Category Archives: live music.

My First Festival: Berkfest 2001

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In the Summer of 2001, I had just graduated high school and had started seeing various jambands locally and was excited to break my festival hymen at the Berkshire Mountain Music Festival.  Since Phish had played it’s last show the Fall before that, I had been spending the early half of 2001 branching out seeing all and any jambands that came to the area.  I had seen Trey Anastasio’s first non-Phish show at the Orpheum in Boston and a week later, saw my first moe. concert at the same venue.  I had also seen Gov’t Mule at Lupo’s in Providence and an aftershow featuring the Psychedelic Breakfast at the Met Cafe next door.  Yet, none of these shows would totally prepare me for my first festival experience.

My brother had gone to the Gathering of the Vibes earlier that summer and he was nice enough to call the house and leave messages on my answering machine of the Disco Biscuits and Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade sets.  Those minute long snippets on my answering machine had me as excited I can be to finally arrive at my first music festival.  Unfortunately,  the day that would happen, we were way behind schedule due to waiting to stockpile various substances, so we got there late on Friday.

We got to the festival grounds as it was getting dark and scampered to find a place in the back of a tent filled field to pitch our own tents.  We could hear Soulive on the main-stage, but duty called and we waited to finish setting everything up before venturing out to see music.  Fortunately for us, our first band we got to actually see was Leftover Salmon’s late-night set in one of the ski lodges.  Now, I did not know that at the time, but since then I’ve grown to find out that Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon is basically the Festival Master General in the jamband scene.  He got us pumped up for the music left to come for the rest of the weekend and supplied us with a late-night hootenanny get down.

Come the morning and the sunlight, I finally got to see the seedy underbelly that belied Berkfest.  Now Berkfest was put on by Gamelan Productions, the same company that brought us High-Sierra Music Festival, but if there are two things in common between these festivals, its that they are festivals and they have absolutely nothing else in common.  I made my way out to “Shakedown Street” to hear nothing but nitrous tanks running every hour of the day, people selling bags of cocaine out in the open, and even a camping area we affectionately referred to as the Heroin Woods.  People openly doing cocaine, heroin, and other drugs like “dust” was completely foreign to me.  Usually you had to do that kinda stuff on the down low, but not at Berkfest.  There were cops there, but honestly they didn’t do a damn thing so long as you didn’t get in the way of their horses.  I even saw someone I had met at a post-party for that summer’s Trey Anastasio Band show smashed over the head with a Captain Morgan bottle, but come to find out he was found stealing stuff from someone’s tent, so hippy martial law came into affect.

Now back to the music.  Luckily a friend of ours had his tent set up at the very top of the hill where the stage was at the very bottom.  So we mostly spent our afternoons, chilling out by our friend’s tent listening to the bands way down below.  This is essentially how I listened to my first Sound Tribe Sector Nine,  Spearhead and Yonder Mountain String Band sets.  I would make my way down the hill for various sets throughout the weekend including Strangefolk, The Word and Robert Randolph’s Family Band.  Occasionally we would make our way into the ski lodges to see sets from bands like the Psychedelic Breakfast and the Slip.

The highlight of the weekend was moe.’s 3 hour set on Saturday night.  We had set ourselves up a couple heads away from the stage during Strangefolk’s set and found a group of other moe.rons to get mentally ready for the headlining set with.  moe. took the stage and the mountainside seemed to be at capacity.  They led us off with a Plane Crash to get the crowd riled up, what would follow would end up being one of my favorite festival sets from any band, ever.  They were all business that night and didn’t stop for what seemed like forever.  Actually, the second half of the set consisted of a 4 song Moth sandwich that took over an hour and a half for them to finish.  By the time they had finished, I was dead tired, so we and our new moe. fan friends headed back to camp where we joked and consumed various goodies for the remainder of the night.

The highlight of Sunday’s lineup was Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade’s headlining set.  He came out in a giant green monster costume that had been patrolling festival grounds all weekend urging fans to clean up after themselves.  His set was they typical 2001 Claypool set starting with Thela Hun Ginjeet and including favorites like Highball with the Devil and covers like David Bowie’s Space Oddity and the B-52’s Planet Claire.  As the Berkfest Allstar Jam started(which included John Medseki and various other well known musicians): we packed up camp and made a run for it, so we could sleep cleanly and dry in our own bed’s that night, but forever that festival would leave a huge impact on me.

