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WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Friday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Friday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2017

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Friday Highlights

Cabinet - Gipsy Moon - Leftover Salmon

    It was a partly cloudy sky overhead as we made our way to the festival grounds proper.  Ticketing and security flowed really smoothly and, before we knew it, we were inside and heading up to the rail for some heady Pennsylvania grass with Cabinet.  And, for those that know their Cabinet, you’ll know that we were in for a real treat, and a chilly WinterWonderGrassy one at that.  Of course, it was to be high energy, dancin’, twirlin’ stompgrass from the very beginning with them.  After a slow, building diversion of a beginning, “Aint Gonna Work Tomorrow” developed with Pappy Biondo at the mic for lead vocals.  But this was just the start of one helluva fun ride into a fantastic set.  Everyone would get their chance at soloing, ’tis true.  And solo they did.  From Micky Coviello spicing things up with some seriously tasty guitar riffs to Todd Kopec on fiddle, shredding some strings with his fiery hot bow, things got down and dirty in the best way possible.  Of course, we can’t forget Pappy and his ninja-like banjo skills, playing deliberately in and out of tune throughout the song to match the lyrics.  I mean, that some pretty incredible stuff going on right there!  And what about that breakdown at the end?  The whole thing put us all in the perfect mood for dancing underneath the wintry Colorado skies to some seriously amazing string band music!  Bravi to these PA boys for bringing such heat to warm up the audience!  Off to one superbly good start, I’d say.  A little into their set, the band delivered up a great “Arco Arena” into “Diamond Joe” combo that continued to bring some staunchly excellent energy to the stage.  “Arco” is a brooding and intense instrumental which features the ensemble sound of this unique band in an exemplary manner.  Effect heavy and electrified, this tune is more journey than destination, exploratory…  Some great fiddle work from Kopec was counterpointed by Coviello on electric guitar, both weaving in and out of the fabric of the band’s overall texture.  Then they took this directly into “Diamond Joe”, a clear crowd favorite, putting the mic back in Pappy’s adept hands.  This also meant that the mando was firmly in JP Biondo’s hands, which is precisely where you want it to be.  He adds such flourish to the framework of every song, his style so distinctive.  Pappy crooned out the story of Diamond Joe in his hallmark manner, the band behind him forming a wall of sound and action in perfect support.  Definitely found myself loving Dylan Skursky’s bass lines during the ending jam alongside Jami Novak’s solo drumming (Josh Karis couldn’t make it this fest).  Those two really held things down while the rest of the band wailed overhead.  Great stuff, boys!!  Excellence!!  Further on down the set, we managed to capture a little video of this poetry-in-motion with Cabinet at WWG CO 2017.  Please enjoy “Po’s Reel” my friends!! 

Pretty cool stuff, right?  I mean, the entire experience…the snow, the weather, the music…so amazing!  Just after “Po’s” the band took things in a happy, reggae-feeling, groovy direction with “A Smile”, JP on lead vocals bringing this joyful vibe to one and all.  The band matched his tone, keeping things light and bouncy.  Perfect music for dancing, which is precisely what every person there was doing.  We couldn’t help it!  Not sure I’d ever actually heard this one live before.  A new favorite, absolutely.  Thanks for that, fellas!  Finally, it was time to close things down for this sweet, sweet set.  The choice?  Why, “Susquehanna Breakdown”, of course!  And the apropos closer I would have to say, friends.  Quick, fun dance music, this instrumental featured every member of the band in some form or fashion before things were all done.  JP’s mando solo melted so many faces medics had to be called in.  That’s only before Kopec melted all the remainder with his sizzling fiddle stylings.  Crazy good!!  But do you think that Pappy or Mickey would be outdone?  Not whatsoever.  Banjo and guitar going nuts respectively, so many notes coming out of that stage.  It was almost too much.  But not quite, if you know what I mean.  What a marvelous set, everyone!  It really felt like WinterWonderGrass now, now that I’d stood out under the winter weather and seen some hot, hot grass music.  Yeah, I was back.  And how phenomenal it was so far!  A huge thanks to Cabinet for making the trip to Colorado and for bringing the noise.  Cheers!!

Cabinet

Cabinet

    Dropping back to the Soapbox Stage after Cabinet, it was time for some home-grown, Colorado gypsy grass with Nederland’s own Gipsy Moon.  If your eyes and ears aren’t on this band yet, then you might want to lend a couple of each to the cause.  Interesting and unorthodox instrumentation, fantastic song-writing, phenomenal musicianship and singing…all these things characterize GM but they are so much more as well.  I’ve had my eye on this group for awhile now and I have witnessed nothing but wonderful things and a meteoric rise towards success.  I was definitely excited to have them at WWG this year and proud of them for snagging three sets throughout the weekend, this Soapbox set being their second following another performance the day before.  We spent the first few songs up front in the crowded tent until it just got too warm and we needed to fade to the back…but the place was packed.  Good for Gipsy Moon!  And as well they deserve it.  The band took the stage and quickly got things going with “Right Kind of Crazy”, Mackenzie Page at the vocal helm as always, her unique and delightful voice crooning out into the crowd.  Matt Cantor, on bass and vocal harmonies, stood like a mighty tree, instrument in hand to her left, Andrew Conley on cello to Matt’s left.  Omar Mansour was arranged in the rear of the group this time, his fantastic drumming chops such a wonderful addition to the already singular and fabulous sound of this band.  That percussion brings such a lovely drive and added emotion to each and every piece.  It’s always so magical to watch a new recruit jive so very well with an ensemble to the point of making it that much better as a result.  Loving it!  I really like Andrew’s lines at various points in this one…they provide so much movement and character.  Of course, so much of that has to do with the timbre of his chosen instrument.  In a genre heavily populated by fiddles, it takes guts to don a cello and rock it the way Conley does.  And does he ever rock it!  Some of his solos are face melters to be sure.  What a start to what would be a marvelous set!  Silas Herman wrote the second number they played that evening, a lively tune with a lovely mandolin and cello intro called “Daybreak”.  The duet that Andrew and Silas play throughout most of the song, the melody, is just breathtakingly pretty.  And Mr. Herman definitely lets loose on that mando of his, killing it with note after amazing note.  A happy tune, a dancing tune, a tune full of joy and merriment.  But, isn’t that Silas in a nutshell?  I just love it when an instrumental takes me somewhere…someplace as I have my eyes closed…a place far away and magical…a place of pure music.  That’s precisely what this WWG version of “Daybreak” did for me that Friday.  Lovely playing, just gorgeous.  Especially Andrew and Silas.  Thank you fellas immensely!!  Next up, they played their song “Skeleton” which we were able to capture on video for you!  Please enjoy this bit of the Soapbox Stage experience at WinterWonderGrass!! 

