Live Review: Roots N Blues N BBQ, 2018

MAGNET’s Scott Zuppardo reports from the best little Midwestern festival you’ve never heard of. Photos by Chris Prunckle/Wannabe

The 12th annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival at the picturesque Stephens Lake Park in Columbia, Mo., wrapped up my summer again for the second straight year. Some of the best live music talent in the world coupled with more than 20 delectable food trucks and a daily whole-hog feeding frenzy is a recipe for success in its sheerest divinity, not to mention the sporadic array of locally crafted libations and all that thereof. Yet again the weather was perfect and being taken in by some of the kindest people I’ve ever been around in those working and/or indulging in the festivities. Tell me again about a country divided? RnBnBBQ is simply a cornucopia of love and positivity that’s not even trying to be. Music, great food and like-minded folks have a way about that.

Musical festivities kicked off with local sweethearts the Burney Sisters. They busked outside the festival last year and opened for the Avett Brothers the following. Don’t let the cuteness fool you—they have delightful songs well beyond their years and arrangements as impressive as the fact that the oldest of the two sisters is 13. Emma and Olivia are future folk legends without a question.

Los Lobos turned in one of the ultimate highlights of the weekend with an early-yet-remarkable set. Dave Hidalgo is a god on vocals, guitar, squeezebox, whatever you need. Hell, the entire band is really. When not bringing blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll, its Mexican blues and traditionals are a tasty treat. Los Lobos is hands down one of the greatest American bands of all time, living legends with no signs of slowing down.

Keb’ Mo’ picked up what the Lobos were putting down with a phenomenal offering of funky-cum-jazzy blues with two sets of keys, an absolute killer on rhythm guitar and backing vocals—and one of the tightest rhythm sections around (a common theme throughout the weekend). One of the coolest cats around with a voice to melt butter and more soul than hominy grits and turnip greens, Keb’ Mo’ boasts four Grammy and stringed-instrument prowess that rivals anyone.

Others onstage were Lake Street Dive, the female embodiment of Joe Bonamassa in Samantha Fish and the fratboy folk of the Avett Brothers. Too each their own, I suppose.

Kelly Willis started my day with a perfect collection of country gold, a bit of rhythm ‘n’ blues and rockabilly shake. Soul-cleansing music sans one iota of “fluff”—that’s refreshing. She’s well-versed in an array of stylings but kept it in the fence for the sake of the festival. Local boys done well Ha Ha Tonka turned in an inspiring hour-plus with an unforgettable number about partying in Arkansas that I still can’t shake from my brain matter. Does anyone else make a Telecaster sound as perfect as Dale Watson? Yes, of course, but his axe bedazzled in coin currency has a unique voice. As does Watson himself, the consummate showman, entertainer and Lone Star beer pusher—long love trucker songs and humor-packed honk tonkin’.

Son Volt was shot out of a canon. Jay Farrar and Co. were purely on fire from commencement. A powerful set dipping slightly toward melancholy only to resurge the auditory onslaught again. Diehard fans got their “Windfall” and “Tear-Stained Eye,” though latest record, one-chord-blues-heavy Notes Of Blue, was heavily represented. Chris Frame’s guitar work was otherworldly, and the band seemed on a mission of sonic totality and succeeded in droves. Taj Mahal and his trio turned in some tasty picking overflowing with personality and legend. The three-time Grammy winner seamlessly sews the divide between folk, blues, jazz, soul and rock ‘n’ roll … if there even is one.

Ms. Margo Price and band were another example of an impeccable rhythm section. The entire group is finely tuned of epic vibrations, stretching out into cosmic jams. Price is a bonafide star who was made to front a band, an indelible mix of beauty, brains and creativity. Highlights included covers of Dolly Parton’s “9 To 5” and a rousing version of Neil Young’s “After The Gold Rush.”

Enter Sturgill Simpson a mere 30 minutes post-Price. His is a four piece for the ages, like a Grateful Dead show on trucker speed, with a blood stream already full of Freddie King, Cash, Waylon, and Otis. It’s plain to see why Simpson has replaced a second guitar with Bobby Emmett’s organ and keys—there’s no reason for another six-string, as Simpson is simply one of the best guitar players on the planet. For those hoping to see High Top Mountain-era Simpson, their cards were rebuked. This was a rock show taking no prisoners, decibels at full tilt and souls on fire. There were plenty folks taken aback by sheer volume and heading for the hills. (Literally.) The set was perfect, especially with no encore,  because that’s punk as hell, right? Sturgill does Sturgill these days. Those in favor, strap in and hold on; those hoping for a boxed country show, good riddance. A blazing cover of the aforementioned King’s “I’m Going Down” has been on constant reply in my inner sanctum. An early congratulations to Simpson, as he and wife await the birth of their third child. He forewarned that he doesn’t have a clue as to when he may be playing a stage again after just one more festival appearance for 2018.

Music Maker Blues Revue started a fine Sunday and was the closest thing to church for yours truly in quite some time. Blues is a religion of sorts, and my heart was full. Israel Nash was a pleasant surprise, chock full of soulful country and rock ‘n’ roll. The Mizzou alumni blazed through a raucous set of great songs with a tight band and heartfelt delivery—thoroughly enjoyable. Valerie June registered positive vibes a-plenty with her succulent brand of folky soul and rock ‘n’ roll. She matched the weather with the PMA and evoked an “Aha” moment to step back and realize how much beauty was going on at that very second. Mine eyes got to misting, and for that I am grateful.

Amanda Shires wowed as usual on the heels of her brilliant new record, To The Sunset. Another shot in the arm of lovely ladies making poignant music. New Orleans’ own Trombone Shorty and his band Orleans Avenue brought a heavy dose of non-stop funky soul. Incredibly animated and loaded with party songs. It’s plain to see why Shorty and Co. have been worldwide festival mainstays for years and will continue to be so. A special shout out to everyone’s favorite sax man Uncle Dan as this was his 36th-birthday show. If Shorty is the anchor, Uncle Dan is the crow’s nest.

Doubling down on the Missouri Lottery Stage and closing out the festival was the remarkable Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Stax Represent! The Hermann, Mo., native and his band of soul-schooled brothers swelled hearts and dusted off white people’s dancing shoes. Yet another unobtrusive band and dead-on rhythm section throwing in a perfect set of live music. I can’t think of a label catalog more suited for them than Stax. They’re the culmination of all that’s come before. From Missouri wine country to worldwide roc ‘n’ soul phenoms—fun, fun, fun.

The end all is how loving, polite and kind every single person is at RnBnBBQ. Whether working, playing or a little of both, everyone is full of good-ole Midwestern wholesomeness. Not the forced pastiche type but the real kind that comes from heart and soul to mouth and action. And from what I’m told, there were folks from 48 states in attendance so be that a testament to the spirit of Columbia, Mo. Kudos to head of Thumper Entertainment and festival organizer Richard King yet again. The only way this energy starts is at the top.

Alvvays And Snail Mail Invade Warsaw (The Brooklyn One)

Alvvays is in the middle of a North American tour that finds the Toronto band headlining, opening for the National and playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Molly Rankin and Co. recently sold out three nights at Brooklyn’s Warsaw with next-big-thing Snail Mail opening all three shows. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there to forget about life with them on the last night and take these killer pics.

This Charming Man: Blur’s Graham Coxon Takes Manhattan

Blur’s Graham Coxon just toured solo in the U.S. for the very first time. It’s hard to get your head around, but the British guitar hero has issued as many albums as Blur has (eight)—and it’s been six years since his last one. Coxon recently played for almost two hours all by his lonesome at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there to document that on his own, Coxon is the furthest thing from a charmless man.

Having Yet Another Beer With Fear

Four decades into a career as offensive as it is endearing, L.A. hardcore-punk originator (and John Belushi’s favorite band) Fear hit the road for a short 40th-anniversary tour. Now 68 years young, Lee Ving—and his beer-loving crew—hammered out 18 of Fear’s best-loved songs at New York’s Gramercy Theatre. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was in attendance to say, “Fuck you, let’s rodeo.”

It’s Evolution, Baby: TV On The Radio Celebrates The 10th Anniversary Of “Dear Science”

It’s hard to believe TV On The Radio’s universally fawned over Dear Science just turned 10. To mark the occasion, the band played the album in its entirety (plus a few other fan faves) at the Knockdown Center in Maspeth, Queens, a stone’s throw from TOTR’s Brooklyn base. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there to document this golden age coming ’round again.

Live Review: Neil Young + Promise Of The Real, Port Chester, NY, Sept. 26, 2018

Neil Young’s opening show at Port Chester’s Capitol Theater was clearly one for the fans. Fresh from playing both Farm Aid on Saturday and Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival on Sunday, Neil Young + The Promise Of Real have put two consecutive evenings aside at this historic hall with its intimate, 1,800-person capacity. From the outset, it was clear that Neil + The Real were going to be digging deep into Young’s treasured catalog, leaping across the decades and playing something for everyone.

Opening with a long, rumbling version of “Like An Inca” from 1982’s Trans followed by the acoustic treat of “Tell Me Why” from 1970’s After The Gold Rush, Young appeared eager and energized, pushing his (young) band—featuring Willie Nelson’s son Lucas on guitar—in a number of different directions.

It was a nostalgic, romantic set at times, with familiar songs like “Heart Of Gold” and “Lotta Love” presented in authentic, sing-along fashion. A sprawling version of “Words (Between The Lines Of Age)” had the veteran audience grooving in approval, as did a revival of treasured nugget “Winterlong” followed by other old classics like “Unknown Legend” and “Harvest Moon.”

Rekindling memories of Crazy Horse, the band then poured out a heaping helping of crunching rock ‘n’ roll with “Fuckin’ Up” followed by “Cortez The Killer” and a buoyant, celebratory “Cinnamon Girl.” Stretching out inevitable closer “Rockin’ In The Free World” to outrageous proportions, Neil + The Promise Of The Real showed they could still add something new to the familiar standby.

All in all, Young was in great voice for the entire evening and played remarkably well, extending the unique guitar vocabulary he has been refining for decades. For the encore, he gave the crowd one more blast from the past with doper anthem “Roll Another Number” from 1975’s Tonight’s The Night.

—Mitch Myers; photos by Wes Orshoski

Like An Inca
Tell Me Why
Field Of Opportunity
Heart Of Gold
Lotta Love
Words (Between The Lines Of Age)
Unknown Legend
Harvest Moon
Fuckin’ Up
Cortez The Killer
Cinnamon Girl
Rockin’ In The Free World

Roll Another Number (For The Road)

Wayne Kramer’s All-Star MC50 Kick Out The Jams In New York City

The MC5 is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the recording of punk ‘n’ roll classic “Kick Out The Jams,” and co-founder/guitarist Wayne Kramer is hosting the traveling party, coming together with some serious bandmates: vocalist Marcus Durant (Zen Guerrilla), guitarist Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), bassist Billy Gould (Faith No More) and drummer Brendan Canty (Fugazi). The MC50 recently played New York City’s Irving Plaza, and MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there to document this high time.

Live Review: Roger McGuinn And Chris Hillman, “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” Tour, New York City, Sept. 23, 2018

Photo by Jeremy Gordon

To everything there is a season, and the season for 50th Anniversary shows is upon us. On Sunday night at New York City’s Town Hall, it was hats off to Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, celebrating 1968’s Sweetheart Of The Rodeo by their old band, the Byrds. That recording also featured the talents and influence of the late Gram Parsons, so there were lots of country-rock bona fides for Messrs. McGuinn and Hillman to unpack, which they did with the accomplished help of Marty Stuart And His Fabulous Superlatives. The evening also served as a virtual primer of Americana, showcasing classics written by McGuinn, Hillman and Parsons as well as Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Merle Haggard, Porter Wagoner, Pete Seeger and even Tom Petty.

The band’s first set served as a warm-up to the main event, highlighting the more countrified tunes from the Byrds’ early catalog including Wagoner’s “A Satisfied Mind.” It was a sheer pleasure to watch McGuinn playing electric 12-string and Hillman picking the bass on the opener, Dylan’s “My Back Pages.” Guitars were ringing as McGuinn, Hillman, Stuart, Kenny Vaughn and Chris Scruggs switched up on acoustic, electric and steel guitars, bass and mandolin all night long. The vocal duties were well distributed as McGuinn sang “Mr. Spaceman,” Hillman did “Old John Robertson” and Stuart took the lead on  Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home.” The harmonies were full on with Stuart and drummer Harry Stinson adding the third and fourth voices behind Hillman and McGuinn.

The show was peppered with nostalgia, as Hillman spoke about Parsons and McGuinn recounted their meeting the country-music DJ who provided the inspiration for “Drugstore Truck Driving Man.” After an intermission, the second set began with Stuart’s band doing two songs, “Country Boy Rock And Roll” and “Time Don’ Wait.” It must be said that choosing Stuart and the Superlatives as a backing band was a shrewd move. These cats all can sing and they all can play—and quite well. Vaughn is a true badass guitarist, and Stuart can match him punch for punch. Stuart also dazzled on the mandolin, and bassist Scruggs moved over to pedal steel for most of the Sweetheart segment. It should also be noted that Stuart possesses and plays an original string-bender guitar once owned by late Byrds guitarist Clarence White, and nobody deserves it more than he does.

With McGuinn singing Dylan’s immortal “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd,” things were off and running. Hillman showed himself to be in great voice with his performance of Parson’s “Hickory Wind” and “One Hundred Years From Now.” McGuinn authentically embraced Louvin Brothers classic “The Christian Life,” as well as William Bell’s plaintive ode “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” After closing out with a sing-a-long reprise of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and a churning “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” the band did a heartfelt mini-tribute to Petty. McGuinn sang “American Girl,” Hillman did his version of “Wildflowers” and Stuart led the band through an acoustic rave-up of “Runnin’ Down A Dream.”

The evening concluded with a ringing version of Seeger’s immortal tune, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season).” And everybody went home with a satisfied mind.

—Mitch Myers

David Byrne Delivers A Once In A Lifetime Stage Show With Brains And Brawn

David Byrne brought his American Utopia tour to Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, complete with a guest appearance from former MAGNET cover star Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards) on a show-ending cover of Janelle Monáe protest song “Hell You Talmbout.” MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there to start making sense of this incredible 21-song stage show filled with somethings old, somethings new, somethings borrowed and somethings blues.