Berkfest only lasted a couple more years before being shut down by locals who complained of the seedy environment it brought.  They were right, even as an attendee, Berkfest could be a scary place, but the music made that all better.  It was a year before Bonnaroo started and didn’t have any giant sponsors, but the fans still came out in droves and the annual music lineups there were always top notch.  It certainly wasn’t for the weak at heart and the event t-shirt calling it “Berkfest of Champions” was more true than the designer probably assumed.  If you could survive that August weekend in the Berkshire Mountains, you truly were a champion.

Since, its already mid January and I haven’t blogged yet this year, I’m gonna start off with my list of favorite concerts of 2011.  Simple enough.

#5 Phish- Great Woods, Mansfield MA

#4 Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers- The Spot, Providence RI

#3 moe.- Lowell MA

#2 The Breakfast- Daniel Street (Founghoulish Freakout XII), Millford CT

#1 Erasure- House of Blues, Boston MA

This makes it two consecutive years that a foreign act(and 3 of the past 5) has taken top place.  The other two being Air in 2010 and Daft Punk in 2007.

A Jerry Week Tribute:

Hello Jerry!

Every year hippies from across the world celebrate the first week of August as ‘Jerry Week.’  Since his birthday is the first of August and he died on the ninth, it became custom to use those nine days to celebrate the life and music of Jerry Garcia, lead singer and guitarist of the Grateful Dead.

Today, I will share a handful of my favorite Jerry ballads.  I think these songs best represent the emotion in his singing and his guitar playing, but it will only be a small sampling since he has a multitude of great songs with various great bands.  So without further boring you, and in no particular order, here are just a few of my favorite Jerry songs:

Wharf Rat

I’ve always had a soft spot for Wharf Rat because the protagonist in the story reminds me of myself.  He’s been dealt a bad hand in life, but for the most part stays optimistic about the future.

Reuben and Cherise

I couldn’t find a Jerry Band version that really grabbed my ears, so this lovely acoustic version from Jerry and John Kahn will do just fine.  A great love song from the big snuggly bear.

Birdsong

This song is just beautiful.  Hearing Jerry lament about the loss of Janis is about as touching as it gets, and this wonderful acoustic version is a must see.

He’s Gone

Had to find a 1972 version since this was a fairly new song then.  Originally about Mickey Hart’s father and how he took off after managing the band for a stint, this song almost takes more meaning to it after Pigpen dies, and again w/ Brent and again with Jerry, so it’s hard to leave this one off.

Morning Dew

Can’t leave out this emotional masterpiece.  It may be a cover, but let’s face it, the Grateful Dead made it theirs and no version represents their ownership of it as well as good old Cornell ’77.

That’s all for tonight, be sure to get your Dead discs out for your commute this week and remember the spirit of Jerry Garcia by pumping his music at high volume while driving around and seeing the world around you.

moe. Summer Tour ’11(Newport and Lowell)

Eastern New England was double lucky this year as moe. announced two shows about a week apart from each other in Newport and Lowell respectively.  Seeing as the only times I see them these days are when they come to me, I was happy to get 2 shows within an hour drive.

First up, Newport.  Now, I’m fairly local, and its pretty much protocol to get sloppy drunk whenever I go to Newport and last Thursday night (7/14) was no different.  We got to town early and took up stools at a local Irish Pub for some drinks and seafood.  We sucked down a few oysters while meeting up with a handful of friends before heading down to the Yachting Center for the show.

The Yachting Center is basically a large tent that was on the opposite side of the Wharf from where we were stationed.  We got to the venue and grabbed a quick round of drinks before heading in and settling in the front row, al.side.

Set 1 was fairly short and to the point as it clocked in at roughly fifty-five minutes.  It was a nice touch in the second spot and the Bearsong > George was just enough to leave us wanting more.  Setbreak was spent at the end of the pier chit chatting with various moe.rons and taking in the air.  The second set started off much stronger with the drum intro to Water.  The segues into Hector’s Pillow and Spaz Medicine were to the point, but it made for a nice combo of tunes.  Blue Eyed Son was a nice dustoff to keep everyone’s feet moving for a few minutes.

The highlight of the show was the Captain America into Mexico which featured a strong jam between the two.  Once it became apparent it was going towards Mexico, I became delighted as I was shouting for it most the show(a not unpopular pastime of mine).  Al seemed to be leading the band most the night and showed that off especially during Bearsong and Mexico.  When the opening notes to Lazarus came, I took a break from the pit and moved back outside of the tent to feel the wind for a bit.  The set ended and left most of us unfulfilled, so the Plane Crash encore was a nice touch.  We knew they were working on a tight schedule and managed to give us just enough to hold us over for the night.  Overall it was your average ‘feelgood’ moe. show.  Nothing too crazy, but enough high points to make it worthwhile(especially in set two).

