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The Sam Bush Band

WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Saturday

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WinterWonderGrass CO 2017 - Saturday

WinterWonderGrass CO 2017

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Fruition - Sam Bush Band - The Infamous Stringdusters

    WinterWonderGrass, indeed!  What a wintry day was Saturday this year, friends…cold and snowy and windy.  The trifecta.  Everyone was donning multi-layer outfits to combat the elements successfully enough so that they could soak in some hot, hot grass music on the main stage.  Steamboat looked a mysterious blur of white and muted sunlight all around us as the mountains wavered in and out of view.  However, if the sheer numbers of people present were any indication, then I’d say the indomitable human spirit was the winner that day as we all overcame the cold and snow in favor of some seriously amazing music awaiting us.  Like Portland, Oregon’s own Fruition, for example.  Their last performance of a six week tour, this sizzling hot ensemble was certainly ready to bring it to Colorado and then some.  Kicking things off just right, the band opened with “Somehow, Someway, Someday”, Mr. Jay Cobb Anderson at the mic for lead vocals.  Of course, like with so many favorites from Fruition, this vocal solo quickly turned into a multi-voice harmony adding Mimi Naja and Kellen Asebroek to the mix.  Tyler Thompson established an early prominence on drums that would continue throughout the set, his metronomic beats keeping the band moving ever forward as the winter winds whipped into their faces, freezing fingers and voices alike.  Jay’s bright and boisterous guitar solo around three minutes in most assuredly helped to keep the crowd a bit warmer in front of the stage.  And, just like that, Fruition were off to an incredible start ready to warm our hearts with more of their phenomenal music.  A little ways down the line they gave us a fantastic WWG version of the title track of their latest album, Labor of Love.  Speaking of albums…this number sounded pretty darn album perfect, my friends.  Seriously, the harmonies were so tight, the ensemble sound so polished.  What a rendition of this delightful song about friendship and relationship and life.  Mimi was all over that mandolin of hers like a magical madwoman of multiple notes, the unmistakable tone shining out into the cold air like a beacon of love itself.  Jeff Leonard’s bass was nothing short of the perfect foundation throughout “Labor of Love”, each note shoring up the texture around it in an expert and heartfelt manner.  And, if you’ve read any of my reviews before, you know I am a sucker for great musical texture.  And what provides the root for so much of that?  Great bass work.  Cheers to Jeff for the very same!  Later still, Johnny Bones of The California Honeydrops joined the band for a couple of numbers, the first of which was “I Should Be (On Top of the World)”, a mellow, soulful number sung by Mimi.  Luckily for you, my friends, we captured that very song on video amidst the driving snow.  Just for you, friends!!  Please enjoy!! 

What a crazy day for some music, no?  All told, it is a super fun way to hear some great string band grooves…awakens the senses.  Just after “I Should Be” they went into one of my favorite Fruition songs of all times:  “There She Was”.  Funky, fresh, fun, fabulous, this song never fails to excite and delight.  Seriously groovy and filled with fantastic musical attitude, “There She Was” is a journey through funk and freaky music fantasy that takes you on a ride of pure enjoyment.  Kellen was up to the mic for the vocal lead and he crooned the lyrics in a mesmerizing sort of way as the rest of the band provided a rich backdrop of vocal harmonies, varying tempos, guitar solos, running bass lines, a chorus of drum energies, and lots and lots of rock and roll marvel.  Johnny Bones was a beast on his horn, too, really adding a nice flourish to this song and throwing down one mean, mean solo — certainly grateful to have him on board.  And the breakdown surrounding that horn solo?  Exquisite.  How can’t you just madly adore this band?  So many thanks to them and to Johnny for an incredible WWG “There She Was”!!  Bravi!!  Wow.  Whew!  The very next song in line that day was a cover that instantly whipped the crowd into an appreciative frenzy.  And what a great cover for this band, too.  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” featured Kellen and Mimi kicking complete and total ass on the vocals as the band put together a monster version of this one behind them on their chosen instruments.  Short and sweet, this one was a nice surprise and apropos given the mountains surrounding us on all sides.  I love it when things line up like that.  Right?  Quite the crowd pleaser, to be sure.   A bit further on, we were presented with the lovely and soul-gripping “The Meaning”, a song filled with emotion and mellow intensity.  Kellen took the lead on the vocals for this one as well, singing sweetly out to the snow-covered audience huddled in their winter coats and hats and gloves.  “I was born to love you, I will die and go back to stardust…”  What poetry, no?  And this song is just chock full of the same.  Definitely a favorite of this writer.  Some really incredible vocal harmonies here as well…something this band has down pat.  And the breakdown about three minutes in?  Yeah, it was pretty super duper, I can tell you that.  These guys most assuredly know how to jam with one another and do it very well.  From Mimi killing it on mando to the two gents on guitar and all around the ensemble, it sounded just superb.  Finally, they closed things down at the end of their set with “The Way That I Do”, Jay Cobb Anderson back to the mic for lead vocals.  What a voice on that man!  My goodness!  Wouldn’t it be cool to have him sing you to sleep for a week?  I smell an auction somewhere in there!  Ha!  Jay, you know I think you are amazing, good sir!  What a percussion breakdown from T. Thom as well.  So much rhythm all in one place.  Fun times.  Oh yes, such fun times.  What a fitting way to finish up this fiery hot set from Fruition!  It’s no secret these guys are pretty damn stellar, however, after a show like that, there could be no doubt whatsoever.  So many thanks on behalf of Colorado and WWG for granting us such a marvelous set!  Phenomenal, through and through.  Cheers to the lass and lads of Fruition!

