Category Archives: live review

Evan Dando 6/23/17, Philadelphia

Dates: June 23, 2017

Location: The Foundry, Philadelphia PA

Live at Philly’s The Foundry venue, the erstwhile Lemonheads mainman celebrated his back catalog, and in remarkably low-key fashion.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Evan Dando, taking the stage for an intimate show of about 150 in Philadelphia, looked road worn. Having been on a tour across Europe, Asia and Australia for most of the spring, the Philly stop was his second to last on the U.S. leg of the tour, coinciding with the re-release of his solo effort, Baby I’m Bored. And the travel seemed to be taking its toll.

With little fanfare, wearing faded black jeans and a ¾ sleeve T, he stepped onto the small stage to expectant applause and quickly launched into the endearingly goofy, but still great “Being Around,” off 1993’s Come On Feel the Lemonheads. Regardless of how he looked (weary) and despite little interaction with the audience, Dando’s voice was as perfect as it had been on the band’s Magnus Opus, It’s a Shame About Ray, 25 years ago.  For the next hour and 15 minutes – he ended the show precisely at 11 pm – he riffed through a stellar mix of songs from the two most popular Lemonheads’ albums and a healthy selection from Baby I’m Bored, all the while seemingly oblivious to the crowd in front of him.

There were no song introductions, barely any between-song banter, aside from some instructions to the sound guy, and oddly not even an acknowledgement when Marciana Jones, his bandmate in the side project The Sandwich Police, took the stage next to him halfway into the set to play electric guitar and provide backing vocals. (Based on unhappy critic and fan comments on Jones’ stage interactions with Dando in Australia recently, there may be a reason for this. – Blurt Research Dept.) Despite this bizarre obliviousness to the people he was playing to, the crowd was treated to a near-perfect set of Dando’s still impressive catalogue of music. For a little over an hour, Generation X’s favorite fuzz-pop troubadour pulled out just about everyone’s favorites. You could hear the crowd singing louder than Dando on songs like “Big Gay Heart” and their cover from the musical Hair, “Frank Mills.”

Dando played a one-and-a-half song encore, that started with a cover of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” before it was abruptly aborted and he moved on to another song. Finished, he uttered a quick “thank you” and left the stage for the second and final time. He may not have been up for interacting with the crowd that came out to see him that night, but it’s hard to deny that he played the songs that people wanted to hear and in a voice that is still as commanding in 2017 as it was nearly three decades before.

Deets on all things Dando, including tour dates, at the Lemonheads Facebook page.

 

THEY’VE GOT A PLATFORM AND THEY’RE GONNA USE IT: U2 & the “Joshua Tree” Tour 2017

Live at the delightfully-named Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on June 14, the Irish boys were back in town, along with (cough) astutely-selected opening act One Republic. The show started in the rain, but by the end, it was, indeed, a beautiful day.

BY STEVE KLINGE

Ruminations on U2 in Tampa

The Occasion.
U2 seems to have been in retreat since the public relations fiasco of Songs of Innocence (not every iTunes user wanted an unsolicited download of a mediocre album). The promised partner set, Songs of Experience, has yet to appear, the band claiming that they’re reassessing its relevance in the era of Brexit and Trump, but they have chosen to reclaim their fanbase by commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of their third album, The Joshua Tree. Smart move: It’s the Irish band’s most overtly American album, and the one that sank deepest into the hearts of the boomers that would pay $100 or more to sit or stand outdoors.

The Venue.
Raymond James Stadium is the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s a big bowl of an open-air stadium that holds over 60,000 people, with GA standing on the field, sold out for a mostly white, mostly 40 and over audience (although I sat in front of a couple Asian children who seemed to know all the words, and I could see a mini-United Nations of flags waving through the crowd). It was a rainy Wednesday, a gray daylight as patrons in ponchos filled the stadium during One Republic’s opening set of radio-friendly pop-rock. Baseball-capped singer Ryan Tedder bounced around the massive stage, occasionally pounding some chords on a tarp-covered upright piano while most of the other bandmembers played from within pop-up tents or under canopies. The ginormous screen behind the stage—200 by 45 foot—displayed live shots of the band, but the images were out of sync with the sound system enough to be distracting. Tedder made it clear that the band was not One Direction, did a passable cover of “Wonderful World,” and led fans through hits such as “Counting Stars.” (I’d have preferred One Direction.)

