Celebrating 20 Years Of JamBase

JamBase Memorable Live Music Moments

By Team JamBase May 20, 2020 12:45 pm PDT

[Ed. Note: the publication schedule for this series was interrupted in part due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the delay, the series now concludes with the final installment.]


Over the past year, JamBase celebrated its 20th anniversary by rolling out the 20 For 20 series of featuring 20 lists focusing on 20 notable topics and events of the past two decades. The previously published 20 For 20 Lists include Standout Debut Albums By Jam Acts, Pranks & Gags Played By Jam Acts, Festivals We've Lost, Memorable Reunions, Farewells Of The Past 2 Decades, Longest Jams & Standout Improvisations, Fan Sites, Memorable Halloween Concerts, Bands Covering Phish, Post-Grateful Dead Bands, Holiday Songs, Supergroups, Memorable Live Collaborations, Jam Acts Covering Jam Acts, New Concert Venues, Memorable New Year’s Eve Concerts, Memorable Television Performances, Notable Bust Outs and Live Music Traditions from the past 20 years.

As noted, the publication schedule was disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak but continues with the finale. For the final 20 For 20 list, current and former JamBase employees and contributors were asked to write essays detailing a memorable experience seeing live music during the JamBase era. What made each entry “special” was left to the writer to decide.

The essays were collected over the past several months, some were written before COVID-19 caused the cancelation of concerts around the globe and some were written under shelter-in-place orders. Below are the essays submitted for the 20 For 20 series finale of JamBase Memorable Live Music Moments.

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Dr. Dog by Ted Kartzman (JamBase Co-Founder)

In 2004, I left the comforts of the genre, and walked away from my job at JamBase to embark on a new chapter of my career to license music from independent record labels.

In a post-jam world, among indie label types, the answer I felt most comfortable giving to the question of, “What bands are you most into?” were Dr. Dog and My Morning Jacket.

As life and music tastes evolve, some bands can exist in multiple worlds, crossing genre boundaries, and the music community I wanted to be a part of stayed rock-solid in these worlds. San Francisco has always had a transient nature to it, people escape here, many have come and gone when it’s time to move on or move closer to where they’re from. Our community is built around the bands we love, and we see our people at certain shows.

I include Dr. Dog in that special type of band (as I would with MMJ and Phish and Grateful Dead before them), the kind of band where everyone of a certain mindset comes out to see them every time they come through. The fans of the band are our community. Some bands you know it’s not just going to be a show, but a meeting place, a place to see old friends, and sing timeless songs with them. No matter the town, some bands I just know I’ll vibe with that crowd, for they are my people.

Dr. Dog has put out nine albums since 2005, plus EPs and outtakes and two or three records are among the tops of the decade (Fate; Shame, Shame; Be The Void). I’m going to make a statement now: I believe, pound for pound no band of the last 20 years has written more great songs than Dr. Dog. I know we are all still feeling the breeze from their four-night stand on the home court of the Independent in February, the last time fans will share pizzas handed out by the crowd for many moons to come. Still, more than a dozen years after they became a staple they crush a four-night stand in our favorite room in The City.

What is it that makes them one of those bands that most people have never heard of but we prioritize? The twin attack bubble gum pop songwriting of Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken that leads me to draw that comparison to a modern Lennon/McCartney? The deliberately lo-fi sound that was initially charming, yet remains endearing even as production value has quintupled over the years? The dichotomy of singing sweet songs interspersed with dog howls (“Die Die Die”)? The playing their asses off every time we come out to see em, Toby-hopping around with unrestrained joy? The dancing melodies that burrow into your ear? Or that of all the places a band like this could and should hail from, it’s radically unsurprising that the backdrop of Philadelphia (the most real city I’ve ever lived in, mayo on everything) is lurking in the songs.

That know-it-all and play-your-ass-off spirit was evident watching them for years. And we’ve been there since the beginning since from the Easy Beat/Park the Van era to a “The Rabbit, The Bat, And The Reindeer” 4 a.m. High Sierra late night, from Geoff finding the Toothbrush and us excitedly listening to the Easy Beat of nothin’ and we knew it was something, but as with every band, “The World May Never Know.”

Look, before moving forward, I know to grace the pages of JamBase, you’ve got to deliver the goods live. And they do, every time.

The Doctor makes house calls, we’ve seen them play a haunted hotel, and I’ve booked them to play my office summer party (shoutout Crittfest 2012) and we willed them to our favorite little fest in the West, HSMF. We’ve seen em at venues small (Bottom of the Hill) and big (The Greek, The Warfield). I won a contest to interview them at The Fillmore, opening for The Black Keys on a Converse Century Concert Series gig in 2008. Tanner and I heard the argument between Toby and Frank McElroy during Noise Pop 2008 about which was a better album, Revolver or Abbey Road. In Tanner’s words, “It was akin to the passion you hear when heads speak about Fall of 97 vs December 95, but you know, about The Beatles.”

Dr. Dog songs accurately represent the contradictions of life, the dichotomy of how being both the Doctor and the Dog, seemingly at the same time. Their songs, paradoxical in nature, can turn your frown around with their clever arrangements, and the absurd goodness of lyrics like “‘These are tears of joy’ cried the weeping willow!” They’ve leaned into these contradictions over the years, they can sing about heavy stuff in an uplifting way (“Heavy Light”), the darkness and its balance.

Their lyrics can encapsulate a great concert experience: “Somebody sings and it’s gone in the blink of an eye” and they’ve been dressed up like a pillow long before the #PillowChallenge was a thing. They’ve even made a cover song bigger than the original (“Heart It Races”). They evolve yet remain a constant for a certain subset of the population who want to be all in it together now, as we all fall apart. Truly a 2020 thought — being alone, but we’re lonely together.

Back to the task at hand. For this article, I wanted to pick out a moment that actually stood out over the last 20 years and seeing a thousand shows. More than a few Dr. Dog shows came to mind, the Haunted House, both Dr. Dog pizza parties at The Independent came to mind. One of the moments that was just surreal to me was the most memorable final closing down set on the Saturday of SXSW, I initially was sure it was 2005, then believed it was 2008, the year they covered “Who Loves The Sun” when Lou Reed endorsed Dr. Dog at his keynote … but could also have been 2010, that was the year that Tim Quirk interviewed Scott McMicken live from in a garbage can, the month before Shame, Shame came out. This is probably the only 20 For 20 memoir where the author doesn’t even know the date of the show, but that’s not important right now …

Anyway, I was on the move as one does at SXSW, sprinting to see several special new bands, and Dr. Dog conveniently had the last slot at Emo’s Annex, the one outside on the corner between 6th and 7th on Red River, so I could see a 1 a.m. band for 20 minutes and cruise up for the back half of the set, as Emo’s Annex was essentially the epicenter of SXSW, the corner of 6th and Red River, and you could hear it without going inside.

At SXSW, there is no curfew extension past 2 a.m., but some genius (probably their comptroller) allowed Dr. Dog to start another song at 1:58 a.m. and play til 2:04 a.m. I kid you not because you know the place pours out into the street at 1:59, and as the deafened stumbling concertgoers looked for the closest Best Wurst street cart, and it was enough for the whole place of music and internetters to stop being busy, to stop texting for the afterparty location, take a deep breath, cool down, and stop as they wandered past the ground zero parking lot of SXSW corner to sing along to the end of the last song of their set:

Wake up, wake up, wake up! It was only part of a dream.
The things in your heart like the things in your hand are only what they seem.

People of all genre stripes, from the tattooed to the shoegazing was able to sing along to this alluring repetitive chorus. It was surreal, a true goosebump special. Now that’s just one single moment, not a whole show. But it always stuck with me, and I’ll never forget it. It was everything to me at that time, being in the middle of it all, my career having hit a certain stride, watching bands for four days straight and making a living doing that. Seeing it all crystal clear through the haze for a moment, seeing a dream while also seeing the reality, those who take their game to the next level, and those who fail miserably, all at the place where it happens annually.

Toby Leaman later referenced that first SXSW saying, “The first one we did sort of made us. It was actually great. Everything you want to happen, happened. We got a label, we got a lawyer, we got a booking agent, we got a publicist … That would’ve been about ’05 or ’06.”