Fruition

Fruition

    Sam.  Bush.  Band.  Need I really say anymore?  I mean, as you well know, I could leave it right at that.  But am I going to?  You know me better than that!  Saturday was still aswirl with bright white flakes whipping to and fro as the weather kept the spirit of this festival alive and searing hot in the spirits of those gathered for some great and gargantuan grass grooves.  And, believe-you-me, Sammy and his band did not disappoint.  They started things off with a nice little, building intro into Sam leading things forward on his magic mandolin, the band churning stronger and stronger in support as the song took shape settling into the familiar chords of “Play By Your Own Rules” to the utter delight of the crowd.  Uncle Sam lit up the microphone with the vocals as we all sang along under the snowy skies.  Scotty Vestal sounded crisp and polished on his banjo as always, nailing down note after perfect note either soloing or in support of Sam’s mando.  Then you’ve got Stephen Mougin on guitar and vocal harmonies…just the kind of man for such a job as well.  That gent can play, my friends!  And sing.  And make the best faces in photos by Will Rawls.  Seriously.  He is an all around talent.  And one cannot fail to mention Todd Parks on bass, the cornerstone of every good Sam Bush Band number.  Foundational and expert in every way, Todd’s proven himself the consummate member of the band.  Of course, such exquisite bass stylings go hand-in-hand with the drumming of Chris Powers.  Driving force and rhythms, time and again.  And what a complete ensemble sound!  Love this band!  Off to a very strong start, Sam and the fellas were not going to sit on their laurels.  To the contrary.  They followed “Play By Your Own Rules” up with an old SBB favorite, “Transcendental Meditation Blues”, with Sammy up to the mic to deliver the lyrics in his signature vocal style.  It’s a lot like having your favorite uncle singing you tale after incredible tale all while jamming like a gifted madman on mandolin.  Not bad, right?  Not bad at all!  Scott threw down a solid banjo solo about two minutes into things which he traded right off to Sam on mando, melody from one instrument to the next seamlessly and professionally.  Watching musicianship of this high caliber is always such a treat — certainly one of the reasons so many of us have flocked to the bluegrass genre and sub-genres.  Hot on the heels of the previous song, it was time to “ride the bluegrass train” according to Sammy.  Which is probably why they played “Riding That Bluegrass Train” immediately after he said that.  Or it was just a weird coincidence.  Either way, we all found ourselves hurtling along the musical tracks with this one, at the behest of the Sam Bush Band.  Things got nice and funky in the middle, with a jam led by Sam on mandolin, really getting nasty up in there…nasty good, that is.  Vestal answered with some well-placed, tasty notes of his own only to hand things back to Sam who, in turn, traded off to Mougin who unleashed a torrent of notes on his guitar.  What a round robin…that kept on going!  Incredible music to stupendous music to marvelous music and back again.  These guys are pretty good, you know?  Yeah, more like grass gods.  A little down the set, they played a personal favorite of mine, a chill and happy-making one called “Everything Is Possible”.  Why not get into music with a good message, right?  Nothing wrong with that.  And this groovy selection is most certainly is that in spades.  I mean, with a line like “Who’s to say something wonderful won’t happen to you?” in there, how can’t you feel a bit better just for having heard Sam and his Band lay this one down for you?  Great central jam in this song, too.  Just some seriously good music going on.  Lucky for WinterWonderGrass, right?  A little further down the set came a tune from the Band’s Storyman album which was co-written by Sam and Scott.  This sizzling hot one called “Greenbrier” is a rocket ship ride into the outer reaches of bluegrass badassery, to say the least.  So many notes coming from the entire stage:  mandolin and banjo and guitar and bass and even those drums, all engaged in the mystery and sorcery that is incredibly awesome string band music.  What a journey to go on with this band!  Rich in texture and in melody and in energy, “Greenbrier” is an all-around bluegrass feast, with more than enough for everyone to leave sated, happy.  One of the things I love most about a tune like this is just how it showcases the musical acumen and skill of these heroes of ours, these legends of the stage.  Watching Mougin’s hands move like wildfire over the strings of his guitar; seeing Vestal’s calm, collected, measured approach to killing on banjo; observing Sam in all his glory and majesty…these things are so special to witness.  “Circles Around Me” is a consummate Sam Bush song known far and wide in the grass community.  It is almost synonymous with the King of Telluride himself.  Please enjoy this video we captured this special WWG moment with the Sam Bush Band!! 

Amazing that they can play in such harsh conditions, right?  I really felt for their poor fingers on that blustery stage.  My final memory of the show was Sam and the gents covering “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers.  Not a bad parting shot, right?  And, damn, did it ever sound fantastic!  Suffice it to say, SBB brought it to the very end.  So much energy and so much superb music shared with the chilly crowd of WonderGrass.  It really is hard to say enough good things about this group.  I have seen them many times and have loved every minute of every show.  Just goes to show that worthy music moves the soul…it’s almost impossible to stop it.  Just like the music of Sam Bush and his Band.  Just like that.  Thanks so much to all the fine fellows on stage who made such a cold night so hot for us all!  Bravi to the Sam Bush Band!  

Sam Bush Band

Sam Bush Band

    Main stage, big time, big band, big expectations.  And, what did the Dusters open with?  None other than “Big River”.  Yeah, that’s right.  “Big River”.  And what a way to walk back into the venue after a quick condo run!  The air around me thick with the sounds of The Infamous Stringdusters, their mad good vocal harmonies and madcap antics on stage coupled with world-class musical skill and talent, a spring in my step as I wandered ever onward through the snow towards the stage…and then, bam.  Music.  Certainly one of my favorite bands to see live, the Dusters clearly came correct that night and ready to wow the hell out of us and reanimate our cold bodies with some searing hot grass music.  And “Big River” proved to be one perfect opener per the crowd’s very positive reaction.  Great song, played well.  Why not go nuts with excitement?  Off to a very promising beginning to be sure.  Let’s keep this thing going, boys!  Just a tad into the set, they played a song of theirs that’s been getting a lot of radio play on SiriusXM’s JamOn station and as well it should.  “Black Elk” ripped open into the night taken at a quick clip, melting the gathered ice as well as the gathered faces in the crowd as one.  Jeremy Garrett threw down some crazy tasty fiddle work only to be followed by Andy Falco on guitar with some string-ninja moves of his own.  Chris Pandolfi wasn’t to be left out either, raining down note after precious note from his banjo onto the souls of the audience huddled in the freezing dark.  Wow, what a rush!  I’d never heard that one so intense and so fast before.  Really changes the fabric of the experience…I dug it. 

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

Sam Bush joined them for the next couple of numbers, starting with “Get It While You Can” and did Sammy ever get some while he could!  Let’s see…put one of the finest mando players on the planet in to guest with one of the tightest and most polished ensembles in grass music?  OK, yes, I’ll have some of that, please!  Two helpings, if I could!  And just how much do I love Andy Hall’s dobro playing?  Seriously, that man is a wizard on his instrument, one of my favorites to be sure.  Both instrument and player.  This excellent standard from the Dusters’ catalogue augmented by Mr. Bush proved to be quite the powerhouse to great approval from the crowd.  What wasn’t to love, right?  A little further into the set they gave us a fine WWG version of “A Hard Life Makes a Great Song” which should be of some hope and inspiration to us all.  When you are feeling a bit overburdened by this life, maybe this particular song could be of assistance?  I mean, at least your hard life would make a great song.  Now, if you could only get the Dusters to write it up!  So much tasty dobro in this one, too!  And where would the band be without the stalwart bass amazingenss of Travis Book?  I love the way he hauls that thing all over the stage, too.  What a workout that must be!  Not to mention his harmony work…stellar.  Certainly makes for a great grass band show, for sure!  Garrett and Falco made some supremely fine contributions of their own throughout the song, dancing in and out of the texture to take melody only to weave their way back into things as if nothing had changed.  Expert work and a pleasure to witness.  Finally, to close things down, we got some more Allman Brothers!  Indeed, so, good friends…what were the odds?  First Sammy then the Dusters?  Excellence!  The oh-so familiar strains of “Jessica” echoed out to the mountains and through the minds and joys of the crowd and we all began to dance and revel in our luck and laughter.  Nothing like hearing that well-known melody coming from a dobro, right?  Damn, Andy Hall!!  How incredible could you possibly make this one?  Pretty damn incredible as it would turn out.  Jeremy’s fiddle was afire with all sorts of insanity too, rounding things out in a delightful fashion.  And did they band jam this song, too…wow!  Everybody took a good chance to get down here, and get down they did.  A helluva supreme closer for this wonderful show!  So many big thanks going out to the band and their folks for helping to make WinterWonderGrass so amazing for its first year in Steamboat!  Loved it, guys…thank you a million times over!!

