Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Motet & Euforquestra 12.12.15

Neptune Theatre
Seattle, WA

Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)

Notorious Colorado funksters, The Motet, have spent several years building a Seattle following, throwing jubilant dance parties at intimate venues such as Nectar Lounge and Tractor Tavern. On a blustery Saturday evening in December, the band’s efforts were rewarded with their first headlining gig at the city’s historic Neptune Theatre, an iconic 885-capacity venue just steps away from the University of Washington campus.

The band was supported by fellow Coloradans, Euforquestra, (originally from Iowa City, IA). After missing one of their previous Seattle gigs, I was excited to hear what this euphoric funk orchestra brought to the table. Composed of Mike Tallman (guitar and vocals), Otis Lande (bass), Matt Wright (keys, vocals), Austin Zaletel (saxophone, vocals), Matt Bricker (trumpet) and Craig Babineau (drums), this group is known for groove-based, exploratory dub/soul/funk music. Starting off to a fairly empty room, they wasted no time getting those in attendance to move around and enjoy the vast swatch of dance space available.

Zaletel was particularly impressive as he constantly switched between sax and vocals for the entire show, contributing outstandingly on each. Their set started off focused on driving horn leads and gradually progressed to a groovier, lead-guitar based sound. Colorado vocalist Tanya Shylock sat-in, demonstrating some of the better vocal control I have ever seen, and fitting effortlessly into the group. By the conclusion of their set, they had a mostly full house dancing uncontrollably, and undoubtedly hundreds of new fans. I cannot wait to see them play a headlining show in Seattle!

Set break was a welcome chance to appreciate the wonderful community of Seattle funk music supporters that help to make shows like this possible. Our group locked down a great spot on the relatively open balcony with perfect views and plenty of dancing space. Everything was in perfect order for a legendary dance party, and once the show began, The Motet more than fulfilled their end of the bargain.

The Motet is an improvisational funk band with heavy disco and afrobeat influences. I have often heard them compared to acts such as Jamiroquai and Parliament/Funkadelic. Founded by Dave Watts (drums), the band also features Joey Porter (keys), Garrett Sayers (bass guitar), Ryan Jalbert (guitar), Gabe Mervine (trumpet), Matt Pitts (tenor sax) and Jans Ingber (vocals and percussion).

This was my 5th time seeing The Motet since July of 2014, and I am happy to say that the band is still surprising me and improving between each show. This set featured lots of new material, and re-energized takes on Motet classics. You could feel the collective sense of relief in the room as hundreds of people danced away their long December week of finals, work-related stress, and rain.

Highlights of the set included several more sit-ins from Shylock, who seems to have established quite the rapport with the group. She was all over it on their 2010-adapted, 70’s disco-funk anthem “Knock it Down,” serving as the ideal vocal contrast to make this version really sound special. Not only did she harmonize perfectly with Ingber, but she also freed him up to play more percussion, which always adds a certain intensity to the band’s sound. The rendition of original classic “123” revealed their ability to play more in the style of a jam-band with afrobeat instrumentation. Sayers stood out as an absolute machine on bass guitar, propelled along by his remarkably thick, furry tone. As his bandmates locked into a tight instrumental groove, Ingber proved himself to be among the best dancers in the room, pushing everyone in the crowd to utterly lose themselves. Near the end of the tune, Porter got his first chance to get down on the clavs, his lengthy solo inspiring such movement in the crowd that the building could be felt to shake. Jalbert matched him note-for-note at times as the group concluded a tour-de-force jam.

Shylock then departed the stage, replaced by the Eurorquestra horns, Zaletel and Bricker. Ingber stated their intention to play some afrobeat and donned his jug. The souped-up band navigated their Fela Kuti-inspired song “Cheap Shit” with proficiency and power, garnering extreme appreciation from the raucous audience. Bricker teamed excellently with The Motet’s own Mervine, propelling the funk extravaganza into the stratosphere in a way that I thought none but Lettuce were capable of.

One of my favorite parts of The Motet’s live show is the number of weapons in their arsenal. Many of these weapons are provided by Porter. While keyboards, synthesizer, and clavs played prominent roles all evening, Porter made the fans wait nearly 90 minutes before first busting out his hallmark vocoder on “The Fountain.” As his synthesizer notes took on the inflection of his vocals, the music took on a new dimension of expressiveness.

They closed the set with a wild performance of “Like We Own It.” This soulful track features intricate, interlocking horn parts that nearly seem to encircle each other, and tend to get stuck in your head. Shylock’s contributions to this track were particularly dynamic, she does a great job of pushing Ingber to new heights vocally with her talent. The crowd refused to allow them to leave the stage for very long afterwards, bringing them back for an encore of “Keep on Don’t Stoppin’.” Sayers dazzled us with a final ridiculous bass solo. The man’s fingers move so quickly, he appears to teleport from fret to fret with no lag time.

After seeing a fifth Motet show, I came away with a renewed sense of excitement for the band’s future direction. It was great to see them play some new material and mix-up the setlists more than I had seen before. I am sure this trend should only continue as they work towards another album. This outfit of supremely talented musicians is really starting to come into their own as they affirm their place as a major band in the funk music scene by playing larger venues.

A caveat to this perspective is that, just a few days after this show, Ingber announced his decision to leave the group. The reason for this amicable split is that he prefers making music locally and spending time with his friends and family to the rigors of touring life (can you blame him?). The door seems to be open for him to return at a later date if he so chooses. His last shows will be their New Year’s Eve bash in Atlanta, and the 1/1 Phish after-party in New York City. The band seems determined to hit the road with a renewed vigor and plenty of special guests. I can only assume Shylock will be included in these plans, and I also look forward to seeing who else they collaborate with. Ingber has served a crucial role within the group, but as long as he is happy, there is no paucity of talented vocalists for the band to work with.

The Motet's Setlist: Brother Man > Knock it Down, 123 > Just Around > Jam, Don’t Leave Me, Cheap Shit*, Space and Time, Fight the Power, The Fountain, Don’t Wake, Like We Own It

Encore: Keep On Don’t Stoppin’

*with Matt Bricker (trumpet) and Austin Zaletel (saxophone) from Euforquestra

Scott's Photo Gallery

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hoppy Holidays: Anders Osborne & Kyle Hollingsworth Band 12.5.15

The Fillmore Auditorium
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)

Throughout the last several years, I've been lucky enough to attend a number of beer festivals organized by String Cheese Incident's keyboard wizard, Kyle Hollingsworth. His obsession with beer and music have coalesced into a beautiful pair of earthly delights. On Saturday, I attended his annual "Hoppy Holidays" event.

The 21+ event included unlimited 2oz samples from 30+ craft beers between the hours of 5-8. Quite the happy hour... Or "hoppy hour." As a craft beer enthusiast, I enjoy opportunities to dabble with beers I've never tried, and samples were a great way to explore the various offerings without ending up a nuisance. As I enjoyed the array of flavors, I meandered through the crowd, mingling with the usual suspects. I thought the social aspect of the event rivaled the entertainment. With friends, some old, some new, we indulged in libations and settled in to a nice holiday buzz.

