Strings & Sol Festival 2015
Festival Experience Archive
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Greensky Bluegrass (Unplugged) - Yonder Mountain String Band - Sam Bush Band - Railroad Earth - Fruition (Late Night)
New to S&S this year was the concept of an “unplugged” session on Saturday afternoon in the palapa. Greensky Bluegrass had the honors of being the first to play a set like this and ended up turning the affair into a “storytellers” kind of event providing background and info on many of the songs they played as well as on the band itself. All told, it went off like gangbusters — I am anxious to see Strings & Sol continue this idea in the future. Huddled around a single microphone with Anders off to the side with his own for awesome dobro purposes, the boys kicked things off with a heartfelt and lovely “Old Barns” with Paul Hoffman later providing the inspiration story for this song: someone close who had suffered a tragedy and imparted the wisdom learned from the experience which, in turn, became the lyrics for “Barns”. Supremely touching and fascinating at the same time. We just happened to grab some video of this one for you and are so glad we did. Please take a listen to this powerful song:
Chills. They continued things with the lighthearted “Reverend (Reggae)” and then treated us to a fine “Take Cover”. Crowd-sourcing the songs one-by-one, “Bottle Dry” was next on the docket. Paul told the background story that around 2005, he and Dave Bruzza decided it would be a good idea to move to Asheville, NC, to make it big — but they never made it there instead turning their energies to song-writing and producing ones like “Bottle Dry” right there on Paul’s couch. Lucky for us, right? I can’t tell you how cool the sound was, this “unplugged” sound. Really made for a special set to be sure. The harmonies came out particularly lovely in this configuration. Quite the soulful solo from Bruzza, too. Sounded amazing through that single mic. Sweet, dirty dobro as well from Anders. Great suggestion from the crowd. Later down the set we got the poetic “For Sure, Uh Huh” with Anders prefacing it by praising Hoffman’s songwriting skills. A song which always gets a few great laughs — and why shouldn’t it? The kind of dark cautionary tale “What Happened to Jim?” followed, a song that showcases the band’s black humor side a bit. Sure sounded amazing in that palapa, however. A hopping “Letter to Seymour” brought the energy back up to prime dancing levels, even though most of us were seated for this show with Dave sounding album perfect on the vocals. They closed the whole shebang down with some Thin Lizzy for us. Yeah, you read that right. Thin Lizzy. And they just nailed “The Boys Are Back in Town”. Nailed it to the floor. Right there in front of everybody. And we just freaking loved every minute. Every note, every riff, every word. Paul slew the main vocals while Bont danced around like a madman, banjo in hand. What wasn’t to love? Thank you guys so much for such an interesting and entertaining new way of seeing you perform. Definitely want to see S&S continue this series and definitely want to see GSBG unplugged again someday soon. So worth it!!
Later that day we were all back on the beach, feet buried in the powdery crystals underneath, beverage in hand, and ready to send the sun a-setting with Yonder Mountain String Band. Adam led things off with a blistering guitar line that set the tone for the entirety of “Eat In Go Deaf” providing the perfect energy for Jake to soar on mandolin. Quite the brisk and bold instrumental opener which they took directly into “Looking Back Over My Shoulder” showcasing some of those lovely multi-part harmonies the band has been honing to perfection. Ben sounded really excellent on those lead vocals as well not to mention Jolliff’s lengthy mando solo. A great start so far to what would be a great show. They, in turn, took “Shoulder” straight into the crowd pleaser “Left Me in a Hole”. Talk about some dancin’ Kinfolk at S&S! A little later in the set the band gave us a really fine “The End Is Not In Sight” featuring Mr. Jake Jolliff on mandolin. It was a superb moment in the show, but why take my word for it when we have it for you here?
Not a bad way to celebrate the sunset, eh? But, wait…there’s more! A sizzling hot “On the Run” followed, Ben belting out that well-known story of woe against the backdrop of a breezy Caribbean sea as friends Larry Keel and Drew Emmitt joined in. They took this into “You’re No Good” made famous by Linda Ronstadt featuring Miss Allie Kral on vocals. What a funky, dusky, fantastic version of this one! Allie’s vocals were seductive and right on point — she sounded, in a word, phenomenal. Add to that Adam’s super nasty good guitar solo and you’ve got yourself a stew goin’! (Any Arrested Development fans out there?) And who doesn’t just adore Allie’s voice more and more these days?!? What a powerful asset for the band, no doubts there. The band swung “No Good” right back into “On the Run” to finish things up with a bang. Quite the hot little run there. The tender “Father’s Arms” came next followed by a Colorado-nod soon on its heels with a fantastic “Criminal”. Most definitely one of the songs that made me a Yonder fan all those years ago — so glad to hear it there on the balmy beach. The band then played us a nice “Winds of Wyoming” which they took into the Talking Heads’ “Girlfriend Is Better”, a favorite cover of mine from this band. Always nice to get some Talking Heads in this life, no? The sax solo from guest Andy Goessling was very choice, adding so much musical ambiance to the texture. Yonder chose to close things down with a very big and energetic “All the Time” right into “Sidewalk Stars” back into “All the Time”. This featured some amazing fiddle work from Miss Kral and some blistering mando soloing from Mr. Jolliff. Not to mention the banjo excellence from Dave on these ones. A white hot way to end another delectable show from Yonder Mountain String Band. What an anchor for this festival is the music of this band! So many thanks for another wonderful show, lady and gents!!
