Category Archives: live review

40 Years On: The 2019 Montreal Jazz Festival

This year’s event, held June 26-July 6, made for a remarkable experience regardless of what you were expecting.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY ALISA CHERRY

Over the course of the past four decades, Festival International de Jazz de Montreal (also known as the Montreal Jazz Festival), has rightfully become one of the world’s most prestigious music festivals regardless of the competition. This was a milestone year for the festival and the fact that its two long-time leaders and cofounders, Alain Simard and Andre Ménard, announced their retirement, the 2019 edition of the festival took on additional significance as well.

Nevertheless, there will always be consistency. Montreal’s downtown district offers both ticketed main stage performances and outdoor musical events that are free to the public. People attend from all over the world, all marvelling at some of the best bills found at any festival of a similar size.  Indeed, the Montreal Jazz Festival’s reputation for providing imaginative and adventurous music in a variety of forms will likely continue unabated. This year’s line-up included Peter Frampton, Alan Parsons Project, Buddy Guy, Holly Cole, Charlotte Cardin, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Blue Rodeo, Steel Pulse, Victor Wainwright, Dianne Reeves, George Benson, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Joshua Redman, Bryan Adams, Chet Faker, John Pizzarelli, PJ Morton, Popa Chubby, Courtney Barnett, Kurt Elling, Pink Martini, Richard Reed Parry, Colin James, Sue Foley, and Mercury Rev among the many. Its banner to the contrary, the festival isn’t limited to jazz, but rather some of the most eclectic offerings possible.

(Above: Buddy Guy on July 6, 2019 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Art, Montréal – Photo by Alisa B. Cherry)

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Here then are some of this year’s highlights in the order of their presentation:

Guitarist Stephane Wrembel’s tribute to Django Reinhardt was an early highlight, as was Gabriel & Rodrigo’s demonstration of duelling guitars. “People ask is what kind of music we play,” Gabriella remarked. “I tell them I don’t know. We have no boundaries in our heads.”

(Alan Parsons on July 4, 2019 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Art, Montréal)

The Alan Parsons’ Project provided another extraordinary performance, and the group’s takes on such signature songs as “Time,” “Breakdown” and “Games People Play” were, by measure, both stunning and surreal.

(Peter Frampton on July 5, 2019, The Farewell Tour, we hope not, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Art, Montréal – Photo by Alisa B. Cherry)

Peter Frampton’s performance was highly anticipated due to his decision to make his current Farewell Tour a final farewell due to the fact that he suffers from a disease called IBM which attacks the muscles with varying degrees of speed and progression. “I never want to stop playing. I love being on stage,” he continued, while insisting that the choice depends on the progression of his affiliation.

For the moment however, Frampton was still in top form. A slide show captured images of him from his earliest efforts with the Brit pop band The Herd through his efforts with Humble Pie and then into his tremendously successful solo career. He began the 2 1/2-hour concert with the upbeat song “Something’s Coming,” an apt opening anthem. From that point on, the setlist offered some obvious choices — “Show Me the Way,” “Do You Feel Like We Do,” as well as covers of “Signed Sealed Delivered,” “Georgia on My Mind” and “Same Old Blues,” the latter two from his chart-topping new album All Blues. He went back to the beginning with several selections from his first solo album Wind of Change and then even further back with a pair of Humble Pie staples, “Four Day Creep” and “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” as part of his encore. A dramatic read of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” ended it all, with an obviously emotional Frampton telling the audience “I’m not going to say goodbye,” while fighting off a few tears as he walked off the stage.

(Press Conference with newly festival president, Jacques-André Dupont and festival founders, Alain Simard and André Ménard on July 6, 2019  – Salle Stevie-Wonder, Maison du Festival, Montréal  – Photo by Alisa B. Cherry)

The founders of the festival, Simard and Ménard, took center stage later that evening in Le Club, where they were interviewed live on the radio and a given special serenade by several of the festival’s past and present performers. A slide show was shown on a screen behind them as the musicians entertained the small invited audience. The l two song set by Holly Cole was especially memorable, and her rendition of “Bali Ha’i” from the musical South Pacific were nothing less than magical.

The festival’s new team in charge — programmers Marin Auxemery and Lauren Saunier, and newly installed festival president Jacques-Andre Dupont — shared their satisfaction. “We are really pleased,” Auxemery insisted. “We’re on budget, we have good ticket sales and a lovely vibe within this community. It’s an excellent first year.”

