Cultivation: The Seeds of New Colorado Music

Posted by on Jun 25, 2011 in Current Issue | Comments Off on Cultivation: The Seeds of New Colorado Music

Cultivation: The Seeds of New Colorado Music

Cultivation: The Seeds of New Colorado Music

By Jenna Stecker

cover_noendintime_small Head for the Hills

With the release of their self titled sophomore album, Head for the Hills seems poised to break to the front of the modern bluegrass movement. Hailing from Fort Collins; Adam Kinghorn on Guitar and Vocals, Joe Lessard playing Violin/Octave Violin and Vocals, Matthew Loewen playing Bass and Vocals and Michael Chappell on his Mandolin make up this classic quartet. It is interesting to note that upon forming, none of the members had ever really played bluegrass music. “We were really learning together how to play it,” says Chappell. With many other groups these days fusing bluegrass with so many other eclectic types of music, it is refreshing to hear a band that maintains a modern take on the style and seems to hold true to the root of bluegrass music. “The biggest challenge of our band is carrying on the progressive momentum created by countless ‘New Grass’ and ‘New Acoustic’ musicians, while dialing in our own sound and innovations. So much has been done musically since the birth of bluegrass music that the greatest challenge is continuing on with that progression while paying homage to the players who invented and defined its boundaries.” says Kinghorn. With the new album just being released, I asked the band what were the main topics and themes involved in the song writing process. Kinghorn replied, “The subject matter of our songs shares a lot of the same themes as traditional bluegrass songs. Loneliness, betrayal, murder, and hardships are ancient themes revisited in new ways and also in new acoustic styles. In addition, modern themes of addiction and life on the road are explored in the old styles of bluegrass and old time music. Our music has evolved naturally over the years, as we have begun to really find our stride as players and as a unit. The many folk, jazz, bluegrass and independent influences we hold as individuals, is really becoming present in our songwriting and in our sound. Our new record is a good representation of that diversity.” The self titled album was recorded in Bill Nershi’s Sleeping Giant Studios and produced by Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon fame. The band says it was such a great learning experience. “We were really lucky to be able to get all these people in the same room at the same time. We learned so much and were honored to work with such seasoned vets.” Sleeping Giant Studios and everyone involved cultivated an atmosphere that was incredibly conducive to accomplishing our goals for the record.” Free live show downloads and tour details are available on the band’s website: www.headforthehillsmusic.com


Dubskin is a five piece band that formed in Fort Collins in 2006. Consisting of Jamal Skinner (vocals), Cory Eberhard (drums), Jason Wieseler (keys/samples) Phil Salvaggio (Guitar), and Dean Curtis (bass). The name Dubskin was conceived from the fusion of the word Dub, which is the instrumental style of reggae, and vocalist Skinner’s name. “We liked the sound of Dubskin and the name kind of stuck,” says Eberhard. Eberhard is known from playing drums in the group Pretty Lights, but all five musicians had known each other for awhile from being in the music scene in Ft. Collins. Once it was time to create a band they were able to hand-pick the musicians they wanted and began writing and recording music almost immediately. They are Colorado musicians with Colorado pride. Eberhard says, “It’s amazing as we tour around the nation to realize how lucky Colorado is with our music scene and choice of quality venues. Red Rocks, The Fillmore, Boulder Theater, The Fox, Aggie, Belly Up, Gothic, Ogden, Bluebird, Cervantes and all the smaller ski town venues. We love them all and all the support the fans give to keep these places in business.” If you head to a Dubskin show there a few things you can count on: a modern take on roots reggae music with influences from dub, hip-hop, jam bands, and funk. From the opening act to the encore, Dubskin promises that you will receive high quality dance music with more of an American sound than traditional reggae. Since its inception, Dubskin has maintained a full tour schedule; sharing the stage with prominent artists like Burning Spear, Israel Vibration, Anthony B, and Collie Buddz. Both of the band’s albums: the 2006 debut release, “Love in Spite of . . .” that was recorded/produced by Derek Smith of Pretty Lights, and their sophomore effort released in 2009, “No End in Time” are available for free download on their website. You can check out music from Dubskin as well as a full tour schedule on their website www.dubskinmusic.com.

Holden Young Trio (HY3)

Despite the scrupulous nature of the band members meeting (It was in a van behind a bar in Boulder with no more detail given), the members of Holden Young Trio have been playing music together ever since. Holden Young, (guitar and vocals) Adrian Engfer (bass and vocals) and Eric Rolls (percussion) have been serving up “Music for the 2010 Space Funk Odyssey” since 2006.  You can count on two sets of high energy instrumental work at a HY3 show. Young writes the lyrics but the band collaborates for the arrangement of most of their originals.
“I have been really hard-up ever since college and I think I’m trying to deal with that in a lot of my songs. I’ve had a few love experiences and that validates the two-three lovely songs we have. Most of my songs also have a theme of getting out of the way of your own self. A positive break through experience is some thing I’ve tried to convey in songs for a long time. Then we jam out.”
While 90% of their shows are originals you can expect to hear some Hendrix, Herbie Hancock, Ray LeMontagne, Red Hot Chili peppers and even some Toots & the Maytals covers. Bring your dancing shoes folks. While the band has been playing around the state for years they say that people in the mountains tend to start dancing sooner then people from the Front Range.
“Or maybe they just get a head start on drinking”, says Young. The band says they enjoy a variety of venues around the state with Mahogany Ridge in Steamboat and Mishawaka as standouts.
“I miss State Bridge a whole lot.”
Don’t we all Holden. Don’t we all. But patience is a virtue and hopefully this summer we will get a small taste of the former glory. With high energy beats and hip swinging grooves, the Holden Young Trio is a fun show to be a witness to.Find their next show near you and download their latest album release “To the Top” by going to www.holdenyoungmusic.com.

Paper Bird

Although the members of Paper Bird have known each other for a variety of different amounts of time and they say any story behind their come together isn’t particularly interesting, the music they put out is no coincidence.
“Lets just say it was complete serendipity.”
When the band unpacks a banjo, trombone, and upright bass, audiences become aware they are in for something different and special. With the genre name game out of control in the music industry, Paper Bird has been called Inde-pop Bluegrass, Pop Jazz, Dixieland, and Folk Americana but members of the band just describe their music as “Joyful.”  The band packs a trio of female harmonies that are reminiscent of Fiona Apple and a combination of tones and melodic progressions that bring a modern twist to an old time sound. The band of seven musicians, bring together a combined sound that can be described as haunting as well as uplifting. Trying to balance seven different lives, hearts, and goals and be unified as a group is a challenge. Caleb Summeril (banjo, guitar, harmonica, vocals), Genevieve Patterson (vocals), Macon Terry (Upright Bass), Sarah Anderson (trumpet, vocals), Paul DeHaven (guitar, banjo, percussion, vocals), Esme Patterson (vocals), and Tyler Archuletta (trombone, harmonica, percussion, vocals) say they work at it every day.

“It takes time and honesty. It is more of a process than an obstacle we can overcome. We love each other and the music that we make so much that it is worth it.” After spending their New Year in chaos, “We played a show at the Hi-Dive in Denver and everyone went mad. Crowd surfing, Balloons, it was anarchy! We had a great time. Sometimes you have to put your head in the tiger’s mouth, you know?” the band is looking ahead with anticipation to 2010. Their second full length album is being released this year and the band is planning on touring the east coast for the first time and this all happens before May. Who knows what the entire year will hold for this enigmatic group.
To see a full tour schedule and listen to a snippet of Paper Bird’s unique sound, visit them at www.paperbirdband.com.

Get your Trey On

Posted by on Feb 23, 2011 in Breaking News | Comments Off on Get your Trey On

Get your Trey On

Get your Trey On
Trey Anastasio Band makes Intimate Colorado Stops on the Acoustic & Electric Winter Tour

By Erin Mahoney

Trey Anastasio is at it again. The unstoppable & formidable front man of Phish is taking to the road in February, only this time reuniting his classic TAB (Trey Anastasio Band) line-up. The band once again features Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet and vocals), Natalie Cressman (trombone and vocals), Russell Remington (tenor saxophone and flute), Ray Paczkowski (keyboards), Russ Lawton (drums) and Tony Markellis (bass and vocals).

