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Elephant Revival - May 20, 2018 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

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Elephant Revival - May 20, 2018 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

Elephant Revival

May 20, 2018 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

photos and words for The Lot Scene by Ryan Boldrey

THESE HEARTS, THESE DREAMS, THESE WEBS WE WEAVE

ELEPHANT REVIVAL SAYS FAREWELL FOR NOW WITH SUNDAY SHOW AT RED ROCKS

When I first saw Elephant Revival, a few years into their journey, in 2010 at MeadowGrass Music Festival in Black Forest, Colorado, I had no idea the impact this five-piece band out of Nederland would have on me as our paths intertwined over the next decade.

I was covering the festival for Colorado Community Media and while I was tasked with shooting photos of numerous bands over the weekend and writing just a short copy block on the overall experience, this particular group I just wanted to hang out and watch. I had heard of them, but not much beyond that. 

Watching them for the first time, I was immediately transfixed by Bonnie Paine, her voice – unlike anything I had ever heard before – and her washboard and percussion. Add in the fiddle playing of Bridget Law, the songwriting and voices of Dan Rodriguez and Sage Cook, and the multi-instrumentation of Cook and Dango Rose, and I knew right away I’d be seeing them again, and soon.  

Over the next eight years, I was not only fortunate enough to see them in numerous venues across the state and country, but to be there for a handful of monumental moments in the band’s history as well, including some of the first shows with newer members Darren Garvey and Charlie Rose. I watched as they evolved from a Sunday afternoon performer at MeadowGrass to a Saturday night headliner, to a band that worked its way up the Red Rocks ladder and graced various festival stages across the country. 

I was there in 2014 in Colorado Springs, the night Sage announced he was leaving the band, and was at Campout for the Cause a few months later when he played his first festival set with his new band, We Dream Dawn, and the Elephant Revival tour bus pulled up behind the stage mid-set. 

I watched as the band members got off the bus and took up different vantage points on the festival grounds to watch and listen. It wasn’t long before he invited Bridget and Bonnie onto the stage to join his new band and later that night during their headlining set, they returned the favor, and Sage sat in for a good portion of the show. He offered up his usual banter and let the crowd now how much love and admiration he had for Charlie – the man who stepped into his shoes when he left – how they were both from Kansas and how Charlie had a deep musical and personal history with Bonnie and the gang.

Having gotten to know Sage a bit over the past few years, as well as Bridget and some of the other band members, I was made aware by Bridget, a few weeks ahead of the announcement, that she would be leaving the band prior to Fall Tour 2017 and sadly, I also learned of the pending “indefinite” hiatus the band is now in a few weeks before that news went public.

There was no way in hell I was missing this last show at Red Rocks – especially considering all of the band’s current and former members would be present. 

Despite dealing with a medical emergency earlier in the week, I went against what would have been my doctor’s wishes had I told her I’d be flying out to cover a show, caught a 6 a.m. flight out of Grand Rapids, Michigan on Sunday morning – camera, laptop and rain gear in tow – and made my way to Colorado. I could have used a bit more raingear however, as the weather Sunday night was easily the second worst I have ever encountered at Red Rocks in countless shows there.

As it would be, though, despite cold, hard rains during opening sets by Hiss Golden Messenger and Blind Pilot – two bands you should definitely check out if you haven’t listened to them yet – the skies parted for Elephant’s much anticipated appearance. And while there was no rain falling from the sky as Elephant took to the stage, there was nary a dry eye in the house as the band opened with Bonnie’s “Will Carry On,” followed by Dan’s “Home in Your Heart,” two of ER’s softer, deeper, lovelier songs that poetically put on display in front of 8,000-plus people exactly where this band stood in their relationships with one another as well as themselves as they readied to part ways.

“Falling down/spin me ‘round/no one said this would be easy now/but you’ve gotta keep moving somehow,” crooned Rodriguez to a crowd that had already been brought to their knees by Bonnie’s voice hitting every note on lines such as “We may never be perfect/maybe that is not the point/search to know the language of our part/ from our heart …” 

With worn emotion on every face on the stage, Dan followed “Home in Your Heart” by telling the crowd, “we’re all in this together everybody.”

From there, the band launched into Bridget’s fiddle-driven instrumental, “The Pasture,” breathing life and dance into the crowd that knew they were in for an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, a tale of love, intertwining hearts and good-bye for now.  

