by RIC HICKEY
131 days ago
This morning’s activities were as hectic as a hurricane as I jumped from one interview to the next in the Bonnaroo press compound.
Things started off nice and easy when I rendezvoused with a friend of a friend who is Lionel Richie’s stage manager. An industry veteran of many years, Sal Marinello has worked for Barbra Streisand, Metallica, Neil Diamond, Britney Spears and many more. Large festival stages like Bonnaroo are equipped with lights and sound, so Marinello’s workload and schedule today are not as demanding as a typical day on the road. Marinello and his crew arrived in the wee hours this morning with one truck instead of the usual seven. Main stage headliner Jack White’s line check completed and his gear rolled to the side of the stage by 8 a.m., Sal and his staff had Lionel’s gear in place onstage for their line check less than an hour later. (The rest of the day’s main stage performers will set up and perform in front of Lionel’s gear.)
The noon hour brought a flurry of activity that had my head spinning pretty much for the rest of the day. Nashville’s Wild Feathers returned on the red eye from St. Louis to do a three-song acoustic performance in the press tent that found the band looking ragged but sounding great as ever. Their material is strong, their performance was spirited, and their three-part whiskey tenor harmonies were crystal clear as ever. But they sure did look tired. Scheduled to play at noon, they were running late and had to jump right on the stage and burst into song immediately upon their 12:30 p.m. arrival.
Chatting with Ben Kaufman, Adam Aijala and Dave Johnston from Yonder Mountain String Band, I found the trio cautiously optimistic about moving forward after the recent departure of mandolin player and founding member Jeff Austin. Not that I expected them to be in a full-blown panic, but it was impressive to hear the calm in their voices as they discussed their future options with no apparent concern about securing a permanent replacement for Austin. Bluegrass legend Sam Bush joined Yonder for their 2:30 p.m. set on the main stage today. For their summer tour they’ll be joined by Jake Joliff on mandolin and Ally Kral on violin. (Yonder Mountain String Band plays Moonlight Gardens at Coney Island on the Fourth of July.)
The Flaming Lips brought a whole new freak rock spectacle to Bonnaroo this year and frontman Wayne Coyne was bouncing around the press tent talking to reporters for a couple hours yesterday. Spirits high and eyes aglow, Wayne happily made the rounds. The man loves to talk and this writer spent a dizzying 10 minutes with Coyne, discussing their brilliant new record The Terror. The band’s 12:30 a.m. set on the Which Stage was an explosive spectacle of lights, confetti, balloons, and dancers in costume, with the fiendish ring leader Wayne in the middle of it all looking like an evil super villain dressed in red tights with a shiny silver codpiece. (The band is one of the headliners of Cincinnati's Bunbury Music Festival this year.)
It’s not the first time I’ve seen Coyne dominate a press conference here; yesterday he spoke excitedly about The Flaming Lips’ desire to always bring something special to the Bonnaroo stage.
“If you’ve been here for three days and you’ve already seen 50 bands,” he said, “you wanna see something different. So that’s why (in 2007) we decided to land a spaceship here.”
Cool as a cucumber in spite of the summer heat penetrating the crowded tent during an early afternoon press conference, Derek Trucks fielded a question about the size of the Tedeschi-Trucks band. “An 11-piece band is a lot like herding cats.” Then he quietly mumbled the unintentionally Zen aside: “But it’s better than 30.”
Still buzzing from my conversation with Wayne, I scampered out into the crowd to catch Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke on the Which Stage. This was one of my personal Top 3 must-see bands of the weekend. It was gratifying to see the young Bonnaroo audience embrace a band that has more in common with their grandparents’ record collection than what many probably have on their current iPod playlist. I stopped to say hello to Blackberry Smoke singer and guitarist Charlie Starr after a 4 p.m. press conference and we discussed some of our favorite early Blues singers. I feel confident that he and I were probably among the very few here at Bonnaroo chatting about Ishman Bracey.