Dr. Dog really does have a lyric for everything. These days, during a global pandemic with directions to shelter-in-place, it’s become all about staying inside, “The Way the Lazy Do.”

May your thoughts be kind
May your knots unwind
May your dogs drink wine
May your days kill time

And may your fears go blind
As your regret rewinds
A little peace of mind
May you wake to find

It’s just that time of the year.

See you at a Dr. Dog show someday soon. Till then, stay safe!

Umphrey’s McGee by David Onigman (JamBase CEO)

It was Super Bowl Sunday 2014, our friend Danielle was in town, my wife Krystal was pregnant with our first son Graham, and it was time to go out to breakfast with our out of town guest to one of the best spots near our house, Rick & Anne’s in Berkeley, California.

It being a popular spot the only table available for immediate seating was the community table and they asked us if that’d be OK. I really don’t understand people who would say no to this question, who gives a shit? Yes, sit us at the community table, we’re hungry!

So we sit down and I immediately hone in on these two guys sitting at the head of the table, I can just tell they are people I want to chat with. Then I quickly realize one of them is a musician, just by catching a few words here and there, I’m thinking, I definitely need to figure out how to insert myself into this conversation. And time goes on and they start trying to come up with the name of a guitar player, “He played that old beat-up guitar” one of them said, “You know, he had problems with his taxes…”

“Willie Nelson?” I interject and one of them says in his great British accent, “Yes – that’s it! Are you a musician as well?” and I say, “No, not really, I play, bla bla bla…”

And that’s when he says, “Have you seen the movie This Is Spinal Tap?” Having seen it at least 15 or 20 times I say “Yes,” not *really* knowing where this is going just yet and he proclaims, “I’m the keyboard player…Viv Savage…I’m the one that said ‘Have a good time – all the time.’ And I of course rightfully just freak out with excitement, I’m having breakfast with Viv Savage!

Poor Krystal & Danielle have to just basically sit there for the next hour while we just chat about all things music and Spinal Tap. I learn that Viv is on an LP that they shot into outer space! And he likes to improvise because he tells me that’s when there can be some “follies.” And he’s psyched about how his band recently worked up “Edward The Mad Shirt Grinder” by Quicksilver Messenger Service. It was awesome, what a chance encounter.

As we’re driving back to our apartment my mind keeps going one place, I gotta connect Viv (his real name is David Kaffinetti) with Umphrey’s McGee, I know they are huge Tap fans…

So I write UM’s keyboardist Joel Cummins this note:

Subject: Just had breakfast with the keyboardist from Spinal Tap

Message: That’s right, the guy that says, “Have a good time, all the time”

Randomly got seated next to him at a community table at this breakfast place in Berkeley. We really hit it off, I’m going to check out his band in a couple of weeks…

Thought you of all people would appreciate it the most.

Maybe I’ll see if he’s free on Saturday the 8th and bring him along to check you guys out at The Fox?

Joel is, of course, into it so I give Viv/David a call and he, unfortunately, is busy, he’s got a gig but says that sounds like fun, maybe next time. I try again in 2015 but I think he’s again just got a show. I don’t totally recall if I reached out in 2016, I know I didn’t in 2017 – and I got reminded of the encounter in 2018 and told myself I needed to give him a call and try this one more time.

Much to my delight Viv answers right away, he is indeed free and this is all about to go down! So in the weeks leading up to it I chat with him a few times and make sure he’s connected with Joel and the rest of the band and I tell him I’ll meet him at soundcheck so he’s got a familiar face and all that jazz.

The band and Viv decided in advance that they’ll be doing “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight” by Spinal Tap, a Tap tune they had played a dozen or so times but not since 2004. They soundcheck it and I’m just watching in awe that the universe has allowed all of this to happen! Yes! They close the first set with it at the show that night, they have Viv say “the line” into the mic before the song, the crowd goes nuts. Viv’s a bit mad that he blew a change in the middle of the song that he had hit with ease in soundcheck but that’s how these things go.

Unbeknownst to me, the band also talks with him at soundcheck about sitting in again, he says to me when the band goes on stage, “Oh yeah – I think I might play a little electric piano in the second set too, we’ll see if they call me up!” – and they do!

Guitarist Brendan Bayliss joyously exclaims to the two of us as he walks off the stage, “We did it! We played a ‘Jazz Odyssey!’”

Me and Viv have stayed in touch and man did he love the show.

So yeah, that’s my musical highlight. Umphrey’s McGee played with a member of Spinal Tap and I helped make it happen!


Jason Isbell by Scott Bernstein (JamBase Editorial Director)

The past two decades have blessed me with so many memorable musical moments that I had a really hard time deciding which one to write about for this list.

Phish’s Big Cypress festival with its midnight to dawn set is hard to top or any of the all-star Love Rocks NYC concerts that took place at The Beacon Theatre over the past four years. Then there’s Gov’t Mule’s One For Woody tribute to Allen Woody at the Roseland that was filled with one memorable musical moment after another or how about the 11 Jam Cruises I’ve attended dating back to 2010?

Yet, in the end, I decided to go with Jason Isbell’s performance at Carnegie Hall on February 7, 2019 as part of the Tibet House Benefit Concert.

“Memorable” is defined as “worth remembering or easily remembered, especially because of being special or unusual” and there was nothing usual about Isbell’s special performance that night. Not to mention, it has stood out in my mind ever since (“worth remembering”) though the “easily remembered” part is a bit tough as no audio or video of what Jason played that night has yet to surface. For me, that’s one of the aspects which makes the “set” he performed stand out. I can go back and listen to Phish’s all-night set at Big Cypress or watch video of One For Woody and all of the Love Rocks NYC concerts. But what Jason Isbell did at Carnegie Hall only lives on in my mind.

So what exactly did Jason Isbell do? Let’s start with a tweet he sent out on December 4, 2018 — the day the Alabama native was added to the lineup for the event.

“I’ll be joining many great artists at 2019’s @tibethouseus benefit @carnegiehall,” Isbell wrote. “It’s on 2/7, coincidentally my 7-year sober date. In order to continue to challenge myself, I’ll be performing an experimental guitar set, not my usual songs.”

He wasn’t kidding with the “experimental” part.

On a night when many of the performers played their own songs or covers of note, Jason went a completely different route. He emerged on the stage at one of the world’s most historic and famous venues with a Duesenberg guitar and slide in hand and had that instrument crying for 15 minutes while backed by a drum machine. He played two pieces that were collections of earth-shattering and monumental riffs that blended together oh so perfectly.

It was masterful psychedelia — a dash of Hendrix, a touch of Stevie Ray, a whiff of Ira Kaplan but all Jason Isbell.

My mind was blown and I was just trying to take it all in as much as possible knowing that I might never hear anything like it again. And isn’t that one of the most beautiful parts of live music — experiencing something unlike anything else you’ve heard or seen? What made it all the more special was how Jason Isbell came through his struggle with addiction and achieved such massive success.

What an incredible way to celebrate and I’m so glad I was there to witness it.


D’Angelo & the Soultronics by B. Getz (JamBase Contributor)

On August 24, 2000, three childhood friends and I pulled up to the Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and stepped into the most spectacular concert I’ve had the privilege of experiencing in my 42 years on this rock, thanks to D’Angelo & The Soultronics on the Voodoo World Tour.

Twenty-one years young, I’d arrived at a proverbial crossroads in my nascent passion for live music. Soon I’d be heading back to Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont; but there was one more special show on the summer radar. Already that calendar year, I’d survived the phantasmagorical Big Cypress millennium jamboree, and chased that life-affirming excursion with a certain Crescent City bacchanal later that spring, the first of what would have been 18 New Orleans Jazz Fests in May 2020. The former represented the peak of a particular era, and the latter a personal new beginning.

I’d gotten hooked on the mystical powers of one Michael D’Angelo Archer by way of his Grammy-winning LP Voodoo, released just three weeks into the 21st century. A ravishing, seductive, anti-establishment slab of sound art, Voodoo was the forbidden fruit of nearly four years of laborious jamming at Electric Lady Studios in NYC, as D’Angelo dove deep into a patient, fertile creative period with the legendary Soulquarians collective. D’s fearless co-pilot in this Voodoo mission was Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, drummer of The Roots. The iconic, short-lived cooperative birthed several classic albums from the Electric Lady sessions, and Voodoo was the crown jewel of them all.

