Category Archives: Festivals

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2017 (Weekend 1)

October 6, 7 & 8 for the first of two weekends, held as usual at Zilker Park. Pictured above: Pumarosa.


Austin City Limits Music Festival debuted a lot of new things this year: new layout, new security, new foods, new drinks, new ticket levels, etc. Some worked great, some didn’t. But it was nice to see all of the changes. Best of which being the new layout.

The park now has so much more breathing room and attendees can actually enjoy the music at a crowded stage without the interference of the other nearby stages. And even though the lineup this year wasn’t the best in ACL history, there were some really great shows over the weekend.


The Wild Now – Cute and poppy.

ROMES – Trying too hard to be sexy.

The Band of Heathens – An Austin classic!

MISSIO – So much energy and enthusiasm, with a lot of Justin Timberlake vibes from lead singer.

The Lemon Twigs – Drummer was the most captivating of them all.

Crystal Castles – Trying too hard to be scary weird. Die Antwoord has that category covered.

Royal Blood – A solid rock’n’roll show!

Ryan Adams – As always, he delivered a solid performance. The unique thing about this show was that he had an announcer come out before he came on stage and asked the crowd to not use any flash, as Ryan suffers from Ménière’s disease. That started the show off on a pretty serious note. Things got more serious when Ryan confronted a fan who was recording the show and sounded like he had his flash on. Ryan cursed out the fan and told him we will all validate his presence here at the show so he doesn’t need that video to post online. He kept the stage almost completely dark for the entire show as well.

JAY-Z – He only played an hour, took a 20-minute break, came back for a single song encore, and left. Everyone seemed very confused, including other artists in the crowd.



Mobley – Mobley was the best surprise of the festival. Despite his opening time slot, he put on a great show with Headliner enthusiasm.

CAPYAC – Part of their act was making pancakes on stage and throwing them at the crowd. It worked. They got me to stay longer than I would’ve otherwise.

Ásgeir – A less poetic Bon Iver.

Grace VanderWaal – Mini Taylor Swift with a giant voice. As a 13-year-old, she had more stage presence than most adult artists out there.

A$AP Ferg – He got the crowd going with his beats but it seemed like 2pm might have been too early of a time slot for him, as he paced the stage like he was still trying to wake up.

LĪVE – Simply amazing. They rocked the stage like 20-year-olds, not like a band that’s been together for over 3 decades. So much energy, enthusiasm, love for their art, and appreciation for the fans.

ICE CUBE – He was hardcore until he asked the crowd if they’ve seen his hit movie Straight Outta Compton and if they wanted “gangster”. He, then, proceeded with “let’s give them gangster.” Sadly, none of which felt remotely authentic or gangster.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Chili Peppers were once a great band but now they seem to be just bored. Every show in the past several years have been the exactly replica of each other. Very little crowd interaction, heavily filtered Jumbotron footage, same quick transitions between songs.



Bibi Bourelly – Perhaps most famous for writing the Rhianna song “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Bibi’s performance of her own material proved to be authentic and raw.

Raging Fyah – Energetic, enthusiastic and a lot of fun!

Milky Chance – Somehow, Milky Chance managed to sing all of their songs in the same exact way in the same exact tone…again. It’s very difficult to even tell where one song ends and the other begins with them. Snooze fest.

Run The Jewels – Simply kicked ass.

Vance Joy – Great, fun show.

Portugal. The Man – They kept the stage almost completely dark the entire show. The sign at the beginning of the show stated that they will not be engaging with the audience during the show, and they did keep their promise by systematically running through all of their songs.

Gorillaz – They put on a big production but it didn’t seem like there was much heart there. Still a pretty good show, though!


2017 Americana Music Festival & Conference 9/12 – 9/17, Nashville

“Now that’s Americana!” This year’s festival and conference offers more to adore. View a photo gallery following the text.


If the Americana Festival and Conference proves anything, it’s that anything and everything born of genuine roots can be classified as Americana. It doesn’t matter whether it originates from the heartland, the swamps of the south, the outer reaches of California, the mountains of Appalachia, or as far afield as the Australian outback and the urban and rural expanses of the U.K. A showcase for literally hundreds of acts, each competing for attention in more than three dozen venues, various onsite events, as well as assorted record shops, restaurants and boutiques, it challenges attendees to figure out how to place themselves in several locations at the same time, a daunting proposition given the fact that music occurs simultaneously and decisions must be made.

Not surprisingly then, the Americana Music Festival is ideal for those with quick attention spans, eagerness and impatience. For all others, it takes planning, sound strategy, dexterity and a willingness to make the most of five days filled with ongoing entertainment. In exchange, it offers the opportunity to see both icons and artists of international stature, a diverse contingent that this year alone included Van Morrison, Graham Nash, Jason Isbell, Emmylou Harris, The Blind Boys of Alabama, John Prine, Robert Cray, Kasey Chambers, Colin Hay, Robyn Hitchcock, Shelby Lynne, Allison Moorer, Jon Langford, and Lee Ann Womack, to name but a scant few.

It’s a large and durable umbrella, this thing they call Americana, and summing it up succinctly is an impossible feat even for those with broad imaginations. As artist and compere Jim Lauderdale is fond of saying, “Now that’s Americana!”

