Monday, February 29, 2016

Railroad Earth 2.25.16 (Photos)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Earphunk 2.24.16 (Photos)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Larry Keel's Experienced

Words By Mitch Melheim

I have to admit, upon seeing the list of guests on this album, it immediately became my most anticipated release of the winter. Always innovative and pushing boundaries, I was eager to see what type of magic Larry Keel could pull of with a list of guests that included Keller Williams, Del McCoury, and Sam Bush.

Fittingly enough, the album is named Experienced as he returns with his usual Larry Keel Experience band members, Will Lee, on banjo and vocals, and Larry’s wife, Jenny Keel, providing both the bass line and some beautiful harmonies.

The album wastes no time as it starts with one of the standout tracks, “Ripchord." Featuring Newgrass legend and pioneer, Sam Bush, on both mandolin and fiddle, this instrumental makes you want to dance no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Bush provides us with both great violin and mandolin solos, yet composer Will Lee’s banjo proved to be the most impressive sounding of the four tremendous players on this song.

The second track, “Lil’ Miss” begins with a very funky intro before we hear Keel’s voice for the first time. A man of many voices, Keel uses his more deep and gravely style for this song about “little miss can’t be wrong." Will Lee shines bright again with a couple of modulated banjo explorations.

The album slows down a bit with the beautiful song, “Memories.” The song touches on the power of memories and the range of emotions they bring. I thought Keel’s approach to the song was inspiring as he chooses not to dwell on the memories, but to “wake up and start a day full of memories.”

“Fill ‘Em Up Again” proves to be the most traditional Bluegrass track on the album with a tremendous list of guests that includes Del McCoury and bandmate, Jason Carter, on guitar and fiddle, as well as Steep Canyon Rangers’ mandolinist, Mike Guggino. This is a fun song about drinking with that signature Del McCoury Band sound brought by Carter’s pretty, yet screechy violin solos, and McCoury’s trademark vocals on the chorus.

The next song, “Miles and Miles,” features Keller Williams on guitar and providing some harmony on Keel’s best sounding vocal track of the album. This is another standout track as it is an absolute pleasure listening to these two incredibly talented guitarists weave in and out of one another throughout the song. As you know if you’re familiar with the side project, Keller and the Keels, these two have remarkable chemistry together and this song only cements that belief for me.

“The Warrior” is one of my favorites, and easily the darkest and most psychedelic song on the album. “The Warrior” has a very tribal sound that I can’t help but relate to an Aztec warrior feel because of the name. This is the deepest we hear Keel sing on the album and it couldn’t accompany neither the instruments, nor Peter Rowan’s vocal harmonies, any better. Rowan also provides haunting percussion, with what is likely the most interesting collaboration on the album.

The final song on the album, “Another Summer Day,” features Greensky Bluegrass’s Anders Beck on dobro and Jeff Covert on percussion. While a great sing along song, it also provides the twang that’s to be expected with this collaboration.

To say that this album lived up to it’s hype would be an understatement. Every guest was utilized in a way that showcased their most impressive talents, yet this still clearly felt like a Larry Keel album the whole way through. That is not only the most impressive feat of the album to me, but also why I continue to anticipate and listen to Keel’s work after fifteen albums.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Drunken Hearts & The Jezzebelles 2.14.16

Stage Stop
Rollinsville, CO

Words & Photos By J. Picard

Up and down switchbacks, through small mountain towns we headed from our friend's (Matt and Teri's) newly acquired mountain home towards Nederland, CO! The sun was still high in the sky as we arrived at Silver Stem Fine Cannabis. We headed in to purchase a couple different varieties of cannabis including Purple Kush and another strain that tasted like cherry pie. Additionally, we purchased a few kinds of cannabis candy and mentioned the evening's Drunken Hearts' show to receive our free Drunken Hearts O.Pen Vape batteries for our hash oil cartridges. As we returned to the van to head to the venue, I glanced over at Kathmandu Restaurant where I had wished we would be dinning on incredible Nepalese food. We loaded up and headed out of Ned towards Rollinsville, CO, just a few miles up the road. A short time later we pulled into the Stage Stop as the sun was starting to set and my excitement for both seeing a new venue and one of my favorites bands, was through the roof.

We headed in where we were greeted by a very nice young lady who directed us to a table where we ordered a couple of beers and glanced over the menu. We had only been at the Stage Stop for a few minutes and I was already impressed. The place was clean, and though the location was old (1868), it felt well kept and preserved with care. Their menu surprised me with what felt like gourmet items, all very reasonably priced and as we would soon find out, delicious as well! While our food was being prepared, I went upstairs to take a peak at the venue which was both beautiful and more spacious than I had expected. I found the band soundchecking and while taking in the scene, I became really excited to spend my evening in this place enjoying some Colorado music.

