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WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Saturday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Saturday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Peter Rowan & Friends - Fruition - Greensky Bluegrass

    Saturday was here and with it another gorgeous day in Avon, CO.  The weather was mild for the time of year to say the least and many folks weren’t even wearing coats, myself included.  Crazy to think a hoodie will keep you warm in the middle of winter in the Rockies.  Well, heat waves are heat waves.  It was nice to have a reprieve from all the scarves and gloves and hats and big winter coats of the nighttime.  Those would be back around soon enough, however.  After grabbing some very necessary and very delectable food from the vendors at the back, we made our way around to the various tents taking in as much music as possible throughout the afternoon.  Here are the highlights from the main stage for you, my friends.

    As I stated in my earlier WonderGrass reviews, it was quite the honor and gift to have Mr. Peter Rowan present and in such wonderful form.  As such, the Peter Rowan & Friends on the bill promised to be rife with excellent music and teeming with talent.  And the promise was kept, believe-you-me.  Jay Starling (Love Canon), Tyler Thompson(Fruition), Peter Knight (Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band), and Tyler Grant (The Grant Farm) turned out to be Peter’s friends for the afternoon set.  And how happy we were that was the case!  What a powerhouse group of musicians!  We were certainly in for some special times to come in the very near future.  Peter chose “Wild Horses” as the first selection for the ensemble.  His voice sounding as clear and pure as the day he started singing, Mr. Rowan crooned gently and sweetly to the audience in only the way that he can.  Jay’s dobro was the perfect counterpoint to Peter’s voice, that distinctive sound buoying up the lyrics as Jay pulled note after soft and angelic note from his instrument.  An auspicious start to a wonderful set of songs.  Time to get the crowd a-singing along!!  Good ol’ “Midnight Moonlight”, that trusted friend, was next in line.  Mr. Rowan had a particularly lovely guitar solo during which Tyler Grant made his entrance.  Classy stuff, my friends.  And more of that epic dobro from Mr. Starling.  The crowd was certainly pleased with this one as I counted the smiles and number of mouths singing the words.  Impossible to count them all.  Not surprising in the slightest given the stellar nature of what was occurring on the stage.  A big, juicy, lengthy island medley came after in the form of “Johnny Too Bad” > “Jamaica Farewell” > “No Woman, No Cry” — a reggae-inspired feast for the ears this one had us singing along again and feeling the warmth of the Caribbean on our faces amidst the snow-covered Colorado mountains.  And what a wonderful feeling that was, too.  Luckily, we captured that very 15 minutes on film for you.  Please enjoy: 

Pretty epic stuff, huh?  Precisely.  Nothing like that Peter Rowan, right?  Nothing, indeed.  “Doc Watson Morning” is a song that Peter wrote for Doc himself, a story of Watson’s musical life and influence in song.  A serenely mild and beautiful piece, this one tugs a bit at the heart strings, as intended, I’m sure.  “I pick up my old guitar and I start to play…cause it's a Doc Watson mornin' D-18 guitar pickin' kinda day.”  Sounds like a great way to spend a morning to me.  “Panama Red” followed “Doc” and proved to be exactly what you’d expect from this group:  spectacular.  Another tried and true song of the catalogue, this one never fails to get the crowd a-going.  Grant was pure excellence on the guitar with Peter’s solid bass line keeping things level unit the very end.  Same goes for Thompson’s beats all set — solid as a rock.  A marvelous group of musicians for Peter to play with.  They really sounded tight and polished.  And, as always, any opportunity to see Mr. Rowan play is one that a person should take, hands down.  Sincerely hope that he returns to WWG next year!  Bravi, gents!

Peter Rowan & Friends

Peter Rowan & Friends

    Fruition, that whack ado walloping wonderment from Portland, were up next on the WinterWonderGrass main stage.  Suffice it to say, I am a rather big fan of this band.  And there are so many reasons I should be, too.  Electric hot instrumental playing on behalf of all members.  Lightning intensity in each and every song.  A robust and varied sound given the high level of multi-instrumentalism in the group.  So many good things in one, crazy fun package.  And that’s what Fruition really is at heart:  pure fun.  Pure musical genius combined with fun.  And heaps of talent and skill.  And all of them were ready to tear it completely limb-from-limb for us that evening.  Jay Cobb Anderson was up to the mic to lend his wonderfully unique voice for the first song, “Git Along”.  Of course, the delightful harmonies that characterize this band also make for an incredible feast for the ears, as made apparent in this one.  And we were off and running into the set!  “Blue Light” was next on the docket, dark and mysterious and brooding.  Kellen Asebroek provided lead vocals on this song perfectly fitting into the atmosphere of the piece.  I really do love all the voices of the three main vocalists in the band (Mimi Naja being the third).  Makes for an eclectic and very entertaining act.  Nice, deep and dusky bass work from Jeff Leonard here, too.  Really kept the driving motion throughout this song.  Mimi grabbed the mic for “Lay Down Blues” which came after.  Lots of delicious guitar from Jay in it from start to finish — really kept a fantastic rock’n’roll feel.  And the nighttime was the right time again as we danced in the cooling night air.  Mimi just nailed the vocals, too…as she always does.  I didn't see a single person who wasn’t dancing madly about as I looked around during “Lay Down”.  And I wasn’t the least bit surprised.  I know I was dancing madly about as well!!  Then my absolute current favorite song by Fruition came next:  “There She Was”.  In talking with Kellen late night at the Westin Hotel lobby one early morning he explained that, after going to a Motet show he wanted to write a funk song.  He said that he took a song he was working on, retooled it, and, well, “There She Was” so to speak.  And what a funk song it is!!  Funky and catchy and fabulous and charmingly crack-like this song has so much right going on with it.  I challenge you to not have this song in your head for days after hearing it.  Hell, Kellen said even he has it on the brain all the time.  You know it must be quite the catchy one, if that’s the case, right?  Always so happy to hear them play this song.  Thank you so much to Kellen for writing it and to the band for playing it so very well!!  A bit later in the set Tyler Thompson and Jeff Leonard set the tone in a mean style on the drums and bass, respectively, for the intro to “I Don’t Mind”.  Groovy and gritty, when Jay joined in on guitar, the texture took flight into a brazen rock song with Mimi destroying the lead vocals.  “I just keep moving.  I might be losing, but I don’t mind.”  Not a bad message of perseverance, eh?  Kicking things back up to ‘Ludicrous Speed’ Fruition thrashed out this next song in such delightful ways!  Crazy fast pickin’ and singing to boot, if you dig on wicked guitar riffs accompanied by mad, mad mando playing all shored up by some badass drums and baller bass, then you’d love “Never Again”.  And they really wailed this one out, too…inspiring dancing galore down on the ground before the stage.  Hard to be cold when the music is so very hot.  Succinctly fun times all around I have no doubts.  Jumping a bit ahead in the setlist we were all treated to a magma-hot “Fire” with none other than the Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon) guesting in on his mighty banjo and the one and only Mr. Larry Keel on guitar.  And…guess what?  We’ve got it for you right here — hope you enjoy!!! 

