Words by Brian Bavosa :: Images by Robert Chapman
The beauty of springtime in New York City has always brought a smile to people's faces. Clothing is shed, flowers bloom, and the feeling of well-being is shared citywide. After this week in NYC, site of the inaugural Green Apple Music Festival, my head is still spinning, my ears are still ringing, and my springtime smile has been magnified to a full-blown perma-grin that would make the Cheshire Cat proud.
The Rhythm Devils
Gordon, Kimock, Kreutzman, Hart :: 04.19
The Green Apple Music Festival was a celebration of many things — music, art, and environmental awareness. Produced by Relix magazine and former Wetlands owner Peter Shapiro, the five-day event managed to bring together performers for a colorful cornucopia of creative collaborations in almost every venue in New York City. Throw in the sixth-annual Jammy Awards, the movie premiere of Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Rock Club, and Manhattan was ready to take a bite out of the big, bad, (Green) Apple.
Wednesday kicked off with The Rhythm Devils, featuring Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzman, and a buzz was definitely in the air, being felt by artists and fans alike. Joined by Steve Kimock, Mike Gordon, Stephen Perkins (Jane's Addiction), Rob Barraco, Charlie Musselwhite, Baaba Maal, and dance troupe The Mutaytor, they dazzled with their acrobatic moves and tribal drumming, opening with a long cover of Santana's "Jingo." Kimock and Gordon were the first of the unique pairings that stood out. Great covers of "Aiko, Aiko" and "Fire on the Mountain" and an encore of "2001" > "Not Fade Away," complete with the band parading onto the street corner, had the roughly 450 people in attendance clapping as a collective mass of gyrating energy... with easy access to a pretzel from a street vendor if such a need arose.
Mickey Hart :: 04.19
Thursday was the sixth-annual Jammys at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Frankly, the amount of talent in this room was frightening. The highlights for me were Peter Frampton and Martin Sexton ripping "Do You Feel Like We Do?," Chick Corea tickling the ivory, a medley of Frank Zappa numbers, and all the artists of the evening performing an encore of Bob Marley's "One Love."
On Friday afternoon, directly outside of Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Avenue was transformed into a pathway of booths concentrating on global issues. The end of the tents saw a stage, which featured live music from Grace Potter, Umphrey's McGee, Martin Sexton, Mickey Hart, and Mutaytor.
Mike Gordon & Steve Kimock :: 04.19
At 5 p.m., Hart, backed by the same crew as Wednesday night plus Angelique Kidjo, took the stage for another rendition of "Jingo." There was even an appearance by Walter Cronkite! Again, "Aiko, Aiko" got the crowd interaction going, and I even saw a few corporate suits dancing in The Beer Bar directly to the side of the stage. During "Not Fade Away," the band proceeded to parade down Vanderbilt Ave. In the spirit of the week, the invisible wall that separates the band and audience had again come crashing down. This is one of the scenes that I am sure to never forget: a tie-dye parade, raising awareness about important global issues, and eating yummy Clif Bars? That sure beats my usual, dull commute home from Track 21 just a few steps inside.
Friday saw me back at The Canal Room, where Steve Kimock (guitar, kalimba, etc), Reed Mathis (bass), Stephen Perkins (drums), and Willie Waldman (trumpet) entertained, with the help of Mickey Hart and The Mutaytor. Kimock recently completed a tour that many feel was his freshest in years and has continued to play with just about everyone under the sun. The second set had me struggling to find just one single "loose" note; however, there was not one to be found, and all were absolutely shredding. Kimock is known for his pinpoint precision and virtuosity, but what struck me about him all week was the carefree spirit with which he seemed to be playing and how incredible this lineup sounded together.
