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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Saturday

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Saturday

Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016

Marvin’s Mountaintop, WV

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Bill Rudd    

Saturday Highlights

    The festival vibe was alive and well around Deep Roots Mountain Revival on another gorgeous pre-autumn morning with the sky full of welcome white clouds to shield some of the sunlight we felt pretty intensely on Friday. The smells of camp stove breakfasts began to waft throughout car camping and we knew it was time to hike to the hilltop grove for some pickin’ on the Highland Outdoors Roots Stage. Appropriately Grand Ole’ Ditch began their set with “Pickin’ for Breakfast” altered from yesterday’s edition by Jody Mosser’s decision to lead things with the dobro instead of his acoustic guitar. The band blended the sleepy instrumental directly into “Sugar Grove,” a song about finding yourself in the West Virginia woods written and sung by mandolinist Lucas Mathews, that was highlighted by an extended jam which hinted at many of the Mountain Revivalist’s activities the previous evening. Hear for yourself here:

A Lionel Ritchie “All Night Long” tease? Fiesta forever, indeed gentlemen. The fellas followed that up with “This Time,” a straight up rock song where the string band dialed in distortion to get heavy with the backing of Todd Hocherl’s drumming. Things got weird with Craig Miller singing “Pigeon Eatin’ Catfish,” a song written by bassist Jacob Mathews about an alcoholic wels catfish with a preference for squab. It was time for a bluegrass breakdown with a “Dear Old Dixie” that had the folks who had trekked up the trail to the Roots Stage getting down with Ditch. The pickin’ turned progressive with Craig’s original from Unwind called “Copper Kettle Coal,” an incredible song that demonstrates the diversity of the group, switching tempos and genres throughout. Luke was back singing lead on the traditional bluegrass classic “Rocket Man,” by Elton John, which the band followed with an “Allegany Sun” for the ages. The song written by Jody’s friend-of-a-friend Matt Hamilton, details the experience of driving over the westernmost Maryland mountains and got diverted into Phishy territory with an appearance from “First Tube” during an exploratory detour. Grand Ole’ Ditch punctuated their final Deep Roots performance with “Rocky Island” a jovial Stanley Brothers cover which perfectly foreshadowed the traditional bluegrass masterclass that was about to take place on Main Stage B later that afternoon.

Grand Ole' Ditch

Grand Ole' Ditch

    We broke for lunch back at camp to gear up for the impending Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder storm that approached and headed towards the Main Stages just in time to catch the end of The Black Lillies’ rocking Americana set. Ricky Skaggs’s septet began soon thereafter and blasted out of the gate like a thoroughbred with a “How Mountain Girls” that was blazing hot from start to finish. Thankfully the mountaintop temperature hovered in the mid 80’s, which was perfect for dancing to one of the country’s best bluegrass bands. Ricky announced that next was "a mountain love song" before Russ Carson kicked off “Pig in a Pen” with a blistering banjo roll. They paid tribute to the father of bluegrass with a pair of Bill Monroe tunes, “Toy Heart” and the aptly named “Bluegrass Breakdown” an instrumental lead by Skaggs’ mandolin that rages just as much in 2016 as it did when the Bluegrass Boys were first pickin’ it in the 40s. Ricky dedicates a significant portion of each set to the Stanley brothers, having been raised on their material by his mountain mother who he says sang like Ralph, the man who hired Ricky as a Clinch Mountain Boy when he was still a teen. The first Stanley song was the mournful “Your Selfish Heart” about the popular bluegrass theme of being cheated on. Later they covered the classic country hymn “Rank Stranger” as well as “Home in the Carolina Mountains,” a song Ricky called “deep catalog Stanley Brothers.” Russ attempted to emulate Dr. Ralph’s banjo on an instrumental that showed off the picking prowess of the entire collective. This is a magnificent seven of bluegrass, with seemingly constant solos from folks like sizzling fiddler Andy Leftwitch and newest member the amazing lead guitarist Jake Workman, who follows in the footsteps of modern masters Cody Kilby and Bryan Sutton that had previously held the position. It’s important to specify “lead” with Kentucky Thunder because Skaggs keeps three guitarists in the band, with Eddie Faris on an archtop and Ricky’s long time friend Paul Brewster on rhythm guitar in addition to marvelous tenor vocals. The next couple of covers were coincidentally both recorded by Hot Rize, brilliant renditions of the McGee Brothers’ “Blue Night” and Bill Monroe’s “Rocky Road Blues,” the latter sung by the band’s talented bassist Scott Mulvahill. Then, it was time for “Tennessee Stud” a song about an incomparable racehorse made famous in bluegrass by Doc Watson. Ricky closed the impressive set with a raucous “Lil’ Maggie” where rapid instrumentation was accentuated by his embellished vocal segments that embodied that essential Stanley sound. The captivated crowd called for an encore, a request granted with the legendary Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen." Please enjoy Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder’s old school encore for yourself folks: 

Music to our ears too Ricky, thanks for a truly magnificent set on Marvin’s Mountain Top!