[Video Credit: D’Angelo & Questlove on The Soulquarians posted by Red Bull Music Academy]

Shortly thereafter, D and Quest Voltron’d together The Soultronics, for my loot the baddest funk band of the millennium; a murderer’s row of instrumental assassins whose sum proved exponentially grander than the illustrious parts. Before D’Angelo would go virtually silent for a dozen years and seemingly disappear into the night, The Soultronics would do one colossal tour, 77-dates in 2000.

Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and barely legal, yours truly was blessed to get to one of those storied shows on the Voodoo World Tour, in the heart of decaying Atlantic City – merely a stone’s throw from the Margate beaches where I’d learned to surf and spent the summers of my youth.

My A.C. Voodoo krewe was comprised of close friends I’d grown up with, from recess to little league to battle of the bands, and later Beastie Boys, Grateful Dead and Phish shows. Together we shared all that comes with suburban teenagerdom. Shaus, Steve, Michelle and I all went our separate ways for college, but as life nudged us further apart, we’d begun to prioritize these musical convergences, whenever the stars aligned. And on this night, they showed up single file.

The show was super-sold out, but Michelle’s folks were high-rollers at the tables and they kindly furnished us with ducats through a time-honored tradition: gaming comps. Better yet, we fine-dined in the casino steakhouse pre-show, then snuck a clandestine chronic sesh in the parking garage – still a little taboo back then – before arriving at the ballroom venue. The four of us scouted out spots in the second level, dead center. We’d wandered far from our suburbanite, caucasian, collegiate neo-hippie wheelhouse, and we had no fucking idea what was coming.

Emerging from near-total darkness, one-by-one the band members stepped through a dimly-lit makeshift temple doorway onto the stage, each draped in various flowing black choir robes, rocking African face paint, corn-rows, afros, feather boas, several wielding horns and axes. To kick things off, the band subtly began a minimalist take on “Devil’s Pie,” D’Angelo singing in a low register while each instrumentalist took their place, the R&B dynamo gradually whipping band and audience into a frenzy. At which, on the one, the curtain came down, the robes flew off, a glorious gospel chorus swelled into the rafters. D’Angelo swaggered forward, his mojo glistening in the spotlights. On that downbeat, the entire joint exploded in collective jubilation unlike any I’d ever bore witness to. And that was merely just the first verse.

For a relentless two-and-a-half-hour soul revue, D’Angelo was a tour de force, channeling James Brown, Sly Stone, George Clinton, Prince, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye and the Gap Band, all rolled into solid gold and profusely sweating out the funk. The Soultronics were as robust and versatile as any band I’ve ever seen, before or since. The swollen contingent uncorked a history lesson in black soul music and delivered nothing short of a religious experience of preposterous proportions.

Musical director Questlove steered the new mothership with drunken Dilla-fied drums, bassist Pino Palladino was a bulbous, sturdy anchor, and the late gospel guitarist Chalmers “Spanky” Alford poured buckets of Crisco for the “Chicken Grease.”

The Soulquarians spent the majority of the performance heaping praise on “good God almighty,” in addition to funkifying Roberta Flack, fallin’ in love with Slum Village, ghost-ridin’ the monorail, and rollin’ up “Brown Sugar” while bumpin’ Minnie Ripperton, Tribe-style.

From Sly’s “Loose Booty” to The Junkyard Band’s “Sardines,” the ensemble was perpetually standing on the verge of a madhouse; segueing in-and-out of songs, paying homage to their heroes, and communicating in a seemingly-secret language. They expertly weaved together treasured canonical deep cuts and D’Angelo’s contemporary creations with aplomb. The late-set, 20+ minute, multi-movement “Lady” > “Jonz in My Bonz” buried so many scintillating soul-funk references that fanatics are still digging them up two decades later.

D’Angelo took it to the stage with an aquarian masculinity that was downright intoxicating, The singer/multi-instrumentalist deftly navigated a delicate dalliance between the sacred and profane; he was unrepentant in his torrid sexuality whilst digging deep into the soaring church-band harmonies of his Pentecostal youth. Our congregation of sinners was in for some serious reckoning, and I can confirm having caught the holy ghost during this ethereal Voodoo seance.

In a whirlwind display of musical mastery, D’Angelo & The Soultronics methodically called back to black music icons of the past half-century, showing love to the “Yodas” that inspired and infused their raucous revival. All the while writing a brand-stankin’ new chapter in the book of funk and soul, a lofty perch that nary an artist would touch in the two decades since R&B Jesus blessed up the boardwalk in A.C.

Best of all, I took in this most epic concert alongside my childhood best friends; truly a tradition like none other.

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U2 by Chad Berndtson (JamBase Contributor)

In a recent piece about shuttered concert venues and the evaporation of nightlife during the coronavirus pandemic, Jon Pareles of The New York Times captured the ache of the deprived live music fanatic with spot-on exactitude: “I’ve been going to concerts constantly since the 1970s, two or three a week and often more. … From cramped basement clubs to wide-open festival fields, concerts have always meant unknown possibilities.”

Live music by definition is ephemeral: this music, played by this or these musician(s), and the energy of these particular people gathered to hear it together, in a way that has never happened before and will never happen again. As an experience, it’s wonderfully, frustratingly subjective, and we argue passionately because of that. One person’s all-timer night is another’s jaded disappointment.

My favorite (attended) concert of all-time — U2 at Madison Square Garden on October 24, 2001 — was a product of pure ephemera and the alignment of many unpredictable circumstances on a single night: it was right after 9/11 and emotions were raw, people were ready for catharsis, and my future wife and I were together on an adventure down to NYC from Boston. We landed in just the perfect spot on the floor at the Garden, randomly about 10 feet from comedian Chris Rock and his companion.

Bono and the boys played their asses off in a show that was almost pure pay off the entire time, not a dry eye in the place when they smoldered, then blazed through “One,” scrolled the names of the 9/11 dead in a move perhaps only U2 could get away with, and tied it all up as part of a meaty double-encore that included Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” “New York” and “Walk On.” I still remember the chills of it, 19 years later, and remember what the people looked like standing near us, exchanging high fives and authentically un-self-aware hugs. Strangers stopping strangers, literally.

I’ve never seen U2 that good again and I’m not sure they would be; it was the night that carried them, and they get it, not the other way around. Viewed objectively, it was the kind of show you’d expect would make grandiose statements, hit the needed level of catharsis, give you all the feels. It did, sure. And I still go looking for those, but 19 years and hundreds upon hundreds of shows later, I just as often crave a balance of the high expectation shows that deliver at the bar they’ve set, and the true sleepers, where you wonder what you’re truly going to get, create low or at least modest expectations, but because you hit it at just the right point of alignment in the live music continuum, you get a musical experience that sticks with you for years.

So for my entry into this JamBase series, I’m cheating a bit and writing about three musical happenings that delivered for very different reasons, but were all about what lined up at one moment or set of moments: first, the perfect alignment of just about everything (that’s U2, above), one where the alignment was (quite rarely) even better than the rumor, and the last, yup, a true sleeper, where the alignment of merely pleasant expectations found a relaxed crowd that could be charitably describable as modest, and out of nowhere I got hit with something that’s stuck with me for years.

Eric Clapton joins the Allman Brothers Band, March 19, 2009

The rumors were hot, and late into the second set of this show, the rumors were true: Eric Clapton was here to sit-in with The Allman Brothers Band in the midst of what we now know was the greatest year of their long-running Beacon Theatre tradition. Every night on this 40th anniversary celebration residency was a keeper, and not just for the varied and historic guests. The latter-era Allmans, sparked by the immortal Warren Haynes/Derek Trucks guitar tandem, had been together eight years by then and knew what they could do.

Similar magic would visit only on occasion through their final shows together in 2014; the band was never this consistent again. But even they outdid themselves with this—a big deal even by their own lofty “special guest” standards, and then one where the music actually matched the wow factor of the celebrity sit-in. Clapton, as it’s often noted, can be pretty workmanlike and downright boring in his touring bands. Here, he sparked to life and by his own admission played with a kind of ferocity not seen in him for decades, joining the Allmans for six songs.

