Category Archives: live review

Rhett Miller 10/6/18, Philadelphia

Dates: October 6, 2018

Location: Ardmore Music Hall, Philadelphia PA

Live at Ardmore Music Hall near Philly, the Old 97’s frontman showed off his impressive solo chops.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

Rhett Miller seems to be on a constant loop of record/tour/repeat.

Having just put out Graveyard Whistling, the latest from his main gig in Old 97’s last year, followed by a fairly exhaustive tour, he went to work on his soon-to-be released solo effort The Messenger (due out Nov. 9), and is already on a solo tour again before the album comes out. He somehow managed to squeeze in an Old 97’s holiday record that they will tour behind in just a couple of months, as well.

That being said, Miller was still in full entertainer mode just a few miles outside of Philly in the small, but impressively booked Ardmore Hall (a cool, intimate venue that manages to lure everyone from Fishbone and George Clinton to Willie Nile and a Hall-less John Oates). Miller commented on the venue after a fantastically-spirited version of “Our Love”.

“We were driving near the venue and I thought, well this is a really beautiful part of town, we’re so close to Philly proper, but I couldn’t figure out where we were” recalled Miller. “At that point I watched a really cute girl trying to turn left. Then this guy behind her yells out, ‘No left turn, asshole!’ Then I realized I was in Philly.”

And just like that, the crowd was enamored with Miller. It didn’t hurt that he reeled through one great song after another, pulling from across his half-a-dozen-deep solo catalog and many of the Old 97s greats. Miller managed to hold the crowd’s attention through a 20-song set, in a stripped-down setting, with just him and an acoustic guitar.

He even previewed a new song from the Old 97’s forthcoming Holiday record. The loudest singalongs came at the end when Miller played a remarkable cover of Petty’s “American Girl” that segued into the Old 97’s “Time Bomb.” If Miller is exhausted from the constant write/record/tour routine, he showed absolutely no signs of that weariness in Philly. A remarkable show from start to finish.

A ROTTEN PROPOSITION: Public Image Ltd. Live in Atlanta

At Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse on October 10, The Artist Formerly Known As Johnny Rotten brought his PiL.2018 to his Peach State fans, some of whom were no doubt on hand all those years ago when a certain British punk band made its American debut….

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY JOHN BOYDSTON

John Lydon and Public Image Ltd. are in high gear with “The Public Image is Rotten North American” tour, and in damn fine form if their 2nd stop – in Atlanta, Ga – is any indication.   Shows are selling out, and this one looked to be as well.  Check out upcoming PiL shows and dates here:  http://www.pilofficial.com/shows.html

The band is celebrating its 40 years of music with a world tour, a career-spanning CD & Vinyl box set release “The Public Image is Rotten,” and a new doc by the same name.  Current PiL lineup is Lydon, Lu Edmonds (guitar), Scott Firth (bass) and Bruce Smith (drums).

The former Johnny Rotten formed PiL in 1979 immediately following the demise of The Sex Pistols, going for a more ‘anti-rock’ avant-garde thing.  He’s been the only constant member of a band delivering 10-studio LPs over the years.   As lineups evolved, so has the music, crunching about any genre you can name into a unique and original meld.   Lydon is 62, older and ever-the-wiser.  PiL’s music still vital and relevant.  And you gotta go.

(And if you’re looking at these photos, I don’t know what the trash can is doing on stage.)

 

Follow John Boydston on Instagram – @johnboydstonphotos

 

Hopscotch Festival 9/6 – 9/8/18, Raleigh NC

Dates: September 6 - 8, 2018

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

At various downtown venues, the nationally-touted indie music festival brought the noise and demonstrated why it is, indeed, “touted.” Go HERE to view a gallery of some of the weekend’s performers.

BY DANIEL MATTI & CHIP KLOSS

Another year of Hopscotch shakes up Raleigh as the festival marks its 9th year in a row. From City Plaza to Red Hat Amphitheatre to bouncing around the other 10 venues in play, it became another year of running around to catch a favorite band or stumbling into one and discovering something that you might not normally see.

From the first night, where H.C. McEntire, Real Estate, and The Flaming Lips rocked City Plaza, to the tons of conflicts at 11:30pm with the tough choice in seeing Sleep, U.S. Girls, Kilbourne, Waxahatchee, Deaf Wish, House and Land, Yawpers, or Everything is Terrible!, I was able to catch three acts (Sleep, Waxahatchee, and Everything is Terrible!). Because that’s all my legs could muster up that night.