    The David Grisman Sextet almost immediately appeared on Stage A and started things off with a few of the jazzy instrumentals that the Dawg built to excel at performance. Especially impressive was a swing tune named “The Purple Grotto” which appears on their inventively-titled new album The David Grisman Sextet. Next was a tune Grisman quite literally dreamed up known as “Hornpipe Dream,” or he concluded it could be called “Horn Pipe Dream” too, before guiding the bouncy bluegrass instrumental with his mandolin. The Deep Roots Dead theme was reenergized with “Grateful Dawg” a funkier instrumental that shuffles back and forth between jazz, blues, and jam, written by Grisman with Jerry Garcia soon after they reunited in the early 90s. Ricky Skaggs had been watching from the wings for most of the set and was finally called to sit in on a soulful “Watson's Blues,” Bill Monroe's tribute to Doc Watson. Would you like to witness some of that double mando action? Well, here ya go: 

Skaggs left the stage but Dawg continued the tributes with a piece he wrote in dedication to the great Red Allen entitled “Pigeon Roost.” A meandering David Grisman Sextet original number called “Slinky” was next, a true jazzgrass tune if there ever was one. They finished up with “Dawg's Bounce,” a song Grisman mentioned he normally played on the banjolin but this time found flutist Matt Eakle switching over to kazoo for most of the song, despite managing to add in a stellar flute solo as well. A founding father of jamgrass, David Grisman has spent a lifetime dedicated to testing the boundaries of bluegrass and it was truly an honor to be able to experience his outstanding sextet up close and personal at Deep Roots Mountain Revival.

    After a well-deserved break back at camp we were ready for a face full of Keel. The Larry Keel Experience was already at work, playing a quirky original called “Lizard Lady” as we hiked up the rocky trail that lead to the Roots Stage. The jamgrass trio from Virginia followed up with “Lil’ Miss” a swampy song about an infallible woman that showcased Larry’s distinctive growl and legendary guitar skills. Larry ended up giving a birthday shout out to Steve Heavner his sound man, road manager, merch guy, van driver, and all-around awesome dude — class act as always, Larry. The Experience slowed down a bit with a pair of love songs, “One” and “Heartbeat Soul Beat,” but things quickened up again with an instrumental that demonstrated the chemistry developing between Larry’s flat-picking and newcomer to the band Jared Pool’s mandolin, with the two dueling and playing off of one another nicely. However, despite Pool’s immense talent it’s hard to escape the void left by the absence of longtime Keel collaborator Will Lee’s banjo. Bassist Jenny Keel announced it was time for “Larry does Jerry,” as her husband sang a “Ramble On Rose” that everyone in attendance was very grateful for. The next song “Miles & Miles,” was co-written with Keller Williams and appears on Keel's new album Experienced. The lyrics mention that “a truthful heart that will light the darkened sky,” much the way the harvest moon again began to brighten the forest we gathered in. Larry made it known he was impressed with the other musicians on the mountaintop, mentioning electric rock guitarist Marcus King and jamgrass act The Rumpke Mountain Boys who were also getting Keeled in the audience. The aroma of Lynyrd Skynyrd entered the sweet southern air with a cover of “That Smell,” an unfortunately poignant song about the deadly dangers of drug abuse. Our “more banjo” prayers were answered when Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn came out to get weird in the woods with The Experience, starting with the Keel classic “Culpepper Woodchuck.” The song pulsed back and forth until Larry bursted out the titular line and it exploded into an uproarious jam that included an interlude into the über traditional “Soldiers Joy,” which caused Keel to pause and assert, “It's about morphine,” before the rest of the band joined back with the woodchucking. That left just enough time for “a quick one,” which was a rapid instrumental that allowed Larry, Jared, and Andy another chance for some face-melting shredding. Keel your own face here:  

What an awesome way to end an excellent set in the West Virginia backwoods with the Larry Keel Experience!

