Thursday, May 25, 2017

Elephant Revival, The Oh Hellos, and Mandolin Orange at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO on 5/21/17

Elephant Revival
Elephant Revival didn't put on your typical concert. The five member transcendental folk band from Nederland, Colorado pulled out all the stops for their Red Rocks Amphitheatre show. A Senator spoke, a drum circle chanted, an orchestra played, aerialists flew, and an intricate light show illuminated.

Before the music started, Senator Michael Bennet addressed the crowd complimenting Elephant Revival's environmental activism. One of their projects was their participation in Colorado Public Lands Day on May 12th.  The band worked with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers at the Eldorado Canyon State Park. Elephant Revival rewarded fans/volunteers with an intimate acoustic show. I had the privilege to take part of that event.

Bonnie Paine
The Red Rocks appearance began with an Indian drum circle complete with dancers in traditional dress (yes feathers were worn). It set the mood for the evening that was not only influenced by multiple genres of music (Celtic, bluegrass, and alternative rock), but by nature.

The band took the stage while rain poured down on the audience. Singer Bonnie Paine was dressed like a Greek Goddess in a white flowing dress. It was her birthday the day before and the crowd shouted out birthday wishes throughout the evening. The roadies dressed in matching suits and hats handed Paine a saw. She played it while singing the haunting Close As Can Be.

Strings and horns joined the band forming the Mayflower Orchestra. They accompanied the band for a large portion of the night making the sound dynamic and powerful. An amazing light show wowed the crowd during their version of Pink Floyd's Have a Cigar.

Aerialists - All Photos by the Rock and Roll Princess
Towards the end of the night a troupe of aerialists were hoisted above the stage.  They performed a Cirque du Soleil like air ballet. Bonnie Paine described their movements like butterflies creating storms.

After all the flowing dresses and floating women, vocalist Daniel Rodriguez sang the fitting Grace of a Woman. The show ended with Rodriguez leading the crowd in a howl-a-long to Sing to the Moon. "Go and sing to the mountain/Go and sing to the moon" (the crowd howls here) "Go and sing to just about everything/Cause everything is you."


The Oh Hellos
The Oh Hellos were second on the bill. I was expecting a mellow brother and sister folk duo.  But a large energetic band with two drummers appeared shattering my preconceived notions.  The high-energy fueled set was slowed down by technical problems.  But lead singer Tyler Heath made it humorous by asking the crowd if anybody had a tiny screwdriver to fix his guitar.  His sister Maggie Heath's beautiful voice blended with his effortlessly for their hit Hello My Old Heart. Regan Smith channeled his inner Pete Townshend while he smashed his banjo at the end of the performance.

Orange Mandolin
Starting the night of music was Mandolin Orange. There was a mandolin, but it wasn't orange.  Despite the false advertising, the North Carolina duo won over the crowd with their self described lyrical country grassy folk music. Their song Wildfire was a powerful Civil War themed song that addressed how hate never fades away. Andrew Marlin introduced Heart of Gold as a love song performed sadly because they like juxtaposition. Emily Frantz thanked the strong winds for making her hair look good (who needs a wind machine when you have the actual wind).  Marlin thanked the sun for being the world's biggest spotlight. There are definite advantages of being the opening act.


See you at the next show.  I'll be the one leading the howl-a-long.










Saturday, May 13, 2017

John Paul White and Covenhoven at the Bluebird in Denver, CO on 05-10-17

John Paul White
John Paul White announced to the crowd, "I didn't come here to cheer you up." Referring to his melancholy songs such as I'll Get Even, Hope I Die, and Hate the Way You Love Me. They are somber, but with pleasing melodies and haunting images. I first saw John Paul White back in 2012 as one half of the duo The Civil Wars. A very pregnant Joy Williams was dancing around the stage while singing incredible harmonies with White. Now without Joy (see what I did there), John Paul White is back as a solo artist after an extensive time away from the spotlight.

Making up for a cancelled show in January due to a freak snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest, John Paul White mostly played material from his solo album 2016's Beulah (biblical word meaning a place of peace and isolation from strife). He explained to the crowd he was perfectly happy not making music and being with his family. But songs started to pour out of him demanding to be heard.

