Thursday, August 28, 2008

September 2008 Music Festivals

Here is our list of major music festivals for September 2008. Please check back often, since the list will be updated when new festivals are added to

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sweep The Leg Tour featuring Keaton Simons + Todd Carey + Curtis Peoples

I was invited to the Sweep the Leg Tour featuring Keaton Simons, Todd Carey, and Curtis Peoples playing at our local music joint, Jammin' Java. The tour consists of consecutive dates from August 21st at the Great Scott outside of Boston and ending September 2nd at the Intersection in Grand Rapids Michigan. A very draining schedule. I was a little hesitant after seeing the word "Pop" in the show's description on Jammin' Java's website, but went ahead anyway. It was a very fortunate decision; I "discovered" a couple new acts that I will now follow reguarly.

Curtis Peoples started the evening, accompanied by Keaton Simons on electric guitar and current band members Daniel Crawford on bass (he's normally Peoples' electric guitarist) and crowd favorite Darla on drums. Immediately I liked seeing Simons playing with Peoples, and later Carey joined him on stage. I think this is a great concept - where artists support each other on stage. Peoples is touring in conjunction his debut self Titled CD, Curtis Peoples, in which he sang a half dozen songs. I was really impressed with this young artist, both his musical abilities and stage presence. He has already learned how to use his sense of humor to transition into the next song or story. It works to his advantage even when he breaks the bass guitar and when he explained that the name of the tour came from his 80's obsession. Think Karate Kid. Musically, he has a strong voice that complements both the acoustic singer songwriter sound as well as the more rockin' songs. I look forward to receiving the new CD. During the set he got in a good rhythm playing "Wake Up", "One More Time", and "Exit Scene". I now see why he has toured in the past with Josh Kelley, Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers, and Tim Reynolds. He has been added to my favorites.

Todd Carey performed next and this performance justified my early concerns about "Pop" tours. He seemed a little too pushy, requesting audience participation immediately, when most were just trying to learn who he was. And he seemed to croon too long on his ballads - as if he was playing to an all female audience. However he has a great voice and there seemed to be rock influences waiting to erupt. Since he has toured with many acts we follow and respect, Jason Reeves and Brendan James in particular, I decided to download a few of the songs he played from his website. The songs were better than the live performance, especially "Back Off Baby" and "Watching Waiting". I still don't know if I'd purchase his latest CD, Watching Waiting, but that is just my personal opinion. Obviously his large cadre of fans disagree and that's the beauty of music; people have different tastes. Carey is obviously attracting and retaining this fan base, and good for him. When his rock side emerges, we will be back for a second look.

Keaton Simons closed the show with an excellent performance. Of the three, Simons displayed the best stage presence and musical prowess. His guitar playing the entire night was excellent, whether he was backing the other artists or playing alone. Once again, Darla and Crawford accompanied the artist, and his set consisted mostly of songs from his his debut CD, Can You Hear Me. His voice is raspy-bluesy reminding me of John Hyatt. I liked all the songs: "Without Your Skin", "Good Things Get Better", "To Me"...... This is one CD I will rush out to purchase. And his cover of Muddy water's "Catfish Blues" was awesome. Simons made it his own while simultaneously paying tribute to one of American music's founding fathers. It was no surprise to learn that many of his songs have been included in movie soundtracks and he has made multiple appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. There's not much more to say, this is a rising star - catch him now so that you can say, "I saw Keaton Simons when he was playing at....."

Curtis Peoples

Todd Carey

Thursday, August 21, 2008 Music Site

We recently received an email from Big Head Todd & the Monsters informing us a couple of their recordings were now available at The concept behind the site is that bands "stop in for a Daytrotter Session at Futureappletree Studio One in downtown Rock Island" and record a few songs. The songs are then posted online for all to download and enjoy for free. What a great idea. And how fortunate that bands take the time out of their rigorous travel schedule to record a few songs in the studio.