The Larry Keel Experience

The Larry Keel Experience

    Night had officially fallen on Marvin’s Mountain Top, with campfires ablaze throughout the open fields lightly filled with RVs, cars, and tents. A definite haze hung over the encampment which was apropos because country rockers Blackberry Smoke had taken Main Stage A with authority. Fans filled the flattened area in front for their performance, which sounded sort of like a southern rock styled Led Zeppelin. Definitely not a bad thing! The Grateful Dead cover train hit a repeat as the Georgian group also played “Ramble On Rose,” not quite a reprisal of Keel’s Roots Stage rendition less than an hour earlier. Their set ended with great fanfare from the swirling stage lights and fog to the vigorous applause of the hundreds assembled, but our attention soon shifted to Stage B where The Cris Jacobs Band from Baltimore was about to take things for a tremendous blues rock turn. Oh my my! Right at the start Cris busted out an entry from The Bridge’s historic catalogue with a joyous “Heavy Water” that was extended into an elaborate jam that served to introduce the skilled musicians he’d currently surrounded himself with. Cris led on both vocals and electric guitar but was backed by proficient bassist Todd Herrington and the mighty John Ginty, a prominent keyboardist who’s toured with everyone from The Dixie Chicks to Robert Randolph & The Family Band. Dusty Ray Simmons’s drumming was particularly on point driving the intro to Jacobs’s “The Devil or Jesse James,” a rhythmic swamp rock story infused with soul from Cris’s powerfully smooth vocals. At solo shows, Cris always spends time playing a custom cigar box guitar and it was nice to see him rocking it out during “Me Oh My,” with abundant effects and his full band on the mountaintop. Cris is no stranger to Marvin’s, having frequently performed in Masontown at the All Good Music Festival as frontman for The Bridge, the Maryland roots rock ensemble known for their funky jams and a bit of a Little Feat vibe that persists in this project, especially when Ginty is pounding away on his Hammond organ at high volume. While it’s likely Cris Jacobs’s voice that earned him high profile solo gigs opening tours for folks like Steve Winwood and Sturgill Simpson, it‘s his brilliant electric guitar playing that had us in awe all night long at Deep Roots Mountain Revival. The combination of musicianship and passion Cris Jacobs brought to the table also has us anxiously awaiting his album Dust To Gold in October, as well as Neville Jacobs, his project with Ivan Neville due for release 2017. Thankfully for the impatient among us on Marvin’s Mountaintop, there was still more in store from Cris Jacobs that evening.

Cris Jacobs Band

Cris Jacobs Band


    It may have been the middle of September but it was still festival season and therefore Salmon season. Leftover Salmon definitely lived up to their rowdy reputation at Deep Roots Mountain Revival and their contribution to the Grateful Dead cover collection came early with a “Mr. Charlie” that was elevated to the occasion of the band’s triumphant return to Marvin’s Mountain Top, after being an All Good headliner there several times before. The band’s next song mentioned being “down in the hollow on a cold southern night” which somehow felt appropriate despite nighttime temperatures that had stayed pleasantly in the 70s. Leftover didn't wait long to bring out their good bud Larry Keel who carried out his Collings guitar for an extended portion of the set, beginning with incredible banjoist Andy Thorn’s instrumental “Bolin Creek” that raged more like the roaring whitewater of the nearby Cheat River. Adding Keel to the already combustible combination of Thorn and gifted instrumentalist Drew Emmitt ignited an explosive spacey explorational segment that transitioned to an Alwyn Robinson drum solo before traveling back to outer space via Main Stage A. The Leftover Salmon crew technically calls Colorado home however their east coast ties were unmistakable, especially in “Appalachian Soul,” which was literally a soulful rock song about life in the mountains, sung by acoustic guitarist and party god frontman Vince Herman. Next up was the McGraw Gap firefighting tune “Fireline,” which has been a bright spot burning in Salmon’s setlist on many a night. For those unfamiliar, McGraw Gap was the band Larry Keel was a member of that won the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 1995. Fittingly Salmon followed up with a song written by Drew Emmett that McGraw Gap once recorded called “Troubled Times,” which Emmett noted was sadly still relevant because it asked the wind to “blow away these troubled times.” The party picked up some more Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass in the form of “Mama Boulet,” a song that sounded like spicy gumbo smells and featured another predominant solo from the terrific drummer Alwyn Robinson. The sit ins continued when Cris Jacobs returned with his guitar for “Sitting On Top Of The World,” a song frequently chosen for guest appearances but made unique in this instance by a slightly slowed tempo and the shared vocal duties of Herman, Emmett, and Jacobs. Larry Keel was called back out but came empty handed so Vince lent him his guitar and put on a scratch board for an extraordinarily epic version of Led Zeppelin's “Rock and Roll” that had the crowd going absolutely insane over intense guitar solos traded back and forth between Emmett, Keel, and especially Cris Jacobs, who impressed the others to the point where they he insisted he take several elongated breaks. This was a set that exemplified everything great about music festivals, with virtuosic artists from three different acts banding together for a once in a lifetime experience. What a way to wrap up the Mountain Revival Saturday Main Stages. Awesome work everyone involved!

