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The Unpredictable Journey of Drivin N Cryin's Kevn Kinney February 4, 2019 14:58

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Celebrating their 33rd Anniversary together, Atlanta-based folk rock act, Drivin' N Cryin', have spent most of their career on tour. In October 1985 Drivin' N Cryin' played their first show at Atlanta’s famed 688 Club. The band quickly gained attention for their blistering live shows, and amassed a rabid fanbase in the fertile soil of the late-1980s Southeast music scene. Now, 33 years later, and after releasing four full length albums on Island Records and one on Geffen Records, founding members Kevn Kinney and Tim Nielsen find themselves enjoying a milestone anniversary for the band, having survived the pressures of fame, a shifting musical landscape, multiple lineup changes, and miles of back roads and highways to arrive here.

With a gold record, 10 full-length albums, and a handful of EPs to their credit, the band still refuses to rest. In 2012, a documentary about the band, entitled Scarred but Smarter: Life n Times of Drivin' N’ Cryin’, was produced. In 2015, a collection of 10 choice cuts from the band’s 4-EP “Songs” series, entitled Best of Songs, was released on Nashville’s Plowboy Records. Additionally, the band was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame that same year. The following year, Drivin' N Cryin' released a vinyl-only album, entitled Archives Vol One, with a collection of basement recordings from the years 1988 to 1990. With Dave V. Johnson as their drummer, and the band's newest member, Laur Joamets (formerly of Sturgill Simpson's band), now being added to the lineup, Drivin' N Cryin' continues to tour the U.S. to great acclaim.  

Montgomery, Alabama is in for a treat on February 21st, as Kevn Kinney comes to town for a rare solo performance at the Capri Theatre. We recently sat down with Kevn to get the full story on how this band came to life, the journey from building sewage plants to touring the country, and details on what the band has planned for the future. See below for the full conversation.

Purchase Tickets: An Evening with Kevn Kinney

I typically start these interviews off with a general history lesson. Let's hear the story of Kevn Kinney, as well as Drivin N Cryin. You were born and raised in Milwaukee, correct?

Kevn: Yes. I was raised in a hardworking, Irish-Catholic, middle class family. Five children in a 1000 square foot house. Music was everywhere. We had three pianos and several guitars in that little house. All of my sisters played instruments. Piano, guitar, flute, clarinet. My brother played everything. It was a pretty musical household. From an early age, I was surrounded by the blessings of having music in my life. You have a bad day, then you sit down at the piano or with your guitar. You focus on what you're doing and learn how to express yourself. Try to figure out how the world works, and why people are the way that they are. Why people expect certain things. 

I was really, really fortunate. I don't know how my Dad raised five children on a refrigeration engineer's salary, but he did it. We're all very good people because of it. We all care for each other, as well as those around us. We all still play, enjoy, and respect music. That's kind of what made me who I am. I can't imagine living in a house where someone says, "Put down that damn guitar!" My dad would say, "Play that guitar!" 

I've tried to do the same with my children. My daughter plays piano. I think my son is one of the best drummers in Atlanta. He's a part of the underground, independent rock scene here. One of his first teachers was Col. Bruce Hampton's drummer. So yeah, I grew up in Milwaukee. It was cold, and we were stuck inside a lot. We learned to open our minds through the music opening the landscape of opportunity and a glimpse at the future.

How did you ultimately make it down south? What led you to Atlanta?

Kevn: I did not come down here musically. I was 23 years old, and my brother had recently walked the Appalachian Trail. He wound up in Atlanta. He came home briefly before moving back to Georgia. He encouraged me to move down here and assured me that I could find work. The jobs started at $4.50 an hour, and I was like, "Whoa!" I was making about $2.15 an hour at the time. I could maybe make $3.10 an hour if I had stayed there for a little bit longer. I was never going to get ahead. I decided I would go be a laborer for $4.50 an hour. Then, I learned a trade. 

My first job down here was great, because it was really hard. I worked with a whole lot of people from Alabama at this construction company. We built sewage plants. They trained me to be a form carpenter. I did that from 1982 until 1984. In 1985, I quit and moved on to indoor carpentry building cabinets. I was sick of working outside. I think I was making around $9.25 an hour at my last job, which was a ton of money in 1984. 

When I quit to travel and ride in a van with a band, I was giving up a pretty steady income. I was happy for the opportunity. Drivin' N Cryin' was pretty popular right away because of the fact that I had some serious players. Our bassist (Tim Nielsen) and drummer (Paul Lenz) were members of probably the most famous band in Atlanta. They were the band that could sell out the 688 Punk Club. They quit that band to join me after seeing me play with this punk rock band from Milwaukee. 

This was when, 1985?

Kevn: Correct. 1985. That's where the Drivin' N Cryin' story begins. 

Watch Drivin N Cryin perform "Straight to Hell" here:

Tell me about those first few years. Getting started and developing your catalog. Building your reputation in Atlanta and the surrounding markets.

Kevn: I'll tell you what we did then, and I think what it would help to do now. We did a very early version of modern day advertising. Let's rewind just a little bit here. I was also working part-time at a futon store. My boss got a nice deal buying these weekly ads. Drivin' N Cryin' decided to do the same thing. We had a little tiny ad with our logo, and we would list our shows underneath. The initial dates would be predominantly Atlanta, but we were eventually able to show our progress with dates in Chattanooga, Athens, Chapel Hill, even New York City. People may not of known who we were, but they could see our progress in this ad each week. It made us look organized. I feel like that really helped bring crowds in. Letting people know who you are and where you're going. 

I write a lot of melodies, and then I fill them in with words. Whatever I'm thinking about at the time. I would call my answering machine in the old days. That allowed me to remember what it was and turn it into a song. Songs like "Straight to Hell" started just like that with a simple melody. You find yourself singing it in traffic and think it's just a passing thing. Songs like "Malfunction Junction" and "Honeysuckle Blues" came to life in the same way. I decided that I wanted to have rock music, and I didn't want to sing about bars and girls the whole time. I wanted to capture America changing. 

Back in the 80s, it was about how much America was being homogenized. It turned out to be true. If you drove me around for 9.5 hours, in a circle or a straight line, and you pulled me into a truck stop and asked where I was...I wouldn't be able to tell you. There would be a Subway and a Chester's there though. It could be Wyoming, Missouri, or Alabama. Everything was the same. I miss that element of America where things were special. You had to get off the highway to go find the hamburger joint. We try to use the Yelp app as much as we can. We like finding the local diner, meat and three, or BBQ joint. Something besides a chain restaurant. 

That's a great practice. You're selling yourself short if you don't. So, there were some special things happening in and around Atlanta music at this time. How vital was this towards the early days for the band?

Kevn: We had a great family of bands surrounding us at the time. There was a really nice community, and we all shared stories and experiences. Discussing our first road trips and things like that. We all played together constantly. We'd go to each other's practices to see how other bands did things. Uncle Green was this band that had their own house. They were this fantastic band that moved down from New Jersey. I think they ended up making a record with Brendan O'Brien. 

Community is important. If you have a band in Montgomery, Alabama, hopefully you are friends with the other eight bands in Montgomery, Alabama. If you're not, you should be. You have to create a coalition and encourage each other, have each other's backs. We'd get together and play on the street. Help each other through breakups and makeups. Network with one another. Sit around and listen to music. Smoking pot. Drinking Mad Dog. Whatever it was that got us through the day. Good coffee was hard to get back then. Expressos were impossible. 

I don't remember too many details of what made what go where, but I remember the overall cloud of friendship and community. I've never really focused on the details of yesterday. I like to focus on what I'm here to do, and how crazy it is that people pay me to do it. Being honest with yourself. When I talk to kids about songwriting, they ask how I wrote certain songs. My answer is always, "Just tell your story." Don't think about the crossroads. You will obviously want to imitate your heroes, whether its The Rolling Stones or Foo Fighters. 

Eventually, you have to find the discipline to let that go and tell your story. That's the only thing that's going to make you special. If you grew up in a suburban house, right off the highway, with shag carpet and an avocado colored refrigerator, books and magazines stacked up in your mom's tupperware collection...tell me that story. That's special only to you and no one else. I'm interested in that story. I prefer the non-fiction story. 

Watch Drivin N Cryin perform "Let's Go Dancing" here:

How would you describe the more recent years for the band? How do you guys go about balancing your time at home versus out on the road?

Kevn: We're seeing that a lot of our fans now have grown children. They don't need a babysitter anymore, and they can actually come to the shows again. Their children are grown, so they're coming to the shows as well. They've been hearing Mom and Dad talk about us all these years. We're starting to notice a younger crowd, as far as our popularity goes. I think we're doing pretty well there. We have a new guitarist named Laur Joamets (formerly of Sturgill Simpson's band). I'm actually trying to get him to come to the Montgomery show with me. 

I'm still writing songs. We just cut a new record. It might be one of the top two or three records that I ever make. We're super excited about it. Really great circumstances. We recorded it in Nashville. There is an entire generation of folks that remember us from their childhood. They're curious as to who we were and where we're going now. The good news is that we still have a lot of people who don't know who we are. I really think that's a good thing. We have a lot of people that we can still reach. 

One of the newer friends I've made is Jamey Johnson. I fell in love with his music, voice, and discipline. I saw him play and knew I'd love to play with him one day. Warren Haynes introduced us at the Christmas Jam, and we've played "Honeysuckle Blue" and "Straight to Hell" a couple of times now. I'm overwhelmed when I look over and see him singing those songs on stage. Sometimes I'm so overwhelmed that I forget the words (laughs). He has to remember them for me. I made it down to his charity golf tournament at Cottonwood Golf Course last year. Hopefully, Drivin' N Cryin' will play it one of these years. 

I feel like I'm in a good place. I'm still writing songs. I'm still being honest. I think they're good songs. We're looking for a label for this amazing record we just made. We're all feeling really positive about things. We haven't had a record deal before we've cut the record in over 20 years. We make them all ourselves and find someone to distribute them. We're pretty proud that we can still make a great record for a few thousand dollars. I'll be playing a few of those new songs, as well as the older ones, at the Montgomery show. 

Purchase Tickets: An Evening with Kevn Kinney


Live Album Showcase: Dickey Betts 'Live from the Lone Star Roadhouse' February 1, 2019 12:08

Live and Listen’s Live Album Showcase

Dickey Betts: Live from the Lone Star Roadhouse

 Words by Josh Hetterman

Taped recordings have long been an integral cog of the live music scene. This is the first installment of a weekly series highlighting iconic live albums from the last half century. Today, we will take a close look at the Allman Brothers Band founding member and guitarist Dickey Betts’ 2018 EP Live at the Lone Star Roadhouse, recorded in 1988 with his band Great Southern.

After a tumultuous and frantic decade that saw the tragic deaths of founding members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, the Allman Brothers Band broke up in 1982. Speaking on the breakup, Dickey Betts stated, “We broke up in '82 because we decided we better just back out or we would ruin what was left of the band's image.” Other than a brief co-headlining tour led by Betts and Gregg Allman in 1986, the band’s members focused primarily on their solo careers, especially Betts and Allman. During this time, Betts, the enigmatic but superbly talented guitarist and songwriter who penned iconic ABB hits such as “Ramblin’ Man,” “Southbound” and “Jessica,” reunited his band Dickey Betts and Great Southern, which featured a young, hungry guitar virtuoso by the name of Warren Haynes.

Despite being recorded on January 11th, 1988, Dickey Betts and Great Southern: Live from the Lone Star Roadhouse was not released to the public until April 21, 2018. It was featured as one of the premiere, exclusive releases of the internationally recognized celebration and homage to vinyl records, with a limited run of 1400. Upon first listen, the 90 minute EP surely did not disappoint; in fact, it is so solid from start to finish that it should hold a place in the upper echelon of ABB records for any fan of the band.

Side 1 of the record features a 4 song set highlighted by Betts compositions and ABB staples such as “Blue Sky,” “Jessica” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” The musical apex, however, occurs during Betts’ instrumental tribute to his legendary fallen bandmate and ABB co-founder Duane Allman on “Duane’s Tune,” a single off the Dickey Betts Band’s 1988 album Pattern Disruptive. Dickey introduces the song with a noticeable excitement, and strong percussion complements his and Warren Haynes’ driving guitar harmonies throughout the six and a half minute track. Even without explicit knowledge of the song’s dedication to Duane, even an amateur ABB fan could tell this is an impassioned tribute to the late founding member of the band. Phenomenal slide guitar and a driving rhythm carry the song and remind us of the impact that the legendary guitarist had on his bandmates and the music world at large.

Side 2 opens with a few more ABB classics in spirited renditions of “Statesboro Blues” and “One Way Out.” Adding to the already palpable star power, guitarist Rick Derringer came out to guest on his hit song “Rock ’n Roll Hoochie Koo,” and was immediately followed by legendary Cream guitarist Jack Bruce sitting in on a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful.” Bringing the set to a rocking close, the band hits the high note with a 10 minute version of another Betts original and ABB classic in “Southbound.” Dickey Betts’ legacy has long been muddled by his tumultuous personal life and well-documented rifts with fan favorite Gregg Allman. Despite this, there is no logical argument against his impact not only as a guitarist and songwriter but also as a founding member of one of the greatest bands of all time. Dickey Betts: Live from the Lone Star Roadhouse does nothing to weaken this argument: he is, and always has been, a brilliant musician and songwriter and should be celebrated as such.


The Werks Discuss 'Sonder', Future Releases, & Much More January 25, 2019 13:24

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Over the last four years, Live & Listen has allowed me the opportunity to discover more new music than I could have ever imagined. Whether it's a newly established up-and-comer, or a band whose name I've heard for years, it's been an amazing experience. There are times where I've simply found myself in the right place at the right time, and that's exactly what happened on July 4th, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. 

The epic voyage to Chicago for The Grateful Dead's "Fare Thee Well" shows was ultimately a city-wide music festival. You had a countless number of bands performing both before and after the big shows at Soldier Field. Following the Saturday night show, I ventured over to The Chop Shop to finally catch my first taste of The Werks. I was absolutely floored and really haven't stopped digging into their catalog since. 

Here we are nearly four years later, and I've been fortunate enough to work with the band on a number of shows, attend the annual Werk Out Festival in Ohio, and watch the continued growth of an incredibly unique group. Upon hearing the band's latest release, Sonder, just last week, I had to reach out to get the low down. Check out the full conversation with Chris Houser (guitar), Jake Goldberg (bass), and Dan Shaw (keyboards) below and make sure to give Sonder a good listen as soon as possible.

Last week you guys released Sonder, the new three-song EP. It seems as if you guys are taking a new approach to releasing new music this year. How did the band come to this decision?

Chris: Across the board in 2018, streaming numbers went up drastically. The number of album sales did not. We're trying to keep up with the times, be honest with ourselves, and stay in tune with the way things are moving in an ever changing world. We want to make sure that the music we're putting out is being listened to.

If someone is even buying an album these days, they don't always make it to the end. They're usually off on something else by three songs in. We figure we would focus on putting out a digestible amount. Not to patronize our audience, or any audience, for that matter. Something that is more relatable with current times, and also spread out new releases throughout the year. We've had a lot of fun with it, and we're all really excited.

Jake: It definitely has a lot to do with the streaming platform, the way tracks are laid out, and the average span of your average listener. Like Houser said, working on multiple releases throughout the year, and almost having three different themes for three different songs. 

Did you guys knock out the material for each release in the same studio session?

Jake: For the most part, they were done in one chunk of time. We'll revisit some of them in the studio, but yes for the most part. 

Chris: We've found a studio that we're really comfortable with, and an engineer that we really look forward to seeing every time. It's a very comfortable place for us at this point. We plan on spending even more time in the studio during our off time, because we're constantly working on new music. Hopefully more of these releases will happen in the future. 

Let's talk a little bit about these three specific tracks. When I first listened, I noticed that each really represents the different elements of The Werks. "No Prisoner" has more of a classic, old school Werks instrumental feel to it. "Stars Collide" has a nice catchy vibe and really showcases Rob's vocals. "Flatiron" gives you a nice dose of that dark, "Werktronic" side of the band. 

Chris: Yeah...you nailed it!

Anything interesting you can tell me about this group of tracks?

Chris: Let's start off with "No Prisoners." That one is largely Dan's "deep brain" child. 

Deep brain? Oh man...

Dan: Yeah, I've always been attracted to the ways that rhythm guitar lines are actually lead lines in a lot of classic rock songs. I originally planned for the song to have lyrics, but as we were working on it, it evolved into an instrumental. The goal was to have something that's almost a cross between Led Zeppelin and Edgar Winter with some catchy rhythm guitar licks.