Reggae veterans, John Brown's Body, got the music started once the crowd was loose. I'd heard about JBB for years, but never got to see them. My expectations were satisfied. In a weird way, they were EXACTLY what I expected. My reggae knowledge is admittedly narrow, but I have heard a lot of mediocrity within the genre. With the exception of Tosh, Cliff, Burning Spear, Toots and the Maytals, and obviously Marley, most reggae bands seemed to lack originality. While I didn't think JBB was particularly unique, I also didn't feel they were lacking substance of their own.

Kyle Hollingsworth Band followed with a lengthy set which featured trumpet empress, Jen Hartswick doing her thing. Kyle's flashy key work has long been one of my favorite components in String Cheese Incident, and his solo work has always pulled heavily from his SCI catalog. While the lineup was tight, I was perplexed by the absence of Dave Watts and Garrett Sayers (both of the Motet), who normally provide the rhythm section. Dan Schwindt (guitar) and Kyle did a fine job working with an alternate lineup, but the same sense of comfort that lies with the core group just wasn't evident. Even the most effective substitute teacher rarely covers as much ground as the regular one.

When Kyle and company called it quits, Anders Osborne took the stage. I had never seen him before and had no idea what to expect. What I heard was a combination of several influences put together in a unique, yet eerily familiar way. At his core, he seemed to be the jamband's answer to Mellencamp, or the Boss, but with Clapton's bluesy licks. As I left the pit after 3 songs, I noticed that the venue had largely emptied, leaving the room less than a third full for the duration of the show. This seemed to sap a bit of Osborne's enthusiasm as the show was tight, but lacking any "over the top" moments. I would admit that by halfway through his set I was beginning to feel the lethargic weight of several hours of drinking and dancing and I probably paid more attention to conversations with friends than I did the music.

On the whole, it was a most enjoyable experience, but one that was sadly light on the thrilling improvisation that defined this style of music. Much like the beer selection, everything was good, but there were only a few moments that transcended the ordinary and left me with a refreshed palate. I think many of the attendees were there to see KHB, so I found it unusual that he played second instead of last. For an event that began at 5 with 3 hours of drinking, 2 bands would have sufficed. As I stumbled to the lite-rail and westward on the W, I reflected on the numerous Kyle's Brewfests I've attended and remembered them fondly... Albeit hazily.

Monday, December 21, 2015

ALO & Scott Law 12.5.15

Nectar Lounge
Seattle, WA

Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)

Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) has been among my favorite bands since I first heard their Roses and Clover album in 2010. For five long years, I waited patiently for the chance to finally experience their live show. This summer, the floodgates came open and I was lucky enough to see the California rockers play three stellar shows in the span of a month. The first was at Seattle’s intimate Nectar Lounge, and the next two were at Qunicy, CA’s legendary High Sierra Music Festival. One of the many highlights came during their late-night set at High Sierra, a 3:45 am performance of their song “Barbeque” that brought sleep-deprived tears of joy to my eyes after a sixteen-hour day of music. These three performances taught me to expect the band to showcase their diverse talents through high-energy improvisation, beautiful songwriting, and inspirational lyrics and banter. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to learn that the band would be returning to Nectar Lounge for another Seattle throwdown, due to be my 4th ALO show of the year.

This sold-out performance saw ALO supported by fellow West-coasters, the Scott Law Band. These old-school rockers did a great job of warming the crowd up with their interesting blend of folk and jam music, which drew on influences from the Grateful Dead, as well as other classic rock legends. The band was composed of Scott Law (guitar and vocals), Keith Lowe (bass guitar), and Mark Griffith (drums). Law is a journeyman musician who has toured religiously for over twenty years. He played in Seattle-based jamband Tough Mama (with the rhythm section of the Living Daylights) during the late 80s and early 90s, and after their dissolution continued to tour heavily with his solo band. He is widely admired for his flatpicking skills on both mandolin and guitar.

This was my first time seeing Scott Law perform, and found him to be quite impressive. His guitar sound ranged from straight-up country twang (using a Gibson hollow-body) to a dubbed-out Jerry Garcia impression (using a Fender Telecaster). His voice was extremely versatile, and I could hear substantial Bob Dylan influence in his bluesier tunes. On higher energy numbers, his voice took on a sound somewhere between Tom Petty (soulful, nasal twang), Bob Weir (sharp, bluesy howling) and Paul Simon (pure high notes and slick, rapid-fire delivery). The band fits in perfectly with his style, and they really enjoy playing together.

By the time ALO was taking the stage, the venue was packed to the brim and heating up quickly on the inside. Luckily, I was able to watch the entire show at a milder temperature from the patio, thanks to Nectar’s open garage door. Guitarist Dan Lebowitz (better known as Lebo) plays a Takamine acoustic guitar with a pickup installed, and he coaxes some impressive tone out of this thing! The first two songs featured huge guitar solo peaks during their jam sections, with the composed sections spearheaded by Zach Gill’s always-strong vocals. The first real change-up of the set was an original song “There Was a Time,” which featured Gill moving from keyboards to the accordion. This gave the tune a klezmer feel, and I was shocked to see this many people grooving to his subtle accordion licks. I love to see artists mix it up with non-traditional instruments, especially when those around me are equally enthusiastic.

The next song, “Sugar,” brought the powerhouse funk that everyone came for. The rhythm section, featuring Steve Adams on bass and David Brogan on drums, really took off at this point. As they locked into a tight groove, Gill added wonderful, Rhodesy accents on his keys as Lebo broke it down on guitar across the stage. The lights showcased the giant tapestry hanging behind the stage, an enlarged version of the album artwork for their latest LP, Tangle of Time. After the dance party had been going for a few minutes, Gill began adding in some spacy delay effects with his other hand, launching the band into a slower, more psychedelic section. This continued for a bit before they deftly wove the melody of “Sugar” back in and reprised it in full.

The band saved an absolute gem to close out their first set of music. They began the segment with the aforementioned “Barbeque,” an inspirational tune that tells the listener never to let their defeats stop them from continuing to dream. The intro to this song sparked lots of revelry in the audience, and I was happy to see that I wasn’t alone in considering it a favorite. After one verse, Gill brought back his spacy delay effects. This paved the way for an epic full-band transition into a cover of the Johnny Cash classic, “Ring of Fire.” I am a sucker for clever setlist pairings, and as such was totally bowled over by the fire trend in these two songs, which was perfect for the hot venue. One verse into this song, the band made their way back into “Barbeque,” and settled into a quiet jam that saw them tease back to “Ring of Fire” multiple times. As they made their way into the final verse of “Barbeque,” the whole audience sang along wildly. It was a perfect ending to the first set.

The second set saw Gill don his signature ship captain’s hat as the band played “Shapeshifter.” This original track saw a heavy funk jam, propelled by Brogan’s drum work. After a few minutes, Lebo could be heard teasing “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music. This tease developed into a full-band jam and the musicians toyed with the audience by going back and forth between “Shapeshifter” and “My Favorite Things” several times before allowing the jam to finally unleash its massive peak. Lebo’s guitar work here was both expressive and poignant, with tastefully applied reverb. It was interesting to see them draw out their teases so extensively. The group definitely has a unique way of paying tribute to other artists, toeing the line between teasing and covering, and always keeping the audience guessing as to what will come next.

