Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The String Cheese Incident 7.26 & 7.27.13

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By J-man & Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot Photography)
Audio By Peter Coffan

The peak of summer for many is marked by The String Cheese Incident's multiple night run at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. This year, Red Rocks would only play host to two nights of SCI as opposed to the usual three. Unlike many other touring acts, SCI struggled to sell out the nine thousand plus venue in their home state, with only Saturday night selling out in the end. With criticism reaching a boiling point for SCI in regards to their performances, song selections and their utilization of dupstep, the band were under the microscope from their increasingly critical fan base. On top of the open criticism that the band has been receiving, Horning's Hideout tickets have been popping up on Facebook and Craigslist from one hundred dollars, to best offer/free, with speculation surrounding the reality of Horning's being "Sold out" as the band had previously claimed. Folks flocked to the Rocks for two nights with high hopes of seeing one of their favorite bands on top of their game.

Friday July 26th, 2013:

Red Rocks' Lower South Lot filled in with the sun still high in the sky around the 3:00 PM hour. Clearly many of the folks in attendance either didn't have jobs or had a solid grip on their priorities in life. It was open game on the lot with hippies selling all sorts of knock off merch, patchwork wears and intoxicants of a wide variety. Massive Red Rocks ripped through earth vertically towards the sky in an impressive array making for one of the most, if not the most beautiful lot scene in the country. College chairs and beer became the most prominent items in the gravel lot as show time approached. With doors open, it was time to make the lengthy hike up to the Rocks. The energy was high among the cheese heads sporting glitter, stickers, costumes and unfathomable accessories. On the side of the stage the band huddled for a pre-game hoorah. At the first sign of the band, the near capacity crowd erupted with excitement. Bill Nershi removed his shoes and rolled up his pants as he always does, Kyle teased a common iPhone ringer on the keys prompting many to glance down at their phones before Kyle said "Please turn off your phones during the show... You, who's phone is that?"

String Cheese Incident Live at Red Rocks Amphitheater on July 26, 2013.

Set One: Shine > Mouna Bowa, Close Your Eyes, Up The Canyon > Freedom Jazz Dance, Sing A New Song > Don't Say > Restless Wind

Set Two: Let's Go Outside > Tinder Box > Big Shoes > 100 Year Flood > Far From Home > Just One Story

Encore: Shakin' The Tree > Rosie > Around the World > Rosie

The band began the with a beautiful Michael Kang led "Shine," that extended past the seventeen minute mark and included some spacey jamming before turning towards "Mouna Bowa." The transition was brief, but the flow was near perfect as the band executed each run of notes perfectly. Kang's fiddle sounded out over the rocks, bouncing from row to row, with Keith Moseley's bass shaking the insides of those closer to the stage before working its way outward. "Close Your Eyes" came next with Kyle Hollingsworth stepping up for his first vocal contribution of the weekend. Micheal Travis and Jason Hann's drum and percussion work created a solid foundation for Kang to take liberties on improvisational tangents. A short "Up The Canyon" went into "Freedom Jazz Dance," which got loose and involved some of the most interesting/jazzy instrumentation up to that point in the show. "Sing A New Song" kicked off with Billy on lap steel/slide guitar before resolving to the chorus and going into a seventeen minute "Don't Say" that got a touch electronic. The intensity picked up with grungy effects and screaming synth before Kyle's vocals kicked in and the band returned to in depth jams that reflected a much more practiced group from what fans had experienced in the beginning portion of tour. "Don't Say" quietly transitioned into "Restless Wind" to the excitement of the Colorado crowd. Kang switched between the electric mandolin and the fiddle while Kyle tore into his keys and Bill jumped into the air. They were clearly having fun, as were their "critics." With the closing of the first set of the weekend came smiles all around.

"Hey, you're still here? We just came to get our stuff," Billy said with a smile before thanking everyone for coming out and supporting SCI. Then a very telling moment came when Billy said "there are so many of you and you're all above us and I'm scared that if I play the wrong note you might come down here and kick my butt. You wouldn't do that, would ya? Maybe? No, that's just my inner voice talking. Don't listen to that." He then lead the packed house in a collective group hoot. With the click of Kyle's clavinet it was clear that "Let's Go Outside" would follow and indeed it did. The song opened into a very loose and jammed out mid section that had some odd drum sampling before going into "Tinder Box" that quickly built like a wildfire. Through several sections the band went, taking the audience on a ride with them, arriving at a spacey slide solo from Billy before the drums took over and not much happened for a couple of minutes. They picked back up and transitioned seamlessly into a twenty minute "Big Shoes" that seemed to go on forever. A massive red moon appeared in the sky behind Red Rocks as "Big Shoes" turned into "100 Year Flood," bringing a more soulful sound. Kang leaned into his solos as he had done all night, really stepping it up and stealing the show. Without stopping they went right into "Far From Home" building and building to a fantastic peak, only bringing it down to transition into an uninteresting reggae jam before ending the first set with "Just One Story." Billy's acoustic chops were on as Kang belted out. They slowed the energy down to a near stand still and started immediately building towards the set's inevitable conclusion with one more massive peak.

Billy thanked the crowd once more before the band stepped off stage, only to return a few minutes later with Peter Gabriel's "Shankin' The Tree." The slow African rhythms created a dreamlike vibe, before slowly building with Kyle's wailing keys and Kang's extensive note holds before going into Kyle's "Rosie!" The signature lick and drumbeat turned Red Rocks into an all out dance party. What came next is something that will have Cheese fans talking for some time. The band transitioned into Daft Punk's "Around The World" with Kang on vocoder. The place erupted with excitement and cheer as dancing ensued and the band transitioned back into "Rosie" to close a fantastic two sets of music! If Saturday wasn't already sold out at that point, it would have immediately following all of the online chatter from Friday's stellar show. As fans poured out into the lots taxis, towing vehicles and wide eyed folks sat idle as the mass exodus began, only to return hours later for round two!

Saturday July 27th, 2013:

For many, Saturday's party got a much later start than Friday's. Far less critics turned out as it seems many had been converted back to fans overnight. The initial push from the lots towards the venue welcomed the first crashes of lightning and thunder in the distance. Inside the venue an announcement came over the house speakers that lightning had struck within' two miles and it may be in our best interest to return to our cars or seek shelter. The final plea was that we could remain on the rocks at our own risk. With that the sky fell, first just a little, but quickly becoming something worth seeking shelter from. Down inside the hollowed out portion under the rocks that houses the restrooms, the museum and the grille, many folks sought shelter, hanging up their clothes to dry anywhere they could. It wasn't long before the corridor wreaked like a wet dog. The venue shook with the rumbling of thunder and the thought of those trapped outside in the raging storm was discouraging at best.

String Cheese Incident Live at Red Rocks Amphitheater on July 27, 2013.

