LOHI Music Festival 6.14.14

Highland Tap & Burger
Denver, CO

Words By Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions) & Kevin Hahn (Split Open And Shoot)
Photos By Jim Mimna (J. Mimna Photography)
Audio by Chuck Miller

Kevin's Perspective:

Music festivals are not for the faint of heart, and when I say this I speak of those attending, planning, executing, and raging as hard as humanly possible. But to know those who are putting on the music festival, shows one a completely different side of what happens behind the curtain, and truly made me aware of how much work goes into any sort of musical gathering. LOHI Music Festival, held in Denver's Lower Highlands, has turned into one of Colorado’s best summer musical events and has become one of the premier one-day music festivals. Each year the LOHI managing/planning team puts together an action-packed, non-stop day of pure music bliss with some food and booze sprinkled in between. With Justin Picard (MusicMarauders/The 1up) and Paul Brown (LOHI Productions/Highland Tap & Burger) at the helm, us music-lovers were in for a special experience no matter what our tastes were. I can’t say enough about this monster of musical management epic-ness, and LOHI Music Festival 2014 truly proves my point.

Last year the Kyle Hollingsworth Band with special guest Michael Kang was the headliner of LOHI and while their set was absolutely brilliant and the LOHI crowd loved it, this year’s headliner is on a whole other level of jam-band superiority. Hailing from Buffalo, New York, moe. has been shredding the jam-band scene for the past twenty years and having just released their latest album, No Guts, No Glory, it doesn't seem like they'll be slowing down anytime soon. But while we waited for the New York jam-titans to grace us with their presence, the LOHI management team filled the day with some other awesome national touring acts, as well as some of our favorite local acts. From our amazing state of Colorado we had Genetics, Tiger Party, Chrome Drones, and Joey Porter’s Vital Organ raging both stages at various times throughout the day. Genetics, as always, provided a very straightforward, jam-heavy, extremely entertaining set, which started the day off on a great note. This Denver-based group has become one of my favorite local acts and truly has the talent to turn into something very special. They even have the balls to cover some of Oysterhead’s catalog and man does it make me wish that project would reunite. As Genetics wound down, I made my way over to the main stage to witness the Denver-based group Tiger Party.

Blake Mobley and his groovy group of funky friends have come together to form a dancing machine known a Tiger Party and they have been raging the Denver music scene for the past year or two. This group has an ever-rotating cast of members, and for this year’s LOHI music festival, Blake recruited Garrett Sayers of the Motet, Tom Hamilton of American Babies, Mike Greenfield of Lotus and special guest David Murphy formerly of STS9 to round out a uber-talented lineup. Tiger Party’s set was raging from their first note, and with Sayers laying down his usual thick bass grooves, I couldn’t stop moving my feet. Tom Hamilton was an absolute beast on the electric guitar and seeing him for the first time only made me want to listen to what the American Babies are all about. Blake Mobley is an awesome bandleader and is definitely becoming one of the more recognizable and prominent keyboard players in the Denver music scene, while also writing and promoting all of Tiger Party’s events. Murph ended up bartending in the VIP tent after his set, and for him that must have been a personal highlight. After Blake’s group finished up their funky set, the Fort Lauderdale based The Heavy Pets took the side stage for a rock filled set. The Heavy Pets seem like a great group of talented young gentlemen who have a lot of success coming up on their horizon. The Pets raged it hard and did not let up until the last minute, but for me, the next band due on stage was one I was truly looked forward to. This group was the Pimps of Joytime and man did they have a rough go weather-wise.

Under the threat of rain all day, the LOHI festival management team was ready and prepared to jump into action in order to protect equipment and attendees from the incoming Colorado thunderstorm. As Brian Jordan and John Staten led the Pimps of Joytime through a funk-heavy set, the LOHI attendees deserted the streets and ran for any cover they could find to avoid being soaked by the intense rain, which even with its overall “shitty-ness,” the weather did not delay any scheduled LOHI activities. Staten has quickly become one of my favorite drummers to see live as his smile is almost as big as his biceps, when pounding down on snare, bass, and other parts of his smaller drum kit. Brian Jordan is the founder and leader of the Pimps and does a great job in keeping the crowd involved while bringing the Brooklyn attitude to the forefront with his raspy vocals and great guitar licks. Luckily, those who were attending the late-night party at Cervantes would have the chance to see the Brooklyn based Pimps of Joytime rage it one more time in a much more temperature/weather-controlled atmosphere. At this time during the storm/Pimps of Joytime I decided to take full advantage of my VIP status and mosey on over to the bar to indulge in some Tito’s Vodka drinks. I now turn to my co-correspondent, Nicholas Stock, to take you through moe.’s two glorious sets and the late-night shenanigans of Cervantes... Nicholas take it away.