While every day and evening boasts highlights of every description, the awards presentation on the second night of the fest is one of the most prestigious music ceremonies one might ever witness. Simply put, it rivals anything the Grammys have to offer, at least as far as coolness is concerned. Where else can you catch Graham Nash harmonizing with the Milk Carton Kids on an old Every Brothers chestnut or John Prine doling out honors to an emotional Iris Dement and before joining her for a duet? With a house band led and directed by the great Buddy Miller — absent this year but ably subbed for by the equally prolific Larry Campbell — there are stars galore crowding the legendary Ryman stage.

That said, the Americana Festival does not differentiate between artist and enthusiast. Hanging out at an event like the Compass Records annual open house or spending the evening enjoying a live broadcast of the syndicated show Music City Roots at the Yee-Haw tent practically guarantees you’ll run into someone of renown. We found that to be true even on arrival, courtesy of a luncheon with John Oates, who was as amicable as anyone can be while promoting a new project. Likewise, there’s little in the way of barriers between back stage and front, and during our stay, we had opportunity to chat with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kasey Chambers, Colin Hay, Willie Nile, Jonathan Byrd, and Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars. Everyone is especially gracious in these relaxed environs, allowing for especially cool connections.

Aside from the idols, the festival provides a great opportunity to catch artists on the way up. We were fortunate enough to see the young Aussie duo Falls, whose sweet harmonies and bewitching melodies prove nothing less than utterly enticing. Two young Americans from Austin Texas, Max Gomez and David Ramirez, were equally worthy of attention, two strong singer songwriters with an authority and presence that extends far beyond their relatively modest ages. Three rockier ensembles, Deer Tick, Band of Heathens and Reckless Kelly literally shook the rafters in their own individual performances, while Matthew Ryan, normally calm and composed on record, showed he could also rock with a ferocity that had the crowd taking notice. There were numerous others as well — The Wild Ponies, a husband wide duo that served up superb songs from their new Galax, the amazingly talented songstress Becky Warren and extraordinarily entertaining Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboy, an ever-exuberant Korby Lenker, and a superb Scotsman Dean Owens, all of whom proved themselves well worthy of recognition. Those on an exploratory mission will always find ample rewards.

Indeed, then it comes to rising stars, the English and the Aussies are especially well represented. Each contingent host showcases that are consistent must-sees. The Bootleg BBQ in particular, held on the back lawn of The Groove record store, becomes one of the best attended events of the festival. Sponsored by the British Underground, it’s an outstanding opportunity to spotlight some of Britain’s most dynamic up and coming artists within the umbrella of international Americana. This year, the dynamic and irrepressible Yola Carter, sisterly trio Wildwood Kin and the charismatic Danni Nicholls were among those that wowed the crowd, with special guests Angaleena Presley ensuring the connection between the U.K. and the U.S.A. remains as unbreakable a bond as always. There were also star sightings — with Jim Lauderdale checking out the action and Indigo Girl Amy Ray braving the heat and obviously enjoying the entire afternoon. And the barbecue ain’t bad either.

While entertainment is a priority for most, it ought to be noted that Festival and Conference also offers educational opportunities. The Country Music Hall of Fame provides an ongoing series of themed exhibits that trace the music’s evolution from past to present, and during the festival, there are special gatherings well worth attending. Two in particular were an intimate discussion and acoustic performance from Allison Moorer and her sister Shelby Lynne, who were celebrating the release of their first collaborative effort, and a program devoted to Southern Roots, specifically, a salute to the legacy of the late Gregg Allman and his band of brothers.

When all is said and done, the Americana Fest is most appreciated as an opportunity to immerse oneself in the best the genre has to offer. It offers a chance to stay ahead of the curve, to be a part of a musical movement that’s making its impact worldwide. Ultimately, it’s a community, one that provides opportunity to make new friends, reconnect with old friends and share in the celebration of sound with immense populist appeal.

Indeed, as Mr. Lauderdale sums it up so succinctly, “Now that’s Americana!”


Marty Stuart getting the Duo/Group of the Year Award at  The 16th Annual AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium on 9/13/17

Webb Wilder at NPR Music Live from the YeeHaw Tent on 9/15/17

Lindi Ortega at The Bootleg BBQ at The Groove, Nashville on 9/16/17

Yola Carter at The Bootleg BBQ at The Groove, Nashville on 9/16/17

Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboy at The Station Inn, Nashville on 9/15/17

Angaleena Presley at The Bootleg BBQ at The Groove, Nashville on 9/16/17

The Falls from Australia at SoulShine Pizza Factory, Nashville 9/16/17

A.J Croce at Compass Records 9/13/17

Sam Outlaw at Mercy Lounge, Nashville 9/13/17

Harrow Fair at Outlaws and Gunslingers Luncheon at the American Legion Post 82, Nashville 9/14/17

Jim Lauderdale at The Music City Roots at the YeeHaw Tent, Nashville 9/14/17

Ray Wylie Hubbard at NPR Music Live from the YeeHaw Tent 9/15/17

Taasha Coates at A Taste of Australia at the Filming Station, 9/15/17

Kasey Chambers at A Taste of Australia at the Filming Station 9/15/17

Poco’s Rusty Young at the Filming Station, Nashville 9/15/17


Colin Hay At City Winery, Nashville 9/12/17

John Oates & Lee Ann Womack at AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Winning the Emerging Artist of the Year Award – Amanda Shires @AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Graham Nash and The Milk Carton Boys at AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires performing at AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Emmylou Harris at AmericanaFest Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium 9/13/17