The others echoed his enthusiasm, hailing Montreal as a city that’s an ideal match for the diversity of the festival’s artists and audiences. It is, they agreed, a perfect place for musicians and music lovers to gather and celebrate such an astounding array of sounds and styles.

(Colin James on July 6, 2019 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Art, Montréal – Photo by Alisa B. Cherry)

Later, local proud again became evident when Canada’s Colin James opened for blues legend Buddy Guy. He occasionally ventured offstage into the first few rows of the crowd, keeping a constant grin on his face as he shared his songs with both aplomb and enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Guy showed he was in a playful mood as well. Even at age 82, he’s as vibrant as ever, gyrating his hips, mugging with his moves and showing he’s still earnest and enthusiastic when it comes to showing off his skills,

Leslie Odom Jr., known for his role as Aaron Burr in the Broadway hit Hamilton — as well as for his various TV roles — did a superb job of sharing standards in the company of a three-piece jazz band of considerable skill. His voice climbed to higher octaves while retracing some familiar fare, his take on “Killing Me Softly” being but one example.

On the other hand, experimentation was on tap with the final show of the festival, a performance by the adventurous ensemble Mercury Rev in the intimate environs of Le Club. The music was mesmerizing given its shifting tones and textures. Singer Jonathan Donahue was an inventive frontman, preening and posing with obvious aplomb. It was an apt ending for Montreal Jazz, and the extraordinary encounters that have always been so essential to its existence.

Granted, being in Canada over the 4th of July holiday does seem somewhat unpatriotic. Visiting a foreign city sans fireworks or any other homage to American pride can be cause for remorse.

Still, the sacrifice is well worth it. The Montreal Jazz Festival has a remarkably gracious staff that helps make the journalists that congregate onsite feel welcome and decidedly at home. Indeed, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as mingling with the crowds on the bustling streets of Montreal. The combination of those wonderful sights and all that remarkable music clearly makes for an amazing adventure in itself.

 

Love Tractor / Swimming Pool Q’s 6/28 (Athens) & 6/29/2019 (Atlanta)

Dates: June 28 -29, 2019

Location: Athens, GA & Atlanta, GA

 

Live in Athens for the first night in The Vista Room (above), then in Atlanta the following evening at the 40 Watt Club – and both shows were packed to the proverbial gills, with fans coming down to Georgia from as far away as New Jersey and all points in between.

TEXT BY JOHN BOYDSTON / PHOTOS BY KAREN ALLISON (ATHENS) AND JOHN BOYDSTON (ATLANTA)

For these two shows, Love Tractor comprised three original members Armistead Wellford, Mike Richmond, and Mark Cline, plus two musicians playing with them who were both members of the band The Glands:  Joe Rowe (drums, who is still kicking ass with the Pylon Reenactment Society… man, does he precision hammer the good stuff),  and Doug Stanley (keyboards and guitar).

Also for the Athens gig, original Love Tractor member (and subsequent REM drummer) Bill Berry joined the band onstage, as did Berry’s 16-year old son on acoustic guitar, for Love Tractor’s ‘Neon Lights.’  Berry has famously described the band decision he had to make one day – stay with Love Tractor or continue with this other new band he’d been playing with…

Love Tractor played all the great stuff from their early records (maybe all of the first one), and reached into ‘This Ain’t No Outer Spaceship’ with a fabulous performance of ‘Chilli Part 2.’ It was eally a crowd-pleasing set, sounding way better than any old fan like me had a right to expect them to sound. In fact, this was maybe as good as they’ve ever been – which is cool when a band can pull that off after all the years.  It was a solid hour plus set.

Swimming Pool Q’s closed out.

Below: The Second Night in Atlanta

The Lemonheads + Tommy Stinson 5/14/19, Denver

Dates: May 14, 2019

Location: Bluebird Theatre, Denver CO

TEXT & PHOTOS BY TIM HINELY

Terrific double bill at the Bluebird Theatre that offered up some serious nostalgia for folks who were going to shows in the 80’s and early 90’s (*raises hand*). Also I would imagine that Evan Dando was listening to plenty of Replacements (Mr. Stinson’s band, as you all well know)  back when he formed The Lemonheads as a frothy, buzzsaw punk band in the mid-80’s so I’m imagining it was somewhat of an honor for him to have Tommy open up.

