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Since the beginning of the 20th Century, every music generation has had their blues heroes, innovators and saviors. For the current generation of musicians that have been searching and starving for that next true bluesman, Gary Clark Jr. has staked his claim to this lofty perch. Now, this isn’t exactly breaking news at this point of his continually blossoming career. Some version of this statement has been said, written, and celebrated countless times before. So, why say it again? Well, one cannot fully grasp the absolute truth of that lofty statement until they’ve seen this man live and in person, and on a perfect Saturday evening at the House of Blues Orlando, the proof was in the pudding… or rather, his viciously raw and dirty, yet smooth and crystalline texture of a guitar tone that knows no bounds.Playing through a surprisingly simple pedal chain (a TC Electronic PolyTune, Fulltone Octafuzz, Zendrive for clean boost, Flint Strymon for cleaner reverb and tremolo control and a customized Dunlop Crybaby Wah), he runs this into 2 Fender Vibro King Amps. One of which was given to him by Fender and the other, purchased from The Whos’ Pete Townshend while on tour in Europe.Regularly cycling thru a series of four guitars (an Epiphone Casino Custom, a Fano JM6, a Fender Custom Shop 1963 Strat and a 1961 Gibson Les Paul/SG Standard), he ranges from heavy and unhinged to nearly glasslike tones depending on which guitar the song calls for. However, it’s his ’61 Gibson that steals the show every damn time it comes out. A gift from the Foo Fighters after recording “What Do I Do/God As My Witness” for the Sonic Highways documentary/album (again, NBD…), the combination of his rig setup with the humbucker pickups in this piece of guitar art (his only guitar with humbuckers) make for an absolutely raw, nasty and HUGE tone that just devastates.As the lights went down in an absolutely jam-packed House of Blues, the opening trio of “Bright Lights”, “Ain’t Messin’ Around” and an otherworldly guitar solo in “When My Train Pulls In” just set the tone in a way that only this band can. Where their sound is most definitely firmly rooted in the blues, “Bright Lights” hits hard with its Hip-Hop styled rhythms, “Ain’t Messin’ Around” takes on more of a Curtis Mayfield-meets-Sly and The Family Stone vibe and “When My Train Pulls In” is just pure, heavy, psychedelic blues as only Gary Clark Jr. can do. This is precisely why he is poised to continue to carry the torch for this current generation of blues musicians. This band isn’t just playing 12-bar blues. They’re innovating how blues music is structured, without losing the feel of what blues music is. As much as this has to do with Gary Clark Jr. himself, it’s his band that brings it all together.The no-frills, all groove rhythm section of Johnny Bradley (bass) and Johnny Radelat (drums) keep everything firmly in the pocket, allowing Clark’s virtuosity to explore endless sonic avenues. There is, though, one key member of this quartet that cannot be overlooked. The rhythm guitar work of the soft-spoken, seemingly reclusive King Zapata. It becomes fully evident how important he is to the sound of this band on tracks like the moody, spacey and heavy, “You Saved Me” and the gigantic, distortion-drenched “Numb“. As much space as Clark’s guitar fills, the absence of Zapata’s presence would absolutely leave a void.One aspect of Clark’s musical prowess that doesn’t get talked about enough has to be his vocals. As a child, he sang with his sister in the church choir and that soul is evident in much of his music; no more evident than in his gospel-tinged songs. “Please Come Home” is one of those that graced the stage in Orlando. It’s a perfect example of how even HIS solos can be upstaged by that sweet falsetto.After a blistering 90 minute set, “Churches” was the choice for the first encore slot. Armed only with a guitar, a harmonica and Radelat playing sparingly on the drums, Clark’s Dylan-esque singer/songwriter capabilities were in full effect with this spiritual stomp. The nearly 20 minute encore concluded with the bluesy, hip-hop stylings of “The Healing“, the first track off his latest album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. With its message of hope and faith through the power of music, it’s a song that fully encapsulates what Gary Clark Jr. means to this generation of the blues.