Lukas Nelson at Cannery Ballroom, Nashville 9/13/17

Whitney Rose at Outlaws and Gunslingers Luncheon at the American Legion Post 82 9/14/17






Riot Fest 9/15-16-17/17, Chicago

Dates: September 15, 16 & 17, 2017

Location: Douglas Park, Chicago IL

The scene of the 3-day crime was Douglas Park, and Detective Bruce was on the crime scene immediately to document the bloodshed. (Go HERE to check out more of her photos.) They may still be cleaning up the mosh pit area….



Another September, another excellent Riot Fest ran this past Friday to Sunday in Chicago. Under sunny (but at times really, really hot) skies, crowds took over Douglass Park, raring to get its rock on. A number of bands played seminal records in full like Dinosaur Jr (You’re Living All Over Me), Mighty Mighty Bosstones (Let’s Face It), Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)), among others. But the big, special, super cool, and awesome highlight was what Riot Fest always seems to do best, and that’s to get a seminal band to reunite and close out the weekend. This year, it was Jawbreaker. One of the best summations of the show was by music critic Dan Ozzi who tweeted, “People tweeting about the Emmys like Jawbreaker didn’t just put a hole in the fuckin earth.”

 Here’s a bit about what we saw at Riot Fest 2017:

Day 1

American Airlines lost part of my luggage, so much of the day on Friday was spent waiting for its return then, recreating my bag at CVS when it failed to show. (FYI: CVS in Chicago sells liquor and wine, who knew!) As such, we only got a couple acts in for Day 1, but boy, were they mighty.


“Hey Chicago, nice to be home,” said Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen, who grew up there. It was kind of surreal seeing a band like Ministry play any other time but the dead of night somewhere, but the heaviness and political commentary that Jourgensen is known for was out in full force. I found myself wondering if he has a bear of a time going through security scanners at the airport (LOTS of piercings).

New Order

The crowd for New Order was delighted that the band filled half of its 11-song set with the popular stuff like “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and songs from popular records like Power, Corruption, and Lies and Substance 1987. Lead singer Bernard Sumner’s voice is still strong, a lulling force atop the electronic lullabies for which the band is famous. They didn’t play it all safe though, pulling out “Ultraviolence,” a song Sumner said they hadn’t played in a long time, in spite of it having to be stopped and restarted to adjust guitarist Phil Cunningham’s guitar. Bathed in blue light with photos of what looked like Manchester showing behind them, Sumner also gave a nod to his old band, Joy Division, at the start and end of the set, with “Disorder” and then “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” I’m sure the young 20-something I saw bawling during the latter was not the only one in the crowd doing so.

Nine Inch Nails

NIN was the headliner for night one, and lead man Trent Reznor made sure it was dramatic throughout. From a kicked over keyboard over at the end of the first song (“Branches/Bones”), to the live debut of “The Backward World,” to “The Day the World Went Away” played for the first time in four years, Reznor and the band filled all of Douglass Park with keyboard and bass sounds. He even included a unique cover, David Bowie’s “I Can’t Give Everything Away” from Blackstar. It was all as loud and lovely and bombastic a set as you could want.


Day 2:

Probably the highest in high energy of all three days, it was full of punk, funk, and dancing gypsies.


Seeing Fishbone live is a better kick to the nervous system than three cups of coffee and 38 Red Bulls combined, so why wouldn’t one kick off Day 2 with something so awesome? Their combination of punk, funk, and soul has long been copied, but nothing can ever touch the original that is the mighty Fishbone.


I’ve never been much for electronica music but Peaches is so much more than just that; she’s part performance art, part DJ, plus, she can sing her ass off. Her “big fat vagina” as she called it, was the celebrated part of her set, from her head piece, to her backup dancer costumes, to her bodysuit adorned with pink fuzz in the correct spot. But it was obvious that women and men alike love Peaches-at one point, she walked atop the crowd’s hands like Jesus walking on water, without dropping a note. With songs like “Boys Wanna Be Her,” “Dick in the Air, and “Fuck the Pain Away,” it struck me that Peaches is to women what the music of the Afghan Whigs is to dudes-affirming, powerful, and sexy as all get out.


It’s been a few years since FIDLAR released a record, but, like all good things, time has only proven how much their straight-ahead punk rock sound has been missed. Always joyous and raucous live, Saturday afternoon’s set was fast, loud, and animated. Lead singer Zac Carper looks healthy and sounds great, and made the large Riot stage area as intimate as a little LA club. “Wake, Bake, Skate” live is still a blast to hear.

Bad Brains

If anyone proves the power of “having that PMA,” for 40 years, it’s the Bad Brains. Given the recent health scares of lead singer H.R. (brain surgery in Feb) and guitarist Dr. Know (cardiac arrest in 2015), D.C.ers like myself were more than a little concerned that the sun had set on one of our most cherished local bands. But their show on Saturday proved all was well, in spite of less than stellar stage sound. A young second guitarist, apparently, the grandson of musician Richie Havens, played lead with Dr. Know throughout the set, and Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe joined the band at the end for “Big Takeover,” “The Regulator,” and “Redbone in the City.”

