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Railroad Earth

WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Sunday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Sunday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2017

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Sunday Highlights

Elephant Revival - Railroad Earth - The Infamous Stringdusters

    If Saturday had been about snow and cold and wind, then Sunday Funday proved itself more about sun and warm and shine.  Ah, Colorado…where, if you don’t trust the weather, then don’t come to WinterWonderGrass unprepared.  People were resplendent in their funwear, ready for a Sunday full of amazing music, just like the two days previous.  I love my people, it must be said.  Our community is so strong and so passionate and so compassionate…I’ve really come to rely upon the foundation of this core grass fan base over the years.  And why shouldn’t I?  After incredible experiences such as WWG amongst so many other amazing festivals throughout the year, it has become apparent just how special this whole situation really is.  And I am most certainly grateful for it.  You bet your boots.  Speaking of boots, let’s get back to those snow boots in Steamboat for a little Elephant Revival time!  They opened things up with Daniel Rodriguez on the lead vocals for “Home in Your Heart” with light and lovely backing vocals from Bonnie Paine.  A wonderful way to start things off, especially with the polished banjo stylings of Charlie Rose there to augment the floating and delighting vocal melody.  Dango Rose’s baller bass playing, as always, providing the backbone of each piece, this one being no exception, was laying down a textural foundation upon which the entire rest of the ensemble was building.  “Light as a feather and you’re homeward bound…”  There is no doubting the beauty of Elephant Revival’s poetry through song.  You’d be hard pressed to find a fan that didn’t agree — they write some seriously moving pieces, it’s true.  The vocal ensemble of Daniel, Bonnie, Charlie, and Darren Garvey back on his drums was gorgeous in the frigid air…yet another strong hallmark of this band’s appeal and abilities.  The song ended to uproarious applause and cheers to which Bonnie replied into the mic, “We love you guys.”  This only elicited at loud, raucous, and awesome “We love you more!” from the crowd.  You cannot create moments like that, you just have to be there in them.  And what a moment we were all sharing!  Daniel led things off for the next piece on guitar, joined quickly by Bonnie on washboard and the remainder of the band moving quickly into their signature sound.  How great a sound it is, too, my friends.  So unique.  “Remembering a Beginning” is a Bonnie lead on vocals and is a journey through music and mystery.  Bridget Law’s solo on fiddle a few minutes into things was haunting and a perfect counterpoint to Bonnie’s mesmerizing vocals.  Suffice it to say, this band is a well-balanced, finely tuned magical musical machine.  They way they all play so well together is really a treat to behold.  And we cannot forget Charlie’s monster of a banjo breakdown, can we?  No, we really cannot.  So far this show was delivering on so many lovely levels.  But, then again, that is what we all have come to rightly expect from a band that makes such lovely music.  Third up out of the gate for us was a lively fiddle tune from the amazing Bridget Law.  Nothing like watching someone with chops such as hers evoke the most marvelous strains from her chosen instrument.  It was more like seeing her dancing with the fiddle as the rest of the band played for their benefit.  Some really fun stuff was coming from the Garvey at the rear of the stage percussion-wise to bolster the highly enjoyable dancing rhythms of the tune itself, Bonnie’s washboard zipping along to the beat in a bright and bold fashion.  Shame I don’t know that name of this one…I’ll certainly be listening for it in the future.  Man, what a set so far and we were just three songs in!!  A little further along we were able to capture some video to give you a feel of the sights and sounds of WWG care of Elephant Revival.  Please enjoy “Spinning”, my friends.  I know I sure did!! 

Kinda makes you want to go to Steamboat in 2018, huh?  I know the feeling.  Trust me.  It gets in your blood…he said after having gone three times.  Guess some things can’t be helped.  Not that I’d want to.  But, back to the music!  Their penultimate song of the evening was “Drop”, with it’s percussion-heavy intro and intense lyrics.  Dancing in and out of mellow, this is a masterful piece of music with some extremely gorgeous parts.  One such part is Law’s expert fiddle work throughout, both in ensemble and solo.  Bonnie’s oh-so unique and diaphanous voice, perfectly suited to the vocals of this one, rang out into the still of the air, coming to rest lightly and sweetly on our ears and hearts.  And there was another incredible Charlie Rose solo on banjo.  Wow.  Just wow.  After a supremely wonderful set, things heated up even further at the end as many, many friends joined ER on stage for a their final number.  Members of Fruition, Gipsy Moon, and even festival organizer and visionary Scott Stoughton crowded around the various mics on stage to join Elephant for a big, bad WWG version of “Grace of a Woman”.  Daniel Rodriguez led things off on vocals quickly supported by the many voices on stage in a big chorus of amazing harmony.  The chorus was a brazen and ecstatic celebration of voices, countless united in cause, both on stage and off.  What a party!  This one was a seriously good time, there can be no doubts.  I mean, how much fun were all the musicians having?  Those smiles were as real as can be.  Truth.  Mimi Naja of Fruition unleashed a beast of a mando solo…so good!  And then there’s Andy Goessling from Railroad Earth out of nowhere on sax just killing things.  Amazing.  And then, an a cappella ending?  Really?  So freakin’ good!  What a fabulous show it had been.  What a way to Sunday, no doubt!  So many thanks to Elephant Revival for a simply delightful time at WWG CO 2017!!  Let’s do it all over again next year!!

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival

Elephant Revival

Authors’ Note

    My apologies for not providing further reviews of Railroad Earth and The Infamous Stringdusters.  Due to a personal emergency on Sunday of WinterWonderGrass, I was not able to cover these events.  All’s well that ended well, so no worries, just that it interrupted my journalistic goals for the day.  I have included some RRE images for you as well as a video of the final song of the fest that night at ISD’s late night show.  Please enjoy, friends!!  Again, my apologies!!

