MusicMarauders Five Year Anniversary feat. Jen Hartswick Super Jam 2.13 & 2.14.15

The 1up - Colfax
Denver, CO

Words By J. Picard
Photos By Derek Miles (Miles Photography) & Jim Mimna (J. Mimna Photography)

The weekend of a previous Super Jam wrapped up and as I stood satisfied with the result of yet another mixed group of musicians, I decided to select one and approach that person with the opportunity of hosting their own weekend at The 1up - Colfax. I walked up nervously to where Jen Hartswick sat on a couch in the green room. She was engaged in a conversation with a mutual friend, Abby Radbill, when I collected myself and presented Jen with the idea. She seemed receptive to the idea, but also very calm. The following day I received a phone call from Abby expressing how excited Jen was with the thought of hosting her own Super Jam! A short time later we connected via e-mail and the conversation began about who to include. For some reason, whether availability or conceptually, the line-up took a lot longer than some of our other Super Jams to assemble. In the end, the wait and all the hard work that went into piecing the weekend together was worth it, as the result was stunning. Upon the announcement of Jen Hartswick's Super Jam feat. Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band), Skerik (Les Claypool), Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band), Joey Porter (The Motet), Nick Cassarino (Nth Power), Nikki Glaspie (Nth Power) with special guests Eddie Roberts (The New Mastersounds) and Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), people went nuts. Some called it our best Super Jam to date, a notion that was hard for me to argue. As the weekend approached, a handful of friends and family, including my parents, booked flights to the music paradise of Denver, CO. With no sleep leading up to the shows, the day came and felt like a dream...

Friday February 13, 2015:

With the wheels on the ground for all of the incoming flights for the weekend I exhaled and headed to The 1up - Colfax to greet the musical residents and prepare for the shows. There was a certain energy that can't fully be described surrounding the arrival and meeting of the musicians. Many have never met, many go way back, but all were excited and gave off an element of respect for one another. It's always one of my favorite parts of the weekend. Another unique and enjoyable aspect of the Super Jams comes in the form of the band's first song or two of rehearsal, when space and approach is often established. As expected, the first couple of tunes sounded great and it was off to the races. That evening as the venue began to fill in, Jaden Carlson Band took the stage to kick things off with powerful instrumentation and virtuoso output. Heavy funk collided with soaring rock and ripping jazz that melted the minds of those present for the early part of the evening. Glancing down at my phone, I saw that Tom Hamilton had texted me and I made my way to the front to walk him in. A short time later, Tom became one of the captivated fans, looking around the room in disbelief as Jaden shredded on the guitar. Following a couple of new tunes, Will Trask poked his head backstage and tossed out the option of guests, to which Jen, Natalie and Nick obliged! The result was fantastic, with the trio doubling both in number and sonic output! The addition of horns to the trio added such a well-rounded sound, but the highlight of the track came in the form of Nick and Jaden going back and forth, to the delight of the nearly packed 1up!

Backstage, the final touches were being put on a show that would exceed all expectations of a Super jam. Around 11:00 PM, "The A Team" took the stage to a happening barcade! Right off the bat, Jen's vocals tore through the composition with power as the band smiled and dug in for a version of Michael Jackson's "Burn This Disco Out," that featured solos by Skerik and Joey! Earth, Wind & Fire's "Love's Holiday" came next with Nick at the vocal helm and Jen and Natalie singing backup. Another pass to Skerik and back to Nick concluded the shorter composition. With some shuffling of charts, the mixed group jumped into Stevie Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothing." Natalie's solo early on took it to the next level, creating an almost NOLA vibe, while Oteil destroyed the low end with subtle, but captivating basswork that jived perfectly with Nikki's groove. It was so much fun to watch Oteil, who was smiling, holding up his bass and at times, running in place! The band was tight, due to virtuosity as opposed to experience with one another. The mid-section jam took on an eastern flavor as it built up before Jen soloed and the song came to a close.