Second night started off with a somber note as Thundercat took the stage and dedicated his set to his friend Mac Miller who passed away earlier that morning. From someone who has seen Thundercat a couple times you could tell he was affected by the passing of Mac since most of his set was a freestyle jam of most of his songs—which ended up being one of the greatest sets I’ve ever seen during this annual festival. After leaving City Plaza I got to catch local cello-core greats, Gown absolutely destroy Slims, and then The Revolution turn The Basement into a sing-a-long dance party that went on late into the night. After so much dancing I managed to get into the Pour House to catch the tail end of a stunning set from Swearin’.

The final night had me dragging my feet, as there was not much that I was completely dying to see, I actually ended up gathering energy and catching more acts than a usual final night of a festival—from Chic and MC50 putting on some of the best sets of the weekend of the big stages, to Sarah Shook and the Disarmers and Negative Gemini waking you up with their stunning performances with late night sets.

Now that Hopscotch has finished another chapter, I look forward to next year. It always brings its warmth with every band, not to mention every friend in the area who comes out to see their favorite band and mostly to discover a whole lot of new ones. —Daniel Matti

***

If you live in Raleigh, September means two things: (1) When the hell is this heat going to end? (2) Hopscotch Music Fest.

Raleigh’s premier festival chugs into its ninth year with three days of music and good times. Having attended before, I understand the steps leading up to the event. Things begin months before the festival with Innuendo, gossip and rumors of who will be appearing. Weeks later comes the official headliners announcement, followed by support announcements. Next up is the release of the official schedule.  Hours spent highlighting the bands you want to see, grumbling about the timing conflicts. Can I make it from Slim’s to the Lincoln Theatre in time? The final step is abandoning the highlighted schedule and just winging it. Going from venue to venue, taking chances on bands you have never heard. One of the greatest joys of Hopscotch is you will always walk away digging a band that 3 hours ago was unknown to you. Perhaps my favorite part of the Fest is running into friends. This year I ran into people I have not spoken to in years. That alone is worth the price of admission. Life sometimes gets in the way, relationships falter a little but music is the element that always brings us together. Regardless of your political, religious or spiritual beliefs, with Hopscotch you are always surrounded by non-judgmental people who are there for the same reason you are….the love of the music.

Thursday

I felt this year’s fest was a little light on both the metal and hip-hop artists. The bulk of the metal shows were Thursday at The Basement. A cavernous open space beneath the Raleigh Civic Center, The Basement held simply a stage and a mixing board. The venue was the size of a few football fields and most likely lived its life as a storage area the rest of the year. But for now, it was Heavy Metal Central. Raleigh metal masters Bedowyn began the evening with a blistering 40 minute set, bolstered by the lead shredding of Mark Peters.  As the band finished I was greeted by some friends who were goIng to see The Flaming Lips. My plan was to stay in The Basement all evening, but who can pass up seeing The Lips? We made our way to City Plaza, packing a few thousand people. I am not the biggest Lips fan, but I do enjoy their theatrics. As usual at a Lips show, the crowd was entertained by batting giant balls and balloons around. I pushed my way through and slapped a balloon as well. I think that makes me an Official Flaming Lips fan. I headed back to The Basements and caught the remaining 2 songs of the set from Grohg. A few minutes of roadies, and a few more people pushed up towards me (I was in the front row against the barricades). The band Skeletonwitch then took the stage. This band has had its share of issues. They booted out their original singer in 2016 and replaced him with Adam Clemans. Not many bands can replace the singer and come out it bigger, badder and louder.  The show they put on was amazing, a lesson to any young rockers in the crowd. I knew I had a lot more Hopscotch to go, but I knew this was going to be one of the best performances.  I was completely enthralled by this band. Simply a phenomenal show. They eventually yielded the stage to the legendary Sleep. This may have been the loudest show I have ever attended. Front row was far too brutal of an assault on my ears, so I made my way to the back of the venue. That did not really help, so I went to the stairs leading to the venue, a good 200 feet from the stage. That was a lot more comfortable, and is where I rode out the rest of the band’s set.

Friday

The afternoon began with the news of the untimely passing of rapper Mac Miller. The headliner at City Plaza that night was Thundercat, who was very good friends with Miller. There was a buzz around town that perhaps ‘Cat would cancel his set. He did not. Instead he gave an incredible, inspired performance. He invoked Millers name several times, each to a roaring applause from the crowd. It was a sad day for the music community, but Thundercat definitely provided an electric eulogy. I hung around City Plaza for the beginning of the Grizzly Bear show. They are not really my thing, so I went venue hopping and caught Vacant Company, Lightning Born, Gown and Swearin’. Bands I knew little about, but that is the spirit of this festival. I really dug a couple of these bands and was glad to have found them.

Saturday

MC50. The 50th anniversary of the classic “Kick Out the Jams” LP. Wayne Kramer (MC5), Kim Thayill (Soundgarden) Billy Gould (Faith No More) Brendan Canty (Fugazi) & Marcus Durant (Zen Guerillas).

