The storm caused me to miss my deadline last week, as there was no way to send the column in, but what a week in music we had! While Irene was howling through The Catskills, Bob Weir, Bela Fleck, Steve Earle, Elton John, Garland Jeffreys, comedian Chris Tucker, Raul Malo of The Mavericks, The Yardbirds, and our own Levon Helm also wailed through the Hudson Valley and nearby points! Incredible, huh? I repeat, what a week!
WDST was kind enough to have me up to the Bluestock Festival at Hunter Mountain for two nights before Irene hit, and last week’s column was mainly about the festival. I am going to run it this week instead, because Bluestock was an important event, and so many of the artists who appeared rocked my world. The promoters made an impressive start and I hope they will make this an annual event like Mountain Jam. My thanks to Brett and Drew from WDST for hooking me up. What follows should have been last week’s column, but it’s still very relevant, so keep reading!
Bluestock 2011 was just like Woodstock ‘69: It rained, it was a free concert by the second day, and the New York State Thruway was closed, man! WDST and the promoters put together an impressive line up that included Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Elvin Bishop, Tab Benoit, Shemekia Copeland, and many more, but there was one act that completely stole the show for me. In order to tell you who that act was, I would like to paraphrase former rock critic and current Bruce Springsteen manager and producer, Jon Landau, who, upon seeing The Boss perform for the first time, famously wrote, “I saw rock and roll’s future and it’s name is Bruce Springsteen”. Well, I have seen music’s past, present, and future, and it’s name is Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue! This band is simply one of the most capable, musical, virtuosic, rockin’ bands ever! Once you’ve experienced Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, it’s difficult to listen to ordinary music!
I was prepped for these guys by a friend, just minutes before they went on, but the jazz-funk-blues-R n B- Rock-Hip Hop powerhouse that confronted me from the first note completely blew me away! I was instantly hooked, and they did not let up for a second, effortlessly blending swirling complex rhythms with a rockin’ beat that kept the audience enthralled from start to finish! This was not just raw technical virtuosity, (although there was plenty of that), but technical virtuosity delivered in a New Orleans gumbo of soul stew!
Standing center stage, holding his trombone like a bazooka spraying notes over the crowd, Trombone Shorty, whose given name is Troy Andrews, is the focal point and star of the show, but his band, Orleans Avenue, is visually and musically captivating as well. The first thing you notice, after recovering from the musical assault, is the ages of Shorty and the band. They all look like they could still be in high school! In fact, the first thing I asked Troy after the show was, “What grade are you guys in?”. From a distance, they look to be 15 – 19 years old. In reality, they’re all between 23 and 26, which is still amazing for the level of musicianship they demonstrated! Every musician in Orleans Avenue is world class, with special mention going to the rhythm section of bassist Mike ‘Bass’ Ballard and drummer Joey ‘In and Out’ Peebles, who form one of the tightest, yet complex, rhythm sections anywhere! The rest of the guys, guitarist Pete ‘Crazy Pete’ Murano, percussionist Dwayne ‘Big D’ Williams, tenor sax man Tim McFatter, and baritone sax player Dan ‘Uncle Potato Chip’ Oestreicher, could step in with any band anywhere! Their young age mixed with their top flight chops and dedication to the music, combine to give these musicians the persona of miniature bluesmen! They look like kids but if you block out the faces they could be 70 year old veteran musicians, and they play like it, but with the energy of the young!
It’s so refreshing to see young people drawing their influences from so many old school styles and combining them in a seamless blend with hip hop and more modern genres to create what Trombone Shorty calls “Supafunkrock”! I think young people would also find it inspiring that Trombone Shorty doesn’t play guitar or some other instrument usually associated with rock music, but ably demonstrates that a trombone player can be the leader of a smokin’ hot musical unit that rocks! By the way, he also plays trumpet and several other instruments equally well!
In their short time on the scene, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue have made fans of, and collaborated with, the likes of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Lenny Kravitz, Warren Haynes, Kid Rock, Bono, The Edge, The Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, and Lamont Dozier, many of whom guest on the new album! Nuff said! Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue’s debut album, “Backatown” was Grammy nominated in 2010, and their new album, “For True” will be released next week. Jeff Beck said these guys were the best thing he’s heard all year. I’ll go one better. Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue are the best new band I’ve heard in a decade! More info at www.tromboneshorty.com, including how to view their upcoming live webcast from Tipitina’s in Nawlins on September 12. Do not miss it!
As mind blowing as Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue were, they were not the only new band that I was turned on to at Bluestock. A young trio from Kansas who call themselves Moreland and Arbuckle, also blew me away. The band consists of a smokin’ harp player who sings, a drummer, and a guitar player. That’s right, no bass, but as I sat listening to these guys, who are a blend of ZZ Top and Hound Dog Taylor, I heard bass notes, and I kept asking myself where the bass notes were coming from. When I moved up front to investigate, I discovered that the guitar player was playing a cigar box guitar with one bass string and three guitar strings, and was able to cover both parts with this unique instrument. These guys are great, they rocked, and you should definitely check them out.
Now for this week’s live music recommendations:
Thursday, Sept. 8 – LARA HOPE AND THE CHAMPTONES at Bull and Buddha in Poughkeepsie. This band is keeping the Rockabilly candle burning in the Hudson Valley, with “burning” being the operative word.
Friday, Sept. 9 – The JOHNNY MONSTER BAND returns to The Bearsville Theater with a great set of rockin’ blues, fresh from their opening slot for Johnny Winter at the same venue last winter. I’ve heard good things about the JMB, so check them out.
Saturday, Sept. 10 – The Ulster County debut of a new band, or more accurately, an old band with a new twist, at the High Falls Cafe. The always busy Bruce Katz has put together CKS with drummer Randy Ciarlante and Gregg Allman Band cohort, guitarist Scott Sharrard. There’s no cover charge, so you’ve got no excuse. Trust me, this will be worth the cost of the gas! And more! A splendid time is guaranteed for all!
Sunday, Sept. 11 – STONE TEMPLE PILOTS rock the Palace Theater in Albany. Not a huge fan, though I know they’ve got them, but I dug Velvet Revolver, and was very impressed with singer Scott Weiland in that band, enough to consider rechecking into STP.
Monday, Sept. 12 – The latest installation of Monday Night Live at The Bearsville Theater with THE MOSES PATROU BAND. I haven’t heard these guys, but their guitar player is the aforementioned Scott Sharrard from the Greg Allman Band, so they’ve got to be good, and this series deserves your support. It was put together by Gary McKeever of WVKR’s Hudson Valley Rag Shop and this is the 9th one they’ve done, featuring talented local bands. The shows are recorded and broadcast on 91.3 FM the next night. BUT…
This is also the night of TROMBONE SHORTY’S LIVE WEBCAST. Tough call. Maybe you watch Shorty then go to Bearsville, or bring your laptop and pick up Shorty on wi-fi. Or maybe you just stay home with Shorty, listen to the VKR broadcast on Tuesday, and support Gary next Monday, but the bottom line? You do support Gary. This is an ongoing series. Support it!
If you’re downstate, the vastly underrated band, Blondie, is pulling into The Highline Ballroom in Manhattan for a 2 night stand, Monday and Tuesday. Blondie is a great rock band, and anyone who thinks they’re some kind of pop group is ill informed. Highly recommended!
Tuesday, Sept. 13 – Again, for our downstate readers, STEELY DAN begins a 6 night run at The Beacon Theater, 4 nights this week, and 2 at the end of the month.
Wow! Whatta week!