Set One: Song In My Head > Come As You Are, Can't Wait Another Day, Don't It Make You Wanna Dance > Dudley's Kitchen, Look At Where We Are, Eye Know Why, Could You Be Loved, Rollover

Set Two: Drums > Rivertrance > It Is What It Is, Johnny Cash > Don't Bring Me Down > Johnny Cash, Colliding, Search, Sirens > BollyMunster, Colorado Bluebird Sky

Encore: After Midnight(1) > Outside And Inside(1)

Second Encore: Way Back Home

Notes: (1) with Anders Osborne

Following little to no delay the band took the stage and began with "Song In My Head," and Kang picking up right where he left off, before the band segued into "Come As You Are." The salsa vibe took over as folks shuffled their feet. Soaring dual melodies from Kang and Nershi led to Kyle's screaming keys and Keith's heavy slap bass lines. "Can't Wait Another Day" led off with pouring rain and Jason's hand drum work before the rest of the band jumped in with Kyle saying "you guys look great out there! Just keep thinking dry thoughts." Walls of water overtook the crowd as the band played on through tight sections. "It's good that we didn't play 'Waiting For The Snow To Fall,'" Kyle said with a smirk. "A little rain is not going to stop us," Kang said smiling as the crowd cheered loudly. "Hey guys, there may be a sharknado warning out there. Be on the lookout..." Jason said. "What was that Jason? A what?" Kyle said acting as if he hadn't watch the whole damn Sharknado feature. "A sharknado... They're out there these days," Jason exclaimed.

"Don't It Make You Want To Dance" began with Billy encouraging the crowd to sing along, before the sort of bluegrass roll began. Through a vocal oriented composition and even an acapella breakdown, the band headed right into ripping acoustic work from Billy. The rain poured down and a feeling of bliss overtook the crowd as the band passed around solos. SCI cooled it off a little bit with "Dudley's Kitchen," before the rain began to slow down and the band dove into "Eye Know Why." The song involved some massive shredding and peaking, opening up the composition to some electronic work from the percussion section at the back of the stage, better known as EOTO. Just as they started Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved," fog filled the amphitheatre creating an extremely euphoric vibe that included flashes of light and a lack of visibility outside what began to feel almost like an indoor venue. Kang sang the lead while Kyle and Keith filled in on the background/female vocals. "Rollover" came next soaring from the get go and eluded to the closing of the first set. The middle section slowed down and made room for Jason's percussion work and eventual move towards the laptop. Kyle took the lead passing it to Kang who led the charge into the songs final progressions. With setbreak came an influx of people heading down under Red Rocks to dry off and warm up.

The second set began with a feat that had never been accomplished at Red Rocks. Micheal Travis And Jason Hann began the set on top of the towers on each side of the stage for what is being dubbed "Tower Drums." The jam itself wasn't all that special, but the concept was pretty cool and folks in the crowd dug it. "Drums" became the intro to Kang's "Rivertrance," as he subtly teased the fiddle alongside Kyle's spacey synth. Kang's beautiful fiddle overtook Red Rocks and the minds of those in attendance as Billy grabbed the reigns. The song's jam has really developed into an assault of sonic output. "Rivertrance" turned into "It Is What It Is" with a sort of sloppy transition. As the song unfolded, Kang delivered, nailing each note with precision as he tore through modular progressions with incredible direction and tone. The band halted with a roar from the crowd, only to resume and dig back into the song. "What's up Red Rocks? That was crazy! Thanks for hanging out in the rain with us. It's that kind of extreme stuff that really kind of makes it all worth it," Kang said laughing.

Fan favorite "Johnny Cash" was pulled from the catalog and presented to the fans with energetic fury. Folks sang along loudly before the band went into Electric Light Orchestra's "Don't Bring Me Down" for a short time, dropping into one of the weekend's only dubstep segments, before returning to "Johnny Cash." There were some sideways looks from the old timers, as it didn't really flow, but it was short lived and came without consequence. [In other words, "you'll be alright, don't let it ruin your weekend."] "Colliding" followed with a similar sound and intro to "Rosie," only to resolve to another Kyle composition. More electronic material came into picture for the middle of the song, settling towards the end. "Search" kicked off with folks blowing up beach balls and Billy's guitar and vocal work. The song was beautifully played and a welcome throwback. Kang once again switched over to fiddle for a beautiful section before an all out drum dual took shape. "Sirens" paved the way for a jam that meandered along before it teased and lead into "Bollymunster," which triggered a middle eastern get down. The ensuing jam reflected solid growth in a newer song. Billy once again thanked the crowd before offering an expected yet satisfying "Colorado Bluebird Sky" to close the second set. The band spent the following eleven minutes building and building and building to a fantastic high point before tearing it all down!

SCI returned to the stage for an also expected JJ Cale tune. However, what was not expected was that guitarist and vocalist Anders Osborne would be leading the charge! "After Midnight" it was and the song fit well into the set. Anders' vocals were pleasant and his playing was rowdy as he traded solos with Kang, who tapped into Jerry Garcia's tone. "After Midnight" transitioned into "Outside Inside," with Billy stepping up to get in on the action. It was a great way to close the show, so we thought. "We'll see you back here in Colorado for New Years!" Keith said as the band once again exited the stage. As the crowd began to slowly disperse it became clear that the house lights had still not come up. The band returned to the still lit stage and the second encore came in the form of "Way Back Home." It was a great way to end an incredible two night run on the rocks. SCI built it up and tore it down once more for the sold out crowd! Folks were pleased and many who had considered backing out of Horning's were now back to the idea of attending. What started with criticism, was quickly quelled with two nights of ripping music from The String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. As quickly as the weekend came, it was gone and all that was left was a hippie with his thumb in the air and a sign that read "Heading to Hornings!"

J-man's Friday Photo Gallery

Kevin's Saturday Photo Gallery

Monday, July 29, 2013

Camp Euforia 7.12 - 7.13.13

Jerry’s Farm
Lone Tree, IA

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock
Audio By Tommy The Beard

Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.” I think what he meant was that when you return to the place of your roots years later the changes in that environment mean that it will never really be the same. My journey to Iowa for Camp Euforia is the epitome of this statement. Ten years ago a then local band bought ten kegs of beer, set up a modest stage, and put on an event forever known as the “Euforquestra Fan Appreciation Party.” For some unknown reason they asked me to be the Master of Ceremony. The concert consisted of a handful of Iowa City acts and around 200 music fans. Everything was free including beer and food. A decade later, this event endures having evolved into a full blown two-day festival with both nationally touring and homegrown bands on the bill. They asked me to return this time as the official festival video producer. We culled together a small group of young, passionate videographers to help me with my endeavor and along the way we shot over thirty hours of content. Thusly I didn’t have much time to take stills; nonetheless I managed to snap a few shots on the farm.