The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

Sunday coming soon, friends!!

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Saturday

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016 - Saturday

Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

Tim O’Brien Band

    So, it was Saturday and Telluride was hopping.  I mean, the energy was threatening to jump off the charts, everyone seemed so excited and so into things.  It was as if the entirety of us gathered there for the bluegrass hit our festival strides all at once in a delightful festy singularity.  And it was this very energy I was tapping into when Tim O’Brien and band took the stage.  I am a big fan of Tim and his music — there is something special about the man and what he brings to the table that really kind of defies description.  As traditional as one can get on one hand and as whack ado and progressive on the other, you are always in for a wholly satisfying round of music when it comes to Tim.  Admittedly, this was my first time seeing him with his band so I was pretty pumped.  They kicked things off keeping busy with a bit of “Working” for us, that anthem to all the hard working souls out there toiling away at myriad dirty and tough jobs the world over.  “Anybody working is a friend of mine…”  So, that’s what it takes to be Tim’s friend, eh?  Work?  Got it.  Loved the overall groove to this one, a nice forward motion with a super catchy beat.  What a great way to get things going for this Tim O’Brien Band set!  The supremely mirthful and enjoyable “Pompadour” was up next in line, the witty tongue-in-cheek lyrics spurring countless smiles in the audience.  The song is as weird as it is wonderful, this homage to that oh-so-recognizable hairdo, the pompadour.  Replete with yodeling from Tim, “Pompadour” proved to be an instant crowd pleaser.  This song being a perfect example of the fact that you never know just what you are going to get from Mr. O’Brien and company.  This happened to be Tim’s 40th Telluride Bluegrass appearance and experience and he certainly brought all that to bear and more during his set.  And from the look of things, he was absolutely grateful to be back once more doing it all over again.  He dedicated the next song, “Family History”, to his Telluride family.  What a nice fella, right?  Exactly.  A song filled with wisdom about how to navigate the trials and tribulations of a past assorted with family, it certainly wasn’t short on great music.  Some supremely fine electric guitar work going on in this one, some really, really nice fills.  Nothing like keeping your grass funky, right?  And then, just like that, the whole show jibes back towards the traditional with “My Baby Don’t Love Me Anymore”.  We’d taken a walk down to the river to get a different angle on the afternoon’s music, the sound perfect to our ears from the stage over yonder.  We joined the throng of playful river-goers with their tubes and libations and dogs and children and smiles and laughter and rode out a couple of songs from that vantage.  There are so many different facets to Telluride and to the Telluride Bluegrass experience and the river culture certainly is an important one.  So much joy and mirth and merriment takes place along the banks of (and in, of course) the San Miguel River that runs through town.  It is a great energy to tap into and one that is immensely popular.  Then it was back to humor in the form of “I Gotta Move”, a song whose tale of moving woes and breakups contains many nuggets of truth for all, but all wrapped in a more light-hearted feeling musical framework.  Some lovely keyboard work from the piano player in “I Gotta Move”, again keeping our grass a bit funky.  As with all Tim O’Brien songs, once this one had finished you couldn’t help but feeling happily satisfied.  Playing more selections from his new album, Pompadour, we got the intense and slightly brooding “Whatever Happened to Me” next in the set.  This song had a dirtier, grit-rock sound and feeling to it, the perfect accompaniment to the introspective lyrics.  Of note, the guitarist threw down a particularly lovely solo at one point that served as a fitting counterpoint to Tim’s lead.  This one was certainly a thought-provoking number.  Bravo, Tim.  Can’ wait to pick up his new album (which I will probably download as soon as I am done writing this review).  A little later on in the show, the band delivered a mighty fine Tim O’Brien version of “Boat Up The River”.  This one was a super fun musical ride…I really got into the entire feeling of the song.  It rocked along to this hybrid string band instrumentation in fine fashion, proving a great dancing song if the crowd’s movements were any indication.  Always love hearing Tim play banjo, too, even though he is modest about his abilities there.  Unnecessarily so, in my opinion.  And then he picked up the bouzouki for the next number, an instrument near and dear to my heart.  It has such a great tone…like a giant mandolin and a mellow guitar all at once.  I do so love the timbre of that instrument, especially in the hands of a master like O’Brien.  And, playing his ‘zouk he sang us a song about an Italian gentleman from his youth who sold produce from a truck.  And this song freakin’ rocks!  So upbeat and happy and lively — it really has all you could want from a song that feels like joy encapsulated in a musical shell.  "Megna's" has been in my head ever since hearing it at Telluride.  I’d never heard this one before and I cannot wait to hear it again.  All you want to do is sing along to all the fruit and vegetable lyrics.  And dance.  And sing some more.  Still later on in the set we got another fantastic selection called “Lover’s Rise”, this one having a bit of a cowboy feeling to it.  Tim, on banjo once again, nailed down the lead vocals with aplomb, all of us just loving the sound of his voice.  Some really lovely vocal harmonies in this one as well, serving to make it all the lovelier.  Tim and band finished up their show with an encore dedicated to all those who have gone before, a rousing version of “Moses” with its chorus of “I might be gone in some lonesome graveyard”.   A nice, big closer, but I’m not quite done with Mr. O’Brien and band just yet.  I saved my favorite bit of their show until the last:  their cover of James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing”.  This.  Is.  Amazing.  And we nabbed it on video for you, too!!  Please, please enjoy this wonderful bit of music, funkgrass-style: 

Tim O'Brien Band

Tim O'Brien Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

    Directly following the Tim O’Brien Band, Yonder Mountain String Band jumped on the main stage for their big set of the weekend.  Very much a part of the Telluride tradition, you could tell that much of the audience was poised and ready to see this band in particular.  Getting things going in classic YMSB fashion, their first selection of the day proved to be “All the Time”, setting the pace nice and quick straight out of the gate.  Jake Jolliff stepped up to shred on mandolin early on in the song, adding his unique style to the mix and making his solo pop.  Before the end, each member of the band would throw down some seriously fine solo work to the delight of the audience, especially Allie Kral’s fiddle line.  Such satisfaction and we were only one song in!    And then the marshmallows started up.  Again.  And that’s all I will say about that.  Keeping in the theme of classic Yonder, we got a fantastic “40 Miles from Denver” on film for you to view now.  Please enjoy!! 

