Category Archives: Festivals

THE MAGIC OF MONTREAL: The Festival De Jazz De Montreal

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.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY ALISA BETH CHERRY

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

39th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival Lineup Announced

Event will feature a centennial tribute to Thelonious Monk
 
Taking place August 31-September 3 at Millennium Park and Chicago Cultural Center, the 39th annual Chicago Jazz fest, featuring a lineup of local and national artists, includes centennial tributes to Dizzy Gillespieled by Jon Faddis and Ella Fitzgerald, the Donny McCaslin Group, George Freeman’s 90thBirthday Celebration, Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt, Rebirth Brass Band, Willie Pickens, a Celebration of Southport Records,  Chicago Jazz Composers Collective, Young Chicago Authors, Thaddeus Tukes Quintet and NextGenJazz Rooftop Stag. One big highlight: Jason Moran presents “In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959.”

Admission to the Chicago Jazz Festival is free, and hours for Thursday, August 31, are noon–4:30 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center and 6:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. in Millennium Park. On Friday, September 1, through Sunday, September 3, the festival will be in Millennium Park, 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

39th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival Schedule of Perfomances
-Subject to change-

Thursday, August 31

Chicago Cultural Center, GAR Rotunda 
11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. A Jazz Village featuring Chicago’s Jazz Community
 
Claudia Cassidy Theater 
11 a.m. – Noon The Evolution of Afro-Cuban Jazz: A Talk with Ignacio Berroa
12:15 – 1:15 p.m. Thaddeus Tukes Quintet
1:45 – 2:45 p.m.       Tim StineTrio
3:15 – 4:15 p.m.     Dave Rempis Quintet performing Jackie McLean’s Action
 
Randolph Square
Noon – 1 p.m.         Curtis Prince Band featuring Ari Brown
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.       West End Jazz Band
3 – 4 p.m.                 Southport Records Celebrates 40 Years of Sparrow
Preston Bradley Hall 
12:30 – 1:30 p.m.   “What Is This Thing Called Jazz” w/ Willie Pickens & Miguel de la Cerna
2 – 3 p.m.                 Young Chicago Authors
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.       Chicago Jazz Composers Collective
Millennium Park
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
6:30 – 7:30 p.m.     George Freeman 90th Birthday Celebration
8 – 9:30 p.m.           Dizzy Gillespie’s Centennial Celebration with Jon Faddis and the                                                     Chicago Jazz Festival Big Band

Friday, September 1

Millennium Park
Von Freeman Pavilion (South Promenade)
Noon – 12:55 p.m.   Tim Fitzgerald’s Full House
1:10 – 2:05 p.m.       Steve Gibons Gypsy Rhythm
2.20 – 3:15 p.m.       Rob Denty / Tim Mulvenna Duo Plus
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.       Slavic Soul Party!
Jazz and Heritage Pavilion (North Promenade)
12:30 – 1:30 p.m.   Joe Policastro Trio
2 – 3 p.m.                 Reggie Thomas Quintet
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.       Stu Katz Shearing Redux
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
5 – 5:50 p.m.           dana hall’s spring
6 – 6:55 p.m.           Donny McCaslin Group
7:10 – 8:10 p.m.       Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio
8:30 – 9:30 p.m.       Jason Moran presents In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959

Saturday, September 2

Millennium Park
Roof Top Jazz:  Young Jazz Lions (Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace)
11:30 a.m. – Noon Morgan Park High School Jazz Combo
12:15 – 12:45 p.m.   Jones College Prep Jazz Combo
1 – 1:30 p.m.           Whitney Young High School Jazz Combo
2  – 2:40 p.m.         Kelly High School Jazz Ensemble
2:55 – 3:35 p.m.       Kenwood Academy High School Jazz Ensemble
3:50 – 4:30 p.m.       Roosevelt University Jazz Ensemble plays A Love Supreme
 
Von Freeman Pavilion (South Promenade) 
Noon – 12:55 p.m. Charles Heath Quartet
1:10 – 2:05 p.m.     Gustavo Cortiñas Snapshot
2:20 – 3:15 p.m.       Hearts & Minds
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.       Mary Halvorson Octet
 
Jazz and Heritage Pavilion (North Promenade)
12:30 – 1:30 p.m.   Typhanie Monique
2 – 3 p.m.                 Shawn Maxwell’s New Tomorrow
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.       Low Down Brass Band
 
Jay Pritzker Pavilion 
5 – 5:50 p.m.           Dr. Michael White Quartet 
6 – 6:55 p.m.           BassDrumBone
7:10 – 8:10 p.m.       Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom
8:30 – 9:30 p.m.     Ellabration! 100 Years of Ella Fitzgerald featuring the Brad William Trio, Sheila Jordan, Dee Alexander, Frieda Lee, Spider Saloff & Paul Mariano
Sunday, September 3