From there the day just got crazier, as the Saturday schedule was packed with stellar artists, including Valerie June, Drive-By Truckers, Phosphorescent, Lauryn Hill and Seasick Steve who boasted none other than Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones on bass. Walking through the crowd I heard Cake play a spot-on cover of Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” with the guitar solo section cleverly transcribed for the horn section.
After a late afternoon breather back at the campsite, I wandered through Bonnaroo’s famous archway entrance to catch some of Lionel Richie’s set. My timing was perfect. As soon as I walked through the gate he launched into the Commodores’ “Brick House,” a Bonnaroo performance I’d been looking forward to for months. Again I found it gratifying to see the young audience dialed into Richie’s performance as he pulled out one classic song after another. You can imagine how his ’80s gem “All Night Long” had the dancers moving. This was a moment of such heartwarming cross-generational bonding that it gave me goosebumps in the humid Tennessee night.
Last night’s main stage headliner Jack White nearly tore the stage in half, bringing an explosive thunder and fury that’s largely missing from Rock & Roll these days. One of the most highly-anticipated sets of the weekend, Jack and his crack band did not disappoint. A frantic and fiery performer onstage, he was straightfaced and serious, as if in character, throughout a bombastic set that stretched well over two hours. White has called Nashville home for several years now and he brought noise to these Tennessee hills last night like no one ever has before. An all-out stunner from the first song all the way through to the last note of several encores, this was unquestionably one of the most memorable performances in Bonnaroo’s 13-year history.
And believe it or not there is still more to come. Today is the fourth and final day of Bonnaroo 2014. Photographer Chuck Madden and I must bear in mind that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, as we endeavor to take in performances today by Lucero, Lake Street Dive, Okkervil River, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Arctic Monkeys, Broken Bells, Washed Out, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Avett Brothers and more. The legendary Elton John will close out the fest tonight.
Thanks to CityBeat for making this all possible! Chuck and I would like to extend a special thank you to CityBeat photographer Jesse Fox who was a big help to us this weekend.
Only 361 days ‘til Bonnaroo 2015!
Newgrass favorites Yonder Mountain String Band hit the road with some gifted substitutes
0 Comments · Tuesday, January 21, 2014
With Newgrass heroes Yonder Mountain String Band’s mandolinist Jeff Austin sitting out the band’s current tour due to his brand-new baby, two members of ace Bluegrass crew Del McCoury Band will be filling in for the proud papa.
by Mike Breen
Contemporary "Newgrass" kings Yonder Mountain String Band return to the area tonight for an all-ages, 8:30 p.m. show at Covington's Madison Theater. Tickets are $25. Opening the show is the very cool Lake Street Dive, a "jazz-schooled, DIY-motivated and classically pop obsessed" quartet that formed at Boston’s New England Conservatory. Check out this clip of the group performing the Jackson 5 classic "I Want You Back."In an interview with CityBeat's Brian Baker, YMSB's guitarist/vocalist Adam Aijala said fans might hear a new song or two at tonight's show. As for when you might hear a new album with new material, Aijala said the members have been having trouble finding time to get in the studio between familial obligations and touring. Read the full interview here and check out the group's 2010 appearance on CBS's Late Late Show. (There will be a pre- and post-show party at Stanley's Pub, which is also offering a bus ride to and from the Madison show. The CEA-winning Rumpke Mountain Boys will perform.)• Eclectic NYC Indie Rock troupe Mice Parade marches into MOTR Pub tonight for a free, 10 p.m. appearance, the second date on its current tour. Formed as a solo project by Adam Pierce at the end of the ’90s, Mice Parade has featured various band members since and nearly every successive release has shown growth and a different side of Pierce's writing. Candela, Mice Parade's latest addition to its already stacked discography (released this past Tuesday), is one of Pierce's most compelling releases to date, showcasing a fascinating, psychedelic brand of "Shoegaze" Pop that is as unpredictable as it is riveting. Check out CityBeat's preview of the show here. Below is the first single/video from Candela, "This River Has A Tide." Mice Parade -- "This River Has A Tide" from paul yates on Vimeo.Find more live music options in Greater Cincinnati tonight here.