They were loud, rude, and obnoxious. Everything you want in a band. Seeing that much talent on the stage was mind boggling. Even more so when the band invited Gary Louris (The Jayhawks) to rip some solo’s during the set. After the band wrapped up I hung around City Plaza hoping to spot Kim Thayill. I did not. So I hoofed over to the Lincoln Theatre where I planned on camping out of the rest of the evening. The evenings soundtrack was Zepheniah Ohara’s old school country, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers’ outlaw country and the headliners The Jayhawks.  I decided to leave The Jayhawks show a little early and head to the Pour House. I had gotten a tip there was an artist I had to see. I reached the venue, but the artist I was there to see was not on. Everyone on the bill had been late going on, so I was lucky enough to catch the last 15 minutes of a band called Combo Chimbita.  This world music band was the perfect ending to my Hopscotch experience. I had no clue of who they were, but walked out of the Pour House wanting to own every piece of music they have ever made.

Overall highlights? Skeletonwitch, MC50, Combo Chimbita, seeing a gaggle of friends at City Plaza—and getting to rest on Sunday. —Chip Kloss

LIFE’S A RIOT WITH… Riot Fest 2018!

Douglas Park in Chicago was the scene of the crime, and September 14-16 marked the time, featuring icons like Weezer, Beck, Run the Jewels, Liz Phair, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the recently-poisoned Pussy Riot. (Photo gallery follows the commentary, below.)

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY ERICA BRUCE

For BLURT, mid-September in Chicago instinctively means “three days of Riot Fest in Douglas Park.” The masses were a little concerned this year that it may not happen, but, like many of the punk bands it hosts, Riot Fest has long proven itself scrappy, and scrappy doesn’t go down for the count lightly. The loss of one headliner, Blink-182, brought two other bands, Run the Jewels and Weezer, in their place. Seminal bands played seminal records in full, icons proved why they are icons, and men in kilts were the hottest fashion statement. As Hurricane Florence was throwing her mighty rain against the east coast, BLURT decided to see what was going on in the mid-west.

 

-Icon Who Never Ages -Liz Phair

When Liz Phair’s record “Exile in Guyville” came out in 1993, many of the Seattle women were moving the needle on feminism by sporting kinderwhore and being brash. But Liz Phair has always been the nerdy girl’s Riot Grrl.  Her records said all the things the wallflower female with a feminist streak thought but felt she could never say about sex and relationships, and how it feels to be a woman in a male-dominated business like music and the world in general. She made lots of women feel 6’1 instead of 5’2 then, and, based on her Friday performance and the faces of the 20-somethings in the audience, she inspired a whole new generation to feel the same. Fairly convinced she is the female Dorian Grey as well as she never seems to age.

-Band Who Walks the Walk-Pussy Riot

There are those who proclaim themselves punk and then there’s Pussy Riot. Members of the protest punk collective have endured lengthy prison sentences for “hooliganism” in their native Russia, physical abuse, and more recently, the poisoning of its member Peter Verzilov. And yet DEFIANTLY, THANKFULLY, they endure….

Nadya Tolokonnikova, flanked with a DJ and a cadre of neon green ski cap associates, spoke out against corruption and Trump/Putin similarities. They taught via a pre-recorded 25+ set of facts about inequality and issues across the world. They even inspired a young woman against the rail to find her voice and loudly scream, ‘Listen to the message!” over and over to a tone-deaf dude being inappropriate, to which others followed. Pussy Riot is a living breathing embodiment of trying to make the world a better place. “Poisonings and assassinations will not stop us,” said Tolokonnikova from the stage.  BELIEVE IT.

-Band with the Best Props: The Aquabats

MC Bat Commander of The Aquabats coined them the “world’s most mighty almost super heroes.” Considering they were wearing long sleeve tunics and masks in the sun, they are also the bravest. Thankfully the mutant land sharks that caught them off-guard that time at the beach were made into wonderfully fun inflatables that bounced throughout the crowd. Fun fact: Blink-182’s drummer Travis Barker was an Aquabat in the late 90s!

-Band with the Positive Message: Digable Planets

Seminal records/bands from 1993 seemed to be a theme at Riot Fest this year, so what better act to include than Digable Planets covering Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)? in full. The light, Consciousness, and melodious positivity that began in 1988 when De La Soul introduced us to the D.A.I.S.Y. age (Da Inner Sound, Y’all) impacted itself heavily into the Planets sound and lyrics with a message. It’s hard to be positive about much these days, but if you listen hard, you can still hear Reachin’s sweet-sounding impact in people like Kendrick Lamar, it’s just said a bit more staccato.

