Category Archives: Photo Gallery

Cory Branan & Jon Snodgrass 6/22/17, Denver

Dates: June 22, 2017

Location: Hi-Dive, Denver CO

Live at the Hi-Dive!

TEXT BY TIM HINELY/ PHOTOS BY JEFFREY WEBB DAVIS

It was my first time seeing Jon Snodgrass but I really have no excuse as between solo gigs and his band Drag the River he’s always taking one stage or another here in the Mile High City (or his home in Ft. Collins). And the guy is like a folk hero around here too. People love him. He cut his teeth in the 90’s in the band Armchair Martian (think Husker Du) then continued on in a more country direction with D.T.R. and his solo material. He’s a lifer.

On this night armed with an acoustic guitar and a ton of stories to tell, Snodgrass kept the mostly full Hi Dive audience rapt with longtime fans/friends shouting out songs they wanted to hear, knowing his catalog a helluva lot better than I do (or maybe better than Snodgrass himself). The guy’s got plenty of talent and enough charisma (helluva sense of humor, too) to deliver and he did indeed deliver. Toward the end of the set Branan joined him on stage for a few songs and all was (more) right with the world.

Bloodshot Records guy Cory Branan has played Denver at least a few other times and I kept missing him but I made it a point to be there on this Thursday night. Plus this tireless gentleman just got off the road as he spent all of March/April  hitting most of the American south (the guy is part machine, I think). He didn’t disappoint. Like his buddy Snodgrass he was armed with only an acoustic guitar an playing a barrage of songs off  all his records (including his brand new one Adios, on the venerable Bloodshot label…I loved his last one, 2014’s No-Hit Wonder).

On stage the Mississippi born n’ bred songwriter  is a bundle of energy, half Joe Strummer and half John Prine and it appears that he has a serious love of both, country and punk rock. He’s a hard hitter on that acoustic guitar of his, slamming the string downs (he broke a few during the night) and he was no less reckless when his pal Snodgrass joined him on stage. Blasting out a Warren Zevon cover (“Excitable Boy”) while from Adios we heard “I Only Know” and the politically-charged “Another Night in America.”

Elsewhere from No-Hit Wonder we heard “Missing You Fierce’ and “All the Rivers in Colorado” (which got lots of hoots n’ yelps from this hometown crowd) and a whole bunch of songs in between (including the excellent “Prettiest Waitress in Memphis”).

Not a lot of people out there can entrance an audience when all you have on stage is your acoustic guitar and your voice but Branan is no ordinary songwriter (as I said, part machine) he sings from his heart and intelligently of the human condition (he even stated that his latest album “mostly songs about death”) and he handles these topics with grace and aplomb. If I haven’t made it clear yet the guy is the real deal, don’t miss him.

 

One Less Reason 6/17/17, Jackson TN

Dates: June 17, 2017

Location: The Bassmnt, Jackson TN

Live at The Bassmnt, vowels optional.

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON

Fresh off of their Rock On The Range and Rocklahoma appearances, One Less Reason returned to their roots and played a homecoming show in Jackson, Tennessee, at the Bassmnt live venue. Although lead singer Cris Brown has called Memphis home for some time now, he hails from Jackson and that’s where his first band Lap Dog was born. The band Lap Dog didn’t start out as expected as their first gig was a night club in Jackson called Spinakers that allowed them to play on the outside patio. Halfway through the band’s set the manager actually paid them one hundred dollars to stop playing and load up.

If you have heard One Less Reason in the last twelve years then you already know they have defiantly gotten better. The nine albums since forming One less Reason has had several member changes along the way, but the constant has been Cris’s vocals and writing. With a controlled soulful voice that can go from soft heart touching all the way up to screaming rock that will have you jumping in the aisle.

One Less Reason’s first radio hit was back in 2005 with the single “Favorite Color” and have had a great underground follow ever since. With the release of The Memories Uninvited in 2016 the band has scored yet another hit with “Break Me” and even toured with Sick Puppies before landing not one but two Festival spots so far this year. The current line up seems to have come together as a whole firing on all cylinders and every member has mastered their instrument with the best stage presence to date.

Cris had a surprise in store for the hometown crowd and brought out ex guitarist Jerry Bailey for a couple acoustic songs, it was a great and touching moment for those of us who have been long time fans. Another highlight of the evening for me was when OLR played the song “uneasy”. Cris announced this was the first time he had played the song live. Cris brought up Anne Cline, an up and coming artist with his record label Tattoo Millionaire Records, to sing the female part originally sang by Blair Simpson.