Stinson hit the stage promptly at 8 PM with a nice acoustic guitar and dressed to the nines in a sharp fedora and a new pair of glasses (as he stated to the crowd, “not just bifocals but trifocals! I’m still getting used to these things…I can’t see shit right now!”). He didn’t play any Replacements songs (much to the dismay of a few annoying folks in the crowd) but did play a handful of cuts off his Bash & Pop records including a superb set-ending version of “Friday Night is Killing Me” (title track of the debut).

Also, it wouldn’t have be a Tommy Stinson set it he wasn’t a little tipsy (he was) but the crowd loved it and loved it even more when he jumped down to play a song down on the floor in the crowd. Come on back to town anytime, Tommy.

I didn’t know what this version of the Lemonheads was going to offer, but I sure was curious. In addition to Evan Dando on vocals/guitar he had longtime indie rock vet Chris Brokaw on 2nd guitar and the rhythm section of Farley Glavin on bass and powerhouse drummer Lee Falco hittin’ the skins. These guys were like a well-oiled machine on this night.

There was a long set list but it didn’t matter as they really didn’t follow it, but most of the set was heavy on early 90’s albums It’s a Shame About Ray and Come On Feel the Lemonheads which is fine as there’s plenty of meat on those records.

There wasn’t a lot of in-between song chatter, more of them putting their heads down and going to work, playing songs in rapid succession with not a lot of time in between. We heard fan favorites like “It’s About Time,” “Rudderless,” “Confetti,” “Turnpike Down,” “Great Big No,” “Drug Buddy” and plenty more.

They also played a handful of covers off of the new album (Varshons 2, which is an all covers album and was recently released on Fire Records) like Lucinda William’s “Abandoned” and John Prince’s “The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” to name but two.

I know in the past Lemonheads’ live shows could be dodgy affairs depending on what state Dando was in but on this night there was none of that. As mentioned above he only mumbled a handful of words to the crowd, he/they came to play. The songs sounded great and Dando’s voice still sounds superb. If they come to your town do not miss them (‘cos if you do you’ll hear from your friends about how great of a show it was).

 

 

Jawbox 6/22/19, Brooklyn

Dates: June 22, 2019

Location: Brooklyn, NY

The iconic punk band was live in Brooklyn June 22, 2019.

TEXT, PHOTOS, & VIDEO BY JONATHAN LEVITT

It’s been almost 30 years since I last saw Jawbox in concert. I remember it was at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago where they opened for Chicago’s Tar, with whom they had split the “Static” seven inch single at the time.  I have a VHS of that show that I shot and will one day get digitized and uploaded to YouTube. Luckily for myself and Blurt readers I was able to shoot some primo footage from the photo pit (click here to see my gallery) and check out my video of the song “FF=66” down below.

The band played 21 songs to the sold-out audience before they came back for an encore of 4 more. It was the right move to save the hit “Savory” till the end, because while that song is great, the trajectory the band took to get there is even greater.  The band may be older but the ferocious way they pummel their instruments would have made bands half their age green with envy. The sound waves hitting me at the front could’ve easily stripped the paint off a car. The audience was filled with 40-somethings who knew almost every word to every song and I could tell they were just thrilled to have one of their bands back in action. The tour that will traverse the US is an absolute must see. Hopefully this is more than just a one off and a new record is in the offing. Regardless of what happens, the world is a better place with Jawbox alive and kicking once more.

Above: the evening’s setlist.

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Kristin Hersh 6/27/19, Atlanta

Dates: June 27, 2019

Location: Terminal West, Atlanta GA

Live at the venerable Terminal West in hot ‘lanta…

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

Throwing Muses will be performing a few dates later this summer with Kristin Hersh, David Narcizo, and Bernard George in the band (no Tanya Donelly apparently), their first shows in  five years.   The trio has late-August dates in Boston, San Diego and the Pasadena Daydream Festival (curated by The Cure’s Robert Smith).  I caught the alt-rock legend singer-guitarist-songwriter Hersh’s own show at Atlanta’s Terminal West, performing songs from her long solo career and new stuff from her acclaimed new release ‘Possible Dust Clouds’  – Fred Abong was on bass, and Rob Ahlers was on drums and backing vocals.