Millennium Park
Roof Top Jazz: NextGenJazz (Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace)
11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Jenna Przbysz Collective
12:30 -1:15 p.m. Trilogy (Kevin King, Jeremy Warren, Jada Stroud)
1:30 – 2:15 p.m.     Infrared Quintet led by Kenthaney Redmond
2:30 -3:15 p.m.       Possibilities Trio (Tim Bennett, Dan Stein, Peter Manheim)
3:30 4:15 p.m.         Chosen Few led by Isaiah Collier
 
Von Freeman Pavilion (South Promenade) 
Noon – 12:55 p.m.   Rooms Trio
1:10 – 2:05 p.m.       The Jonathan Doyle Swingtet
2:20 – 3:15 p.m.       Josh Berman Quartet
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.     Louis Moholo-Moholo: Five Blokes
 
Jazz and Heritage Pavilion (North Promenade)
12:30 – 1:30 p.m.   Michele Thomas
2 – 3 p.m.                 JoAnn Daugherty
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.       Johnny Blas Afro Libre Orquesta
Jay Pritzker Pavilion 
5 – 5:50 p.m.           Roscoe Mitchell’s Quartets Celebrating 50 years of Nessa Records
6 – 6:55 p.m.           Sheila Jordan featuring Steve Kuhn’s Trio
7:10 – 8:10 p.m.     Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt
8:30 – 9:30 p.m.       Rebirth Brass Band

Lansing NC Blues Festival 6/10/17, Lansing NC

Dates: June 10, 2017

Location: Lansing, North Carolina

 

Tarheel Blues was alive and well at the second annual festival!

PHOTOS BY OLIVIA JEWELL

_______________________________________________________________

Mike Thomas, Steve Hudson, and Terry Vuncannon of Lawyers, Guns and Money

 

Terry Vuncannon and Jamie Trollinger

Willie Shane Johnston of Red Dirt Revelators
 Jason Gardner and Clay Ford of Red Dirt Revelators
 Jamie Trollinger and Willie Shane Johnston of Red Dirt Revelators
Jamie Trollinger of Red Dirt Revelators
Pamela Glossner of Half Baked Betty

Seth Williams

Terry Vuncannon and Seth Williams
 Terry Vuncannon
Bryan Smith of Smitty and the Jumpstarters
Steve Blake of Smitty and the Jumpstarters
Bryan Smith of Smitty and the Jumpstarters
 Ann Baskerville
 Janice Vuncannon and Ann Baskerville
Louise Hudson and Martha Powell
Phone #: 336-932-2317

Bonnaroo Music Festival 2017

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

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY: MARK JACKSON

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

Belly

Big Gigantic

Big Jesus

Charlotte Cardin

Cold War Kids

Deap Vally

Dram

Gallant

Leon

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!

 

 

 

 

Not Another Fyre Sale: The xx Cancel Big Festival Over Environmental Concerns

 

By Barbi Martinez

Well, so much for that Icelandic vacation I was planning on taking in a couple of weeks: Earlier this year The xx mounted their new Night + Day festival in England, and were looking to replicate its success in Iceland (Skógafoss ) on July 14-16. Now we learn it’s been cancelled because the site is on Iceland’s Environmental Agency’s latest list of endangered areas.

The promoter issued a statement:

“Whilst everyone involved in this event has been excited about working towards something memorable and spectacular, it is however fundamental that we put any environmental responsibilities first especially when we’re dealing with such a special location. Ultimately the challenges on this site were insurmountable and it was not possible to secure another suitable venue in time. We know that people will be hugely disappointed as we are, but we hope everyone understands the situation.”

Start grabbing your refunds, punters, and you’ll just have to catch the likes of The xx, Earl Sweatshirt, Robyn, Sampha, Kamasi Washington, Warpaint, and Floating Points elsewhere this year.

Rock On The Range 5/19-21/17, Columbus OH

Dates: May 19-21, 2017

Location: Mapfre Stadium, Columbus OH

The location was  Mapfre Stadium, and the BLURT gang was in the house. Pictured above: The Offspring. Scroll down for the full photo gallery. .

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY: MARK JACKSON

Rock On The Range is billed as the largest rock festival in the U.S. and with an attendance of 135,000 over the three day festival I believe they do in fact hold the title.

