Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Wiltern Theatre

November 8, 2018 A quick interweb search shows more than 500(!) Dead influenced or tribute bands. Yup, the reach of the Dead is just staggering, whether the generation is golden or newly spawned. To whit, “songs are like fairy tales,” Phil Lesh said in a recent Relix Radio Hour podcast, “all versions are true…I can predict that they’ll still be playing these songs in 100 years”. I give you Exhibit A. JRAD. Hear me out. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (“JRAD”) plays Dead songs fearlessly and all in. Excursions that land rooted to the tune and journeys that are a head shaking helluva ride. These guys embrace the spirit behind the songs and make them completely their own. With JRAD, I don’t relive the Dead, inasmuch as feel what they did to me then in real time now. I hit my first JRAD show last week (one of two dates at the historic Wiltern Theatre), a generous two setter that was in high gear from the opener (Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion) to the last note of the encore (Samson & Delilah). And, I have to say, they brought more life to Dead tunes than just about any Dead related show […]

Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles

September 15, 2018 My handy wiktionary tells me “throw down” is “to accomplish or produce something in a grand, respectable, or successful manner; to “represent””. Well, when it comes to the travelling New Orleans road show billed as Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown, to say that the four acts crossing the country this summer just represented, is like saying we live in uneventful times. Uh, yeah, they represented, alright. This had to be one of the best shows of the season.   This threauxdown was as close as Jazz Fest gets on the road. New Breed Brass, Pres Hall, Galactic and Shorty would be a great day on any Fest stage. That they’ve been at mid-size venues from coast-to-coast and back again is like musical room service for those with a taste for New Orleans.   When New Breed kicked off at 7, for a brief (20ish minutes), but very punchy set, the Greek was looking a little sparse. That wouldn’t last long. No breaks for this brass, they had their foot on it for the full 20.           By the time Pres Hall picked it up at 7:30, the sun was down and seats were filling […]

Hot Tuna (Electric), El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles

September 6, 2018   Birthed of the 60s, the Haight, ingestibles and another time, before jam bands became a thing, there was the Jefferson Airplane. A band I was too young to see live, but burrowed into me, nonetheless. I soared on Grace Slick’s vocals and got interplanetary with Paul Kantner. But guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady were the instrumental beating heart of the band. Casady with that tree trunk tone and Kaukonen’s signature fretwork and reedy vocals. The Airplane is generations gone, and (good riddance), all the clunky spin offs that followed are long past, too. Space captain Kantner left us a few years back and Slick left music in the late 90s (though she remains a very active visual artist).   Fortunately, Hot Tuna, the Casady-Kaukonen psychedelically rooted blues trio is rolling into year 50, with an electric tour that stopped at the El Rey Theatre the Thursday after Labor Day. Like other recent tours, multi-dimensional guitarist Steve Kimock joined the Tuna for a good part of both sets (the K-men run deep, Kimock a teacher at Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp, which sounds like a pretty special place to hang, if you got the […]

Newport Jazz Festival 2018, Fort Adams, Rhode Island

Music keeps you young. One didn’t have to look further than 92-year old George Wein introducing 80 year-old Charles Lloyd on Saturday to figure that out. Wein, co-founder and patriarch of all things Newport Jazz, was delighted when Lloyd wanted to kick off his ninth decade at Newport and Wein bestowed him the honor of 2018’s artist in residence, with Lloyd performing in strikingly different musical settings over the festival’s three days.   Count myself lucky this year to cover both the Folk and Jazz weekends at the Fort and still had the glow from the Folk Festival as the town pivoted with ease from one to the other. Monday night was a table setter at the 5th Element for trumpeter Doug Woolverton and Joshua Hill, an up and coming pianist who sat in, and I would get to know better as the week went on (and so will you in the years ahead).   As with Folk the previous weekend, discoveries are at the heart of Newport Jazz. And while I consider myself pretty steeped in the stuff, I was familiar with, perhaps, a quarter of the acts coming into Friday. While Still Dreaming featuring Joshua Redman and Brian […]

Newport Folk Festival 2018, Fort Adams, Rhode Island

July 27-29, 2018   In a recent podcast, producer Jay Sweet reflected on Newport Folk this way “if this festival for you is about the headliners, I don’t think this is your festival”. Not that the headliners were too shabby. Jason Isbell (with a David Crosby sit-in), Unannounced (aka, Mumford & Sons) and the closing Change is Gonna Come set, more than held down the Fort. But Newport Folk (and Jazz) is about discovery, collaboration and experimentation. It’s The War & Treaty, The Weather Station, This is the Kit, Charlie Parr, Phoebe Bridgers, and Glorietta, to name a few that stood out. It can be “a bunch of people from a bunch of bands playing a bunch of songs” as Eric Johnson said from the Quad Stage, during Saturday’s Beneath the Sacred Mountain set. If not for Newport, The Lone Bellow (Sunday) and Hiss Golden Messenger (Saturday) would not have worked their way into my world years ago. Not to mention all the goodness my ears and heart enjoyed in between the new and familiar.   The Fort’s four stages are close, but not tight, and stage times rarely compete like so many other festivals where you can’t tear yourself […]