The coaster hit its peaks and valleys, visiting next Bonnie’s “Remembering a Beginning,” then Dan’s “Birds and Stars” and after that Charlie’s “Sea Monster,” the latter providing an opportunity to look through another set of eyes about “a world that provides and expires/how we grow, come to know our heart’s desires.”

After Bonnie’s “Spinning,” (These hearts/These dreams/These webs we weave), Bridget addressed the crowd, letting them know that they could interpret what was happening a lot of different ways, but the band was simply expanding their own web as they move on from this chapter of their history. 

And while other projects, such as TIERRO with Bridget Law and We Dream Dawn have already taken flight as has Dan’s solo career, separate endeavors are underway or ready to be embarked upon for the rest of Elephant Revival.

And although there is much to look forward to in the individual and collective careers of the band’s members, there is no certainty that the five founding members will ever share a stage together again, and while one can hope someday they will reunite, all those in attendance had to wonder if it was the last time they would howl at a rising moon together in unison during “Sing to the Mountain.”

With highlights such as a powerful “When I Fall,” a rousing cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar,” a take on Josh Ritter’s “Girl in the War” and ER originals “Drop,” “Season Song,” and “Ring around the Moon,” among the most memorable and notable moments of the show came when Sage joined his former bandmates to sing his poignant, “Go On,” perhaps the most fitting song of the night.

Another huge moment featuring Sage on vocals came late in the set as the band shared the stage with Bonnie’s sister Annie, as well as members of Fruition and The Deer for a rendition of Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” in which Sage and Bonnie took the early leads before giving way to Fruition’s Jay Cobb Anderson and Mimi Naja. 

Following “Friends,” in pure Elephant Revival tradition, the band came around a single mic for an intimate, lasting “Good Graces” before saying their first good-bye of the night.

The band would return for a three-song encore that left nothing behind on the stage as they led off with “Lighthouse” and then closed it down with passion-fueled takes on Dan’s “Grace of a Woman” and Bonnie’s “Rogue River.” 

All in all, the show, which also featured a considerable amount of fiddle from longtime collaborator Enion Pelta-Tiller and choreographed dance from Colorado’s Wild Heart Dance troupe, will go down as one of the most well put-together set lists the band has likely every written and one of the most beautiful send-offs any fan could ever ask for.

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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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Greensky Bluegrass - 23 July 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

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Greensky Bluegrass - 23 July 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

Greensky Bluegrass

23 July 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Band Members:  Anders Beck - dobro, Michael Bont - banjo, Dave Bruzza - guitar, Mike Devol - upright bass, Paul Hoffman - mandolin

    Picture it.  You’re on the stage of Red Rocks, headlining for the first time.  Good friends Leftover Salmon have just played a monster opening set in honor of your huge night.  Thousands of your biggest fans are gathered in score upon score of the tiers of the historic amphitheatre.  The skies have calmed from their earlier tempests making way for a perfect evening of weather just suited for live music.  With so much going so right so far, how could you ever think of failure?  How could you not solely be thinking of the utter domination you were getting ready to lay down with your bandmates in just a few scant minutes?  How could things not go just supremely your way and then some?  Times about a million.  I can only surmise that this and countless other things were weaving their ways through the heads of our heroes of this tale, the gentlemen of Greensky Bluegrass that evening.  An ever-impressive and ever-more-incredible powerhouse of musical originality and ensemble genius, it is impossible to even see remotely the same show twice from them.  Songs may be similar from setlist to setlist, but the degree with which they increase their skill from gig to gig is immeasurable.  And then, to be coming together under the banner of musical friendship alongside Leftover at Red Rocks of all places — what a crazy amazing way to do it.  Quite impressive and it certainly made for an impressive evening of music.  You’ve already read about Salmon’s baller set, now it’s time for a little Greensky in your life.  What say you?  Ready for this?  Let’s do it!!