Check out our shutterbug in Atlanta here: https://jobo.smugmug.com/

 

Bad Spell 5/31/19, Atlanta

Dates: May 31, 2019

Location: Star Bar, Atlanta GA

Live at the Star Bar, and ready to wield some sonic magic…

TEXT/PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

When a band like Bad Spell jumps into the fray you kind of assume they are going to kick ass, and in fact they ought to damn well bloody rock because it ain’t the first rodeo for these cats individually, not by a long shot. Brian Malone (guitar) headed up The Forty-Fives, a definitive lights-out garage band. Shane Pringle (guitar, bass) was with the very active Tiger! Tiger! and others. And Pietro Digenarro on drums is a force of nature. They do not disappoint. We caught up with ‘em at Little Five Points’ famed Star Community Bar, where they blasted through material from their kickass new album Don’t Go Out Tonight (Midnight Cruiser Records) — which, incidentally, notched a 4-stars-outta-5 rave review here at BLURT recently. As our reviewer duly noted at the time, “Bad Spell’s energy level kicks the needle into the red, pulling back at just the right times, in order to make the next punch deadlier.” Which ain’t a bad description for their live show, too.

 

Mark Lanegan / Simon Bonney 5/14/19, Brooklyn

Dates: May 14, 2019

Location: Warsaw, Brooklyn, NY

Two sets at the Warsaw venue from two longtime favorites—but sadly, only one of them delivered the real Kielbasa.

TEXT, PHOTOS, & VIDEO BY JONATHAN LEVITT

I was finally able to catch Simon Bonney and his wife Bronwyn Adams live for the first time. I’m a huge fan of their work, both on Simon’s solo albums as well as with Crime and the City Solution, whose 1990’s masterpiece, Paradise Discotheque, will be revisited here in the not too distant future.

Simon and Bronwyn (above, with the author) put on an intimate show for the assembled audience, showcasing songs from Bonney’s solo records which was engaging and emotionally resonant . A career spanning compilation of Bonney’s solo output has just been released, available here.  Also check out the exclusive video I shot for BLURT to see what you missed:

*****

Being a fan of Mark Lanegan’s body of work, I was less than impressed with the rather frosty sheen to his live show. Shunning interaction with the audience, Lanegan instead chose to perform as if the audience didn’t exist and he was merely fulfilling a contractual obligation. Two-thirds of the way through, I walked next door inside the venue and ate a Kielbasa sandwich, which proved far more entertaining.

Nick Waterhouse 5/20/19, Atlanta

Dates: May 20, 2019

Location: Terminal West, Atlanta GA

Live at Terminal West – THE place to be on an otherwise dead Monday night, as it turned out.

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

Nick Waterhouse will transport you to a pre-snarky, pre-psychedelic America when what mattered most was love, and the ability to translate the ensuing heartbreak that follows into a soul-driven R&B number. Throw in some beatnik-jazz and coffeehouse-rockabilly arrangements and that’s Nick. I have attempted to create some funky photographs from the Atlanta show at Terminal West to try and to capture Nick’s funky world.

With a few more shows in Texas to go, Waterhouse and band were wrapping up a world tour last week behind his latest self-titled LP released by Innovative Leisure this spring. It’s getting deserved rave reviews, and as it’s his 4th LP, why self-titled? Explained Waterhouse, “After it was all done, I realized it was probably telling the strongest story about my own motives and perspectives.”

But take my word – all the records are good, so start with any of them.

Nick’s online home:   https://www.nickwaterhouse.com/home and his cool Tumblr page:  https://presco.tumblr.com/

Beale Street Music Festival 5/3-5/19, Memphis

Dates: May 3 - 5, 2019

Location: Memphis, TN

TEXT & PHOTOS BY MARK JACKSON

Beale Street Music Festival was held over the weekend of May 3rd-5th with a few of the headliners being Dave Matthews, G-Easy, Khalid, Shinedown, and Cardi B and a last minute surprise guest appearance of Miley Cyrus, thanks to Facebook and Beale Street Music Festival.  Facebook brought Miley in to kick off a new campaign named More Together #moretogether. Miley sang three of her own songs during the live Facebook recording and brought out a Marc Cohn to do a duet of his hit song “Walking In Memphis”. This is a great song to listen to anytime, but this time was even more special for me as I was standing next to the Mississippi River in the pouring rain as the lyrics go.