Love hearing that. 

Jake: In terms of these three songs, like you said, I think they capture different aspects of the band really well. In writing each of these songs, we wanted to be unapologetically ourselves. Let's not try to create something that we think is going to sell, as opposed to something that we actually want to listen to. I think that really comes through in the tracks, which is why we're enjoying it so much.

I'm sitting here looking at the definition of the word "Sonder" right now. Very cool. "The realization that each random passerby is living a life as viviid and complex of your own - populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness..." Where does that word / concept play into this release?

Jake: Honestly, we just wanted to expand people's vocabulary. Now people like yourself are looking that word up.

Mission accomplished.

Chris: It's a pretty amazing idea to be conscious of. 

Jake: I think that answer will become more prevalent as future tracks are released. The theme of "Sonder," as well as the music. One of the cool things about the staggered release is the anticipation that comes along with it. 

Agreed. That "Sonder" concept really plays into a mindset that I'm constantly trying to be conscious of. Everyone is on their own journey. You never know what's going on in someone else's life. Don't be quick to judge anyone, because we're all out here fighting the good fight every day. 

Jake: Absolutely. You see it all the time in life and music. 

Photo by Josh Timmermans: Noble Visions

You guys are in the midst of a 10-day run, and you'll be getting home just in time for Winter Werk Out?

Jake: That's right. Our big event of the winter. 

Tell me about how that expansion on the Werk Out is playing to your advantage and helping build on this culture which continues to grow each year. 

Chris: It's been great. It's fantastic for us because there's always a bit of lag or depression once The Werk Out is over. There are just those feels, man. It keeps the name and the brand coming out of people's mouths. Everyone is constantly talking about The Werk Out. We're out here on the road spreading the word once again. 

In the early years of The Werk Out, we talked about possibly doing something in the fall. It turns out that the first weekend of February was the right time to do it. Every six months we get to have a Werk Out, and that's a great thing for us. I think it's as long as people want to wait. 

That's a nice, healthy balance. A good Werk Out every six months keeps everyone in shape. 

Jake: It was really cool to bring it to a venue like The Bluestone. We haven't had much prior experience there, and I know most of our other bands haven't either. It just wasn't a venue that was used much in our scene. To be able to bring people to this beautiful room in the heart of Ohio is pretty special. 

For me personally, I've been on stage with The Werks at all three Winter Werk Outs. It holds a special place in my heart. Not that the summer Werk Out doesn't, it's been amazing to watch this event come to life and grow each year. People are really into it.

So how is the rest of the spring shaping up? How's the schedule looking?

Jake: We're going to be busy. We'll be touring through the southern belt and eventually getting down to Florida. 

Chris: We're always excited to get down south. We're doing a two-night run at Aisle 5 in Atlanta. We're also hitting the Carolinas, Knoxville, and Nashville. We're back on the horse and hitting the road strong, and we're having a lot of fun and doing our thing. I've kind of started telling everyone that we aren't out here to fuck around. (laughs)

Jake: We're out for blood, and we're taking no prisoners. 

Jake and Chris...I know you guys have had some major life developments in the past year. Tell me about how fatherhood has shaped you as a musician and human being. How has this next chapter of life played out thus far?

Chris: It has certainly made us harder workers. 

Jake: Yeah...it teaches you a lot of patience. It's really cool being able to share something as sacred as music with your offspring. It's crazy. I sit down in front of a piano with my daughter and play. Sometimes I'll be playing bass or guitar. She looks at me and smiles and it's just like...wow. She becomes more a part of my life, and music becomes more a part of my life. It just makes everything more important, you know? Music included.

Chris: I'm really looking forward to seeing Mark grow up. Having him realize that it's possible to follow his dreams. Make his dreams his goals, because that's what daddy's doing. We don't have a lavish lifestyle by any means. We earn an honest living, a modest living. Success is in the eye of the beholder, and I believe the same applies to happiness. I know that I'm very happy and grateful.

That's what it's all about. 

Chris: Yes it is. 

Before we wrap this up, I've gotta hear what Mr. Dan Shaw is fired up about this spring. Let's hear it, Dan.

Dan: Other than the finishing touches on the new material, I know we're out here now, but I really love traveling out west. Colorado is great, but even up north of here. There's a lot of wide open space.

Jake: Dan loves wide open spaces.

Chris: He loves The Dixie Chicks.

Jake: He loves hotel pools.

Who doesn't love hotel pools?

Dan: I love getting out and traveling the country. I also love the creative process in general. We have plenty of both ahead of us, so I'm pretty excited about that. 

Well you guys stay safe out on the road. Bring it back home in one piece for the Winter Werk Out, and we'll see you in Atlanta in just a few weeks.

Stream The Werks' Sonder via Spotify here:

 

1.25 Denver, CO w/ The Jauntee
1.26 Vail, CO
1.29 Minneapolis, MN
1.30 Milwaukee, WI
2.1+2 Columbus, OH (Winter Werk Out)
2.13 Charleston, SC
2.14 Jacksonville, FL
2.15 Punta Gorda, FL
2.19 Gainesville, FL
2.20+21 Atlanta, GA
2.22 Knoxville, TN
2.23 Nashville, TN


SweetWater 420 Fest Finalizes Yet Another Killer Lineup January 10, 2019 09:38

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Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
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Organizers of SweetWater 420 Festival in Atlanta, GA have finalized yet another killer lineup for 2019. As previously announced, we will see Widespread Panic will return for four sets over two nights at April’s event. Today's announcement includes the addition of Joe Russo's Almost DeadJJ Grey & MofroPigeons Playing Ping PongEveryone OrchestraSunSquabiCory Henry & The Funk ApostlesBIG Something, Billy StringsMagic City HuppiesPink Talking FishZach Depity & The Yankees, and more (see below). These artists join an already stacked cast, which includes The Avett Brothers, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Rebelution, Moon Taxi, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, John Medeski’s Mad Skillet, Turkuaz and  KNOWER
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If you haven't had a chance to attend this festival in years' past, we couldn't give it a stronger endorsement. Held annually in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park, you're within walking distance from countless hotels, as well as everything downtown Atlanta has to offer. The infrastructure and overall flow of the weekend is second to none, and we're already counting the days til this year's festivities. Stay tuned for additional details, as well as the lowdown on after parties at Terminal WestVariety Playhouse, and Aisle 5. Oh yeah, go ahead and click here to purchase your tickets today!
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Photo by Ryan Lewis: Rylewphoto
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Click Here: Our recap on last year's SweetWater 420 Fest (2017)
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Phish Announce 2019 Summer Tour Dates January 9, 2019 14:29

Photo by AZN Pics

Phish will hit the road this summer with a 26-date tour beginning with two-nights in St. Louis, MO, and culminating with the band's traditional Labor Day run of shows in Commerce City, CO. The 26-date tour also includes multi-night runs at  Merriweather Post Pavilion (MD), BB&T Pavilion (NJ), Saratoga Performing Arts Center (NY), Boston's Fenway ParkAlpine Valley (WI), amongst others. The band will close out the summer with their annual three-night Labor Day Weekend stand at Colorado’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on August 30th, 31st, and September 1st. A ticket request period is currently underway at tickets.phish.com. See below for a complete list of dates!

Phish Summer 2019 Tour Dates

June 11 - Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, MO
June 12 - Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, MO
June 14 - Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, TN
June 16 - Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, TN
June 18 - Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON
June 19 - Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
June 21 - PNC Music Pavilion, Charlotte, NC
June 22 - Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
June 23 - Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
June 25 - Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, Bangor, ME
June 26 - Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, Bangor, ME
June 28 - BB&T Pavilion, Camden, NJ
June 29 - BB&T Pavilion, Camden, NJ
June 30 - BB&T Pavilion, Camden, NJ
July 2 - Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
July 3 - Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
July 5 - Fenway Park, Boston, MA
July 6 - Fenway Park, Boston, MA
July 9 - Mohegan Sun Arena , Uncasville, CT
July 10 - Mohegan Sun Arena , Uncasville, CT
July 12 - Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, WI
July 13 - Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, WI
July 14 - Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, WI
August 30 - Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
August 31 - Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
September 1 - Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO


Moon Taxi Are The "Champions" Of New Year's Eve January 6, 2019 21:39

Words by Tiffany Clemons

Photos by Joseph Mikos

Live & Listen is fully funded by our merchandise + ticket sales. Click here to shop now and support the cause!

Moon Taxi closed out 2018 (and their Good as Gold Tour) with their ninth New Year’s Eve show and an arena debut at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium. The hometown group was joined by special guests LUTHI and the Nashville vinyl-spinning duo Sparkle City Disco, known for their over-the-top dance parties. All of which have a contagious live energy that made for an non-stop fun night all the way through into the new year.

Speaking of sparkle, the funk explosion that is LUTHI took the stage between SCD sets donned in as many sequins as they could get on their bodies for the occasion. They warmed up the crowd with songs from their Stranger album released in 2018, and as they closed out their set with a cover of Daft Punk’s "One More Time," a sea of light up tambourines began to bounce in preparation for Moon Taxi to take everyone into 2019.

Moon Taxi delivered a night sprinkled with all your favorite songs from their albums old and new, including "Not Too Late," "Good as Gold," "Trouble" and "Two High" from their 2018 release Let the Record Play. There were also plenty of classics such as "Morocco," "River Water," and "Run Right Back." We also got a brand new song titled "Now’s The Time." (Bassist, Tommy Putnam told us there would be more new music coming our way in 2019!)

The countdown into 2019 was led by Tyler Ritter with an insane drum solo to an audio remix of "Eleanor Rigby" accompanied by an official countdown clock in the background. The guys, along with the LUTHI horns, remerged with 15 seconds left on the clock, and when it struck 12:00 AM, Trevor (Turndrup) shouted, “Happy New Year!” The band then launched into a rock version of "Auld Lang Syne" while balloons fell from the ceiling.

The New Year’s classic was followed by the tour’s namesake song, "Good as Gold" and rolled right into a timely cover medley of Queen’s "We Will Rock You," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "We Are The Champions." Here you daw the crowd sing, or let’s be real, SHOUT, every. single. word, whilst in true Moon Taxi fashion, confetti poured into the air. 

Everyone then threw their fingers into the sky when Moon Taxi ended the night, or morning I should say, with their hit single, "Two High," that featured Amber Woodhouse of LUTHI on sax and the Sparkle City Disco dancers, aka "Art of Chaos." The dancers then discoed their way back to the SPD booth while the disco duo of Jonas Stein and David Bermudez continued the 2019 party.

In addition to the amazing music, the overall production was nothing short of a spectacle. The Moon Taxi crew went above and beyond this year, with a mesmerizing combination of lighting, massive video walls, and disco balls. The band only has two dates listed for 2019 so far, but along with some new music on the way, I think it’s safe to say that we are all looking forward to more! 

Watch a recap of Moon Taxi NYE's show here:

Complete Setlist: Moon Taxi - Nashville, TN - 12.31.18

Not Too Late

Let The Record Play

Run Right Back

Make Your Mind Up

All Day All Night

Trouble

Change

River Water

Who’s To Say

Year Zero

Now’s the Time* (New song)

Nothing Can Keep Us Apart

Drum Solo (Eleanor Rigby audio)

Auld Lang Syne*

Good as Gold*

Queen* (We Will Rock You/Bohemian Rhapsody/We Are The Champions Medley)

Red Hot Lights*

Morocco

The New Black

Mercury

Two High**

Notes:

*featuring Luthi Horns

**featuring Amber Woodhouse on Sax


"Feelin' I'm Free": Ringing In 2019 With Widespread Panic January 5, 2019 14:56

Words by Erika Rasmussen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

People all over the world have their own New Year’s traditions. A little ritual to mark the end of one year and, hopefully, usher in the next with joy and love. Some people greet every New Year in a bar with their friends. Or in Times Square. Or at home, eating black eyed peas for prosperity with family. For my “framily”, we follow Widespread Panic on December 31st.

This year, as often happens, that was a three-night run at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta. For me, and thousands of others, this pilgrimage reunites me with those I love on tour, introduces me to the new and amazing people that somehow still always seem to appear, and reminds me why I love this damn band so much after decades of doing this. Night One kicked it all off with an opener we’ve never seen before: “Vacation”. So, yeah. Let’s just begin with something we’ve never done before, shall we? We’re all glancing over at each already. “Did they just…?” “Have we opened with this before?” “What’s Curtis saying?” The first set saw many of our beloved classics, including “Papa’s Home”, which went well with the commemorative Papa print we all loved of Valentine’s this weekend. Second set favorites for me were the Low Spark > Jam > Low Spark. The whole weekend was very “jammy”.

Recently, I’ve noticed myself becoming defensive about the “jam band” description for Panic. “No, no, no,” I’ll say. “You don’t understand. It’s more than that. It’s blues and southern rock and so much more.” But why should I be defensive about a jam band title? When done well, like it was this weekend, a jam band’s work is transcendent. It’s magical. It jams you away from a song you know and love and takes you to another place and then brings you back to a song you forgot you left. That’s mystical.

On Night Two, they decided to reeeeeally impress us. They not only opened with a slow “Porch Song” (swoon), but they closed the night with “Porch Song”. They’ve never played both versions in one show and this was dubbed on the setlist as “Front Porch/Back Porch”. Heh. How witty is that? Another front/back feature of the weekend was the double-sided Matt Leuning minis, printed at Ruby Sue Graphics. It means so much to me, and to all of us, that this band and this community has placed a high value of promoting visual artists and letting their creativity run wild.

Matt also created commemorative coins this weekend, of which I was gifted one by my friend, Zeke. The slow “Porch” opener was followed by Billy Joe Shaver’s “Chunk of Coal”, last played two years ago on the NYE run. The second set included a “Ball of Confusion” jam out of “Rebirtha”. Thanks for the tease, boys. Of course, the show closer of that second, “fast” Porch knocked everyone’s socks off. Great way to end the night.

Night Three began with a beautiful “For What It’s Worth” that would set the tone for an emotional evening. Acoustic JB was a nice touch for the first set, as were his red pants. The second set featured a heavy focus on jams and I danced myself weary, especially during “Good People”. This is a topic I’ve been preaching on this year. It was good to see people behaving themselves (relatively speaking) at this show. I saw people treating each other respectfully, working hard to get tickets for their friends, miracling total strangers on Peachtree Street, gifting stickers and koozies and whatnot, and a kind gentleman bought drinks for my friend and I when our cards wouldn’t scan.

Of course, I heard stories of some guys not treating the ladies so respectfully, sadly. But each of those stories seems to end with “…and then So-And-So came up and told him off in no uncertain terms.” We stand up for each other. We ARE the good people. Remember that going into this year. Apparently, our good behavior was rewarded.

After the midnight countdown, the band went into “The Waker”. Lemme repeat myself for those in the back. They went into “THE WAKER”. Whaaaaat?!? Years ago, our dearly missed Mikey Houser wrote this song, titled after his son. The song hasn’t been touched by the band since Mikey’s passing in ’02. We never thought they would touch it again. It’s like Grandma’s china that you put away and don’t ever break out in live action anymore. You just appreciate for the beauty and the care that went into the creation of the thing. And then one day, you’re eating ribs (and whiskey) off that china and you love it even more. You realize that it’s a thing that’s meant to be taken out into the daylight. And when Panic brought this song back out into the light, oh my.

It took a few moments for the first few notes of “The Waker” to really sink in. We all look at each other. We do that “cover your mouth in shock” thing with our hands. “Are they really playing it?” “Is this a tease?” Damn. They played it. The whole thing. And we were in awe. And in tears. And in love. And in hugs with our friends. It was an amazing thing to behold. Talk about an emotional release to start your new year. Thankfully, we danced the tears away by going straight into “Arleen”. And that always gets you shakin’, doesn’t it?

I’m especially happy that the Fox run included a nod to Col. Bruce Hampton (Retired) in the form of a JB/Schools Zambi rap into “I’m So Glad”. We miss you, Col., and we were certainly thinking of you in that venue of all places. The third set also included the second ever “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” that was face melting. Our encore consisted of dear songs like “End of the Show” and the first ever “Bastards in Bubbles” from the brute. project with Vic Chestnutt.

I can’t thank the band and staff and fans enough for 23 years of “therapy” at these shows. This was one of my very favorite runs, for so many reasons. I’m going into the new year looking forward to discovering more amazing surprises and reconnecting with more long-loved treasures. Skäl, everyone. Cheers to your friends so near.

Watch Widespread Panic perform "The Waker" here:
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Watch Widespread Panic perform "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" here":
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Opposite Box Releases New Single: "No Place For People Like Us" December 28, 2018 07:38

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Press Release via Opposite Box
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Live & Listen is fully funded by our merchandise + ticket sales. Click here to shop now and support the cause!
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"No Place For People Like Us" is the latest release from progressive rock and psychedelic funk band Opposite Box, and is the first offering from the band's currently untitled followup project to 2017's OBscene.  "No Place ..." features guest vocals from the band's longtime friend Lili Hayes (daughter of Isaac Hayes) and was tracked at Middle Tennessee State University's Studio B in Murfreesboro, TN by Christian Hannah and Sam Ventura.

Lyrically, the song revolves around vocalist Ryan Long and Lili Hayes lamenting about the real-life strains of being in a modern touring band, as well as the personal struggles that coincide with it.  The chorus of the song touches on several of these main themes:  battling crippling self-doubt ("Did I waste my time staying out all night?"), the toll it can take on personal and family relationships ("You said 'I'm worried about your health.") and fearfully considering giving up on your lifelong dream ("I could've stayed home, and died real slow, doing something for anyone else").  
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Midway through the song, the band shifts gears into a more instrumentally driven track that showcases the members' musical chops as well as OB's ability as a whole to conjure a variety of emotions - ranging from scary and intense noise breaks to a Hiromi Uehara or Snarky Puppy-inspired fusion section that ultimately winds down into a final guitar solo that is a very obvious hat tip to David Gilmour.
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"No Place For People Like Us" is currently available on Spotify, Pandora, YouTube and all major streaming and download sites.  For more information on Opposite Box, visit www.oppositebox.com and follow the band on Instagram and Facebook.
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Stream Opposite Box's "No Place For People Like Us" on Spotify here:

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NYE Exclusive Interview: Moon Taxi's Tommy Putnam December 17, 2018 18:17

Interview by Tiffany Clemons

Photo by Joseph Mikos Photography

Live & Listen is fully funded by our merchandise + ticket sales. Click here to shop now and support the cause!

The indie rock quintet, Moon Taxi, is returning to their hometown of Nashville on New Year’s Eve to celebrate another huge year, as well as the finale of their Good as Gold Tour. It’s been over a decade since their formation back in 2006, and their dedication has led to shows in venues all over the country and literally every festival you can think of. They also have two, back-to-back sold out NYE shows in Nashville under their belts.

I was lucky enough to catch the guys a handful of times this year, each show more energetic and confetti filled than the last, including their show that almost wasn’t due to weather at SlossFest (RIP) in Birmingham, AL, the Which Stage at Bonnaroo, and at The Signal in Chattanooga with the funky fresh pop bangers, LUTHI, who hit multiple dates with Moon Taxi in 2018.

I was even more lucky to catch bass player, Tommy Putnam, for a few minutes to get the down low on this year’s NYE show. Check out the full conversation below, and if you're looking for last minute New Year's plans, it's not too late to grab your Moon Taxi tickets!

So, you guys formed in Nashville back in 2006, you all went to Belmont, blah blah blah, tell me the real story about how you all met, the story that you can’t already read on the internet.

Tommy: Trevor moved to Birmingham from Syracuse in either '98 or '99. One day, I was wearing a Phish T-shirt, and we started talking about the band. We quickly became friends and shortly after started playing music together, forming our high school band Apex. We moved to Nashville for college at Belmont and met Spencer the first day. Tyler came a few years later and then Wes shortly after. That’s the short version but there’s definitely a few more details. 

Moon Taxi is definitely a tight quintet, but if you could have anyone dead or alive be the 6th member, who would it be and why?

Tommy: I would probably have to go with Van Gogh because people tell me I look like him all the time (even though I have both ears). He could probably sub for me if I was sick or something. So that would be a good positive for me.

Now that 2018 is about to be in the books, what was your favorite show? 

Tommy: Mine was the Gorge with Dave Matthews, because it’s such a surreal venue for a show, and the nod from Dave himself was something special. I grew up with his music. I asked Trevor (Terndrup), and he said One Big Holiday with MMJ. I also asked Spencer (Thomson) and he said “I don’t know. I don’t really watch TV.” 

When can we expect new music? Do you have a favorite album to date? 

Tommy: New music should be out sometime soon, hopefully in the first half of 2019. I love all of our albums the same, but in different ways.

Moon Taxi is no stranger to NYE shows. Last year, you did a two-night run at the Tabernacle in Atlanta and back to back sold out shows at the War Memorial Auditorium here in Nashville in years prior. What can a first timer expect? Why should vets come back?

Tommy: The vets should definitely always come back because we always go bigger each year, and this NYE is no different. A first timer should expect to have their best NYE experience to date. 

This will be my first NYE show with you guys, and I’m super excited. I’m also looking forward to seeing LUTHI again and getting my dance on with Sparkle City Disco. What is your relationship with these other Nashville based groups? 

Tommy: We’ve had LUTHI as openers multiple times over the past few years and enjoy them as people and musicians. I haven’t met Sparkle City personally quite yet, but I’ve heard good things and I’m looking forward to doing so.

Can we expect any surprises at the NYE?

Tommy: There are always surprises at NYE, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you about it right here, right?

Do y’all have a pre-show ritual? Anything special before a NYE show in particular?

Tommy: Not much, maybe a little bubbly and some fist bumps.

On any given night, especially NYE, there is a lot going on in Nashville. Why should everyone buy tickets to your show right now?

Tommy: Obviously I’m biased, but I think we throw the best party in the city. Let’s ring it in! 

For tickets to see Sparkle City Disco, LUTHI and Moon Taxi at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville on NYE, click here.

 Watch the official music video for "Not Too Late" here:


Little Raine Band Confirms 6th Annual Day After Christmas Show December 10, 2018 21:21

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photo by Charity Ponter

Live & Listen is fully funded by our merchandise + ticket sales. Click here to shop now and support the cause!

Birmingham favorites Little Raine Band will continue their post-Christmas extravaganza this year, as the 6th Annual Day After Christmas Show has been confirmed. The band began this concept in 2012, and the tradition has quickly become one of the Alabama jam scene's favorites. Joining LRB this year will be Atlanta jamtronic act Space Kadet, as well as local producer Devonte Hutchins

We've been on the LRB bandwagon since the inception of Live & Listen in 2014, as the band has played many events we have promoted, such as The Blueberry JamCukoRakko Music & Arts Festival, Jam in the Ham, and multiple shows at ZydecoWorkPlay, and Bourbon Street Bar (Auburn). This show will be a special one, as the band has been hard at work in the studio for their next release in 2019. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking here.

We recently caught up with Little Raine Band frontman Davis Little to learn a little more about what the band has been up to, as well as the concept behind this particular occasion:

"The Day After Christmas Show is a very special tradition for us. It always marks our last show for each year. There’s no better way to wrap up the year than getting down with the hometown crowd. This has also become a way for us to get together with friends and fans who are back in town for the holidays. It’s hands down one of our favorite shows to play each year, and it never disappoints. 

This year’s show is going to be the best one yet (in our eyes). We’ve got Space Kadet from Atlanta joining us. We love these guys, and they put on an kick ass show. Also, our brother DeVonte Hutchins, who will be running lights all night, is going to open up the night with a solo set. There are plenty of sit-ins lined up. Needless to say, it’s shaping up to be a very special night for us, and we are really looking forward to getting down with everyone. 

We're currently finishing our second album, which we are extremely excited to release next year. We’ve put in a lot of time into making this album and can’t wait to get this new material out there." 

Davis Little of Little Raine Band

RSVP to the official Facebook event here!

Check out the videos below for a little taste of what you can expect from this year's lineup!

Watch footage from LRB's 2016 Day After Christmas Show here:

Watch Little Raine Band & Friends performing "Cortez The Killer" here:

Watch Space Kadet's recap video from Imagine Festival (2018) here:


A Conversation with Ghost Light: The Band We've All Been Waiting For December 3, 2018 17:22

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Donna Winchester

Live & Listen is fully funded by our merchandise + ticket sales. Click here to shop now and support the cause!

Since the inception of this website, artist interviews have been our bread and butter. If your goal is to be a valuable platform for the bands you love and believe in, you might as well try to find a way to tell their story. Over the years, I've had the opportunity to interview many of my musical heroes, such as JoJo Hermann, Col. Bruce Hampton, Marco Benevento, Luther Dickinson, and Neal Casal

It's a rare opportunity to sit down, face-to-face, with an entire band before their show. In fact, this past Friday night at Atlanta's Terminal West was the first time that I've found myself in that position. Fortunately, the guys (and gals) from Ghost Light are some of the most humble, kind, and down-to-earth musicians I've met thus far. 

Ghost Light took form towards the end of 2017, and they're off to one of the most impressive starts that the jam/festival has ever seen. The band is comprised of guitarist Tom Hamilton (Joe Russo's Almost Dead, American Babies), renowned pianist Holly BowlingdrummerScotty Zwang (Dopapod, RAQ), guitarist Raina Mullen (American Babies), and bassist Steve Lyons (Nicos Band). We discussed a number of topics, including the band's formation, songwriting, improvisation, their debut album, and much more. Read the interview in full, and check out photos from the Terminal West show via Donna Winchester, below. 

I've been a big fan of each of you for several years now, whether it be American Babies, JRAD, Dopapod, or Brother's Past. Where do I even begin with everything you (Holly) have done? Tell me about how Ghost Light ultimately came together.

Tom: Yeah, so Raina and I had American Babies going. We were seeing the writing on the wall with that band. We needed to make a change, and we had been playing with Holly a fair amount. She had been sitting in with us here and there, and it was always exponentially better whenever she was playing. So, Raina and I were sitting wondering, "Do we ask Holly to join the band?" Or maybe we just start a new band.
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We were down in Mexico. I was doing this thing with Bobby (Weir) and (Billy) Kreutzmann, and I was just super stressed. I wasn't having fun. My manager was like, "Hey man, you're at this tropical resort playing with three guys from The Dead and you’re not having fucking fun. You've got to figure something out."

I guess you could say that was the "seed" that made it clear. There's gotta be a change. I saw on social media that Scotty (Zwang) was thinking about moving to Philadelphia, so I reached out to talk to him and check the pulse, if you will. I've known Steve (Lyons) forever. I knew he was in LA and didn't have a steady gig at the moment. I thought that if these guys were available and interested, that would be a pretty amazing group of four. Then I could bring that to Holly and say, "I've got a pretty amazing band here. I think we can do some really great stuff together." So we all talked about it and decided to give it a whirl.

Very cool. So, has it even been a full year yet?
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Tom: What year is it? (laughs)
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It's 2018. December 1st, 2018...to be specific.
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Holly: It's been about a year.
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Tom: There were a lot of moving parts there, and the whole thing is still somewhat of an unorthodox way of going about things, you know? So we now had people. That's cool. We're all in on this thing. It's a band where nothing is centered around one person. Then we had to figure out a way to make music while living in different places. We booked studio time right around this time last year. 
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Scotty: Mid-December. It hasn't even been a year.
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Tom: The mission statement was, "Hey...we're going to get together, as a band for the first time, and we're gonna do this thing. We're gonna sit down, the five of us, play music and see how it goes. That gave us all four months to figure out our own shit. Raina and I got a bunch of LSD and wrote a bunch of songs...
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Probably not the worst idea...
 
Tom: Yeah absolutely. It was a funny idea. Holly wrote a bunch of material as well. We started sending things around to each other and generating new ideas. With Scott living in Philly, he could come over to the house and fuck around with Raina and I. It got to the point where it was go time, and we got to the studio. Let's play and see what happens.
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You guys haven't released any studio material yet, correct?
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Tom: Not until March of 2019.
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Can't wait for that. Perfect transition into the next topic. You guys already have a lot of material from Brothers Past and American Babies. One song that I've really grown to love is "Boy."
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Tom: Ah yes. That's the first song I ever wrote. I was 16 years old when I wrote that song. 
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Wow. That makes me love it even more.
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Tom: It's fuckin' old. That song can vote!
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Unbelievable. So how did you ultimately decide on which tracks would make the final cut for the band's first release?
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Tom: We wrote as much as we could we when got together. Fortunately, Raina and I have a catalog that we were able to bring in and give to this band. I don't view any of those songs as Brothers Past or American Babies songs anymore. They're Ghost Light songs. We all put our own flavor and stamp on them. To be frank, if it's not for the five of us playing those songs, they don't exist at all. They're our songs, and we get to do whatever we want with them. And we certainly do whatever we want with them. 
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Just take 'em and run with 'em.
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Tom: Yeah, origami these fuckers. Hell yeah. 
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Holly: It's been really cool as a new band. We haven't even been doing this for a full year yet and none of us want to go out and play the same set every night. 
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Of course. That would go against the rules of the musical world you're apart of...
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Holly: Yeah, rules...and also just what we want to do with the songs. If we're gonna be out there doing this night after night, we want it to be fun for all of us. It's been really cool to have a bunch of other songs to take it to different sonic and emotional spaces. And also not to have the people who wrote these songs saying, "Hey, this is how it goes. This is the way my last band did it." We've been able to take a lot of liberties with all of these songs, which has been really fun to explore.
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I can imagine. So I did want to ask you (Holly) about how this experience has been for you personally. It's been at least four or five years since you really blew up on the scene with certain YouTube videos. You've become one of the more popular "special guests" at festivals...
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Holly: Professional set crasher... (laughs)
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What has it been like to finally find your home with such a talented group of musicians? I've never been a part of a real band, but I can imagine that it has to be special when you start seeing the magic happen. The reactions on the faces of fans during shows. What has this been like for you?
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Holly: Honestly, if we're comparing sitting in with different people versus playing in this band and what makes that so much better... it's just getting to know each other musically. Finding that deeper connection. Having to dig further to find new things each night. Having that trust in each other. You know that you can take more risks than if you're sitting in with a band who you're not as familiar with.
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With some people, you can throw out something crazy, and they'll run with it. Other people will be like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hang on. What's going on?" That's not this band at all. It feels like a very good place to be.
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Scotty: A sit-in can be fun, but you want to do your own thing. With a band like this being so new and just having endless possibilities of doing whatever we feel like in that moment. Like Tom was saying, the song isn't written a specific way. It really go anywhere that we all collectively feel. I think we're very fortunate that within the first year, we already feel this really solid chemistry.
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No matter how talented you are, sometimes the chemistry just isn't there. I think we're very fortunate that all five of us bring something to the table that we all connect with, to some degree, right out of the gate. 
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Holly: It's super communicative, you know? It's not always like that. That's actually one of the things that made me want to play in this band. It's always been like that whenever any of us have played together in the past. You throw something out, and there is instant conversation back and forth. The feeling of listening and being heard. 
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Steve: There's a variety of sounds that are accepted by the audience. People, in general, seem to like it when we go up and down dynamically. Have different types of instrumentation that is up front and in the background. I'm just glad that we're able to go in a direction that people seem to enjoy.
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Raina: It's nice that there is no expectation for us. We haven't released any music, so people don't even really know what we sound like. We can sound like anything we want. 
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Exactly. Most everyone is coming in blindly, unless they've been to one of your previous shows. 
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Raina: Yeah, or maybe listened to us on YouTube. Every show we play is so different. We do so many different genres just in one show. That's what is really interesting about it. 
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How would you compare your experience with American Babies to where you are now with Ghost Light?
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Raina: Personally, as a musician, I have learned a lot in the past year. It's like a master class kind of thing. I felt a little inexperienced before this, but I was still on the road for three years. That band, I felt that they weren't willing to listen. Listen to what each player was doing to propel the song forward to the next level. We weren't adventuring and taking that next step in each song. With this band, it's a totally different experience. Everyone's listening. Everyone is trying something different every time we play a song. It's never the same. That's the best part about it.
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That's amazing, because I wanted to ask all of you about your approach to songwriting and improvisation. Both are key components to this band. Do you follow a particular pattern with songwriting? How do you decide when to just run wild with it?
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Tom: The jam part of it never comes into the room. That's a different thing. The live thing. The idea of what happens on stage. Personally, I try to keep those things very separate from each other. I think the point of a song should be to challenge yourself, challenge your audience, challenge your bandmates.
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It's like writing a tune that you wish existed. I feel like sometimes people will just make a record that they already own. I want to make a record that I wish I had. The song that I wish I was able to listen to. With this band, it's a whole different thing. Writing for a band is way different. Personally, I had an aversion to anything that was too personal. Very conscious of making sure that it is something that could be interpreted many ways over different genders, different ages.
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For this band, I think that is a strength of the song writing. I think there is a voice on all sides of things in most of the songs. I think that is a pretty interesting thing that we just kind of stumbled upon as we were writing. There is a dynamic in the songs that feels very even. Bounces from one side to another of whatever the opposing sides may be. Trying not to think of the live stuff, or any of that shit. What's good? What's interesting? What's artistic that everyone isn't doing?
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That's one of the most consistent questions I ask. Doing these interviews for four years now, I'm always amazed to hear the different philosophies behind songwriting, because there's no one way to do it. 
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Tom: Exactly. I give this example all of the time. Louis CK gave this speech once at George Carlin's memorial. He talked about how Carlin would spend a year writing an hour's worth of comedy. He would film it for HBO then never tell those jokes again. He said it destroyed him to think of that. To think of taking this well crafted, beautiful thing that was an hour long. Making it and then never using it again. It's a devastating thing to think of to waste something like that.
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But then what happens...this can turn into music here... The metaphor is that you write your first song, and usually they suck. Something about love. Then you can't write about that anymore. That's kind of the goal. You throw that out. What do you write about after that? Well, I don't know. Maybe you write about your dog. Now that's off the table. Then you write about your family. Now that's off the table. You keep going and you have to dig deeper and deeper until you get to the shit you don't want to talk about. 
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That's the stuff that I feel is kind of the art of things you need to talk about. The things people need to hear or want to hear. When I'm writing, if I hear anything that sounds like it anywhere else, I throw it in the trash. 