I arrived Thursday prior to the start of Camp Euforia 2013 and set up my tent in Robert and Ritaville. Rob and Rita were, and continue to be, the honorary patriarchs of the musical scene in Iowa City. In college they could be found at most shows mingling with the students, music fans, and bar flies alike. They have always camped in the front lawn of the farm and that corner of the fest has since earned that prestigious moniker. The farm itself is a sprawling space of manicured grass and structures owned by festival promoter/founder Jerry Hotz. Together with Eric Quiner (former Euforquestra keyboardist) they have shepherded this event for ten years. Camp Euforia has resided here since the very beginning. Surrounded by three hundred and sixty degrees of corn and soybean fields that stretch to the horizon, this is truly an Iowa landscape. The improvements to the amenities and infrastructure from that first year are immediately apparent. Gone are the truck beds and dilapidated barn that served as the various stages in the beginning and in its place is a professional setup rivaling any festival digs in the Midwest. The second stage has been built in the second barn that ten years ago was a dirt-floored hazard. Now complete with it’s own sound and light rig, it is yet another bastion of music in this palatial panorama. They have a quaint spot set up in front of the barn for late night acoustic jamming. Perhaps the biggest improvement this year is the massive bar they constructed opposite of the shed stage and made from salvaged wood panels giving it that classic Iowa look. The vibe at Camp Euforia is one of an extended family reunion. Everyone looks somewhat familiar. For an ex-Iowa City-ian I had numerous reconnections throughout the fest.

Camp Euforia is a unique experience by any standard. Perhaps the most compelling of which besides the locale is the fact that throughout both days there are no overlapping sets of music. Thursday was full of proficiently frenzied preparations that culminated with an extended sound check by Euforquestra for the crew and festival guests. Their crew is one of the best in the business and includes many who have been working this festival for years. Camp Euforia began in earnest on Friday afternoon with The Candymakers. This band is an uplifting breath of fresh soulful air steeped in quality musicianship and irreverent absurdity. They are a throwback to the days when Motown and R&B ruled the radio waves. Decked out in polyester suits the band played an hour of powerful original tunes. At one point lead singer Al Sweet spouted off about riding a unicorn into the sunset. I found out later this is an improvised segment to one of their original tunes. They have been well regarded in blues circles in the Midwest, but it is their vibrant soul that really got my attention. Their song “I Wanna Dip You In Chocolate” was a true highlight. They rounded out their set with a robust rendition of The Beatles, “Oh Darling.”

An unexpected schedule change put Pert Near Sandstone on the main stage next. They have a solid brand of string music, which they have been diligently spreading across the country for several years now. Hailing from Minneapolis this quintet deserves to be recognized for their contribution to Midwest bluegrass. From their humble beginnings as a boozy pick session, Pert Near Sandstone has blossomed into a full-blown bluegrass experience. Their set at Camp Euforia was truly impressive and a great way to get the fest into full swing.

A blast from the past came in the form of Public Property in the barn. PP came up around the same time as Euforquestra in Iowa City. In fact their festival Exodus was a huge influence on the nascent beginnings of Camp Euforia. They played their harmony-backed brand of Roots Rock Reggae led by singer songwriter Dave Bess. Dave continues to play select Public Property dates, but primarily performs as a solo artist. Their set was jam packed with classic PP with Matt Wright and sitting in on keys and Adam Grosso on bass. They were a lot of fun and another wonderful addition to the hometown lineup.

A funksplosion occurred in the form of Dumpstaphunk. This heavily anticipated act is brimming with talent, which includes Ian and Ivan Neville (heirs to the NOLA funk scene), Tony Hall, Nikki Glaspie, and Nick Daniels III. Nikki who is the most recent addition to the group is a monster on the kit and one who definitely commands attention. They eased into the show building their songs organically with lots of collaboration. It was like entering the Church of Funk and getting an hour and half sermon. They are one of, if not the best, funk band touring today and they sounded magnificent live. They primarily performed originals, however they closed out their time at Camp Euforia with an incredible version of “One Nation Under A Groove.”

Dumpstaphunk Live at Camp Euforia on July 12, 2013.

Dead Larry played an hour and fifteen minute set of vibrant rock before Euforquestra took to the stage with their original lineup. This was a reunion born out of necessity. Their current drummer Craig Babineau hyper extended his shoulder so they have had a rotating cast of percussionists filling in for him in his absence. Original drummer Jos Foley suggested getting Matt Grundstad, Ryan Moris-Jeter, and Eric Quiner back in the mix for a set of classic Euforquestra. What followed was the most heartwarming and compelling Euforquestra show in quite some time. For fans that have witnessed the growth of this group, this lineup was the most cohesive of its versions. The current lineup is solid but there is something utterly nostalgic and touching about seeing these seven back together again. Even many including myself. Their two-hour set was a nod to an earlier time with spectacular renditions of “Sea Miner,” “Penny,” and “Naive Melody.” They even referenced some of their early theme shows with “Life During Wartime” and a “Pure Imagination” jam from their Charlie and The Chocolate Factory show. They encored with a powerful “Tramba.”

Family Groove Company started the late night festivities in the barn immediately following Euforquestra’s encore. They shredded late into the evening eventually wrapping up around 2 AM. They invited Chris and Wavy from Cornmeal to sit in, which was their initial appearance as the festival’s first ever artists at large. They played a stellar version of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” as well. I opted to call it a night as Dave Zollo was starting on the small stage and playing until the wee hours. Dave Bess also played a solo acoustic set.

The sun came up early, immediately turning my once shade covered tent into a burning furnace. I took it as an opportunity to get an early start and continued with my duties as the festival video producer. The music of the day started at 10:30 AM with coffee with the Grosso Family Band. Adam Grosso comes from a musical ilk and his family band included his brother and father on guitar and vocals, his mother on the upright bass, and Adam himself on kit. It really did feel like a spiritual family gathering as the Family Band went through a flurry of covers. Playing everything from The Beatles to traditional bluegrass, this Camp Euforia tradition was a welcomed start to the day. The highlight was a spot on version of “Man Of Constant Sorrow.”

Maximilian Eubank played a solo acoustic set on the main stage. Max has been a member of the Euforia family since the beginning. He played a lot with Mike Tallman in their high school days and continues to perform live, mostly in Des Moines where he currently resides. His sound is a punch-you-in-the-face acoustic detonation. Utilizing hip-hop lyrical hooks combined with stunning strum-heavy guitar riffs, Max made for a great live experience. His set included an awesome version of Widespread Panic’s “Climb To Safety” as well as an impeccable mash up of his original “Chemical Imbalances” and Martin Sexton’s “Hallelujah.”

The day was chocked full of local acts including Chasing Shade from Iowa City. The members of the band have headed up the Green Team at Camp Euforia for the last few years. After their dedication they were finally asked to play a set at the festival. Last year they diverted over 800 pounds of compost from landfills and this year they continued their hard work. Their music has a bluesy rock feel and they were definitely entertaining. Next on the main stage was The Breaker Brother Band. Comprised of highly regarded musical educators, many of who gave lessons to the members of Euforquestra in the early days. They are primarily a cover band, but the better description would be that they are paying homage to the music that sparked their passion for teaching and performing amazing versions of Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” as well as Eric Clapton’s “White Room.”

