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

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

Strings & Sol Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Introduction

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

Now Sapphire Pool and Pool Bar

Now Sapphire Pool and Pool Bar

Friday Highlights

Yonder Mountain String Band - Leftover Salmon

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

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

Yonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

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

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

Leftover Salmon with Andy Hall

Leftover Salmon with Andy Hall

Stay tuned for Saturday’s fun, everyone!!

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Strings & Sol Festival 2015 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Sunday

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Strings & Sol Festival 2015 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Sunday

Strings & Sol Festival

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Sunday Highlights

Leftover Salmon - Greensky Bluegrass - Yonder Mountain String Band

    Sunday Funday.  No matter how many times you say it, it still doesn't make it any less true.  And what a Funday Sunday was this year at Strings & Sol.  After three days of mind-bendingly good music, we could all barely stand any more…but suffer through we did.  For the music, of course.  But if you call Leftover Salmon for a sunset show “suffering” well, I think you had best realign your priorities.  Salmon?  Hot damn-on!!  Love.  That.  Band.  The sheer happy and joy they bring to a show that blankets the audience in a smiling embrace makes each and every time I see them so very worth it.  And this time was absolutely the case.  The LoS boys kicked things off with a motoring “Get Up and Go”, the first note inciting a dancing fiesta in the sands in front of the stage.  Such great advice in those lyrics as Vince sang the lead.  Sometimes you really just have to “get up and go”, you know?  One kickass banjo solo was included as well in this merry-making first song care of Andy Thorn.  Wow, what a start!  Up next was a smoking “On the Other Side” which we recorded and bring to you now: 

Wish I could celebrate the sunset everyday this way.  The fast pickin’ thrill ride “Aquatic Hitchhiker” followed and sizzled the entire way through.  Love that deceptive beginning…it so belies the fire to ensue.  Andy Thorn.  My word, what skills.  What ridiculously incredible skills.  Nothing like watching Drew Emmitt more than hold his own on mando at the same time, too.  What hard drivin’ pair, those two.  And Vince?  The whole time simply spanking it on guitar.  Wowsers.  The next song had us all singing up to the moon that evening as the darkness slowly fell around us, the waves lapping against the shore a constant background sound juxtaposed to the mighty music from the stage.  Vince Herman, ladies and gents!  “Sing Up to the Moon” is always a crowd pleaser and it sure pleased all of us, his crooning and strumming like that of a favorite uncle.  Or even a father.  Papa Vince.  I like that.  Later on down the set we got the steam train that is “Breakin’ Thru” with Drew on lead vocals followed by the lighthearted and bouncing “Boo Boo”.  Of great note was Alwyn Robinson’s monster, monster drum solo in “Boo Boo” — holy crap!  That guy is a machine!!  Moving on down the line we got a nice “Highway Song” and later still a huge treat in the form a four fiddle chorus care of Luke Bulla, Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth), Drew Emmitt, and Sam Bush all on fiddle for “Bend in the River”.  Plus the whole Salmon sound to boot?  It was riveting.  Truly.  So much awesome power on that stage all in one place.  So much fiddle!!  And then it was time for a little T. Rex.  Yeah, that’s right.  T. Rex.  “Bang a Gong” was an unexpected treat from a band who loves to specialize in the unexpected.   Anders Beck joined in the fun as well on electric dobro.  Vince sounded great on the vocals and the band took the opportunity to really jam it out in the middle.  Supremely gratifying, my friends.  Especially with all those fiddles still hanging around.  Dayum!!  They finished things off with a little John Hartford, “Up on the Hill Where They Do the Boogie”, one of my very favorite songs no matter who plays it.  Anders and the fiddlers stuck around for this one, too.  The jams, oh the jams, my friends!!  Epic!!  An incredibly perfect way to end a sunset show at Strings & Sol.  Big time thanks to the band and all their guests for such a fun time! 

Leftover Salmon & Friends

Leftover Salmon & Friends

    Dumping a little “Kerosene” on the stage before you set it aflame is usually a pretty good approach.  Especially if you are Greensky Bluegrass.  And you are into melting faces with your impossibly good music.  Dave Bruzza’s vocals and Anders Beck’s dobro, you ask?  About as freaking amazing as Bont’s banjo and Hoffman’s mando.  Big solos all around.  This song was, in a word, hot.  Red hot.  Another great choice for a great opener.  They continued things with “Wings for Wheels”, another Bruzza lead, which sounded fantastic.  Some really great instrumental work throughout.  But why take my word for it when you can see it right here? 