Scotty: What I love about this is that there are so many different voices and experiences through writing music. I don't really have much experience writing any music. Anything that I have written is kind of recent. There is a sense of self awareness. You're almost embarrassed to show anyone. It's just pieces and chunks and not a full idea. Fortunately, I get to work with people who are classically trained in reading, writing, and studying piano. Then you have Steve who has a wealth of knowledge with writing songs and producing music.
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What really makes this band interesting, for me at least, why I love it so much is that when someone does come with an idea...no one decides they want it to be a certain way. It's more about hearing everyone's ideas about. In the end, it's really whatever is best for the song. That's the only important end result. I feel like we are all very open to those ideas. Sometimes it can be hard. Not all bands are like that.

Some will have an idea and not want to drift away from it. I feel like we try to throw that completely out the window. It's a very similar approach with improvising. Going deep off and not rejecting ideas. Everyone is listening and being patient. That's a cool thing and we need to tap into that.

Steve: I think we're all looking forward to the next chance we have to bring new ideas to the table. The way we made the first batch of songs was very much so in platforms. If you bring a platform in, maybe it needs a bridge or something else that I can't quite bring to it. Luckily, there are four other people who can. We seem to be pretty good at that so far, as far as giving our two cents on what a tune could use without someone saying "I want it to be this way." Even if someone starts to be aggressive about what you can do with an idea, then we are pushing each other.
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Raina: I think coming from a place of fear and intimidation is a good vehicle to use. Doing something that scares you makes you grow more. That's what I feel that a lot of us do in this band. I'm a little scared of playing with people much more talented than me, but there is something to learn from that. Why not use it?
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That's a great philosophy towards life in general. I've worked in sales for about ten years now. You go out and make calls and what's the worst thing that's going to happen? Someone is jerk and tells you no? Oh well, see you next month. Keeping that mentality at all times is the challenge. 
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Raina: Because ego gets in the way, so it's like, "Well, fuck my ego." 
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Tom: Not to get too deep on it, but the idea of how things are today. There are no dissenting views in peoples' lives. If you don't agree with me, you can unfriend me. Some bullshit like that. The idea of surrounding yourself with only likeminded people... "I consider myself this column, and I will only associate with people who agree with me."
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With anything, if you put the same fucking ingredients into something, you'll never get different results. It's the same old shit. I feel like whether that is a social circle, social platform, music...it's about the variety. It's about doing different things. If you think the opposite of me, we should at least have conversations. Interesting things might come out of that. 
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Like what Steve said earlier, if everyone is working with the same confines, then everyone is going to sound the same. What the fuck is the point of that? You don't want 17 records to come out one year and sound the same. That's not art. That's just consumerism. 

We're trying to say something. We're trying to do something. We're trying to help people and push the art forward. We're all chasing the Beatles. They were true to art and what they wanted to do is create the best things that you could create. What that led to was a complete change in the world. 

Scotty: It's also a very healthy competition. If you are intimidated or the ego comes out...in this instance John Lennon just wrote an awesome song. Well, Paul is like "I gotta one up him." There is a friendliness to it, at least in the beginning it was kind of friendly. 
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Tom: The idea of Paul bringing something in, and it was cool, but it was "super Paul" and super vanilla. Then John comes in and just crushes it. You listen to a song like "We Can Work It Out," and it's the most Paul McCartney sounding tune ever. Then you get to the bridge, where you know John Lennon wrote that shit. It's that black cloud coming in. That's what makes the song great. It's the idea of bands. Bands are the things that people will always fucking remember. The biggest things that ever happened are The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Radiohead.
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All of these bands were bigger than anything any of them did on their own. You'd be hard pressed to find more than, say Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen, people that did it without a band. Springsteen actually did it with a band, so I take him off the fucking list. 
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I think there is one that you left off the list: The good ole Grateful Dead.
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Tom: There it is. The good ole Grateful Dead. 
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Two more things before we wrap up. You've already mentioned you're planning to release the album in March of 2019. How much material are you guys working with for the album?
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Raina: We wrote maybe 10 songs, and we stuck with 8. A few are instrumentals. 
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Will there be any tracks that have never been played live?
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Raina: Yes. There will be one that we've never played. It's an instrumental.
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It's obviously been a crazy year. So much happening at once. I was hoping you could share a few of your favorite moments thus far. Also, what's on the horizon for 2019?
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Scotty: Playing festivals like LOCKN' and High Sierra were really great moments. Having the first tour be so successful with sold out shows, it was great. Honestly, this run, for me, has been great. Still being a new band and doing a festival every two weeks, there is a learning curve. You go up and down quite a bit. I feel like now there is a consistency where I feel that even though it's only been a year, we're really a tight unit now.
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Not that we weren't on the first run, but we're just that much tighter. This last week specifically, it's been very consistent and solid. Every show has been very different. I'm just excited for this record to come out. It will be great to hear the contrast of what we do live versus in the studio, because they're two very different things. 
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Holly: People who are familiar with the songs already from our live shows will hear them presented in a very different space and very different light. For me, in terms of highlights, it's amazing to play bigger stages and all of the festivals. We are grateful for those opportunities.
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The thing that matters more for me, it's just the little moments on certain nights where everyone is completely locked into the same idea. Sometimes you try and try, and it just doesn't stick. That's the whole point though. Take the risk. Sometimes it's gonna be something better than you imagined. The times that we've managed to hit that all together as a band really make me happy.
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Steve: For me, a lot of it is mood based. I will feel like I struck gold and hope people will really like it. Other times I feel like I missed, but people really liked it. The uncertainty makes it exciting. I think we've all done things we didn't think we could do.
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Raina: I agree with all of these things. I'm looking forward to releasing the record, but I just want to write more songs and play new stuff.
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Please do.  Last but not least, what can we expect from Mr. Tom Hamilton in 2019?
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Tom: More Ghost Light. 
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Yes! Great answer.
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Tom: I think this record is interesting. It will show a different side of the band. What we're capable of. At the end of it, you look at bands that are good at doing what we do. It's like, "Wow. This is working, and it's only the beginning."
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You've just scratched the surface. Please keep this going for a long, long time. 
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Tom: It'll be interesting to see how things progress. Where are we in six months? I can't really imagine what better is. It's like 1985, you've got a cell phone with a backpack on it. How's it gonna get better than this? Magnum PI's on TV. I'm driving my convertible. It doesn't get better than this. But you couldn't have imagined an iPhone. So, I have no idea what it's going to be like. 
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I suppose we'll all have to wait and find out. The future certainly seems very bright. Thanks so much, to all of you, for taking the time to sit and talk with me. Looking forward to the show!
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Watch Ghost Light's full show from Brooklyn Bown (11/21/18) here:
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The Open Bottle's Tunesgiving Helps Feed Over 900 in Huntsville Area November 28, 2018 14:42

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Roger Patteson: Type 2 Photography

@type2photography on Instagram

When the concept of Live & Listen was coming to life in 2014, one of our pillars was finding a way to leave a positive impact on the community. What better way to do so than through the power of music? Imagine if everyone in attendance at any show you attend would just donate one dollar at the door. Taking advantage of these social gatherings and finding a way to help others remains one of our core beliefs today.  

With that being said, last Wednesday presented our first opportunity to book and promote an event in Huntsville, Alabama. Our friends at The Open Bottle just recently opened, and their beautiful courtyard proved to be a fantastic option for live music. In the spirit of our annual Funksgiving Music & Food Festival on Black Friday in Montgomery, Wednesday was quickly dubbed as 'Tunesgiving'. The lineup ultimately fell in place with The Stolen FacesThe Pearl, and Them Boys. 

While it was a little colder than we would have liked, we could not have asked for a better night of music. "Them Boys," which is a moniker for another well known Birmingham act, kicked things off with 90-minutes of foot stompin' folk tunes. If you haven't heard this band, please make it a priority. The Pearl would perform next, and they certainly got the crowd moving. This trio brings a unique energy that very few are capable of. Their unique, instrumental spin on Toto's "Rosanna" is always entertaining. The Stolen Faces were the final act of the evening, and this band continues to impress. Touring as a Grateful Dead tribute is no easy task, yet they manage to leave every Deadhead speechless with every performance. 

It's called "Tunesgiving" for a reason, and the beneficiary for this event was local non-profit Manna House. Manna House is the food distribution center for the Huntsville Dream Center, a 501(c)3 public charity. Manna House provides food, clothing hygiene and baby items to individuals and families in need. 

Most of the families they serve are working but cannot fully provide for their family due to chemo, dialysis, or post surgery recovery. Some of the families have experienced job loss or work related injuries. They welcome anyone in need at our main location as well as our 5 distribution sites in the county. Manna House provides fresh produce through our outdoor garden and growing fields as well as our indoor hydroponic garden. 
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We caught up with Manna House Director Fran Fruhler to learn more about the impact of last weeks event:
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"Tunesgiving was amazing. Everyone was so generous. The dinner rolls and tea helped us provide over 900 people with a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner. The generous donations will allow us to provide 12,000 baking hens to families for Christmas dinner. We are so grateful for Tunesgiving and all that Jamie, Allen, their team and the community did to help us!"
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We also caught up with Allen Williams, General Manager of The Open Bottle, to hear more about their vision for the multi-purpose business moving forward:
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"The Open Bottle and Liquor Express were extremely proud to host the first Tunesgiving. We had the opportunity to not only provide some great music, but we helped feed people who needed a warm meal during the holidays. Friends and family are very important during this time, and it's our duty to help the less fortunate. It can be very powerful when you collaborate with other homegrown organizations to make an impact in the community. We hope to make this an annual tradition and look at other events in the future."
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See below for a handful of photos via Roger Patteson of  Type 2 Photography, and stay tuned for future announcements on events in the Huntsville area. 
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The Open Bottle to Host 'Tunesgiving' in Huntsville November 20, 2018 09:12

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Photo by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
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Live & Listen has a big week of music planned this week, including our first ever event in Huntsville, Alabama at The Open Bottle on Wednesday, November 21st. In the spirit of our annual 'Funksgiving' event on Friday, Wednesday will be known as 'Tunesgiving', with performances from The Stolen Faces, The Pearl, and Them Boys on deck. The Stolen Faces have established themselves as one of the premier Grateful Dead tributes, while The Pearl and Them Boys represent two of Birmingham's hottest young acts. One of our favorite local food trucks, I Love Bacon, will be on site from 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM.
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This event is also an opportunity to give back to those who need it most in the Huntsville area. We've partnered with  Manna House, a 501(c)3 Public Charity that provides food assistance to those in need. Manna House is supported by contributions from individuals, churches, civic groups, and businesses. While some food is donated and locally grown most is purchased for their distribution programs.
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"We will serve thanksgiving dinner in the gym as well as deliver to-go meals starting at noon. Everyone is welcome to come eat or pick up to-go meals or help serve. We usually finish serving by 1:15 PM and clean up until 2:00 PM. Last year we served 623 people, so we anticipate at least that and more this year. The families we serve really appreciate the meal and the fellowship. Those we deliver to were equally as grateful.
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We're extremely thankful for those wanting to help us love on our community at a time that should be about happiness, friends, and family. They need rolls and sweet tea brought to The Open Bottle on Wednesday  November 21st. Donations will also be collected by Manna House at Tunesgiving." - Fran Fluhler of Manna House
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The Stolen Faces

The Grateful Dead continue to have one of the most rabid and loyal followings of any band in history, and deservedly so: They wrote great songs, and they were excellent musicians and terrific improvisers who never played a tune the same way twice. The Stolen Faces deftly capture the spirit of the Dead, covering a wide variety of songs from the band’s expansive catalog and delivering them with the sort of energy and spontaneity that might have you thinking you’re standing in the Fillmore West in 1971. Led by bassist Christian Grizzard, the group features guitarist Jack Silverman, drummer Matt Martin, and a rotating cast of some of Nashville’s top session and touring musicians.
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Watch The Stolen Faces' official promo video here:
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The Pearl

Three professional musicians from very different musical backgrounds sharing a common set of goals.
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We are here to explore, push, and break through the traditional sets of musical boundaries between which most music is confined. Through improvisation, composition, and interaction with our audience members - we hope to blur and even dissolve these lines, all while maintaining dance-ability.
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As we’ve seen done before us, we also desire to bring people of all walks of life together through the power of musical exploration. The feelings of freedom, positivity, & acceptance that music certainly has shown to manifest, we hope to strengthen the openness and closeness of our musical community.
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Last but not least is certainly a goal of ours that we share with many of the artists we are influenced by... The Pearl hopes to inspire groups or individuals to express themselves by doing what they love, without holding anything back.
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We also all three like cheeseburgers.
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Watch The Pearl performing at Saturn Birmingham here:
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Them Boys 

"Them Boys" is a pseudonym for a Birmingham-based band that many of you already know and love. You'll have to come out on Wednesday night to see what this performance is all about!


Blackbelt Benefit Group Named a Finalist for Levitt Amp Grant November 16, 2018 15:07



Blackbelt Benefit Group (BBG) is now in the running to bring a 10 -12 week live music series to Selma during the end of Summer 2019 and Fall 2019 to be held at the Selma Riverside Park Amphitheater.

Sponsored by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, a national foundation dedicated to strengthening the social fabric of America through free live music, BBG hopes to qualify as one of 15 winning organizations competing in the Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards.

The Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards are an exciting matching grant opportunity created by the Levitt Foundation to serve small to mid-sized towns and cities with populations up to 400,000. Up to 15 nonprofits will receive $25,000 each in matching funds to produce their own Levitt AMP Music Series—an outdoor, free concert series featuring a diverse lineup of professional musicians.

BBG submitted the proposal for Selma. The proposed venue site is Selma Riverfront Amphitheater Selma’s proposal is now posted on the Levitt AMP website for public voting. http://levittamp.org

A successful campaign for BBG depends on community participation to get as many online votes as possible to bring the concert series to town. Community support, as measured by the number of online votes received, will be one of the key factors when the Levitt Foundation selects up to 15 winners.

Supporters are asked to visit https://grant.levittamp.org/voter-registration-page/ to register and vote. Online public voting is now open and ends November 20 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. The Top 25 finalists will be selected through online public voting. The Levitt Foundation will then review the proposals of these 25 finalists and will select up to 15 Levitt AMP winners, which will be announced on December 18, 2018.

"We're just excited about this opportunity to activate the Selma Riverfront Amphitheater with free, live music every Saturday next Fall. We hope everybody can spread the love to Downtown Gadsden, as well. If two Alabama cities could win this thing, it would be great for our state." 
- Clay Carmichael, co-founder BBG

BBG asks supporters to start spreading the word to family, friends, colleagues and neighbors and rally the community to sign up and vote for Selma’s proposal.

Learn more at http://levittamp.org.


Good Times & Great Oldies With Jennifer Hartswick + Nick Cassarino November 9, 2018 09:50

Interview by Tiffany Clemons

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

I’m new to writing for Live & Listen, and my interviewing style is a little different than most. I try to be serious, but always end up laughing hysterically and going off on some sort of tangent. However, I always preface this with my interviewee by telling them, “I want the readers to really get to know you and fully understand who and why you are who you are. Why you do what you do, and hopefully continue to follow you through your musical journey called life.”