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

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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 - Saturday

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

Strings & Sol Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Railroad Earth - The Infamous Stringdusters - Greensky Bluegrass

    Ah, there is nothing quite like a Saturday spent at the Now Sapphire for Strings and Sol.  Saturdays just have that special quality, don’t they?  And to couple one with such joy and enjoyment, well, it almost seems illegal.  Pretty amazing that it isn’t, right?  Precisely!  With most folks enjoying the pool or ocean or both all day long, libations in hand and reveling in one another’s company, the vibe was strong and merry down in Mexico that day.  That afternoon, it was to be none other than New Jersey’s own Railroad Earth who would be playing one of their famous sunset shows on the main stage, oceanfront, one of my favorite sets of the festival.  There is just something about the paring of Railroad with the setting of the sun by the sea that creates a magic all its own, and one very much worth tapping into.  I think it is always a real treat to see a band mesh with a venue and setting so well as RRE at sunset at S&S.  All of us enjoy being privy to something special, right?  They kicked the whole amazing deal off with “The Forecast”, the familiar strains of Tim Carbone’s fiddle heralding in this favorite and crowd-pleasing song.  Todd Sheaffer on lead vocals sounded like the trusted voice of a favorite uncle, one heard so often and so well-respected, loved even.  There is just something so very comforting about his voice and his approach to vocals.  The band sounded crisp and polished in their ensemble sound, each of these men a true master on their chosen instrument(s).  John Skehan’s mandolin sounded off like a clarion call, each note beaming forth to augment the whole.  I really loved it when things turned to a gritty, funky groove for a spell — excellence!!  A fantastic beginning selection and one which they took directly into “Chasin’ A Rainbow”.  Certainly another favorite of the crowd, we were lucky to get a nice video of it for you.  Please enjoy this slice of Strings & Sol!!

Now you see what I mean about the band plus setting effect you get with Railroad’s sunset show at S&S.  What a wonderful vibe, right?  A little down the set, they backed things off a bit with “Old Man and the Land”, plugging into that intense mellow energy that Railroad does so very well.  Andy Goessling grabbed up his banjo for this one, plucking along in accompaniment to Skehan’s mando and then vice versa.  Andrew Altman swapped out his electric for his upright bass as well, opting for that string band sound.  As the opening built and built it finally expanded into the syncopated musical landscape of the song proper.  I really love all sides of this one, all the faces of the song.  And talk about your sing-a-long!  So many voices united with Todd in song and joy.  What a sound to behold!  “For Love” followed, with Goessling on dobro and Altman on electric bass, Carbone’s fiddle once again leading things off for us.  Carey Harmon was laying down a serious beat for this one, too…keeping time like a finely-tuned clock.  As per usual, of course.  And always smiling, that one.  Always so happy to be throwing down some mad percussion.  What a fantastic set it had been thus far!  They ended up winding down and finishing out the set with a big triple play of “Black Bear” straight into “Like A Buddha” into “The Wheel”.  What a roller coaster ride it was, too.  Once again, they hit us full force with that mellow intensity of theirs with “Black Bear” filled to the brim with classic RRE sound and energy.  It proved the perfect set-up for the happy-filled “Like A Buddha” which was a merrymaking rendition of this song if I’ve every heard one.  So many smiles on so many faces on that beach as the sun was setting, falling beneath the waves with the dark coming in.  It was an honor to be a part of such revelry as this.  And then “The Wheel” to close?  Really?  Are you kidding me?  What a show!  So many thanks to the band for the fabulous music.  I always love a Railroad show, but this one was, indeed, special.  So many magic moments…so much gratitude.  Cheers, fellas!  

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

    Next up later on that evening were The Infamous Stringdusters.  Man, I just love typing things like that.  Especially when the Dusters and Greensky play the same stage in the same night?  Forget about it!  Hard to imagine such luck!  I headed back up to the stage a wee late missing their first two songs (“Sentenced to Life” and “My Destination”) but entered on a great one:  “Get It While You Can”.  What a quintessential Dusters song, right?  It really embodies so much of their energy and sound and everything else that makes the ISD such a fantastic band.  Jeremy Garrett threw down a particularly mean fiddle solo a few minutes in, unleashing a sea of smiles from those of us down in the sand.  My goodness can that man saw a tune!  And these boys were just getting going!  A bit further into the set it was time for another fantastic standard from the Dusters in the form of “Peace of Mind”, Chris Pandolfi filling the air with countless banjo notes during the intro, spreading them around for all to hear and treasure.  They took this one at a nice clip, imbuing it with some of that tropical energy surrounding all of us and elevating it to a supremely fun dancing song.  Andy Falco delivered the lyrics in fine fashion with excellent supporting harmonies, as always with this song.  And then there was that dobro solo from Andy Hall.  Damn, son.  I mean, damn.  Sizzling hot.  What a great set so far!  Certainly not ones to pass up the opportunity to share the stage with some of the other incredibly musicians present, the band invited friend Danny Barnes out for a little fun on his mighty banjo.  Panda was visibly excited to be throwing down alongside a giant like Barnes.  Makes perfect sense, right?  They got things going with a crazy funky number showcasing just that kind of excellent and magnificent musical weirdness and madness that Danny brings to the world of string band music.  Really groovy, start to finish.  What a treat.  Next up with Danny they delivered a marvelous version of “Don’t Think Twice” — but why take my word for it when you can see for yourself, my friend?  Please enjoy!! 

Pretty darn amazing music, right?  Am I right?  So very good.  Then it was time for another close friend of the group to join them onstage for a few numbers:  none other than Nicki Bluhm.  Nicki, of course, is no stranger at all to performing with the Dusters — their collaborations are well-known by this point.  One of the best of them, in my opinion, is their cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”.  Nicki’s voice is perfect for this one and she really nailed it this time, there can be no doubt.  And the band absolutely killed this one, too…who knew a bluegrass version of this song would be so, well, killer?  Garrett was on fire all song, just destroying things on his magic fiddle throughout.  And what a thumping bass line from Travis Book!  So much foundational energy for the rest of the band to soar from and back down to time and again.  And such a stage presence — it cannot be easy moving that upright around all over the place like he does.  Love it.  Later on still down the set came a huge ending drive that began with Cash’s “Big River”, a huge crown favorite of course.  One of those perfect covers for the band in question, in my opinion.  It’s just one that seems to fit so very well and the S&S version was no exception whatsoever.  Excellent banjo work from Panda about a minute into things set the tone for the round robin of solos to ensue throughout the song.  This would include all the members of the band on their respective instruments, showing beyond the shadow of a doubt the overall musical excellence of the Dusters.  Falco had a monster solo during their big, bold, badass jam in the middle that searing the very souls of those listening.  What a showing!  Bravi, boys!  Then came the “Blackrock” into Phish’s “First Tube” right back into “Blackrock” closer that melted every face in the crowd, man, woman, and child.  So much dobro from Hall!!  So much fiddle from Garrett!!  So many notes flying from the stage and washing over us in a cascade of merriment and musical joy.  “Blackrock” is quite the instrumental ride in and of itself, but when you add some Phish to the mix?  Are you kidding me?  Plus, we must count the fact that they totally nailed their string arrangement of this jammy oldie but goodie.  Truth.  Just the plain facts, my friends.  What a crazy good jam, too.  Holy goodness!  Like I said, a face melter, through and through.  By the time they made it back into “Blackrock” to close things down we were all losing our collective minds.  And then, wham!  It was all over.  Last note played.  Band has taken their bow.  Done.  And, wow, what a freaking roller coaster!  Thank you so much, you Infamous Stringdusters!  Thank you for all the smiles and the marvelous music!  What a way to spend an evening on the beach! 

