Tag Archives: Greensky Bluegrass

Getting Ready for Hoxeyville Music Festival

Hoxeyville Music Festival 2012

It’s about that time. September is just around the corner, and the summer festival season is almost at an end. With Summer Camp and All Good behind us, we’ve got one more music festival to see. One more to round out a summer of great festivals and music across the Midwest. Hoxeyville Music Festival (August 17 – 19) is in Northern Michigan, smack dab in the middle of Manistee National Forest. We covered Hoxeyville for the first time back in 2010, and we’re even more excited about this year.

The organizers have pulled together another great lineup. It’s a very Michigan artist focused festival, as you can see from the artist roster, and there are a couple of great national acts playing, too. Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers are headlining, and just for me, they’ve got two amazing post Grateful Dead bands playing – Bill Kreutzmann‘s 7 Walkers and the Mickey Hart Band. So if you’re anywhere near Michigan, you might want to take the time to check it out. Here are some of the bands we’re particularly excited to see.

7 Walkers

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld5hKeZQGFo&w=560&h=315]

7 Walkers – “Sugaree”

This is the band I’m most excited to see at Hoxeyville. Bill Kreutzmann on drums, with Papa Mali on guitar and vocals, and George Porter on bass and vocals. George Porter was a founding member of The Meters. He sings “Sugaree” here, and really belts it out. Papa Mali is a great guitar player from New Orleans. Together, these guys bring New Orleans funk and soul to the Grateful Dead sound.

Mickey Hart Band

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFT2w9YGzcw&w=560&h=315]

Mickey Hart Band – “Brokedown Palace”

Here they are at All Good, doing a slow, soulful “Brokedown Palace”. And the video is great. Hats off to the videographer. As the song starts, he’s walking down the hill towards the stage, and stops by the tapers (in front of the soundboard) to capture the rest of the song. I don’t know what he was using to tape it, but he’s pretty steady all the way down the hill.

Greensky Bluegrass

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCr-pItRqwg&w=560&h=315]

Greensky Bluegrass – “China Cat Sunflower -> I Know You Rider”

We’ve covered Greensky Bluegrass a couple of times here before, and they are always high on our list of bands to see at music festivals (they played at both Summer Camp and All Good this year). This video is from when we saw them at Hoxeyville in 2010. The Rhythm Devils played that year, too, and both Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart joined them on stage for a stellar rendition of “China Cat Sunflower” into”I Know You Rider”. If you listen carefully, you can hear me yell “Mickey!” when Hart gets behind his drum kit. Yes, I almost wet my pants with excitement. That’s just how I roll.

Seth Bernard and May Erlewine

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzipdd8y-ho&w=560&h=315]

Seth Bernard and May Erlewine – “Ain’t No Sunshine”

I was first introduced to Seth Bernard and May Erlewine at Hoxeyville in 2010. They were all over the schedule. As Seth Bernard and May Erlewine, Airborne or Aquatic?, Paul Hoffman vs. Seth Bernard, and probably a few other places, too. This clip is from a show they did at The Ark in Ann Arbor in 2011. Listen to May sing “I know, I know, I know…” and try not to fall in love with her voice. They represent some of the best musical talent in Michigan, and they are an integral part of what makes Hoxeyville what it is.

Paul Hoffman vs. Seth Bernard

Continuing on with the Seth Bernard focus, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Paul Hoffman vs. Seth Bernard. Paul Hoffman is the mandolin player, vocalist, and one of the songwriters in Greensky Bluegrass. When we saw them at Hoxeyville last time, it was just the two of them on stage, greeting the morning crowd with some of their own tunes, and this rendition of Neil Young‘s “Cortez the Killer”. A must listen (sorry, no video!)

Paul Hoffman vs. Seth Bernard – “Cortez the Killer”

Airborne or Aquatic?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCMly1uz1wY&w=560&h=315]

Airborne or Aquatic? – [No idea what this jam is called]

Airborne or Aquatic? is another Seth and May production. It’s sort of “supergroup” of Michigan players, and Hoxeyville is one of the few places they get together. It’s totally spacey, trippy music, as you can see from this video, which starts out with some spoken word stuff from Lee Sprague, Tribal Council Member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. Should be a trip again this year.

I could go on and on here, highlighting all the great music you catch at Hoxeyville this year. But there just isn’t enough time. I’ll just say that I’m also excited to see The Macpodz, The Ragbirds, The Josh Davis Band, Naive Melodies (Talking Heads cover band!), and The Red Sea Pedestrians performing Abbey Road (regular GloNo readers are familiar with my unhealthy obsession with covers and cover bands).

Festival tickets are still available. You can grab them here. Hope to see you there!

 

Greensky Bluegrass at The Loft

Greensky Bluegrass at The Loft in Lansing, April 12, 2012

Greensky Bluegrass at The Loft
Lansing, MI
Thursday, April 12, 2012

The thing that struck me the most about this Greensky Bluegrass show was the crowd. By the time they stepped on stage, The Loft was packed with people. The excitement and anticipation in the air was electric. During the show, almost everyone was dancing – to music that lacked a traditional drummer or percussionist of any kind. Just the percussive banjo playing of Michael Arlen Bont, which drives the beat and the feet on dance floor. Lansing, young and old, clearly loves Greensky Bluegrass.

I got there early enough to see all the opening bands – Whiskey Riders, Flashing Blue Lights, and Josh Davis (playing solo, a Stepping in It veteran). Up until Davis started playing, The Loft was pretty quiet. Josh Davis – who Paul Hoffman (Greensky’s mandolin player, vocalist, songwriter) called the greatest songwriter he knows – took the stage with just a few guitars perched behind him. He completely engaged the crowd and got them excited about Greensky coming up. He also played a song he wrote that will stick with me called “The Ghost of Richard Manuel”. Speaking with him after the set, it turns out Davis is a huge fan of The BandRichard Manuel – piano player, singer, songwriter – was an important part of the Band’s mix, and the song was a highlight for me.

Once they took the stage, Greensky Bluegrass moved through a solid set of originals and covers, breaking out Talking Head’s “Road to Nowhere”, The Beatles “Help”, and Bob Marley’s “Small Axe” (my personal favorite of the night). They played some tracks from their latest album, Handguns, and a few off their earlier recordings, too. Occasionally, the band would move relatively quickly through a given song. More often, they took some time exploring the outer edges of the song, with some focus on Paul Hoffman’s mandolin soloing and Anders Beck‘s trippy dobro playing.

The light show was impressive, too. I hadn’t seen them include that before, and it was a fairly sophisticated digital set up. You can see it in the photos from the show. The same streams of light from their digital lighting doodads contained multiple colors, projecting light around the venue in unison with the music. During the show I was lucky enough to meet Buddy, Greensky’s light guy, who has been working with the band for years. He seemed to have a strong rapport with the guys in the band, and I thought that was reflected in the light show.

These guys, it seems to me, grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, U2, Talking Heads, etc. Yes, they’re a bluegrass band, but they’re a bluegrass band put together by musicians with a solid footing in good old rock n’ roll. You can hear it in their originals, and their cover choices, which reflect the tastes of people growing up in the 80s and 90s, as opposed to, say, the Grateful Dead, whose covers are mostly older blues, folk, and country tunes. Stuff they heard when they were growing up.

If you go over to the Greensky Bluegrass page on the Live Music Archive and give a few shows a listen, you’ll see what I mean. You might even start by checking out the recording for their sold out show at Bell’s Brewery, which was almost exclusively covers. This is all thanks to the intrepid show tapers out there. At The Loft, I met Craig Hanger, who was taping this particular show. He’s a plumber by day, and a fearless taper by night. He tapes shows with a sophisticated set up. Four microphones mounted on an adjustable pole (gotta get above the crowd), and some sort of supercomputer in a big bag that looks like an over-sized lunch cooler. The evolution of portable taping equipment is amazing. With a not insignificant investment in equipment, though, and a commitment to the work required to convert raw recordings into something mere mortals can consume – MP3s, FLAC – anyone could do it. Which is one of the things I like about taping. With some dedication, anyone can help spread their love of music to others over the digital airwaves.

If you haven’t seen Greensky Bluegrass yet this year, don’t worry. You will have lots of opportunity this summer. In addition to a variety of other gigs, they will be playing both the Summer Camp and All Good music festivals, which GLONO will be covering this year. Stay tuned. And go see Greensky Bluegrass when you can.

Five From the Archive: Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass is a local Michigan band done good. Coming out of Kalamazoo, they hit a soft spot for me right away, since that’s where I (and some other GLONO folks) went to college. And they have done a lot of shows at a place I know well: Bell’s Brewery. I was drinking their beer when they were still putting it in wine bottles. And I look forward to summer mostly because that’s when Solsun Oberon is available.

More importantly, these guys have put together a great band. Their originals are fantastic, and they incorporate a lot of different bluegrassified rock covers. I don’t know what your conception of bluegrass might be, but I can tell you that Greensky’s music is joyous.  Something about the banjo playing just drives the band’s music forward with a bounce, the same way it did in Neil Young’s International Harvesters.

I’ve spent some time this week going through their 2012 shows and pulling out noteworthy covers. Below are five of the most enjoyable.

1. Greensky Bluegrass – “Atlantic City”. This may be my all time favorite Bruce Springsteen song. These guys give it the treatment it deserves. It’s like the middle ground between Bruce’s version and The Band’s version. To top it off, they end this particular show with an 11 minute “Small Axe” cover. Full show: February 8, 2012 – Bluebird Theater, Denver, CO

2. Greensky Bluegrass – “Don’t Stop Believing”. This cover pretty much speaks for itself. Journey, baby! Of course, most of the audience knew the lyrics and sang along. Full show: February 4, 2012 – Bell’s Back Room, Kalamazoo, MI

3. Greensky Bluegrass – “Time/Breathe Reprise”. This may be my favorite of the bunch. It’s got a jaunty bluegrass step to it that masks the morbid rumination in the lyrics. “The Sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older, shorter of breath, and one day closer to death.” How about that banjo, though? Snappy and upbeat. Full show: January 26, 2012 – Canopy Club, Urbana, IL

4. Greensky Bluegrass – “Ain’t No Sunshine”. This is from their New Year’s Eve show at the Majestic Theater in Detroit. Somehow, these guys have managed to turn this song about love and heartache into a murder ballad. About love and heartache after the song’s protagonist has killed his beloved in a fit of angry passion. At least, that’s how it felt to me. And  it’s fucking fantastic. Full show: December 31, 2011 – Majestic Theater, Detroit, MI

5. Greensky Bluegrass – “Road to Nowhere”. They also played this when I saw them at the All Good Music Festival in 2010 (coverage here, here, and here). Full show: January 20, 2012 – Middle East Upstairs, Cambridge, MA

If you like what you hear, and want to explore more, intrepid tapers have been uploading full shows to the Live Music Archive for years. They’re also currently on their Spring tour – with some upcoming dates in Michigan. Check out the tour dates here and go see them if you get a chance.