John Paul White
All Photos by the Rock and Roll Princess
The performance started with John Paul White walking on stage when the crowd's cheering suddenly stopped. Before singing a note, White said, "it got creepy for a second." His a cappella version of I Remember You (the 1941 Johnny Mercer classic not the 1989 Skid Row power ballad) set the mood for the night of beautifully dark music. Next he picked up an acoustic guitar for Black Leaf where his signature finger picking reminded everyone of The Civil Wars distinct sound. Most of the members of the Florence, Alabama band Belle Adair acted as John Paul White's backing band for the rest of the night. They added ambient dreamy southern depth while White poured his soul out through his heavyhearted voice.

John Paul White
A few songs not on the current album were performed. Simple Song about the death of his grandfather from his grandmother's viewpoint declaring, "Done my mourn' in your arms/I ain't gonna lose sleep when your safe from harm." Remember White warned the crowd he wasn't there to cheer them up. He sang a few songs from his first solo album 1998's The Long Goodbye that was not released until recently due to brutal record industry politics. This Life had the audience in tears with the lyrics, "'Cause this life is all that I've got/All that I am, all that I'm not/And it's worth all I go through/'Cause this life came with you."  He closed the show with The Electric Light Orchestra's Can't Get It Out of My Head.  Singing, "Now my whole world is gone for dead/'Cause I can't get it out of my head."  Reminding us John Paul White isn't here to cheer you up, but his music might just fill your heart.


Covenhoven
The Denver band Covenhoven was the opener. I dined with them before the show. Okay. I sat near them while they ate pizza at the Denver Biscuit CompanyJoel Van Horne plays music under the moniker Covenhoven named after a cabin his grandfather built in Wyoming. It's symbolically similar to White's Beulah album title. The symphonic folk music was aided by four enthusiastic musicians especially the bass player with his intense facial expressions. There were a number of Bear Creek High School students in attendance screaming their love for Van Horne. It had something to due with their recent school river trip with him. It was fitting because the majority of the songs themes seem to be rooted in nature.  

See you at the next show. I'll be the one that can cheer you up. I know lots of jokes.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Take Note Colorado at 1st Bank Center, Broomfield, CO on 5/4/17


Almost every notable Colorado musician you could think of joined Governor Hickenlooper for a benefit concert on Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you). The goal of the charity is to give any child from kindergarten to 12th grade access to a musical instrument and knowledge how to play it.

Crested Butte's own Bill Nershi from The String Cheese Incident with his wife Jillian Nershi started the evening of Colorado music. His SCI song Colorado Bluebird Sky was about living ... wait for it... mile high.  They introduced Tracksuit Wedding fronted by Libby Anschutz a co-founder of the Take Note Colorado charity. Her father, Phil Anschutz, is Colorado's best-known entrepreneur (the A in AEG).  Sadly, no tracksuits were worn or weddings were performed, but their mixture of funk and blues fired up the crowd.  

KBCO's own Bret Saunder's came out in a Chewbacca Mask (remember it's Star Wars Day) to introduce Columbine High School's own Todd Park Mohr from Big Head Todd and the Monsters. In the early 90's, I followed his band around so often they started to recognize me in the audience. Luckily no restraining orders were filed. He was joined by Jeremy Lawton BHTM's keyboardist and slide guitarist. They played blues versions of Rolling and Tumbling (one of the first blues song's ever recorded), Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your land (their version is actually not cheesy), and a new BHTM song New Word Arisin' that matched the other material perfectly.

Isacc Slade
Next Boulder's own Isaac Slade, the front man of The Fray, took the stage. Governor Hickenlooper convinced Slade to co-chair the Take Note charity one drunken night (that's how it was described by Slade). He performed The Fray's first hit Over My Head (Cable Car) on the piano. Next was How to Save a Life. The song was fitting because it was inspired by his time working at a camp for troubled teens. Next was his version of Kanye West's Heartless illuminated by the audience's cell phones. Boulder's Fairview High School Choir backed him at end of his set. And that was just the warm up. 