Newport Jazz Fest inspires young pianist Joshua Hill

The Newport Jazz Festival has its share of discoveries. This year, mine was not on any the Fort stages (yet), but you can bet that won’t last long. I heard Joshua Hill sit in with trumpeter Doug Woolverton last Monday at The Fifth Element on Broadway, and my ears stood on end. That he’s 19, and only been at it for a few years is more than a little wow. The Newport Daily News piece has a great profile of Josh and features a 1/4 page above the fold photo from a quick shoot I did with him the week before the festival. Joshua Hill. Remember the name.   Some other images from that shoot below.                        

Photo Recap: Dead & Company, July 7, 2018, Dodger Stadium

This is Dead & Co.’s strongest tour yet, and personally combined the band that impacted my life the most with the temple I have been attending since I was 8 – Dodger Stadium. Opening with a Playing in the Band that pretty much dropped the needle in the middle of the record and with Mayer, Oteil and Chimenti reshaping and pushing fresh moments throughout a joyous, hot night, Jack Straw, Cumberland, Scarlet>Fire, Eyes and a Brokedown, Not Fade away encore made for a night to long remember.   Jim Brock Photography’s photo recap for LiveMusicBlog.com PHOTO RECAP: Dead & Company @ Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA 7.7.18

Arroyo Seco Weekend, Brookside Golf Course, Pasadena

June 23-24, 2018 Arroyo Seco Weekend is not fussy. The beer is thick with local crafts, the something for everyone eats abundant with vegetarian options, and, yes, it felt like a day in the park with a rich soundtrack. The inclusive, relaxed setting and vibe made for one of most satisfying fest experiences I’ve had outside New Orleans. Goldenvoice worked out many of the freshmen kinks to bring us a uniquely L.A. area festival that was musically textured and easy to navigate, with zero attitude, when it so could have gone the other way. No need to pony up for VIP treatment here. Getting around was no issue, food and (pricey) drinks were never too far, Rose Bowl bathrooms were always an option, and while the Oaks stage was packed for headliners, it was manageable and easy to get close throughout most of the day. Oh, did I mention parking was included with entry? Even with only three stages, I still racked up 7-8 miles a day covering 30 of 36 acts over the weekend, but the 8th and 9th holes and driving range of Brookside felt like carpet compared to most fests. Near perfect June weather helped. Saturday highlights […]
Jun 08
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Reflections and Musings of a Jazz Fest Photographer – 2018 Edition

April 27 – May 6, 2018 Best Jazz Fest ever? It’s a tie between the last one and the next one. Jazz Fest 49 was no exception. Seven Fest days and 30 minutes of rain. Unheard of. Unexpected discoveries? Check. Food I’m still working off? Check. Love in an Elevator? Never mind. Yes, Aerosmith at Jazz Fest had some folks head scratching when announced, but they went over big at their only gig of the year. And, as any Fest vet knows, it ain’t about the BNAs (“big name acts”). While this year was solid with the likes of Sting, Rod Stewart, Beck, Jack White et al. who knew the place would be abuzz over Socks in a Frying Pan from Ireland? Aah, but I digress… This photographer is fortunate to have a few ease in days ahead of Fest and we got in the mood Thursday night with Tony Hall, Terence Higgins, Roosevelt Collier and Jonathon “Boogie” Long funking up Jimi at NOLA Brewing on Tchoup. Fueled by a bellyful of BBQ pork and house brew, this was a boatload of fun with plenty of room to move in the beer warehouse by day room. The playing was loose, […]

Jubilee: A Celebration of Jerry Garcia, Theatre at Ace Hotel

March 30, 2018 It’s the year 23 AG (after Garcia). Dead & Co. are embarking on a stadium-centric Summer tour. Phil’s Terrapin Crossroads has a full schedule, and at 78(!), Lesh shows no signs of slowing his roll while sticking closer to home and sprinkling in some East Coast tripping (including a few recent Phil and Bobby duet dates, with Trey as a guest). And while Garcia (who would turn 75 this year), is long gone, the music really has never stopped. In steps the Bluegrass Situation for a one-night only Garcia throwdown billed as Jubilee: A Celebration of Jerry Garcia, featuring a bucketful of artists including Hiss Golden Messenger, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Belmont Tench, Margo Price, Chris Funk of the Decemberists, mandolinist extraordinaire Sam Bush, Amos Lee and the Jubilee House Band that includes Tench and Sean and Sara Watkins among others. Garcia is dearly missed, but the songs endure, and Jubilee was bound to be a warm embrace for anyone touched by the band and Garcia’s songs. Whether going back to Garcia’s jug band roots on banjo, his Old and in the Way album with David Grisman, Peter Rowan and fiddler Vassar […]