The once-in-a-lifetime experience was real as ever with Okeechobee Music Festival‘s late-night, hand-selected PoWoW superjam. The lineup included Miguel, Win Butler (Arcade Fire), John Oates (Hall & Oates), George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters), Kamasi Washington, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Eric Krasno (Soulive), Neal Evans (Soulive), Chris Karns, and special guests.The all-star lineup jammed to the likes of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, David Bowie, Allen Toussaint, and Marvin Gaye, as well as sing-along-songs like “Hotline Bling,” “Iko Iko,” and “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” (which featured an appearance from Mac Miller). The encore, of course being the most climactic part of the late-night set, introduced The Clash‘s “Rock the Casbah” then a 20-plus-minute version of Earth Wind & Fire‘s “Let’s Groove,” to which Skrillex joined in, making his way from the main stage, picking up virtually every instrument he could after breaking a guitar string.As the DJ/producer described it to the crowd, the stage was filled with “one of the most amazing bands that ever existed in the history of bands!” according to the Tampa Bay Times.Check out some of the snippets we’ve found, as well as a full setlist below: We sat down with the festival’s co-founder and organizer Paul Peck a few months ago. As one of the masterminds behind the now famous Bonnaroo SuperJam, Peck has curated insane once-in-a-lifetime performances with just about everyone under the sun, though deep down he’s just another diehard music lover and true fan of creative collaborations at heart. You can read more about what went into this for-the-books collaboration here.Okeechobee Music Festival’s PoWow 3/5/16DJ Intro1. Kasmir (Led Zeppelin, Instrumental)2. Inner City Blues (Marvin Gaye)3. Fame (David Bowie)4. Rebel Rebel (David Bowie)5. Night People (Allen Toussaint)6. Iko Iko (The Dixie Cups)7. People Say (The Meters)8. Ohio/ Machine Gun (Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Instrumental)9. I Can’t Go For That (Hall & Oates)10. Hotline Bling (Drake)11. Sympathy For The Devil (The Rolling Stones)12. Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough (Michael Jackson)Encore13. Rock The Casbah (The Clash)14. Let’s Groove (Earth Wind & Fire)
When the Prophets Of Rage website was launched with a countdown clock, many assumed and hoped that the news meant a Rage Against The Machine reunion. However, new reports have indicated the truth behind Prophets Of Rage: it’s a supergroup.The new band does feature three members of RATM, including Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk, as well as Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Cypress Hill’s B-Real. Vocalist Zack de la Rocha is not involved with the new project, which references an early Public Enemy song of the same name.The report, which came out in Billboard, indicates that the group will perform on June 3rd at the Hollywood Palladium in Hollywood, CA, and have another show planned at the Whisky a Go Go. They’re also considering a summer tour, according to the report.While this news is sure to disappoint fans who were looking to see the first RATM shows since 2011, a group performing the music of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill is certainly something we can all enjoy.
Skeleton Keys are set to take over the intimate Garcia’s venue next Wednesday, May 25th, performing their blend of Grateful Dead music with one unique twist: no guitars. The band features two lead keyboardists, and will see Todd Stoops assume one of the two leading spots for the upcoming performance.Skeleton Keys is the brainchild of Alex Mazur, keyboardist and founder of Grateful Dead cover bands Gratefully Yours and The Deadbeats. By pioneering this two-keyboard approach to the Dead’s music, Skeleton Keys have been turning heads left and right whenever they hit the stage! Adding in the RAQ stylings of Todd Stoops will only solidify this magical night of music.Tickets and more information can be found here! Check out the stunning artwork below.
Last Friday, The National’s Aaron and Bryce Dessner released their 59-song compilation album paying tribute to the Grateful Dead. With a number of incredible and diverse musicians coming together for the project, Day Of The Dead serves as an enticing tribute to one of the most prolific and ubiquitous groups in all of music.Of course, listening to the nearly-six hours worth of music is an intimidating feat, even for the most ambitious of fans. With a number of unfamiliar artists putting their unique spin on the Dead’s music, we spent some time listening through and picking out our favorites for your listening pleasure. Here are our top 10 tracks from Day Of The Dead; be sure to let us know what your favorites are too!15. Drums -> Space – Man Forever & Sō Percussion and OneidaOne of the most unique aspects of any Grateful Dead concert was the “Drums > Space” improvisational section. Firmly cementing the uniqueness of their performances, this pure exploration is so fundamental to the Grateful Dead ethos. In that same vein, including a “Drums > Space” segment is an brilliant ode to