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

    Cue Greensky.  Cue rain storm.  Cue dancing in the rain to some baller ass newgrass.  And rain it did, let me tell you.  Pretty much the entire show, too.  Kind of a bummer in some ways after the first several songs and you start to get a bit waterlogged.  But, on the upside of things, Greensky Bluegrass tore it up on that main stage in spite of the rain and wind.  Professionals, those guys, to a man.  Opening things up with a fantastic rendition of “Old Barns” the band showed they meant business from the very get-go.  Paul Hoffman was in exceptionally fine voice that evening, which meant wonderful things for all of us with ears in the crowd.  That song is certainly one that stirs the soul.  They followed quickly on the heels of “Old Barns” with “Leap Year”, throwing out crowd favorite after crowd favorite, apparently.  The rain did get to a point where we retreated under cover in a friend’s room, friends like that great to have, of course.  However, we could still hear the show from our sanctuary and “Leap Year” sounded phenomenal.  Anders Beck slew his well-known dobro line at the beginning heralding in this song in familiar fashion, not to mention all his stylings throughout the number.  And that Bont solo?  Banjo madness, pure and simple.  Worth mentioning as well was just how fast they took it for this version.  So much energy.  Especially when Bruzza took up the reigns on his guitar and killed a solo of his own.  So many freaking notes!  How?!?  Already this was a stellar show.  Not that I was the least bit surprised.  They finished up their first set with “Windshield”, taking things to that lower-frequency intensity at the beginning and pumping things up to “eleven” by the end making for an excellent way to end things for a quick set break.  So far, so grand, fellas.  Magnificence.  After a quick set break/rain delay during which we grabbed our rain gear and headed back up to the stage, second set got quickly going in defiance of the rain with “The Four”.  Sadly, the rain did a bit of damage to the overall music experience of the evening…there is only so much you can do in those conditions, you know?  But the band persevered as did the audience and we were all treated some amazing GSBG music in spite of the delays and storms, etc.  I mean, to their credit, they still sounded superb.  A bit down the set came a soggy but triumphant version of “Don’t Lie”, Anders’s dobro lines weaving in and out of the musical consciousness on stage like the voice of an old, dear friend.  Phoff was a beast on that microphone, styling and profiling his crooning almost as if to each and every one of us personally.  Not to mention his lovely mando playing, counterpointing Bont’s every note on banjo…the hundreds of them that there were.  That man is a wizard on that instrument of his.  And always with such an unassuming smile on his face, bent in concentration and spell craft over the strings.  Wowsers, what a solo!  It just went on and on and delightfully on.  And we were all so grateful.  The jam was, in a word, volcanic.  It erupted in an avalanche of notes and music and wonderment so incredible!!  Replete with “Tequila” teases and so much great instrumental work from every member of the band, it was a mind-bender.  Truth.  A wee bit later and close to set’s end came Dave Bruzza up the mic for the lead on “Take Cover”.  It is almost impossible to see that man’s hands move over that guitar of his — what a picker!  Tarnation!!  And there’s nothing like a little effect pedal on some dobro, right?  Thanks to Anders we got just that!  There’s just something I love about his particular dobro style.  I think it has a lot to do with him as a person…his overall attitude and personality.  Beck just brings something to that instrument of his, something unique.  Something very much worthwhile.  Finally, the Michigan fellows closed things down with one of their more famous and well-loved covers:  Prince’s “When Doves Cry”.  They started it all off with a funky, jazzy, groovy intro belying the truth of what was right around the corner.  Well-done with the musical deception.  Way to keep things fun, guys!  I’ve certainly heard them do this one before, but here dancing in the wet sand, the rain still gently falling, the ocean crashing nearby, the stage shining out like a beacon in the damp night, it all took on a new and more poignant meaning, a deeper experience.  So much marvelous madness was unleashed in so many forms, all dancing along to this familiar song.  Big solos from Phoff, Bruzza, Beck, and Bont peppered the entire affair with Mike Devol, that boss of bass, laying down the funkiest bottom line you’ve heard in a long time.  Such a massive ending!  So much incredible energy soaring from the stage.  And all of us there shaking our fists in the face of that storm, soaking up the music like water in the sand.  What a night it had been.  Railroad, Dusters, then Greensky?  What stupendous luck!  What gratitude.  What thankfulness.  Thanks so much to GSBG and all their people!  What could Sunday possibly be like, I wondered at that moment.  Guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

Stick around for Sunday, on the way, friends!!

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Railroad Earth - 16 September 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

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Railroad Earth - 16 September 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

Railroad Earth

16 September 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Band Members:  Todd Sheaffer - lead vocals, acoustic guitar; Tim Carbone - violins, electric guitar, vocals; John Skehan - mandolin, bouzouki, piano, vocals; Andy Goessling - acoustic guitar, banjo, dobro, mandolin, lap steel, flute, penny whistle, saxophones, vocals; Carey Harmon - drums, hand percussion, vocals; Andrew Altman - upright bass, electric bass

    Red Rocks, majestic and proud as ever, welcomed us all once again into the very heart of music and merriment.  The Harvest Moon was just below the horizon, aching to make its appearance in conjunction with the hallowed and heralded music of Railroad Earth and we all waited patiently for it to creep slowly into our vision.  With our musical palates and appetites only enflamed all the more by the phenomenal musical stylings of Anders Osborne and The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, we were more than ready to see our RRE headlining once again in this magical place.  The cool blackness of the night air enveloped us all as the lights leapt forth from the stage bathing pools of smiling faces in warm hues and crisper colors.  And then, that moment we all pined for with glee and anticipation, that moment arrived when the band walked onto that giant stage, waving to the crowd assembled en masse to bear witness to a supremely wonderful show to come.  We cheered them on quieting only when it came time for the first note.  As such, let us continue on to that music, how about?