Mike D (DJ set)

Mike D used his set to give Chicago a little musical geography lesson about NYC, rapping and talking as his DJ spun the originals of artists from each borough. He started with his hometown of Manhattan using the Beastie Boys “Sabotage.” Queens was represented by Run DMC, to which he said, “”We couldn’t have done what we did without this next band from Hollis, Queens, Run DMC. RIP Mr. Jam Master.” Brooklyn got the biggest cheers though with Jay Z’s “99 Problems” and the Beastie’s “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” home of another Beastie Boy, MCA.

Gogol Bordello

Going from NYC rap to Ukrainian gypsy punk by way of NYC in the form of Gogol Bordello as the sun was setting was slightly surreal and perfect. The dancing onstage and off was so frenzied, I half expected to someone to spontaneously combust at some point. With members and influences from all over the world, Gogol Bordello remains the craziest live show in town.

At the Drive In

No less powerful was At the Drive In. Lead singer Cedric Bixler jumped off the drum set and threw his body about the Roots stage so hard, you know bruises the next day were eminent. The majority of the set came from Relationship of Command rather than the new record, in*ter a*li*a, and, if you’re wondering, Bixler’s voice seems to be back and in stellar form.


The bluesy, swampy rock that is Queens of the Stone Age was hard-driving and perfect way to cap off Day 2. Lead singer Josh Homme rocked, and rolled, and even gave the audience a rendition of Danzig’s “Mother” which was frankly, better than the original.


Day 3:

A little less punk, a little more post punk pogo!


Beach Slang

The things we learned about Beach Slang lead singer James Alex in their 12:40 PM set that kicked off Day 3:

-He’d been drinking since early that day

-He does better with straws (in a drink)

-No guitar can hold him

-He somehow doesn’t pass out wearing a buttoned-up tuxedo shirt and a corduroy jacket in direct 86 degree sunlight

-He knows how to play a cover that will win your heart (“Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill” by Grant Hart)

Hot Water Music

Lead singer Chuck Ragan’s voice is one of those that as soon as you hear it, you know who it is. You had to smile as that sandpaper scrubbed growl bounced off the Ferris wheel and hit you back again.

Mighty Bosstones (Performing Let’s Face It)

Ska music never really goes out of style, it just merges with other styles to take on a different form. 90s ska was infused with a bit more post punk than before, and a major force of that was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Let’s Face It, lead singer Dicky Barrett and company brought the plaid, the killer horns, those great songs, and of course, their great stage dancing guy, Ben Carr, to get a whole new generation skanking to the Bosstones beat.

Minus the Bear

Minus the Bear? Minus the energy. Songs? Good. Stage presence? So so. Energy level? Zzzzz

GWAR (candids in the press area)

The minute GWAR walked into the press area in costume, they were surrounded by everyone and their cell phones requesting to take a photo (including TV on the Radio lead singer Tunde” Adebimpe, which was a wonderfully random  dichotomy). It got so that their handler had to ask that people stop so that they could actually attend their interviews. Once completed though, the band did hang out for a bit and posed for every last person who asked.

Built to Spill

Another band performing an anniversary record was Built to Spill, doing their fourth record, Keep it Like a Secret. They didn’t say much from the stage, but this post-punk version of a jam band didn’t have to; from the first incredible hooks of vocalist/guitarist Dough Martsch in “The Plan” to the ethereal trippiness of “Broken Chairs” was all you needed. Their performance made me fall in love all over again.


I’ve photographed TV on the Radio quite a few times since 2008, and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen them as energetic as Sunday’s set. (Seriously: Even the notoriously stationary guitarist Kyp Malone was pogoing about at times.) Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe jumped around and swayed so much it was like he was trying to exorcise any nearby demons straight into the ether. And, based on the scorching version of “Wolf Like Me” which closed the set, I’d say the exorcism was a total success.

Prophets of Rage

Tom Morello once told Rolling Stone about Prophets of Rage,  “We’re an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing.” And he wasn’t kidding. The sound was so intense coming off the Roots stage during their set  that even J. Mascis would have been jealous. Playing tracks by the collective bands that are represented in Prophets of Rage-Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill-had the capacity crowd pogoing in unison like they were at Glastonbury. The audience was so frenzied and so loud, especially during the “Fuck no, I won’t do what they tell me” chorus in the set ending “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine, I was certain that aliens on Mars were asking each other, “What the hell is that sound?” Make America Rage Again indeed.


Probably the first sign of how big a deal this Jawbreaker reunion was to people was seeing the sides of the Riot Stage prior to the set, all so packed with people standing to watch the show, it almost seemed dangerous. But this was a reunion few expected to happen. In front of a giant “Jawbreaker” curtain, the trio slammed into 15 tracks that sounded just as fresh today as they did 20-plus years ago, including  five that were last performed live between 1995 and 1996 (“Want,” Million,” “Parabola, “Kiss the Bottle,” and “Bivouac”). Much like at The Replacements show a few years ago, I ran out of fingers and toes counting the sheer number of bands playing today whose sound was obviously influenced by Jawbreaker. And the band seemed genuinely awed by the reception and thanked Riot Fest for making the reunion happen.”We are honored and humbled to be in your city. Dance and be nice,” said Jawbreaker lead singer Blake Schwarzenbach.