Following this odyssey, Scott Law and Paul M. (keys) were invited to sit-in. Gill moved from his keyboard to the front of the stage to handle vocal duties and his melodica. After a quick “Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down,” the band moved onto the meat of the sit-in, a rousing cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha.” The audience absolutely lost it for the Dead cover, and Law was given the perfect context in which to put his Jerry Garcia impersonation skills to work. Their version was both authentic and heartfelt, and will go down as one of many outstanding Grateful Dead covers played in 2015 to honor their 50th Anniversary.

The next song saw the sit-ins remain onstage as Gill donned his beloved ukulele in an unconventional way. Attached to the headstock, where one might normally place a tuner, he had a clip-on green laser pointer. As he strummed the opening to their popular tune, “Plastic Bubble,” the beam cut through the fog in the room, collimating perfectly in a way that resembled a green lightsaber, waving above throughout the song. As Lebo took his solo, I noticed that he makes a point of playing once through it only outlining chords without the melody, making the listener wait to hear the notes they know are coming on the second time through.

As the sit-ins left the stage, Gill spoke to the crowd at length about how the venue was warm and cozy, and felt like a womb. He continued with his coherent ramblings, saying the word "womb" at every opportunity, for about three minutes. This had me expecting to see the band play their oddest track, “The Womb,” off 2002’s Time Expander. Gill’s speech was actually only clever misdirection, as the band instead played “Kolomana,” another track from the same album. This song was probably the most enjoyable of the entire show, with its smooth, danceable bassline and keys. As the improvisation began, you could see that the band remained energized by the sit-in. At one point they all (except Brogan) went down to their knees while playing, and Gill now sported a Russian-style fur hat. Lebo’s solo saw him detune his guitar until it roared like a dragon onstage.

This performance took ALO to another level, at least in my book. After the first three shows I saw this year, I was starting to think I had the band mostly figured out, and that the shows would get more predictable as I continued on. This idea was clearly disproven here, and I am left utterly clueless as to the specifics of what to expect for next time. I am happy to report that ALO is a band that has the variety to engage an active listener well beyond their first four shows, and I cannot wait for my fifth.

Set One: Speed of Dreams, Undertow, There Was a Time, Sugar, Wasting Time, ?, Barbeque > Ring of Fire > Barbeque

Set Two: Ticket, Shapeshifter > My Favorite Things > Shapeshifter, Girl I Wanna Lay You Down*, Bertha*, Plastic Bubble*, Kolomana

Encore: Walls of Jericho

*With Scott Law (guitar) and Paul M. (keys)

Scott's Photo Gallery

Friday, December 18, 2015

PREVIEW: Earphorik wsg. Jake Cinninger, Fade Runner wsg. Joel Cummins & Eminence Ensemble

Quixote's True Blue
Denver, CO

Join us on Friday January 1st, 2016 at Quixote's True Blue in Denver, Colorado for the official Umphrey's McGee after party featuring Earphorik with special guest Jake Cinninger (Umphrey's McGee), Fade Runner with special guest Joel Cummins (Umphrey's McGee) and Eminence Ensemble!

Tickets are available at!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

PREVIEW: The Drunken Hearts feat. Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) & Rob Eaton (Dark Star Orchestra)

Quixote's True Blue
Denver, CO

Join us on Saturday December 19th at Quixote's True Blue in Denver, CO for a Holiday Hoedown with The Drunken Hearts feat. Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) and Rob Eaton (Dark Star Orchestra)!

Tickets are available at

Monday, December 14, 2015

All Access: Dead & Company 11.24 & 11.25.15

1stBank Center
Broomfield, CO

Words & Photos By J. Picard

The Grateful Dead and their offshoots are the pinnacle of the jamband scene. While many bands have followed in the footsteps of their greatness, there is something about a Dead show that fans and followers can only get from the source. The announcement of Dead & Company sparked mixed emotions on the scene and with the announcement of John Mayer up front, many fans voiced very critical concerns. I had my doubts, however, as the tour unfolded many were forced to eat crow, myself included. Leading up to Dead & Company's two night run at 1stBank Center anticipation grew and the mad scramble to secure tickets unfolded among our friends. With our passes secured I braced myself for yet another ride on the bus and the first for my wife, Carly. I was excited for the personal experience, though even more excited to share in the experience with Carly and many of our great friends!

Sunday came and while we were at breakfast I sent a quick text to Oteil Burbridge inquiring about his whereabouts. He was in Denver and ready to get kick it, so he joined Carly and I for breakfast at Lucille's Creole Cafe. Over breakfast I discussed my recent turn of events regarding the closure of The 1up - Colfax's venue. We discussed options for our upcoming plays in the market before heading back to my place briefly, then on to Macy Studios to drop in on Roosevelt Collier and Andy Hall (The Infamous Stringdusters), who were recording a duo steel album. The tracks sounded fantastic and the guys were excited to have Oteil in house. A short time later we dropped off Oteil among large Prevost buses parked alongside the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown Denver, before we headed to our friends' mountain retreat with Roosevelt for an evening. We returned to town on Monday and braced for two nights of Dead and Company.

Tuesday November 24, 2015:

Traffic was thick, as it was Tuesday at about 5:00 PM. We cruised along slowly towards 1stBank Center arriving around 6:00 PM and parking in a $10.00 parking garage right next to the venue. The area around 1stBank has grown significantly over the course of the past few years, with a plethora of restaurants popping up near by. We approached the front entrance of the venue where the line to get in was extensive, as the doors had yet to open and the first wave of fans waited patiently to get a prime spot. We acquired our passes from the box office and headed around the back of the building to the East Entrance where we were greeted by a smiling face and no sort of security protocol what so ever. We put our passes on and headed onto the concourse where vendors were getting their stations set up to serve food and beer, as well, the merchandise staff was folding t-shirts and counting their opening till.

In the main room we could hear Dead & Company rehearsing and talking through the material. We headed up a nearby staircase and situated ourselves in view of the action just in time for the band to play "Touch of Grey!" I glanced around the room and it appeared that we were the only ones present outside of security, which made Carly feel as though we were not supposed to be there. Bob Weir and John Mayer discussed audio levels and side fill before Mayer mentioned that he was "feeling the room and the spirits." Doors for the event were supposed to be at 6:30, however, with soundcheck going late, the doors were held creating a massive line out front. We wandered backstage where Bob Weir passed by nodding. We were greeted by Oteil and headed down the long hallway to his dressing room, where we passed John Mayer, who was headed back to the stage to work on some guitar stuff, further delaying the mass entrance of the hippies.

Backstage we popped open a couple of beers and sat with Oteil who was preparing for the evening. I reached down and picked up the evening's setlist, glancing at it with excitement. I am not one to want to know the setlist before the shows, however, in this circumstance, this may have been one of my only opportunities to watch the show unfold with the knowledge of what would come next. Jeff Chimenti came into the dressing room and we introduced ourselves before Oteil excitedly said "I have to show you guys something!" We headed back down the long hallway to the stage and made our way up the stairs. As we stood on the stage looking out at the quickly filling room, it hit me. "How did we get here?" I thought. "Check this out," Oteil said pulling back the curtain on a temporary on-stage dressing room. "Come on!" I yelled, ducking into the room to check it out. Inside the lamp lit room we found a couple of couches and in the corner was a road case with a candle, vase with roses and a Silver Surfer vaporizer with a jar of cannabis. "I can't believe we are here," I said to Carly in disbelief. "I can't believe I am here either!" Oteil said laughing.