-Best Celtic Punk Mix: Flogging Molly

There’s punk and then there’s Celtic punk, and the latter can always make an accordion and a fiddle sound tougher than any Minor Threat cover band. That’s Flogging Molly. “I just came back from a European tour and it’s nice to be  back where people can understand what the fook I’m saying. Course what I’m saying most of the time is shite,” joked lead singer Dave King.

-Band with the Darkest Lighting: Tie-Cypress Hill, Dropkick Murphys

However, someone with Cypress Hill was holding the cutest bulldog side stage, so they get a pass.

-Most Covers in One Set-Weezer

Rivers Cuomo continues to hit all the high notes and never age. As night 1 headliners, Weezer piled the big hits up in the front half of the set (“Buddy Holly,” “Hash Pipe,” etc.), and mixed in a few covers (“Take On Me” by a-ha, “Happy Together” by The Turtles, “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath). They even did a nod to the had-to-cancel Blink-182 and covered “All the Small Things.” And yes, they closed with everyone’s current favorite version of that song about rain in a foreign continent.

Other notes from things seen on Friday:

-The Front Bottoms: Full of fiddle, acoustic rhythm, and earnest lyrics about delusional love and something about a sleeping bag. Seems tween girls also love lead singers who earnestly look like Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins these days.

-K.Flay: Did a cover of “Flagpole Sitta” by Harvey Danger. And a guy named David proposed to a woman named Mandy onstage.

-Young the Giant: Lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s big voice is a good fit for their big athematic arena songs. That’s all I can say about them.

-Bleachers: The band really wants to sound like Springsteen but seems more like John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band with a synthesizer during their cover of “Just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode.

Saturday:

Day 2 was all about an old school tour through most 20th century music genres. We also started keeping track of all the covers being played a little more closely.

-Most Inspired Stage Costume: Gary Numan

Dressed like Alexander McQueen-inspired mummies coming for your hair gel and eyeliner, Gary Numan still obviously really enjoys what he does, and man, he does it so well. It was great to watch all the kids who weren’t born in the 80s clearly enjoying his set. His synth impact is still so relevant that Trent Reznor should pay him royalties.

-Best Voice to Melt a Heart: Cat Power

This show was the first of the world tour for Chan Marshall’s new record, Wanderer, the first in six years. The set was having a few technical issues at the start, but once it was figured out, that voice, so smoky and lovely and emotive was let loose. It’s nice on record, but live? Otherworldly.

-Best Drummer: Wolfmother

With songs about gypsies and women and guitars that go up to 11, Wolfmother is a modern-day nod to 70s cock rock. There are a lot of comparisons to Led Zeppelin music-wise, which you can agree or disagree with. But it’s fair to say if Zeppelin reunites again, they should consider Wolfmother drummer Hamish Rosser; Bonzo would be impressed.

-Most Original T-Shirt: The Voidz

The Voidz went on 10 minutes late, and for once, lead singer Julian Casablancas was without sunglasses on stage. But he looked healthy and sounded great, and is even getting a little dancey in his older age. Not many can rock a stock car pit crew button up from a guy named Steve, but if anyone can, it’s Casablancas.

-Best Health Recovery: Elvis Costello and the Imposters

It was a pure joy to see Elvis Costello back and in prime form just months after cancelling tour dates to recover from cancer treatment. The Riot Fest set was his first show post-surgery, and he told the audience, “I’m fine, thanks!” Sporting shades like those of the other Elvis during his Vegas period, Costello, the post-punk king before post-punk was a term, was a highlight of the weekend.

-Most Diverse Crowd: Jerry Lee Lewis

Along the rail for Jerry Lee Lewis’ set, the audience was like a microcosm of America: young, old, women, men, black, white, green (well hair was green), probably the most diverse audience we saw all weekend, which makes sense as who doesn’t want to see a living legend? While his backing band, composed of Kenny Lovelace, Ray Gann, and Kenny Aronoff, kicked off the set with four cover songs, an honest to God mosh pit started a few rows back. But once Lewis finally hit the stage, using a cane and wearing a purple sparkly jacket, white dress shirt, jeans, it was all eyes front. At 82, The Killer isn’t kicking back piano stools any longer, or setting the keys literally on fire, but playing like a house on fire? That he still does.

-Most Moon by the Light of the Moon: Jesus Lizard

“I fucking hate playing festivals,” said Jesus Lizard lead singer David Yow, “but they are paying us 250 million!” The band threw all of its noise and punk and thrash to a delighted crowd, as Yow gave the crowd the finger, made a heart sign, pulled up his shirt then unzipped his pants and mooned the crowd. He then jumped into the audience, literally singing upside down at points.

More cover songs and snippets from Day 2: The Frights (Prince of Bel Air theme song, “No Scrubs” by TLC, “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy); Beck (“Miss You” by the Rolling Stones, “Cars” by (and with appearance by) Gary Numan; Jerry Lee Lewis band (“You Are My Sunshine” by Ray Charles, “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley)

Sunday:

A day heavy on east coast bands playing great, probably really glad to be away from the rain.