So, there comes a time in every festival where a writer likes to take a set for themselves to enjoy. Sam Bush Band on Saturday evening was just such a show for me. In a quick sentence, Sam and his band just killed it — from song selection (like a kick ass “Tennessee Jed” or a great’n’grassy “Great Balls of Fire”) to execution to raw energy, they delivered time and again and it made for a supremely good show. Very glad I took this one for me. I appreciate your understanding, my friends. Now back to the music!!
Railroad Earth came out on the main stage for their show with guns a-blazin’ kicking off with a huge crowd pleaser, “Head”. This one got everyone singing and dancing and continuing their overall merriment to the sounds of this Jersey string band. Tim Carbone had a really fine early solo in this one and Skehan’s mando line was a constant companion throughout the first bit of the song. Really great energy, really great playing all around from man to man especially during the lengthy central jam. We managed to grab a recording of their next number, “Storms”, for you to take a look at…please, enjoy:
Larry Keel jumped up on stage to join them for “Just So You Know” adding just that right amount of “Keelness” to the whole affair and spicing it up just so. Todd sounded just excellent on the lead vocals, truly counterpointing all the fantastic musicianship playing alongside. Tim’s fiddle playing was haunting all through not to mention Andy’s sonorous saxophone licks. Molto bene! They continued the show with “Old Dangerfield” featuring Sam Bush on mandolin and “The Cuckoo” featuring Luke Bulla on fiddle. Both songs and guests were phenomenal but, sadly there were some technical difficulties so the first set was cut a bit short. After they got everything all fixed up and a bit of a set break, things got going again second set with a mighty “Grandfather Mountain” which sounded just about album perfect. Andrew Altman was up next to the mic for the lead vocals in “12 Wolves”. Give that man the mic more often — he sounded really, really good. Great song, too. Not one I had heard before. I’ll be looking for that one at RRE shows to come. The always heartfelt and mysterious “Potter’s Field” was next in line and followed by “Colorado”, one of my personal favorites for very biased reasons (I live there). A big dancer and crowd-pleaser this one kept us all movin’ and groovin’ in the cool tropical night air. John Skehan threw down a monster solo in this song — damn can that cat jam! Tim Carbone was not to be outdone himself, either. The fellas really lit up the Yucatan that night! And to bring things towards and eventual close, you ask? Check this brute of a list out: “Face with a Hole” into “Warhead Boogie” into “Stillwater Getaway” (with Luke Bulla on fiddle) directly into “Peggy-O”!! Are you kidding me?!? I usually hate to use the word “epic” but that was a pretty epic ride to the end! “Warhead Boogie” was a monster jam all the way through. Loved it. And the “Peggy-O”? What a crowd-pleaser! I heard many, many people talking about that very moment for the rest of the weekend. So very good! My hat goes off to these fine gentlemen and the very fine music they make and share with the rest of us! Bravi, again for such a great show, good sirs! Bravi!
And then, after all of that stellar music all day and night long, it was time for late night in the palapa with Fruition. The perfect, I say again, perfect energy for late night at Strings & Sol. Right when you need that infusion of electric music body-shaking boogie bolts, Fruition steps up on stage and starts shooting them into the crowd. They ended up playing “And There She Was” again for us and rocked it right the hell out of the resort. Mimi was shredding it on the electric guitar and things ended up in a trippy Hendrix-esque territory. Not too bad at all! We also got a really nice and sweet “Warm Summer’s Night” with guests Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) and Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon). Really fine solo work from both gentlemen and really incredible playing from the band the entire set through. As I said before, Fruition were the perfect addition for late night at S&S. They gave us so much great music and beautiful intensity — I cannot imagine my S&S 4 experience without them. Truly. I sincerely hope that they will be back next year. They are certainly most deserving of it. Thanks for all the amazing music memories, you guys!!