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Tuesday, November 24

Review: Trey Anastasio Band - The Fox Theater - Oakland, CA - 11/6/15 (plus Fall Tour re-cap)

Trey Anastasio and his band have just wrapped up one of their most creative tours in years. This incarnation made up of regulars Russ Lawton (drums), the great mentor: Tony Markellis (bass), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Ray Paczkowski (keys), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet, vocals), Natalie Cressman (trombone, vocals) and James Casey (saxophones, vocals).  From the first shows at the King's Theater in Brooklyn, NY it was apparent that not only had the band had been practicing new material from October 30th's Paper Wheels, and songs from Traveler, but also deep classics and shared Phish/TAB songs.  The addition of "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris, made more famous by Donna Summer, the ironically titled "Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think", by Guy Lombardo.  CSN's "49 Bye Bye's" as well as the introduction of "Dazed and Confused" from Led Zeppelin and "Soul Rebel", by Bob Marley.  This tour was by all standards traditional when it comes to TAB, it fit in a tight spot between Phish Summer and Phish Holiday, but what it included was two amazing shows at Las Vegas' Brooklyn Bowl over Halloween weekend. And to some surprise aside from Vegas Dancing Girls during the elongated "MacArthur Park" Encore on Halloween night, the shows were pretty regular, at least for this tour.  
The shows I got to take in and enjoy were the Fox Theater shows in Oakland, CA. Immediately one feels the energy of the venue's amazing facade and architecture and the contemporary yet antique vibe that omits from this Oakland music hall always adds to the show.  I noticed from the beginning of Friday's show that this band was playing as unit more so than ever before.  The shared responsibility that once lay square on the shoulders of Big Red himself were being evenly accepted by all members.  Let's state the obvious, Phish is one thing and TAB is another.  But coming off a HUGE summer where Trey found himself playing the Fare Thee Well shows and piloting one of the best Phish Tours in years it soon became apparent that this intoxicating energy was contagious to the Fall TAB Run as well.  Trey played loosed and funky and took songs that at times two dimensional, allowed them to evolve into a tangible musical piece.  I credit his band because they are a very well picked group and heavily talented and as lucky they are to be in Trey's Band, he is lucky to have them,  This being said the back and forth between Trey and Paczkowsksi was cavernously deep during the first set "Cayman Review", other highlights included a beautifully executed "Greyhound Rising" and new-comer to the band, Marley's "Soul Rebel" that eased into a true to TAB original and fan favorite"Gotta Jiboo".  
The horn section was tight and the vocal backing provided by Cressman, Casey and the ever-present Jennifer Hartswick made for beautiful harmonic builds some of which stood out the most during the new material from the album Paper Wheels.
The 2nd set of the show was pure bliss as Trey led them through a fun "Alaska" and then the upbeat and groove laden "Alive Again".  The last five songs of the show were filled with jams, Lawton and Markellis holding it down with a strong rhythmic beat, the laid a foundation for a run of great tunes.  "Shine", "Clint Eastwood" and the soul piercing "Dazed and Confused" sung by Hartswick finished the set.  It was raucous, off the chain so to speak, smiles were shared between fans and passed back and forth from the musicians to the crowd.  The encore was special in that Trey mentioned that Phish's booking agent was in a local hospital fighting cancer and he dedicated "Show of Life" to him.  The beautiful song that Anastasio nails vocally always carries so much meaning and this time it came with no exception.  The end of the show was "First Tube" and this is exactly what I love about this band.  Trey has created a very strong catalog of music that they can pull from on any given night.  The 2nd night during the weekend run in Oakland finished with a 4 song encore, it was a wicked cherry on top.  In the past there have been TAB shows that seem rushed and sometimes forced.  These shows and the tour as a a whole felt the exact opposite.  TAB operated as an organic unit, with beautiful jams, rockin' funk laden jams that peppered a setlist that called on all members of the band to step up and help carry the load.  This symbiosis allowed Trey to play more free and when you unleash a guitarist with the skill set as deep as Anastasio what you get nothing but top tier mastering, and great shows.  In this case it turned out to be an amazing tour and so as I look forward to seeing Phish play again soon, I cannot wait to see what Trey, and TAB have coming down the line.
Trey Anastasio Band LE Oakland Run poster by The Bungaloo
Trey Anastasio Band Tour Dates:
October 16 Brooklyn, New York—Kings Theatre 
October 17 Brooklyn, New York—Kings Theatre 
October 30 Las Vegas, NV—Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas
October 31 Las Vegas, NV—Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas 
November 1 San Diego, CA—House of Blues
November 4 Los Angeles, CA—The Wiltern
November 6 Oakland, CA—Fox Theater
November 7 Oakland, CA—Fox Theater
November 9 Portland, OR—Crystal Ballroom
November 10 Seattle, WA—The Showbox Sodo
November 12 Salt Lake City, UT—The Depot
November 13 Denver, CO—The Fillmore Auditorium
November 14 Denver, CO—The Fillmore Auditorium
Paper Wheels Tracklist:
1. Sometime After Sunset
2. The Song
3. Never
4. In Rounds
5. Flying Machines
6. Invisible Knife
7. Lever Boy
8. Bounce
9. Liquid Time
10. Paper Wheels
11. Speak to Me
12. Cartwheels

