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Paul Hoffman

WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Sunday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Sunday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Sunday Highlights

Paul Hoffman - The Dustbowl Revival - Greensky Bluegrass

    And so we’d all made it to the last day of the festival.  Good on us, every one.  Still, there was so much music left as the hours counted down to the end.  Thank goodness we could stave off the inevitable with heaps more entertainment and merriment.  Heaps, I tell you.  Heaps.  So, let’s get to it shall well?  We shall…

    Our first musical offering of the day was Mr. Paul Hoffman of Greensky Bluegrass performing a solo set on the Soap Box Stage.  And on guitar, too!  Always cool to see a musician’s breadth in a live format.  As you might expect, his repertoire for the set consisted primarily of GSBG songs.  And we all just loved that fact.  All of us, as in the tons and tons of folks crammed into the tent for this show.  And could you blame us?  “Reverend” was his first choice for the day, immediately showcasing both his guitar skills and that magnificent voice of his.  Instant crowd-pleaser.  He was in very fine voice and form to be sure making us all anxious to hear what he’d play next.  Which turned out to be “Merely Avoiding” as it were.  Boy, can this man croon and sing!  So much organic and gentle fervor and heart supported by a considerable power beneath.  And he was certainly going for it, too.  We managed, even in those crowded conditions, to grab a video of part of Paul’s performance — presenting to you “Beauty and Pain”.  Hope you enjoy!

Riveting, no?  Wow.  Just wow.  This man certainly knows his craft very well.  And shares it so freely with his audiences…much to our gratitude of course.  That strange, dark, and catchy cautionary tale “What Happened to Jim” followed “Beauty and Pain”.  As ever it was weird and weirdly wonderful and a huge hit with the crowded tent folk.  Interesting to hear these songs a la balladeer style with such a focused texture.  Really made the lyrics stand out for one thing.  Also made Paul’s voice stand out that much more as well.  Great to have the opportunity to experience both at once.  Then it was time for a soulful and sorrowful selection in the form of “Lose My Way”.  You could really hear the sadness and wistfulness written into the lyrics emanating from that small stage.    A brand new song was next in line for us, I am happy to report.  “While We’re Waiting” is a sweet one which, no doubt, will become a strong addition to the GSBG catalogue.  Really liked this one — it has, for lack of a better way of putting it, a rather pretty chorus.  Gorgeous stuff.  Thanks, Phoff!!  He played us a mighty fine “Fixin’ to Ruin” next followed by his set closer, “Someone Will”.  While some of the lyrics of this one might seem lighthearted don't let that fool you:  there is some serious humanity going on in this song.  And Paul told the story with such aplomb.  What a bomb ass set!!  Truly.  It was excellent on so many levels and a testament to the overall musicality of Paul Hoffman.  Bravo, Phoff, and my thanks for a truly special time!

Paul Hoffman plays to a packed house

Paul Hoffman plays to a packed house

    The Dustbowl Revival took the main stage by storm on Sunday afternoon, the large eight-member ensemble commanding quite the presence up there in front of us.  This was my first time seeing them live and so I was pumped at the opportunity.  Unfortunately, I missed some parts of their set and so will report on what I heard for it needs to be told.  The Dustbowl Revival are energy personified.  They bring so much of it to the stage both personally and musically and it makes for an intensely gratifying performance.  We entered on “John the Revelator” which was a stupendously horn-laden New Orleans-style wall of sound pouring down over the crowd.  Really got into Zach Lupetin’s voice from the very get to.  He definitely brings a lot to the table when it comes to both musicianship and showmanship.  And those horns!  I’m very much into horn sections, especially when used to their utmost potential as with Dustbowl.  They really help to evoke a particular sound or genre, in this case one of The Big Easy.  I could’ve listened to it all day long.  “Cherokee Shuffle” came next down the line and we managed to capture it for you to watch right this minute: 