Now Lowell on the other hand is a city nothing like Newport at all.  It is lined by big brick buildings and there are nary any spots of grass in the downtown area.  Low and behold, behind the high school laid a pristine area for seeing a concert.  A grassy knoll so to speak with trees for shade and raised levels made for a perfect moe. viewing experience.  This night, I was not so drunk and took a more lucid approach at the festivities of the evening.

This show was a lot more even to me.  Second Bearsong in as many shows was a welcome event for me.   After Where Does the Time Go, they transformed their way into a Rebubula-ish zone before Rob and Jim took it to the Dr. Graffenberg zone.  Any set that includes both Bearsong and Dr. Graf is a good sign to me.  Setbreak was spent mixing drinks on the lawn and meeting some neighbors in the lower Chuck zone.

Opium was a welcome surprise to me.  It gets a bad wrap for being a slower moe.tune, but its nice to hear Rob wail and see Chuck show off his slide skills.  Threw It All Away brought back that old school vibe of Graf and Bear in the first set.  Tambourine and Downward Facing Dog each showed off more slidework from Chuck.  The drop from Hi and Lo to Timmy Tucker was the highlight of the night.  The segue itself was nothing too tricky, but Rob drove home the intro, slapping the shit out of his bass every step of the way.  Like this was an A+ Timmy Intro for what its worth, the Chuck solo seemed a tad short, but I didn’t mind since we got a full on drive it on home Al solo in its absence.  Its rare I see a Timmy lately where Al’s solo takes precedence over Chuck’s, but it was greatly appreciated.

The encore was solid.  Not as exciting as the Plane Crash a week earlier, but the Pit was very well played.  Just a tad awkward to see the show end on a vocal ending, maybe they could’ve flip flopped the two and it would’ve been a bit smoother.  Overall Lowell was a good to great show.  Good if you don’t like Opium or Tambourine and great if you do.

I met a lot of good people last night which was nice to see so many new and smiling faces out on the scene.  Hopefully Chuck lost the Panama Jack hat he was wearing last night before getting into Vibes, because he looked pretty dorky in it, but besides that everyone in the band played well with Al taking home MVP honors in Newport and Rob getting the nod in Lowell.  See you all at moe.down.

The Breakfast & Beatles A to Z(6/25-26):

I’m still in somewhat of a haze from this weekend, so bear with me on this one.  This weekend would mark my first trip down to Connecticut to see the Breakfast since Sully’s in November, so I was really amped up to head down 95 South to see my favorite band with my favorite fanbase in lower New England.  I got to Toad’s Place in New Haven around 9:30 which gave me ample time to get myself conditioned for a night a music.

Saturday night was a co-bill with Roots of Creation so there was a lot of buzz on York St. that night.  Plenty of Vibe Tribers getting their last few stacks of fliers out before next months festivities.  Roots played a solid hour and a half set which left the Breakfast to hit the stage a little before midnight.  They started out with a tight version of Honey Butter to get the crowd loosened up for a funked out set.

Anyways, after Honey Butter was a patient chilled out version of The Chase.  I have seen the Chase probably around 50 times and this was the only time I’ve seen it branched out beyond the standard four and a half minute version, so it was worth noting.  Tim followed up with a solo tease of Blackbird, probably foreshadowing the Beatles A to Z show the next day, but soon thereafter dropped into Gladys Pimp and Kangaroos with Me.  Now I’m a Gladys Pimp connoisseur, so I knew from about 2 seconds into Blackbird that GP was to follow, and as usual it was its high paced funked out self.  There’s always talk as to whether Buquebus or Rufus is their best song after Episode 2 or Grand Scheme of Things, but nothing represents the Breakfast’s high powered funk offense as well as Gladys does.

I took a well needed venture outside during the early parts of Taboo and made it back in just in time for Frankenstein.  It was well played and I’m fairly certain it was only the second time the band has played it since The Freakout in 2002, so it was well received by me.  Adrian smashed his drum solos and nailed them to perfection as per usual.  The Existential Funk that followed was the highlight of the show.  This song has easily become the best offering from Chris DeAngelis in the past year and continues to evolve every time they drop into it during a show.

The set closing Buquebus was your typical Toad’s Place Buquebus, which is good.  Todd Stoops was clearly getting into it as he was getting his face ripped off in front of Tim Palmeiri in the crowd.  We all got our faces ripped off at some point and that’s why we go see the Breakfast in the first place.  For the encore, The Breakfast was joined onstage by all members of Roots of Creation as well as Rob Somerville of Deep Banana Blackout for a spirited version of The Harder They Come.  It was well stretched out and all 10 people onstage got to have their part in jamming it out a bit more.  Rob left the stage and left RoC and the Breakfast to perform a two band segue into So Lonely by the Police as sung by Chris DeAngelis.  This really capped the show of perfectly as we got to thrash around to the punky reggae sounds one last time that night.