Words: Sammy Martin
Photos: Carla Kilgore
 ©Grateful Music LLC

Friday, November 20

Space Jesus - Close Encounters -- Album Review

Music acts like a portal taking us to another world or dimension where the ups and downs of day to day life seem to just fade further and further away. The style or genre that takes you there may be different for each of us, but regardless its music that takes us there.  As I travel deeper and deeper into the vast world that is music I have quickly come to find that every style possess the ability to take me to this place in its own unique way, which is exactly what Space Jesus has done with his newest album Close Encounters.

Close Encounters quickly opened my eyes and ears to a style of music that I have only recently begun to experience. Taking something that for me had always been best experienced live and late night with friends and wrapping it up in a portable version all while keeping the energy that is key to the success of the music. The bass heavy synth driven soundscape he creates throughout the album seems to have multiple personalities that somehow manage to work together in a rather pleasing way. Space Jesus finds a way to draw you in and hold you there from start to finish, with an album that twists and turns throughout. It feels somewhat like a trip into outer space with a pit stop or two along the way back on planet earth. This is done with the help of guest lyricists, producers and unique samples including everything from politicians speaking to a rather unexpected one of the Grateful Dead. Creating an album that is nothing short of a trip through the wacky mind of a talented artist. Capturing all that Space Jesus brings to the table from hip hop to dance with some of his personal feelings mixed in along the way, this album will satisfy even his biggest of fans while rounding up some new ears that will be pleasantly surprised.
This album opened me up to a fresh sound, taking me places I never expected it to, all while capturing the creative mind of the artist. Each track is crafted and delivered in a way that makes me want to get out and see Space Jesus live, which for me is exactly what any successful album should do.

 The album is available on iTunes

Review by Chason Heins

 ©Grateful Music LLC

Monday, November 16

Review: EOTO feat. Mike Rempel w/Bunk Buddha & Highland - Baltimore Soundstage - Baltimore, MD - 11/6/15

