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.




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