Miss Allie Kral (Yonder Mountain) stepped up to join them for a couple of numbers, first of which was “All Four”.  Second was a favorite cover of mine (and of many, many in the crowd), “Atlantic City”.  This one sounded as good if not better than I have ever heard them play it, no small part going to Allie for some excellent fiddle work.  Just lovely.  Later on we got the ever morose and foreboding “Bring Out Your Dead” which sounded especially dark there on the beach with the black ocean stretching to the starlit horizon.  Chilling.  Friend Andy Goessling (Railroad Earth) jumped up to guest in on sax on a couple of songs with the GSBG boys.  First was “Less Than Supper” and “Lose My Way” followed.  Andy’s mellow saxophone lines really did make the perfect complement to the strings of the band.  Both songs really sounded quite marvelous.  Paul’s duet in “Lose” with Andy was pretty special.  Anders and Andy also enjoyed some incredible interplay between instruments — really awesome stuff.  “Fell in love with the four chord, I didn’t need any more…”  Ah, what a line.  A line from “The Four”, of course, which was the next song in line and which sounded superb.  Then, after some “Windshield” action and “Jaywalking” (with Tim Carbone) the band had a real treat for us all:  some Paul Simon.  Hells to the yeah.  They covered “Gumboots” with Tim still on stage playing along and it sounded magnificent.  Of course, I am a huge Simon fan.  But even those completely unfamiliar with Paul or his music would have loved this one.  Another perfect cover for this band…amidst a veritable sea of perfect covers they already do.  Bravi, boys — loved this one!  Then it was time for Larry Keel to join in the fun for a very special “I’d Probably ‘Keel’ You” with Bruzza changing the lyrics a bit here and there for Larry’s benefit.  Always nice to have Larry share a stage with you.  Indeed.  Which he continued to do for “Hit Parade of Love” that followed.  They finally brought this brute of a show to a close with “Leap Year”.  Bam.  Just like that.  And in your face.  Damn, what a show.  As I said before:  impossibly good music.

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

    The final main stage show of Strings & Sol 4.  Wow, did it really go by that quickly?  Alas, much like summer camp, good things like S&S fly by in an instant.  But there was still some Yonder yet to be had and we were to have it!  “Blue Collar Blues” directly into an album-perfect “Mother’s Only Son” featuring some great banjo licks from Dave and back into “Blue Collar” was the way YMSB opened their set.  Big opening.  Huge.  White hot fast pickin’. We all knew we were in for a goliath of a show.  “Rain Still Falls” followed next which we have for you here, please enjoy: 

Everyone sounding on point all around.  Next up was came “Bold to Ride” which featured some really fine fiddle work from Miss Allie Kral.  I mean supremely fine.  Later on down the set they invited Sam Bush, Larry Keel, and Robbie McCoury (Del McCoury Band) up for “They” taken directly into “Casualty” both of which were pretty incredible.  Kind of hard to have that kind of star power on stage with you and not make incredible music.  Allie’s signature “Love Before You Can’t” was up next for us, all of us basking in her reflected glory.  Then a nice surprise with a Jake-led vocal for America’s “Sister Goldenhair”.  Great selection for this band and Jake sounded really good on the lyrics.  Very impressed…let’s give him the mic more often.  And a what a quick-paced, grassed-up version, too!  A bit later in the set the band busted out a big “Northern Song” into “Pockets” back into “Northern” joined by Luke Bulla, Scott Vestal (Sam Bush Band), and Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass).  Some big sound emanating from that stage.  And a fiddle duet?  You betcha!  Magnificent.  Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacherman” was next on the docket and Allie just nailed this one down to the ground.  And with all those guests still on stage with them, too.  Spectacular.  After a huge “Angel” directly into “Robots” back into “Angel” closer it was encore time out there on the darkened beach.  “Drawing a Melody” and “Oh La La” were the encores that evening but “Oh La La” took the cake.  Almost every musician present at Strings & Sol came out to guest for this one.  It was breathtaking, just seeing them all up there together.  So many happy vibes, so many smiles, so many great memories.  Such a great way to close things down at S&S.

Yonder & Friends

Yonder & Friends

    Strings & Sol 4 was, in a word, fantabulous.  There is little else to say but thanks so much to all those who had any hand in making this fest go as smoothly and as wonderfully as it did.  You have made so many of us lifelong converts to S&S and with good reason.  Please, on behalf of all of us, I beseech you, continue to kick ass and put together the best little grass fest outside US borders!!!  Cannot wait for next year!!  