Not too shabby, eh, friends?  Precisely.  “Sister Golden Hair”, that mighty rock staple by America, was up next, lead vocals care of Mr. Jolliff.  I happen to love this song already and the Yonder version has quickly grown on me.  Then again, I am also a big fan of grassed up versions of classic rock.  Dave Johnston had a big, bad solo on the banjo a couple of minutes into things which was answered by Allie’s own blistering fiddle work.  They debuted a brand new song that Adam Aijala and Ben Kaufmann had just written which was, as of that performance, unnamed.  A mellow and heartfelt Adam-led piece, this one seemed illustrative of the new direction the band is going in.  Very pretty ensemble work happening in this song — looking forward to hearing it again.  Ronnie McCoury and Sam Bush joined the band for the next song, “Rambler’s Anthem”, a Kaufmann lead.  Adam’s early guitar solo was just white hot.  That man is a serious guitar machine.  Not to mention all that friendly star power on stage with the band.  Like Sammy Bush and his phenomenal mando solo, which elicited a great roar from the crowd.  And Ronnie?  His monster contribution to the song?  And Jake?  How much mando can one person take?  So groovy, so nasty…what a breakdown between those three mandolin demigods!  And, as the song hurtled onwards, Ben even busted out a huge bass solo for us, rocking that instrument of his like a champ.  Then there was the giant, crazy jam at the end that proceeded to melt a bunch of afternoon faces.  Why not?  Next up the massively talented Miss Allie Kral sweetly sang us the lyrics of “Son of Preacher Man” as if we were all hearing them for the first time.  I love that they have upped her singing rep in band — her voice brings such lovely versatility to the overall framework of the group.  Yet another excellent grass version of a familiar favorite with tons of musical fills to send home that very bluegrass in the rendition.  Guitar, fiddle, banjo, mando, you name it.  They were all there in spades.  Later on in the set Jason Carter and Jerry Douglas appeared in order to rock out on fiddle and dobro, respectively, for “Black Sheep”, another standard of the YMSB catalogue.  This must’ve been the best version of this song I’ve ever heard!!  The band sounded great and really let their guests shine.  Jerry on dobro was divine, pure and simple.  Jason on fiddle?  Do we even need to ask?  Just amazing.  As always.  They really helped to transform this one into something special for Telluride.  Bravi!  They finished off their set with a rocketing “Traffic Jam”, with lots and lots of notes coming at the crowd in rapid succession.  Like those innumerable mandolin notes from Jake.  Heavens to Mercatroid!!  Allie and Adam, they both elicited an insane amount of notage, too.  Jerry and Jason had plenty of chances to shred as well.  Such good music and so much of it…right up until the end!!  The encore was an instrumental whose name I am unfamiliar with, however, I can tell you it was unbridled musical excellence all around.  Fast, precise, fun, this one ricocheted off the valley walls around us in concert with the nature abounding and bringing us all the way along to the inevitable whiz bang ending.  Bam!!  What a show!!  What a great performance by the band and by their friends and guests!!  What a way to spend a Telluride afternoon, no???  Many thanks to all of Yonder for such a fantastic set!!  

Yonder Mountain String Band with Ronnie McCoury & Sam Bush

Yonder Mountain String Band with Ronnie McCoury & Sam Bush

Sam Bush Band

    All hail the King!!!  The King of Telluride!!!  Yup, you guessed it.  Time for some Sam Bush Band all up in your business.  And this band doesn’t play around; they play supremely wonderful bluegrass music instead.  And they get serious about it, too.  Sam and the fellas kicked things off with “Play by Your Own Rules” a favorite standard SBB of mine.  Songs like this one really epitomize the Sam Bush Band corner of the bluegrass universe, the perfect example of the sound and stature of this music.  Nasty little solos from Scott Vestal on banjo all over the song…that man is a banjo beast.  Plain and simple.  I have nothing but crazy respect for Mr. Vestal and that 5-string of his.  Damn.  Don’t you worry, there will be plenty more about Scott Vestal as things continue.  Next up was “Transcendental Meditation Blues”, yet another Sammy classic.  Stephen Mougin sounded excellent on the vocal harmonies backing up Sam on lead.  Solos fell to many of the gents in the band, Vestal having a nice and lengthy banjo solo that was punctuated by Sam’s mandolin.  So precise and so well polished, this music.  Such a pleasure to listen to!  Then it was time to get ourselves all aboard so we could be “Riding That Bluegrass Train” with Sammy and band.  Sam and Steve had this really nice moment of interplay between them which Scott joined to make this triumvirate of sweet grass sound that was just about perfect.  From guitar to mando to banjo and back again and again and again.  So good!!  Let there be no doubts that this group puts on one helluva show wherever they go.  And they were just demolishing things at Telluride.  Completely.  Jumping off the “Train” we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of some “Working Man’s Blues”, Sammy on the lead.  Mougin’s guitar solo on this Merle Haggard classic was nothing short of exquisite, seeing as how that man is a badass robot programmed for “shredding” when it comes to guitar.  About like Scott on that banjo — what can’t that man play?  And play so very incredibly well?  I’d wager nothing, myself.  And this song was no exception to the rule for him as he tore up a solo opportunity summarily.  And then both of those men did it again!!  How much good music can one song hold?  Well, how about a huge bass solo from Todd Parks to sweeten the deal?  Why the hell not, right?  I was just adoring this set!  Sam is no stranger to positive messages, it’s true.  So the inclusion of the next song, “Everything Is Possible”, in the set came as no huge surprise although the song was new to me.  Here is how it went down in sound and color for you, friends: 