Members of The Drunken Hearts stopped by our table as the evening's burlesque act showed up and headed upstairs to prepare for the opening show. We dug into our food, leaving minimal leftovers and no room for dessert, before heading up and claiming a table in front of the dance floor and stage. Outside the winds picked up and the snow fell sideways, making it nearly impossible to enjoy a smoke out on the venue's large outdoor balcony. The room began to fill in and the vibe took shape. There were scantily clad women in old time clothes, folks playing pool and a massage chair that was set up. The lights came down and a gentleman with a guitar wearing a suit and a fedora took the stage, along with a few attractive women. The music was swanky, setting the stage for the women to slowly strip down to nothing but thongs and tassels. At one point I turned to a couple of the guys in the band who seemed delightfully uncomfortable and said "this is the best opener you guys have ever had..." to which they agreed.

An hour after The Jezzebelles began, the rowdy burlesque show came to its inevitable conclusion and the women re-dressed themselves and took a seat at a table to enjoy The Drunken Hearts, who were gearing up for two sets of music. The girls from Silver Stem arrived and set up a table with free lighters, t-shirts and other merch for the occasion. The crowd was solid and very active considering the intense weather that didn't seem to let up. The show began and folks took to the dance floor for hippie moves of epic proportions. The sound in the room was great and the band wasted no time in tearing into some solid instrumentation. After a couple of songs into the set, I approached the stage and pointed out that the burlesque banner was still hanging up at the back of the stage and inquired as to when they would be taking off their clothes, to a raucous response from the crowd. The five-piece comprised of Andrew McConathy (Guitar, Vocals), Rob Eaton Jr. (Guitar), Cody Russell (Pedal Steel, Lap Steel), John McCartan (Bass) and Alex Johnson (Drums), sounded tight, well rehearsed and as if they were firing on all cylinders. The band played a handful of Drunken Heart classics from their first album, Live For Today, as well as some newer songs from their upcoming album, all of which sounded great! McConathy's voice was strong and consistent, as was the back and forth between Jr., who is always ripping and Cody, who impressed the hell out of me with his stepped up steel playing.

The set concluded just over an hour after it started and folks spread out through the establishment to the lower-level bar, the balcony and beyond. Matt and I headed out to the parking lot where we met Andrew and Matt loaded up some Bell's Two-Hearted from Michigan into The Drunken Hearts' van. We made our way back inside as the band took the stage for the final set of the evening. Folks returned to the dance floor and let it all out as they dance uncontrollably with one another. There is something about mountain shows and the folks that attend them that make the experience more fun and more vibrant than a lot of the shows in the flat-lands. As the night played on, I tuned into John's bass playing and the tightness between he and Alex on the drums. They were subtle and mellow when the music called for it, and heavy, almost jamtronica at times, creating a diverse output for a band that many categorize as folk/rock/jam.

Around 11:30 PM the evening came to a close. I remembered that it was indeed a Sunday, but I felt as if it were a Friday or a Saturday. We collected our Silver Stem shwag, settled our tab and said our goodbyes. By that time the snow had ceased and the roads were passable. We headed out of the small town of Rollinsville, back up and down the switchbacks to the top of Coal Creek. It was a great night that encompassed so much of the Colorado experience from start to finish!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Acorn Project 2.5.16

Seattle, WA
Nectar Lounge

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

Bellingham, WA-based electro-funk outfit, Acorn Project, returned to Seattle’s Nectar Lounge for another stellar two-set show on a Friday evening. The psychedelic sextet is comprised of Sam Lax (saxophone, electronic percussion, laptop production, vocals), Andy Pritiken (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Oskar Kollen (keys, vocals), Scott Vaillancourt (bass guitar), Kevin Chryst (drums) and Sammy Eisen-Meyers (lead guitar). This was the group’s first Seattle appearance since the Fall of 2015, and they made sure to deliver to a great crowd of regional fans.

This group is a jamband that tastefully integrates funk, electronica and rock into their material. Their improvisation is a wild, groovy ride that often features direction from Vaillancourt. Without detracting from the band’s groove, Vaillancourt was able to effectively use the bass guitar as a lead instrument throughout a surprising portion of the show. His chops were on-point, and his tone was booming and thick. His driving style helps him to authoritatively steer the ship through even the murkiest of improvisational waters.

As I watched them perform, one other band I notice similarity to is the Disco Biscuits. Pritiken’s vocal work bears a number of similarities to that of Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig, including his smooth, spoken-word style delivery and narrative-style lyricism. This similarity is also felt in their improvisation, which often features Kollen’s synthesizers over bouncy, powerful drumming from Chryst.

Comparisons aside, their sound is definitely still very guitar-based. Eisen-Meyers and Pritiken spend a decent amount of time playing dual leads, but generally Pritiken focuses more on rhythm and his singing. His rhythm playing was usually very funky and I really admire the way he is able to syncopate his vocals with his playing. The scope of the guitar work in this band is impressive, ranging from big, bluesy, psychedelic riffs all the way to more ambient, minimalistic parts. Eisen-Meyers seems very at home on the fretboard, and it was a pleasure to see how relaxed his approach to playing was. He was very even-keeled, and always gave the impression that he had mastered his part completely.

I was also really impressed with Lax’s versatility. It seemed like every time I turned my ears in his direction, he had prepared something new and different. His multitasking skills were critical to the band’s ability to get spacy and weird. In general, his job in the band is to fill out their sound and keep things exciting. His delay-pedal sax work was marvelously expressive, while his electronic percussion and production helped to add a different facet to this guitar-driven ensemble. He reminds me a bit of STS9’s Jeffree Lerner in terms of the variety of aural textures he is able to add to the band’s sound.