The festival didn’t go off without a few hiccups this year that were out of the control of the promoters. The first being the apparent suicide of Soundgarden’s lead singer Chris Cornell. I was fortunate to see and photograph Chris just days two weeks prior at the Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis Tn. You can see my coverage under our feature section. Soundgarden was suppose to headline opening night, just two days after Chris’s suicide. Due to the timing of this tragedy the promoters of course had no time to secure a replacement act, besides who could possibly do justice to the night under the circumstances. Rock On The Range decided to dedicate the weekend and the headline spot to a tribute to Chris. The dedication started with the song “Hallelujah” as pictures of Chris showed up at the top half and a burning candle on the bottom of the massive screens positioned next to the stage. After “Hallelujah” Corey Taylor and Christian Martucci came to the stage to perform two acoustic songs. The first being “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd and then Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike. The tribute continued with more of Chris’s music including “Black Hole Sun.”

The second hiccup was the weather. Mother Nature must really not like rock & roll as the forecast was set to be crappy all weekend. Although the venue had to be evacuated a couple of times and a major rain delay on Sunday during Volbeat’s set, the times were adjusted and everyone got to play their entire sets. Even with heavy rain that came in and left after a few hours on Saturday, everyone that I spoke with were still in high spirits and ready for a rocking weekend! Sunday had a very light rain during the afternoon, but not enough to make anyone move away from the stages. Sunday night during Volbeat’s set a 45 minute flood set in delaying the bands last few songs and the delay of Metallica being able to take the stage. Even with the flood, about half of the people who had stood on their feet since 11a.m. at the main stage to ensure they would be front and center for Metallica stayed put while others were flocked tightly into the corridors of the Mapfre Stadium. Metallica was finally able to take the stage after the Stage change and played for two hours, much to the delight of the crowd.

Rock On The Range always gives a killer lineup and this year was no exception! This years lineup had such greats as Dorothy, Nothing More, Goodbye June, Badflower, I Prevail, Thrice, Red Fang, Motionless In White, Bush, Pierce the Veil, Live, One Less Reason, Starset, Alter Bridge, Ded, Skillet, Attila, Seether, Papa Roach, Taking Back Sunday, The Offspring, Coheed & Cambria, Korn, Zakk Sabbath, The Pretty Reckless, Primus, Volbeat, & many others and last but not least Metallica.

I can’t wait to see who they get for next years lineup! One tip for you is to start saving now and buy your tickets as soon as they announce ticket sales as this festival always sells out very quickly! If your like me and can’t wait that long check out the Louisville, KY rock fest that the promoters also put on in October called Louder Than Life Festival. This is another great rock festival that we at Blurt enjoy being a part of and covering.

Zack Wylde

Volbeat

Volbeat

Volbeat

Thrice

Dillinger Escape Plan

Taking Back Sunday

Sylar

Starset

Skillet

Skillet in media tent

Skillet

Seether

Seether

Red Fang

Pretty Reckless

Pierce the Veil

Papa Roach

One Less Reason

One Less Reason

One Less Reason

Offspring

Nothing More

Nothing More in media tent

Myles Kennedy

Motionaless in White

Motionless in White

Motionaless in White

Live

Live

Korn

Jim Breuer

I Prevail

I Prevail

I Prevail

Goodby June

Dorothy

DED

Dean Delray

Coheed & Cambria

Chris Motionless

Chris Cornell tribute

Beartooth

BadFlower

Attila

Alterbridge

2017 Lockn’ Festival Set for August

More Dead per capita than any festival on the planet!

By Blurt Staff

One of the best annual summer festivals has to be the jamband-centric Arrington, Virginia-based Lockn’, and while the likes of Bonnaroo and Coachella get the lion’s share of attention, this event has gradually risen to the top among true devotees of live music. (Go HERE and HERE to see some of our past coverage.)

This time around the lineup is even more impressive than usual, with top-of-the-bill artists including the Avett Brothers w/Bob Weir, phil.moe (the Dead’s Phil Lesh & Friends with moe.), Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, Gov’t Mule (w/guest Ann Wilson, no less), the String Cheese Incident, and—speaking of Lesh and Weir—Phil Lesh / Bob Weir & the Terrapin Family Band doing the iconic Terrapin Station album. Meanwhile, among the must-see acts further down on the bill are Afro-beat kings Antibalas, swamp rockers JJ Grey & Mofro, North Carolina’s own Hiss Golden Messenger, and blazing Southern/roots rocker the Marcus King Band.

It all happens August 24-27, and there will be plenty going on all around the festival grounds, like the Terrapin Station Porch. For details on ticketing, area lodging, directions for travelers and a map of the grounds, go to the Lockn’ Festival website.

