with special guest Samantha Fish
Friday, June 14 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Blues Infused Rock
Twenty years into his recording career Kenny Wayne Shepherd continues mesmerizing audiences with his memorable songs, mastery of his Fender Stratocasters, and a blues-infused rock n' roll that never gets old. And he’s coming to the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion to show you how it’s done. Shepherd has sold millions of albums worldwide, received five GRAMMY® nominations, had seven #1 blues albums, and a string of #1 mainstream rock singles. And he’s still just getting warmed up. With special guest Samantha Fish.
There are few artists whose names are synonymous with one instrument and how it's played in service to an entire genre.
Utter the phrase "young blues rock guitarist" within earshot of anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the modern musical vanguard and the first name they are most likely to respond with will be Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The Louisiana born axeman and songsmith has sold millions of albums while throwing singles into the Top 10, shining a light on the rich blues of the past and forging ahead with his own modern twist on a classic sound he has embodied since his teens.
In a 20-year recording career that began when he was just 16, Shepherd has established himself as an immensely popular recording artist, a consistently in-demand live act and an influential force in a worldwide resurgence of interest in the blues.
From television performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (amongst others) to features in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Maxim Magazine, Blender, Spin, USA Today and more, his musical career has been nothing short of phenomenal.
At 16 years old, he signed his first record deal and burst onto the national scene with the release of his 1995 debut album Ledbetter Heights, which produced the radio hits "Deja Voodoo," "Born with a Broken Heart" and "Shame, Shame, Shame." His relentless touring and success on rock radio helped to drive the album to Platinum sales status. His 1998 sophomore effort Trouble Is… also went Platinum, yielding such radio hits as "Blue on Black," "True Lies" and "Somehow, Somewhere, Someway." 1999's Live On spawned the radio hits "In 2 Deep", "Shotgun Blues" and "Last Goodbye."
2004's The Place You're In was a blistering rock record and was followed up by 2007's ambitious 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads, for which Shepherd and his band traveled throughout the American South to record with such vintage blues greats as B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and David "Honeyboy" Edwards on their home turf. 2010 saw the release of Shepherd's long-awaited first live album, Live! In Chicago, recorded at Chicago's House of Blues during the all-star Legends tour and featuring guest appearances by such blues legends as Hubert Sumlin and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. The live disc debuted at #1 on Billboard's Blues chart, as did 2011's How I Go. In 2013, Shepherd further expanded his musical horizons by teaming with veteran rockers Stephen Stills and Barry Goldberg to form THE RIDES, whose first album Can't Get Enough helped to expand Shepherd's audience as well as his musical resume. 2014 saw the release of Goin’ Home, Shepherd’s sixth # 1 debut on the Billboard Blues charts. Goin’ Home features several talented friends who shared Shepherd's enthusiasm for the project's back-to-basics ethos. Those guests include fellow guitar icons Joe Walsh, Warren Haynes, Keb' Mo' and Robert Randolph, longtime friend Ringo Starr, Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson, the Rebirth Brass Band and co-producer Blade's father, Pastor Brady Blade Sr., who lends a bracing dose of preaching to Shepherd's version of Bo Diddley's’ "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover." In the months since its release, Shepherd and his band have toured the world extensively blazing a fresh trail for the historical American art form in the 21st Century.
with special guest Roosevelt Collier
Friday, June 28 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Contemporary New Orleans Jazz
Part Jimi Hendrix, part James Brown and all New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is the bandleader and frontman of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.
He has gained international acclaim for his trombone and trumpet virtuosity, his songwriting and his ability to blend traditional New Orleans styles with rock, funk, soul and hip-hop. NPR hailed him as “New Orleans’ brightest new star in a generation” and his recent 2017 album, Parking Lot Symphony, was released on the legendary Blue Note label.
A 2011 GRAMMY Award nominee for his album Backatown (Verve), Andrews’ virtuosity and high-energy live shows have drawn unanimous raves worldwide with Rolling Stone calling him a “must-see act.”
Trombone Shorty's new album opens with a dirge, but if you think the beloved bandleader, singer, songwriter and horn-blower born Troy Andrews came here to mourn, you got it all wrong. That bit of beautiful New Orleans soul—"Laveau Dirge No. 1," named after one of the city's most famous voodoo queens—shows off our host's roots before Parking Lot Symphony branches out wildly, wonderfully, funkily across 12 diverse cuts. True to its title, this album contains multitudes of sound—from brass band blare and deep-groove funk, to bluesy beauty and hip-hop/pop swagger—and plenty of emotion all anchored, of course, by stellar playing and the idea that, even in the toughest of times, as Andrews says, "Music brings unity."
As for why it's taken Andrews so long to follow 2013's Raphael Saadiq-produced Say That to Say This, the man simply says, "I didn't realize so much time passed. Some artists don't work until they put a record out but I never stopped going." Truly. In the last four years, Andrews banked his fifth White House gig; backed Macklemore and Madonna at the Grammys; played on albums by She & Him, Zac Brown, Dierks Bentley, and Mark Ronson; opened tours for Daryl Hall & John Oates and Red Hot Chili Peppers; appeared in Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways documentary series; voiced the iconic sound of the adult characters in The Peanuts Movie; inherited the esteemed annual fest-closing set at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in the tradition of Crescent City greats like the Neville Brothers and Professor Longhair; and released Trombone Shorty, a children's book about his life that was named a Caldecott Honor Book in 2016.
Adding to that legacy, his Blue Note Records debut Parking Lot Symphony finds Andrews teamed with Grammy-nominated producer Chris Seefried (Andra Day, Fitz and the Tantrums) and an unexpected array of cowriters and players including members of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Meters, Better Than Ezra, and Dumpstaphunk. Considering Andrews' relentless schedule, it's all the more surprising that this LP began with him in a room, all alone, back in New Orleans.
"I had two weeks at home so I went to the studio and set up the 'playground,'" he recalls. "I had everything in a circle: tuba, trombone, trumpet, keyboard, Fender Rhodes, Wurly, B3 organ, guitar, bass, drums—and me buried in the middle." He recorded an album's worth of ideas and then, well, walked away for a year. Not because he was too busy, but because he wanted to hit the road and see how the music changed on him. When Andrews came back with a full band, the songs came to life.
Take the album's two covers, a pair of NOLA deep cuts: there's "Here Comes the Girls," a 1970 Allen Toussaint song originally recorded by Ernie K-Doe that here (with Ivan Neville on piano) sounds bawdy and regal, like something from a current Bruno Mars album; and The Meters' lovesick "It Ain't No Use," which swirls a vintage R&B vibe with resonant choir vocals and upbeat guitar from The Meters' Leo Nocentelli himself to transport the listener to the center of the jumpingest jazz-soul concert hall that never was.
The story there is almost too good. The session band—guitarist Pete Murano, sax men Dan Oestreicher and BK Jackson, and drummer Joey Peebles with Dumpstaphunk's Tony Hall in for Orleans Avenue bassist Mike Bass-Bailey—were in the studio to lay down "It Ain't No Use." Hall even had the vintage acoustic he bought from Nocentelli years ago, which was used on the original Meters session. On the way to the bathroom, Andrews saw Nocentelli coming out of a different tracking room: it was meant to be.
But that's not unusual for a man raised in one of the Tremé's most musical families. Andrews got his name when he picked up his instrument at four ("My parents pushed me toward trombone because they didn't need another trumpet player," he laughs). By eight, he led his own band in parades, halls and even bars: "They'd have to lock the door so the police couldn't come in." Promoters would try to hand money to his older cousins, but they'd kindly redirect them to the boy. In his teens, Andrews played shows abroad with the Neville Brothers. Fresh out of high school (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) he joined Lenny Kravitz' band.