Anders Beck

Anders Beck

    A strong and crowd-pleasing opener in the form of “Windshield” ushered us all into the night together, the familiar strains of Devol’s bass line jumping out into the ether above the stage as Hoffman’s vocal lines wove seamlessly into the mix.  So many voices in the crowd were singing out to this one, as one, united in joy and purpose and pure merriment of the soul.  And then, Anders’s dobro line floated in hauntingly reminding us of the intensity of this song as we all fell back into Paul’s vocals.  Pure energy was coming from that stage, from those Michigan men who play that delicious string band music we all love so dearly.  Really nice and chill ending jam, too.  Sweet, if I dare say so.  One helluva way to start things up!!  They followed this up with “Just to Lie” from their album Five Interstates, increasing the tempo a bit and getting those dancing feet in the crowd a-moving.  Another Paul lead, this one is a long-standing favorite of the GSBG catalogue, full of rich dobro lines from Beck and more of that iconic, Mike Devol bass-play, Cheshire-cat smile and all.  He’s a good man, that one, and can lay down one extremely mean bass line, let there be no doubt!!  Bruzza led the central jam on guitar to be joined by Hoffman on mandolin, things staying up beat but drifting to some more subdued places musically, leaning into the mellow intensity.  Hoffman even threw in a few choice Fruition teases from “Labor of Love” — pretty freakin’ sweet.  I mean, just perfect.  So far, so great with this set…made me excited to think of the rest of it as well as the second!  They took this directly into “The Four” to the instant delight of the crowd, Paul staying at the mic for the lead on this one as well.  Again, so many voices upraised to join our favorite fellows on the stage.  And when you fall in love with the four chord do you really need any more?  Not according to the Phoff.  Thanks to Dave Bruzza for his lovely guitar solo about 1:45 in which segued so wonderfully well back into the verse that followed.  Phoffman wasn’t to be outdone, however, throwing down his own beautiful solo afterwards all to the undertone of Beck’s erstwhile dobro, that incredible instrument that it is.  “Worried About the Weather” was up next on the docket for the set, with Bruzza up to the mic for lead vocals.  Another danceable one no doubt, we all took advantage of this fact in the crowd.  So many notes coming from Bont’s side of the stage weaving to my ears during this one, counterpointing those from the dobro on the opposite side.  Adding to that the round-robin of solos between each member of the band and you got a whole heap of fantastic music.  It was great to hear everyone in such fine voice tonight, too…they deserved to be at their very best for an occasion such as this.  Then it was about this time I almost had a heart attack.  For, as many of my loyal readers know, I am an ages-old fan of Pink Floyd.  So, when I heard them take “Weather” directly into “Time” by Floyd, I almost suffered a coronary.  As soon as Paul started in with those lyrics, it was all over.  It was an unabashedly free and frenetic moment of pure musical ecstasy for yours truly.  Mixing together two of my very favorite bands?  And so, so, so, so well, too.  So good!!  I cannot begin to tell you how amazing.  We grabbed a video of Scramble Campbell engaging in his singularly magical insanity painting GSBG while they played.  It’s a short one but gets you a little of this unbelievable song, please enjoy!!

Pretty colossal stuff, right?  So big.  So bold.  So magnificent.  The central jam was full of raw, Floyd-like energy that really captured so much of the earthy grit and organic feeling of the original.  Paul and Mike just nailed the vocals and the harmonies, too.  Honestly, I could write an entire review of just this song, it was so good.  And Bont was killing me at the end with his solo — Floyd on banjo?  Forget about it!!  A little down the set, they invited Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon out on the stage to join in on some of the fun.  They threw Vince the mic for a joint version of “Woody Guthrie”, Herman’s modern plea to Guthrie and how his absence is felt palpably today.  But, don’t let me tell you all about it when you can watch it here: 

Nothing like having Uncle Vince out there to sing you one, right?  Emmitt and Herman stayed out there for the next song, “Hit Parade of Love”, a Bruzza vocal lead.  Some fast pickin’ it surely was, my friends.  Whew!!  Hard to keep up with all that music simply flying from the stage like a never-ending flock of note-shaped songbirds.  Lots of fast fingers laying down some super quick solos, man to man and back again.  Vince had his chance on guitar and surely did not disappoint.  Then it was time for Drew on mando only to be answered by Beck on dobro.  Seriously, how do they play so quickly??  After bidding Vince and Drew adieu, they debuted a new song for us next called “Past My Prime” which is always a treasured treat.  Nothing like being musical test monkeys for a phenomenal band like this.  Paul also said that they had a brand new record coming out this fall, so we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.  Hoffman was back up to the mic for this one, spinning a new tale of GSBG lore to us, all of us eager to a person to hear.  I really liked this one for many reasons, from Hoffman’s mando lead in to Bont’s early solo to Beck and that dobro of his providing foundation for the verses alongside Bruzza and Devol.  I guess what I am getting at is the really fine ensemble sound I was getting from this one.  Looking forward to hearing it again in the future!  They finished out this stellar first set with a pretty long “Living Over”, allowing for lots of room to jam things out.  And did they ever!  I mean, the central breakdown was minutes long…so good!  What a big ending to a big set like this.  Not surprising at all, of course.  I mean, we all knew that they’d bring it at Red Rocks.  And boy did they.  In spades!  And there was still the second set to go!!

