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 […]

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 […]

Newport Folk Festival, Ft. Adams, Rhode Island

July 29-30, 2017 “These songs are a living language”, Billy Bragg told the crowd early in his Harbor Stage set with Joe Henry at the Newport Folk Festival on Saturday. Six words that pretty much sum up the heart and soul of this legacy event that sits atop so much musical history. So, true to form, one of the more anticipated Sunday performances was Speak Out! A set that started with the rollicking Preservation Hall Band horns slowing “When the Saints Come Marching In” down to a somber crawl, bleeding into the National Anthem before singer Kyle Craft launched into Bowie’s “Heroes”. A band that grew to include Austin’s Shakey Graves and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel and others, with Graves leading the first person Trumpian rant “I’m Better Than You”. Newport Folk is about the words and the music. Songs that stir and shake, songs you shake your ass to, songs that provoke, songs that matter. But it’s also about discovery of new voices and sounds, and the fingerprints of founder George Wein still carting around Ft. Adams, and the guiding hand of producer Jay Sweet. Newport is about surprises, highlighted this year by the “unannounced” return of Nathaniel […]

Arroyo Seco Weekend, Brookside Golf Course, Pasadena

June 24-25, 2017 Festival behemoth AEG and Goldenvoice are at it again, launching the inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend after years of negotiations with the City and citizens of Pasadena, securing a 10-year deal at Brookside Golf Course, adjacent to the Rose Bowl. It’s a family forward music festival with free entry for kids under 10, a relaxed park setting, good grub and libations and a first year lineup that was more than just respectable, it had personality. Mixing big name headliners (Tom Petty and Mumford & Sons), Fest friendly mid-tiers (Dawes, Alabama Shakes), some 90s love (The Shins, Live), a hefty does of New Orleans (The Meters, Galactic, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Revivalists), quite respectable jazz, soul and and blues (John Mayall, Charles Bradley, Bennie Maupin, Roy Ayers), and a number of indie comers, there was also a refreshing lack of EDM or rap/hip hop to the lineup. The price point was fair, and keeping the inaugural event to three stages and two days (three days are planned in the future), was probably a pretty smart move, even more so with record breaking heat on Sunday that felt more Coachella than DTLA proximate. Freshman fests inevitably have a few […]
May 28
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REFLECTIONS AND MUSINGS OF A JAZZ FEST PHOTOGRAPHER – 2017 EDITION

Heading home from Jazz Fest 48 it seemed I’d passed through a lifetime’s worth of sounds, tastes and bonding since arriving in New Orleans a few weeks back. Friendships deepened, the palette was bathed in constant indulgence, the liver took a bit of a hit and a soundtrack that will echo well into the dog days of Summer still resonates sweetly. For the uninitiated, Jazz Fest (short for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival) is the most diverse musical party on the planet replete with 13 stages, tents and pavilions spread across the Fair Grounds Race Course, a few miles from the French Quarter. Quite simply, there is nothing like it. And, as with the city that bears its name, Jazz Fest is not something you wrap your head around, it’s something you feel in your exhausted and happy bones. And, man, were they exhausted and happy.  My perspective is of a working photographer first and a fan second. I am on task covering 15 – 20 acts and 7-8 miles of ground a day. My musical encounters are often brief, and occasionally cosmically timed. My colleagues in the pit are extremely talented and a pretty respectful and decent bunch to […]

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers + Steve Winwood, The Forum

October 10, 2014 Tom Petty has been an L.A. boy for 40 years. You can say he’s more than adopted the city as his hometown and the feeling is mutual, the crushing goes both ways. Petty and the Heartbreakers are pretty much synonymous with this town. So, it was completely fitting that his current US tour ended here with two nights at the spectacularly renewed Forum. The evening proved to be a master class in garage rock (meant in the best way) featuring just about every iconic guitar and classic guitar tone imaginable. From the dueling Tele shredding on a tribute to the late Paul Revere’s “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone” to the twin Thunderbirds tearing at the throat of “You Wreck Me”, guitar geeks everywhere were drooling from start to finish. Vintage Les Pauls, classic SGs, Flying V’s and Rickenbackers, teardrops of a few shapes and sizes, a bright red Gretsch with more odd angles than an AP trig test, to name a few, all made appearances before the evening was out. But the Friday night show I attended was so much more than just the compadres Petty and Mike Campbell flashing their collections. Petty made himself right at […]

Robert Randolph presents The Slide Brothers, with the Otis Taylor Band, Royce Hall

February 23, 2013   We’re all told to respect our elders, to learn from the generation before and to pass along tradition. Wise words musically speaking, and fundamental to any jazz or blues playbook where family legacies span generations and old sounds are regularly rediscovered and reimagined. Now, I hail from about as far from a Pentecostal upbringing as one would expect for a ‘60s kid raised in the relative comfort of a West Los Angeles lifestyle. But when I heard Robert Randolph for the first time, I was floored. I had no clue about the roots of Sacred Steel in the church tradition, but the Hendrix like intensity he brought to the pedal steel was pretty religious in my book and I’ve been a fan ever since. Randolph’s latest project, the Slide Brothers, pays homage to those roots. Randolph has brought together the “greatest living musicians who embody the Sacred Steel tradition” (as described on the Slide Brothers’ web site), a tradition that dates to Depression era times where steel/slide guitar and vocal melodies were all but interchangeable in church music. Calvin Cooke, Chuck Campbell, Darick Campbell and Aubrey Ghent are the Slide Brothers – a direct legacy to […]