Recently off their performance at Summer Camp, Zeta June was on the lineup in the barn. They are a young group of musicians, with a heavy sound and a commanding stage presence. They did a massive cover of “Comfortably Numb” during their 60-minute slot. Des Moines favorites Mr. Baber’s Neighbors and The Solar String Band, which included Mike Tallman on mandolin, represented the first bluegrass band of the day. Tallman joined the band when he was 19 and continues to play with them from time to time. They focus on a traditional styling, with an original twist. Lead by Jeff Blanchard who looks like a grizzled vet from Ice Road Truckers. He was actually very nice and spoke eloquently about the music scene in Iowa and Camp Euphoria, which they have performed at numerous times. They are absolutely some astonishing homegrown Iowa pickers, so check them out if you find yourself in that neck of the woods.

I spent much of the afternoon wrapping up interviews so I missed Fire Sale and The Uniphonics. I’m almost exaggerating with the term “missing” as the music from all of the stages is completely audible from anywhere onsite. The Pimps of Joytime hit the main stage around 5:30 and annihilated the audience with their funky assault. Blending elements of blues, jazz, rock, soul, and electronic music with their funk-focused sound, the Pimps Of Joytime are a sight to see. They emerged from the murky waters of Brooklyn and have bounced around the country and festival circuit spreading their stellar approach to live music. Two incredible female vocalists and percussionists flank Brian J their bandleader; their show was a non-stop blast to the senses.

Finally it was time for the heavily anticipated Greensky Bluegrass. These guys tour relentlessly. They basically made a pit stop at Camp Euforia after playing Red Rocks the previous evening and heading to Forecastle Music Festival in Kentucky for a Sunday night show. What band does that? They waded into the show with “Double Overtures.” Their set felt like going to an extended picking session around the campfire.

Greensky Bluegrass Live at Camp Euforia on July 13, 2013.

They regaled the audience with an almost silly version of John Hartford‘s “Steam Powered Aeroplane” again with Chris and Wavy from Cornmeal.

“It’s good to find brethren every once in a while… like the good, Midwestern, shit-talking, diesel drinking kind of people that Cornmeal are.” –Anders Beck

Greensky also did a bluegrass breakdown on String Cheese Incident’s “Can’t Stop Now,” before they closed with “Atlantic City.” Greenksky always pleases whenever they play live and I’m happy that they went the extra miles to perform at Camp Euforia.

Michiganders, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, stormed the barn stage prior to Euforquestra’s final headlining set. On Saturday, they performed with the regular lineup minus Craig who was replaced by Tallgrass’ Adam Morford on kit and Robert Espe on sax. Songs like “Wasted” and “Free” invigorated the crowd who was out in full force for this set. With around 800 people in attendance the farm looked its fullest at this point. Maximilian Eubank and Eric Quiner sat in for one of Max’s originals. The highlight of the show was Kim Dawson’s appearance for most of the second half of the set. She adds a vibrancy and beauty to Euforquestra’s wide-ranging sound. It was a solid show that rounded out the festival nicely.

The late night was filled with some rowdiness from That 1 Guy, Jaik Willis, and Tallgrass. The fans stayed up late and partied hard not wanting this great event to end. There was a combined energy of joy in the air as this special festival came to a close. It was like the end of a family reunion where no one really wants to go back to their day-to-day. Camp Euforia is unique to say the least and deserves to be recognized as such. In an era of cookie-cutter festivals Camp Euforia stands out in the crowd.

Stay tuned for the multitude of video I will be sharing on Camp Euforia’s Facebook page!

Nicholas' Photo Gallery

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Railroad Earth 7.13.13

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Words & Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot Photography)

Here in our great state of Colorado, bands seem to come and go like our ever-decreasing amount of afternoon thunderstorms. Buses filled to the brim with gear, merchandise, and musical instruments stroll from one mountain town to another ripping and roaring their way through musical venues that we have all come to love and call home. Towns such as Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs and Aspen all are able to pull in national touring acts due to their magnificent beauty, great food and close proximity to Colorado’s music epi-center, the Denver Metro area. Year after year and month after month bands from all over the world head to the mountains of Colorado to usually embark on a multiple city run which can take them from Pueblo in the South all the way to Estes Park up North. Railroad Earth is a perfect example of one of these national touring acts who make an annual pilgrimage to the mountains of Colorado to blow our minds musically and tickle our fancy with their beautiful harmonies and soothing vocals.

This most recent Colorado mini-tour had the New Jersey natives hitting up the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre for their first ever headlining show at the historic venue. The following night they would headline my favorite venue, the Boulder Theater, and then finally up to Aspen to play at the Belly Up Tavern. The jam-grass quintet has a large following here in Colorado and this has been increasing year after year with each mountain show the Railroad boys put on. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to the Rocks to see the Jersey boy’s rip through their first two-set headlining performance, but I was lucky enough to score two tickets to the next nights sold-out show at the Boulder Theater. I personally think the Boulder Theater and all that encompasses it (staff, location, parking, etc..) is top notch and I truly believe it would be hard for someone to find a more beautiful and well-kept downtown venue in such a large city. I arrived just in time to get a pre-show beverage and headed down towards the front of the stage to try and capture these jam-grass icons in full flight.

The first set was a bit slow for my taste as Railroad went through songs such as “Bread and Water,” “Right in Tune,” and “When Everything Comes Together” which are all great ballads, but not the raging jam-grass I wanted. “Fisherman’s Blues” was definitely the highlight of the set for me personally, as lead singer Todd Sheaffer showed off his vocal prowess while engaging the crowd as best as he knows how. This song also allows for every member of the band to take a turn soloing and truly show the crowd what they are made of, musically of course. Fiddle extraordinaire and the captain of the band, Tim Carbone, took to center stage to try and rip the strings right off his instruments as his passion for performing live was evident from the first note he plucked. John Skehan, mandolin aficionado, couldn’t keep the smile off his face for more than a second as he traded harmony-building riffs back and forth with Carbone and Sheaffer. Standing on the far left side of the stage (when looking at it from the crowd) Skehan provides Railroad Earth with unmatched consistency, as it seems that most jams either start with him or revolve around a riff or chord change he created. (To put it bluntly, John Skehan is a mandolin wizard because of both playing skills and old-school looks.)

As the first set winded down the music loving Boulderites rushed towards the cool air outside and most knew that the upcoming second set was going to be one for the ages. “Long Way To Go” came raging through the Boulder Theaters speaker’s with a fiery purpose and the jam-grass party was up and going once again. From the get go this set already had more energy than the first and I knew that this was going to be more of the Railroad Earth I have come to love and enjoy. “Dandelion Wine,” “Walls of Time,” and one of my personal favorite Railroad songs, “Bird in a House,” were part of the first rotation of the second set and I couldn’t have been more pleased with how each one of these was played. It was the last part of the closing set that truly brought the house down though. The combination of “Goat” and “Hard Livin” is an absolute monster of a way to close a Railroad show, and this pairing definitely lived up to the hype. Bass player Andrew Altman is highlighted prominently in both of these pieces and his bluegrass funky-ness can be heard with each deep pluck of his upright bass string. Multi-instrumentalist and overall musical fucking badass Andy Goessling jumps from acoustic guitar, to alto saxophone, to dobro, and back to the sax in both of these pieces and his “Out of this world” playing drove the Boulder crowd into an absolute dancing frenzy. Altman and Goessling can sometimes take a back seat to the three more prominent band members, Sheaffer, Carbone and Skehan, due to their quiet and calm stage presence, but these two songs showed those who didn’t know already how talented and amazing they really are.