Across that time, three Trombone Shorty albums and many collaborations since, Andrews nurtured a voracious appetite for all types of music—a phenomenon on fluid display with Parking Lot Symphony. On "Familiar," co-written by Aloe Blacc, they practically mint a new genre (trap-funk?) while Andrews channels his inner R. Kelly to spit game at an old flame. Meanwhile, the instrumental "Tripped Out Slim" (the nickname of a family friend who recently passed) bends echoes of the Pink Panther theme into something fit for James Brown to strut to. And if you listen closely to "Where It At?," written with Better Than Ezra's Kevin Griffin, you may even hear a little Y2K pop. "I know it wasn't cool to listen to *NSYNC or Britney Spears in high school," says Andrews, "but those bass lines and melodies are funky." They pair astonishingly well with all the Earth, Wind & Fire that bubbles beneath these songs.
It's worth noting that Andrews' vocals sound better than ever (he credits Seefried for that), because Parking Lot Symphony might be the man's most heartfelt offering yet. The breezy title track, which Andrews wrote with Alex Ebert (Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros), is as much about walking the Tremé, being uplifted by the music that seems to seep from every surface, as it is about moving on from a broken heart. And the shuffling, bluesy "No Good Time" reminds us, with a world-weary smile, that "nobody never learned nothin' from no good time."
But Andrews is clear that this isn't some kind of breakup record. "It's a life record," he says, "about prevailing no matter what type of roadblock is in front of you." That message is clearest on "Dirty Water," where over an easy groove, Andrews adopts a soft falsetto to address just about anyone going through it—personal, political, whatever. "There's a lot of hope turning to doubt," he coos. "I've got something to say to them / You don't know what you're talking about / When you believe in love, it all works out." Amen. Now let the horns play us out.
Saturday, June 29 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Grammy Award–winning Jazz & Bluegrass Fusion
The 4-time Grammy Award–winning Béla Fleck and the Flecktones is a jazz/bluegrass fusion American band that consists of four powerhouse artists: banjoist/composer/bandleader Béla Fleck, pianist/harmonica player Howard Levy, bassist Victor Wooten, and percussionist/Drumitarist Roy “Futureman” Wooten. Their career spans 28 years and has produced hits like “The Sinister Minister,” “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo,” and “Big Country.”
Groundbreaking banjoist/composer/bandleader Béla Fleck has reconvened the original ‘Béla Fleck & The Flecktones’, the extraordinary initial line-up of his incredible combo. Rocket Science marks the first recording by the first fab four Flecktones in almost two decades, with pianist/harmonica player Howard Levy back in the fold alongside Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, and percussionist/ Drumitarist Roy “Futureman” Wooten. Far from being a wistful trip back in time, the album sees the Grammy Award-winning quartet creating some of the most forward thinking music of their long, storied career. While all manners of genres come into play – from classical and jazz to bluegrass and African music to electric blues and Eastern European folk dances – the result is an impossible to pigeonhole sound all their own, a meeting of musical minds that remains, as ever, utterly indescribable. Simply put, it is The Flecktones, the music made only when these four individuals come together.
“All the different things I do come together to make a new ‘hybrid’ Béla’,” Fleck says. “Everybody else in the group is doing the same things, collaborating with different people, and pursuing a wide variety of ideas, so when we come together and put all of our separate soups into one big stockpot it turns into a very diverse concoction.” Fleck first united the Flecktones in 1988, ostensibly for a single performance on PBS’ Lonesome Pine Special. From the start, there was a special kinship between the four musicians, a bond forged in a mutual passion for creativity and artistic advancement. Three breakthrough albums and a whole lot of live dates followed before Levy decided to move on in late 1992.
“I wanted to do other things and there was no time to do anything else,” he explains. “We were probably playing 150 shows a year at that time – maybe more – and it was just too much for me. I’ve never, before or since, done any one thing that much!” Béla Fleck & the Flecktones persevered, playing as a trio and with many special guests, before saxophonist Jeff Coffin joined the ensemble. A succession of acclaimed albums and innumerable live performances continued to earn the band a fervent fan following around the world, not to mention five Grammy Awards in a range of categories.
Still, by 2008, the band had grown somewhat restive and embarked on a temporary hiatus. The seeds of change began with what Futureman calls the “paintbrushes of fate” as Coffin was invited to join Dave Matthews Band after the 2008 death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore. Fleck encouraged him to accept, believing the decision would rejuvenate both DMB and the Flecktones themselves. “We were ready for something different to happen,” he says. “We’d been in a kind of holding pattern. We had the same line-up for so many years that it was becoming ‘normal’, we were all drifting into outside things for new musical invigoration, and we were taking more and more time off between albums and tours.”
Each member had been quite busy with a variety of successful projects – including: Bela’s duet collaborations with Chick Corea, a trio with Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer (sometimes with the Detroit Symphony) and his expansive adventures in African music, documented in the acclaimed 2009 film and CD, Throw Down Your Heart. Victor’s solo band tours, camps, recording sessions, clinics and CD releases (including an incredible collaborative project with Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller called SMV, which yielded the album ‘Thunder’), and Future Man’s creation of his amazing Black Mozart project, and continued developement of new instruments.
Still, all agree that Flecktones music was beckoning them home. The band, which had always maintained a warm relationship with the gifted pianist/harmonica player, recruited Levy for a 2009 tour of the US and Europe, an experience he describes as “extremely invigorating and very energizing.” “It felt just like it did back when we first started playing together,” says Wooten. “Just with a lot less hair.” Upon the tour’s conclusion, the four musicians agreed to further explore the band’s possibilities, sensing what Futureman calls, “an opportunity to revisit the original scene of the crime.” “There were a lot of unfinished aspects to this line-up of the band,” Fleck notes, “in that it stopped right when we were peaking creatively.” For Fleck, Levy’s return enables the Flecktones to follow through on the original concept of a band “where each person was reinventing their instruments, where every one of us was a kind of mutant.”
“There’s a special thing that happens when the four of us get together and play,” notes Levy. “We all have the same attitude of trying to do things that we haven’t done before and coincidentally, no one else has either.” One thing was certain, however. The ‘original’ Flecktones were resolute that their reunion would not be rooted in nostalgia. The goal from the get-go was to drive the music forward to places where it might’ve progressed had things gone differently.
“I didn’t want to just get together to play the old music,” Fleck says. “That’s not what the Flecktones are about. Everybody’s full of life and ideas and creativity. I was intrigued by what we could do that we had never done before.” “Everybody’s still advancing on their instruments,” adds Futureman. “Everyone has grown over these 18 years, so it was an opportunity to realize some of what we were trying to do in the beginning.”
In early 2010, Fleck and Levy first began working on new material, teaming up for collaborative writing sessions at Levy’s home in Evanston, Illinois. Fleck was determined to establish a more inclusive environment as far as composition, to give Levy a greater stake in the writing process. “We hashed out a whole bunch of ideas together,” Levy says. “He would play things that he was working on, and I would go back into my memory banks and say, ‘I have this incomplete fragment that might work well with the band,’ or we would just improvise things together. It was inspiring, I think, for both of us.”
Their compositional collaboration resulted in a remarkable suite comprised of “Joyful Spring” and “Life In Eleven.” The former was originally conceived of by Levy while in his early 20s, while the idea for “Life In Eleven” had its genesis in the Flecktones’ first incarnation. The band had long wanted to explore one of Levy’s passions, the Bulgarian dance rhythm called Gankino or Krivo. “Almost 12,” a piece Victor and Bela wrote after Howard left the band had earned the Flecktones a “Best Instrumental Composition” Grammy in 1998. Still, the goal of writing a Flecktone piece – with Howard – using the unusual 11/16 or 11/8 time signature was, to Fleck’s mind, “unfinished business.”
“When we got together, the 11 idea came back up and Howard came out with something very Bulgarian,” he says. “I said, ‘It’s really great but it’s really fast and jumpy and complex. What if, halfway through, we dropped into a gospel 11/4 feel that was so natural, that you didn’t even notice it was in 11?’ It was an idea I’d had in my mind for some time, a way of playing something in 11 that didn’t confuse new 11 listeners, due to it’s complexity”
Songwriting was, of course, not limited to Fleck and Levy. Futureman’s solo composition “The Secret Drawer” serves as preamble to Levy’s evocative “Sweet Pomegranates,” and Wooten brought “Like Water”, which Bela helped to complete, which stands as a majestic representation of his flowing, pianistic approach to the bass. For his part, Fleck composed a number of new pieces while also delving into his back pages for “Earthling Parade” and “Storm Warning,” a track that had been a highlight of his live sets when touring with Stanley Clarke and Jean-Luc Ponty. Though he had not previously considered either composition for the Flecktones, the new line-up inspired him to give them a second look.