    Except that it was to be Carey Harmon’s drums that brought this show instantly to life, his metronomic beats deftly hammering out the musical pathway for the other instruments to follow.  The gradual building up eventually became a surprise opener for old fans and new fans alike:  “Butterfly and the Tree”.  This led to immediate delight written all over each face in the audience.  And there’s just nothing like hearing the first words that Todd sings in any show as well…merely hearing his voice is like meeting an old friend over a nice, cold pint.  Everyone was sounding particularly spot on throughout the band that evening from the very beginning.  There is just something mystical about Red Rocks that can bring that something extra out of ensembles who perform there.  Lucky for us, right?  They followed up with “Happy Song” kicking our collective energy into high gear, all of us singing along and into the night.  Up to the moon, as some would say (thanks, Uncle Vince).  However, no matter how happy the song nor the people singing and dancing in it, the thunder and lightning and eventual hail storm brought things to a quick pause — 20 or so minutes huddled under the cedar trees against the rain was all it really amounted to.  However, after years of going to Red Rocks, that was my first hail storm there.  That place serves up just about everything weather-wise, it’s true.  But, then the band retook the stage after all was deemed safe enough to continue and, impressively enough, they jumped right back into “Happy Song” where they left off before the storm.  I mean, almost to the very note/word.  Talk about pleasing your crowd — holy schneikies!  As I said, impressive, no?  But also not surprising considering this powerhouse band of musical adepts.  “Chasin’ a Rainbow” seemed appropriate for the next selection, seeing as how we were all basking in the metaphysical rainbow made by such lovely music in the wake of the rainstorm.  Another big crowd pleasure early on in the show…I was liking the trend.  The Black Swan Singers (Sheryl Renee, Coco Brown, and Carl Carwell) joined them on stage for this one, adding some amazing vocal depth and texture to the mix.  What a great addition to augment Railroad Earth.  Fantastic.  They took this one at a bit slower of a pace than normal and it really lent itself to the application, especially with the now larger chorus of voices coming through.  It made for a powerful rendition of an old favorite.  Next on the setlist for the night was “Came Up Smilin’”, that chill and mellow happy song.  It’s almost as if they chose “joy” as the musical theme for the night.  The amount of voices united in song during this one was nothing short of heartwarming in the most “music family” oriented way possible.  RRE Hobos are rather tightly-knit as a crew, it’s true.  Some really lovely Carbone fiddle going on in this one too, all the while supporting Todd’s dead-on light and lilting vocal melodies.  After that came a driving and pleasantly intense “Goat” whose ending jam was particularly tasty, Andrew Altman laying down some fantastic bass licks which led into Todd shredding ever so kindly on the guitar and Goessling jumping in on saxophone like a master— excellent stuff.   This they took directly into “Head” which we snagged some nice footage of for you.  Please enjoy!! 

They segued straight into “The Jupiter and the 119” from “Head” ramping up into another definite favorite of the crowd.  What a delightful song and delightful rendition for us all that evening.  Todd was in fine voice as he related this story of the rails to us, and the remainder of the band was musically tight, to be sure.  Andy Goessling’s banjo is always a welcome addition to the framework of any song or tune, and it certainly was here.  Love that sound!  Instrumentation is such an important consideration, especially when you have the plethora from which to choose like this band does.  Makes for very few moments that are less than stellar from a musical standpoint.  Especially during a show like this.    And, then, it was right back into “Head” to finish it up.  No stopping, no standing.  Boom.  Way to go, fellas…let’s keep that momentum rushing along!  So much fiddle, too!  Wowsers!   Carbone was tearing it up.  Only to hand the reigns to Skehan on mandolin.  What a duet those two threw down!  Holy amazing music, Batman!  And it just went on and on, back and forth, like that for countless wonderful minutes.  Bravi, gentlemen, for that amazing ride!  What a first set!