See, now don’t you feel that much better?  What a pick-me-up!  A little later down the set we got a nice Stephen Mougin vocal lead on “Hard Hearted”, that good ol’ one about the sad realities of love sometimes.  Big mando intro from Sam was the perfect lead in for Mougin’s vocals…Sam providing harmonies as well.  They took this one at a quick clip, not that they don't have the chops for fast pickin’ — Mougin certainly proved that point time and again.  Later still in the set was a massive crowd pleaser:  “Great Balls of Fire”.  We were all ready for a little grassed-up Jerry Lee Lewis that’s for sure and they delivered in fine fashion.  Hard drivin’ this one, lots of notes played very quickly coming from mando, banjo, and guitar alike.  Not to mention that rocksteady beat from Chris Brown.  They certainly made a crazy fun ride out of this one!  Farther on down this amazing set came a requested Jeff Black song, “Same Ol’ River”, which is a big favorite of mine and was of the rest of the crowd, too.  Always nice to get an old friend in a setlist.  Especially at a Sam Bush Band show.  A gorgeous solo from Mougin on guitar hallmarked the early minutes of the song.  I really appreciate the length of the average SBB solo — you never leave feeling unsatisfied from a musical standpoint.  Damn, it really was a good solo, too.  Bravo, Mr. Mougin!  Then, surprise!!  Jerry Douglas magically appeared on stage, dobro in hand, ready to join in this fun.  And join in he did with a completely baller solo of his own.  So freakin’ good, my friends!!  And as if that wasn’t enough, Bela Fleck came out to add himself and his banjo to the night alongside John Cowan on lead vocals for “Sail to Australia”.  And Jerry was still there, too.  Pretty crazy, right?  Sammy and John had some really, really tight vocal harmonies that were just lovely.  So easy on the ears.  What a supergroup on the stage!!  A true powerhouse performance.  How couldn’t it have been?  They finished up this giant set of theirs with some Bob Dylan, slowing things down to an intense rock’n’roll groove.  And then, the intensity builds and you get that well-known chorus:  “When You Gonna Wake Up”?  I’ve heard Sam and band do this one before and I’ll always be happy to hear them do it again.  Good songs are always worth hearing again, right?  Yeah, so Chris had this drum solo, too, you see.  And it was gargantuan in stature.  Just huge.  And awesome.  Just like all the music I had just crammed into my ears like a musical glutton.  Holy gods is this a phenomenal band!!  Thank you so so much to each member of the band for one of my favorite sets from Telluride this year!!  Everything you do is so very well appreciated!!  Can’t wait to do it all over again next year.  Or, hopefully, sometime sooner.

Sam Bush with Del McCoury

Sam Bush with Del McCoury

Leftover Salmon    

    Slamgrass time.  Telluride main stage.  Leftover Salmon.  Bring it.  It’s no big secret how much I love this band and, trust me, this performance only furthered those feelings.  By quite a long shot.  Having Salmon to Telluride has become tradition — back-to-back yearly invites are very rare.  But not for Leftover.  And let us all be quite thankful for that little fact!!  The evening there in Town Park was just about a wonderful as a person could ask for:  cool but not cold, clear moonlit skies, world class music on the new stage.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh, life was very good that night.  And how did they get things going?  Well, with a little “Take Me Back to My Mountaintop” action to be precise.  What better a starting song for the set?  You know, since we were all up in the mountains together, soaking up so much of the life set forth in the lyrics…so bucolic, so relaxed, so musical, so magical.  Take me back to my mountaintop, indeed!!   And, big surprise here, I’m going to go on some more about Erik Deutsch, his keyboard skills, and the overall additive qualities he brings to the band.  Because he was doing all that good stuff right there, right on stage.  Just owning those keys like a true boss and yet gelling seamlessly with the fabric of the band.  So glad to have him as a part of this madness we call Leftover Salmon.  Drew Emmitt was up to the mic for the next song, “Western Skies”, all set to croon to us in that oh-so Drew voice of his.  Songs like this and Mr. Emmitt were made for one another, as if that needs to be said.  But you get my meaning.  All throughout this song was the musical thread of Andy Thorn’s banjo line, note after note after note playing out into the night helping to weave the entirety of “Western Skies” together into a tapestry of musical genius.  Magnificent.  The familiar and fun “Liza” was next in line from the Salmon fellas that night.  Taken at a speedy clip, this one featured a visit from Mayor McCheese to the stage to grace us all with his mighty presence, all to the backdrop of Erik’s amazing keyboard skills.  Vince Herman, of course, on lead vocals sounded excellent as always…and, as always, it was like having a favorite uncle singing to you.  Pretty awesome, right?  Uncle Vince.  I like that.  Drew threw down a pretty sweet mando solo in this one about halfway through that was like pouring notes out of a bucket there were so many.  What a brute on that mandolin!  “Highway Song” followed “Liza” with Drew back up to the mic to take lead vocals, this being another song so well-suited to Emmitt’s strong vocals.  Great multi-part harmonies going on in the chorus of this one, which I am always a sucker for.  And also a really strong overall ensemble sound which provided a more than appropriate backdrop for Andy’s supremely killer shredding and Erik’s delightful keyboard dominance.  What a fantastic set thus far!  Next on the docket was the Great American Taxi song, a Vince-led number called “Weary Ramblin' Highway Man” to which the assembled gents on stage did great justice.  Erik Deutsch was there a minute in going to town on his keyboards, making them zing and sing and rock us all.  Alwyn Robinson was laying down some seriously ridiculous beats behind all this craziness up front.  A lot of different tempos switching back and forth depending on the feeling of the song at that point.  Masterful work.  I’d never be able to keep up!  And this song just jammed and jammed and jammed, Drew on electric killing a big solo reinforcing said jamming.  This one was reaching monumental proportions.  What a rush!  Later on down the set, John Cowan, the Prince of Bluegrass, joined them for a little time in the limelight on back-up vocals.  And the song?  Why, the Emmitt-led “Breakin’ Thru”!  Great harmonies between Drew and John all throughout this song, Cowan’s strong voice counterpointing Emmitt’s own. Most definitely an old favorite and crowd pleaser, this one was very well received by the audience who cheered their applause with loud voices up into the night skies above.  Andy Thorn wrote the next selection of the evening, a song about how lucky the band is to be doing what they do:  “Colorado Mountains Evermore”.  With its simply stunning banjo intro, this one is one that I dig very much.  And not just because I am from Colorado.  This song is an anthem about all the joys and merriments and contentments associated with the bluegrass, slamgrass lifestyle and way of living.  And I love hearing Andy sing, too.  Hard drivin’, fast pickin’ here as well…all you can eat and more.  This song just motors onwards and forwards at a blistering pace, each man keeping time on his instrument like a human metronome.  Greg Garrison’s bass line laid a stout foundation upon which all this madness could ensue.  Not an easy task whatsoever.  Kudos to Greg, no doubt about it.  John Cowan and Sam Bush were good friends to have on hand for the next number, John Hartford’s amazing “Steam Powered Aereo Plane”, which roared to life through Thorn’s banjo and ripped into the entire band spurring on one of the best renditions of this song I have ever witnessed.  But, wait…you’re in luck!!  Because you can witness it, too, through the wonders of this video!!  Enjoy, friends!!  (I am sure you will.) 