-Most Songs in Shortest Set: Beach Rats

Day 3 was kicked off with D.C. punk via the NJ shore in the form of Beach Rats. A super punk group of sorts, the band is composed of members from the Bouncing Souls, Lifetime, and Minor Threat/Dag Nasty. And like traditional D.C. punk songs, the 15-minute set included 4576 songs and bass lines you felt in your chest. Good stuff.

-Most Hated by Feminists: Fear

Fear played their seminal 1982 album “The Record” in full Sunday afternoon and lead singer Lee Ving shared quite a few thoughts from the Rise stage. He spoke of old Chicago friends (“We love you guys. John Belushi RIP, brought us to Chicago and it’s been our home ever since”) and politics (“Fuck you Boris Putin (sic). Just kidding he’s probably a cool guy once you get to know him”). He also introduced the song “Honor and Obey,” as a love song. Let’s just say with lyrics like “Get up and make my fucking breakfast you lazy bitch/Yeah, you’re my wife now, don’t start whining and giving me shit,” it’s good they didn’t play before or after Pussy Riot, or someone’s ass may have been kicked.

-Coolest of the Cool: Johnny Marr

It doesn’t get much cooler than Johnny Marr, and live, it’s even better. The set was an even keel of songs from his new record, “Call The Comet” and some from The Smiths, oftentimes sounding better vocally than Morrissey himself (sorry Mozzer). In terms of scale, Nick Lowe is Jesus of the Cool, Paul Weller is the Godfather, but Marr is the only Johnny Fuckin Marr.

-Band Who Inspires Most Happiness: The Bouncing Souls

“It’s a beautiful day here, and we’re alive!” said Bouncing Souls lead singer Greg Attonito. The crowd took it to heart, and the positivity resulted in a raucous sing along to “Lean On Sheena.” The Souls live is truly pure joy wrapped around three guitar chords; it’s just simply impossible to feel anything else. Got to be something in that NJ shore air from which they hail.

-Best Sharer of Influences: Clutch

Go-Go music isn’t really well known outside of the D.C./MD/VA area, so local bands when touring seem to want to spread the word. MD-natives Clutch gave the Sunday afternoon crowd a taste with the walk-out music of “We Need Some Money” by Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, and then their song, “D.C. Sound Attack!” complete with its Go-Go beats. If you were there and suddenly feel this intense desire to yell “Wind me up Chuck!” or drum on plastic buckets, don’t worry, Clutch was successful, you were bit by bug that is Go-Go.

-Most Civic Minded: Superchunk

Given the mess Hurricane Florence was unleashing on NC over the weekend, probably the happiest east coast band to be playing in the sun on Sunday was the NC-based Superchunk. They remain a well-oiled machine live, regardless of how long they go between live shows. Tracks off the new record, “What a Time to Be Alive,” especially the title track, are catchy as hell, as well as political, not the usual move for them. So when lead singer Mac McCaughan said, “Don’t forget to vote,” you knew he meant it.

Also saw: Blondie, Bad Religion, a cute dog and a pot-belly pig!

For full sets of photos from all three days, go see the photo album here!

And special thanks to Heather West, Western Publicity, for all of her help! (Amen! Heather, you rock! – Ed.)

********************

PHOTOS: DAY 1 (FRIDAY)

Dropkick Murphys

Flogging Molly

Liz Phair

Pussy Riot

Weezer

Young the Giant

Aquabats

Cypress Hill


Digable Planets

Dropkick Murphys

 

DAY 2 (SATURDAY)

Gary Numan

Jesus Lizard

Jerry Lee Lewis

The Voidz

Wolfmother

Cat Power

Elvis Costello

 

DAY 3 (SUNDAY)

Bouncing Souls

Clutch

Fear

Johnny Marr

Blondie

Superchunk

 

 

 

 

FOR THE LOVE OF… Lockn’ Festival 2018

Aug 23 – 26 were the dates; Infinity Downs Farm in Arrington, VA was the place! Photos follow the review. (Pictured above: Umphrey’s McGee.)

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY WILLA STEIN  

The Lockn’ Festival is a four-day music and camping experience in Arrington, VA at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The festival is an interlocking connection of musicians and fans inspired by The Grateful Dead and the jam-bands that grew out of the love for this style of music. Lockn’ also incorporates genres from all over the musical spectrum, including jazz, reggae, R&B, Americana, rock ‘n’ roll and country into one great big ball of sound.

The festival also focuses on local community engagement, from local food sales to those who educate and take pride in preserving the natural settings that surround the area. Lockn’ vendors far and wide provide all kinds of amazing foods and memorabilia to choose from and a whole array of craft beers and wines. And, if you found the time, you could take part in other activities on the farm, such as group yoga or Waterlockn’ on the Tye River.

