Full House for Myriad

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Myriad Interactive Arts & Music Exhibition, previously known as Perennial Fest, experienced a huge turnout this past Tuesday night. New Earth Music Hall was packed; finding a place to stand proved quite a bit more difficult than weeks past. All in all it made for a very different atmosphere, a feeling of being inside an event rather than an intimate open mic. When I say “inside” I mean it! The perception of a barrier between the stage and the audience was broken down, adding to the interactive nature of the event.

Curtis Vorda

Curtis Vorda

American Mannequins‘ frontman Curtis Vorda felt no hesitations jumping down off the stage and strolling through the crowd during their performance. The group, a five-piece  “from Athens, GA… mostly,” started off the evening with a set of expressive and driving rock. While they definitely have a harder edge to their sound, American Mannequins are difficult to pin down. Their music is at once alternative as it progressive, indy, and punk as well. Influences seem to come anywhere from the raw to the exotic, from the heavy and rhythmic to the melodic. They never quite reach a transcendent state, but bring about at times an uplifting sense with their soaring and sweeping melodic capability. The lyrics play a big role in their music, touching on a number of topics on all things cerebral and personal; from growing up, to the dangers of methamphetamine. As he sung, Vorda has an quirky stage presence, somewhat reminiscent of Thom Yorke. Throughout the show he prowled the stage and worked himself into the occasional shaky fit. American Mannequins brought a great energy and set the tone for experimentation with sound for the night (Vorda occasionally plays on a machine that amplifies feedback and frequencies).

IMG_0967Out on the patio, featured artist Marc Lineberger had some of his paintings on display as he worked on a new piece. Watching Lineberger paint was a treat in and of itself. His process feels improvised, on the fly, but at the same time is painfully exacting and calculated, often employing the use of a ruler to get perfectly straight lines and correct measurements. This comes out in his finished paintings as a captivating and divine harmony of the natural, the cosmic, the geometric, and the surreal. If Escher and Dali candy-flipped together and collaborated, Marc Lineberger’s work would be the end result. His sense of fluid in motion throughout the mathematic, interlocking patterns he creates is inspiring, to say the least. Each painting is an adventure, a discovery of a path through the cerebral chaos that permeates the natural world.

IMG_0976The open jam started off with a customary Talking Heads jam before diving headfirst into an evening of super funky, rock oriented, and blues-heavy playing. The turnout for this week’s jam was fantastic! New Earth was teeming with musicians; it seemed like everyone there could play something. The variety was excellent as well! Thrown in the mix were two harmonicas, a trumpet, and a saxophone, and Curt Vorda even jumped in briefly on his noise machine. It was a truly interactive night, with musicians jumping in and out of the jam throughout. You never knew if the person next to you was going to get up and grab an instrument.

This Tuesday’s Myriad was an amazing event! Don’t miss out on next week. See you there!

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I even wrote and recorded a poem at the end of the night. Check it out:

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9.10.2014 || Greenhouse Lounge w/The Main Squeeze Tickets on September 10, 2014 at New Earth Music Hall in Athens, GA from New Earth Music Hall

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Since moving down here to Athens, I’ve seen some DJ’s, and I’ve seen some bands, but it’s time to combine them into that genre that feels so good. I need some of that livetronica! Time to pump up the beat and get some of that ol’ euphoria going.

Greenhouse Lounge of Jacksonville, FL will be bringing the beats to Athens on Wednesday, September 10. Self described as an “electronic musical trio that combines the computer based production of a DJ with rock guitar leads, staggering sample manipulation, [and] heavy analog bass accompanied by a live drummer” (Soundcloud) the group sounds too good to pass up! They will be accompanied by The Main Squeeze.

9.10.2014 || Greenhouse Lounge w/The Main Squeeze Tickets on September 10, 2014 at New Earth Music Hall in Athens, GA from New Earth Music Hall.

It’s at New Earth Music Hall too, so it’s bound to be a good show. This venue has yet to disappoint. I’m bringing my dancing shoes. Hope to see y’all there!

A review will be forthcoming following the event.

 

Don’t Listen to Me? I Think I Will!

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Halem Albright Band, source: Facebook

Halem Albright Band, source: Facebook

Thursday night I missed both Moon Taxi shows in town, but things turned out alright in the end… or should I say Albright! Later in the evening I strolled into the Green Room and caught a good chunk of a set from the Halem Albright Band (H.A.B), who absolutely lit the place on fire. The shear number of jam bands in Athens never ceases to amaze me, and still more amazing is that each of them have their own distinct sound; not once I have found myself saying, “This sounds just like…” or “Didn’t I see these guys last night?” H.A.B. was no exception to that trend, and by the time the show was over, I found myself, jaw dropping, loving another band.

3462After the show I spoke with guitarist and frontman, Halem Albright, who hooked me up with a copy of his 2012 album, Don’t Listen to Me, which has now been on repeat the last few days. Predating the 2013 formation of H.A.B, Halem’s solo release is a work of major collaboration between some top-notch local musicians and producers (John Keane, Jeff Mosier). The results are an impressive, highly polished sound that presents an eclectic, but masterful blend of instruments and styles that takes listeners on a kind of musical road trip.

As the album plays through, one can imagine gazing out of a car window at the changing environment rolling by; being aware of the distinct environments, but understanding the whole picture as part of one journey. The pacing of the album matches this sentiment well, driving forward with relaxed, but energetic drum beats that fall anywhere on spectrum from dance to rock steady, but aren’t afraid to get real tight and complex when the moment is right. Over this, the range of melodic influences are just as vast, using a blend of electric and acoustic to play blues, reggae, southern and classic rock, and even a little bit of that wistful western sound, too. Featured instruments include flute, banjo, violin, several types of organ, harmonica, and a horn section, broadening the diversity even further.

10600624_911700295511079_2470095596923669479_nHalem Albright shows his versatility as a guitarist and singer on this album, showcasing his talent without showing off. The melodies and soloing achieve a more structured tone than plain noodling on the guitar, keeping things interesting and grounded through some of the more lengthy tracks. He also creates some wild noises; every now and then a siren will scream through the music, and it takes moment to realize it came from the guitar. The vocals are well harmonized and pristine, allowing the lyrics to be just as relevant as any other part of each song. While Halem shines through, every instrument featured gets to have its moment, making for a tasteful and balanced total composition that keeps the album interesting over multiple listens. It can be dangerous to give comparisons to bigger names, but for anyone who needs a little orientation, blend up Phish with String Cheese Incident and some of the jazzier Lotus, throw in the lyrical consciousness of Twiddle, and you’re in the right ballpark.

Don’t Listen to Me has been thoroughly enjoyable so far, and I look forward to catching more of H.A.B. in the future. Their live presence is much different. As a four-piece, they ramp up the energy to a much more heavy-dancing level, taking time to do some serious shredding and extended jams. Worth mentioning is that the Green Room was fairly empty when I saw them, and they still raged their set. Respect to bands who still give everything to tiny crowds; they got me moving! It would be interesting to see what an album from H.A.B. would sound like after performing together for a year or two now.

The Halem Albright Band plays next at New Earth Music Hall on September 18th with The Heavy Pets. Don’t miss it!

http://www.halemalbright.com/index

 

Perennial Fest V

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I am the student of my teacher, and my teacher was a master

Carl Lindberg of Grogus headlined the fifth happening of Perennial Fest on Tuesday night. Attendance down at New Earth was larger than the previous week, with more members of the audience there as viewers and not just participant musicians there for the open jam at the end. Anyone who missed this week should start rethinking their Tuesday nights!

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Carl Lindberg, JANKA!

Lindberg’s solo act, JANKA, is a special kind of musical experience. He poured his soul out into his simple, but profound songs, giving the audience what could be the definition of an intimate performance. The depth and consciousness behind his music is a force, not to be reckoned with, but a force of communication and spirituality. It’s earthy, worldly, and matches the pacing of his surroundings, giving it a very natural energy. The heat and the humidity can almost be felt swirling through his songs. “With this,” he says of JANKA, “I can really fulfill my blues entity.”

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Adriana Thomas

Sure enough, the music strongly rooted in a blues sentimentality, but there is more to it yet. Images, ideas, and influences were pulled from sources such as “a love poem written by a tai chi master”. His voice is incredible too, and he can wail the blues like on other, with all the rawness bellowing contemplation of an old master. It really shined on his song about a caterpillar’s transformation, roaring at the end, “fly free butterfly fly, fly free!” It cannot go unmentioned that Lindberg can play just about any instrument under the sun. Where did he learn all of this? Well, as he told the audience, “I am the student of my teacher, and my teacher was a master.” Adriana Thomas, host of the event, accompanied Lindberg for a few songs, sitting in on drums.

Ember Fox

Ember Fox

Also accompanying the music this week were two dancers. Ember Fox, of Ember Fox Fire Arts showed off her hooping skills, while Bex put on a lovely display twirling cloth and fans. They added a perfect touch to the music, providing very natural and organic motions and visuals.

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Bex

The open jam this week went down a bit of a funkier route than last last weeks’s jazzier feel. Aside from the fun of watching the rotating musicians keep up some fairly extended improvisations, there were some nice covers in the jam including some Talking Heads and even a brief “Inspector Gadget” theme. Bartender Andrew, formerly of The Royal Noise also sat in on the congas again.

Next week will feature American Mannequins. Be there!

“In the spirit of creative abundance,” get involved: drithomas@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Perennial-Fest-Arts-Music/956954664330781?sk=timeline

http://www.reverbnation.com/grogus

http://www.emberfoxfirearts.com

http://www.reverbnation.com/americanmannequins

http://www.reverbnation.com/theroyalnoise

 

 

Moonrise Festival 2014: A Model for Diversity and Safety in EDM

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Source: Facebook

Let’s hear it for the moon! One final resounding cheer roared up from the crowd of thousands gathered at Moonrise Festival, the two-day EDM event held at Pimlico Race Course on August 9 and 10 of this year. The command was given by visionary DJ, Bassnectar (Lorin Ashton) after a mind-bending and exhilarating set beneath the massive supermoon, which had that night reached it’s full golden peak against the deep purple Baltimore night sky. The resulting howl was a moment of profound celebration, of respect and acknowledgement of what everyone there had just been apart of; what may have been the most successful EDM festival to happen in recent years.

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Bassnectar, source: Facebook, DS Photography

Bassnectar never disappoints. He throws his entire soul to the audience and the music in every performance as he bends, twists, and lunges across his expansive arsenal of equipment, dancing like a maniac with his long, messy hair flying around him all the while. Moonrise was no exception. During the set, which included a variety of classics and new tracks off the album Noise Vs. Beauty such as “You and Me,” “Pink Elephants,” and “The 808 Track,” as well as some delicious remixes of Estelle (“Freak”) and The Beastie Boys (Sabotage), he expressed his love for the crowd repeatedly. Special respect and gratitude was given to the Hudson/Mudson Project family that had come, seeking revenge for the disaster that stole away Bassnectar and many other acts from the festival.

Being at a Bassnectar show is a special experience. The people there are some of the friendliest you could hope to have around. The “Bassnectar Family” is always in some form of coordinated attendance, spreading good vibes and caring for one another. It’s a beautifully mutual kind of respect to share in. If you need water, you will have it; if someone else needs water, you help him or her out; no matter if they’re a dirty hippy or the most kandi’d-out raver you’ve ever seen.

Lorin Ashton is fairly outspoken about his straight-edged approach to the EDM scene. Despite the beats being downright filthy sometimes, he takes a keep-it-clean philosophy to his music, hoping that the sound he creates will take away the need for the excessive amount of chemical enhancement strongly tied to the EDM fans; the root cause of just about all the bad press the scene has received in recent times.

Bassnectar shows are models for responsible raving, usually featuring a crew known as “Bass-sitters,” who make certain that water is flowing through the audience. This is where Moonrise set itself apart from other festivals. Organizers took this concept and applied it to every minute of every day, hiring teams of volunteers to patrol the grounds with what seemed like an endless supply of water. There was never a shortage; no matter what show was going on. In this sense, the whole festival took on the tone of a Bassnectar show, following religiously with the tenets of Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect (PLUR) throughout the weekend.

Moonrise showcased a supremely diverse collection of artists from al sectors of the electronic genre. From brand new artists, to old favorites, from heavy trap (more about that later), to deep house, to dub step, and transcendent jam bands, there was something for everyone. There was never a moment that a change of pace could be had if needed. Moonrise was a testament to the wide growth and expansion that EDM has undergone in the last few years since it made its clear infiltration of the greater popular consciousness.

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The Supermoon, source: Facebook, DS Photography

And not only was there variety, but festivalgoers were more open to experiencing out for the first time new artists or genres with people they had never met in their life. There was a definite culture of sharing present, and it added to the overall atmosphere of the event a sense of friendship and understanding. There may be nothing more powerful than the elation a new friend exudes when they have just discovered a new favorite artist, had an experience that blew them away. Likewise, the discoveries you can make through these festy friends have just as much impact as they impart their own wisdom on you. Everything and everyone gets a chance.

The perspective of this article admittedly has a slight bias in favor of electronic jam bands. This genre, which has been present for quite some time (pretty much since the dawn of the synthesizer), holds strong roots in classic powerhouses of the scene such as Lotus and STS9, both of whom are long-standing staples at festivals across the country. The blend of traditional instruments with synths, turntables, drum machines, and other computerized elements makes for a listening experience and a variety in sound and style that is near impossible to match otherwise. It’s all done live, pushing the limits of experimentation, and interacting (and reacting) with the crowd in a way that sets a perfect mood at every moment of performance. Originals and covers blend together in endless combinations, often catching you off-guard. The same show never happens twice.

 

Lotus raged a preposterous show right before Bassnectar, which even included a cover of Deadmau5’s “Ghosts n’ Stuff.” Their set was unbelievably complex and hell-bent on testing just how hard members of the band were willing to jam, peaking at the end with a wild reprise of “Greet the Mind.” Other standouts from their set were a lengthy jam on “Tip of the Tongue,” a down and dirty “Lead Pipe,” and a suprememly funky “128.” STS9 gave a stellar and intimate performance to cap off the first night featuring a seductively smooth take on “New Dawn, New Day,” as well as flawless versions of favorites including “Vapors,” “When the Dust Settles,” and “The Rabble.” STS9 was, as always, irresistible to dance to. Even with their new bass player, Alana Rocklin, who replaced David Murphy, their sound was on-point, promising a bright future for the band’s 2.0 phase.

Source: theindieblender.com

Source: theindieblender.com

Relative newcomers to the scene are Zoogma, a particularly hard-edged and filthy jam band from Memphis, who tested the bounds of just how wild a show in the middle of the afternoon can get. Their set included a cover of Rusko’s (also at Moonrise) “Everyday (Netsky Remix),” as well as maybe one of the heaviest versions of their massive track “M10” ever played. Zoogma have come a long way in the last year, making a serious climb from unfamiliar after-party rockers to sought-after electronic jam staple at festivals all over the place. It would be a surprise if their name were not seen rising up into higher tiers of lineup announcement by next summer. No longer will the question “What the fuck is Zoogma?” be asked, but “Where the fuck is Zoogma?” 

The high quality of daytime performances at Moonrise was quite impressive. At a festival that begins at 11am and ends at 11pm, covering only two days, not every act that deserves an after dark set is going to get one. Very frequently, this “jip” can really sap the energy of the crowd and the band itself, negatively impacting everyone’s experience and leaving everything feeling ho-hum at the end. This was not the case at Moonrise. Every artist or band was on their A-game, putting down sets that left fans wanting for nothing but more time with them. At peak afternoon heat, Papadosio, Rusko (who couldn’t have played louder), GRiZ, and many others all raged their shows as hard ever.

Luke the Knife, of Lotus, got everyone’s boogie on despite the tiny crowd gathered for him, absolutely killing

Luke the Knife, source: Facebook, Vinyl Penetration

Luke the Knife, source: Facebook, Vinyl Penetration

it as he spun some slick Nudisco mixes. EOTO, another jam band who completely improvise every show, threw down a gnarly and incomprehensible show, bending and melting the meaning of genre. Tritonal rocked a jump-crazy set worthy of an ice bath for the sore legs that ensued. Morgan Page brought the house. Djemba Djemba and Mr. Carmack got things turnt up with their ratchet trap sets.

Trap, it appears, has taken a strong grasp on the EDM scene at the moment. To the dismay of many, it has definitely won the title for most dominant sub-genre, making its way into almost every DJ’s repertoire. Festivalgoers will be hard-pressed to find a set that doesn’t have them – however briefly – feeling the desire to lean back and crank their hands in the air as they get rattled by hyper-speed tight snare samples. However you may feel about the trend, trap has made its mark… but something new can pop up at any moment.

Of course, one cannot go without mentioning Kaskade, who headlined the fist night. Kaskade, who is one of the masters of deep house in the United States, gave his massive crowd a blissful and hard dancing set with stunning visuals that were impossible not to feel good while looking at. The performance included, among others, his classic “Eyes,” which had the whole crowd singing along to the vocal parts and feeling rather elevated.

During Kaskade’s set, Infected Mushroom could be seen across the grounds getting absolutely weird with their heavy trance. Tradeoffs always have to happen at festivals; they are something that will remain a part of the experience no matter how well organized the even may be. Other overlaps at Moonrise were STS9/Adventure Club/DJ Snake, Bassnectar/Carnage, and Lotus/Excision. Given these provided clear choices for many at the festival, for someone with a more diverse taste in music, there were some tough calls to make.

Kaskade, source: Facebook

Kaskade, source: Facebook

Moonrise was exactly what a festival should be; a safe environment for the sharing of music, arts, and ideas; a place where new friends are met and great memories are made. It was a true escape from reality during its hours of operation, and an indulgence in self-expression and experience. Everyone there let their freak flags fly knowing that they were surrounded by like-minded people all gathered to just go enjoy some music together. The weekend passed without a single drug-related medical incident, only reporting a few non life-threatening injuries. Whether attendees or organizers are to be praised (or both) for demonstrating responsibility at this event, the future looks bright for this festival, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be back in full force next year. Though the sun may go down, the moon never sets on Moonrise.

 

http://moonrisefestival.com

https://www.facebook.com/moonrisefest/photos_stream?tab=photos_albums

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2014-08-10/news/bs-md-ci-moonrise-festival-20140810_1_starscape-festival-minor-injuries-mdma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things Get Kinky

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The Kinky Aphrodisiacs at New Earth Music Hall

Upon exiting the Classic Center on Friday Night, there were two main options for after parties: Dank Sinatra and Funk You at the Green Room, or The Kinky Aphrodisiacs at New Earth Music Hall. Little four-up flyers were strewn across the streets and being doled out countless promoters. For yours truly, Dank Sinatra and Funk You were recognizable names from festival lineups over the last few years. It seemed like a good idea; the words “dank” and “funk” beckoning relentlessly. Kinky Aphrodisiacs was a different story. What could it be, a drag show? A freak fest? An orgy?!

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Gabe Sugarman

The sudden intervention of one mustachioed man altered the course of the evening, insisting with all sincerity that The Kinky Aphrodisiacs were the choice to make. “They’re kind of like RAQ,” was all the comparison needed to tip the scales in their favor. If a band is similar to a psychedelic progressive group from Burlington, VT, then have to be at least worth checking out. As an added bonus, the after Party at New Earth was free with a Umph’s ticket stub (Green Room was $5).

Ending up again at New Earth was far from a disappointment. This venue is just an awesome place to go listen to music; not once has it been a let down over the last few weeks. Friday night at New Earth was quite a bit fuller than previous visits. There was a regular crowd there, many of whom were recognizable faces from Umphrey’s McGee. On stage, the band was still setting up. They looked like the meant business. New Earth, by the way, plays the best music at set breaks.


 

The Kinky Aphrodisiacs are a three-piece based right here in Athens, consisting of a guitar (Ryan Banks), bass (Kyle Denis), and drums (Gabe Sugarman). It doesn’t really get much more simple than that, but simple structuring doesn’t mean simple music. The band describes itself as sounding like “The Beatles one minute, Rage Against the Machine one minute, and Phish the next,” with “solid drumming and driving bass” complimenting “melodic and some times grungy guitar.” They made their way into the jam scene in 2009 and have been staples in the southeast since then, playing solo gigs as well as opening for bigger names names, such as The Heavy Pets.


 

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Ryan Banks and Gabe Sugarman

Finally set, the three band members took to their microphones and broke into a powerful and spectacularly harmonized vocal opening. The energy produced from this could be felt rising up and out of the three musicians, circling around them and pouring over the audience. Just as the vocal sound bath had begun to subside, they erupted forth into a heavily percussive song introduction. It was aggressive, pounding, anthemic, and yet somehow uplifting; a sign of something magnificent to come.

And was it ever something magnificent! The Kinky Aphrodisiacs took its audience through a rip-roaring set of long, complex, highly composed and energetically-jammed songs that got everyone grooving, moving, jumping and thrashing around. The feel changes up regularly, and the synthesis of sounds could form a list too convoluted to bother with. Their music has the driving danceability of STS9 and the argumentativeness of Lotus, but with a distinctively raw and non-electronic sensibility (moe.?). That’s not all! The Kinky Aphrodisiacs take on a distinctive Southern sound, call it a “nuts and bolts twang” that’ll have you kicking your heels out. It’s a veritable progressive hoedown! Not to mention the guitarist can shred like a ’94 Trey.

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Kyle Denis

Not only do The Kinky Aphrodisiacs rage the stage, but they have amazing audience interaction. Throughout the set, they kept up contact and connections with members of the audience, spreading around the energy even more. It made for an extremely intimate, while still high-octane show that had the kind of atmosphere one would hope for at any show. This band is a must-see if you’re in their touring area. They bring something to their music that makes them truly unique and leaves a feeling of friendliness and welcome. I know I will be seeing a lot more of these guys in the future!

The Kinky Aphrodisiacs next play next on 9/5 in Valdosta, GA and 9/6 in Milledgeville, GA. Go see them!

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/TheKinkyAphrodisiacs/timeline

 

 

 

FranAllen Jam V

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“For those of you who don’t know Mark, he’s a high-in-the-sky hippie.”

As I’ve learned from my friends in Monadnock region of New Hampshire, nothing beats a homegrown jam. The best local bands are always there, throwing down a little extra, and the headiest people in town come together, making for a delightful atmosphere. Good vibes are all around – it’s impossible to NOT be in a good mood.

Saturday night I was a bit down in spirits. I spent the greater part of the day inside, searching through job postings and thinking about my ever-draining bank account. Around 8pm I realized I’d better climb out of the dark hole dug myself into and do something fun. At the Athens Farmers earlier this week (held at Creature Comforts), I picked up a poster for the Fifth FranAllen Jam at New Earth Music Hall which now lay on the table next to me. After staring at the poster for a minute (it’s a pretty cool poster), I decided to go check it out.

Fran Cooper and Mark VanAllen - "FranAllen"

Fran Cooper and Mark VanAllen – “FranAllen”

From the website, I learned that the FranAllen Jam is the creation of Fran Cooper and Mark VanAllen, and started out as what may be the most incredible wedding gift ever conceived. The first Jam was a showcase of bands that Mark, a killer pedal steel guitarist, had played and recorded with over the years and took place at a venue called Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA. It changes locations from year to year, with the number of acts varying as well. FranAllen Jam would be a benefit for the Athens Farmers Market and the UGA Honey Bee Program.

New Earth is tucked away on West Dougherty St. in Athens. During the day, passersby might not even notice the place exists. When I arrived there however, the patio was scattered with guests and warm light was pouring from the front door. The Jam, which started at 4pm, was well underway, and Wiley Eyes, Kristen Englenz, and the Shane Bridges Band had already played their sets by the time I arrived. I paid $12 at the door – not bad for a whole night of music – and got in just in time for Kick the Robot take the stage.

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The inside of New Earth is surprisingly cozy and charming, The walls are covered with pieces from local artists and it the rough wood beam stage and sound booth give it the feel of a barn show. The light rig is phenomenal – they run it like pros – and the sound in the venue is superb. For me, New Earth is a familiar and friendly environment, it reminds me greatly of Nectar’s/Metronome in Burlington, VT, where I spent probably more time than I should have during my college years.

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Kick the Robot got the crowd moving right away, throwing down some high-energy tunes. The three piece definitely “kicked the robot” out of their music, keeping it steady-rocking throughout the set. Featuring a hollow body electric guitar, their tone was heavily rhythmic, with great harmonizing on the vocals. As far as comparison goes, think Arctic Monkeys. They were a great band to start on, and they were fun to watch. The most impressive member of the band was the bass player, who was a stellar singer, and was gutsy enough to jump in and rage an impromptu bass solo when technical issues cut their guitar out for a moment. By the time their set was finished, I was in an infinitely better mood and was excited to hear the other bands.

“I love kids, but I’m fucking glad there are no children around.”

 

Before the next band, Greco, Fran and Mark took the stage to make a few announcements, thank the audience and bands for coming out, and even implied intentions to return the Jam to New Earth Music Hall in the spring. Mark then called up “some of [his] best friends ever,” giving introduction to Greco. “First things first,” frontman Johann Greco instructed before allowing the show to begin, “come a little closer.” The band then erupted into a heavy, blues-driven soulful rock. There was even some psychedelic sound in there, in the same sense that the Black Crows can be considered psychedelic.

Greco

Greco

I was really impressed with how heavy, but still well rounded their overall sound came off. Some of the beats had the kind of pounding rhythm to them that you’d expect from Audioslave. A little humor was thrown in during a song break, where Johann commented dryly, “I’m glad there are no kids here. I mean, I love kids, but I’m fucking glad there are no children around. I learned later that all the band members are actually brothers, with the exception of the guitarist on Les Paul/acoustic/keytar, who is their stepbrother.

VanAllen on slide pedal

VanAllen on slide pedal

Greco had me dancing hard the whole time, and I was happy to join forces with the one other person there who was doing the same. It’s a crowd activity! Dancing is always better with more people involved. Towards the end of the set, VanAllen joined Greco, sitting in on slide pedal for a few songs that took the band’s tone towards the soulful side of country, but still kept all the power of the rock machine they are. Johan said of VanAllen, “For those of you who don’t know Mark, he’s a high-in-the-sky hippy. He has some burnt-out commune stories.”

Van Allen stayed on the slide pedal to play with his band, Saint Francis, a six-piece group that knows how to put down a serious jam. They have a little funk in them, a lot of hot southern fuzz (think Allman Brothers Band), and the slide pedal adds a really neat element to their sound, providing a distinctive twang. I don’t usually go for the country sound, but they way Saint Francis blends it into their rocking rhythms and generous improvisation was quite impressive. The slide can create some crazy sounds and melodies, ranging anywhere from nostalgia and melancholy, to eerie and downright weird. I have never heard a band like Saint Francis before, and I’m super stoked to have been introduced to them – and at such a cool venue and event too! Notable songs were “Watermelon Man,” which Fran told me always makes her cry, and their classic, “Bubble.”

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Saint Francis

To my delight, the last band up was Runaway Gin, a Phish tribute band from Charleston, SC. These guys were great! I’ve seen a couple other Phish tributes, all of whom have their own styles and areas of the music the focus on, but Runaway Gin is the first one I’ve heard that pulls of some great lengthy jams and can segue pretty damn well too. They opened up their set with “Divided Sky,” touched on other popular songs from “Chalk Dust Torture,” to the Ween cover, “Roses Are Free,” as well as a raging “Run Like an Antelope” and a “Tweezer” with a super funky jam. I made a few more friends during this set, geeking out over Phish and dancing around like it was Summer Tour.

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Runaway Gin

FranAllen Jam was a blast, and I will definitely go again if they do return in the spring. Otherwise, I found some great new bands to keep tabs on all based right here in Athens. I was a little disappointed to see that the crowd was still relatively small at an event like this, but I still enjoyed myself thoroughly, and the bands played their hearts out regardless. New Earth Music Hall is an awesome venue too and I will definitely be headed back there with some degree of frequency. I am proud to be living in a community with such distinctive and great talent. Cheers to Fran and Mark for putting this together!