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Strings & Sol Festival 2015 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Saturday

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Strings & Sol Festival 2015 - Puerto Morelos, Mexico - Saturday

Strings & Sol Festival 2015

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Greensky Bluegrass (Unplugged) - Yonder Mountain String Band - Sam Bush Band - Railroad Earth - Fruition (Late Night)

    New to S&S this year was the concept of an “unplugged” session on Saturday afternoon in the palapa.  Greensky Bluegrass had the honors of being the first to play a set like this and ended up turning the affair into a “storytellers” kind of event providing background and info on many of the songs they played as well as on the band itself.  All told, it went off like gangbusters — I am anxious to see Strings & Sol continue this idea in the future.  Huddled around a single microphone with Anders off to the side with his own for awesome dobro purposes, the boys kicked things off with a heartfelt and lovely “Old Barns” with Paul Hoffman later providing the inspiration story for this song:  someone close who had suffered a tragedy and imparted the wisdom learned from the experience which, in turn, became the lyrics for “Barns”.  Supremely touching and fascinating at the same time.  We just happened to grab some video of this one for you and are so glad we did.  Please take a listen to this powerful song: 

Chills.  They continued things with the lighthearted “Reverend (Reggae)” and then treated us to a fine “Take Cover”.  Crowd-sourcing the songs one-by-one, “Bottle Dry” was next on the docket.  Paul told the background story that around 2005, he and Dave Bruzza decided it would be a good idea to move to Asheville, NC, to make it big — but they never made it there instead turning their energies to song-writing and producing ones like “Bottle Dry” right there on Paul’s couch.  Lucky for us, right?  I can’t tell you how cool the sound was, this “unplugged” sound.  Really made for a special set to be sure.  The harmonies came out particularly lovely in this configuration.  Quite the soulful solo from Bruzza, too.  Sounded amazing through that single mic.  Sweet, dirty dobro as well from Anders.  Great suggestion from the crowd.  Later down the set we got the poetic “For Sure, Uh Huh” with Anders prefacing it by praising Hoffman’s songwriting skills.  A song which always gets a few great laughs — and why shouldn’t it?  The kind of dark cautionary tale “What Happened to Jim?” followed, a song that showcases the band’s black humor side a bit.  Sure sounded amazing in that palapa, however.  A hopping “Letter to Seymour” brought the energy back up to prime dancing levels, even though most of us were seated for this show with Dave sounding album perfect on the vocals.  They closed the whole shebang down with some Thin Lizzy for us.  Yeah, you read that right.  Thin Lizzy.  And they just nailed “The Boys Are Back in Town”.  Nailed it to the floor.  Right there in front of everybody.  And we just freaking loved every minute.  Every note, every riff, every word.  Paul slew the main vocals while Bont danced around like a madman, banjo in hand.  What wasn’t to love?  Thank you guys so much for such an interesting and entertaining new way of seeing you perform.  Definitely want to see S&S continue this series and definitely want to see GSBG unplugged again someday soon.  So worth it!!

Greensky Unplugged

Greensky Unplugged

    Later that day we were all back on the beach, feet buried in the powdery crystals underneath, beverage in hand, and ready to send the sun a-setting with Yonder Mountain String Band.  Adam led things off with a blistering guitar line that set the tone for the entirety of “Eat In Go Deaf” providing the perfect energy for Jake to soar on mandolin.  Quite the brisk and bold instrumental opener which they took directly into “Looking Back Over My Shoulder” showcasing some of those lovely multi-part harmonies the band has been honing to perfection.  Ben sounded really excellent on those lead vocals as well not to mention Jolliff’s lengthy mando solo.  A great start so far to what would be a great show.  They, in turn, took “Shoulder” straight into the crowd pleaser “Left Me in a Hole”.  Talk about some dancin’ Kinfolk at S&S!  A little later in the set the band gave us a really fine “The End Is Not In Sight” featuring Mr. Jake Jolliff on mandolin.  It was a superb moment in the show, but why take my word for it when we have it for you here? 

Not a bad way to celebrate the sunset, eh?  But, wait…there’s more!  A sizzling hot “On the Run” followed, Ben belting out that well-known story of woe against the backdrop of a breezy Caribbean sea as friends Larry Keel and Drew Emmitt joined in.  They took this into “You’re No Good” made famous by Linda Ronstadt featuring Miss Allie Kral on vocals.  What a funky, dusky, fantastic version of this one!  Allie’s vocals were seductive and right on point — she sounded, in a word, phenomenal.  Add to that Adam’s super nasty good guitar solo and you’ve got yourself a stew goin’!  (Any Arrested Development fans out there?)  And who doesn’t just adore Allie’s voice more and more these days?!?  What a powerful asset for the band, no doubts there.  The band swung “No Good” right back into “On the Run” to finish things up with a bang.  Quite the hot little run there.  The tender “Father’s Arms” came next followed by a Colorado-nod soon on its heels with a fantastic “Criminal”.  Most definitely one of the songs that made me a Yonder fan all those years ago — so glad to hear it there on the balmy beach.  The band then played us a nice “Winds of Wyoming” which they took into the Talking Heads’ “Girlfriend Is Better”, a favorite cover of mine from this band.  Always nice to get some Talking Heads in this life, no?  The sax solo from guest Andy Goessling was very choice, adding so much musical ambiance to the texture.  Yonder chose to close things down with a very big and energetic “All the Time” right into “Sidewalk Stars” back into “All the Time”.  This featured some amazing fiddle work from Miss Kral and some blistering mando soloing from Mr. Jolliff.  Not to mention the banjo excellence from Dave on these ones.  A white hot way to end another delectable show from Yonder Mountain String Band.  What an anchor for this festival is the music of this band!  So many thanks for another wonderful show, lady and gents!!