Enjoyed it, right?  How couldn’t you?  That’s some seriously wonderful music coming at you like a velvet hammer.  Andy stayed out with the Portland crew for another, this time “I Can’t Stop”, Jay taking the lead with that incredible vibrant voice of his.  A song of personal exploration and understanding, it is a stroll on the pensive side of Fruition’s catalogue.  Gorgeous mandolin solo from Mimi in the mid section here as well.  Love her style.  And speaking of Mimi, how about her covering a little Jimmy Cliff for us all?  Please and thank you!!  “The Harder They Come” proved quite the audience-pleaser, but of course.  And it sounded fantastic.  Great cover addition to the setlist for the evening to be sure.  Finally, a wee bit more down the set, the band closed things down by inviting Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass) up on stage to help them thrown down an awesome “Mountain Annie”.  It was really superb to hear Paul step up to the mic to take the lead vocals a couple of times.  He sounded really organic and marvelous singing alongside Fruition.  This is a guest spot I’d like to see many times over in the future.  A really tight and enjoyable version of this song.  Many thanks to one and all for it and for a ridiculously good show.  Certainly many new Fruition fans were forged that night and with very good reason.  Bravi to the band and their friends who joined them to make it such a special night!!  Love this band!!  And there was still more music left in the evening, too…crazy right?

Fruition and Paul Hoffman

Fruition and Paul Hoffman

    Green.  Sky.  Blue.  Grass.  Just wanted to get your attention.  You know, since this was one crazy good ass show.  Headlining the main stage for two consecutive nights, we were all poised and ready to ride along with GSBG for their first evening of magic and fun.  No matter how many times I see this band, each subsequent time is always that much better than the last.  Not really sure how they manage this seeming infraction of the laws of musical physics.  But, who cares?  These gents know how to jam in such innovative and interesting and inspiring ways — truly they bring a comprehensive show to the stage that never fails to satisfy.  They opened things up that Saturday with “The Four” > “One More Saturday Night” mixing a bit o’ the Dead in with your Greensky.  And what a mixture it was!!  But don’t take my word for it, check it out here: 

Let’s get this party started quickly, right?  Quickly, indeed.  Two songs in already and having a blast.  Fast pickin’ was up next with “Just to Lie”, Dave Bruzza providing a driving guitar line over the top of Mike Devol’s foundational bass.  This gave license for a bright mando solo from Paul and some lovely banjo work from Mike Bont.  I’d be remiss, of course, if I didn’t mention Anders Beck’s ever-present and sonorous dobro, but, then again, I am a total sucker for dobro.  Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon) came out for the next song, “Burn Them”, adding his very own brand of banjo to the ensemble.  “What if sorrows swim?”  What a question!!  Andy tore it up, too.  Some great duet work with Bont as well as plenty of solo riffing and picking.  Double banjos, when played by gents such as these…what more could you as for?  There was a huge, epic, dirty, gorgeous, amazing jam in the middle of this one, too.  So much great music.  So much great banjo!  Bravo, Bont!  Bravo, Andy!!  A bit further into the set came “Dustbowl Overtures” followed by “Bringing in the Georgia Mail” both of which sounded simply magnificent.  The fellas were really on fire that night in the chilly evening.  They kept that fire going strong with “Demons”, the next song in line which they dedicated to Fruition.  This seemed apropos given the story Paul told us regarding Fruition playing “Demons” for him at a festival a couple of years back.  They took it at a nice clip, too, maybe another homage to the band of dedication?  Paul’s mandolin work was its usual excellence here and the omnipresence of Anders’ dobro is always a welcome friend.  However, I cannot go without mentioning Bruzza’s big ol’ fat solo in the middle which he handed off seamlessly to Beck.  Watching this band trade off melody lines is like watching a highly-tuned soccer team at work on the pitch:  expert and masterful.  Keeping things nice and heated, we got a riveting and riotous “Kerosene” which came at us like a cyclone circus caravan crashing over and all around us in large splashes of music and light.  Another quick one, “Kerosene” proved a fertile ground for fat jams and sizzling hot solos as each member of the band took his turn to melt a few more faces out in the crowd.  This, in turn, was followed by “Wings for Wheels” and then “Leap Year” to close things out.  “Leap Year” featured some good and raucous teases as one might hope:  mainly in the form of “I Feel Like Bustin’ Loose” and “It’s Getting Hot in Here”.  Paul, you nut.  Just can’t resist can you?  And thank all that’s decent and good for that!!  As an encore we were gifted with an appropriately magnificent “Atlantic City”, one of my favorite covers of theirs.  And a huge favorite of the crowd if their screams of approval were any indication.  Dobro goodness up until the very end of the show!  Ahhhh…how nice.  And all those incredible musicians, each of the GSBG gentlemen — so fantastic tonight, such a stellar show.  A big, big round of thanks to one and all for making Saturday night at WonderGrass so very special.  It was almost hard to believe that we had yet one more show in store with these fine musicians the following evening!  So glad that was the case, however.  So very glad, indeed.  What a night with Greensky!!