Boy, did that park dance.


Erica Bruce’s contact info and gallery of Riot Fest can be viewed HERE.

2017 Hopscotch Music Festival 9/7-8-9-10/17, Raleigh NC


Dateline: Raleigh, NC, where the coolest music festival in the Southeast goes down every September. Our man on the ground reports. Picture above: Metz, gettin’ purpleized…. Go HERE to view Shannon Kelly’s photo gallery from the fest.


Hopscotch went into its 8th run the extended weekend of September 7-10, and with it came the oh-so familiar cancellations, along with discovering new bands. The lineup included over 100 bands with familiar faces and local acts who packed downtown Raleigh with festival goers. This was the first year Hopscotch had utilized the Exhibit Hall A, aka “The Basement” in the Convention Center, where it is mostly known in years past as the area where Wristband City (where you pick up your wristband for the festival) and Posterscotch (a runway of local artists showing off their design skills in the format of posters and other goodies) were mounted. With all the lineup challenges, this was my journey through Hopscotch.



City Plaza was the first stop on the agenda to see local angel-voiced Skylar Gudasz. The plaza started to slowly build up as Skylar took the stage, some discovering her for the very first time while others were there to get into position for Big Thief and Margo Price. All three performers in City Plaza that night were fierce and knew what they came to do on stage. They all delivered with amazing results.

The night ended up being one of the bigger nights for the noise rock genre. The CAM was going to be the oasis for me. Before settling into that venue, I walked around peeking my head into venue after venue, discovering new music. Severed Fingers, with their bliss of fiery hot folk rock, blew me away, along with Schoolkids Records-The Label band, Happy Abandon of Chapel Hill, that had pleasantly packed the place. From there I headed over to CAM to stay put. From catching the heavily improvised set by Kayo Dot (due to some technical difficulties) to Metz closing out the night with their enormous wall of sound and performance, it was a good evening.



The second day of Hopscotch proved to be the biggest day for conflicts regarding seeing bands—especially during the later portion of the night. Kaytranda, Songs:Molina, Marie Davidson, Whores, and Protomartyr were all scheduled at the same time, and the biggest time slot of the night, with the surrounding time slots having hard-to-see conflicts as well. With a name like Hopscotch and your familiarity of the childhood game, this was the night to “scotch” all around, from catching the bass-heavy tunes in The Basement to The Afghan Whigs packing the house (and surprising the audience by bringing Sean Tillman, aka Har Mar Superstar, up onstage to perform the latest single “Demon in Profile” from their latest album “In Spades”).



As the weekend’s perfect weather continued for downtown Raleigh, Saturday was the day of discovery. Unfamiliar with a lot of the artists performing that day, I was led on a journey with a couple friends who had suggestions here and there. Early in the night we headed to City Plaza to watch the newish addition to the mumble rap movement “iLoveMakonnen,” but lo and behold, he had canceled the night prior and then was replaced by local hip hop artist Phonte (from the bands Foreign Exchange and Little Brother). With him sweeping the outside plaza off its feet, Phonte proved himself to be more than just a local act and an even better choice to open for Big Boi from Outkast.

We then traveled over to Red Hat Amphitheater to make sure that we had secured a spot for the most popular act of the weekend, Solange. Proving herself to be one of the best performers of the weekend by incorporating avant-garde dance performances and amazing solos done by her six-piece band. After the other disappointing cancellation from Jlin, filling the spot was a longer set from on-and-off Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Alessandro Cortini. For the performance most of the room sat on the floor and stared in awe at the projections and as he orchestrated massive sound from the back of the room. Ending the night, we were able to catch Lunice from TNGHT and Branchez at CAM. Lunice had the room dancing and swaying from side to side as he played numerous Kendrick Lamar remixed tracks and ending with a few TNGHT gems. After Lunice performed, Branchez took the stage and it was extremely lackluster—almost to the point where most of the crowd left to go catch the last bit of set from Machinedrum or wait in the line that wrapped around the block for Japanese Breakfast as they played in Neptune’s Parlour.



One of the more relaxing days was Sunday, as all of the acts performed at Red Hat. This was the first year that Hopscotch had added the 4th day to the schedule and they proved they could keep the party going. From Cloud Nothings to the local folk group Mount Moriah to an odd sounding set from Angel Olsen. She is known for having a compelling, if somewhat downcast, setlist, but with her guitar and vocals being oddly panned to the left for the performance, it was hard to keep focused on the singer and her band.

Overall, this was another great Hopscotch in the books. One can hope that they can continue the 4th day, though perhaps not at Red Hat but by incorporating the already Hopscotch sanctioned venues.

Incoming: 2017 Louder Than Life Festival

You still have three weeks to buy your tickets to the best damn festival of the year!


It is going to be the rock weekend you won’t forget—we’re talking, naturally, the annual Louder Than Life Festival, held in Louisville. Who else could bring you Ozzy, Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Mastodon, Prophets of Rage, Stone Sour, and many more! If the music wasn’t enough, throw in some man sized gourmet food and lots of Bourbons. (After all Louisville, KY is the heart of Bourbon country.) Some of this year’s sponsors include: Jack Daniels, Monster Energy, Zippo, and Miller Lite is of course onboard again this year.