As “Elko” rang through the theater and closed this night with a raging pick-fest, I couldn’t help but just smile at what I had just witnessed. Not only did Railroad Earth rip through this Boulder Theater show with determination and musical passion, but also all of those who attended could be seen continuing the sing-along/dance party long into the beautiful Colorado night. Railroad Earth will be back to Colorado sooner rather than later (hopefully), as I truly believe our Colorado LOVE for them is unmatched in most places. And when they do come back to blow our minds, soothe our souls, and make us smile uncontrollably, make sure to show up and have a good time. I promise it not only will be like everything has come together, but all that hard living you have endured recently will seem to float away just like a beautiful Colorado bird enjoying his/her mountain home.

Kevin's Photo Gallery

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Railroad Earth, Galactic & Greensky Bluegrass 7.12.13

Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Words & Photos By J-man
Audio By Gerry Gladu

The line at the Red Rocks box office swelled to a daunting size as folks checked their cell phones for the time with beers in hand. Rain came and went, then returned once again cooling off the lot scene both in regards to temperature and general action. Inside the venue the stage was set for what would be a relatively intimate show with Greensky Bluegrass, considering the circumstances. Folks waited in line for over an hour as security conducted fairly extensive searches of the evening's patrons. Greensky came out on to the stage with a look of awe on their faces as they smiled and laughed. The energy and excitement was palatable as they took up their instruments to begin, only to laugh again at the perceived insanity of the situation and a realized dream. Their set included fantastic renditions of Greensky material, as well as an unreleased song or two from their upcoming album. The band sounded on top of their game as they flowed seamlessly and nailed their cues. As always, members of the band turned towards one and other, almost squaring up in a sense, musically. Greensky welcomed a horn section on "I'd Probably Kill you" that consisted of Corey Henry (Galactic) and Andy Goessling (Railroad Earth). As the set grew late, Red Rocks filled in with fans who were thrilled that they at least caught a portion of Greensky's set. Congratulations to Paul Hoffman, Anders Beck, Dave Bruzza, Mike Bont and Mike Devol on their first Red Rocks play!

Greensky Bluegrass Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 12, 2013.

One Set: Jaywalking, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Windshield, Wings for Wheels, Leap Year, I'd Probably Kill You, Don't Lie

What followed was a rain/lightning delay that looked like it might turn Greensky Bluegrass' set into the evening headlining/closing set, however as is often the case, the storm passed. Galactic took the stage about ten to twenty minutes late, to the delight of the three quarter filled venue. The New Orleans funk vibe took over with some well executed jams that moved the attentive crowd. Even as it rained down on the band, they played on, welcoming Corey Glover (Living Colour) for a handful of vocally driven compositions. A couple of which pushed the boundaries of his vocal range and tapped into an element of skat that did little to nothing for the music. Through an extended set Galactic performed tightly and with direction leaving the crowd pleased and buzzing from the experience.

Railroad Earth Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 12, 2013.

Set One: Black Elk Speaks> The Jupiter and the 119, Happy Song, Saddle of the Sun> Mourning Flies> Lone Croft Farewell, Storms, Head

Set Two: Potter's Field> Old Man and the Land, Colorado, Crossing the Gap, Untitled #12, Warhead Boogie> Black Bear> Stillwater Getaway, The Forecast> River Intro Jam> Mighty River> Peace on Earth, Seven Story Mountain

Encore: Railroad Earth

Following a switch over of gear and a squeegeeing of the stage, Railroad Earth came out to a better than expected showing at Red Rocks, considering the unfortunate weather. They began with "Black Elk Speaks," which ventured into a sort of spacey realm to kick the night off. "Jupiter and The 119" followed, exciting the crowd and encouraging a joyous sing along. The vibe continued with "Happy Song," and a big smile from Todd Sheaffer. Red Rocks let loose in a frenzy of dancing and movement as the band took on "Saddle of The Sun" which transitioned into "Mourning Flies," bringing a sort of somber vibe, before taking another upswing with "Lone Croft Farewell." The movement in the crowd slowed significantly as the music seemed to continue on at a slower pace with "Storm" and finally fan favorite, "Head," to close the first set with one more upbeat song. The get down resumed with Andy's fast paced banjo work as well as Tim Carbone and John Skehan III's exchange of peaking lead work. The set concluded, the house lights came up and folks headed in all directions.

Railroad returned to the stage for the beautiful "Potter's Field" into "Old Man and the Land." The crowd again perked up on "Colorado," for what what was the first peak of the evening. "Crossing The Gap" began with Tim's vocals and an accompanying harmonies. Carey Harmon's drum work took center stage as the band launched into an uplifting "Untitled #12," with his rhythm section counterpart, Andrew Altmen," bringing it on the bass. A meandering fourteen minute "Warhead Bookie" went into "Black Bear," that kept pace before transitioning into the instrumental "Stillwater Getaway," that reflected the bands fast paced chops and pickin' ability, to close the run of songs. The climax of the show came in the form of "The Forecast" into "Mighty River" into "Peace on Earth," and ending the second set with "Seven Story Mountain" that reached almost twenty minutes and involved some of the most in depth jamming of the evening. The beautiful instrumentation helped to boost a setlist that reflected a scattered concept of flow, with the compositions elevating then sinking from song to song not allowing the band to gain much steam. With the evening's conclusion came a sense of satisfaction from the three quarter filled venue. The following evening Railroad would take it to the Boulder Theater for an much more intimate sold out performance.

J-man's Photo Gallery

Monday, July 22, 2013

Galactic 7.11.13

The Fox Theatre
Boulder, CO

Words & Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot Photography)

New Orleans; Known for its amazing food, insane nightlife, and abundance of what we Americans call “Culture,” has also become a enticing hotspot for thriving musicians to come down to the South, set up shop, and show what they can do. One of the now biggest and more recognizable bands on our jamband scene that call New Orleans, Louisiana their home is Galactic. This dynamic, rock-n-roll playing, party starting group rages some good ole New Orleans funk every chance they get and it was no different for their recent show at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. Playing at the smaller venue as a part of a package deal with their Red Rock’s show the next day, Galactic was determined to bring the heat from the very first beat.