Nick's Perspective:

In just its fourth year the LOHI Music Festival has propelled itself from a fun daylong event in Denver to a premiere show with an impeccable lineup. This year they brought in major leaguers moe. for two sets along with a full day of music from both local and nationally touring acts. After an unforgettable Friday night at the Mishawaka, we took our time getting down to the festival. By the time we arrived the crowd was nearing capacity. The festival maintained the L-shaped layout, moving VIP across the street for a better view of the main stage. We walked in just as Joey Porter’s Vital Organ was getting started.

This is yet another group that flows from the copious fountain of talent that is The Motet. Joey Porter’s Vital Organ my have a slightly uncouth sound to the name, but the music they play smoothes that all away. Their funk is strong, but this group harnesses their years of experience to give a more emboldened approach with strong roots in the genre of jazz. Garret Sayers, one of finest bassists touring today, lends his talents to the group. Dan Schwindt of Kyle Hollingsworth Band fame plays guitar and Daren Hahn rounds out the group on kit. At LOHI they treated us to the perfect blend of funk and soulful jazz. Far from the electro-funk explosion that is Juno What?!, the Vital Organ is a well rounded group focused on instrumental improvisation and tight arrangements.

Matt Butler came to the stage for a short introduction, which focused on the Beverage Distributors, Uncle, and the upcoming late night festivities. moe. opened with a bass-heavy “Billy Goat,” which was one of the older tunes included on their new album No Guts No Glory.

moe. Live at Highland Tap & Burger - BD Stage @ LOHI Music Festival on June 14, 2014.

Set One: Billy Goat> Little Miss Cup Half Empty, Stranger Than Fiction, Queen of Everything, Spine Of A Dog> Buster, Wind It Up

Set Two: Captain America> Annihilation Blues, George> Down Boy, This I Know, Hi and Lo> Bring You Down> Brent Black

Encore: Plane Crash

On paper this looks like a crowd pleaser through and through, and it was. However, this show contained the very same enthusiasm for the long form jamming we saw the previous night at the Mishawaka. They segued beautifully into “Little Miss Cup Half Empty,” which was a dark Beatles-esque tune they first played during the acoustic tour of DISGRACe in 2010. “Stranger Than Fiction” was a nice touch, but “Queen of Everything” really wound up the engine. The blast off came in the form of the smash hit, “Spine Of A Dog” into “Buster.” The docile Denver crowd began to surge and sway to the music. They closed with a melodic and dark “Wind It Up” that saw some intricate percussion work from Loughlin.

LOHI never has a break in the music and the sets never overlap. That meant moe.’s set break would be filled with a 75-minute show from the Chrome Drones. This band, according to front man Pete Wall, is basically, “…Textiles on steroids.” A blend of members of Signal Path, Tiger Party and Pete, this group spews rhythm-based textures that lack the restraints of conventional musical performances. Their sound was both dynamic and utterly inviting at the same time. If this band continues to book gigs, go see them. They were perhaps the best way possible to spend a set break.

Moe. returned for set number two just after 8:00 PM and wasted no time at all by opening with their prolific anthem “Captain America.” They transitioned succinctly into the new tune “Annihilation Blues” which was just debuted at Summer Camp this year. Al took the spotlight on the “George” that seemed to go on for quite some time. At one point as the last bit of the sunset was ducking behind the mountains and a single streetlight suddenly illuminated a spot in the crowd, Al told a story about being a bad teenager in Upstate New York and occasionally putting out streetlights with a patented kick. Of course he wasn’t advocating anyone doing that… “George” disintegrated into a tight “Down Boy.” “This I Know” and “Hi and Lo” while on the slower side featured some of the more progressive jamming of the two sets. However, the “Bring You Down” was absolutely massive clocking in well past fifteen minutes. They closed with an equally gargantuan “Brent Black” that left fans very happy. These last two songs of the second set gave Denver fans a taste of what they missed in the Poudre.