Poetry and the Weather.
During the hour between sets, thoughtful and provocative poems by Rita Dove, Robert Pinsky, Naomi Shihab Nye, Yusef Komunyakaa, Elizabeth Alexander, and others scrolled on the screen; it was a nice blend of artful social consciousness for those not too busy swilling $12 light beers. The rain waned to a drizzle, then stopped; the sun came out; and, before sunset, a full double-rainbow appeared above the stadium. Oh my god, what did it mean? Maybe an omen: it could turn into a beautiful day just for U2.

The Show Begins.
As 9 p.m. neared, the lights dimmed, and the p.a. played The Waterboys’ great “The Whole of the Moon.” Then, a spotlight shined on drummer Larry Mullen at the end of the runway stage, shaped as a shadow of the Joshua tree image on the screen, and extending onto the floor. One by one the rest of the quartet gathered for “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Playing at a remove from the stage and in a relatively tight circle, the band conveyed an intimacy even in the huge space, and they stayed there for the next three songs: a rousing “New Year’s Day,” a steadily pulsing  “Bad” (which incorporated a few lines from Paul Simon’s “America”), and an emphatic “Pride (In the Name of Love)” (while a portion of the text of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech scrolled on the screen).

First Impressions.
The Edge is amazing. Impassive in his knit cap in the Florida humidity, he casually reels off those iconic, crystalline lines with the ringing, effects-laden tones. They sounded great coursing through the night, and there’s a stirring power in seeing all that sound emanating from that singular guitar. Mullen and bassist Adam Clayton provide the bedrock, leaving lots of space for the Edge, and he fills it with casual brilliance. That moment in “Sunday Bloody Sunday” when he shifts to serrated chords still thrills.

Bono 1: The Cheerleader.
The 57-year old’s voice is slightly huskier than in his youth, but it’s still strong and got stronger as the night wore one. I could do without his exhortations for crowd participation (Bono sez: Wave your arms. Bono sez: Clap your hands. Bono sez: Light up your cellphones. And tens of thousands obey). But those self-aggrandizing gestures were minimal (and less obtrusive than the tendency of folks to take cellphone pictures of the video screen of the band).

The Joshua Tree.
The band ascended to the main stage to begin their in-sequence performance of The Joshua Tree, and each song had its own video component, mostly short high-def films by longtime collaborator Anton Corbijn: a spacious desert landscape, a woman hastily painting a US flag on the side of a shed, stoic people donning army helmets, a seemingly endless road (for, of course, “Where the Streets Have No Name”), occasionally a stark red screen or live shots of the band playing. Sometimes the video was so beautiful and huge that it threatened to overshadow the small humans performing in front of it. Knowing what song would come next—the bane of these full-album setlists—minimized the suspense, and the record front-loads its hits: the opening trio of “Streets,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You” could be a triumphant encore in other contexts. But the arrangements stressed the variety: “Bullet the Blue Sky” was stark and metallic, with a screeching Edge solo; the rarely performed “Trip Through Your Wires” emphasized its warped blues roots, complete with Bono harmonica solo. “Red Hill Mining Town”—never performed live before this tour— was synced to video of a Salvation Army band and to tapes of horns. Introducing album side two, Bono noted, “We’re discovering some of these songs. You’ve lived with them more than we have.”

America.
Although the album was recorded in Ireland, it’s U2’s most American work, and Bono interjected comments about the American dream, about diversity and inclusivity, about the hope of Irish immigrants. He dedicated a lovely version of “One Tree Hill” to the memories of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings, which happened a year previously in Orlando. The Joshua Tree was born of the Reagan-Thatcher era, and songs like “Mothers of the Disappeared” seem timely now; sure, the show was an exercise in nostalgia, but the album sounded relevant, sometimes implicitly (in its questioning of American dreams and failures) and explicitly (in Bono’s comments and in the images on the screen). During a sprawling, abstract version of “Exit,” they played a clip from a black and white fifties western called Trackdown in which a character named Trump wants to save a town by building a wall but gets shouted down by cries of “You’re a liar, Trump!” Within the song—the most theatrical of the night—Bono also quoted a few prescient lines from Flannery O’Connor’s Southern Gothic novel Wise Blood: “Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going was never there. Where you are is no good unless you can get away from it.”