The Fox was packed, and the crowd was ripping and roaring as the NOLA-based funk group took the stage with their now regular 6-man lineup. Drummer, Stanton Moore, is an absolute beast on the drum-kit and numerous times throughout the night could be seen literally trying to put a whole in one or more of his musical toys. His intense way of playing and great facial expressions prove that he puts his all into each and every performance. Robert Mercurio lays down a mean funky bass line and seems to be a key component in song transitions, solo choices, and overall structure of the groups music. He can be seen directing various members of the band through chord changes, tempo progressions, and even who is soloing next. The other members (including Corey Henry on trombone, Jeff Raines on guitar, Richard Vogel on organ, and Ben Ellman on saxophone) all play an integral role in producing the group’s funky sounds, but Mercurio and Moore truly (in my opinion) are a step above the rest. This was very evident during a drum and bass solo halfway through the second set as Moore led the charge in a jazzy-funk frenzy with Mercurio playing note for note along side of him. This rhythm section is not one to be missed, and I highly recommend you catch these two in any project they participate in.

Galactic’s horn section is also a very talented ensemble with Ben Ellman and Corey Henry playing off each other’s unique riffs and crazy sounds. Henry provides a youthful energy to the group and frequently takes a turn as lead vocalist (rapping) and crowd participation enthusiast. From song to song this horn section provides Galactic with a loud, fun, and very-talented duo who truly know how to engage a crowd and get the party started. Other than the usual fun and funky-ness which Galactic provides, they have added a new twist to their live performances in recent tours with the addition of Living Colour front man, Corey Glover, on vocals. The former rock-n-roll group lead singer brings a much more fierce and rocking nature to Galactic and his screeching vocals are a hit with crowds everywhere. In my opinion, other than the “Gimme Shelter” cover from the other night (which was epic) Mr. Glover takes away from the funky-ness of Galactic and has turned this band into much more of a rocking outfit. I completely understand why he is there, as he is a legend and has some of the best pipes in the business, but him being backed by one of the freshest and funkiest NOLA groups since The Meters is disappointing at best. Personally, I am very interested to see how much longer Glover will be with the band, as it doesn’t seem like it is a permanent relationship as of yet. Even with him taking away from the funk, the Fox Theatre show was still a raging occasion and the crowd was sure appreciative of the variety of music played.

Galactic is one of those bands that only come around Colorado once or twice a year, and yes I do wish they would go back to their older lineup and truly bring the funk back. Even with a rock-n-roll legend as their now front man, I recommend not missing this group as they do know how to get a party started. Also, watching Stanton Moore beat the absolute dog-shit out of his drums is not only hilariously entertaining, but truly shows how talented he really is.

Kevin's Photo Gallery

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Greg Garrison Trio +2 feat. Andy Hall & Chris Pandolfi of The Infamous Stringdusters 7.10.13

Denver, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Melt Photography)
Video By Carly Marthis
Audio By Kind Recordings

It was another packed Wednesday at Armoury in Denver, CO. In fact, Armoury was the only happening place on the block for the majority of the evening, as folks had turned out in force to catch Greg Garrison Trio +2 featuring Andy Hall and Chris Pandolfi of The Infamous Stringdusters. That night would begin with Greg (Bass), Dave Devine (Guitar) and Marc Dalio (Drums) performing some interesting covers that included the music of Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin and more! Dave Devine may be one of the most underrated guitarist on the Denver scene. The magnificence of his playing came to the forefront that evening on the Armoury stage. Following a short but sweet first set, the trio took a short break only to return with the evening's plus two in Andy (Lap Steel) and Chris (Banjo).

Greg Garrison Trio Live at Armoury on July 10, 2013.

The "band" wasted no time in diving right into the material of The Allman Brothers, with soaring slide work and bright notation from Dave, Andy and Chris. The rhythm section was tight as the crowd danced to the low end and sang to the familiar words of the classic songs like "Ramblin' Man, "Blue Sky," "Midnight Rider" and more. At several points in the set Chris brought out what he was calling a "Banjocaster," which was a banjo/electric guitar hybrid. It was fantastic to watch such a great collection of musicians smile at one and other as they nailed the material... or missed notes. There was a very light, joyous vibe in the room and there was an apparent connection between the band and the crowd in the intimate space. As the night got later, the band ripped harder and for the closing song, they invited singer Daniella Katzir to the stage on "Whipping Post." Join Greg Garrison Trio on Wednesday July 17th at Armoury with special guest Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon) as they perform the music of Bob Marley!

Kevin's Photo Gallery

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Electric Forest: Saturday 6.29.13

Double JJ Resort
Rothbury, MI

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis

The sun beat down on our tent until we rolled out of bed and into the grass in an attempt to escape the polyester inferno. It was clear that Carly would not make it to yoga, but fortunately for me, there was no time limit on burritos. On our way back to camp from the vending/food area we stopped for a $10.00 bag of ice, as all of the $5.00 bags were conveniently sold out. After about an hour of staring off into space followed by a quick rinse and we were as fresh as we could be given the circumstances. We passed yet again through the festival gates and settled in at the Ranch stage for some Jeff Austin and Friends. To our absolute delight, his friends were comprised of Eric Krasno (Soulive), Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), Cody Dickenson (North Mississippi Allstars) and a bass player whom I was not familiar with. The group's output was as loose as I had ever heard from Jeff Austin. A couple of times Jeff came flying out of the gates, only to slow down and purposely let the song slip into disarray. It was interesting to watch Krasno and Anders pass the lead back and forth as they smiled and motioned towards one and other.

Upon the conclusion of our first set of the day, we made our way towards the forest. When we arrived, we found an impromptu show taking place that involved juggling and rope work. It was cool to see the police among the crowd enjoying the tricks and maneuvers from the hired performer. Continuing on we once again found ourselves at The Observatory, the perfect location to fill up on cold Bell's products. As we did a group of folks in costume passed by participating in a magnitude of tomfoolery and general grabass. At some point we caught wind of a special Greensky Bluegrass set that was taking place. We made our way backstage to find the native group setting up for an intimate show by the lake. As we waited, we mingled with friends both old and new. Coordinator, Erin Steele, prepared the band as Anders cruised by on a golf cart headed towards the stage with the Lettuce camp. With one call of Anders' name from Erin, he was off of the golf cart with a humorously disappointed look on his face. When the band was ready, we made our way to the side of the lake alongside a small group of lucky fans and VIP for one of the highlights of our weekend.

Back on the Ranch stage Lettuce's set was underway. Even during the middle of the day Lettuce throws the kind of party that makes you feel like it's the late night. Soaring horns and ripping guitar work lead the way with Adam Deitch keeping count from the back court. Special guest Dominic Lali from Big Gigantic came out to participate in the funk, to the delight of the young crowd. Guitarists Krasno and Adam Smirnoff battled it out before Nigel Hall took the stage in his fashionably late style to kick it into high gear. We quickly made our way back to camp before returning to the festival gates for a search that bordered sexual assault. Without being sure of exactly what they were looking for, we were flagged through the security line that seemed to have a heightened sense of operation.

