WinterWonderGrass CO 2017
Festival Experience Archive
for The Lot Scene by Parker
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!!
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!!
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!
And, Saturday? On its way, friends!!