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Joe Russo's Almost Dead

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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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Wednesday

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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Wednesday

Jam Cruise 14

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Wednesday Highlights

Sail Away - Dumpstaphunk - The Infamous Stringdusters - Joe Russo’s Almost Dead - Soulive

    So, there we were in Miami, lined up, waiting for that special moment.  The moment we get to set foot on “The Boat” once again and sail away into the briny blue on a musical adventure like no other.  Embarkation always takes longer than you’d like, but, believe-you-me, all the seeming hassles are worth the end game:  Jam Cruise.  Once aboard we made our way to our staterooms ready to decorate doors, settle our stuff, grab some costumery, and prepare for this infamous “marathon of sprints” to begin in earnest and soon.  One thing Jam Cruise doesn’t waste a lot of once it gets going is time.  And that can be both a blessing and a curse.  Time management flies right out the porthole and FOMO sets in almost immediately.  But that is all part of the frenetic, chaotic, lovely, wonderful craziness that is Jam Cruise.  Needless to say with such an ambitious schedule every cruise it is well-nigh impossible to see every act, or even a part of every one.  However, always boasting a very eclectic mix of musical genres from the jam universe and with most bands performing twice, one can assemble quite the hearty and hefty musical buffet during the course of the five night run.  And this is precisely what we did…beginning with Dumpstaphunk throwing down at the traditional Sail Away Party on the pool deck of the MSC Divina, our proud mistress of the seas and loving home for the better part of a week.  After the customary toast thanks to our intrepid leader Annabel Stelling it was time for the music to begin!!  So let’s do this, shall we?

Dumpstaphunk - Sail Away Party

Dumpstaphunk - Sail Away Party

    What more perfect a way to begin a cruise based solely on music than with some funky grooves care of New Orleans’ own Dumpstaphunk?  It was straight funk out of the gate with a wailing instrumental piece from the boys in this awesome band.  Soulful and just down right nasty, horns a-blazin’ away and with massive amounts of energy to kick things off.  The hot and humorous “Gassman Chronicles” was their next offering, played at a fast clip after a dirty good opening on keys from Ivan Neville.  “Do you smell that?” was his questioning intro to the song.  Well…“they [do] call him ‘funk-alot’” after all.  And there was so much funk in this one — better than album greatness going on.  And then how about a tasty cover from the boys and some featured guests?  How about The Band’s “Don’t Do It” with Amy Helm and Cris Jacobs?  How about this video of how it all went down for your viewing pleasure? 

Not bad at all, am I right?  Some seriously amazing music going on already.  And we were just getting started.  Having the Steeltown Horns sitting in all set was pretty amazing in its own right as well.  Funk plus horns is always a great idea in my opinion.  “Dancin’ to the Truth”, a favorite of mine, was also a big crowd favorite amongst the gathered throng of happy Jam Cruisers.  Nothing like singing along to some of your favorite funky jams.  But then, as if we’d barely had time to get our groove on, it was time for some bluegrass pickin’ with The Infamous Stringdusters down in the Pantheon Theater.  Thus began our first “music rush” of the week…the belief that if we hurry fast enough we can always catch the last note of music with one band and the first of another in a different venue.  Well, all I can say is:  the struggle is real.  

Dumpstaphunk

Dumpstaphunk

    Changing gears completely it was time to trade up keys and horns for strings with the Stringdusters.  It also makes for an interesting transition moving indoors for the secondary stage.  Kinda gives you the feelings of an outdoor and an indoor festival all-in-one and on a boat to boot.  Variety is the spice of life after all, right my friends?  And nothing like an opening cover of the Dead from the Dusters — “Big River” was a big hit and started things off in a big way.  Not only was there some great harmony in the vocals but we got quite a nice banjo solo from Chris Pandolfi and a mighty fine one on dobro from Andy Hall as well.  Helluva good way to kick things off.  The Dusters lads took things right into a tasty instrumental next with “Cluck Old Hen” giving the growing crowd exactly the fast pickin’ they wanted.  But why take my word for it when you can see for yourself, right?  