Bono 2: The Proselytizer
Yes, Bono is earnest, moralistic, preachy: He has a platform and he’s going to use it. I saw U2 in a college auditorium in England in January 1981 a few months after Boy came out, and Bono had a cockiness about him even then: It’s a rock and roll convention. But he’s self-aware, and in Tampa he kept his set speeches brief, advocating “people have the power” politics and basic empathy. He declared early on that the country’s ideals of inclusivity should appeal to everyone, whether on the right, the left or in the center: He didn’t want to alienate. Sure, it was self-indulgent when he sang while shining a handheld camera at his own face, and the frequent sweeping generalizations about the American mythos became redundant, but the general sense of idealism and community and hope were uplifting. It’s artifice and propaganda, but it’s still inspiring; it’s good to be reminded of our potential and our need for empathy, and the widescreen nature of the messages fit the music (and the literal wide screen).

The Third Act.
After a short break, the band returned for “Miss Syria (Sarajevo),” a version of “Miss Sarajevo” from the U2/Eno Passengers project. Revamped to focus on the Syrian refugee crisis (but still with a taped operatic vocal), it was accompanied by a film showing the devastating conditions of the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. A huge sheet with a photo of a Syrian refugee passed, hand to hand, around the stadium (a cool moment, but a little too close in method to Triumph of the Will-like rabblerousing). Next came “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” from Achtung Baby (the even-better successor to The Joshua Tree). They dedicated the song to their mothers and wives and the other women in their lives, and the screen displayed a roll-call of heroines, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Sojourner Truth to Gloria Steinem and Michelle Obama to Pussy Riot and Patti Smith. Then came the overt crowd-pleasers: the anthemic “One,” the joyful “Beautiful Day,” the powerful “Elevation,” the resolute “Vertigo.” All highlights, but especially the straight-up rock and roll of “Elevation,” which featured some gonzo Edge guitar (and some pogoing as he played). The two-hour show omitted lots of hits to make way for all of The Joshua Tree, but that’s inevitable.

U2 can, indeed, still make you believe that it can be a beautiful day.

***

Go to the BLURT Facebook page to view videos that publisher Stephen Judge filmed while touring Dublin on the day marking the 30th anniversary of the release of The Joshua Tree. Elsewhere on this site you can find a selection of archival content related to U2 since we debuted in 2008 – used the search box on the right.

 

Animal Collective + Circuit des Yeux 5/24/17, Northampton MA

Dates: May 24, 2017

Location: Calvin Theater, Northampton, Mass.

The location was the Calvin Theater in Northampton; the reaction was pure euphoria, an all-body experience. Scroll down to view the photo gallery.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JENNIFER KELLY

Since its early aughts emergence, Animal Collective has spliced campfire songs with club beats. They’re one of the few bands to have been counted, loosely, approximately and simultaneously in both the freak folk and the noise-dance-Black-Dice-ish camps, though neither designation ever fit very well. Lately, though, the beat-driven, rave-y side of them has predominated. Records like last year’s Painting With and the subsequent EP The Painters have had less of the soaring and lyrical, more of the thudding programmed rhythms, and the current live show, which leans heavily on these two releases, is likewise trance-y and electronic. If your favorite Animal Collective thing ever was Sung Tongs (or perhaps the EP with Vashti Bunyan), this would NOT be your show.

And yet, for the crowd of kids packed around the stage — a couple of them dressed in pajama-like animal costumes — the current iteration was a powerful euphoric. In the first couple of rows, the pounding beats surged up from the floor like an electric current, the sing-song-y lyrics lifted animal (sorry) spirits up to the rafters, and the elaborate onstage art, flashed and pulsed in time, an all-body experience if there ever was one.

The night opened with Haley Fohr’s Circuit des Yeux, a stark, spare version of her extreme vocal art, accompanied by 12-string, loops and lots of pedals. She is thin and spry and a little gawky, an excellent picker in the American primitive tradition, but the really surprising thing about her, every time, is how deep and powerful her voice is. She seems, since the last time I saw her, to have settled more comfortably into live performance, no longer hiding behind hair and a trucker’s hat, but taking up a center position and letting loose with her velvety contralto. She can hold a note for two or three measures, the tone absolutely clear and pummeling and far from drifting off, actually crescendoing as she goes.