“It’s always good to be in Colorado… look at this.” – Al Schnier

They closed the fest with “Plane Crash” which was the nail in the coffin as far as I’m concerned. moe. played a huge set that catered to a festival audience. Digging into their catalog of crowd favorites with a solid mix of long, progressive jams as well as some new songs. It was a stellar show that won over the crowd in a big way. LOHI has truly become a rock solid event with everything a music fan could want out of single day of music. The lineup was a huge step forward with the addition of moe. In just a few short years this festival has morphed from a block party, to a highlight of the summer in Denver. Next year will mark five years and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

LOHI Late Night 6.14.14

Cervantes Masterpiece
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock

We headed out quickly and flagged a weasel for a ride down to Cervantes. With no shuttle we had to rely on the kindness of the first friend we saw leaving the gate at LOHI. We got down to Cervantes early and ordered a little food from Pass the Peas that was formerly Magoo’s. The sandwiches were decent and just what the doctor ordered for four more hours of music. The menu for the evening consisted of a set from the Pimps Of Joytime and The Heavy Pets over at The Other Side, as well as a chunky two-hour party with the Everyone Orchestra in the Ballroom.

Soon after we arrived, the Pimps Of Joytime took the stage as the festival attendees poured into the room. This band is usually a bucket of energy, but their show felt more subdued but with the same concentration on the instrumentation. Lead by Brian J, the Pimps are a funk powerhouse. With strong vocals and an impeccable rhythm section, the POJ have all the tools to throw an awesome party. Having missed their set during the day, I was more than happy to see them at Cervantes. They played for just over an hour as people began to flow between the two rooms.

The next two hours were spent firmly planted in front of the main stage with Everyone Orchestra. EO shows can be difficult to describe, because they are always different and the music performed is totally improvised. Personally I love super jams, I always have. They are an opportunity for tremendous musicians to share their craft in a way that is completely unique. Now that being said, they can easily go into trainwreck mode. That’s why the inclusion of Butler as the conductor is so important. On this particular night the bill was full of truly talented people including Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico of moe., Mike Greenfield of Lotus, Jans Ingber, Joey Porter, Gabe Mervine, and Garrett Sayers of The Motet along with Blake Mobley, Tom Hamilton, and Tanya Shylock, as well as few other friends who dropped in. This time around Butler utilized a tablet and a stylus along with his usual white board shenanigans. Al simply shredded the night away, while Joey Porter also stole the spotlight. Eventually, Porter made way for Mobley and the night continued. At one point David Murphy (formerly of STS9) emerged from the darkness to join in the fun. As time ticked on it became obvious that they were not going to take a set break. So, I meandered back over to The Other Side for a little slice of The Heavy Pets.

They had a decent crowd vibing to their brand of smooth rock and shred-tastic sounds. The vocals from Jeff Lloyd are just as entrancing as his searing guitar playing. This band sounds tighter and more driven each time I see them live. The Heavy Pets are part of a resurgence of real rock that seems to be propelled at least locally by bands like The Congress, West Water Outlaws, and Rose Hill Drive. The Pets are happy to include elements of reggae and funk, but everything seems to have that heavy edge to it that is captivating. I hung around for a while before returning to catch the end of Everyone Orchestra.

I looked over to see moe.’s newly anointed tour manager, John, standing off to the side of the crowd. I asked him if he was finally off work and he informed me that he was not. He said that the bus was parked outside waiting for Al and Vinnie to finish up so they could head to Kansas City for the next show. ‘God speed John, your road is long, but you have one of the best jobs on the planet. I wish you luck.' Everyone Orchestra ended their set with a massive flurry of sound and we made our way to the exit. LOHI was an all around excellent experience this year. They seem to really be building something viable here in Denver. LOHI looks forward to a future of limitless possibilities and it would appear that this little festival is all grown up. See you in 2015.

Jim's LOHI Music Festival Photo Gallery

Nick's LOHI Latenight Photo Gallery




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