The site contains hundreds of sessions so each week we plan on downloading songs from five artists and write if anything excites us. This week we downloaded songs from Big Head Todd & the Monsters, The Everybodyfields, Ingrid Michaelson, Langhorne Slim, and Okkervil River. We were very impressed with the quality of the recordings. is obviously taking this venture very seriously. Now, we have been fans of Big Head Todd & the Monsters for quite a while and enjoyed their two songs, but of the five artists we were particularly impressed with were The Everybodyfields and Langhorne Slim. The former is an alt-country band out of Johnson City Tennessee. The band is fronted by Sam Quinn and Jill Andrews, so each song differs based on the male or female vocalist. The band also plays with a large array of instruments to create a unique sound: lap steel, lead guitar, electric bass, piano and acoustic guitar. The four songs we listened to were really good, our favorite being "Suite: Motown" and "Lonely Everywhere". Langhorne Slim is also an Americana artist, currently based out of Brooklyn. The songs from this Pennsylvania native range from soft ballads ("Collette") to the funkier "Nobody But You" and "The Rebel Side of Heaven" to the fun "We Love The Animals". His vocals are sometimes bluesy, sometimes country combined with an acoustic guitar. He has a busy tour schedule and we can't wait to see him live with a larger repertoire of music. Also, you can check him out at this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival in September.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Oneside @ Ri Ra Irish Pub

The guys from Oneside traveled down to Ri Ra Irish Pub in Bethesda Maryland on August 15th to play a couple dates in Maryland and Delaware. This was our first opportunity to see the band perform in a bar setting and we were quite impressed. They played three one hour sets - displaying a vast inventory of originals and covers in their repertoire. There was also a good crowd consisting or regulars and friends\relatives of the band - most staying for the last set. Having to travel the next morning, we regrettably only witnessed the first two sets. The first contained many of their originals from First to Last, including "The Letter", "Gotta Go", "Lisa", and "Out of My Tree". The set also contained a few covers we've heard previously (John Prine's Paradise", The Band's Ophelia, and Johnny Cash's "Cocaine Blues") as well as a few new ones: their version of Paul Simon's "If You Be My Bodyguard" was fantastic.

Their second set showed that they were just warming up. They played a Rolling Stones - Paul Simon medley which got the crowd singing and dancing, followed by a few originals, "Last Radio", "Lisa", and "Oh Sun". The later was awesome - the raw version is much better than the polished studio version on the CD. We really liked this band after watching their performance at FloydFest, but in a smaller bar setting - they are really rockin'. They excel in this environment and should only improve as they gain more stage presence. This setting also allows you to focus on their unique sound - the combination of drums, bass guitar, electric guitar and banjo: not bluegrass, not completely rock - just Oneside.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Brotherhood Tour @ WolfTrap

This evening we were fortunate to be in town to see two great Americana artists, Los Lobos and Los Lonely Boys at Wolf Trap's Filene Center. We have been fans of Los Lobos since the release of How Will the Wolf Survive?, but have rarely seen the group live. This was a great opportunity to hear their unique blend of blues, rockabilly, jazz, Latin and their version of Tex-Mex. They started playing an acoustic set with songs primarily from Acoustic En Vivo. One exception was the popular "One Time One Night" - which got the crowd involved instantly. They finished the acoustic set with "Guantanamera" - with Conrad Lozano singing and playing the Guitarron. The remainder of the show was rockin', with each member displaying their musical talents on multiple instruments. David Hidalgo alternated between the guitar and accordion; Louie Perez from mandolin, guitar, and drums; Cesar Rosas from multiple left-handed guitars; and Steve Berlin from saxophone, keyboards, flute, and baritone saxophone. It was an awesome display. By the time they go to "Come On, Let's Go", the audience was singing and dancing away - barely noticing when Henry and Ringo Garza joined in. The two stayed on stage when Los Lobos finished the set with an extended "La Bamba - Good Lovin'" medley.