Photo Gallery: Beale Street Music Festival (feat. Soundgarden)

Live at the Beale Street Music Festival 5/5-5/7/17, Memphis

Text & Photos by Mark Jackson

What if I were to tell you there was a magical place where you could see bands such as Soundgarden, Kings of Leon, Wide Spread Panic, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, Death Cab for Cutie, Sturgill Simpson, Highly Suspect, Machine Gun Kelly, and many more artist including a tent stage dedicated to only blues music, eat the best BBQ you have ever tasted, walk on a world famous street that is also home to the blues, and visit Elvis’s home all for about one hundred and fifty dollars or less.

Well you should start saving now and planning your travel for the 2018 Beale Street Music Festival that happens the first weekend of May every year. This is without a doubt one of the best value music festivals in the U.S. and often overlooked for the great music festival that it is. This festival that has the Tennessee Arkansas bridge as a backdrop takes place right downtown on the river, just blocks from the world famous Beale Street. This festival has some of the friendliest, most professional, and helpful staff of the festivals that I have the pleasure of covering each year. BSMF always has a great selection of food vendors and alcohol at reasonable prices, but the must have food that you have to try before leaving Memphis is just a short walk from the festival. First and foremost is the BBQ available at many of the restaurants along Beale Street. My personal favorite would have to be The Pig on Beale also know as Pork with an attitude. The second must have would be Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.

Now back to the festival. As I arrived downtown Memphis on Friday afternoon and checked into the Media trailer, I couldn’t wait to get to the stages and start a weekend full of diverse music acts. This festival always has a great mix of Blues, Rock, Pop, and Rap across four stages.

There are too many bands and stages for one Photographer/journalist to cover it all, so I had to choose which stage and artists to cover. The highlights of Friday for me were The Strumbellas, Grouplove, MGMT and Snoop Dogg, Talk about running the gamut.

Saturday would bring me to the River Stage first to catch one of my favorite bands being none other than Highly Suspect. Johnny came out looking like Clint Eastwood in one of his western movies. Johnny was definitely in a great mood and ready to perform as he strutted and danced around the stage as a DJ played music while the roadies finished their setup. Johnny even came to the edge of the stage to take some pictures of the crowd and of course a selfie with the huge crowd behind him. With the stage now ready Johnny, and brothers Richard and Ryan Meyers wasted no time rocking the crowd with the many hit songs they have under their belts. At one point during the show Richard and Ryan even crowd surfed while Johnny sang and played guitar. This band was one of the highlights of my weekend. I can’t wait to see these guys again!

Next up for me was Silversun Pickups. Silversun has a great sound and I have been hooked on their song “Circadian Rhythm”. Many have compared them to Smashing Pumpkins. Silversun Pickups are out on tour this summer. I suggest you check them out if they come to your area.

8:40 p.m. brought up a hard choice for me as X Ambassadors and 2 Chainz were performing at the same time. I do love X Ambassadors, but decided to check out 2 Chainz on the Bud Light Stage. 2 Chainz had a DJ hyping up the crowd before he came out and when he came out he proceeded to blow the crowd away. The Swelling crowd spilling in from other stages were whipping in a happy frenzy during his entire performance and we still had Wiz to go!

Wiz Khalifa picked up right where 2 Chainz left off and was a perfect way to end a Saturday night with the massive crowd dripping in sweat from jumping up and down, rapping, and dancing for three plus hours.

Sunday kicked off at 2:15 at the Bud Light Stage with Marcella & her lovers. Marcella has a divine Memphis soulful voice and powerful stage presence. I suspect we will be hearing more from her in the next few years.

Next up would be Machine Gun Kelly on the FedEx Stage. MGK is out on tour in support of his brand new album Bloom. MGK is a rapper, singer, “wildboy” and crossover mainstream singer/rapper with the huge hit “Bad Things” with Camila Cabello. If you have not seen Kelly live you are missing out! MGK is one of if not the most energetic performer I’ve ever seen. I always look forward to covering him and his full band.

Alter Bridge with lead singer Myles Kennedy was next up and the park was quickly filling up as people were steadily streaming in from the Famous Beale Street bars and restaurants. As the sun began to set it was time for Tori Kelly on the River Stage and Ben Harper & the innocent criminals on the Bud Light Stage.  Next up was Bush. Bush was another highlight of the weekend for me. I have been a fan ever since hearing their album Sixteen Stone released in December of 1994 with songs such as “Comedown and “Glycerine”. Gavin Rossdale’s voice sounded as tight as ever and he has mastered the rock and roll guitarist. Bush (Gavin) wins best high jump and best light show of the weekend as well.