The Fray - Photo by the Rock and Roll Princess
Colorado Springs own OneRepublic took the stage to Loves Runs Out. They really put on a show with their full band and stunning lighting display. Lead singer Ryan Tedder jumped off a multi color light piano and took the band through a hit filled set including Stop and Stare, Secrets, and No Apologies (their biggest hit). Tedder introduced the song by joking, "if you don't know this next song, welcome back from North Korea." During Counting Stars, Tedder ran through the audience with the help of three big bodyguards. The audience went crazy and someone threw him their popcorn (not their underwear, it was a family event after all). OneRepublic ended with I Lived with the lyrics, "Hope when the crowd screams out/It's screaming your name/Hope if everybody runs/You choose to stay." 



Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Denver's Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats closed the show with their soul inspired powerhouse sound. Rateliff not only sang with incredible power, he danced throughout the night channeling James Brown. He dedicated a duck walk to the late Father of Rock and Roll Chuck Berry to the jubilated crowd.  His horn section transformed his solo song Boil and Fight into a Night Sweats standard. The horn section put down their brass and played shakers for the song .... wait for it .... Shake. Two high school horn players joined The Night Sweats for a couple of songs making their rock and roll dreams come true. The band ended with S.O.B. encouraging the crowd to sing-a-long. The drunken crowd was doing choreographed dance moves to the chorus of My Heart was breaking/Hands were shaking/Bugs crawling all over me.

See you at the next show. I'll be the one bragging about my tambourine solo featured in my junior high school band concert. 

If you would like to support the worthy cause, please follow the directions below:










Sunday, April 23, 2017

of Montreal and Christina Schneider's Jepto Solutions at The Bluebird Theater on April 20, 2017 in Denver, CO


of Montreal's Kevin Barnes
Barely making it across the busy street of Colfax, a drag queen stumbles towards the Bluebird Theater in high heels. She joins a line of girls in shorts and rainbow colors leggings smoking cigarettes. I stood next to them waiting for the doors to open overhearing their theory of the social benefits of smoking. Through the nicotine haze, I recognized other of Montreal fans that I see every time the psychedelic show comes to the Mile High City.  In front of the line, a girl in a micro silver skirt that was so enamored with the band's last performance she flew to of Montreal's hometown of Athens, Georgia for their Halloween show.  A video game clerk brought his elderly parents to the show for their third time. The three friends that always dress in theme for every show (once in kimonos, next in drag, and this time in matching 420 inspired tie-dye). You might think the crowd sounds more interesting than the performance. But the music starts, and you attention goes right to the leader of the freak show Kevin Barnes.

of Montreal - All Photos by the Rock and Roll Princess
Entering the stage in a blonde wig and red crop-top skirt ensemble, Kevin Barnes sang the verse, "Am I on the verge of a really big breakthrough or just another meltdown?" from the song Gratuitous Abysses from last year's album release Innocence Reaches Long time keyboardist Jojo Gladwell dressed in a Togo and guitarist Bennett Lewis in western wear held the music together as chaos ruled in front of the stage.  The back screen elevated the performance by displaying psychedelic images through the set. But that's not where the visual stimulation stopped. Masked characters made appearances throughout the show.


Falling in Love Again (Can't Help It)
Transforming into a long flowing white gown with moving images eliminating him, Barnes did his version of Marlene Dietrich's Falling in Love Again (Can't Help It). Two masked females frolicked around him with flowing ribbons making the 1930's song strangely erotic. Opening act Christina Schneider was identified as one of the dancers with a hole in her sock. I guess the high concept art show didn't have much of a budget for stockings.





of Montreal with masked theatrics
During Let's Relate a masked dominatrix came out with a whip. Kevin Barnes and her "related" in the middle of the keyboard solo knocking out some of the instruments.  During the song ID Engager, a wrestler wearing an American Flag and another wrestler draped in the Russian Flag started to flight. But another masked wrestler in a rainbow flag brought them together to kiss. Maybe Kevin Barnes can assist in our strained foreign affairs with similar results.  




of Montreal
Bassem Sabry, named after the deceased Egyptian Revolution journalist, was the most powerful song of the night. Backed by images of this year's Women's March, Barnes sang, "People disappear on the wrong side of this revolution/When they'll return, all their childhood memories are dead."  Since the lyrics are sung with such a happy melody, it became extremely haunting.  At the end of the chorus, Kevin Barnes declared, "Every leader is a cellophane punk/If you hear me say yeah!" Of course, the crowd repeated "Yeah" again and again with delight. Not really sure if the deep lyrics reached the crowd celebrating 420 from the guy in a dress.  But it was a powerful moment.





Christina Schneider's Jepto Solutions

Opening band Christina Schneider's Jepto Solutions can be described as beat poetry over deconstructed guitar chords backed by an improvisational guitarist and drummer. Christian Schneider appeared drained with dark circles underneath her eyes looking like a grown up hippie version of Wednesday Adams.  The cause could be related to bassist Zach Phillips leaving the band one day before their Denver debut leaving the band without a key element to their sound.

I look forward to a reunion with the spontaneous traveling girl, the video game clerk with his parents, and the matching costume wearing trio the next time of Montreal comes to town with their psychedelic performance art theatrics.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one wondering what a cellophane punk is.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Regina Spektor at the Fillmore Auditorium, Denver, Colorado on 3/29/17

Regina Spektor
Waiting to go into the venue on Wednesday night, fans of Regina Spektor surrounded me.  I mean FANS. The young man behind me flew in from Kansas City just for the show. The teenage girls ahead of me in dresses and quirky shoes (just like Spektor wears) were reciting her lyrics like Shakespeare. When I entered the Fillmore Auditorium, a shiny black Steinway & Sons grand piano stood center stage. The sold out crowd started to chant her name. There was no opener. Just her.

Regina Spektor began studying classical piano when she was six. At the age of nine, her education was interrupted briefly while she migrated with her family to the United States from the former Soviet Union. Spektor later added her beautiful voice and original lyrics to her classical piano playing.  She has been a unique presence in popular music for over a decade.
Regina Spektor - All photos by the
Rock and Roll Princess

Dressed in a simple black dress and bright orange and red shoes, Regina Spektor took the stage with an infectious smile.  She sat down at the grand piano to perform a remarkable evening of music. It was like being at a giant piano recital with a loud adoring audience. Her angelic voice and outstanding piano playing came together to form a brilliant sound.

Her lyrics were sometimes philosophical. For example, Older And Taller state, "Enjoy your youth/Sounds like a threat." At times, the verses were about mythological places.  Case in point, Grand Hotel describes, "Somewhere below the grand hotel/There is a tunnel that leads straight to hell/But no one comes up for the souls anymore/They come for some comfort and for the dance floor." Other songs detail her personal life. For instance, Fidelity describes, "I hear in my mind/All of these voices/I hear in my mind/All of this music/And it breaks my heart."


Regina Spektor and Yoed Nir
Regina Spektor's backing band added more dynamics to the sound. Yoed Nir, an Israeli born cellist who has played on over 500 albums, was a perfect match to Spektor's classical piano playing. Brad Whitely on the keyboard allowed her to occasionally leave the 88 keys and dance while rapping to her song Small Bill$.  Mathias Kunzil played the drums reminding the audience it was a rock concert after all.


Regina Spektor demonstrating free speech
Regina Spektor got political and discussed her opinion about the new presidential administration. An audience member later complained on Twitter about her "ranting politics" making him and his fiancé leave the show early.  Spektor replied, "You sound like a lovely person. If your fiancé is half as lovely as you = perfect match.  PS This refugee believes in free speech & love too." Spektor used her impassioned dialogue as an introduction to the song, Ballad of a Politician. Surprisingly the song was written in 2012.

The majority of the set list was from her newest album Remember Us to Life inspired partially by the birth of her son. Surprisingly a large portion of the audience knew all the words. At one point, Spektor caught the audience singing and broke into laughter making her restart a verse. The sound of jail bars slamming shut queued the start of the theme song You've Got Time from Netflix's Orange is the New Black (Yes. I know you have heard that song while bing watching that women prison series). Regina Spektor apologized for having her back to the audience for the majority of the show.  She pointed to the piano and explained, "But I have this thing."

Right before Spektor Curtsied
Near the end of the night Regina Spektor played the closing track from Remember Us to Life appropriately titled The Visit singing, "I'm so glad that you stop in/And I had some things to say/But now they've been forgotten/They'll get said a different way." She closed with audience favorite's FidelityHotel Song and Samson from her 2006 break-though album Begin to Hope.

Before Spektor walked off the stage, she curtsied to the audience like she probably did during her numerous years of piano recitals.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one in the bright orange and red quirky shoes.










Tuesday, March 28, 2017

100th Edition of the Ultimate Jam Night, Whisky A Go Go, Hollywood, CA on 3/14/17

During my recent trip to Los Angeles, I visited the historic Whisky A Go Go.  The venue is so influential it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Doors, Frank Zappa, Neil Diamond, Van Halen, and Guns N' Roses (to name only a few) have performed on the sacred ground. Maybe more importantly, it introduced the world to the fine art of go go dancing.

I was lucky enough to attend the 100th Edition of The Ultimate Jam Night. Every Tuesday an all-star group of musicians gather to bring rock and roll back to the streets of Los Angeles. Most of these artists are from national touring groups, studio musicians, tribute bands, and local talent. Oh, and it's free.

Paulie Z and the house band
The Master of Ceremonies, Paulie Z (Paul Zabildowsky)led the talented group of troubadours through a diverse set of rock classics. He started with the fitting AC/CD's It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock N' Roll) complete with bag pipes. Paul Z took center stage and filled the room with the essence of Bon Scott. Next was Cheap Trick's Dream Police. The entire mixed crowd of old long haired rockers, young hipsters with aggressive piercings, and tourists (like me) sang along "'Cause they're waiting for me/Looking for me/Every single night/(They're) driving me insane/Those men inside my brain."


Jimmy Sakurai - All photos by
The Rock and Roll Princess
Survivor keyboardist Walter Ino belted out Paul McCartney's Maybe I'm Amazed with the help of the lyrics in the monitor in front of him (cheater).

Joe Retta from Dio Disciples performed Rainbow's Man on the Silver Mountain follow by Dio's solo masterpiece Like a Rainbow in the Dark (one of the few dark metal songs about rainbows). Bass player and Kevin Dillion doppelgänger Sean McNabb backed the chaos. Besides playing in Quiet Riot and Dokken, McNabb played on the music tracks for the Dr. Phil Show and the McDonald's I'm Loving It breakfast commercials.

Cherokee Fortune from Absinthe took the stage in her 1970's inspired bell-bottoms to sing Led Zeppelin's Kashmir. Two female violinists joined providing a fuller sound for the classic. Jimmy Sakurai from the Led Zeppelin tribute band Mr. Jimmy mesmerized the audience with his licks and tricks. He stole the show with his staggering moves, big hair, and open shirt (a little something for the ladies).


Acid Queen Debby Holiday
Los Angeles' own soul rocker Debby Holiday embraced her inner Tina Turner with her take on Acid Queen from The Who's Rock Opera Tommy. Holiday smoothly transitioned into the Ray Charles classic Don't Need No Doctor. Guitarist Mitch Perry, who has performed with Edgar Winter, Cher, Lita Ford, and Ratt, played an extensive guitar solo intertwined with Holiday's long braid dancing and sexual screaming.

Others joined the all-star band to play Ozzy Osborn, Metallica, Pat Benatar, and Pink Floyd covers. There wasn't much down time between songs.  Which is impressive due to the number of musicians that came and left throughout the night.





Go Go Dancer Go Going
A scantly clad go go dancer captured the crowd's attention throughout the evening. Her style of dancing peaked at the Whisky A Go Go in 1965. The club pioneered the art form by being the first to have Go Go Cages suspended from the ceiling. The dancer that night was uncaged (probably because Los Angeles is a sanctuary city).

Paulie Z ended the night with The Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil.  The forty-nine year old song still holds up after all these years just like the Whisky A Go Go.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one looking for the go go dancer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Joey Harris and the Mentals at Bolt Brewery in La Mesa, CA on 03/18/17

Joey Harris and the Mentals
In Junior High, I read a review of the Beat Farmers.  A San Diego, California Cow Punk band that stormed through Denver. They jugged open beer bottles, gave the audience the middle finger as a jester of love, and put on one hell of a show. It was a mixture of rock, country, and punk with kazoo and beer gargling solos. The band sounded like living cartoon characters. I went to the record store immediately to get their albums.

The three vocalists in the band shared lead singer and drumming duties. On vocals, drums, and, guitar Country Dick Montana looked like a western movie villain belting out hilarious dirty drinking songs. On vocals, drums, and guitar Jerry Raney was the rocker of the group that previously played for John Lee Hooker.  On vocals, guitar, and drums Joey Harris, the nephew of The Kingston Trio's Nick Reynolds, sang roots rock tunes with cleaver funny lyrics.  Rolle Love held the band together with his bass and evil grin.  They had amazing covers of Johnny Cash, The Kinks, Neil Young, The Velvet Underground, and Tom Waits songs.  This sent me down a path of discovering awe-inspiring music that changed my world.

Living cartoon charters
I saw the Beat Farmers live numerous times after turning the legal drinking age because they mainly performed at bars. At these incredible performances, I saw my first bar fight, witnessed a wedding performed by Country Dick Montana, and cracked my tooth in a mosh pit. Their run was cut short when Montana died of a heart attack on stage in 1995 breaking up the Beat Farmers and breaking my heart.

Later Joey Harris formed Joey Harris and the Mentals.  They have been playing around the San Diego area for years. I made a musical expedition to witness one of my heroes perform at Bolt Brewery in La Mesa, CA on a beautiful California Saturday night.

Joey Harris and the Mentals



His band consisted of bass player Jeffrey Stephen Kmak who went to High School with Dan McLain before he transformed into Country Dick Montana. Kmak is a legend in the San Diego music scene for the past 40 years.  Even Calab Yearsley played the drums. He is the son of the late great adult actress and singer Candye Kane. She sang Let's Put the X- Back in Christmas with Country Dick Montana.  As a child, Yearly used to wake up and step over various members of the Beat Farmers passed out on the floor to watch cartoons.



Joey Harris - All photos by the
Rock and Roll Princess
Before the show, Joey Harris and I talked about Denver's rock venue Herman's Hideaway and my love for his music. I took a seat close to the band armed with a refreshing Bolt Brewery offering.  The Mentals played a three-hour show with only a brief break.

The 60-year old Harris went through his vast catalog of songs singing with a clear voice and shredding on the guitar.  He played You Never Call Me a catchy pop song from his early solo album Joey Harris and The Speedsters. He also played a recent one entitled Your a Piece of Cake about losing a girl to another girl.

He didn't disappoint and played a number of Beat Farmer songs including Bigger Stones from their first album Tales of the New West. Joey Harris' explained Make It Last was played on country radio briefly until radio programmers found out the drummer drank beer with his feet. Harris described the night Country Dick Montana conducted his wedding ceremony right before playing The Girl I Almost Married.  His wife was in the crowd to collaborate the story.  The song Riding had him reminisce about girls on the beach smelling like coconut oil.  Hideaway had him recall the Beat Farmers network television debut performing the single on Late Night with David Letterman.

Just when I thought the night couldn't get any better, Harris played the Country Dick Montana tune Lakeside Trailer Park. "Got doctor bills and legal ills/ My wife's a fat old whore/My TV's broke; my life's joke/And the Sheriff moved next door/But I don't frown/Don't get me down/I got somethin' good to say/'Cause I live in a Lakeside trailer park/And Everything's gonna be okay."

After the end of their set, I walked over to Joey Harris and he hugged me goodbye.

See you at the next show.  I'll be the one stepping over you to watch cartoons.