I hadn’t realized, up to this point, how good of a guitar player she was either. She sounds at times like Jack Rose in a particularly lyrical “Crossing North Forks” frame of mine, at others like mystical Basho, at still others plays with a bossa nova lilt in her lines. The set culminates in a long, multi-part “Story of this World,” a song which appears on 2015’s In Plain Speech, but which here is blown out into a folk-rock-psych odyssey, moving from pretty folk to thunderous guitar feedback and back again. Extraordinary set.

***

Animal Collective follows, with Panda Bear, Geologist and Avey Tare set up on consoles and a drummer on kit in the back. It is, possibly, because so much of their work is three guys twiddling knobs that the stage show is so critical and elaborate. Three grey statues flank the stage, crossing Easter Island monumentality with a line-drawn whimsy: they are, left to right, a woman in a bow-tie, a dog with a party hat and a hand sticking out of his head, and an approximation of Mr. Potatohead as drawn by Picasso. I say they’re grey, and that’s their natural state, but over the course of the show, they are lit up in every rainbow color, pulsing in orange, blue, green, red, purple in time to Animal Collective’s powerful rhythms. The whole back wall of the stage is taken up by a painted screen, on which images, some abstract, some literal, all colorful, are projected throughout the show. Some of the imagery ties directly into lyrical content (during “Bees” there are bees on the screen), and all of it is coordinated to shifts in tempo and musical phrasing, so I imagine Animal Collective must follow a pretty strict set list, so as to match up to the visuals. Even so, however, the light show doesn’t seem to constrain the show or push it in unwanted directions or even distract; it is as much a part of the experience as the music itself.

The show opens with altered, abstracted vocal sounds and then the big hard beat of “Hocus Pocus,” the dark stage lit up, all of the sudden with spiraling blue lights. A playful, island mood takes over in the trebly “Water Curses,” from an EP released almost ten years ago, with strobing flashes of red and yellow lighting up the stage and statues. You don’t want to be an epileptic at this show. A more spiritual vibe emerges from the surging, intercutting voices of “Guys Eyes,” as Avey Tare sings “Need her, need her,” over and over. A string of happy, peppy, electronically jacked songs ensues “Burglars,” “On Delay,” and then the staccato, sticks on rims syncopation of “Sweet Road,” the splayed harpsichord chords of “Bees” brings us back, briefly, into a more lyrical, vulnerable early avatar of the band. (Though not unchanged, “Bees” is a lot more hopping-up-and-down jacked than I remember it.) The main set closes with an extended version of “Summertime Clothes,” which so pleases the crowd (and the band) that they stop once and do a bit of the chorus again.

An encore starts with the messy staticky electric pop of “Recycling” and “Kinda Bonkers” and then finishes with “Daily Routine,” a prime example of the kind of soaring, melodic anthemry that Animal Collective used to regularly pull off and now mostly avoids. Towards the end Panda Bear trades vocals with Avey Tare, Tare in a rhythmic chant, Bear in baroquely beautiful descants. The audience has applauded three times like the show is over before he finishes, but he keeps coming back with another achingly pretty choral flourish. Yeah, we missed it, too.

 

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

14 STEPS: Garland Jeffreys Live

Hugh’s Room Live was the scene, and the man delivered. Boy, did he ever.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY ERIC THOM

I’ve never met the Pope. But I’ve met Garland Jeffreys and I’m expecting the experience to be similar. Aside from the man’s 47+ years of show business credentials and endless library of exceptional songs, he appears to stand for everything that matters in this world, embracing an absolute love of his fellow man with a buoyant, upbeat positivity that would make Julie Andrews blush – everything you’d expect of a proper pontiff. Completely approachable and extremely fan-friendly, the extra time he invested into the end of his evening turned out to be as lengthy as the 16-song set he and his Coney Island Playboys had just laid out for a full, adoring house of forever fans. Long after most artists would’ve been justifiably hotel-bound, Garland Jeffreys sincerely cares to go that extra mile.

