Archive for May, 2012

Modern English will be playing at Café Du Nord in San Francisco on July 15. Remember them? I sure do. Do you know more than one song? I sure don’t.

Unfortunately I can’t go because I’ll be melting with String Cheese that night at the Greek. If you are free that night it should be a fun show (and flash back to when you wore bad clothes); you can get via Ticketweb.


“I Know You Rider”
Phil Lesh’s West Coast Ramble
Terrapin Crossroads, San Rafael, CA

This was the first of Phil’s West Coast Rambles modeled after Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble held in Woodstock, NY where he brought in a variety of musical guests.

Phil Lesh’s West Coast Ramble

Tim and Nicki Bluhm and Chris Robinson at Phil Lesh’s West Coast Ramble

The show seemed very rough although that may just be in comparison to the (overly) rehearsed Phil and Friends shows. The set list consisted of about half Dead standards and half covers well-known songs. Disappointingly, their performance of a number of the covers (“For What It’s Worth”, “Folsom Prison Blues”) was perfunctory and seemed rushed. A friend was chatting with Jill at the end of the show and she said the common theme for all the songs is they came from the Sixties. Okay, I guess that’s a theme.

I’ve seen Nicki Bluhm a handful of times and maybe she was sick because she really had an off night. I saw her a couple weeks later opening for The BoDeans and she was much better there.

Apparently no grilled cheese and no posters at the Rambles. Boo.

Set List:

Set I:
Alligator (P) ->
Caution (C)
For What It’s Worth (N)
Street Fighting Man (C)
Blowing In The Wind (N)
Viola Lee Blues (P/C) ->
Folsom Prison Blues (T) ->
Viola Lee Blues (P/C)

Set II:
Eight Miles High (P/C/T)
China Cat Sunflower (G) ->
Dazed & Confused (C) ->
The Other One (P) ->
Dark Star (P/C/G) ->
Whiter Shade of Pale (T) ->
Jam ->
Dark Star (P) ->
St. Stephen (P/C/G) ->
Morning Dew (C)

I Know You Rider (all)

Phil Lesh – Bass
Grahame Lesh – Guitar
Chris Robinson – Guitar
Adam MacDougall – Keyboard
Mark Karan – Guitar
Tim Bluhm – Guitar
Nicki Bluhm – Vocals
John Skehan – Mandolin
Jaz Sawyer – Drums

Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas
MerleFest Day 4, Wilkesboro, NC

This was a great choice as a closer for MerleFest. I’ve always loved her voice but all her songs start to sound the same after a while.  I really like how they arrange the set list and intersperse some of Dan Tyminski’s songs (which I tend to like better anyway) because it provides some much needed variety.

I wandered up front to snap some photos and while I was up there someone on the side of the stage caught her attention and I was able so snap this photo at the perfect time.

Alison Krauss & Union Station at MerleFest 2012

Alison Krauss & Union Station at MerleFest 2012

Other Day 4 acts that I saw:

  • Sarah & Christian Dugas – Same comments as before.
  • Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives – Not as bad as I expected. They are a very polished “Nashville band” right down to the matching jumpsuits but I found them enjoyable to listen to. I probably wouldn’t go out to see them on their own but I was glad I got see them perform. As they say, “a great festival band.”
  • Dougie MacLean – I’ve heard of him for years as other artists always cited him as an influence but I never knew much about him. Even though it was only a short set on the Cabin Stage it was great to see him perform.
  • Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas  – You’re reading it.

The Waybacks’ Album Hour
MerleFest Day 3, Wilkesboro, NC

The Waybacks‘Album Hour is always the highlight of MerleFest and we usually head over to Hillside early to stake out space. This year the selection of Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced didn’t disappoint; it was great to hear the cheer of the crowd at the first notes of Purple Haze.  The inclusion of “I Shall Be Released” lyrics in the middle of “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Rainy Day Women” in “Third Stone from the Sun” made for some nice variety.

The Waybacks’ Ablum Hour

The guests included: Jim Lauderdale, Sam Bush, Susan Tedeschi, Sarah Dugas, Christian Dugas, John Cowan, Kym Warner, Jens Kruger, and probably a couple others that I forgot.

Other Day 3 acts that I saw:

  • Assembly of Dust – only caught a bit of them as their set was ending just as we arrived.
  • Wylie & the Wild West – Traditional country with a bit of a rock flavor.
  • Sarah & Christian Dugas – I first heard of her with The Duhks and I’ve always loved her voice so I was really looking forward to seeing her own band. It was, however, disappointing because the song writing was uninteresting. Hopefully it will get better; if not, I’ll always enjoy seeing her guest with other bands (like The Waybacks).
  • Jim Lauderdale Band – A true musician’s musician and always interesting to see if for nothing less than his attire. This year he wore a purple jump suit which we later learned was a perfect fit for The Waybacks’ Album Hour.
  • The Waybacks’ Album Hour – You are reading it.
  • Doc Watson – Always an inspiration to see; I just hope this wasn’t the last time I get to see him perform.
  • Punch Brothers – Ya, Chris Thile talented and all but the band was pretty uninspired. I’m not sure what all the excitement is about. Pass.
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band – After their KICK ASS performances with Sam Bush and Los Lobos on Friday night I was couldn’t wait to see them headline Saturday. Sadly, it wasn’t that good. Maybe it’s just that my expectations were so high but I suspect they are better as “sidemen” than the main act.
  • Midnight Jam hosted by Casey Driessen – This is his second year (in a row) hosting and while I love his fiddle playing with other bands I really hope he doesn’t host again. We used to stay out in Boone so staying for Midnight jam wasn’t feasible. Once we got a hotel in Wilkesboro we started attending and the first couple of years (James Nash, David Bromberg) were amazing; I loved the way the mixed up the players and orchestrated the entire night. Casey, while talented in his own right, didn’t seem to pay much attention to the band leader side of Midnight Jam and the evening suffered as a result…two years in row.