This year’s musical highlights included tributes to Aretha Franklin by the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and country singer Margo Price joining in with Widespread Panic. Other standout performances included acoustic “Appalachian psychedelic bluegrass” by Keller and the Keels and a reggae-blues mix with Toots Hibbert and Taj Mahal. And you never know what Chris Harford & Band of Changes will bring to the stage, but you pretty much know it’s going to be good! This collaboration included bassist Dave Dreiwitz, guitarist Scott Metzger and Joe Russo on drums. Another great set was the high-energy pop rock of Sheryl Crow’s band featuring the talented Audley Freed on lead guitar.

It was an unforgettable Sunday night, as Dead & Company’s second night performance closed the festival with an outstanding collaboration with saxophonist Branford Marsalis,  who has played off and on with band members since 1990. At the end of the second set, Weir revealed that it was Marsalis’ birthday! The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” and, as the set came to a close with “Not Fade Away,” the dapper Marsalis reemerged on stage with his tenor sax, keeping the crowd cheering and chanting all the way to the encore of “Brokedown Palace,” “U.S. Blues” and “Ripple.”

Lockn’ brings the best out of everyone - the performers and the audience alike. Last year’s theme seemed to be about Making America Love Again in light of the events in nearby Charlottesville; this year, the love continued to flow throughout every campsite.

Lockn’ is not just a festival of music collaborations, it is a place where thousands of people gather for 4 days, celebrating their love of music, camping and dancing in peace and harmony … where “strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand” is not just a song lyric.

All photos copyright 2018 by Willa Stein Photography.

Susan Tedeschi

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead

Widespread Panic

Tom Hamilton, Ghost Light

Holly Bowling Ghost Light

Hamageddon is a 14’ high x 18’ long metal pig sculpture that cooks a pig in its belly and shoots fire from both ends

Campground

Toots and the Maytals

Always a colorful crowd…

Band of Changes

P-Funk

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow with Bob Weir observing from above

Keller Williams

Derek Trucks and Tim Lefebvre

Tedeschi Trucks Band

 

Dead & Company

Sign Language Interpreter, Lockn had interpreters for each act.

Dead & Company with Branford Marsalis

John Mayer

 

Bill Kreutzmann

The LOCKN’ Logo

The Melvins 8/10/18, Englewood CO

Dates: August 10, 2018

Location: Gothic Theater, Denver CO

Live at the Gothic Theater, heavy metal was a-happenin’…

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY BEN CURNETT

If heavy music was ever summed up in one performance, it happened last Friday night in Denver when Melvins played to a near-capacity crowd at the Gothic Theater in Englewood, Colorado. I’m not saying that’s what happened. Metal comes in nearly as many flavors as Japanese Kit-Kats (try the black tea if you ever get the chance; skip baked potato), so pulling it all together on one stage, much less in one show, is a task for imbeciles. Any band that tries to be all things to all people sucks outright and is evil in all the ways that are no fun at all. Not like, “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!” evil, but more like, “Of course corporations are people!” evil, and they can go screw.

But that’s what makes Melvins so good live: they actually do it all, heavier than pretty much everyone, and it’s mind-numbingly, otherworldly good. They’re good expressly because they don’t try to be all things to all people, evil or otherwise. They’re just their own very odd, very loud selves. and that’s good enough to be the guys to sum it all up if … IF … heavy music could ever be summed up in one performance.

Which it can’t.

Still and yet, two bass players is a pretty good start. The newest Melvins LP, “Pinkus Abortion Technician” refers both to Jeff Pinkus, longtime Butthole Surfer and second-to-newest Melvins bassist, and the classic Butthole’s album “Locust Abortion Technician,” a collection of songs that still has my vote (cast when I was 12) for scariest record of all time. Pinkus was matched on all things bass just on the other side of the stage by Redd Kross, OFF!, and actual-newest-Melvins standard bearer Steven McDonald. McDonald sang two of the songs on the setlist (Redd Kross’s “What They Say,” The Rolling Stones’ “Sway”) like a rock star, which may sound redundant but bears distinction just because he 1) wore the flashiest suit I’ve ever seen outside of a Too $hort video, and 2) Pinkus is more like something else entirely. A dragster mechanic, maybe. Some gems from the new record came out in the show (“Stop Moving Down To Florida,” “Don’t Forget To Breathe”) as well as classics from all over the board (“Honey Bucket” from 1993’s “Houdini,” “Eye Flys” from 1987’s “Gluey Porch Treatments.”) There was no speaking, if you don’t count the Moving Down To Florida parts, which you shouldn’t. Just rock. That’s all.