Touring his latest (14th) release, the 12-track 14 Steps To Harlem, Jeffreys was quick to keep things moving forward, proving that one of New York’s finest poets is as relevant today as he ever was –possibly more so. A lifetime of smart, socially-conscious songs and brilliant covers – dipped in loving portions of rock, R&B, blues and reggae – has resulted in the creation of music defying simple categorization. Born to an African American father and a Puerto-Rican mother, the tough neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn made him the butt of rampant racism, paying dearly for being neither fully white or black. Jeffreys fought back with love and music, penning countless songs to document his painful, isolated journey in his efforts to right the wrongs of the world without ever once pulling the victim card. In so doing, he grew all the more invincible for his efforts, earning the respect – and friendship – of powerful people.

So, for many of us, Garland Jeffreys is more than a successful musician with an impressive career (who, by the way, still sounds and acts as freshly-squeezed as he did when he first started). He’s a modern-day hero, if not an icon for beating the odds and winning over negativity with compassion and positive action. And…. let’s not forget the fruit of his labor – his inimitable catalogue. Beginning with a track from 2011’s The King of In Between, “Coney Island Winter”, Jeffreys and band slowly built up momentum as the small Hugh’s Room stage had its sound adjusted.

Rolling Stone’s Best New Artist of the Year (’77) followed this with “’til John Lee Hooker Calls Me” from the same record, a tough-sounding blue boogie in the spirit of the master. Yet it took the slowed down version of the Stones-like “The Contortionist” (The King of In Between) to truly appreciate the ageless quality of Jeffreys’ rich vocals. The significant live skills of his band members are not to be discounted, integral to Jeffreys’ secret recipe. Keyboardist and longtime band member, Charly Roth, plays a key role in adding flesh to each composition while the fat-bottomed rhythm section of drummer Tom Curiano and bassist Brian Stanley are crucial to the foot-tapping nature of every Jeffreys song. Guitarist Justin “J.J.” Jordan proved a wizard with many surprises – from dizzying lead solos and special effects across a range of stringed instruments.

The highly effervescent “Venus” (from 14 Steps To Harlem) is a natural fit to Jeffreys’ repertoire – a “summer song” if you’ve ever heard one, causing the artist to ask the crowd if he had a hit on his hands. “Yes”, came the immediate vote. Harlem’s ”Reggae On Broadway” fed fans their fix of that earthy collision of New York via Jamaica. Yet it was two tracks from ‘77s Ghost Writer that quickly elevated the temperature of the room: the infectious “35 Millimeter Dreams” was manna from heaven while the sweetly soulful “Spanish Town” benefited from Jordan’s deft Spanish guitar accompaniment and Jeffreys’ emotional mastery over the Latin-esque ballad. Chili dogs have never sounded so appetizing.

The newer, rockier “When You Call My Name” (Harlem) followed with supportive vocals from band members and a heavily, keyboard-led groove. A heartfelt story about meeting John Lennon (a like-minded advocate of right over wrong) led to a slowed-down, graceful remake of The Beatles’ ”Help” (14 Steps). The quirky “Harlem Bound”, from his self-titled ’73 release, took flight, nourished by Roth’s lovely piano and powered by Stanley’s funky bass contributions, before segueing into the powerful “14 Steps to Harlem”. A tribute to Dylan’s influence came in the form of “She Belongs To Me” merged into his tribute to fellow Syracuse University classmate, Lou Reed, and an aggressive, harder-edged cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For The Man”. Far from an artist feeling the need to ‘milk the oldies’, “Ghost Writer” has become a must-play and the audience was treated to this sensual, if not penultimate Jeffreys track which, again, revisited elements of “14 Steps to Harlem” to stunning effect. Ghost Writer’s “New York Skyline” was another essential flashback as Jeffreys updated it with a “We’re All Equal” rap that also boasted one of Jordan’s most effective guitar solos.

And, from the school of Ending the Show with a Bang, an uproariously funky treatment of “Hail Hail Rock’n’Roll” (from Don’t Call Me Buckwheat) was a talk-sung barn-burner – not before closing with an equally powerful cover of one of his strongest covers – ? and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears” (from Escape Artist), featuring some impressive B3 from Roth’s keyboard. Sweating up a storm and in a clearly rambunctious mood – nourished by an audience who couldn’t quite get enough of Pope Garland – this night was clearly as much fun for the spry performer as it was for the party faithful. Jokingly, he reminded us that, should anyone ask what the ruckus was all about, “tell them Elvis was in the building. ‘

There was no “Wild In The Streets”, “Cool Down Boy” or “I May Not Be Your Kind” – but there didn’t need to be. Essential? Vital? Legendary? Crucial? You can’t help but gain a reassuring handle on your world given the realization that New York’s proudest son continues to perform like a man on a mission. Even better, despite all that he’s endured, Jeffreys feels truly blessed in his role to make the world a better place. Hail, hail indeed.