See the full lineup on the poster above and go here for tickets and more info. See you there!

Editor’s Note: Mark Jackson (@markjacksonphotography1) has previously covered the event for BLURT. To read his reviews and check out his photo galleries:

Louder Than Life Festival 10/1-2/16, Louisville KY


Louder Than Life Festival 10/3-4/15, Louisville KY

MAKE AMERICA LOVE AGAIN: Annual LOCKN’ Festival 2017 8/24-27/17, Arrington VA

This year’s stellar event at Oakridge Farm was far more than the jam-band blowout it has typically been known for in previous years—in addition to stalwarts like Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule, moe., and String Cheese Incident, on hand were such disparate artists as Afro-beat provocateurs Antibalas, swamp-funk maestros JJ Grey & Mofro, country-pop songstress Brandi Carlile, and NC’s own Avett Brothers.


The fifth annual LOCKN’ music festival was held at the Oakridge Farm in Arrington, VA about 45 miles away from Charlottesville. Needless to say there was a whole lot of love and support flowing through these hills during the four-day event. So many musicians stood up and spoke about the tragic events and misfortune in Charlottesville a few weeks prior.

A lot of folks felt this part of the country needed healing and good vibes and that is exactly what LOCKN’ did. I did not see any acts of wrong doing—if anything, I witnessed so much love and kindness. There was so much good music, the scenery was beautiful; and fun times seem to be had by all. The following photo gallery is a glimpse of LOCKN’ 2017, and if you have not been before you may want to put this event on your radar, as it’s one of the things that actually does make America great. Or, as Keller Williams might put it, “Make America Love Again.”


BLURT contributor Willa Stein previously covered the 2015 LOCKN’ festival for us. To view more of the Raleigh-based photographer’s work or to contact her, visit her official website.


Jim James of My Morning Jacket


Billy Nershi from String Cheese Incident


Jorma Kaukonen, best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.


Brandi Carlile and Jim James


Bob Weir, Nicki Bluhm and Phil Lesh performing with the Terrapin Family Band.


Margo Price


Marcus King from The Marcus King Band


David Shaw from The Revivalists


Melvin Seals


One fan was clearly enjoying the show…


Warren Haynes, Phil Lesh and Ross James, Terrapin Family Band.


John Butler, John Butler Trio.


Fans (did we mention the fans?)


Classically trained pianist Holly Bowling performs at the Terrapin Station Porch.


Keller Williams sporting messages of “No time to Hate”, “Virginia is for Everyone” and “Make America Love Again”.


Dobro player extraordinaire, Anders Beck, Greensky Bluegrass.


Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes


Gov’t Mule with special guest Ann Wilson of Heart.


John Fogerty (you may have heard of his earlier band: Creedence Clearwater Revival).


Grahame Lesh, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh during the performance of Terrapin Station,  highlight of this year’s festival.


Joe Russo, Almost Dead


John Bell from Widespread Panic


Seth Avett, of the Avett Brothers


Bob Weir


Bon Iver Cancels Days Have No Numbers Festival


It’s not your your standard issue Fyre Festival, that’s for sure.

By Blurt Staff

Justin Vernon’s dad-rock extravaganza, the Days Have No Numbers Festival, that was slated for Riviera Maya, Mexico, next Jan. 21-25, has been cancelled with no explanation. Besides Bon Iver, among the slated performers were Sylvan Esso, POLIÇA, Francis And The Lights, Hiss Golden Messenger, Melt-Banana, Spank Rock, Aero Flynn, and Phil Cook. According to the official website full refunds are being processed and should arrive to ticketholders in 5-7 days.

Bonnaroo Music Festival 2017

Dates: June 8-11, 2017

Location: Manchester, Tennessee

This year’s event took place June 8th-11th in Manchester, TN, and featured, among many changes, an expanded Other stage.


The great music festival known as Bonnaroo took place Thursday June 8th thru Sunday night the 12th on “The Farm” in Manchester, TN. Bonnaroo turned Sixteen this year and it defiantly was a sweet sixteen! Bonnaroo has always been known and praised for its ability to put together a diverse lineup. This year might have been its most diverse year yet, and the attendance numbers – over sixty five thousand – seems to show the people approve.

This year they took the Other tent and turned it into a full-on open air stage just like the Which stage and the What stage. This new stage may have been part of the reason the festival attendance was up over last year as this stage catered to the electronic crowd. With such acts as Nghtmre, Herobust (below), and Marshmello Man (below), this stage keep the EDM crowd engaged and dancing with the most intense light shows and l.e.d. light boards that I have ever witnessed.

This year’s headliners included U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance the Rapper, and The Weeknd. This in itself is a very diverse lineup, but now add in the EDM acts, a ton of new and up and coming acts, and a little country just for good measure and you have yourself one hell of a good weekend.

Bonnaroo also has a ton of vendors of all types of food including vegan food, lots of drink options with Miller Lite (Cherokee Distributing) and Bacardi being huge sponsors this year. There were also lots of vendors of all types of goods such as earrings, festival wear and casual clothing, paintings, hammocks, and air capture loungers that seemed to be all the rage this year.