“Those pieces now seemed more intrigueing – with the original line-up,” Fleck says. “Not that they hadn’t been cool in other settings, but with Howard in the picture we could go quite deep into the complicated zone while still keeping them earthy and warm.” In September, the Flecktones met at Fleck’s home studio in Nashville for the first of two rounds of sessions. Where the band had customarily road-tested new material, working out the kinks in live performance, this time they did not have that luxury.
“We were writing some of the more complex pieces as we were laying them down,” Levy says. “But all of us have done so much recording outside of the group, where we’re used to seeing compositions take shape in the studio, that we were all comfortable with the process.” “We had to be very aware,” Fleck says, “because we were making final decisions almost from the start. But I think it yielded an improvised quality, an intensity, to the record. It was like, ‘Let’s make some good decisions and then commit to them.'”
In many ways, the album’s sound centers on the return of Levy’s piano and chromatically played diatonic harmonica, taking full advantage of the new melodic designs each brought to the Flecktones’ sonic palette. Known as “The Man With Two Brains” for his uncanny ability to play both instruments simultaneously, Levy has built a remarkably diverse resume over the past twenty years, including solo and session work, membership in Trio Globo and Chévere de Chicago, collaborations with classical violinist Fox Fehling, and founding Balkan Samba Records and the online Howard Levy Harmonica School. The equally restless Fleck hails Levy as “an incendiary player” who by his very nature forces the band out of their comfort zone.
“When we play together, Victor, Futureman, and I all have to step up our game,” Fleck says, “because Howard is going to throw something unexpected at us, which in certain ways, puts us in an uncomfortable zone, but due to that, we have to push through – into our higher selves.” While prior Flecktones collections have often featured inventive and innovative instrumentation, this time out the band opted to stick to the basics. Fleck plays an assortment of banjos, mostly vintage, though an electric Deering Crossfire can be heard on “Prickly Pear” and a prototype 10-string banjo is featured on “Joyful Spring.” For his part, Wooten largely bypassed his famed assortment of bass effects, noting that the player is what truly matters.
“In my mind, the instrument is there to allow the musician to feel something and to express themselves,” Wooten says. “The music doesn’t come from the instrument, it comes from the musician. Whatever instrument allows you to express yourself the way you want to at that moment is the one you should play.”
That said, Futureman took the occasion to unveil a new prototype Drumitar, his MIDI-based device that allows him to trigger samples using his fingers. A central element of the Flecktones sound, the first version of the notorious instrument was on its last legs after more than two decades. More significantly, new advances in technology allowed for the creation of a Drumitar more in line with the drummer’s vision, featuring better dynamics and the ability to record his own spectrum of drum samples.
“Twenty years later, the fruit is really ripe,” Futureman says. “There are things that I was trying to do back then but the sounds just weren’t good enough. Now it’s actually swinging the way I always wanted it to swing.” For many Flecktones fans, the return of the original line-up allows a chance to see a band that many had never gotten to witness before. Indeed, a certain segment of the band’s base discovered them during the Jeff Coffin era and may not even be familiar with Levy’s membership.
“There are people who don’t remember the very beginning of the Flecktones,” Futureman says. “It’s like people that started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and never got to meet Captain Kirk. So here we go, the original crew of the Enterprise coming together on a new mission.”
Visionary and vibrant as anything in their already rich canon, Rocket Science feels more like a new beginning than simply the culmination of an early chapter. Where the band goes from here remains undetermined, but all four members agree that the promise of Béla Fleck & the Original Flecktones has yet to be fulfilled. “We’re going to have to have this experience together and see how everybody likes it,” Fleck says. “I know that we haven’t even come close to exhausting the possibilities with this record, but we sure went deeper than we ever had before.”
with special guest Mason Ramsey
Saturday, July 13 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
The Eli Young Band delivers an organic, live-show focused on their unique modern Country sound deeply rooted in Texas music.
The ELI YOUNG BAND has always been unique in modern Country music – a true band of brothers who play their own instruments, write their own songs and cling fast to their Texas roots. They’d even go so far as to call themselves “misfits,” but with their fourth major label album, FINGERPRINTS (The Valory Music Co.), they’re finally embracing what makes them different once and for all.
“With 17 years of experience comes a little bit of wisdom and freedom in knowing who you are,” says lead singer Mike Eli. “And what you’re really good at.”
Although their sound has evolved over time, what they’re good at has always been the same – organic, live-show focused Country dripping with authenticity and perfected in clubs, amphitheaters and stadiums from coast to coast.
Eli founded the band with guitarist James Young, bassist Jon Jones and drummer Chris Thompson at the University of North Texas in 2000, building a grass-roots fanbase that propelled each of their previous three albums into the Top 5 of Billboard’s Country Albums chart, with 2014’s 10,000 TOWNS bowing at No. 1.
Three No. 1 singles gave the band an edgy, romantically-charged identity (“Crazy Girl,” “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” and “Drunk Last Night”). Their stable of hits collected Platinum and Multi-Platinum certifications that lead to Grammy and CMA Award nominations, Billboard Awards and an ACM trophy for Song of the Year (“Crazy Girl”). All of these accolades combined with their loyal fanbase and successful touring have resulted in over 500 million streams of their career catalogue.
Confident in their soulful, hearts-on-fire brand of Country, the group headed back into the studio to co-produce FINGERPRINTS alongside Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover. Eight of the 11 new tracks were penned by the band members themselves. They’ve returned to a live-show-first mentality, trading in studio tricks for the “meat and potatoes” of a touring band; ringing guitars, driving bass lines, thundering drums and heartfelt, genuine vocals.
“There were so many organic sounds on those first records, and you can hear a lot of that in this album,” says Eli. “But mostly, I think it’s about passion and soul and believe-ability.”
Co-writing with some of Nashville’s hottest hit makers like Ashley Gorley, Lori McKenna, Ryan Hurd and Shane McAnally, that honesty is paired top-notch song craft and vivid imagery.
The album’s FINGERPRINTS title comes from a fist-pumping anthem about a smooth romantic criminal, but its meaning invokes the band’s quest to unmask themselves. No two fingerprints are the same, and their newest collection represents the most personal music they’ve ever made.
“So many of the songs we were writing and connecting with felt personal,” Eli continues. “So many songs came from a place of passion, and something I just really wanted to say.”
New single “Skin & Bones” is a prime example. A tender, epic love song built on real-life devotion and decorated with a dash of Tejano flair, it’s a direct reflection of Eli’s enduring love for his wife, Kacey.
“Walking into the writing room with Phil Barton and Lori McKenna was such a treat,” he explains. “I felt in my gut we were gonna walk out of that room with a special song, and it turns out we did. My wife and I have been together for a lot of years now, and there comes a point where so much of who you are is intertwined and connected. You sometimes lose that line of where they end and you begin.”
Meanwhile, the band was keenly aware of longtime fans’ thirst for “old school” EYB, and their calls on social media led to one of the project’s most nostalgic and heartwarming standouts, “Old Songs.” A feel-good anthem about days – and tunes – gone by, the song celebrates happy memories in a way that harkens back to their first Gold single, “Always the Love Songs.”
“When somebody says, ‘We love the old stuff,’ so much of that is built around the memories that come along with the old songs,” Eli says. “When you hear one, they come back right away.”
Backed by harmonica and perfect for a campfire sing along, Carolyn Dawn Johnson provides gorgeous backup vocals on the track, as she does on another laid-back, life-is-good ballad – “God Love the Rain.” But the band was also excited to revisit its rocking side.
“I think we pushed ourselves to dial it up a notch,” Young says, flashing a playful grin. “Maybe that’s why a lot of this reminds us of our earlier days.”