Worth it?  You bet it was worth it!  I was definitely learning to love Liz Beebe’s voice, too.  Some really fine harmonies between those two.  So far so awesome.  Truly.  I couldn’t discern the name of the next song, but it was a lively number filled with a positive message.  “Let the ocean waters flow from my eyes, at least I’ll be smiling on the day that I die.”  Great fiddle in this one from Conor Vance — really interesting timbres to put together, fiddle and horns.  But it works really well in the Dustbowl setting.  Extremely well in fact.  Big shout out to Matt Rubin (trumpet) and Ulf Bjorlin (trombone) for holding down that horn section all set.  Massively great stuff there, fellows, bravi.  Some Johnny Cash came our way next as the familiar strains of “Folsom Prison Blues” rang out into the afternoon air above the fest.  A nice rocked up version, this one sped along as the massive texture of these many assembled instruments let loose in harmonic accord.  What a powerhouse of energy, this band!  And they brought it 100% to each and every song.  Impressive to say the very least.  And entertainingly fun in all regards.  Later on down the set they gave us a sassy and soulful “Midnight Special” which is a perfect cover for this band.  With a slower, almost parade-like pace, this one set a superb striding shuffle for all of us to sway to…which we did.  As well as took the opportunity to sing along.  Sad that I missed so much of their set but grateful for what I got to see, I knew that I’d be looking very much forward to my next Dustbowl Revival show.  I definitely was thankful for my first experience with them, no doubt about it.  

The Dustbowl Revival

The Dustbowl Revival

    And just like that it was time for another healthy helping of those boys from Kalamazoo, Greensky Bluegrass.  After the showing on Saturday night, Sunday promised to be just as good if not better.  Never miss a Sunday show, right?  You damn right.  They opened with a song Paul Hoffman had played earlier and told us just might pop up again that day.  Well, he was right, of course, and they lit into “Fixin’ to Ruin” with that iconic GSBG sound instantly in play.  It was cool to have heard Paul play this solo and then, with that so fresh in my mind, hear the group play it on the main stage.  It’s almost like a different song altogether with so many extra moving parts.  Nothing like the introduction of the dobro the change the timbre of a song completely.  Completely for the better, too, if you ask me.  And, of course, Anders Beck treated us all to some tasty, tasty dobro licks and kicks throughout the song.  Mike Bont traded off some lines with him, banjo to dobro and back again.  Really great stuff.  Mike Devol’s bass solo was appropriately funky as he rather artfully took over the reigns of the melody for a few measures.  What a great start already…only one song in and the momentum was building.  This was going to be a special show.  “Jaywalking” came next and opened with its familiar vocal harmonies giving way to Anders with his big dobro intro.  Anders continued to jam his riffs along to the end of the song, making his instrument sing contrapuntally to the vocal lines.  Another one nailed to the wall by Greensky.  And now it’s time for another show and tell.  This time, we have some great footage of “Windshield” for you to immerse yourself in.  Hope you dig it, friends! 