The next fifteen minutes were spent pre-gaming, laughing and enjoying the current circumstances, before it was time for Oteil to focus on preparing for the show. We headed out onto the floor and instantly started running into friends as we situated ourselves to the left of the soundboard. Folks came and went like pin-balls leading up to the show until our group filled out and remained as the lights went down. The band hit the stage to a thunderous applause, while folks continued to file in from the cold. The band then began with "Cold Rain and Snow" with Mayer up front on vocals. From the get go the music was sweet, however, the audio engineers still had some dialing in to do. Fingers went up in the air on stage triggering the adjustment of the monitors. The transition into "New Speedway Boogie" came with excitement from the crowd. Bob leaned into the mic with his voice straining as he hit the notes, in the way only Bob could.

"Smokestack Lightning" went back into "New Speedway Boogie" before "Me and My Uncle," with Bob leading the charge. Mayer stepped up and took over for a meandering "Candyman" that picked up and went into "Bertha" with a roar from the crowd! At times, the vocals were barely audible over the crowd singing along. The first set of the run concluded with the Weir led "Lost Sailor" into "Saint of Circumstance." The conclusion of the first set left much to be desired in regards to song selection, which is often the case with the Dead who like to work their way in. Fortunately, I knew what we were in store for in regards to the second set. More friends came and went on their way to and from refilling on drinks and hitting the restrooms. We remained on the floor taking in all of the madness until the lights went down once again.

The second set kicked off with "Help On The Way." With Bob focusing on vocals, Mayer really dug deep into the guitar which sang out with Jerry's tone and touch. It was clear that Mayer did his homework and was taking the role very seriously. Oteil was all over the neck of the bass, subtle at first glance, heavy and hypnotic upon further inspection. The pocket was deep, something many fans aren't used to with Phil Lesh on bass. The band cleanly transitioned into "Slipknot" with yet another roar from the crowd! Chimmenti screamed on the keys while Mayer screamed back with bending notation. I judge many of the Dead material that I listen to by their transitions and exploration and as the band transitioned into "Franklin's Tower," I was a happy camper. Mayer stepped up on vocals for what would be his only time at the mic for the second set and it sounded fantastic.

The band took its only breather of the second set before jumping into "Estimated Prophet" with Bob back on the vocals and a swanky groove that transitioned into "Dark Star!" The band eased its way in through beautiful noodling that built and took shape as "Dark Star." Mayer absolutely shredded before Bob's vocals kicked in. Following the vocals, the song slowly dissolved into "Drums," with Billy and Mickey at the helm. Chatter quickly picked up in the crowd as well as a bunch of movement from folks heading up to the concourse for restrooms and more beer. The energy and tempo slowly built and for the first time that evening, Mickey Hart was audible. The music and concept pretty much went nowhere and a long ten minutes later the music transitioned into "Space," which was even less coherent, obviously. The band returned to the stage for "Black Peter" that slowly drifted along into "Good Lovin'" to close the second set.

1stBank Center erupted and demanded more, which came in the form of "Touch of Grey" and a sing along from the capacity crowd. A short time later the show concluded and the mass exodus ensued. We headed backstage, which was somewhat crowded and happening. We gave Oteil a hug, grabbed our coats and headed out into the cold night. Stragglers remained out front of the venue, selling trinkets, spacing out and looking for a place to go. We pulled out of the parking garage and made our way back to Denver, where we would fall asleep after replaying the night several times over in our heads. We were ready for round two!

Set One: Cold Rain and Snow > New Speedway Boogie, Smokestack Lightning > New Speedway Boogie, Me and My Uncle, Candyman > Bertha, Lost Sailor > Saint of Circumstance

Set Two: Help on the Way > Slipknot! > Franklin’s Tower, Estimated Prophet > Dark Star > Drums > Space > Black Peter > Good Lovin’

Encore: Touch of Grey

Wednesday November 25, 2015:

I awoke to find Dead and Company passes stuck to my pants from the night prior. My mind was still blown when the phone rang and on the screen it read "Oteil Burbridge." We chatted about the previous night before deciding to connect once again, this time to hit a couple of dispensaries in Denver! Our favorite was absolutely GroundSwell Cannabis Boutique where owner, Robert, gave us the full tour! We left with the essential materials to enjoy the next several days! I told Oteil a story about how Murray found the Grateful Dead, via a 1991 show in which he got blindsided with an "Eyes of The World," triggering laughter and celebration from Oteil. I once again returned him to his hotel to prepare for night two. I expressed to him how truly excited I was and it was clear to see he felt the same way.

That evening we headed to 1st Bank Center once more. We arrived to find a similar scene as the night prior, with an extensive line at the main entrance. We acquired our passes and headed around back in time to catch soundcheck for the second night in a row. This time there was a lot more technical stuff discussed, before the band worked through a couple of tunes.

"They say that if a band has a great soundcheck the show will be horrible, so what I recommend we do is end the soundcheck with a minute of terrible playing," Mayer said half-serious.

What followed was either the worst sounds I have ever heard out of The Dead or the band's rehearsal for the evening's "Space." Oteil raised his hand up and slapped his bass, which resonated throughout the arena style venue. With that, soundcheck concluded and we made our way back stage. In the back hallway we were passed by Mickey and Bill, each with their handlers guiding them towards their destination. We caught up with Oteil for a bit before heading out onto the floor to catch up with our friends. The venue filled in quickly and much like the previous evening, the show started a little late.

The band hit the stage to a thunderous applause, adjusted a few levels and began with "Hell in a Bucket." Bob lead the vocal charge while Mayer leaned into the guitar ripping with immaculate tone, while Chimmenti hammered heavy on the keys. "Brown Eyed Woman" followed with Mayer's solid vocals filling 1st Bank and the crowd singing along. It was truly a beautiful version of the song and warmed up the room nicely. "Feel Like a Stranger" got the room moving and the line "it's going to be a long crazy night," pleased the Colorado fans greatly. "Peggy-O" slowed things down quite a bit, but featured some dreamlike notation from Chimmenti. Bob lead the way on the ever so bluesy, "Little Red Rooster" rolling out the carpet for what seemed to be Mayer's wheelhouse. John dug deep running through blues licks with ease and vigor to the conclusion of the song.

The band slowly worked it's way into "Bird Song" with Oteil hitting some really interesting notes to build the composition before Mayer's vocals entered the picture. The song was beautifully executed and soared throughout the duration, with some incredible interplay between Oteil and Mayer, as well as Chimmenti, that elevated the first set on an almost incalculable level. Mayer's directional noodling perfectly captured the Jerry vibe and approach to the music. It felt respectful and well executed. Dead and Company transitioned into "The Music Never Stops" and a dance party ensued. There were dreadlocks swinging through the air, exhales of smoke and beer being spilled left and right. All the while, the smiles were huge. Bob played off of John's lead work, similarly as to how he did with Jerry. I felt the magic that I haven't felt with many of the post-Grateful Dead projects. Unlike the song's title, the music concluded.