The 12 dates start in Maine then zip down the coast with a few stops in MA, NY and PA. Then they zag across the mid-west to CO (yay!) and end up in California. It should also be noted that the only two date stand of this tour is in our fair state of Colorado on March 1 and 2, once again proving that the best place to be a Phish fan out west is right here.

Another Colorado bonus is they booked the shows at the Ogden, which only holds about 1300 people (the Ogden will also host Anastasio’s Phish band mate Mike Gordon on March 14). This will be an intimate show in Trey’s world. Fans in other cities have to reconcile seeing one of their favorite musicians at one of the most despised venues in their town (ahem, NYC and Terminal 5). It seems like every member of Phish really loves our state and wants to reward their fans here for putting up with tough to get tickets and few and far between shows with multiple night runs at beautiful locations and venues throughout our state.

The Acoustic and Electric Tour Winter Tour is just what it sounds like. Trey will perform a solo acoustic set each night before the rest of the band joins him on state for the electric portion of the show. Anyone who is walking into a TAB show expecting 20-minute grooves and ambient jams will be (pleasantly/unpleasantly…insert your own adjective here) surprised to hear a full on balls to the wall horn section sharing the groove with keys, bass, drums, flute and, of course, Trey’s guitar. One of the only things missing for this particular TAB fan is the percussion that Cyro Baptista provided in the earlier years of TAB. But if you don’t know what you are missing…well, I guess you just won’t miss it. TAB’s beats are uplifting with fresh and fun vocals that leave your hips shaking and your ears wanting more. There are sentimental slower songs, which Trey loves to play, but one would imagine they would stay contained to the acoustic set. When it comes to the electric portion of the evening get ready to strap on your burlap sack and pumps to get down to the funky grooves that Jen and the esteemed horn section will provide for your dancing pleasure. Trey really shines (seriously, no pun intended here) in this element and he usually ends up dancing right along with you while on stage. It is great to see TAB back in action and Trey having fun with what he does best once again. https://trbetegir.net/

String Cheese Incident: Winter Carnival

Posted by on Feb 17, 2011 in Current Issue | Comments Off on String Cheese Incident: Winter Carnival

String Cheese Incident: Winter Carnival

Cheese-150x98Winter Carnival
The String Cheese Incident’s three day mid-winter Colorado run 

By Jenna Stecker

Carnival: 1) an instance of merrymaking, feasting or masquerading 2) a traveling enterprise offering amusement 3) an organized program of entertainment or exhibitions

It’s hard to argue with any of these definitions when thinking of what The String Cheese Incident has created over the many years that they have held- Winter Carnival. And with no immediate plans for future touring, it’s easy to see why the SCI fans were thrilled to hear that the famous carnival would again take place, this year at Broomfield’s hot new venue- 1st Bank Center on March 10th-12th.

For the Cheese faithful, this is a welcome run. Since coming off their hiatus SCI has only played a limited amount of shows, although 2010 did provide to be diverse and entertaining. The first three shows was a weekend of music held at Red Rocks Amphitheater on July 23rd, 24th, and 25th.  Then the band headed out to the famed Horning’s Hideout in North Plains, Oregon for a mystical four nights in the woods. On October 9th The Four Mile Canyon Fire Relief Concert was a bonus show and a good cause for Cheese heads to rally behind. And to round out the year they played a ‘Hulaween’ weekend on the 29th and 30th of October at the Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia including a three set shakedown on Friday the 30th. But for the Cheese heads there could always be more.

From 1998 – 2007, with the only exception coming on the hiatus of 2006, the String Cheese Incident has played multiple dates strung together and billed as “The Winter Carnival”. SCI and various guest artists played multiple dates in Colorado either first at the Fillmore Auditorium and then up in the mountains, typically in Vail and/or Telluride over the years. Yet when Cheese announced their hiatus from touring in early 2006 fans wondered if they would ever have another Carnival again. Lo and behold, the time has come. As Bass guitarist Keith Moseley says, “Winter Carnival has always meant playing fun local shows with very special guests during the ski season. It was a great tradition for us for many years, and when the opportunity arose to do it again, it was an easy decision for us.” https://betcazino.com/

A longstanding tradition, The Fillmore Auditorium had been the gold standard for the shows on the Front Range in years past.  However this fall SCI headlined a show at the 1st Bank Center to aid the local volunteer fire department and victims of the Four Mile Canyon Fire, a raging wildfire that scorched more than 6,000 acres in Boulder this summer. The Four Mile Canyon Revival Benefit brought together String Cheese along with Colorado musicians Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Yonder Mountain String Band and Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon. The four members of Phish, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell and Trey Anastasio were also honored guests.

So by gaining a comfort level with the new stage and almost triple the seating capacity, the move to a new venue made sense. While there are no high country dates for this year’s Winter Carnival there is a cause. The Conscious Alliance Food Drive is something that everyone in the SCI community has come to expect. For 2011, a 3 panel event poster will be designed (one panel for each night).  As always, the limited edition posters will be made available to concertgoers who contribute 10 non-perishable food items per panel, or 25 items for the complete set. Food collected at Winter Carnival 2011 will benefit the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Visit www.consciousalliance.org for more information.

As most people already know, Carnival isn’t just the String Cheese Incident. It’s a gathering of splendid musicians from all sorts of backgrounds that have a chance to interact with SCI which in turn usually makes for some powerful collaboration’s. Some of the powerhouse list of former special guests  ranges from Los Lobos, Spearhead and The Funky Meters (2000), Bruce Hornsby, Blind Boys of Alabama, Little Feat, Del McCoury and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (2001) to Stanton Moore, Angelique Kidjo, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Dirty Dozen Brass Band (2002). 2003 saw King Crimson, Martin Sexton and the John Cowan Band, while 2004 was JJ Grey and Mofro, back then known just as Mofro along with David Lindley and Wally Ingram and the late Vasser Clements. SCI has always chosen bands that are as diverse from one another as the music they play themselves. And this year will be no different.

And as always SCI brings with them a range of special guests to start the night and warm up the crowd. Accompanying String Cheese in their 2011 Winter Carnival Incidents will be Ott, JD Crowe and the New South and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk which is as diverse a choice of openers as you can get. The Thursday night opener is Ott, a music producer from the UK. For those of you not up on your music lingo: music producer is what artists formerly known as DJ’s are calling themselves now. Ott’s music is a combination of the Dub, Electronic and the Psychedelic music styles. He is definitely more in line with SCI’s “Untying the Not” days. Friday does a 180 with JD Crowe and the New South tuning things up first. JD Crowe is one of the most progressive bluegrass banjoists from the 70’s. His ever morphing New South Lineup has over the years been a platform for many musicians to begin their careers and continue on to further success. The New South is the bluegrass SCI has their roots soaked in.  And on a turn for the funky, Saturday night gets kicked off by the personal favorite of this writer, Dumpstaphunk. Dumpstaphunk is the New Orleans brainchild of Ivan Neville who put the musicians together in 2003 in order to play a solo gig. They have grown from a mere side project to becoming known as one of New Orleans funkiest exports.

And as always there is more to be excited about this year than just watching and listening to music. If you are a SCI devotee then you look forward to dressing up in costume or even simply look forward to everyone else in costume. There will be costume contests as well as a volleyball tournament with multiple prizes for best team name and best team costume.

                                                                        ~ ~ ~ ~

As I write, I am listening to the Fillmore show of March 22, 2007 on Internet Archive- and I am flooded with memory. As the band pauses between songs and the others prepare for the next song I can hear Kyle Hollingsworth playing a chord in staccato “1 and 2 and” eighth notes over and over, an obvious tease to the next song. It makes me smile to hear the first three notes of that song played in full and the collective gasp of delightful realization from the crowd as they launch into one of their favorite covers, Keller Williams’ “Best Feeling.” It triggers in me one of my last Cheese show memories.


Fillmore Auditorium- Denver CO


Set 1: Johnny Cash, Round The Wheel, Black And White, Farther, Black Market > Mona Bowa, Close Your Eyes
Set 2: Ride Captain Ride*, Best Feeling > Can’t Stop Now, 45th of November, Solution, Joyful Sound, Way Back Home
Encore: Outside and Inside > Jessica

*with Polyphonic Spree

That memory comes from a show only a few short days after the March 22nd one. It was my last Incident with Cheese (for the time being), but it also was my first show ever at Dobson Ice Arena in my new mountain hometown, having just moved to Vail a few months before from Minnesota. I was in a new town, a new state, one thousand plus miles from what I had come to know as home. I was in uncharted territory with new friends about to do what I love to do the most; going see live music. The air of possibility around me was so fresh and charged there was no way this show could be less than a great time. Now just under four years later the memory hangs clean and unblemished in my mind.