Just fantastic.  Every time I see this band play they are just that much edgier, that much more intense and focused and it always reflects in their sound and their playing.  This Jam Cruise set was no exception.  Later on down the set Travis Book stepped up to the mic for a gritty “Get It While You Can” crooning his soulful advice out to the audience.  Mr. Jeremy Garrett threw down an exquisite fiddle solo for us during this one.  Much appreciated for that, good sir!  Friends and guests Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass joined in for a sizzling “Small Axe”.  Paul took lead vocals on this one and the sound of double dobros was one to be relished and savored.  Holy goodness how much amazing music on one stage!!  And that is the very magic of Jam Cruise…all the guesting in and collaborations.  Andy Hall and Anders just killed it together.  Damn, was that good!!  The biggest climactic moment of the set came later on during the “Sugarfoot Jam” — my stars, my friends.  You’ve rarely heard such an electric buildup of bluegrass energy and explosiveness.  And it melted scores of faces in that theater.  Such incredible musicianship.  So fast.  So much.  Wowsers.  Next up, Nicki Bluhm joined the Dusters on stage for some more Grateful Dead love.  This time “Not Fade Away” was on the docket.  Really lovely version of this song.  Nicki’s voice alongside the strings of the ISD made for a really moving rendition.  And one which the crowd certainly enjoyed, singing and clapping along.  Later still down this fabulous set the boys took “Heady Festy” directly into “Jack-a-Roe” with Travis on vocals.  I’m sensing a theme to this set maybe?  Great guitar work from Andy Falco on this one for us.  Always love watching that man work…he makes fast pickin’ look so easy.  Finally, they brought this steam engine of a set to a close with “LLD” taken directly into “Gettin’ Down the Road (Hillbillies)”.  My goodness…I believe I was gettin’ the vapors.  What a set!  So freakin’ happy the Stringdusters were on the Boat this year!  It is so important to have the bluegrass vibe on board and these fine gentlemen most certainly helped to fulfill that need.  Thanks for an incredible first set and such fun, my good men!!  Bravi!

The Stringdusters with Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck

The Stringdusters with Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck

    Then it was back up the elevators to Deck 14 and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead on the pool deck stage.  So excited to have these fellows on Jam Cruise this year.  By far, my current favorite in the Dead arena in terms of amazing energy and incredible musicianship.  The extreme amount of special they bring to their approach to the beloved music of The Grateful Dead is really something wonderful to behold.  Provided you love superb music, that is.  Opening up with a long instrumental intro to “Not Fade Away” filled with lots of jamming drums from Joe himself as well as some sweet, sweet shredding on guitar from Scott Metzger and American Babies' Tom Hamilton.  “Not Fade Away” is always a good opener and this was our second offering of the cruise already.  Honestly, it was really interesting to hear the two versions so closely back-to-back, one being strings and soulful diva singing and the other being a jumped-up interpretation of an old favorite.  Made me all the more interested in the remainder of the set.  They followed this lengthy monster of a “Not Fade Away” with a bright and lovely “Rubin and Cherise” with Tom on lead vocals.  A great little dance number to which the audience responded with grooving feet and smiling faces.  Not to mention the ridiculous and huge jam in the middle replete with tons of fantastic keyboards care of Mr. Marco Benevento and lots of sizzling drive to it.  A highlight of the evening’s music thus far to be sure.  “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad” was another crowd pleaser in a host of crowd pleasers.  A slamming version of this song, it brought the audience to even further life out under those beautiful stars.  The boat rocking back and forth underneath as if to the music itself.  But why not get a little taste of it yourself? 

Not feeling bad after that one, are you?  Nope!  That’s what I thought!  And a little later down the set we kept the party rolling with one incredible “Tennessee Jed”.  It’s almost impossible to write anything but stellar reviews for these adept individuals and their special musical relationship with the music of the Dead.  And they just kept rocking us and rocking us and rocking us all the more!  Like with the myriad solo-laden “Shakedown Street” the band offered up to us, which melted several faces in my immediate vicinity.  Including my own.  Every member of the band took this opportunity to show their stupendous stuff, showcasing their immense talent and skill on their respective instruments.  And Joe always there in the background, the miraculous eight-armed man, keeping those beats of insanity and perfect tempo.  And always seeming so casual about the whole affair.  Astounding.  The band invited the extremely talented Nicole Atkins up to sing back up on “Franklin’s Tower” and she completely nailed it to the wall.  What a great combination, this band and this lady!  Bravi on all fronts to all involved…what a version of this song!  Not to mention the phenomenal instrumental work as well.  Then all this fell right into a huge “Viola Lee Blues” encore complete with a “Chalk Dust Torture” tease at the very beginning.  Amazing.  And they sounded just supremely good right up to the last note.  What a terrific set!  No notes at all, my friends…and thank you so much for the wonderful tunes!!