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

    So, apparently, the rain delay ate up all the time for an actual set break.  Instead, the band offered a verbal “set break” from the stage in lieu of a real one and then set about immediately nailing their second set to the wall.  Harmon’s iconic drums began this set as well, with the band joining in and Tim Carbone stepping up and out on fiddle.  The intro was long and well-built, a lovely musical journey with lots of delicious morsels for the hearing.  Soon enough, Andrew Altman stepped up to the mic for the lead on “12 Wolves” and we were off into another fantastic landscape of lyrics and notes.  And what a jam in this one to boot!  Andy dominated on banjo for quite some time until he handed things over to Carbone for the finishing touches.  So much great music coming from all corners of the stage!  How good is this band?  “Dance Around Molly” was an instrumental roller coaster of incredible musicianship.  Every man got his chance to shine and shine brightly in this one.  And, boy, did that crowd dance.  And dance.  And dance.  Until we were breathless!  This they took directly into “Dandelion Wine” keeping our delighted dancing vibe a-going strong.  Goessling brought some heat to the dance with his riveting guitar solo.  So many notes!  So quickly!  How do these fellows do it?  What a pleasure it is to watch musicians such as these in action and in such obvious joy at their chosen path.  Yet another mighty fine drum intro from Carey signaled the unfolding of the Red Rocks rendition of “Elko” — I was loving all this Harmon love tonight.  The Black Swan Singers rejoined the boys on stage for this one, broadening the vocal texture of the group in such marvelous ways.  Skehan gave us all a really magnificent solo on mandolin about a minute and a half in.  Excellence in action.   “Like a Buddha” followed “Elko” and was, from the get go, a light and lively version of this one.  A super happy and kind of trippy intro brought us to the song proper which we all savored like a fine wine.  Goessling had a sweet and diaphanous solo on the flute during the intro…my goodness!  What instruments doesn’t he play, am I right?  So impressive.  Not surprisingly, I do love this song.  Quite a bit, in fact.  How can’t you?  It’s so positive in so many ways.  The lyrics were on everyone’s lips in the crowd as we all sang at the appointed moments, like one big happy family.  This is why we do this.  And, without missing a beat, they then took this right into Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” in musical observance of the actual Harvest Moon which had risen high into the sky over our heads and hearts.  This was a special moment for a lot of people.  The confluence of so many beautiful things coming together at once.  It was pretty incredible to witness — one of those points in time where the magic happens.  Many thanks for that one, fellas!  After that amazing Young tribute, it was time for a little “Birds of America” action.  Dan Sears joined in on stage on the pocket trumpet, adding in some choice horn lines throughout the song.  What a show this had been so far!  Great guests and great setlist.  Great sound all around.  An evening to remember, to be sure.  A little down the set they played Shuggie Otis’s “Strawberry Letter 23” which was also a debut number for the band.  And what a debut it was!  Super funky, this one was an instant favorite of mine.  Such a different sound from this band — and I loved it.  Between Todd and the Black Swan Singers, the vocals were in very fine hands.  And then, more funk, from everyone.  Super groovy.  Super.  Then it was time for the set closer.  Sad, yes, I know.  But, every good concert comes to and end.  And great concerts like this come screaming to a joy-ridden halt.  They came straight from the Otis piece directly into “Everything Comes Together” to close things down.  Driving banjo from Goessling, soft mando from Skehan, floating fiddle from Carbone all over the backbone created by Altman and Harmon and all these things serving to bolster and intensify the lyrics spun out by Sheaffer — yes, that is the way to end a show.  But wait, encore, you say?  Where would we be without an encore?  Well, not at this show, as we got a super fun “Cold Water” to satisfy the withdrawals already setting in.  They took this one a nice, fast clip getting us all dancing just one more time underneath that amazing moon.  And, then, the last note rang, we all cheered, and it was time to go.  Sadly.  Leaving Red Rocks each time is hard enough, but after a show like that?  It certainly made me excited at the prospect of seeing the again the following night at The Boulder Theater (review inbound).  But, let there be no doubts, this Red Rocks show was one of the very best Railroad Earth show I had seen to date.  It really was that good in so many various ways.  Bravi to the band and all their folk who helped put this stellar night together!  The music is always so appreciated.  Always.  Thanks to you all for reading, as well!  More to come on RRE’s Colorado visit soon!!

Railroad Earth beneath the Harvest Moon

Railroad Earth beneath the Harvest Moon

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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Saturday

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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Saturday

DelFest 9

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

The Sam Bush Band

    Back at the main stage at DelFest.  Precisely where I wanted to be.  After a day already full of incredibly wonderful bluegrass music it was time to soak in a little of the Sam Bush Band and their special brand of the same.  Walking towards the front of the crowd we were greeted with the sounds of “On the Road”, Scott Vestal’s lead in on banjo like an old friend taking you to something amazing.  And then Sam starts in on the vocals and, just like that, we were off to another incredible ride through a fine set of grass.  A song filled with advice from a life spent long on the road, it was a pretty perfect way to get things going.  And talk about a band just filled with phenomenal musicians.  Always means you get some seriously kick ass bluegrass as a result, Sam Bush Band style.  From Scott on banjo to Stephen Mougin on guitar to Sam on mando and back around again, there was so much goodness going on in this number.  Mandolin was the name of the game introducing the next song up, “Play By Your Own Rules”.  Yet more advice coming down from Uncle Sammy, I think we’d all love to play by our own rules a bit more.  Some lovely duet work between Sam and Stephen in between verses — I do so love the sound of this band.  The King of Telluride certainly doesn’t disappoint.  Then it was all time for us to be “Riding That Bluegrass Train” apparently.  And why not?  All aboard, in my opinion.  And what a ride it was with Sam at the controls!  Yet another bluegrass classic played to the nth degree.  Man, do these guys always put on a fantastic show!  Sammy thrashed out some mean mando for us during this one showcasing his singular skills.  However, Mougin and Vestal were not to be outdone, throwing down some serious stylings of their own on guitar and banjo respectively.  A round robin of skill and talent this continued for some time, man to man to man until Sam launched back into the vocals and kept that train a-rollin’.  A personal favorite of mine was next in line that set and, lucky for all of us, we got it on video for you.  Hope you enjoy “They’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” as much as we did! 

Love that song!  And how can’t you, right?  I mean, it’s Sam we’re talking about!!  Following “They’re Gonna Miss Me” we got a supremely enjoyable “One More Love Song” and then some quick pickin’ in the form of “Hard Hearted”, Mougin and Vestal tearing it up on their respective instruments.  Nothing like being caught up in that singular style of bluegrass attributed to Sam and his band — they really take you places with their music, to other times and through the stories of their songs.  The completely entrancing instrumental “Greenbrier” was next in line, with each member of the band shining through on their chosen instrument like a miniature star, creating a fabric and musical landscape so easy on the ears and soul.  Truly, each of these gentlemen is a virtuoso in his own right and that is most readily apparent in jams like “Greenbrier”.  Lengthy solos from Vestal, Mougin, and Bush made for an even more robust piece of music for our senses of hearing to savor as we all danced and swayed like the trees dancing in the wind all around.  Goodness!!  And Todd Parks laying down that bass line like a champ all set long.  Hells yeah.  “Midnight on the Stormy Deep” saw Del, himself, come join Sam and band for a song from “the old country”.  What a vocal duet between McCoury and Bush!  Just lovely!!  Later on down the set Sammy gave us his version of “Great Balls of Fire”, one of which I am sure that Jerry Lee Lewis would have been proud.  I’ve heard Sam do this a few times before and I just love the energy he brings to it and the energy that it brings to a setlist.  Not that a Sam Bush Band setlist is usually lacking in energy — just the opposite.  Finally, they closed their set down a bit later on by asking Ronnie McCoury to come and join them on stage for Bob Dylan’s “When You Gonna Wake Up”.  Ronnie remarked as he got situated that he was getting to “play with [his] hero” to which Sam Bush replied, “is David Grisman here?”  We all got a nice laugh out of that one.  Well-played, Sammy.  Well-played.  And “When You Gonna Wake Up” was well-played also…finishing things off with a little rock’n’roll, McCoury in support.  A good message to end their show with as well, methinks.  Music certainly exists to make us think from time to time as well as entertain.  Sam, apparently, thinks the same way.  Never a bad time with Mr. Bush and his baller ass band and this was certainly no exception.  So many thanks to the man and band for so much wonderful music, as always.  Sure was making me look forward to Telluride!!

