Category Archives: live review

Austin City Limits Music Festival 2017 (Weekend 1)

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


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

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


The Wild Now – Cute and poppy.

ROMES – Trying too hard to be sexy.

The Band of Heathens – An Austin classic!

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Ásgeir – A less poetic Bon Iver.

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Run The Jewels – Simply kicked ass.

Vance Joy – Great, fun show.

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

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


SUPER-DUPER GROUP ALERT: Filthy Friends Live in Chicago


Chicago, Il.

Down at the Goose Island Block Party, our man with the plan in the Windy City had the best view of all…


What a way to celebrate this year’s Autmnal Equinox.

And in the good company of some Filthy Friends, all the while being able to sample some new fall batches of local craft beer. Where did all this goodness go down, you might ask?  Well, friends at a block party put on by Chicago’s oldest and largest craft breweries; Goose Island. Let us praise and raise a toast to sir John Barleycorn.

A spectacular setting sun illuminated the short, fun and upbeat set put forth by Corin Tucker and the Friends: Pete Buck, Scott McCaughey, Kurt Bloch, and Linda Pitmon. After that they had to cram into the van and bust out of Chicago for the drive to Cincinnati to make Saturday’s afternoon festival show.

Highly recommend catching thee Filthy Friends, should they make it out your neck of the woods. Considering the members of the Filthies and their varying schedules, it does make for a special occasion and/or a logistical nightmare to get all them Filthy Friends under the same roof for a house party.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.

Chicago, Il.


The Hideout Block Party 9/23/17 Chicago

Chicago, IL.

Day 1 of a 2-day bash, and our man on the ground in the Windy City was there…


On the last weekend of September 2017, The Hideout, Chicago’s closest thing to a jook joint, celebrated its 21st year of being young; with a two-day block par-tee.

Saturday the 23rd, celebrated those near and dear to The Hideout, who were all born the same year Sputnik was launched. That included many people associated with the Hideout itself, most of the bands, and many of those on the block.

Chicago, IL.

This was a party to turn up guitars, possibly kill an amp or two and overindulge in homemade, “organic” popsicles, and of course various adult beverages.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Several bands were playing new music from recent releases notably, Jon Langford with Skull Orchard (Langford’s just-released Bloodshot album is Four Lost Souls) and Antietam (who self-issued their latest Motorific Sounds). Couple what the fuck moments were, the Condo Fucks set, of Ramones vs. Thee Headcoats-like covers. These rare to tour New Jersey surf punks (who bore a remarkable resemblance to fellow Jerseyites Yo La Tengo) got the kids dancin’ and just may have brought back the lost art of gobbing.

The final “fuck me what just happened” moment, was Eleventh Dream Day. They unloaded on the unsuspecting with such unholy vengeance slash rejuvenation slash unadulterated fun; that one began to think snakes were going to start falling out of the sky. Don’t believe anything has left the woodshed yet, but; when and if that something does, it may make you re-think your place on earth.

Chicago, IL.

Great kickoff to the two day par-tee.

Best wishes to all Sputniks (above) and the many other orbiters in R&R space.


Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Condo Fucks

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Jon Langford & Skull Orchard

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Eleventh Dream Day

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.

Chicago, IL.



Widowspeak + Death Valley Girls 9/19/17, Denver

Dates: September 19, 2017

Location: Hi-Dive, Denver CO

Live at the Hi Dive…


Death Valley Girls are three gals and one guy who hail from El-Lay, but they might as well be from a different planet. At least the Squeaky Fromme singer. Oh she has a name, it’s Bonnie Bloomgarden and I guess on tour these folks do nothing but search out haunted places (I told ya’ they were weird!). Musically? They hit a sweet spot right where punk, bubblegum, garage, metal and space rock all collide, make out and go their seprarate ways (which makes them all feel so used). They’ve got  few records out on the Burger label so enter at your own risk (ah, you’ll befine, just drop some Pixie Stix before listening).

Widowspeak came back to town as I caught this hirsute quartet from Brooklyn, NY here a few years back and they all still look like Cousin It (except the singer, she’s way cuter than Cousin It). They just released their 4th full-length, Expect the Best, out on Captured Tracks label (like their previous three) and it’s in the same ballpark. They mine a territory that bands like Mazzy Star used to (or a band like Escondido currently does) as lead vocalist Molly Hamilton lays down a dark, soothing vibe while the rest of the band soothes the groove (especially guitarist Robert EarlThomas) while they blasted out dense cuts like “The Dream” and “Warmer” (both from said new record). This bunch won’t get your blood boiling but will help you dream a lovely dream.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists 9/14/17, Philadelphia

Dates: September 14, 2017

Location: Union Transfer, Philadelphia PA

Live at Union Transfer – once upon a time, a Spaghetti Warehouse.