The weather was the best it has been in the last three years that I have been attending the festival, with the first three days being sunny and in the mid-80s during the day and around 60 at night. Sunday rose to the lower 90s but was bearable as I ducked in and out of the shade and was able to stay hydrated with lots of water filling station across the farm. Many people took advantage of the water fountain mushroom, as it was a great place to cool off each day.

The people are the main reason this is one if not the best festival of the year. You will see all kinds of unique characters as you venture across the grounds.

Once Centeroo opens on Thursday afternoon it doesn’t shut down, going twenty four hours a day until late Sunday night. The Silent Disco is an all out dance party where everyone wears headphones while the DJ plays the tunes goes on until 4 a.m., and The Jake and Snake Christmas Club Barn featured DJs all day until 6 a.m. The motto is “radiate positivity” and the people live it through out the festival. It is common for random people walking by to be high fiving everyone they pass by. What other festival could you step on someone’s foot and them apologize to you.

There were so many great bands this year, but a couple of standouts for me this year were Wilderado, Boyfriend, July Talk, and Tove Lo, plus Marshmello Man. (All are pictured below.)

This is just my guess, but I suspect that you will see Bonnaroo become two festivals in one next year and going forward. I say this because of the layout of the land, being so large and the spacing of the stages, as it is you could have an upscale of this years EDM lineup. The Other stage is now large enough to handle the large EMD crowds that it drew this year and could easily draw even more big names.

If they either built or converted one of the other tents in place and expanded the Christmas barn, this end would be a huge draw and be little to no reason for these festivalgoers to venture to the other end. I also heard rumors that there might be a Country Music Festival in the works. Why not? You have everything in place, so why not take advantage of the facilities for more than the one week a year. Being so close to Nashville, this could easily become a huge deal, but again this is just a rumor.

We will have to wait and see what happens with Bonnaroo, but either way I can’t wait until next year the dates have been set for June 7th-10th in 2018.

Follow my concert photography on Instagram @markjacksonphotography1


Big Gigantic

Big Jesus

Charlotte Cardin

Cold War Kids

Deap Vally




Lukas Nelson

Luke Combs

Milky Chance

Preservation Hall Jazz Band w/Flint Eastwood

Head and the Heart

Tory Lanez

Travis Scott

Tucker Beathard

… plus the crowd!





THE MAGIC OF MONTREAL: The Festival De Jazz De Montreal

Dates: June 28 - July 8, 2017

Location: Montreal, Canada

After 38 years, the annual music event has yet to disappoint. This year it took place June 28 through July 8. Following the review, scroll down to see a gallery from the festival.


There are any number of reasons why the Montreal Jazz Festival stands out above all others. The first has to do with the music, which is world class, eclectic and marked by the kind and calibre of performance that’s rarely heard elsewhere. The other cause for why it’s so special is …well, that it’s held in Montreal. The host city alone ought to provide enough allure to draw those who are willing to succumb to the mystique, aura and allure that makes Montreal the closest thing to a European metropolis in the whole of North America, Quebec being the only exception. The singular line-ups featured each year provide added incentive, but even those like myself who have a limited knowledge of many of the musicians involved can find reason enough to trust that the setting alone will make it an exceptional event nonetheless.

To be sure, there is something of a risk that comes with peering at a roster that I find for me consists of mostly unfamiliar names. Even my husband’s reassurances that there’s much to enjoy still leaves me wondering if, in this adventurous array of cutting-edge artists, I’ll still find sounds that will easily find their way into my brain and later leave me humming a few catchy refrains. While I love jazz of the classic variety — big band, swing, contemporary conceits and the like — much of the music demands a willing ear and a willingness in general to venture deeply into experimental realms.

Mind you, that’s a concept that I’m generally comfortable with. The first time I agreed to go with my hubby to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, I had to wonder how I’d relate to a plethora of fiddles and banjos. I was a cosmopolitan girl from up north after all, and the lure of back porch jams and arcane Americana had me convinced that I’d be settling in for a series of hillbilly hoedowns, albeit in the lovely setting of Colorado’s magnificent mountains. Yet by the end of the festival I was totally hooked, having become enamoured by the likes of the Avett Brothers, Sam Bush and the Steep Canyon Rangers. Would I get the same feeling of satisfaction from The Souljazz Orchestra, Bill Frisell and Christian McBride? Clearly, it remained to be seen.

Granted, there were also artists who lured me in. The opportunity to see Bob Dylan on the day we arrived provided a sense of satisfaction, even though I knew that Dylan himself was hardly what one would call a predictable performer. Yet at the same time, he provided a perfect segue way for some jazzier designs, his current fascination with the music of his early idol, Frank Sinatra, and the Great American Songbook providing a cultural tie to the musical mantra that the Montreal Jazz Festival has always drawn upon for the past 38 years. Dylan’s designs were so concrete and coherent, in fact, that even when his own classic songs seemed inexplicably altered to the point where they were practically beyond recognition, his reverent renditions of “Stormy Weather,” “That Old Black Magic” and “Autumn Leaves” consoled me and made me believe that I could find connections even in the most unlikely circumstances.

