As the lime-infused canopy of spring morphs into the in bloom fullness of summer the Dark Star Orchestra finished a two-night run at Brooklyn Bowl with a bang. Selling out both mid-week shows, DSO showcased their new bass player Skip Vangelasa the Williamsburg venue.
For Tuesday’s second night of the Brooklyn Bowl run, Dark Star Orchestra chose to play a Grateful Dead show from June 15th, 1976 that was originally performed about seven miles away at Manhattan’s Beacon Theatre. DSO weaved in and out of Dead classics like Let It Grow, St. Stephen, Stella Blue and a powerful Sugar Magnolia > Scarlet Begonias > Sunshine Daydream sequence.
This latest incarnation of DSO captures the Grateful Dead in the prime of their long career. By focusing on the details and closing your eyes, audience members are able to take a trip back in time and experience a little piece of rock and roll history.
The devil is in the details. Mickey Hart, aka former member of Grateful Dead drum duo The Rhythm Devils, entertained a nearly sold-out Stage 48 venue in New York City last Friday night. Born in nearby Brooklyn, the consummate drummer, only months shy of his 70th birthday, Hart still knows how to satisfy his loyal fan base. In addition to his storied tenure as drummer for the world’s all-time greatest jam band, Hart is a multi-Grammy winner, a drum historian and successful author. Upon taking the stage he exclaimed with authority, “Let’s find places known and unknown together!”
As Hart’s five-member band took the stage, the proceedings commenced with Hart’s lengthy cymbal smashing as if a symbolic start to the evening. The band blasted off into the saucy fan favorite, Shakedown Street, the dancing ditty about which Bobby Weir once said in 1979, “we tried to make a disco song.” The predominantly mature crowd paid tribute to Hart and company by clapping, singing and dancing throughout the joyous Shakedown Street romp and subsequent exploratory jam. Some people may have difficulty chewing gum and patting their head at the same time but Hart, hands adorned with white surgical gloves, snapped hard at his gum while working an elaborate varied drum kit that he stood at for the entire performance.
This past weekend the Purple Hatter’s Ball took place at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. One of the performances we most had our eyes on was a Sunday set dubbed “Roosevelt Collier & Nigel Hall’s Gospel Surprise.” Our friend and Collier’s publicist, Margaret Willard, was so moved by the set she penned a review and we’re honored to run it along with photos.
Words: Margaret Willard Photos: Timothy Borland and Jeffrey Dupuis
Mother’s Day took special meaning this past weekend at the Purple Hatter’s Ball, when a fellowship of musicians uplifted the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park with an emotional Sunday gospel set dubbed “Roosevelt Collier & Nigel Hall’s Gospel Surprise.”
[Photo by Tim Borland]
PHB founder Paul Levine introduced the ensemble shortly after 1pm, with a prelude dedicating the afternoon to Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, whose life is remembered each year at PHB, and to all others who had lost loved ones recently — most notably Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff of Lettuce, who hadn’t performed for a live audience since he lost his mother Rita April 29. The sun shone brightly as the amphitheater stage transformed into a place of kinship and worship, with Smirnoff and the afternoon’s other special guests Lenesha Randolph (Robert Randolph & The Family Band), Pete Shand (The New Mastersounds), Jermal Watson (Dirty Dozen Brass Band), Jonathan Lloyd (Dubconscious) and The Shady Horns - Ryan Zoidis, Eric Bloom and James Casey(Soulive, Lettuce) all joining Nigel Hall (Warren Haynes Band, Lettuce) and Roosevelt Collier (the Lee Boys) for an inspired series of classic covers and old gospel tunes.
HT faves Toubab Krewe completed a two-night stand at Brooklyn Bowl in NYC on Friday night. The Asheville-based band brought along Ghost Owl as support. Friday night’s Ghost Owl set was the group’s first NYC performance as the band has only been performing live for a little more than a month since Perpetual Groove (which featured three members of Ghost Owl) started an indefinite hiatus.
They’re a tribute group, yes, and there will always be fans that just can’t get past that as a fundamental flaw. But I’ll say it again knowing full well what I’m in for: Dark Star Orchestra is the band from which I get the most Grateful Dead nourishment out of any touring ensemble these days.
I know what you’re saying, and some days, you’re right. And, look, I like Furthur just fine. And if Phil stops through with just about any group of Friends, I’m in. And Bob will be back soon in fighting shape, I’m sure, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of TRI Studios and Weir Here next. And 7 Walkers has so many great reasons for being, one of which is keeping Bill Kreutzmann out there and playing. And if you haven’t yet experienced the current, space-a-delic lineup of the Mickey Hart Band, you’re missing a group that’s become a must-see – an event – in a very short amount of time.
Last Thursday night McNear’s Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, California hosted Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. The historic Mystic Theatre, a venue in the heart of downtown Petaluma, was erected in 1911 and fits 550 guests. It’s a mere 45 minute drive from San Francisco and is one of the best venues I have been to in the area.
Bluhm and her band are touring behind the release of two new tracks, Ravenous and Little Too Late, off their upcoming album. As with many, I first heard of this band thanks to their ingenious “Van Sessions” series of videos which show the Ramblers on the road playing songs in their van. After one view I was immediately hooked. The new tracks from the upcoming album are more edgy on bass and rhythms than her 2011 album, Driftwood.