JRAD

JRAD

    After floating around the ship for a little while and grabbing some much needed pizza and french fries (two of the major food groups on Jam Cruise) we got back up to the pool deck in time to catch a little of Soulive’s late night set.  The energy was that of funk and groove and guitars and keys and bouncing electricity.  An apropos situation for continued dancing and moving to the music to say the very least.  We walked in on a high-stepping instrumental piece that immediately had us grooving to the beat.  Just excellent.  They slowed things down for a truly soulful “late night” number next, bringing things to a mellower area.  Take a nice, long listen for yourself…you’ll be glad you did: 

The brought the energy back up to the frenzied levels of before with their next tune, horns blasting and keys resonating out into the night air.  Guitar licks left and right funking the whole situation up.  A great way to close out the main stage music for the evening!!  Many thanks to Soulive for their unique brand of awesome.

    Then, as the narrative of most nights on Jam Cruise goes, we began our late night creep all around the Boat, finding music here and there and everywhere.  The Jam Room was thumping late into the night, as to be magically expected.  The Spot hadn’t quite yet developed (more on that later).  Nighttime munchies and elevator conversations.  Wandering and checking out door decorations and the crazy late vibes that permeate the ship from stem to stern.  All-in-all a marvelous first night of Jam Cruise 14 - and just barely scratching the surface, too!  That is the crazy part of it all!!

Thursday inbound soon, friends!!

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All Good Music Festival 2015 - Summit Point, WV -  Friday

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All Good Music Festival 2015 - Summit Point, WV - Friday

All Good Music Festival 2015

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Friday

Cabinet - Turkuaz - Grand Ole’ Ditch - Railroad Earth - The Word - Joe Russo’s Almost Dead - Lettuce

    A mighty, mighty day of music t’was Friday at All Good this year.  So many fantastic bands, so much fantastic music — it’s going to take us a little while to stroll through it all.  I guess we had better get started, hadn’t we?  It was definitely warmer day out as we made our way back into the venue, however, a sky full of billowy white clouds helped to cool our heads throughout the afternoon.  Luckily the weather never got unbearably hot during the course of the weekend, although it certainly stayed warm until the end.  After hitting up the watering station as per usual we descended back down into the bowl in time for Cabinet to throw down some more fast pickin’ on the Crane Stage at noon.

    Things got going with “The Dove” with all of us grooving to the funky backbeat as J.P. Biondo lamented the sad tale of losing one’s love never to get her back.  A strong start which slammed delightfully right into the aural arcane enigma that is Cabinet’s “Mysterio” — but why take my meager word for it when you can see for yourself? 

And the hits just kept coming.  “Heavy Rain”, with its loud, lovely rigorously good harmonies was up next which most definitely had us all singing along and dancing to the fine fiddle stylings of Todd Kopec.  This band commands so much talent and skill, especially in the songwriting arena — so much of their music is just loads of fun or extremely poignant or full of feeling that it makes one of their shows a marvelous roller coaster ride through a thoroughly enjoyable musical landscape.  What a treat it was to get a second set from them this year!  The boys followed next with a little “Nashville Blues” action - “Because people here, Lord, they treat me fine.  First they give me beer, Lord, they give me moonshine!”  What a line!  Even if shine isn’t your cup of, well, shine, you have to concede the poetry there.  Well, I suppose you don’t have to — not in the business of giving orders here at The Scene.  But you smell what I’m stepping in, right?  Right.  Then they slowed things down a little and moved us onto a nice crowd favorite with “Caroline”, the oh-so familiar melody drifting out over the sea of faces under a hot West Virginia sun.  This was a rather stellar version that contained a huge and exceptional jam at the end with some incredible fiddle work from Todd and some great interplay between Pappy’s banjo lines and J.P.’s mando — mad good music from every angle.  Later on down the set came the song that made me a Cabinet fan and, as such, I was thrilled for its inclusion:  “Mr. Spaceman” which was, as always, a light-hearted tale of alien abduction punctuated by superb instrumentals. Thanks for that little gift, fellas!!  Even Andy Goessling of Railroad Earth stopped by to lend some saxophone chops to the mix by set’s end!!  Another incredible show from Cabinet — these boys gave us both barrels over the course of two days and left us all still wanting more!  That’s one of the hallmarks of a great band, my friends!!  And that, is most certainly what Cabinet is.  And more.  See you lads on Jam Cruise this year — hell yeah!!

Cabinet

Cabinet

    Turkuaz.  Dragon Stage.  Friday afternoon.  This nine-person dance music dynamo from Brooklyn walked out and took over the stage immediately as if they owned the place.  And, after their first few songs it was apparent that they did, in fact, own All Good for that set.  And they owned it so well!!  Pretty impressive swagger for their first time here — and with good reason.  Their opener set the tone for this maddeningly fun fox trot with frivolity: 

And now you have to listen to me some more.  Kind of sad, right, when compared to that delight, right?  I promise to try and not bore you.  But, no promises, OK?  OK.  Moving on.  They continued with the brassy and sassy “Future 86” hanging on that powerful and pretty damn amazing vocal duo, Sammi Garett and Shira Elias.  Man, can those ladies wail!!  Wowsers!  As if Turkuaz could please the crowd any further at this point they whipped out a super tight and gratifying “Bubba Slide” — nothing like watching Chris Brouwers play trumpet and keys simultaneously…that is some serious skill to be sure.  And rather entertaining no doubt.  I need to take a quick moment to tell you just how good this band sounds in person, how their wave of sweet sonority washes over you, coats your being in goodness, and brings a smile to the lips and jig to the midsection:  it is pretty special and most definitely worth checking out.  Find some dates and see these folks soon — well, only if you like good music, that is.  But that’s between you and the mirror, no?  “Lookin' Tough, Feelin' Good” was next in line for our musical delight, with its driving energy and feeling reminiscent a bit of The Talking Heads (with a major horn section — who tore things apart all set long I feel need to mention).  Their version of Traffic’s iconic “Feelin’ Alright” was a very nice and well-executed surprise with yet more excellent horn work from Chris, Greg Sanderson, and Josh Schwartz.  This was my first time seeing Turkuaz and I know that I couldn’t possibly be my last after how much freakin’ fun those guys were!!  Any group that can transport you on a magic carpet of musicianship away from the heat and humidity and into a place of pure musical enjoyment is a band worth anyone’s time, everyone’s time.  This, my friends, is such a band.  In spades.  Go. See. Turkuaz!

Turkuaz

Turkuaz

    After Turkuaz wrapped, we hightailed it over to the Believe in Music Stage to get in on some Grand Ole’ Ditch action, All Good-style.  Playing their first All Good as well, the boys from Cumberland, MD, pulled out all the stops and gave one hell of a great show that Friday afternoon.  The band opened with “Open Road” (fitting, no?) setting the tone immediately for their set, Jody Mosser’s masterful dobro and lead vocals starting us all into the next 45 minutes of powerhouse pickin’, done the Ditch way.  It sure is a treat to watch Jody play, him being one of those musicians who wears his joy and fulfillment at his job written all over his face for all to see.  Once again, though, why just read when you can experience, too?  VIDEO