Yonder & Friends

Yonder & Friends

    So, there comes a time in every festival where a writer likes to take a set for themselves to enjoy.  Sam Bush Band on Saturday evening was just such a show for me.  In a quick sentence, Sam and his band just killed it — from song selection (like a kick ass “Tennessee Jed” or a great’n’grassy “Great Balls of Fire”) to execution to raw energy, they delivered time and again and it made for a supremely good show.  Very glad I took this one for me.  I appreciate your understanding, my friends.  Now back to the music!!

Sam Bush Band

Sam Bush Band

    Railroad Earth came out on the main stage for their show with guns a-blazin’ kicking off with a huge crowd pleaser, “Head”.  This one got everyone singing and dancing and continuing their overall merriment to the sounds of this Jersey string band.  Tim Carbone had a really fine early solo in this one and Skehan’s mando line was a constant companion throughout the first bit of the song.  Really great energy, really great playing all around from man to man especially during the lengthy central jam.  We managed to grab a recording of their next number, “Storms”, for you to take a look at…please, enjoy: 

Larry Keel jumped up on stage to join them for “Just So You Know” adding just that right amount of “Keelness” to the whole affair and spicing it up just so.  Todd sounded just excellent on the lead vocals, truly counterpointing all the fantastic musicianship playing alongside.  Tim’s fiddle playing was haunting all through not to mention Andy’s sonorous saxophone licks.  Molto bene!  They continued the show with “Old Dangerfield” featuring Sam Bush on mandolin and “The Cuckoo” featuring Luke Bulla on fiddle.  Both songs and guests were phenomenal but, sadly there were some technical difficulties so the first set was cut a bit short.  After they got everything all fixed up and a bit of a set break, things got going again second set with a mighty “Grandfather Mountain” which sounded just about album perfect.  Andrew Altman was up next to the mic for the lead vocals in “12 Wolves”.  Give that man the mic more often — he sounded really, really good.  Great song, too.  Not one I had heard before.  I’ll be looking for that one at RRE shows to come.  The always heartfelt and mysterious “Potter’s Field” was next in line and followed by “Colorado”, one of my personal favorites for very biased reasons (I live there).  A big dancer and crowd-pleaser this one kept us all movin’ and groovin’ in the cool tropical night air.  John Skehan threw down a monster solo in this song — damn can that cat jam!   Tim Carbone was not to be outdone himself, either.  The fellas really lit up the Yucatan that night!  And to bring things towards and eventual close, you ask?  Check this brute of a list out:  “Face with a Hole” into “Warhead Boogie” into “Stillwater Getaway” (with Luke Bulla on fiddle) directly into “Peggy-O”!!  Are you kidding me?!?  I usually hate to use the word “epic” but that was a pretty epic ride to the end!  “Warhead Boogie” was a monster jam all the way through.  Loved it.  And the “Peggy-O”?  What a crowd-pleaser!  I heard many, many people talking about that very moment for the rest of the weekend.  So very good!  My hat goes off to these fine gentlemen and the very fine music they make and share with the rest of us!  Bravi, again for such a great show, good sirs!  Bravi!

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

    And then, after all of that stellar music all day and night long, it was time for late night in the palapa with Fruition.  The perfect, I say again, perfect energy for late night at Strings & Sol.  Right when you need that infusion of electric music body-shaking boogie bolts, Fruition steps up on stage and starts shooting them into the crowd.  They ended up playing “And There She Was” again for us and rocked it right the hell out of the resort.  Mimi was shredding it on the electric guitar and things ended up in a trippy Hendrix-esque territory.  Not too bad at all!  We also got a really nice and sweet “Warm Summer’s Night” with guests Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) and Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon).  Really fine solo work from both gentlemen and really incredible playing from the band the entire set through.  As I said before, Fruition were the perfect addition for late night at S&S.  They gave us so much great music and beautiful intensity — I cannot imagine my S&S 4 experience without them.  Truly.  I sincerely hope that they will be back next year.  They are certainly most deserving of it.  Thanks for all the amazing music memories, you guys!!

Fruition & Friends

Fruition & Friends


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