Wednesday, May 31, 2017

MusicMarauders Spotify Playlist - Volume 31 (5.31.17)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Voodoo Visionary & Jaden Carlson Band 5.25.17 (Photos)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Rodrigo y Gabriela 5.25.17 (Photos)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Primus 5.24.17 (Photos)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Upslope Get Down 5.20.17 (Photos)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Everclear & Vertical Horizon 5.20.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

MusicMarauders Spotify Playlist - Volume 30 (5.24.17)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Beltane Music Festival 5.5 - 5.7.17

Neal Creek Resort
Scio, OR

Written by Mitch Melheim
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media

What began as a small backyard potluck with friends and family wrapping a maypole has since blossomed into a full-fledged music festival featuring nationally touring acts called Beltane. Following the initial potluck, festival organizers Clare and Aric Naber decided to add music to the event, and shortly thereafter came fire dancers and the inevitable graduation from their backyard. The move to a new location on the Columbia River Gorge brought upon larger acts such as Fruition and the Shook Twins and lasted just five years before another upgrade was needed, this time to the gorgeous Neal Creek Resort in Scio, Oregon.

While many things have changed, it’s equally surprising how much remains the same. The wholesome family feel that the Naber’s first curated twelve years ago remains intact, as does the maypole celebration. Many of the same bands still make up the festival’s line up, including the Shook Twins and host band World’s Finest, who officially partnered with organizers last year after headlining the festival since 2012. A newer batch of mainstays have arrived over the past few years from the dance grooves of Yak Attack and Asher Fulero’s many projects to the folk stylings of Brad Parsons and Pete Kartsounes, all of whom are Portland musicians; just as the line up has always has been.

Friday, May 5:

Narrow and winding roads brought us through the trees and eventually into a soggy Neal Creek Resort. The rain had been coming down for most of the day, but in true Portland fashion, nobody’s spirits were dampened as “Welcome home,” and “Happy Beltane!” rang through the air while folks shuttled their camping supplies down the hill and past the lake toward the campgrounds.

The camping areas are small enough that there isn’t a bad place on the grounds, but big enough that you’ll have no problem camping with your crew at this festival of 300 people. We came in hours after gates opened and were able to settle in with our group in a flat, shaded spot along the creek. Once camp was set up, we headed toward the stages for the first time to catch the weekend’s opening set at the smaller dome stage.

Young singer-songwriter duo Taylor Kingman and Kory Quinn kicked off the music and showed the impressive display of songwriting and stage presence that locals have come to expect from these two front men. Brad Parsons Band followed in the pavilion and featured an exciting sit-in from Kingman on electric guitar during a rather quirky cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Mr. Charlie.” More psychedelic americana shred ensued until the set came to an end and we wandered back down the hill toward the dome stage again.

World’s Finest drummer Mike Apodaca joined the Good Time Travelers for their set which proved to be more laid-back than usual, a dynamic change from some of the more wild sets I’ve seen from this talented duo. Their ability to present themselves as both bluegrass pickers and folk singers is admirable and probably why Kartsounes has garnered such respect amongst his peers.

Rising sister-act the Shook Twins held the first headlining spot of the night and showed their versatility, touching on everything from their own folk songs to the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place” and a tripped-out “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” Taylor Kingman was invited to the stage again for a few high-energy songs that may have cemented him as the night’s MVP.

Perk was next at the dome stage and also featured Apodaca on drums as well as an additional percussionist that only added to what has become one of the funkiest bands in Portland. They employ a hard and driving, yet groovy style of funk that is refreshing in a genre I personally believe has become over-saturated as of late. Boo Wilson’s aggressive bass lines lead the charge, but it’s Devon James’s impressive playing on guitar that has me so excited about this band.

Burgeoning livetronica act Yak Attack filled the night’s second headlining slot with a marathon late night set in the pavilion that lasted over an hour past its scheduled 2 AM finish. With no cell phone service and an earful of Yak, most were unaware while the rest were unconcerned. This inability to use your phone has proven to be one of the highlights of the festival for me each year that I’ve gone.