Sunday was a treat as it marked the first Beatles A to Z show since New Years Eve.  For the uninitiated Beatles A to Z consists of Tim, Adrian and Ron from the Breakfast as well as Sean Miller and Fred DeLeone on keys.  I spent a long portion of the day at the Sunday Afternoon Bakeout getting primed for the show poolside playing some intense games of Stump.  I grabbed a couple gypsies for the ride down to Daniel St. and arrived with the first set in progress.

It was a freeform Sunday and the setlist was a solid mix of classic Beatles tracks with some deep cuts mixed in.  They’ve played every song in the Beatles arsenal a few times now, so they do a good job of keeping the songs true to form and occasionally jamming out a song or two.  One of Adrian’s drum students, Malcolm sat in for a few songs including Helter Skelter and the previously posted Tomorrow Never Knows.  Highlight of the show include the latter portion of Abbey Road being split over both sets as well as a nice I am the Walrus.

The Breakfast 6/25/11 Toad’s Place

I: Honey Butter, The Chase, Gladys Pimp And Kangaroos With Me*, Taboo Or Not Taboot, Frankenstein, Existential Funk, Buquebus

E: The Harder They Come** > So Lonely**

* with ‘Blackbird’ (The Beatles) into.
** with the entire Roots Of Creation & Rob Somerville.

Beatles A to Z 6/26/11 Daniel Street

1: And your bird can sing, come together( + jam), I’ll be back again, I’m a loser, not a second time, rain (+jam), she said she said (+jam), tell me why, when I get home, you can’t do that, can’t buy me love, get back, hello goodbye, lady Madonna, paperback writer, rocky raccoon, she’s a woman, tell me what you see, when I’m 64, you never give money.

II: all you need is love, dear prudence, good morning good morning, I am the walrus, I feel fine, revolution, the ballad of john and Yoko, tomorrow never knows, all my loving, come and get it, got to get you into my life, shelter skelter, I’ve just seen a face, let it be, penny lane, she came in through the bathroom window, the end

E: I wanna hold your hand, I’ve got a feeling, it won’t be long

The Indobox; 6/17/11 Providence:

Have I mentioned that the Spot Underground is my favorite local music venue?  I can not stress that enough, its like watching a concert from a rich person’s living room w/ hot bartenders and enough couches to sit Michelle Bachmann’s family.  Plus you can drink outside, which is clutch for when those opening bands are still playing and the music doesn’t stop until 2 am sharp.

Last night was a long and arduous battle, before I get to talking about the show, let’s discuss how this evening as whole went down.  I attended my friends on M & S Cleaning’s softball game at 8 pm in Taunton and figured I’d go right to the show from there.  So to kill two birds with one stone, I got dressed up for my night out before hitting up the game so that I wouldn’t have to go home in between.

Unfortunately, the gods were not smiling upon me last night as it began to rain in buckets at about the third inning.  I braved the storm for another 4 innings until M & S picked up the victory and booked it for my car.  Now, I had two options, run home real quick, change and head to the city or just say fuck it and go at it from there.  Being the crafty veteran I am, I took both my shirts off, laid them over the heaters in my car and proceeded to drive to Providence topless while my clothes got a quick dry.  Made a quick stopover at a friend’s house before finally getting to the venue at a little after 10:30.

As per usual, the second opening band was just starting, so I had a solid hour to get myself settled in before the main event of the evening.  I went to the bar to grab a drink and had a quick chat with Quinn, the drummer from Indobox, on beards and how diverse you can be with them.  Now being from the Northeast, I surprisingly haven’t seen the Indobox too many times(only twice opening up for the Disco Biscuits), but I knew they were capable of putting on a solid set full of dance party tunage.  I set up shop down in front on the left side of the stage(Pageside, chuck.side, Save Side for those of you who know what the hell I’m talking about) and took a quick look over the crowd to see that the place was pretty much packed both on the dancefloor and the raised bar portion of the venue, so that was reassuring.