That sense of calm was further amplified the following day when we took in a performance by the Bad Plus, a melodic jazz trio that chose to supplement their sets with an array of special guests. On this particular eventing, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel was sitting in, adding an extra texture to the group’s sooting sounds and seemingly extemporaneous improvisation. At times it seemed a bit too sedate, but after a whirlwind day taking in the sights and sounds of the festival — among them, the plethora of free outdoor performances, street shows and the general buzz that gave Rue Sainte- Catherine its festival-like atmosphere — a mellow mood seemed to play well into the evening’s fare.

That said, the next concert we took in changed my perception dramatically. The grand Festival a la Maison Symphonique is a spectacular setting for any concert, given its remarkable acoustics and a multi-tiered auditorium that brings to mind the regal opera houses found in many a great European city, London’s Albert Hall in particular. However, witnessing the performance of Colin Stetson on his saxophones, accompanied only by some strange sampling and unusual aural effects made me think that instead of being in a magnificent concert hall, I was actually in the belly of a beast. Suffice it to say, Stetson creates sounds like no other, strange, dissident and outlandishly obtrusive. It was left to Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan to restore my sense of calm and allow some reassurance that even the most avant garde experimentation was simply a matter of individual taste.

At this juncture I have to say that indeed, there were plenty of established artists at the festival who had earned their place in the pantheon by breaking boundaries and take their artistry to places that were unexpected and often divine. The Charles Lloyd Quartet, blues greats Buddy Guy and Charles Musselwhite, and Hudson — a new quartet featuring Jack DeJohnette (the recipient of a prestigious award of accomplishment the next day), John Scofield, John Medeski and Larry Grenadier — all proved that experimentation could be both adventurous and enticing all at the same time.

Nevertheless, our third day at the festival was all about reassurance as far as I was concerned. A soothing set of perfectly tuneful and melodic songs from Canada’s own Ron Sexsmith set the pace that evening, allowing the chance to admire and observe a singer/songwriter who, nearly 30 years on in his career, still makes music that comes complete with cascading choruses, willowy melodies and a soothing sense of wistful reflection. Ater Sexsmith’s set, we made a shift in our settings, from the intimate environs of Club Soda where Sexsmith had performed to Evenements Speciaux, another magnificent auditorium where we would view the film “La La Land” with the accompaniment of a full symphony orchestra. Having seen the film, I couldn’t imagine how the live symphonic sounds could effectively integrate into the musical segments on screen. And yet, it worked out seamlessly, giving a cinematic experience that was as uniquely charming as it was wonderfully romantic.

As if we hadn’t experienced enough diversity that evening, we braved through our hunger pains and made our way back to Club Soda for what may have been the most unlikely concert of the whole festival, a performance by the ‘80s pop/new wave/electronica band Men Without Hats. While the bulk of the band are new to the fold — and without hats, I might add — original singer Ivan Doroschuk still retains his distinctive baritone and, for a man of senior status (he turns 60 this year) some remarkably agile dance steps. Naturally, the group’s worldwide hit “Safety Dance” proved the highlight of the set, performed no less than three times throughout the evening, the first marred by technical difficulties involving one of the keyboards, the second by way of a make-up and the third to close out the show prior to the band taking an encore. Clearly, the nudge of nostalgia is a hard habit to break.

After the nonstop bombardment of both the proven and the provocative, our final evening of the festival couldn’t have provided us with a better way to say our farewells. It offered ample amounts of both. King Crimson was one of those weird yet wondrous outfits I remember seeing at the Fillmore at the end of the psychedelic ‘60s, when progressive rock brought strange new sounds to an audience that clamoured for the unconventional. Their signature song “In the Court of the Crimson King” offered a wonderful ride into an unexplored dimension, but ever since then, the ever-evolving nature of the band left me behind and unfamiliar with all but that earlier era. So much to my surprise, I found myself fascinated by the band’s current incarnation, particularly the three drummers that lined the front of the stage and seemed so in synch when it came to exacting the band’s rhythms. No jam band, this; each of the percussionists took solo turns, picking up with the others left off and pounding different drums while colleagues took their solos with sole original stalwart Robert Fripp playing out his unique guitar style and also tending to keyboards, the entire ensemble dazzled the audience with varying tones, textures and an ethereal ambiance that was as mesmerizing as it was magical. The end of the performance paid off with songs I could recall — the aforementioned “Court of the Crimson King, a soaring version of David Bowie’s “Heroes” and the electrifying verve of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” the latter of which seems more appropriate than ever.

It was an extraordinary end to an extraordinary festival, one that stands alone in its unique musical draw. Even the fact that we had to awaken at 4:30 AM the next day to catch a flight back to the States on the 4th of July proved well worth the effort. Montreal is amazing, and its soundtrack couldn’t be more enchanting.


Colin Stetson

Tigran Hamasyan

Ron Sexsmith with Lee Zimmerman interview

Montreal Jazz Fest 2017 – Street scene

Street Performers @ Montreal Jazz Fest

Ron Sexsmith

La La Land in Concert

Men Without Hats

Jakko Jakszyk & Mel Collins of King Crimson -interviewed by Lee Zimmerman

Jakko Jakszyk, Lee Zimmerman, Mel Collins

Street Performers