You could argue that the next night, March 20, he played even better — and what a fucking kick to hear him on “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” But the buzz, then the rush of energy, then the crowd explosion when Clapton was announced, and then the intensity of this roughly 30-minute stretch of playing, was all-timer-special, and only possible the first time around. You can hear that rush in the recordings — maybe 50% of it — but if you were really there, as I was lucky enough to be, you know.

New Stew plays Bill Withers’ Live at Carnegie Hall, May 9, 2016

We went in with low-to-modest expectations of a merely pleasant evening of tribute and instead had our minds blown: a band of ringers, including Roosevelt Collier, all of whom hit the note from the first minute and for whatever cosmic reason, played above-and-beyond the entire night when “enough” would have been just fine. Damn, this one was good, and a testament to how deep the work of the late Bill Withers can cut. The emotional climax was Corey Glover, apparently reaching way down into a well of true emotion, delivering “Hope She’ll Be Happier” to stun the room near-silent, tears streaming down his cheeks — and more than a few in the audience.

It’s the burden of the live music lover: constantly chasing this kind of experience, knowing you’ll often get pleasant, enjoyable and even nourishing, but not decade-high great. Then, once in a while, right when you think it’s going to be a merely good one, you get a show of your lifetime. That’s why we do this.

moe. by Court Scott (JamBase Director, Business Development & Partnerships)

[Audio Taped by Julie Glendenning]

Man, it was hot. Like, hot HOT. And humid.

The punishing heat and unforgiving sun is one of my primary memories of Bonnaroo, which is why moe.’s late-night set was such a treat. The nighttime brought relative coolness, but even the darkness was sticky and oozed with unfettered energy.

It was 2002 and a couple of pals who I’ve seen hundreds of shows with over the years and I had flown from the Pacific Northwest to a brand new festival – Bonnaroo (cajun slang for “a really good time,” and which took its name from Dr. John’s 1974 album, Destively Bonnaroo) – held on a farm about an hour south of Nashville.

The grounds were immense, but brand new infrastructure was evident. There were all sorts of large-scale installations; the kind you’d previously only found at Phish festivals and similar events. But it was clear that this thing was well-funded and knew what it wanted to be. After what felt like a long, slow drive in, we were directed to park and we set up shade, though not much time would be spent at our campsite.

We were there for the music, and the inaugural year’s lineup right up our alley: Trey, Ween, Claypool’s Frog Brigade and Bucket of Bernie Brains (yeow!), Galactic, Umphrey’s, Soulive, Jurassic 5, Particle and moe. (among many others). A remarkable collection of artists, but only a whisper of the multi-genre juggernaut of more recent years.

Saturday night, we made our way from our dusty camp over to moe.’s late-night set, held in a ginormous tent called The Ballroom. Thousands of fans were spilling out the back and sides, waiting for the show to begin. I think it started around 1 a.m. and over the course of two long sets, it ran almost five hours.

From the moment the band took the stage, you could tell they were fired up and particularly loquacious with their jokey banter. And in retrospect, the show has all the elements of a epic show: big, fan-favorite tunes, each patiently coaxed to a focused intensity before release, the members of the band dabbling with effects eliciting non-traditional sounds from their instruments, special guests, and expansive, unhurried jams.

Like most of us, I’m generally in it for the jams and each of the six songs in the first set averaged around 20 minutes. What ensued goes down as one of the very best moe. shows I’ve seen and one of the more memorable musical experiences over the last 20 years.

I recommend listening to the show for yourself. First set, the jam into “Mexico” followed by “Bullet” (though I’ll always refer to that tune by its band-given name: “Assfinger”) into “Kyle’s Song” followed by a haunting “Livin’ Again” into a blistering “Meat” is just spectacular. And the 30+ minute “Rec Chem,” the “Four” into “Rebubula,” and the doozy of a “Bring It Back Home” in the second set will set your panties on fire.

During the show, I remember leaning against a road case on the side of the stage with the exceptional perspective of seeing not only one of my favorite bands having fun and pushing themselves, but also seeing the audience head-on, completely enraptured. An equal amount of give and take; that magical harmony between band and audience. And I was flanked by my two close friends drinking it all in. We don’t get to see as many shows together as we once did, but that one was a genuine privilege and a night I’ll never forget.

Americanarama By Andrew Bruss (JamBase Contributor)

[Video Credit: Tomorrow Never Knows posted by cr8edvids]

As a My Morning Jacket fanatic and major Wilco fan, I flipped out when I heard they were touring with Bob Dylan during the Summer of 2013. Dylan was lousy when they came through the Boston area, but the musical highlight of the night was easily Wilco’s set-closing cover of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” featuring the entirety of My Morning Jacket.

The Revolver tune was recorded after The Beatles had sworn off touring and were eager to experiment with studio production methods that couldn’t be replicated in a live setting. But between the 11 members of Jacket and Wilco, you had two drummers, three keyboardists, two bass players and a lead guitarist on saxophone. With that being said, this wasn’t what made the show so special for me.

That past spring, my best friend Jordan died from a sudden and unexpected medical occurrence that couldn’t have possibly been predicted. We’d been friends since we were in diapers and had been living together for a few years at that point so needless to say, my world was turned upside down.

Jordan was also my #1 concert-going buddy. We’d seen Jacket together close to 20 times by that point and got out to see Wilco whenever they came within 200 miles of Boston. Skip ahead to Wilco’s set under the southern New England sky that summer and it was their performance of “Via Chicago” that rocked me to my soul. It was never Jordan’s favorite Wilco tune but it was one he loved to hear live and always told me I should play more on my guitar.

During that rendition of “Via Chicago,” I vividly remember peering up at the stars and just feeling Jordan. It’s nothing I’ll ever be able to explain but I felt his presence like he was with me. When I looked up at those stars, I felt like he was looking back down, enjoying the show with me. There’s no doubt if he’d still been with us, he would have been at that show and in some way, I believe he really was.

Whether it’s Jacket, Wilco or Radiohead, I like to think I bring Jordan with me whenever I see one of our favorite bands. But I’ve never felt his connection at a show as externally as I did during that “Via Chicago.”

If you want to know what the best concert I’ve seen in the last 20 years was, I’d probably say it’s a tie between Radiohead’s first Bonnaroo performance and the second of Prince’s three Christmas shows at Mohegan Sun. They were even better shows than those Americanarama sets. But neither of them were as special to me.

The JamBase mantra is “Go See Live Music,” and in those four words is a call to action that means so much more. We Go See Live Music because it has the power to bring us joy, build community, make friends, or maybe just to shake off the grind of the workweek and let loose. We also see live music because it has the power to heal. That’s why this show was so special for me … even if Dylan was atrocious.

Jeff Austin Band by Lizzie Justen (Former JamBase Employee)

[Video Credit: Boogie]

I chased the Yonder Mountain String Band around the country and across the border for the better of the last decade. I fell in love with their particular brand of bluegrass, and the madman persona and impeccable playing of Jeff Austin. Yonder bought me to small clubs, packed amphitheaters and dusty hot fields from Oregon to Florida – but there was one venue that I never got to conquer with them. The infamous Caverns out in southern Tennessee. My Great White Buffalo. A venue that seemed to have been birthed by the gods for the sole purpose of putting on the perfect bluegrass show.

After Yonder 1.0 parted ways, it became harder and harder to catch a Jeff show on his limited runs. As anyone who goes to see the same band a million times (like all and only jam band fans do) – you start to feel like these people become a part of your annual traditions. What’s the holiday season without seeing the boys at The Boulder Theater? So, when Jeff Austin Band announced a show at the Caverns; it was a double whammy. I was finally going to get my long overdue Jeff Austin fix and summit the long-awaited peak of the Caverns. I called up my best friend and the person who’s ridden shotgun en route to every Yonder show and we started figuring out how to make it happen.

After a few epic days rambling around Tennessee, it was time to hop on the bus to Pelham from Chattanooga for the show. It’s about an hour ride through winding, dark country roads and the bus was filled with people who had traveled in from all over the country for the show. There is something about a destination venue that creates a palpable, elevated atmosphere of adventure that is hard to describe. Similar to walking into Red Rocks or Madison Square Garden — everyone was buzzing with excitement and curiosity.