Pretty haunting, no?  That one certainly made a lot of people in the crowd very happy.  It is a big favorite after all.  Dave Bruzza was up to the mic next for “Take Cover” which followed “Windshield”.  Great, rolling upward moving energy with this song.  One that got the blood and body moving.  Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” came after, a personal favorite of mine.  Both the original and this cover version.  Bruzza had a blistering solo on guitar which led right into Bont answering with one of his very own.  This song is most certainly big on the jams, good jams, great jams.  Badass jams.  Never mind that they took this directly into Phish’s “Tweezer Reprise” and back out again.  Never mind that it seemed like hours long.  Never mind how amazing it was…no wait, mind all that stuff!!  It was all so worth the minding!!  The sweet but sad “In Control” was up afterwards with Paul taking the mic once again, singing so serenely to every ear in the audience.  Nothing like when a particular song showcases a voice or instrument in such a profound way as this.   A powerful part of their repertoire.  “Letter to Seymour” followed “In Control” and quickened the pace once again with some hard drivin’, fast pickin’.  Bruzza motored along just as fast as the instruments with his vocals, leading this one straight into fabulous freneticism.  What astounding energy!  The subsequent “Fo Sho Uh Huh” brought its usual wackiness to the table replete with some “Easy Like Sunday Morning” teases.  Oh, that band.  What won’t they sing?  Love it.  A bit later in the set we got an almost inconceivable surprise guest spot on the Greensky stage.  During “Broke Mountain Breakdown” none other than DJ Logic joined the boys on his turntables for a bit of mayhem, DJ-style.  The band were all ripping the top off the tune and then Logic is there scratching away like a rhythm section and kicking some serious ass in the process?  Unreal.  Never thought I’d see the day.  DJ Logic just killed it, too.  Damn, did he ever.  Really speedy, funky, fresh jams from the GSBG lads, as well — they really held the line against Logic’s beats throwing down a joint collaboration of truly epic proportions.  Bont’s big, bold solo along with Logic was rather special.  Long and lovely and very well done.  This whole affair was just so damn awesome.  What a fantabulous surprise!!  Anders even threw in some “Another One Bites the Dust” teases.  Damn, son!  So very good!!  They took this directly into “What is a Booty?” and right back into finish up the “Breakdown”.  What a thrill ride, my friends!!  I mean, DJ-effing-Logic!?!?!?  Yeah, all of it’s true.  And all of it was totally radical.  A very tricky and lengthy and believable “Eyes of the World” tease started things off for the closer of the evening:  “Don’t Lie”.  Those pranksters.  A crowd pleaser of some stature everyone seemed very happy to get this selection for our last song of the set.  And the gentlemen all sounded pretty damn perfect, it must be said.  Man, do they have some stamina to make it to the end of such a huge show with so much energy left.  Some heavy Bont action in this song on his banjo friend not to mention a similar vibe on mando from Paul and on guitar from Bruzza.  Silly good jam in the mid section of “Don’t Lie” with Anders just wailing away on his dobro for all the world to hear.  Thankfully.  Just some consummately wonderful music happening.  Finally, encore time it was and Ween was the choice du jour it would seem.  This was apparently a GSBG debut as well:  “Your Party”.  Pretty cool stuff.  Always great to get a debut and an interesting one such as this cover.  A helluva way to end things for the main stage portion of WinterWonderGrass 2016.  A truly magnificent set from a truly magnificent band.  What a treat the past two nights had been with them.  They bring so much to the musical table and we take so much away.  So much positivity and joy.  So much happiness.  What a remarkable group!  Thank you fellas for a couple of incredible evenings of music.  Until we meet again.  Hopefully soon…

Greensky Bluegrass with DJ Logic

Greensky Bluegrass with DJ Logic

    Sadly, then, the lights were turned up and everyone began that oh-so-familiar shuffle to the gates.  The one that is easily recognizable as the last of the weekend for, once we were out, we were out for another year.  However, a year is so little to wait for such a valuable and valued experience as WWG.  Scotty and all the other folks who put on this wonderful fest most surely know what they are doing and they do it very well year after year.  In fact, if anything, this year was markedly better than last year and only because they had added things to improve upon something which was already amazing.  My hat goes off to everyone involved with WonderGrass CO this year — a better-oiled festy machine I know not of.  Smiles of gratitude and waves of thanks basking in all the magical memories from four days of musical marvel.  And only 11.25 months to go until WinterWonderGrass 2017!!  We can make it, folks.   I have faith in us.  Thanks for reading along, everyone.  I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I enjoyed spinning it out for you!!  Until next time…

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Saturday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2016 - Saturday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Peter Rowan & Friends - Fruition - Greensky Bluegrass

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

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

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

Peter Rowan & Friends

Peter Rowan & Friends

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

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

Fruition and Paul Hoffman

Fruition and Paul Hoffman

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

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

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

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

Sunday on its way, everyone!!

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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Saturday

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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Saturday

Jam Cruise 14

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Pickin’ the 80s Pickin’ Party - The New Mastersounds - Keller Williams with More Than a Little - Lotus

    Another day in port, another day spent recuperating with daiquiris and sunshine on the aft pool deck.  Everyone has to do what they have to do to make Jam Cruise work for them…whether it be our strategy of leisure or heading off the Boat to some inland excursion or just to a nearby beach, there are few wrong ways of doing it and those are pretty obvious.  It is always nice to be able to catch one’s breath for a few hours before the madness begins anew.  And, daiquiris, am I right?  But, as always, we have music to discuss so, let’s to it, shall we?