They followed next with the bouncing and driving “Unwind” taking that right into “Whippoorwill”.  After that we got a reggae-ed up treat of an old Dillards song, “Man at the Mill”, which grooved and funked to the backbeat all punctuated by the sounds of dobro and mandolin.  A really cool tune to be sure — grateful to have gotten that one.  Then it was time for some hard drivin’ fast pickin’ in the form of the instrumental “Chester’s Breakdown” featuring some truly fine fiddle fronting from 'Fiddlin' Ray Bruckman.  Craig Miller jumped up and sang us the next song, “Take Me Back”, all the while doling out some right dandy banjo.  I really enjoyed this one, featuring some really cool multi-vocal lines and tight harmonies.  Looking forward to hearing it again sometime soon.  Sitting under the azure blue skies with a slight breeze blowing cooling the head the thought occurred to me at just how incredible this all was and how thankful I was to be there hearing such lovely music in such a lovely setting.  And surrounded by lovely people, of course!  Which made the whirlwind instrumental ride that came up next so fantastic — “Dragon’s Breath” was populated by massive amounts of great music and skill, each member trading the solo back and forth with ease and precision, especially Ryan Hohing shredding things to pieces on guitar.  Also of note, Todd Hocherl’s drumming really anchors the intensity of this band, providing so much of the driving force and feeling that, in my opinion, helps make Ditch the superlative band that they are.  Then we were treated to a selection from their new album called “Cabins in the Laurel” featuring Lucas Matthews on lead vocals — how lucky to get yet another “Colorado” song in the grass and jam world repertoire and a great one at that!!  Being from Boulder I am very prejudiced (how could I not be?) when it comes to songs about my state and, I must admit, I just love the ever-growing body of them.  And “Cabins” is most definitely a welcome addition to the mix!  Thanks for that little gift, boys!  And thanks for that sweet, sweet guitar solo, Jody!  Later down the set we got some Del McCoury action in with a little “I’ve Endured” finally closing things down with “Bluelight” the smiles on each face up there a perfect display of the joy we all felt at the Believe in Music Stage that afternoon.  Way to simply burn down your first All Good showing, my friends!  Absolutely one of the best sets I saw all festival.  Excellent job, Ditch, and thank you!!  Catch you round the bend really soon, I hope!

Grand Ole' Ditch

Grand Ole' Ditch

    Later that day we found our way once again to the Crane Stage, this time for those Stillwater, NJ, fellows, Railroad Earth.  I was very happy to see them included in the lineup for this year and I was looking forward to having a nice change of pace.  Todd Sheaffer kicked things off for us and the band with the opening strains and lines of “When the Sun Gets in Your Blood”, the whole ensemble instantly sounding texture-tight and ever-harmonious from the very beginning.  An auspicious start to a lovely set from RRE!!   As if pandering to me here in WV, the boys fired up a rock solid, lengthy, and jam-laden “Colorado” next, with so much of that iconic fiddle by Tim Carbone.  So much and so wonderful.  As well as some very fine playing, of course, from all the other gents, especially John Skehan on mandolin.  Ah, Colorado…summertime.  Thanks for that one, you guys!!  The pensive and introspective “Been Down This Road” came afterwards followed by the powerful and funky “Mighty River” which flowed like a round-robin from musician to musician, each one showcasing their immense talent and then receding flawlessly back into the ensemble sound, the entirety spanned by Todd’s unmistakably recognizable voice and vocals.  Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood) joined in on electric guitar with Railroad on the stage for a long and mellow “Grandfather Mountain” (11:37), another display of world-class musicianship from each member of the band.  It really could not be stressed enough just how incredibly excellent each of these gents is at his chosen instrument(s) — it is as if a collection of highly acclaimed professors and doctors of music decided to form a stupendous string band and go on the road hitting places like All Good.  Simply put, a Railroad Earth performance is like few others in terms of the amount of musical acumen and ability all in one group. Later in the set came that prime instrumental-heavy powerhouse, “Warhead Boogie”, which took us all on its well-known but wonderful musical journey eliding right into “Tuba Mirum” which, in turn, went directly into “Chasin’ a Rainbow”, Carbone’s familiar fiddle riffs anchoring us into the song like an old friend.  Ending jam?  You bet…and a really sweet one, too.  The back and forth between Andy and John and Tim was just stellar and completely on-point.  Then, tying a ribbon on the whole affair, the boys decided to finish things up with some pickin’ and grinnin’ for us with a very fine “Bringin’ My Baby Home”: 