Wasn’t that just about perfect in every way?  Love that ride!  Their last song of the evening was to be “High Country”, a familiar selection from the Salmon catalogue and a very welcome addition to the evening.  After all, we were in the high country listening to “High Country” — what more could you possibly ask for?  Oh, how about the fact that Sam Bush was still out there with them killing it on fiddle?  How about that?  Not bad, right?  And then they tied an absolutely humongous ending on it and called it a night.  Booyah!  Or did they?  Not unless I had dreamt that Chris Daniels came out to join them all for a badass “Rag Mama Rag” encore.  They certainly weren’t going to let this evening die out with a whimper.  Alwyn’s drums boomed the opposite of that message, buoying up the evening until the very end and inspiring dancing in every set of feet present.  Vince was busy rocking the vocals summarily while Erik took the opportunity yet again prove how deadly he is on that piano.  Very.  I mean very.  Sammy Bush wasn’t to be outdone, himself, chiming in like a demon on his fiddle.  Beastly in all the right ways.  In all manner of speaking, this was a gargantuan end to a supremely gluttonous set, all of us sated to the brim on Salmon.  Delicious, delicious Salmon.  My stars, what a show this had been!!  My stars, my thanks, my eternal gratitude!!  Now that is what Telluride is all about, my friends!!  Thank you Salmon men.  Thank you for that set and all that you do.  Thank you.

Leftover Salmon

Leftover Salmon

Sunday’s Review from the 43rd Annual Telluride Bluegrass inbound soon, friends!!

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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Saturday

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DelFest 9 - Festival Experience Archive - Saturday

DelFest 9

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday Highlights

The Sam Bush Band

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

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

The Sam Bush Band

The Sam Bush Band

Railroad Earth

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

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

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

The Travelin’ McCourys

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

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

The Travelin' McCourys

The Travelin' McCourys

Late Night - Cabinet - Greensky Bluegrass

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

Cabinet Late Night with Cris Jacobs

Cabinet Late Night with Cris Jacobs

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

Greensky Bluegrass Late Night

Greensky Bluegrass Late Night

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

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

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10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass - Big Sky, MT - Saturday/Sunday

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10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass - Big Sky, MT - Saturday/Sunday

10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Saturday

The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience - Sam Bush Band

    Late night Friday was a sea of pickin’ parties, libations, and great conversations.  Those wee hours of the morning really breakdown all the remaining barriers between musicians and festival goers to create something truly unique and special.  And tiring after a couple of nights in a row…sleep is always at a premium at Big Sky Big Grass.  But, hey, we’ve plenty of time to sleep in our graves, right?  After catching a few important hours of sleep and pulling ourselves together for another evening of music, it was time for Saturday to get going in full swing.  And, trust me, with the likes of David Grisman and Sam Bush in the mix, it promised to be quite an evening.      

    Sadly, I have to report that there were some severe sound issues for David Grisman’s set.  In the fact that the audience couldn’t really hear much of anything.  I am not sure if there were mic issues or soundboard issues, however, the point remains that if I cannot hear the music, I cannot report on it.  What we did hear of favorites like “Walkin’ the Dog” sounded potentially wonderful.  However, the technical gods were against us that night, it seemed.  A real tragedy for such a bluegrass legend as Grisman.

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience

    Luckily the techs fixed the sound for the next act, the Sam Bush Band.  And thank goodness for that!  Sammy and crew came tearing out of the gate with a fiddle tune care of Mr. Bush.  This one turned dirty good by tune’s end, nice and gritty with a driving bass line from Todd Parks.  Really quite a baller way to get things all riled up in the Missouri Ballroom that night.  “This Heart of Mine” followed with Sam back on mandolin and featuring some really tight vocal harmonies and some truly fine guitar work from Stephen Mougin.  This, in turn, led to an excellent “One More Love Song” with Sam getting tender in the lyrics all the while absolutely jamming out on mandolin.  “I wanna sing you one more love song…why leave it this way?”  Why leave it that way, indeed, right Sammy?  Really liked that one.  The next one in line that night was the instrumental “By Stealth” which was a riveting run through some serious hard drivin’ fast pickin’ with each musician stepping up to show their skills.  Simply sizzling solo from Scott Vestal on banjo — definitely of note.  This kind of tune is precisely the perfect space to observe some intense musicianship in action.  And the Sam Bush Band did not disappoint on this front whatsoever.   This led to the foot-stomping good time that is “East Virginia Blues” with Sam, of course, on the vocals and mando.  Incredible guitar stylings from Stephen Mougin in this one — they really kept the drive of the song going full force.  Then Sam and company took us for a ride on “The Bluegrass Train”.  Nothing like a good train song, right?  And nothing like hopping on the train that is the Sam Bush Band for one helluva musical ride.  And what a ride it was, too!!  Nasty, nasty excellent mando solo from Sam here, just amazing.  Thanks for that one, Sammy, fellas!  Later on in the set came the touching and soulful “Circles Around Me” (“High in Telluride…”) and later still came a little Jerry Lee Lewis with some “Great Balls of Fire”.  And what fire there was, let me tell you!!  Grassing up a version of this one was definitely the right move — it was fast, fun, and full of up energy for everyone.  Especially that incredibly hot banjo solo from Scott.  Damn can that man play!  So quick!!   Another great cover came after in the form of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” which instantly had the crowd tuned in and singing along.  A lengthy and lovely “Same Ol’ River” clocking in at 16:01 followed — talk about something you can really sink your musical teeth into!  What a journey!   Later on in the show, they closed with another fiddle tune, care of Sam.  Rollicking and rolling this one was a great way to end things for the evening.  But wait, they weren’t done yet!  There was a multi-song encore set on its was with lots of special guests!  The cast of characters you ask?  In addition to Sam and band we have Cody Kilby (The Travelin’ McCourys), David Grisman, Ronnie McCoury (The Travelin’ McCourys), Bela Fleck, amongst a few others gathered for some encore fun.  The first song up was “Little Girl of Tennessee” with Sam up on the vocals.  So much star power on one stage — how couldn’t it sound pretty damn amazing?  Which it did, of course.  Such great music.  And just stunning, stunning playing from everyone.  After two (yes two) more numbers it was time for the really big finish with “Bluegrass Breakdown”, a heart-palpitatingly quick race through some severely impressive fast pickin’.  One and all these gents threw down in superbly fine fashion bringing the main stage of the Missouri to a whiz-bang of a close for the night.  So very many thanks to Sam, his band, and their guests on stage that evening.  What a ride, what a rush!  Certainly only whetted the appetite for more bluegrass joy to follow on Sunday!!