Dobson Ice Arena – Vail, CO

Set 1: Magic Carpet Ride > Rhythm Of The Road > These Waves > Suntan, Dirk > Shakedown Street > Come As You Are

Set 2: Big Mon*, Tangled Up In Blue*, Sand Dollar, Under African  Skies > Missin’ Me, Looking Glass > Howard

Encore: Jellyfish > Black Clouds Reprise
Encore 2: Boo Boo’s Pik-A-Nik > I Know You Rider

As do the fans, the members of Cheese have their Winter Carnival stories as well. Moseley says, “One of my favorite memories of Winter Carnivals past was the blizzard of March 2003. We played two shows in Vail and then struggled for 6+ hours to get back to Denver to play the Fillmore. Denver had over three feet of snow from that storm and Nederland was hammered with six feet! It was quite a conquest for everyone to make it to the venue and make the show happen. When we finally arrived at the Fillmore, our manager was on the roof with the promoter and several others shoveling the roof to prevent it from caving in. I remember the band, fans and crew being totally exhausted, but rising to the occasion with a super high energy show. That’s Winter Carnival!”

So what is your favorite Winter Carnival memory? With these dates ahead in March everyone will be able to create and save new and treasured memories. It’s a time to meet new friends, revisit with old friends conjuring up old memories and listening to some incredible new music along with the classics. Crazy costumes and crazier people! These are all things the String Cheese Incident’s 2011 Winter Carnival promises to bring.

While there are no more set dates for The String Cheese Incident to tour this year Bill Nershi announced in October of 2010, “[They’re] also planning on doing something next summer at the Rothbury site such as play online casino sites. That will be a weekend festival with a lot of String Cheese sets. It’ll be different from Rothbury in that it will be more like our thing at Horning’s, where String Cheese plays every night, and it will include bands in [the] String Cheese family with art installations and that kind of thing” With that in mind, if you plan on making your own personal stamp on the string cheese family in our state, now is the time to do it.

This run has had some time to build momentum behind it and with a new venue and an amped up band the stars are aligning. Carnival is usually something special and from what Keith Mosely has said- you can tell that this year is not going to disappoint.  “I am really excited about the chance to gear up for a three night run in an awesome venue so close to home. We have plenty of practice time scheduled and I think we will be comfortable and ready to let it rip!”

So dust off the costumes, break out the hula hoop and get down to the Broomfield incident.

Band of Heathens

Posted by on Feb 17, 2011 in Current Issue | Comments Off on Band of Heathens

Band of Heathens

Band of Heathens

heathens-130x150With 200-plus show dates, a fifth anniversary celebration, appearances at Lollapalooza and other top national festivals and a taping of Austin City Limits with Elvis Costello, it is remarkable that the Heathens even found time to write and record a new studio album, but they did.

The result is Top Hat Crown & the Clapmasters Son, a surprising, multi-faceted gem of a disc. Their third studio album and the fifth release overall, Top Hat Crown displays the wide range of classic influences fans and critics have come to admire in the band, yet they’ve added, built and grown. Producer George Reiff, celebrated for his work with the Black Crowes Chris Robinson, the Courtyard Hounds (Martie Maguire and Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks) and Ray Wylie Hubbard, tended to the albums vibe and spirit, which is reaching, rocking, bluesy, funky and enjoyable as hell, from its rocking opening to its serene acoustic conclusion.

The Band of Heathens is constantly being compared to The Band because of the musical finesse that overlays their timeless, rootsy core. And the three founding members are all skilled multi-instrumentalists who can play almost any position in the field. But TBoH has reached so many fans so fast because of the echoes of and subtle homage to so many different artists at the core of the Americana canon, including Tom Petty, Tony Joe White, the Grateful Dead, Leon Russell, George Harrison, and other rarified stylists. You can hear a little of all that at a Heathens show or on disc, and Top Hat Crown feels like the most coherent and mature encapsulation of those elements so far.

Given the timelessness of their sound, one gets the sense that Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist

and Colin Brooks would have gravitated toward the same essential feel had they met in 1975 or 2045. As it happens, it was in 2006 after each songwriter had established residency gigs on the same night of the week at Momos, an eclectic-minded club on Austin’s famous Sixth Street. Friendship, semi-regular sit-ins and harmony jags gelled into something quite rare: a band with three front men, each with enough humility and passion to invest in the larger project. The sum transcended the parts. Bassist Seth Whitney was a member from the get-go. Drummer John Chipman joined in 2007 as their road calendar got heavier.

The Heathens took their time getting their first studio album out, but when that eponymous debut was released in 2008, they proved they could write and record a coherent statement that measured up to their show. They followed relatively quickly with One Foot in the Ether toward the end of 2009. Both shot to the top of the Americana chart and remained there for months, evincing longevity, rare in any format of music. Each added songs to the bands set lists that have become staples and favorites: Jackson Station, Cornbread, frequent set closer Dont Call on Me and the rocking, cathartic L.A. County Blues.

Other kinds of recognition and respect rolled in. TBoH was honored as Best New Band

at the Austin Music Awards and nominated as Best Duo or Group by the Americana Music Awards. The Wall Street Journals’ Jim Fusilli called theirs the best set he saw during South by Southwest 2009. And the rest of the press has been equally effusive: The Dallas Morning News calls them a must-see show. Maverick magazine says they’re magnificent.

One can anticipate similar praise for Top Hat Crown, as it stretches without breaking faith with the feel and integrity that got the Band of Heathens this far. Opener Medicine Man sets a hoodoo tone with slappy upright piano and a swaggering lyric sung by Gordy Quist. Another early Quist lead is Polaroid, which the guys say was influenced by the Jayhawks and mid-career Beatles. It coasts along on a robust acoustic strum decorated by jangly chiming electric guitar a pluperfect fusion of pop and roots.

Ed Jurdi gets his first lead vocal licks in with Should Have Known, a deeply bluesy slow shake that bolsters the regret of the song. Colin Brooks evokes current events and the craziness of modernity with Enough, whose mantra-like lyric and mid-tempo groove will have people nodding along in time. Brooks also shines with his lead on Gravity, a tour-de-force of forward motion and organ-generated psychedelic colors. Then some bone-rattle percussion ushers in a glowing, single-chord jam ride and a three-part chorus that swells with love.

Fans of the band will note one familiar song here. Free Again was written, recorded and released as a single in a blast of energy in the summer of 2010, inspired by the mind-boggling Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It’s sincere and sarcastic, playful and chastising. And it’s part of a Louisiana theme that closes out the album and ties the whole project together. Hurricane, the albums lone cover, a Nashville-written tune from an old Levon Helm album, is a poignant portrait of an aging Gulf Coast salt reflecting on storms and eerily anticipating Katrina. And Gris Gris Satchel, the final cut, is a gorgeous and soothing acoustic tune that evokes old New Orleans and memories of great Crosby, Stills & Nash tracks.

Like that historic group, the Band of Heathens is distinguished by collaboration and load-sharing. And while songwriting and vocal duties are chiefly handled by the three guys across the front of the stage, they are decidedly a five-man band, benefitting from the equal input of all. This can lead to a lot of deliberation and creative tension. But it also means the music that emerges has been through five filters and enjoyed the collaborative creative power of five music-loving minds. When I write a song with Ed or Colin, I usually hear it a certain way in my head, says Quist about the power of the process. When we bring it in to the band, the song almost always comes out turned on its head, leaning in another direction from where it started. Music fans nationwide will hear that distilled quality upon the release of Top Hat Crown.

See the Band of Heathens:
Tues., March 29   DENVER, CO
Wed., March 30   ASPEN, CO

Donations Accepted: A look at today’s recording industry

Posted by on Feb 17, 2011 in Current Issue | Comments Off on Donations Accepted: A look at today’s recording industry

Donations Accepted: A look at today’s recording industry

8track-150x112Donations Accepted:
A look into today’s ever changing recording industry

By Trevor Jones

Here at Mousike, we recommend you consume as much music as possible, every day.