"We'll be back in just a minute," Bob said as the band exited the stage.

The madness of set break ensued, creating quite the euphoric vibe with buzzed people passing by with happy faces and empty cups. On a figurative level, their cups were overflowing. We caught up with friends and ran into others, as we stood still and 1st Bank spun around us. After an extended set break, the boys returned to the stage and kicked off the second set with a jam that turned into "Truckin'" to the delight of the room! Bob and John shared vocal duties with with the crowd, who were basically screaming the words, myself included. The peak of the song was soaring before the band dropped into the breaks with perfect precision and notation, before slowly winding down and transitioning into "He's Gone." The crowd cheered, whistled and swayed to a song that many Deadheads hold near and dear. The capacity crowd collectively sang "Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile..." followed by more cheering.

The tempo picked up a touch as the band headed into "Eyes of The World," a song that made me think of Murray, who sat out on the evening's show. I closed my eyes and danced along to the music and Mayer's sweet guitar work. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. The band then went right into "Terrapin Station," which was not noted on the evening's setlist. Mayer took vocal duty as the song built, handing it off to Bob for the song's resolve. Upon the song's close they transitioned into "Drums," which was electronic from the get go. The jam took on a trance vibe with the addition of some occasional hand drum work. The rest of the band returned to the stage and made obscure noises that created tension and discomfort, before going right into "Stella Blue!" It was a beautiful rendition with Bob singing his heart out. Another transition took Dead and Company into "China Cat," which I had been waiting for the entire evening. Mayer sang and soloed with ease and a certain comfort with the material. The mid section of the song contained some fantastic intertwining instrumentation that had the Colorado Deadheads spinning and smiling as they dove into "I Know You Rider," triggering even harder dancing!

Mayer played the vocal lines on his guitar before jumping in with just about everyone present! A clear highlight of the song came when the capacity crowd sang "... I wish I was a headlight, on a northbound train. I'd shine my light through that cool Colorado rain!" The hair on my arms stood straight up, as the music physically effected me and the crowd erupted with pure joy! It was an incredible close to the second night's second set! Those in attendance were elated! A short couple of minutes passed without the cheering letting up and Dead and Company returned to the stage to close the show with "Not Fade Away," which I knew from the get go may surpass the crowd participation in "Rider." Sure enough. It was a beautiful close to an incredible two night run in Colorado. As the band put their instruments down, the crowd chanted "You know our love will not fade away..." over and over before it dissolved into clapping and hugs around.

Ultimately, it was true, through decades, through Jerry's passing, through tough years, through "Fare Thee Well" and the start of Dead and Company with John Mayer as the Jerry, the love has not faded away and is as strong as ever. The addition of John and Oteil lit a spark under the band, energizing music that has gone through a myriad of phases. For this fan, Dead and Company may be my favorite post-Dead project. We returned backstage to grab our coats to find that the band had already been ushered on to the buses. We exited the innards of 1stBank Center to find the crew already had the stage half torn down as we headed to our car. I texted Oteil to tell him how impressed I was and he texted back to thank us for coming out. The pleasure from start to finish was all ours. For Carly, it was a hell of a first experience with a Dead offshoot and she enjoyed it immensely. It clearly meant a lot to her. To both of us. Bill Walton said it best, "We're the luckiest people on earth..."

Set One: Hell in a Bucket, Brown Eyed Women, Feel Like a Stranger, Peggy-O, Little Red Rooster, Bird Song > The Music Never Stopped

Set Two: Jam > Truckin’ > He’s Gone > Eyes of the World > Terrapin Station > Drums/Space > Stella Blue > China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider

Encore: Not Fade Away

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bad Plus Josh Redman 12.2.15 (Photos)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

11.21.15 Spyn Reset ProgJam Improv Night

Musicquarium Lounge
Seattle, WA

Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Jean-Paul Builes

Spyn Reset is a Seattle power trio that plays some of the most distinctive and inimitable music I have ever heard. They are equal parts progressive rock and live electronica, leaving me no choice but to classify their genre as “prog-tronica.” Their catalog is diverse and refined, running the gamut from in-your-face, danceable prog-rock bangers all the way to meticulously constructed downtempo, ambient tracks that you can relax to at night. I first saw them perform by chance in February of this year, and since then I have done my best not to miss any of their shows.

Their instrumentation is a bit unconventional, with Evan McPherson playing the atypical role of guitarist/bassist. He uses a looper pedal to achieve the effect of playing both instruments simultaneously, and his insane prog-rock chops certainly shine on each of them. His playing is at times reminiscent of Gabriel Martin and John Ferrara, guitarist and bassist of Consider the Source. Across the stage, Yasuyuki Shiji, better known as YASU, serves as their keyboardist. His rig includes a Rhodes keyboard, a Moog Sub Phatty synthesizer, and two identical Korg synthesizers, complete with vocoder setups. He has programmed the two Korgs completely differently, enabling him to access a wide variety of aural texture in a convenient manner. He combines these instruments to produce sounds that are best described as Radiohead meets dancey electronica. The group is anchored by the steady hands and feet of Pierson Martin on drums. I believe he is their secret to being able to properly bridge between the prog and electronica genres. Both can be highly demanding rhythmically, and he is able to meld them together superbly, while making it look effortless.

This chilly November Saturday evening saw the band headlining the Musicquarium Lounge in downtown Seattle for their final show of 2015. Unlike most of their shows, this one was billed as a “ProgJam Improv Night,” a first for the band. Their normal shows use a rigid setlist, playing through a larger selection of their songs in a specified order. Most songs are in the three to six-minute range, and contain short improvised sections, but the focus is on the band faithfully reproducing their intricate studio work in a live setting. This ProgJam show was a unique opportunity for the band to focus on their improvisation. The band took the stage for this two-set performance armed with a loose setlist that contained only six songs per set, interspersed with lengthy improvised segments based around a specific key, tempo and time signature. After seeing these guys so many times this year, I was thrilled about the chance to see them do some serious risk-taking onstage, in addition to reimagining some of my favorite studio takes.

By the time the first set got underway, the band had amassed an impressive crowd that filled the room. As they started off, several photographers near the stage created an impressive flashbulb display. Things began with an adventurous jam section in five. YASU deftly navigated between his synthesizers as the band found their groove, keyed by McPherson’s strong bass work. At this point, YASU activated his vocoder and began to scream into it. His words and noises took over control of the inflections in his playing, and it was simply ridiculous. An older gentleman next to me said that it “sounded like the future.” After a wild peak, YASU dropped into the Moog intro of their original tune “Pioneer.” This rendition was a bit different than I had heard them play it before, with the band taking extra liberties with their tempo and style. The next jam section featured the band playing more progressively, with great tremolo picking from McPherson as he dazzled the crowd on guitar. I noticed that he used his looper setup much less during the improvised sections, choosing instead to focus on really nailing his parts on one instrument or the other. This helped them to achieve a tighter power trio sound. YASU did a great job here of using the beautiful, ringing texture of his Rhodes to complement the monophonic lines coming off his Moog. His smooth glissandos bore resemblance to an orchestra composed only of bells.