This was my third time seeing the group perform, all three of which have come since they returned from their recent hiatus. I have to say that this particular performance was the one that hooked me and motivated me to spend more time digging into their studio material. As the band gels back together, I can see their hard work and practice paying off as they demonstrate marked improvement at every show. The hiatus seems to have served its purpose well, as the group seems refreshed, focused and relaxed onstage.

Acorn Project is definitely making a unique contribution to the scene here in the Pacific Northwest. Their musical interplay is thrilling to watch and listen to, and their show has something to offer to all types of music lovers. Look for their continued improvement and growth as time goes on!

Scott's Photo Gallery

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Wood Brothers 2.1.16

Seattle, WA
Moore Theater

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

The Wood Brothers’ early 2016 Seattle date may have fallen on a Monday, but that did not stop either the band or the audience from treating it like a weekend show. A solid crowd comfortably filled the city’s historic Moore Theater, eagerly awaiting the trio’s appearance onstage. As they emerged from behind the curtain and took their place at the center of the stage, I couldn’t help but notice how empty the massive stage looked with only three musicians on it. Once they began to play, however, they commanded it with the authority of a full orchestra.

This show demonstrated the breadth of the group’s material, starting off with softer, acoustic music and progressively adding in more distortion (and electricity) as the performance went on. The first songs featured Oliver Wood’s twangy acoustic guitar work, which held the crowd mesmerized and silent. It took a thunderous upright bass solo from Chris Wood to break the spell and bring the audience to their feet.

Drummer, Jano Rix, started off the set playing an instrument called a Shuitar, which is basically an old classical guitar with a myriad of percussive attachments. His skill level on this instrument is through the roof, and I really enjoyed watching him get into some intricate finger percussion. He also played it with brushes, which enabled him to make some cool, atmospheric-sounding noises. Later in the show, he put in plenty of time on the regular drumkit, as well as the keyboard. This jack-of-all-trades brings to the group a versatility that enables the trio to function at the level of a much larger band.

While Rix was on Shuitar, the band’s playing was generally mellow and focused towards Oliver’s ridiculously soulful vocal work. His voice has the outstanding nasal quality of the Slip’s Brad Barr, but with soaring sustain more similar to My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. This comparison was well illustrated by standout track “Postcards from Hell.” As his voice filled the entire theater, the hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention.

As he sang, I also noticed that his guitar work was impressively well-rounded. He can finger-pick in his sleep, and his strumming is consistently interesting. As he switched from acoustic to hollowbody electric, and then to resonator, I could see just how well he adapted his technique to get the very most out of each. To say he was well-rehearsed would be an understatement, because this man has clearly dedicated his life to this instrument.

His brother Chris is unquestionably a world-class talent on the bass. Playing upright for most of the show, he was unafraid to show off in a number of styles. His playing at this show was seeped throughout in country and bluegrass influences, and he never stopped dancing while he played. My favorite thing to see him do is the acid-jazz-style bass freak-outs (bowed or not), something he definitely did tonight, but you see a lot more of in his other project, avant-groove-jazz trio Medeski, Martin and Wood. He had to be sneakier about it, but was able to work plenty of jazz licks into his solos still.

I was also quite surprised at the amount of filthy funk grooves he was able to infuse into this folk show. He particularly stole the show during a cover of Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band's “Express Yourself,” which had everyone in the room jumping for joy. Oh, and did I mention that he also crushed on harmonica throughout the show? All of this versatility helped me to add a new wrinkle to my already-deep appreciation for Chris’s work.

The vocal harmonies between the two brothers were tight-as-could-be at all times. Hearing siblings play together is always a treat, especially siblings that have put in the time to nurture their natural connection. Their harmonies sounded excellent inside of the venue, which had been mixed pristinely for the evening. The sound quality shone brightly during their single-mic unplugged segment, which featured Rix on melodica, and supporting artist, Liz Vice, sitting-in to help them sing “I’ll Fly Away.” Her beautiful, gospel-inspired voice provided the perfect contrast to the brother’s folkier sound, really taking things to the next level.

The set’s electric conclusion featured the trio operating in rockabilly mode, which was an extremely fun way to end the night. This trio plays the danciest brand of folk music imaginable, but never allows the fun to distract them from their exceedingly high musical expectations. As I walked through the crisp February air to catch my bus home, I couldn’t help but think to myself how outrageous of a performance that was to witness on a Monday evening. If the Wood Brothers can do that on a Monday, then I cannot wait for a chance to see them on a Saturday night.