Day 1 Friday kicked off with the gates opening in the afternoon with Saving Abel on the Bud Light Stage and this stage didn’t stop rocking all night with In This Moment, Good Charlotte, and Shinedown.

The FedEx Stage Carried the Hip Hop acts of Blocboy JB and Lil Dicky as well as R&B superstar Khalid, while the Terminix Stage hosted Dirty Heads, Chvrches, and Dave Matthews Band and remember this is just day 1.

Saturday was unfortunately overcast with light rain most of the day with clearing up in the evening shortly after Miley’s performance, but not before making several muddy areas though out the park. This did not damp the spirits of festival goers one bit as most know, this is Memphis in May and rain often visits for at least part of the festival. Galoshes and a poncho are must bring items, even if they never leave the trunk. The thirty thousand plus fans tracked through the rain and mud puddles to their favorite stages to see such acts as Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Moon Taxi, Coin, Muck Sticky, Charlie Wilson, and Big Boi, before having to choose either One Republic or G-Easy for the headliner spot.

Beale Street sold out of all the three day passes and Sunday one day passes with thirty five thousand tickets being sold for Sunday. Sunday was a perfect day in the mid 70’s and sunny and the mud had completely dried out making for a great festival day for the thirty five thousand people who made their way down the banks of the Mississippi to party and see Cardi B perform, but first there was a lot of great bands to see. The moment the gates opened at 1p.m. there was a mad rush from many fans who rushed to grab a front or near front spot for Cardi and who would hold these spots all day without moving to ensure they would have a time that won’t be soon forgotten. As for other fans they would make their way around to such acts as Memphis rapper NLE Choppa who has jumped on the scene with two new hot videos that are racking up millions of views on YouTube in a short period. You may have heard of this young Memphis rapper from the articles in the news lately stating that he turned down a $3M record deal. Other great acts that performed on Sunday were Lord Huron, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Everclear, Moneybagg Yo, 6lack, and Gary Clark Jr.

This is a must watch for your next year festival possibilities, not only is this a great festival and staff, but it’s in Memphis, Tn with tons of things to do and see. Oh yeah and the best BBQ in the world!

6Lack

Big Boi

Block Boy

Cardi B

Chvrches

Dave Matthews

Dirty Heads

Everlast

G Easy

Gary Clark Jr.

Good Charlotte

In This Moment

Kalid

Lil Dicky

Lord Huron

Miley Cyrus

Moneybaggs Yo

Muck Sticky

NLE Choppa

Ravyn Lenae

Saving Abel

Shinedown

St. Paul & the Broken Bones

Trippe Red

Filthy Friends + Dressy Bessy 5/19/19, Atlanta

Dates: May 19, 2019

Location: The Earl, Atlanta GZ

Live at The Earl, it was supa-group time…

TEXT & PHOTOS BY JOHN BOYDSTON

It was remarkable how this band came out swinging at The Earl Saturday night.  Youda thought they were a new hungry band trying to get noticed, with something to prove, and a batch of urgent new songs you need to hear.  While all that is true – instead of being a new band Filthy Friends is a who’s who of veteran indie-rock giants who could be coasting, making a victory lap record and on cruise control.  This is a band that is hungry again, poised, and playing like they mean it.

The band is Corin Tucker (of Sleater-Kinney), Linda Pitmon on drums, Kurt Bloch, Scott McCaughey, and of course Peter Buck who is back in top form.   I haven’t seen him move, dig in, or jangle as much as he was here in way too many years and it’s great to see some fire back in his playing.  And how cool is it seeing Scott back where he belongs after recovering from a serious health issue a couple years back?

Based in Portland, OR Filthy Friends have just released their 2nd LP ‘Emerald Valley’ and has a few more dates this week as they head up the US East coast, wrapping up in NYC, then it’s off for a short Euro tour.   Go and enjoy some veterans showing the kids how to do it.

Upcoming tour dates are here:  https://www.killrockstars.com/artists/filthy-friends

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Opening act was the great Dressy Bessy and they are with Filthy Friends until the end of the week, then continuing their tour into the summer, with a new LP release early June.
Don’t miss ‘em.  You’ve been warned.

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Join John on Instagram @johnboydstonphoto.  Or visit jobo.smugmug.com for bigger galleries of weird birds and milky ways.