In our modern world we have been trained by the continual replacement and updating of our electronics, knowledge base and even our food (Try our new BLUE tacos! They’re X-TREME!) to the point where anything more than a year old gets a suspicious eye towards its merit. Some things, however, can not be denied, such as the raw emotion evoked when the first guitar strains of In Memory of Elizabeth Reed cut through to your very core. The tens of thousands of visitors to the annual party hosted by the Allmans and some of southern rock’s heaviest hitters know what they like, and once again left with their socks rocked straight off by massive walls of dueling guitars, heavy organs and funky horn blasts that echoed in their hearts long after the last encore.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival finished its first weekend of action on Sunday at the Fairgrounds in the Crescent City. Sunday saw performances from the likes of the Dave Matthews Band, Calexico and the Gypsy Kings as well as New Orleans royalty The Nevilles, Kermit Ruffins and Big Sam.
American Babies, ALO & Ryan Montbleau Band @ Highline Balllroom – April 24
Words and Photos: Andrew Blackstein
The Ryan Montbleau Band, ALO and American Babies entered the Highline Ballroom on April 24th with an apparent excitement to be playing before a New York City audience. This Wednesday night gig saw the American Babies open the bill. Led by Tommy Hamilton’s insightful songwriting approach, the Babies showcased a vibrant mesh of thick drum driven improvisation that displayed David Butler’s versatility. The 55-minute opening slot allowed guitarists Nick Bockrath and Hamilton to feed off each others’ parts with great energy and precision. The Babies are working on a studio record that will be out this fall, the new tunes should be a welcome addition to their already impressive live show.
[All Photos by Andrew Blackstein]
After a quick turnaround, California’s ALO was greeted by many audience members who shared their recent Jam Cruise vacation. Overhearing a dozen different requests to “get back on the boat” or “I can’t wait ’till next year’s Jam Cruise” proved that the power of music and a shared experience can long after be recalled for present pleasure. ALO shined on this night from the opening notes of Maria to their cover of Prince’s 1999. Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz’s acoustic guitar work has the ability to range from a Grateful Dead styled funk, to a Beach Boys infused rhythm. Zach Gill and Steve Adams sported smiles as they took turns on lead vocals. Having the first few rows of fans singing along probably helped those smiles move wider as well.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is well underway at the Fairgrounds in the Crescent City on this first weekend of the two-weekend event. Yesterday saw performances from the likes of national acts such as Billy Joel, Andrew Bird, Jill Scott and Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper as well as New Orleans legends Allen Toussaint, Michael White, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk and Jason Marsalis.
The “American Dream,” the concept that with hard work and a dash or three of inspiration anyone can succeed, lives in Widespread Panic, the lil’ band that could. From tiny rooms and frat parties to sold out tours they’ve looked out to see crowds of jubilant faces from a hundred to a hundred thousand with one constant…they gave each and every listener all they had.
Though the last few years have seen the band take extended breaks, no fan has begrudged them a chance to collectively catch their breath after 25+ years of bringing authentic southern rock to any and every pair of ears they could pack in front of them. With a new tour under way and shows lined up across their south eastern base, the band is at home on the stage as they have ever been, and it shows in every facet of their performances…masterful, comfortable and in the zone. They brought all this to bear for a packed house of diehard fans at the Louisville Palace for the first of a two night stand that had the feeling of a homecoming.
Saturday, April 20th was a date many marked in their calendar for a variety of reasons. For many music-lovers in New York City that marked the date on which keyboardist Marco Benevento would finally bring his to the Brooklyn Bowl. Benevento was joined by his frequent trio of drummer Andrew Borger and Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz for his debut at The Bowl. Diamond Doves and The Mike Dillon Band warmed up the crowd before Marco’s main course.
[All Photos by Andrew Blackstein]
Marco offered a career-spanning set that included four songs from his most recent album – TigerFace. The trio was joined by Benevento’s Garage A Trois band mate Mike Dillon on percussion for The Real Morning Party and worked a cover of The Bangles’ Walk Like An Egyptian into Two of You. With Dave and Andy laying down heavy soundscapes Marco was able to enjoy the luxury of interacting with the Brooklyn faithful. Whether it was lounging on his piano seat, wearing a plush tiger mask or inviting his friend Karina Mackenzie to dance on stage, Marco and his band were visibly enjoying the festivities.
Here’s a look at the setlist and photos from Marco’s performance at the Brooklyn Bowl…
While jam titans Widespread Panic was in Louisville last week for a two-night stand at the Palace, singer/guitarist John Bell and drummer Todd Nance performed an acoustic show with Daniel Hutchens and Eric Carter of Bloodkin before a small crowd at the WFPK Performance Studio. Wednesday’s four-song set was broadcast live for those in the listening area and tuning in on the internet.
Audio of the four-song set, which included Wet Trombone Blues and Success Yourself, Bloodkin classics that Widespread Panic hadn’t played in years but wound up performing again that night electric at the Palace with Hutchens and Carter, has been shared by WFPK…
Here’s the setlist and more of Joshua Timmermans’ amazing shots of the intimate radio show…
Blues legend B.B. King may be 87-years-old, but that hasn’t stopped him from touring as hard as artists a quarter his age. Last night the Itta Bena, Mississippi-bred singer/guitarist visited his namesake club in New York City, where he performed before a capacity crowd.
This past Saturday night Galactic returned to New York City’s Terminal 5 for a show that also included performances from the Nigel Hall Band and Toots & The Maytals. The Nigel Hall Band took the stage first for a set that featured takes on Layaway and Back In Stride, while Toots treated the crowd to classics like Pressure Drop, 54-46, Take Me Home Country Roads, Louie Louie and Sweet & Dandy. Galactic was joined by The Revivalists’ front man David Shaw for portions of their set including versions of Hey Na Na, Ain’t No Love, I Am The Walrus, Heart of Steel and I Got Your Money.