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

    And then it was over and Saturday was already relegated to magnificent memory.  We’d seen so many great acts, heard so much marvelous music.  And we still had late night to go…Billy Strings and The Lil’ Smokies.  Talk about your late night!  And there was also Sunday in the works.  Sunday Funday, on the horizon and ready with even more music for those who had room left.  Like me.  I had more than enough and I was prepared in all ways necessary to consume more delicious bluegrass music.  But that is a story yet to come, my friends…

Sunday on its way, everyone!!

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Friday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Friday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Friday Highlights

The Travelin’ McCoury’s - Larry Keel’s WWG All-Stars - Leftover Salmon

    Friday was nigh and so was WinterWonderGrass proper!!  Two o’clock saw the opening of the gates and free commemorative pins handed out to the first 50 folks in line.  Proud to say I got one of those pins!  The weather was practically balmy that afternoon as we walked through the archway gate for the first time.  As we entered the grounds, a lovely feeling of familiarity settled in as I looked around.  The Jamboree Tent and Pickin’ Perch were right where they were supposed to be with the main stage’s commanding presence overlooking all.  The Soap Box Stage at the back was warm and welcoming with aromas of thai soup filling the air.  The food vendors were gathered all around the Soap Box enhancing the nasal palate with essences of BBQ, grilled cheese, tacos, and more.  All delicious and filling and warming in every sense.  Despite being a bit muddy, it was nice to have a clear festival space given the amount of snow last year.  Different to be sure.  A little hard to prepare for entire day at the fest, but we all persevered.  With great music and great community to keep us warm, how could we lose?  And there was just so much amazing music in store, too.  Easy to keep one’s eyes on the prize.  Even when the sun began to set and things got a wee chillier than before.  There was no doubt looking around from face to face, grin to grin, twinkling eye to twinkling eye that the fun had already begun and that the music was only going to enhance it to the point of boiling over.  Just what we’d all come for, right?  And, speaking of music…

    The Travelin’ McCourys took the stage mid-afternoon on Friday with their gentlemanly presences ready to give one solid, solid show.  The consummate professionals, these men truly help to define the genre as well as the kind of folk who play this music.  It is always a pleasure to watch them perform, combining talent, skill, and mountains of hard effort into the perfect union of musical excellence.  And their WWG set was no exception to this whatsoever.  They opened up their set with a sizzling hot instrumental filled to the brim with lightning quick mandolin riffs care of Ronnie McCoury and riveting banjo work from his brother, Rob.  Jason Carter, of course, added his own spice to the mix with his iconic fiddle styles.  A foot-stomping good way to get the blood moving and crowd dancing and a great indication of where this set was headed:  all good places.  Ronnie stepped up to the mic for “Deeper Shade of Blue” which came next in line.  How can’t you love, Ronnie’s voice?  It is just so classically bluegrass and perfect for the genre.  And it makes perfect sense given his heritage.  Interesting stuff to be sure and fantastic in concert.  It was Mr. Carter’s turn at lead vocals next with “When It Comes to You”.  Always love hearing Jason sing as well.  And you should, too, since we scored a nice video of this one for you.  Please enjoy: 

If you don’t know, now you know?  Right?  Pretty hot stuff, eh?  Exactly.  “Old Train” followed sung by bass player Alan Bartram, whose voice I also love.  Sensing a trend yet?  And when it comes to the harmonies this band can pump out like in this song?  Wowsers.  Like no other out there today.  Truly.  These gentlemen clearly have two things going for them:  a) great voices and b) the ability to hone and use them in tight harmony.  And I so appreciate both very, very much.  As much as I appreciated Jason’s long and lovely central fiddle solo.  Delightful.  Knocking it out of the park, good sirs, and please continue to do so!  (Spoiler Alert - They did just that.)  And, while we’re speaking of amazing harmonies…  “Midnight Flyer” came steaming at us all in the crowd teeming with harmonic genius.  Rob and Ronnie shared some nice interplay between their instrumental lines provided the perfect counterpoint to Jason’s rich baritone.  Some really phenomenal movement to this song, too, mimicking the motion of the namesake.  Excellent stuff.  A personal favorite was next up:  “I Live on a Battlefield”.  A sad song of tragedy and lost love, the lyrics artfully describe all these feelings in the guise of a war-torn landscape.  The song is as clever as it is sorrowful and filled with incredible musicianship helping to evoke the feelings of despair and regret.  All wrapped up in Ronnie’s beautiful, clear vocals.  It all certainly makes for a powerful experience and did that afternoon to be sure.  The spry and lively tune “Lime House Blues” followed “Battlefield” and brought the mood back up to dancing level.  We all kicked our heels up as the tune flowed forth from the stage and gents like Rob and Ronnie took up the challenge, delivering some banjo and mando goodness up for us all as if on a silver platter.  And then add Cody Kilby to the mix on guitar (that man is a complete monster when it comes to pickin’) and you’ve got quite a musical spectacle on stage.  Fast pickin’ through and through!  “Cumberland Blues” was next in line that evening, taking us all for a little walk with the Grateful Dead, among others.  Jason’s fiddle sliced through cool air like a knife as he nailed his solo down.  “I gotta get down, I gotta get down…”  You want to talk about getting down??  Done and done!!  We had it covered there at WWG — hell, we had it smothered and covered.  They took this directly into the instrumental “Cumberland Gap” led by Rob and Jason.  Hard drivin’ string music you bet your boots — so fast, so technical, so good!!  And just sizzling hot right until the last banjo note.  The next song they played I heard for the first time at Big Sky Big Grass up in Montana.  Really liked it then and really liked it this time, too.  “Back from the Borderline” has a slow, mysterious, droning, building beginning up until Ronnie sings the first verse.  That haunting feeling permeates the song as it continues, adding harmonies and a bit more instrumental texture.  So glad they’ve added this one to their roster…a very excellent addition.  They went directly from “Borderline” into a Kilby-led instrumental once again elevating the mood to a livelier place.  This one served as a complete round robin for each member of the band to showcase their unparalleled skills on their chosen instruments.  Cody threw down some simply stunning guitar work as Rob and Ronnie picked away with great acumen on banjo and mandolin all the while with Alan Bartram keeping things tied to the foundation on his bass.  The fast-paced “Southbound” followed with some more Grateful Dead close behind with “Loser”.  Loved this one by the McCourys ever since DelFest last year.  Jason Carter’s fiddle lead in melody is just perfect for this song, as is Ronnie’s voice.  A really, really great selection for this band, I am so glad they ever decided to do it.  So much heart, so much conviction from every member.  Makes for quite the performance, let me tell you.  This one most certainly pleased the crowd to no end who sang along with every word.  Wonderfully executed this time around, too.  “Why Did You Wander?” was the final selection of the set, filled with tons of white hot fast pickin’.  And I mean fast pickin’!!  They were all on fire, my friends, it’s the truth!  A flying fun whiz bang ending to a strong, strong set from the McCourys.  I always have a superb time seeing this band and so was the case on Friday of WWG.  There is just so much to love about them and their playing and their music and their ethos and their everything else.  So grateful to have had them at WinterWonderGrass this year!!  Thanks for making the trip to Colorado, fellas!!  