Creative setlist interplay became the theme of the night as the trio loosened up the set after a quick sit-in from Shafty’s Alex Weinberg on guitar opened the show. The thirteen-song midsection of the set lasted around two hours and crocheted multiple songs within themselves a la the Disco Biscuits, which of course fit perfectly with lighting designer Brett McConnell’s extravagant laser setup. The games they were playing with their music are beyond explanation. At one point near the end, they had basically merged two songs into one (“Song For Phillip” and “Pump & Dump”) and reprised their jazzy “Swing Thiwi” with a jam loosely based off of the song structure that featured drummer Nick Werth abandoning his set for a more electronic sound on his xylosynth.

Almost immediately after Yak Attack’s final note, Halo Refuser took over the pavilion for a renegade DJ set. The downtempo electronic project of Asher Fulero (Emancipator Ensemble, Asher Fulero Band, etc.) was an ideal way to end the night, or at least I thought so until I left his set and saw there was yet another renegade set going on between the creek and the lake, this time the shamanic didgeridoo rock of The Urban Shaman. The fact that there were multiple music options at 4 AM, none of which were on the schedule, but both featured organizers up dancing with everybody, is what I love about this festival and kind of explains it in a nutshell.

Saturday, May 6:

Saturday morning began with some of us relaxing around the creek while others went to the yoga and drumming workshops. The maypole celebration followed in the afternoon just before Far Out West kicked the music off at the pavilion stage. The remainder of what was once the Student Loan String Band ditched their acoustic instruments and plugged in for this project which was surprisingly funky and expectedly jammy.

Bigfoot Mojo came next at the dome stage and featured the Good Time Travelers and Urban Shaman percussionist, Ben Lee, as guests alongside the usual duo. Their set was comprised of mostly covers and had a very loose, open jam-like feel that made for an enjoyable afternoon set.

Asher Fulero Band was next at the pavilion stage and brought upon the funky jams that we’ve come to expect from this collection of musicians. Bassist Brett McConnell shined bright on “Launchpad” while Fulero impressed during “Get It” and just about every other song in the set. The guitar duo of Darvey Santner and Nathan Day are kind of the wild card effect for this band with their ability to both play lead and occasionally pull you out of the deep pockets of groove created by the band’s potent rhythm section.

Talented jamgrass quartet, Band of Comerados, followed on the dome stage and were one of the most surprising sets of the weekend for me. I had only seen the band once before and while I enjoyed their previous set, I loved this one. Another talented guitar duo led the way, this time Kyle Donaldson and Devon James. Spacey effects and exploratory playing highlight the band’s emotive style of improvisational string music. I’m anxious to see where this band’s unique, feel-good approach to the string band experience can take them.

Host band World’s Finest took the pavilion stage for two huge sets that were packed with gracious thank you’s from the group and reflective comments on how much this festival has grown, yet stayed the same. Banjo player Dan Hurley mentioned that for the most part the lineup has remained the same, but that the venues continue to get bigger as these bands all grow together. A feeling of pride circled the air as the crowd cheered on their friends, many of whom were in the bands that he was talking about.

The first set featured a few jams, but focused more so on the feel-good reggae and ska portions of their catalog before announcing that the next song was for “when things get weird,” and launching into one of the deep and exploratory jams that they’re capable of. The second set leaned heavier on sonic exploration and touched more so on the dub, jam, and even trance aspects of their repertoire with songs like “Nut Brown” and “Chillicago.” The band then invited a handful of musicians out for the encore to lend vocals to a fun cover of Cake’s “Short Skirt / Long Jacket.”

Five-piece livetronica act Fresh Track followed at the dome stage and had no problems continuing the dance party that World’s Finest had started. Alex Weinberg leads the band on guitar with an almost Hunter Brown-like sound that lends itself to STS9 comparisons, but I personally find him a bit more interesting to listen to because of the added variation in his playing. McConnell also mans the bass for this band, allowing him to flourish a bit more than in his other projects (Shafty, Asher Fulero Band,) while keyboardist Dave Dernovsek takes the opposite approach and plays more reserved than his usual lead-heavy playing with Yak Attack.

Portland guitar hero Scott Pemberton closed out the festival with his Scott Pemberton Band and their dancey style of rock. Pemberton’s trademark guitar stool and strapless playing stump me if I’m being completely honest. He’s a hell of a guitarist, but sometimes it seems like too much of a gimmick for me to get behind. That being said, he’s definitely a crowd pleaser and tours with a talented band that is worth checking out.