the Grateful Dead. While it doesn’t necessarily have the most re-listen value as the entries listed below, this work of percussive madness shows the thoughtfulness that went into Day Of The Dead. There’s also something to be said for a recording that features an impressively climactic percussion jam, segueing into distortive feedback. That must have been fun to make in the studio!14. Candyman – Jim James & FriendsThis version of “Candyman” comes off as relatively straightforward on first listen, but the way in which the piece captures the somber essence of the song is quite electrifying. Vocals from My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James play a big part in that, as his haunting voice with a raw, grumbling tone adding to the mood. The backing organs and slide guitars only accentuate the longing notes of Jerry Garcia’s classic track from American Beauty. It’s well crafted music like this that helps Day Of The Dead become a fitting tribute to the Dead.13. China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider – Stephen MalkmusRock and rollers Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks continue to turn heads with their live energy, and Malkmus’s strength as a frontman stems from his lengthy career fronting Pavement in the 90’s. Malkmus puts an almost-lounge feel to “China Cat,” matching vocal and guitar lines to a tee. The choice to perform one of the more complicated Grateful Dead originals, paired with its traditional counterpart, earns its place among our favorites. The group really lets the jam develop, spending patient minutes exploring new sonic realms before burning into “Rider.” Clocking in at over 10 minutes, Malkmus does the Dead justice with this great track.12. Brown-Eyed Women – Hiss Golden MessengerAnother Garcia original, “Brown-Eyed Women” has an overarching longing quality that can’t be forced. Fortunately, folk artists Hiss Golden Messenger do a great job staying true to the classic, with rich harmonies accentuating Southern-twinged, Dylan-inspired vocals. Keeping the instrumentation light allows the song’s strong vocal melody to emerge, and the clean-toned electric guitar cuts through with the right proportions. Hiss Golden Messenger poured just the right amount of pep into a classic song, but it has the right amount of soul for a tune like “Brown Eyed Women.” Well done.11. Touch Of Grey – The War On DrugsThe opening track from Day Of The Dead belongs to indie darlings The War On Drugs, who blew just about every listener away with their 2014 album, Lost In The Dream. It’s that same pop-oriented, dreamlike precision that the band applies to “Touch Of Grey,” transferring the main hook melody to the piano. Adam Granduciel’s vocals flutter through the recording, conveying the determined tone of Garcia’s lyrics. Substituting the guitar solo for a harmonica burst is an incredible choice, perfectly bringing an emotional edge to the bluesy pop interpretation. It’s tracks like this one that represent the heart and soul of The National’s vision for Day Of The Dead.10. Me & My Uncle – The Lone BellowLeave it to The Lone Bellow to turn “Me & My Uncle” into the hoedown that it’s always deserved to be. Sure the song was originally written by John Phillips, but it was the Grateful Dead that really brought the song into the spotlight. Playing it hundreds of times with a full band, it’s nice to hear the song driven by an acoustic guitar and simple drum rhythm. The instrumentation gradually rises through the track, introducing organ, electric guitar, and vocal harmonies as the song – and its story – develops. The added instruments never betray the song’s driving drumming and acoustics, keeping the folk element very much alive throughout this great interpretation.9. St. Stephen – Wilco w/ Bob WeirThe Day of The Dead box set has a unique feature that most tribute albums don’t include: an original member of the band being tributed. Bob Weir makes two appearances on the album, but we chose this one for his work with the group Wilco. The band certainly has some clout in the jam scene, and it’s easy to hear why on the track: Nels Cline. The man’s guitar playing is on point, taking fast-paced and melodic liberties in free sections while nailing the song’s written sections with ease. The cover itself is straightforward, with Weir’s contributions hard to distinguish on the live-show recording. Jeff Tweedy does a great job with the vocals.8. Box Of Rain – Kurt Vile & The Violators, J MascisOne of the Dead’s more emotional songs is this Phil Lesh-written tune, which comes to life unexpectedly when covered by Kurt Vile & The Violators. The interpretation captures the overall dreamlike quality of “Box Of Rain,” with Vile’s vocals echoing across the track. His guitarwork is absolutely sublime, nailing the song’s intention with ease. The cover is somehow both a piece of Grateful Dead lore and something all on its own.7. Sugaree – Phosphorescent, Jenny Lewis & FriendsPhosphorescent, Jenny Lewis and more give us this delightfully upbeat rendition of “Sugaree,” adding a psychedelic pop element to contrast the Grateful Dead’s folky take on their song. Bringing the synth organs to the forefront, the cover gets a modern-day twist. Still, it’s