Leftover Salmon with Cris Jacobs

Leftover Salmon with Cris Jacobs

    But wait, there's more! It was time for a late night Rumpke Mountain Boys throwdown back up on the Roots Stage. The rough edged bluegrass band from Cincinnati embraces the term trashgrass, naming themselves after the mythical Rumpke Mountain, a nickname for their local landfill which happens to be one of the largest in the country. The boys kicked things off with a song called “Feeling Good” and from the dance moves already being employed among the trees out front, it was apparent the audience was feeling pretty good too. Guitarist Adam Copeland and company wailed the mournful “Make It Rain” which was followed by the traditional bluegrass tune “If I Should Wander Back Tonight,” though nothing coming from these Mountain Boys can exactly be called traditional thanks to their love for effects pedals and rambling instrumentals. Rumpke’s next song mentioned drinking in the morning to forget the night before, something a few of the folks in woods would definitely be partaking in the following Sunday morning. Actually, who are we kidding, this set didn’t even start until well past 2am, we were already several hours into Sunday. And what better time for a David Bowie cover, as a trashgrass take on “Speed of Life” was next. The Rumpke instrumentalists were putting on quite a show, Ben Gourley having a shredding tenor guitar that replaced his mandolin for the majority of the set, while Jason Wolf switched back and forth between his 5-string banjo and a pedal steel guitar positioned at the ready in front of him. “Why can't we all stay young pretty mama?” asked the next song and it was followed with one that said everything would be alright “just as long as that woman stands by me.” We were in the “looking for love” portion of the evening and for good reason, as awesome and beautiful women were all over the place at Deep Roots Mountain Revival. While the next song asked, “Where is your heart tonight?” it was clear that the heart of the festival was definitely in San Francisco with the great Grateful Dead because it was time for yet another cover with Rumpke Mountain’s version of “Dark Star” that felt like it might have been jammed out for 40 minutes. While it can’t be determined exactly how long the somber Dead tune lasted, it is certain that Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman made a prolific appearance at approximately 4:35 am, or, about 5 minutes after this writer made the mistake of heading back down the hill towards camp. Subsequent investigation uncovered that the jovial jamgrass superstar sat in on “Such a Good Idea,” “Murder In The First Degree,” and “Lord Won't You Help Me,” in addition to freestyling hilarious lyrics during a psychedelic version of “8th Of January,” also known as “Battle Of New Orleans.” The stories of festivarians able to persevere into the night told of the pickin’ and drinking till sunrise to be expected from any proper Rumpke Mountain Boys party with festival master Vince Herman.

    Those of us who went to bed awoke Sunday morning to grey skies spewing intermittent raindrops that moistened the mountaintop but didn’t damper the good mood generated from three full days of amazing musical mayhem. The schedule for Sunday included more insanely talented acts like WV bluegrassers The Hillbilly Gypsies, the up-and-coming electric guitar phenom lead Marcus King Band, and wooly country crooner Jamey Johnson whose set included a surprise guest appearance from bluegrass icon Alison Krauss, who is tied for the most awarded Grammy recipient alive today. Unfortunately for this reporter, and thereby you the reader, the decision was made to dismantle camp and head from the hills before Sunday’s music began, beaten by exhaustion and the elements after three truly monumental days (and nights) of music. In addition to the multitude of tunes, the festival was fantastic because of the wonderful folks who were in attendance. Yes, their numbers were at times astonishingly small considering the stacked lineup, but those who bought tickets, volunteered, or were brought to the festival by other means, happened to be some of the most passionate and loyal people in the festival community. The spirit of the mountaintop was palpable every moment and we were encouraged and expected to enjoy ourselves with the only limitation being respect for the property. The Deep Roots team certainly succeeded in reviving the great musical legacy of Marvin’s Mountain Top and have assured festival goers that they’ve already begun planning for a return trip in sometime in 2017. The early adopters who attended the inaugural event will tell you:  Deep Roots Mountain Revival is an experience that will not be forgotten and should not to be missed going forward. The Lot Scene would like to send our sincerest thanks to everyone who ensured that a good time was had by all!