The Travelin' McCourys

The Travelin' McCourys

    Larry Keel’s WinterWonderGrass All-Stars were next up on the main stage Friday afternoon.  The All-Stars lineup included Larry, Jenny Keel, Andy Thorn, Drew Emmitt, and Jay Starling.  Talk about your powerful posse of skilled stringslingers, right?  And they brought all that power to bear and then some that day for us in Avon, CO.  They started the whole shebang off with a rousing “Star of Munster” led by Andy Thorn on banjo.  Nice and familiar way to get this set really going from the very beginning.  Some expectedly nasty guitar work from Larry on this one, too.  Not to mention some of that sweet, sweet dobro from Jay and some truly mad mandolin work from Drew.  And excellent showcase of the talent and skill present on stage.  And no problems gelling together as an ensemble either — their sound was tight and practiced.  So far, so great.  And then onto a Drew lead with “Whispering Waters”, a Leftover Salmon number.  We were right up front to capture you some great video of this one which we bring to you now:  

Go on, Drew!!  No doubt!  Just excellent in so many ways.  Jason Carter (The Travelin’ McCourys) came out to join them for the next song, “Pioneers”.  It was a spritely selection that tells the story of the exploration and hardship found along the wild ranges of the pre-colonized American frontier.  This is one that Larry played with Natural Bridge.  Some great guitar parts in here care of Mr. Keel.  Not to mention some tasty banjo bits thanks to Andy.  And all the while, Jason’s fiddle floating over it all like a beautiful bird of music.  The next surprise was Peter Rowan coming out to join in the shenanigans with these fine folks on stage.  A lengthy and driving and building intro whipped us all into a frenzy and eventually turned into “Sally Goodin” blowing our minds completely.  Jason and Andy really dominated that frenetic intro section with Jay and Larry holding their own alongside.  By the time Peter began to sing we were all going nuts in the crowd.  That’s what really, really good music will do to you, right?  Mr. Rowan even led us all singing along with him.  And why not?  Such an incredible ensemble sound!  So many legendary musicians on one stage!  Damn was I loving this!  “Pulling the Devil by the Tail” was the next selection in store for us that day, another Rowan lead.  Dobro and fiddle soaring, guitar and bass keeping precious time, banjo and mandolin filling in each precious gap.  Domination.  Truly wonderful music.  Dave Carroll and Dave Simonett from Trampled by Turtles as Jason Carter departed the stage for a single number with Peter Rowan and the All-Stars.  Sadly, I couldn’t discern the name of this one after the fact.  However, having Dave and Dave made it an instant crowd pleaser.  The two guest gents took the lead on the vocals singing a very nice and lamenting duet.  The Daves then took their bows and their leave once finished to a hail of cheering from the crowd.  Afterwards the Wood Brothers came out for what was my favorite part of the set:  “Ophelia”.  This one was rocking good and truly awesome.  Great fun from start to finish.  Really great combination of talent for this one assembled in one place.  The Wood Brothers definitely kicked things up a notch with their brand of musicianship.  Oliver and Chris Wood sounded really superb on lead vocals and Jano Rix harmonized like a demon.  Chris even played Jenny’s bass at one point leaving Larry a bit flummoxed.  Not to mention the monster dobro solo from Jay Starling.  That man is a beast on his instrument.  Just so damn good!!  Their final song of the set I didn’t catch the name of as well, but Mimi Naja (Fruition) joined in to lend her mando to the mix.  Incredible mandolin from Drew and Mimi as you could imagine.  Nothing like watching those two play together.  Drew took the vocals for this one and crooned in his iconic style.  A fitting end to a very fine set from some amazing musicians.  Many thanks to all the All-Stars and to Larry and to their guests and friends for concocting such a special time for all of us.  Cheers to one and all!! 

Larry Keel's WWG All-Stars and The Wood Brothers

Larry Keel's WWG All-Stars and The Wood Brothers

    Headlining the main stage on Friday were none other than Colorado’s very own Leftover Salmon.  And, it should be stated here well in advance, I am a huge Salmon fan.  I mean big time.  So, when I say that their set was pretty stupendous all round, I’d like to think I know what I’m talking about.  A least a tad.  And in such good ways, my friends.  Such good!  All bundled up now that the sun had set, we were ready for some of that very special kind of music that is Leftover Salmon.  And they came ready to deliver, let me tell you.  Their first selection of the night, John Hartford’s “Up on the Hill Where They Do the Boogie”, is one of my absolute favorite songs, especially the way that Salmon plays it.  So much exciting and rocket-like energy bursting from every note, every verse.  A positively premium time to be had by all.  This song is always a supremely intense missile of happy and joy and the perfect way to get a show going…damn!  Adored the sound of Jay Starling with them all night long, too.  Let’s hope this is something permanent for the future?  Salmon + dobro?  Forget about it!!  What a Leftover Salmon roster addition that would be, eh?  Massive explosive ending to this one, too!  Boom!!  What a ride!  Later in the set they continued with T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong” with Vince on lead vocals.  And they rocked it out, too.  Really dirty with Drew on electric mando and just nasty rockin’ fun any way you slice it.  Always love it when they get down and dirty like that — rock’n’roll!!  Festivaaaaaaaaaal!!  Alwyn Robinson was really banging those drums, too.  Just tearing it up to give us all that driving beat.  Helluva cover for them!   Next up was Andy on some amazing banjo and with lead vocals for “Colorado Mountains Evermore”.  Caught them playing this one down at Strings & Sol this past year and they did just the same awesome justice to it at WonderGrass.  This one really shines a light on Andy Thorn and his incredible banjo stylings.  And it’s another killer song about Colorado.  So, win/win, right?  Right.  This was followed by Drew on lead vocals for “River’s Rising” — a clear crowd favorite, they played this one at a quick clip, perfect for dancing.  The ending of this one was a freight rain jamming through the night — so much energy and force and enjoyment.  Another favorite of mine, “Sing Up to the Moon” was next…just love hearing Papa Vince sing out to us.  His unique musical aura is so special and palpable.  And what a moon it was!  Almost full that night shining over our heads.  Perfection.  Later still in the set Peter Rowan and Larry Keel came out to have a bit of a good time with Salmon with some “Free Mexican Air Force” care of Mr. Rowan on vocals.  Really special combo on stage…really special.  Nothing like watching a few generations of amazing musicians on stage all at once.  Something truly powerful and special about that kind of situation.  Rowan and Keel stayed out for the next song, “Soul Shakedown Party”, which was a groovy adventure through music and space and mellow vibes thanks to the musicians assembled in front of us.  As you could expect, each one of them took a chance to strut their stuff on their instrument.  Really fine musicianship all around.  Bravi to everyone!  They took this directly into “Hot Corn Cold Corn” clearly enjoying straying into silly territory together.  And then they wrapped it up.  Just like that.  Plain as day.  A very quick “I Know You Rider” served as a very satisfactory and enjoyable encore with Vince leading.  Who doesn’t love a bit more Dead in their life, right?  And when Salmon and Peter Rowan and Larry Keel play it?  Holy crap!  Face melting!!  And I am sure that mine was completely melted after such a wonderful day of music!!  

Leftover Salmon & Friends

Leftover Salmon & Friends

    So many thanks to all the musicians and staff that made Friday such a success on all fronts!  I know for a fact how much fun everyone had logged in by that point and I was beyond excited that we had not one, but two days left of the exact same thing.  Talk about your positive anxiety!  So many good times already and with so many more to come, it was off to late night at Agave’s for some more of the Travelin’ McCourys…what fun that promised to be!  How couldn’t it?

Saturday and Sunday still inbound, friends!!

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Thursday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Thursday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Thursday

Mandolin Orange - Fruition - Fruition & Friends

    We began our second dance with the Colorado WinterWonderGrass Festival at the annual Kick-Off Party at the Vilar Performing Arts Center located up the mountain from Avon town, the location of the festival proper.  It was so very nice to be back in that gorgeous venue, with its warm woodwork and inviting atmosphere the Vilar PAC is an excellent place to hear music of any sort and certainly proved so once again on Thursday evening.  Taking our time getting to our spots we caught up with myriad friends in the lobby as well as taking in all the photography up for auction.  The place was abuzz with energy and anticipation of what was to come.  And then it was time to take our seats for the first act of this big evening of excellent music, Mandolin Orange.

    Hailing from North Carolina, Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin have been on quite the rise in the musical world since the debut of their first album back in 2010.  Their unique style and warm, calm, soothing energy has, naturally, become very popular.  And this duo proved a wonderful way to get things doing for WinterWonderGrass 2016.  “Old Ties and Companions” was their first selection of the evening, with Andrew taking lead vocals and backing on mandolin, Emily on guitar.  Clearly these two have a synergistic style that truly dovetails one into the other and this was very present from the beginning, and rather so in this first song.   It is always a pleasure to observe such tuned-in playing between members of an ensemble.  A tale of hardship on the dusty range, “Missouri Borderland” came next in line for the evening.  Andrew sang this heartfelt story of the trail full of passion as Emily provided some extremely tight and lovely harmonies to accompany.  That was most definitely an aspect that would shine throughout the evening with Mandolin Orange:  their wonderful harmonies.  And, by now, most of you will know how much of a sucker I am for great harmony.  Certainly one of the reasons I love bluegrass music so much.  A wistful mandolin solo from Andrew led us into the sorrowful next song, “That Wrecking Ball”.  One thing you could palpably feel coming from the stage that night was the passion with which these two play their music.  That was obviously apparent in “That Wrecking Ball” — it just hit you in the face and then washed over you in a gentle way.  Later on down their set they gave us “Little Worlds”, set in minor and imbued with a subtle, driving energy.  Emily was on the fiddle for this one and Andrew on guitar, the two displaying their multi-instrumental skills with great aplomb.  Reconfiguring such as this enables such a breadth of style and sound for a mere duo.  And they use it to great success to be sure.  They continued with “House of Stone”, with its fiddle drone lead in from Emily.  “Churchyard auction.  A sight to see.  Where the eyes are big, and the odds are lean.”  No doubt that Andrew can write some moving lyrics!  And can sing them in his rich baritone as well!  Worthy of note in this one:  Emily’s beautiful fiddle solo in the middle.  Light and lovely and filled with emotion it was a sweet counterpoint to Andrew’s picking.  Andrew dedicated their next song, “The Turtle Dove and the Crow”, to his father back in North Carolina.  Class act.  I am sure his father would have enjoyed it.  After that came the fiddle tune, “New Five Cent Piece” which saw Andrew back on mando for this one.  Nothing like a lively dance tune to get the blood moving and the hands clapping!  “Waltz About Whiskey” put us all in 3/4 time for a song about the very water of life:  whiskey.  Peppered with more of that fantastic Mandolin Orange harmony, this one proved the perfect penultimate selection, the final one being “Train Song” which they went straight into.  This last song was filled with up energy and some classic lyrics lauding the merits of train travel and why not?  Great way to close up their set!  So, in summation, if you love great harmonies, heartfelt lyrics, soulful playing, and a welcoming energy then you will love Mandolin Orange, hands down.  A wonderful first exposure to this duo, to be sure.  Certainly made me look all the more forward more music from the next group of the evening, Portland’s own Fruition.     

Mandolin Orange

Mandolin Orange

    Fruition.  My goodness how I do so love this band!  I’ve had the privilege of seeing them many times before and so knew precisely what to expect as they took the stage to continue the opening ceremony, as it were, of WinterWonderGrass 2016.  How to even describe Fruition’s sound?  Rockabillygrass?  Roadhouse string band?  Simply pure, undiluted awesomesauceness?  All of the above?  Somewhere in there you’ll get close to the mark.  But, be forewarned, once introduced to Fruition the addiction sets in…you’re going to want to listen to them nonstop ever after.  Man, does this band write some catchy songs!!  I mean, really amazing, stellar, catchy songs.  Ones that delightfully stick in your head for days…ones like “Mountain Annie” their first of the evening.  Love this song!  How can’t you?  From the familiar mandolin refrain from Mimi Naja it was clear we were in for some superb music.  And then Jay Cobb Anderson’s iconic and incredible voice lights up the lyrics like a clarion call.  And then the harmonies…oh the harmonies!  Multi-part and polished to a high gloss — just the way I love it.  And then the instrumental skills on display!  Certainly one of the reasons I gravitate towards string band music of all types:  phenomenal musical abilities in both voice and instrument arenas.  And Fruition is certainly high up in this category.  “Get out of my head.  Give me back my heart, Mountain Annie.”  What an auspicious start!  Next up was “The Wanter” with Mimi up to the mic for lead vocals.  A couple of quick and awesome solos from Mimi on mando and Jay on guitar, too.  Pretty great stuff.  Another favorite song of mine.  Poor Kellen Asebroek had a helluva time on stage that evening due to the atmospheric conditions affecting his guitar.  He broke at least four strings throughout the course of the show causing them to redo their setlist a bit on the fly.  We all really felt for him as string after string snapped.  But he motored along like a champ and professional.  Bravo, sir!  The pensive “Git Along” was next in line which featured a lengthy and lovely mandolin solo from Mimi.  Later in the set came “Labor of Love” with Jay up to the mic to provide lead vocals.  This is a perfect example of one of Fruition’s super catchy songs.  With its building energy and memorable refrain, it really sticks in the marrow of the mind lodging there in a joyful memory for all time.  Later down the line was “Little Song” featuring Kellen on keyboards and lead vocals.  Time for Mr. Asebroek to croon one for us!!  Sweet and soulful, this one was new to me and I was grateful to hear it.  Some great drum work from Tyler Thompson throughout…really granted a driving energy to the song.  Loved it.  They announced that they had a new recored coming out and that this next song, “I Don’t Mind”, is on it.  A real rock’n’roll feel to this one.  Bluesy, too.  Some of that “Roadhouse String Band” feeling to be sure — I really got into it.  And some funky bass from Jeff Leonard, too, to round things out in fine fashion.  I am really looking forward to hearing this one again.  Maybe at DelFest?  Whaddaya say, guys?  A little on down the set came another rock number with a mighty drum intro from Tyler, quick and nasty and full of electricity to get “Never Again” running at high speed.  Jay stepped up to the mic to take the lead on this as the entire band rocketed along with him through this wild, whirling, wonderful number.  Lightning quick picking and playing all throughout, this one was an instant crowd pleaser.  And why shouldn’t it be?  Incredible song played with incredible energy and passion.  My cup of tea!  And then, one of my very favorite songs was next.  And I mean very favorite.  And you want to talk catchy??  Try keeping it out of your thoughts?  Ha!!  Try keeping this one out of your dreams…  “There She Was” is Kellen’s freaky, fabulous funk odyssey inspired by a Motet show he attended (he told us one late late night at the Westin — more to come on that).  And it is awesome.  It has movement and mystery and magic.  And it is, pure and simple, just damn good music.  Bravo, Kellen, for writing one masterfully groovy song, good sir!  And many thanks for it!  A very new and soulful Mimi-led song, “I Should Be”, followed with “I Can’t Stop” (from their new EP) coming after.  Jay really nailed the vocals for “I Can’t Stop”, too.  I do so love his voice!  One impressive show for the WWG Kick-Off Party — but to be totally expected from this band.  That is just how they roll.  Their last song was to be “Lay Down Blues” and one perfect way to finish things off.  Filled with lots of rocking energy, this was a bullet train from start to finish.  What a rush!  Mimi took things home on the lead vocals for us telling us all that the “nighttime is the right time” which it so was that evening.  Doors.  Blown.  Completely.  Off.  Damn, what a great show!  And there was still more to come in the form of a Fruition & Friends set!!  What the what??

Fruition

Fruition

    The one and only Mr. Peter Rowan was the first friend to join Fruition on the Vilar PAC stage.  And what a friend, right?  That venerable gentleman brings so very much to the stage — it was such a treat to see him being supported by Fruition.  A truly remarkable sound.  Peter provided the guitar lead-in for their first collaboration:  that old favorite of so many of us, “Panama Red”.  Mr. Rowan sounded wonderful on the lead vocals…as wonderful as ever.  And this was the first of many sing-a-longs for the audience as well.  A couple of great solos from Mimi (mando) and Kellen (keys) in this one to boot.  A mighty fine beginning to the set!  A David Grisman song was next on the docket for us in the form of “Old and in the Way” back from Peter and David’s days of playing with Jerry Garcia.  Jay Starling (Love Cannon) and Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon) joined in the fun on stage furthering the powerhouse of talent and skill already present there.   What a supergroup!  The next song Peter Rowan wrote with Bill Monroe stranded on the highway in Kentucky on the way to Bean Blossom, IN.  “The Walls of Time” is a mellow, yet intense journey through some very soulful vocals and some lovely harmonies.  Jay Cobb was on the mouth harp for this one adding that much more soul to the mix.  A stalwart standard of the bluegrass catalogue, “Midnight Moonlight” followed and was, no doubt, a huge crowd favorite for the evening with everyone singing along to the chorus with great gusto.  Always a great song to hear from the man, himself.  And Fruition sounded just excellent alongside Mr. Rowan.  Not to mention that oh so stupendous dobro playing of Jay Starling all throughout.  A huge sound from a mighty group of musicians.  And an enormous thanks to Mr. Rowan as he exited the stage.  What a gift that was.  But then Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon came out to add their own brand of madness to the show.  Some more Bill Monroe for us?  Sure!!  “Rocky Road Blues” was a marvelously mando-heavy Drew-led steamroller of a good time.  A rollicking fun frolic, this one.  And more of that delicious dobro from Jay?  You bet!  So good!  Not to mention Vince and Andy, both mad-pickin’ away of their own accord.  Such a huge sound!  Vince was up to the mic lead the next song, “Y’all Come” which had us all shouting along with the band.  So much fun.  What a stellar combination of musicians on stage all at once!  Scotty Stoughton, the mover and shaker behind WWG and of Bonfire Dub, came out for the first encore which was a Bonfire Dub song.  A little reggae in the mountains, right?  Really cool to see him playing alongside some of the musicians from the festival.  Organizer and talent all in one.  Sweet.  Finally, as a way to close the evening, Mandolin Orange joined in the fun for “Meet Me on the Mountain” from Fruition’s EP with The Grant Farm.  Talk about your harmonies!  So many great voices all at once in colorful combination and joyous musicality.  And so much freakin’ soul!  Damn!  Can’t ever get tired of this one to be sure.  Such good music all around, all set long.  Wowsers.  So many thanks to Fruition and all those friends that joined them for such a memorable evening of music and fun!

Fruition with Peter Rowan and Jay Starling

Fruition with Peter Rowan and Jay Starling

    It would appear that this evening’s excellence just whetted our appetites for all these bands and more in the coming weekend.   Bravo to all the bands and performers and those that had a hand in making this event come to light.  If this was any indication of how the weekend was to proceed then I was sure we all had nothing to fear.  We were in for a weekend chocked full of the best bluegrass and string band music the world has to off at present and were appropriately stoked by that fact.  Thursday night?  A rousing success.  Off to the remainder of the weekend!!!

Fruition & Friends

Fruition & Friends

 

Friday through Sunday on their way my friends…stay tuned!!

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Strings & Sol Festival 2015 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Thursday

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Strings & Sol Festival 2015 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Thursday

Strings & Sol Festival 2015

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Introduction

     You’d think that it having been my second Strings & Sol would make it all the easier to write about this singularly wonderful and wonderfully unique festival held for the past four years along Mexico’s Mayan Riviera coast.  You'd think that, right?  It would seem just the opposite is the case this year after returning from four magnificent days of some of the world’s finest string band music played to a delighted multitude whose dancing feet sent sand a-flying, the crystalline, sugary beach proving the perfect surface on which to boogie down.  Strings & Sol just gets so much so right as a festival it is hard to pick just what to write about for fear of transcribing the whole thing into an article entirely too long to read.  From the very resort itself (the absolutely lovely Now Sapphire with its incredible and highly attentive staff) to all the organizations represented (Strings & Sol, Cloud 9, and Positive Legacy) who worked so tirelessly to put on the most supremely awesome festival possible everything was top notch at every turn.  The setting was tropical and magical throughout with playful birds and coy coatimundi clowning about the palms and lush underbrush as you walked towards the flour-white beach and to the music.  The music was the finest the grass world had to offer that weekend all in one place and time.  In short, it is one of the very best and best run festivals out there at present, hands down.  I would highly consider this festival for your future endeavors if you can make it — trust me, saving up for this one is not only worth it, it makes it more than worth it in the first couple of days.  Unless you hate impossibly good music, that is.  Or the beautiful beach.  Or the gorgeous ocean.  Or flowing fonts of endless beverages of your choice.  Or all your best friends dancing to badass bluegrass.  Stop me when it all starts to sound too good to be true.  A thousand thanks go out to all those who had a hand in making Strings & Sol 4 so fabulous this year — your hard work was very much appreciated by all of us in attendance!  And a thousand thanks to all the musicians who played their hearts out for us all each and every day — your passion and commitment to your art is a joy to experience and behold, a treasure through and through!  And, speaking of music, I think we had better get to it, what say you?

Vince Herman & Larry Keel

Vince Herman & Larry Keel

Thursday Highlights

Yonder Mountain String Band - Leftover Salmon - Sam Bush Band (Late Night)

     Yonder Mountain String Band was first out of the gate to welcome us all to this festival on the beach and I can’t think of a better way to get things started.  Jumping out onto the stage with some good friends (Larry Keel and Tim Carbone) they ripped things apart with a monster “Traffic Jam” as their first number.  Larry Keel took this opportunity to throw down a particularly nasty solo on guitar which was answered by Tim on fiddle.  Nothing like Yonder plus their buddies…seems to always make for a wall of incredible sound.  And then there was the ridiculous fiddle duet between Allie Kral and Tim Carbone that Jake Jolliff answered with his own unreal playing.  And then, wham!  It was over.  Wow, what a way to get things going!  Then we got a great little cover with Allie on lead for us for “Bad Reputation” which the band approached with a lightness and playfulness.  They followed this with quick and fun “I Know You Rider” and then “Night Out”.  The dark and dusky “Saint in the City” came after featuring each member of the band on their respective instruments throughout the song.  They took this directly into “Landfall” then right back into “Saint in the City” with Ben on lead vocals.  Adam had a sizzling hot solo on guitar during the second half of “Saint” and, not to be outdone, Jake responded with a face melter of his own on mando.  The light and lively instrumental “Up for Brinkley’s” was next up in line featuring Mr. Jolliff on his magic mandolin — why not take a look and listen for yourself? 

Pretty amazing stuff, no doubt.  How does he do it folks??  The world may never know.  After “Another Day” that contained a very nice banjo solo work from Dave the band invited some more guests out to share the fun with them, this time Larry Keel, John Skeehan (Railroad Earth), and Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), for a lengthy and crazy good “Pass This Way” into “EMD” back into “Pass This Way”.  Again, though, why not take a look and listen? 

Later on down the line to finish this fantastic opening set for S&S 4, the band landed on a hot “All Aboard” into “New Dusty” back into “All Aboard” with the indomitable Allie Kral taking lead vocals to spearhead this ever-expanding jam of theirs.  I was talking with Ted Atwell, Yonder’s awesome lightning guru, about “All Aboard” at the festival and we agreed that each and every subsequent time the band plays it, the song just keeps getting better and better and better.  And this time was no exception!  Epic jam through “New Dusty” back into “All Aboard” — all the requisites one looks for in worthy and worthwhile musical experience.  What a way to get us all ready for some Leftover Salmon to come!

Yonder Mountain & Friends

Yonder Mountain & Friends

    Salmon.  Main Stage.  Strings & Sol.  Bring it.  Leftover came out to take over where Yonder left off, ready to incite a near riot of joy with their perfectly unique style of string band music.  And, having the likes of Sam Bush on fiddle and Jay Starling join them on dobro from the get go, life was going to be good all around as soon as they started playing.  And none other than Hartford’s “Steam Powered Aereoplane” to get things started, too!  I must admit, I really, truly love this song.  I love Hartford’s original and I love Salmon’s version.  And I indubitably loved this version.  Sam and Jay just added so much with their particular instrumental mastery.  Another perfect opening selection from a fantastic band.  They kept the ball rolling along with “Liza” next up which ended up showcasing just about everyone on stage by the song’s finish.  Of note would be Starling’s excellent dobro stylings and Andy’s banjo badassery.  What about Sam’s fiddle finery?  Well, yes, I must admit there was plenty, plenty of that as well.  A very appropriate tropical-tinged selection for our Riviera Maya setting — nothing but fun after the setting sun at S&S!  “Western Skies” was up next featuring Drew Emmitt on lead vocals not to mention some sweet mandolin work from the same.  Alwyn Robinson had this incredible drum solo during a long a lengthy jam that followed “Western Skies” — it was one hell of a breakdown to be sure with everyone taking a moment to lose their ever-loving mind while playing their instrument like a maniac.  Entertaining?  You betcha!  The oh-so apropos “Gulf of Mexico” was up next for us in the musical pipeline for the evening.  This one was at both times album perfect and filled with live-show attitude — that perfect mixture of all the right things for a supreme music experience.  Add into that a remarkable Andy Thorn banjo solo and you get precisely what you want!  After “Gulf” came the Andy Thorn-led and dominated “Colorado Mountains Evermore” with Sam Bush on fiddle and Jay Starling on dobro.  This one was really special, my friends…such good music.  But don’t take my word for it: 

Later on down the line we got a madcap “Let’s Give a Party” (but, let’s face it, which version of this song isn’t madcap?) which drove the assembled crowd to an appropriate frenzy.  So much fun.  So much madness.  So much perfect.  Later still we were gifted with a Strings & Sol version of “Mama Boulet”, with Vince changing lots of lyrics to suit the fest and atmosphere.  A blistering, and I mean blistering, hot “Midnight Run” came after with Drew on lead vocals.  Vince had a smoking guitar solo in this one as well as pretty much everyone else on stage.  Hard drivin’, fast pickin’ of the finest caliber, my friends.  Unbelievably great music.  Then the band decided to tear “Keep Drivin’” into tiny little jammed-out pieces in front of our eyes and ears — the band was on fire that night.  According to Vince before they began, this is the song that “got the girl”, aka helped him to get his new wife to marry him.  What a sweet story.  And you have to love Strings & Sol for all the background that comes your way as a result of being there.  It’s always nice having Bonnie Paine of Elephant Revival join you onstage on washboard as well.  A musical treat to be sure.  “Two Highways” followed with Drew on lead and also featuring a great solo from Sam on fiddle followed by a monster, monster electric guitar solo from Drew.  All of this to the metronomic, funked-up backdrop of Alwyn on the drums.  Incredible version of this one.  Silas Herman (Gipsy Moon), Jake Jolliff (YMSB), and Larry Keel then jumped up on the stage to join in their fun times and to accentuate ours.  Andy Thorn led this super-dupergroup with “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart” (made famous by Janis Joplin) and it was epic.  So much soloing.  So much face melting.  So much singing along.  So much freaking fun!  So much interplay between those three mandolins, too.  Truly spell-binding.  Just the smiles on their faces as they traded off, style to style, method to method, man to man.  Really interesting from an audience standpoint.  After so much wonderful, they closed things with a raucous and riveting Drew-led number featuring so many guests and so much hard drivin’, fast pickin’ it was almost over before we all knew it.  One superbly great show from a superbly great band.  There really isn’t much more to say.  Accept that it was so awesome as to render me speechless.  So I had best get to Sammy and his band, right?

Leftover & Friends

Leftover & Friends

    Late night in the palapa was about as fun as fun can get each night.  And the first night was precisely that with the Sam Bush Band.  People embrace the weirdness of the night with all sorts of dress and costumery from a mere speedo to being dressed in “Dumb and Dumber” tuxedos and everything in between.  It was a party atmosphere to be sure and the music of Sam Bush certainly drove that home in spades.  He and his band sounded incredible all night, featuring nothing but hard drivin’, fast pickin’ with drums to provide that boom and crash.  A notable selection from his setlist was a rock’n’roll fire hot version of “Midnight Rider” which sounded, in a word, badass.  Andy Goessling (Railroad Earth) and Drew Emmitt (Leftover Salmon) both joined in for this one and it was pretty damn awesome.  They even managed to work in an “I Just Want to Celebrate” tease into this one.  “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” was another fine selection from their rep that evening, or should I say morning.  Probably one of the best versions of this song I’ve ever heard.  Such incredible musicianship.  Sam and his band really brought down the house, certainly making it hard to even consider going to bed afterwards.  Too much goodness down in the soul.  So many thanks to the Sam Bush Band for providing the perfect bookend to a fabulous evening of music at Strings & Sol 4.  And tonight was only the first!!!

Sam Bush Band

Sam Bush Band

Be sure to stay tuned for Friday’s fun!

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