The Sam Bush Band

The Sam Bush Band

Railroad Earth

    As the darkening evening air descended around us that Saturday night, we all made our way up to the main stage again for some of that excellent foot-tappin’ Americana string band music that only Railroad Earth can serve up.  The setting was just perfect for more great music and we all knew that RRE wouldn’t disappoint.  They launched into the easy-going “Storms” to get things started off right for us.  The instrumental opening grew steadily to life and then Todd Sheaffer’s voice emanated from the speakers in soft waves of comfort and beauty.  It’s like having a favorite uncle sing you gently through life.  And, of course, Tim Carbone’s fiddle, always there for you akin to an arm around the shoulder made of the purest and most gorgeous musical texture.  John Skehan then added his own brand of lovely to the mix on mandolin, richening the entire piece further.  An auspicious beginning to be sure, my friends.  Carey Harmon laid down a big, big beat on the drums as introduction to “Seven Story Mountain” which followed “Storms”.  Todd thanked us all over the mic as the song built and built relaying that it was a pleasure to be at DelFest.  I was very much inclined to agree with him.  They continued to build and flesh things out for several minutes in anticipation of Todd’s vocal entrance.  Makes for quite the satisfying musical experience.  And, throughout, that metronomic rhythm from Carey.  Magnificent, thus far.  And only getting better.  I am kind of biased towards the next song they played given where I live, however, that does not negate how good the song really is.  Upbeat and filled with great banjo from Andy Goessling from the very beginning, “Colorado” speaks to one of my favorite times in my favorite state, summertime in Colorado.  Hard to hate a song about such bright subjects, right?  In fact, you down right fall in love with it.  Carbone’s solo in the middle was like a big, fresh breath only to be answered by Skehan on mando, laying down his own fine and extensive solo work.  And then they traded back again, a round robin of solo prowess.  It is just this kind of skill and acumen that is shared amongst the members of the band that makes one of their songs or shows so entertaining.  If you love really good music, that is.  If you don’t, well, let’s just hope that’s not the case.  A little on down the set they gave us the slightly melancholy “Mourning Flies”, the soft and lilting guitar solo intro setting the tone for this one.  Enter Carbone’s gentle fiddle over the top of the guitar for a minute or two.  And then enter the rest of the band for that kind of slowly intensifying introduction for which this band is known.  This was a lengthy version of the song coming in at 11:18 with plenty of opportunities for each gent to strut his stuff on his chosen instrument.  Which they took and ran with, believe you me.  They took “Mourning” directly into Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” next, the energy of the new song echoing the previous one.  Mellow was the name of the game for the moment, all with the undercurrent of intense emotion and feeling.  This was American music, through and through.  The music of our folk, our people, and played by those who really get it.  What a treat!!  The crowd certainly enjoyed the gift of this one as Todd nailed the vocals down expertly as well, of course.  Carey even had some solo time a couple of minutes in…but vocal solo time.  Not so often we get to see that.  Pretty great right?  Sadly there was a huge power outage to the main stage area that shut things down for a few minutes and brought “America” to a premature close.  They were able to get things repaired quickly enough, though, and the show kept right on going.  “Walk Beside Me” (which featured a phatty, phatty bass solo from Andrew Altman) followed “America” and went directly into “Birds of America” which we were able to capture on video for you to check out.  Please enjoy!! 

Pretty big “Birds of America” huh?  Hope you liked that little piece of the show.  Which kept right going as “Birds” went directly into the fast pickin’ “Stillwater Getaway”.  Talk about a tune to get your blood moving!  Amazing solos all around…once again.  Are you sensing a theme?  Because there surely is one when it comes to Railroad Earth — that of exquisite and exquisitely-played music.  What a show it had been.  But, all good things must come to a close now and again, sadly.  However, happily for us, Sierra Hull was out to join them for “Bird in a House”, their ending number.  An old favorite of seemingly most people in the crown, folks were singing along and dancing and enjoying this Railroad experience through to the very end.  It sounded magnificent as it rang out over the crowd, bouncing off the bluffs behind us in the dark.  A truly lovely ending to a truly lovely show.  Many thanks to all the members of the band for such a special evening of music at DelFest 9!!  Bravi, fellas, bravi!!

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

The Travelin’ McCourys

    This band has to make some of the absolute best music on the market today.  Hands down.  Every time I see them they are just that much better.  And getting better all the time.  Each of these men is a master on his instrument, proven many times over with awards and accolades…and the applause of countless crowds the country over.  Speed?  You got it.  Agility?  You betcha.  Precision?  But of course!  Skill, talent, acumen, ability?  You’ve got that right, my friends.  And the McCourys have got it all…in spades.  We got our equipment up and rolling from the get go to capture the beginnings of what would be an epic set.  “Cumberland Blues”?  Hot damn.  What a way to start!!  Please enjoy!!

