Our No Bummer Summer highlights continue this week with four of our favorite summer concerts from Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Billy Strings. Read all about these shows, give them a listen in the nugs.net app, then get ready to see them on the road this summer!
We can’t wait to return to Camp Greensky in 2022. Greensky Bluegrass’ home festival is a bluegrass mecca that takes place in Wellston, Michigan each year, AKA the most beautiful place in the world to host a summer bluegrass festival. If you’re itching for a taste of Camp Greensky, put on this classic performance from 2019’s festival. Towards the end of the first set, Lindsey Lou lends her vocals to “In Control.” Later, Lyle Brewer joins on Guitar for “Wings for Wheels”, and a wildly fun jam on “Kerosene.”
It’s common knowledge Bluegrass is best enjoyed outdoors and in the summer. With that in mind, an August Infamous Stringdusters concert at Red Rocks might just be heaven on earth. The Dusters are in peak form during this 2018 string-filled performance. Check out their cover of Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed” about halfway through the set and enjoy the full spectrum of jamgrass. One thing’s for sure, we can’t wait to get back to Red Rocks this summer for even more bluegrass.
Summer Camp Music Festival returns this August with a massive lineup of the biggest names in jam, bluegrass, electronica, and more. Even though it’s not happening in May this year, we can still enjoy audio from Summer Camps past, like this classic 2018 performance from Yonder Mountain String Band. There are some great guests on this one including Al Schnier on guitar for “Damn Your Eyes.” Later, Keller Williams provides enough cowbell on “Don’t Fear The Reaper” to satisfy even Christopher Walken.
Billy. Strings. What more is there to say about the ascendent king of bluegrass? No one commands a guitar quite like Billy and every time he takes the stage it’s a mind blowing unique experience. As Billy gets back on the road this summer, listen to audio from his 2019 performance at Blue Ox Music Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It’s a wild and mesmerizing ride at one of the most fun bluegrass festivals in America. Banjoist Cory Walker joins Billy for a show highlight version of “Black Clouds.” One listen and you’ll understand why you need to see Billy live this summer.
In terms of listening hours, surely no Bruce Springsteen tour has been re-lived more than the 111 shows Bruce and the E Street Band performed between May 23, 1978 and January 1, 1979. Even with entire tours (e.g. The River 2016) being released in recent years, the Darkness tour remains the consumption king for a number of reasons.
The most obvious factor is time — the decades spent playing bootlegs, tapes, and now downloads from 1978. We’ve held the Darkness tour in high esteem since it ended; even earlier, for those who attended. The rest of us who didn’t witness have been swayed by the wide availability of high quality recordings, notably the five live radio broadcasts from West Hollywood (July 7), Cleveland (August 9), Passaic (September 19), Atlanta (September 30) and San Francisco (December 15), all blessedly released in the Live Archive series.
Add in Houston (December 8), plus second nights in Passaic (September 20) and San Fran (December 16), and one might consider the Archive series has the Darkness tour comprehensively covered. Guess again.
Berkeley 7/1/78 is the earliest Darkness tour performance to be released in the Live Archive series and tenders a distinctive, taut performance bristling with the energy of seven sympatico musicians hitting their stride. The main set offers key songs “Night” and “For You” that only featured in the tour’s early months, while the encore boasts the formal arrival of “Because the Night” to the show. Better still, the final frame opens with an unequivocal boon to the Live Archive series: Springsteen’s solo piano performance of “The Promise,” released for the first time in its definitive, show-stopping 1978 arrangement.
The outstanding sonics of Jon Altschiller’s Plangent-Processed, multi-track mix capture the kinetic electricity exchange between band and audience. This isn’t a “we already know and love him” performance, this is an “Okay, we’re ready to be convinced” set. I’m not one to focus too much on audience sound levels in the mix, but trainspotters who do will be thrilled with Berkeley. The atmosphere in the venue is vividly captured, from the quietest moments to the most rapturous, which adds something extra to the recording.
What a treat it is to hear “Night” immediately after “Badlands,” as a month later it would give way to “Spirit in the Night,” the third song of the night in Berkeley. It’s a particularly joyful “Night,” with each member of the E Street Band coming through loud and clear, from Danny Federici’s chiming glockenspiel to Garry Tallent’s lush bass. “Spirit” takes us down the turnpike to the Shore; “Darkness on the Edge of Town” sends us back out searching for meaning.
“Darkness” taps the show’s tension coil, starting spare but igniting with the line, “Well if she wants to see me, you can tell her that I’m easily found.” I never noticed Clarence Clemons’ rich harmony vocals on “Darkness” before. Listen for him at 3:36, the start of the final, long-held “Townnnnnnn,” the crescendo of a magisterial performance. Fun Fact: Though he doesn’t mention him by name, Bruce acknowledges Mystery Train author Greil Marcus in attendance during his “Darkness” intro.
Like “Night,” “For You” was a set-list regular through July, but it only appeared nine times thereafter. The Berkeley take is lyrical and confident. That vibe continues with added urgency for “The Promised Land,” after which there is a relatively long pause and audible anticipation setting the stage for “Prove It All Night.” It was this very performance that was quickly mixed under the supervision of Springsteen and Jon Landau, and played by the pair three nights later on KMET in Los Angeles in a conversation with Dave Marsh and DJ Mary Turner. Setting aside “Circus Song,” released on the Playback promotional single back in 1973, “Prove It All Night” from Berkeley was arguably the first proper live Springsteen recording to make it into the wild.
Over the years Springsteen and others have suggested the songs on Darkness on the Edge of Town were not as fully realized in the studio as they could have been, with the album sometimes cited as a candidate for a new mix. “Prove It All Night” feels like one of the tracks they were referring to, as the live versions are next-level compared to the studio take.
Given that, it makes sense that after airing on KMET, the live “Prove It All Night” was serviced to several radio stations and the King Biscuit Flower Hour, and it was briefly considered for release as a promo 12-inch single, though it never got past the acetate phase. Compared to versions later in the tour, the Berkeley “Prove It” isn’t as intense, the guitar intro at the start not as long, but it is superb just the same and perhaps a plausible example of what “Prove It All Night” could have been on the album.
The first set continues after Bruce acknowledges his parents and sister in attendance, putting the audience on notice to catch his sister Pam when she was “skipping school.” The final songs of the set—“Racing in the Street,” “Thunder Road,” and “Jungleland”—are exemplary expressions, and you’ll lose yourself in them as the Berkeley audience does. When “Jungleland” concludes, the applause rises and even Springsteen seems caught off guard. The conversion is complete.
The second set matches the first pound for pound, commencing in sprightly fashion with the Big Man showcase “Paradise by the ‘C’” (also aired on KMET along with “Prove It All Night”) and the second of the night’s four unreleased originals, “Fire.” With less than two dozen performances to this point, Springsteen still handles the future Clarence line, “But your heart stays cool.”
Like “Darkness” in the first set, this early “Adam Raised a Cain” is exhilarating. The proto-“Adam” touches the transformer for extra juice, especially on electric guitar, with a nasty prelude at the top and squealing, delicious filth throughout. The dynamics that make Springsteen so compelling in concert are on full display when the band peaks and Bruce howls to a stop just before declaring, “In the Bible, Mama, Cain slew Abel.”
The primitive rock ‘n’ roll guitar foray extends into the “Mona” intro to “She’s the One,” another outstanding reading with more edge than we’re used to. Next, “Growin’ Up” brings welcome sweetness, and the Berkeley audience recognizes the song from Roy Bittan’s opening piano refrain. Bruce then sets the stage, recalling his Catholic school days and the nuns telling his parents he needed “psychiatric attention,” his last words before the lyrics to “Growin’ Up” provide the explanation as to why. In the middle of the song, Springsteen addresses his father directly, explaining in endearing fashion how Douglas’ infamous declaration of “turn down that goddamn guitar” connects to this very night. It’s a special moment.
“Sad Eyes” aficionados can rejoice with another entry in the canon of “Backstreets” versions that contain the emotional interlude. Berkeley 2 matches the intensity with the famous Roxy rendition, with subtle changes including a powerful repeated refrain of “Now baby’s back. Now baby’s back.” “Rosalita” follows, lifting the mood, with the band in total command as they bring a masterful main set to a close.
The encore starts with one of the most significant, singular additions to the Live Archive series, “The Promise,” performed by Springsteen on solo piano. I considered devoting this entire essay to “The Promise,” such is its importance as a song, and in this 1978 arrangement and performance. A friend recently referred to it as “one of the two most important outtakes in the history of music,” the other being Bob Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell.”
Bruce said “The Promise” was the first song he wrote after the Born to Run album, and it carries overt connective tissue to “Thunder Road,” borrowing those words for its chorus and serving as, if not a sequel, the other side of the coin. For me, “The Promise” is the most powerful distillation in song of the key themes Bruce would explore across Darkness and The River. Heard later by those already familiar with the two albums, it can come across as more of the same, but in 1976 or 1978 it was a revelation.
Over time, Bruce revised the lyrics to “The Promise,” and with a rewritten third verse about his father, he dedicates the song to Douglas in Berkeley and delivers a stark, emotional masterpiece. The songwriting, filled with evocative lines like, “I lived a secret I should have kept to myself, but I got drunk one night and I told it” and “When the promise is broken, you go on living, but it steals something from down in your soul,” is Springsteen at his very best.
Through the passing of time, it is also remarkable how some of the song’s deeply personal lines take on new, societal relevance. More than 40 years later, these words ring truer than ever:
When the truth is spoken
And it don’t make no difference
Something in your heart grows cold
We’re so fortunate to have “The Promise” officially released in its most significant form.
While “Quarter to Three” and “Born to Run” more than hold their own, the Berkeley encore delivers history with the proper arrival of “Because the Night.” It is only the second performance of the song with the E Street Band and the first since Boston in May. Bruce likely restored the song to the set as it was the very week of the Berkeley shows that Patti Smith’s version of “Because the Night” peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Berkeley version is a thrilling work in progress, with lyric variations in progress and an abrupt, unfamiliar ending. After Berkeley, “Because the Night” was a set-list regular.
Though the Roxy show six days hence would take place in a small club, venue acoustics, performance, and mix combine to make Berkeley 7/1/78 the most intimate Darkness tour document in the Live Archive series. You didn’t think you needed one more 1978 show, but you most assuredly do.
June of 2001 would find the White Stripes playing three NYC gigs in as many nights and the sense of impending greatness felt all but predetermined. The appearance of the likes of Kate Hudson, Chris Robinson, Jon Spencer, Vincent Gallo and PJ Harvey in the crowds at these gigs seemingly confirmed that.
All celeb-spotting aside…Jack and Meg were expressly feeling weighed down by the extent of their press and promotion duties. There’s a photo taken during this time in NYC where Jack is wearing an otherwise plain white t-shirt that says “New York Confuses Me.” Written (at his request) by Meg, the outwardly transparent reckoning of his mounting frustration with publicity scheduling seems almost quaint in hindsight.
The recording here from the June 17th second night at the Bowery Ballroom is a straight knockout…nary an errant move to distract from the supernova captured on tape, all inside a room that was clearly packed beyond its legal limit of 575 patrons. Twenty years to the day since its recording feels like as perfect a time as ever to share this corker with the world.
The opening five songs are unrelenting in energy and bombast…as solid a barrage of introductory rock and roll the duo would ever seem to muster. A curveball of a groove in “The Big Three Killed My Baby” unfurls at the 1:46 point and gives the song an impressive swing to it.
Seven songs into the set and finally the band plays something off of “White Blood Cells.” I find this funny because at that point, I feel like the album was essentially “out there” and released in all but name. “White Blood Cells” was all anyone could talk about! But that delayed unveiling here is indicative of what I consider an extra-sensorily perfect pacing and song selection this evening.
Just barely audible here is Miss Guy (Guy Furrow) from the Toilet Boys jumping on stage unannounced (and uninvited) to proffer intermittent backing vocals on “You’re Pretty Good Looking.” If It wasn’t explicitly called out here…would anyone have noticed or even known about these fleeting couple of seconds during the glory days of George W. Bush’s first term? Almost certainly not. And that is EXACTLY why I mention it.
Later I dig how “St. James Infirmary” crashes into the set with a heavily-accented guitar intro, only to morph into a subdued electric piano variation on the theme.
The entire evening is charmingly ended with “Look Me Over Closely” and while you can’t tell here…another fan crashed the stage to dance to the song and it took all of the band’s collective strength to not make eye contact through the curiously interpretive movements.
Confused or not, the love New York City showed the White Stripes at this point was clearly returned in the form of as solid a performance from 2001 that a fan could ever hope for, not dulled or diminished at all in the intervening two decades.
This week we’ve got four new shows from Snarky Puppy streaming in the nugs.net app. This month’s releases feature 2018 and 2019 performances from The Boulder Theater; The Belly Up; Bitef Art Cafe in Belgrade, Serbia; and O2 Apollo in Manchester, United Kingdom. Alongside the new shows, we talked to Snarky Puppy’s live sound engineer and stage manager, Matthew Recchia, and Assistant Tour Manager, Felicity Hall. Read the full interview below and then check out their favorite tracks from the new shows streaming now in the nugs.net app!
nugs.net: Being a sound engineer for a band as large as Snarky Puppy is no easy task. Was there a big learning curve working with a band of upwards of 19 members, all of whom have varying solos in an improvisational setting?
MR: Absolutely! The first few tours I joined with the band were filled with endless learning experiences. More often than not in the early days, it was deciding how to fit 40+ channels onto 32-channel consoles while keeping the band happy in the process! That, and learning to use whatever equipment and microphones were on hand to the best of my ability. This was before we carried a microphone package and had to rely heavily on the venue’s stock of gear.
nugs.net: Snarky Puppy tours extensively through many varying rooms across the world which of course adds challenges to your job. What venue stands out as a favorite space to mix a live Snarky Puppy show in & why?
MR: I have been fortunate to see some incredible venues through touring with this band. Picking a favorite seems impossible! If I have to pick one- I’m always happy to see the SFJazz Center in San Francisco on our touring schedule. They have a fantastic crew to work with, a well-treated room with excellent acoustics and plenty of PA, and because we usually play multiple nights- only one load in!
nugs.net: What four words describe life on the road with Snarky Puppy?
MR: Bandwiches, Horns, Espresso, Doors
nugs.net: Being involved in the logistics with a 19+ piece band sounds similar to maintaining a circus. How have you been able to maintain organization with such a large team?
FH: I’ve joined the Snarky crew relatively recently, and I’ve been amazed at how smoothly the whole thing runs. The crew know their individual roles inside out, and the logistics of touring are made much easier when you’ve got such a dedicated and knowledgeable crew. Because the band have been together for so long, everybody is pretty responsible when it comes to being where they need to be and when. Since I’ve started touring I’ve also developed a deeply personal relationship with spreadsheets. Lots of them. Allll the time.
nugs.net: Snarky Puppy tours extensively throughout the world. What challenges do you face while touring through various countries, languages & cultures?
FH: Every culture has its own unique problems and difficulties, and some things which one person considers completely normal are a totally alien concept to others. Learning how to understand different cultures when you’re only in a country for a day or two is a skill that comes with time, and each show you do in another country you learn a bit more about that country and have slightly more of an idea what to expect the next time. But of course, there’s always something that happens everywhere you go that throws a curveball into the works!
nugs.net: What four words describe life on the road with Snarky Puppy?
Over the past year, jam bands have been resilient, finding new and creative ways to reach fans craving the music they love. Now, live music is roaring back and the fans are excitedly returning to their favorite venues for summer concerts. We’re continuing our ‘No Bummer Summer’ series this week with five of our favorite summer concerts that will have you ready to return to the lot and catch your favorite jam bands.
A homecoming show makes for a great performance from any band, but it’s not often you get to see a band play a hometown site as scenic as Umphrey’s McGee’s 2019 performance at Chicago’s Lakefront Green. It was a special show, played right next to Lake Michigan during the height of a beautiful Chicago summer. The band took time throughout the show to interact with fans and share memories of living in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The show kicks off with the band’s debut performance of “Punchable Face”. The ode’s to Chicago are present throughout the show through its end with a Chicago themed performance of “Gulf Stream ” to close out the encore.
Speaking of Chicago, nothing says summer quite like an outing to the windy city’s Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. This performance from Dead & Company is among their best. It’s loose, fun, and played to a packed crowd in one of the most beautiful outdoor venues in America. It gets off to a great start early with Bob Weir leading the band through a version of “Sugar Magnolia ” with a mesmerizing guitar solo from John Mayer. The first set continues with hits including “High Time” (first performed by Dead & Company earlier in the summer), “Friend of the Devil,” and “Mama Tried.” The second set features some incredible jams during “Sugar Magnolia” and a remarkable performance of “Franklin’s Tower” led by John Mayer. The hot summer night show ends with fantastic encore versions of “Ripple” and “One More Saturday Night.”
Goose’s 2019 performance is fast approaching mythical status. A perfect festival concert that propelled the Connecticut jammers to jam-band stardom. There’s a reason the world has Goose fever, and it’s all present in this tight 8-song set. Goose staples like “Madhauvan,” “Time To Flee,” and “Arcadia,” are joined by Grateful Dead’s “Mississippi Half Step” and Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is.” Pay attention during “Wysteria Lane” for some Magic School Bus teases too. The show is closed out with style during the fan-favorite anthem “Hot Tea.” It’s a 90-minute primer to all things Goose and it’s the perfect soundtrack as we get ready for Peach Festival 2021 in just a few short weeks.
This 2018 performance is Widespread Panic at their most Widespread Panic, in the best way possible. Playing at Trondossa, their home music festival in South Carolina, the boys put together the ultimate performance for new fans and old heads alike. From the opening “Porch Song” to the closing “Conrad The Caterpillar,” this one is heaters start to finish. As the first set comes to a close, the band is joined by none other than Sturgill Simpson on guitar for J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High” and The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Give this show a listen and get back in that Panic spirit because the band is back together in two weeks for the first time since March 2020!
Bisco Inferno’s 2021 return was a thrilling experience. The Disco Biscuits’ famous yearly performances at Red Rocks were extra special this year and the band came ready to play to the mystified audience. The weekend’s finale performance was filled with rare tracks that are sure to blow the minds of Biscuits fans. The show includes only the band’s 11th ever cover of Guns N’ Roses “November Rain,” which features a tease of Genesis’ “That’s All.” Adding to the list of rare covers, The Disco Biscuits covered Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider” for the first time in over five years to close out the final set. This show was a clear indication, it’s going to be a No Bummer Summer indeed.