I feel like this process went over fairly well with Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band and Jennifer Hartswick Band) and Nicholas Cassarino. (The Nth Power) when I sat down with them in the dark lit green room in the back of Birmingham dive, Zydeco. I had actually met them a couple of weeks prior at Hulaween, and while we had a few laughs and some brief conversation in the Spirit of Suwannee, we really dove deep into how magical this duo actually is right here in the Magic City as they kicked off the next leg of their tour.

 

So, now that you’ve been briefed, let’s start from the beginning. How did you get started with the trumpet?

Jen: I started playing trumpet when I was 10. I grew up in a big ol’ musical family. All classical musicians, and most of them were brass players. My mom was the only woodwind player, so naturally, when she had a girl she thought, “Okaaaay, you get a clarinet! You get a flute! You can play the piano! (Which I did).” Then when I was 9, my grandma came over and told me I had too much hot air to playing those instruments and brought me a tuba. Then my uncle, very shortly after, gave me a trumpet, and that was the one that stuck.

What about you (Nick)?

Nick: I started playing when I was… well, I started playing bass when I was 11 and probably started playing guitar when I was 12. Both of my parents played music and played guitar, so I kind of grew up with that around all of the time. So yeah, I guess I started when I was 12.

Self taught?

Nick: My old man taught me a bunch of stuff first, and then when I was 14, I linked up with a local guitar teacher. His name is Paul Asbell, and I studied with him through high school. He was really great.

Did either of you go to school for music?

Jen: For a minute. (laughs)

I feel like that’s common. I mean, John Mayer didn’t graduate either! (He was just the first person who came to my mind.)

(Everyone laughs)

How and when did y’all meet? And then, how did that evolve into this?

Jen: We met when [Nick] was 14…

AWWWWWWE!

Jen: I know, right? I was 20 and judging a high school “battle of the bands.” I think it was state wide or something. I don’t remember, but there were A LOT of bands. Somebody knew what they were doing when they made the schedule, because his band was last. So, I had to sit through a whole day of bands until his band, and of course, his obviously won. I literally was like, “who is this kid and how does he play like that at 14?” Ummmmm, so yeah… that’s how we met!

So, fast forward however many years…I mean, y’all obviously kept in touch, or…

Jen: Yeah, so I was on the road at that point, but he had to go to high school. (laughs). But yeah, we stayed in touch, and I kept tabs on him. I don’t know what it is from [Nick’s] perspective…

Nick: Yeah, we kind of re-connected after I graduated. I was 18 years old. I was living in Burlington, and Jen was around. She was touring a bunch with [Trey Anastasio Band], and then we just started doing some gigs here and there with Jennifer Hartswick’s full band.

Jen: It was like 11 people at one point. It was large.

I mean… I love when the stage is covered in musicians!

Jen: But we were like a bunch of idiot kids like, “We don’t care if we make any money, Let’s all shove ourselves into an SUV, with all the gear and all the butts, and sleep in one hotel room." But it was great. We had a great time.

Nick: Yeah, and in 2011, Jen brought me to my first festival, Bear Creek.

I WAS THERE!

Nick: That was a good year, right? We played the Music Hall, and that changed everything for me and seeing Suwannee.

OMG, I wonder if I saw you there because I definitely saw Jennifer…

Jen: Oh yeah, that was definitely him, because I don’t do gigs without him. Especially that era until now. Yeah, I don’t do anything without him.

I love that! That’s really cool…

Okay, so we’ve gotten some good background information going here. Is there anything that we should know about you that we can’t find on the internet?

Jen: I’m a reeeeeally good cook. You can’t find that on the internet.

Ah! So what is your “dish?”

Jen: I don’t have a dish. I will make you anything you want.

GOOD TO KNOW! *wink*

Jen: If I have friends who are travelling through town while touring, they always stop at my house and have breakfast. That’s the move. I like to feed my friends. We’re gone so much, and to be able to feed someone a home cooked meal that was made with love, is such an experience. To have or to make, either side of it, recipient or the maker. So yeah, that’s a fun fact about me!

Any secrets about you? [Nick]

Nick: Secrets? (Followed by a downward sarcastic whistle…)

(Everyone laughs)

Nick: You can tell everyone that we’re really fun, and we’re really nice.

Haha, okay. Got it!

Jen: (laughs) Because NOBODY knows that!

Can’t find that on the internet!

Jen: You would never expect that!

(laughs)

So, [Nick] you are from The Nth Power and [Jen] you are known from TAB (Trey Anastasio Band) and have your own band, with a ton of people. So, what is it like being “alone” ish… You know, you don’t have crew, and you are kind of doing everything self-serve. How is that?

Jen: It’s the greatest time of my life!

(laughs)

Jen: I absolutely love it. It’s so easy. It’s easy travelling with [Nick.] It’s easy playing music with [Nick,] and I mean, we call each other our musical soulmates. We don’t even have to speak. Just play, and we understand where each other is coming from. Plus, we’ve known each other for so long, that we just know each other so well. He’s my brother.

Sounds like it’s just works!

Jen: And travelling with 2 people is a dream.

Nick: It really is.

Jen: And it’s, ya know… affordable! And I feel like we can accomplish more with the two of us than we can with eight people.

So, that’s a perfect segway into my next question. So, what does Trey and your other respective band mates think of y’all and your growth together. Are they jealous of how awesome you are?

Nick: Well, as far as The Nth Power goes, they are all psyched about it, because The Nth Power was formed to back up Jennifer in the first place in New Orleans.

Wow! Okay, I did not know that.

Nick: Yeah...they’re happy about it, because it’s great, and we’re happy. It really showcases a different side of me personally, because I don’t play like this anywhere else. This is one of my musical strengths. So, it’s great. They’re happy that that’s getting seen.

It’s something special for sure.

Jen: Thanks, yeah, ummmm I don’t think you were being serious when you said “jealous…” (laughs).

Haha, ummm I TOTALLY WAS.

Jen: So, actually two weeks ago, Trey (Anastasio) came out to Rockwood and played with us and got to see the show. That’s the first time, and it’s really interesting, because we have been working together and hanging out for 20 years. Everything that we do together, Trey and me, we’d get it done, and then we’d sort of have our separate lives. He’s goes and plays with Phish, and I rarely go out and see that, maybe once a year.

He always wonders what I’m doing, and I’m playing in places that are too small for him to come to. So, the last time that we were in New York, he found out we were there and asked, “How come you didn’t tell me?” I said, “You’re too famous to come.” He insisted that he wasn’t, so the next time I came through I said, “Cool, we’re gonna play the smallest club in New York, and I’m going to invite you out to come!”

I think for one, he wanted to come, but also, he wanted to prove that he was serious. (laughs) So, after several days of planning, we got him in there, and he got to watch the show for the first time. He hasn’t stopped talking about it since. We’ve talked almost every single day about it, and he’s so thrilled and is like, “You know, what you guys have, people don’t find in a lifetime of searching. What you guys have is so special. I’ve seen so many bands who just absolutely hate each other and don’t want to be in the same space as each other and ya know… you guys… it’s human and then it’s musical.” So, yeah he loves it.

I will say, my first time seeing you two was just a couple of weekends ago at Hulaween, and I totally agree. You absolutely have something spectacular here.

So, you guys have been touring most of this year. What is next? Because I feel like y’all have got some “morning show” vibes here. Like, I want some “Jen and Nick in the Morning!” Good times, great oldies!

Jen: (laughs) As long as we can record it at night, that could possibly work. We’ll record it at 9:00 PM, and then it can air the next morning!

Nick: It’s just onward and upward basically! Just going to keep playing out. Keep travelling…

Jen: Yeah...the record just came out.

I was just about to ask about that! Nexus, right?

Nick: Yep, so we’re gonna ride that record for a little bit, work on some new music, and see what happens next.

So, we’re gonna continue this train? I love it!

Jen: I would be silly not to.

Tell me more about your latest record.

Jen: NEXUSSSSSS, is me and Nick and one of my absolute musical heroes, Christian McBride, on bass. We recorded it at The Barn, the infamous Phish barn in Vermont, which just has a vibe all on its own. It’s amazing.

Nick: HUGE VIBE.

Jen: We went in there for a week and put down some brand-new music. Music that we had never played out, so we were actually just discovering how we wanted to sound, which is a really fun process and now we get to tour it and figure it out and live inside it a little more and then it kind of takes on a life of its own, more so than on the record.

So, you know, as any touring musician does, especially when trying to build an audience they play covers, which is awesome. Y’all kill it. But now that y’all have your own originals and touring together, how does it make you feel to look into the audience and see their reaction to your original music and even be singing along?

Jen: It’s really deep. I mean, this is the first time that’s happened. I’ve been a musician for a long time. I’ve been writing music for a long time. I’ve had my own band for a long time. But this is something totally different and to look out and have people sing along to words that I wrote about a certain thing that happened in life. I’s really wild. It’s very humbling.

I was actually talking to Trey about that too, and we were sort of joking about streaming on Spotify and all these things. He pulled up and searched the record and he said, “You know, the top two songs on Spotify for you are both originals… for us, for TAB, that’s not the case. It’s a cover and an original.” And he said, “I hope that’s not lost on you.” So, I’m honored and humbled that the people get it. It’s music that Nick and I wrote together and it’s awesome and it’s awesome to see that people love it.

Following the interview, they played an hour and half-ish set to a half seated and half standing crowd filled with originals and covers, peppered with little anecdotes. You could see the glisten in everyone’s eyes as we all witnessed the pure love and passion that these two put into their music. I’m pretty sure every single person in the house stuck around afterwards to say hello to Jennifer and snag up a copy of Nexus, by the time I made it to the table, she was already having to break out more because all of the copies on the table sold. Below are their upcoming dates, I would highly suggest that you catch a show if you can and see this truly special duo for yourself.

 


Spacing Out at Hulaween: Out of This World Moments November 6, 2018 07:41

Photo by Keith Griner

Words by Tiffany Clemons

Additional Photos by Isom Morgan Photography

Spirit of Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP) is by far one of, if not the best festival venue in the country. Nestled on the shady banks of the historic Suwannee River in North Florida, SOSMP is home to over 800 acres of camping areas, concert ready fields and Spanish moss draped trees, making it the perfect setting for Suwannee Hulaween, The String Cheese Incident’s annual music and visual arts festival.  

The String Cheese Incident (SCI), Silver Wrapper, and Purple Hat Productions made sure no detail was spared when it came to this year’s sold out fest. From the diverse lineup to the insane art installations at Spirit Lake. It was bigger, better and in my opinion, the best yet. 

This year’s theme was “Creatures of the Galaxy,” and the 20,000+ attendees went full blast-off with their totems, costumes and out-of-this-world camps. In celebration of the feminine divine, SCI’s Saturday night Hula Incident set was dedicated to “Women of the Galaxy,” and featured female powerhouses.

While everyone embraced the galactic attitude there seemed to be a bigger ongoing theme throughout the festival and that was the power of the VOTE. Multiple artists used their platform to encourage festival goers to use the power of their voices and to be the change.

Here were some of the notable takeaways from this year’s event:

For a $20 donation, early birds were able to attend “Hula for a Cause,” a pre-pre-party that was held in the Music Hall on Wednesday night. All donations went to support Convoy of Hope and Volunteer Florida in efforts to help communities affected by Hurricane Michael and in return for your donation, you were given a night of music by BeartoeCatfish AllianceCBDB and the one-man band Zach Deputy. If you aren’t familiar, Zach is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter and can usually be seen surrounded by keyboards, pedals, drum pads, and sound boards which allows him to create an entire live band, looped with his own live playing. He describes his style as “island-infused drum n’ bass gospel ninja soul” and we’d recommend catching one of his sets near you!

Just Chameleons opened the Spirit Lake stage on Thursday for the pre-party and had everyone dancing to their original reggae, jazz, funk and soulful music. Not far from home, this Tallahassee based band closed out their set with a dedication to the late Mac Miller covering his song Dang! that features Anderson .Paak.

Over on the Patch Stage, Augusta-natives Funk You were laying down a powerful set of their own. This band always makes the most of their opportunities on the big stage, and Hulaween was no different. Highlights included a killer take on Prince's "1999," as well as guest appearances from The Brotherhorns and vocalist Amy Taylor.

Bubbles filled The Patch sky for Sound Tribe Sector 9’s first set of the weekend where they performed their album, Axe the Cables. Though this, as far as I know, was the only fan-planned bubble party, bubbles filled the air most of the weekend and it definitely made for an even more magical experience. Who doesn’t love bubbles? Also, seeing STS9 in the daylight is weird. They performed another set in the Patch later that night.

For the most part, the weather throughout the weekend was perfect. We had a little rain on Thursday night that started with a drizzle during The Floozies over in the Patch. This little element of wet, according to like, EVERYONE, completely elevated their set. It made the lasers a little more sparkly, the funk a little funkier and definitely made you a lot more smiley.

During Lettuce’s post-midnight pre-party set, the drizzle continued and a massive spider web broke out. Someone brought one of those faux stringy spider web thingies, typically used for a Halloween decoration to the Amphitheatre and while holding one end, began to pass it around. From one person to another it began to stretch and grow, and before you knew it, almost the entirety of the audience was under a canvas of spider web. Edit: I’ve learned that some people hate this… but I thought it was awesome!

LIZZO, LIZZO, LIZZO. Lizzo is an over the top-female empowering-twerking-rapper/singer from Texas and just happens to be one hell of a flute player too. She is loud, proud and is spreading her feminist message… one leg at a time. Her risqué dance moves are paired with messages of self-love and acceptance and really makes you want to take control of your life by the balls.  She reminded everyone that after they are done partying, and every day after, to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I love you,” and to remind yourself that you are beautiful and you can do anything! Her set was full of surprises. She had 2 fabulous featured dancers and her DJ behind her. At one point, someone from the audience threw up a disposable camera and while Lizzo missed the catch, she chased after it, snapped a photo from the stage and tossed it back. She stated, “Women are so wonderful. We’ve got titties… and all this ass! I love being a bitch!” She then also admits to being a little boy crazy and went into her song, Boy. Don’t forget that reminder…

BUT DID YOU SEE THE WALKING TALKING TREE IN SPIRIT LAKE? He told me I could get up in his branches anytime… 

One big notable point that needs to be made, are the green efforts. Large blue bags were passed out upon entry and throughout the fest for festival goers to recycle. You could fill your bag and bring it to the booth near the main Spirit Lake entrance and trade it in for a chance to play smashed-can “plinko” and sign up for a raffle prize.   

Odesza returned to Hula for the first time since 2015 as the first headliner of the weekend and the sheer production value of their show is mind blowing. In 2015 they were on the Amphitheatre stage with a backing screen and a few lasers and lights. This year, their set was a full-on masterpiece. They featured on a raised platform where the front was a screen, and with the backing screen, 2 side screens and their iconic icosahedron shaped screen above the stage together it created a pano-effect for visuals. The Odesza Drumline marched out and lined the platform stage wearing “Jason” masks with their all white ensembles and signature hoodies. With visually stunning lasers and intricate lighting, choreography, confetti cannons, fireworks and thousands of fans singing every word, it was clear why they were brought back as a featured headliner.

Photo by Keith Griner

Were you stopped asked a weird question? It might have been because you were being polled for “Festy Feud” which took place over in the Silent Disco. With questions like “What is one thing you could change about festivals?” and answers like “Stank-ass portos” and “Tall ass totems,” a lot of laughs were had while contestants played the feud.

I was sitting in Spirit Lake watching the laser beams shoot over the lake and into the trees when a stranger came up to me and handed me a box with 3 buttons. I asked what it was and he said, “push one.” About a million outcomes ran through my mind in the split second before I pushed one and the second I did, fire bursted from one of the floating flowers on the lake. I released it and pushed another and fire shot up from a different one. I WAS CONTROLLING THE FIRE ON SPIRIT LAKE. If I may be so bold, I’ve never felt more powerful in my entire life than I did at that very moment… and for about 10 minutes after that. You truly never know what magical experience you’ll have in Spirit Lake, especially after dark.  

One of best part about festivals is discovering new music, and discovery is exactly what happened when I stumbled into the Patch for KNOWER. They are typically an electro-jazz music duo Louis Cole (drums) and Genevieve Artadi (vocals), but have been touring with a band. I don’t know what it was about the drummer (I swear I don’t have a thing for drummers), but he was magnetic. Maybe it was because he was wearing a giant snow parka in direct 70+ degree sunlight that peaked my interest, or maybe because Genevieve and I have the same hair color, or that she was screaming lyrics like, “butts and tits and money… YES!” that made me stop, but I’m glad I did. Their music blurs the lines between electronic, jazz, funk and weird music. But weird as in different, nothing you’ve ever heard before and in the best way possible. Genevieve bounces around the stage engaging the audience and as a whole, this band is terribly exciting and progressive. 