    What better way to start the musical day than a Pickin’ Party in the Atrium care of Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass?  And it was to be Pickin’ the 80s to boot!!  Totally rad, dude!!  Travis Book and Andy Hall of The Infamous Stringdusters and Cris Jacobs were all out in support of the Greensky lads and it made for quite an ensemble sound.  Nothing beats double dobros.  Nothing.  A little Dire Straits was first up in the form of “Money for Nothing” a favorite cover from the GSBG world.  Helluva start to this string set — this one sounded fantastic from Paul’s vocals and mad mando skills to those double dobros I referenced earlier.  You just have to love when a good song is made all the better through excellent musicianship and the right kind of energy.  The rep was to vary from 80s hit to 80s hit showcasing the various talents on stage.  This was very apparent in the next selection, Prince’s “Nothing Compares to You” (as made famous by Sinead O’Connor) when Cris Jacobs stepped up to the mic and just spanked the lead vocals for this one.  Amy Helm joined the gentlemen on stage to sing back up vocals — just lovely.  So glad she guested in with so many acts on the Boat this year.  The great thing is, we have a nice little video of this one so you can check it out yourself: 

There’s a reason that video is gaining popularity online.  Just superb.  Tom Petty’s “American Girl” was next on the docket and they rocked this one out pretty summarily.  Had the whole crowd singing along, the choruses especially loud throughout the multiple levels of the Atrium.  After some Peter Gabriel care of Cris Jacobs on the lead, it was time for a personal favorite song of mine:  Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”.  Yet one more sing-a-long and a supremely fun one to be sure, the ad hoc band on the stage just nailed it with Andy and Anders really showing us all what having two dobros can really do.  An extremely enjoyable set from start to finish there wasn’t a face in the place not cracked into a huge grin once they’d finished.  A great idea for the Pickin’ Party and very well-executed.  So much fun…a big thanks to Anders and Paul and all their friends for hosting such a sweet shindig.

Pickin' the 80s Pickin' Party

Pickin' the 80s Pickin' Party

    Then it was time to head to the pool deck to catch those mighty English dance stylings of The New Mastersounds.  Although a fan of their music, this was my first time catching The Mastersounds live.  Hot horns, truly electric guitar, bright energy…all of this coming at you from the stage in one danceable number after another.  Their first tune epitomized all of that — so much happy music in your face all at once.  Their second selection was a funkier kind of mellow bouncing tune that featured some spot-on keyboard work thanks to Bob Birch.  Later we were treated to some tantalizing guitar from Eddie Roberts.  A really fun band to see, great music to hear…great if you love dancing your feet off, that is.  And there is something uniquely different, singular to the sound of this band — as if their English roots and background bring something new and different and awesome to the table.  Just funky, funky fusion dance music all around, all set long.  A little on down the set they covered the Average White Band’s “Pick Up the Pieces” and it was well-nigh incredible.  They really did this tune some serious justice.  Surely familiar to almost every ear in the crowd it was interesting to watch as recognition dawned on people.  And as it did, appreciation ensued.  But, as usual, why would you take my word for it when you can see for yourself? 

A personal fave from all of Jam Cruise for me.  Thanks for that one, boys!  Roosevelt Collier joined in on the fun for a quick song with the Mastersounds — I mean, that man always adds so very much to any music he’s involved with.  And he tore it up out there.  “We’ve got to keep movin’ on, gotta keep travelin’ on!”  Such apropos lyrics as we all attempted to make it through our fourth day of Jam Cruise.  A delightful, delectable set from The New Mastersounds, there can be no doubts.  Another band I’d have to put on my “go and see them immediately” list.  I know will be.

The New Mastersounds and Roosevelt Collier

The New Mastersounds and Roosevelt Collier

    Yet another first was on the schedule for me next with Keller Williams and More Than a Little.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Keller many times before with several projects, however, I’d not yet seen More Than a Little and, given all the hype from my friends, I was more than a little excited to finally see them do their thing.  And why not kick things off with a little Donna Summer?  Hot damn!  “I Feel Love” has rarely sounded so deliciously funky in my experience.  Beautiful harmonies and vocals thanks to Keller and his right and left-hand ladies, Tonya Lazenby Jackson and Sugah Davis.  So much soulful dedication to making great music.  Keeping that funk rolling down pipeline, “Funk da Funk” was up next which we have for you here: 

Funky enough for you?  Well, they didn’t stop there.  It was really lovely to be exposed to so much of More Than a Little’s original material, too.  So much to say but all really summed up by the vocals of steep funk stature supported by the perfect backing band to create a vortex of seriously fun and groovy music.  “Mary Jane” came after featuring some beautiful duet work between Sugah and Tonya.  And more original More Than a Little for me to savor.  Some super fine guitar work from Keller here, too.  A completely reinvented and re-approached Talking Heads cover was a nice surprise and unexpected.  I’ve never heard “Once in a Lifetime” played quite like that before.  Really cool approach giving new and different life to an old favorite of so many in the audience.  So I guess it’s a funk song now.  And why not?  And why not some funky Dead while we’re at it?  Some “Samson and Delilah” mayhap?  “If I had my way…” I think I’d jam out to More Than a Little all night long.  Out of “Samson” directly into a nasty good number mashed up with the Dead.  Just pure excellence.  Turns out this one is called “Samson’s Wine” and it was a fun one I must say.  Lots of crowd participation, too.  Keeping in that theme we got another Grateful treat in the form of “Eyes of the World” — amazing version for a dancing sing-a-long.  The audience ate it up.  As well they should have.  And then it was time for some classic Keller:  “Freeker by the Speaker” but re-envisioned for the funk.  Crazy harmony work up there on stage.  Just blown away by the vocals of this band.  “I Eat the Funk” was the final number of the night with Keller and More Than a Little and it was pure funk right up to the very end.  Really wonderful keyboards coming from Gerard Johnson.  Excellent sound.  All told, my first time with this band told me this won’t be my last time with this band, that is for sure.  Another one added to my “go see them now” list.  And you should.  Go see them.  Now.  

More Than a Little

More Than a Little

    Later on the pool deck stage we had a date with Lotus for some late night shenanigannery.  And, I must honestly admit to you, I kind of took this set for myself.  In summary, Lotus was the perfect sound for that stage in the evening throwing out an extremely fitting vibe and inciting a multitude of smiles along the way.  Here is a video we got for you of them covering Vulfpeck’s“It Gets Funkier” — please enjoy!! 

    And then, as you know by now, it was time for the real late night creep to begin.  Day Four was almost done, but it was a good one.  A great one.  Hard to believe there was still another day to go?  What a gift.  What a challenge.  And one we were all more than ready to rise to that occasion.  And with delight.

 

Sunday Funday on its way soon!!

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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Thursday

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Jam Cruise 14 - MSC Divina - Thursday

Jam Cruise 14

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Thursday Highlights

Cabinet - Paul Hoffman, Anders Beck, & Friends - Snarky Puppy - Lettuce - Con Brio

    Not too much worse for the wear just yet, we arose, caffeinated ourselves, pulled our gear together, and got our slap-happy selves up to the pool deck to start the day with a little Cabinet action.  This Pennsylvania-based string band was a mighty fine addition to this year’s lineup and we were very grateful to have them aboard.  Their unique sound and energy was most certainly appreciated by the audiences they drew, from both bluegrass fan and non-fan alike.  I do know that they killed it, however…twice in fact.  But we’ll just focus on that first Thursday noon set, shall we?  J.P. Biondo took to the mic for their first number, “A Smile”, which had a light and mellow reggae feel to it especially on top of the grooving bass line Dylan Skursky was putting down for us.  Nice way to get things going underneath that warm Caribbean sun.  Next up they gave us a personal favorite of mine:  “The Dove” (or “Dub Dove” in this case) — also with J.P. on lead vocals.  But, why not take a quick listen and enjoy? 

They took this one directly into the funky instrumental “Mysterio” followed by another favorite, “Heavy Rain”.  Love the amazing vocal harmonies in this Pappy Biondo-led one and definitely love them live best.  Also dig on Todd Kopec’s fiddle style — it really comes out in this one and adds this fantastic dimension to the song.  Later down the set came the track that made me a Cabient fan at DelFest a few years back:  “Mr. Spaceman”.  Filled with the electric guitar licks of Mickey Coviello, this rock’n’roll number is filled with tongue-in-cheek lyrics and super fun musical textures and lines all buoyed up by Jami Novak’s excellent drumming.  “Hey, Mr. Spaceman, won’t you please take me along for a ride?”  And what a ride this song takes you on!  Fiddle, guitar, banjo care of Pappy…mando thanks to J.P. and all these things wrapped up in the central jam.  Oh, and did I mention that they had Ron Holloway join them on saxophone for this one, too?  Ron’s incredible sax stylings against Cabinet’s edgy string-band background?  Pretty freakin’ unreal to say the least, everyone.  The Cabinet boys finally brought their energetic set to a close with a superb “Susquehanna Breakdown” every foot in the crowd tapping or dancing right until the last note.  If this was any indication of how Thursday was to go, then we were all of us in for a true treat.  Many thanks to Cabinet for getting things started out just right!

Cabinet and Ron Holloway

Cabinet and Ron Holloway

    Next up on the Lagunitas Stage on the pool deck was a special surprise, indeed.  We all knew that Anders Beck and Paul Hoffman of Greensky Bluegrass were hired stringslingers for the duration of the cruise but when we saw five gents on stage vice the two we were expecting, we knew that we were in for something unique and wonderful.  Joining Phoffman and Anders were Travis Book (The Infamous Stringdusters) on bass, Cris Jacobs on guitar, and Jay Cobb Anderson (Fruition) on guitar — not a bad supergroup, eh?  Someone in the crowd shouted their name should be ‘The Heartthrobs’ and I think it kind of stuck.  At least Phoff was heard to like it, however I am getting ahead of myself.  They kicked things off with a lively “Frederico” (GSBG rep being the majority of the selections they played) and it was a perfect chance to see how this ad hoc ensemble of acoustic greats gelled together musically.  Not that any of us had any reservations, that is.  To the contrary…all this group did was live completely up to any and all expectations, exceeding many more.  After “Frederico” they played “Fixin’ to Ruin” — we got up nice and close and personal for this one so we could share the magic with you: 

These fellows sounds pretty durn amazing, huh?  And they just kept laying down the heat, song after song.  Then it was time for the soulful and beseeching “Windshield”, a current crowd favorite in the Greensky universe.  It was fascinating to hear another ensemble besides GSBG playing this one…this sort of incredible but bizzaro alternate timeline Greensky backing Paul’s heartfelt solo replete with that oh-so iconic dobro line from Anders.  Really glad that Anders and Paul decided to put together The Heartthrobs.  (See?  It’s sticking.)  “Demons” was next in line for our musical delight featuring some really exquisite guitar stylings from Mr. Cris Jacobs — another place where it was of interest to see the difference between GSBG and The Heartthrobs especially when counterpointed by the familiar mandolin of Phoffman.  And who doesn’t love a little reggae?  And a little Bob Marley to boot?  “Could You Be Loved” was an apropos cover for the tropical and cheery atmosphere all around the stage underneath that bright seascape sun.  Cris and Jay decided to trade guitars on this one, thus furthering the differing sounds of this ensemble.  Paul just nailed the solo here, too.  Not to mention Jay on the back-up vocals…killing it.  Really the whole thing sounded just marvelous.  Thanks for that little gift, fellas!   Later on down the set we got some more GSBG in the form of “Don’t Lie” which sounded pretty damn great.  Again, I have to point out the funny play on the ears that this set threw down for us — Greensky songs played by some of the band with extremely talented friends sitting in.  Surreal and supremely fantastic.  One of my favorite sets on the entirety of Jam Cruise this year to be sure.  Cheers to all five you skilled gentlemen and thanks for sharing!

Travis Book, Anders Beck, Paul Hoffman, Cris Jacobs, & Jay Cobb Anderson

Travis Book, Anders Beck, Paul Hoffman, Cris Jacobs, & Jay Cobb Anderson

    Later in the day we found ourselves back up on the pool deck at the main stage for some funk love with Snarky Puppy.  This was only my second time seeing them so I was pretty psyched to catch some more of their sound and style.  So it was to be horns and funk and straight jamming out and I was more than ready for it.  This was the perfect way to ramp up an evening scheduled for tons of funk.  Their first song was full of nasty good rock mashed up with funk and it was an optimal way to get us all dancing where we stood on the packed, packed pool deck.  In listening back through my notes, I was struck over and over by the interplay of horns and guitars and how incredible that sounds, all bolstered by some seriously tight drum work.  And then there’s the keyboard skills of distinctive mention.  All told it makes for one incredible ensemble sound with layered textures and lines that weave together one ear-opening tapestry of sound and energy.  Looking forward to familiarizing myself with Snarky all the more in the future and very grateful that they found their way onto the Boat to be a part of this funk-laden voyage.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy

    Lettuce was another band I was happy to see again as I’ve only seen them a couple of times before.  Keeping the funk going loud and proud and adding a healthy dose of soul to the mix, Boston’s Lettuce always makes for a really great time, no matter your musical tastes.  And who didn’t love the fact that there were so very many horns on Jam Cruise this year?  Horns everywhere you looked.  So much funk and New Orleans groove busting out at the seams.  It was a brassy smorgasbord of sweet sonorous sound.  And Lettuce were certainly no exception providing their own unique spin on the genre.  They most certainly had everyone dancing and moving and kicking it to their funky bad selves bringing out guests like Nigel Hall to get down with them.  And get down they did…like the bosses they are.  Of mention is their penchant for trippy, space-jammy interludes that really grab the ear musically and aesthetically especially in the keyboard lines.  Pretty wild stuff at times — gotta love it.  Sadly, however, we cut our time with Lettuce a little short this evening in order to grab some much needed food.  But that’s not Lettuce’s fault.  Jam Cruise is a marathon of sprints, remember?  As much as you hate to, sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to sustain yourself.  Then again, the best thing about Jam Cruise is that you usually have a second chance to get your dance on with a band you missed or partially missed.  But we’re not done yet!

Lettuce

Lettuce

    Con Brio was the big unexpected break out band on Jam Cruise for me this year.  Based in San Francisco, this group specializes in “dance-heavy funk” and boy, do they ever.  Frontman Ziek McCarter is a tour-de-force with a dynamite voice and some serious showmanship to be reckoned with.  I’d place his sound squarely somewhere between Jamiroquai, D’Angelo, Michael Jackson, and Pharrell…but with a sound all his own.  And the group?  Incredible!!  So much energy and what a great ensemble sound!  Here is a bit of info taken from their website: 

    “In 2013, the longstanding rhythm section of keyboardist Micah Dubreuil, bassist Jonathan Kirchner and drummer Andrew Laubacher joined forces with incomparable guitar slinger Benjamin Andrews and McCarter: a Texas transplant who as a 19-year-old had already begun drawing crowds in his new hometown. Add in the fireworks of the Marcus Stephens on tenor saxophone and Brendan Liu on trumpet and you have the skill and confidence that comes from years of stage time and deeply-established musical partnerships with the thirst and energy of a rising star – a bright light who’s just getting started.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Several people I spoke with stated that Con Brio was their favorite or a stand out band for them for all of Jam Cruise.  I had no idea who they were before setting sail but I will certainly be seeking them out from here on.  I would highly recommend these guys to you, my friend.  If you love dancing to some funky great groove music, that is.  Dirty, dirty good rock’n’roll funk dance music.  You know, if you like that sort of thing.  The band opened things up with a, surprise, funky one called “Paradise” and that is where we were all first introduced to Ziek’s powerful and beautiful voice.  Not only a strong full-voice singer, he is also possessed of a fine falsetto which he uses with great aplomb.  They followed this with “Sundown” and later down the set with a song called “Never”.  My favorite song of their set had to be “Kiss the Sun” featuring some groovy keyboard work from Micah and some pure funk guitar from Benjamin.  All of this providing the foundation for Ziek’s angelic crooning.  Moral of this story?  Go so this band.  Seriously.  Follow them and find them and go see this band.  Trust me, you’ll be rather glad you did.

Con Brio

Con Brio

    We finished out the evening with some more of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, catching the tail end of the set in the Pantheon Theater.  A completely epic “Truckin’” dominated the few songs we saw, all members of the band firing on all cylinders.  There is nothing like watching that band play that music in that way.  That remarkable, one-of-a-kind way.  And a great band to lead us into our late night offerings around the Boat, those small moments of magic and mayhem that can only be found in the wee hours of the morn aboard Jam Cruise.  Another day was closing down but one more was yet on the horizon.  Friday was anon but sleep called in it’s annoyingly insistent way.  What a Thursday.  What a Thursday, indeed!  How couldn’t I look forward to Friday and all that Friday promised?  And what a way to fall asleep…filled with gratitude and the fondest of fresh memories…


Friday inbound soon, my friends!!

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