Sunday, May 7:

Sundays at Beltane have been traditionally relaxed, as was the case again this year. It was slow-moving, just how you want a festival pack-up process to be. I woke up and ate a hearty, much-needed breakfast from the wonderful folks at the Steal Your Plate food cart. Brad Parsons was playing the pavilion around noon and was the only set of the day as people slowly made their way out.

One last hangout session on the creek was in order. After we had packed all of our cars up, we sat on the rocks as we reflected over a memorable weekend. Too many times I leave a festival feeling deteriorated, whether it be mental or physical. Something about Beltane is different. Beltane revitalizes me and puts an extra pep in my step and a smile on my face. I leave the festival feeling healed and hopeful, astonished at this scene that I’m so grateful to be apart of.

Coleman's Photo Gallery

Scott Pemberton Band 5.19.17 (Photos)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Karl Denson & Mike Dillon Band 5.18.17 (Photos)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Aiken Bluegrass Festival 5.12 & 5.13.17 (Photos)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Rowdy Shadehouse & Lady And The Gentleman 5.12.17 (Photos)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lettuce, Turkuaz, John Scofield & Marcus King Band 5.13.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

MusicMarauders Spotify Playlist - Volume 29 (5.17.17)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Live Dead 69' Feat. Tom Constanten, Mark Karan & Slick Aguilar 5.6.17 (Photos)

David Crosby 5.7.17 (Photos)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Adrian Belew Power Trio 5.4.17

Isis Music Hall
Asheville, NC

Words by Taylor Hall
Photos by J. Scott Shrader Photography

Perhaps one of the most mind rattling shows I have ever attended, Adrian Belew Power Trio was nothing short of mesmerizing. If you aren't familiar with Adrian, I will give you a brief run down of his musical journey. Adrian was discovered by Frank Zappa at age 27 playing in a cover band. Shortly after, he would be passed on to David Bowie, before heading way to join Talking Heads on the album Remain In Light. Adrian would find a permanent home joining Robert Fripp's King Crimson for the next 30 years.

The night would start with a few technical difficulties, as one of Julie Slick's Pedals failed, and then they had a few more glitches using the computer software they loop through. This was not an issue for the crowd that was filled with hard core music lovers that understand the perils that come with putting on a live show. Once all the quirks were worked out the show was set to begin.

The set started off with three tracks off of Adrian's 1990 release Young Lions. The band would smoothly segue into "Big Electric Cat" off of the Lone Rhino release. "Cat" would serve to take the audience on a sonic journey of the mind, truly displaying the bands chops. Tobias Ralph and Julie Slick have been hand picked by Adrian for good reason. The trio is a testament to the fact that more is not always better, as the three of them produce a bigger sound on stage then most 5 piece bands. Julie Slick has the charm and sound that would make Geddy Lee revel. Tobias is an absolute monster behind the kit, often displaying his in depth sense of time and structure.

The band would next usher up a few much anticipated King Crimson tracks, running through "One Time," "Dinosaur," and "Heartbeat." The band was now locked and loaded, ready to send the crowd into an absolute frenzy. The opening riffs of the classic Adrian track "Writing On The Wall" was upon us. This song was recorded in 2005 featuring Danny Carey of Tool and Les Claypool of Primus. Julie Slick and Tobias Ralph met the challenge, bringing an absolute heater rendition of this beloved prog classic. To round out the set, the band would drift into the classic "Frame by Frame" from King Crimson's Discipline album. This song has always been near and dear to my heart. Leaving the set on a high note Tobias showed off his chops delivering an incredible drum solo the metal gods would be proud of. The drum solo would melt into full band action as they took on another Adrian tune, "Beat Box Guitar." This song was a prog journey for the ages showing off each member's individual talents. Julie Slick was doing maddening bass riffs and fills leaving only destruction and chaos in her path, as Adrian showed off his witty charm changing the time measures of the song at will. The sonic soundscapes Adrian can achieve on his guitar is something one should experience, as it's hard to put to words exactly how incredible he is live.