So how do you get your recommended daily dose of music? It’s a question most of us rarely ask ourselves, in large part because it has become so easy. When the internet arrived on the scene the web virtually destroyed the “normal” means by which we consumed our daily music. Radio and the record labels who provided individual songs to your locally owned radio stations collapsed and a new model, full of free music and online resources for listening has swallowed us, listeners and audience alike, so much so that it’s hard to decipher exactly what happened sometimes.

Thirty years ago all you had to do was call in to the local DJ, request that Blue Oyster Cult cut you’ve been craving and he was happy to help you out. Have you tried calling Clear Channel recently? The receptionist who answers probably can’t name the station in the city you’re inquiring about, because he is sitting in a corporate office building, far from any microphones or radio antennas.

So what happened? And more importantly, what do bands do these days to make sure people hear their music, in hopes that they themselves become that daily dose of music you crave?

This is where I should expose my bias. I’m a musician myself and just like everybody, I care about the welfare of the people in my industry, specifically other musicians. During the rest of this article it might feel like I’m trying to convince you to care, too and I am for good reason. We live in a free market society and so if we want quality art, we want artists to get paid. Not just musicians either. Comedians, painters, poets, people who craft miniature portraits out of sand in tiny glass bottles, all of these people need to be paid if we want their art, whatever it is, to stick around. Take the Writer’s Strike of ‘07-’08. Sitcoms and late-night shows alike were scared to death because their writers would not return work until they had been paid for internet downloads and smart phone streaming.

So as I climb down from my soapbox, let’s figure out exactly how we get our music these days and how some local bands distribute their tunes to the masses.

First, the early days. Remember ‘em? You got your music just like you bought everything else: you up off your couch and walked down to the store. This was a very deliberate, physical process, just as there was a physical hole in your wallet where $15 used to be before you bought that new CD.

I also remember when Napster happened. I was 13 years old and in the prime CD-buying phase of my life. Even after most locally-owned record shops closed, I still had to get a ride from mom down to the aptly named “Warehouse Music” to spend $15-$20 on Hootie and the Blowfish, Lenny Kravitz or maybe even some ZZ Top or Led Zeppelin. As soon as I downloaded “Boyz in the Hood” on Napster, it changed everything. Nothing was unsearchable or inaccessible. I chuckled ten years later when my dad joined the revolution and showed me all the albums he had downloaded with Bit Torrent, a modern version of Napster. This new way of obtaining music was decidedly non-physical and non-monetary, perfect during breaks at work or on a boring Sunday. I’m glad he got that King Crimson back after I lost his CD case in Europe all those years ago.

This new way of getting our music, requiring little more than a point and click of the mouse, was here to stay. Artists didn’t like this, or so it seemed. The spectacle of litigation brought about by Lars Ulrich made it seem as if every artist was, point blank, against file sharing. Unbeknownst to the media and maybe even Lars himself at the time, was the fact that file-sharing was the best thing that could have happened for artists and their creativity in an industry controlled by big record labels who had little interest in the music itself, only the bottom line. Later on, Lars would regret his attack on Napster.

“We didn’t know enough about the kind of grassroots thing, and what had been going on the last couple of months in the country as this whole new phenomenon was going on.”

-Lars Ulrich

Napster brought about what would be ten years of tumultuous, confusing dealings in the   music industry. People found new ways of file-sharing and the record industry would sue individuals here or there, ducking their heads from the media when a curious eleven-year-old or some sweet little granny would be sued for thousands because of copyright infringement. Apple’s iTunes and iPod first edged out music software programs then buried all other devices period. How many Dell or Microsoft music players do you see anymore?

Meanwhile, the internet itself developed myriad sites and plans for music delivery. Pandora, Grooveshark and Spotify are all examples of streaming music services that are free but give different listening options, payment plans for premium service and even differ in the legalese they use as protection against litigation.

But perhaps the most perplexing, the most paradoxical method by which we receive our music is on YouTube. What kind of world do we live in where people get their movies from iTunes and their music on YouTube? It’s bananas. But it’s true. And why shouldn’t it be? Music on YouTube is like watching an alien-MTV on steroids, impressive looking and filled with content for the future. For bands, however, this illogical but very popular medium provides a great way to promote the music in a visual way. I recently saw a video of a band shooting a flame-thrower and fire extinguisher at one another. I don’t care what you’re promoting… that’s awesome.

YouTube panders to our primary perception, vision. We all know how much better a concert can be with just a few lights, lasers and a smoke machine to occupy our visual field. Also, musicians tend to be pretty hairy/ugly, so a bright flashing distraction never hurts. But the need for visual stimulation in our modern age is a big one. A great music video can break a band instantly, much like a radio single could several decades ago.

I was at the grocery store in Avon and someone asked me recently if I thought Jimi Hendrix would become famous if he were playing today. I said no and my new friend shook his head and agreed with me. Back then it wouldn’t have had much to do with social networking or YouTube, only word of mouth about a new fiery guitar player. Jimi would come to rely on people like his manager and ultimately his record label to be heard. So what does a burgeoning Jimi or Bob or Janis or Jim, do today?

They adapt to the new system. Bands in Colorado have been doing it for several years now. The majority of any band’s revenue comes from playing live shows, so that aspect of the model hasn’t changed much. What has changed is musician’s attitudes about how, and how much, to sell music for. The cost of making an album has come down exponentially in recent years and so bands are no longer beholden to big record companies, oftentimes they only have themselves or one or two investors to pay back. With this financial freedom comes executive freedom as well and artists are increasingly intelligent about managing their creative assets and royalties. When most of the music out there is free, due to file-sharing and sites like Pandora, it becomes very hard to compete economically when a group’s music costs anything at all to download.

I went online to research some Colorado bands and found a varying array of distribution strategies. Yonder Mountain String Band offers free downloads, but only a smattering of their overall catalogue, in hopes of snaring fans into buying whole albums. The Motet offers their last album, completely free, while putting their more recent effort up for sale. Big Gigantic doesn’t beat around the bush, a quick Google search renders direct links to multiple pages of free music downloads. In a smart move, their last album can be downloaded for money, but fans get a bonus track.

Big Gigantic has faith in what they are doing and it shows. They know their music is so good; people will pay for the whole album just to get that last bonus track. Of course some people won’t, but for those people there is a “donate” button. When Radiohead released In Rainbows for free a couple years back, they made more money off donations than from actual sales of all their other albums, combined. When people get their daily dose of music, they are truly grateful.

As a consumer, we don’t really think about all of this. Music is so easy to obtain these days, and we no longer have to rely on a terrestrial radio system with no character and little quality music. Record labels, payola, and all the corruption that ruined creativity in those systems are gone. The landscape is more barren now, the musical fruit more accessible to the consumer. This new landscape is certainly more harsh and entrepreneurial for artists. Then again, isn’t that what makes a great artist? Although it’s cliché, great art comes from struggle. Not only do we expect that from our artists, we want to support them through their struggles. If only all of our endeavors had a “donate” button.

Anyone who is, or has been an entrepreneur knows how tough it is. The prospect of giving away your product for free seems not only illogical, but akin to business suicide. That gives you a sense of how upside down the world of media has become because of the internet. Newspapers, books, movies, TV shows and even this magazine you hold in your hand… none are immune. In a sense, we have come full circle. https://trbetoyun.com/

During the Renaissance, music was very much a free market commodity. People hired musicians because they thought the tunes were off-the-hook, and to listen. The idea of every piece of music (pretend CD’s existed) being the same price would have been ludicrous. Some music sucks, some touches the voice of God. Is every painting a standard price? Now we have returned to employing the proverbial “donate” button. The real struggle for musicians is making their “donate” button more valuable than the next. From this struggle comes great artists and most importantly for us as listeners, great music.

Joint Point

Posted by on Feb 17, 2011 in Current Issue | Comments Off on Joint Point

Joint Point

By Bubba Schill with Thomas Cole

On the surface, Joint Point implies the juncture at which individual ideas converge into collaborative ones. For those lucky enough to ride the ski mountain in Telluride, it indicates a more specific meaning, namely, a ski run between Mammoth and Spiral Stairs off of Lift Nine.  And of course for some of us it simply calls to mind a good place to smoke a j. Yet the moniker takes on even more depth when one considers a constantly evolving musical ensemble, Telluride’s very own popular local band of the same name.

In a town upon which it’s notoriously easy for local bands to over saturate themselves, Joint Point has been a consistent crowd-pleaser that has quickly and steadily packed in and wowed large crowds over the course of the past eighteen months or so. With influences as diverse as Paul Simon, Talking Heads, Bela Fleck and Radiohead, their eclectic performances are attracting a wide, cross-mix of the music loving community.