I have sincerely grown to love the live music scene here in Baltimore. There is a wide range of venues, all shapes and sizes, and the people who attend have cultivated a genuine community. On Friday, November 6, 2015, excitement was palpable among the local scene, buzzing about the impending EOTO show featuring the one and only Mike Rempel of Lotus. For those who are unfamiliar with the unparalleled EOTO, the duo is comprised of Michael Travis and Jason Hann. Outside of EOTO, Travis and Hann team up to form the rhythm section for The String Cheese Incident. These two veterans of the jam scene formed EOTO as a side project in the mid-2000s, and today it has become its own animal, boasting a dedicated fanbase of its own that rivals any and all of the most prominent bands on the circuit. EOTO has dedicated itself to the art of improvisation, utilizing a wide range of electronic music genres but without compromising the “live” aspect of “live music.” The result is an epic musical journey, accompanied by one of the most intense laser light shows in live music.
First, however, we were treated to a couple of local opening acts to warm up our feet and get us in the groove. Highland, a young duo named for their hometown of Highland, MD, kicked off the evening. The vibe was mostly laid back but with enough oomph to keep us on our feet. The young duo are certainly talented producers, but my only criticism is that they need to work on controlling the energy of a live set a bit better. Next up was the Baltimore native Bunk Buddha. I have had the pleasure of working with these guys in the past, and I was already stoked to see them in this opening slot. Starting off as a solo project by a single producer, Bunk Buddha has expanded into a trio, consisting of Scott Donovan (DJ/Producer), Corey King (drums) and Mike Chappell (guitar/bass). The group has only been a trio for less than half a year, but they have improved significantly over that time, tightening up and honing their own unique live experience. Bunk Buddha had a packed Soundstage raging their hearts out, heightening the anticipation for what was still to come.
Three men walk on stage to roaring applause from a properly warmed up crowd. The tall one in the middle introduces himself as Michael Travis and the drummer as Jason Hann. He proceeds to explain that together they are EOTO, and they just like to get on stage and mess around, 100% live improve electronic music. He continues to explain that Mike Rempel, the guitarist for Lotus, thought it was a cool idea and decided to join them for a few shows. “So, let’s get to it,” he finishes… and we’re off!
Travis is surrounded by keyboards, synths and sampling equipment. Throughout the evening, he meticulously and strategically works his way around every single one of these pieces of equipment. He even pulls out a bass guitar every once in a while to throw down some funky low end. Hann drums tirelessly, never missing a single beat, never dragging or speeding up. He also wears a headset with a microphone to produce live vocal samples, controlled by a console on his left… and yes, he drums with one hand while controlling his vocals. Rempel willingly joins in on this cabaret improvised bass music, switching between his guitar and production software. Meanwhile, as these three incredibly talented musicians work their way into an initial groove, the lights gradually become more and more intense.
The music itself is on a whole new level. These three gentlemen have honed their crafts with such an intense fervor and desire that it truly shows in every show. Now, there are many people in the world who hear “electronic music” and immediately turn up their noses and dismiss any notion of “real music.” They say that these people are just pressing play and that the resulting emissions are just noise, not music. These people have not seen EOTO. While there are many mainstream electronic musicians who have been accused of some of these notions, I would personally argue that EOTO works harder on stage than almost any other musicians in the world. It is consistent, yet ever evolving, electronic, yet live, grounded, yet ecstatic. The deep, rumbling bass permeates the room, delving into the hearts of every single person in the room and spreading throughout their bodies until dancing becomes inevitable.
All three of these gentlemen, of course, have significant practice in building a set, so it comes as no surprise that this show was built like a journey, winding down different paths but never straying from its course. As the set built up in energy, so did the laser light show enhance its impact on the experience. By set break, the lasers were so intense that I felt like I could reach out and touch them. The second set only continued to amaze as the lights formed shapes around the stage and blasted the crowd with visual stimulation. 
EOTO most certainly did not disappoint. Baltimore Soundstage came out to party, packed out the venue and raged hard, and EOTO gave us exactly what we wanted. Mike Rempel added a subtly unique aspect to this EOTO experience, noticeable but not overindulgent. It was an exquisite collaboration that I’m sure EOTO fans would love to see again. We do not know, however, if the collaboration will ever see the stage together again, so as of now, it remains a one-of-a-kind experience for anyone who caught one of these shows. Thank you EOTO, and thank you Soundstage, for providing a truly unique and insanely epic live music experience.
Words and Photos: Randy Harris
 ©Grateful Music LLC

Sunday, November 15

"Healing with Music: In the Wake of Paris"

"Healing with Music: In the Wake of Paris"

Russell's Round Room

Music guides us, binds us, takes us through our darkest hours, and accompanies us through our greatest triumphs. It's our therapy through tragedy, and our soundtrack through serenity. And on Friday evening, as music lovers perished, it was brutally besieged. In this age when terror attacks have become a daily possibility, and many of us have numbed ourselves to the specter of these catastrophes hitting home, a concert venue being the target of such hate chills us to the bone. Our sanctuary, our abode on the road, where we often find our truer selves, where we transcend the monotony of daily existence, has been breached by the blood and fury of those with the express mission to spread dread. Yet while music was viciously violated this night, it will be the very thing that heals us in the end.

No doubt upon hearing of this attack, many of us briefly envisioned what it would be like in such a scenario, as it isn't a stretch to put ourselves in the shoes of the Eagles of Death Metal fans, crew, and band members at their Friday night concert at the Bataclan. Fear is natural, and is the direct goal of a terror event, driven home as this particular strike hit six different public spheres throughout Paris. We may feel unease upon our first entrance into a music venue after this attack, but France will recover from this tragedy, as our distress will pass. In marching through our fear, the music will heal our misgivings on the other side. As we trust in the melody to get us through, our resolve as a collective will help us move on.