Last but not least was the Headliner of the weekend, Soundgarden! Chris Cornell and the guys brought their A game and the crowd was ready for a rocking good trip down memory lane, with songs like “Spoonman” and “Outshined” this was one of the best Rock performances I have been privileged to attend.

Tragically, Cornell passed away this week following a performance in Detroit, an apparent suicide. Soundgarden had been scheduled to make appearances at Rock On The Range and Rocklahoma, and I was greatly anticipating those performances. R.I.P.

***

2 Chainz

Gavin of Bush

 

Grouplove

 

Highly Suspect

(this could be YOU in the audience… were you there?)

MGK

MGMT

Myles

Silversun Pickups

Snoop (who else?)

 

Chris Cornell (RIP)

Strumbellas

Tori Kelly

Wiz K

 

Beale Street Music Festival 2017

Dates: May 5 - May 7, 2017

Location: Beale Street, Memphis

Live at the Beale Street Music Festival 5/5-5/7/17, Memphis

Text & Photos by Mark Jackson

What if I were to tell you there was a magical place where you could see bands such as Soundgarden, Kings of Leon, Wide Spread Panic, Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, Death Cab for Cutie, Sturgill Simpson, Highly Suspect, Machine Gun Kelly, and many more artist including a tent stage dedicated to only blues music, eat the best BBQ you have ever tasted, walk on a world famous street that is also home to the blues, and visit Elvis’s home all for about one hundred and fifty dollars or less.

Well you should start saving now and planning your travel for the 2018 Beale Street Music Festival that happens the first weekend of May every year. This is without a doubt one of the best value music festivals in the U.S. and often overlooked for the great music festival that it is. This festival that has the Tennessee Arkansas bridge as a backdrop takes place right downtown on the river, just blocks from the world famous Beale Street. This festival has some of the friendliest, most professional, and helpful staff of the festivals that I have the pleasure of covering each year. BSMF always has a great selection of food vendors and alcohol at reasonable prices, but the must have food that you have to try before leaving Memphis is just a short walk from the festival. First and foremost is the BBQ available at many of the restaurants along Beale Street. My personal favorite would have to be The Pig on Beale also know as Pork with an attitude. The second must have would be Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.

Now back to the festival. As I arrived downtown Memphis on Friday afternoon and checked into the Media trailer, I couldn’t wait to get to the stages and start a weekend full of diverse music acts. This festival always has a great mix of Blues, Rock, Pop, and Rap across four stages.

There are too many bands and stages for one Photographer/journalist to cover it all, so I had to choose which stage and artists to cover. The highlights of Friday for me were The Strumbellas, Grouplove, MGMT and Snoop Dogg, Talk about running the gamut.

Saturday would bring me to the River Stage first to catch one of my favorite bands being none other than Highly Suspect. Johnny came out looking like Clint Eastwood in one of his western movies. Johnny was definitely in a great mood and ready to perform as he strutted and danced around the stage as a DJ played music while the roadies finished their setup. Johnny even came to the edge of the stage to take some pictures of the crowd and of course a selfie with the huge crowd behind him. With the stage now ready Johnny, and brothers Richard and Ryan Meyers wasted no time rocking the crowd with the many hit songs they have under their belts. At one point during the show Richard and Ryan even crowd surfed while Johnny sang and played guitar. This band was one of the highlights of my weekend. I can’t wait to see these guys again!

Next up for me was Silversun Pickups. Silversun has a great sound and I have been hooked on their song “Circadian Rhythm”. Many have compared them to Smashing Pumpkins. Silversun Pickups are out on tour this summer. I suggest you check them out if they come to your area.

8:40 p.m. brought up a hard choice for me as X Ambassadors and 2 Chainz were performing at the same time. I do love X Ambassadors, but decided to check out 2 Chainz on the Bud Light Stage. 2 Chainz had a DJ hyping up the crowd before he came out and when he came out he proceeded to blow the crowd away. The Swelling crowd spilling in from other stages were whipping in a happy frenzy during his entire performance and we still had Wiz to go!

Wiz Khalifa picked up right where 2 Chainz left off and was a perfect way to end a Saturday night with the massive crowd dripping in sweat from jumping up and down, rapping, and dancing for three plus hours.

Sunday kicked off at 2:15 at the Bud Light Stage with Marcella & her lovers. Marcella has a divine Memphis soulful voice and powerful stage presence. I suspect we will be hearing more from her in the next few years.

Next up would be Machine Gun Kelly on the FedEx Stage. MGK is out on tour in support of his brand new album Bloom. MGK is a rapper, singer, “wildboy” and crossover mainstream singer/rapper with the huge hit “Bad Things” with Camila Cabello. If you have not seen Kelly live you are missing out! MGK is one of if not the most energetic performer I’ve ever seen. I always look forward to covering him and his full band.