Sam Bush Band & Friends

Sam Bush Band & Friends

Sunday

Billy Strings - Drew Emmitt Band - Jeff Austin Band - Keller Williams with The Travelin’ McCourys

    Sunday had found us once again but were still fresh and frosty and ready for a monster of a great time care of some premium bluegrass music.  It had been a long and luxuriant weekend as we basked in bluegrass clear up to our grinning faces.  And the best part about Sundays, my friends?  More music!!  That’s right.  More of that specific brand of awesomeness that we all thrive upon, that we yearn for.  The surprise TBD set ended up going to Mr. Billy Strings and we were all glad that it did.  Due to the Superbowl, the place was empty.  And I mean criminally empty — but, whatever.  Roll with it, right?  Private show?  You bet!  Billy started out solo crooning some songs and pickin’ tune for us.  He began with Doc Watson’s “Nashville Blues”, a perfect selection to show off the great balance between Billy’s amazing guitar playing and his lovely baritone singing.  Fantastic fast pickin’ and classic bluegrass singing.  What more could you ask for?  Continuing in that theme, we got a mighty fine “Brown’s Ferry Blues” care of Mr. Strings.  Sure didn’t seem like Billy had the blues to me, but, hey, you’ve gotta go with something on your setlist, right?  Plus he simply killed the first two songs.  Which made us eager to hear the minor and slightly morose “Wild Bill Jones” which was next on the docket.  A cautionary tale doled out in a gentle but powerful singing voice and counterpointed always by the ever-moving fingers of this young man’s magical hands as they fly over strings and fretboard.  A light and lively guitar tune medley followed comprised of “Give the Fiddler a Dram” and “Whistling Rufus” and “Ragtime Annie”, highlighting for one and all that skill plus talent plus hard work that is the musical might that is Billy Strings.  Billy credited Doc Watson for the inspiration for this medley.  Continuing with some more Watson, he next played a superb version of “Hold the Woodpile Down” which featured some blistering, blistering guitar action.  Not that we were surprised.  Just in awe as always.  Tyler Grant (The Grant Farm) came out and joined Billy for what he termed “guitarmageddon”.  Love it.  “Lost Indian”, a fiddle tune, was to be their first number.  And my goodness…two guitar greats such as these pickin’ away at the same time, on the same stage??  Forget about it!  Seriously.  It was mind-meltingly excellent all the way around.  So many incredible guest spots and collaborations at this fest!  I love it!  And then it was time for a vocal duet…sweet.  Another Doc Watson selection (am I sensing a theme?) and this time “Way Downtown”.  Super fine harmonies from the get-go — really great blend between the two gents on stage.  And the seemingly effortless intertwining of their guitar lines was just beautiful to behold.  Most certainly a great pairing here.  Would love to see more of this very act in the future.  Such good guitar work from both fellas.  So good!  A little later in the set the two of them gave us a a rousing “Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar” especially given the guys singing this very song.  The thought of either of them laying down their guitars is almost anathema.  Listening back to my notes all I hear is just how much guitar is present at every point throughout these songs.  So many notes played with such skills and acumen.  It is so impressive — just makes me so very grateful that there are those of us out there who can and do play as such for all the rest of us to so thoroughly enjoy.  “My Rose of Old Kentucky” that stalwart standard and favorite came after, all of us still being treated to the joy of those double guitars.  This certainly was a Watson-heavy affair.  And I couldn’t have been happier.  Finally, as an encore, these two fine gentlemen played us an energetic and moving instrumental tune which had the growing crowd dancing and hopping to the rapid beat.  A truly lovely way to end a lovely set.  Bravo to Billy for all that he is and does!!  Bravo to Tyler for providing the perfect duo companion to share the stage with Billy!!  Bravi to them both for such exquisite music and a fabulous show!!

Billy Strings & Tyler Grant

Billy Strings & Tyler Grant

    And then it was time some Drew Emmitt Band all up in our lives.  Hells yeah.  Joining in on the fun were Sam Bush on fiddle, Tyler Grant on guitar, and Robbie McCoury on banjo.  Not a bad lineup.  Not a bad lineup whatsoever, my friends.  It appeared that we were in for a real treat.  And that treat got started off with a personal favorite John Hartford song:  “Steam Powered Aereoplane”.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard it better, to be quite honest.  Tyler Grant had a really excellent solo early on in this one…man do I just love his playing.  And what an incredible version of this song.  So happy to have gotten this one.  And as an opener, too.  The ensemble rocked out to a Leftover Salmon fave next with “Breakin’ Thru”, Drew leading the whole energetic gathering threw with his strong, distinctive voice.  And such a great ensemble sound coming from the stage already.  Just a testament to the utter professionalism and intensive skills of these musicians.  Not to mention the beast of an ending breakdown, Sam Bush tearing his fiddle bow apart as we all howled our appreciation and enjoyment from below the stage.  Such an electric finish!   However, it would seem I experienced some technical difficulties with my voice recorder (and best concert friend) for a few songs of Drew’s set.  Corrupted data, garbled playback, etc.  So, my apologies to you in that I cannot report on much of this show.  However, we trudge on, right?  Sorry Drew!  Sorry Drew band!  “Crossroads” by Cream provided the encore selection for the evening which saw Drew on electric guitar.  Sam Bush had an important fiddle solo smack in the middle of this one.  And it all sounded of pure excellence.  Rob McCoury flexed his banjo chops something fierce in this one as well.  A really awesome and fun set from the Drew Emmitt Band and Friends.  A perfect Sunday Funday band if I’ve ever seen one.  Thanks, gentlemen!!

Drew Emmitt Band & Friends

Drew Emmitt Band & Friends

    Jeff.  Austin.  Band.  Hells yeah.  Time for some gritty bluegrass attitude, shaken, not stirred.  A long and building instrumental opening led us to “Reuben’s Train” proper and, in no time, we were all steaming along on this mad locomotive with Jeff Austin at the wheel headed towards some seriously bonkers good music.  Hurling along with JAB down the electrified track that is one of their sets is always a rocking good time.  Seriously rocking.  And they kept right on rocking with a fast picker’s delight, “Time Ain’t Time”.  Such quick and rapid intertwining of instrument lines!  Gorgeous.  Amazing mando solo from Jeff in this one — that man plays with so much conviction.  Damn!  This was followed by an incredible solo from Ryan Cavanaugh on banjo.  A riveting ride from start to finish!  We were off to such a great start!  A mellow lead in from Jeff on mandolin to the next song provided a nice groove for us all to fall into.  “15 Steps” slowly crept up and hit us all full in the face with just that kind of song and feeling we’ve all come to expect from Jeff over the years.  Ross Martin (guitar) and Eric Thorin (bass) chose to get down and funky in the middle of this one, too.  Most certainly a groovy, groovy song.  Hard drivin’?  Fast pickin’?  You want those things huh?  Well, the “Red Haired Boy” that they gave us next was all of that and so much more.  They dedicated it to Billy Strings, too.  Isn’t that lovely of them?  Damn was this a fast one.  Blisteringly quick.  And played so well by all on stage.  Tight.  Nothing like getting an old classic like this from the Jeff Austin Band.  Cavanaugh got down and dirty in this one on banjo, really smoking that melody line.  This was answered by Ross Martin on guitar who funked things up a bit himself.  All in all, another thrilling ride on the JAB Express.  Next up on the setlist was “My Sisters and Brothers” a Charles Johnson song made famous by the Jerry Garcia Band.  Fant-freakin-tastic!  And then it was a lengthy and trippy “Ragdoll” which dominated the set.  Some serious exploratory moments wrapped in there.  It’s just good to see they’re still doing this song.  Love this one…but who doesn’t, right?  After that big entree of bluegrass dinner, dessert came in the form of a rollicking “Sideshow Blues”.  Cruising at top speed right up until end of their set, JAB pulled out all the stops that evening, including on “Sideshow”.  They came, they saw, they destroyed it.  JAB.  Incredible set, fellas…so many thanks for the music!  Very much looking forward to my next dance with the Jeff Austin Band.

