Sunday, October 25, 2009

City Farm - October 24 - Tiffany Tavern

We popped in to catch a couple of sets of the City Farm Band at their "home court", the Tiffany Tavern in Old Towne Alexandria. The band was in great form, with each member making solid contributions. Paul's vocals and mandolin playing was spot on. Don was eliciting exciting solos from his new Stelling banjo (lovingly handmade in Charlottesville). Holly's singing was beautiful, while singing lead but especially on the harmonies. Ed periodically steps from the back to whip out a great song (either written himself or a Dylan tune). Fred, fresh back from the IBMA, seemed especially inspired. And finally, I was particularly impressed with Marcus' singing. It was the most animated and musical singing that I had heard from him. Of course there was a good turnout (which seems to always be true) and they were in fine "spirits", both literally and figuratively. City Farm plays regularly at the Tiffany Tavern (next show is December 11) and I certainly recommend that you check them out.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Allman Brothers Band - October 6 - Merriweather Post Pavilion

It's taking me some time to get this entry out, but that's not because this wasn't a great show. To the contrary I think that every time I see the Allman Brothers it's a better show than the previous. I believe that each of the band members are are in the peak of their musical form (despite the fact some of them are old enough to be collecting Social Security), so when they crack open the deep ABB song catalog you know you're in for a night of great music.

The Allman Brothers Band is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, and the first song "Trouble No More" was accompanied by a nice photo montage, showing the band in their early days. Their story is really pretty interesting, a few years ago I read a biography of Duane Allman ("Sky Dog") that does a good job of telling that story. Pick it up here or I'll be happy to lend you my copy. Anyway, "Trouble No More" was followed by "Leave my Blues at Home", a nice blues number by Gregg, then they did a rousing version of "One Way Out" with an excellent guitar solo by Derek Trucks. During all of these songs Gregg was playing the Hammond B-3 and they had Danny Louis sitting in on piano.

Next up was "The Sky is Crying" a song that was made popular by Stevie Ray Vaughn, then a great version of the Allman's classic "Dreams". Next up was a song originally done by Dr. John, called "I Walk on Gilded Splinters". According to Wikipedia ("it's got to be true"), Johnny Jenkins recorded this song in 1970 with Duane, Jai Johanny Johanson, and Butch Trucks. Joining them for this song were John Bell and Sonny Ortiz of Widespread Panic.

Then they did "Woman Across the River", which was the only song they did from their last CD (Hittin' the Note). I love this CD, to the best of my knowledge it's the only one with Derek and Warren on guitars. Come on guys, what about a new one?

Next Susan Tedeschi (Derek Trucks' wife) joined the band and she sang the Dylan classic "Don't Think Twice". That went straight into "Southbound" the straight ahead rocker from the "Brothers and Sisters" album. Also sitting in at this point were Jimmy Herring on guitar and Todd Nance on drums (both from Widespread Panic) and Ron Hollaway on sax. The highlight for me was a stinging guitar solo by Susan that seemed to say to the other guitar masters on the stage, "this lead guitar club is not just for boys".

The fun was just beginning as next Gregg took an acoustic guitar and sang "Melissa". Then another great tune "Stand Back" again featuring Holloway on sax. Butch Trucks moved over to the kettle drums and they began the familiar strains to "Mountain Jam". And jam they did! Somewhere along the way Derek broke a string and completely retuned his remaining strings to compensate, it was very spacey and improvised. But then they morphed into a screaming version of the Led Zeppelin classic "Dazed and Confused" with Warren handling the vocals, then back to "Mountain Jam" and then they left the stage with the audience whipped into a wild frenzy.

But the crowd wanted more, I was screaming "Whipping Post" and sure enough they came back on ripped into the classic to finish the show.

A couple of postscripts. Widespread Panic opened the show, those that were with me thought they were really good but they didn't do it for me. Too loud and the songs sounded too ponderous to me. Actually they did a couple of nice songs when Warren Haynes joined them on stage. Second note, I'm continued to be impressed with the job that Seth Hurwitz has done with revitalizing and improving the Merriweather Post Pavilion. The service is excellent, plenty of food and drink (although rather pricey), they've added some high def video screens that enhance the experience, and this is a super place to see shows. Hopefully next year they'll book more exciting acts.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Crozet Music Festival - Oct.2 - 4 - Crozet, Va.

I went to the first Crozet Music Festival two years ago, it was a one day event that was fun, but it had some start up problems and I wasn't sure it would carry on. But after attending Crozet Music Festival 3 this year, I'm convinced that this will be a must see event for years to come. The festival is now a three day event and the venue has moved to a beautiful setting called the Misty Mountain Campground. The organizers did an excellent job of filling three days and two stages with a line up of musical performers with a wide variety of styles, mostly artists from the talent rich Charlottesville area. This is a non-profit event with all proceeds going to the Western Albemarle Life Saving Crew.