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

    What a night of music so far.  Salmon, so damn good.  Then Greensky just killing it in their wake?  Phenomenal is the word that comes to mind.  But there is still more music to discuss.  I know, right?  Dave took the lead straight out of the gate on “Letter to Seymour”, his guitar racing to the fast pace they took, his vocals soaring into the night air around the countless Greensky fans in attendance that evening.  This one clipped along so quickly it was over before we even realized it going right into “In Control”.  Paul was back up to the mic for this one, the band slowing things down to a more heartfelt pace as he crooned out this melancholy tale we had all heard so many incredible times before.  So rich and so full this version sounded, no doubt augmented by the very Red Rocks themselves.  It was plain to see that the band were responding to the surroundings, of course, and in such magical and marvelous ways.  I really fell into Mike Bont’s solo on this one, that man owning his instrument in such tender and touching ways as to deliver such a lovely line of music to us all.  Only to hand that ethos directly over to Beck at the other end of the line, who took the feeling and ran with it, enticing notes so delightfully gorgeous from his devoted dobro.  Then it was time for another guest:  Andy Thorn came out, banjo in hand, ready to get down with the boys from Kalamazoo.  Double banjos?  Did you read that right?  Hells yeah, you did.  And, damn, son!!  How good was this??  And lengthy, too…over 11 minutes!  To keep that pace up, too.  Whew!  “Can’t Stop Now” was a lesson in hard drivin’, fast pickin’ and one that you needed to race to keep up with.  Everybody was taking chance after chance of schooling the general Universe on his respective instrument.  It was pretty breathtaking.  No, seriously.  Or was that just all those Red Rocks stairs?  But Bont and Thorn’s duet was the creme-de-la-creme of the song.  Holy schneikies!!  There was no stopping those two gents that’s for sure.  Later on in the set came another big version of a crowd favorite, Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” — again with more great music and lots of it to boot.  Talk about your value, eh?  What a band!  Bruzza’s blistering solo was pretty boss in this one leading to Phoff’s own massive mando ministrations, just to blend seamlessly back into the mix.  These men are masters, it is truer than true.  The ending jam in this one was almost too incredible to relate to you:  so much energy bursting forth from the very seams of the music itself spinning us all up into the night skies like a rocket-powered spaceship of laughter and pure mirth.  Next up came a personal favorite of mine, and one of many in the crowd, too, apparently.  Always great to share a favorite with someone, right?  “Old Barns” had Phoff at the mic again for the lead vocals, with that perfect ensemble sound supporting him all the way along.  Bont stepped forward for a pretty sweet solo towards the beginning of things which, in turn, led to one from Hoffman on mando.  All in all a mighty respectable version of this song.  Cheers to you, lads, many thanks!!  Later still in the set we were treated to “Wings for Wheels”, that stalwart GSBG ballad, Bruzza at the helm and mic with Anders’s dobro providing that oh-so-familiar lead in, every ear yearning for each subsequent note.  No doubting how amazingly happy the crowd was, every face I saw was smiling in adoration and complete satisfaction, mouths singing along to the lyrics as Dave would come back into each verse.  The sense of community was wonderfully overwhelming.  Then it was time for the biggest ride of the night:  “Broke Mountain Breakdown > Forever Young > Broke Mountain Breakdown” — you read that correctly, yes.  Over 20 minutes of straight music.  Fast pickin’?  You bet.  Hard drivin’?  No doubt.  Excellent beyond a doubt?  Well, now, you had best believe it.  Supremely fine musicianship all around, too.  Each man just dominating his chosen instrument in rapid succession and back around again and again.  And it just went on and on and on for minute after minute.  And we all couldn’t have been happier about the whole affair!  And things got nice and funky in the middle which was a groove we all definitely got into, feet still dancing after hours of doing the same, happy to still be moving and kicking and stomping and carrying on.  I just might need to direct you to the Internet Archive again to go find this show and hit up this “Broke Mountain” — you know, for your own good.  I’m just trying to look out for my people.  You know.  Then, when they segued into Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”?  Forget about it!  What an unexpected treat!  Phoff nailed the lyrics as well as some tasty mandolin licks throughout while the band supported him with that magnificence of ensemble they do so very well.  Anders delivered a truly gorgeous solo in the middle the line of which he handed over expertly to Bont who took it up on the banjo adeptly and with ease.  Then it was right back into “Broke Mountain” for a whizz-bang ending, GSBG-style.  Fast pickin’ to the very end, this one provided that perfect musical smack at the end of a fantastic night.  And, at the final note, the cheers of the crowd were truly deafening, reverberating off Ship Rock and Creation Rock to our left and right as we watch the band leave the stage, voices yelling our desire for one more song.  And, to our great delight, we got that one song.  And that song was “Leap Year”.  A nice, lengthy “Leap Year”.  Serving up succulent bluegrass specialties until the very end of their show, Greensky made sure to the make the most of their encore to our benefit.  They jammed this one out nice and long and the crowd was sure to take in all they could.  We were all filled to the brim already but were willing to try to stuff a bit more marvelous GSBG experience into our souls.  What a way to finish off a show such as this!!  What a way to own the Red Rocks stage so summarily!!   What a show to give their fans in such a place!!  As I write this almost a week later I am still reeling from the event.  So many thanks to Greensky and their hardworking people for this incredible, incredible show.  I am so happy for you guys and so proud of you, to be quite honest.  I think a lot of us are.  What an achievement!!  Bravi, gentlemen!!  I am so glad I got to share such a triumphant moment with you.  I look forward to many more years at Red Rocks to come, of course.  Cheers and thanks to one and all for making last Saturday night so special in so many ways.  And, as always, thanks for reading, my friends!!

