By: Derek Jung
Summers are busy! And for me, that's included both moving upstate and too many family activities to list. Fortunately, that doesn't mean I haven't been attending shows in the meantime. In fact, quite the opposite. But instead of having individual posts of shows from the last month, I thought it would be easier if I condensed things a bit and share smaller blurbs about each show. Hope you enjoy.
Dead & Company @ Blossom Music Center - June 20th
My opinion on John Mayer has always been the following: One of the best guitarists of our generation that makes some of the most boring music of our generation. Hey John, you told me to "say what I need to say" (about 100x). You didn't see this coming?
Well, this is the third year that John's chosen to focus his summer touring with Dead & Company instead of on his own material and thankfully the presence of Bob Weir and gang brings out the best in him. John noodled his way through solo after solo during the 2+ hour, 2 set experience. This particular show was the hundredth of Dead & Company's existence, and their set, in true Grateful Dead form, featured less hits and a wide variety of deep cuts, covers, and extended jams. While I was a little disappointed they didn't play my favorite Dead jam, Terrapin Station, which they had played on a few nights during this run of dates, the whole experience was an eye opener that Deadhead culture is still alive and well (albeit a little older) and that they can still party with the best of them. Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann provided the rhythmic backbone and Bob Weir's still got the chops to breathe new life into the decades old songs. Word to the wise though, when Hart starts his Drums/Space jam towards the middle of the set, take a pee break.
Feel Life a Stranger
They Love Each Other
It's All Over Now
West L.A. Fadeaway
Ship of Fools
Saint of Circumstance
Fire on the Mountain
I Need a Miracle
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit @ PNC Pavilion - July 18th
The difficulty of being a musical power couple is having to balance each other's careers as well as family life. Jason Isbell has seen his career skyrocket during his last 2-3 album cycles, becoming one of the biggest names in Americana music. Meanwhile, his wife Amanda Shires' new album came out last week and she is poised to be a rising star in the industry herself. Normally, when Amanda isn't touring her own music, she joins the band on stage playing a mean fiddle, but she was off doing her own thing on these dates. To fill the void, keyboardist Derry deBorja picked up the slack, playing solos that would have otherwise gone to Shires. Despite the lack of Shires, you could tell the band was having a blast on these run of dates, and the 2/3 capacity crowd at PNC Pavilion was given a treat of a set featuring 7 songs from The Nashville Sound, and many of my favorites, including the first time I've heard the tearjerker "Elephant" live.
I will say this. Songs like "Cover Me Up" and "If We Were Vampires" just don't have the same feeling when Jason isn't singing to Amanda on stage, but that in no shape or form should dissuade you from seeing him on this tour. He's incredible.
Hope the High Road
Go It Alone
Something More Than Free
White Man's World
Last of My Kind
The Life You Chose
Flying Over Water
Cover Me Up
Never Gonna Change
If We Were Vampires
Foo Fighters @ Blossom Music Center - July 25th
Who would've thought that after waiting more than a decade and a half to see Foo Fighters live that I'd get to see them 3 times within the span of a year? I'm certainly not complaining. This latest adventure with Dave Grohl and company came in the friendly confines of Blossom Music Center outside Cleveland and within an hour of where Grohl was born in Warren, OH. For the most part, the set was pretty similar to the one I saw previously at US Bank Arena, which isn't a bad thing, but a lot of the banter, band intros, and general goofing off lasted a lot longer this time around. And, look, I don't mean to be a downer or anything; I love a band with good humor, but there's only so much I can take before it starts feeling like a time filler. The band introductions for example took forever, as each band member did at least a full verse and chorus of their chosen cover song. In two cases, they played the full song (Chris Shiflett sang lead on a cover of Alice Cooper's "Under My Wheels" and Pat Smear tore through a cover of Blitzkrieg Bop). Side note: Beginning to think Blitzkrieg Bop is literally the only non-Foo Fighters riff Pat remembers, as he's done it every time I've seen him. Play a little Germs, Pat! The highlight of the intros was definitely when they played John Lennon's "Imagine" with the lyrics from Van Halen's "Jump". Quite the mash up.
Grohl pulled up a a teenager from the crowd to play Monkey Wrench and he did pretty well, but he was no KISS guy. He also has his daughter singing backup on this tour, presumably because she's on summer break and able to tour with her old man. Speaking of old men, the whole band once again proved that they are NOT the old men from their "Run" music video. Although that would be pretty bad ass too. All in all, another solid go round with the gang.
All My Life
Learn To Fly
The Sky Is a Neighborhood
Under My Wheels
Another One Bites the Dust (snippet)
La Dee Da
Imagine/Jump (Imagine music w/ Jump lyrics)
You Oughta Know (snippet)
Under Pressure (w/ Luke from The Struts on co-vocals)
Monkey Wrench (w/ kid from crowd)
Best of You
Times Like These
This Is a Call
By: Derek Jung
After his scorching hot set at Forecastle last year, I couldn't miss the opportunity to see JD and his band headline their own show in a theater setting. The band has well over a year under their belt touring under the material from their fantastic record Undivided Heart & Soul, one of my favorite albums of 2017. At this point, the band is more than comfortable with their new material live, but that doesn't mean it's gotten stale. Instead, the band looks as fresh as ever, using the experiences from the past year to launch into ferocious grooves throughout the night. Unfortunately for them, the lackluster crowd in attendance failed to reciprocate, which quickly zapped the energy from the room to make this nothing more than another notch on the touring calendar. I could go on about the crowd, but I'd rather focus on the band.
First and foremost, bassist Jimmy Sutton is a monster and I found myself watching him most of the night slapping up and down his upright bass. I couldn't help but wonder what it'd be like if he and Jim Prescott from G. Love & Special Sauce were to perform together. That'd be a sight to see. Having Los Straitjackets member Jason Smay on drums was also a pleasant surprise. I wish the band members would more outwardly interact with each other on stage. Instead it looked like each member kept to themselves for the most part. Maybe that's what a year plus of touring and a boring crowd will do to you. Either way, the band is touring through at least the end of July, so there's plenty more opportunities to catch their show. I hope you see them with a better crowd than I did.
By: Derek Jung
Nestled in a quaint park amphitheater on the banks of the Great Miami River in Hamilton, Ohio, David Shaw's Big River Get Down has put together one of the better single day festivals in the area. Shaw, lead singer of The Revivalists and Hamilton native, assembled an eclectic, good vibes focused lineup that delivered from top to bottom. Coupled with great weather and a crowd eager to soak up the sun and enjoy a day of music in an otherwise quiet town, The Get Down was a huge success.
Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band
Ironically only featuring three members, Peyton's energy, enthusiasm, and monster beard makes up for what the band lacks in size and, frankly, a vocalist. With slick slide guitar, smooth blues licks, and a hypnotizing rhythmic sound, Peyton and company commanded the stage for their 45 minute set. I found myself constantly watching Breezy, whose instrument is scratching a washboard.
Yes, this is a band from the 21st century.
Set highlights "Something for Nothing" and "Clap Your Hands" are worth the price of admission alone. Don't miss out on seeing The Rev if he comes around again.
The Marcus King Band
I missed seeing Marcus King earlier this year at 20th Century Theater because of a snow storm, so seeing he was playing The Big River Get Down was icing on the cake when I went to purchase tickets. The 21 year old blues guitarist has been playing live for a good portion of his life already, and being associated with legends like Warren Hayes certainly hasn't hurt his young career. Similar to Hayes, King's southern blues style bring back memories of The Allman Brothers and Gov't Mule. With accompanying horns and keys, King's guitar playing didn't take the spotlight quite as much as I would have liked, but there's no denying the kid's talent and passion for the blues. I'm really looking forward to hearing how his sound evolves, because there are certainly some growing pains involved. (His voice being one of them) But I have high hopes.
The Record Company
Seeing them open for My Morning Jacket earlier this year was a revolution for me. I'd heard their single, "Rita Mae Young" on local radio, but never thought they'd rock as much as they do. These three guys bring the hard pounding throwback southern blues rock riffs, a little twang, a little harmonica, and top it off with a dash of slide guitar. The resulting rock 'n' roll sundae is enough to fill the appetite of even the hungriest rocker out there.
Some would argue that The Record Company isn't bringing anything new to the genre, which is probably true, but why mess with a formula that's been so successful for so long. There's no denying that what the band's doing here sounds just as fresh as it did when Muddy Waters pioneered the genre in the 50's and 60's.
By: Derek Jung
Seeing any musical act in a sports arena is a gamble. For one, the sound system built into stadiums are not made to handle the intricate sounds of a live band. They also are not shaped to handle the way sound travels in space. We see this almost every night at Reds games with the now infamous wooing that echoes through the mostly empty stadium. The last act I had the displeasure of seeing at Great American Ballpark was Billy Currington during All Star Weekend. It didn't go well, and luckily we only had to endure two songs from the country star. Because of this, I didn't have high hopes for The Avett Brothers, who have a much larger, fuller sound.
The stage for The Avett Brothers was, unlike Currington's positioning, directly behind second base facing home. I can't imagine what the sound was like for anyone behind the stage in the outfield, or even more down the first or third baseline, but where we were sitting, we had a good view of the stage. Speaking of which, there were seven people in the band packed on a tiny stage, much of which was taken up by drums, a piano, and keyboards. For a band with as much on-stage energy as The Avett Brothers, I was worried we wouldn't get the full effect. Thankfully, my worries were quickly dashed, but not without some downsides. As I feared, the sound was immediately an issue for those of us in the upper seats in the stadium. The speakers in the upper levels were a good half second behind the on field speakers, which we could still hear. This resulted in an almost unbearable echo for the first few songs. Eventually, the sound evened out (or our ears got used to the echo) and the show progressed like normal.
The band, who headlined Bunbury Festival in 2015, returned a month later but have not been back to Cincinnati since the release of their latest album True Sadness. It was nice to hear a few new songs live, even though I thought the album as a whole was lacking in the punchiness that I've come to expect from Avett Brother releases. Most of the night, however, was dominated by their acclaimed 2009 album I and Love and You, and the band still puts the same amount of energy into it as they always have.
Our show was also one of the last for multi-instrumentalist Paul Defiglia, who departed the band less than a few weeks later. The band is on tour through the beginning of next year, so you'll have plenty of chances to see them on the road in the coming months.
Live and Die
Satan Pulls the Strings
Another Is Waiting
Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
Ain't No Man
Paranoia in B-Flat Major
Talk on Indolence
I and Love and You
Kick Drum Heart
I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan cover)
By: Derek Jung
I was, admittedly, late to discover Jason Isbell. His former band, The Drive-By Truckers, had played Madison Theater in 2013 while I was interning, but Isbell had already departed 6 years prior and I was unable to attend the show. Fast forward 3 years and I stumbled across Isbell's last album, Something More Than Free, and was immediately hooked by his vivid, personal storytelling, rich vocals, and intimate songwriting. Under his own name, Something More Than Free and its predecessor Southeastern were hailed as masterpieces and helped Isbell reach a broader audience. Before this, however, he also had 2 albums under the 400 Unit name. The newest album, The Nashville Sound, is the first under the 400 Unit name since 2011's Here We Rest. So much has happened in Isbell's life since then - marriage, sobriety, fatherhood - that Isbell is a completely new person. Luckily for us, his gifts as a songwriter have only grown.
After a solid opening set from The Mountain Goats, Isbell and crew took the stage at the mostly full PNC Pavilion. The band covered the vast majority of The Nashville Sound, playing seven of the album's ten tracks mixed with material from the previously mentioned non-400 Unit albums. Isbell's vocals are just as moving live as they are on the album, and his guitar playing was surprisingly stellar. His on stage banter was great, telling stories and jokes in between songs and introducing those in the 400 Unit. But it was his interactions with fiddle player Amanda Shires, his wife, that caught my attention the most. I'm not sure if this is just a stage act, but it was as if he was singing every love song directly at her and for her. It was intimate and beautiful, and their rendition of "Cover Me Up" captured everything that I wanted to experience in a single song. It was a magical musical moment.
The band ended their set with "Whipping Post", a tribute to the late Duane Allman, who passed away in late May of this year. Being one of my favorite Allman Brothers songs, I was thrilled to hear Isbell's take on the southern rock classic, and he did not disappoint.
Check out the band's performance of "Hope The High Road" from The Late Show below.
Hope The High Road
Decoration Day (Drive-By Truckers cover)
White Man's World
Chaos and Clothes
The Life You Chose
Last Of My Kind
Flying Over Water
Cover Me Up
If It Takes a Lifetime
Outfit (Drive-By Truckers cover)
If We Were Vampires
Whipping Post (The Allman Brothers Band cover)
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary (debatable) guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here: