I decided to follow my best-friend out to Boulder, Colorado for college six long years ago and I could not be happier with my decision. This past weekend at Cervantes was a great example of why Colorado and more specifically the Denver area is a downright fucking awesome place to live, party, dream, escape, multiply, dance and rage your “prime” years away. If you were at Cervantes you know exactly what I am talking about because not only did we get Soulive (one of the funkiest jazz trio’s on the jamband circuit right now), but we got Kyle Hollingsworth (from the String Cheese Incident) and his funky Motet friends dropping funk bombs all over the place. Most venues are lucky enough to get one of these bands for one night each, but Cervantes pulled both heavyweights for two nights a piece! The anticipation of funk-dom (The freedom to funk yourself up all over the place) was brutal for the days leading up to the event, but Friday finally arrived and Kyle took the stage with a smile and “Hoptastic” beer in hand.

I have to admit, I was lucky enough to attend Thursday’s show with Eric Krasno from Soulive sitting in for the entire night with the Kyle Hollingsworth Band in Ft. Collins and I couldn’t imagine a night of better music ahead. But, I came into the Friday show at Cervantes with an open mind and no real expectations. “Racer Girl,” a new-ish song that Kyle has really seemed to embrace, came thumping through the beautifully designed sound system, which Cervantes is known for, and the party had officially begun. The place was jam-packed with lines forming for whatever you needed at that particular moment in time and I could just tell this was going to be a fun sweat-filled night. If you have seen the Kyle Hollingsworth Band before you must be aware of the outrageous backing band he has prominently standing/sitting to his left. Garrett Sayers, Dave Watts and Dan Shwindt don’t only provide a bass line, drum-beat, and neck rearing guitar riffs but they transform this band into a funk-fueled machine. Every song has a Motet feel (which is A-ok in my book) and the transitions thrown in between just prove how talented these three gentlemen are. I salute you Kyle Hollingsworth for realizing what was already an amazing group in the Motet and flat-out stealing there core for your own pleasure. I can proudly say I would have done the exact same fucking thing.

Kyle Hollingsworth Band Live at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom on December 7, 2012.

“Let’s Go Outside” came next with Kyle’s sweet sounding harmony echoing off the ceiling and “All I Need” was a nicely timed transition right after. Both of these songs are Kyle classics and have been adopted and transformed into bigger String Cheese Incident pieces appearing in more recent 2011-2012 tour dates. “World Girl”, a new Kyle song is just not good in my opinion. I don’t know much else to say about this one as I have heard it three or four times now and just can’t get into the beat, melody, or lyrics. Our previously announced special guest for the evening, Jason Hann, bounced onto the stage with a huge grin and his usual good attitude radiating into the crowd. His first duty was to help out on Kyle’s hit “Can’t Wait Another Day,” which has also appeared in many recent Cheese tour stops. I personally am completely over this song and the hype it receives from Cheeseheads all over. It was great the first two or three times, but after ten or so times hearing this piece, I have given up hope on it being anything else than a Michael Franti wannabe pop hit. “Pack it Up > Boo Boo’s Pik-a-nik” was a pleasant combination featuring all of Kyle’s piano abilities on full display with his Motet friends raging right there with him. Jason Hann provided no real positive or negative effects on any songs he was involved with as his jembe/bongo playing was easily over-shadowed by Garrett and Dan’s fierce bass vs. guitar duels. I wonder why Kyle didn’t have his good buddy Michael Kang come by?

Kyle ended his Friday night set with an “Ordinary > Naïve Melody > Peregrino” which even though very predictable, was an awesome way to get my dancing shoes the work they deserved. All in all it wasn’t the best performance I have ever seen by Mr. Hollingsworth, but maybe he was a bit nervous opening up for the all-mighty funk trio Soulive? Or could it have been the Ft. Collins rage-fest the night before? Whatever the case it didn’t really matter, there was still Soulive and the Saturday night show to go and I knew that weekend was going to kill it no matter what. Soulive came out of the gates dropping jazzy funk all over Cervantes with Alan and Neil Evans leading the charge. The New York based trio can do it all when it comes to music and what is needed on any given night in any given venue. The group led by a formidable leader in Eric Krasno really gets your body moving with their jazzy roots and funky jams. Song after song Soulive brought it to the table and in my opinion stole the show from the Kyle Hollingsworth Band almost immediately. Neil Evans was a keyboard wizard taking on both the keys and the bass line using a B-3 Hammond organ to perfection. His brother Alan was the voice of Soulive and was a damn good drummer to boot. Their sets are clean and well rehearsed with no real stops in tempo or disruptions in the beat to speak of.

Soulive Live at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom on December 7, 2012.

Eric Krasno is a jazz guitar virtuoso and being the leader of funk bands such as Soulive and Lettuce, one must be able to keep the groove going all night long. His playing style is very similar to that of John Scofield as it seems he flows through the songs rather than shredding from note to note. Krasno can lay a riff in front or behind any bass line or drum beat known to man and it shows in the variety of songs and covers he is flawless in resurrecting any night of the week. Soulive possessed a perfect balance between jazz and funk as the trio jumped from one genre to the other with laser-like precision and the crowd was definitely appreciative of the variety in musical types. I do believe Soulive benefited from having the headlining spot on Friday night as the audience was ready to get it on when the trio hit the stage. To summarize Friday though as a night of disappointments and moments of musical under-delivery would not be the correct thing to do. Even though my mind was not blown at any particular time throughout the night, it was an enjoyable musical experience nonetheless. I could not wait for Saturday though, as we were going to get both of the bands again and Kyle was going to be in the headlining spot. One More Saturday Night!

Saturday night could not have come any quicker if I tried to pull the sun down with a rope myself. Maybe it was the anticipation, or maybe it was the immense amount of caffeine I ingested that morning but the sun-lit hours of Saturday afternoon flew by. I arrived at Cervantes just in time for Soulive to hit the stage and the first thing I noticed was the immense amount of space on the dance floor available to boogie down. For a Saturday night duel-headlining show with this immense amount of talent oozing out of Cervantes pores, I was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable I was for the entirety of the evening. Soulive came out with a bang as the Evan’s Brothers once again led the well-oiled funkified machine, which has become an East Coast mainstay for the last decade or so. What came next was a very unexpected left turn into slow-jam land as the trio went from slow to slower to the slowest funk I have ever heard in my life. The talent on stage could not quench my thirst for some soul-riveting funk, so I left Cervantes and quietly moved over to the Other Side. Wait, what did I just do? Did I really walk out on one of the bands that I have come to love and adore over the last couple years and drool when I hear their name mentioned? Yes, Soulive’s Saturday show was in my opinion boring and if I hear them play any more Beatles songs I will have to punch a baby koala in the face. But what did The Other Side possess which could wet my whistle and help my dancing shoes get their workout in?

Andreux & The See of Sounds was just the thing I needed on this continually disappointing weekend. The lead singer from the recently signed MusicMarauders project, Frogs Gone Fishin’, and his jam-band friends powered through original compositions and rocked The Other Side from start to finish. I had never seen or heard of any of the musicians on stage, but on this night it made no difference as the youthful and energetic feeling that See of Sounds brought to the stage immensely impressed me. Solos passed from electric guitar to drums to a very talented horn section, which included a saxophone and my favorite brass instrument, the trombone. As Louis Armstrong watched over The See of Sounds, it was quite evident that they have a very tight knit group of cult-like followers who like myself, with a band such as Phish or String Cheese, know every subtlety the band possesses and can truly appreciate the beautifulness of each piece. For the sake of this article I apologize for not having more information on the Soulive Saturday performance, but Andrew Portwood and his friends stole my attention from the moment I walked into The Other Side and I could not subject myself to the garbage that Soulive was trying to feed us. I love Soulive, but See of Sounds should have opened the night for the Kyle Hollingsworth Band in my opinion. Hopefully MusicMarauders can get this accomplished in the future, as The See of Sounds is a band which needs to be put on the forefront of the local jamband scene.

Soulive Live at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom on December 8, 2012.

I wandered back over to Cervantes as Kyle and his Motet friends hit the stage right on time for their well-deserved headlining spot. The set started with a nice combo of “Too Young > Taxman,” as this was an awesome tribute to the anniversary of John Lennon’s death 32 years to the date earlier. Eric Krasno was nice enough to join in on the rendition of “Taxman” and stayed up on stage to lead Kyle’s band through his original composition, “Unconditional Love.” Our previously announced special guest, Kim Dawson, also joined in for this new song and brought the house down with her gospel like shrieks. “World Girl” came next and as I previously mentioned this song is just not one I want to hear… ever. The Kyle classic “Piece of Mine” was forced to try and save what the previous song had screwed up earlier and did a nice job in turning the set back around. The Motet Horns joined in from this point on and were an awesome addition to Kyle’s already immensely talented band. Then came our first real musical delight of the night as the String Cheese hit “Lost” came blaring through the Cervantes speakers. What a fucking awesome song this is! Funky grooves, great transitional jams and even pretty good lyrics make this song a nice piece of Kyle’s repertoire. WOW! The set had really taken a turn with “World Girl”, but was quickly saved by Kyle and his funktastic friends.

“Way That It Goes > Ordinary” followed and both were great renditions of songs Kyle has commonly placed in his sets over the years. And then the world stopped… The DEEP bass beat of the Peter Gabriel cult-hit “Sledgehammer” came raging through Garrett’s bass and the crowd erupted with joy. Only being 23 myself, I had personally never heard the song, but holy shit am I a fan now. Kyle seemed to have the biggest smile in the world on his face and Kim Dawson provided an amazing vocal accompaniment. To make the first-time cover of Peter Gabriel’s song even more special, the fan favorite “Rosie” came blasting in right after. This was a perfect transition in my opinion and I do hope Kyle might nudge Cheese to look into this one in the future. The set ended with a rousing version of "BAM!" and once again Kyle and his Motet friends had blown my mind. The crowd was stunned after such an energy filled headlining set and I can only imagine what the Soulive boys were thinking as they listened to the carnage backstage.

Kyle Hollingsworth Band Live at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom on December 8, 2012.

So what did we learn from this two day rage-fest? A few things:

-Having 2 major bands swap headlining spots can sometimes be tricky
-Andreux & The See of Sounds are badass!
-Soulive needs to stop playing the Beatles
-Kyle knew what he was doing when he stole the Motet’s core group
-And Cervantes delivers over and over again with awesome pairings and great marketing

In the end it was a fucking awesome weekend for all Denver live music fanatics. Hopefully it will happen more often and maybe we'll even see these bands get their own headlining (as opposed to co-headlining) nights at Cervantes in the future. Whatever happens I am pumped as the funk is raging hard in the coolest place I have ever lived. GO DENVER, GO DENVER, GO!

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