What a ride. The third annual Ride festival proved it was the little festival that could, as in could deliver top-notch talent, most of which festival attendees were unfamiliar with when the festivities started Saturday morning. Everyone loves discovering new music, and you can rest assured that playlists everywhere are being loaded up with songs from new favorite bands discovered at The Ride.
I saw almost every lick that emanated from the Fred Shellman Memorial Stage and the Sheridan Opera House so I put together some awards for the weekend.
I Saw Them When Award
There were three bands that I think could become monster acts that attendees could one day say, “I saw them when they were just starting out.” The first is Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown. This four-piece from Nashville, Tenn., did not even play the main stage (though you can rest assured they will next year). Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown was the headliner at the Sunset Concert Friday night that kicked off the weekend. They turned a mellow, sit on your blanket and enjoy the views kind of affair into a rock concert.
The 22 year-old Bryant is a child prodigy with an impressive pedigree. He started playing guitar at the age of 6, and by 11 was jamming in the local record store and turning heads. At 15 he was invited to play at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival and a year later he was awarded the Robert Johnson’s New Generation Award that recognized him as one of the most talented rising guitarists in rock ‘n’ roll and blues music. He was featured in the documentary Rock Prophecies about young rock ‘n’ roll phenoms that can be seen on iTunes and Netflix.
In addition to his chops, Bryant has matinee idol looks, with more than a hint of androgyny that recalls early David Bowie (but much better looking). He is a born performer, calling out to the crowd, “Are you with me?” as he busts into a head turning solo and sings with confidence and attitude with a letter-perfect rock ‘n’ roll voice. The entire band looked the part of rock n’ rollers and played just as hard as their lead singer. Bryant jumped on drums at one point and crushed it. The guy is a star. The band played the Sheridan Bar Saturday night, on their wrecking ball tour through Telluride. Bryant strutted through the crowd jamming as attendees looked at each other with a “holy sh#t” look on their face. The bar had to shut them down as hotel guests complained of being cold because the Shakedown had blown the roof of the place.
There are millions of young fans waiting to get on the Shakedown bus but just don’t know it yet. One hit song and this band band could be the next Aerosmith, which would be fitting, as guitarist Graham Whitford is the son of Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford. See you next year, guys. The band is recording a new album, and you never know, they just might be headlining.
The next band that has a fuse on it is England’s Brother and Bones. These guys could be England’s version of the Kings of Leon. Lead vocalist Richard Thomas has got it, you know that ‘it” thing that’s hard to put a word on but you know it when you see it. He is a born ladykiller, with a voice that sounds a lot like countryman Marcus Mumford. He plays an acoustic guitar with the intensity of an electric axe that matches the fury of the rest of his bandmates. I love a band that is a five-piece with two drummers – Robin Howell-Sprent on percussion and Yiannis Sachinis on drums. Combine their percussive flurry with the deep bottom of bass player Alex Karban and you get a band that brings the thunder.
If you’ve been wondering who is the guitar player that graces the cover of this year’s magazine Festavarian, it’s Bones’ guitar player James Willard. who brings serious chops and rock ‘n’ roll attitude to the table, jumping around stage like Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard.
I worked at the Opera House over the weekend and as often happens, several members of the load-out crew didn’t show up (loading heavy equipment downstairs at 2 am is a tough sell). The guys in Brother and Bones stayed and helped break down the stage – even though they had a festival date on the main stage 10 hours later. The band is as cool as they are good. If these guys go where I think they are headed, it will surely be a case of nice guys finishing first.
And finally, Vintage Trouble is already on a vertical trajectory that has the potential to make them one of the biggest bands in the land. Their show Sunday night at the Opera House left the crowd bug-eyed as lead singer Ty Taylor stage-dived, jumped onto the balcony and sang and harkened both James Brown with his double spins and Elvis Presley with his 21st century version of the “Elvis Pelvis” – the band has a song called “Pelvis Pusher,” and the pelvis pushing was not relegated to that one song, to say the least.
Vintage Trouble put on an equally impressive show at the main stage, proving they can bring a large crowd to its feet as well. The band has been touring with the Who and the Rolling Stones, and the exposure has been paying high dividends. Trouble opened for the Who in Montreal and the promoter loved the band so much, he brought them back as a headliner. “When we walked on stage we couldn’t believe our eyes,” said drummer Richard Danielson. There were 70,000 people there.”
Vintage Trouble has been touring behind their debut record The Bomb Shelter Sessions (which they recorded in three days) for almost three years. They have been recording songs all the while, and according to Taylor they have enough material for two more albums. But the band is laying the foundation for a global fan base before they put out another full album (they did just release a six song EP of acoustic material called The Swing Sessions Acoustic Sessions).
At the end of the Opera House show, their second of the day, the members of Vintage Trouble lined up and signed merchandise as the crowd left the building. They left Telluride Monday morning and headed to Portugal to start a European tour. Their talent, combined with a relentless work ethic, is a recipe for massive success. Let’s hope they remember Telluride and keep coming back.
I’ve Never Seen That Before Award
I have seen hundreds and hundreds of shows and I am always blown away when I see something from a band that I have never seen before. Enter Reignwolf from Seattle. The power trio plays a hard-rocking, heavy metal, grunge (they are from Seattle, after all) sounding style of music that has been featured in Rolling Stone as one of 2014’s “10 artists you need to know.”
The set was definitely not for everyone. One friend asked me, “Was that Spinal Tap on-stage?” But one person’s Spinal Tap is another person’s Soundgarten. The band may soon become the latest Seattle band to gain national prominence, as Reignwolf is set to record their debut record in Dave Grohl’s 606 Studio.
Back to the never-seen-before thread with Reignwolf. Lead singer and guitarist Jordan Cook astonished me with his intensity and unorthodox musicianship. He broke a string in his first song and played the entire set with a five-string axe. He sang into his guitar pickup, strummed the guitar with his microphone, and the holy cow moment of the weekend for me came when he played drums and guitar at the same time, taking the drumstick in his right hand as he played guitar and sang at the same time. It was awesome.
Cook asked all the fans who were standing up front to come in real close. By doing so he was able to turn the main stage into what felt like a small club, and for those who were into it, the set was dynamite.
Cook told a story of how on his way to Denver, the band got off the plane carrying their instruments and a man approached them and asked who they were and where they were going. The gentleman in question turned out to have been a member of John Lee Hooker’s band. In honor of that chance encounter, Cook played a medley of Hooker’s signature song “Boom Boom” and “Baby Please Don’t Go.”
Reignwolf’s music is way harder than the music I usually listen to, but I am a music lover and in the same way I appreciated Bela Fleck’s set with the Colorado Symphony (I’m not a classical guy, but it was cool), I totally dug Reignwolf. Theirs was a set I will never forget.
Still Can’t Get Enough of You Guys Award
This one goes to JJ Grey and Mofro and Karl Denson. I have been seeing both these bands for over 15 years, and I have a high tolerance for both bands. JJ took a break from cutting a new record and flew out to Telluride as a one-off. JJ never ceases to trigger my medulla oblongata to pump blood into my hips which in turn gyrate delightfully to his backwater swamp funk. I can’t wait to hear the new record. He is one of my favorites.
I worked with Karl Denson in 2004. He appeared on a DVD I produced and directed about the seminal New Orleans rock band The Radiators (Earth vs. the Radiators: The First 25). He was then and continues to be an absolute ripper on the saxophone and flute as well as being a first rate vocalist.
I was excited to hear him play the single off his recently released record New Ammo called “My Baby.” I think it is the best song of his career. He just released a video of the song (the studio track features the very fetching and relentlessly talented Nicki Bluhm). You can see it at (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHn8p4rqVLQ).
Wish You were Here Award
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros arrived in Telluride without female vocalist Jade Castrinos. For me, she has always been the second most important member of the band behind Alex Ebert (lead singer and frontman) himself. It was their dynamic that made the band so intriguing. She is beautiful and has a distinct kind of sexiness, a true chanteuse with a great stage presence and a sultry voice that matches her looks.
On June 3, Castrino posted on her Instagram account, ”For seven years, I sang and wrote music with Edward Sharp. They voted me off tour a week ago before they left, via email. LOL.”
I dug The Magnetic Zeros’ set of psychedelic hippie space pop, but was disappointed not to see and hear Castrino. I asked one of the members of the band what was up, and he responded, “Jade is on hiatus.” Let’s hope it’s not permanent.
I was also surprised that Eric Hilton, 50 percent of the deejay brain trust behind Thievery Corporation, was not present. Apparently he has a fear of flying and does not go on tour. Hinton’s partner Rob Garza did fine on his own as he backstopped one of the coolest, hardest rocking, most eclectic outfits in music.
To me, Thievery is more of a band than a deejay outfit so I can’t say that I missed Hinton that much, and the band was fantastic. A Thievery set is like a revue, with a different singer being featured each song, with every tune having it’s own unique flavor.
What I admire most about Thievery is that Hilton and Garza are more interested in blowing minds than fattening bank accounts. They could easily show up with a small band and focus on the electronica side of their sound, but instead they bring over 10 players and singers, each one taking money out of the founders pockets and putting into the live experience.
The Thievery set was amazing (though many said it paled in comparison to last year’s set). The biggest complaint was that it was too short. But it wasn’t Thievery who shut it down but the strict 10:30 town curfew.
Dead Air Award
The Ride was not broadcast on KOTO, the presenting sponsor of the festival. Seeing as KOTO is a radio station and their fundamental purpose is to put programming on the radio, it was curious that the music was not broadcast over the airwaves. It was a shame, because the rest of the world needs to hear the Ride so they can get on board.
Sound Advice Award
The Ride was not broadcast on KOTO, the presenting sponsor of the festival. Seeing as KOTO is a radio station and their fundamental purpose is to put programming on the radio, it was curious that the music was not broadcast over the airwaves. It was a shame because the rest of the world needs to hear The Ride so they can get on board.
The sound at the festival itself could also use some improvement. There was some snap, crackle and popping going on and there was a distorted hum coming out of the speakers, particularly during the Reignwolf set.
It’s a young festival and it takes awhile to work the kinks out, so hopefully next year we’ll hear the Ride on the air, with a cleaner sound in the park.
Best of the Fest
I would have to give this award to Vintage Trouble. The band played two incredibly high-octane shows in the span of eight hours. Their funky, r&b, rock ‘n’ roll hybrid sound (they call it live wired, straight-shootin’, dirty mouth’d, pelvis-pushing juke music) was easy on the ears and front man Ty Taylor is as dynamic a front man as I’ve ever seen. Vintage Trouble calls their fans “Troublemakers.” Looks like I’m in trouble.