“Good Evening Philadelphia! We’ve got a lot of songs to get through, so I’m not gonna talk too much,” pledged a dapper Ted Leo, taking the stage of Union Transfer, a former Spaghetti Warehouse turned stellar concert venue.

Thankfully, he didn’t keep his word as Leo, probably one of the most charming storytellers to come out of Jersey since Springsteen, peppered the set with a slew of self-deprecating jokes, one-offs and stories.

Kicking off the show with “Moon Out of Phase,” off his new album, The Hanged Man, Leo and his band played a fantastic collection of newer songs and classics, cramming two dozen tunes with plenty of Leo’s banter in between. The show was a homecoming of sorts for a bulk of the touring band who call Philly home (there was even a moment when Leo and his guitar player traded off their best Philly accents).

Though Leo has never been overtly political, the current administration and its policies managed to play a role in Thursday night’s show regardless.  “As you may imagine, it’s a weird time; it’s odder than usual to be out and exuberant, but thanks for having us,” he said early in the set to loud cheers.

Before launching into “Heart Problems,” of off Shake The Sheets, her lamented the move by the president and many in Congress to try and get rid of the Affordable Health Care Act which has given health insurances to millions. “We need to be expanding it, not denying it.”

Leo, on the stage solo for a handful of songs, also took time to acknowledge the death earlier that day of Grant Hart and the passing just a day before of Jessi Zazu, playing a beautiful cover of the Hart-penned Husker Du track “She Floated Away.”

More than two decades into their career, Ted Leo (along with his band) is not just doing ok, he’s hitting his creative stride, managing to be both a better musician and fantastic showman.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

Dates: September 15, 16 & 17, 2017

Location: Douglas Park, Chicago IL

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



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

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

Day 1

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


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

New Order

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

Nine Inch Nails

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


Day 2:

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


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


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


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

Bad Brains

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

Mike D (DJ set)

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

Gogol Bordello

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

At the Drive In

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


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


Day 3:

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


Beach Slang

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

-He’d been drinking since early that day

-He does better with straws (in a drink)

-No guitar can hold him

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

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

Hot Water Music

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

Mighty Bosstones (Performing Let’s Face It)

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

Minus the Bear

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

GWAR (candids in the press area)

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

Built to Spill

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


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

Prophets of Rage

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


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


Boy, did that park dance.


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

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


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


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



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

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



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



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

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



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

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

Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman 9/3/17 Littleton, CO

Dates: September 3, 2017

Location: Hudson Gardens, Littleton CO

Tales from topographic gardens – specifically, Hudson Gardens…


Ok, so I blew off La Luz at the Bluebird for this because for one, I’ve seen La Luz several times and two, I had never seen Yes before, or at least something this close to Yes.

Also I had never been to Hudson Gardens before but had heard good things. It’s a big field where they have weddings, parties, classes and off to the side is a stage where bands play. It’s mostly of ther over-50 yuppie variety. This past summer saw the likes of Chris Issak, Firefall, Loverboy, Donny and Marie, the B-52’s and lots more, you get the picture. This Yes show was the last one of the season and we caught it on a perfect night, in fact, after being a real hot day it really cooled off in the evening. Perfect for concert going!

This version of Yes is billing itself as “Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman.” Apparently Steve Howe has a different version of yes touring the country as well (R.I.P. Chris Squire); for a dissection of the legal and personal breakdown between the Anderson and Howe camps in April of this year and what led up to it, read this story at Ultimate Classic Rock.

I had begun following the band on the heels of their third album The Yes Album from `71 and continued on through the following records of  Fragile, Close to the Edge and Yessongs.

In addition to the foundation of Anderson on vocals (he sounded great) Wakeman on keyboards and Rabin on guitar they had a rhythm section in tow as well (who from our vantage point we couldn’t even see…..I couldn’t see Wakeman either from where we were sitting off of stage left).

They opened with “Cinema” and led into “Perpetual Change” and then right into “Hold On.” From there the set lagged, if just a little, with “South Side of the Sky” and “And You and I” but picked up again when they soared into “Lift Me Up” and “Rhythm of Love” with a chatty, amiable Anderson talkintg to the crowd in between songs.
They ended with it “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and came back out for one encore, which was “Roundabout” (which is an old fave, sounded great and really got the crowd moving).

