Little Econ Love Fest Achieves Major-League Quality
Trey Miller just put the third Little Econ Love Fest to bed. It was nothing short of a raging success. There is something simply magical at these intimate festivals at the Maddox Ranch in Lakeland, FL. I’m sure it is true of many other small venues as well, but here is my mantra:
You can go many other places. You can spend a lot more money. But you won’t get better music than this. Period.
If you were looking on the lineup for million-sellers and arena-packers, you’ll look in vain. If, on the other hand, you were looking for outstanding to stunning musical performances, Little Econ had at least thirty. 3-0. This follows directly in the footsteps of the Great Outdoors Jam and Hometeam New Year’s Rally, and Trey and associates put on an event to match. And unending kudos to Matt Miller and the What’sit Records crew for spectacular sound all four days (February 11-14).
Temperate days led to chilly nights, but throughout the festival hot music kept everybody toasty inside. We were blessed with four days of sun and fun and layered clothing and… music far beyond expectations. Mine, obviously, but clearly not Trey’s.
Also, pause for a notion from someone who got to see all the cool bands. For me, the ‘70s were dominated by three bands who knew how to tour and present their sound like no others: the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, and Parliament-Funkadelic (not coincidentally the bands I saw most in that time period). It was exciting to me that all three of those were prominently featured at Little Econ: tons of Dead covers, break music and more, plus special sets featuring the music of Zappa and George Clinton. This promised to be epic.
And it was.
Music launched at 6 on Thursday with The Rusty Strings, an acoustic duo who did a nice job warming up the side stage (the only one used Thursday and Sunday). Next up was a stripped down Porcupine, Este Loves (guitar and vocals), The Rev. Funk D (keyboards) and p (percussion). I love Este with her band, but her true character emerged even more prominently with this setting. Favorites included “I Love the Way That You Dance” (hear that, Donna?) and the magnificent “Come Inside My Mind.” I’ll take my Este Loves any way I can get it.
MusicFestNews CEO Brian Hensley casually mentioned that his group, Joe Moves Band, had the 8 PM slot. He mentioned that he was concerned that their sound might be a bit too hard-edged for the festival. Just because he is my boss doesn’t mean I would be afraid to tell you that the band sucked.
But they didn’t suck; they were awesome. There was head-banging all around during the decidedly hard rock set. There was no way not to notice, in the best way possible. After “Everything Will Be Alright” and the second tune, things blasted skyward with “Holy Hell.” Throughout the set, guitarists Joe Donadio and Steve Jasper traded off, and Chris Duero on drums and Henlsey (bass) were rock-steady, with Josh Taylor’s keyboards up in the mix. And they claimed this was their first public show with this lineup. More, please!
Pensacola’s Post Pluto (say that three times quickly!) returned to Maddox after a brilliant show at Great Outdoors Jam with lots of sit-ins. PP doles out funk and rock in equal measures. After lighting everyone up with “Not 285” and “Do What You Gotta Do,” the band suddenly nailed that unmistakable riff from “What is Love” (yes, that one), and they covered it with gusto.
Singer Mike Garcia is the visual focal point. His Davey Jones hair falls in curly ringlets onto his shoulders as he bounces and dances non-stop. His style reminds you of Joe Cocker’s enthusiasm without the quirkiness. The band hit some righteous jams along the way, finally closing with “Funkledon (Would It Matter Either Way?)”
Mantra Number Two is: expect the unexpected: delight in discovering (for yourself) new bands. Timothy Eerie certainly fit the bill in this regard. Midway through the hippy, trippy set, singer a said, “This is our first festival ever!” Guaranteed it won’t be their last; they made a lot of new fans with this set.
The first tune was trip a la The Doors, and they kept the vibe up all set long. Bass, drums, two guitars and keyboards provided the sounds, with vocals from Spacey Casey and Kaci Jo. The very experimental set took a nice turn with covers of “White Rabbit” and “Don’t Make No Difference” (Janis). Host and artist-at-large Trey joined in on harp for a number. This was a blast.