Music is my therapy, and in a live setting it's superbly intensive. Whatever social anxiety, shyness, or melancholia I sometimes experience on the outside is quickly shed afar at a live music gathering. When I get confused and listen to the music play, my ills often melt away. Now today as some of us are likely agonizing over a sense of innocence that's been lost for our greatest escape, we try to make sense of the nonsensical. As live music has been the soundtrack that has kept our lives in motion all these years, this attack appears as a personal affront to our very way of being. Many of us happen to be the best versions of ourselves when taking in music firsthand with our loved ones. And as we contemplate and process these events, our transcendent selves will reign supreme, as we preserve our therapeutic outlet, and that outlet maintains us.

While everyone processes tragedy differently, we should aim to let the music heal, as it has always done. Let us walk through the despair together at our next live music event. Let us use this tragedy as a reminder of the privilege we sometimes take for granted, the honor to see our favorite musicians year after year in safety. Let's look out for each other on our musical journeys, and while we've always done this, let’s pay extra special attention to those around us, and lend helping hands when we can. We never know when danger is around the corner, so lets be cautious, but as it's sometimes unavoidable, let's live it up in the moment, traversing our trepidation, one show at a time, with each other.

Let's project those good vibes when we can, because in the end positive energy will outweigh the negative, if we let it. And through the music positivity reigns freely. Never will terrorists’ hell bent on disturbing our way of life take away our hymns and harmonies. As long as humans roam the earth, there will be live tunes to absorb. It could be the cockroaches and a couple of us, and we'll figure a way to make music. Music is inbred in our souls. We take as much a part in creating it as it does in shaping our lives and our surroundings. No one can take that away from us. Ever. Music is our binding force, music is our home. As Mickey Hart poignantly said in response to these attacks, "music is the best healing agent we know." Music is our lifeblood, one of our quintessential reasons for being, and it can never be silenced.

Words: Russell S. Glowatz

Wednesday, November 11

Photo Gallery: Zach Deputy and the Hashtags with The Hornitz - Highline Ballroom - 11/5/2015

 The Hornitz opened the night, Zach Deputy played 1 solo set and 1 with the Hashtags featuring a sit in from the Hornitz.  Here are the photos from the night

Photos: Mike Geller

 ©Grateful Music LLC

Thursday, November 5

Preview: EOTO & Friends feat. Mike Rempel

Only one word comes to mind when I think of EOTO: epic! Live improvisational dubstep that transcends any and all connotations of the “norm.” In order to properly prepare for such musical madness, we must first release all preconceptions we may have of dubstep and electronic music, or even live music in general. This is a whole new level. Made up of the duet of Michael Travis and Jason Hann (the dynamic rhythm section of The String Cheese Incident), EOTO has been constantly pushing boundaries and exploring new musical territories over the past decade.
The addition of Mike Rempel (Lotus) on this leg of the tour provides an air of excitement and exclusivity. While it is no surprise that their two separate, devoted scenes have quite a bit of a crossover, the announcement came fairly unexpected and definitely raised a few eyebrows! Rempel is often undeservedly left out of the discussion of the great guitarists in today’s live music scene. Recently, he has been on top of his game, however, and the transition from Lotus to EOTO should be no problem for the veteran livetronic guitarist.
This Friday, November 6, EOTO invades the Baltimore Soundstage in Baltimore, MD. Soundstage has hosted a wide variety of artists over the years spanning almost every genre imaginable. From electronic music to bluegrass and rock & roll to hip hop, this venue has seen it all. Those who have not visited Baltimore tend to overlook the fact that the Charm City is truly a melting pot for musical genres. Soundstage is located in the heart of Market Place, less than a block from the Pier and surrounded by some of the best party spots in the city. Maryland natives Highland and Bunk Buddha will open up the show.
EOTO kicked off their tour last night in Charlottesville and bangs out a four-night run with Remple through Philadelphia, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The tour continues with a string of dates with Keller Williams the following weekend and a final leg of pure EOTO to wrap things up, including their highly anticipated EOTOWEEN in Lawrence, KS. Check out for full tour dates, and make sure to head over to the Grateful Music Facebook page for your chance to win two tickets to Friday’s show in Baltimore!