Postscript” If there’s anyone out there who doesn’t know Garland Jeffreys or doesn’t understand his musical contribution, there’s good news in the form of a feature documentary that’s in the works. Interviews with Laurie Anderson, Graham Parker and Harvey Keitel are already in the can as this project grows. You can get involved via the crowd-funding site, below:

http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/whoisgarlandjeffreys

Justin Townes Earle + The Sadies 5/26/17, Denver

Dates: May 26, 2017

Location: Bluebird Theatre, Denver CO

More twang per capita than most folks get in a lifetime, but this time it was the Bluebird Theatre.

BY TIM HINELY / PHOTOS BY BEN CURNETT

At this point I’d have hard time believeing that The Sadies could even put on a bad show. After seeing them last summer in Denver (at the Bull and Bush Pub) and tonight it’s obvious this band’s strength is on the stage. By the time we had arrived the band was already on stage, but only a song or two in and the nearly capacity crowd were completely rapt while the band was playing and erupted in applause n’ hoots once each song was done. Their fan base is very dedicated.

The band hails from Toronto, Canada and is the brainchild of brothers Dallas and Travis Good (with Sean Dean on stand-up bass and Mike Belitsky on drums) and are usually lumped in with the alternative country crowd and while they do mine plenty of country elements in their music, they also include elements of surf and psych into their proceedings as well. The end product is a set of instantly likeable songs (even if you don’t like country music) and the band just exudes a certain energy, flair and a serious love of what they’re doing. It’s really intoxicating. They played a handful of songs off their latest, Northern Passages (Yep Roc) and tossed in a cover of fellow countrymen Blue Rodeo’s “Palace of Gold.” Please keep comin’ back to Denver.

It had been a number of years since I’d last caught Justin Townes Earle (opening up for Jason Isbell at the Aladdin Theatre in Portland in 2011 or so). On this night he was backed by the Sadies (yup, pullin’ double duty) and had an extra guitar player in Lambchop’s Paul Niehaus (who is a monster on guitar). This lineup fit him well.

He’s touring for his band news album, Kids in the Street (New West Records), another strong record from this son of Steve Earle who hasn’t made a bad platter yet. He opened up with a few cuts from said record and then turned back the clock and played some of his older cuts like “Christchurch Woman,” “Move Over Mama” and “One More Night in Brooklyn.” All crowd pleasers.

The cuts from the new record we heard were “Champagne Corolla”, “15-25” and. He then went backwards and we heard stunning versions of “I Killed John Henry,” “Nothings Goma Change the Way You Feel About Me Now” (which he described as “maybe the saddest song I ever wrote”) and he even snuck in a cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.”

He left and came back for a few encores (including “Harlem River Blues”) and called it a night.

It’s obvious that Earle is a real talent. He seems to have beaten his battle with the bottle (being newly sober with a baby on the way). I sure hope so, the guy is too damn good to go the way of so many other musicians. We need him here and now.

Lewis Watson 5/12/17, Toronto

Dates: May 12, 2017

Location: Mod Club, Toronto ON

Live at Toronto’s Mod Club, the British singer-songwriter proved he was no Sheeran wannabe.

BY ERIC THOM

Behold a new breed of concert for a new breed of fan. Know that I don’t yet consider myself one – but, having offered to drive my daughter home after the show, I thought I’d stick my head in to see what all the fuss was about. What I observed was a roomful of intensely-focused fans – mostly teenaged girls and youngish couples, obviously smitten by the charms of this 24-year old, British singer-songwriter, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.