Thursday’s headliners, The Southern Belles, call Richmond, VA, home. This was their first trip to Florida for a series of dates. And with this set Pat and I determined the buzzphrase for the weekend. Given that I try to avoid the F-word (well, when I write, anyway), let’s just say the phrase was “sick as funk.” Which we could also abbreviate as SAF. You’ll know what I’m talking about.
Because The Southern Belles (you know there are no ‘belles’ in this band) were “sick as funk.” We had no idea what to expect; fortunately, Trey did when he selected them. It was a brilliant, tight set, with all four members showing huge chops. Keyboard player Tommy Booker in particular was amazing. My notes are undecipherable, but the feeling was truly magical. They opened with “Big City” and “Everywhere.” Juanjamon staged-rushed with his tenor sax at some point: “Thanks to the mystery sax player!” On the last long jam on “Jet,” guitarist Adrian Ciucci blew it all the way up. Put them on your list of bands you NEED to see.
The closing set was meant to be the grand finale for The Happy Campers, a joyous collective looking forward to an amicable breakup. A pair of illnesses kept bassist Andy Lytle flat on his back at home and drummer Ian McLeod the same. Thus it became the Legacy Orchestra Collective, and nobody is better at assembling an impromptu band that Sean (Legacy) Maloney. Along with fellow Happy Camper Colin Getts (guitar and vocals), Maloney found a great band including another artist-at-large, Holey Miss Moley’s Vernon Suber on percussion, Juanjamon on bass, and The Rev. Funky D… on drums!
The first tune was a long jam with a great guitar solo from Getts. Then a new bass player appeared as Juanjamon switched to tenor. Joe Knoebel (guitar) had the first of many superb sit-ins as yet another artist-at-large.
Sometimes at festivals, there is a list of artists-at-large, but often they don’t get many opportunities to actually get on stage. That was NOT the case at Little Econ — this was done right.
Maloney loves long medleys, and he led the troops from “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” into “Ridiculous Elephant > Fame > jam > sunshine rap.” Or, to quote Pat: “They are fucking shit up.” In a joyous fashion. It was a proper end to the first (early) day of the festival. Friday would bring a full day of music.
11 AM comes early. Vendor Spidersong Flutes had a set before noon, which I missed while trying to get presentable. I missed the beginning of the noon set by Sleeping with Sunshine, but I could hear while I made my way stage-ward. Several songs in, they had a nice cover of “Eyes of the World,” followed by a killer jammy interpretation of “Ain’t No Sunshine.” It was a good way to start the day. Law Abiding Jameson gave us a quirky, entertaining set (two guitars, bass, drums and trombone). There were songs about “shitty Cadillacs” and a wolf out at sea.
Pat said I had to be sure he was up by 2 to see The Psychedelic Monks (from New Smyrna). Was he ever right — again! This quartet can do anything. It was spacey, jazzy, trippy, prog, rock and more. The set struck me as a series of relatively short musical vignettes with almost no pause in between, very effective in this setting. The Monks are: Max Bressan – Bass/Vocals, Evan Ahlswede – Guitar/Vocals, Evan Clancy – Drums, and Eric Keleharakawa- Guitar.
The tune “Dank Zappa” had a great title and sounded great as well. After “Lost,” Joe Knoebel came out and fit seamlessly with Evan Ahlswede (who handled some of the vocals) and Eric Keleharakawa. And then Jesse James (Bath Salt Zombies), Trey and Kenny “Bonesaw” Harvey (another artist at large) joined for a monster jam. The set closed with “Limbo Montoya” (after a brief but unsuccessful search for a limbo stick).
Harum Scarum knocked out a great set while I had my head in the computer trying (successfully, glad to say) to finish last week’s Roosevelt Collier review, and for the second time they did not get my full attention. Third time’s the charm!
Like every band on the scene, Row Jomah have really upped their game in the past year (and it’s been a year since I first saw them at ZenFest), including a wonderful set opening for Jukebox the Ghost two weeks ago. This was yet another excellent set with some new tunes and old favorites as well. Mel Walsh deserves a lot more attention for his fine guitar work. The set closed with their signature “Cat People” (including the “Cantina Band” melody) and “Outhouse,” with “New Groove” as an added bonus (extra time).