    Back over on the Dragon it was time.  “What time?” you ask.  “Time for The Word,” I answer.  “Time for The Word.”  And time for The Word it was, indeed.  Power.  Intensity.  Electricity.  Dirty good music. The Word.  They came out swinging with the robust “Come By Here” from their recent album Soul Food.  Really incredible sound live to be sure.  The term “wall of sound” comes to mind.  But what sound!!  That Sacred Steel plus a hard edge of rock plus gospel plus funk plus soul plus so much more, it really has a unique a intensive sound when experienced up close and personal.  In case you are unfamiliar with the roster, The Word are:  Robert Randolph (pedal steel guitar), John Medeski (keyboards), Luther Dickinson (electric guitar), Cody Dickinson (drums, washboard), and Chris Chew (bass guitar).  Virtuosos each in their own right on their own instrument, as an ensemble they are well-nigh unstoppable.  The overall sound they end up creating is a moving happenstance, one that changes the listener.  It is impossible to be in the presence of such powerfully good music without coming away a bit better than before.  Instrumental after marvelous instrumental flew past and I lamented at my ignorance of their catalogue, it being my first time seeing them and all.  However, I also know this won’t be the last time I see them nor will I refrain from grabbing their album as soon as possible.  One particularly trippy moment came in the form of some electric washboard weirdness care of Cody Dickinson.  Never heard an electric washboard before — it was fascinating.  Later on down the riveting set we got a really nice keys-heavy “Glory Glory” which also featured some searing hot slide thanks to Mr. Robert Randolph.  So much attitude, so much in-your-face.  And so appreciated!  It must also be said just how spacey and out there this band gets at times as well — an extremely well-rounded group of gents musically.  Wonderful set, wonderful times!  Really looking very much forward to my next Word show.  Let’s hope it’s not too far in the future!  However, as The Word was wrapping things we were already booking it back over to the Crane for some JRAD all up in our business…

The Word

The Word

    I couldn't possibly have anything more wonderful to say about the band that came next on the Crane Stage -- their unmatchable energy and loyal dedication to performing the music of The Grateful Dead and perform it extremely well is almost immeasurable.  All of this led by that human octopus on the drums, Mr. Joe Russo himself, the man whose intricate and complex rhythms seem to accomplish in one person what the Dead did in two.  His leadership and guidance hurtles the band time and again wonderfully down the halls of musical nostalgia, all reimagined and given new, vibrant life.  The band, of course, is Joe Russo's Almost Dead and has quickly become my favorite Dead band on the beat -- this show not being one to let me down!  They opened their set with a near picture-perfect "Reuben and Cherise", Tom Hamilton’s lead guitar and vocals so very reminiscent of Jerry.  There was also a really decent and mellow jam at the end of "Reuben" that really got the jam juices flowing for the remainder of their show taking things directly into "Feel Like a Stranger" from there.  "Stranger", in turn, went straight into a very spacey and kinda trippy "King Solomon's Marbles".  But it just so happens we have some footage of that very jam for your viewing pleasure!! 

After that epic, happily heavily instrumental and jam-laden three song run, things took a quick pause and then continued with "Alligator" featuring some sweet jazzy, honky tonk piano stylings from Marco Benevento.  Nothing like a good keys solo!  And nothing like a really, really good keys solo, either!!   Man were these boys hot tonight!  Which made the next song, "Franklin's Tower", a particularly welcome addition to the setlist that evening.  And they just spanked this crowd favorite, and spanked it well and good.  If you are looking to experience the music of the Dead in a fresh and fun and fantastic manner, then get thee to a JRAD show as soon as humanly possible.  Each new time I see them I am always left with wanting more of their renditions of my faves.  Like their final song of the night:  "Sugar Magnolia".  Sunshine daydream.  Going where the wind blows.  Man, what a great way to end a supremely excellent set.  It most certainly had all of us singing and swaying and smoothly enjoying this wonderful song.  Lost in the heady delight with a mind full of being Grateful for 1.25 hours it was time to motivate ourselves to get ready for the evening’s remaining music.  What a day of music so far and what a night to go…not to mention Saturday on the horizon.  

JRAD

JRAD

    Let’s leave you with this parting shot from Lettuce’s fire hot set, shall we?  Just a little something good and extra from our Friday at All Good: 

Saturday on the way, folks!  Stay tuned!!

 

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