Nothing particularly different about that, maybe – except that each fan knew every word and would join Watson in unison (or add harmony) with less than a gesture. From an old fart’s perspective, this was a 90-minute group hug of the closest kind, as rewarding for the artist as it was for the fan. There’s no question an artist performs differently for people who appreciate their music – it’s far more than a payday. This was clearly an elongated love letter between the two. Watson has been seen, by some, as being another Ed Sheeran wannabe – however there’s no questioning his talent as a gifted writer and as a performer. The Sheeran comparison has its validity, primarily for their shared approach to tapping into a certain freshness in the category of introspective, acoustic pop, for their seemingly boundless energy and for that coy hint of innocence. Similarly, Watson possesses an innate rhythmic element (recalling a young Dave Matthews) and – with two LPs and countless EPs to draw from – a pool of material which reveals him as an inventive lyricist and arranger. This simplified, solo set provided an opportunity to zoom in on the strengths of his vocals. Label-free and running his own show with little more than the power of Social Media on his side, the young Oxford native is promoting a well-teased, new, 10-track album, Midnight – rich in blending the expected with a more progressive use of added instrumentation.

Touring the world on the strengths of his loyal, if not rabid, fans, he’s delivering exactly what they want. And while the strengths of these songs depend heavily on the support of a full band sound, Watson exudes an obvious charm, an emotive voice, a deep-dish sincerity and conviction, plus enough sing-along hooks to keep the potentially rowdy room completely spellbound. More power to him. And if that wasn’t hard enough work for one night, he made a heartfelt promise to meet everyone (“no matter whether you buy any merch or not”) after the last song was played (the stunning “Deep The Water”). There was no call for an encore. It was an understanding. And then the entire room queued up to meet their youthful hero – a huge line snaking through the full depth of the room and 3-4 deep. True to his word and with barely the wipe of a towel, Watson preceded to meet’n’greet each and every individual, tapping into utter enthusiasm with tireless energy. Hugs to all, animated conversations (most fans have seen him before), posing for countless cell phone photos for one and all, selling and signing LPs, CDs and shirts and generally adding another hour or two to his evening.


He’s no dummy nor is there any question of his genuineness. This is the job and he loves it like it’s his first time. Had you arrived at the show feeling largely unloved or at all under-appreciated, you’d go home feeling like a million bucks. No wonder he’s catching on.

***

Son Volt + Sera Cahoone 5/12/17, Englewood, CO

Dates: May 12, 2017

Location: Gothic Theatre, Englewood, CO

Live at the celebrated Denver-area Gothic Theatre, the Americana pioneers touched all the right bases.

TEXT BY TIM HINELY / PHOTOS BY JEFFREY WEBB DAVIS

It had been close to two decades since I’d last seen Jay Farrar’s Son Volt in a live setting. I loved the band’s first two records (and most of the third one, too), but after that record Farrar didn’t release another Son Volt record for another 7 years (2005’s Okemag and the Melody of Riot) and instead opted to release records under his own name and do some collaborations. It wasn’t quite the same for me. I’d heard bits of later records but for me nothing quite seemed to catch that magic like those first few records.

I wasn’t going to go tonight, but a few pals had planned on it so I joined in. Plus Sera Cahoone was opening and I try not to miss any of her sets.

Walked in to a packed house at the Gothic and Cahoone had just started. It was just her on stage with a friend who was playing violin. Cahoone is touring for her new record, From Where I Started (Lady Muleskinner Records) and it’s another gorgeous bunch of folky songs from this highly underrated songwriter. They played a handful of cuts from that record but also pulled out some classics from her last record,  2012’s Deer Creek Canyon including the title track and “Nervous Wreck.”  They also did a splendid cover of “Delta Dawn” and called it a night, but not before giving a shout out to her family (Cahoone was born and raised in the Denver area but now lives in Seattle).

Farrar and company hit the stage at 10 PM and I noticed that I wasn’t the oldest person here and the gig was a nice mix of ages. They opened playing a bunch of  cuts from his latest, Notes of Blue including “Static,” “Lost Souls” and “Cherokee St.” From there they also pulled out several gems from classic first album, Trace including “Route,” “Tear Stained Eye,” “Drown” and “Catching On” while from ‘97’s Straightaways they played the beautiful pop song “Back Into Your World.”

During the set the band members mostly kept their heads down and played with Farrar, a man not known for too much chatter, occasionally mumbled a “thank you” in between songs (toward the end of the set he also introduced the band).

They came out for a two-song-encore which was “Windfall’ and  Uncle Tupelo’s “Chickamauga” and then came out for a second encore handling the Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On,” slowing it down, if just a little. Another terrific set from this hard-working bunch. All of the folks I spoke to after the set were more than satisfied.

 

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