The Mutaytor with Mickey Hart :: Green Apple
Stephen Perkins is an absolute animal on the drums. I mean, think of Animal from The Muppet Show. No, really. Donning a Mohawk and wife-beater, at times I was not sure whether he was going to continue pounding the skins or eat them. In short, the man is one of the most versatile drummers I've ever seen. He not only held it down well with Mathis, but he also interacted with Kimock, who seemed to play over his thunderous and straight-up rocking fills. Mathis exuded that playful vibe, flashing a wide grin and his patented hip-swaying and hair-tossing that fans have gotten to know as his trademark. Waldman was simply the icing on the cake. I also had a pretty good idea that something special was happening when Kimock's wife, Jen, turned to me and proclaimed, "How SICK is this?" If it's good enough for her, then it's damn sure good enough for me.
Particle :: 04.21 :: Green Apple
As I awoke on Saturday, my first thought was of who would have the pleasure of completely blowing my head off tonight. That honor went to the touring juggernaut known as Perpetual Groove, consisting of Brock Butler (guitar, vocals), Matt McDonald (keys), Albert Suttle (drums), and Adam Perry (bass).
Particle with Hart :: 04.21 :: Green Apple
Playing The Tap Bar at the Knitting Factory, the show sold out quickly, and those in attendance were treated to a rocking performance. A stellar version of The Verve Pipe's "Bittersweet Symphony" and a freestyle barrage by Butler quoting Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z had me bobbing my head and repeating Brock's best line of the night, "I love it when they call me Big BROCK-A!"
Braving the rain, I made a mad dash around street corners to arrive at the world-renowned Blue Note just in time for the middle of Kimock/Mathis/Perkins/Waldman's first set... at 2:15 a.m.! Just about the time I arrived and was seated at my friend's table on the side rail (The Blue Note is sit-down), another familiar face from my past snuck onto the stage like an absolute ghost and settled behind the grand piano. It was Nate Wilson (Percy Hill, Assembly of Dust), and he added some of the jazziest lines of the festival. The collective vibe in this place, complete with table-tapping and hand-clapping, had me realizing that these guys were channeling the spirit of jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. The raw energy that this band had exhibited the night before was still present but on a completely different level. It was in a way more restrained but completely intellectual and tight. I am continually left speechless by Kimock's vision, expertise, and all-around chops — in every genre, on anything resembling a guitar. This was truly a landmark performance.
Ryan Montbleau Band
04.22 :: Green Apple
Sunday at the Ziegfeld Theater included a lot of old employees and patrons from the Tribeca-Mecca itself, The Wetlands Preserve. They gathered to view the movie premiere of Wetlands Preserved: The Story of an Activist Rock Club. I believe the original press release from 1989 summed it up best:
Once upon a time, we had a dream of a nightclub in the land known as Manhattan, where we would create an atmosphere of welcome and good people would charge it with the energy of fellowship, where passion for the Earth would have the opportunity to become focused action and the air would resound with spirited music kindling spontaneous bone-shaking and merriment. At long last, such a place has come to pass: Wetlands Preserve.
The directorial debut of Dean Budnick brought back intense memories of nostalgia for many in attendance, myself included. I managed to catch around four hundred shows there, and it was without a doubt, my "home" venue - the venue that made me who I am today. The film included candid interviews, some great live audio, and the history of the club. The atmosphere at the premiere was one of family and community, and it felt an awful lot like the venue itself used to... with a much better ventilation system.
Gordon, Kreutzman & Kimock :: 04.19 :: Green Apple
The after-party was at Coda. Kid Beyond, a San Francisco-based one-man maniac, blew the crowd away with his beat-boxing skills. This guy was a fireball of energy and would give Rahzel one heck of a showdown. Check him out at all costs.
P-Groove had the last spot and summed up the week nicely. Highlights were a scorching "Three Weeks" and "Get Down Tonight," complete with Kid Beyond, which had my tired bones boogying. P-Groove, along with Jason Huffer's knock-your-socks-off lights, has limitless potential to conquer the scene.
In the end, did I take a bite out of the big, bad, Green Apple? You bet. Hell, I ate the whole thing right down to the core, and when I was done, I planted the seeds in my backyard.
JamBase | NYC
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