Holy goodness and my stars!  How great was that??  They continued things smartly with “Somebody’s Gonna Pay”, Ronnie McCoury at the mic for lead vocals.  Just love that man’s voice…so crystal clear and so perfect for bluegrass.  There was some nice interplay between Jason Carter on fiddle and Rob McCoury on banjo that made for a special moment in the song.  Never would want to get on Ronnie’s bad side, though, like the person in this song.  Much rather be a friend to the McCourys, right?  Right.  Then it was time for Jason’s time at the mic, set up to croon one for us in the form of “Southbound”.  What a rich voice he has.  Always love getting a Carter solo.  This time the interplay occurred between the McCoury brothers, mando and banjo, respectively.  Quick-paced and fun, to be sure.  Love watching those two play alongside one another.  Cody Kilby stepped out and threw down a pretty monstrous guitar solo a couple minutes in, as well.  That fellow is a pure guitar machine, no doubt about it.  Nothing but mad respect.  Alan Bartram took lead vocals on the next, the slightly sadder “Hardest Heart”, which featured some gorgeous fiddle work from Jason alongside Robbie’s fantastic banjo.  Ronnie made his presence felt as well through some superb mandolin following.  And then there’s Cody once again to just dominate the fretboard and make it sing so sweetly.  Excellent ensemble sound in this song…really sounded just fantastic.  And this was my first time hearing it as well.  Hope it won’t be my last.   A little later down the set it was time for some amazing vocal harmonies as the band covered Passenger’s “Let Her Go” — I mean these guys polished the heck out of their parts for this song.  And it really showed.  Ronnie was on the lead for it and when joined by his fellows, magic ensued.  Truly.  What an addition to the setlist for the evening!  This was followed by Robbie leading things off on banjo for the familiar and fabulous “Midnight Flyer”, Jason Carter taking lead vocals once again.  This one steamed along steadily just like a locomotive of bluegrass chugging into the night.  That sound of Rob’s banjo just sticks out in my mind…ever-present in the song and excellent.  Grooving merrily along with The Travelin’ McCourys!!  What more could you ask for?  More train songs?  Why the heck not?  Alan took to the mic once more for the lead on “I Think I’ll Stay Awhile”, a song about the siren-call of the train tracks and where they might lead…possibly to anywhere.  Ronnie McCoury colored things in with some lovely mando while his brother followed suit on banjo.  Bartram delivered some really fine singing throughout this one as well, the man being possessed of a fantastic voice like his compatriots.  A bit further on, Ronnie’s son, Adam McCoury, joined the band for some fun.  And for the Dead’s “Loser”, too.  Talk about fun!!  Adam was one lucky young man, to be sure.  Of course, he definitely had some chops to show off that evening as his father crooned along to us of that familiar sad tale of unluckiness and woe.  The younger McCoury delivered up one groovy and heartfelt solo on guitar before all was said and done.  Bravo to him!!  Definitely a crowd pleaser, this song.  But that should come as no surprise.  The Grateful Dead + The Travelin’ McCourys + DelFest = Inexplicable incredibleness.  Conner Broome came out on stage next to join in on keys alongside Adam and the gents for a spot-on cover of Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life”.  From the first familiar strains of the song, the crowd was instantly on board for this oldie, but greatie.  “He’s got the action, he’s go the motion.  Oooooh yeah, the boy can play!”  And that was certainly the case when it came to the youngest fellas on the stage, Conner and Adam.  Those boys can play, lemme tell you!  Such talent and skill already well-honed at such a young age — I think we can expect great things from both gents in the future.  John Hartford was next on the menu in the form of Jason Carter singing lead vocals on “Back in the Goodle Days”, a favorite around The Lot Scene offices.  Some supremely awesome fiddle came down from Carter on this song when he wasn’t on the lyrics, as well.  Talk about your “goodle days”, right?  Then they invited Del out for a couple of songs for which we were all very grateful.  How couldn’t we be?  The first number they doled out from the stage was “You've Got The Look Of A Perfect Diamond" with Del on lead vocals.  This one was a rollicking good musical time juxtaposed to the lyrics regarding a particularly cold and distant lady.  Bluegrass so often does that, setting text to music that seem so opposite of one another…but it always seems to work out so very well.  Just like with “Perfect Diamond”.  Mighty fine banjo stylings from Rob on this one, too.  That man truly is the “five string flamethrower”.  Ronnie took over the mic from his father for the following number, “Homegrown Tomatoes”, borrowing a little assistance from a piece of paper for the lyrics.  I’ve done that many, many times myself.  The jumbotrons were alight with the lyrics for all to sing along to, and why not?  Who doesn’t love singing along with Del and The Travelin’ McCourys??  So sing we did, loudly and proudly and we had a ball.  Ahhhhh, DelFest.  You know how to get me.  Every time.  They finished their set off by inviting Mark O’Connor out to join in on fiddle for their traditional farewell song, “Travelin’”.  This song is pure energy in bluegrass form.  All cylinders firing and with the nitrous boost of O’Connor in the mix?  Electric!!  Jason and Mark had a really marvelous back-and-forth at one point, fiddles flying in all directions.  It was magnificent.  Quite a way to end the show.  But they weren’t done yet.  How about Del and Sierra Hull coming out to nail down the encore with them?  How’s about that, indeed?!?  A song about a fiddle player was up for us here at the last, according to Carter.  Another Hartford piece, and thankfully because Hartford pieces rock, “Vamp in the Middle” proved the perfect choice for a follow-on song to a set such as that.  Sierra shone like the gemstone she is throughout, her instrument singing brightly.  Dagnabit!!  What a show!!  Such superbly incredible music from start to finish.  So many great guests with so much to add.  Just phenomenal.  A huge thanks to The Travelin’ McCourys and all their folk for such a marvelous DelFest set!  Made me all the more eager for late night Sunday.  But, we’ll have to wait for that for a bit…  

The Travelin' McCourys

The Travelin' McCourys

Late Night - Cabinet - Greensky Bluegrass

    Late Night once again.  And the bill this time?  Cabinet and Greensky.  Holy dynamic duo, Batman!!  This show had been sold out for months in anticipation of a double-barreled display of bluegrass, newgrass, and jamgrass all rolled into one night of fun and frivolity.  And the place was packed, let me tell you.  If people could get into this show, they did get into this show.  And the musical reward for entry?  Pure gold.  Cabinet opened the whole shebang playing hits and jams left and right, like starting off with “Eleanor” which they took directly into “Mysterio”.  Both songs filled with lots of up energy, they proved their own double-barrel opener for the double-barrel late night.  Electrified and electric, Cabinet came roaring out the gate bringing smiles, joy, and fun to one and all assembled under that metal roof.  Todd Kopec spanked that fiddle of his something fierce throughout, laying down some serious notes.  Pappy Biondo also delivered some pretty incredible notes of his own on banjo.  Not to mention all the shredding on electric guitar by Mickey Coviello.  Again, one more band that is filled with beastly players of the highest order.  Machines.  Demi-gods.  Call them what you will, those cats can play!  “Mysterio”, driven forward by the drums of Josh Karis and Jami Novak, is a thrill ride through minor keys and lots of tasty percussion.  Spacey and jammy in all the right ways, an apropos addition for a late night setlist.  Later in their set we were treated to Pappy at the vocals for “Diamond Joe”.  Featuring J.P. Biondo on the mandolin, this song really gets moving as the tale is spun of Diamond Joe and his exploits.  More supremely good guitar work from Coviello here as well.  There was a huge ending jam featuring pretty much everyone on everything before all was said and done throwing the crowd into a veritable frenzy.  It was pretty freakin’ sweet to say the least.  Next up was a super incredible gift of music:  Clapton’s “Cocaine” featuring Cris Jacobs guesting in for a giant 9:18 minutes!!  How lucky were we??  Seriously, we were all pretty much completely beside ourselves. “She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…”  And this music didn’t lie, either…it was so very, very good.  The best.  And Cris Jacobs?  Really?  So very, very good.  A big thanks to the band and to Cris for this one!  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the exquisite jamming that occurred throughout this song, too.  The music was just stupendous.  ‘Nuff said.  They finished their set with a big ol’ fat “Heavy Rain”, a foots-stomper and singalong if there ever was one.  Pappy crooned out his cautionary tale to a crowd of super happy folk as the band slammed along behind him.  Big vocals coming out of this one, awesome harmonies abounding.  Certainly a great way to simmer things down from such a hot, hot show.  Mad ups to Cabinet for bringing the heat to late night and working us all up for some Greensky Bluegrass to follow!  

Cabinet Late Night with Cris Jacobs

Cabinet Late Night with Cris Jacobs

    GSBG!!  Let’s do this!  Riding high on all that incredible Cabinet energy, we were all ready for our Greensky and more.  And just how did they start their show??  Oh, merely a little Talking Heads cover for us… “Road to Nowhere” with Paul Hoffman at the main vocals.  And so we were instantly immersed in Greensky’s musical world and overjoyed for it.  What a stellar version of this song, all grassed up in all the ways you want.  Anders Beck’s ever-present dobro alongside Dave Bruzza’s guitar and Hoffman’s mando…that quintessential sound we associate with GSBG.  All showcased in this one in perfect fashion.  OK.  I was game.  So far, so amazing.  A meaty “Kerosene” followed full of trippy, spaced-out intros and that gunshot of energy as the song takes hold.  Bruzza was in fine form on the vocals and nailed down his line effortlessly.  Beck delivered his usual schooling on the dobro as the song hurtled along at full speed.  The breakdown at the ending was just a monster of a thing.  So dirty nasty good in all the right ways.  The ensuing adoring cheers from the audience were deafening.  Next in the set was “Old Barns” which the band dedicated to Rachel Ciboro. I love this song and I love the way Paul sings it.  Seriously, this one always pulls at the heartstrings.  The hallmark of a truly well-written song.  Later on down the line, the band had a little fun with a “Cocaine” tease, led by Hoffman on mandolin.  Instead, however, Paul sang “Cabinet” instead of “cocaine”.  Too funny.  What a prankster!!  This was followed by a huge “Don’t Lie” to the tune of 16:32, with a crazy good intro jam.  Impressive.  Can’t imagine owning the bass for that long they way that Mike Devol does.  And did.  Talk about the true foundation of the band…his notes are there, always supporting.  Always.  Love his style, too.  Hard not to love the members of this band for all their musical skills and talents.  Mike Bont had a bit of fire in him as well all evening long, taking his banjo to task and producing excellence.  Another brutally good ending jam developed in “Don’t Lie” taking the energy levels to such degrees as to threaten to tear down the Music Hall.  Dobro in your face…so good!!  Bass, badass…so good!!  Banjo all around you…so good!!  Mando madness to behold…so good!!  Guitar goodness…so good!!  And that’s the theme of the Greensky set that late night…so good!!  Still later on in the show we got the sweet deal of “Don’t Lie” directly into “Light Up or Leave Me Alone”, a favorite cover amongst the GSBG fan masses.  And it should be as well.  “Don’t Lie” they took at a quick clip, instruments shining and singing out at the fast tempo.  The kings of the whizzbang wild energy wielding ending jam, they went all in for “Light Up” throwing in “Dancing on the Ceiling” teases and more.  They ramped this one up I tell you!  One of those moments where it’s almost too much music to take in.  But there was so much more music left!  In the form of the main event, in my opinion, the epic (yes, epic) “Worried About the Weather > China Cat Sunflower > Big Shot” that served as the anchor for the show.  Almost 20 minutes of straight bluegrass awesomeness.  Wowsers.  And the Dead.  And Billy Joel.  What??  That’s right.  Bruzza was on lead vocals for “Worried” which sounded just about album perfect, each member completely destroying their parts.  Just as we were grooving along to the song and getting into some jams, they were off into “China Cat Sunflower” to the delight of all.  Paul sounded pretty durn amazing on the lead vocals channeling all his inner Dead that he could muster and more.  What a performance.  Anyways, I just love this song…one of my faves from the Dead’s catalogue.  As such, I was certainly happy to hear it in the mix that night.  Lovely mandolin from Hoffman as well as lovely dobro from Beck.  Perfectly melded parts into the fabric of the song.  Masterful and a joy to hear.  And then, after some more wonderful jamming, it was off into Billy Joel’s musical landscape with “Big Shot”, Hoffman on lead vocals.  Who knew this would be such a big, fat ending to a marvelous show such as this?  Bravi fellas, quite so!  They closed things down with “Dustbowl Overtures” and Paul singing “Easy Like Sunday Morning” teases during the intro.  And close things down they did, too.  Holy goodness…so amazing right to the very end.  A huge round of applause and thanks to the lads in the band for such an incredible time.  Made for the best late night yet (and there was still one more to go!).  What a long and lovely night of music!  My soul was so sated, almost to overflow.  And there was still Sunday Funday to go.  Wow…could I make it?  You has best believe it!!

Greensky Bluegrass Late Night

Greensky Bluegrass Late Night

CLICK ON THE BANNER BELOW FOR OUR COMPLETE PHOTO GALLERIES FROM Saturday @ DELFEST!

Sunday is on its way, my friends!!  Almost there!!

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