Now, like I said, I’ve only seen them a couple times, so I don’t know what any of the songs are called, but I did swipe a setlist on my way out, so for those of you who are better versed in the Indobox, you can tell me how it looks:

btw, i’m writing this shit as is cuz even then its so complex looking to me:

Big Wheel-> Someone Great-> (jam into Ming verse groove) Ming Ming -> PDSN (inv), Need You Now -> hits -> Dig Safe -> A- -> Lollipops, Once Upon -> Covering Up (peak lines only) -> Pt II (fakeout) -> Monsters, Reading, Catch Her, Ready to Spill

Encore:  B- jam -> 5 minute Noise Dynamic Wash (stop), Top o World

Now, that all means nothing to me, so let me try to analyze the show without trying to pretend I know what was what.  The only song of the whole show I was familiar with is Someone Great, an LCD Soundsystem cover, which they played an instrumental version of(also known as 45:33 pt. 3)  and playing it so early in the set really pumped me up and got me loose for the rest of the set.  The jam leading out of Someone Great into Ming Ming was noteworthy cuz it give SG that added kick in the rear.

I assuredly took a smoke break probably in the late portion of Ming Ming or PDSN, but when I got back in, the jam that followed was the highlight of the night to me.  This must’ve been the Need You Now> Dig Safe> Lollipops portion.  I started counting songs after so I could try to remember which song it was that impressed me so much, then I realized this set wasn’t about to end anytime soon.  I know I left my feet multiple times during this segment so that usually means a good thing.

Sidenote:  You have to be pretty brash to set up your stage with the keyboard player front and center with each guitarist on the outside.  It almost looks intrusive up there.  Hell even the bands where the keyboard player is the cream of the crop, such as Raq or Medeski Martin and Wood, know well enough to put their keyboard player off to one side.  On top of that, if your keyboard player will wear pink sunglasses for parts of the show and wear an Incredible Hulk t-shirt, I’d think your band is fucking crazy.  Yet, it works perfectly.  Bravo.

The highlights of the rest of the set include the following segued portion as well as Reading.  By the end of the set, I was maxing out on a couch just taking it all in.  Set ended roughly around 1:35 and they played a solid 20 minute encore.  The jam to open up the encore was well done and was highlighted by the guitar playing of Mike Carter.  The feedback jam that followed was right up my alley.  Most people stop dancing in heavy times of feedback debauchery, especially if it lasts for a full five minutes, but that’s my kinda jam.  The final song was a great sendoff and got the few of us still raging hard off our feet one last time.  Overall it was a great show top to bottom and was glad I got to let loose for those two and a half hours.  The Indobox surprised the shit out of me and it easily was one of the best sets from a jamtronica band I’ve seen outside of a Biscuits or Brothers Past show.

Summer Festival Guide: The Big Up

Hidden in the rural pastures of Ghent, New York lies one of the best smaller festivals to hit the Northeast in the past few years.  The Big Up originated two years ago as The Let It Roll festival and has built momentum since then to be a powerhouse lineup of music the last weekend of July.  The festival grounds lie on a beautiful old farm that has hosted legends like John Lennon in the past and now is a perfect place to spend a weekend cut off from the rest of the world.  Let’s break down the highlights of this gem of a festival:

EOTO headlines the Big Up 2011

Raq– I’ve been lucky to see Raq for almost 10 years now and with their rare touring these days, it’s a special occasion when the fearsome foursome from Vermont get together to do what they do best.  Led by the fierce keyboard playing from Todd Stoops and the guitar attack from Chris Michetti, Raq have found their niche with a sound that is in your face and funked out to the max.

Marco Benevento– Speaking of keyboardists, Marco is always a treat to see no matter who he’s playing with.  His work w/ Joe Russo made him a much sought after musician on the scene and has since played with pretty much anyone who’s anyone in the world of acid jazz jam.  Seriously, this guy is a beast on keys, the likes of which I couldn’t classify and he’s been a mainstay at The Big Up since it’s inception.

The Breakfast– While we’re on the topic of Big Up mainstays, the Breakfast have played at Ghent every year and will be continuing their streak this year.  Led by the brutal guitarmaggedon style of Tim Palmeiri and the animalistic drum rage of Adrian Tramantano, the Breakfast have been constantly honing their sound to outdo themselves night after night.  With original keyboardist Jordan Giangreco and newest bass player Chris D’Angelis, they are on their best lineup to date and the energy of their shows are hard to match on a night to night basis.

But this is just scratching the surface.  If you like electronic music, then you’re in luck because the deemster barn will be kicking all weekend with the likes of Ott, Orchard Lounge, Abakus, and headliners EOTO featuring members of String Cheese Incident.  Not to mention Digital Tape Machine featuring members of Umphrey’s McGee and Big Gigantic.  Then the influx of local Northeast jambandia continues all weekend with Indobox, Dopapod, Kung Fu, Jimkata and Higher Organix.  Seriously, if you live anywhere within 5 hours of Albany, NY and don’t want to miss the most happening event of the summer, then be sure not to miss the Big Up.