The mad scientist and his lab rats were just getting started as they had another set of phenomenal music planned ahead. The set would open with the maniacal track "b," blending elements of prog and metal that is as thought provoking as it is evil. Slipping into darkness the band would revive the crowd's mental health pulling out the King Crimson track "Three Of A Perfect Pair" before unleashing hell again with the instrumental track "b3" and dropping into "Neurotica." "Neurotica" is one of those classic King Crimson tracks that features Adrian manically talking to himself or perhaps some one else that we can not see. The band followed up with the beautiful King Crimson track "Walking On Air," giving the audience a small glimpse of cloud nine. In line next was the drum driven sound of the song "Ampersand," keeping the theme of the second set alive "Heaven and Hell."

The band would swing into a 12 minute section comprised of "Future Vision," "Boys Keep Swinging" into "Of Bow and Drum," "Elephant Talk." This section encapsulated Adrian's career, putting his signature animal cry guitar on full display. The night would end with a dance party as the band dropped into the oft covered "Thela Hun Ginjeet" sending all of our minds into oblivion. To end the show, the band strapped everyone on a carousel for one more trip around the circus delving into the title track off of the power trio's 2009 release "e." It's so hard to fathom exactly what happened at Isis that evening. I encourage you all to step out of your box and conformities and try on the Power Trio's wild ride of a show.

Scott's Photo Gallery

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Papadosio, Eliot Lipp, Sunsquabi & Antennae 5.6.17 (Photos)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Jeff Austin & Friends 5.6.17 (Photos)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Drew Emmitt Band 5.5.17 (Photos)

Todd Snider & Great American Taxi 5.5.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Todd Sheaffer, Daniella Katzir Band & Grass Fed Mule 5.4.17 (Photos)

MusicMarauders Spotify Playlist - Volume 28 (5.10.17)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bonobo 5.3.17 (Photos)

Yak Attack Album Release 4.29.17 (Photos)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Golden Road & Swindler 4.28.17 (Photos)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead with Medeski, Martin & Wood 4.29.17

1stBank Center
Broomfield, Colorado

Words by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)
Photos by Doug Fondriest (Doug Fondriest Photography)

What happens when the music finally stops? When all the originals and torchbearers fade away what remains? Joe Russo’s Almost Dead is singlehandedly making sure that never happens through innovation and a reverence for the music of the good ol’ Grateful Dead. Russo put in his time with Furthur and when they disbanded, it appeared he was given the keys to the kingdom. Now what started as a one-off party band has evolved in a stadium-filling endeavor complete with a massive light show and a dedicated fanbase. In just their 108th outing as a band, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead has gone from a novelty to the real deal. They sold out the 6500 seat 1stBank Center after their show at Red Rocks was moved due to snowy weather.

Medeski, Martin & Wood is the sort of beefy opener you would expect from JRAD on their first attempt at Red Rocks. It just sounds like a good time. MMW and JRAD? Okay, I’m game. Fans filtered into the 1stBank Center after MMW’s prompt 6:30 PM start to find a very dark room and some funky, progressive jazz hovering over the dimly lit audience.

Set One: Nostalgia In Times> Angel Race> Start / Stop> Think> Henduck> Jelly Belly> 1969> Big Time> Just Like I Pictured It> Night Marchers

Darkness permeated the entire room with a small splash of light illuminating the trio onstage. Almost from the beginning the vibe in the room was very psychedelic. Bouncing from avant-garde jazz riffs to straight funk throughout their set for just under ninety minutes MMW took us all on a wild ride. The set began with a bluesy bit of improvisation that saw some sweet licks emanating from Mr. Medeski’s side of the stage. The percussion-heavy “Start / Stop” went to the dark side before a gritty “Think” got utterly funky. “Jelly Belly” saw some of the deepest jams of the set, while “Big Time” got everyone up off their seats. They closed with a flawless “Night Marchers.”

There were a lot of “firsts” for JRAD on this particular April evening in Colorado. This was the first time that JRAD had played a bonafide arena, this would be the longest JRAD show on record and this was the first time they payed Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From The Storm” which opened up the show.