If you are tired of the trend of the screaming heavy metal or the rap/rock acts that start to sound like one another, I encourage you to download some of the One Less Reason albums and make rock great again.

To see and follow more of Mark’s concert pictures follow @markjacksonphotography1

 

Skillet 6/6/17, Memphis

Dates: June 6, 2017

Location: New Daisy Theatre, Memphis TN

Live at the New Daisy Theatre, in music city Memphis.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON

Skillet and Devour The Day (below) played the Famous New Daisy Theatre on June 6th and both bands brought their A game.

This was a special night for Skillet’s lead singer John Cooper who formed the band back in 1996 in Memphis, TN. John took this opportunity to invite his family and close friends to come out for a hometown show. John took time to acknowledge them and even stated that his dad was excited to experience the show since he had good earplugs in! There was another friend and celebrity who came out to support the band, none other than Zack Myers guitarist for Shinedown who is also a Memphian. I had the good fortune to see and photograph Skillet just two weeks before at Rock On The Range in Columbus Ohio where they had a great set, but this performance was ten times better. Maybe it was due to the smaller venue, the full stage setup which included hydraulic pedestals for guitarists (wife) Korey and Seth that allowed them to rise above the stage almost reaching the ceiling, or maybe it was because John had his family and friends in the house. Whatever it was this was this Christian rock band put on a stellar performance that left everyone wanting more!

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit + Amanda Shires 6/18/17, Raleigh

Dates: June 18, 2017

Location: North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh NC

Eyes as big as stars, all under a starry night at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TODD GUNSHER

I think it can be easily said that the coolest dad in Raleigh this past Father’s Day was Jason Isbell. On the second date of the tour supporting his latest record, The Nashville Sound, he put on one hell of a rock and roll show to a sold-out crowd under a starry North Carolina night.

Coming out of the gate with “Cumberland Gap” and “Stockholm,” Jason and his longtime band The 400 Unit signified, as always, that they mean business. Unlike many songwriters who hire different musicians whenever they hit the road, the fact that Isbell goes out with the same players brings a consistency that strengthens the music. While the songs are Isbell’s, on stage this is a band, not a singer with some supporting players. Jason clearly thinks highly of the guys, Sadler Vaden, (guitar), Jimbo Hart, (bass), Derry DeBorja (keyboards) and Chad Gamble (drums), introducing each of them multiple times throughout the night, often with a dryly delivered one-liner. Joining the 400 Unit on fiddle and vocals was Isbell’s wife Amanda Shires who, with her own band, also opened the show (below).

You can find reviews of The Nashville Sound elsewhere (it’s already got my vote for the album of the year), but Jason is obviously proud of the work as eight of it’s 10 songs made up nearly half the set. Great songwriters transcend genre but must also continually work at their craft, and Isbell’s work over the years puts him in the upper echelon of great songwriters. Throughout the night, all the songs, whether “Outfit” (complete with a Father’s Day dedication to his dad) and “Decoration Day” from his Drive-

By Truckers days, or the most recent songs like “Tupelo” and “White Man’s World” all fit alongside one another and all seem equally familiar.  I was really glad to hear “Something To Love” which became a favorite upon my first listen, and judging by the response of the crowd I’m not alone. Not only was it a setlist with with no filler, it’s near impossible to even find a throwaway line, he is a true craftsman. And then there’s his guitar playing, which is not only great, but played on a stunning collection of instruments that I’m sure didn’t go unnoticed by the other guitar nerds in the audience.

The band ended the set with the quiet of “Cover Me Up” followed by the heavy riffing of “Anxiety.” Returning to the stage for the encore, they slowed things back down with “If We Were Vampires,” a beautiful song off the new record that already ranks up there with the best of his material. To close out the night, Jason said they were going to play an Allman Brothers song, to the obvious delight of the southern crowd. Remembering Gregg Allman, Jason told of how Gregg had correctly predicted that his and Amanda’s baby was going to be a girl and the band then hit the familiar riff of “Whipping Post.” True to the Allmans influence, this rendition definitely hit the note with soaring solos by both Vaden and Isbell and was a perfect way to send us home.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit have a full schedule of dates lined up so catch them if you can, they definitely don’t disappoint.

 

Setlist:

Cumberland Gap

Stockholm

Hope The High Road

Something More Than Free

Decoration Day

White Man’s World

Tupelo

Codeine

Alabama Pines

Last of my kind

Something To Love

24 Frames

Outfit

If it takes a lifetime

Cover Me Up

Anxiety

 

Encore:

Vampires

Whipping Post

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

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