Scott's Photo Gallery

Monday, February 15, 2016

PREVIEW: Two Nights of Roosevelt Collier's Colorado Get Down feat. Bill Nershi

The Barkley Ballroom
Frisco, CO

Join us on Wednesday February 17 and Thursday February 18 at The Barkley Ballroom in Frisco, CO for two nights of Roosevelt Collier's Colorado Get Down feat. Bill Nershi (The String Cheese Incident), Alwyn Robinson (Leftover Salmon) and Josh Fairman (Kinetix, Analog Son)! Colorado's own, Genetics, will be opening both evenings and both shows will be free!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Kung Fu, n8 and Friends & Fabulous Party Boys 1.30.16

Nectar Lounge
Seattle, WA

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

Kung Fu made their Seattle headlining debut on a chilly Saturday evening at Fremont’s intimate Nectar Lounge. After years of hearing overwhelmingly positive reviews of the band, I was ecstatic for my first chance to verify in-person just how well they could stand up to the talk. The venue filled out nicely during the fun opening sets by local acts N8 and Friends (ft. members of the Polyrhythmics) and the Fabulous Party Boys, and Kung Fu took the stage to a wide-eyed crowd of curious fans, excited to see what they had to offer.

From the opening track, “Chin Music,” saxophonist Robert Somerville jumped out to the front of the mix. He is a smooth and agile player, and this song sees him in the driver’s seat. As a guitarist, I was immediately drawn to pay close attention to Tim Palmieri’s impeccable technique. Just watching him hold the guitar was a game-changer. His fingers arch perfectly no matter what angle he is attacking from, and he achieves a remarkably consistent sound across a wide range of playing styles. I had previously been impressed with some of his acoustic covers and interviews on YouTube (this in particular), but watching him onstage took my admiration to the next level. His right hand technique, was consistently innovative throughout the performance, even without much fingerpicking going on. His strumming over-the-fretboard engenders an amazing level of control over his dynamics, and reminded me a lot of Tom Hamilton.

As the band worked their way into “Daddy D,” bassist Chris DeAngelis began to steal the show. This tune is a tribute to Toronto Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, and features heavy syncopation that throws off dancers the same way a knuckleball throws off a hitter. DeAngelis had his soupy tone dialed in perfectly, and his chops rapidly became evident with the song’s active bassline. This song hooked the crowd with its smooth groove, and the band never looked back.

“Paragon” began with Palmieri briefly teasing Jimi Hendrix, before leading the band into a cover of the first verse of Nirvana’s “Drain You.” This was a nice touch to the setlist, but I didn’t mind when it was aborted early for the country-sounding opening lick of “Paragon.” This track was characterized by twangy guitar licks, and included a nice electronica jam featuring keyboardist Beau Sasser’s first chance to get going on synthesizer. Though he is not Todd Stoops, Sasser is an extreme talent in his own right, who seems like a better fit for what the band needs. Drummer Adrian Tramantano also got to show off a bit here. Although his stature may be small, he plays the drums with the force of a giant beast. His fills and dynamics were my two favorite parts of his playing.

“Hollywood Kisses” featured more bass-driven funk and entertaining lyrics from Somerville (a refrain of “We go insane!”). The next track, “Joyride” was a new one that fantastically showcased the diversity of their recent songwriting. This driving funk-tronica banger features the band at their most energetic. Sasser got an extended block in which to stretch his legs on synthesizer, with the band grooving heavily behind him. His synth tone is reminiscent of Ultraviolet Hippopotamus’s Dave Sanders playing on the studio version of their song “The Marine”, which is one of the best compliments I have to offer a synth player. Sasser is a capable soloist, but also uses his Moog to weave dual-leads with Palmieri’s guitar, or to add that extra kick to what DeAngelis is doing on bass. Their seamless livetronica integration is an aspect of the band I was not expecting, and it did a lot to help them stand out within the crowded jam-funk genre. Prolific talent is one thing, but unique utilization of your talent is what gets you to the next level.

Out of the electronica madness, a cover of Gary Numan’s “Cars” emerged. This transition literally dropped jaws around the room. This quintessential 80’s cover was treated very progressively, with the band venturing back into “Joyride” before briefly reprising “Cars” to the crowd’s delight. This portion of the show was an utter tour-de-force, with each member of the band demonstrating instrumental prowess on a level most people could never dream of.

“S’all Good” began with a ripping organ solo from Sasser, which saw him lock into a powerful groove with Tramantano towards the end. As he deftly worked the organ, he provided a moving bassline on his Moog rather than using the organ footboard. The rest of the band slowly joined in, creating a groovy dub sound to complement the organ. “Scrab” followed, with its jittery bassline setting the perfect stage for Somerville to take over and belt out his sax line. This was a great song for the set-closer position because it kept up the energy without being as intense or bombastic as some of their other tunes.

They saved a serious bombshell for the encore, launching into a cover of neo-soul posterchild Thundercat’s “Oh Sheit, It’s X!” This cover idea came from DeAngelis, who accomplished the impossible task of adding extra funk to a Thundercat bassline. Sasser masterfully handled the vocals while playing clavs and synthesizer. I was absolutely stunned to see a band cover Thundercat’s music for the first time in a live setting, and it could not have gone better. They used the last song, “Samurai,” to return to the explosive, lethal brand of funk you might expect to close out a great performance.

I am so happy to have finally seen Kung Fu perform. They seriously lived up to the massive hype I had been hearing from friends in the Northeast for years. Their members are massively talented in the same way as groups like Dopapod and Turkuaz, but with a unique style that adds jam and electronica elements into the standard funk show. These guys will be fixtures in the scene for many years to come, and I look forward to watching them continue to push the envelope with their live performances.