McPherson again picked up his bass to begin the next composed track, “Late Night.” After the meandering bass intro, this sublime number featured some quick, playful interplay between YASU and Martin before McPherson rumbled back into the mix and the band picked up a tight groove. The end of this song carried them nicely into the next jam section, this time in six. As the tempo quickened, the music took on a video game-esque quality, evoking childhood memories of playing Sonic the Hedgehog. The peak of the jam featured jazzy cymbal work from Martin, with YASU’s Rhodes part lending a lounge feel.

This gave way to a spacey, arpeggiated accelerando section from YASU’s synthesizers, signaling the intro to their song, “Logical Arrangement.” As his part became faster and faster, the jaws of those around me hit the floor. Working the crowd, he allowed the notes to blur together and ratcheted up the oscillation frequency. This created a frenzied, chaotic texture that he stretched out for a good bit longer than the studio version. Suddenly, he changed things up, dropping the synth part in favor of more playful Rhodes riff at a slower tempo. McPherson and Martin joined in with him, grooving along as his part took on the sound of a xylophone.

The next jam section was among the highest tempo portions of the evening, with the band going for broke in seven. The psychic connection between the band members was on full display here as Martin stole the show with his smooth, quick hits. YASU and McPherson followed his lead and the resulting jam was simultaneously ambient and driving. A friend of mine aptly described this section of the show as “a road trip through an asteroid belt.” Next up was “New Theory,” a tune (like all of the others before it in this set) from their most recent LP Four Dimensional Audio. This song places McPherson’s groovy, melodic bass work at the front of the mix, allowing YASU to fill in the high parts with succinct tinkles from his Rhodes.

The following improv segment saw them go through several epic key changes in a space-funk style on their way to the evening’s first older tune, “Silent Reflection,” off 2010’s Objects in the Abstract. This song begins with a great segment of full-band stops, which were positively more syncopated and off-the-wall than normal. These stops continued to reappear throughout the song, dovetailing wonderfully with McPherson’s expressive, yet blisteringly fast guitar work. To close out the set, the group played an unreleased tune, dubbed “Proxy.” This one had a very percussive sound, similar to a march but far, far wackier.

Setbreak was a great chance to have a gander at the extremely diverse crowd that had amassed. I saw people of all ages, ethnicities and cultures bonding over their love for this music. The band was eager to hear feedback on the first set, and many of the excited musicians in the crowd were happy to oblige. After a lengthy break, the musicians took the stage for set two. The crowd had thinned out considerably, giving this set a more intimate, family vibe. The musicians remained locked-in and very serious, as they began with another jam in five. After loosening back up at a quick tempo, the next part of the show saw them slow things down for an older tune, “Green Rose.” This light, floaty number was a wonderful resolution to the tension they had been building during the previous jam, and it definitely put a smile on the face of most audience members.

A brief jam segued this song into “Non Fiction,” off their latest LP. This one was another slower, more relaxed song, which reminded me a bit of the soundtrack for the Rainbow Road course in Mario Kart. It served well to remind the audience of the band’s versatility, as they are capable of making a slow song just as fun to listen to as a faster track. Martin’s jazzy drumming was very prominent during this song. This man is an absolute grooveshark, there is no way around saying it. Regardless of how fast or slow, of all the tempo changes and tricky mixed meters, he never stops grooving. Without this rock solid foundation, McPherson and YASU would be unable to turn heads in quite the same way.

The following jam section saw McPherson unleash metal-inspired guitar licks as the band further pushed at the breadth of their talent. After looping his guitar part, he moved to the bass, where he was instantly able to fall precisely into the pocket. All the while, YASU spoke into his vocoder, creating a disorienting atmosphere. I don’t think I ever understood a word he said into the vocoder (quite possibly because he speaks Japanese in addition to English), but I just know that it sounded exceedingly cool. All three band members were visibly having a blast letting loose and improvising to this extent onstage. Both McPherson and YASU bear enviable manes of hair, and as they swung around wildly I could not help but be reminded of a recent experience watching My Morning Jacket perform. Although their music is remarkably dissimilar, the members of Spyn Reset definitely have a similar physical presence and swagger onstage.

As they made their way into the next composed section, I was delighted to realize they were playing one of my favorite originals, “Raindrops.” This version of the song was excellent, with YASU’s tasteful dynamics spotlighted in his Rhodes part, which actually does sound like falling raindrops. This song got a great dance party going, and segued nicely into another jam section. As he moved over to his synthesizers, I was reminded fondly of the synth work on Papadosio’s “The Bionic Man Meets His Past.” The crowd continued to dance slowly and dramatically as the band changed keys and continued the jam. The next track was another old one, “The Spotless Studio.” The intro to this delightful song conjured images in my head of a someone working late into the night writing music as a light Seattle rain dripped on the windows outside.

After a short climax, the band ramped up the tempo as they entered another jam section, this time in nine. It was a real treat watching people attempt to keep pace dancing in this odd meter, as they were clearly nowhere near as practiced with it as the musicians. It was truly impressive to see three performers get so far inside of each other’s heads, especially without using talkback mics. Martin and YASU did a great job of picking up on subtle changes in McPherson’s playing and quickly plugging in the correct accents to make the sound really pop as it hits your ears. To close the show, they played one more composed track, this one another old song called “Progressing Slowly.” From its handclapped intro onward, the band was clearly focused on maintaining their vice-grip on the waning crowd’s undivided attention. The end of the song was extended from the studio version, featuring a nice major key jam in seven. As odd as this may sound, the uplifting sentiment and subtle shifts in dynamics reminded me immensely of Phish’s “Divided Sky.” Soon after I’d had this thought, McPherson laid down a piercing metal guitar solo, as if to scold me for thinking up such an outlandish comparison.

The overjoyed band members were quick to leave the stage to thank and bid farewell to the devoted fans who had remained until the show’s late ending. You could tell they had put a ton of effort into preparing for this event, and were very relieved to see it go off without a hitch. This was a special performance for all involved, and it has me extremely curious to see where these ProgJam nights can take the band in the future. I can imagine they should only improve as more fans of these styles of music show up, and the band becomes even more comfortable feeding off each other and the crowd in their improvisation.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

11.15.15 Polyphonic Spree

Tractor Tavern
Seattle, WA

Words By Coleman Schwartz
Photos By Scott Shrader (J. Scott Shrader Photography)

Seeing the Polyphonic Spree was a totally unique musical experience. From the minute they took the stage at Seattle’s intimate Tractor Tavern, it was clear that the performance would be anything but normal. The eighteen-piece band, each donning their trademark white choral robes, were just barely able to stand onstage together, only fitting thanks to multiple tables and a road case being used to extend the stage area. The venue had promised to stack band members to make them fit, if needed, but this was thankfully not required.