Joe Russo's Almost Dead Live at 1stBank Center on 4.29.17

Set One: Shelter From The Storm> Bertha> Let It Grow> No Quarter Jam> Help On The Way> Slipknot> Throwing Stones, Must Have Been The Roses, Gonesville> Shakedown Street

Set Two: Morfbeats> Space> Dark Star> Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodleloo> Estimated Prophet> Terrapin Suite> The Other One> Eyes Of The World

Encore: One More Saturday Night> Cold Rain & Snow Jam> One More Saturday Night Reprise, Not Fade Away> Tequila Jam> Not Fade Away Reprise

2nd Encore: Ripple, Born To Run

There was so much awesomeness in this show it’s difficult to really explain what transpired, but here it goes. Many fans had mixed emotions about the move from Red Rocks to Broomfield, but with the snow falling on the Front Range at showtime, the decision to change venues was affirmed. They opened up with the (first time played) Bob Dylan tune “Shelter From The Storm” with Tommy Hamilton on vocals. They immediately took the energy up a notch with a fiery “Bertha.” The “Let It Grow” began with an ethereal, otherworldly jam that built into a twenty minute monstrosity which featured a rare take on Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” and touched on all shades of psychedelia. The “Help On The Way” into a transcendental “Slipnot” meandered into a huge Metzger sung "Throwing Stones." The band slowed it down for a tight “Must Have Been The Roses” into Bob Weir’s “Gonesville.” This was their first time playing any track off Weir’s recently released Blue Mountain. They closed with a crowd pleasing “Shakedown Street.” The first set clocked in at around an hour and forty-five minutes. While they didn’t rush anything, the first set was primarily a straightforward groove. This is especially true when compared to the musical output of the second set.

As the lights dimmed fans noticed a rather tall riser perched above Russo’s drum kit. Adam Morford of Tallgrass and Morfbeats was alone on the stage twisting some knobs. His siren effects drifted over the crowd as he was joined by Russo, Medeski and Martin for a “Drums,” the likes of which no one could have predicted. This ten minute jam percolated through the crowd as the four artists applied their musical prowess to the incredible instruments created from the mind of Morford. They continued to play as the band joined in for a deep “Space” that eventually came up for air with a ridiculous “Dark Star.” At some point, Medeski moved down to Benevento’s Hammond. The band was joined by longtime JRAD collaboration Stuart Bogie on saxophone, flute, and clarinet. After several mind-bending tunes, fans were comforted by the familiarity of “Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodleloo,” which became a powerful sing-along. “Estimated Prophet” took on a deep and dark jam accentuated by Bogie’s sax. The beautifully executed “Terrapin Suite” was my highlight of the night. It felt like they didn’t want it to end as the band kept extending the jam. Mr. Dreiwitz was on fire for the entire performance just driving the bus in a cool, calm and collected manner. “The Other One” was pretty clean, but the “Eyes Of The World” was a joyous punctuation mark on two magical sets of music.

The band returned for the first of two double encores with a predictable, but well executed “One More Saturday Night.” Marco was shining bright as they segued into an instrumental attack on “Cold Rain & Snow” before returning to “One More Saturday Night.” Many fans, including myself, thought the show was over with the hypnotic “Not Fade Away” which featured a jam on The Champs’ “Tequila.” That was not the case. As they rapidly approached curfew the band played on. Joe Russo had thanked the crowd several times throughout the show. He was both humble and exuberant that this concert was salvaged and in such an epic way. He gave a nod to his wife who had requested “Ripple.” She got her wish with a tight rendition before Russo returned to the microphone with, “…Now for something completely different.” The band immediately ripped into Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run.” That would have been alarming enough, but in the first verse the house lights blazed on indicating we had reached our curfew. The band played for five full minutes with everyone soaking it all in with the pure light of day raining down. Fans dribbled out of the venue on clouds of Grateful Dead (and Springsteen) inspired happiness. I’ve now had the chance to see JRAD six times and they are directly and purposefully breathing new life into the music that we all hold dear. At some point, all that will be left is a songbook. I find comfort knowing that performers like Joe Russo, Grahame Lesh and Neal Casal are continuing a tradition that began over a half century ago. The legacy of the Grateful Dead is still being written at Dead & Co. shows, at Terrapin Station and at dive bars across the country. The music transcends, which is why musicians who can elevate the time-tested sounds of the Dead will soon find themselves surrounded by an eager audience.

