Thursday, June 6, 2013

Music in May

Upon our return to Maryland we were happy to get right back into the vibrant local music scene in the DC area. On May 1 I caught the Tedeschi/Trucks Band at the 9:30 club. The 9:30 club is one of the best venues in the country for live music and it had been a while since I was last there. The Tedeschi/Trucks Band put together such a wonderful mix of soul and blues that equally highlights the wonderful slide guitar work of Derek Trucks and the beautiful vocal stylings of Susan Tedeschi. The sold out crowd was totally into it from the start and there were a few moments when Derek seemed to transport Duane Allman's spirit into the show. Greg Allman writes in his excellent autobiography ("My Cross to Bear") of how he sometimes sees Duane in Derek during performances. Gregg doesn't make a big deal about it, but he cites these moments as evidence that Derek is the actual reincarnation of Duane. Anyway it was a great show and Susan Tedeschi's excellent guitar playing should not be overlooked either. They finished with John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery" which segued in and out of the Grateful Dead's "Sugaree".

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi    930 club
While in Tucson this winter we met a nice couple who were touring the country in their RV and they were getting ready to pick up their son who is trying to launch a career as a musician. Kevin Van Dort is his name and he plays blues guitar and sings. They explained that they were going through Austin and New Orleans and then coming up the East Coast so we invited them to our house and hosted a house concert to let our friends experience Kevin's music.

They arrived on a Thursday and that evening we went to the open mic night at the Outta the Way Cafe in Gaithersburg. Kevin played a few songs with the house band which was well received and one of the other musicians invited him to sit in with his band the following night. So we went to the Two Nineteen in Old Town Alexandria and Kevin played some tunes with the Capital Blues Ensemble. I was very impressed with this local band, they had horns and a great setlist of rockin' blues tunes. They don't seem to get to play very often but I would definitely like to see them again sometime. Kevin sat in for two songs and the crowd liked it so much they decided to do a third song together. Saturday night was the performance on our porch with good friends in attendance. Kevin played acoustic and electric guitar as well as his homemade box guitar. Neal, from the Capital Blues Ensemble, sat in on harp. Here's a video from the event.

Kevin Van Dort

The following week we went to see the Mickey Hart Band play at the Howard Theatre.  This is another great venue for live music in DC, there was a big crowd there to see Mickey and his band. We saw them play earlier this year in Tucson although this time Adam Theis was playing bass instead of Dave Schools. But the African Showboyz were still with him, adding their high energy percussion to the mix.  They did a nice mix of Dead tunes and Mickey Hart tunes.

My favorite Grateful Dead cover band these days is On the Bus, but I've been wanting to check out another group called the Black Muddy River Band, which is a Maryland based acoustic trio that frequently plays in the area. I finally got a chance a few Saturday's ago when they played at Branded 72, a barbecue joint in Rockville. It took a little mental adjustment to get into the thinner sound of just three acoustic instruments, but in the close confines of the bar it felt right. They played plenty of tunes from all sections of the Dead catalog and I will definitely check them out again soon.

Once again we spent the four day Memorial Day weekend at DelFest in Cumberland Maryland. This was the sixth Delfest and it has risen to the top of my favorite festivals list. It has the "Goldilocks" attributes of "not too small, not too big, it's just right". It also has a great "festival vibe" something that a few other festivals have lost over the years. This vibe is based on a common love and appreciation of the host Del McCoury.

Pinnacle Base Camp at Delfest
The lineup at this year's DelFest was another top notch collection of premier Americana and bluegrass bands, with the Trey Anastasio band thrown in to keep the kids happy and plenty of McCoury band members sitting in with the other musical acts. Thursday night the Jerry Douglas Band did a wonderful set (we saw them for the first time in DC last summer, definitely worth checking out if you get a chance) followed by old friends Leftover Salmon. Friday's highlights were Trampled by Turtles, a great set by the Del McCoury Band, and then two sets from Trey and his band. I was not expecting much from Trey, but I wanted to see him playing with the McCoury's. So I watched the second half of the first set and then a good portion of the second set (Del, Rob, Ronnie and Jayson came out for several songs). I must say I was very impressed by his band, they really have their chops down now that they have been playing for some time.  Saturday at DelFest was a big day and we enjoyed sets by Greensky Bluegrass, Keller Williams with his Richmond based funk band "More than a Little", another quality turn by the DMB and to close things out, Old Crow Medicine Show. In the afternoon we also saw what can best be described as an All-Star newgrass band which has the unfortunate name of "Pikelny, Sutton, McCoury, Bulla & Bales". Seems like you could try a little harder on the band name. But they were great, playing top of the line progressive jam based bluegrass. Members are Noam Pilkelny (Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers), Bryan Sutton (Kentucky Thunder, Hot Rize), Luke Bulla (Lyle Lovett Band), Barry Bales (Union Station), and Ronnie McCoury.  Then Sunday was another busy day starting off with Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, then the Infamous Stringdusters, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Between these sets I spent time in the rec center enjoying two very special musical treats, Keller Williams and the Travelin' McCourys and the "Masters of Bluegrass". The Masters consist of Del McCoury, Bobby Osborne, J.D. Crowe, Bobby Hicks and Jerry McCoury. Between them they have four memberships in the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and two memberships in the Grand Ole Opry. It was a rare honor to see such "masters" enjoying their craft. Yonder Mountain String Band closed out the festival, but I'm not a big fan of theirs so I listened from the Pinnacle base camp. In summary I have to say this was another excellent DelFest and Old Crow Medicine Show gets my blue ribbon for best performance, they have really stepped up their game and put on a big time Saturday night show.

Larry Keel at DelFest
My musical May continued with a visit to the State Theatre to see what was billed as a "Jam Band Fun Night". Opening was a three piece ensemble called "Djesben", which consists of Topher Dunne on the Chapman stick, Katy Gaughan on percussion, and Christian Crowley playing an amplified string dulcimer. On this particular night they were joined by the keyboard player from On the Bus and a drummer (whose name I did not catch). Also sitting in on electric fiddle was none other than John Kadlecik, who of course is the guitar player in Furthur and happens to be the husband of Katy. They did some very nice jam/jazz tunes, I was glad they had the extra musicians to create a fuller band sound. Then they were followed by On the Bus, who does Grateful Dead covers. John K sat with OTB for a few tunes playing fiddle. These guys are always great and this was especially nice as they brought out local hero Ron Holloway to play sax. The night concluded with a band called Covered with Jam, I listened for a while, but I had a long drive home and I was full of good music.

All in all a full month of great live music, can't wait to see what June brings!

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