Their instrumentation warrants further explanation. I will begin with their vocal section, centered around bandleader, Tim DeLaughter. DeLaughter’s vocal style reminds me of a cross between Elton John and Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips), taken in a more classical direction. He was backed at this performance by four female harmony vocalists, who helped to form the nucleus of the band’s choral sound. DeLaughter also used a small group of wind chimes to add texture. Their horn section included a pocket trumpet, trombone, and flute, which were all played through extensive effects rigs, including Electro-Harmonix Polyphonic Octave Generators (POGs). This specific pedal produces harmony parts one and two octaves above and below the input signal, and allows for the volume of all four harmony parts and the dry signal to be individually tuned on the fly.

The band featured a myriad of other instruments, including bass guitar, two electric guitars, keys/synths, harpsichord, violin, viola, cello, trap percussion and drums. The majority of the stringed instruments were played through similarly extensive effects rigs to the horns, also including the POGs. The lead guitarist, Ryan Fitzgerald, had roughly twice as many effects as any other band member, and spent the bulk of the show playing his guitar with a bow (to this end, he kept his two high strings taped off and muted at the 7th fret). All of the effects are definitely a huge part of their sound, and Fitzgerald’s dedicated role as effects master really helped them to push this to the next level.

The first set of their performance featured a full rendition of their debut album, The Beginning Stages of…The Polyphonic Spree. From the start, it was clear that the crowded room was well prepared for this section of the show. The graceful “Have a Day/Celebratory” was met with impassioned singing from the majority of the crowd. This song reminded me deeply of Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” due to the DeLaughter’s triumphant, melismatic lead vocals and its similar-sounding keyboard part.

As the album went on, I continued to notice more and more odd and interesting things happening onstage. The cellist, known only as Buffi J., played the entire show standing up. She performed beautifully, and did not seem to miss a beat as a result of doing so. It was a lot of fun to watch her and the rest of the string section use their effect pedals. This was one of my first times seeing these classical string instruments play through them, and it made me wonder why more musicians don’t integrate this technology into their live acts. It seems arbitrary for effects to be “only for guitars,” as the pedals have been designed to work with any type of input signal. I know that there are many musicians out there who use them for other instruments, I only hope it will be even more prevalent in the future.

Given all of the post-processing going on, it actually did become much more difficult to distinguish individual instruments in the mix aurally. With eighteen different performers and so many of them employing extra harmonies from their effects, the band was clearly aiming for a choral sound. The effects kicked this up a notch, and the best description I can give of their full-band sound is a “chorus of choruses.” They’ve done a great job of turning all of the subtle differences between their instruments and voices into a smooth, broad envelope that has come to define their sound. The listener is forced into evaluating them as a full ensemble, rather than trying to single out different performers and take in only their contributions.

Their light show was also worth mentioning. The front of the stage was lined with three large, moving fixtures that I can only compare to less sophisticated planetarium projectors. These devices had many apertures pointing in all different directions, enabling them to emit different color beams of light in each direction and rotate while doing so. Haze and smoke were used to maximize this effect, and they were utilized tastefully, only a few times during the show. I had not yet seen these type of lights, and it was a real treat to see them in action.

The second set saw them take the stage in slightly more contemporary outfits, this time traditionally cut orange shirts for the gentlemen and pink-striped dresses for the ladies. This set focused on more uptempo, rocking songs with slightly less of a nostalgic feel than the first set. It was truly a sight to behold as all eighteen band members seriously got down onstage. Many times I saw pocket trumpeter, Matt Bricker, hit his head on one of Tractor Tavern’s trademark cowboy boot ceiling decorations. The scene was positively bombastic, and these musicians were the perfect performers to help the crowd build their energy. Their songwriting takes a lot of influence from ‘60s psychedelic rock bands such and the Beach Boys and the Beatles, but the band mixes this with a healthy dose of ‘80s disco rock.

As the show concluded, I felt very cheerful and rewarded by taking a chance on interesting sounding music. While this band is well outside of my normal listening tastes, I knew that general music appreciation would be all that I would need to enjoy this performance. The musicians onstage did a great job; they really came together into something much larger than the sum of its parts. The Polyphonic Spree is a fascinating hybrid between a rock band and a full orchestra, and they definitely merit the awareness of musicians worldwide.

Set One: Have a Day/Celebratory, It’s the Sun, Days Like This Keep Me Warm, La La, Middle of the Day, Hanging Around the Day, Soldier Girl, Light and Day/Reach for the Sun, A Long Day

Set Two: Love/Together We’re Heavy, Hold Me Now, Younger Than Yesterday, Popular by Design, Hold Yourself Up, Porpoise Song, Diamonds

Encore: We Sound Amazed

Scott's Photo Gallery

Friday, December 4, 2015

Roosevelt Collier's Colorado Get Down 11.19 - 11.21.15

Words By J. Picard
Photos By J. Mimna Photography

The music industry is an industry of challenges, ups and downs. This story begins with immediate challenges that we met with adversity and an overwhelming influx of support that reflects the true nature of the Colorado music scene. The week started with the closing of The 1up - Colfax, a Denver venue that had quickly become a staple on the national scene. The mad scramble ensued with both myself and the musicians making phone calls to nail down a new venue for Friday and Saturday, and to obtain gear for the run. Within' twenty four hours of being handed lemons, we had already made lemonade. Long time Denver promoter and venue owner, Jay Bianchi, stepped up to make the move to Quixote's True Blue for the Denver, shows! A few phone calls later and the announcement was made to an incredible response!

The Fox Theatre
Boulder, CO

Thursday November 19, 2015:

We arrived at The Fox Theatre late afternoon and loaded in for the evening's performance. Pre-sales were strong and there was an excitement among the arriving members of the band, as is often the case with the first night of these sort of runs. Soundcheck commenced without a hitch and before long, we were dialed in and ready for the evening. We headed for a quick bite to eat at The Mediterranean and dined on tapas while Bill Nershi told hilarious stories about a couple of wild things that happened to him while touring with String Cheese in the 90's. A short time later we headed back to the venue to warm up in the greenroom.

Tom Hamilton's American Babies opened the evening with a unique blend of Rock, Americana and fantastic songwriting. Over the course of the past couple of years I have seen American Babies a handful of times, and that evening at The Fox represented the most well packaged product that I have seen from the band. Tom's soaring guitar work coupled with the heavy bass lines of Clay Parnell helped to establish the band's signature sound, but the sweet vocals and rhythm guitar work of Raina Mullen brought a new spice to the American Babies material. A short hour later, their opening set concluded to a quickly filling room.

Backstage Colorado Get Down warmed up and prepared for their first performance of the weekend. Roosevelt finalized the setlists as Bill worked on the lead part for Allman Brothers Band's "Hot Lanta," a song that they were considering attempting after some more practice. Our team's photographer, Jim Mimna (Former 1up House Photographer) popped in to stash his stuff and Bill quickly slid over to discuss camera gear. A short time later, the setlist was ready and Jim snapped a group shot before Roosevelt Collier, Matt Lapham (Shak Nasti) and Jeremy Salken (Big Gigantic) took the stage to a large applause!