I slept through LAVA’s set at Purple Hatter’s and missed most of the set at Roosevelt Collier’s Suwannee Getdown last week due to faulty information, so there was zero chance I was missing them at Little Econ. And, to my delight, they were moved from the campground stage (primarily comedians) to the side stage. SCORE!
It was brilliant experimental trippiness at its best. Jeremy Nix and Kyle Piety played keyboards and computers, and Leo Kulishevskiy was on violin, with Joe Knoebel on guitar. Set list? HA! This was wonderful avant garde music with a healthy helping of electronic goodness. SAF.
Someday River followed with a set that built in intensity, climaxing in a great long jam with a superb hook on the last tune. They also played “Sleep Inside” from their new EP. My mind was too full of LAVA to concentrate properly. Next time.
Ancient Sun has been on a tear recently, too. They started out hot and just kept turning up the heat. Nas’s bass introduced several songs very nicely. By the third song, “When We Collide,” the crowd was completely engaged, watching, bobbing, dancing. Rick Krasowski, another artist at large, leads this great band. He is a superb guitar player and amazing blues shouter. He totally owned “Crosstown Traffic.” The band’s signature song “Tear You Apart” was brilliant, and they had some extra time, which they filled with a great “Paint It, Black.” SAF, again.
Next up was the much-anticipated Parliament-Funkadelic set courtesy of Holey Miss Moley. Such a project is a huge undertaking with lots of concern for detail and practice. They stuck the landing.
Christian Ryan was front and center in helping his bandmates put this together, and he used a voice modulator to mimic the George Clinton voices (cartoon-like and deep baritone) from albums such as Maggot Brain and Standing On the Verge of Getting It On. After the first intro, they went into “P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” followed by “Get Off Your Ass and Jam,” featuring guitarist Jacob Cox with Krasowski sitting in.
They had recruited David Oliver Willis, a fine singer, to be Garry Shider, the voice of many of P-Funk’s most memorable songs (no diaper, though). His outfit, and those of everybody on stage, were outrageously perfect, none more so than Cox’s full-length fur coat and those gold chains.
After “One Nation Under a Groove,” HMM began to mine some of the great early tracks, beginning with “Can You Get to That?” and “Hit It and Quit.” A glorious “Standing on the Verge…” led to “Me and My Folks.” Then the four vocalists left the stage as Leisure Chief guitarist Nick Bogdon came on stage to play the repetitive figure as a bed for Jacob Cox on “Maggot Brain.” They nailed “Red Hot Mama” and mashed up “We Want the Funk” and “Do That Thing.” SAF, once again.
It was worth the wait.
The Bath Salt Zombies played a great set, this time without much of their black-light presentation. It was a great reminder of just how good these guys are musically in addition to their mind-blowing stage antics and lighting. One great delight was the Kermit J. Dio version of “Rainbow Connection.” Also mixed in with their deluxe originals was a great pairing of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “Eleanor Rigby.” Favorite barnyard songs included “Whoa, Betsy” and “Closer,” which improbably segued into Asia’s “Africa.”
BSZ also played their Inkspots/Prodigy mashup “Fire! Fire!,” then invited Robyn Alleman (Holey Miss Moley) up along with Glostik Willy guitarist Jameson Bradford for “I Put a Spell on You.” They finished with “Good Morning, Little Schoolgirl.” This was a vibrant new set.
Next up was the highly-anticipated collaboration between Come Back Alice and Copious Jones. No matter how good that looks on paper, it was waaaaay better in person. The band featured all of Copious Jones and Tony Tyler, Dani Jaye and Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris, with Jimmy Rector added on percussion. The opener, “Two Trains Running” (Doobies), featured three guitar players (Mikhail, Critter and Dani) with Tony on the Hammond B3.
Next up was CJ’s lovely tune “Expect Me Any Time,” with a long jam featuring Critter and Dani. A very Latin take on “Angelina” followed. The effect of two drummers and a percussionist together was deluxe. Then the opening strains of the inevitable “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” emerged. Both bands KILL this tune individually. Together, it was brilliance. Dani, Tony (B3), and Critter soloed, followed by the drum orgy. And the set closed with magnificent four-part harmony on “Seven Bridges Road.”
Glostik Willy is another band I had not seen before. And I would say I was unprepared for the astounding SAF performance that was about to unfold. This is a hard rock trio who has no idea what the terms, slow down, pause, stop and take a breather mean. Because they didn’t. Their scorching hot opener led into an awesome cover of “Black Sabbath.”
All three players were superb. Drummer Ralf Mowf was relentless, Bradford just wouldn’t quit shredding, and the bass player (Zach “Buddha” Aguilar) was in destructo-mode. It was “sick as funk,” for certain.
That left it to S.P.O.R.E. to close out the evening (although there was music at the campground stage later with the Hip-Hop Jam Cipher: I slept). I had seen S.P.O.R.E. deliver a brilliant set at Roosevelt’s Suwannee Getdown the previous weekend, and I was ready for more.
I was not, however, prepared for what was about to unfold. Memory is a fickle thing, I know, and recent memory trumps older memory. Still, I’m not sure I’ve ever been more riveted and impressed with a set of music from any band as much as I was for S.P.O.R.E.’s late-night romp.
Totally. Blown. Away. Everybody had a hand in the madness, to be sure, but Jahlonious Monk was in a galaxy all his own. They started with “Jah-Bim-Ka” and “Tainted Pities” before calling Joe Knoebel, a former member of the band, to the stage. Knoebel cowrote “Hamster Hash” and wailed on it. Alex Sears killed on keyboards.
Then they brought Juanjamon with tenor sax up, and the jam got, well, you know… SAF. They played a new tune that was excellent, and then they found, somehow, yet another gear for “Ethereal.” Properly named. It was not of this earth.
I did not make it to the Hip-Hop Jam Cipher. Over and out.
At some point, there will have to be a Christian Ryan festival. The name might be tricky (Christian Fest?), but there will certainly be enough bands he is a part of or plays with to fill the lineup. One of those is Bengali 600, a band I have been Jones-ing to see forever. This seven-man group from Orlando plays Afrobeat. Tenor sax player Jeff Richey did a great job fronting the band.
After “T.I.B.W.F.” and “Daktari Walk,” Richey announced that the next tune, “Female Love Interest,” would be the band’s new 7” (that’s 7-inch). Every tune in the set sparkled. The rhythm section of Todd Elliott, bass; Robby Copeland, drums; and Vernon Suber, percussion provided the perfect backdrop, and Rogier van Etten nailed nailed the Afrobeat organ sound.
Richey, trumpeter Joe Meadows and the aforementioned Ryan (baritone sax and flute) were in lockstep, joined by Aaron Mellick’s guitar. If you like Afrobeat, this band is a must. They covered Budos Band’s “Ride or Die,” paid homage to Fela Kuti on songs such as “Hidden Hand,” and unveiled another new tune, “Law and Order (STFU).” SAF to start the day off.
Another Orlando band, The Getbye, had the following set. They had a bass player, guitar, a percussionist with congas and bongos (used very effectively) and… and… well, there was the guy at the drums. Sometimes he just played drums. Then drums and bowed cello! Drums, trumpet and accordion! It was a treat just to watch. They describe their music as “indie/ folk/ gypsy rock.” Accurate, I’d say!
I had the opportunity to see Ian McLeod’s band Ism perform during the summer, but the acoustics in the room were lousy, so I was excited to hear them again with great sound (the What’Sit sound crew CRUSHED all weekend). Ism features a three-horn front, keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, and Ian on vibes. Jazzy funk and soul is what they do, and they were superb.
“Gimme Sum a Dat!” got everyone’s attention, and they kept the crowd’s interest the entire set, including lots of original tunes, Soulive’s “Steppin’,” and the closer, Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood’s “Chank.” This band overflows with talent: Scott Dickinson, trumpet; Jeremy Fratti, tenor sax; Derrick Harris, trombone; Veit Renn, keyboards; Greg Jungbluth, bass; Nik Ritchie, drums; and Ian’s brother Grant McLeod (Flat Land) on percussion. SAF, again.
There is a band I know nothing about called Alien Ant Farm. Except that it was the perfect name to use if you have a band with three Grants in it: Alien Grant Farm. That would be Grant Hudson, guitar (Captain Green), Grant Bam Bam Phillips, bass (production crew), and Grant McLeod, drums (Flat Land, Ism).
