By: Pat Knibbs
Green Apple :: 04.22 :: SF by Flanigan
Chicago's part of the second annual Green Apple Music Festival and Earth Day celebration was filled with numerous performances throughout the city by artists from many genres over the span of four days.
Kicking off the extended weekend at the House of Blues was Backyard Tire Fire, New Monsoon and headliner JJ Grey & MOFRO. The night was packed with head-bobbing drinking songs, neo-psychedelic improvisation, and dirty "Country Ghetto" anthems.
The powerful trio Backyard Tire Fire opened with a short, intense set. Having seen them the previous week at the Wanee Festival, I was surprised by how much better they sounded within the confines of a club. They plowed through their set, and even welcomed out MOFRO's saxophonist for a slow, funky "If It Makes You Feel Good Its Alright." The other highlight was the humorous "How In Hell Did You Get Back Here," which mashed together country lyrics with punk attitude.
Spewing forth a unique blend of genres and influences, San Francisco quintet New Monsoon was the meat in the night's southern rock sandwich. Their uncanny ability to mesh together everything from bluegrass to Eastern polyrhythms makes them an intriguing live act. Though each individual is very talented, it's their impressive rhythm section of drummer Marty Ylitalo and bassist Ron Johnson that hold the group together. Johnson's smooth consistency and in-the-pocket grooves were masterfully in sync with Ylitalo throughout their set. Highlights included the up-tempo opener "Sweet Brandywine," a nasty "Romp," and the poppy, lyrical "Water Vein."
The Marley Brothers
04.22 :: SF by Flanigan
Beneath pictures of two curling snakes and the phrase "County Ghetto" draped across a pair of gigantic banners, singer/guitarist/organist JJ Grey and his band MOFRO strutted confidently onto the stage just after 11:30 p.m. The Florida born bandleader admitted to the swelling crowd how much fun he's had on the current tour, and how he'd been looking forward to this particular night. After his first sip (of many) from what appeared to be a glass of whiskey, Grey turned up his snazzy looking Gibson SG and unleashed an onslaught of raw, emotive guitar-driven rock songs. The self-confidence exuded by Grey was borderline cocky but provided an edgy chip-on-the-shoulder feel to the music. "Dirtfloorcracker" was a perfect example - gritty funk undertones complemented Grey's raspy full vocals, slick guitar solo and a mid-section jam that included the children's song "Jimmy Crack Corn." Other highlights included a slow, foot-stomping "Country Ghetto" and an impressive "Cool Jerk" jam that focused on individual solos.
All three of these groups played solid sets, and helped draw attention to a worthy cause.
Continue reading for San Francisco's Green Apple celebration...