Words: Randy Harris

Saturday, October 31

Festival Review: The 19th Annual Magnolia Fest - Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park - Oct 15th-18th, 2015 - Live Oak, FL

Along a 3-mile stretch of the Suwannee River, near Live Oak, Florida, the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park plays host to dozens of music events and thousands of campers every year. Every fall, people come for Magnolia Fest. Over 4 days, festivalgoers camp and enjoy ‘round-the-clock live music, food, and festy fun in a beautiful and family friendly environment. The 2015 lineup included Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Avett Brothers, The Del McCoury Band, Donna the Buffalo, Rebirth Brass Band, The Applebutter Express, The Motet, Nikki Talley, and on, and on. For Americana, roots rock, bluegrass, funk, and folk fans, this festival was a sonic buffet.

This is my review of the whole festival. There are reviews of a lot of the bands, and if that’s all you’re looking for, skim on down just a little and keep your eyes peeled for capital letters.

Like a lot of you I’m a parent, and in a relationship I have no plan to not be in. If I can find a music-related event that is family-friendly and I can make an annual vacation out of, I’ve found something worth keeping. Magnolia Fest is that fall family vacation trip. From the time I got out of the truck at the park office to the last time I touched Suwannee soil, I never worried about what anyone else was going to do, never second-guessed my wallet--I never didn’t smile. In fact, I never had a moment of anxiety.
On Thursday we checked out the park and got familiarized with where everything was. Well, not everything - the park is huge - but a lot. Moving from band to band and exploring, my brother and I logged more than 6 miles between 5 and 11.

There were families with children of every age there, but it didn’t feel like I was overrun by a bunch of heathens cut loose in Walmart. Families seemed to stick to a common area at each stage, and the kids were all pretty well behaved.

We did find the heathens, though. Between 6 and 7, Band of Heathens was a good band for me to start the weekend off with. The Congress and The Corbitt Brothers were both good, too. I didn’t catch the entire set of either, but I wouldn’t thumbs down what I did hear.

Thursday’s real standout for me was The Motet. They threw a 75-minute disco-funk dance party. The 7-piece band includes drums, bass, guitar, and keys as well as trumpet, sax, and percussion. Their sound was tight enough to make the crowd get loose. I’ll be listening to them more in the future.

It was getting chilly and we were exhausted, so we didn’t catch Nikki Talley or Lake Street Dive, though we could hear Talley and husband Jason until we laid down and passed out.
Friday came and on the short walk to the porta potty I was greeted with smiles from people of all ages. After a check of the schedule, we had a loose plan for the day. From our campsite, we could hear Grits & Soul and Mojo Gurus, but it wasn’t until The Applebutter Express went on at 1:30 in the Music Hall that we actually went to see a set. Folks, I am glad we went to that show. Those guys, and gal, are now one of my favorite bands. Their bluegrassy, ukulele-funk (that’s right) river music was like home. It was fun, the stories were great, and it was easy to listen to. I’ve since sought them out on social media, YouTube, and Spotify. I’ll be listening to them for a long while.

Col. Bruce Hampton sat through a solid set followed by the Del McCoury Band. Del is one of those icons who, when you have an opportunity, you’re obliged to see perform live. That’s OK. He’s a class act and a gentleman on stage. He and his bandmates enjoy what they’re doing, and it comes through to the rest of us in the form of beautifully harmonized, old-timey bluegrass stories followed by more of the same.

Next, we caught most of The Travelin’ McCourys’ set. Just like their daddy, these McCourys bring the bluegrass thunder, but with a modern twang.

Tedeschi Trucks Band headlined Friday night. I’d seen Tedeschi and Trucks before, but it’s only been in the last 2 years or so that I’ve really started to appreciate them. Susan Tedeschi has a beautiful, soulful voice and Derek Trucks plays guitar with a passion and intensity not many can match. Both Susan and Derek give me chills and tingly feelings. This show was no exception.

For 2 hours, the band entertained and mesmerized us with songs like “The Storm,” “Break in the Road,” “I Want More,” “Idle Wind,” and “Midnight In Harlem.” There were well done covers like “With A Little Help from My Friends” and The Box Tops’ “The Letter.”

Amped up on guitar licks, we headed to the late show, another booty shaking set from The Motet. The clock read 1:30, but we knew the night wasn’t over; far from it. Earlier in the day, we learned about a place in the woods where the music doesn’t stop until the sunrise reminds everyone to sleep.
Slopryland FLA
More than 100 jack-o-lanterns hung from the trees and the gentle sound of picking and bowing came through the trees. Back there, tucked away from the stages, among campfires, a few open tents, and a shrine to bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, the new legends of bluegrass and americana drink and hone their skills. Names and band affiliations don’t matter in Slopryland. What is important there is passion. It’s skill.