Buzz Ozborne and Dale Crover, Melvins’ guitarist and drummer, head and heart, areolas and spleen, know their way around a live performance. It’s as if they have some ectoplasmic connection that leads audiences around like tour guides on Mars; without their guidance, you’ll probably die. This, I strongly suspect, is the reason Buzz wears a magic robe when he plays: Melvins actually HYP-MO-TIZE audiences with thunderous drums and squelching guitar, nonsensical lyrics and brain-rattling distortion that sounds like music but is actually a spaceship engine that’s fueled by 90 minutes of your life and spits out warm, disturbingly loud, humming goo.

 

 

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks 7/31/18, Denver

Live at the Gothic Theater – and the drums were a-drummin’…

PHOTOS AND TEXT BY BEN CURNETT

Jake Morris is really, really great at drums.

That’s where a rundown of the recent Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks show at the Gothic Theatre in Denver needs to start. Of course, the band was fun and energetic. The sound was perfect. The song selection was great for die hards and casual fans alike. Joanna Bolme hit deep dark brown notes and did a dead-on impression of Kim Gordon on “Refute.” Mike Clark filled the room with keyboards and guitars. The Malk (I’m not really a nickname guy, but that’s what I’m going with now) was the perfect song and dance man as per usual.

But the drums. The drums were something else. You get that to greater or lesser extents on the SM & t Jx studio albums, even before Morris, and the new release that this tour is supporting, Sparkle Hard, is no exception. Morris was an absolute highlight of the show; he played nothing short of perfect rock drums, a completely next-level performance. The spaces Morris left between beats were as musical and deliberate the beats themselves. His fills were graceful/drunk Dean Martin tumbles into steady but loping time signatures (“Stick Figures In Love,” “Bretheren”). His driving rhythm on longer, ramblier ventures (“Kite,” “Real Emotional Trash”) were riddled with all kinds of subtle flourishes that sprung up everywhere. On stage with a group of very talented musicians, Morris pushed the band higher and farther than their individual art would allow. He was a gift.

Live, the Jicks just get better. Four years is a long time, but 2014’s Wig out at Jagbags (and really, most everything under the SM moniker) bears repeated listening, so at least fans have had that. The live show, though, is what’s really been missing. The Malk (!) doesn’t shy away from his Grateful Dead influences, and it’s easiest/most enjoyable to see and hear on stage. “Middle America” from the new album came about halfway through the set and is the Jerry-est thing they’ve done since “Cinnamon And Lesbians” which they played a few songs earlier. Not to put too fine a point on it, they broke into a “China Cat Sunflower” teaser in the middle of “Shady Lane” during the encore, just in case you weren’t getting the vibe.

The other Pavement tune, “In The Mouth A Desert” closed the show, and was a crowd-pleaser, natch. The woman next to me almost threw herself off the balcony. But are those songs The Malk’s albatross? I hope not. Like everyone else, I love hearing them. Seeing them played live definitely takes me back, which is pretty great in its own right. At the same time, I’d be happy enough if he never played any of them again. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but SM & t Jx have been together for nearly twice as long as The Malk’s other band. It’s entirely its own thing, sans-nostalgia. To me, at this point in my life, that’s miles better, and that’s why I loved the show so much.

Put another way, I count myself lucky to have seen Pavement in Denver during the ‘90s; but I count myself much luckier to have seen Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Gothic last Tuesday.

***

SET LIST: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/stephen-malkmus-and-the-jicks/2018/gothic-theatre-englewood-co-63eb0217.html

Lithics 7/26/18, Denver

Dates: July 26, 2018

Location: Lost Lake Lounge , Denver CO

Live at Lost Lake Lounge one fine Denver evening…

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY BEN CURNETT

“Hypnotic” is the best way to describe Lithics front woman Aubrey Hornor at their recent live show at Denver’s Lost Lake. Not hypnotizing. Hypnotic, as in: she was in a trance, letting the music and lyrics convey all the night’s emotion (or non-emotion, as the case may be). It’s a strategy that works. Along with the dense, dexterous rhythm from bassist Bob Desaulniers and drummer Wiley Hickson and the persistent jangling noise from lead guitarist Mason Crumley, I imagined the show as a four-way boxing match. Each musician was in their respective corner, throwing their own version of sweet science out in the middle of the ring to dance awkwardly with its sparring partners.

The result was an FAQ of definitive punk elements coming together to make thought provoking rock that will immediately bring to mind your favorite parts and pieces of Devo, Bush Tetras, and The Fall. Lithics include more of one particular musical component than their influences: space. There was a lot of silence amid the sound in each of the 12 songs that were on the set list, some deliberately so (Still Forms, Burn On Burn) with others more subtle (Specs, Thing In Your Eye). That feeling is created by a few different Lithics touchstones. For instance, there’s no distortion or effects, for the most part. You get what you get. Also, there are lots and lots and lots of truncated notes, especially from the bass, that stop almost as soon as they start. Even when there’s not actual silence in a song, Lithics open up their music for the audience to insert themselves into. The rhythm guitar stops long enough for the bass notes to take over on Glass Of Water, for instance, before launching into the staccato punctuation of the verse’s coda. The drums fall over themselves, tumbling down over the guitars, and then jump back up into lockstep progressions.