Jen followed up with some introductions and very entertaining stage banter that had the crowd laughing and clapping. A slow, sultry composition followed in Average White Band's "If I Ever Loose This Heaven" featuring some fantastic harmonies from Natalie, Jen and Nick. Some ripping guitar from Nick lead back into the vocals for the track's close. Aretha Franklin's "Rocksteady" closed the first set with a punch that came in the form of Jen's incredible vocals, followed by a solid solo from Joey on the keys and a round from Eddie on the guitar! One more pass through the vocals and the first of the weekend's four sets had concluded! Backstage there were hugs and high fives as the Super Jam refueled for the second set which would be much lengthier.

Set two kicked off with K.C And The Sunshine Band's "Shake, Shake, Shake" with Oteil dropping bass bombs while Jaden shredded, blowing the minds of even those on stage. The focus returned to Oteil who output some incredible scat bass that blew minds and left people screaming. It was pure madness that gave me goosebumps and left my cheeks hurting from smiling. Ray Charles' "Drown In My Own Tears" featured Jen's incredible vocal range and ability to completely captivate a crowd. Watching from the side stage, I had tears in my eyes as the hair on my arms stood straight up. Natalie jumped in with some brassy sounding trombone that fit the mood perfectly. A return to Jen's soulful vocals, which soared, triggered the instruments to halt, leaving only Jen to the song's end.

"I just called a tune that we've never rehearsed and never played and so, give us ten more seconds to figure it out and we'll be good..." - Jen Hartswick

Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City" followed tightly, lending no credence to the aforementioned notice of the group never playing the song. Jen's vocals were chased by Eddie who picked away with noodly staccato before leaning into his instrument. Joey stepped up and knocked it out of the park with some Herbie sounding jazz/funk. The horns punched in the background as Denver music fans got down to some of the best music that The 1up had seen to date. Oteil stepped up as the band turned towards the master of the low end for a solo that was truly amazing. Up next was The Beatles' "I Want You," with Nick matching his vocal notes on a guitar that wouldn't let up until the conclusion of the song, which was heavy through and through. Pharrell's "Places and Spaces I've Been" came next with a light vibe that was encouraged by the beautiful sound of Jen's trumpet, followed by Skerik cleaning up on the tenor.

"That's an original tune. They are all original... somebody wrote them." Jen Hartswick

Black Heat's "Love The Life You Live" came with a barrage of horns and Natalie at the vocal forefront. Skerik threw down on what felt like the closing song of the second set. The composition wound down while Jen introduced the band and they jumped back into a rip roaring final push to the end. The appreciative crowd errupted in cheer as the group exited the stage, only to return a short time later with Heart's "Magic Man" in rocking fashion. Jen's vocals were strong as the music fell to psychedelia. Nick's guitar screamed as the vocals peaked for what felt like a raging rock explosion of love! Upon it's conclusion, Jen thanked The 1up and MusicMarauders before letting the crowd know that the following night would be all new music! Backstage the energy was through the roof with band members hugging, laughing, taking pictures with one and other and letting loose as their night of "work" had concluded. That evening was truly something special, raising the bar for Super Jams at The 1up and setting the scene for the following night's action. Very little sleep followed for me and the next afternoon, I once again found myself at the center of my universe, The 1up - Colfax...

Miles Photography's Full Galley

Saturday February 14, 2015:

The atmosphere on Saturday afternoon was light and playful as the musicians began to settle in for round two of the weekend. The day's rehearsal came and went with the musicians wandering out into the city for dinner and rest prior to the show. That evening, Genetics kicked off their supporting set around 9:30 PM to a venue that filled even quicker than the previous night's show. The progressive quartet dove into tight material from the repertoire that impressed the early crowd. Drop of a dime changes lead to expansive instrumentation. The overwhelmingly consistent rhythm section of Nat Snow and Joel Searls, not only gave the crowd something to dance to, but provided the canvas for Scott Anderson's screaming keys and Jeff Ervine's insane modal shred. The addition of Will Trask on percussion added an interesting spice to the material, that on it's own was already firey. Through seventy minutes of progressive jamtronica, Genetics output intensity, feverishly. Even my folks had to move from the back of the room to the front to get in on the action!

Once again, around 11:00 PM, the Jen Hartswick Super Jam took the stage with an aggressive "25 Or 6 To 4" by Chicago. My folks were pumped! Jen's voice was no worse for wear from the previous night's madness as she belted and was chased by horns, as well as well as Nick and Anders. It was an absolute throwdown from the start with the whole band peaking and peaking and peaking!