When I stepped off the bus, it was quiet and dark. Much too quiet and dark to be a place that was housing hundreds of rowdy bluegrass fans. This only added to the mystery of it all. I remember walking the wet, dirt path down to the entrance of the caves and it felt like you were discovering something that no other human being had ever seen yet. You immediately become enveloped in this massive hole in the Earth and somehow — there are other people here too? And there’s going to be music? It’s too good to be true.

In this space that would be hard for anyone to overpower, with all of its crystals and steep rock formations – the show started, Jeff came on stage and stole the thunder right away from these rocks. His energy was high and he kicked off with an earnest “Too Late Now,” that is hard not to reflect on now and think it was an intentional opener. Jeff was being real with the crowd that night and came to the Caverns to bare it all. There was a perfect, gentle “No Expectations,” and a debaucherous “Sideshow Blues.” Jeff Austin, the savage, was back and playing that mandolin like it had wronged him – exactly how his fans like it.

The essence of Jeff Austin on stage is his darkness; his willingness to take traditional bluegrass numbers to places they’ve never been before, and unleash fury and weirdness on a genre that had a lot of its key players plucking in fancy suits. And in the Caverns that night, he played a “Rag Doll” that brought the crowd way down into his underworld. His set ended with a ravenous 16+ minute long “Death Trip” where Jeff was throwing it down so hard, it felt like he could’ve pulled an Ozzy Osbourne and bit a head off of a bat if it crossed him.

Leaving the show, I knew I had witnessed one of those moments that all music-lovers are chasing. A surreal venue, a perfect setlist, and kick-ass playing. Now that it has been over a year since this night and the last time I’d ever see Jeff Austin play, and many months since he left us – I’ll never forget the way he plucked his heart into every crevice of that cave, and how everyone in the room was looking to him with love, wonder, and pure delight.

[Audio Taped by Keith Litzenberger]

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Medeski, Martin & Wood by Aaron ‘Neddy’ Stein (JamBase Contributor)

On Halloween 2000, I found out my dad had cancer. We were walking from our apartment in Fort Greene to catch a train to the Upper West Side, we were Beacon Theatre bound! Halloween had been the live music holiday for me since 1994, not a day to receive bad news, but it came nonetheless when the phone rang (I guess I had a cell phone then?) and my mom explained the situation, adding that it was very treatable and there was nothing to worry about.

What I learned at that moment is the day you learn, for real, of your parent’s mortality is the day you learn of your own mortality. I hung up a bit stunned, my mood changed considerably, a light switch gone from on to off in a single flip of the wrist.

Still, we were Beacon bound! After five years of Phish or Widespread Panic on Halloween, the new century was new and so we’d be checking out Medeski Martin & Wood. Several months earlier I had started the NYC Freaks list, which had opened up my music community in many ways and this MMW show was one such benefit: the list had somehow gotten word about the on sale very early and amazing seats were there for the taking. We were in the second row for what may still be the best MMW show I’ve seen, many friends nearby, a perfect view of everything going on on stage that night.

And there was so much going on that night! Shortly after the lights went down I was able to put the bad news behind me and enjoy the music. The band was in high spirits, in pure funk party mode, going deep at several points during the first set.

The second set was an all-timer, the trio joined by Marc Ribot and Cyro Baptista. It was the first time I had seen Cyro before and maybe the first or second time I had seen Ribot. My impressions of Marc’s playing, in my limited exposure, was that he was a wild and noisy guitarist, prone to getting out there. On this night, though, he revealed himself to be a brilliant player, equally enamored with the groove as with experimentation. I was blown away by his playing, his command of the jams, his interplay with the trio. It would be the start of a 20-year love affair, a spark that became a that’s-my-favorite-guitarist fire, fueled by a spectrum of styles and collaborators and uncanny skill that give off so much light and heat, his output of the last two decades and my lucky-duck witnessing thereof can only be appreciated as a whole from a distance.

My appreciation of Marc Ribot is only one reason I chose this night above all the others of the JamBase era. In fact, when I look back at the last 20 years of my music life, the vast, complicated spider web of shows and bands and reviews, this MMW show from October 31, 2000 stands as a central vortex from which so many strands seem to be spun.

The first review I ever wrote for JamBase was the review I wrote for this show. The moment I centered in on from that show was the encore, a version of “Hey Joe.” That was the moment when it all started, ended, the atomic-bang fusion generating so much energy for the next two decades of my life. Another guest came out for the Hendrix cover, a fellow named Robert Randolph, whose pedal steel playing on the song meshed perfectly with Ribot’s delicate, surprisingly beautiful guitar. The moment gave me chills as I thought back to the phone conversation from the beginning of my night and I looked at my wife and smiled, the music, those new friends sitting nearby, knowing everything was going to be just fine.

The show led to that stunner encore, the encore led to the review, the review somewhat improbably led to my booking Randolph for what would be the first Freaks Ball a few months later, which led to two decades of Freaks Balls and musical discovery and thousands of shows, dozens of them being blown away by Marc Ribot (and Cyro for that matter!), hundreds of reviews for JamBase, a life intertwined with an amazing community of Freaks, an increasingly complicated and beautiful wonderful web.

My mom was only partly right that Halloween night of surprises, the cancer was removed, then removed once more several years later, but the third time did the trick. We got 15 more amazing years with dad, the better part of those next two decades, over which I learned to embrace my community and my love for live music and writing about it. The words “go see live music” got me through the last 20 years in more way than one. Here’s to the next 20.

[Here’s part of what Neddy wrote 20 years ago about the show in his JamBase review…]

The change of pace and tone of the show blew smiles onto the audience as they roared with delight. The name of the game was the pedal steel playing. Gorgeous, clean tone with well-timed trills, slow builds and climactic explosions. Ribot did his best to keep pace with some rocking solos of his own. Medeski hugged the organ tight as Wood and Martin just smiled and revelled in the joy of simple rock and roll. It was a jam like no other I had seen this band play and it flat out blew me away.

And this was just the beginning of the highlight run of the show. The encore that followed the well-deserved ovation was icing on the Halloween cake. Ribot and Rudolph rejoined them on stage and Wood thumped the opening notes to “Chubb Sub” on his stand-up. First Medeski set the tone with more of the same-old genius he had sparkled us with all night. Next, Rudolph caught on and got downright soulful. If he wasn’t vamping on some Stevie Wonder song, it certainly did sound like. At this point, I’m basically thinking – who is this guy and where can I see him next? Ribot picked up the ball just as the pedal steel whistled the last notes of its solo and added some funk-ity-funk of his own. Medeski rounded out the musical gyrations with yet another mind-whipping and finally harnessed the energy into the final section of the song.

That certainly would have been more than enough, but John nodded to his compadres in crime and Hendrix song number three was “Hey Joe.” This was a chilling, somber, beauty of a cover. Again, it was marked by gorgeous solos on both pedal steel and guitar. It ended rather abruptly at the end of Ribot’s solo, but it had been that last piece of Halloween candy that made you realize you had more than enough of that good stuff for one night. A truly special night and easily the best Medeski, Martin and Wood show I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been listening to them.

Heart/Fare Thee Well by Susan Weiand (JamBase Photographer)

The heavens like to rock too.

On September 9, 2011, I was at Shoreline Amphitheater watching Heart perform. The clouds were dark and threatening all afternoon and we saw rare lightning over the bay that day. During their encore of The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me”, when Ann Wilson hit that big “Reign” note, the skies opened up and it started pouring for maybe five minutes. People thought it was a special effect we orchestrated!

[Video Credit: Heart performs “Love Reign O’er Me” September 9, 2011 captured by Martin Hardee]

Years later flash forward to Levi’s Stadium on June 27, 2015, and the first of the final Dead’s “Fare Thee Well” shows with Bob, Phil, Billy and Mickey with Trey. Again there was rare unsettled weather in the afternoon that day in the bay area. At the end of the first set, during “Viola Lee Blues,” a perfect rainbow appeared arcing over the stage.

All the Deadheads thought this must be the late Jerry Garcia smiling down on us. Others thought it was a special effect, the notion purported by one of the lighting guys who told reporters that it was a $50,000 hologram projected from half-mile away. The press ran with the quote.

But we all know what really happened.

[Video Credit: direwolf58]

Deer Tick by Jeffrey Greenblatt (JamBase Contributor)

Hi. I’m Jeff and I’m a Tick Head.

Outside of a certain band from Vermont, Deer Tick is the band I’ve caught the most over the last 20 years, some 30+ times dating back to 2008.

I’ve seen this band do it all from playing bars, boats and a bowling alley. Festival appearances, acoustic shows and opening sets for their musical friends and heroes. I’ve also been there to watch them cover both their own albums and ones by bands that have influenced them in their entirety. Oh, and there was also that show that they played as a Nirvana tribute act.

An essential part of the Deer Tick experience has been their Newport Folk Festival after-shows, which made the 20 For 20 Live Music Traditions list. The bar-rock act takes over the tiny Newport Blues Cafe for three nights of raucous, guest-filled shows that find the perfect balance between showcasing their own beloved material and collaborative covers. I’ve been lucky enough to be at eight of these shows since 2013, but it was the one on July 25, 2015, that stands in particular.

Opening sets from a then very, unknown Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, who somehow crammed the full band on a postage-stamp-size stage, and The Suffers preceded the Providence-born band. Looking back at what truly made this night special was the breadth of the territory they covered.

The at-the-time five-piece act, ripped through four straight of their own tunes, including the relatively new rocker “S.M.F.” (aka Shitty Music Festival), which John McCauley stressed was not Newport Folk. Tommy Stinson of The Replacements began the string of guests that would pop up throughout the rest of the show. The freewheeling festivities included covers of The Beatles and The Who with Stinson and the classic-country duet “Islands In The Stream” with Robert Ellis and Erika Wennerstrom (Heartless Bastards) playing the roles of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

A rowdy, drunken, fan-assisted sing-along of “These Old Shoes” that also featured Jonny Fritz and the song’s author Chris Paddock on vocals, helped set the stage for the final memorable stretch of the night. First up was an appearance by McCauley’s wife Vanessa Carlton for the nostalgically, romantic duet “In Our Time.” LuciusJess Wolfe and Holly Laessig sang gorgeous harmonies on The Kinks’ “Strangers,” then sticking around as Ellis returned for some more live band karaoke whipping the crowd into a frenzy with a version of the Bob Seger classic “Hollywood Nights” and a punchy take on Elvis Costello’s “Welcome To The Working Week.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/5mr5AqLn-m/

While all that certainly helped make this a stand out show, it was the way that Deer Tick closed the night that still puts a smile on my face. McCauley prefaced the song they were about to play by saying it was his daughter’s favorite song and she would get excited every time it came on the radio. For a band that has covered everyone from John Prine to ZZ Top to Beastie Boys to Santo & Johnny, anything and everything could be on the table from a pop song to Raffi’s “Baby Beluga.”

With that intro they launched into the Grateful Dead’s “Touch Of Grey.”

At that moment my two musical worlds blissfully came together as they successfully delivered a beer-soaked version of the Dead’s lone Top 10 hit that also featured Newport Folk’s executive producer and Deadhead Jay Sweet jump on stage to help sing the tune’s iconic chorus.

While I’ve seen some other magical moments take place in that room including Jason Isbell and Deer Tick teaming for a pair of Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes, Ruby Amanfu bringing the house down with a cover of The Cranberries “Zombie” and Dawes’ Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith delivering a pair of Warren Zevon covers including a moving, unamplified version of “Keep Me In Your Heart” it’s still the night when Deer Tick played their one and, to date, only version of “Touch Of Grey” that is near top of any show I’ve seen over the last 20 years.

Fleet Foxes by Kyle Fortinsky (JamBase Information Manager)

The last time my mom boarded an airplane was 1990. Shortly after my youngest sister was born, she simply decided to stop flying. For a time, the choice never conflicted with major life events or family milestones and celebrations. My grandparents and other extended family were a couple hour’s drive south, she worked locally, and any trips to the airport were to pick someone up or drop someone off. Of course, as everyone got older and lives progressed, not all get-togethers remained a manageable driving distance away. So she’s become an avid Amtrak passenger.

When we grab a flight, and it’s too far to drive, my mom takes the train. Everywhere. Chicago, New Orleans, you name it. When I moved from the East Coast to San Francisco in 2008, she was not a six hour flight away. She was staring at a four day, cross country railroad adventure.

Seeing live music together is part of our family’s fabric. If you’re the same then you understand how special it can be. The Bonnaroo 2003 whirlwind with my sister Laura, McCoy Tyner with my dad, Phil & Friends and G.R.A.B. in 2006 with my parents and Laura – those shows and more always resurface to the top of my family musical memories. Despite a long list to choose from, the clear winner was Fleet Foxes in 2009 at The Fillmore in San Francisco with my mom, Patricia.

For years, an affordable but effective holiday gift from me meant stacks of burned CDs. Jazz or rare bootlegs for my dad, and bluegrass, folk, or Americana for my mom. There were a lot of hits, some misses, and many that remain in their kitchen Bose speaker rotation to this day. If you asked my mom what band or musician struck her the most during that time, she will undoubtedly say Fleet Foxes. I remember giving her their Sun Giant EP and self-titled full length album when they came out, and how taken she was after the first listen.

Fast forward to early 2009. I’ve lived out west for about a year, and she’s been planning her first 3,000 mile expedition to come visit. Fatefully, Fleet Foxes scheduled three Bay Area shows for that April: Palace of Fine Arts, The Fillmore and Oakland’s Fox Theater.

In selecting one for us to attend, The Fillmore show was a no-brainer. My parents saw the Grateful Dead for years and still listen to a lot of rock music from the 1960s and 1970s. My mom had never been to The Fillmore, and it was still a relatively new venue for me up to that point. But I had quickly learned how special it was to see live music there – it really didn’t matter who was on stage. How could this not be her first San Francisco concert experience?

We had a couple days before the show to do the various Bay Area things you do when people come to visit. Her train-lag had dissipated. We talked a lot about our excitement and anticipation for the music. It was special for me to see her giddiness leading up to it. That afternoon we walked through the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park, went to Amoeba Records, grabbed a bite to eat, and made our way up Fillmore Street to the venue.

Some of you reading this have seen dozens of shows there, maybe hundreds. It’s no secret there are more than a few aspects of The Fillmore that make it unique. The trio of details I remember my mom reacting enthusiastically to include the hat-donning greeter at the top of the entryway (“Welcome to The Fillmore!”), the bucket of apples waiting for you once you’re inside and the upstairs poster room and balcony.

We enjoyed each quirk at our leisure, after making a point to show up early and take our time inside before anyone got on stage. I remember we paused to admire the huge picture of Jerry Garcia that overlooks the staircase, and how happy I was knowing she experienced him live so many times, and that we were about to have a new concert memory together in the house his band helped build.

We spent quality time looking at the archival posters and eventually went back downstairs to a strategic spot on the floor. Now, my mom isn’t tall. A human of average height is an immediate, full blown viewing obstruction. A general admission, standing-room venue never bodes well for someone like that. However, the sightline gods were on our side that night. If we ever had to move because she couldn’t see Robin Pecknold and Co., I do not remember it. What I do remember is watching my mom smile and softly sing throughout the performance. I also remember how, during applause, she’d instead wave her arm side to side above her head in glowing acknowledgment – the same way she would when I’d come into view at the airport she was picking me up at. The night flew by.

If you’re a fan of the band, 2009 was a great year to see Fleet Foxes in my mind. They were on the brink of stardom. That tour was one of the last chances people got to see them in smaller venues on a regular basis.

They were arguably my mom’s favorite band that year, too. She took the train across the continental U.S. to see me in my new home, and to see that show. We have the posters, we have the memories. I’ll never forget it.

Kamp Bitchin’ Kitchen by Jake Alexander (JamBase Contributor)

[Video Credit: Ron Artis II & The Truth Perform “Walk That Walk” At Bitchin’ Kitchen’]

Kamp Bitchin’ Kitchen has become, for me, the epitome of what live music is.

It’s a yearly phenomenon that occurs in the very back corner of the High Sierra Music Festival campground. Basically, a guy we all call Chef Rhody and his crew put together the most impressive camp kitchen you will ever see. Complete with fryers and a stove, a full pantry, washing station, prepping station etc. They spend the week of High Sierra preparing the best food you can get on site, for a small donation or in exchange for a set on the small stage they assemble at camp.

My understanding is that the original idea was to entice the billed musicians of the festival over to their camp so they could feed and hangout with them. This whole thing was started maybe 15 or 20 years ago by a guy named Larry Bressler, his wife Denise and Rhody and what they called “Krewe of Roux.” Sadly, Larry and Denise were taken from us five years ago in a senseless act of violence in their home. The year they passed was the first year I experienced Kamp Bitchin’ Kitchen and the legendary hospitality of the Krewe of Roux.

There isn’t a singular memorable moment that stands out for me at Kamp Bitchin’ Kitchen. It’s hard to pinpoint a snippet of time that sealed the Kitchen as the best music experience of my adult life.

It’s more of an overall feeling that the Kamp exudes.

It’s knowing that at some point, there will be a crawfish boil and The California Honeydrops will show up for a raucous two-hour set, regardless of if they are actually playing HSMF or not.

It’s the look of a random festival-goer when he wanders into camp at midnight, lured by the smell of fried chicken and dumbfounded by the insane shredding of Ron Artis II & The Truth playing full electric in the back corner of the campground (see video above).

It’s The Travelin’ McCourys strumming away for an intimate crowd of 30 on a lazy Sunday after getting off the main stage where they played for thousands.

Kamp Bitchin’ Kitchen encapsulates all that is good and surprising and hopeful in the music world. And I hope everyone gets to experience something like it someday.


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Ron Artis II & The Truth (See 15 videos)

Mac DeMarco by Jeff Wagner (JamBase Sales)

[Video Credit: Mac Demarco plays “This Old Dog” at Red Rocks with CPR’s OpenAir]

It was summer of 2018 and I was headed west. After spending my formative years in the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina it was time for me to embark on the next chapter of this journey called life. Before hitting the road, I had some planning to do. I knew this was essential to my journey’s success and figured there were too many distractions in Charleston. So I decided to go back to my parent’s home outside of Boston.

The planning process wasn’t going very well. It wasn’t too long until I started researching which of my favorite artist’s tours were going to coincide with my travels. What do you know, one of my favorite artists would be performing at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado in September. Perfect! This is the exact time I was planning on passing through the area.

I had been listening to Mac DeMarco for a few years at this point. He quickly became one of my favorite artists. Put on the song “Salad Days” when you are feeling down and I can guarantee that you’ll be transported to a happy place where the warm summer breeze is flowing through your hair as you gaze upon the Pacific Ocean surrounded by the people you love the most. Once I introduced Mac to my father, he became an instant fan. He fell in love with Mac’s unique, easy going sound and his uniquely hilarious personality.

My dad’s sister lives in Denver and he had been saying he was going to pay her a visit for some time but had not yet pulled the trigger (ain’t that always how it goes?). Well, what better excuse than to plan a visit around seeing Mac at a famous venue neither of us had been to?

So we proceeded to purchase tickets. Since my dad has a handicap, whenever we go to a concert together it is fastest and easiest to navigate the venue for both parties if he is in a wheelchair. This means we purchase ADA tickets. The amazing part about Red Rocks is that the ADA section is not in the front row, it is actually in FRONT of the front row. You are sitting alongside photographers and friends/family of the artist. The stage is only about 10 inches off of the ground. So we ended up sitting dead center about six feet away from Mac’s crazy on stage antics.

I drove around the country and into Canada for roughly a month before I picked my dad up from the Denver airport. We had a meal and some drinks and were off to Red Rocks. Because of my dad’s ADA accommodations we got a killer parking spot. Perfect place to crack a cold one and people watch the thousands of hipsters rolling in. Rad. We made it in and couldn’t believe the seats we had. We were beyond stoked! First up, . Then Chicago based hip-hop artist, Noname. Then finally Mac.

Mac came on and was sounding great. He had a table on stage that about 10 of his friends were sitting around smoking huge joints and pounding cheap beer. Wonderful! Being a huge Mac fan, I was absolutely jazzed. Singing along to the songs so close to one of your favorite artists is such a great experience. Not to mention at a venue like Red Rocks. All was going well until something terrible happened.

An absolutely obliterated young man somehow managed to find a seat right next to me. He was friendly at first but soon became an annoyance. Saying things like “I don’t get what the big deal is about this guy.” Finally, I had to say something to him. I politely told him I was a big fan and if he wouldn’t mind letting me enjoy the show in peace. That lasted all of 20 seconds. Then he started to chant the faux pas “Free Bird.” Being in the very front row, how could Mac ignore this?

Mac is known for taking crowd engagement to the next level at his live shows. I can see why people say that. He literally stopped in the middle of a song and brought this drunk idiot on stage and handed him the mic and said, “go ahead!” The kid started slurring the words to “Free Bird” and made a fool of himself. All the while Mac was smoking a Viceroy cigarette and swigging Jameson. The crowd was eating it up. Quite the sight to see.

The drunken idiot eventually ended up getting escorted out of the venue. Finally, it was just my dad, Mac, and me hangin’ out at Red Rocks on a beautiful fall evening. What a pleasure to experience Red Rocks for the first time on such an intimate level.

Unless you dish out some serious dough or are in the industry, most people never get that close to the stage. That combined with seeing one of my favorite artists with my dad made for one of my most memorable concerts to date.

Umphrey’s McGee by Jon McLennand (JamBase Production Manager)

Ever obsess over anything? Like a lot? I obsessed over the internal logic of early-Umphrey’s McGee improvisation. A lot. At its apex, it contains all the elements of a multi-sectional piece of composed music. Well-defined, melodically-rich A and B (and sometimes C and D) sections. Shit blew my mind. Noodling to space out to this was not. It was their nightly excuse to create something new and real. Finding these “Jimmy Stewarts” eminently re-listenable, I started compiling them as mixtapes, some of which you can still find on nugs.net.

The band found the fruits of their labor to be useful as occasional building blocks (legos) for their songwriting. “In The Kitchen,” “Ocean Billy” and “Bridgeless” are early, prime examples of UM mining their live shows for song parts. Demonstrative proof of the replay value of their finest “Jimmy Stewarts.” It was strangely satisfying to see pieces of improvisation from a few months prior end up in a new song. Remember that one thing from that one show that you thought was so fucking good? So did they.

If I had to pick one “Jimmy Stewart” out of the early obsessions, it would have to be the “FF” from February 21, 2004. It’s a weird one, too, cuz for how high energy it is, you can hear that the band can’t quite put their finger(s) on how to play it. And that spoke to its power, they couldn’t even play it right yet it built and peaked finer than anything in their repertoire.

[Taped by Wilson Brooks]

What I would have done to relive the endorphinal/dopamine bliss that I experienced that night. And I tried. Scheming ways to get the band members to relisten, so maybe they could hear what we heard that night and play it again. And it even reappeared later that year, but then it disappeared.

[skip ahead, skip ahead]

Capitalizing on their shapeshifting prowess, UM has introduced an array of themed sets over the years but none so audacious as “Raw Stewage,” which debuted in 2012 as part of UMBowl III. As it was announced, they would perform a set recreating old “Jimmy Stewarts” as voted on by fans from a list of gems that I (mostly) curated. These obsessions of mine that had existed only on tape were to be given a new breath of life. It was fucking cool.

The first two editions of Raw Stewage were impressive in their execution, paying respect to the source material. The first year being a highlight for even existing with year two finding a more confident band stretching their legs and digging in. I witnessed both sets, jaw agape for the most part. It was utterly surreal to hear these “new songs.” I knew every note. Once again, improvisation from their live shows was being repurposed and given a Name, with a few choice cuts making the leap into the setlist rotation.

Third time was the charm with Raw Stewage. I knew something was different when the first two “Jimmy Stewarts” of the set had only one title: “Gents.” Which implied that they were intended to be heard as a whole. On this evening, Raw Stewage graduated from a set of recreated jams with appended titles to become a new set of arranged songs. As the arrangements progressed, I swelled with pride. They had figured it out!

This was most evident in the set-closing “Mad Love.” Beginning with a favorite vocal “Jimmy Stewart” from 2012, I couldn’t help but sing along from 3,000 miles away on couch tour. But then something happened after the first verse … it changed to a section that sounded so familiar … only to quickly bounce back to the second verse. What the? Ninety seconds later it hit me like a ton of (love) bricks. A moment so special I have nothing else to compare it to. When the second half revealed itself to be the February 21, 2004 “FF” “Jimmy Stewart,” it was another moment of pure bliss, 10 years later, but for wholly different reasons. First: FINALLY! Second: Now everyone had a chance to experience that feeling I’d been chasing! Third, and most importantly: The jam was still *that* good!

2014 version:


00:00:00


Umphrey’s McGee



(See 382 videos)


Umphrey’s McGee



(See 844 videos)

The first three years of Raw Stewage were fun, loose, and esoteric as fuck. But “Mad Love” proved that this set could be about more than just jams for nerds, it translated to the masses. The 2015 edition was their most impressive batch of new songs in over a decade. (Yeah, I said it.) What they had started the year before, they went and took it a step further. “Remind Me,” “Make It Right,” “Draconian” — these songs were polished with care and played with authority. I stood transfixed in the balcony, alternatingly muttering things like “holy shit,” “Jesus Christ,” and “what the fuck?” There was no sheen of jam about their sound except for where it was intended. And they clearly intended big things: four of the five became setlist regulars and three are jam vehicles themselves, proving grounds for the next era of “Jimmy Stewarts.”

I’m fortunate enough to have been in the right place at the right time as to have witnessed performances that I consider to be no less than perfect. But Raw Stewage was a gift-wrapped, culmination of my obsessions. And I never anticipated what it would become. It’s been six years and I still have a hard time hearing “Mad Love” or its origin “Jimmy Stewart” without my eyes welling up a lil’ bit. I’ve been trying to think of any other way to say it, believe me, but it comes down to this: Umphrey’s McGee made my wish come true and then some.

Vida Blue by Nate Todd (JamBase Staff Writer)

At the beginning of Summer 2002, 19-year-old me left the windswept plains of Amarillo, Texas for the beaches of Southern California. A friend and I drove all day and all night across the endless desert between Amarillo and Los Angeles where another buddy had already established an apartment.

While Amarillo isn’t a small town, not a lot of jam bands come through there. As a musician interested in that type of music, I had to travel to catch those types of acts. No biggie, that was part of the fun. I had seen The String Cheese Incident in Taos, New Mexico and Medeski, Martin & Wood in Lubbock, Texas. But L.A. offered a lot more options as far as jam shows go.

One of the first concerts we caught after moving to Southern California was Leftover Salmon at a place called The Galaxy in Santa Ana (I think it’s called The Observatory OC now). There, we met some new friends and made plans to attend an upcoming concert by Vida Blue, led by Phish keyboardist Page McConnell, together at the House of Blues in West Hollywood (they tore that old building down in 2015).

My Phish journey began when I received The Story Of A Ghost for Christmas in 1998 from my dad, and a friend’s big sister had fostered our interest in the band as well. But growing up in Texas there wasn’t really anywhere close where we could catch the Vermont quartet and we were still too young to travel more than a few hours away on our own. Then, just months before my 18th birthday, Phish went on hiatus! Frustrating to say the least.

So to see just one member of Phish — The Chairman Of The Boards, Leo, Mr. Page McConnell himself — was a big deal for us. The supergroup also featured Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and The Funky Meters drummer Russell Batiste. What a lineup!

So on July 13, 2002 we jumped into my buddy’s car and headed for the Sunset Strip.

The show certainly lived up to expectations. We got to hear Vida Blue classics like “Electra Glide” and “CJ3,” as well as Page songs that would eventually find their way into Phish rotation like “Most Events Aren’t Planned” (I would catch the Phish debut of the groovy tune during the Baker’s Dozen 15 years later) as well as his handling of the spooky Led Zeppelin classic “No Quarter.” “Jealous Guy” is one of my favorite John Lennon songs and “Sheep” comes from one of my favorite Pink Floyd album, Animals.

Getting to hear the McConnell-composed Phish rarity “Cars Trucks Buses,” which followed the Gary Numan classic “Cars,” was memorable as well. But the icing on the cake was Mike Gordon making a surprise appearance. He stepped in for Oteil on bass for the Billy Breathes instrumental to close out the set. Mike would come back out with the band — this time on guitar and Oteil back on bass — for Traffic’s “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone” to send everyone sprawling back out onto the strip.

But the night had just begun. Our newfound friends, who hailed from Santa Barbara, had a couple of rooms at what at the time carried the moniker Hyatt West Hollywood, but is better known as the Continental Hyatt House, or simply, the Riot House. The place is infamous. This is the building that birthed rock ‘n’ roll lore like throwing TVs off balconies — or people actually hanging from the balconies — and driving motorcycles down hallways. The Cameron Crowe-directed film Almost Famous references the notorious hotel and the famed rock journalist and director filmed scenes for the movie there. If my memory doesn’t fail me, the hotel was also right across the street from the old HOB.

We spilled out onto the strip and headed to the hotel. As it turned out, our room was right next to Oteil’s. We had the honor of chatting with the bassist a bit before a friend and I decided to head downstairs for some fresh air. As we waited for the elevator, who but Page McConnell and Mike Gordon walked around the corner. They were headed up.

I probably said something infinitely cool like, “Great show guys.” My friend was equally tongue-tied and looked like she was trying very hard to not wrap them up in a big hug. Being the down to earth cats they are, there was no reason to be star struck. But we were. Probably used to a couple of kooky kids looking at them all googly-eyed, they said “thank you” and were beyond nice. They got onto the elevator and waved as the doors closed.

Cameron Crowe couldn’t have written it better.

Bela Fleck & The Flecktones by Andy Kahn (JamBase Editor-In-Chief)

[Audio Taped by Eric Foelske]

On the evening of September 11, 2001, after an unforgettable day filled with terror, confusion, anxiety, fear and sadness, my friends and I sought some semblance of normalcy by doing something we often did, which was to go see live music.

I was attending the University of Iowa in Iowa City and that night Béla Fleck and the Flecktones decided not to cancel their concert in the school’s ballroom. Looking back, it is somewhat remarkable that the band and university determined that the show should go on while countless events were canceled countrywide.

Rather than continue to huddle around a TV watching an endless replaying of the day’s horrific events, my friends and I came to the conclusion that we should still attend that night’s Flecktones concert.

September 11th also happens to be the birthday of my roommate at the time and another friend of ours that went with us to the show. We certainly were in no mood to celebrate but we nonetheless welcomed the few hours of musical distraction.

Once inside the ballroom, chatter stirred about the horrific events that took place hours earlier in New York City, Washington D.C. and rural Pennsylvania. There was both a sense of ease to be able to be with friends doing something we loved to do and a strong sense of uneasiness that nervously electrified the room. We waited for The Flecktones, unsure of how they would respond to the tragedy.

A few songs into the set, the band paused for introductions, which bandleader Bela Fleck followed by announcing a blood drive would be held on campus the next day. Bela — a Mahanhatten native — told the crowd that his family was safe, shared condolences for those who were not and held a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the senseless attack.

Musically, there are a few things that stand out in my mind all these years later. First was that September 11th is also The Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten’s birthday and at one point during the show, Fleck led the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to the low-end master. We quickly commandeered the sing-along and added the names of Aly (my roommate) and Tim (my friend) alongside Victor’s. It was a surreal moment in a day full of surreal moments as we went from hardly acknowledging their birthdays all day to singing “Happy Birthday” to them and Victor along with a ballroom full of people.

Prior to the birthday celebration break, Wooten shined during a bass solo, exemplifying his virtuosic skills through passage after passage of impressive licks. At one point he shifted to a quiet, restrained sequence that developed into an inspiring and uplifting rendition of “Amazing Grace” that swelled as the audience clapped along and ended with everyone in wrapt silence. A simply stunning moment that I’ll never forget.

Near the end of the performance, Bela sat alone on a stool with only his five-string acoustic banjo accompanying him onstage. He played a medley that worked in elements of “Happy Birthday” and “Linus & Lucy” but most poignantly, elaborately and fittingly the “Star-Spangled Banner.” I never fail to be overcome with the emotions of that entire day whenever I think about that part of the medley.

The solo ended to a roaring cheer from those in attendance. Before the encore, Bela again addressed the audience, mentioning that they were not sure whether to cancel the show and that he was glad they had not.

We all agreed.

Going to see live music that night turned out to be one of the few things that made sense on that otherwise tragic day.