Songs like “Drive,” “Once” and “The Days I Feel Alone” will energize established fans and newcomers alike, while the clever “Never Land” offers a soaring fairy-tale head fake.
An irresistible groove defines “Never Again,” and even songs the band did not write – of which there are only three – feel incredibly true to them ... just like some of their biggest hits. “Heart Needs a Break” is so catchy it can’t be ignored.
“The first time you hear it, you’re singing along,” says Eli. “We were lucky with ‘Never Again,’ ‘Heart Needs a Break’ and ‘Saltwater Gospel.’ We knew right away that we needed to record those, and songs like that seem to end up like ‘Crazy Girl.’ They’re undeniable.”
What’s also undeniable is the band’s unique connection with fans. Even through sonic evolutions and changes to the Country industry, their obsessive following has continued to grow as “Saltwater Gospel” became one of the best reactions from Highway listeners all year on SiriusXM. And that they put on one of the best loved liveshows around – the very fingerprint of the Eli Young Band itself.
Maybe that makes them misfits, but so be it. This is who they are – some of the last true brothers of the road.
“We’ve been through everything together,” Eli says. “We’ve had this inner support system even before we had families of our own, and I think we still turn to that. Whatever the road is in front of us, our friendship will always be the priority.”
This summer, the road will take them from California to Maine, headlining shows with a set of brand new – but classic sounding – Eli Young Band tunes. And it will likely be just as much fun for them as it is for fans.
“We still look at each other as college buddies – not business partners,” says Young. “We get to share our lives with each other and we’ve done some really cool stuff, and our music has been the greatest byproduct of that.”
Friday, July 19 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
80s Powerhouse Rock
80s Powerhouse Rock Sensation Night Ranger returns to the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion for an epic night of rock-and-roll greatness! Their impressive rock catalog includes legendary hits such as "Sister Christian", "Don't Tell Me You Love Me", "When You Close Your Eyes", "(You Can Still) Rock In America" and more.
With more than 17 Million albums sold worldwide, over 3500 live performances, and a radio audience that exceeds 1 Billion. Night Ranger has both epitomized and transcended the arena rock sound and style well beyond that era. With multiple songs that have significantly impacted popular culture, Night Ranger continue to expand their ever-growing fan-base. The band is proof that powerful songs, plus accomplished musicians is the perfect formula for continued success.
Night Ranger have earned widespread acclaim, that includes multi-platinum and gold album status while leaving their indelible mark on the music charts with a string of best-selling albums (Dawn Patrol, Midnight Madness, 7 Wishes, Big Life and Man In Motion). Their popularity is fueled by an impressive string of instantly recognizable hit singles and signature album tracks, including legendary titles such as "Sister Christian", "Don't Tell Me You Love Me", "When You Close Your Eyes", the anthemic "(You Can Still) Rock In America", along with "Sentimental Street", "Goodbye", "Sing Me Away", and "Four in the Morning".
Over the years, the band's music has made notable contributions to and been featured in many different areas of media and popular culture. The band was one of the first big "video" bands on MTV, with over ten number one hit videos. Night Ranger songs can be heard in TV Shows like, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, American Dad, Glee, Grey's Anatomy, Parks & Recreation. The band have also had music featured in video games such as, Rock Band, Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto, plus hit Broadway musical Rock of Ages, the Oscar-Nominated film Boogie Nights, and other feature films such as Friday the 13th, Teachers, Sixteen Candles, and The Secret of My Success. Night Ranger can also be heard throughout JBL’s "Hear The Truth" brand campaign.
Night Ranger is Jack Blades (bass, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), Brad Gillis (lead & rhythm guitars), Eric Levy (keyboards) and Keri Kelli (lead & rhythm guitars).
Thursday, July 25 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
70s & 80s Party Rock Cover Band
The Yacht Rock Revue is everything the late ‘70s and early ‘80s should’ve been: massive sing-along soft rock hits, tight bell-bottom jeans, impeccable musicianship, polyester shirts, glorious vocal harmonies, sunglasses at night, breezy dancing and sax ... lots of sax. It’s pure Escape (The Piña Colada Song).
The Yacht Rock Revue is everything the late ‘70s and early ‘80s should’ve been: massive sing-along soft rock hits, tight bell-bottom jeans, impeccable musicianship, polyester shirts, glorious vocal harmonies, sunglasses at night, breezy dancing and sax ... lots of sax. “They’re a trip down memory lane that skips all the bad neighborhoods,” according to Robbie Dupree. It’s pure Escape (The Piña Colada Song.)
From Hall & Oates, Kenny Loggins and Michael Jackson to one-hit wonders like “Brandy’” and “Baby Come Back,” YRR brings stadium rock energy to the music you love from your dentist’s office. Hundreds of songs - many of which would be the original artist’s encore - keep audiences guessing what’s next. But they know every word, and Toto’s “Africa” has never sounded so good.
The Yacht Rock Revue has defined and popularized a genre that was a fringe guilty pleasure when the group played its first show as a basement bar band in 2007. Fast forward to 2018 and it’s just like quinoa - a few years ago nobody knew about it but now all the girls love it. Yacht Rock has a dedicated SiriusXM channel and YRR sold out Atlanta’s 6,500-seat Chastain Park Amphitheatre. A national tour partnership with Live Nation and the SiriusXM Yacht Rock Channel has the Yacht Rock Revue primed to reach a record number of soccer moms in 2019.
YRR has gone far beyond the “tribute” category by regularly joining their heroes on stage: John Oates, Eddie Money, Little River Band, Pablo Cruise, Gary Wright, Robbie Dupree, Matthew Wilder, Elliot Lurie of Looking Glass, Juice Newton, Ambrosia, Starship, Bobby Kimball of Toto, Player, Jeff Carlisi of .38 Special, Steve Augeri of Journey, Al Stewart, Albert Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult, Rick Derringer, Walter Egan, Bill Champlin of Chicago and Denny Laine of Wings have all played their hits with YRR.
Yacht Rock Revue has set sail on music cruises (of course) with Train, Weezer, Kid Rock, Kiss, Heart and the Zac Brown Band. From the Playboy Mansion to the NCAA Final Four, Santorini to Costa Rica, Cabo San Lucas to London - these guys are the captains of smooth, internationally.
YRR has won accolades ranging from “Best Place to Get Drunk With Your Dad” to “Best Overall Music Act in Atlanta” to “Best Place to Start an Extramarital Affair,” and has been name-dropped by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Pitchfork, the Guardian UK, Spin, TimeOut New York, Billboard, MTV.com, and (probably) your mom at her last cocktail party.
Friday, August 2 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
90s Alternative Rock & Pop
The Sweetwater Performance Pavilion is proud to welcome The Gin Blossoms on August 2. Enjoy the Grammy nominated band’s trademark chiming guitars, introspective lyrics, and catchy pop-rock melodies as they perform at Northeast Indiana’s premier outdoor concert venue. From their massive radio hits, such as 'Hey Jealousy', 'Till I hear it From You', and ‘Follow You Down,' to their status as one of the most in demand ‘90s artists touring today, it’s sure to be a great night of some of the best in alternative rock.
Upgrade your ticket for a VIP Experience Meet & Greet Package
Package price is $79 + Fees and includes:
- VIP Early venue entry
- Exclusive pre-show meet & greet with Gin Blossoms
- Personal photograph with Gin Blossoms
- Intimate 2-song acoustic performance by Gin Blossoms
- Download card for Gin Blossoms album Mixed Reality
- Limited edition tour poster autographed by Gin Blossoms
- Specially designed Gin Blossoms tote bag
- Official meet & greet laminate
- Merchandise shopping before doors open to the general public - Limited availability
Limited Quantity - Only 50 Per Show
NOTE: Upgrade package does not include a ticket to the show. Fans must purchase a ticket to the show separately to attend the VIP experience. ALL SALES FINAL*
Robin Wilson – Lead Vocals & Guitar
Jesse Valenzuela – Vocals & Guitar
Scott Johnson – Guitar
Bill Leen – Bass
In late 80’s Gin Blossoms started to grow a huge following as the #1 local music draw in Phoenix and certainly were the hometown hero’s of their favorite hang, Tempe, Arizona. Gin Blossoms indelible jangle-pop sound was evolving during radio’s diverse mix of hair bands and grunge music superstars like Nirvana. After the Phoenix New Times chose them the cities best rock band, they qualified to play at the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin Texas in 1989. That same year, College Music Journal dubbed them the “Best Unsigned Band in America” and added an invitation to perform on MTV’s New Music Awards in New York City.