Lithics music on stage is very true to form of their records, with the same clean tone they have in the studio. The stage just adds one more piece to a jangled, sometimes confusing puzzle that will one day explain why Lithics are so, so good.

Lithics newest release is Mating Surfaces out now on Kill Rock Stars.

 

Parker Millsap – 6/21/18, Philadelphia

Dates: June 21, 2018

Location: Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia PA

Johnny Brenda’s was the place, and the Okie rocker was an ace! (Above photo from Millsap’s Facebook page, where you can find tour dates and more, natch.)

BY JOHN B. MOORE

The draw of Oklahoma native Parker Millsap is wildly diverse. Proof of that could be seen at a recent show at Johnny Brenda’s, a mix of college students, 30-and-40-somethings and a slew of gray-headed music fans on the other side of 60. It’s hard to imagine many other 20-ish musicians that could draw such an eclectic audience on a Thursday night.

But much like his crowd, Millsap and his band play an equally diverse brand of music that draws from Americana, Blues, Alt Country, Folk and straight-ahead Rock. Over the course of the night, they dipped effortlessly in and out of songs from Millsap’s three-album catalogue for a remarkable enjoyable set.

With Millsap’s voice a little raspy, a month into this latest tour promoting Other Arrangements, he bounded onto the stage and asked, “Want to make some noise?” From that moment on, Millsap had the crowd on his side, starting off with a trio of songs from his newest record (“Fine Line,” “Other Arrangements” and “Your Water”).

Halfway into the set, his bandmates – fiddle player, drummer and bassist – all left the stage. Millsap was joined by his opener Jillette Johnson for a duet the two co-wrote, “Come Back When You Can’t Stay,” a sublimely heartbreaking track off of Other Arrangements. Once again alone on the stage, Millsap played a few songs on his own before the band rejoined.

Throughout the night, Millsap was charming, self-effacing (at one point joking that his sweat was washing all of the product out of his hair) as he and his bandmates roared through a stellar 20-plus song set, including an inspired cover of the “Hesitation Blues,” that put the bar remarkably high for any other bands those in attendance were set to see in the coming year.

Read John Moore’s 2016 interview with Parker Millsap HERE.

The English Beat 7/15/18, Englewood, CO

Dates: July 15, 2018

Location: Gothic Theatre, Englewood, CO

Live at the Gothic Theatre, where you better have a valid ID to get in….

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY TIM HINELY

I’ve been a fan of The English Beat since I first heard the band’s records back in the early ‘80s. They had played a 21 and over club outside of Philly when I was underage and had a crappy fake ID that I didn’t think was gonna work, so I missed them.  Fast forward nearly 30 years and it wasn’t until 2011 when I finally caught the band in Portland, Oregon on a great evening.

These days it’s leader Dave Wakeling and a whole new cast of players different from the old days—the original band broke up back in the ‘80s—but honestly, if you close your eyes it sounds like the English Beat of old. Not only that, but the band has  new record out entitled Here We Go Love, the bands’ first since 1982’s Special Beat Service, and it’s a real strong collection of songs.

We missed opener King Schascha (who’s one of the members of Wakeling’s band and who loves to talk, I get it, he’s a toaster but come on, it’s Wakeling’s show ), but got there in time to push our way to the front of the nearly sold-out club. Wakeling sang and played guitar, and had a full band with a bassist, drummer, two keyboardists, a sax player and a woman singing backing vocals and two toasters. These folks are road dogs who are always out playing gigs and know what they’re doing.

They opened up with “Rough Rider” and continued to play some of their early ‘80s classics, including “Twist and Crawl,” “Hands Off…She’s Mine,” “Save Ir For Later,” “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Ranking Full Stop” and they even pulled out the old General Public chestnut, “Tenderness” which sounded fabulous; unfortunately no “I Confess” but hey, you can’t have everything, right?  Off the new record we heard “The Love You Give” and (the politically charged?) “How Can You Stand There.” No encore, but we didn’t need any, the band played their asses off.

Despite King Schascha taking center stage much of the time, the band was really enjoyable and what I get from Wakeling is that the guy still seems to truly enjoy what he is doing. Imagine that. The guy just has this infectious energy about him and it comes out in his music and when he chats with the crowd. They tour all of the time so if you’ve never seen them before plan on it next time. You’ll get your money’s worth.