Paul Hoffman

Paul Hoffman

    

 

 

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Leftover Salmon - 23 July 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

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Leftover Salmon - 23 July 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

Leftover Salmon

23 July 2016 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Band Members:  Vince Herman - vocals, acoustic guitar, washboard; Drew Emmitt - vocals, acoustic and electric mandolin, electric guitar, fiddle; Andy Thorn - vocals, acoustic and electric banjo; Greg Garrison - vocals, acoustic and electric bass; Alwyn Robinson - drums; Erik Deutsch - keyboards, piano, melodica

    Music and friendship.  The two go so well together, creating so many wonderful things in the process.  A natural marriage of ideas and ideals that was so apparent at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO, this past weekend.  Hometown heroes, Leftover Salmon, epitomized the very meaning of musical friendship opening things up for their pals from Kalamazoo, MI, Greensky Bluegrass who would be playing their first headline show at Red Rocks to a sold out crowd.  There has been mention of a “passing of the torch” from Salmon to Greensky, but that isn’t quite what I observed the other evening.  What I saw instead was the coming together of two bands in joyous camaraderie to share a stage and a night of music under the rainbow skies at the historic venue:  true friendship made manifest through sound and sight and shared experience.  And what I saw was magical — a night of celebration and merriment for one and all, bands and fans alike.  Smiles were abounding and legion all evening long, even through the scattered rain and winds, each one a testament to the spirit of friends-made-family emanating from the stage.  And, that afternoon, no fewer than three different rainbows graced the skyscape over top of the stage and spilling down onto distant Denver and the surrounding hills.  The magnificence of Nature all around us, bathing our faces in the golden light of the evening sun and the multicolored hues of those utterly beautiful arcs in the skies above, we were ushered into the musical bliss of our big night of wonderment by some good ol’ fashioned polyethnic Cajun slamgrass, care of Leftover Salmon, of course!! 

Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon

    One of Colorado’s most Colorado bands, Leftover Salmon are no strangers to the Red Rocks stage.  Which is why they made the perfect ambassadors to open the gates for Greensky to follow.  In my opinion, an incredibly cool and classy thing to do on their part and embodying that organic meaning of friendship.  As such, we all knew that Salmon would be throwing down some serious jams and hot energy that night and we weren’t to be disappointed.  They started the whole shebang with Vince on lead vocals for “Dance on Your Head”, a highly danceable and enjoyable staple of the LoS catalogue.  This song has been with the band and their fan base for a nice long time and was the perfect way to begin.  Instantly the party-time electricity was felt blasting up from the speakers as each member of the band settled in to jam our faces off.  Tons of great stuff happened in this one like Andy Thorn and Erik Deutsch laying down a little keys-backed banjo solo which turned duet at points in very tasty ways.  And this was only a minute or so in.  Vince was clearly already having fun himself, playing around with the vocals a bit and dancing around like the merriest of madmen.  And then, back to Mr. Deutsch:  his solo?  Just stellar on every conceivable level.  Piano, keys, organ…all of it and more.  Again, I must gush and say how incredibly happy I am that he is a part of one of my very favorite bands.  Erik brings a vast amount of everything to the Salmon table and it all fits in so seamlessly with all that is the band.  Last but not least, Drew’s solo on electric was pretty raw and remarkable.  Talk about your versatility in a single band!  So much talent and so much skill being brought to bear for our enjoyment.  How can’t you love this?  Next up was “All Night Ride” filled with tons of hard drivin’, fast pickin’ for everyone to enjoy.  Drew was on lead vocals for this one as well as mandolin, setting a nice, blistering pace for all the dancing feet on tier after tier of Red Rocks.  Vince’s guitar and Drew’s mando dominated throughout, Drew’s solo of particular quickness and mastery.  All of this, of course, backed by the man behind the beat, Mr. Alwyn Robinson, whose percussion skills rained down with perfectly-timed drops of those mystical sticks of his, driving songs like this one like a freight train.  “Walkin’ Shoes” followed “ All Night Ride” with Uncle Vince back up to the mic take the lead.  Lovely and large ensemble sound coming out of this one at the beginning setting a great tone and tempo for this version.  Greg Garrison gave us a nice clinic in sweet bass lines about a minute plus into things at the behest of Vince — the good doctor was in, thank goodness.  This gave way to a fantastic round-robin all the way around the band with so many solos coming from so many instruments, keys and strings everywhere.  In turn, “Two Highways” followed up with Drew back up to the mic.  They took this one at a good clip, seeming to want to keep the energy at as high a level throughout the amphitheatre as possible.  Andy Thorn’s solo a couple of minutes in was blindingly fast in its execution (no surprise there) and incredible to behold.  That man just keeps getting better and better and better at what he does with his chosen instrument.  And aren’t we all thankful he does?  And what about that ending jam?  Oh my goodness, how incredible it was!!  Huge band jamming all around followed by a monster electric solo from Drew?  Just massive amounts of music coming at you all at once…and such great music, too.  So good!!  Later on down the set it was time for the band to channel some Taj Mahal with “Lovin’ in My Baby’s Eyes”, a personal favorite of mine.  Leftover had recorded a version of this song with Taj on their album The Nashville Sessions so it was special to be getting a version there at Red Rocks.  Vince Herman took lead vocals for this one, the strumming of his rhythm guitar like the voice of an old friend throughout.  The central breakdown was filled with all sorts of goodness, from Andy on banjo to Erik on keys to Drew on mando, all three tearing it up and threatening to evoke tears with the beauty of their jammed out melodies.  Just magnificent!!  I was completely unprepared for what came next:  some Jimi Hendrix.  That’s right…you read that correctly.  Jimi.  As imagined by Salmon.  What could be better, right?  It was certainly a supremely cool version of “The Wind Cries Mary” to be sure. I’d never heard the song done up bluegrass-style before.  Andy Thorn’s banjo lit things up early on taking up the melody line only to hand it over to Drew on vocals.  This one was an instant crowd pleaser as soon as we were all sure of just what exactly we were hearing.  And the band took it and ran, that’s a fact, my friends.  Erik had his chance to dominate on keys, of course, and that he did, in spades, many times over.  But it was the entire band together who shone most brightly during this song, so much big and bold ensemble sound bursting into the night sky.  Drew also took a nice, lengthy, rockin’ solo on electric for us handing the reigns back to Andy on banjo who marched up and down his fretboard like a mad scientist of bluegrass groove.  This was a big one, good people.  Big.  One I would very much suggest finding on the Internet Archive (please, do yourself a favor!!).  Suffice it say, there were lots and lots and lots of ecstatic faces beaming round after this one wrapped.  Mine included.  A lengthy and lovely and lunatic “Bolin Creek” followed up the Hendrix giving us a simmering, sizzling instrumental reason to keep our feet a-dancing in the crowd gathered between Ship Rock and Creation Rock, one of the best places to be on this planet.  This one was peppered through and through with one simple thing:  bodacious beastly bluegrass badassery.  So many notes, so quickly played!!  How??  Almost impossible…and from each and every man on that stage, too.  Mad beats?  Mad notes?  Madness abounding?  You bet, my friend.  And all so delicious to the ears!!  Bravo to each and every member of the band for this one.  What a ride!  A 13:05 ride to be exact.  Wow.  Another one for the Internet Archive assignment, I’m afraid.  Heck, you should probably just listen to the entire set, really.  You know, only if you love incredible music, that is.  Next up, Vince announced Anders Beck from Greensky who joined Leftover for a rendition of “Breakin’ Thru” on his mighty dobro.  Drew took the lead on this song as per the usual, crooning to us in that unique and lovely voice of his.  Let me tell you, I do love dobro with my Leftover Salmon.  I mean, I just freakin’ love it.  And last Saturday was no exception whatsoever.  Anders sounded simply marvelous, both in the texture of the group and during his solo.  The man is an adept on his instrument, there can be no argument.  And he makes it looks so blasted easy, too!!  So does Erik, for that matter.  Such a comfortable mastery on those keyboards, hands flying, fingers dancing.  How much great music can one heart hold, right?  And only to have Andy join in and throw even more notes at you?  More and more and more!  Yes, please!!  I’ll gladly take them all!!  This was another hefty one, too coming in at 8:35 — talk about getting the most from your music.  With this band?  By a long shot.  Finally, Vince closed things out by thanking all the mothers in the audience, especially those of the band, for all that they do.  It was touching and sweet and classic Vince.  Then, he invited a couple of “Salmon Eggs” on stage, his own son, Silas Herman, and also Eli Emmitt to come and join in the fun on mandolin and guitar, respectively.  There is nothing like getting to see a couple of proud papas and their sons jam out on the stage at Red Rocks.  And with Anders still sitting in, things promised to get really special for the last song of the night.  It just so happens we grabbed that very song on video for you which we will bring to you now: 

See just how magical the night really was?  And to think it was only the beginning.  But what a freakin’ beginning, right?  Salmon really did blow the doors off the opening for Greensky, true and true.  And that prevailing feeling of friendship?  Found everywhere…bouncing off the very walls of Red Rocks and around the hills of the Front Range.  I really cannot think of a better way for things to have gone.  Perfectly is the word that comes to mind.  The perfect preparation.  So many thanks to Leftover for putting on such a helluva show.  It truly was special.  And kind.  And kickass.  Damn, do I love this band!!  

Andy Thorn

Andy Thorn

Stay tuned for Greensky Bluegrass and their first headliner at Red Rocks!!

    

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Railroad Earth - 18 September 2015 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

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Railroad Earth - 18 September 2015 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

Railroad Earth

18 September 2015 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO

for The Lot Scene by Parker

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

Set One:  Untitled #12 > The Hunting Song > Grandfather Mountain, Bread & Water, Old Dangerfield, I Am a Mess, Colorado, Cold Water 

Set Two:  Where Songs Begin > Fisherman's Blues, Like a Buddha, Bringin’ My Baby Back Home, A Day on the Sand, The Forecast, Spring-Heeled Jack > Hard Livin', Take a Bow 

Encore:  Terrapin Station, Long Way To Go 

    And so, there we were, at Red Rocks with our heads still spinning from the earlier stellar performances of Snarky Puppy and Billy & the Kids, basking in the cool evening air and ready for more music to astound us, more magic to surround us.  Given what Railroad Earth came out and did immediately following, we weren’t to be disappointed in the slightest.  To the contrary.  In fact, this may have been the best RRE show I have seen to date.  So many things went so right all evening long — it really was a remarkable show.  So, let’s get to it, shall we?

    The Railroad boys kicked their evening with us off with some hot jamming and boisterous up energy with the instrumental “Untitled #12”.  Like all good Railroad instrumentals, this one featured each of the gents on their respective instruments stepping up and stepping out, showing us the masterful level of skill for which this band has quickly become known.  They took this blistering number directly into the slightly slower groove of “The Hunting Song” with a great lead in from John on mando, Andy on penny whistle, and Tim on fiddle.  Todd sounded album perfect on the vocals not to mention having a great guitar solo as well.  The central jam featured some mean bouzouki work from John as well as Carbone on the shaker.  Quite the round robin of instruments, et al, all song long.  Impressive to say the very least.  After a connecting jam, they took “The Hunting Song” directly into “Grandfather Mountain”, Todd’s familiar voice crooning out the familiar vocals from the stage all the way up the Red Rocks tiers to the mountains that stand tall behind the venue.  We were treated to a very nice, very chill, very mellow jam in the middle of “Grandfather” with some lovely fiddle work from Tim not to mention John’s delightful piano strains and Andy on the dobro.  So many instruments this band has!!  And so good on all of them!!  Like John’s amazing piano outro for this piece for instance.  Simply stunning.  The rollicking “Bread & Water” followed bringing the energy back up to a frenetic dancing pace.  Don’t believe me?  Take a look and listen here, my friend: 

Wowsers.  Just wowsers.  And this just kept going all night long.  Again, best Railroad show I think I’ve seen.  Tim Carbone and his fiddle dominated the instrumental “Old Dangerfield” which was followed by “I Am a Mess”, which Todd prefaced by telling us a little of his adventures with his brother in Crested Butte, CO.  As fate would have it, we got an excellent banjo solo from Andy as well as one on mando from John out of our “Mess”.  “Colorado” rang out next, such sweet, sweet music to those ears gathered underneath the darkened, gentle Colorado skies…it was almost as if they played it on purpose.  Heh heh.  In all seriousness, however, it sounded just incredible, with superb solos from John on mandolin and Tim on fiddle.  Excellence all around!  They rounded out this first set with a fun and frolicking “Cold Water” which proved the perfect way to finish up.  By the last note the crowd was cheering with a maddened and marvelous fervor, knowing full well how incredible that set was and that we had another set to go.  What a way to head into a set break!!

View from side stage

View from side stage

    Funky, mellow rock was the name of the game with second set’s “Where Songs Begin” opener.  Featuring Andy on saxophone and later Tim on fiddle, I love this one because of the way it feels, slightly different than the rest of their catalogue.  Nice long jam…a great opener.  They took this directly into The Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues” — what a great cover for this band.  Perfect even.  Some fine penny whistle from Andy and great fiddle work from Tim gave this one such an authentic feel, certainly it was a welcome surprise.  Following this was a pretty epic, but supremely happy and energetic 12:10 long “Like a Buddha” which had the entire amphitheatre singing.  Always a fun song and tonight was no exception.  This was followed by a sizzling “Bringin’ My Baby Back Home” bringing us all a little fast pickin’ for the night, each of the gents taking advantage to show their stuff.  And what and enjoyable band to watch in the midst of a supreme performance such as this!  Later on down the set we got a lengthy and funked out “Spring-Heeled Jack” featuring stellar and adept-level skills from each and every member of this collective of acoustic string ninjas.  This they took directly into “Hard Livin’” which featured guests the Snarky Puppy horns (Chris Bullock - tenor sax, Justin Stanton - trumpet, Jay Jennings - flugelhorn, and Mike Maher - flugelhorn) — in a word, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!  The added four horns to Andy’s saxophone and the rest of the band?  Unbelievably good, my friend!  Such a rich texture and full sound on top of that already rich timbre of Railroad Earth!  One of my favorite collaborations I have heard with RRE to be sure.  What a fantastic version of “Hard Livin’”.  So much soul!  The Snarky boys stayed out there for the set’s closer as well — “Take a Bow”.  And there was still an encore on the way!  Almost impossible to believe after such a great set.  But it was true, indeed!

    As for the encore, I already wrote up a review for the first encore song, “Terrapin Station”, which I hope you’ll enjoy here:  Terrapin Encore Review.  It was a very special moment that needed its own attention.  After nailing “Terrapin” it was time to close with one of theirs, a personal favorite, a crowd favorite, a band favorite:  “Long Way to Go”.  Lots of energy bringing smiles to lots of faces, this was the perfect choice to wrap up this amazing evening of amazing music.  What a setlist, right?  What a great series of lovely song choices, right?  What a way to spend an evening with Railroad Earth, right?  How right everything was with the world after a show like that. How powerful the feeling of gratitude inside.  How moved and changed and made joyous by music inside.  How transformed.  Again, I must say that it was the best I’ve seen them.  And they only seem to be getting better, those Railroad gentlemen.  What excellent news for all who love incredible music!!  Thanks for the one-of-a-kind night, Railroad Earth.  Can’t wait to do it all again sometime!!

View from back stage

View from back stage


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