    A huge round of thanks and applause go out to guest writer, Bill Rudd, and guest photographer, Jeff Socha for their incredible work at Deep Roots Mountain Revival!  What amazing coverage of this first-time fest out east!! 

Cheers to you both, gentlemen!!

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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Saturday

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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Saturday

Jam Cruise 14

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Pickin’ the 80s Pickin’ Party - The New Mastersounds - Keller Williams with More Than a Little - Lotus

    Another day in port, another day spent recuperating with daiquiris and sunshine on the aft pool deck.  Everyone has to do what they have to do to make Jam Cruise work for them…whether it be our strategy of leisure or heading off the Boat to some inland excursion or just to a nearby beach, there are few wrong ways of doing it and those are pretty obvious.  It is always nice to be able to catch one’s breath for a few hours before the madness begins anew.  And, daiquiris, am I right?  But, as always, we have music to discuss so, let’s to it, shall we?

    What better way to start the musical day than a Pickin’ Party in the Atrium care of Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass?  And it was to be Pickin’ the 80s to boot!!  Totally rad, dude!!  Travis Book and Andy Hall of The Infamous Stringdusters and Cris Jacobs were all out in support of the Greensky lads and it made for quite an ensemble sound.  Nothing beats double dobros.  Nothing.  A little Dire Straits was first up in the form of “Money for Nothing” a favorite cover from the GSBG world.  Helluva start to this string set — this one sounded fantastic from Paul’s vocals and mad mando skills to those double dobros I referenced earlier.  You just have to love when a good song is made all the better through excellent musicianship and the right kind of energy.  The rep was to vary from 80s hit to 80s hit showcasing the various talents on stage.  This was very apparent in the next selection, Prince’s “Nothing Compares to You” (as made famous by Sinead O’Connor) when Cris Jacobs stepped up to the mic and just spanked the lead vocals for this one.  Amy Helm joined the gentlemen on stage to sing back up vocals — just lovely.  So glad she guested in with so many acts on the Boat this year.  The great thing is, we have a nice little video of this one so you can check it out yourself: 

There’s a reason that video is gaining popularity online.  Just superb.  Tom Petty’s “American Girl” was next on the docket and they rocked this one out pretty summarily.  Had the whole crowd singing along, the choruses especially loud throughout the multiple levels of the Atrium.  After some Peter Gabriel care of Cris Jacobs on the lead, it was time for a personal favorite song of mine:  Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”.  Yet one more sing-a-long and a supremely fun one to be sure, the ad hoc band on the stage just nailed it with Andy and Anders really showing us all what having two dobros can really do.  An extremely enjoyable set from start to finish there wasn’t a face in the place not cracked into a huge grin once they’d finished.  A great idea for the Pickin’ Party and very well-executed.  So much fun…a big thanks to Anders and Paul and all their friends for hosting such a sweet shindig.

Pickin' the 80s Pickin' Party

Pickin' the 80s Pickin' Party

    Then it was time to head to the pool deck to catch those mighty English dance stylings of The New Mastersounds.  Although a fan of their music, this was my first time catching The Mastersounds live.  Hot horns, truly electric guitar, bright energy…all of this coming at you from the stage in one danceable number after another.  Their first tune epitomized all of that — so much happy music in your face all at once.  Their second selection was a funkier kind of mellow bouncing tune that featured some spot-on keyboard work thanks to Bob Birch.  Later we were treated to some tantalizing guitar from Eddie Roberts.  A really fun band to see, great music to hear…great if you love dancing your feet off, that is.  And there is something uniquely different, singular to the sound of this band — as if their English roots and background bring something new and different and awesome to the table.  Just funky, funky fusion dance music all around, all set long.  A little on down the set they covered the Average White Band’s “Pick Up the Pieces” and it was well-nigh incredible.  They really did this tune some serious justice.  Surely familiar to almost every ear in the crowd it was interesting to watch as recognition dawned on people.  And as it did, appreciation ensued.  But, as usual, why would you take my word for it when you can see for yourself? 

A personal fave from all of Jam Cruise for me.  Thanks for that one, boys!  Roosevelt Collier joined in on the fun for a quick song with the Mastersounds — I mean, that man always adds so very much to any music he’s involved with.  And he tore it up out there.  “We’ve got to keep movin’ on, gotta keep travelin’ on!”  Such apropos lyrics as we all attempted to make it through our fourth day of Jam Cruise.  A delightful, delectable set from The New Mastersounds, there can be no doubts.  Another band I’d have to put on my “go and see them immediately” list.  I know will be.