Alter Bridge with lead singer Myles Kennedy was next up and the park was quickly filling up as people were steadily streaming in from the Famous Beale Street bars and restaurants. As the sun began to set it was time for Tori Kelly on the River Stage and Ben Harper & the innocent criminals on the Bud Light Stage. Next up was Bush. Bush was another highlight of the weekend for me. I have been a fan ever since hearing their album Sixteen Stone released in December of 1994 with songs such as “Comedown and “Glycerine”. Gavin Rossdale’s voice sounded as tight as ever and he has mastered the rock and roll guitarist. Bush (Gavin) wins best high jump and best light show of the weekend as well.

Last but not least was the Headliner of the weekend, Soundgarden! Chris Cornell and the guys brought their A game and the crowd was ready for a rocking good trip down memory lane, with songs like “Spoonman” and “Outshined” this was one of the best Rock performances I have been privileged to attend.

Tragically, Cornell passed away this week following a performance in Detroit, an apparent suicide. Soundgarden had been scheduled to make appearances at Rock On The Range and Rocklahoma, and I was greatly anticipating those performances. R.I.P.

***

2 Chainz

Gavin of Bush

 

Grouplove

 

Highly Suspect

(this could be YOU in the audience… were you there?)

MGK

MGMT

Myles

Silversun Pickups

Snoop (who else?)

 

Chris Cornell (RIP)

Strumbellas

Tori Kelly

Wiz K

 

YOU’VE GOT EVEN BIGGER EARS THAN I THOUGHT: Big Ears Festival 2017

 

big-ears-festival-2017

Once again Prof. Rosen makes his pilgrimage to Knoxville. Check out his 2014 report, as well as 2015, not to mention 2016.

BY STEVEN ROSEN

Photos by Melinda Wallis-Rosen

As the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville has grown during its six installments since 2009, bringing a mind-bogglingly large mix of cross-pollinating modernist rock, classical, jazz, international and other types of music, one increasingly wonders where Ashley Capps — its founder and artistic director — got his interest in something so culturally cutting-edge.

After all, he runs Knoxville-based AC Entertainment, the company that puts on the giant summer outdoor Bonnaroo, Forecastle and other contemporary rock festivals. These are known for their innovative mixes of performers, but there are limits. One would not expect Bonnaroo, for instance, to feature the 78-year-old American New Music composer Frederic Rzewski rigorously, forcefully playing the piano for more than an hour straight in a performance of his 1975 “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” It consists of 36 probing, exploratory variations of a Chilean folk song, and is meant to remember the murdered Salvador Allende and serve as an inspiration for resistance.

But there he was on a Friday afternoon at this year’s recently concluded Big Ears (which ran from a Thursday through Sunday), playing a Steinway & Sons grand piano in the center of a large nightclub called The Mill & Mine, as a crowd sat on the floor or stood to watch and listen to this impressive exhibition of stamina. (Below: Matmos)

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In the past, Capps and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero have wisecracked that his interest in such unconventional music is related to him once owning a Knoxville club called Ella Guru’s, named after a Captain Beefheart song. That running joke continued at the Thursday-afternoon kick-off reception this year, when Rogero introduced Capps by calling him “a man who needs no trout mask replica, a man who is as safe as milk, a man who is our very own doc at the radar station.”

And that’s all well and good, but there’s something else at work here. Capps revealed some of that when introducing Rzewski (pronounced “zev-sky”) by telling about the time in 1977 he picked up him, pianist Ursula Oppens and saxophonist Lee Konitz at a New York airport to take then to Woodstock’s Creative Music Studio, where Capps was a student. There, Capps remembers, Rzewski played “The People United…,” a recent composition commissioned by Oppens, that had yet to be recorded. He knew at the time it was destined to be a major work, he says.

So Capps has a personal connection to this kind of work. (He also remembered driving Don Cherry to Woodstock.) And he definitely still has an ear for it.

When introducing the contemporary classical pianist Lisa Moore at the same venue, with the same in-the-round set-up on Saturday, he said that when he first heard her 2016 Stone People album, he knew it was one of the year’s strongest.

Imagine how many records in a year he must listen to, or at least be aware of, to stay atop of his vast festival and concert business. Yet he picks one, on the niche New Music label Cantaloupe Music, that features recordings of compositions by the likes of Rzewski, Missy Mazzoli and John Luther Adams.