I mean, how can you not just love this band?  And see how packed the place was?  Not bad, right?  Then, talk about being whisked away somewhere…!!  The Greek song “Misrilou” always seems to do that to me.  Between the gypsy sounds of the band and Mackenzie’s mesmerizing and exotic vocals, I felt again transported by this song to a distant land filled with bazaars and spices and interesting foreign languages.  Man, do I love this band…have I said that already?  Omar was the man in this one, too!  Why?  Well, he kicked things into super double overdrive at one point pounding away like an ecstatic beast on his drums and whipping the band into a magical frenzy.  What a ride!  Holy goodness!  I mean it!  Wow.  Had to sit down after that one.  Finally, the band closed down their short set with “Gin”, an old and great standard from Gipsy Moon’s catalogue.  The slow and mellow opening most certainly belies the party flavor of this song once it gets going properly.  An anthem to drinking the finer things in life, this one never fails to satisfy a music-loving crowd.  Excellent work from everyone in the band forming some really fine ensemble sound.  Silas had his own moments to shine to be sure as did Andrew and Omar, but always seeming in seamless support of Mackenzie’s dulcet vocal lines.  And then, sadly, it was over.  Another fantastic set from this fantastic band.  Really make time to see them if you haven’t — time spent with Gipsy Moon is so very worth it.  So much thanks and love going out to the band from this journalist.  You guys are phenomenal and we thank you for it!!

Gipsy Moon

Gipsy Moon

    And then, just a little farther into the cold Colorado night, it was time for some red hot vibes from everyone’s favorite polyethnic cajun slamgrass band, Leftover Salmon!  What would a festival like WWG be without Salmon?  I’m not sure I want to find out.  But, luckily, for us that night we didn’t have to because LoS brought some serious intensity to the main stage.  Opening things up with a fantastic WinterWonderGrass version of “Lonesome Weary Ramblin’ Highway Man” the band showed from the first instant that they meant some serious musical business that night.  Lucky for us in the crowd, no?  And, lucky for you, we just happened to nab this opener on video for your viewing delight!  Please take a gander and enjoy, friends! 

And, just like that, bang!  We were off!  What a great way to start a show!  Further into the set, the band brought a little sunshine to the chilly WWG stage with “The Sun Dog” with a blazing hot intro from Andy Thorn that bled right into the tune proper.  This was a new instrumental to me and I really got into it — excellent for dancing, no doubt.  So many notes from that Thorn character, too.  Just so many.  That is, until Drew Emmitt got ahold of things on his mando offering a sortie of countless tones of his own.  “And Vince Herman?” you ask.  Well, he was busy shredding things up complete on guitar in that classic Vince style.  Man, do these fellas know their way around a fret board!  So much respect for the musical acumen of this super fun band of delightful crazies.  Talk about not feeling the cold anymore!  My blood was on the rise from all the blazing hot music coming from the stage.  It felt fantastic, my friends!  A little bit later on came an LoS classic:  “Down in the Hollow”.  Drew was up to the mic for lead vocals on this one, the man ready to croon his heart out as always for the adoring audience.  And did he ever!  Vince threw down a tasty solo a short ways into the song, pushing the whole thing ever onwards at full speed ahead, the steamboat that is Leftover Salmon chugging merrily along.  Erik Deutsch brought out some nasty good work of his own on the keys giving us a super sweet melody run jammed out as only this talented man can.  This was, in a nutshell, quite the musical rush.  And what a set so far.  But wait, there’s more!  Like the “New Speedway Boogie” that happened next for instance.  Yes, you read that correctly.  With a super bluesy opening, this one took form and we all recognized just how lucky we all were in that moment.  Vince laid down the lyrics like a champion bard doing this one a service for one and all there that evening.  Alwyn Robinson brought some funky goodness on the drums making this one pop out into the cold evening air.  Greg Garrison and Deutsch also shared a little funk of their own, bass and keys shining out respectively.  Holy Dead, Batman!  How good was this??  They took “Speedway” directly into “Powder Day” and Andy Thorn jumped up to the mic for this apropos song for the snowy setting.  And, from all the reports from those who had ventured up the mountain that Friday, it had been a great “powder day” for one and all.  As it should be, right?  Fresh pow pow on the mou mou, brah?  Bingo.  Drew had pulled out this flying-v electric he’d been playing all night with a look towards getting down — and get down with it he did, my friends.  Andy killed the lyrics, clearly singing about something he knows well.  He does live in Colorado after all.  Pretty incredible banjo solo from that same man as well a couple of minutes in.  A mighty fine selection for this WinterWonderGrass.  Great job, fellas!  The whole thing wound down with a jumping version of “Get No Better”, Dave Bruzza of Greensky Bluegrass joining them on stage for a bit of the fun.  Vince was the lead man on this one, although Bruzza jumped up to duet with him pretty soon in.  The ensemble sound of the band was on point throughout this one, a magic wall of slamgrass sound sweetly serenading all of us, filling our hearts with joy and merriment enough to make it to and through the impending late night after the show.  And what a show it had been, thanks to the gents of Leftover Salmon!  So many huge thanks going out to the band and their folks for helping to make Friday night at WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 so special.  Always an amazing time with this band and this night had been no exception.  Certainly made me hungry for more incredible grass music all weekend long at WWG.  Thank you, Salmon!  Thank you a million times over for what you do!

Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon

And, Saturday?  On its way, friends!!

 

 

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Thursday Evening

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Thursday Evening

WinterWonderGrass CO 2017

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Thursday Evening

Farm-to-Table Dinner & Acoustic Show with Leftover Salmon

    It was a gorgeous drive from Boulder to our destination to the north and west of us in the Rocky Mountains.  The snow-covered peaks were magnificent and regal in their repose standing tall alongside the roadways we traversed seeking bluegrass and community and beer and fresh powder on the slopes and myriad other marvelous times at WinterWonderGrass CO 2017.  After several hours, we had arrived in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, safe, sound, and ready to get our WWG on.  More than ready, in fact.  After such a lovely journey to the ski resort side of this quaint mountain town, our hearts were full and our souls charged to the brim making us all the more eager to plug into the unique vibe that is WinterWonderGrass.  We got settled into our accommodations in just enough time to change and head over to Gondola Square to catch our ride up to the top of the peak for an evening of music and food with Leftover Salmon.  Suffice it to say, riding in a conveyance such as this to catch some tunes is not the average experience with other festivals.  Certainly worth pointing out this one of many, many things that set WWG apart from your fairer weather fests to be sure.  A short ride later and we were thousands of feet higher in elevation and ready to climb even further up on the wings of Salmon’s energetic music.  The intimate setting was abuzz with activity and anticipation, people enjoying the opportunity to taste some beers and wines and catch up with friends amidst all the merry socializing.  Suffice it to say, we enjoyed doing the same seeing lots of familiar faces in the crowd ourselves.  All told, it was a simply delightful setting and proved a fantastic one for music, acoustic LoS-style.  The band ended up playing two sets that evening…so, let’s get to the first one, shall we?

Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon

    The boys started the whole shebang with a little Neil Young classic, “Are You Ready for the Country” taking it at a groovy pace and leaning heavily into the the acoustic nature of this gig from the get-go.  Not that these fellas are strangers to the world of acoustic music, right?  The sound was excellent from the start, however, gelling into a really tight jam all night long.  To whit, Andy Thorn threw down some heat from that banjo of his about a minute into things that pushed any thoughts of calm right from the mind…think “strong but mellow intensity” instead.  It’s really difficult to accurately describe.  Vince was on lead vocals for this one, laying down the lyrics in classic Herman fashion and doing Mr. Young a service.  Drew Emmitt was in fine form himself, giving quite the solo on the mando, helping to further round out this WWG version of an oldie and goodie.  Certainly, a strong start for this special mountaintop show.  If this was any indication of what was in store, we were all in for something really remarkable.  They stepped the tempo and energy up a bit for the next one, a Drew vocal solo, “Gold Hill Line”.  It’s always so nice to hear everyone in such great voice as they were that evening, Emmitt being no exception.  This time of year can be tricky for singers, especially up in the mountains.  But, I guess that Salmon collectively decided to come upslope and summarily nail this show instead.  Lucky for us, no?  Herman ripped open a big guitar solo for us a short ways into the song and fired note after note out over the dancing crowd to our delight.  Drew joined him for a quick duet before Thorn led things back to the lyrics with a torrent of banjo notes.  Dancing, singing, hopping over to see friends and laugh and smile with them…this was a perfect example of an excellent Leftover Salmon show.  Regardless of venue, one can always rely on this band for energy, fun, joy, smiles, laughter, and camaraderie.  A phenomenal place to recharge the old batteries to be certain.  And, what would a night like this be without hearing “Alfalfa’s”, hmmm?  One of those superb standards of the LoS catalogue, this one is always worth it.  Always.  If you like a good laugh and fun and things like that, that is.  Assuming you do, this version was pretty funny and came a little on down the set from “Gold Hill”.  Vince always does enjoy playing with lyrics to the merriment of the audience and he took a few liberties here and there for sure…laughter abounding.  The song itself is just so perfectly Salmon, the subject matter, the music…everything.  And, the “Andy Griffith Show Theme” ending definitely put a smile on my face, no doubt.   Those guys — what jokers.  A little further down the set they tied the themes of the evening together…food, music, fun…with “Home Cookin’” led, as always of course, by Vince Herman.  More classic Salmon sound for all of us and, did it sound fantastic!  This acoustic show felt like a home-cooked meal turned into a musical feast and this was only the first set!  Erik Deutsch was a madman on the keys all night long, to include his solo here in “Home Cookin’”.  That man brings so much to the musical table and here was no exception.  So amazingly funky!  It’s like he was born to play in this band!  They finished things out before taking a set break with John Hartford’s “Steamboat Whistle Blues”.  I really do love when Salmon plays Hartford.  They’re just so darn good at it!  Like Thorn’s banjo soloing towards the beginning (and throughout) — gold.  Just gold.  And Vince on the lyrics was as great a storyteller as there ever was.  This proved an excellent way to wrap things up for this first set and to get the crowd ready for some tasty dinner.      

Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon

    After dining and sampling a libation or two, we were all ready to dance dinner off with Salmon’s second set of the evening.  Now that we were all well-fed, it was time to get back into the groove with the music of LoS.  Drew Emmitt started things up for us by stepping up to the mic for the lead vocals for another Neil Young opener, “Comes A Time”.  This was a definite crowd pleaser as almost every voice in the place was singing the chorus alongside Mr. Emmitt.  And, the best part?  Dessert was being served at the same time.  Sweet confections and sweet, sweet Salmon music?  Does life really get much better, my friends?  Drew and Andy trading off back and forth between mando and banjo was pretty dang sweet, that’s for sure.  So many notes cascading from the stage and spilling out over the audience into the night air.  Akin to Erik’s solo work himself, piano love emanating, adding so much to the texture of the piece, of the band.  Alwyn Robinson was a machine all night long himself, and here being no different whatsoever.  He embraced and embodied the perfect touch all evening, balancing his percussion with the acoustic flavor extremely well.  No doubting he knows his way around his drum kit.  And rather well at that, no?  Not to mention a super amazing guy, too.  But, then again, which of the LoS lads aren’t super amazing guys?  A little down the set Andy Thorn was up for lead vocals for a song that was dedicated to all the Carolinians in the crowd that night.  “Home to Carolina” is a rollicking good time full of fast-paced musicianship jumping out all over the place.  Vince laid down a massive solo on guitar at one point, showing us all how it’s done in fine fashion just to hand the reigns right back to Andy for the next verse.  Not to be outdone, Deutsch threw down a monster run on those ivories, going mad much to the absolute joy of the audience.  A little later still in the set Vince told us that it was time to go for a ride on the bluegrass train.  You know, we were all game, so the band played “Riding on the L&N” and boy did they play it!  So fast, they played…seriously!  The tempo was insane from the get-go with mandolin and guitar and banjo and bass and drums and keys all tying directly into that very madness.  I mean, it would almost be impossible to describe all the notes from all those instruments, they came so rapidly and switched from man to man so swiftly.  Drew was on fire, Andy was a blur, Erik’s fingers impossible to see.  Greg Garrison, meanwhile, was keeping everything grounded and level with his bass stylings.  Such a bevy of notes coming from his fingerboard as well!!  It was quite the bluegrass locomotive and we were all holding on for delightful life and enjoyment!  Vince’s main vocals were right on point as were all the harmonies that came in from Drew and Andy.  What a rush!!  Some serious thanks to the band for this bit of madcap fun.  They wound things down with “Standin’ All Alone” featuring Vince on lead vocals.  Erik enjoyed a bit of time on his melodica for us, showing even more skills from those magic hands of his.  What an evening it had been and this song was a perfect example.  If you had come to the top of the mountain in Steamboat that evening looking to have your belly and your soul filled completely up, then you chose wisely.  Leftover Salmon had put on one helluva show that evening playing old and new favorites to the utter happiness of those who joined the band for an intimate evening such as this.  So much applause and so many thanks to LoS and all those who had a hand in making this evening so special.  Festivaaaaaaaaaaaaal, indeed!!  And, just like that, WWG CO 2017 was off to a mighty fine start!!

Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon

Stay tuned for Friday’s review coming soon!!

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Strings & Sol Festival 2016 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Sunday

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Strings & Sol Festival 2016 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Sunday

Strings & Sol Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Sunday Feature - Greensky Bluegrass Poolside Set

    One of the more unique and certainly special aspects of this year’s Strings & Sol had to be Greensky Bluegrass’s poolside set on Sunday afternoon.  The band had gathered in the cupolaed gazebo in the middle of the pool with countless inflatable rafts of varying types and themes bobbing around them holding up fans gathered to hear some incredible string band music, cocktails in hand.  The setting was perfect with the sun high above overhead, warming us all but not too hot.  The pool itself was blue and sparkling and refreshing and it was packed full of S&S Family ready for some Greensky.  The band opened things up with an excellent cover for them, “American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad.  There was a surprisingly good sound emanating from the speakers and drifting out over the pool and towards the sea as Paul Hoffman crooned and beckoned us all in with his singular voice.  They rocked this one pretty hard, throwing down some seriously fine solo work throughout.  Paul nailed down some excellent mando a couple of minutes in which was, in turn, answered by Anders Beck on dobro.  What a complementary duo are those two!  All of this was underscored by the ever-present notes of Mike Bont’s bold banjo stylings, a sound I listen for in all their numbers.  What an opener for such a unique set as this!  It was hard to get past just how decadent this all seemed.  The amazing staff of the Now Sapphire coming around with drink after drink, GSBG throwing down some awesome newgrass, a gorgeous day in a tropical paradise?  We were all pinching ourselves for fear of dreaming this all up.  A very nice “Top Gun Theme” teaser opened up the next song, “Dustbowl Overtures”, a lovely and balanced number really showing the ensemble sound of Greensky in fine fashion.  While they do some mighty wonderful soloing, they also make one helluva combined sound and texture, throwing down some collective jams that will have your jaw dropping and your feet dancing.  Mike Bont did have a particularly nice solo in this one, however, stepping briefly out of the ensemble sound and right back into it so deftly.  The next two songs were a combination right-left hook that hit us all square in the happy.  They first played “No Idea” which they then took directly into the Beatles’ “Help!” simply killing both songs summarily.  But, as fate would have it, you can see and hear for yourself!!  Please enjoy!! 

See what I meant about the perfect setting?  Definitely not your normal bluegrass ambiance, right?  Yet one more reason that S&S is so very special to so many people.  A bit down the set they gave us a phenomenal cover of the James Gang’s “Walk Away” Phoff just destroying the vocals under that warm Mexican sun.  The central jam of this one was pretty amazing, with Dave Bruzza showing some serious chops on guitar, no doubting that man is a monster on his instrument.  Mike Devol, laying down the facts and just the facts on his baller ass bass also served as chief harmonizer to Hoffman, helping create a delightful vocal texture between the two of them.  The ending jam was nothing to shake a stick at, either.  On and on and on it went, Beck’s dobro singing out to the joy of all listening, Bont’s banjo omnipresent and awesome.  Are they just the best bluegrass band for covers or what?  I would argue a very hearty “yes”.  Especially after that one.  One fun trivia note:  they got their lighting designer, Andrew Lincoln, to come do vocals on “Feelin’ Alright”…and he was fantastic.  Go Lincoln!  Talk about a crowd pleaser!  Finally, they closed everything down with Paul Simon’s “Gumboots”.  Damn, what a show!  What a special treat for all at hand.  And, judging by the amount of fun everyone had, to include the band, I would say the experiment was a grand success!  Bravi to the fine fellows from Kalamazoo, MI!!  Bravi, indeed!!

Greensky Bluegrass's Poolside Set

Greensky Bluegrass's Poolside Set

Sunday Highlights

Leftover Salmon - Keller & the Keels - Railroad Earth

    Sunday Funday had arrived in fine form, the third day of the festival where we all hit our respective strides and really began to settle into the pace of the fest and the vibe of the Now Sapphire.  It was Discograss Day at S&S, too, as fate would have it and some people embraced the theme from the very beginning of the day, afro wigs and disco ball necklaces could be seen everywhere all day long, increasingly so as Sunday drew on towards sunset and Leftover Salmon’s main stage show.  I arrived a couple of songs in, food having taken immediate precedence lest I fall down dancing.  You know how it is.  Hard to line everything up just right all the time…but we still try.  The band had sounded pretty damn amazing from where I sat stuffing my face, so I knew to be ready for an incredible show in progress.  Well, I knew to be ready for that anyways.  I mean, we’re talking about Salmon here!  I walked up to the band steaming along to “Gold Hill Line” with Drew Emmitt on lead vocals.  A quintessential Salmon song, “Gold Hill” rocks as much as it string bands.  With Vince Herman on back-up vocals and tearing things up on his guitar, Drew sounded amazing as ever, his voice so suited to this style of music.  Certainly an excellent selection to make my entry to.  They followed this up with “Liza” a crowd favorite to be sure.  So many folks dancing in the sand to the setting sun singing along in full voice, enjoying life to the extreme.  It was a rather magical sight to behold.  Vince was up on the mic for vocals on this one, backed by one of the best bands in the business.  Erik Deutsch and his fantastic keyboard skills punctuated the entire song with a few solos and riffs here and there adding his distinctive spice to the madcap musical gumbo that is Leftover Salmon.  Andy Thorn laid down quite the solo himself on his trusty electric banjo, really showing off his great skills on the instrument.  Great, great version of this song…really tropical and apropos for this setting next to the sea.  A bit down the set they gave the crowd a great Little Feat cover in the form of “Gimme A Stone” of which we snagged a recording just for you, my friends!!  Please enjoy!! 

Jeremy Garrett (The Infamous Stringdusters) joined the band for the next tune, “Bolin Creek” which was pretty damn hot I must say.  A sizzling fast instrumental, everyone had their chance at soloing and doing it well.  So much music packed into such a relatively short amount of time.  Vince destroyed things on guitar summarily handing things off to Garrett whose fiddle was on fire that afternoon.  Erik took the reigns on keys and shredded for a hot minute until trading off to Andy who needed to melt a few faces, apparently.  What a rush!  What a ride!  Seriously fine musicianship all around, to a man.  And that jam in the middle??  My goodness!  So many thanks as a result, to be sure.  Cheers to Jeremy Garrett for joining in the fun!  Further down the set a ways we were treated to the rock fusion thrill ride that is “Better” as they brought things to a close.  Syncopated and rolling along like a freight train, this song hurtled into the evening sky and rained down upon the crowd like a silver light of music and joy.  Erik Deutsch laid down some nasty, nasty stuff on those keys of his dominating the melodic scene for a stretch.  Damn, can that man play some keyboards!  Alwyn Robinson was killing it on the skins, throwing down beat after beat like a multi-armed beast specially-designed by a secret project to be a true master of the drums.  The man is a machine, it’s true.  Greg Garrison’s bass came shining through the texture a few times rooting the song back down lest it fly off the tracks.  Love watching him play — always enjoying himself so much.  And how couldn’t he be?  The song came cruising to a halt to the instant applause of everyone gathered in front of that special stage on the Mexican beach.  As usual, Salmon had put together one baller ass show for us, perfect for the tropics and the festival itself.  And they really threw down, too, bringing their A game to the Now Sapphire and to that very stage.  So much praise to heap upon these gentlemen…for the unique style of music they bring to the world and for the joy they spread daily.  Bravi, fellows, for a fine, fine show!  Cheers and thanks!

Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon

    After the traditional two hour break, music resumed after dark with Keller Williams and the Keels on the main stage.  Always a fun show as well, I was glad that they were all three hereat Strings & Sol, you know, to give it that extra edge.  The opened up with Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”, an old favorite amongst fans of this trio.  Talk about a powerhouse of musicians, too!  Keller?  Larry Keel?  And Jenny Keel?  Suffice it to say you get a whole lot of music for your money with these guys.  Keller was on his mandola for this set, allowing for Larry to take full control of the guitar lines for the night.  And, with Jenny on her stalwart bass laying it down one amazing note at a time, we couldn’t lose!  “Crater in the Backyard” came next, that tongue-in-cheek song about a huge hole in Keller’s back yard and what it might become.  Familiar territory once again for Keller fans.  They all sounded phenomenal from where I was in the sand, dancing with my wife and friends.  So many notes from Larry, I mean just so many.  That man’s guitar really gets a workout every show, right?  And Keller, goofing around with the vocal lines, as per his wont.  The man surely has a sense of humor.  A bit down the set, we recorded the S&S version of “Rebels” for you here, hope you enjoy!!! 

What a night for music, huh?  It really was lovely, the rains of the previous night having abated.  They followed “Rebels” with a personal favorite of mine:  “Breathe”, taking things at a quick clip, Keller picking away on his mandola.  It was a fast version to be sure.  Larry kept up in fine fashion, adding his own bevy of notes to the mix.  Jenny, like a sentinel, was there keeping things grounded and providing some lovely harmonic vocals.  What a jam in the middle of this one, too!  Get down, you three crazy music folk!!  Seriously, fantastic.  A little Eagles cover was in the works that evening as well…“Seven Bridges Road” was a nice surprise in the set.  True to form, they sped this one along, nailing the three part harmonies, Larry’s signature gravely voice counterpointing those of the others.  The Eagles certainly never did it like this!  Further down the set we got a great version of The Dead’s “Loser” — what a treat in a sea of musical gifts that weekend.  “Last fair deal in the country,” indeed!  It was interesting and fun and really nice to look around to see so many people singing along, this song so familiar to so much of the S&S Family.  Moments like that are ones that make me love our community all the more.  Finally, they finished things off by taking things directly in to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” catering to this author’s every whim apparently.  It was, and I quote my voice notes, “badass”.  And it was, believe you me.  I really do love that version of an old staunch favorite of mine.  Pink Floyd and I go way back so, for Keller and the Keels to take me there as a send off from their phenomenal set?  Crazy good!  Thanks to Jenny and Larry Keel and Keller Williams for a delightful set of gritty, funny, amazing music!  Always look forward to seeing them again…always will.  iiGracias, amigos!!

Keller & the Keels

Keller & the Keels

    Rounding out the evening on the main stage was a show with Railroad Earth.  Walking into a sea of sequined jumpsuits, afro wigs, bellbottoms, and other Discograss related accouterment, I began that evening a few songs in with The Band’s “Acadian Driftwood” a favorite song of mine for a long time.  And I do dig RRE’s version of it, this one especially.  It just fit with the setting so well and jived with the experience in so many great ways.  Todd Sheaffer was on lead vocals for most of the song, relating the sad tale, trading off with Tim Carbone from time to time.  Great harmonies during the choruses as well — really fine singing work there.   No doubting the extent of the talents of this band.  Andrew Altman led things in for the next song on his bass, giving us some funky stylings to counterpoint John Skehan and Andy Goessling’s mandolin playing.  “Walk Beside Me” sure started out with a groovy intro, the fellas kicking it a little on the edgy side of things themselves.  Todd rocked the vocals in very fine voice all the while shored up by this mighty ensemble.  And there was no mistaking the sound of the double mandolins.  Made for quite the musical texture.  Down the set a ways came a huge drum intro from Carey Harmon, the living metronome.  It set the tone well for “Butterfly and the Tree” which the band launched into, adding their instruments to the drums and creating a really lovely musical landscape.  A lively tune for sure, this one had us all dancing in that magical sand, grooving along with Railroad.  Up next, they played us a great version of “The Hunting Song” with Goessling on penny whistle and banjo, Altman on electric bass, Carbone on some light percussion, and an octave mandolin in Skehan’s grip.  The whistle in Andy’s adept hands added a very haunting quality to this mellow, yet intense song.  What a fantastic sound this one had tonight!  Then, they took this directly into “Spring-Heeled Jack” for a double-barrel of fun kind of of night.  It was pure excellence.  A bit later on in the show, they sped things up again with a rollicking rendition of “Bread and Water” inspiring yet more dancing out of our exhausted feet and legs.  Todd nailed the lyrics down like a champ while the rest of the band summarily killed it all around him.  Quite a great bit of fun — I love it when this band steps it up like this!  The amazing banjo solo from Goessling about a minute in would have had you falling in love with that instrument all over again.  Carbone was white hot on the fiddle, doing what he does best for all of us there present.  And we were very thankful for it!  They finally ended up closing everything down with “Every Grain of Sand” choosing a mellower way to finish the night.  Such an energetic show!  So many great songs on the setlist.  The weather had been perfect as had the surroundings.  What more could we have asked for?  As we all began to clear out and head to late night with Danny Barnes, the tones of Railroad’s delightful show rang through our heads, making us all smile with the remembrance of it all.  An ovation for Railroad Earth, if you please!  Mighty fine, gentleman, mighty fine, indeed!  A supreme round of thanks to all of RRE and their staff and crew for another incredible night of music in Mexico!  And there was still one more day to go!!

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Monday’s action coming at you soon, friends!!

 

 

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Strings & Sol Festival 2016 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Friday

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Strings & Sol Festival 2016 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Friday

Strings & Sol Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Introduction

    The third time was most certainly the charm this year for me at Strings & Sol, Cloud 9’s annual bluegrass bash on the beach down in Mexico.  So much clicked and grooved and jived in all the right ways and having the privilege of plugging into that unique energy and wonderful positivity that is the Strings & Sol reality became all the more real and important.  And fun…we can’t forget the fun.  What a cast of characters assembled, too, both on stage and off this festival having become a quick repository for so many super fans and linchpins of our community as well as a growing number of multi S&S alumni.  As such, the subculture of Strings & Sol draws you in, seduces you with so many amazing experiences and wonders, and then delights you to the very marrow with unparalleled music, a heavenly atmosphere, and the chance to experience it all with some of your favorite people.  And that lineup?  Are you kidding me?  As always, just the kind of music I want to hear with a frosty beverage in hand and my feet in the sand.  Bravi to Annabel Stelling and all at Cloud 9 who have a hand in making this festival happen each year.  For our money at The Lot Scene, it is clearly one of the best planned, organized, and run fests around.  Honestly, it’s damn near perfect.  Please keep up the wonderful work, guys!!  So many thanks!!  I guess, for me, it’s the overall feeling I get when I come to Strings & Sol.  I am reminded so acutely of summer camp as a child…meeting new people and having fun for a week or so, making lifelong friends in the process, saying goodbye for a year in between…having more fun than seems humanly possible.  And the Now Sapphire plays a huge role in this, too, what with their staff (our counselors if you will) always at the ready to make things happy, to make us happy.  Seeing the same staff from year to year…see?  Just like camp.  And the anticipation.  An entire year’s worth of waiting to get back to the magic.  Back to friends and drinks and music and the beach and the pool and the Buffet and fun.  All that and more:  Strings & Sol.  Camp Strings & Sol.  But, where would our favorite summer camp in December be without the music?  Without those Strings we’ve been hearing so much about?  Where, indeed?  How’s about we get down to business then, my friends…  

Now Sapphire Pool and Pool Bar

Now Sapphire Pool and Pool Bar

Friday Highlights

Yonder Mountain String Band - Leftover Salmon

    Annabel Stelling joined Yonder Mountain String Band for the traditional welcome toast as the waves crashed nearby and as everyone raised their libations high into the evening sky in salute to the good times to come.  Always such a triumphant and expectant moment and certainly a favorite of many in the crowd.  How couldn’t it be?  With so much music in store at that point in the festival, that must serve as a great memory for so many people who attended.  And then, in a flash, the music was off to a hot start with Yonder at the helm getting everyone’s feet a-dancing in that cool white sand once again.  They kicked things off with a speedy and energetic “Insult and an Elbow” from their album Black Sheep.  A good choice in that these five talented individuals showed that they meant business for the remainder of the weekend from the very get go.  Jake Jolliff’s early solo at Warp 5 was a perfect example of this fact.  And Allie Kral's answer to that solo a bit later in the song?  Riveting.  Plainly put, we were all in for some sizzling YMSB this weekend.  And we were loving it.  Another selection from Black Sheep was next in line that evening in the form of a fantastic Strings & Sol rendition of “I’m Lost”.  But, the best thing is, you don’t have to take my word for it because we recorded a lovely video of it just for you!  Please enjoy! 

Nothing like taking it that special vantage point from the beach at S&S.  It really is as magical as everyone says it is.  “Pockets” followed “I’m Lost” for this opening set from Yonder Mountain on the stage sitting blithely next to the sea, the mixture of music and nature creating a heady brew for the crowd below.  Really fine guitar solo from Adam Aijala about a minute into things truly showcasing the musical acumen that is so prevalent in this band.  And this was only echoed in Allie’s own extremely gifted and skilled musicianship exemplified in her own killer soloing.  The next song saw Jake Jolliff come up to the mic to take the lead on King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight”, yet another excellent cover from YMSB.  They certainly have a strong collection of those very songs.  Fantastic ensemble work from the entire group on this one highlighting that easygoing feel of yesteryear that this song evokes in spades as well as the round robin of sweet solos that kept coming round the bend time and again.  I really enjoyed this version of an old favorite.  Superb job, guys!  Danny Barnes joined the band on stage for a couple of numbers beginning with “Winds of Wyoming” which they took directly into “Funtime” and back into “Winds”.  Holy goodness can that man play the banjo!!  Yonder just knows how to interface with a guest so very well to bring out the very best of the collaboration.  Adam took this to heart with a lengthy and fiery good guitar solo a couple of minutes into the mix.  Such skill on that instrument!  Allie’s contribution to the good times on stage is of necessary mention as well — that good lady can evoke so much incredible joy from that fiddle of hers.  And we are all so glad she does just that!  All of this was in anticipation of Danny on his 5-string, however, as he lit up the night with his own unique brand of picking.  What a monstrously awesome augmentation to Yonder.  Bravo, sir!  Then, Dave Johnston threw down some duet action with Danny as well which was twice the banjo goodness.  So much string band happy on stage all at one time!!  And then it was time for Danny to bust out the lead on “Funtime” with Ben in support on harmonies.  What’s that about Jake nailing down some seriously crazy good solo work?  Yeah, you got that one right, my friend for that certainly went down, too.  Talk about a fun time, indeed.  So fun!  Especially when they slammed right back into “Winds of Wyoming” to finish things out with Danny.  Excellence!  Later in the set, Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon came out to add his voice and mando to the madness on the S&S main stage for a couple of songs:  “Summer in the City” into “Kentucky Mandolin” back into “Summer”.  Again, another perfect example of how well Yonder really synchs with other musicians.  I love that aspect of this band.  You could tell Drew was having a blast up there, too, smiling away in such the infectious manner.  Nothing like watching our favorite musicians love what they do.  The final song of the set came a little later with Larry Keel added in this time to increase that fun payout.  Yonder and Larry finished the show with “Sidewalk Stars” an old favorite in the YSMB catalogue.  Larry, of course, added his signature grit and sincerity to the performance which, if you are a fan of Mr. Keel like I am, is always encouraged.  What a way to conclude the opening set of Strings & Sol 2016!!  What a set itself!!  If this was an indication of what was to come (and it was, believe-you-me) we were all in for the best weekend of bluegrass on the beach yet.  And that was pretty damn exciting.  Cheers to Yonder for tearing the lid off Strings & Sol 2016 for us!!  Bravi!!

Yonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

    Festivaaaaaaaaaaaal!!  Ah, the cry of the Leftover Salmon.  The rally that utters forth time and again from the great polyethnic cajun slamgrass chieftain, Vince Herman.  Leftover Salmon.  That band’s band.  That amazing ongoing experiment in music, madness, merrymaking, and mutual awesomeness.  What would S&S be without LoS?  Where would we all be without them to help welcome us back to camp on the first night of the fun?  I am just glad we didn’t have to find any of that out this year as we watched Salmon take the stage after Yonder Mountain.  I freely admit my bias here:  I adore this band.  It’s really hard not to.  From the energy to the joy to the music to the everything, I really enjoy all that they do.  But, then again, I really like to have fun at shows and Leftover provides fun in droves.  So, let’s get to that fun, shall we?  “Mexico” was our collective intro into how Salmon was feeling this year at S&S.  Drew Emmitt was up to the mic for the lead vocals on this homage to our current location, with the band in full support to be sure.  Nothing at all like that sweet, sweet Salmon ensemble sound.  Alwyn Robinson was serving up some serious beats that translated directly into sand flying around our dancing feet on the beach down below and while the rest of the band wailed away, stirring the pot in all sorts of fine ways.  Quite the auspicious start to what would be a marvelous show.  “Zombie Jamboree” was the perfect follow-up to the intensity of “Mexico”.  Erik Deutsch tore things up on his keys in that ever-more-respectable way that only he can.  As most of you know already, I supremely love that man’s playing.  Especially with this, one of my favorite bands.  Lighthearted and joyous, Vince heartily sang the tongue-in-cheek lyrics as we all jumped and thrashed about in glee and as Andy Thorn serenaded us all on his mystical banjo.  Drew took his own turn at the fun with a lengthy and lively solo on his mandolin.  Pure excellence!  Then, how about a big turn at “Tequila” with Larry Keel?  Oh, the “Tequila” joke, you ask?  Ah, yes.  The “Tequila” joke.  So, apparently as we would find out later in the weekend from Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass, the idea was to play the ending riff of The Champs’ classic “Tequila” after every song and have the crowd yell the magic word.  So, Yonder did begin this…my apologies for not telling you sooner.  And it kept going.  And going.  All weekend.  But, we’ll get to that.  For now, it was still fresh and funny.  And how can’t you love Salmon with Larry Keel?  Next, we managed to get another great video for you to help transport you to the beaches of S&S with us.  Please enjoy this “Whispering Waters”!! 

If you closed your eyes, you could’ve almost been there, right?  That’s what we try to do for you, good people — take you there.  Later on the fantastic familiar drum intro of “Gulf of Mexico” heralded in the perfect anthem for the setting at the Now Sapphire right by that very body of water…or a little around the corner at least.  But who’s counting?  Hey, we were by water in Mexico.  More than good enough for us as we enjoyed this classic from Leftover, Drew at the vocal helm.  Some marvelous banjo badness from Thorn helped kick things into high gear as Drew answered on his electric guitar, all the while Robinson like a mad metronomic monster throwing down the base to the whole affair.  Brilliance from every corner of the band!!  Bravo to Greg Garrison on that bass of his!!  Bravo to Erik on the keys!!  What a showing!!  Then how about a little Hendrix, why not?  Why not, indeed!!  “The Wind Cries Mary” is one of my favorite covers from this band, and they just freakin’ kill it every time I hear it so why shouldn’t it be?  Drew provides the vocals for the adventure and the whole thing is taken at a quick bluegrass pace.  Magnificence.  Erik tickled those ivories so adeptly and sweetly, synth set to organ, phaser set to “kick ass”.  And so much awesomely awesome drumming, Alwyn!  My goodness…leave some beats for the rest of the class, please.  Ha!  Not to mention Drew on his mandolin and Andy on banjo!!  It’s enough musical merriment so as to cause palpitations!  Big, big music from this big music band.  After a small set break the band got back into the shenanigans we’d all been enjoying thus far.  A bit into that second set, the band launched into a “Funky Mountain Fogdown” with a “Tequila” inspired intro that developed into something rather fun and funky, indeed.  Maybe it was Andy Hall’s dobro that really brought the funk to it all.  Whatever the reason, we were on quite the ride through fast pickin’ heaven.  So much great musicianship going round and round and round.  Crazy good!!  I mean, Vince was nailing it on guitar like a super champ and then, bam, hands it right off to Hall who…runs…with…it.  I mean just goes and goes.  Such incredible music.  Not to be outdone, Deutsch comes in on those keys and just dominates until Andy Thorn steals the show on banjo!  Whoa!  What a rush!  What could you even follow that with?  Well, Salmon does it a little something like this:  “Get Up And Go”.  Vince singing to us about living life in much better fashion?  A perfect way to dance out the energy from the “Fogdown” before.  Andy Hall stayed out there throwing down those perfect dobro licks to enhance this travelin’ song.  What a player, huh?  That man knows his instrument so damn well.  So impressive.  So appreciated.  Finally, they closed things down for the night on the main stage with “River’s Rising”.  A great and strong staple of the Salmon catalogue, this one never disappoints.  It’s just a great rock song, you know?  Drew was in fine voice with Vince in support, throwing down the vocals like a a pair of rock gods.  This was a big one, too, clocking in at 13:54 — lots of music up in here.  This, of course, gave everyone the opportunity to shine and shine they did.  From Drew just shredding it on electric to Alwyn going nuts on those skins, the energy just kept building and building.  But the real creme de la creme was the mid section of the song, the jam.  At times pure, high energy rock’n’roll and at others trippy space breakdown, Leftover was determined to take the audience some place far away and special.  And that is exactly what they did.  Wow.  By the time the song came back to itself at the end of the more than 10 minute jam it was still filled with madness and energy and fun and laughter.  What an ending!!  Not a person standing on that beach wasn’t left wheezing with pure merriment and gratitude.  What a show!!  Festivaaaaaaaaaal!!  What a ride!!  And that, my friends, is precisely why we go to Strings & Sol.  Boom!  So many thank yous to the band and their folks who help to get them to places like S&S.  Thanks to the Cloud 9 folks for an amazing first day at Strings.  Ah, back at camp and couldn’t be happier.  So much fun to be had…already had.  Amazing.  And still three days to go!!  

Leftover Salmon with Andy Hall

Leftover Salmon with Andy Hall

Stay tuned for Saturday’s fun, everyone!!

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Saturday

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Saturday

Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016

Marvin’s Mountaintop, WV

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Bill Rudd    

Saturday Highlights

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

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

Grand Ole' Ditch

Grand Ole' Ditch

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Larry Keel Experience

The Larry Keel Experience

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

Cris Jacobs Band

Cris Jacobs Band


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

Leftover Salmon with Cris Jacobs

Leftover Salmon with Cris Jacobs

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

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

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

Cheers to you both, gentlemen!!

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