Doug's Photo Gallery

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Black Angels & A Place To Bury Strangers 4.29.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Antibalas 4.23.17 (Photos)

MusicMarauders Spotify Playlist - Volume 27 (5.3.17)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Element Music Festival: Bringing Independent Festival Production Back to the Scene

Snug Lake Amphitheatre
Princeton, British Columbia

Words by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)

In today’s monopolized music scene where a few behemoths rule the roost, it’s rare to see any independent events gaining traction. Some producers have gone to great lengths to curtail the market in their favor, including everything from creating a single source of tickets for an entire market to the outright buying of venues. However, a new event has emerged on the horizon and it’s safe to say this festival has very little to do with the status quo. Element Music Festival combines incredible music and location with the type of innovation that can only come from promoters outside of the inner circle. In just their second year not only has Element booked The String Cheese Incident in Canada for three nights, but they have also cultivated a Garaj Mahal reunion, a band who hasn't performed together in almost a decade. That alone is enough to turn heads, but what’s more impressive is Snug Lake Amphitheatre, the home of Element Music Festival.

For many, the thought of attending a festival can be stressful. Between overlapping sets and the massive sea of people it can all be overwhelming. Element Music Festival and it’s home Snug Lake Amphitheatre has been created by music fans for music fans. First, the venue offers a single stage, meaning you don’t have to run miles to catch the next set. Each group is given their time and they too don’t have to worry about performing for an empty field. Beyond the music, the amenities at the venue are staggering. Nestled in the northern tip of the Cascade Mountain Range this natural amphitheater boasts miles of hiking trails, a massive campground, running creeks, amazing views, and the on-site lake from which its name originates. Swimming is allowed all day long giving fans ample opportunity to cool off in the spring-fed lake. Future plans include a disc golf course, bike trails, horseback riding and a wilderness lodge with forty plus beds.

The headliners alone are worth the trip to British Columbia, but the supporting acts are equally impressive. The Steve Kimock and Friends lineup includes Dead & Company’s Jeff Chimenti on keys, Zero’s Bobby Vega on bass, and Steve’s incredibly talented son John Morgan Kimock on drums. This super group is sure to treat us to some deep psychedelic jams and intricate guitar work. Several Vancouver based acts are also on the bill, giving people who travel from the U.S. a taste of the local sound. Five Alarm Funk, Brickhouse and Big Easy Funk Ensemble will treat fans to their own style of live music. Colorado favorites Genetics will be making their second trip up to Element Music Festival as well.

The team producing Element Music Festival consists of like-minded industry professionals who were looking for something different. They came together and with international support they have created something enviable at Snug Lake. They are off-grid, ecologically-minded music fans who wanted to create an alternative to the industrialization of live music and artists. They have a long term plan to continually improve the venue while inviting talented performers to come play in the meantime. And at just year two, Element Music Festival is poised to take the scene by storm.

One other item of note is the alcohol policy at Element. There will be no alcohol sales within the festival grounds, meaning this whole shindig is BYOB. You are allowed to drink your own booze anywhere on the festival grounds as long as it’s not in a glass container & you've purchased a drinking wristband. Did I mention that the drinking age in Canada is 19? While other festivals clamp down on outside drinks, Element encourages you to do your own thing, even if the legal drinking age in your hometown is not for a couple more years.

While you may be reading this simply as a festival preview, you should see it as a call to action. This is your chance to get in on the ground floor of a magical event that is just getting started. Under the guidance of the caretakers at the Snug Lake Amphitheater, this festival has the potential to blossom into something incredible. In just their short time producing and promoting concerts they are already bringing in monumental talent with a focus on creating a premiere experience for everyone in attendance. I guess it’s time to start packing!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead 4.28.17

The Ogden Theatre
Denver, CO

Words & photos by Kevin Hahn (Split Open & Shoot Photography)

A cover band is a musical group who usually masters every aspect of another group’s musical arrangements, special tendencies, and even sometimes the mistakes an artist would make on stage from time to time. I tend not to spend money on seeing cover bands, wasting time listening to, or sometimes even recognizing their existence (mostly to piss off my friends). But every once in awhile a band comes along that has mastered another group’s material so well, and to a level of such musical genius, that I can’t help but to get insanely excited every time I get the chance to see them live. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead or JRAD could be the most entertaining, musically gifted/talented, and overall fucking awesome cover band that I have ever seen. And for some reason, every time they come to Colorado the shows are extra hot.