I almost felt sorry for Los Lonely Boys when they came on - the stage itself looked huge after removing Los Lobos' equipment; many audience members were in line getting autographs from Los Lobos; and finally - they had to follow that act. We have followed the Boys since first watching them perform in the Tent at the 2003 Austin City Limits festival. Their debut CD, Los Lonely Boys, is one of our favorite CDs from this decade and we have seen the band perform a dozen times in the past 5 years. It seems to us that they sound better in smaller venues such as Nightclub 9:30 or the Uptown Theater than in larger pavilions. Maybe its the ability to stand next to the stage, beer in hand. But those days are becoming a distant memory as they become ever more popular. They started out tonight with the title track from their latest CD, Forgiven. We like this CD more than their second effort, Sacred and their cover of "I'm A Man" is getting a lot of play time on X12. The CD sounds like a 70's rock album - possibly their tour with Santana influenced this recording. The band then started interchanging popular favorites from their first CD with those from their latest. With each old song, the crowd sung every word. They were proficient as usual - and great entertainers. The chemistry between Henry and JoJo picking and moving together is fun to watch, as is watching Ringo jam on the drums. They finished the show with "Heaven" - still their most popular song - which made us wonder if they ever get tired of playing the song since its expected every performance. The Boys showed up to play and it was another great performance. We still wished we could have stood in front with a beer - but that will have to wait until their September show at Rams Head Live. Until then, we will be listening to Forgiven and Los Lobos' Acoustic En Vivo.

Friday, August 8, 2008

FloydFest Day 3: Sunday

On Sunday, I started the last day of FloydFest intending to see Oneside’s final act of the weekend. However, technical difficulties delayed their set so I instead headed to the beer garden to watch The Speckers one last time. This trio really impressed me: the fiddles blazing and Mr. Specker stomping in rhythm. The last song I heard from them, as I spotted Oneside taking the stage, was an interesting song from the 1770’s. Yes, the 1770’s. Apparently Mr. Specker heard the lyrics from a French Canadian, who had a distant relative serve under Lafayette in Washington’s army. The song pays homage to General Washington and he created a score for “a top 40 song from the ages”. When the song ended, I returned to the Streamline Hill Holler stage as technicians verified all microphones and amps were working. Oneside started slowly this time, playing Josephine and Lisa – allowing the audience to build and get settled. They played Paradise earlier than usual, which was a big hit. The group behind me kept mentioning how good the song was during the entire set - to anyone who passed by. The band really started rockin’ with Got to Go, Last Radio, and Out of My Tree, and a cover of The Band’s Ophelia. By this time, the band and spectators had thrown their fatigue and hangover overboard and were singing, clapping, and dancing. By the time they closed with The Letter, they had nailed the set. It was great watching the band grab an audience and holding them throughout the show.

After saying what I thought were final goodbyes, I headed up the hill to the VA Folklife Workshop Porch to listen to couple songs by Cadillac Sky. Apparently the band just returned from a trip to France – playing a couple of festivals in that country. They also have a new CD, Gravity's Our Enemy, which I heard a few songs from. The band is scheduled for several festivals on the east coast that I hope to attend. They deserve a longer listen.
Crooked Still was performing on the Main stage, so I grabbed my first ice cream of the day and stood near the stage. They started with an Ollabelle Reed cover, "Undone In Sorrow", and then proceeded to play “Oxford Town” – which got the crowd dancing early. At this point in the show, Chris Hersch, Oneside’s Banjo player joined me and mentioned that he and Aoife O'Donovan had attended the same music school together, As a result he follows the band closely. And Ms. O'Donovan told me afterwards that there were over a dozen artists from that program performing at FloydFest. Chris also instructed me on Dr. Liszt’s distinct style on the banjo – something like most banjo players pluck with three fingers, but he uses four. Crooked Still continued with several songs from the new CD, Still Crooked: Captain, Captain; Pharaoh; and Oh, Agamemnon. It was nice having Chris around because he told me the background to songs such as Pharaoh, an old Georgia Seal Island song. My favorite song of the set was “Come On In My Kitchen”. They received a contribution from the Mill House ice cream engine when the engine popped – at times - in unison with the bass cello. They entire show can be summed how Chris described one song, “That was tight.”