My time in Slopryland was transformative in ways that I still don’t fully understand. Listening to music in that setting felt good; it felt right and natural. Raw. I was reminded of the Old Crow Medicine Show song “Doc’s Day.” I imagine this was what the old hillbilly was talking about when he said “Back in Deep Gap, I’m a’tellin’ ya’ mister, we’d be rockin’ from dusk ‘til dawn.”

In the pre-dawn light, as we walked back to our campsite, it wasn’t the upcoming Avett Brothers or Donna the Buffalo shows I was thinking about. I was already thinking about Saturday night’s adventure in Slopryland.
Sometime before noon, I opened my eyes and took a deep breath of Saturday. I felt refreshed and knew why. We sat outside and people-watched for a good while. Occasionally, I would see something that made me smile even bigger than what was comfortable. It was kind of like a natural version of that chemical-induced permagrin many of you are familiar with. Children enjoying music; an artist casually walking by, hey, isn’t that Lyndsay Pruett?; an act of chivalry--the best of human kindness was on display, and I was watching the whole show.

Throughout the day we caught pieces of The Corbitt Brothers, Col. Bruce Hampton, and Steep Canyon Rangers. By 6:00 we had settled in at the Meadow Stage. Coming up were the Rebirth Brass Band, Jeff Austin Band with Jon Stickley, and The Avett Brothers.

Did you know the Rebirth Brass Band is a Grammy Award winning group? They’ll tell you somewhere about every other song. Modesty is not a skill they practice, boasting their name in many of their songs. Rebirth is kind of like the Kanye West of New Orleans brass.

Fortunately, the Jeff Austin Band played to let us know how great they were instead of just telling us. This was a mix of musicians overflowing with ability. The picking, strumming, plucking, and slapping were among the best I saw the whole weekend. Of course, I’m a big Jon Stickley fan, but I would have enjoyed this set with another, equally talented, guitarist in his place. These guys had a good time.

By the time The Avett Brothers took the stage I was ready. I was a fan, but I’d never seen them live. These folks are performers. Showmen. The talent is there, but there’s also a stage presence and command of the audience that’s not all that common in the genre. They put on one helluva good show, too. The third song they played was the John Denver favorite, “Thank God I’m A Country Boy.” Other highlights from their show included “Go to Sleep,” “Winter in My Heart,” “Murder in the City” “Distraction #74,” “Die, Die, Die,” “Vanity,” “Hand Me Down Tune,” and “The D Bag Rag.”

Zang! I was pumped. I was also out of beer, so I headed to the trading post to pick up a 12 of Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. On the way out the gate, on the way to the trading post, I asked the gatekeeper if I could bring the contraband back in. I was told no, but I was also told how to circumvent the gate by means of the “hippie trail.” It was a haul, but an adventure, finding my way in the dark around the outskirts of the venue and back to my cooler.

The late show was one of my favorite bands, the roots heroes Donna the Buffalo. Tara, Jeb, et al. didn’t disappoint. They never do.

After Donna’s last note, we made the trek into the woods, back to Slopryland. When we were walking up we came upon a guy riding a bike through the sand. He said something and I replied with a joke which caused him to laugh and crash. According to him, it was his first time on a bicycle. It took several attempts to get him back up and rolling. In the end, he rode off into the darkness to find whatever adventure he was looking for.

Saturday in Slopryland was as special, if not more, as Friday. In attendance were Nikki Talley and Lyndsay Pruett. That voice and fiddle combination sent me spinning. Knowing this would be our last night in the woods, my brother and I stayed until the sunrise was undeniable.

Sunday arrived and, to our displeasure, we had to break camp and begin the trip back to our regular lives. Next time, I will be sure to take Monday off of work so that I can stay for Sunday’s fun. On Sunday, many of the artists who are still on site join the headliners, Donna the Buffalo, on stage for their closing set. Afterward, the party in the woods culminates with all of the leftover bottles and raw, improvised jams until Monday’s sun shines.

Magnolia Fest is for the fall. It’s a farewell to summertime music festivals and I’ll be back, but Springfest is just months away. I’ll be there, will you?