The New Mastersounds and Roosevelt Collier

The New Mastersounds and Roosevelt Collier

    Yet another first was on the schedule for me next with Keller Williams and More Than a Little.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Keller many times before with several projects, however, I’d not yet seen More Than a Little and, given all the hype from my friends, I was more than a little excited to finally see them do their thing.  And why not kick things off with a little Donna Summer?  Hot damn!  “I Feel Love” has rarely sounded so deliciously funky in my experience.  Beautiful harmonies and vocals thanks to Keller and his right and left-hand ladies, Tonya Lazenby Jackson and Sugah Davis.  So much soulful dedication to making great music.  Keeping that funk rolling down pipeline, “Funk da Funk” was up next which we have for you here: 

Funky enough for you?  Well, they didn’t stop there.  It was really lovely to be exposed to so much of More Than a Little’s original material, too.  So much to say but all really summed up by the vocals of steep funk stature supported by the perfect backing band to create a vortex of seriously fun and groovy music.  “Mary Jane” came after featuring some beautiful duet work between Sugah and Tonya.  And more original More Than a Little for me to savor.  Some super fine guitar work from Keller here, too.  A completely reinvented and re-approached Talking Heads cover was a nice surprise and unexpected.  I’ve never heard “Once in a Lifetime” played quite like that before.  Really cool approach giving new and different life to an old favorite of so many in the audience.  So I guess it’s a funk song now.  And why not?  And why not some funky Dead while we’re at it?  Some “Samson and Delilah” mayhap?  “If I had my way…” I think I’d jam out to More Than a Little all night long.  Out of “Samson” directly into a nasty good number mashed up with the Dead.  Just pure excellence.  Turns out this one is called “Samson’s Wine” and it was a fun one I must say.  Lots of crowd participation, too.  Keeping in that theme we got another Grateful treat in the form of “Eyes of the World” — amazing version for a dancing sing-a-long.  The audience ate it up.  As well they should have.  And then it was time for some classic Keller:  “Freeker by the Speaker” but re-envisioned for the funk.  Crazy harmony work up there on stage.  Just blown away by the vocals of this band.  “I Eat the Funk” was the final number of the night with Keller and More Than a Little and it was pure funk right up to the very end.  Really wonderful keyboards coming from Gerard Johnson.  Excellent sound.  All told, my first time with this band told me this won’t be my last time with this band, that is for sure.  Another one added to my “go see them now” list.  And you should.  Go see them.  Now.  

More Than a Little

More Than a Little

    Later on the pool deck stage we had a date with Lotus for some late night shenanigannery.  And, I must honestly admit to you, I kind of took this set for myself.  In summary, Lotus was the perfect sound for that stage in the evening throwing out an extremely fitting vibe and inciting a multitude of smiles along the way.  Here is a video we got for you of them covering Vulfpeck’s“It Gets Funkier” — please enjoy!! 

    And then, as you know by now, it was time for the real late night creep to begin.  Day Four was almost done, but it was a good one.  A great one.  Hard to believe there was still another day to go?  What a gift.  What a challenge.  And one we were all more than ready to rise to that occasion.  And with delight.

 

Sunday Funday on its way soon!!

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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Thursday

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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Thursday

Jam Cruise 14

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Thursday Highlights

Cabinet - Paul Hoffman, Anders Beck, & Friends - Snarky Puppy - Lettuce - Con Brio

    Not too much worse for the wear just yet, we arose, caffeinated ourselves, pulled our gear together, and got our slap-happy selves up to the pool deck to start the day with a little Cabinet action.  This Pennsylvania-based string band was a mighty fine addition to this year’s lineup and we were very grateful to have them aboard.  Their unique sound and energy was most certainly appreciated by the audiences they drew, from both bluegrass fan and non-fan alike.  I do know that they killed it, however…twice in fact.  But we’ll just focus on that first Thursday noon set, shall we?  J.P. Biondo took to the mic for their first number, “A Smile”, which had a light and mellow reggae feel to it especially on top of the grooving bass line Dylan Skursky was putting down for us.  Nice way to get things going underneath that warm Caribbean sun.  Next up they gave us a personal favorite of mine:  “The Dove” (or “Dub Dove” in this case) — also with J.P. on lead vocals.  But, why not take a quick listen and enjoy? 