After nearly 15 years, Yonder Mountain String Band finds new ways to do old things (and vice versa)
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Most bands would be kicking at the studio
door after a long stretch between albums, but Yonder Mountain String
Band has never subscribed to any set of rules beyond their own.
by Mike Breen
Packed Friday slate includes Bob Marley tribute, Mr. Gnome, Yonder Mountain String Band
It's another Friday full of quality options for those wishing to experience music in a live setting tonight. If Jazz is your thang, the Blue Wisp is your Friday night spot, as Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey performs at the downtown club's new space at the corner of Race and Seventh streets. JFJO — which has a wide-ranging fan base of Jam band fanatics and Jazz lovers — is doing a smattering of tour dates in support of its intriguing conceptual album, Race Riot Suite, written and arranged by the group's lap steel guitarist Chris Combs. The project is described as "a long-form conceptual piece that tells the devastating story of the 1921 Tulsa race riot, a real estate-driven ethnocide occurring under the guise of citizen-dispensed justice. The oil-elite, civic government and local press colluded to take advantage of a racially tense climate in Jim Crow-era Oklahoma, resulting in the death of hundreds of black Tulsans and the destruction of an entire city district." It's hard not to make a connection to other "race riots" throughout America, including those here in Cincinnati (and it's fitting that the group will be performing selections from the project on Race St.). The album has been JFJO's most acclaimed piece of work yet, drawing praise everywhere from the L.A. Times to NPR to Huffington Post. JFJO has started releasing solo piano and remixed versions of material taken from the Race Riot album weekly. Click here for more info and/or check out the video preview below. Tonight's Blue Wisp show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $15 (while they last). • Cleveland duo Mr. Gnome has been visiting the Cincinnati area for the past several years, so local music fans have been able to watch the development and sharpening of the twosome's compelling sound. Mr. Gnome began as a harder-edged experimental powerhouse and has grown into a truly unique, broadly dynamic Indie/ArtRock duo, one of the more interesting "new" bands on the AltRock scene today. Rolling Stone noticed, making the group one of its "Bands to Watch" based on the strength of its diverse LP Madness in Miniature, which came out late last year. The band has also made some stunning music videos the past couple of years. Below, check out the trailer for its forthcoming music vid, "House of Circles," described as a surrealistic "live action interpretation of a sci-fi graphic novel" featuring the characters from Madness' cover art (warning: It's creepy as hell). The group is releasing a digital single, the B-side of which premiered this week on MTV Hive (listen here). The band performs a free show tonight in Northside at Mayday with local openers Fake Hands. (Shows usually start around 10 p.m.)• If Bluegrass is more your speed, the Madison Theater has two of the best of the new wave of ’Grass heroes — Yonder Mountain String Band and The Infamous Stringdusters — tonight at 8:30 p.m. Tickets for the all ages show are $22.50. What would the world be like if plastic Pop groups were replaced with members who are actually innovative and able to play instruments, like the members of YMSB? Our Deirdre Kaye has a theory (click here). Wanna warm up before the show? Perhaps cool down afterwards? Stanley's Pub has you covered, hosting Cincy's young Bluegrass rascals the Rumpke Mountain Boys for fans who want to hang out pre-game and post-game. Here's a YMSB montage set to a live track recorded just weeks ago in Arkansas: Click the jump for more, including details about the sold-out Black Keys show and your Reggae headquarters this weekend.
Keller Williams defies categorization by embracing a dozen genres
0 Comments · Tuesday, October 6, 2009
For our interview, Keller Williams takes a break from recording his radio show, 'Keller's Cellar,' at his Fredericksburg, Va., home base. The web-only show is much like Williams' work as a musician: Eclectic doesn't even begin to describe it.