At this point I decided to walk 10 minutes away to Villa Appalaccia Winery. The winery was selling their wines at the beer garden and was located in the neighboring property so, it was an opportunity not to miss. For those who didn’t taste their offerings in the beer garden, here they are.
I returned to the festival to catch Tony Trischka and Double Banjo Bluegrass. Crooked Still’s Dr. Gregory Liszt and Brittany Haas joined Trischka and his band on stage for 75 minutes of picking and fiddling. His previous CD, Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, contains songs where he was accompanied on banjo by several other notables such as Béla Fleck, Bill Emerson, and Scott Vestal. Dr. Liszt took their place on stage and the ensemble played songs from this CD as well as his latest: Territory. Watching Trischka is a treat and 2007 was a good year for the performer. He was given an IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) award for Banjo Player of the Year 2007. Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular received IBMA awards for Recorded Event of the Year, Instrumental Album of the Year and a Grammy Nomination. Not bad. After playing professionally for over 35 years, he is also somewhat a bluegrass historian – probably the best around.

Soon it was time for Gospel Hour; basically this is how the The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band had advertised their Sunday show. The set opened with only Reverend Peyton taking stage, explaining that the band was going to slow things down a bit and played a longer version of the soft part of “I Shall Not Be Moved”. At some point into the song, Breezy and Jayme entered and casually picked up their instruments. Then, on queue, the three exploded in chorus for the fast section of the song – and the tent erupted. "Slow things down", right. They did play most of the gospel tunes from The Gospel Album, but this is still dance music – a musical style I wouldn’t hear from our parish chorus. They played “Blow That Horn”, “Glory Glory Hallelujah”, “Let Your Light Shine”, and my favorite “Tell All The World John”, with Jayme pounding the pickle bucket. The Reverend also displayed his guitar prowess by instructing us how he creates a bass sound – since there’s no bass player in the trio. He plays the top two strings with his thumb and pointer finger, while simultaneously playing rhythm with the remaining fingers. He started out slow, and then slowly increased the tempo until both hands were flying in unison. Awesome. He also had a great segway into “Mama’s Fried Potatoes”, describing all the great food one group of attendees had given them over the weekend. They finished with “Two Bottles of Wine” as an encore, and then were invited back by the promoters for one last curtain call and song. What an act; look out for the main stage next year.

I took one last look into the Beer Garden and found singer songwriter William Walter playing with Tucker Rogers. I was able to catch one song – which shows that artists have the same problems as everyone else: "Love is Clinging Closer". I’m going to keep an eye on this artist, particularly since his band, William Walter & Co, won the 2008 FloydFest winner of the Emerging Artist Series. Congratulations. I waited around for The Avett Brothers, but after 20 minutes, I decided to call it a weekend. With a 5½-hour drive waiting – as well as dogs in the kennel – I couldn’t wait any longer. Too bad – it was a great weekend. On the walk to the shuttle, I ran into the Villers of Blacksnake Meadery, thanked them for yesterday's visit and headed home. The drive was remarkable painless. Accompanied by the new music from Crooked Still, Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, Oneside, and The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, I was on Interstate 66 in no time. I finished the trip listening to the The Gospel Album, twice – all the while mimicking Jayme on the pickle bucket. However, beware, listening to this album may lead you to lose control of your life (as my Dad would say), While singing and drumming, I didn’t notice the orange fuel light illuminated until I had pulled into my driveway. With perhaps some divine intervention, I had returned home safely. Glory Glory Hallelujah.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