The trio eased into the extended set with some Jimi Hendrix material, before welcoming Joel Cummins (Umphrey's McGee) for "Papa Was A Rolling Stone!" Bill was welcomed to the stage and the band jumped into "Hot Lanta," which featured some fantastic dual lead work from Roosevelt and Bill. Dominic Lalli (Big Gigantic) joined on "Root Down," rounding out the stage. The Roosevelt original "Skunk Mountain" followed with a jumbled output and members working hard to get on track. Once they caught the melody, they dug in and steered the ship towards land before turning towards outer space with Herbie Hancock's "Spank-A-Lee." The track featured Dom on the sax as the Boulder crowd got down excitedly. The String Cheese Incident's "Outside Inside" got off to a rocky start before shifting into gear. The crowd seemed not to mind, but instead jumped right on board as Billy bent down to provide an array of effects that sounded like a spaceship. The set concluded with "Rampage" and the crowd cheered for more! Roosevelt brought special guest James Charles Dunstan Jr. to share the keys with Joel for "Stratus" to close the show.

The greenroom packed in with guests as the party ensued. The venue cleared out and tear down commenced. The Fox Theatre has one of, if not the best stage crew in the country, resulting in a smooth execution from start to finish. Jeremy and I cleared out some of the remaining hospitality and a short time later, everyone headed in their respective directions. For us, it would be back to Denver to rest and prepare for the weekend's wild card shows at Quixote's.

Jim's Fox Theatre Photo Gallery

Quixote's True Blue
Denver, CO

Friday November 20, 2015:

Roosevelt, Matt and myself headed towards 13th and Grant listening to the music of The Grateful Dead. We loaded in to Quixote's where we were joined by Taylor Hines (formerly of The 1up, Audio). There was a very light-hearted vibe in the room, with Roosevelt showing both Joel and Bill the basics of the pedal steel via some hands on lessons. Both Joel and Bill noodled cautiously before Roosevelt said "Justin, why don't you get up here and I'll teach you." "There is nothing that you could teach me that i don't already know," I said sarcastically. Bill handed me the slide bar and I took a seat glancing at Joel to my right behind the keys and Bill to my left. I stretched and dropped into some unexpected E Blues. "Whoa! Justin has been sand-bagging us!" Bill yelled laughing along with Joel. "Hold on, hold on, hold on, let me get this on video, do it again" Roosevelt said. I threw down once more as Rosie filmed the couple of measures and posted it to Facebook. "How did I get here?" I thought to myself.

Following the conclusion of soundcheck myself, Roosevelt, Bill, Joel and Matt headed over to Mongolian BBQ where we were joined by my wife, Carly, as well as our friends Murray, Matt and Teri. Upon our arrival we bellied up to the bar for a shot to set the pace for dinner. Snow fell on Denver, with members of Colorado Get Down well fed and heading back to the venue for the evening's sets. The band warmed up and talked through the setlist backstage while Aqueous warmed up the room on the dancefloor, literally, due to the mass of their gear. Joel sat in with Aqueous for the last song or two of their set for a fantastic. Colorado Get Down took the stage in the same format as the previous night except instead of Jeremy, Dave Watts (The Motet) would command the drums. A song or two later, Joel was welcomed to the stage, then Bill on "Hot Lanta," which sounded more calculated and tighter than the previous evening's version. A quick hour after they took the stage the band exited for a quick set break.

During set break in the main room, the crowd shifted to the front room of Quixote's for another mixed line-up that included local favorites Blake Mobley (Tiger Party), Josh Fairman (Kinetix, Analog Son), Seth Fanhauser (The Malah) and Ashley Niven (Tiger Party)! Quixote's was packed and buzzing as Colorado Get Down Returned to the stage! The second set was loose and included a handful of new songs that I had yet to hear the band play. There were a couple of songs specifically that I was waiting for that didn't happen. "Maybe they would come night two," I thought to myself. At one point Roosevelt called up Nicholas Gerlach (Turbo Suit) to blow a couple on sax. The room sounded great and people were partying on a level that I hadn't seen in some time. As I roamed through the room, so many folks approached to give words of encouragement and kind sentiment about MusicMarauders' future in this town. It was an incredible night that wrapped up around 2:00 AM. Most of the guys came out to meet with fans, shake hands and take pictures, finalizing the truly amazing vibe.

Jim's Quixote's True Blue Photo Gallery

Saturday November 21, 2015:

We got a late start on the day followed by a big breakfast with myself, Carly, Roosevelt and Matt. Soundcheck was scratched and we ended up at The Ogden Theater where Greensky Bluegrass had sold the venue out. Backstage we were greeted by the Greensky gentleman, who were warming up and ran into Joel and Eric Krasno. Greensky headed upstairs to the stage with both Joel and Roosevelt in tow, to the delight of the capacity crowd. After a couple of songs, we were on our way to Quixote's for the final evening of the Colorado Get Down run. Backstage the band laughed and joked as they pieced together the setlist. A short time later, Colorado Get Down took the stage for their final performance of the run. Once again, Roosevelt started with Matt and Dave as a trio, while Joel and Bill worked their way out after a couple of songs.

Showing face for the third night in a row was "Hot Lanta," that sounded the most polished of the run. I have no problem with a couple of repeats as it allows the band to really dig in and expand on the material. Roosevelt's pedal steel screamed as did Joel, who was turned up that night on the Hammond B3 and the Moog! With Denver's quintessential Grateful Dead tribute act, Shakedown Street, performing in the front room and following a brief setbreak, the band returned to the main room. The second set may have been one of the best of the weekend and included a song dedicated to Taylor Hines (the band's audio engineer). The song came in the form of a ripping and extended version of Umphrey's McGee's "Glory." Taylor threw his hands in the air with pure joy as the band got after it!

The second set also welcomed special guests Emily Clark and Jeremy Salken for a couple of fantastic tunes! Towards the end of the second set the band performed The String Cheese Incident's "Jelly Fish," with Bill at the helm. At one point the crowd yelled "Alice!" triggering Matt to look up with unexpected delight as he was unaware of the subtle nuances and crowd participation of the song. After the conclusion of "Jelly Fish" I stepped up and whispered to Roosevelt "there is no curfew tonight and it's Bill's Birthday." "It's Bill's Birthday," Roosevelt asked, half doubting me. "Yup," I said with a smile. Roosevelt got on the mic and to the surprise of Bill, he announced that it was Bill's Birthday! Bill happily played along as people wished him a happy birthday. A short time later the band exited the stage and I stepped up to the mic to rally the packed house for an encore. The band played one final jam and concluded around 2:15 AM.

Again, the band came out and met with fans as the tear down of the gear began. Bill turned to Roosevelt and said "The Birthday thing is an old String Cheese joke that we used to get free drinks on the road! Someone must have know about it," Bill said laughing. "Yeah, I did," I said smiling back. "How did you know about that?" Bill inquired. "I've listed to all of the old '95/'96 SCI recordings on Archive," I said happily. Gear went in every direction and I assisted Bill with his gear. The band said their goodbyes and we were on the frozen road around 3:00 AM. Around 4:00 AM I picked up Joel and took him to Denver International for his early morning flight. Given the insane circumstances that we found ourselves in earlier in the week, the band came together as a team and with the help of Tim Mathisen, made the run happen without even the slightest of issues! As a promoter, these are the moments that create interesting challenges and it is the overcoming of those challenges that reflect the ability of the team, and in turn, the support of a community...