Setlist: Chin Music, Daddy D, Get Down, Paragon&, Hollywood Kisses, Joyride > Cars@ > Joyride, S’all Good, Scrab

Encore: Oh Sheit, It’s X!*, Samurai

& With ”Drain You” tease
@ Gary Numan Cover
* Thundercat Cover

Scott's Photo Gallery

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Brothers Gow 1.28.16

The Goodfoot Pub & Lounge
Portland, OR

Words & Photos By Coleman Schwartz

Brothers Gow is one of the hardest-touring young jambands on the scene today. Unlike most of their contemporaries, they call the west coast home and tour it extensively several times per year. Hailing from San Diego, this five-piece group plays progressive jam-rock music that delves extensively into electronica, reggae, jazz and g-funk influences. The band is comprised of Alex Gow Bastine (keyboards/vocals), Nathan Walsh-Haines (drums/vocals), Ethan Wade (guitar/vocals), Kyle Merrill (guitar/vocals) and Carson Church (bass guitar). Lighting designer Matt Collier is the unquestioned sixth member, bringing the entire show together with his top-notch visuals.

A rainy Thursday in Portland saw the band playing local hotspot the Goodfoot Pub & Lounge. This venue is well-known for its support of up-and-coming local talent by enlisting local bands (recently including Shafty, Yak Attack, and Asher Fulero Band) to play a month of weekly Tuesday residency shows. The Gow held court in this storied, cave-like room for a full two-set performance, with a full light rig.

They opened the show with “Shadow,” off 2014’s Reflections album. This track starts off light and airy, but quickly gets into some of the band’s deeper and more introspective lyrical content. Merrill sweetly crooned the lead vocal part for the beginning of the song, then after the midpoint jam his vocals became rawer and more emotionally charged. As Merrill screamed out his part, Bastine tastefully arpeggiated chords that became the track’s outro.

Now warmed up, and firmly gripping their audience’s attention, the band launched into perhaps their most polished original track, “Reflections.” Merrill’s piercing, soaring guitar tone gave way to Wade’s deep, growling lead vocal. Bastine, Merrill and Walsh-Haines hit a nice three-part harmony between Wade’s lines, and then the song reached its beautiful octave-pedal breakdown. This involved Merrill’s expert usage of an Electro-Harmonix Micro POG (Polyphonic Octave Generator) pedal, which makes the guitar sound a bit like a steel-drum. Often times when this effect was in use, I found myself comparing his sound to Jake Cinninger of Umphrey’s McGee. This infectious section features Merrill trading off with Bastine on synth, and the crowd could not believe their ears. This was just the first of several amazing electronica-based segments to be played this evening.

The light show was consistently on-point throughout the performance, with Collier locked in and focused in spite of the fans trying to talk to him during the show. Their light rig was absolutely huge for this venue, it felt like they had lights setup all over the room and coming at me from all directions. This rig seems like it would hold up well in a venue 2-3 times this size quite easily, so it was a real treat to see it put to work in such a tiny space. Collier is already a crucial part of their product, and I expect his work to only improve as they are able to play larger venues that can more easily accommodate his many tools.

One of the most unique aspects of this band has to be their lead vocals. Whether Merrill or Wade handles them, they are consistently powerfully executed. Their style of singing has to be difficult to pull off night-to-night on tour, because they simply give it all they have, every take. They rely on passion, emotion and spontaneity to make their vocals sound distinctive, embracing the inimitable sound of their own voices. Bob Dylan comes to mind as another artist who has had success in this vocal style.

Another first-set highlight was the jammed-out cover of Tupac’s “California Love” that showcased the band’s g-funk chops in addition to their rapping ability. Bastine perfectly emulated the original with his vocoder, informing the crowd that “California knows how to party.” Merrill and Wade both demonstrated impressive flow and comfort with the song, before a lengthy full-band funk jam emerged. The set closed with another cover, this time “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath. This one was ridiculously authentic, with Wade channeling Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals perfectly. The cover was tight instrumentally, giving both guitarists plenty of space to flex their muscles. After only one set, the band had already left my head spinning from the diversity of material performed.

The second set only continued to demonstrate the breadth of their catalog, starting off with an excellent pairing of “Brittle Bones” > “Wake n Bake.” The former features Wade belting some of the most stereotypically bluesy lyrics and guitar work in their discography, before an ending section featuring brilliant four-part falsetto harmonies. I’ve always had a soft spot for this track, and seeing it live only makes it better. The latter tune is a dub/reggae-inspired number about the benefits of smoking cannabis in the morning. Church’s bass work here stood out as some of the more tasteful reggae bass playing I have heard recently. This song definitely earns the band some Twiddle comparisons, which are not at all unfounded.

The rest of the second set focused delightfully on mashups, the first of which being “2001 (Also Sprach Zarathustra)/Shakedown Street.” For an up-and-coming jamband, mashing up Phish and the Grateful Dead is quite a serious undertaking with both a high risk and a high reward. Thankfully, the band was exceptionally rehearsed and things went over as smoothly as possible. As the high-energy peak of “2001” effortlessly segued into the easy groove of “Shakedown Street,” the crowd could not contain their excitement. The chorus of “Shakedown Street” led circularly back into the tension building segment of “2001.” Each transition brought loud screams from the crowd, and the dancefloor was extremely active. Merrill and Wade’s dual-lead guitar attack was extremely prominent here, and it was cool to watch Wade, in particular, toe the line between rhythm and dual-lead parts. He uses this as a control, via which to manipulate the band’s intensity with ease.