They began with a cover of Alien Ant Farm’s cover of “Smooth Criminal,” which turned everybody’s head, and somehow it morphed into “Machine Gun.” Hudson blew this one wide open. Then the personnel changes and additions began. Bob Kling (Captain Green) took the bass for “Bird Song.” Then it was a full-on stage rush, with Ross Hoppe, Dave Melançon, and Kevin McMann (all Captain Green), Ryan and Ian joining the fun.
Fae Nae (Flat Land) came up to sing “Strawberry Letter 23,” and then she and Hoppe led the band through “Fame.” They ended with a glorious funk romp.
On the schedule, Unity didn’t mean anything to me. That is because I was not aware that this was a project put together by Travis Young of Ajeva. He had enlisted Ajeva bandmates Mark Mayea and Taylor Gilchrist, Rick Krasowski, Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris and Kela Rothrock for this, with lots of guests to come. Young led us through “Why Am I Here?” before inviting Danny Clemmons (Holey Miss Moley) up to start the “Shout” dance party.
The set continued to build momentum. After Young sang “Everything is Everything,” we got a real highlight with Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity.” By this time Nalani Rothrock had joined in as well. Kela closed out the set with a powerful “I Feel Good.” Bravo, Travis Young!
I also knew nothing about the band A Thousand Wolves. SHOCKER! Another Christian Ryan project. Kristin Eley handled the vocals, with Luis Guerrero, guitar; Brandon Miller, bass; Jesus Aponte, drums; and Ian McLeod, percussion. They played a great set wrapped around Eley’s voice, and they took a great step in covering Snarky Puppy’s “Lingus” very nicely.
Yet another band I did not know was up next: The Stereotype. The only player I recognized was Nick Landess, who plays keyboards for Unlimited Devotion as well. They had a solid set, and halfway through they invited a very special surprise guest, Michael Winslow, on stage. If you are unfamiliar with Winslow, he’s the man who makes the awesome mouth noises from Police Academy, Spaceballs and much more. Nobody saw that one coming! The band laid down a superb groove track, and Winslow worked on top of that. He kept everyone entertained for two long songs. The Stereotype closed with “Open Up Your Mind.”
So the 11 AM to 6 PM sets were wonderful, and the lineup the rest of the night promised to be legendary. It began with Flat Land, the Gainesville quintet who were just confirmed to play the main stage at noon Sunday at the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in March!
Fae Nae (Fae Nageon de Lestang) is positively captivating on vocals and violin. Her vocal style in particular draws you in and doesn’t let go. She and Chris Storey (guitar) match up so well, and Brandon Miller and Grant McLeod drive the music with bass and drums, with Ian McLeod adding to the sound with percussion. (For a man who was too sick to make it Thursday night, it was great to see Ian rally Saturday; they couldn’t keep him off the stage!)
After a superb set, they discovered they had more time. Pat and I looked at each other. “I’m calling ‘Ruffio’s,’”, I said. Pat was hoping for their Led Zep cover. So they played “Ruffio’s Last Stand,” gloriously, and, finding they had still more time, launched into “Black Dog.” Pat and I were ecstatic. And that blew up when Tony Tyler, who had just covered Song Remains the Same with Come Back Alice at Hometeam New Year’s Rally, jumped on stage to share the vocals. I hope Arielle D’Ornellas or somebody got a photo of Fae’s smile during that exchange! SAF for certain.
Once upon a time Ajeva was a funk-filled quartet from Treasure Island. In the fall, they augmented their already excellent lineup with another guitar, keyboards and tenor sax. Last week at Roosevelt Collier’s Suwannee Getdown, they added two female vocalists and a trombone player, and they knocked everybody out. We got more of the same at Little Econ with a superb set of music.
The Rothrock sisters, Kela and Nalani, add a great dimension to the band’s sound, working so well with Reed Skahill’s wonderful vocals. And Taylor Gilchrist had a transcendent evening on bass. As the set peaked toward the end, we got two of my favorite refrains: “Funky Situation” and “Better Off, Bettin’ On.” This configuration could play anywhere. SAF.
We had already had a good taste of Captain Green, the funky jazz invaders from Baton Rouge, during the Alien Grant Farm set. Now it was time for the full band treatment. Keyboard player Ross Hoppe led the band into a hot jazzy, funk tune with fine solos from Grant Hudson (guitar) and David Melançon (trumpet). Next up was a new tune titled “Chewbacca’s Day at the Club.”
Captain Green claims to play “Thrash Funk / Sci-fi Noir / Intergalactic Space-Jazz,” which is exactly what they delivered. Chris “Katt” Lee had a brilliant night at the drum kit. The band covered a Soulive tune after crushing the closing track from Protect Each Other Tonight, “Death to the Fascist Insect Which Bleeds the Life of the People.” Florida has filed adoption papers for Captain Green. SAF, of course.
Holey Miss Moley had blown us away Friday night with their intergalactic P-Funk set. Now it was time for their original material. They wasted no time, falling into a glorious Afrobeat tune titled “Afro Shaft.” Band staple “Naugatuck” got a new treatment, and Captain Green’s Melançon jumped onstage for “Devil Funk.” Joe Knoebel joined in, Kenny Harvey had a big night on bass, Yral IS ‘datdudeondrums,’ and Robyn Alleman wrapped it up with “Don’t Stop.” SAF? You didn’t need to ask.
If there was one set that had galvanized attendees, it was the mere mention of Christian Ryan’s Garage: A Tribute to Frank Zappa. In addition to his massive talents as a musician, Ryan is also a superb promoter, as he teased us for months about the various musicians he had recruited for this amazing project.
This was insane: Tim Turner, guitar; David Vanegas, bass; Joe Lanna, drums; Keegan Matthews, keyboards; Ian McLeod, percussion; Grant Hudson, guitar; Dave Melançon, trumpet; Kevin McMann, tenor sax; Corey Paul, trombone; and Ryan, plus more guests.
They started out ambitiously with “Don’t Eat the yellow Snow > Nanook Rubs It > St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast,” with Turner and Vanegas handling the vocals. Danny Clemmons came up to groove on “Magic Fingers.” Matthews was featured on “Eat That Question,” and Ryan and Chris Sgammato locked horns on “Peaches En Regalia.” Turner crushed “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama,” and he and Hudson traded off on “Montana.”
It got out of hand when Fae Nae and violin blew up “Dupree’s Paradise” as she battled with Paul and with Turner. Krasowski came up to growl “Willie the Pimp” with Dani Jaye on violin. A horn-driven version of “Sharleena” highlighted Tommy Shugart’s guitar. After a huge “Cosmik Debris,” we screamed for an encore and got a truly monstrous “Zomby Woof.”
Every wrangler would say it was mighty grand. Not to mention SAF.
There was something different about the set by Leisure Chief. They certainly deserved this late-night slot, but this was truly special. Christian Ryan was front and center again, but the entire band was on fire. They roared out from the very first note. Matthews threw in a Zappa quote during the second tune, a screaming funk piece. He swears he didn’t quote “Milestones” during “Grand Mastrr;” we’ll have to check the recording. Ito Colon had joined the band. Nick Bogdon was ripping on guitar all set.
That left the last set to The Groove Orient. This great Orlando quintet had toured recently with JJ Grey and MOFRO and with Tom Hamilton’s American Babies, and they have honed their sound. They kicked off with a hot instrumental, Shugart on Hammond B3. Chuck Magid was shredding on guitar. Shugart grabbed his guitar for the hot blues of “Hot Bandit Woman.”
The title track to their recent album Generation Y went very spacey, perfect as we approached 3 AM. Shugart wailed on clavinet and B3 on the pure funk of “Stingray Shuffle.” A female vocalist (Nalani Rothrock?) came up to sing a blistering “Blind, Crippled and Crazy,” and they closed with a great “Ghost Train.”
According to the schedule, Copious Jones was to play the campground stage at 2. It was nearly 3:30 as I walked the length of the campgrounds but heard nothing. As I curled up under various blankets, I eventually heard them start playing — someplace — but I was done. Baked.