Taking their name from a caption on a W.C. Fields photo, Gin Blossoms signed a record deal with A&M and recorded their first EP “Up And Crumbling” in 1991. But, it was not until their breakout record “New Miserable Experience” in 1992 that their rise to fame began. “New Miserable Experience” kept the band on the charts for almost 3 years with singles “Hey Jealousy,” “Allison Road,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Mrs Rita,” and “Found Out About You.” The album took the airwaves by siege and held MTV hostage with multi cross-over hits in 4 different radio formats. It was this record that rocketed the band into the mainstream going on to sell over 5 million copies making the band a 90’s radio mainstay. In 1995, Robin Wilson, Jesse Valenzuela and veteran composer Marshall Crenshaw wrote the bands 4th of 9 sound track inclusions; “Til I Hear It From You.” The smash hit was released as a Gin Blossoms single and it appeared on the platinum sound track for the film Empire Records.
1996 saw the final record of the decade for Gin Blossoms “Congratulations I’m Sorry.” The album brought two more hits; "Follow You Down" which spent ten weeks in the Top Ten and "As Long As It Matters" which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Duo or Group. “It was pretty cool to lose a Grammy to the Beatles. Who else would you want to lose out to” say’s Jesse. The album rocketed into Billboard's Top Ten and a year of touring helped push the record past 1,500,000 in sales. In 5 years, the band released 2 EP’s, two LP’s and over 12 singles that fuel today’s record sales to over 10 million. Their blend of Pop & Rock, now known as Jangle-Pop, became a musical force that helped define the sound of 90’s radio.
In 1997, while at peak success and after numerous appearances on late night TV such as The Late Show With David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall, Saturday Night Live, The Grammys and endless touring, the group disbanded and began a four year hiatus. It was not until a 2001 New Years Eve performance in Tempe that the members reformed and began touring and recording again. “Since 2001, we have been performing over 120 shows a year. This is what we most enjoy doing” say’s Wilson. “It’s our job and I know all of us are really grateful that we can earn a living making records and entertaining people on the road. We’re doing something we really love! I don’t know many people that can say that when they go to work everyday.”
In 2005, former A&M president Al Cafaro resigned the band and partnered to record their 3rd full length album in over 10 years. “Major Lodge Victory” landed on Billboards 200 and was the # 10 Indie album of the year. Released on August 8th, 2006, it included hits “Learning The Hard Way” and the appropriately titled “Long Time Gone.” Billboard magazine called this gem “an effortless triumph of melodic perfection.” “This was a really fun record to make” say’s Scotty. “We assembled some of the old team together and recorded at Ardent Studios with John Hampton again. Ardent is a legendary studio, and were comfortable there – it was a lot of fun.” Back in chart bloom, Entertainment Weekly reviewed “Major Lodge Victory” by saying; “Hardly a half-hearted cash-in, this comeback LP marks a solid addendum to Gin Blossoms multi-platinum peak output.”
Their next album, 2010’s “No Chocolate Cake”, lands Gin’s back on the singles chart again with “Miss Disarray” and the album shot straight to # 1 on Amazon, hitting Billboard’s top 200 at # 73 and the Indie chart at #14. Because the band members no longer live in the same city—Wilson divides his time between Tempe and New York, Valenzuela is in Los Angeles, putting the sonic pieces of No Chocolate Cake together presented an exciting new challenge for the band. While Wilson contributed a handful of songs, the bulk of the material chosen for the 11 track set was written by Valenzuela either solo or with different collaborators, including Danny Wilde of The Rembrandts (the Blossoms guitarist first worked with Wilde on The Rembrandts’ song “Long Walk Home”).
“In the old days, we used to joke that there was something for everybody in this band,” says Wilson. “There’s just something about the way we play and sound together, but in the end, it’s really about the quality of the songs. If you’re a band and want to sustain a career, no matter what you look like or how you play, you’ve got to have great songs. So it’s those songs and the sound we make…my voice, the guitars, tempos, that add up to something indefinable.”
Over the years, Gin Blossoms have toured over 25 different Countries including a five city tour of Iraq in 2010. “It was so much fun to entertain our troops. It’s really insightful to see first hand how our troops live in a combat zone. It really helped widen my understanding on the sacrifices they make to protect us at home and abroad. I hope all Americans understand how important it is for us to extend our thanks” says Robin.
“We never rush the writing of a new record” says Jesse. “There’s something to be said for having a level of experience where you instinctively know what works. The best ones are those that feel like they’ve already been there, as if they are just waiting to naturally emerge. I think it’s the quality of the songs we have and Robin’s voice. It’s also a matter of trust. I know when I bring in a song that Robin will know how to sing it, Scotty will know how to play it and Bill will know the groove. I wouldn’t work with guys I had to tell what to do. The key is to not try so hard. There’s fans from the old days and fans from today. It blows my mind to see these 20-year-old kids – I’m like, ‘Dude, what are you doing here?’ But somebody hipped them to this music and they’re there to enjoy it like anybody else.”
“I look back on the big tours we did in our heyday – playing sheds with Neil Young and The Goo Goo Dolls, touring Europe with Bryan Adams, things like that – and it was easy to take it all for granted. I’m really glad we’ve been able to earn our way back into that realm” say’s Wilson.
The road has also proven exceedingly fertile ground for both Valenzuela and Wilson, with each talented tunesmith promising the inevitable arrival of new Gin Blossoms material. As they approach their third decade, Gin Blossoms remain a rare breed – rock ‘n’ roll lifers, destined to continue creating, crafting, and performing for audiences ever rapt by their glorious catalog of material.
The band performed in over 100 cities in 2017, and with additional promotional stops 2017 was one of the busiest touring years since the early 90’s. 2017-2018 laps the 25th anniversary of the bands 5 times platinum album New Miserable Experience. 25 New Miserable Years Tour will be stopping in over 40 cities in November, December and in February 2018.
“David Anderle was a legendary producer and A&R guy,” Valenzuela says. “He worked with everybody from Frank Zappa and the Doors to Kris Kristofferson and the Circle Jerks and he signed us at A&M. He told me once, “Y’know, you’re lucky – you’ve created a scenario for yourself where you can go play music for the rest of your life. Isn’t that what you wanted when you started?’ As up and down as this might be sometimes, I’m still comforted by that.”
“We’re entertaining and we have chops,” says Wilson, “but it really comes down to the songs. The reason we’re still here is that we have good songs. When young musicians ask me for advice, what’s the best thing to do to further my career, I always say, write good songs. It always comes down to that.”
with special guest Royal Tusk
Wednesday, August 7 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Rock 'n' roll legend, lead guitarist of Guns 'N' Roses, and acclaimed solo artist, Slash is bringing his Living The Dream '19 tour featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators to the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion!
It’s been four years since we last heard new music from SLASH. But the guitarist has hardly spent that time relaxing—far from it, in fact. First, there was an 18-month, 20-country world tour in support of the second SLASH FT MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS album, 2014’s World On Fire, which saw the band play to packed houses everywhere from the U.S. to the U.K., Europe to Australia, South America to Southeast Asia. Then, almost immediately after the tour wrapped in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve, 2015, it was announced to the world that the guitarist, after roughly two decades away, would be rejoining Guns N’ Roses in an historic reunion with Axl Rose and Duff McKagan. Since then, SLASH and his Gn’R band mates have crisscrossed the globe on multiple arena and stadium jaunts, playing to millions of fans the world over on what has been a record-breaking tour.
But even with all the reunion activity, SLASH’s band was never far from his mind. “I always planned on getting back together with the Conspirators as soon as possible, and continuing on with what we started,” he says. Which brings us to LIVING THE DREAM, the new full-length offering from the group—which, in addition to SLASH and singer KENNEDY, also includes bassist TODD KERNS, drummer BRENT FITZ and, making his recorded debut after several years of live work with The Conspirators, rhythm guitarist FRANK SIDORIS. The album, their third overall following World on Fire and 2012’s Apocalyptic Love, is possibly the band’s strongest collective statement to date. From the barnstorming, high-octane riffery of opener “Call of the Wild” to the wah-drenched funk rock of “Read Between the Lines,” the haunting majesty of “Lost Inside the Girl” to the swaggering deep-in-the-pocket Seventies grooves of “Serve You Right,” the stately, quasi-classical melodic themes of “The Great Pretender” to the massive hooks and anthemic, singalong choruses of first single “Driving Rain,” LIVING THE DREAM packs a compendium of sounds and styles into 12 tightly arranged and sharply executed tracks, all of it shot through with SLASH’s trademark electrifying and dynamic riffing and high-wire, lyrical solos.
“It’s a natural progression from World on Fire, for sure,” SLASH says of the new album. “I think it has a little more diversity—some of the ideas are not really what I would consider to be predictable.” At the same time, he adds, “The record is also a bit more structured, with songs that are shorter and more to the point than last time.”
KENNEDY concurs. “I don’t know that there are as many of those sort of ‘epic sonic journeys’ that we took on the last record,” he says. “Although there are songs that take you on a trip, like ‘Lost Inside the Girl.’ But overall a lot of these songs—things like ‘My Antidote,’ ‘Read Between the Lines,’ ‘Slow Grind’--they’re pretty precise statements, and they definitely fall in line with the type of sound we’re known for. There’s a certain type of sonic calling card that we’ve developed over the years, and you can hear it front and center on this record.”
“It’s just a snapshot of where we’re at,” SLASH continues, summing up LIVING THE DREAM. “Which is what we’re going for with each new album—to be present in what we’re doing and come up with something that is representative of and reflects this moment in time.”
For SLASH and the band, this moment in time has been unlike any in their past. The seeds of what would become LIVING THE DREAM were first planted back on the World on Fire tour, when SLASH began bringing in material for the band to work on at soundchecks.
“Historically, the way we write is we’ll be on the road and I’ll have my guitar with me, coming up with ideas sitting in the hotel room or in the dressing room or even sometimes on the bus,” SLASH explains. “When I have something, I’ll bring it to soundcheck and I’ll start jamming it out with Frank and Todd and Brent. Then Myles will start humming ideas into the recording apparatus on his telephone, and that’s how the nucleus of these songs will start.”
“I can tell you that’s the way it happened for some of the early songs, like ‘Lost Inside the Girl’ and ‘Serve You Right,’” KENNEDY says. “We were touring Europe in 2015, and at soundchecks Slash would start playing one of those riffs and everybody would jump in. I remember grabbing my phone and singing some ideas into it right then and there, just being really excited about those two tracks. And at that point there were pieces of a few others, like ‘The Great Pretender’ and ‘The One You Loved is Gone.’ So we were definitely embarking on the songwriting process for a new album.”
The plan, according to SLASH, “was that we would finish up the World on Fire tour, take a little break and then go right into preproduction and get started on a new record.” Which, of course, was not quite what happened. Instead, the Guns N’ Roses reunion was announced, and SLASH went directly into rehearsals with that band. As Gn’R hit the road, KENNEDY reconvened with his other group, Alter Bridge, for an album and tour, and eventually began writing and recording his solo debut (Year of the Tiger). Any work on a new Conspirators record was put on indefinite hold.
It wasn’t until December of 2017, in fact, that SLASH, with GN’R on a break, returned to L.A. and resumed writing in earnest for The Conspirators. In addition to the songs that had already been worked up, he used his time at home to write a few new ones, among them the slinky rocker “Slow Grind” and the track that would become the album closer, “Boulevard of Broken Hearts.”
Then, in January of this year, SLASH and The Conspirators finally came back together in a rehearsal space in L.A. to pick up where they had left off years earlier. “I wouldn’t even call what we did rehearsals,” SLASH says. “It was really about just getting back into shape after being apart for so long.” But even as the band was finding its groove again, the new songs kept coming. The barnstorming “Mind Your Manners,” powered by a turbocharged SLASH riff and a double-time rhythm, was written on the very first day of rehearsal. “I just sort of came up with it on the spot to give us something to warm up with,” SLASH says. “It was the very first thing we jammed on. And from there we fell back into revisiting the old songs, polishing them up and getting the arrangements together. Then we rehearsed everything and jumped into the studio and started recording.”
The LIVING THE DREAM sessions, which commenced in late March, saw the band reunite with producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette, who also helmed World on Fire. But while the producer stayed the same, the studio this time changed, with SLASH opting to move operations to his newly active recording facility, Snakepit Studios. “At some point a couple years ago I bought a small residential property in L.A. and put together a rehearsal space and studio,” he explains. “It has a 16-track digital board, and we did pretty much everything there except the drums. It’s just a very homey and cool and cozy spot.”
“The environment there is definitely ‘SLASH,’” says KENNEDY of Snakepit Studios. “It’s got a lot of the things that over the years I’ve come to equate with him—dinosaurs, pinball machines, photos of guitar players like Rory Gallagher and Keith Richards on the walls, stuff like that. It’s a vibey hang. It was good for the creative process.”
To demonstrate just how good for the creative process it was, KENNEDY points to the lyrics to one new song, “Serve You Right,” which he says were partly inspired by a painting hanging on the bathroom wall at the Snakepit--“a picture of this kind of devilish nun,” he says. “That’s the only way I can describe it.”
“It’s actually a masturbating nun,” SLASH clarifies, then laughs. “I’ve never talked to Myles about it, but the lyrics he came up with for that song, which are insanely suggestive for him, I knew they were influenced by that picture.”
Dinosaurs and devilish nuns aside, the sessions at the Snakepit went quick. Recording was completed by early May, at which point the album was mixed and mastered…and then held, as SLASH headed back on the road with G’NR for a European tour. “That was definitely a weird feeling,” SLASH says. “I’ve never done a record where I’ve had to wait four or five months for it to come out after we recorded it.” He laughs. “Now I understand what actors feel like after they finish shooting a movie…”
As it stands, that pause will be the last extended break for The Conspirators for the foreseeable future. The band will be heading out on the road in September for what will be the beginning of a lot of touring across a lot of the world. “We’re going to do the U.S. this fall, and then I’ll be out with Guns N’ Roses in in November and December,” SLASH says. “Then we’ll get together and do Europe, and after that it’ll be South America, Australia…we’ll try to hit as many places as we can. Because as much as I enjoy the writing and recording process, when I’m creating music it’s always with the intent that it should be played in front of an audience. For me, that’s always the endgame--to get out there with the band and perform the music live. That’s what I love the most.”
You could say, then, that SLASH is, in fact, living the dream. But he’ll only laugh in response.
“Well, you know, the album title is actually meant to be a sarcastic statement about the world we’re living in at the moment,” he explains. “I never wax political on records, but it was just something that came to mind—this tongue-in-cheek thing directed at social political events across the globe.”
That said, SLASH continues, “If you do take it in the literal sense, then, yeah, making records and touring and getting up onstage every day and playing music with these guys, that is the essence of living the dream. And that’s why I was always dead-set on getting back together with this band and continuing to do this. And I always knew it would happen. Because The Conspirators story is not over yet.”
Sunday, August 11 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Southern Rock / Blues
JJ Grey & Mofro and Jonny Lang are hitting the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion stage for a special co-headlining show.
JJ GREY & MOFRO BIO
From the days of playing greasy local juke joints to headlining major festivals, JJ Grey remains an unfettered, blissful performer, singing with a blue-collared spirit over the bone-deep grooves of his compositions. His presence before an audience is something startling and immediate, at times a funk rave-up, other times a sort of mass-absolution for the mortal weaknesses that make him and his audience human. When you see JJ Grey and his band Mofro live—and you truly, absolutely must—the man is fearless.
Onstage, Grey delivers his songs with compassion and a relentless honesty, but perhaps not until Ol’ Glory has a studio record captured the fierceness and intimacy that defines a Grey live performance. “I wanted that crucial lived-in feel,” Grey says of Ol’ Glory, and here he hits his mark. On the new album, Grey and his current Mofro lineup offer grace and groove in equal measure, with an easygoing quality to the production that makes those beautiful muscular drum-breaks sound as though the band has set up in your living room.
Despite a redoubtable stage presence, Grey does get performance anxiety—specifically, when he's suspended 50 feet above the soil of his pecan grove, clearing moss from the upper trees.
“The tops of the trees are even worse,” he laughs, “say closer to 70, maybe even 80 feet. I'm not phobic about heights, but I don't think anyone's crazy about getting up in a bucket and swinging all around. I wanted to fertilize this year but didn't get a chance. This February I will, about two tons—to feed the trees.”
When he isn't touring, Grey exerts his prodigious energies on the family land, a former chicken-farm that was run by his maternal grandmother and grandfather. The farm boasts a recording studio, a warehouse that doubles as Grey's gym, an open-air barn, and of course those 50-odd pecan trees that occasionally require Grey to go airborne with his sprayer.
For devoted listeners, there is something fitting, even affirmative in Grey's commitment to the land of his north Florida home. The farms and eddying swamps of his youth are as much a part of Grey's music as the Louisiana swamp-blues tradition, or the singer's collection of old Stax records.
As a boy, Grey was drawn to country-rockers, including Jerry Reed, and to Otis Redding and the other luminaries of Memphis soul; Run-D.M.C., meanwhile, played on repeat in the parking lot of his high school (note the hip-hop inflections on “A Night to Remember”). Merging these traditions, and working with a blue-collar ethic that brooked no bullshit, Grey began touring as Mofro in the late '90s, with backbeats that crossed Steve Cropper with George Clinton and a lyrical directness that made his debut LP Blackwater (2001) a calling-card among roots-rock aficionados. Soon, he was expanding his tours beyond America and the U.K., playing ever-larger clubs and eventually massive festivals, as his fan base grew from a modest group of loyal initiates into something resembling a national coalition.
Grey takes no shortcuts on the homestead, and he certainly takes no shortcuts in his music. While he has metaphorically speaking “drawn blood” making all his albums, his latest effort, Ol’ Glory, found him spending more time than ever working over the new material. A hip-shooting, off-the-cuff performer (often his first vocal takes end up pleasing him best), Grey was able to stretch his legs a bit while constructing the lyrics and vocal lines to Ol’ Glory.
“I would visit it much more often in my mind, visit it more often on the guitar in my house,” Grey says. “I like an album to have a balance, like a novel or like a film. A triumph, a dark brooding moment, or a moment of peace—that's the only thing I consistently try to achieve with a record.”
Grey has been living this balance throughout his career, and Ol’ Glory is a beautifully paced little film. On “The Island,” Grey sounds like Coleridge on a happy day: “All beneath the canopy / of ageless oaks whose secrets keep / Forever in her beauty / This island is my home.” “A Night to Remember” finds the singer in first-rate swagger: “I flipped up my collar ah man / I went ahead and put on my best James Dean / and you'd a thought I was Clark Gable squinting through that smoke.” And “Turn Loose” has Grey in fast-rhyme mode in keeping with the song's title: “You work a stride / curbside thumbing a ride / on Lane Avenue / While your kids be on their knees / praying Jesus please.” From the profane to the sacred, the sly to the sublime, Grey feels out his range as a songwriter with ever-greater assurance.
The mood and drive of Ol’ Glory are testament to this achievement. The album ranks with Grey’s very best work; among other things, the secret spirituality of his music is perhaps more accessible here than ever before. On “Everything Is a Song,” he sings of “the joy with no opposite,” a sacred state that Grey describes to me:
“It can happen to anybody: you sit still and you feel things tingling around you, everything's alive around you, and in that a smile comes on your face involuntarily, and in that I felt no opposite. It has no part of the play of good and bad or of comedy or tragedy. I know it’s just a play on words but it feels like more than just being happy because you got what you wanted — this is a joy. A joy that doesn’t get involved one way or the next; it just is.”
Grey's most treasured albums include Otis Redding's In Person at the Whisky a Go Go and Jerry Reed's greatest hits, and the singer once told me that he grew up “wanting to be Jerry Reed but with less of a country, more of a soul thing.” With Ol’ Glory, Grey does his idols proud. It's a country record where the stories are all part of one great mystery; it's a blues record with one foot in the church; it's a Memphis soul record that takes place in the country.
In short, Ol’ Glory is that most singular thing, a record by JJ Grey—the north Florida sage and soul-bent swamp rocker.
JONNY LANG BIO
It is hard to believe that at 36 years old Jonny Lang has already had a successful career for two decades.
Easier to believe when you learn he released his first platinum record at 15—an age when many young people are just beginning to play music. Lie to Me revealed a talent that transcended the crop of blues prodigies floating around in the late Nineties. No flashy re-hasher of classic blues licks, even at that early age Lang was a full-blown artist with a style of his own. Also, setting Lang apart from the wunderkind crowd was a 15-year-old voice that sounded like a weathered soul shouter. Actual life experience was yet to come, and has been subsequently chronicled in a series of five uniformly excellent recordings. “I got married, had kids, and that arc has been recorded on albums along the way,” says Lang. “There is a lot of personal history in there, and also some things that relate to world events.”
What began as a bluesy sound, influenced by electric pioneers like Albert Collins, B. B. King, and Buddy Guy, evolved over those recordings into a modern R&B style closer to Stevie Wonder and contemporary gospel music. Lang’s distinctive, blues-inflected licks appeared on every album, but became one element in a sea of passionately sung and tightly arranged songs.
Signs is not merely a return the artist’s guitar-based beginnings, but an embodiment of an even more elemental sound. Beyond focusing attention on his soloing prowess, it is about recapturing the spirit of the early blues, where the guitar was front and center, fairly leaping out of the speakers. “A lot of my earlier influences have been coming to the surface, like Robert Johnson, and Howlin’ Wolf,” he reports. “I have been appreciating how raw and unrefined that stuff is. I had an itch to emulate some of that and I think it shows in the songs. Still, I let the writing be what it was and that was sometimes not necessarily the blues.”
In this simpler spirit, Lang, Drew Ramsey, and Shannon Sanders convened in a Los Angeles studio with some melodic and arranging ideas and proceeded to crank out a dozen basic tracks in a few days. With a bit of overdubbing and further recording in L.A. and Nashville, and some further help from Dwan Hill, Dennis Dodd and Josh Kelley, Signs was done. The record, which features funk, rock, and blues elements, is held together by Lang’s distinctive playing and singing, and the lyrics, which center on themes of embattlement and self-empowerment. “Some of the songs are autobiographical, but not usually in a literal way,” Lang explains. “The main goal is for folks to be able to relate to what I went through. If I can’t make it work using just my personal experience, I use my imagination to fill in blanks.”
Starting off the record with a juke joint stomp, “Make It Move” is the singer’s story about going to the mountain rather than waiting for it to come to you. “There have been times in my life where I thought something would take care of itself, when I should have put some effort forth to help it happen,” says Lang. “Being proactive has been a weak spot for me, and the song is about doing your part to get things moving.”
Fueled by some evil guitar sounds, “Snakes” turns the well-known warning about “snakes in the grass” into a poetic tale of a young man dealing with hubris and temptation. “It is mostly about the mistakes I made through not approaching life with humility, and the things I was susceptible to that distracted me,” says Lang. “You are overconfident, thinking you are ready for whatever the world will throw at you, but have no idea some things are affecting you until much later in life.”
The anthemic “Last Man Standing” started with a hook Drew Ramsey brought to the recording date. “We built the song around that premise,” Lang explains. “When I was coming up with lyrics, it was personal, but I don’t want to analyze it too much. I want it to be whatever it is going to be for the listener. That song could be applied to any situation in which you feel like you are struggling.”
Lang breaks out the slide for the title song, “Signs,” which extends outward from personal stories into the dramatic events of today’s world. “I try to disregard politics as much as I can, but it seems like every day when you wake up there is something else crazy going on—not normal crazy, but more like movie script crazy,” he says.
The rampaging guitars and driving groove of “Bitter End” reflect Lang’s frustration with a seemingly endless cycle of history: “Why tear down a wall to build it up again.” But he brings us back up with the lilting affirmation of “Stronger Together,” and the funky exhortation to step “Into the Light.”
A stunning guitar solo marks the Josh Kelly produced “Bring Me Back Home.”
“Josh and I cut six or seven songs together and had a blast doing it,” Lang says. “I am saving the other ones for who knows what, but I definitely wanted that one to be on this record.”
Since the release of his debut album, Grammy Award winning Jonny Lang has built a reputation as one of the best live performers and guitarists of his generation. The path Lang has been on has brought him the opportunity to support or perform with some of the most respected legends in music. He has shared the stage with everyone from The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Aerosmith and Buddy Guy, who he continues to tour with today.
Fans who discovered Jonny Lang through his searing instrumental work will revel in the huge guitar tones and go for broke solos on Signs, while those who have appreciated his growth as an honest and passionate songwriter will find that honesty and passion unabated. Though he long ago left blues purism behind, Lang has never abandoned its spirit of universal catharsis through the relating of personal trials. Signs reaffirms his commitment to the blues and the guitar without sacrificing the modern approach that has made him such a singular artist.
with special guest The Why Store
Friday, August 30 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Rock / Classic Rock
Devon Allman and Duane Betts, the sons of Allman Brothers Band legends Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, are celebrating their fathers by bringing their own Allman Betts Band to the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion. From the band’s new music, to songs from their respective solo projects, and classic Allman Brothers and Gregg Allman tunes, the night will honor the 50th Anniversary of The Allman Brothers Band as well as the music’s enduring legacy.
After a successful year touring as The Devon Allman Project with special guest Duane Betts, the sons of Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts are joining forces to form The Allman Betts Band.
They will kick off 2019 with a new Allman Betts Band album and a Worldwide tour that will feature new music, songs from their solo projects and classic Allman Brothers and Gregg Allman tunes in honor of the 50th Anniversary of The Allman Brothers Band. The new album, slated for release in the Spring of 2019, will be recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and will be produced by Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, John Prine and Elvis Presley). Former Allman Brothers Band keyboardist and current Rolling Stones keyboardist, Chuck Leveall, will guest on the record.
The new ABB includes Devon Allman, Duane Betts, Berry Oakley Jr. (son of original Allman Brothers Band bassist Berry Oakley), Johnny Stachela (slide guitar) and Devon Allman Project percussionists R. Scott Bryan (Sheryl Crow) and John Lum.
The Allman Betts Band will launch a World Tour in March and perform throughout 2019 at festivals, theaters and historic venues.
Saturday, August 31 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Progressive Jazz Fusion Guitarist
Pat Metheny is an American treasure. Though well known as a jazz guitarist and composer, his style incorporates elements of progressive and contemporary jazz, Latin, fusion, and a world of influences that he’s collected throughout his distinguished career. Metheny is currently touring in support of his latest project, Side Eye. And he’s bringing it to the Sweetwater Pavilion on August 31.
Pat Metheny was born in Lee's Summit, MO on August 12, 1954 into a musical family. Starting on trumpet at the age of 8, Metheny switched to guitar at age 12. By the age of 15, he
was working regularly with the best jazz musicians in Kansas City, receiving valuable on-the bandstand experience at an unusually young age. Metheny first burst onto the international jazz scene in 1974. Over the course of his three-year stint with vibraphone great Gary Burton, the young Missouri native already displayed his soon-to-become trademarked playing style, which blended the loose and flexible articulation customarily reserved for horn players with an advanced rhythmic and harmonic sensibility -a way of playing and improvising that was modern in conception but grounded deeply in the jazz tradition of melody, swing, and the blues. With the release of his first album, Bright Size Life (1975), he reinvented the traditional "jazz guitar" sound for a new generation of players. Throughout his career, Pat Metheny has continued to redefine the genre by utilizing new technology and constantly working to evolve the improvisational and sonic potential of his instrument.
Metheny's versatility is nearly without peer on any instrument. Over the years, he has performed with artists as diverse as Steve Reich to Ornette Coleman to Herbie Hancock to Jim Hall to Milton Nascimento to David Bowie. Metheny’s body of work includes compositions for solo guitar, small ensembles, electric and acoustic instruments, large orchestras, and ballet pieces and even the robotic instruments of his Orchestrion project, while always sidestepping the limits of any one genre.
As well as being an accomplished musician, Metheny has also participated in the academic arena as a music educator. At 18, he was the youngest teacher ever at the University of Miami. At 19, he became the youngest teacher ever at the Berklee College of Music, where he also received an honorary doctorate more than twenty years later (1996). He has also taught music workshops all over the world, from the Dutch Royal Conservatory to the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz to clinics in Asia and South America. He has also been a true musical pioneer in the realm of electronic music, and was one of the very first jazz musicians to treat the synthesizer as a serious musical instrument. Years before the invention of MIDI technology, Metheny was using the Synclavier as a composing tool. He also has been instrumental in the development of several new kinds of guitars such as the soprano acoustic guitar, the 42-string Pikasso guitar, Ibanez’s PM series jazz guitars, and a variety of other custom instruments.
It is one thing to attain popularity as a musician, but it is another to receive the kind of acclaim Metheny has garnered from critics and peers. Over the years, Metheny has won countless polls as "Best Jazz Guitarist" and awards, including three gold records for (Still Life) Talking, Letter from Home, and Secret Story. He has also won 20 Grammy Awards spread out over a variety of different categories including Best Rock Instrumental, Best Contemporary Jazz Recording, Best Jazz Instrumental Solo, Best Instrumental Composition at one point winning seven consecutive Grammies for seven consecutive albums. In 2015 he was inducted into the Downbeat Hall of Fame, becoming only the fourth guitarist to be included (along with Django Reinhardt, Charlie Chrisitan and Wes Montgomery) and it’s youngest member. Metheny has spent much of his life on tour, often doing more than 100 shows a year since becoming a bandleader in the 70’s. At the time of this writing, he continues to be one of the brightest stars of the jazz community, dedicating time to both his own projects and those of emerging artists and established veterans alike, helping them to reach their audience as well as realizing their own artistic visions.
Saturday, September 21 at 7:00PM (Doors open at 6:00PM)
Pink Floyd Tribute Show
One of North America’s premier tribute acts, Pink Droyd gives audiences the authentic Pink Floyd experience at a time when appreciation of the band has never been greater. And on September 21, they’re bringing the look, sound, and feel of the historic concept album, The Wall to the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion. This is your chance to witness a musical masterpiece, performed with meticulous attention to what made both the music and Floyd’s legendary live production so iconic.
For over 4 decades the amazing music and live concerts of Pink Floyd have entertained and mesmerized audiences around the world. Their live performances were both aurally astounding and visually brilliant. Today Pink Droyd, a tribute to Pink Floyd, brings the look, feel, and sound of those shows to audiences, both young and old, around the country. Their show is both accurate to the Pink Floyd music and visually stunning with their robotic, intelligent light show, digital video accompaniment (including the Pink Floyd traditional circular video screen), and amazing laser show.
The BandPink Droyd brings to life the music of Pink Floyd by including theatrical performances of some of Pink Floyd’s most memorable songs. From building The Wall to visiting The Dark Side of the Moon Pink Droyd spans the Pink Floyd catalog including the most memorable hits and some beloved obscure tracks.
With a combined Pink Floyd tribute band experience of over 50 years this all-star cast brings the music and experience of Pink Floyd to audiences at a time when the appreciation of Pink Floyd has never been greater!