They took this one directly into the funky instrumental “Mysterio” followed by another favorite, “Heavy Rain”.  Love the amazing vocal harmonies in this Pappy Biondo-led one and definitely love them live best.  Also dig on Todd Kopec’s fiddle style — it really comes out in this one and adds this fantastic dimension to the song.  Later down the set came the track that made me a Cabient fan at DelFest a few years back:  “Mr. Spaceman”.  Filled with the electric guitar licks of Mickey Coviello, this rock’n’roll number is filled with tongue-in-cheek lyrics and super fun musical textures and lines all buoyed up by Jami Novak’s excellent drumming.  “Hey, Mr. Spaceman, won’t you please take me along for a ride?”  And what a ride this song takes you on!  Fiddle, guitar, banjo care of Pappy…mando thanks to J.P. and all these things wrapped up in the central jam.  Oh, and did I mention that they had Ron Holloway join them on saxophone for this one, too?  Ron’s incredible sax stylings against Cabinet’s edgy string-band background?  Pretty freakin’ unreal to say the least, everyone.  The Cabinet boys finally brought their energetic set to a close with a superb “Susquehanna Breakdown” every foot in the crowd tapping or dancing right until the last note.  If this was any indication of how Thursday was to go, then we were all of us in for a true treat.  Many thanks to Cabinet for getting things started out just right!

Cabinet and Ron Holloway

Cabinet and Ron Holloway

    Next up on the Lagunitas Stage on the pool deck was a special surprise, indeed.  We all knew that Anders Beck and Paul Hoffman of Greensky Bluegrass were hired stringslingers for the duration of the cruise but when we saw five gents on stage vice the two we were expecting, we knew that we were in for something unique and wonderful.  Joining Phoffman and Anders were Travis Book (The Infamous Stringdusters) on bass, Cris Jacobs on guitar, and Jay Cobb Anderson (Fruition) on guitar — not a bad supergroup, eh?  Someone in the crowd shouted their name should be ‘The Heartthrobs’ and I think it kind of stuck.  At least Phoff was heard to like it, however I am getting ahead of myself.  They kicked things off with a lively “Frederico” (GSBG rep being the majority of the selections they played) and it was a perfect chance to see how this ad hoc ensemble of acoustic greats gelled together musically.  Not that any of us had any reservations, that is.  To the contrary…all this group did was live completely up to any and all expectations, exceeding many more.  After “Frederico” they played “Fixin’ to Ruin” — we got up nice and close and personal for this one so we could share the magic with you: 

These fellows sounds pretty durn amazing, huh?  And they just kept laying down the heat, song after song.  Then it was time for the soulful and beseeching “Windshield”, a current crowd favorite in the Greensky universe.  It was fascinating to hear another ensemble besides GSBG playing this one…this sort of incredible but bizzaro alternate timeline Greensky backing Paul’s heartfelt solo replete with that oh-so iconic dobro line from Anders.  Really glad that Anders and Paul decided to put together The Heartthrobs.  (See?  It’s sticking.)  “Demons” was next in line for our musical delight featuring some really exquisite guitar stylings from Mr. Cris Jacobs — another place where it was of interest to see the difference between GSBG and The Heartthrobs especially when counterpointed by the familiar mandolin of Phoffman.  And who doesn’t love a little reggae?  And a little Bob Marley to boot?  “Could You Be Loved” was an apropos cover for the tropical and cheery atmosphere all around the stage underneath that bright seascape sun.  Cris and Jay decided to trade guitars on this one, thus furthering the differing sounds of this ensemble.  Paul just nailed the solo here, too.  Not to mention Jay on the back-up vocals…killing it.  Really the whole thing sounded just marvelous.  Thanks for that little gift, fellas!   Later on down the set we got some more GSBG in the form of “Don’t Lie” which sounded pretty damn great.  Again, I have to point out the funny play on the ears that this set threw down for us — Greensky songs played by some of the band with extremely talented friends sitting in.  Surreal and supremely fantastic.  One of my favorite sets on the entirety of Jam Cruise this year to be sure.  Cheers to all five you skilled gentlemen and thanks for sharing!

Travis Book, Anders Beck, Paul Hoffman, Cris Jacobs, & Jay Cobb Anderson

Travis Book, Anders Beck, Paul Hoffman, Cris Jacobs, & Jay Cobb Anderson

    Later in the day we found ourselves back up on the pool deck at the main stage for some funk love with Snarky Puppy.  This was only my second time seeing them so I was pretty psyched to catch some more of their sound and style.  So it was to be horns and funk and straight jamming out and I was more than ready for it.  This was the perfect way to ramp up an evening scheduled for tons of funk.  Their first song was full of nasty good rock mashed up with funk and it was an optimal way to get us all dancing where we stood on the packed, packed pool deck.  In listening back through my notes, I was struck over and over by the interplay of horns and guitars and how incredible that sounds, all bolstered by some seriously tight drum work.  And then there’s the keyboard skills of distinctive mention.  All told it makes for one incredible ensemble sound with layered textures and lines that weave together one ear-opening tapestry of sound and energy.  Looking forward to familiarizing myself with Snarky all the more in the future and very grateful that they found their way onto the Boat to be a part of this funk-laden voyage.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy

    Lettuce was another band I was happy to see again as I’ve only seen them a couple of times before.  Keeping the funk going loud and proud and adding a healthy dose of soul to the mix, Boston’s Lettuce always makes for a really great time, no matter your musical tastes.  And who didn’t love the fact that there were so very many horns on Jam Cruise this year?  Horns everywhere you looked.  So much funk and New Orleans groove busting out at the seams.  It was a brassy smorgasbord of sweet sonorous sound.  And Lettuce were certainly no exception providing their own unique spin on the genre.  They most certainly had everyone dancing and moving and kicking it to their funky bad selves bringing out guests like Nigel Hall to get down with them.  And get down they did…like the bosses they are.  Of mention is their penchant for trippy, space-jammy interludes that really grab the ear musically and aesthetically especially in the keyboard lines.  Pretty wild stuff at times — gotta love it.  Sadly, however, we cut our time with Lettuce a little short this evening in order to grab some much needed food.  But that’s not Lettuce’s fault.  Jam Cruise is a marathon of sprints, remember?  As much as you hate to, sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to sustain yourself.  Then again, the best thing about Jam Cruise is that you usually have a second chance to get your dance on with a band you missed or partially missed.  But we’re not done yet!

Lettuce

Lettuce

    Con Brio was the big unexpected break out band on Jam Cruise for me this year.  Based in San Francisco, this group specializes in “dance-heavy funk” and boy, do they ever.  Frontman Ziek McCarter is a tour-de-force with a dynamite voice and some serious showmanship to be reckoned with.  I’d place his sound squarely somewhere between Jamiroquai, D’Angelo, Michael Jackson, and Pharrell…but with a sound all his own.  And the group?  Incredible!!  So much energy and what a great ensemble sound!  Here is a bit of info taken from their website: 

    “In 2013, the longstanding rhythm section of keyboardist Micah Dubreuil, bassist Jonathan Kirchner and drummer Andrew Laubacher joined forces with incomparable guitar slinger Benjamin Andrews and McCarter: a Texas transplant who as a 19-year-old had already begun drawing crowds in his new hometown. Add in the fireworks of the Marcus Stephens on tenor saxophone and Brendan Liu on trumpet and you have the skill and confidence that comes from years of stage time and deeply-established musical partnerships with the thirst and energy of a rising star – a bright light who’s just getting started.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Several people I spoke with stated that Con Brio was their favorite or a stand out band for them for all of Jam Cruise.  I had no idea who they were before setting sail but I will certainly be seeking them out from here on.  I would highly recommend these guys to you, my friend.  If you love dancing to some funky great groove music, that is.  Dirty, dirty good rock’n’roll funk dance music.  You know, if you like that sort of thing.  The band opened things up with a, surprise, funky one called “Paradise” and that is where we were all first introduced to Ziek’s powerful and beautiful voice.  Not only a strong full-voice singer, he is also possessed of a fine falsetto which he uses with great aplomb.  They followed this with “Sundown” and later down the set with a song called “Never”.  My favorite song of their set had to be “Kiss the Sun” featuring some groovy keyboard work from Micah and some pure funk guitar from Benjamin.  All of this providing the foundation for Ziek’s angelic crooning.  Moral of this story?  Go so this band.  Seriously.  Follow them and find them and go see this band.  Trust me, you’ll be rather glad you did.

Con Brio

Con Brio

    We finished out the evening with some more of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, catching the tail end of the set in the Pantheon Theater.  A completely epic “Truckin’” dominated the few songs we saw, all members of the band firing on all cylinders.  There is nothing like watching that band play that music in that way.  That remarkable, one-of-a-kind way.  And a great band to lead us into our late night offerings around the Boat, those small moments of magic and mayhem that can only be found in the wee hours of the morn aboard Jam Cruise.  Another day was closing down but one more was yet on the horizon.  Friday was anon but sleep called in it’s annoyingly insistent way.  What a Thursday.  What a Thursday, indeed!  How couldn’t I look forward to Friday and all that Friday promised?  And what a way to fall asleep…filled with gratitude and the fondest of fresh memories…


Friday inbound soon, my friends!!

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