Friday, August 26, 2011

Jim Lauderdale - July 24 - Hill Country DC

Last month we enjoyed a great summer Sunday evening with our friend, Jim X, in downtown DC. This was especially fun because in addition to hearing one of our favorite singer/songwriters perform, we discovered a great new venue for live music. The Hill Country is not far from the Verizon Center and it advertises itself as "honoring the barbecue and live music capital of Texas". There is also a location in NYC.  The food is authentic, delicious, texas style meat that is smoked to perfection. They offer brisket, ribs, sausage, prime rib and other meats, cooked "low and slow" over wood fires. They sell it by weight so you can load up your tray with a sampler platter of your own creation. They also have a big selection of sides, like slaw, mac n cheese, and other tasty items. We had a feast and it was all quite good.

After our dinner of tasty smoked meats we went downstairs to where the live music is served up. It's a small room in the basement with tables and a full bar (seats maybe 75 - 100). We learned that you can reserve a table in the performance room and carry your food downstairs so you can eat and listen to music at the same time. The bartender was very nice and he let me sample some of the Texas beers on draft to help me decide which one I wanted.

When we got downstairs the show had not yet started but Jim Lauderdale was milling around, greeting folks and hanging out. We introduced ourselves and told him that we were going to the Floydfest the next weekend and wishing that he would come back there. He said he loved playing Floydfest and he wished they would invite him back. Maybe next year.

Jim played solo accompanying himself on guitar. He launched into the first couple of songs without intro, but then he warmed up and started talking to the audience. He's quite a funny guy and had great stories to tell between songs. And he played a LOT of songs. Nearly all of them were originals, many from his latest album that he co-wrote with Robert Hunter (lyricist for the Grateful Dead) called "Reason and Rhyme". After 80 minutes of great songs he left the stage to a rousing ovation. As the crowd continued to applaud he acted like the backstage was locked, he twisted and pulled on the doorknob and looked sheepishly back to the audience who continued cheering. He's a funny guy. Then he came back on stage and gave us 6 or 7 more songs.

I heartily recommend Hill Country DC for great food and music and any time you can catch Jim Lauderdale, make the effort.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

All Good Festival - July 14-17 - Marvin's Mountaintop, WV

We've been going to the All Good Festival for many years, it's attraction has always been the stellar line up of performers and the "All Good" vibe that permeates the atmosphere.  This year's edition was no different as there were over 40 bands and a true sense of community and common love of music. We took the Jayco Pinnacle and arrived in plenty of time to secure a good spot in the section reserved for RVs. After a quick and easy set up we were ready for music.

Successful Establishment of the Base Camp
We've enjoyed listening to the albums of the John Butler Trio but never had a chance to see this Australian jam band perform live until this festival. They put on an excellent show the first night of the festival that included some tasty didgeridoo playing.

Friday I started the day by taking a bike ride over to the opposite end of the festival grounds to check out the Recipe, a band from Morgantown WV that always puts on a fun show. Despite going through several personnel changes over the years they continue to deliver a high energy show with some great original songs. Later in the day on the main stage we saw the Infamous Stringdusters play a fantastic set of modern bluegrass originals. Usually the music at All Good tends more towards the jam/rock genre and away from bluegrass, but these guys got a rousing reception from the crowd with their clean and pure string sound. I look forward to seeing them in the fall at the festival in VA that they host.

Infamous Stringdusters
After the Stringdusters we headed back to the secondary stage to see the "Rebel Alliance Jam". This was a collaboration between several members of Toubab Krewe, Umphrey's McGee, and Keller Williams. They did not disappoint and put on a nice jam show.

Rebel Alliance Jam

As the sun went down and the evening set in we made it back to the main stage for the Warren Haynes Band. We last saw Warren (who I call the hardest working man in show business) at the Del Fest as a solo acoustic performer, but for the All Good festival he brought along his full band, including Ron Holloway on sax, and the show was much more energetic and appropriate for a big nighttime crowd. He closed out with the crowd pleaser "Soul Shine".  Warren Haynes was followed Toubab Krewe on the small side stage and then an unexplained 20 minute delay before Furthur started playing. 

Furthur played two complete sets, the first set started off with some Grateful Dead classics ("Jack Straw", "Bertha", "Ramble on Rose") but also included a Rat Dog song ("Money for Gasoline") and finished with Warren Haynes joining them for "Turn on Your Lovelight".  The second set had a very nice "Terrapin" suite and included a sort of new song, "The Mountain Song". I say "sort of" because this song began as a David Crosby composition in 1970 and then Robert Hunter wrote additional lyrics and Phil Lesh's son Brian merged it all together in a new arrangement. They also did a tear it up version of "Corrina".  John Kadlecik sounds as good as ever singing and playing guitar and I guess after repeated shows seeing him play with Furthur I'm starting to be won over that this can really work. 

On Saturday we took it easy and tried to stay out of the sun, we did catch an excellent set by Donna the Buffalo and we also watched Yonder Mountain String Band.  I have to admit I'm ready to abandon YMSB as the last few times that I've seen them they've lost their appeal to me. They know how to play to a large crowd and get them energized, but they don't seem to have much more substance beyond that.  Their bluegrass playing is sloppy (compared to someone like the Incredible Stringdusters) and they seem to me to be nothing much more than a party type band.  

I was too tired to take on the late shows by Primus and Pretty Lights, but my friend Davis represented us there and came back with high marks for both performances.  But after a good night's sleep I was ready to rock on Sunday and it kicked off in a big way with the All Mighty Senators playing at noon.  

The All Mighty Senators are a Baltimore based band that is full of charisma and energy. Led by their lead singer/drummer (Landis Expandis), they bring out the high powered dance funk whether its midnight in a downtown Baltimore or Sunday morning in the hills of West Virginia. Given the relative early start to this set, there was not much of a crowd there to see the AMS, but I was pleased when I looked to my left and saw Tim Walther (All Good Festival promoter) dancing away with the rest of the crowd.

The All Mighty Senators crank up the Power Generator
As the AMS were performing their wild and crazy act I caught a glimpse of Dave Bruzza of Greensky Bluegrass backstage. They were coming on next and he had a classic look of "WTF?" as he must have been wondering how his bluegrass band was going to follow this insanity.  But the show must go on and they did a fine set of bluegrass tunes in their inimitable style.

After Greensky Bluegrass we took a lunch break and made it back to the stage to see Toots & the Maytals perform one of the most memorable sets of the weekend. This was the first time that I had seen the reggae pioneer perform, he's been making music professionally since 1961.  The summer weather and the rhythmic reggae sounds brought on a real Caribbean feeling making me long to get back to the island.

And on that note we packed up the Pinnacle and headed home after 4 full days of music. It wasn't until we got home that we learned the sad news that Sunday afternoon a truck rolled down a hill over a tent, killing someone sleeping inside.  Despite this terrible accident, Tim and his company continue to do an amazing job of getting so many people together for a weekend of great music and good times. The All Good Festival continues to serve as an oasis of "peace, love and music" in the middle of these crazy times.