LIVE: “Love for Levon” @ the Izod Center, 10/3/12

October 16th, 2012, 4:00 pm by Greg
Allan Toussaint and Jakob Dylan: Love for Levon @ the Izod Center, 10/3/12 (photo  by Jennifer Starr)

Allen Toussaint and Jakob Dylan

Review by Janet Kwiatkowski
Pre-performance backstage photographs by Jennifer Starr

An all-star line-up of artists and friends gathered to celebrate the life and music of Levon Helm at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The flow of talent was staggering and ranged from Helm’s contemporaries – Roger Waters, Jorma Kaukonen, John Prine, Allen Toussaint, Mavis Staples, Joe Walsh and Gregg Allman – to younger musicians, including My Morning Jacket, Ray LaMontagne, Eric Church, John Mayer, Deirks Bentley, Jakob Dylan, Robert Randolph and Grace Potter.

The concert was a benefit to support the lasting legacy of Helm by helping his estate keep ownership of his Woodstock home, barn and studio, and to keep the music flowing at the famous Midnight Ramble sessions.

With a career spanning over 50 years, Levon Helm has left behind a rich musical heritage. From his earlier years with Ronnie Hawkins, Bob Dylan and the Band, to his recent Grammy Award wins for “Dirt Farmer,” “Electric Dirt,” and “Ramble at the Ryman,” to his legendary Midnight Rambles, Helm’s influence was far reaching. His spirit and sound had a universal draw and touched the lives of countless musicians and fans.

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LIVE: The Dave Matthews Band @ SPAC, 6/9/12

June 14th, 2012, 4:00 pm by Greg
Dave Matthews (Photo by Bob Cohen ©2012)

Dave Matthews (Photo by Bob Cohen ©2012)

Review of 6/9/12 show by Janet Kwiatkowski
Photographs of 6/8/12 show by Bob Cohen

Picking up their summer tradition where they left off following last year’s hiatus, the Dave Matthews Band returned to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs for two sold-out performances last weekend. The DMB has built a solid and legendary relationship with SPAC and expressed their love for the venue in the Sam Erickson documentary “Hello Again: Part 2,” in which Matthews conveyed that they “love the whole vibe, the sound, the scenery” and they can “stretch out and be more experimental here than at other venue.”

The throngs were up for some serious pre-show partying, and the majority have made it an annual two-night event. Just about everyone I spoke with had well over a hundred DMB shows under their belt and were treading well-tilled ground at SPAC. Dave Matthews has also collaborated on a California wine called fittingly “The Dreaming Tree,” which was served throughout the venue.

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LIVE: Bob Weir @ the Colonial Theatre, 4/29/12

May 4th, 2012, 3:00 pm by Greg
Bob Weir @ the Colonial Theatre, 4/29/12

Bob Weir

Review by Janet Kwiatkowski
Photograph by William Harriman

At a recent 4/20 showing of the “2nd Annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies,” it made no difference to the packed audience that it was a movie and not a live concert. Actually, the July, 1989 Alpine Valley, Wisconsin concert film was brilliant and inspired dancing in the aisles, standing ovations and sing-a-longs. A few people even lit up in the large, family-oriented multiplex. When the last song was abruptly cut short – not sure if the archival footage ran out, or the projectionist just had enough – without missing a beat, the audience just continued on singing the “Mighty Quinn” until the end. With such devotion, not much has changed in over twenty years, and it was a similar scene at the Bob Weir solo acoustic show at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield last Sunday.

These days, Weir is at the center of a hive of activity – from the recent launch of his innovative TRI Studios to the never-ending Furthur tour with Grateful Dead bandmate Phil Lesh, as well as recent collaborations with the National, Bruce Hornsby, Steve Kimock, Chris Robinson and Jackie Greene, just to name a few – but the industrious Weir managed to squeeze in six solo acoustic dates, rescheduled from last summer’s cancelled tour.

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LIVE: moe. @ the Palace Theatre, 3/3/12

March 12th, 2012, 3:00 pm by Greg
moe. @ The Palace Theatre, Albany

Review by Janet Kwiatkowski
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

“Kicking myself for not buying early” was overheard outside the Palace Theatre in Albany from fans hoping to score a ticket to last Saturday’s sold-out moe. show. Currently, the progressive rock band is at the top of the jam-band heap, with an extended and enormously devoted fan base – and still drawing in new fans with every show. Their latest US/European tour is in support of their new album “What Happened to the La Las.” Over the last two decades, the upstate New York band has fostered an interactive relationship with its audience through social media sites and annual moe.-centric events like Summer Camp, moe.down, snoe.down and the ingenious festival Jam in the Dam in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, kicking off next week.

The audience immediately rushed the stage and glow sticks rained down as the first set of a nearly three-hour, high-vibe show began with “Runaway Overlude.” Smiling bass player Rob Derhak started a funky line, while guitarists Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier traded off solos. The vocals drifted into gentle harmonies and then were thrown back hard in your face. The song bled into the trippy and theatrical “Chromatic Nightmare,” with percussionist Jim Loughlin on the xylophone and Al Schnier, now on keys, creating a carnival atmosphere followed by a building guitar solo by Garvey. The band genre-hopped into a reggae beat with “Seat of My Pants,” with a bit of George Benson’s “On Broadway” woven in, but it was the rapid-fire vocals and metal-inspired solo by Schnier that really got everyone moving.

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INTERVIEW: Marco Benevento

October 20th, 2011, 12:00 pm by Greg
Marco Benevento (photo by Michael Benevento)

Marco Benevento (photo by Michael Benevento)

If there is a soundtrack for feeling happy, Marco Benevento wrote it. That’s evident on Benevento’s third studio album, “Between the Needles and Nightfall” on the Royal Potato Family label. His exuberant live shows often inspire wild dancing, not something necessarily associated with the piano.

Benevento says, “I was influenced by certain records when recording, namely the German band Can. Two songs off the new album – ‘Greenpoint’ and ‘RISD’ – were reminiscent of dance tunes with one repeating thing. They reach out into a more dance-oriented, upbeat instrumental rock sound versus a piano-led rock-jazz kind of thing. More like a David Byrne/Talking Heads style, but, of course, in a different manner, with loop writing.

“We recorded the new album in three days with post-production at my studio. Tracking with the band is easy. We try out new ideas – adding keyboards and mess around with it with drum loops and create arrangements that way. It’s a real fun way to track it, layering it with effects, and perfecting each track. The band trusts that it is going into the hands of the person who has the vision.”

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LIVE: The Royal Family Affair @ Stratton Mountain, Day One, 8/12/11

August 24th, 2011, 5:00 pm by Greg
Dave One of Chromeo

Dave One of Chromeo

The lucky 1,500 or so who attended Soulive’s sizzling Royal Family Affair were treated to talent on an immense scale. This was not merely a line-up of favorite bands doing familiar songs and long-winded jams, but pure improvisation that sometimes surprised the musicians themselves, with nods of appreciation and laughs with each other over what just went down. One of the ticket options was called a “Full Rager,” and that’s exactly how you could describe the entire weekend. The Friday and Saturday late night DJ sets could be considered “Full Ravers,” as well.

The concert-goers, who included plenty of music students and musicians, had an appreciation for the high caliber of music that was experienced. The level of playing exceeded all expectations and had the entire audience dancing from beginning to end. It was impossible not to dance with the emphasis on funk, classic soul, jazz, rock, reggae, R&B, electronica and improvised jams. When they weren’t dancing, participants hiked, rode the lift to the top of the scenic mountain, strolled the Stratton Mountain Village or played volleyball, tetherball, four-square and frisbee as they soaked in the music. The weather was cool and breezy, and the skies were clear at night to take in the full moon hanging over the pines, as well as the Persied meteor showers streaking overhead.

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Interview: Alan Evans of Soulive

August 9th, 2011, 2:00 pm by Greg
Alan Evans

Alan Evans performing with Soulive at Revolution Hall in Troy, 10/23/09 (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Not only the drummer and driving force behind the big beat of the fab funkateers Soulive, Alan Evans is also the sound engineer and producer for Soulive and their record label, Royal Family Records. And, of course, along with his bandmates Eric Krasno and Neal Evans, he’s also been deeply involved with organizing the Royal Family Affair, a funky, three-day festival of music and more that will be taking over Stratton Mountain this weekend.

Yeah, he’s a mighty busy guy, but fortunately not too busy to take a few moments to chat with about the upcoming Royal Family Affair, Soulive and his other projects:

Q: Do you plan on making this a regular event?

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Festival Fever: The Royal Family Affair @ Stratton Mountain, 8/12-14

August 3rd, 2011, 1:00 pm by Greg


Join Eric Krasno, Alan Evans and Neal Evans – the members of the funk-soul-jazz trio Soulive – for a three-day get-down at beautiful Stratton Mountain in the Green Mountains of Vermont on August 12-14. Soulive has toured with bands from the Rolling Stones to Dave Matthews, and they’re bringing a whole bunch of their friends together for a weekend blow-out of funk-soul jams.

The diverse line-up boasts Royal Family label-mates and very special guests including – Chromeo, Lettuce, Big Gigantic, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstafunk, Karl Denson, John Medeski, Skerik, Adam Deitch, the London Souls, Zach Deputy, John Brown’s Body, the Pimps of Joytime, Paper Diamond, Jennifer Hartswick, Caveman, Charlie 2NA, the Shady Horns, the Sam Kininger Band, Neal., Kraz (DJ set), lespecial and the Royal Family All-Stars. And, of course, Soulive will be playing the closing set on Saturday night.

It all gets started with the Sam Kininger Band at 6pm on Friday, August 12.

What makes the Royal Family Affair so spectacular is not only the powerhouse performances, but the series of intimate 75-minute studio clinics and workshops with the artists, open to musicians of all levels and festival participants, for an additional fee and pre-registration. The workshops are $15 each, or you can purchase an all-workshop pass for just $75.

The afternoon workshops cover quite a variety of topics:

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