FloydFest Day 2: Saturday

Since I retired prematurely the previous evening, I arrived early Saturday after a quick stop at Blacksnake Meadery. The owners, Steve and Joanne Villers, were also attending FloydFest, but they graciously arranged an early morning appointment for me to taste their mead. After an hour visit - it was off to FloydFest and as soon as I entered the festival I heard a booming voice coming from the VA Folklife Workshop Porch. It was Eli Cook – displaying his powerful voice that could have been mistaken for Howling Wolf and not the actual artist. I watched an exceptional performance, just Eli, his guitar and his powerful vocals mesmerizing the crowd. It was difficult pulling away, but I wanted to hear Blue Mule on my way to the Revival Tent to watch the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers. While walking past the Streamline Hill Holler stage, Blue Mule opened with a cover of “Where Would You Be Now”. It was an interesting choice – but I liked their version. At the Blue Ridge & Beyond Dance Tent, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers were just being introduced. I had started following the ensemble after seeing them scheduled multiple times at the Purple Fiddle. The band consists of Beth Walker on vocals, Joel Serdenis (mandolin) Tom Fassas (guitar) Travis Young (banjo) and Sam Kruer (Bass). What I liked the most about the band is that each member contributes vocals not just Ms. Walker. In fact there is a lot of orchestrated vocals and harmonies. And despite drawing a terrible time slot, the band performed at a high level during the entire set. “You should have seen us yesterday” they kept saying, trying to justify an "illusionary" poor performance. They played really good. They started with a Doc Watson song, “Sweet Heaven When I Die” and their signature song, "Field Cred" which explains why these city-raised folks play country-bluegrass music. They then focused on songs from their new CD, Appalachian Trail. They played the title track, then, “Slash and Burn”, “Moonshine Bill”, “Party Down Below” and “Lost Soul” among others. My favorite was the tribute to a gentleman who passed away at one of their shows in Lexington. “Park Bench” is a very moving song. They closed with a great cover, Townes Van Zandt’s “White Freightliner”. Immediately I purchased a copy of Appalachian Trail and an “In Jug We Trust” and headed back to the shuttle. I had an afternoon meeting scheduled with Oneside at Château Morrisette. The interview is available here and the review of the winery at

After our visit to Château Morrisette, the band and I returned to FloydFest in time to see the last part of Crooked Still at the front porch (more about this band later). Then it was off for food, ice cream – can’t help myself – and the David Grisman Quintet at the main stage. Travis Young of the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers said that's who he wanted to see the most this weekend, so why not? For over 30 years David Grisman has entertained fans with acoustic string music and today the Quintet did not disappoint. They may have had the largest afternoon crowd of any performer. After 45 minutes I headed back to the Beer Garden in order to listen to Oneside’s next set. The venue was packed as festival goers either escaped the heat or searched for alcohol. I grabbed a Wheat Ale from Williamsburg AleWerks and headed to the stage. (There were two particular brands that I really enjoyed this weekend: the Georgia Brown from Sweetwater Brewery and the Porter and Wheat Ale from Williamsburg AleWerks.) Oneside grabbed the audience’s attention with “The Letter” and “Gotta Go”, as people dancing and clapped along immediately. However, they lost their way during the next two slow songs, “Lisa” and “Josephine”. Apparently the crowd wanted to dance – not be serenaded – although there was nothing wrong in how the band performed these songs. It took a few more arrangements to get the audience back to their earlier groove and by “Last Radio” the band had their full attention – which lasted through Prine’s “Paradise” and the remainder of the set. It was a good set, but the band realized they could do better. As Jake Brooks later remarked, “in order to make it, we can not lose the audience for any song.”