Words: Dan Fugate

©Grateful Music LLC

Keepers of the Flame: Review - Melvin Seals & JGB, Brooklyn Bowl, 10/23/2015

Walking into Brooklyn Bowl on Friday night, one was struck with a mellow mood. Tip-top tunes from the opening act filled the intimate venue, and the multitudes milled about imbibing in choice brews, gobbling up good food, and mingling with positive people. The New York based Turbine is an exceptional jam band, and those that showed up early received a surprise treat as they laid down lick after lick loosening up the crowd for the night to come. As the main event approached, fresh folks filed into Peter Shapiro's flagship venue. Part bowling alley, part concert hall with a bar and grill, Brooklyn Bowl has the makings of an adult playground, perfectly conducive to communal carousing. As the venue never reached critical capacity this night, there was copious dancing space for the crowd to let loose, and once the melodies started flowing, the audience took every opportunity to spread their wings and fly.

Opening the night with a high energy "How Sweet It Is", the band quickly set the mood they would maintain for the duration, as this show was consistently tasty through on through. Melvin and company are masters at executing tight knit sets, and this was no exception as the ensemble sailed smoothly from Cats Under the Stars into a transcendent "They Love Each Other". At this point an audience member remarked that if one could figure out a way to bottle and distribute what JGB pushes, it'd be the answer to all the world's ills. As time seemed to dematerialize and everyone was squarely in the moment, the band pushed onward, wrapping up the first set with back-to-back Bob Dylan covers. On Positively 4th Street and Tangled up in Blue, Dave Herbert successfully channeled the spirit of Jerry Garcia through mammoth guitar riffs and first-class vocals. All throughout the performance, one needn't a time machine to travel back to the days of Jerry. With a closed set of eyes, and a little imagination, it didn't take a stretch to find yourself at a Jerry Garcia Band show of yesteryear.  
The energy was consistent throughout the second set, and a version of "If I Had the World to Give" highlighted the versatility of the players as they continued to hone in on the Grateful Dead catalogue. When walking into a Melvin Seals & JGB show, one may expect to see a glorified cover band, however Melvin and his crew capture the essence of Jerry's music, while attacking it with improvisation, and freshness not often seen from a tribute act. Dave Herbert not only follows in Jerry's tracks via voice, and guitar playing, he adds his own panache in keeping things crisp and unparalleled. Shirley Starks and Cheryl Rucker bring vivacity and vigor to their vocals, adding depth to the mix. Pete Lavezzoli on drums, and John-Paul McLean on bass keep the pace and act as the glue that bounds the collective together. With Melvin, aptly nicknamed by Jerry "Master of the Universe," at the center, carrying the legacy of Garcia's solo work forward with fast driven, intensely soulful arrangements on the Hammond B-3 organ, and keyboard.
Not forgetting an essential part of the evening’s success, the crowd was an equal part of the whole. While a smoothly intense improvisational experience is a prerequisite of an energetic and spirit driven crowd, a good audience often drives the band as well. This give and take between a group of players and their congregates was so profoundly present for this happening. After a long week of hitting the grind and putting food on the table these cats came to party, and they were met with a band willing to throw down and provide the musical therapy they so sorely needed. For the older heads, this show was a stroll down memory lane, a reunion with familiar mugs and melodies. For the younger, initiated after the Jerry years, this was a chance to tap into what was largely lost before they came of age. Those that have taken in the band before danced and twirled relishing the opportunity to lose themselves in musical meditation.
And a solid handful of folks that showed up to the Brooklyn Bowl on Friday night were not specifically there for the music, rather the bar and social scene. One such person intrigued by what he was hearing ventured into the concert area to inquire about the riveting tunes run amuck. Soon he could be seen frolicking with glee, boogying uninhibited with the best of them. This is what Melvin Seals & JGB does. They travel this nation spreading joy to the learned and newcomers alike. Their performances serve to light up the rooms they play, spurring dance parties at every stop. For this band of brothers and sisters, carrying the spirit of what's gone but not forgotten is their express mission. They take the tradition of Jerry's preeminent side project and bring with them the spirit of Garcia into the present day. So for a guaranteed good time at an all out super soulful psychedelic soiree, take a night to check out Melvin Seals and JGB when they travel to your neck of the woods.
Words: Russell S. Glowatz
Photos: Lori Bockelken

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