It was another early start, but I wanted to make sure I saw Josh We Know. Josh Childers was the perfect beginning to the day. Sometimes there were six people on stage, other times just one, closing with eleven. The set featured the Toro sisters, Alexa and Bella, along with Vernon Suber (percussion), and bass and guitar. After several tunes, they left Josh alone for a song or two, and then the stage began to fill up.
Eric Layana (Future Vintage), Jesse James (Bath Salt Zombies), Mark Mayea (Ajeva) and the original crew were now playing, plus another guitar, Reed Skahill and Danny Clemmons on vocals, and a beatboxer. What a great wake-up call!
A word about Reed Skahill. I know of no other musician who spends so much time listening, appreciating, dancing, absorbing and respecting other musicians. I see him out there at every show we share. Plenty of others are out there as well (especially the Row Jomah boys), but Reed is the man.
It was a much more laid-back program for Sunday, allowing us to recover. Free Range Strange matched the mood set by Josh We Know. He plays guitar; she plays mandolin and guitar. Their eclectic set included a couple of well-received Dead covers (“Jack-a-Row” and “Peggy-O”) and some great pickin’ on “Butterflies Carry Me Home.”
Codey Bearden had the next slot, joined by Brian Johnson (guitar) and Trenton Siccola (drums). Originals such as “I Can’t Sleep” and “Hero” were complemented with a really good cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive!”
Then it was time to appreciate the man of the weekend, Trey Miller, as Harmonica Man and the Sawgrass Band. This set was simply joyous, a good time had by all. Miller (harp and keyboards) was accompanied by two guitars and bass as they opened with “Chain Gang” and “Highway 10.” Then Knoebel came up for “Full Gospel.”
Obuasi Boulware, who had been busting his arse all weekend with the production crew, was called to the stage for “We’re All Gonna Die!” Zane Bowman (Bath Salt Zombies) and Suber joined the big jam on “Going Back to Maddox,” and later James fiddled on “St. James Infirmary.”
I only heard part of the Shotgun Betty set as I packed up my tent and equipment, but it sounded like fun. I look forward to another set from them. That left it to Grandpa’s Cough Medicine to close the fest down. Miller said that he always wants to schedule a band he has really liked during the past year to close so that he can actually sit and listen. Good plan!
If Grandpa’s Cough Medicine never sang a single word, they would be a magnificent outlaw bluegrass band. Each member is a champion picker (or plucker). That really would be awesome. But they sing (well, two of them do), and their songs are… twisted, to say the least. When your albums are titled Jailbird Blues, The Murder Chord and 180 Proof, you know these boys just ain’t right. Which is why we love them so.
GCM has really upped the ante with their collaborations with Isaac Corbitt on harmonica. I’ll say it again (and every opportunity I get): Corbitt is THE best. Period.
“Midnight Coker” was the perfect instrumental opener to remind us of their gifts. After “La La Lolly,” the real fun began. “Van Trip” is about disposing of a lady’s former boyfriends. “Hurtin’” covers hangovers. They called Miller to the stage to duel with Corbitt (they also did it at Hometeam, to everyone’s delight) on “Shuckin’ Corn.” “Boy and Dog” featured some great pickin’ from all, especially Banjo Boy Coker, and Corbitt was all over everything.
“Blood and Justice” is their fair warning to pedophiles. Brett Bass (guitar) delivers these songs so well. Bass player John Murphy sang “Leave the Bottle,” and then there was more serious pickin’ and slappin’ and — blowing harp — on “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” The closer, “Keel’s Reel,” featured Bass and Corbitt trading back and forth at breakneck speed. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend.
So many kudos and thanks to spread. First to What’sit Entertainment production crew: Marc Bernstein, Grant Bam Bam Phillips, John James, and Obuasi Boulware; and then to Randy Day, Matt Miller, Bill Romano, Russ Bowers, Joel Hunks, Because of the Lotus, Illumi-Nation Project, Buzz, Cody & Jenelle Bean, Doug Marris, Lucia Gabriela, Beverly Soulshine Kennedy, Johnny Nichol, Arielle D’Ornellas and so many more.
Trey Miller, you’ve reached The Show! That was an All-Star quality festival!