I hurried from the Beer Garden to the “Revivial” Tent to watch Crooked Still’s second show of the day. The band had changed their lineup since I last saw them, with fiddler Brittany Haas and cellist Tristan Clarridge joining the group after the departure of cellist Rushad Eggleston. The other founding members are Corey DiMario on the bass cello, Dr. Gregory Liszt on banjo, and Aoife O'Donovan, with her sultry – bluesy vocals, playing anything necessary. For the past two years this has been my favorite folk-bluegrass act and I was excited to see the new lineup. And so were several others. The tent was packed – nowhere to sneak closer. And as Crooked Still emerged the crowd erupted in a massive cheer and pressed the stage. I learned later from Ms. O'Donovan, that prior to the set, the band was sitting exhausted in the green room, unsure of this show. But when they took stage, the audience’s enthusiasm was infectious and their fatigue dissipated rapidly. What ensued was a lovefest - between artist and audience – both feeding off each other. Even when playing songs from their latest CD, Still Crooked, the crowd dancing and clapped as if they were oldies. When they finally transitioned to songs from Still Crooked and Hop High, well, what do you think? They new lineup was fluid, Brittany Haas and her fiddle adds a new dimension - more folksy. The remaining members were solid, particularly Dr. Liszt on banjo with his great picking and zany comments and Ms. O'Donovan. She was both jovial and sexy especially when she sings, “Come On In My Kitchen”. There were several young kids in the front row and the band won many permanent fans by inviting them on stage for the encore. The lovefest had to end and with the band and audience exhausted the final was signaled with a bow from the band and the new cohorts. The Revival Tent hosted its second signature set, the first from The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band and now Crooked Still. Wow.
Afterwards I trekked around the area, consuming more ice cream and watching a few songs from Amos Lee. Ned deBray, Oneside’s front man, had mentioned that Lee was an artist he wanted to see, so I listened to a few songs – and he was pretty good. I checked his schedule later that week and couldn’t believe the number of shows scheduled in August – he’s practically in a different city each day. (We'd appreciate any Amos Lee fans to add these shows to his page at But soon, I was drying out and entered the Beer Garden once again. Immediately, Jake Brooks noticed me and invited me to join the rest of Oneside as they listened to Bucktown Kickback. The two bands had played at Martin's Downtown Bar & Grill in Roanoke last night and Oneside had been very impressed with the band. So was I. They describe themselves accurately as “Americana + Jamgrass + Classic Country = Bucktown Kickback”. They band was formed in 2002 by songwriter Adam Brooks Dudding and interchanges personnel at times during tours. Thus I’m not sure who joined Dudding on this trip. During the set, Ned commented on various aspects of the performance – that as a layman – I had no clue. Regardless of one’s musical knowledge, over the course of an hour, Bucktown Kickback entertained everyone. I can’t wait to get my hands on their current CD, Lost in Your Own Hometown.
After the set, Oneside went to set camp and I proceeded to the Streamline Hill Holler stage to listen to Bluegrass Undergrass and rest. This was another good set – and very relaxing as I lay on the hill. Families played catch with frisbees or footballs and I gained a great appreciation for parents who brought their kids to the event. Next time, I may even make the effort. I dozed slightly during the show, then woke and walked to check out the Revival Tent and found another new favorite in The Speckers. This father-daughter trio performed the type of unique music that I was hoping to find at the festival. How? Each plays the fiddle, with John Specker in the middle and his daughters Lila and Ida Mae on each side. While fiddling Mr. Specker also stomps his feet creating a percussion compliment to the strings. He also contributes most of the vocals, and the sight is rather impressive – considering he has to coordinate fiddling, stomping, and singing simultaneously. It must be a relief when Ida Mae takes over. They describe their sound as Traditional American music and can be considered to be historians for forgotten music. During their set there was a large contingent of young listeners – mostly girls – mesmerized with the performance. I talked to several parents afterwards who were very grateful to find artists that their girls could relate to, particularly if their children played the violin.

A little later I found myself back at the Streamline Hill Holler stage in anticipation for
New Monsoon. Luckily I had watched the band some yesterday and only had time for a few songs before setting camp in the Revival Tent. This band has a huge following, and playing at 8:00 PM, the crowd had their groove on.
By 8:10 I was parked in front of the stage in the Revival Tent, already packed as word had spread about The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. Promptly at 8:15, the band altered the normal entrance and entered the tent and marched through the crowd in a fife and drum routine – only this was harp and drum. The crowd hit the roof. During the set they played the same songs as the preceding two sets from their CDs: Big Damn Nation, The Gospel Album and The Whole Fam Damnily. See Friday’s show here. By this time, most of us were well versed in the songs as well as the band’s antics which made it just as enjoyable as the initial act. The only difference – a hundred more listeners - plus several other artists watching from behind the tent. After an hour of dancing, laughing, singing, and screaming - they were still my favorite act. I suspect, I was not the only one.
There was still a night full of excellent music scheduled; Rusted Root was playing on the main stage and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk was setting up on the Streamline Hill Holler stage. Once again I was wiped and wimpily called it an early night. Too much fun.