The next mashup was “Can’t Touch This Super Freak,” combining MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” with Rick James’ “Super Freak.” This was a great opportunity for Wade and Merrill to take turns one-upping each other with their vocal parts as the songs switched off. The band had no trouble getting back into their g-funk groove and whipping the audience into some faster, funkier dance moves than had been seen during the previous jamband mashup.

The band capped this evening off with an encore of “Fight for Your Right” by the Beastie Boys. Everyone in the venue sang/screamed along with this party anthem, in a fitting close to a wild night. This was my third time seeing Brothers Gow, and the band continues to surprise me. Their ability to play in any genre and crush any cover is reminiscent of a young Umphrey’s McGee. In terms of their songwriting, they are starting to produce compositional masterpieces, such as “Reflections,” and the future looks brighter still. I am grateful to have had the chance to see them in such an intimate setting as the Goodfoot at least once, because they are simply too good to remain undiscovered for too much longer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

STS9 1.23.16

Showbox SODO
Seattle, WA

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

STS9’s long-anticipated return to the Pacific Northwest took the band up to Seattle for a Saturday night throwdown. After stellar performances the previous two evenings in Portland and Eugene, fans were eager to see if the band could continue their upward trend in the Emerald City. The show had originally been booked at Showbox Market, an 1,100-capacity venue in the heart of downtown Seattle. After a quick sellout, the decision was made to expand the capacity by moving the event to Showbox SODO, an 1,800-capacity venue in Seattle’s industrial district. This move was met with ample backlash from fans, who expressed concern about SODO’s location, acoustics and low ceilings.

Luckily for the fans, the band and their crew went the extra mile to ensure that these potential issues were mitigated (aside from location). Lighting Director Saxton Waller did have to use a smaller rig than for previous shows on the run, due to low ceilings near the stage, but he skillfully setup his onstage disco balls to extend the show vertically. His performance, as usual, was beyond impressive. The room was mixed outstandingly, and I never encountered the poor acoustics that had everyone so worried before the show.

From the moment they began with “Vapors,” it was clear that this would be a remarkably high-energy show. This song built the intensity slowly before peaking out, then quietly transitioned into the bouncy funk of “Only Light Remains.” Bassist Alana Rocklin jumped out to the front of the mix, setting the perfect stage for guitarist Hunter Brown’s beautifully simple circular riff. The band then paused before starting off “Tap-In,” which featured a Rocklin-driven build to a massive peak with keyboardist David Phipps creating a chaotic, circus-like sound on his synthesizer. The song was concluded by the band tipping their cap to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” with the synthesizer part coming back in over the top.

“MOD” contained a tight improv section, spurred on by frenetic drumming from Zach Velmer. This man has boundless energy and a clear love for his work, as evidenced by the smile plastered to his face. The band’s jamming doesn’t involve a lot of solos, focusing instead on great full-band interplay with Velmer acting as the glue holding them together. They next went into “Shock Doctrine,” which absolutely blew my mind. This song features extensive electronic contributions from Phipps, Brown and percussionist Jeffree Lerner (master of both the handsonic and the chimes), and served as an amazing juxtaposition to the more typical jam-rock sound of “MOD.” It was so impressive to see a band navigate both ends of the spectrum with this type of efficacy.

“Blu Mood” saw the band more focused on guitar-driven funk, before the spoken-word intro to “Totem” came in. This tune features Brown playing concise, danceable licks on guitar, which is exactly what this band needs. It provides space for their talented rhythm section to operate in the spotlight, and enables him to devote some of his attention to samples and other, more textural elements. “Totem” served perfectly to wrap the audience around the band’s collective finger, before they dropped into an instrumental cover of David Bowie’s “Fame,” a tribute to the late musical genius. The crowd positively erupted with joy, and it was wonderful to see so many people paying their respects by dancing and having a great time. We had been eagerly awaiting the Bowie tribute during previous nights of the run, and it was delightful to see the band knock it out of the park like that to close the first set.

My first highlight of the second set was definitely banger track “EHM.” This song features heavy synthesizer wailing from Phipps over neat ambient samples. It is an adventure in dynamics, ranging from relaxing ambient music to something you might expect to hear in a packed-out nightclub. The “Hidden Hand Hidden Fist,” that followed featured a driving jam that was propelled along by Rocklin and Phipps, with Brown taking a backseat. The band used the next song, “March” to get extremely trancey. Velmer kicked up the tempo and allowed the band’s electronic side to run wild, as the crowd moved along.