Yet, Joint Point prides themselves on creating an event as opposed to just a concert, the bands’ “…goal is to host intelligent, well run musical events that employ not only live music, but different forms of creative, artistic expression.” Through the use of projection and lighting systems, live performance painting, poster design, interactive art and dance, their events provide an excuse to let go.

No two sets are ever even remotely the same, even when they’re the same set, and whether your own stylistic preferences naturally gravitate towards rock, jazz, fusion, reggae, bluegrass, country or psychedelic, you’re sure to hear something that gets you moving at one of their performances, sometimes resulting from several genres blending at once.

The Joint Point story starts with a handful of musicians slowly and serendipitously finding each other, through each other. Jeff Haldeman, the band’s primary vocalist/rythym guitar player/co-songwriter, and Stu met each other while working at a local ski shop. Stu at the time had a weekly gig a Tommy’s, a bar that unfortunately is no longer with us here in Telluride. Jeff came down to check out a gig and liked what he saw. After catching a set, he proposed that the two jam together. At the time, Jeff had a rehearsal space at the local artists’ co-op, the Stronghouse Studios, where a constantly changing cast of local musicians played with each other. Meanwhile drummer, Ren Terkuile and bassist/songwriter, Nate Prendergrast had some jamming of their own going on. So after a couple of months of intertwining jams they all got together and immediately clicked.

Ren began playing the drums at the age of seven, and throughout his childhood and early adulthood studied various forms of drumming and was involved with orchestral and percussion ensembles. He also studied the vibraphone and played snare in a world caliber marching band. He then took some years off, mostly for climbing and college. The kit he plays now—vintage and beautiful—was given to him by his mothers’ husband, Jim Carlson, and was once stationed at the prestigious Berklee school of music where Jim studied.

When asked if any drummers have been particularly inspirational, Ren grins and replies, “All of ‘em.”

Nate was a bona fide self-proclaimed (and proclaimed by others, I’m told) band nerd from age eight until he was eighteen. He started his musical studies with the euphonium, and at fourteen added the slide trombone and guitar to his arsenal. At some point, his parents made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: continue the music studies or find himself thrown out of the house and homeless. Thankfully he chose the former. It wasn’t actually until trying out for Joint Point that he picked up the bass guitar.

“I go where the beat goes and I moves how the ass moves. That’s all you need to know,” Nate says.

Stu began his relationship with music playing the violin, but sometime in junior high switched to the guitar partially because it’s a more social instrument. Childhood influences such as Paul Simon and Bob Dylan morphed their way into his relationship with punk and grunge rock, an amalgamation that led to other more expansive tastes.

Their first gig together was at a street party in San Bernardo in the spring of 2009 under the temporary, whimsical band name of Suspicious Coconuts. It’s unclear whether the music at that fateful first gig stopped due to the night becoming too cold or too dark, but one thing is certain: it wasn’t because of a lack of songs.

Their first hometown gig (still as Suspicious Coconuts) was in the program room of the Wilkinson Public Library. Later, as Joint Point they played the annual Blizzard Sale event where the band caught the attention of local soundman, Tom Fortier, who at that time was running the surly Fly Me To The Moon Saloon. Starting then, Joint Point began to draw an ever-increasing local following.

“Playing music has been a part of my life for a long time and finding a group of guys to play with in my own backyard has been a life-changing experience”, commented bassist/vocalist Nate Prendergrast.         ”I’ve always wanted to play a gig on the ski area. Our last day of the season party at the base of chair 8 was a scene. Skiing and playing music are the best things ever!”

And, the scene is growing. From a concert on the Town Park Stage to sold-out shows on Mardi Gras, St. Patricks Day, and multiple New Year’s Eves’, this roughly eighteen month old jam/rock outfit has solidified a fresh new sound that is both interesting and exciting. Throw in the massive last-day-of-ski-season festivities at the X-Café, (another feat they are poised to repeat), sharing the stage with The Motet at the annual Doo Dah Gala (a cherished fundraising event for Telluride’s local radio station, K.O.T.O.) in July, then headlining the Marble Music Festival in Marble, Colorado in August, and playing (again in support of K.O.T.O.) the annual Halloween Bash, and it’s easy to see that Joint Point over the last year has become a workhorse of a band.

So what’s next for the Joint Point? After a busy fall and winter, the group is preparing its first EP for release in the summer 2011.  February will mark another milestone as Joint Point throws a 40th birthday fiesta for Ren at the Llama with some very special guests, including longtime collaborator Jack Rajca on the electric baritone 5-string mandolin and Michael Kang of the String Cheese Incident. Then on March 8th at the historic Sheridan Opera House, the band takes over for a sure to be sold-out 2nd Annual Fat Tuesday throw-down.

As Jeff says, “It’s a ski lifestyle type project,” and this rising ski bum jam band has only begun to scratch the surface of what their music has to say. Do yourself a favor and check them out the next time they come to your town. https://trbetgirislinki10.com/

Medeski, Martin and Wood: 20 Years

Posted by on Feb 17, 2011 in Breaking News | Comments Off on Medeski, Martin and Wood: 20 Years

Medeski, Martin and Wood: 20 Years

Medeski Martin & Wood

mmw-150x100Luckily, many talented musicians love playing music in Colorado. From classical symphonies to bluegrass jams, the state sees — and hears – it all. This March, we’re in for another treat when Medeski, Martin & Wood (MMW) will kick off their tour with four shows in Colorado. If you’re anywhere from Aspen to Denver and you enjoy live music, these shows will definitely be worth your while.

Twenty years ago, Medeski, Martin & Wood came together in Brooklyn, N.Y. to create an American jazz band. Though often categorized as jazz, MMW’s music draws inspiration from a multitude of genres ranging from hip-hop to funk  and their live performances, with an inclination toward improvisation and experimentation, tend to truly awe music lovers.

In 1991, keyboard/organ/piano player John Medeski, drummer/percussionist Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood collaborated and released their first album, “Notes From The Underground,” featuring mainly acoustic, jazzy sounds. After years of touring and producing records, their original sounds have morphed into an unclassifiable genre, which some refer to as “avant-groove,” a play on “avant-garde,” meaning experimental or innovative.

The group is now recognized as part of the jam band circuit and is deeply involved with a large and booming music community across the country.

Medeski, Martin & Wood have played alongside groups as diverse as The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Ray Charles and Phish, to name just a few. They have delighted music festival crowds from Bonnaroo, to the Montreux Jazz Festival to Austin City Limits.

Today, the trio’s fan base is extremely diverse. In addition to jazz lovers, followers of jam-bands have also jumped on the MMW bandwagon, but in reality it could be anyone who enjoys improvisational rock music seen grooving at MMW show. https://casinouzmani77.net/

New Music Monthly Magazine described the members of MMW as “jazz freaks” and said their jam-kid fan base has come as a pleasant surprise to them. Medeski commented, “Whatever you think about their scene, the jam-band fans are after the transcendent experience that improvised music at its best can provide, and that’s cool.”

The secret to MMW’s varied fan base most likely derives from their spontaneity and likelihood to genre-hop, or their creative approach to producing music which undoubtably brings forth very unique and interesting sounds. Simply put, one would be hard-pressed to feel inhibited when listening to Medeski, Martin & Wood. They provide a little something for everyone by combining as many different musical elements as humanly possible. And the best part? They do it so well.

Martin has spoken about the band’s friendship as an integral part of the group’s success, keeping MMW afloat through many tours and the production of nearly twenty records. On MMW’s website, Martin said, “Even when we have ups and downs, the music and our friendship carries us through.”

Thanks to their strong ties, the trio has successfully toured all over the United States, as well as in Europe and Japan. They have worked with Gramavision and Blue Note Records, incorporating elements such as horn sections and turntables into their sound. MMW now operates their own record label, Indirecto Records. Indirecto’s first release, “Out Louder,” featured a collaboration with guitarist John Scofield, who has played with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and others.

Though the trio already satisfies a wide range of musical needs, all three members are also involved in extensive, individual side-projects. Chris Wood and his brother, Oliver Wood, both from Boulder, Colorado, comprise The Wood Brothers, a guitar and bass duo. The brothers’ most recent album, “Smoke Ring Halo,” was released by Southern Ground Records. They are currently touring the west coast and have announced a spring tour to commence March 24 in Boston, Mass.