Starting off with “Jackstraw” it was 150% obvious JRAD was looking to rip the roof off the Ogden Theatre from the get-go. I cannot begin to explain the crowd energy which increased with each and every musical peak directed by the absolute monster Joe Russo on the drums. Russo is a master of everything drums/cymbals/percussion, and his skill is brought out in a multitude of ways with his JRAD project. A close to 18-minute “Truckin” got the Colorado fans singing along with Scott Metzger on “Bobby’s” side and JRAD was off and running on their 2-day Colorado adventure. Metzger led the boys through their first rendition of the Bob Dylan classic “Tell Me, Momma,” and what a beautiful ode to Dylan it was with Scott’s semi-raspy voice impersonating Bob very well. Another highlight in the first set for me was the Tom Hamilton led Bruce Springsteen cover “Atlantic City” which was sang by Hamilton in a deep, almost bluesy manner getting the crowd roaring right into the Grateful Dead staple “I Know You Rider." This version of “Rider” had numerous momentum peaks and I could barely contain myself jumping up and down on the stage-right stairs of the famous Denver venue.

Two lesser known (at least to me) Dead songs opened up the second set “Lost Sailor” and “Saint of Circumstance” with Marco Benevento, master of all things piano-like taking a lead throughout each song. It’s always fun for me to watch the interplay between Benevento and Russo behind the kit, as they continually smile/joke/giggle with each other on-stage no matter what project I am lucky enough to see them both in. One of my favorite Dead songs “Scarlet Begonias” came next with Hamilton once again taking the lead shredding up and down on his guitar and seeming to gain hand speed with each stroke of the guitar strings. JRAD original “Keeping It Simple” came next, which I have to admit I had no idea existed. I love that a cover-act is coming out with original material because it shows their true commitment to music as a whole. Which in this day in age can sometimes be hard to find when things are copied so easily and shared so quickly via the internet.

What came next was an onslaught of Grateful Dead classics, with an out of control Medeski, Martin, and Wood (openers for the 1st Bank show) cover sandwiched in between. “Fire on the Mountain” was bass heavy with Dave Drewitz thumping along to Russo’s outrageous drumming. Hamilton began “Dancing In The Streets” with no hesitation and the magic of JRAD came to center stage with saxophone player Stuart Boogie joining the chaos. To only make things more interesting Russo started slowing the tempo down dramatically, bouncing right into the MMW song “Bubblehouse” with Benevento quickly following suit and joyously smiling along with every slam of the snare drum. I cannot tell you how amazing this sequence of music was, and the crowd at the Ogden was screaming as loud as I have ever heard it in there. To end the set, a fantastic “Franklin’s Tower” was followed by a standard/fun encore of “US Blues” to bring night one to a raucous closing.

This band is on a whole different level of music genius right now and night one of this Colorado run is a true testament to JRAD being one of the hottest commodities on the “Jam-band” scene. To recommend seeing them is an absolute understatement and I have to thank them for taking the high road with the weather fiasco and rescheduling their Red Rocks date for later this year. I look forward to seeing them with Oteil Burbridge on bass right before Phish Dick’s… and who knows who could show up to sit-in and have some fun?

Kevin's Photo Gallery

Set One: Jackstraw > Truckin'@, Viola Lee Blues# ->Here Comes Sunshine Jam$ -> Viola Lee Blues Reprise -> Tell Me, Momma% (SM) > China Cat Sunflower > Atlantic City -> I Know You Rider

Set Two: Lost Sailor -> Saint Of Circumstance & Scarlet Begonias -> Keeping It Simple -> Fire On The Mountain, Dancing In The Streets*+ -> Franklins Tower*

Encore: US Blues$$

@ - With an Other One Tease (Band) & a “Reveille” (Traditional) Tease (SM)
# - With a “Duo Jam”
$ - First Time Played By Almost Dead
% - Bob Dylan Cover, First Time Played By Almost Dead
^ - With Teases / Jams of “You Don’t Love Me” (Willie Cobb / Allman Brothers Band) and China Cat Sunflower (Band)
& - With a “Sowing the Seeds of Love” (Tears for Fears) Jam (I THINK)
* - With Stuart Bogie on Sax
+ - With a "Bubblehouse" Jam (Medeski Martin & Wood), and a DD Bass Solo
$$ - With Stuart Bogie on Clarinet