Lettuce took the Meadow stage early on Saturday afternoon and while they jammed their funky jams, people began to throw actual lettuce… during Lettuce. This is the first time I’ve ever seen this. Does this happen at all Lettuce shows? It. Was. Hilarious.

If you were looking for a little pick me up, all you had to do was stop by The Complimentary Bar in Spirit Lake, but NOT for a cocktail. The Complimentary Bar was setup to serve COMPLIMENTS! What a great idea. There should be more of these everywhere, like those little library book houses.

The 5th SCI set of the weekend was the Hula Incident featuring, “Women of the Galaxy,” and I’m just going to go ahead and say that it was the BEST theme set EVER. The set paid tribute to the young and the old, the late and the great, and the best of the best female singers of our time and featured Lisa FischerJen HartswickRhonda Thomasand Ann Wilson. 

Below is the setlist: 

Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones) – Lisa Fischer on vocals

Rock Steady (Aretha Franklin) – Jen Hartswick on vocals and trumpet

Proud Mary (Tina Turner’s version) – Rhonda Thomas on vocals

Killing Me Softly (Robert Flack) – Lisa Fischer on vocals

Respect (Aretha Franklin) – Rhonda Thomas on vocals

Valerie (Amy Whinehouse) – Rhonda Thomas on vocals

Heartbreaker (Pat Benatar) – Jen Hartswick on vocals and trumpet

Politician (Cream) – Ann Wilson on vocals

Barracuda (Heart) – Ann Wilson on vocals

Get Up Stand Up (Bob Marley) – allllll the women of the galaxy!

Needless to say, it was a powerful and empowering set but when Ann Wilson herself, belted out Heart’s own Barracuda, the whole place went nuts. The ongoing “be the change” theme I mentioned previously was made even more clear when the ladies all came together for Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up. It was an incredibly commanding and inspiring moment that united not only all of the musicians and vocalists on stage, but everyone in the audience as well. The energy was unparalleled.

And speaking of parallels, a parallel universe is where the encore went with SCI’s “Space Jam.” They began with Rollover and took it to another planet, literally! From Star Wars to Star Trek and all your favorites in between, it is going to be really hard to top this year’s theme! Until then, you can watch the encore in it's entirety below.

A lot of folks missed the Incident’s encore because they ran to the Patch to catch the ever funky Vulfpeck. These guys are known for their funky rhythms, quirky lyrics and anecdotes between songs and together it all makes for a fun and groovy show. With multiple sit ins by Adam Deitch, (Lettuce and Break Science) the Shady Horns, (Lettuce) and Roosevelt Collier, their set was non-stop energy, especially after their featured vocalist Antwuan Stanley showed up. Vulfpeck knows how to interact and engage with their “Vulf-pack” and that was proven when the crowd was asked to participate in a little lyric change during Christmas in L.A. It just so happens that “Hula in Suwannee” fits as the perfect substitute with the melody. Each section of the audience was given a different harmony and when everyone sung together, it was harmonious. Check out their full set thanks for FunkCity.net below.

The elusive Jamiroquai would only step foot on US soil to perform five times in 2018, and thank goodness that Hula was one of those times because HE. WAS. AMAZING. Seriously though, if you weren’t already in another universe after SCI’s encore, Mr. Jay Kay took you there. With his robot hat that gave me serious Bowser vibes, he and his tight British jazz-funk band charged the Meadow stage a little late (see Vulfpeck), but played a little late to make up for it and everyone danced… the. entire. time. I can’t even really describe the experience because it was just that, an experience. If you were there, you get it, and I’ll just leave it at that.  

What did you bet/win at Frick Frack Blackjack? I saw a guy win a hand with a pixi stick, some string cheese and a condom. 

New Orleans vibes were in full effect on Sunday, complete with an authentic second line parade into Spirit Lake for Rebirth Brass Band. The parade was filled with dragons, dancers and some Do Whatcha Wanna. Once the line reached the Spirit Lake stage, the party didn’t stop. The second liners stuck around with their elaborate costumes and danced and sang with pure jubilee the entire set. This was a highlight of my weekend and definitely the perfect way to wake up my Sunday!

Photo via Keith Griner

Sunday at the Amphitheatre was an entire NOLA party on its own, with every artist having some sort of tie to the Big Easy. Kicking off the day were Hula celebs Jen Hartswick and Nick Cassarino. I call them Hula Celebs because during any given set, one of them would pop out and jam along with whoever was playing. It almost became a game! Jen Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band) and Nick Cassarino of The Nth Power, (which was formed where? New Orleans!) have been touring together almost all of 2018 and are an incredibly talented and wonderful duo. Their soulful vibes and unique sounds work together in perfect harmony. Since they were opening the day, Jen tried to figure out who in the crowd was just waking up, or who hadn’t been to sleep yet. It seemed to be about 50/50 from what we could tell. She also joked that she is a 5pm singer, so we were just going to have to deal with her 11am voice… could have fooled me because she blew me away. I saw her and her band five years back at a little fest called Bear Creek and while that was amazing, she is more of a leading lady than ever. Her voice paired with her subtle trumpet riffs were the perfect way to get Hula’s final day started. Nick you were good too… haha. But for real, dude is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to guitar and vocals. I’d go see this duo everyday if I could. 

MAVIS STAPLES Y’ALL. Standing tall at 5 foot nothing and 79 years young, Mavis freaking Staples. Her deep raspy voice commanded the Amphitheatre and she was all smiles as she spoke to the audience during her set. She even said that she was going to run for president, but then immediately laughed and said to not take her seriously… however, I’d totally vote for her! She’s compassionate, has a lot of stories to tell and inspiring. I’m sure you are wondering how she ties to New Orleans…. WELL, not only is she a Jazz Fest alum, she filmed her last video, If All I Was Was Black, in NOLA and while it controversial, (what isn’t these days?) was also a powerful political statement video showing the replacing of statues throughout the city. Check out the official music video below.


Straight outta NOLA, the funktastic, Galactic, took the moss-covered stage next and was anyone else hoping for a David Shaw cameo for Hey Na or Dolla Diva? Because I was… at that same Bear Creek when I saw the Jennifer Hartswick Band, I also got to see David, Maggie Koerner and Galactic debut Dolla Diva on that same stage. Oh well…

And speaking of David ShawThe Revivalists, also hailing from New Orleans closed out our NOLA day and the Amphitheatre stage for Hula 2018. This is their first time back since 2016, (though David Shaw did a solo set in 2017) and like Odesza have grown tremendously. If you are a fan of The Revs, you probably know that they like to their own surprise theme for Halloween. If this was your first show, like the confused person behind me, it was a great surprise! The guys came out full throttle, all in a different color Adidas track suit, jumping and yelling, “YOU GOTTA FIGHT, FOR YOUR RIGHT, TO PAAARRRRRRRTY!” (Was this an underlying message of the ongoing “fight for your right” theme throughout the fest? Or just a coincidence?) They went right back into Revivalists mode singing songs from their last album Men Amongst Mountains, a few oldies like Criminal and slowed it down with a crowd favorite, Soulfight.

They also played their latest #1 hits Wish I Knew You and All My Friends and then went straight back into Beastie Boy mode for a Sabotage encore. Lead man, David Shaw, engaged with the audience the entire set tagging hands and jumping in and out of the crowd and ended the set thanking the audience for being kind to one another. He said he could clearly see the love amongst us and reminded everyone to continue take care of each other and to vote. If you weren’t a fan of The Revivalists when you came to this set, you definitely were when you left. Their new album, Take Good Care comes out on November 9 and you can pre-order it via the band's official website.

Suwannee Hulaween 2018 was almost over, and there were only 3 sets left to catch… unfortunately they were all at the same time. Festival goers had to choose between the Brooklyn based funk band Turkuaz on the Spirit Lake Stage, electronic music DJ, Gramatik in the Patch and the inspiring and powerful female presence of Janelle Monae on the Meadow main stage.

Janelle Monae was an important closer to the ongoing theme of the fest because she enforces messages of equality and love, which are both important in today’s social and political climate, not to mention this woman can SING! And DANCE! Her production was bright, bold and beautiful just like her and her music. She spoke her truth and encouraged everyone to find theirs. It was perfect. (Note: I gave myself a blister trying to dance like her a few years ago at Jazz Fest. I refrained from doing that this time. Mostly because my legs were still dead from dancing to Jamiroquai the night before)

DID YOU FIND THE SECRET UNDERGROUND BALL PIT?

These moments are only a drop in the bucket with everything that you could have experienced on the SOSMP grounds. I’ve been to a lot of festivals and easily average 5-10 a year, and Suwannee Hulaween takes the cake as my favorite. From the art and ambiance, logistics and layout, organization, community and diverse lineup, it’s a true fantasy world and we are lucky enough to get to play in it. With over 80 miles danced/walked, I’ve officially put another Hula in the books. Stay tuned for early bird tickets and snag them while you can. The past 2 years have completely sold out and I’d really love for you to join me next year for a new set of beautiful experiences! 

 


Life On The Road With Spafford: An Interview With Jordan Fairless October 26, 2018 12:16

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

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Over the past four years, I've had the opportunity to interview a countless amount of artists and bands. While it's difficult to hit each band with totally unique questions, each conversation allows me the opportunity to get a detailed history lesson on the subject at hand. That being said, I had the opportunity to sit down the Spafford's Jordan Fairless (bass) last Friday before the band's show at Saturn in Birmingham, AL. Watching this band's continuous rise up the ranks of the jam/festival scene has been nothing short of amazing. Thanks to this opportunity, I now have a much better understanding of the band's remarkable story. See below for the full interview, and make sure to catch these guys on the road as soon as possible. 
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I thought we could start off by covering some basic background info. Is there any particular person that led you towards playing music?
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Jordan: Definitely. I credit my parents. Both of my parents were music majors in college, who later found different careers that allowed them to make more money. My father was a pastor, and my mother was a choir director, so I just grew up around music. It kind of came naturally. I started playing the violin in the fifth grade and eventually gravitated towards guitar. I was always nurtured by the church environment of my parents. They helped to foster that young obsession with music, which later turned into finding the radio. I found bands like Weezer, Incubus, 311, Sublime, and others that really made an impact on me.
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Those bands made a big early impact on me as well. 311 was the first band that I became truly infatuated with. 
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Jordan: Yeah man. That record with all of the flames on it. I remember staying up until 2:00 AM to try and catch a certain song on the radio, so I could put it on a tape. 
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I used to do the exact same thing. I would even call the radio station and use different voices to request the same song, so I could try and record it on tape. 
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Jordan: I had a thing growing up where the music that I could listen to was heavily censored. I would listen to music secretly...bands like Tool or Green Day. Whatever anyone was giving me, I would go listen to outside of my house. I wasn't allowed to listen to that music at home until later. Music has always been this outlet to something else for me. 
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I was in a similar scenario. My parents didn't want me listening to "profane music." I definitely had to return a few CDs to the store.
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Jordan: I used to try and put my thumb over the 'Parental Advisory' sticker (laughs).
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Absolutely. I know that routine all too well. So you mentioned that you started off playing violin and gravitated towards guitar. When did you make the transition to bass guitar? Who are a few bassists who helped you find your sound?
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Jordan: I realized early on that I was listening to bassists without knowing it at the time. Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Dirk Lance (Incubus) whose real name is actually Alex Katunich. I loved the early Incubus stuff. He had some amazing tones. One of the first CDs I ever purchased was Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, so Victor Wooten is just burned into my brain. Then there was Phish later on and plenty of others. 
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The bass is somewhat of a recent development for me. I guess it was seven years ago that I switched over from drums. First, I played violin, and then trumpet and french horn. I played guitar intermittently. At some point, I was on the drum line and started playing the drums. I just loved playing music, and I would play whatever I could. 
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The band needed a bass player, and I felt confident that I could do it. I started studying the bass, and at that point, I realized that I had been listening to the bass my entire life. It's the rhythm section, and it just kind of developed from there. There were the guys I've mentioned, and then the jam music that I didn't find until later in life. Listening to guys like Phil Lesh, Mike Gordon, Dave Schools, Victor Wooten, and all of those guys. I realized that there was a different element between the studio and creating live music. Somewhere in there, it's been this blend of how I play the bass now (laughs).
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That's a well rounded group of influences. Tell me about you ultimately met the other guys in the band and how Spafford ultimately started. 
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Jordan: Brian (Moss) and I met in Arizona back in 2008. I had moved out there looking for something different. I grew up in Nashville. I lived in Gainesville, Florida for a while. I was born in Alabama. I spent time in Michigan and New York. I'd lived all over the place. Something about Arizona was very special. When I met Brian, there was something about the way he and I interacted musically that was very special. 
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That's what continued to keep my roots in Arizona. The music, landscape, and so many other things were there. I moved out there looking for something different, and I found it. All of the sudden, we have a band. So I thought, "Ok. I guess I'll stay here and keep playing shows with this guy." Now, here were are back in Birmingham, Alabama. How did that happen? I've been in Arizona for ten years now. 
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When I think back on meeting Brian, I just remember that he was really good on the guitar. I knew I wanted to play music with him. It just kind of grew from there. We've been through changes. I'm not the original bassist. I was the original drummer. Counting myself, we've been through three drummers and three bassists. We've been through multiple keyboard players. There's just something about the music that wants to keep going. 
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Red (Andrew Johnson) has been here for while now. I feel like he just joined the band yesterday, but in all honesty, he's been in the band almost as long as I've been playing the bass. That's crazy for me to think about. Then adding Cam (Laforest) in...it's like we met because of music and stay together because of music. The world needs this music. 
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I love it. Speaking of Arizona, which you just touched on, you've come along way from those days. The success you guys have experienced comes with a lot of accolades, praise, and even criticism. What do you guys do to keep it all in check, stay grounded, and focus on the music?
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Jordan: We have a motto. Every night before we go on stage, we huddle up and say a group prayer, if you will. It's not to anything specific. Even if people think we're great, this is about us...right now. We have to go out there and play music. Let's be patient. Let's listen to each other. Let's have fun. That's our motto. I would love to be rich and famous and have all of these things, but that's not going to change who I am at the core. It's not going to change anyone in this band, because at the root of it, we started this band because we like playing music. 
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Now, people enjoy listening to us play music, but that's not why we started the band. We'll play in front of no one and still have so much fun. The fact that there are people there now to push us and carry that energy forward...that's a bonus. I'm still in this because I love playing music. That's what keeps me humble. I'm not some rock star. I'm not a genius. I'm a guy who loves playing music, and I'm really appreciative of the fact that people will allow me to do that all of the time. 
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How about your strategy with songwriting versus improvisation? Improv is obviously a huge part of this band. You guys have done some marathon sets. How do you decide when to just run with it? 
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Jordan: That's a big question. We just embrace new music as it comes. We try to figure where a jam is going to go when writing a new song, but it's just going to happen when it happens. It may not happen the first time the song is played. You may find the jam and where to let it breathe the fifteenth time you play the song. The approach is that if someone has a song idea, show it to the group, and let's try it. Let's see if we can get it to the point that it's ready for the stage. 
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Last night, we were in Nashville. Something about The Basement inspired me to write something. Then, I have to see if I can finish that, and how long until I can get it to the table. Once it's to the table, how long until it gets to the stage? Once it's to the stage, how long is it until we really figure out how to play the song? There are songs that we've played for years that we're still figuring out how they're supposed to be played. We're not going into the studio, writing an album, and then going out and playing those twelve songs. We're touring 100+ songs, and each night leaves a space in that song where it could be open to having it's own jam. Maybe there is a section where previously, there was nothing there. It was just a guitar solo, but tonight, let's make it a jam.
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I would say that the crowd and environment inspire when and where the jams happen, how they happen, and how good they are. We need that energy, and with writing new music, there is so much that is already there. Getting it to the table is the hardest part as a musician. You finish everything you need to do by yourself, and then you prepare to show it to other people. If I'm painting a work of art, I'm probably not going to unveil it in the first two weeks. It's going to take me at least three months before I'm even close to showing someone what I think the finished product is going to look like.
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Maybe two years later I end up finishing the painting. I don't know. I'm not an artist, and I don't paint. That's how our ebb and flow with live music is. When it's ready, it will be played. There is too much music getting ready right now that eventually will be played.
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That's a great transition towards talking about the new record, For Amusement Only. I'm sure you had more than enough material to choose from. How did the song selection work, and how was this studio experience different than those in the past?
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Jordan: We spent six months recording the previous album. We recorded For Amusement Only in two weeks. We walked into the session knowing that we had two weeks to record the album. What can we accomplish in two weeks? Here's our list of options. These songs are representative of a journey. This is what has brought us to this point, and here are these two new songs that we're going to throw on that happened during the recording. The whole process involved figuring out what to select from the 100+ songs we had been playing over nearly eight years. You have to chop down and select what to put on there. 
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At some point, you have to choose what makes the album. I'm gonna record "Leave The Light On" because we've been playing that song for six years, and it deserves studio take. With the other tracks, it's about finding a good flow and writing a good setlist, if you will. We wrote it all down on paper and said, "That looks really good. Let's record it." It's a setlist that lasts forever, you know?
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I know you guys have been on the road for a few weeks, with a about a month left on this run. I always enjoy discussing the elements of playing in different regions, especially the southeast. There's a certain vibe, as well as the whole concept of southern hospitality. How has the south treated you thus far?
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Jordan: There's something in the water. People are nice. They love music. They appreciate the show. People are just nice. It's a different vibe. Every market is different. "Southern hospitality" has to be the most appropriate term for what we as a band feel when we are playing here. I feel so good tonight. How we were treated today. It's the same vibe in Atlanta and Florida. Everyone is here because of the music. It's not just because there is something to do. People like music on a deeper level. There is a lot of great music that came from this region. There's just something in the water, man. I can't really describe it. It's special and amazing. 
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I have to agree with you there. So, just to wrap up, what's coming up on the agenda for the remainder of 2018? What are your goals moving into 2019?
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Jordan: A bunch of new music. Jams that go somewhere that I've never been before. That's what I want every night. I want to go somewhere I've never been before. That's why I like touring in a band. I like seeing new places, and the feeling of creating a new memory. You can never recreate the first time that you see something. If you're driving in Idaho, and it's the first time you've seen Idaho, you won't experience that feeling again. I want to keep creating memories that are that special, for myself, the fans, and the band. I think that we all share that vision. We're gonna play more shows. More two and three-night runs in the same city. Maybe record an album that no one has ever heard. Go to Disney World. I'd really like to have a vacation and go to Disney World at some point (laughs). I just want this to keep going. 
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I've got a good feeling about that.
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Jordan: I sure hope so.
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WEWatch Spafford perform "West L.A. Fadeaway" in Birmingham here:
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Gov't Mule Brings Rock Show to Birmingham's Lyric Theatre October 26, 2018 08:06