I arrived early Friday evening and set up my pop-up camper in a nice camping spot that I had reserved earlier in the week. Through the woods I could hear the Kings of Belmont playing some spirited rock and roll. After the camp was set up I strolled down to the open field where the music and vendors were, just in time to catch the performance by William Walter & Co. We last saw them at Floydfest (check my entry from late July). These guys play an original mix of infectious tunes, led by their energetic frontman. He reminds me of Keller Williams in some ways, mainly his enthusiasm and liveliness. And it turns out he lives just a few miles from the festival site. Afterwards I was able to meet Mr. Walter and have a beer with him, he seemed pleased with the way the festival was going. I dropped in on an after show party in the campground rec center, where another band was playing for festival volunteers, then it was back to my campsite where my neighbors were celebrating a reunion of the 1979 Western Albemarle High School class. My friend and cousin John (also a promoter of the festival) of course had many mutual friends with them so we sat down and had several late night drinks and listened to their view of the world.

The next morning after a breakfast sandwich I checked out the merchandise tent that was being sponsored by a local record shop to benefit The Music Resource Center, a facility that helps teens learn and practice their musical skills. The merchandise tent was chock full of t-shirts, hoodies, CD's, DVD's, and other musical memorabilia with yard sale bargain prices. There was a ton of Rolling Stones stuff and folks were buying it up quickly. This had an odd side effect as I noticed later in the day there were many folks walking around wearing Rolling Stones clothing.

Saturday's music started off with a band of "youngsters" named Chick Tragic and the Roosters. Singer/songwriters Carleigh Nesbit and Carl Anderson are backed by a very talented group of musicians. They sounded great, but a little something was missing, and I'm thinking it's experience. The songs weren't sung with much conviction and there was some rather embarrassing between song chatter. But they are very good musicians and I'd love to see them again.

Next band was the Hogwaller Ramblers, a Charlottesville band since 1991. They're named after an area in Charlottesville where the stockyards used to be. In contrast to the previous band the Ramblers have a ton of experience and they were one of my favorite bands of the festival. They played songs with plenty of swing and rhythm and their leader, Jamie Dyer, got the afternoon crowd up and dancing.

The Hogwaller Ramblers were followed by Alex Mejuas who was a little to "pop" for me. Then it was the Atkinsons from Richmond, Va. My notes on this one say they were "sort of a Railroad Earth wannabe". I'm sure that I meant that in a nice way. I liked this band's spirit and when they had three electric guitars going it kind of had a Lynyrd Skynyrd feel to it.

The next band I saw was called Six Chasing Seven, they are a reggae band from Lynchburg. The reggae music was a refreshing change and they did a really nice version of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition". Their web site says they have released an album that was produced by Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band. They were followed by a "tweener" act to play while the stage was being prepared for the next band. Adrienne Young is a musician from Charlottesville who we had seen before at FloydFest. She had brought her Backyard Revolution to the Crozet Music Festival which is a project to preserve and celebrate some of the region's cultural heritage (both agri- and other). For example they were cooking up some delicious brunswick stew over a campfire and showing how to make your own bow and arrow to hunt down the ingredients for your stew. She's a very good singer/songwriter and her web site says she was just named the "Virginia Garlic Queen" for 2009! Congrats to her!

For Saturday evening, my notes and memory get a little hazy. There was "Tim be Told" who I recall were quite good, followed by the Downbeat Project and then the Saturday headliners "Trees on Fire". Trees on Fire is an ecologically minded rock band from Charlottesville and the crowd was very supportive. There were songs they did that I didn't like (being too "pop" then there were other songs that really rocked out). I'm pretty sure they did a nice version of the Stones' "Miss You", but my reviewing of the local microbrews at this point was influencing my ability to review the local music.

I finished off the evening at the volunteers' after party, which featured a Pink Floyd cover band. They played the entire "Dark Side of the Moon" album and a very good version of "Comfortably Numb". What a great way to end a full day of music in the sun!

Sunday we got to get up and do it all over again, the first performer was Katherine Caine and she had a fine band playing behind her. She did a very nice "Angel from Montgomery" and her sweet vocals mixed with the fine mandolin playing (Andy Thacker) was the perfect soundtrack for this sunny October Sunday in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Midway through her set she pointed out a bald eagle flying directly over the festival. Now how cool is that? The "Blues Farm" played some great rocking road house style tunes with very nice harp work. By the time they were done, I was too, even though there were plenty of more bands to play on into Sunday evening. I particularly wanted to see Alligator, a Grateful Dead cover band, with some of the local musicians I listened to as a college student in Virginia. Oh well, that will have to wait until next year.

In summary the Crozet Music Festival is now a fantastic event that has all of the necessary ingredients for a great festival experience: deep and varied musical lineup, beautiful setting with onsite camping, tasty food and beverage vendors (I forgot to mention the superb quesadillas from La Cocina del Sol), and no hassle promoters who deliver on the promise. I'll definitely be back next year, I should really take Friday and Monday off for the full experience. The only thing that could mess up this festival is its own success. If too many people come then it may become too crowded or have to move to a bigger venue. We wouldn't want that to happen, in fact maybe this positive blog entry will inspire my legion of followers to overrun this peaceful and serene event. I better not publish this as it's written... where is the delete key?... Is this it?