I was a little bummed about not hearing cuts like ‘Starship Trooper,” “Yours is No Disgrace” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” (yup, I do lean heavily toward The Yes Album) but at least we heard “Perpetual Change” from that album.

Aside from hearing the hum of the food trucks that were nearby (serves us right for not getting there early enough to be closer to the stage) and a meathead security guy not letting me take pics even though I had a photo pass, it’s a nice place to see a concert. Our beach chairs got some good use for the night and Yes can still pack a punch. Now I’m curious to hear Steve Howe’s version.

Photo credit: Pollstar/Hard Rock International

Steve Earle & the Dukes 8/1/17, Omaha

Dates: August 1, 2017

Location: The Slowdown, Omaha NE


Onstage at The Slowdown, the rock ‘n’ roll gunslinger had an Omaha showdown to prove he is, indeed, one of our finest living elder statesmen.


Steve Earle is a hardcore son of a bitch.

For the better part of four decades, he has blazed a trail of truths that few, if any, in music today will even broach, let alone have the lyrical prowess to hang with Mr. Earle. Finally, after years of fandom, I was getting to see Steve Earle live, the man himself in action and it was everything I thought it would be. The intimate setting of The Slowdown, a venue situated in downtown Omaha next to an Urban Outfitters, holding 800 strong in attendance, was the perfect place to see Earle and his band The Dukes, weave tales of lost love, immigrant strife, a drunken week, or the Holy City of Jerusalem.

On the road supporting the exceptional new record, Steve Earle and the Dukes’ So You Wanna Be An Outlaw, Steve and the Dukes showed why they should be considered in the “best of” conversation; stacking the 25-song-strong setlist with the most standout tracks from the new record, notably “Goodbye Michelangelo” (written in memory of the recently departed mentor/songwriting great Guy Clark), the shout out to all the “hot shots” out there battling the ever present wildfires (“Firebreak Line”) or the sound of a man at peace with his choices in life, at peace with his place, his future. (“Fixin’ to Die”).

Where Earle stands above the rest as a songwriter is his ability to convey heartbreak, a sincerity that is strong to a fault, and the joy he seems to find with the creation of art that will stand long after he has shaken loose this mortal coil. He has mined the self-doubt and resignation that hangs above those that staff the death houses in America’s prisons (“Ellis Unit One”) and Earle’s stance on the deeply flawed culture built around retribution, the misguided belief that two wrongs make a right. He’s told stories of moonshiners (“Copperhead Road”), confusing religion with God (“Jerusalem”), gunslingers (“Hardin Wouldn’t Run”), immigration (“City of Immigrants”), segregation (“Taneytown”), or what happens when you turn your back on responsibility and head for the border (“A Week of Living Dangerously”).

Steve has spent his life telling those who would listen what he believes in, even as he fell deeper and deeper into his own demons, channeling the frustration that comes with the hells of addiction, the soul shattering bottoms and otherworldly highs, all the while becoming one of America’s greatest songsmiths. Earle helped create a genre, blending country aspects and rock n roll spirit, and on this August Midwestern night, as he has done on countless nights in endless towns before, he proved that he is not planning to go quietly into that good night.

Building a legend through his words, marathon length shows, surviving seven marriages (twice to the same woman), sixteen records, and a drug intake that rivalled Keith Richards, the granddaddy of rock star excess, he survived it all and still has very moving stories to tell. For those that focus on the legendary wild times and the even wilder truths, they are missing the point.

Earle’s body of work stands higher than the stories, his approach to writing, drawing from his personal heroes Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, helped lay the bricks for a road that he shares with Dylan, Springsteen, Willie Nelson, and Neil Young in terms of songwriting ability and lyrical superiority. This, my friends, is a road that faux country stars like Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert, and every other joker out there claiming to be country, insisting to all that will listen to be outlaw, will never see, much less tread. When all those are washed away by time and changing fads, Earle’s work will stand above the wreckage as an example of how to write and song and rise above chaos to leave an indelible mark on the world.

The Steve Earle that took the stage this night is not the Steve Earle of old. This man on the stage was older, wiser, happier, and somehow better than he was in his so-called glory days of “Guitar Town”; he’s accepted that he is doing what he was put here to do and that he does it better than most anyone out there running today. He has aged into an elder statesman of country injected rock n roll, a champion for all those left behind or oppressed. Much like Cash before him, he speaks to the common man, speaking for those that have no voice.

Steve Earle is a hardcore son of a bitch, he speaks the truth and I am glad I finally had the chance to hear it.