Words by Sharee Christian

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

Touring behind their most recent album, 2017's Revolution Come...Revolution Go. Gov't Mule brought their show to the beautiful, historic Lyric Theatre on Tuesday night for the first show of two in Birmingham, Alabama. Although I've seen Warren and co. many times before. The Lyric Theater was made to maximize acoustics with the close seating feel it has in an intimate venue. The restoration was breathtaking. There's a saying amongst Widespread Panic fans. “Never miss a Sunday show”. Well never miss a Gov't Mule show at the Lyric. 

The full moon turned out lots of amazing events for the night. Amazing set (see below), front row seats, and two guitar picks. I couldn't ask for a more memorable music experience. The venue's acoustics, Warren's rugged, feels like home voice, amazing friends old and new made my soul shine last night.

The band's final show on this 13-date tour will end November 3rd, but the highly anticipated Mule-O-Ween show at The Tabernacle will be in Atlanta on October 27th. You don't want to miss that!

Setlist - Gov't Mule - The Lyric Theatre - Birmingham, AL - 10.23.18

Set 1: Traveling Tune, Thorazine Shuffle, Banks Of The Deep End, Game Face > Mountain Jam > Game Face, The Man I Want To Be, Sco-Mule (with Smoke On The Water tease), Whisper In Your Soul, Fool's Moon

Set 2: Mule (with Midnight Rider tease), Pressure Under Fire, Revolution Come, Revolution Go, Painted Silver Light, Lively Up Yourself, Bad Little Doggie > Mother Earth World Boss (with Third Stone From The Sun, Voodoo Child, Eleanor Rigby & Mule teases)

Encore: Dreams & Songs


Here's Why We're Stoked For Hulaween This Weekend October 22, 2018 15:26

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Words by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography
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The Suwannee Hulaween celebration is fast becoming one of the premier music festivals in the country. October 25th-28th, The String Cheese Incident and Purple Hat Productions, along with The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, are pulling out all the stops to make this year’s Hulaween festival the biggest Halloween party yet. This weekend is sure to be an unforgettable four days of music and experiences. What sets Hulaween apart from other festivals is the incomparable setting of Suwanee. Set in Live Oak, FL amongst 800-acres of Spanish moss draped oak and cypress, The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is easily one of the most beautiful music venues in the country.

On top of the natural beauty of Suwannee, the Spirit Lake experience takes the multi-day music festival to a new level. Full of lighting, pyrotechnics, art installations, performance art, and music, this interactive space creates a community atmosphere that encourages festival goers to engage with the surroundings and each other. 

The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park has been host of many great music festivals such as Wanee, Aura, The Purple Hatter’s Ball, and Suwannee River Jam, but Hulaween is unlike any other to come to the park. Similar to other festivals hosted by The String Cheese Incident, Suwannee Hulaween is more than just a lot of bands in the same place. It’s an experience that will be hard to forget. The String Cheese Incident, will return to Spirit of Suwannee music park to headline all three nights of the festival. ODESZA, Jamiroquai and Janelle Monáe will be joining them as headliners and bringing their own unique flavor to the fest.

It's not just the headliners that makes this years festival so special. With artists such as Tipper, The Revivalists, STS9, Gramatik, Lettuce, Emancipator, Galactic, The Polish Ambassador, and Yonder Mountain String Band, there’s a little something for everyone at Hulaween. 

This years pre party is going to be something special as well. Hulaween veterans Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, STS9, and Lettuce all return for a night that could stand with most full festival lineups. Some of my personal favorites CBDB and Funk You will perform also to help kick off Hulaween in proper fashion. This years festival is one not to be missed, and we look forward to providing coverage throughout the weekend.

Watch the official Hulaween (2017) after movie here:


Spafford Brings Jam-Filled Performance to Birmingham's Saturn October 22, 2018 13:51

 

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos and Video by Isom Morgan Photography

This past Friday night, Birmingham music fans received something that they had been anxiously awaiting: two full sets of Spafford. While the band performed a 45-minute opening set for Umphrey's McGee at Avondale Brewery just a few months ago, fans were left wanting so much more. Friday night's performance at Saturn did not disappoint, as the band provided a jam-filled, palpable energy over the course of three plus hours. This would also be my first non-festival experience with Spafford, and I couldn't have walked away more satisfied. 

The first set began with a brief technical issue, which the Spafford team couldn't have handled more professionally. After a quick pause, the band returned to the stage, and everyone was ready to jam. Bassist Jordan Fairless led the way on the "The Fireman," before we went for a wild ride with "In The Eyes of Thieves," the first of several tunes from the band's 2012 self-titled release. "My Road (My Road)" would follow, while one of my personal favorites, "The Postman," was next on the list. The first set would ultimately close with another older original, "Galisteo Way," which guitarist Brian Moss led the way through.

Keyboardist Andrew "Red" Johnson shined on the second set opener, "Red's Jam," before Moss ripped into the heavy-hitting intro to "Weasel." This tune has somewhat of a heavy-metal vibe to it, accompanied by catchy vocals and moments of 'jamtronic' vibes. The jam then segued into "Dis Go in 5?" and eventually led back into the closing segment of "Weasel." Fairless would take lead vocals on the bluesy "Shake It Loose," and arguably my favorite Spafford original, "Ain't That Wrong," closed out the second set on the highest of notes. After a brief exit from stage, the band encored with a killer take on the Grateful Dead's "West L.A. Fadeaway." While I've heard a number of bands perform this classic Dead tune, this was easily one of my favorite renditions that I've heard.

I can't say enough about this band and the entire team surrounding them. Watching their continuous progression up the ranks of the jam/festival scene in recent years has been truly remarkable. I'd listened to hours of their music, while catching three separate one-set performances before Friday night. Finally witnessing two full sets of Spafford in a packed, indoor venue was more than enough to seal the deal. This band is just getting started, and we can expect to see them continue to test the boundaries of musical improvisation for many years to come. 

Setlist: Spafford - Saturn Birmingham (AL) - 10.19.18

Set 1: The Fireman, In The Eyes of Thieves, My Road (My Road), The Postman, Galisteo Way

Set 2: Red's Jam > Weasel [1] > Dis Go in 5? > Weasel, Shake You Loose, Ain't That Wrong

Encore: West L.A. Fadeaway

Notes: [1] "Palisades" tease

Watch a Spafford's performance of "West L.A. Fadeaway" here:


Doom Flamingo: A Wild 80’s Synthwave Party That Never Ends October 22, 2018 11:02

Words and Photos by Nicholas Lintz 

We were super fortunate to get invited out to Doom Flamingo’s second and third show this past weekend where we were nothing short of blown away. Doom Flamingo is a side project featuring the boisterous vocalist Kanika Moore (Motown Throwdown), bassist Ryan Stasik (Umphrey’s Mcgee), Ross Bogan (The Movement/Robo Trio), saxophonist Mike Quinn (artist at large), Thomas Kenny (Terraphonics), and Stu White of (White/Bogan Duo).  
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We found ourselves losing track of time and our dance moves from the moment Doom Flamingo hit the stage. Doom started each show with a dark improv jam right before Kanika stormed the stage and stole our ears with her powerful voice. There was no time to catch your breath or take a break as Doom Flamingo mashed the gas the entire show. The band did an amazing job of capitalizing on each one of the artist individual talents during showcase solos across the night. Each show was filled with deep soulful vocals, dark synths, heavy basslines and filthy sax and guitar solos. 
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These shows were honestly like nothing I had ever seen before, an extremely rare take on wildly fun 80s synthwave jams. They were truly one-of-a-kidThe reception from the audience was loud, emotional and energetic both nights. We were floored, and I found myself speechless. Doom Flamingo hits hard with fresh originals as well as improv takes on 80’s covers. One of the things that surprised us the most was how different each night's show was, as you will see in the setlist below. Obviously, a lot of love and hard work has been poured into this project. It is surprising that they have only played three shows together with the amount of precision and fluidity that they unveil. We are  extremely excited to see what Doom Flamingo has in store for us next. If you haven’t gotten on the D.F. train yet, you should. This new group is truly testing the waters of sound. Do not be surprised to see these guys hitting the festival circuit here soon.
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Listen to Doom Flamingo's "F-16" here:
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Listen to Doom Flamingo's "Telepathy" here:
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The Aquaducks Drop Funky New Single October 19, 2018 13:32

Photo by Stephanie McKendrick

Nashville-based funk band The Aquaducks are premiering a brand new groovy single today entitled “Feels Like”.  “Feels like what?” you might ask.  Well, as guitarist Zach Sheffler says, “‘Feels Like’ is the perfect song to put on in your car, roll your windows down, and cruise.”  Featuring Tre Houston on the second verse, “Feels Like” combines the hip hop element with funk/jazz in a style that derives rhythmic elements from Lettuce, and The Motet, while featuring instrumental layering reminiscent of the early works of Dr. Dre.  Lead vocalist and keyboardist Cavanaugh Mims elaborates, “We had been listening to a lot of west coast hip hop around the time we wrote the song. It felt right to bring in Tre to rap the second verse, and he totally nailed the vibe that we had in mind.”

To celebrate the brand new single’s release, the Aquaducks will be performing at the legendary Exit/Inn in Nashville on October 20th alongside Ghost Note, Dynamo, and the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra.  “Feels Like” is the third and final single The Aquaducks are releasing before recording their next EP at Southern Ground Studios in Nashville, TN with a release date set for early 2019.  But until then, enjoy the exclusive premiere of “Feels Like” available tomorrow October 20th across all digital platforms.
Listen to The Aquaducks' "Feels Like What?" here:
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All Things Neal Casal: One of America's Most Intriguing Guitarists October 19, 2018 12:46

Interview by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography

When I finally decided to put Live & Listen into motion four years ago, one of my many goals was to create a valuable platform for up-and-coming bands. Through this, I would attempt to line up a variety of artist interviews, in an attempt to learn more about the music that I love. Thanks to a tremendous amount of love and support, this outlet has grown into what it is today. 

In July of 2015, I musically peaked at Soldier Field in Chicago. This would be the closest experience I would ever have to a weekend with the Grateful Dead. The core four members would join forces with my favorite current musician, Trey Anastasio, as well as Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti. Entering the weekend, there was a notable buzz about the music and archival Dead video footage being played. It had a strong Garcia sound to it, but no one knew exactly who was behind it. 

The world then learned that the band would be called Circles Around The Sun, which was led by guitarist Neal Casal. The response to this music was so strong, that the band officially took form in the summer of 2016 and have been pushing musical boundaries ever since. Earlier this week, I caught up with Neal to discuss this whole experience, his previous solo work, touring with the likes of Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Hard Working Americans, and much more. 

Let's start off with some background info. How did you get started playing music? When did this become a reality as a career?

Neal: I started playing music when I was twelve. I started playing guitar and was inspired by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, and all the great English blues/rock bands. I joined some bands in middle school and high school. I was just obsessed with music, you know? It just took over my mind at a very early age. I couldn't stop thinking about it. It became a real obsession. 

I guess it was around by junior year in high school when it comes time to speak with your guidance counselor to start deciding what your future is going to be. While all the other kids were deciding on colleges, I was deciding that I was going to live this gypsy life and make a life in music somehow. I set out to do it, and I did. 

I'd say that was a pretty good decision. 

Neal: Well, it was a good decision in many ways. In other ways, it's a pretty scary, unstable decision. There are a lot of things that people have at my age that I don't. It can be a risky thing. If you don't get really successful in music, it can be a tough road. There's no guaranteed stability or security in it. Those things get important as you get older, so it's hard to navigate if you haven't set those things up. 

I don't regret my life in music though. I've certainly accomplished a lot. I've made people happy through my music and made friends all over the world. I made a lot of the dreams I had come true, so that part is cool (laughs).

I think that's a common misconception among music fans. They start seeing their favorite bands playing bigger venues and festivals, and they just assume that you're living the "rock star life."

Neal: That's true. Mine hasn't really been a rock star life. Granted, I've gotten to travel the world and see a lot of things that other people haven't. Some of the other life building events that people go though...I haven't had some of those things. It gets harder as you get older. I've definitely had an amazing life in music. That's for sure. I've gotten to make so many records, tour, take photographs, write songs, meet new friends, and all of that. 

That's great. I know you touched on this topic just now, and you've probably answered this one many times, but I can't help but ask about your influences. Your overall tone and style of play is amongst my favorites.

Neal: Oh it's just an amalgamation of all the guitar players that I love. Starting with all all four of the Rolling Stones' guitarists: Mick Taylor, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Brian Jones. Then you have Neil Young, Steven Stills, Buffalo Springfield, Spirit, The Byrds, and all the California country / psychedelic rock stuff. Ry Cooder is a great slide player. Peter Green is another guy. The Grateful Dead is certainly in there too. 

I don't know. I guess just listening to so much music for so many years, and having it all kind of synthesize into hopefully my own. I think you can hear pretty clearly the different influences that I carry with me. Maybe the combination that I've put together is a little bit different than others. I haven't invented anything as a guitar player. I've definitely put together a kit of influences that is pretty user friendly. 

As a lead player, Mick Taylor was probably my main influence. There are all the great rhythm players, even the AC/DC guitar players. There's all the weird stuff, like the experimental sonic youth style music. Glenn Branca and all of those avant garde players that I wouldn't compare myself with. I do take some of that on, as far as atmospherics and damaged / chaotic sounds. I could go on and on. It's a long list.

I can imagine. Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but you released six solo albums between 1994 and 2000, right?

Neal: Yeah. That sounds right. 

I was wondering how this experience leading your own project early on prepare you for your future work with Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson, Hard Working Americans, and others?

Neal: Well those were years spent learning to be a songwriter, you know? At the end of that day, no matter what kind of player you are, every player needs a song to sing or play. Those were the years I was learning to sing, write songs, make records, and play guitar in a record making fashion. Not really as some type of virtuoso instrumentalist, which I'm not and never will be. Learning to use the guitar as a songwriting and record making tool, rather than a focus of instrumental prowess or experimentation. 

At that time in the 90's, I wasn't jamming so much as I was really trying to make good records and write good, concise songs. Three to four minute songs. How to really write a tune. How to compose and make good sounding records with good ensemble playing. Yeah, singing as well. Harmony singing, lead singing, all of it. 

Those are the foundation of all of my skills really. I took those, of course, into playing with Ryan (Adams), because Ryan is a songwriter first and foremost. That's really his thing. He's a great singer, great guitar player, but ultimately, he will be known for his songs. I stepped right in and had the ability to play his songs and sing harmonies with him. My record making experience prior to that all came in handy. 

With Chris (Robinson), it was the same thing. He's a singer and a songwriter. That's what sets us apart from some of the other jam bands out there. We're really a song and harmony band. All that stuff from the 90's, it keeps informing me now. It informed everything I did with the Hardworking Americans as well. Same thing. Todd Snider is a songwriter. I know how to play with singer songwriters, because I learned to be one when I was younger. 

It's strong foundations to work from. I've become sort of known as this guitar player over the last few years. Being a part of this scene with Phil (Lesh), CRB, and Circles Around The Sun, but I'm not a virtuoso guitar player. I never have been. I was never known as one. I can't compete or keep up with a lot of these people I've gotten to play with and come to know. Jimmy Herring, Scott Metzger, and all of these really great guitar players on this scene. I don't consider myself one of them really. 

I'm a good guitar player for sure, but I come from a different background. More of a songwriting and singing background. Just being in a band, you know? Rock bands, really. 

Well let's talk about Circles Around the Sun. I was lucky enough to attend Fare Thee Well in Chicago. There was already a buzz about the set break music by the time we got to Soldier Field. How did this all come together?

Neal: It came together over a series of events that took a few years to gestate. It came about through a guy named Justin Kreutzmann, who is Bill Kreutzmann's son. Bill is obviously the drummer for the Grateful Dead. Justin is a great filmmaker, and he was put in charge of the visuals for the "Fare Thee Well" shows. This meant that on each side of the stage there were those big screens. They showed archival Grateful Dead footage and psychedelic montages going down to keep the audience entertained while the band wasn't playing.

I was asked by Justin to create an instrumental soundtrack to go along with those images. The reason he asked me is because we first met back in 2012. There was a film project called Move Me Brightly. It was done for what would have been Jerry Garcia's 70th birthday. That was done at Bob Weir's TRI Studios. Justin and I became friends at that point, and a few years later, he asked me to score Bob Weir's film, The Other One

That went well, so Justin and I had been building on this relationship for a few years. He asked me to step in and do the music for the Fare Thee Well Shows. So, I put a band together. I asked Adam (MacDougall) from CRB, as well as Dan Horne and Mark Levy. We had very little time to prepare. We had no time to prepare, actually. We didn't write anything ahead of time. We just stepped into the studio and did everything on the spot. 

We just tried to imagine the kind of music that we would want to hear if we were at a Grateful Dead show and hanging out at intermission. So we just imagined it and made it up on the spot. Just improvising a bunch of music over the course of two days. We got very lucky in the fact that people liked it.  

Amazing. From what I recall, that ultimately led to the band's formal announcement and first performance at LOCKN', right?

Neal: Our first performance was actually at LOCKN' the following year (2016). But yes, when we did the music, there was no band name or intention of releasing it. It was music made for the purpose of those shows. People got really into it, and then Rhino approached us about releasing it. It all took on a life of it's own, because people liked it so much. We had no idea that people would like it at all. We didn't know that it would ever get that type of reaction. It was a huge shock to us, as a matter of fact. I wasn't sure if anyone would like it or think it was any good at all. We weren't sure if it was good. The fact that people flipped out the way that they did was an amazing surprise and a great bit of serendipity, you know?

The band released it's second album, Let it Wanderback in August. I've read that you guys feel like it was more like your first release. Can you elaborate on that a little more?

Neal: When we formed the group for the project, we had no idea if it would work. Would we have any chemistry? There wasn't much thought of it going past that Fare Thee Well project. As it turned out, we really sounded and felt like a band. There was really no reason to let it end there. That first batch of recordings went so well. Then we started doing shows, and those felt good too. We started coming up with song ideas and sound checks, and it just seemed natural that we should try it again and make another record.

As good as the first record was, it was actually really rushed. We did it in two days, and we didn't really mix it properly. It felt like just the beginning of something, so we decided to see if we could take it further and make an even better record. We went back to the same studio, wrote a bunch of material, and did it. 

Honestly, I think it is superior to the first record. I really do. I think we furthered our ideas, refined them, and honed them in a lot better. I think this is a much more focused record, and sonically, it's a lot better as well. The first one was really just introduction to what we could do. We want to take it as far as we can. Take expectations and smash them through the roof, you know?

Watch the music video for Circles Around The Sun's "One for Chuck" here:

 

Absolutely. So you've continued to be one of the busiest guitarists in the scene, leading this band while also touring with CRB and formerly Hard Working Americans. I know there are other projects in there as well. Where do you begin when balancing your schedule?

Neal: It's gotten a lot easier, because now it's just CRB and Circles. Hard Working Americans made it really hard for a few years. That made it tough, because CRB and HWA were both playing a lot of the same venues and touring all of the time. That was really difficult, but now that that has ended, at least for now, CRB and Circles are much easier to manage. Having that third band in there made it tough. 

Two bands...I can handle that. I'm in another band called The Skiffle Players with Dan Horn, the bassist for Circles. Skiffle Players are an amazing group, but we don't play a whole lot, so it's not that hard to navigate. 

Well, just to finish up, soon you'll be gearing up for a big January run with Greensky Bluegrass. How valuable will this exposure be for you guys? What else can we expect from CATS in 2019?

Neal: Well, we're going to have a very short set each night. 45-50 minutes each night, which will be interesting. Circles music, as you know, takes a long time to unfold, so it's going to be interesting to see how we can do our thing within a really condensed amount of time. We've never had to do that before, but we're very excited to play with that band and get in front of their audiences. Hopefully, it will be a good fit. We're honored that they're taking us out. Hopefully, we can make us some new fans and generate some momentum for more shows and recordings.

I'd like to get back in the studio and make another Circles record next year. I just want to keep pushing this thing as far as it can go. I think we have a lot of music in us, and I love the idea of being in an instrumental band that can just weave these sonic tapestries of people. After years of being just a singer songwriter, it's really interesting and challenging for me to push myself in this direction. 

Mark, Dan, and Adam are such amazing players. It's just a great opportunity to make these interesting sounds for people. They either pay attention or forget about it. Use it as background or foreground music. Maybe go to sleep to it, or wake up to it. Whatever you feel like doing. It's cool music. I just find it to be an interesting concept. There is something very satisfying about our sound. It lets me play guitar that I never have before. Those guys support me in a way that I've never experienced, and I hope I do the same for them. It's a cool group. We're just gonna keep going until we've said all that we have to say, I guess. 

I couldn't agree more. I loved everything from the first release, and I'm getting much more familiar with the new album. It's great to hear more about the band's vision, because there is a tremendous amount of potential. 

Neal: Yeah, there is a lot potential. There's some Krautrock influences that we didn't really have at all the first time. Creating music for the specific purpose of getting people to dance is really cool. I like having a direction in that way. We're not out there to give people our message through lyrics. It's only a rhythmic and energetic message. I'm really into that. It's like sign language or something. It's a different way of communicating.

That's really interesting. I've never thought about it from that perspective.

Neal: It's a way of speaking. It's a different language. You're not doing it through singing or words. You're doing it through this other means. It's cool to see if you can get through to people in that way. I like it. At Circles shows, when things are really going right, everyone gets into this sway. I can look at the audience and see them moving back and forth. If we can sustain that motion for an entire show, then we have succeeded. There's just a feeling about it that when it's working, there's this particular motion that I notice in a crowd. It's a really positive feeling. It's something that I want to do more of. 

I can imagine that's a pretty rewarding feeling.

Neal: It's cool, for sure. 

Watch the music video for Circles Around The Sun's "Gilbert's Groove" here:

 


CukoRakko: The Southeast's Best Kept Secret October 12, 2018 12:00

Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen

Photos by Craig Baird: Home Team Photography 
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If you've paid the slightest bit of attention to this website in the last three years, you're well aware of my affection for CukoRakko Music & Arts Festival and Horse Pens 40. I was fortunate enough to cross paths with the Cuko team in early 2015, and it didn't take long to realize the impact that this festival would have on my life. What once started as a tiny, grassroots festival featuring predominantly Alabama-based bands has evolved into a bi-annual showcase of incredibly diverse talent from across the southeast and beyond.
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Each year, I leave that beautiful property thinking, "How can this weekend possibly be topped?" and the bar continues to be raised. I'll be the first to say that the team at Big Friendly Productions absolutely crushed it yet again, and their work never ceases to amaze me. And I would be remissed if I didn't mention that this festival would not be possible without the support of the title sponsor, Land Rover Birmingham, as well as Birmingham's Avondale Brewing CompanyTrimTab Brewing, and Cahaba Brewing Company.
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We should probably start off by talking a little history on Horse Pens 40HP40 is a privately owned outdoor nature park located in St. Clair County near Steele, Alabama. The park is situated atop Alabama's third-highest mountain, Chandler Mountain, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The park is known among the rock climbing community as a premier bouldering site in the American Southeast
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The natural rock shelters located in Horse Pens 40 have seen over 15,000 years of human habitation. The park contains ancient Indian burial grounds dating from the earliest inhabitants of this area, all the way up to the time of the Cherokee removal known as the "Trail of Tears".  During The American Civil War, the site was used as a hiding place for horses and their owners wishing to avoid invaders from the north and the Confederate recruiters and "bushwhackers". Once it was discovered by Confederate forces, Horse Pens 40 was then used for the storage of supplies to be used by Confederate troops as they passed nearby.
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It was home to one of the first outdoor bluegrass music festivals in the country, and by the 1970s had grown to be one of the largest in the world. The park served as a venue showcasing many legends of the bluegrass genre including Bill Monroe, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Lester Flatt, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, and Norman Blake. Emmylou Harris made her first public appearance at Horse Pens 40, "standing barefoot on a wooden door propped up on the rocks." During this period, the park was designated by the Alabama State Legislature as "The Home of the South's Bluegrass Music".
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Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty. Those who were lucky enough to make the Thursday night pre-party witnessed something truly special. Winston Ramble and The Pearl each laid down powerful thirty-minute sets, before joining forces for a full hour of blazing hot Grateful Dead covers. The level of collaboration was borderline overwhelming, with special guests such as Davis Little (Little Raine Band), Desmond Sykes (Tragic City), and Connor Broome (The Broomestix) joining the party early and often. A tremendous amount of Alabama talent was on hand for the opening set, only to be followed by Doctor Ocular of Johnson City, Tennessee. I was shocked to learn this band formed in late 2016, as their combination of acid jazz, jamtronica, and roots rock had a very cohesive feel all night. 
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Watch Ramble On Pearl perform "Shakedown Street" here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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The Jauntee and Skydyed made the trek all the way from Colorado, and it's safe to say that they both left their mark on Alabama. Many of us had gotten our first taste of The Jauntee the previous weekend at Saturn Birmingham with Twiddle, and thankfully, we got 90-minutes this go round. A product of Berklee College of Music, it's clear that these guys will continue to climb the ladder of the festival scene.
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One of the most dynamic sets of the weekend came from The Fritz. This was just an all out dance party from start to finish. Frontman Jamar Woods straight up owns the stage and works a crowd about as well as anyone I've seen. It's rare to see the front man standing up behind the keys and synth, but these guys are far from you're average band. A combination of fresh originals, as well as covers of Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime," Michael Jackson's "Black or White" and "Don't Stop 'Til Ya Get Enough," and Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" will certainly remembered for years to come.
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Watch video footage of The Fritz performing "Life During Wartime" here:
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Video by Isom Morgan Photoraphy
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Friday night was capped off with a surprise late night set from The Illuminators, a brand new band out of Birmingham. You wouldn't believe it if you were there, but this was the band's first official public performance. These spontaneous late night collaborations will be amongst my best memories of the weekend. Members of The Fritz, The Jauntee, and the Tragic City horns even joined in on what seemed like a three-hour dance party.
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Saturday began with Huntsville's Lamont Landers Band, a recent finalist on 'Showtime's Live at The Apollo'. I had heard a fair amount of hype about these guys, and festival attendees were buzzing about their performance all weekend. Early James & The Latest was one of the more intriguing acts on this lineup for me. I can't get enough of their sound, which has been described as "a mishmash of blues, country, folk, and jazz with crooner-esque styling." Whoever came up with that hit the nail on the head. You've got to hear the pipes on (Early) James Mullis. You won't forget him.
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After catching Steady Flow at the CukoRakko Fam Jam back in May, there was quite a bit of anticipation for this set. This band hits you with an onslaught of upbeat funk from start to finish, with some of the funkiest riffs you'll find. It would be impossible to make it through 90-minutes of Steady Flow without a little movin' and shakin'. Guitarist Tanner Brown's use of the talk box adds an especially fun element to the table, as seen during the band's creative spin on Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Thankfully, this wouldn't be the last time we saw Brown on stage shredding. 
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Watch footage from Get Rhythm's drum circle here:
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Video by Home Team Photography
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I try my best to stay in tune with as many bands as possible, but there are always going to be a few that slip through the cracks. The New Orleans Suspects were a perfect example for me...until Saturday night. They're easily one of the most seasoned, accomplished groups to play this festival, and I haven't stopped listening to their music since leaving. Specific highlights came in the form of songs such as "Let's Get It Started," "Cocaine Jane," and a cover of The Wild Magnolia's "Peace Pipe." Do yourselves a favor and give those tracks a whirl.
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Following the Suspects, Skydyed took the festival in an entirely new direction, and I couldn't have been more impressed. While one could classify this band as 'jamtronica', a simple term couldn't possibly do them justice. Their placement as the final band on Saturday night couldn't have been more fitting. As I stood in front of the stage and looked around the amphitheater, hundreds of people were getting down in ways I can't even describe. It was a perfect picture in many ways. 
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Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend came from The Talismen, the youngest band to ever hit the stage at CukoRakko. The Montgomery-natives are scattered across three different colleges, but you would never know it. The original plan was for two thirty-minute pop-up sets under the pavilion, between sets on the main stage. It didn't take long to decide that these guys deserved an additional late-night set. Word quickly spread across the festival grounds, and the band took full advantage of the opportunity.
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The level of improvisation displayed on The Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup," Otis Redding's "Hard to Handle," and Phish's "Chalkdust Torture" was ridiculous. Tanner Brown, Wildman Steve, the Tragic City horns, and others joined in for Kool & The Gang's "Get Down Tonight," which was sandwiched perfectly with Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing." Equally as impressive were a few Talismen originals: "Strange Man" and "The Lawnchair Song." Get ready, because you'll be hearing a lot more about this band in the future. 
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Watch The Talismen performing "Chalkdust Torture" > "Whole Lotta Love" > "Chalkdust Torture" here:
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Sunday started off with one of Birmingham's hottest acts, The Brook & The Bluff. This was a new band for me, but after hearing of their recent signing with The Paradigm Agency, I knew that we were in for a treat. This band's unique sound and beautiful harmony vocals made for a perfect early Sunday set. Another Birmingham act, Eat a Peach, would take the stage next and lay down a scorching 90-minutes of Allman Brothers Band classics. All five members of this band also perform with the Black Jacket Symphony, and I can't imagine there is a better ABB tribute out there. You can see for yourself with the video footage of "Melissa" below. 
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Watch footage of Eat a Peach performing "Melissa" here:
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The living legend Charlie Hunter would then close out the weekend with his amazing trio. I had been waiting to see Charlie perform live for many years, and he was even better than expected. Watching this guy essentially play bass and lead guitar simultaneously is nothing short of mind blowing. For this performance, Hunter was joined by Grammy Award winning drummer Derrick Phillips (Hank Williams Jr.) and Ms. Dara Tucker, whose vocals had all of Horse Pens 40 melting. This was yet another Sunday that we'll all be talking about for years to come. 
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At the end of the day, I just can't say enough about this festival and the team behind it. I consider it one of my greatest honors to be involved with CukoRakko. Having the ability to live out these magical experiences at Horse Pens 40 is something that I will never take for granted. I can say "thank you" enough to the Schultz family for their willingness to share this magical property with us. The CukoRakko family is beyond special, so I won't even try to cheapen it with words. You know who you are. And for everyone else, if you ever have the opportunity to witness live music at this incomparable venue, I advise you run, not walk, towards that opportunity. Until next time...
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