Jeff Austin Band

Jeff Austin Band

    I cannot tell you just how excited I was to finally be seeing Keller Williams and the Travelin’ McCourys together on the same stage.  I’d been waiting quite awhile for that magic to strike me and strike me it did in full force that night.  All the boys assembled on stage surely meant some serious business from the very get go.  “I Am Elvis” is how they chose to ramp things up.  Talk about an album-quality show!!  Each song was so tight and so polished, if you closed your eyes it was hard to tell live from Memorex, so to speak (think I just dated myself there a bit haha).  “It’s all in my mind…I live inside my imagination.”  Well, it was certainly not all in my mind Saturday night at Big Sky Big Grass.  It was on the stage and it was bold, brazen, beautiful, and badass.  They took “Elvis” directly into a little Donna Summer with “Hot Stuff” and why not?  It’s not as if this group of stringslingers didn’t have the chops for this one.  Bouncing, lovely energy just cascading off the stage, Jason Carter’s fiddle lighting up the night like a beacon of pure sound, this one pulled the crowd into a merry den of musical mayhem and set us up right for the remainder of the set.  Up next was “Broken Convertible” with its tongue-in-cheek lyrics sung by none other than Keller himself.  Talk about another album-perfect one!  It really is a shame that Keller and the McCourys don’t tour more often together — this is one incredible act to see, my friends!  And with Keller changing the lyrics to reference a Sam Bush presidential bid/win, who could be disappointed?  Modest Mouse’s “Float On” came next in line for us — quite the surprise, but an excellent cover.  And Ronnie McCoury’s mandolin solo was something special to be sure.  Certainly another crowd pleaser for this tiny but voracious audience especially with the Dexys Midnight Runners “Come On Eileen” teaser thrown in for good measure.  After that, Ronnie was up to the mic to croon the vocals on “The Graveyard Shift” and he just nailed it to the wall.  Of course.  As if there could be any doubts as to that.  Simply splendid vocal harmonies in “Graveyard” to boot…always so nice to listen to.  And let us not forget Rob McCoury’s monster solo on banjo or Cody Kilby’s unequalled guitar skills throughout the song.  A stroll with the Grateful Dead followed in the form of a mellow and masterful “Candyman”.  Some Grateful Grass with the McCourys, eh Keller?  Maybe that’s the next lineup?  Maybe?  Would that it could be so.  How marvelous would that be?  An entire show of Dead songs thrown down by Keller and the McCourys??  Magnificence!  “Something Else” came on the heels of “Candyman” and was followed by Mike Doughty’s “American Car” — both of which sounded stupendous.  As you might expect.  Keller was in great voice all night, too…made for a near perfect-sounding concert.  It was Alan Bartram’s turn up at the microphone next for “Messed Up Just Right” one of my very favorite songs from the Pick album.  And Alan has such an awesome voice, too!  He really knows how to burn this song down.  Not your typical love song, but nonetheless incredible.  Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” was our next offering that evening…yes, you read that correctly.  Keller busted out some quality lyrics as the band really embraced this one, Jason Carter’s fiddle line capturing the melodic movement of the original.  And Rob’s driving banjo line was ever-present providing a forward motion to the whole song, grassing it up all the more.  They took this directly into a bluegrass version of Keller’s “Tweeker” which was something else to be sure.  One helluva great treatment of this song.  A whistled Andy Griffith theme song tease helped to keep us all on our toes through this string band whirlwind combined with Keller’s unique dance music.  Ronnie McCoury sure took the opportunity to slay on mando in the middle of “Tweeker” — righteous to a ’T’.  Different that’s for sure.  And fun as all hell.  A little later in the set we got the poignant and feelings-provoking “Price Tag”.  Really love this song and love the way they just own it even though it’s a cover.  Hard to believe that when faced with the gorgeous wall of musical sound that hits you like a velvet hammer.  “…we don’t need your money.  Just wanna make the world dance, forget about your price tag.”  There’s quite a lot of wisdom in those words, my friends.  Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” followed and then a rousing “Mullet Cut” came after.  What a setlist!  So much good music!  And they weren’t done yet!  And how about a little Foster the People?  Just when you thought this set couldn’t get any broader for bluegrass, a little “Pumped Up Kicks” comes along and smacks you around in all the right ways.  And Rob’s banjo solo?  Forget about it!  Just nasty!!  Not to mention his brother’s own brand of nasty on the mandolin to follow.  Talented family…no doubts there.  Sam Bush, Drew Emmitt, and Billy Strings joined the stage for the encore madness and madness it was.  The best kind.  Billy stepped up to the mic to belt out the lyrics to “Freeborn Man” for us as well all danced the night away, never stopping, never wanting to miss a beat, a note, a word…anything!  And how about that phenomenal Billy Strings guitar solo, too?  Hotness of the best kind.  Back to the Dead for a hot minute, the next encore selection was “Men Smart, Women Smarter” which featured a sizzling Sam Bush solo on mandolin.  Always a fun song, no?  Then came the final song of the evening:  a riveting and quick run through some bluegrass goodness.  This one was sung by Sam Bush and, sadly, I didn’t manage to catch the title for you.  Just know this:  it was teeming with incredible musicianship from every gent on stage, just oozing musical awesomeness at every turn.  And one amazing way to close things down on the main stage in the Missouri for the 2016 Big Sky Big Grass.  So very many thanks to Keller and the McCourys for such a superb night of music!!

Keller Williams & The Travelin' McCourys

Keller Williams & The Travelin' McCourys

    And then, sadly, it was all over.  The 10th Annual Big Sky Big Grass had concluded and done so in great style.  We had been welcomed over and over all weekend until we felt a part of the Big Sky family and we so grateful for the experience.  If you’re looking for a unique festival that boasts amazing music and some really cool other aspects then look no further.  Consider a jaunt up to Big Sky…make the trek.  Talk about bragging rights, huh?  Thanks for reading, everyone!!  Hope you enjoyed it!!

Late Night Pickin' Party

Late Night Pickin' Party

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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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