Billy Martin operates his own record company, Amulet Records, with a focus on his specialty, percussion. He is also known for his visual artwork, featured in plenty of galleries and used for the packaging of many MMW albums.

John Medeski is well known for his 2001 collaboration with the North Mississippi Allstars and guitarist Robert Randolph. Together, the musicians formed The Word, a successful gospel blues jam-band with a heavy jazz and rock influence. Medeski was the keyboardist for the Trey Anastasio Band, has performed with Phil Lesh and Friends, and has been involved in a multitude of solo piano recitals. Medeski also formed the notable psychadelic-funk trio, The Itch, and has scored films including the popular Day on Fire.

 More recently, the trio has released a three-part album project, “The Radiolarian Series.” Sticking to their core concept of innovation, MMW recorded the albums after playing the music on tour. MMW’s website announced in 2008, “Each tour and subsequent album will consist of all NEW MUSIC. The plan: Write > Tour > Record > Repeat.” All three albums were also released in 2009 as the box set “Radiolarians: The Evolutionary Set.” Along with the box set came the documentary “Fly in a Bottle,” MMW’s first feature film, that was directed by Billy Martin himself. “Fly in a Bottle” features MMW’s studio work, tours, relationships and, most importantly, their music.

 In my opinion, the trio’s unprecedented live performances, creative studio albums and multitude of side projects speak for themselves. But there’s more! MMW’s community outreach far exceeds that of other artists because, in addition to satisfying their fans’ musical cravings, the band also satisfies their fans’ desire to learn. This summer, for the fourth consecutive year, the band will host Camp MMW in New York’s Catskill Mountains, giving attendees an opportunity to live and study with the trio.

Camp MMW’s website explains, “No matter what instrument you play, you will expand your approach to music, improve your listening skills, and interact with other musicians in a completely fresh such as https://bahiscebinde.net/, innovative way…In the anything-goes, non-traditional atmosphere of Camp MMW, you’ll be encouraged to experiment, test your limits, take risks, and enjoy newfound freedom in the process.”

This year, Camp MMW will run from Sunday, July 31 to Friday, August 5. Designed for musicians, a typical day at Camp MMW starts with breakfast among fellow campers and the band. Breakfast is followed by a MMW-led class/seminar. After lunch and some free time, campers will break into groups for workshops with individual band members. According to Camp MMW’s website, “You might be a guitarist, and study melody with keyboardist, John Medeski. Or a horn player that works on mastering rhythm with drummer Billy Martin. Maybe you’re a pianist that wants to develop your groove with bassist, Chris Wood.” Once again, the trio provides a little something for everyone with Camp MMW. Later in the day, dinner is provided and the evening event begins. The event could be a performance, a jam session, a film and discussion, a bonfire or even a dance party.

Camp MMW will accept 80 students this season, based on applications submitted online via www2.mmw.net. The rolling application process begins March 6 and ends June 6, so don’t miss out on your opportunity to hang out with and learn from some of the best. Program costs are outlined on Camp MMW’s website and the band will be offering a limited number of need-based scholarships.

 Not all bands give their fans such an intimate and meaningful experience. One past camper said, “No matter what level you are at as a musician, Chris Wood, Billy Martin and John Medeski have concepts and ways of looking at music that will expand your way of thinking playing. They use unique new approaches to rhythmic concepts, ensemble playing, composition and a general sense of inspiration. And, if that’s not enough, I got to see a world class band with special guests playing every night in an intimate setting.”

 When I said Colorado is in for a treat next month, I wasn’t speaking lightly. Medeski, Martin & Wood have spent the past two decades traversing the globe, experimenting and reaching out in every way possible in order to fuel your musical needs. Go see the shows and you will be floored by the trio’s synergy. Make sure to listen carefully to MMW’s tight grooves and funky improvisations. They might speed up the sounds unexpectedly, but they will slow them down again in a way that ensures an awesome party from start to finish. Don’t be afraid to dance! Last year, Chris Wood told the Daily Camera that playing Colorado feels like coming back home. Speaking from the heart and soul of Colorado music lovers to the trio that is Medeski, Martin & Wood, please come home more often!

Disco Biscuits

Posted by on Feb 11, 2011 in Current Issue | Comments Off on Disco Biscuits

Disco Biscuits

discobiscuits-246x250It was 2002 and I had just finished working with a friend serving tables at a mediocre corporate chain. We had discussed many a festival and concert and found we shared a common love of music. As we delved into jambands, I was trying to get a feel for this person’s like or dislike of one of my favorite bands, when they suddenly asked me, “Do you do Disco Biscuits?”

“Excuse me?”

“Have you ever heard of Disco Biscuits?” they repeated just a little slower and with a condescending tone that possibly implied my getting old and deaf.

“Never heard of them. What are they about?” Based on my friend’s brief description, I was skeptical. And yet within a few listenings, I was turned on to the albums They Missed the Perfume and Bisco Lives. My first impressions were that of a totally new sound. It was electronic, yes, exhibiting elements of trance, dubstep, and old-school jungle. And yet it was also fused with many elements of traditional jam rock, segueing songs, and even parts of songs, together in different sequences. With influences from the classical masters to modern day hip hop, call it Livetronica, call it Trance Fusion, call it whatever. Its different, its unique, its definitely cool.

The band was formed at the University of Pennsylvania in 1995. With Marc Brownstein on bass, Jon Gutwillig on guitar, Aron Magner on keyboards, and Sam Altman on drums, the Phish cover band began playing the college party scene. They soon evolved, taking on all worlds of music, combining jam band and electronic music mixed with the free-form improvisations of jazz and the hypnotic rhythms of rave culture. Unable to fit into any one music genre, they have been credited with creating their own. With influences ranging from the classical masters to modern day hip hop, their combined styles of electronic music is definitely unique. In 2005, Disco Biscuits evolved again when Allen Aucoin took over on drums, re-energizing the band, even earning his position by

winning a “drum-off” in Atlantic City. Today, in Philadelphia, the band owns Diamond Riggs Studios where they not only do their own work, but foster many local musicians and side projects such as blackjack siteleri online , as well.

What is meant by Trance Fusion, exactly? No words can really describe it. I guess it requires your own listening. For me, it wasn’t just the sounds that I liked, but the style. I was drawn to the idea of a band writing their material for the live performance, and then using the results of the live performance to create the studio album. Ingenious! I also really liked the inverted and dyslexic mixing of the song parts, seguing into a song ending first, and so on. Some nights they leave a song unfinished, and then complete it on another night! Their unique style of writing and set-list organization completely won me over.

I was not alone. A huge fan base spawned as they steadily bridged the gap between electronic music and jam bands.

15 years after inception, they have toured both nationally and internationally, headlining their own performances and anchoring other events such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, All Good Music Festival, Jam Cruise, Wakarusa, High Sierra Music Festival, and Gathering of the Vibes, among others. Starting in 1999, and most years since, they have held their own music festival called Camp Bisco. There they have hosted a wide range of acts from Ween, Umphrey’s McGee, and STS9 to acts like Snoop Dog, Damien Marley, and Kid Kudi, to acts like Lake Trout, Bassnectar, and Wu-Massacre. Also worth noting is Disco Inferno, where the Disco Biscuits headline a show at Colorado’s own Red Rocks Amphitheater. Beginning in 2007, Disco Biscuits, along with Umphrey’s McGee, have hosted the music festival known as Caribbean Holidaze in Jamaica and Mexico. There, they have been known to combine bands under the name The Brain Damaged Eggmen, performing nothing but Beatles and Pink Floyd tunes.

Festivals and side projects aside, the band has returned to their roots in creating their latest album, Planet Anthem, released in March 2010. Three years of work went into the recording, with all members working collaboratively to bring ideas to the table. The band invited multiple producers, songwriters, and musicians to work by committee on bits and parts, assembling pieces into focused, whole songs. The result is a masterful work that is indie, pop, hip hop, jazz, and most definitely, Disco Biscuits.

To take part in the amazing spectacle, be sure to see the Disco Biscuits when they blow-up the Front Range with a four night run of shows in Boulder and Denver in January 2011!