Los Lobos
MerleFest Day 2, Wilkesboro, NC

This MerleFest set was the culmination of one of the best nights of music in a long time. It started off with the original line-up of Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, then Sam Bush, and finally Los Lobos as the closer where Sam Bush, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks joined for almost the entire set.

Los Lobos with Sam Bush, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks at MerleFest

Los Lobos with Sam Bush, Susan Tedeschi, and Derek Trucks at MerleFest

Other Day 2 acts that I saw:

  • Jonathan Scales Fourchestra – Very interesting jazz-influenced steel drum player. I hadn’t heard of him before but I’ll definitely try to see him again.
  • Enter The Haggis – Great name for heavy metal band, maybe the opener for Spinal Tap. As a Scottish folk rock band, the name is the best part.
  • Jens Kruger, James Nash & Kym Warner – Nice combo of three players I like individually.
  • Peter Rowan & The Free Mexican Airforce – I always enjoy seeing Peter Rowan and The Free Mexican Airforce is one of his better line-ups.
  • John Hammond – I’d only seen him once before (opening for David  Lindley at the Great American Music Hall) and I was excited to see him again. The complexity of his simultaneous guitar and harmonica work is amazing.
  • The Waybacks – Always fun to see but I’d just seen them recently at The Sweetwater and Freight & Salvage so I cut out a bit early to see Darrell Scott.
  • Patrick Simmons, Darrell Scott & John Cowan – This was an interesting set. I first learned for Darrell Scott when he was touring with Tim O’Brien. I have always enjoyed John Cowan’s vocals but not enough to see him anywhere else other than MerleFest. I’m not quite sure how Patrick Simmons fit in but I assume the connection is a result of John Cowan touring as the Doobie Brother’s bassist.
  • Béla Fleck & The Flecktones – This was a great set and as I mentioned above, the beginning of one of the best runs of music I’ve ever seen. I first heard of Béla Fleck when he and The Flecktones opened for the Grateful Dead’s 1990-1991 New Year’s Eve show and it was great to see the original line-up again.  I got to see them at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco back in March and I was really looking forward to seeing them again at MerleFest. Casey Driessen joined them both times which was a real treat because I really like his fiddle playing.
  • Sam Bush– A MerleFest regular that I enjoy more every time I see him. This year Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks joined him for a blues-infused bluegrass set. Better yet, the set was reggae-free; there’s nothing worse than country/bluegrass bands doing reggae. If you doubt that, listen to Willie Nelson’s “Countryman”. Except for a decent cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo” listening to the album is painful as you find yourself embarrassed for Willie.
  • Los Lobos – You are reading it.

Dailey & Vincent
MerleFest Day 1, Wilkesboro, NC

I chose this photo mainly so I could rant about how much I disliked this band. First off, they are a very formulaic, over-produced band right down to the Stanley Brothers style harmonies. They were downright boring. And that’s the positive part of the show.

Dailey & Vincent at MerleFest

Dailey & Vincent at MerleFest

Now for the annoying part.

It was all Cracker Barrel, all the time. They took pains to remind us several times throughout the show that their new album is available exclusively at Cracker Barrel. Notice the Cracker Barrel logo on the mic stand. Of 40+ artists I saw over the weekend, they were the only ones that couldn’t stoop to using the venue’s mic stands. The worse part came when they each described their favorite item to order from the Cracker Barrel with the obligatory joke of the “fat guy” saying he simply ordered page 2.

I like the idea that the music industry is trying novel distribution arrangements from Starbucks to video games to Amazon.  Heaven knows the industry needs some creative business models when the business model because the focus of the performance, that’s when it’s gone too far.

Other Day 1 acts that I saw:

  • Lost Bayou Ramblers – Good but they were less punky and more Cajun this year. Not that I dislike Cajun but what made them interesting was the punk flavor.
  • The Boxcars – I don’t remember them…and that says enough.
  • Donna the Buffalo – I was really looking forward to them especially because they were playing with Jim Lauderdale. Meh, it was pretty uninspired and Tara seemed annoyed the entire show.
  • The Steel Wheels – I’d never heard of them before and they were the highlight of the day even though they only played ~20 minutes on the Cabin stage. Great blues / bluegrass feel. I need to track down more of their music.
  • Dailey & Vincent – See above (and weep). No link because you really don’t want to.
  • Vince Gill – My mom’s a big fan so I stayed for a couple songs because I wanted to see what he was like as a performer. His music too country for me but he did put on a good show and seemed genuinely engaged.