But Moore did not disappoint. By turns lyrical and pounding in her choice of material and approach to the keyboard, and wearing a distinguishing white jacket, she began with one of Philip Glass’ most melodic and downright sweet compositions ever, 1979’s “Mad Rush.” There were times when Moore made it echo with snatches from “Over the Rainbow.” Her concert then featured works by other big names — Rzewski, Mazzoli, Adams, Julia Wolfe. But the standout besides “Mad Rush” was a work called “Sliabh Beagh” that she had commissioned from an Australian composer, Kate Moore, in order to explore Irish roots. Starting off like an introspective art song — Lisa Moore sang at the beginning — it evolved into a thunderously powerful work for piano that just kept building. Her concert was thrilling.

A couple years ago, the roaring, avant-garde bass saxophonist Colin Stetson played a Big Ears gig at a small bar so crowded I had to jump up and down every now and then just to catch a glimpse of his head. But there was no problem hearing then — the sound he got from that gigantic woodwind, large enough to double as a piece of public sculpture, could cut through a baseball park filled with fans cheering a grand slam.

This year, Stetson had a venue where he was easily seen — onstage at the large Mill & Mine. Believe it or not, it was reasonably hard to hear him. But it didn’t matter. With an ensemble of horn and string players, plus a singer, he was performing his reimagining of Polish composer Henryk Górecki’s 1977 3rd Symphony (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), which became famous when a 1992 recording sold a million copies. Because one of the three songs contained within the symphony used a message found on a Gestapo cell wall, it conjures World War II and the Holocaust. Stetson calls his adaptation Sorrow, and he means for the saxophone to wail not so much in the Illinois Jacquet sense of the word, but rather in the “weeping” sense.

Amid the wave-like comings and goings of repetitive phrases from the other horns, Stetson’s playing fit in rather than stood out. And it sounded like an ominously rumbling bass. But the overall arrangement of Sorrow sucked everyone into its slowly building undertow and then cathartically brought them along. And when the music quieted to let Stetson’s sister, Megan, sing the songs, it was like Jefferson Airplane subsiding its playing for Grace Slick to solo on “Someone to Love.” Megan Stetson had a magnificently rich mezzo-soprano voice.

Stetson is a restless talent — on his new song, “Into the Clinches,” he hits his sax’s keys like he’s hammering out an electronic backbeat while blowing into the instrument. The result is as unexpectedly infectious as Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” and it could be a dance club hit.

While Big Ears is way too eclectic to pigeonhole its approach to booking, the rock or pop acts who played the two major venues — the luxurious 1928 Tennessee Theatre (the official state theater), and the 1909 Bijou — tend to be either experimentalist or to be using Big Ears for a conceptualist venture. (The event’s biggest act, Wilco, maybe doesn’t fit that description, but band members Glenn Kotche and Jeff Tweedy also used the festival for separate concerts.)

One such example was the toughly intellectualized Matmos, consisting of Drew Daniel and M.C. Schmidt, whose austerely theatrical take on the late Robert Ashley’s television opera Private Parts made for an invigorating noontime show at the Tennessee on Friday. Musically, it has an understated drone punctuated with electronica touches. Schmidt, in the first part looking Mr. Rogers-like in brown sweater and bowtie, provided the odd, casually upbeat recitation that Ashley himself used to do at his shows. Behind him, two women faced each other and provided an occasional encouraging “that’s right” in accompaniment. Ashley isn’t an easy composer to understand, but Matmos did make him and his music accessible — and hip.

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But Matmos didn’t have anything on Xiu Xiu (above), who presented on Saturday at the Tennessee their tribute to David Lynch’s and Angelo Badalamenti’s music for the eerily meta Twin Peaks television series from 1990-91. Mostly instrumental but with a few vocals, like on the drifting and chilling “Into the Night,” the project allowed a fierce Jamie Stewart to play guitar or drums to Angela Seo’s keyboards and Shayna Dunkelman’s smashing, riveting percussion. She whacked mallets on vibes or slammed drums. With Twin Peaks slated to return to television on Showtime this year, Xiu Xiu has a hot concept more cutting-edge than retro, and knew it. It was a show infused with currency.

Compared to these two, the Magnetic Fields concerts at the Tennessee, presenting composer/singer Stephin Merritt’s year-by-year autobiographical songs on the band/art project’s new 50 Song Memoir, were more traditional. Merritt, after all, writes impossibly catchy pop tunes with witty lyrics that make you smile and laugh. What’s that doing at Big Ears?

But Merritt was downright subversive on stage, beginning with that low baritone/bass voice that can add such gravitas to even his lightest, loveliest songs. There was also, in new material like “Come Back as a Cockroach,” “I Think I’ll Make Another World” and “Eye Contact,” real bite and irony. He wasn’t just skimming the surface of his early years (I was only able to catch the first of his two Big Ears shows) for material, he was also humorously but resolvedly plumbing the emotional depths. He was being confessional yet novelistic.