At the Ranch Arena The String Cheese Incident took the stage and reflected a tighter feel than the previous night. The evening opened with "Outside Inside," and featured a decent "Birdland" with special guest Dominic Lali and a "Shine" into "Colorado Bluebird Sky" to close the first set. At the end of the set Michael Kang said "Alright, you guys. How are you doing out there? We're going to take a really quick break... Like really, really quick. Then we're going to get ready and blow this place up." That was enough to peak my curiosity. Like many others, we returned to the forest. The saloon was bumping, the interactive zone was packed with hippies all beating to a different drum, the bars were happening and there was magic in the air. A short time later, per Kang's foreshadowing, we returned to the VIP section on the front right of the stage, as to be deep in the middle of the craziness.

As expected, the second set was kicked off with a holler from Billy before a menacing "Bumpin Reel" took over. Performers made their way out onto the stage and lit the fire to the wings of an aerial performer who was then hoisted into the air, high above the stage. She spun around with fire blazing as the music built and built. Dominic Lali returned to the stage for some added horn work. The second song of the set, "Desert Dawn," provided the background to the peak of the festival. Without warning giant balloons slowly rolled and bounced across the crowd. Fire shot from the stage, first in bursts, then in all out pyrotechnics, before fireworks exploded in the distance. I didn't know what to look at. It was pure chaos and as if that weren't enough, confetti cannons exploded and a plethora of glow toys were tossed into the crowd. It was pure insanity and the worst time to have a full beer in hand. I quickly drank up as we got hit from all sides. The crowd was in complete bliss as the band launched into straight dubstep before returning to "Desert Dawn's" signature melody.

As quickly as the chaos came, it was gone with all of the giant balloons being extracted from the crowd before the band began "Search." Cheese sounded much better than what we were given the previous night and as the evening grew later, I kept glancing back at the forest, teasing us from a distance. Following SCI's sets, we returned once more to the forest. We put a lot of mileage on our legs that night, wandering from one end of the forest to the other in search of laughs and entertainment of all sorts. Out front of the porta johns about twenty State Troopers subdued a man who was clearly out of his mind, a reminder that all things in moderation are key. As the 4:00 hour neared, the initial sweep of the forest began in order to clear folks out for the morning.

Set One: Outside And Inside > Rain, Far From Home, Birdland(1), Sometimes a River, Can't Wait Another Day, Shine > Colorado Bluebird Sky

Set Two: Bumpin Reel1, Desert Dawn, Search > Drums > Search, Colliding, Give Me The Love > Sirens > Texas > Kinky Reggae > Texas

Notes: "1" with Dominic Lalli (Big Gigantic) on Saxophone

Back at our campsite fireworks ripped through the skies, dubstep blared in the distance and the same egomaniac girl screamed into a megaphone to no one. It's moments like these that put large scale festivals into perspective. Sure, on the surface the crowd was young and even a bit obnoxious, but in the end, we're all just music fans seeking some sense of community, regardless of the sub-categories of genres in which we cling to. Kudos to Electric Forest, Madison House and Insomniac for throwing one of the best produced festivals that I have attended. I was grateful that among much of the overdone electronic music, there was a path on the schedule for fans of more organic instrumental output. Festivals like Electric Forest help to raise the bar for fan's expectations of entertainment, consciousness and all around attentiveness to the needs of the concertgoer paying the premium cost of a ticket. Ultimately, Electric Forest is much more than another music festival on the circuit... It's a pioneer in an elevated category of flawless, well-excecuted large-scale musical experiences!

Carly's Photo Gallery

Monday, July 15, 2013

Electric Forest: Friday 6.28.13

Double JJ Resort
Rothbury, MI

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis

After about ten hours of comfortable sleep, almost unheard of at most festivals, we awoke to a delightfully overcast day. Some iced coffee and a breakfast burrito was exactly what we needed to jump start our directional move towards heading into the venue. As Carly participated in yoga, I wandered around taking pictures and sending live updates of the festival grounds that had been well manicured following the previous night's mayhem. The forest was endlessly entertaining, even from a seated position of observation. As the hour passed I made my way back towards yoga at the Tripolee stage, making a quick stop to talk to Tim Carbone who was sound checking on the Ranch stage for his afternoon set with Railroad Earth. We made a quick trip back to our site to rinse off and hydrate before once again passing through the venue gates for RRWE. I almost always enjoy Railroad Earth in a festival setting. Their live energy translated so well among the beautiful Michigan trees. Incredible melodies wound tight with the lyrics of Todd Sheaffer and the backing of a world class band. As Railroad played on, we made our way to The Observatory stage for Kyle Hollingsworth's Brewfest. Part of the appeal of a festival like Electric Forest are the activities outside of the music. Kyle's Brewfest drew a decent crowd of folks who listened intently to the panel of brewers, before tasting a couple of sample pours.

As if our ten hours of sleep wasn't enough, we napped in an attempt to play catch up from our travels. The option of a nap was only made possible by the overcast sky and the casual breeze coming off of Lake Michigan. Back in Sherwood forest the evening's nonsense was already in progress and packed with folks looking for some visual stimulation. The production of the woods could not be overstated. As the clock approached 10:30 PM the masses began to shift towards the Ranch Arena stage for the festival's headliner, The String Cheese Incident. Fresh off of their tour opener at Telluride Bluegrass and the Sheridan Opera House, String Cheese kicked off their show with "Lets Go Outside." The first set had its fair share of missed cues, abrupt stops and cheesy song choices, as to be expected that early on in the tour. The "Joyful Sound" opened up to a "Bollymunster" that had the crowd moving before "Rosie" came into the picture to end the first set.

At setbreak, we made our way into the woods for Lotus side-project, Luke The Knife. Luke Miller commanded the attention of the spaced out crowd with tasteful laptop work and sampling. What appeared to be an unfortunate time slot up against SCI, turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Luke as the main set break option. The forest was packed and peaking with well done characters and impossible scenarios. Lights bounced from tree to tree, with each corner of our visual range being filled by flickering, flashing, or movement of some sort. The distant call of "Karl" came from youngsters who thought they were a part of a joke that in fact sailed years ago. Above and beyond all of the epicness of the forest, it will always be plagued with the foolish call of "Karl."

Back at the Ranch stage the second set began with fan favorite, "Ms. Brown's Teahouse." A couple of segways lead to a relatively uneventful "Drums" that resolved to an extended "Rollover." "Rivertrance" went into U2's "Mysterious Ways" for an awkward time before transitioning back into "Rivertrance" to close the second set. The band exited the stage and returned for "Freedom Jazz Song" into "Just One Story." The show wasn't particularly strong, but it was early in the tour and weekend. There was ample time to work out a few kinks and to cut loose.

Set One: Let's Go Outside, Song In My Head > Can't Stop Now, MLT > I Wish > On the Road, Joyful Sound > Bollymunster, Rosie

Set Two: Miss Brown's Teahouse, Best Feeling, Shantytown > Way Back Home > Drums > Rollover, Rivertrance > Mysterious Ways > Rivertrance

Encore: Freedom Jazz Dance > Just One Story

Around 2:30 AM we made our way past the vendors, through the festival gates and back to our corner of the campground. We sat in our chairs and observed all of the madness that was happening around us. Fireworks launched into the air, dubstep blasted in the distance at a campsite of kids who may not have left their camp for the duration of the weekend. Just down the way a girl yelled in an annoying fashion through a megaphone. It was at this point where I began to reflect on the age of those in attendance. For the first time in a long time, I felt like the "old man." At the intersection in front of our camp a young man stopped random passing individuals to seek a solution to the most precarious of problems. By some odd luck he had managed to lose his cell phone, his shoes, his friends and the ability to locate his campsite. I scratch my head in disbelief while climbing into the tent. The chaos continued as we slipped into slumber.

Carly's Photo Gallery

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Electric Forest: Thursday 6.27.13

Double JJ Resort
Rothbury, MI

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis

The sprinklers came on in the darkness with the first signs of the morning's light. The closing of the trunk on our Jeep signified the beginning of a long journey that would take us from Denver, CO, across the country to Electric Forest in Rothbury, MI. From Electric Forest we would head up the serene west coast of Michigan, across the Mackinaw Bridge to Lake Superior, before starting our long return trip across Michigan's Upper Penninsula, through Wisconsin, then back home. 3,000 miles sounded like a lot of driving and indeed it was. From Colorado to Michigan we went, arriving late that night at a Comfort Inn in Muskegon, a mere stones throw to Rothbury. One last shower and a warm breakfast the next morning was followed by a short trip, a reasonably efficient line and eventual access to the grounds of the famed Double JJ Resort! With a little negotiation, a prime camping spot was secured for the weekend. A short set up at the corner of Forest St. and Maple St. was followed by an interview with MLive and our weekend was underway.

The campgrounds filled in quickly, with a continuous line of cars flowing like a mountain river after the melt, though the melt had long passed in the hot, humid heat of the Great Lake region of the country. Out front of the main gates to the concert venue, anticipation built for the "grand" opening. Folks chanted and tossed around notions of what would be seen in this year's Sherwood Forest. With the opening of the gates came an influx of energy and a scattering of festival goers in all directions. Just inside the main gates sat a young man holding a sign on a pole that had a question mark and read "info." He began fielding questions immediately and in an attempt to test his knowledge, I inquired about the name of the stage in which we were standing directly in front of. He replied with "I don't know." I smiled at the irony.

There was a very clear Michigan State Trooper presence, which I hoped would play out as the Rothburys did, with mild amusement and little to no aggressive action. Through the vending area we went, past the Ranch Arena, which would act as the festival's main stage, to the forest. The first sight of the forest halted me in my tracks. I took a deep breath and proceeded like a child approaching a playground. We passed under a rustic sign kept company by metal sculpted owls that read "Sherwood Forest," as the fun began. Characters in elaborate costumes popped out from behind trees and slithered up from places unseen. Fog from a fog machine crept across the main path through the forest, creating a very interesting silhouetting of trees, people and structures. In the distance a saloon appeared. Through the swinging doors we went back in time to an all too familiar western movie style set. Even before we approached and after we departed, the folks in place remained in character. We walked past what could best be described as a "giving tree," where one could take and/or leave a random trinket, to another almost gypsy camp looking old west stop. A man stood inside singing very dated material and he strummed on his guitar. As we watched "reality" unfold, I overheard a conversation behind me about trading gold for antiques. I turned around to see two actors/characters engaged in an in depth conversation that played a small part of a much bigger experience.

Back on the main path, bewildered eyes bounced back and forth in response to an all out sensory assault. Past the "gardens" of well placed natural material we went, stopping at the sign of a multi-story tree house/temple. Giggles could be heard from inside, eluding to harmless non-sense that may be better left unsought. Through a section of well manicured trees came the view of something big. A structure in the middle of the forest that represented what could best be described as the "town square." On elevated platforms, decorated in an Asian style theme appeared one of the most elaborate setups, and what would become our go to bar for the weekend, "The Observatory." To my absolute delight, the festival had one of my favorite beers on draft, Bell's Two-Hearted, with a backup choice of Oberon! Yellow flags waived in the wind, contrasting the bright red of the detailed structure. From "The Observatory," we made our way out of the woods into view of the Sherwood Court stage. From the field we could see all three entrances to the far side of Sherwood Forest. Each one looked like a portal into a mythical world. We opted with the only path we had yet to explore through the woods past the Forest Stage.

On the stage opposite to "The Observatory," we caught the first music of our weekend in the form of Dixon's Violin. The solo looping project was beautiful and the timing in conjunction with an almost classical approach was masterful. On the Ranch Arena stage, Pimps of Joytime battled sound issues as the system settled its kinks. That being said, their set was very enjoyable, energetic and danceable. Back at the Forest Stage, Cosby Sweater output a tasteful mix of instrumental electronic music, not that different from what Big Gigantic is doing. Cosby Sweater's "ace in the hole" was Umphrey's McGee's Joel Cummins', who from what I could tell, added very little to the mix. It was easy to get distracted by the forest itself, as a form of entertainment beyond the music. We wandered around aimlessly as darkness fell. As it did, things began to get weird. At the far end of the forest a competition of sorts played out like a battle under a dome. This battle involved dancing as opposed to fighting, with a crowd gathering and offering belligerent support.

On the Tripolee stage, Ana Sia offered up an attempt at tasteful world beats that felt forced and seemed to lack a clear resolve. Following Ana Sia on the Tripolee stage was Colorado's own, Michal Menert. Michal's output drew a decent crowd and with the support of A.C. Lao on drums, what we saw of the set, we really enjoyed. It seemed as if Michal was enjoying his set as well, as he swigged vodka and danced his ass off. Back in the woods, previously wide eyes were even wider as the night unfolded like a dream. The reality of the woods was that they resembled no reality that people had ever scene. As we made our way through the thick of the woods, a discoball shot light in all directions, and then the lasers shot through the trees. EOTO did nothing to keep our attention, leading us to end up at Orchard Lounge on the Forest Stage. The solid grooves and conscious sampling made for a very directional and cohesive party that concluded just past midnight. At that point it may as well have been noon, as many were just getting started.

Lotus' Setlist: What Did I Do Wrong, Tip of the Tongue, Neon Tubes, Bush Pilot, Greet the Mind, Ashcon, Gilded Age, L'immeuble > Spiritualize, Umbilical Moonrise, 128

Our final set of the evening/morning was Lotus on the Sherwood court stage. The set was action packed with songs from their past through to some of their most recent material, all performed with the flawless stylings of a seasoned juggernaut. Flags flew as far as the eye could see across the sea of people. Glow sticks, glow toys and inflatable animals buzzed throughout the space above the packed court. The killer set was accompanied by fantastic lights and visuals for what we viewed as the evening's "headliner." Upon the conclusion of the set, we stumbled once more back through the forest, past the Ranch Arena, through the vending, out of the main gates, into the campgrounds. Our bodies ached from all of the walking and dancing... And this was only night one.

Carly's Photo Gallery