Strings & Sol Festival 2015
Festival Experience Archive
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Railroad Earth - Fruition - Greensky Bluegrass - John Hartford Tribute hosted by Vince Herman (Late Night)
Ah, yes. The infamous sunset sets at Strings & Sol. A time when most folk are still in their swimwear, a great portion are still in the ocean, and all are wowed by the setting of the Caribbean sun as their favorite grass music engulfs them in happiness and joy. And up first on the docket for 2015’s S&S leading sunset? None other than those beloved Jersey boys, Railroad Earth. They chose a prime opener to get things going that evening on the bonnie beach: “Seven Story Mountain” with Todd Scheaffer on lead vocals. I do so love that synchronous intensity mixed with mellow that this band loves to throw down at times. The band sounded excellent out of the gate, too…but that is unsurprising to anyone who knows this group or has ever heard them before. And there is just something special about these sunset sets that brings so much musical goodness out of the ensembles performing. Railroad on Friday was certainly no exception. Next up was a mighty fine “Lordy, Lordy” which we were able to capture on video for your own personal experience…please enjoy:
Not bad, right? You betcha not bad…in fact so very good. “Bread and Water” followed “Lordy” and was, in turn, followed by a light and sweet version of “The Good Life”, Tim Carbone’s fiddle lines cutting through the texture like a beacon. Next up the unmistakable bass line from Andrew Altman ushered in a very mighty “Mighty River”, a song which offered each of these virtuosi the opportunity to showcase their abilities on their chosen instruments to a rather full degree. An excellent song for dancing as the ocean breezes flow through the hair and send one’s clothes a-flutter. Sadly, for the next song, we weren't graced with another rainbow this year, but that didn’t stop us all from chasing one along with the band. An obvious crowd favorite with people singing and clapping and participating along to a great song, “Chasin’ A Rainbow” rarely fails to satisfy the soul, that night being just the case. Further down the line we got the sad and soulful “From Dover to Dunkirk” with Todd’s crystal clear voice crooning the melancholy lyrics out into the darkening Caribbean evening. Just lovely. Jumping things back up to ‘fast pickin’ gear’ the band gave us a rollicking “New Camptown Races” which featured a supremely fine mandolin duet between John Skehan and Andy Goessling not to mention wonderful solos from both gentlemen as well. Great little instrumental to get us all dancing in that soft, silken sand. Tim Carbone was up to the mic for the next one, “Any Road”. Always great to hear Uncle Tim sing to us!! And saw away on that magic fiddle of his. Great message to that song, too. A big, fat “Hard Livin’” was up next for us all, and we were thankful for it, too!! Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass) joined them on electric dobro and the band also showcased their multi-instrumentality with Tim on electric guitar, Andy on sax, and John on banjo — man, what a great version of this one! And after so much good music already, too! The mysterious “Where Songs Begin” came after with Allie Kral on fiddle which they took directly into their version of The Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues” featuring some seriously incredible double fiddle work between Carbone and Kral. The boys chose to close things down with a nice and quick “Cold Water” — a perfect dancer for the end of this sunset set. Bravi, lads, and thanks a million for a fun time in the sand!! Time for a quick dinner break and then…Fruition!!
“Random Lee”!! Bum-bum, bum-ba-dum-dum!! If you know the song, you know the riff. And you know it was a superb way to start off Fruition’s first set of their first Strings & Sol experience. A real gem from the EP they did with Grant Farm, this song is a definite favorite of mine…and was of the crowd also. Not hard music to dance to, Fruition. Probably why so many new converts were made to their Portland point-of-view this past weekend. That premium blend of rock’n’roll and string band that they’ve cornered so expertly was just the right kind of energy to add to Strings & Sol this year. Like the amazing and raucous electricity of “Lay Down Blues”, their second song of the evening. I loved this song. Loved it. It was, in a word, badass. And that is in a veritable sea of badass Fruition songs. But this one just spoke to me as it kicked me around in the most exquisite way. “Night time is the right time!” Couldn’t agree more. Down a bit in the set they played the always sweet and soulful “Come On, Get In” which featured the gorgeous and sonorous harmonies for which I love this band. Well, one reason at any rate. And who doesn’t love waltzing a bit in the sand, hmm? Then they gave us a little Cake to have and eat, too, in the form of “Bucket Seats” — an unexpected one to be sure. But a great cover to be sure as well. And a supremely great mando solo from Mimi Naja in this one followed by some really fine guitar shred mastery from Jay Cobb Anderson. Then we all found ourselves in Jay’s stellar voice in a flagrantly fun “I’m Not Lost Anymore” rockin’ away with the band, each of them taking the solo reins at least once during this one, you know, an opportunity to melt a few faces here and there. A new favorite Mimi lead came down the way, “And There She Was”, a very disco-feeling little number that is just really delicious in every way. So catchy and so well-executed. Looking forward to much more of this song in my future! Really enjoyed they way they traded off the solo lines between Kellen and Mimi. Not to mention some tasty guitar riffs from Jay. Great stuff all around!! A sizzling hot version of “Never Again” came along next to fry our ears with musical madness — it really was a badass breakneck version of this song. Another one just ripe for dancing on the starlit seashore, especially when Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass) joins in on the fun. Mimi was back up to the mic for the melancholy “Wastin’ Away” which came next. A sad, slow selection, this one set out to tug some heartstrings no doubt. And it did just that. Simply gorgeous harmonies. Just love that aspect of this band! A bit later on we got the rolling and energetic “Somehow, Someway, Someday” with its optimistic message and righteously rhythmic drum line courtesy of Tyler Thompson. Yet another great dance song from this ebullient band from the Pacific Northwest. Further on down the set came a hard drivin’, fast pickin’ gift in the form of “The Wanter” with Sam Bush still sitting in on fiddle. Mimi told us how it is and we all loved it as the band sawed away and we all stomped away. A fantastic version of this song a what a setting! And what fiddle playing from Sammy! Damn! “Git Along” was Fruition’s next selection for us that evening, a medium-paced, heartfelt pickin’ party of a number it was an excellent addition to the setlist. The uplifting “Bent” followed with Jay singing the positive lyrics out over the bucolic beach backdrop like a prophet in the night. And, boom, one more beach dancer. Bam! So much jumping and grooving…so glad this band was here this year! Another lovely selection from their EP with Grant Farm was up next: “Meet Me on the Mountain”. Lovely singing, lovely harmonies, lovely lyrics. So much lovely. And just the perfect energy pull right before the end of their set so they could blow the doors off the place with their last song. Not bad, you guys. Not bad at all. What a perfect addition to the S&S lineup this year (as I have said before but needs stating again). So much positive energy and amazing musicianship. Fun quotient definitely multiplied. Three cheers to Fruition and many thanks for all their incredible music!!
Greensky Bluegrass traded in their northern climes for a more tropical destination this December and we were so freaking happy they did. No strangers to the S&S scene, the lads from Kalamazoo took to the stage pursuant to delivering a sandstorm of a show there at the Now Sapphire Resort last Friday night. And what to get things going, eh? What song to start these oceanside olympics? How about a fantastic “Frederico”? Not bad, right? Well, why not take a look and listen while you’re at it?
And it only got better from there, my friends. An upward spiral all night long, care of GSBG. They followed “Fred” with “Burn Them”, the inspirational song for the title of their most recent album, If Sorrows Swim, which featured some really top notch dobro playing from Anders Beck. Couple that with Paul Hoffman on mando and you start to get that Greensky sound you’re looking for, that awesome texture to which your ears have grow accustomed. Afterwards came a nice Traffic cover (one of my favorites they do, in fact) in the form of “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” which they jammed out pretty damn nicely. In fact the central breakdown was one of the biggest and most boisterous I’ve ever seen, an absolute nod to Strings & Sol and the mountains of great energy there. The Bruzza-led “Take Cover” which featured nice solos from both Bont and Beck was up next followed by a quick-paced “Just to Lie”. After a supremely funky jam, this, in turn, they took directly into the dark and dusky “Train Junkie”. Michael Bont’s banjo shone out throughout the song with Beck’s dobro complimenting. Just love that unique GSBS musical texture! Hot damn! Not to mention one superbly epic mandolin solo from Mr. Paul Hoffman. So much music in each song…wow. Just wow. The tender and touching “In Control” came after “Train” with the brooding “Last Winter in Copper Country” following that. They brought the first set to a bang-snap of a close with a rocketing “Can’t Stop Now” sending shivers down spines so the feet would catch the beat, beating that sand into oblivion, dancing being the only option. And to such incredibly good music and musical ability being showcased on the stage — each of the gents taking equal opportunity to groove away with reckless abandon on their chosen instruments. What a set! But wait…there’s more!! Second set contained a monster amount of goodness as well!! How about some Billy Joel for instance? A couple of songs in we got a hell of a “Big Shot” from the GSBG boys. Paul sounded fantastic on the lyrics, naturally. Just nailing the whole feeling left and right. Incredible jamming throughout, of course, as well. And what fun to sing along with…thanks guys!! And then Sam Bush came out on stage. Oh yes. Sam Bush plus Greensky Bluegrass. My goodness. Which made for a stellar “Worried About the Weather”, that fiddle sound making the rounds, Sam simply destroying his fiddle solo. Whew!! Sammy stayed on for the next selection, “Demons”, and was joined by Jay Cobb Anderson (Fruition), both of whom provided such wonderful augmentation to this wonderful band. A fire hot “Broke Mountain Breakdown” was our next delicious offering, the epitome of fast pickin’. Very notable work by Mr. Bont on banjo as well as Mr. Bruzza on guitar as well as some tasty “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” teases from Anders on dobro. Marvelous! They took this directly into “Don’t Lie” which featured almost superhuman musical ability from each and every band member, both in ensemble and, in turn, during their solos. This band just continues at every turn to manage to somehow sound better and better and better. Such remarkable musicianship!! And then how did they close their show you might ask? Well, like a gang of super badasses, is the only answer. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”. I’ll just let that sit there for a second. And another. And just one more. Sink in yet? Did the epic badassedness of this moment sink in? Because it still hasn’t for me just yet. It sounded so, so good. The word “perfect” springs to mind. Mike Devol’s bass solo? Perfect. No notes. Just so very stellar, boys!! Thank you for this stupendous show and thank you so much for being at S&S once again! Can’t wait for the next set!
And then it was late night once again. This time, the John Hartford Tribute led by Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon). But the roster on stage consisted (at least at one time) of Larry Keel, Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon), Alwyn Robinson (Leftover Salmon), Silas Herman (Gipsy Moon), Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth), Allie Kral (Yonder Mountain), Luke Bulla, Rob McCoury (Del McCoury Band), and Greg Garrison (Leftover Salmon). Not too shabby, eh? Amidst a host of incredible Hartford songs and tunes one stood out for me above the others for its pure fun content alone (plus some adult lyrics which are always a good time). “Keep on Truckin’” was a joyous and merry ride from Andy Thorn on vocals and the assembled multitude on their various toys. The whole of it was a fabulously amazing time and I am sure that John himself would have thoroughly enjoyed it. Big thanks to Vince and all the musicians who joined in to make the evening so special.
Keep tuned in for Saturday coming up soon!!