"Good morning! It's night two so we're warmed up. Sorry if that was aggressive. Sorry, not sorry that was aggressive (Laughs)..." - Jen Hartswick

Up next was Cee Lo Green's "Fool For You," in soulful fashion, with Anders stepping to the forefront for his first solo of the weekend. The slide added an enjoyable flavor to the mix, before Oteil took over and passed it to Nick. For many, this is what we were here for, pure improvisational output... and guitar solos! The Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" followed to the delight of the Denver crowd. Joey nailed the signature intro key licks before Nick jumped in on vocals and Jen and Natalie backed him. At one point Nick requested that the crowd participate in a call and response segment, which as we know can go either way. In this situation, it was very well executed creating a beautiful moment. There was some beatboxing from the stage which translated to a wild Skerik solo, before opening up to some weird sounds coming from all over the stage. A dash of slide, wank from keys, scratching from guitar strings and fading trumpet, made for a swanky vibe.

"If It hadn't Been For Love," a song originally by The Steeldrivers, covered by Adele, and then Jen Hartswick, came next with a bluesy vibe. Natalie stepped up to the plate with some extensive trombone before Jen came back on the vocals. The set closer came in the form of Rufus and Chaka Khan's "Tell Me Something Good!" The whole room was singing along and getting down, as Joey took over on keys, bending notes and throwing down. Jen's vocals resonated powerfully as Oteil and Nikki created a deep groove to take it to the close. Backstage the band was greeted by cake celebrating MusicMarauders' five year anniversary, as a party type of atmosphere ensued. Recently, I have been focused on appreciating things as they happen, so I took a deep breath, and glanced around the greenroom. It made me very happy to see a bunch of my favorite musicians celebrating along with my parents, Carly and some of my very good friends. I realized that every second of my life had lead up to that moment and I smiled a big shit eating grin.

The final set of the weekend began with Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody," with Jen leading the charge! Skerik jumped in with a huge solo, followed by Oteil before Jen's return. Following Eddie Roberts' West Coast Sounds' show across town, they headed to The 1up to get in on the fun. Common's "The Light" took the band in an R & B/Hip-Hop direction, that was a cool change of pace vocally. Oteil stepped up to the mic for a round of scat bass that blew minds. His range and precision reflected a knowledge of the bass beyond what most humans are capable of achieving. Up next was a funky instrumental tune that I couldn't put my finger on. That being said, it was enjoyable from start to finish with a massive solo from Jen in the middle! Kool & The Gang's "Love The Life You Live" came next with strong punches from the incredible horn section and Eddie stepping back up to take it to the close. Toto's "Hold The Line" followed with Jen and Natalie sharing vocal duties and Skerik in beast mode, yelling into his mic. I looked into the crowd from backstage and saw my parents parked right in front of Skerik. Anders swung with some slide before passing it to Nick for some dueling guitar before the return of the vocals. Mick Jackson's "Blame It On The Boogie" brought the disco vibe that Joey Porter latched right onto with a nasty electro solo. Jen jumped into band intros as they returned to the boogie to close the second set. The crowd went absolutely wild, demanding the return of the incredible performers! Their breif time backstage translated to their return for the final song of the weekend, Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker," in Valentine's Day fashion! The horns hit it out of the park as the guitars ripped and Nikki tore the house down.

Looking back on that weekend, I now agree that the Jen Hartswick Super Jams were the best shows that The 1up - Colfax has played host to. The shows were so much more than "jams," with high caliber musicians, with charts, taking the music seriously and giving it their all on every single song. On a personal level, it was such a pleasure to have a collection of my favorite musicians outputting such a high quality product in celebration of five years of MusicMarauders. It meant a lot to have my parents, Murray, Carly and so many folks whom I have met over the course of my time in Colorado, present for the weekend and collectively enjoying the shows. Ultimately, I saw the weekend as a celebration of success and the acheivement of dreams. For Jen and her Super Jam, the door was left open for their triumphant return and the bar raised for all future Super Jams...

Jim's Full Photo Gallery


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