1/13 Boulder Theater
1/14 Boulder Theater

1/15 Ogden Theater
1/16 Ogden Theater

Bonnaroo Lineup Announced – DMB, Stevie, Jeff Beck, MMW and TMBG

Posted by on Feb 9, 2011 in Breaking News | Comments Off on Bonnaroo Lineup Announced – DMB, Stevie, Jeff Beck, MMW and TMBG

I’ve been singing Birdhouse in Your Soul, a song from They Might Be Giant’s brand new album for 1990, in my head for days now. I swear, just ask my mightily annoyed girlfriend! Luckily, today’s Bonnaroo announcement affords me an avenue to see TMBG among some great other bands including DMB, Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon and Weezer. Source: https://heyecanlibahis.info/

The full lineup also includes Angel of Montgomery singer John Prine, The Disco Biscuits, Jimmy Cliff and The Flaming Lips performing a tribute to Dark Side of the Moon.

This year’s festival will take place from June 10-13 at the same great location in Manchester, TN and tickets are available now at bonnaroo.com where payment plan packages are also available.

The full lineup as confirmed so far includes:
Dave Matthews Band
Kings of Leon
Stevie Wonder
Flaming Lips covering Dark Side of the Moon
The Dead Weather
Tenacious D
Jeff Beck
John Fogerty
Zac Brown Band
Damian Marley & Nas
Norah Jones
The National
Medeski Martin & Wood
She & Him
Chromeo w/ guest Daryl Hall
The Avett Brothers
Regina Spektor
Blitzen Trapper
She & Him
Rise Against
Punch Brothers
Dropkick Murphys
Cross Canadian Ragweed
John Prine
Blues Traveler
The xx
Mayer Hawthorne and the County
The Gaslight Anthem
Tokyo Police Club
Manchester Orchestra
Kid Cudi
Neon Indian
Black Keys
Jimmy Cliff
Tori Amos
Thievery Corporation
The Constellations
Dr. Dog
Ingrid Michaelson
Jay Electronica
Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers
Monte Montgomery
Disco Biscuits
They Might Be Giants
Baaba Maal
The Melvins
Jimmy Cliff
Dave Rawlings Machine
Local Natives
The Postelles
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Jamey Johnson
The Entrance Band
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
The Dodos
Martin Sexton

Biscuits in his Gravy: Keller Williams

Posted by on Feb 2, 2011 in Breaking News | Comments Off on Biscuits in his Gravy: Keller Williams

Biscuits in his Gravy: Keller Williams

mousFor many of you, Keller Williams needs no introduction. But for anyone left out there who hasn’t heard of Keller, seen his ledendary solo act or followed his many other incarnations, well… I guess I’ve got some ‘splaining to do. Yet how the hell do you write a quick intro about a guy who has just released his 16th album (his first geared towards children), hosts his own syndicated radio show, has five side-projects listed on his website, recently published his first children’s book and is currently touring with a three-piece bluegrass outfit to promote an album of cover songs from artists as diverse as Kris Kristofferson, Amy Winehouse and Marcy Playground? It’s been said that his “Entire career seems like a eries of side projects.” And that can be a good thing or a bad thing. He’s got so much going on right now, so many irons in the fire, that it might be easy to say that Keller can’t seem to pick a lane or that he’s a jack of all trades, master of none. But there is a lot more to the story than all that, and if there is one thing that Keller is an expert at, it’s being Keller. Describing just exactly what that is however, or predicting where it might lead next, is a bit like trying to grasp water.


Growing up in Fredricksburg Virginia, Keller says he had an early love for a hockey stick that he would wield as an electric guitar. It wasn’t until age 13 when he first picked up an acoustic guitar, and perhaps because of all that practice on the hockey stick, by the time he was 16 he had already landed his first ‘real gig’.

“Around that time I was also doing temporary jobs like landscaping, and I was making the same amount playing music as I was shoveling mulch and digging up weeds for eight hours in the summertime at minimum wage. So it seemed like the obvious choice was to play music.”

As a theatre major at Wesleyan in Virginia, he never really studied music formally, but he did study music, “I listen to all kinds of music. I’m a music-lover first, musician second, and a songwriter third. And I think that all comes out in my solo shows.”

You probably won’t find a lot of guitar players or musicians who will name both the Grateful Dead and Michael Hedges as early influences, but Keller wasn’t going to short-change himself by ruling anything out. “A friend gave me a cassette tape of ‘Live on the Double Planet’, a Michael Hedges record. I was about 18 and just like a musical sponge. I got turned on to him at a really influential time and he really spun me around and showed me how it could be done with one person, with one guitar, on stage alone. Not only from his playing style, but the way he was able to take cover songs and change them into his own, I got a lot of that from him.”

Also by this time, Keller was deep into the mystery of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. “I studied and learned their music and went to the shows,” and adds that Jerry’s playing had a tremendous influence of his own approach toward music.

“I started to work and over the years I incorporated more technology. The looping thing started to happen and tickets were sold and people came to shows, so there wasn’t any reason to fix something that wasn’t broken.”

What he refers to as ‘the looping thing’ is a trick he learned during a stint opening up for Grammy-winning bassist Victor Wooten. Using a Gibson Echoplex delay system, Williams is able to simulate an entire band with his own two hands. “My solo thing is definitely based around freedom and the somewhat self-indulgence of the kind of music that I’m into.” And since those songs are all created track by track out of thin air, he sometimes comes off as much of a magician as a performer. It’s a bit like watching someone pull a song out of several different hats, with nothing up his sleeve, and without a net if he blows it or drops a loop. And if he does mess up or suffers technical difficulties, you won’t find him stopping the show and apologizing, Keller will keep on keepin’ on with whatever is still making noise, perhaps mimicking a trumpet or beat-box with his mouth while using his guitar as a drum. It’s these qualities like this dedication to his audience and the fearlessness that allows him to pull off an acapella Bohemian Rhapsody as an encore, that have made him and his shows an increasingly ‘above ground’ sensation. And he’s got Colorado connections that run deep.


In the early nineties, Colorado was fertile ground for progressive bluegrass and of course Telluride, CO was where the sun shone brightest. It was also where some of Keller’s Blue Ridge peers like Mark Vann and Larry Keel had already left an idelible mark on the Rocky Mountain soundscape.

In 1995 Keller made his own pilgrimage to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and in a basement bar on Main Street he discovered a newly-formed acoustic band that he felt a deep kinship with. They were calling themselves the String Cheese Incident, and were hardly known beyond the picketed crest of the San Juans at that time. Keller enjoyed their style and their adventuous spirit and instantly became a fan.

“I saw them… (String Cheese) and just loved the way it was all acoustic back then, and they were jumping from genre to genre and I went and saw them a couple of times before I ever met them.”

And the ‘Incident’ wasn’t his only discovery in Telluride. The Rocky Mountain climate and altitude can be hard on acoustic instruments, and in a moment of self-preservation Keller took drastic measures.

“I noticed that the bridge was peeling off this one 12 string that I had so I took off a couple strings and lowered the tension to try to get through this series of gigs.” Neccessity is the mother of invention, and stripping down his guitar proved to complement his playing and served to further distinguish his sound and style.

“It turned out that the lower you go the better the guitar sounds. Lower register, lower notes… and solo I really thought that was important to really have the bass lines and the low end come through to fill out the sound a little.” Though that original guitar hangs on his wall at home, he hasn’t yet retired the technique.

“I have a baritone 12 string that I travel with and it currently has nine strings on it.”

After visiting Telluride and then deciding to settle in Steamboat Springs for the winter of 95/96, 15 years later Williams can still quote snowfall numbers. “It snowed 221 inches just in the month of January alone. I had a good time living in Steamboat for sure.” He paid his bills by playing bars and clubs six nites a week in Steamboat and Summit County, feeling fortunate to make 50$ and dinner. And this is where he finally got the opportunity to actually meet the String Cheese Incident.

“When I met them I gave them my CD and offered my services as an opening act, and I’m very greatful they took me under their wing. They gave me the national exposure that I would not have had otherwise. They took me out of the bars and the restaurants and I actually got to play real venues with a stage and PA and a green room, which wan’t really something that was normal in my world.”

What Keller is referring to is a relationship which included being signed by their SCI Fidelity record label, the 1999 release ‘Breathe’ as the Keller Williams Incident, national touring as a supporting act, and various sideprojects with various members of SCI. And it turns out that Colorado has provided a few other seminal experiences during his career as well.

“The first time playing Red Rocks always stands out in my mind, that was in 1999.”  And the first time I played with Bob Wier was at Red Rocks and that was 2001 I believe, and that was definitely one of the highlights of my career, I think, playing with Bob Weir as a duo at Red Rocks. That was unbelievable for me.”

That night at Red Rocks led to recording with Weir as well as playing with Grateful Dead drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman in the Rythm Devils. And while we’re talking about side projects, I counted no less than five listed on Keller’s website. Asked about these diverse projects Williams responds, “The most intense one I think is the band with Keith Mosely on bass and Gib Droll on guitar and Jeff Sipe on the drums. That’s a very powerful one I think. The product that came out double live (STAGE) with the bonus DVD all in the same package I’m quite proud of. I hope that can see the light of day again and we can take that back out. But right now The Keels is what we’ve been doing recently. We played a lot of festivals this summer and we’re doing a holiday run together.”


The Keels is one of Keller’s more recent projects, but it could be said that it was 20-some years in the making. Keller began playing seriously with Larry and Jenny Keel in 2004, and in 2006 they teamed up for the bluegrass album not surprisingly titled GRASS, but their friendship and musical collaboration goes back to 1991 when they were all involved in the local Fredricksburg music scene. Larry was playing in a band called Fizzawah, a side-car to his main oufit McGraw Gap and Keller would sit in, and vice versa.

Though they lived a few hours apart in Virginia, it never kept them from getting together for an afternoon jam when they had the time, and Larry also had his own connections to Colorado in the newly formed Leftover Salmon’s original banjo player Mark Vann (a TBF winner himself). Keel and Vann had been friends since they first met in ’89 and formed a bluegrass outfit called Farmer’s Trust and in 1993 Vann convinced Larry to come out to Colorado for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival where Larry surprised even himself by winning the flatpicker’s contest. “I was completely surprised, because there was wonderful talent in the whole thing, you know. Just seeing all that and getting to take in Colorado was prize enough. It’s kept me coming back for years.” Keel says about the mountains and the music during that first visit.

And fortunate we are to have enjoyed those visits over the years. With an unofficial title of ‘Bluegrass Legend and Master Fisherman’, Larry is considered one of the best flatpickers on the planet. Steeped in the old-timey and with a gravelly voice as deep and rich as mooshine on a riverbank, it’s a nice complement to Williams’ smooth-as-silk delivery. Larry’s flat-picking style is as seamless as it is gymnastic and he’s a master at simulating banjo rolls, mandolin runs or even parts that you would normally hear played on a fiddle.

The bridge between Keller and Larry is provided by Larry’s wife Jenny on the upright bass. Born into the bluegrass tradition herself and a young enthusiast, Larry and Jenny met at a bluegrass festival and were soon playing together anywhere and everywhere they could.

The whole album couldn’t flow any better, managing to create a commonality and a cohesiveness to the scattershot playlist. On youtube I found videos of the trio playing songs from THIEF alongside the gentle Rappahannock river in Virginia and the chemistry between the three is captured perfectly. Keller leading the way, at times chopping hardwood, other times throwing in his fluid and almost a-rythmic rolls and fills. Larry charges up and down the neck with his unique style of rollicking flatpicking while the beautiful Jenny Keel ties it all together with her solid timing and gentle attack, sometimes drifting off with a wistful smile, but always keeping one eye on Keller and watching out for his surprises. These videos are a testament to the essence of bluegrass, the depth of their friendship, and that good warm feeling of fraternity that only bluegrass music and good whiskey can produce. It is obvious that these people have nowhere else to be, and nothing else they’d rather be doing than playing music together.

Speaking of their friendship and collaboration with Keller, Larry says, “I’ll tell ya’, he’s always amazed me with his creativity and his ideas and the directions he heads with all of his playin’ as far as not just your typical cover songs or his original material, he’s always got a surprise in there for ya’. His rythm capability is as good as it gets, it’s the best I know of and I just love playing music with him you know, it really fires me up. We tend to read each other like a book now, it’s pretty awesome.”

And when it comes to the diverse origins of the material, the legend from Natural Bridge, Virginia says, “You know with a lot of these songs off of THIEF, me not being the big radio listener of popular music, I hadn’t heard of any of the songs that were on the CD. It was hilarious, we rehearsed ‘em and got ‘em all down and had ‘em tight and then we go out to play these shows in front of thousands of people… and everyone’s singing the words to them. I feel like the odd man out in weird way, but we put our touch on ‘em and I’m real happy to be a part of it.”

It’s easy to get caught up in those cover songs, the diversity of the source material and the unlikliness of it all.  Pickin’ on the Butthole Surfers? Amy Winehouse on corn liquor rather than crack? And who the hell are the Presidents of the United States of America, anyway? But the reality is that this is damn good bluegrass from any angle, and as far as the art of taking other artist’s songs and making them your own while still allowing the songwriting to shine through on its own merits, it is brilliant. These folks are impeccable at playing these songs, without once ever getting in the way of the songs themselves, and I can only imagine that the original artists are delighted to see their material handled with such dexterity and humility.

When I ask Keller how they chose the material for the album, it becomes clear why the choices were so succesful. “You know, a handful of those songs were road tested by the Keels and I and we definitely played them live for a couple of years before we recorded them, so that was really easy to choose those. Others were road tested by me solo and then there were a few others that we put together right there in the studio that I thought were really cool. Like the Raconteurs song, the original is very rockin’… if you listen to the words it’s kind of like one of those old bluegrass murder ballads and it works really well bluegras. It was all about the songs I knew that people would either know and sing along to, or like even if they were hearing it for the first time.”

This album proves beyond doubt that digital technology can and does capture that analog magic, as long as the magic is there to begin with, and in my mind cements Keller Williams as an incredibly talented producer. The irony is that this album is anything but a ripoff. Though it may be other folks that writ the songs, each one is left improved upon, the paradox being that Keller, Larry and Jenny bring out each song’s hidden potential by stripping them down to volume, tempo and timbre. If Keller wasn’t stuck on one-word album titles he might as well have called this record “Pimp My Song – Mountaingrass Edition”.


Of course, just because he’s not playing solo so much these days. It’ doesn’t mean that Keller is slowing down any. Just like his solo act, when it comes to his career he is just as likely to find himself with several irons in the fire at once. He released an album for kids this fall, appropriately titled KIDS, and a companion book to go along with it. You can find out more about these projects following this article, and read a review by Mousike’s newest correspondent, 1st grader Xander Armistead.

Keller also had a co-producer credit on Larry’s newest album Backwoods,  a more traditional bluegrass project recorded with his band Natural Bridge. Larry is not one to sit idle either, and has started a series of Bluegrass and Bass Fishing camps which are proving popular. “They’re both an incredible escape from the day-to-day you know, ‘cause music has it’s magic and fishin’ does too. They’re two of my dear loves for sure… gotta have ‘em.” says Keel. Don’t be surprised if you see him in Colorado soon with Bluegrass and Brownies, because his love for the Rockies is evident in his voice.

“It is so amazing. I can remember when I went out there as a youngster, and then gettin’ to go back out there this year and play with Keller and the Keels in Telluride… every time you go there it’s the most magical thing. We dearly love Colorado, we’ve made some wonderful friends out there.”

Keller and The Keel’s have three Colorado shows coming in February that are guaranteed to be a good time. They’ll hit the Vilar in Beaver Creek, a gig at the Sheraton Ballroom in the Boat, and a final gig at the Aggie in Fort Collins.

Each venue has a charm and a following of it’s own, so I ask Keller if he’ll mix it up a bit for the different audiences. “We’ll definitely do a different set every night.” says Keller. “It’s not like the Vilar is really a listening room, people still get up and boogie. Last time there was a nice mixture of the patrons and the young hairy folks. The Vilar is by far one of the nicest places that I play. It is as aesthetically pleasing as they come. Just amazing to step foot in that place for the first time and see the beauty of the architcture on the inside and how they’ve really grabbed ahold of the Colorado mountain lodge vibe.”

And speaking of beautiful venues, Keller has recently been tapped for a Neil Young tribute concert at none other than Carnegie Hall. Though he does know which song he gets to play, he’s not at liberty to say which hit it will be, but he’s obviously excited. “I was invited to play one song. Just to be in Carnegie Hall, not necessarily on the stage but just to be in that building, that would be a real rush for me. I’m really excited. The fact that I get to play a song makes it all just like gravy.”