the drumming backbeat that captures the original’s swinging contemplativeness. By capturing the song’s nostalgia and making it all their own, this version of “Sugaree” is sure to go down as one of the best.6. Black Muddy River – Bruce Hornsby and DeYarmond EdisonAside from Bob Weir’s contributions, another Grateful Dead member (albeit, unofficially) to make an appearance on Day Of The Dead is Bruce Hornsby. Perhaps no one else on the record is more qualified to tribute the band than Hornsby, having toured with them intermittently in the 90’s, and performed with them at Fare Thee Well. Still, Hornsby finds a unique voice on “Black Muddy River,” backed by a unique group composed of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), three members of Megafaun, and Field Report’s Christopher Porterfield. The song itself seems to be at an even-slower tempo than the Grateful Dead version, but the slowness doesn’t counteract the song’s emotional prowess. With delicately placed slide guitar and Hornsby’s yearning vocals, this is a delicate approach on “Black Muddy River,” but it works all the same.5. New Speedway Boogie – Courtney BarnettCourtney Barnett is taking the rock and roll world by storm, and this rendition of “New Speedway Boogie” is the perfect introduction to her style. Barnett’s wails with her defiant vocals and guitar licks, turning the song into a bona-fide stomping blues rock number. Barnett’s singing is very matter-of-fact, and she gets at the song’s strength with a no nonsense approach. Surely influenced by musicians like Joan Jett and Pat Benatar, Barnett’s nihilistic take on “New Speedway Boogie” is downright fun.4. Cumberland Blues – Charles Bradley and Menahan Street BandWhen we saw the Screaming Eagle Of Soul himself, Charles Bradley, on the tracklist, we certainly were intrigued by his contribution. The modern soul legend hits “Cumberland Blues” with an unforeseen tenacity, essentially converting the song into an R&B ballad. By slowing the tempo and introducing a flute into the accompaniment and transferring some of the vocals into a backing chorus. Bradley’s take on “Cumberland” turns the song on its head; if you had heard this cover first, you might not believe that the original is a Grateful Dead song. Well done, Mr. Bradley.3. Dark Star – The Flaming Lips“Dark Star” is the perfect canvas for psychedelic rockers The Flaming Lips, and they certainly take the jam vehicle for a ride in this Day Of The Dead masterpiece. It gets weird, as the Lips introduce the song’s lyrics in an almost-operatic format. From there, the song delves into darker channels, with a heavily distorted guitar exploring the depths of atonal chaos. For a song called “Dark Star,” the work certainly brings out the darkness, but never in a way that renders it unlistenable. They toe the line between dark exploration and full on nonsense, and put their own unique spin on a classic.2. Terrapin Station – Daniel Rossen, Christopher Bear & The National (ft. Josh Kaufman, Conrad Doucette & Sō Percussion and Brooklyn Youth Chorus)Not only is “Terrapin Station” one of the more challenging compositions in all of the Grateful Dead’s catalog, but The National is able to find their own voice on the 16-minute track. One of a handful of contributions from the indie rockers who created Day Of The Dead, “Terrapin” gets the nod on this list for its undeniable impressiveness. They add in a string section to really fill out the main sections of the song, then strip everything away after the climactic “Terrapin!” section, filling out the suite in ways unimagined and utilizing a percussion and full youth chorus to get the job done. With members of Grizzly Bear & more on board for the recording, this is a truly incredible piece of music that deserves a place in the heart of any Deadhead.1. Help On The Way – Belá Fleck (w/ Franklin’s Towner – Orchestra Baobob)The beauty of a tribute album is being able to reimagine classic songs in new and exciting ways. While a majority of the tracks listed accomplish that goal, it’s often hard to convert music from such a beloved band as the Grateful Dead into something both new and exciting. Many of the tracks succeed, some of them do not, but there’s no denying that virtuoso Belá Fleck has made something all his own on “Help On The Way.” The challenging composition is no match for Fleck’s technique. With an incredible collection of musicians, including Oliver Wood, Edgar Meyer, Zaakir Hussein and Abigail Washburn accompanying Fleck, this is an incredibly crafted work of music.Just to bring it all home, the album segues from Fleck’s stripped down performance to a version of “Franklin’s Tower” played by the multi-ethnic Orchestra Baobob. The big production is filled with island charm, and the two pieces showcase the wide cultural effect that the Dead’s music has. It’s ultimately the reason that Day Of The Dead is such a successful album, as the Grateful Dead’s music continues to reach and inspire a new generation of listeners. Unlike past tribute albums, DOTD’s ambitious 59 tracks each captures a new aspect of the Grateful Dead approach, bringing a combination of parts new and old to the table.Do yourself a favor and check out the album, here.
Last night, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert welcomed a modern day blues rock icon, guitarist Gary Clark Jr. Instead of performing with his own ensemble, Clark Jr. teamed up with the uber talented house band, Jon Batiste & Stay Human.Together, the crew got down and dirty on a great performance of Clark Jr’s original song, “Cold Blooded.” The rocking tune is featured on Clark Jr.’s recently released LP, The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim, and was all fire during the performance last night.Watch the footage of the jam below, courtesy of The Late Show.
You can see the full setlist below, and head here to purchase full audio of the full performance.Setlist: STS9’s “Axe The Cables” at Electric Forest, Rothbury, MI – 6/25/16Love Don’t Terrorize*, Aimlessly*>> Rockit (Herbie Hancock)*>> Aimlessly, Surreality*>> EB*>> Orbital*, Vapors*, Call*>> So What (Miles Davis)*>> Call, Grow, Rent* – First time played axed[Setlist/Photo via The Church of STS9] STS9 are among the founding fathers of the jamtronica genre, creating complex compositions and taking them for an improvisational ride in the live setting. Of course, the “tronica” of jamtronica refers to the band’s electronic influences, as the group gets into heavy trance segments when they let loose and get into a groove.However, the electronic aspect is more of a stylistic idea than it is a technical reality. At Electric Forest, STS9 proved that by playing a rare “Axe The Cables” set, in which the band trades in their instruments for a full acoustic set. That means an upright bass, piano – STS9 really commits to the cause. The songs still contain their signature grooves, but they do it in new and creative ways.Thanks to STS9, we can listen to both “Orbital” and a two song run featuring “Call” and “Grow” from their exciting “Axe The Cables” set. With a quote of Miles Davis’ “So What” merged into the “Call” jam, this is some fine performing by a truly talented band. Feast your ears below…
Director Jay Sansone said, “It’s an honor to win this award in a town that runs and thrives off art and music culture. The AMVF has become a place for music and film lovers to really showcase their work in the best light. In a world without MTV or any real platform for experimental music film content, this festival really fills part of that void.”Let Us Play chronicles the band as they work on Crush and tour the country, but the real focus is on the band itself. The band’s core members and contributors share intimate details about their rise to the top, keeping things fresh with the band’s playful banter and lightheartedness. At the heart of the film is a passion for Lettuce’s unique brand of funk, captured by the inimitable Jay Sansone. You can find the movie, below.Let Us Play from Human Being on Vimeo.Adds producer Kunj Shah, “I can’t think of another band tearing down the foundations of funk and recreating it in new exciting ways. Lettuce is easily the best funk band today, and once we realized we could capture this band’s history in their prime, we jumped at the opportunity. This is a real honor.”Lettuce continues to Crush in the live scene, recently turning heads with a late night set at Lockn’ Festival. The band kicks off an extensive fall tour on September 20th, including a two night stand at the PlayStation Theatre in New York, NY from November 11-12. For more information about the band’s tour, head to their official website. 2016 has been a banner year for the funk band Lettuce. After hosting their debut festival Fool’s Paradise, and riding the waves of success from their potent 2015 release Crush, the band continues to melt faces nationwide with their psychedelic style of music. The band also continues to find success with their new documentary, Let Us Play, directed by Jay Sansone and Human Being Media, and produced by Live For Live Music.Last night, Let Us Play took home the award for Best Long Form/Music Documentary at the Austin Music Video Festival. Jay Sansone was on hand to accept the award, and shared a snippet of this momentous occasion with us.
Bob Dylan returned to Desert Trip in Indio, CA last night, playing the second consecutive weekend at the new festival. While Dylan’s setlist was nearly identical to the first weekend, save for the encore, his presence certainly commanded that much more attention. There was never any doubt that Dylan was one of America’s all-time greatest poets, but now that statement can be backed by the gravitas of a Nobel Prize in Literature. Very cool.Songs Like These Are The Reason Bob Dylan Was Awarded The Nobel PrizeIn turn, Dylan treated fans to some of his biggest hits, opening with “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” Anyone who’s keeping score wil note that the set itself is identical to last week’s, with versions of “Tangled Up In Blue,” “Desolation Row,” “Ballad of a Thin Man” and more to highlight each performance.Last night’s set diverged, however, in the encore. Dylan closed his show with two great songs, “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Why Try To Change Me Now,” leaving Desert Trip to bask in Dylan’s poetic wisdom.Watch videos of “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Like A Rolling Stone” below, courtesy of prestoff2000. The full setlist can be seen below.