“Mischief of a Sleepwalker” saw the band return to a guitar-based sound, at least initially. The song eventually worked its way into a spellbinding downtempo electronic jam that was fleshed out over a few minutes, before they worked their way back to complete “Mischief.” “Scheme” followed, which reminded me of break music and pushed the energy level over the top. The set-closing “Inspire Strikes Back” saw Rocklin put on an absolute clinic. She is one of the most talented bassists I have ever seen, with her perfect pocket playing and phrasing. As the band finished the song, the crowd screamed for more. The band rewarded us for our enthusiasm with not one, but two encores.

It was an awesome experience to finally see STS9 perform their own two-set club shows on this run. I had only seen them at festivals prior, and it is fun to see them in an environment where they have more time to setup and get everything perfect. Every member of the band had their impressive moments, and their balanced contributions allow seamless navigation of the waters between jam-rock, livetronica, g-funk, trance, and even trap music. They fit into the scene by eschewing all labels and truly doing their own thing; bridging together fans of disparate musical genres for a raging good time. There is truly something for everybody at their show, so I would recommend bringing along an open mind and giving them a try when they are in your area!

Set One: Vapors, Only Light Remains, Tap-In, MOD > Modular (Improv) > MOD, Shock Doctrine, Blu Mood, Totem > Fame*

Set Two: Glogli, EHM, Hidden Hand Hidden Fist, March, Mischief of a Sleepwalker, Scheme, Inspire Strikes Back

Encore: Poseidon, When the Dust Settles Reprise

*David Bowie cover

Scott's Photo Gallery

Friday, February 5, 2016

moe. 1.22 & 1.23.16

Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)
Audio By Gerry Gladu & KIND Recordings

moe. hit the Front Range like a freight train blasting through a sleepy mountain town on a Sunday. They took no prisoners on their two-night, sold-out romp that bounced from the Boulder Theater to The Ogden. moe. is like the reliable Buick that just runs… and runs well I might add. I ran into a kid who had been sequestered with Widespread Panic for some time and he said, “Wow these guys are amazing, I shouldn’t have waited so long to see them again.” My response was a simple and knowing nod. Seriously, considering the mileage I’d say you should buy this Buick before someone else does.

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

I was escorting my beautiful and ever-understanding 8 ½ month pregnant wife to both shows. We arrived at the Boulder Theater to find out that they had no accommodations for such a condition so I found her a spot up top. (I’m exaggerating a little we met at a moe. show, so it’s not like she was missing it.) It was her 90th show and my 65th not to mention it was my birthday, so it seemed the stars had aligned for a show of epic proportions.

We found a fellow Summer Camper in our row and took the opportunity to snap a pic for the #SpotAScamper contest just before the lights dimmed. They opened with an early and effective “Plane Crash.”

moe. Live at Boulder Theater on January 22, 2016

Set One: Plane Crash, Little Miss Cup Half Empty, Annihilation Blues, Calyphornya, Opium> lylelovit., Canned Pastries

Set Two: Same Old Story, Big World> Ricky Marten> Water, Hi and Lo> Moth> Timmy Tucker*

Encore: Tailspin, Fire

*w/ Gil’s Theme

A “Plane Crash” opener is essentially flipping the bird to conventionality. “Little Miss Cup Half Empty” has become a first set standard since the release of No Guts, No Glory. moe. took the opportunity to play a few newer tunes with the Chuck-led rocker “Annihilation Blues,” and the brooding “Calyphornya.” The room went nuts over “Opium”… wait that didn’t sound right. The boys from Buffalo segued beautifully into the bluesy “lylelovit.” “Canned Pastries” was a jazzy instrumental that featured some sick work on the vibes from Mr. Loughlin. This blast from the past was originally performed back in the days of the Wetlands Preserve only to be resurrected a couple years back at moe. down.

The second set was classically massive focusing on fan favorites and deep jams. Rob took the mic on the shred-heavy “Same Old Story” before the sweet sounds of the wah bounced off walls signaling the beginning of “Big World.” “Ricky Marten” featured some incredible back and forth between Chuck and Al before they came splashing down in a perfectly timed “Water.” “Hi & Lo” gave everyone a chance to catch their breath. The massive “Moth” lasted over 22 minutes and was only surpassed by the 28-minute “Timmy Tucker” that immediately followed. For 50 minutes moe. played two songs. Just let that simmer with you for a minute… Everyone picked their respective jaws off the floor before they returned for an impressive encore.

Just before they returned, our fellow Summer Camper who we had sat by for the entire show leans over and says, “I’m thinking some Hendrix.” I smiled thinking, that would be nice, however unlikely. After a very nice Al.nouncement they went a tight “Tailspin” before they reset and Chuck plucked out the opening chords of Hendrix’s “Fire.” I looked to my right and pondered… “Is this guy Vinnie’s uncle or something?” It had been 220 shows since they last played it in 2013. This show was a scorcher and it was only the first night.

The Ogden Theatre
Denver, CO

The show started a bit earlier with the band taking the stage a few minutes after 8:30 PM, just as we walked through the door. I looked at my still-pregnant wife and told her, “I have to go.” Luckily she was in the capable hands of our friend Liz and a very attentive security guard who escorted my wife to the handicap section, chair in hand. That was a nice touch Ogden. Meanwhile, I raced down to the photo pit to shoot the first fifteen minutes. The room was soaked in an iridescent orange light as moe. ripped through a scorching “Queen of Everything.”

moe. Live at Ogden Theatre on January 23, 2016

Set One: Queen of Everything> Meat, It, White Lightening Turpentine, Captain America> Silver Sun

Set Two: Faker> Jump Around, Jazz Wank> Spine Of A Dog> Buster, The Road, Star Wars Overture> 32 Things

Encore: Salt Creek, Bearsong

This was another rock solid show for the Colorado crowd. They wasted absolutely no time by steering the ship into a ridiculous 26-minute “Meat.” Most bands save that type of shenanigans for the second set, not this band. The jam was dark and intense featuring Jim’s percussion front and center. The shred-fest continued with a classic “It” before they gave us a debut from Summer Camp 2012, “White Lightening Turpentine.” Suddenly the room was awash in red, white, and blue lights as moe. blasted off on “Captain America.” The room was electric at this point. Even the normally chatty Denver crowd seemed more locked in than usual. They ended the first set with a sweet “Silver Sun.”

After a standard set break, they jumped back into the abyss with a huge “Faker.” Then without warning, like a nonchalant dinner guest stealing your fine silver, the boys fell into a steady groove and Jim emerged from behind his massive cadre of percussion gear. He slipped into House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” The audience responded with the appropriate amount of hopping. “Jazz Wank” was a solid bridge to an explosive “Spine Of A Dog.” The massive singalong settled the crowd before moe. presented me with a belated birthday gift in the form of a “Buster.” Mr. Schnier took lead on a solid “The Road.” They returned to their Halloween theme with a mesmerizing rendition of the “Star Wars Overture.” They closed with an energetic “32 Things.”

moe. returned with a true bust-out “Salt Creek,” which had not been performed in 388 shows. They ended the run the only way that made sense, “Bearsong.” The two-night experience featured a flawless execution from the stalwart jam veterans.

Nicholas' Photo Gallery

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Unsinkable Heavies 1.20.16

The Seamonster Lounge
Seattle, WA

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

Unsinkable Heavies is a side project for most of the members of Seattle’s Polyrhythmics. The group features Ben Bloom (guitar), Art Brown (alto sax, tenor sax and flute), Jason Gray (bass guitar), Grant Schroff (drums) and Nathan Spicer (organ). They are similar to the Polyrhythmics, but lack two horns and a Latin percussionist. This enables the group to focus more on deep-funk improvisation, and places the emphasis even more firmly on their groove. Basically, they are a stripped-down, Polyrhythmics-style jamband.

They have a residency at the Seamonster Lounge, in the Wallingford neighborhood, where they play the third Wednesday of each month. With the Polyrhythmics’ busy touring schedule, this builds a night into each month for the band members to let loose at home and try out new things in a relaxed setting. The Seamonster is known for attracting a great neighborhood crowd, as well as fearless booking of jazz and funk-influenced music on most weeknights.

Musically, the Unsinkable Heavies feature a whole lot of outstanding lead guitar playing from Bloom. His role in the Polyrhythmics is generally more to sit back and set the stage for the horns to lay waste to the room, but side projects like this one and Rippin’ Chicken allow you to see the full extent of his chops. The man can flat-out shred, and he can do it while dancing up a storm.

Another big emphasis is Spicer’s spacey organ work. He notably did not employ a keyboard for this show, instead dedicating himself completely to the organ. This is crucial to the band’s ability to take the audience on fifteen-minute space odysseys. This is something you will rarely see at a Polyrhythmics show, but each band member clearly loves. Brown’s smooth, jazzy sax work adds in the perfect textures to keep things sonically exciting, while Schroff and Gray ensure that the listener’s feet never stop moving. It is a delicate balance that the band must strike, to be spacey and driving simultaneously, but they manage it skillfully.

Of course, you don’t see Brown perform just for the saxophone. He busts out the flute pretty extensively here, and to this day I still have not gotten over how unconventional and brilliant his use of this instrument is. If you had informed me a decade ago that I would be spending my evenings listening to a man-bunned jazz flutist play deep-space-funk music at a place called the Seamonster Lounge, I might not have believed you. But I’m so glad that it happened!

Most of their compositions seem to be constructed bottom-up, or at least they usually start off with Schroff and Gray laying down a thick, syrupy groove as a template for the melodies. The group relies on them to be in the pocket and mixing things up extensively. After the basic parts are established, it is simply an exercise in musical communication for the band members.

These shows are gimmick-free deep-funk improvisation. The music is extremely polished, and I definitely think that these artists could have success touring with just this project if they weren’t so busy with the Polyrhythmics. This will probably have to remain one of those shows you just have to get yourself to Seattle to see.

Scott's Photo Gallery

Monday, February 1, 2016

PREVIEW: Pink Talking Fish Performing Gamehendge (Colorado)

We're excited about Pink Talking Fish's return to Colorado, this time to perform Phish's Gamehendge! Support includes The Malai Llama performing the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers!

-2.3 PTF at The Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins, CO - Tickets:

-2.4 PTF at The Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO - Tickets:

-2.5 PTF at The Oriental Theater in Denver, CO - Tickets:

-2.6 PTF at The Barkley Ballroom in Frisco, CO - Tickets: