COMUSIC REVIEW – The Hanukkah Jones Band – “Turn Your Head and Scoff” EP

     One thing that seems to be common when I type these reviews is the state of local music. While musicians in this town are playing a wide variety of music they face a wall of indifference from people so convinced that there’s nothing good that comes out of Columbia that they never even bother to check out any local artists to see whether they might be wrong or not. Thankfully not everyone in this town is like that; thus creating a community that, while underground in many ways, has a lot to offer not live in terms of live shows but on disc as well. One disc that piqued my interest lately was the second CD from The Hanukkah Jones Band.

On their latest disc Jon Heller and company offer up six songs that blend power pop hooks with some punk and hard rock attitude. It kicks off with “Hey Padme,” a tale of a dead relationship within a discussion of Star Wars prequels that seems obtuse lyrically but is carried by raw chords and a tasty guitar solo. Along the way, the songs are rockin’ tales regarding introspection, dying, love, life et al delivered with tight rhythms and saturated guitar tones. All the while, Heller’s lyrics carry a mix between pop culture and intellectual thoughts, creating songs that stand apart in many ways from run of the mill pop-punk or indie rock.

There are a number of changes since HJB’s debut CD Rodent Rage both in lineup (Heller is the only member who played on both discs) and soundwise. A slightly slicker production actually highlights the songs and helps the guitar tones stand out in the mix. However, the sonic changes aren’t so much a change in direction as a progression in the band’s aural vision, moving it forward in the process.

The Hanukkah Jones Band aren’t the hipster flavor of the month. However, if you want some melodic straight from the heart rock that’s melodic but also makes you think at times, their new disc is definitely one you should check out,

COMUSIC REVIEW – Coward, Jack Buck, The Spit @ Mojo’s

Mid January brought the first Friday the 13th of 2012. The city: Columbia, MO. The weather is cold and the area is recovering from a winter storm that, while normal in past years, seems in anomaly in an abnormally dry winter. Like this one has been so far. The semester is starting up at the area colleges. Thus, though not everyone has come back yet, there is an energy that has people coming out to see live music. Tonight, we look at this show at Mojo’s.

The Spit

The Spit kicking out the jams to start the evening.

New local band The Spit was opening the show tonight. This new band (this was their fifth show) set things into motion via a melodic, rough around the edges take on punk rock with buzzsaw guitars and songs that are direct and to the point. This quintet takes a high energy approach in these odes to life, communication, and death that comes through in the music and grabs your attention in the process. At only six songs, they focused on delivering the goods and gave the crowd a hard punk appetizer for the rest of the night. While the music of The Spit isn’t for everybody, people wanting a little roughness and honesty in their punk will do well to see them play live.

 

Jack Buck rocking the place.

I’d heard about Jack Buck through word of mouth and little bits of information gleaned online, but still hadn’t heard them yet, so this would be a surprise. After a false start/setup, the band returned shortly thereafter and took things into a somewhat different aural direction. This St. Louis quartet plays noise leaning metal built on effect tweaked guitars, the occasional sample, and spiderwebs of notes that weave through their songs. Hard, sometimes noisy, but with hints of atmospherics, they walk a fine line between metal, indie, and even some prog rock as the tension within often builds into moments of feedback and collision without losing the elements of melody in their sound. While Jack Buck’s sound does have similarities to some modern metal, their use of it as a jumping off point helps create heavy, ambient rock that sometimes knows more than it lets on. Need to check out their single.

 

Coward

Coward takes the crowd somewhere completely different.

I admit it had been a number of years since I’d last seen Coward play live so I was wondering what to expect. This quartet laid down an all instrumental set that was part dual drummer filled and keyboard driven tunes that almost border on jazz funk, part a guitar shred fueled fusion of hard rock, indie, and jazz that even could get close to progressive rock as much as anything metal related. It was an interesting match sonically as the subdued melded with harder more fiery pieces in a way that didn’t clash as much as some people might think. In the past I’d had a hard time trying to figure Coward out, but I now realize that their fusion of different musical styles makes them almost as a jazz band as they explore both rock and soul textures, though even this is somewhat of a misnomer. This was the tightest I’d ever seen them and they have piqued my curiosity towards any future plans they have.

Then it was over. As people slowly ventured out into the cold and light snow covered ground, plans were made and people bought merch. In a few days the semester would start at Mizzou and things would adjust back to a sense of quasi-normal – at least normal for Como. After a slow month in December, it was good to see some action going down in this town.

COMUSIC REVIEW – Jack Grelle, The Weeping Wildas, Graham MIles & Tommy Stallings @ Cafe Berlin 12/1/2011

I admit that December is traditionally a slow month for Columbia. The colder weather and longer nights tends to get people leaning more towards a hibernation mode than usual. In addition, the end of fall semester and preparations for finals creates a situation where shows become a bit scarce (for obvious reasons). However, along with the cold and a vibe that’s somehow simultaneously hectic and somewhat sleepy, there are things that surprise you. In my case, I was walking downtown on December 1st when I came across a flyer for this show at Cafe Berlin that I wasn’t aware of.

L to R: Tommy Stallings and Graham Miles

Strangely enough I end up missing opener Lizzie Wright due to running late at one of the very rare shows that started on time. I did make it about halfway through Graham Miles and Tommy Stallings’ set. With each alternative between acoustic guitar and bass (upright for Stallings, washtub for Miles) depending on the song, the duo played a collection of folk, blues and country songs that involved singalong choruses at times and delivered earnestly and true to their music’s roots. While they did struggle with the lack of a PA, the duo managed to overcome that and put on a straight ahead honest show that fans of roots and mountain music might enjoy.

Weeping WIldas

Local duo Weeping WIldas came up next with a homecoming show to almost wrap up their latest tour. Their songs are old timey mountain music that seems to be almost mined out of a mountaintop. Using just acoustic guitar, banjo and fiddle, their performance evoked a vibe that reminds one of country cabin front porches in these tales of life, love, and problems that come across like it’s 1901 as much as it does today. I’d never seen the duo before (though I had seen both Sam and Laura play in other bands and projects) so this proved to be a very interesting set.

Eventually it was time for Jack Grelle to take the stage and play a solo set. Somewhat more known in Columbia for his duties in local punk bands Task Force (as one of the two lead vocalsits) and Bookmobile (on drums), Grelle offereed up a set of pure unplugged country that told of trains, life, problems with the law, and the like with a honesty too often watered down in country music. Mostly solo, he told stories within the songs, taking the role of a balladeer of sorts along the way. Near the end, the Weeping Wildas joined him for several songs that took the set to a more mountain music/hillbilly feel. It wasn’t slick or commercial sounding, but there’s an honesty to whatever music Jack Grelle undertakes that has made him one of this town’s more interesting musicians along the way.

Jack Grelle with Laura of Weeping Wildas

Thus ends a show that came almost as a surprise. The nice weather of the day had turned to a winter night as people headed out into the cold. The next couple of weeks would be hectic for a lot of people at the show but for a few hours anyway, they had a release from their stress. It was one of those nights that proves again that sometimes the more interesting things in Columbia can happen when people are often too distracted to pay attention.

Comusic Review: Cave, Running, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, Hott Lunch @ Mojo’s

First my apologies for taking so long to get this review up. Last weekend was very busy for me and I didn’t have a lot of time near a computer to put up reviews. While for many people in Columbia last weekend was memorable for Mizzou squashing Texas like a bug (17-5) for music fans it was likely they may have been among the packed crowd at the November 13th show at Mojo’s to see Cave.

Hott Lunch kicking out the jams....

First to play was locals Hott Lunch, who have been getting a bit of word of mouth from the underground. Expanding to a quartet, the band have brought a more psychedelic and hard rock leaning to their music with hard driving guitar hooks, a fair amount of garage rock organ and a lot of hooks. To put it mildly, these guys deliver one of the best rock shows in town. Unfortunately short (a necessarily thing with a four band bill), the band kicked out the jams in about six songs to reveal one of this town’s better bands. It’s been interesting to see Hott Lunch evolve and I’m curious to where their muse will lead them next.

Jeremy of Jerusalem and the Starbaskets

Jerusalem and the Starbaskets came up next and took things in a direction that’s similar, yet markedly different. As when I saw them in St. Louis last month, they still have the trio format.  Musically, they continue to create a melodic sound where vintage acid fried country rock meets noise laden alt rock, walking a thin line between punk, indie, and folk in the process.  This band has always followed its own muse, sometimes too freaky for melodic crowds, sometimes too melodic for freak folk fans.  However, its that unique vision that creates such interesting music and makes every show they do one worth checking out.

Had no clue what Running would be like only to find myself picking my jaw off the floor.  These guys unleashed some pure hardcore punk with hints of noise woven in.  Loud, fast, and in your face, each song came off like a grenade, coming off like a missing link between mid period Black Flag and No Means No.  Ferocious and uncompromising, Running is one of those bands that was like nothing else on the bill yet fit perfectly somehow.  Wish they’d come through here more often.

Running - may not grow on trees but they take the corwd by surprise.

A short time after Running left the stage the crowd grew thick adn slightly restless waiting for Cave to come up and play.  THe formerly local quartet was ready to decimate, diving into a set of mainly instrumental space rock built on drones and repetition with some near Kraut rock influences thrown into the aural mix.  Along the way, the band filtered in influences ranging from pschedelic rock to jazz-funk to pure space music.  Within their lengthy compositions the crowd reaches a slightly hypnotic feel, dancing along as the drones and chords build simemringly to a cresecndo.  While Cave have moved somewhat away from their local noise punk origins, the abdn has honed its hooks into a sonic machine that slowly lures the listener in until they succumb.  Their live shows are something that requires witnessing to truly understand what they’re about.

Three quareters of Cave getting into a locaked aural groove.

Once the show was over and people slowly began to filter out towards parties or whatever, a couple thoughts crossed my mind.  First, this had to be the largest crowd I’d ever seen for a Cavge show in the yearsw I’ve seen them.  Also, three quarters of the band either are or were local (running being the sole exception) though I wonder if anyone knew Cave came from here originally given this city’s antipathy towards local music way too much of the time.  Also, this turned out to be one of those nights that call to mind what Columbia can be (and has had glimpses of in the past).  This was going to be the start of a busy weekend for me  but one where the live shows kept my interest and made me wonder what was ahead as well as think of new ideas to create on my own.  This was an interesting night.

 

COMUSIC REVIEW – Neatly Knotted – “Sore Throat City” EP

One of the benefits of life in a college town is the amount of creativity that doesn’t necessarily exist in a lot of other places. This is especially true musically where, while not commonly known, there are a lot of things that lie underneath the surface that make you curious. Coming across this cassette is one such incident. Yes, you read that right; I said cassette.

Neatly Knotted is the brainchild of local musician, artist, and (in the interest of full disclosure) COMO Collective contributor Ben Chlapek. Using just a couple keyboards (largely organ, but there seem to be some piano on occasion as well), Chlapek creates lo-fi dark pop/psychedelia that can seem as comfortable along indie music circles as with the subgenres he draws from. Kicking off with “Around and Down,” there is a hint of melancholy here in these personal tales that could be in part due to the format, but seems to hint of the lo-fi nature of the material. Hinting at such topics as lack of money, surviving, friendship, and the like Neatly Knotted’s music has a minimalist approach that enhances the often moody nature of the music. This culminates in the EP’s closer “White Star,” an instrumental that has to be heard to truly understand it (I don’t think a review can really explain it).

Yes, Neatly Knotted’s debut EP isn’t for everyone. Some people will be put off by the lo-fi nature of the music (recorded on a 4 track cassette deck). However, this EP takes advantage of the medium’s limitations and makes it work for the music in a way that digital audio workstations and software that can allow recording hundreds of track wouldn’t. Only 75 copies of the cassette exist. However, during the writing of this review, I learned that there is a digital version at the Yards & Gods blog where a download is also available (for those who either can’t get a cassette or just prefer the convenience of digital). I need to see him play live one of these days.

COMUSIC REVIEW : IN DEFENCE, THE PROSELYTE, CREATUREZOID, AND THE PHAGGS @ CAFE BERLIN

Saturday April 22 in Columbia, MO. It’s the week after homecoming and the town is in the bizarre state of flux that is part football Saturday, part semi-humid fall weekend day. While there are a few things going on, the town does seem to lack some of the energy it tends to have on a weekend. However, as I got some errands done, I got ready for one of the few shows in this town that would seriously blur the divide between punk and metal. Thus, In Defence were returning to town for the first time since late May.

The Phaggs kicking things off for the night.

First up was local band The Phaggs to kick things off with a definite punk flavor. Diving headfirst into a set of the noisy HC with screamed vocals and guitar that nearly crumbles under its own semi hollow bodied distortion that’s become their signature. However, while their presence on this bill is slightly surprising given the more metal leanings of some of the bands, this trio (on this night anyway) is showing themselves to be the tightest they’ve ever been live. Yes, they definitely owe a nod to early to mid 80s hardcore and its hard to tell what they’re singing about, but Justice and his bandmates have come a long way from the chaotic, nihilistic band that they began as and may be one of the better bands in this town that a lot of people don’t know about.

 

All hail the mighty Creaturezoid.

Definitely flying another sonic flag altogether was Creaturezoid, whom I’d heard about for a couple years but somehow had always missed live due to either obligations I couldn’t get out of or arriving at an afternoon show at Flat Branch Park just as it ended; thus I was interested in hearing them. Their set was pure speed/death metal built on a wall of scooped tone guitar chords, tight songs, and a lot of solos. Dished with a singular power, the band’s songs go for the jugular with a solid footing and an edge that draws from earlier bands but isn’t completely beholden to them. While Columbia isn’t known as a metal town per se, this is a band that could play a vital role in making a dent towards that direction. If you dig thrash and 80s style crossover metal Creaturezoid is definitely worth checking out.

The Proselyte get ready to tear things up.

The Proselyte came from Boston and are on a short leg of a tour with In Defence. Since I’d never heard of them before I was curious to see what’s they’re like as they set up their wall of amps. What emerged from the speakers was doom/stoner metal (for lack of a better term) that arose from midtempo rhythms, a mix of heavy power chords and some bluesy leaning guitar licks and an energy that the band played as their lives depended on it. While there was a huge amount of gear on stage (by Berlin standards, anyway) the band played the fine line between volume and pure aggression as the songs pummeled over the crowd with a swagger that veered from assured to pure noise. They were also the loudest band on the bill with one person noting they stepped outside for a second and could hear everything perfectly. While their type of music isn’t everyone’s quart of brew the Proselyte know their sound and excel at giving the crowd a pure sonic attack that will stick with them.

In Defence: Ready for the Pit

In Defence were about to tear the house down by kind of bringing it back to where it began. The Minneapolis based quintet threw down a short, sharp blast of hardcore punk infused with a definite amount of pure metal throughout. Dual guitars blazed away at these somewhat humorous songs as the crowd got into instant pit mode. There’s a power and energy here that carried the band through a set that was, sadly, too short whether riffing on a new bass drum pedal that broke before it even got used or moshing vs. circle pits, the band maintained their mix of raw energy and hardcore attack that has been their bread and butter live. While there wasn’t the circle pit dance lesson like there was last time they were in town, In Defence again proved their ferocity as what hardcore and metal can come across as when it put together well and actually done right. Once again, they put on a live show you have to see to believe.

Post show, it was off into the Columbia night.  For  Saturday night it seemd unbelievably quiet.  Maybe it was the early afternoon loss the Tigers had to Oklahoma State, maybe it’s the time of the semester.  Regardless, it seemed to be a chilly though reflective contrast to the power and energy that took place inside Cafe Berlin that nigh thanks to the venue, Thorazine Overdose Productions for putting it on, the bands, and those who made it to the show.  This was an interesting way to spend an autumn night; a way I wish others could’ve shared.

 

COMUSIC REVIEWS; CAVE, JERUSALEM AND THE STARBASKETS, CATHOLIC GUILT LIVE IN ST. LOUIS

I know this is a little unusual for a blog about Columbia to review a concert in St. Louis. After all, a local blog should focus on what’s happening locally. However, this show should be an interesting exception for several reasons as a Jerusalem and the Starbaskets show is somewhat rare for this local band. In addition, CAVE is one of the most known bands of that Chicago phenomenon known as the Columbia diaspora (a moment of several formerly local bands and musicians who’ve moved to Chicago and managed to make some sort of notice for themselves). So, with these two bands together (and as a possible hint of what next month might be like), it seemed fitting to post this review of their show from the upstairs gallery at 2720 Cherokee that happened last Friday night.

Catholic Guilt getting to near shamanic heights.

St Louis band Catholic Guilt’s opening set seemed more a compliment to the dubstep being played in the club downstairs than the other bands on the bill. The quartet didn’t play songs as much as perform a 20 or so minute aural journey using synthesizers, some effects pedals, and drums to create a sonic atmosphere that hinted at darkness but may have more underneath than expected. Rooted firmly in noise music, their sound was trippy at times and even a bit shamanic. However, it also ran the risk of sounding slightly monotonous after a while as it appeared to be merely one song rather than several tracks that fit together (though they may actually have been their plan). Catholic Guilt is a little ominous but has something that can be good in small doses. I’m still surprised they unplugged and left the stage so soon.

Kim and Jeremy from Jerusalem and the Starbaskets

After a period of milling about and people setting up, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets took their turn on the stage. A trio at this performance, they wasted not time and immediately delivered a batch of driving, sometimes abrasive, yet melodic blend of folk, country and indie rock that could go from markedly gentle to wall of noise at the drop of a pin. With only guitars and drums at their disposal, they made use of as much frequencies as they could and forged a sonic painting that reveals songs with a surprising range arising amidst what some could call chaos. This band has long been a bridge of sorts between noise rock, folk, and even country rock and tonight they continue that sonic journey. Given that Kim’s work on producing films and Jeremy’s recent move to Memphis means we don’t see them play all that often, a Jerusalem and the Starbaskets show still highlights some of the best that this town has to offer.

As one band tore down and another band began to set up on stage, the crowd was about to get a surprise as the members of Cave began to set up also. Yes, the band actually played on the floor. The quartet has evolved in the past roughly six years from noise rock towards a sound the blends psychedelic drone rock with a small amount of Krautrock in the mix. Mostly instrumental songs that seemed to build on a central theme is what Cave do and, while it may seem otherwise, the band somehow manages to make it rock in process. While drone music veers dangerous towards jam bands, there is a discipline and repetition here that separates Cave from pure improvisation that can sometimes falter in the jam band scene. The crowd, meanwhile, seemed lost in dancing to the band. Been a while since I’d seen Cave and am always surprised by how they evolve and grow each time.

Cave

Cave

After Cave played I tried to stick around to see Skarekrau Radio. Unfortunately, even though their gear was set up they still hadn’t gone on stage yet and it was getting later than expected. Rather than wait around, I decided to head out to where I was crashing that night.

So should you check this bill out. While Catholic Guilt probably won’t be coming to Columbia in the near future (though I could very well be wrong), I do recommend seeing Cave and JATSB when they come to town at Mojo’s next month.

CoMusic Preview: Milagres at Mojo’s, 10/11

Milagres, Photo by Cameron Wittig

Photo by Cameron Wittig

A few weeks ago I downloaded a track off iTunes by a band called Milagres. “Glowing Mouth” grabbed me right away with its gloomy luster, making me want to dim the lights and kick back in a smoky haze of cloves (never mind that I haven’t smelled a clove cigarette in fifteen years). The song is chill and dark and lovely.

Listen here.

Then last week I got a tip that Milagres was playing right here in Columbia at our very own Mojo’s. The Brooklyn-based quintet is touring to promote their just-released second album, Glowing Mouth (Kill Rock Stars). They’ve been compared to lo-fi bands from Grizzly Bear to Radiohead with some Prince thrown in for color (likely due to lead singer Kyle Wilson’s falsetto). Layering rhythmic keyboards with lush melodies, Milagres creates the kind of songs that wrap around you and don’t let go.

Come see Milagres with Peter Wolf Crier at Mojo’s on Tuesday, October 11. Doors open at 8:00; tickets are $8.

CoMusic Review – Roots N Blues N Bar B Q Festival Day Two (Part One)

AUTHOR”S/POSTER’S NOTE: My apologies for the delay between posting the review of the first night of the festival and this post. It had been a busy week and I wasn’t fully able to get this done until now. Also, due to the reach of this day in particular the review will be in two parts out of necessity.

“So how do I cover the second day of this festival?” I asked myself.

I knew this was going to be a busier experience than the night before in both number of artists and the rime required (i.e.: 12 hours versus just a few evening hours). Expecting this to be a day and night long thing meant that most of my focus would have to be in review mode as I’d be spending the whole 12 or so hours there. Like the night before I knew I couldn’t cover everything that happened, but I did the best I could in seeing as much as possible. Sometimes it was a song or two, sometimes a while set. This is my attempt at capturing the spirit of the festival on it’s fifth anniversary.

The Bel Airs opening up the day’s events.

Arrived just as local blues band The Bel Airs were playing on the main stage. The long time bar band proved to start things off strong with a solid set of barroom blues, R&B, and rock songs. These guys usually manage to capture the vibe of a blues club and today they did the best they could considering they had to start playing and 11 in the morning. As I got some breakfast and listened, I knew this would be one of the better ways to get the whole day started.

William Elliot Whitmore

After a few songs by The Bel Airs I walked over to the Peace Park stage to see what William Elliot Whitmore was about. The Mississippi bred singer/songwriter offered up a set of rootsy folk and country. After first seeing him with just a banjo and bass drum to lay down the groove, Whitmore switched to guitar and got things cooking. His set was honest and soulful, carrying a feel and an energy that some full bands don’t always capture. While I didn’t see all of his two hour set, what I saw definitely lived up to the expectation I’d built after hearing about him from friends.

Caught a couple songs from Jason Vivone and the BIlly Bats, winners of the King of the Roots contest. What I saw was a blues/R&B band that knows their niche well and seems to play to the groove. However, what sets them apart is one thing. Instead of a second guitar player, one person played an electric banjo. Admittedly there’s some hints towards jam band-ism here but it’s not too overbearing on that front.

Texas music legends Joe Ely, JImmie Dale Gimore, and Butch Hancock a/k/a: The Flatlanders.

I did make it back to Peace Park in time to catch the Flatlanders’ set. The legendary Texas trio ran with the festival so far as they delivered some Texas flavored country at its most down home and heartfelt. This is the real stuff, full of acoustic guitars, well crafted song hooks, and the occasional hint of blues and rock sifting through. Twangy yet not cliche, this band managed to harness a blend of originals and some covers into one of those performances that can move a crowd with their honesty while not being too serious about things. This was one of the sets I’d wanted to check out and I was not disappointed.

Briefly saw a couple songs from Toubab Krewe. The quintet from Asheville, NC played a world music/blues hybrid that utilized both traditional African instruments as well as traditional blues and rock instruments. Their opening track was a trippy groove laden piece that was less juke joint than journey into sonic exploration. Having read the blurb on the program I was wondering why they were on the bill. Once I heard them, I understood why. Can’t say I saw enough for a review but I am definitely curious.

Caught a couple of songs by New Grass pioneer Sam Bush. After seeing him and his band do a traditional bluegrass number complete with mandolin et al, they shifted gears as the guitarist put on a Strat and the band moved towards electric instruments for a more rock based number. The band’s skill and willingness to experiment made even a few songs an interesting experience to witness.
Sam Bush and his band.

COMUSIC Review – Roots N Blues N Bar B Q Festival – Day One

Last weekend was the 5th annual Roots N Blues N Bar B Q Festival in downtown Columbia. With three stages and a variety of performances I tired to get as much of the feel of the weekend as I was able to. Unfortunately, three stages going on pretty much simultaneously makes it pretty much impossible to see everything that happened. However, I did see enough to report on the event (if anybody reading this caught an act that I missed feel free to respond or see if you can post something on this blog). Due to the nature of this event, each day will be put in a separate post. With that in mind, here’s what I witnessed on the first night of the festival.

Made it to the stage at Peace Park just as gospel and blues legend Mavis Staples was starting to kick things off for the night with her opening set for the evening. Backed by a very tight three piece band and two backup singers, her music combined electric Chicago blues with the gospel music she’s built her name on to create an electrifying performance. With a wide variety of songs from new material to a cover of The Band’s classic rock song “The Weight” to a number of songs from her time in the Staples Singers in the 60s and 70s, this was a combination of concert, church service, and civil rights rally; all leading up to the finale of “I’ll Take You There” to bring things to a climax. While I hope to have done the set justice in this review, you really had to be there and have seen it for yourself.

Mavis Staples and band

I caught a handful of songs from Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys as they performed a set of solid old time mountain music that more than proved their status as legends of bluegrass music. The band started out on its own with a high energy song before Nicolas Stanley (Ralph’s grandson) introduced him. Dr. Stanley instantly won the crowd as he performed “Man of Constant Sorrow” (best known from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou). While I only saw about 15 minutes of his act, Stanley and his band put on a show so professional that even seeing part of it was like seeing the whole set.

Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys

From there I went over to the Main Stage in time to catch most of Ana Popavic’s set. While I was intending to just see a few songs (having been won over by her performing a Saturday afternoon set at the festival back in 2009), her high energy riff laden blues and blues rock was on fire tonight. With a powerful in the pocket band, the songs were perfect showcases for Popavic’s impressive lead guitar work (which has been compared in the past to both Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn). There was a ferocity to her set that revealed the common thread that blues and rock share while staying true to the former in the process. I knew this was going to be a good set but I was surprised at the energy in her songs even when compared to a couple years back. AS a result, what was intended to be just a few songs before seeing more of Dr. Stanley ended up with me there with the rest of the set.

Headlining the main stage was Robert Randolph and the Family Band to unleash their blend of sacred steel meets rock music. The quintet played a somewhat soulful batch of songs that took the basics and improvised on them throughout. While the band’s skill is impressive, some of the jamming did go on a little too long at the expense of the songs (one fan I overheard said they didn’t play any song that he knew). However, Randolph’s lap and pedal steel skills, combined with his willingness to push the sonic envelope makes for an interesting show for fans of blues, rock, and gospel music.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band

Thus ends day one of the festival. Due to the brevity of the event today (only being on in the evening versus the full day 12 hour event of the second day) I missed everything on the Community Stage at Flat Branch Park as well as Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band (who I’d seen before and knew would put on an interesting show). However, the night was interesting and a hint of things to come the next day.