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He also was a very conceptual performer — in that regard, a natural fit at Big Ears. The stage set-up for his concert reminded me of the Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone. He sat inside a fanciful room-like set, maybe based on a childhood bedroom, wearing a garishly checked sweater and a mac. He made amusingly snarky between-song patter — he was the middle-aged man looking back with mixed emotions.

The five other musicians were positioned around and behind this prop, in an arc formation. They played an array of instruments that gave the sound satisfying coloration and power. Merritt, too, played instruments or otherwise manipulated sounds, and sometimes would do something surprising, like sing the unabashedly silly but joyful tune “Hustle 76.” This brought out the “bumpity bump” (as Merritt hailed it) in the Magnetic Fields’ sound. The second set, which got Merritt through year 25 in his life, was just as strong. This is a great album, probably one of the year’s best when final polls come out, and Merritt’s performance made you realize its quality.

MF

By now, Merritt is an old pro. He’s 52, after all. But a couple truly old pros, both women, were the performers I’ll remember most.

The jazz composer and pianist Carla Bley, at age 80 looking as snazzy and stylish, with the same assured posture and black outfit as a decades-younger fashionable orchestra conductor, on Thursday night led the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra at the Tennessee Theatre through her big-band compositions. Her longtime bassist Steve Swallow and tenor saxophonist Andy Sheppard augmented the group, and the result for the most part was swinging yet prickly, as burrs and detours kept cropping up in the straight-aheadness. Her final composition, “The National Anthem,” was prefaced by her comment, “What better time?” (to play it). But despite its unorthodox yet welcome funkiness, it didn’t seem to leave as strong an impression as I desired. Maybe the times and the current president call out for the kind of state-of-emergency defiant approach Hendrix took to patriotic music at Woodstock. This wasn’t quite fiery enough — maybe Bley needs to compose an Escalator Over the Trump.

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And the 74-year-old, pigtailed Meredith Monk (above) was spry and delightful enough a presence at the Bijou on Friday night to play Puck in a staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (as if her career and talents aren’t already varied enough). And her ever-present gracious smile could have illuminated even the top row of the theater’s otherwise-dark balcony.

Appearing with her Vocal Ensemble, her voice was in synch and in pitch with anything else on stage. She could duet with a revved-up monster truck if she wanted to. It is a marvelous instrument, whether she uses it for wordless vocalization or to comically, exaggeratingly lampoon in song a privileged older woman not prepared to die yet whose time has come.

Her concert included material from throughout her career. Her ease with “Click Song #1,” which she described as a “duet for solo voice” and which found her humming, clicking and puckering simultaneously, would make Tuvan throat singers envious.

And on “Choosing Companions” — from an opera, Atlas, that she composed in 1991 — Monk sat at the piano and sang haunting variations on the sound “day-o” by herself for a while. Then, Vocal Ensemble member Katie Geissinger came out, knocked on the piano to introduce herself, and began a short recitation of what I took to be an interpretation of Monk’s musical message. She soon joined Monk in singing, and the two communicated a call-and-response, point-and-counterpoint sensitivity to each other that elegantly pushed the song toward emotional breakthrough.

At one point, Monk told the audience about sitting in the New Mexican hot sun waiting for a musical idea, and you can see how that state’s artistic New Age exoticism could play a role in her vision. But there’s also a New Music progressivism, not unlike John Cage or Steve Reich, which incorporates Contemporary Art notions of modernism. She deserves all the recognition she can get as one of America’s singular composers and composers.

In past coverage, and at the beginning of this review, I’ve mentioned the Big Ears-Captain Beefheart connection. And also how Capps, at Big Ears, seems to be closer to someone like Rzewski than a raucous blues-rock iconoclast like Beefheart.

But another experimentalist whose name cropped up this year was Arthur Russell, an early proponent/practitioner of the kind of open-minded approach to music the festival favors.

He was a cellist drawn to experimentalism and minimalism, a friend of such other New York City classical music boundary pushers of the 1970s as Glass, Reich and Julius Eastman who also became interested in the conceptual rock of Talking Heads and Modern Lovers and the multi-rhythmic funkiness of disco. And he composed, sang and played cello on fragile, Nick Drake-like chamber-folk love songs like “A Little Lost.”

Always ahead of the curve, his death in 1992 passed with little attention. (He was just 40.) But his reputation has since grown — he was the subject of a 2008 documentary called Wild Combination. He was truly an artist with “big ears.” This festival, as it evolves, seems to be modeled on his vision of music.

Marmoset: