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 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters, Orpheum Theatre

    March 2, 2018 The last date of the Carry Fire Winter tour landed Robert Plant at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre in DTLA. The tour has stuck to smaller venues (the Orpheum holds about 2,000) while drawing on a consistent set list of multiple tunes from both “Carry Fire” and “Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar”, as well as a few quieter Zeppelin touchstones and other blues and traditional material.  The chance to see Plant in such intimate confines throughout the tour was special, considering the next time he’ll be in SoCal will be as headliner at the second day of Arroyo Seco Weekend. But it was also special, because the room so fit the music coming from the stage. Adventurous, personal, rooted in history, but not confined by it.  Ten years ago when the Raising Sand collaboration brought Plant together with Alison Krauss, the incredibly talented singer, songwriter and fiddle player, she of the bluegrass origins and more Grammys on her shelf than any other singer or female artist ever, it struck me as a WTF leap that could have been a disaster. Instead the critically acclaimed (and Grammy winning) project knocked me out that he could even pull […]

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 […]

Wheels of Soul Tour – Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Doyle Bramhall II, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles

June 10, 2015 The musical marriage of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks spawned a heckuva family. The band sports a 3 piece horn section that drapes Tedeschi’s voice and excellent blues stringing, and provides many a jumping off point for Trucks’ fiery bottleneck excursions. Casual fans may not know that long before their union, Susan Tedeschi had established herself as an exceptional blues player and vocalist in her own right, while widening the road for the likes of Samatha Fish, Beth Hart, Carolyn Wonderland, Ana Popovic and many others. Tedeschi’s voice draws easy comparisons to Bonnie Raitt, but she gets to grittier places with the force to match. Trucks’ years with the Allmans, leading his own band and supporting others (the 2006 Derek & the Dominoes rich Clapton tour, was particularly memorable) all led to here. He almost seems hotwired to another plane and the fierce intensity of his playing belies the meditative expression that accompanies most of his solos. The only flash Trucks bares is in the soul tearing notes he pulls from his SG. Some years back, I heard Trucks interviewed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, when asked about his no pick/full fingered technique, his […]