I took a nap before the show that night and almost slept through it. I set an alarm but that didn’t matter. I eventually got hot and remembered I was still in my jeans and then quickly realized it was for a reason. I left my house at 8:45pm and drove as fast as safety would allow to the Crystal Ballroom. Thankfully it didn’t take long to get there and I found street parking close to the venue. I would normally walk but time was critical.
Getting into the Crystal Ballroom was much quicker this time around. This time the line didn’t wrap around the block, it barely made it out of the lobby. Still one at a time through the metal detector but this time just way fewer people than when seeing Yonder Mountain String Band in January. The line should have been an indication, the place wasn’t very busy. It was close to show time and I had no problem getting a prime spot in front of the stage. Even as the show started there was plenty of room to move around. You couldn’t go wild but certainly there was enough room to groove.
A really good set list even if I thought it was short one. I missed the opening act so that is certainly one reason I wished KDTU played longer. Good mix of some old songs and new stuff from Gnomes and Badgers. Such good funk, soul and groove. The band members really jell well together.
It seemed as soon as the set started it was over. The penultimate song I’m Your Biggest Fan led into what would be the final song of the show. As the groove got going on the segue it started to sound familiar. Very quickly I realized it was Jessica by the Allman Brothers Band. Nailed it! They played that song so well and gave it a great KDTU twist with all the horns and fat grooves. For Boogaloos we got a dance show as well.
It was such a high energy show that night. Karl ended the show with a small speech about the times we live in. He said something that stuck with me and I have repeated to many people already. It’s not important to be right but correct. We need to talk to each other in a civil way. When we do that we can solve any challenges we face.
While not as long a set as I would have liked it was an amazing night of music. I walked out of there and had such energy from the set. My soul felt better as well. It was filled with love and confident we could come together and make peace. The power of music really amazes me.
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe Friday, February 21st 2020 Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR
Not sure how I found out about this show but I was kinda excited. It had been many many years since I saw Yonder Mountain String Band. In fact it has been 17 years since I last saw them at the State Theatre. When I saw the co-headline with The Infamous Stringdusters I was definitely going. I invited Jenny along since this is some good jamgrass and I thought she would get a kick out of the show.
The show was at Crystal Ballroom and Jenny and I decided to meet at the venue. Show time was 8pm so we figured on arriving by 7:30pm would be good. That should have given us enough time to get through security and find a spot. Well us and hundreds of others apparently decided that was also a good idea.
Security getting in to Crystal Ballroom has always been ridiculous. Its single file so when a lot of people crush the door they are not able to handle the influx. By the time Jenny and I found the end of the line it was already stretching 2/3 the way around the block. I am sure people made it in but if this line continued many would miss Yonder Mountain opening the night. Eventually someone comes walking up from behind and says they are opening a back entry into the venue. This was the entrance to Lola’s Room that they opened for us. It was a made dash to the new entrance but a controlled one.
Within a few minutes we got into the venue and walked up the back stairs to the top floor. It was just before 8pm and the place was already smashed with people. It was hot and muggy. Not sure how many people where still outside but within a few minutes of us arriving Yonder Mountain took the stage with no fan fair. Almost didn’t know what was going on till they busted out Sideshow Blues as the first song. What also threw me off was the band members. It had been so many years I didn’t recognize anyone. Seeing five members on stage was weird to me and it didn’t click.
It was a good show that night but honestly it was a little to packed for my tastes. We couldn’t make our way into the crowd so got stuck near the back where all the foot traffic was. The music however was pretty good. A few fast songs, some covers. It was really cool hearing Brown-Eyed Women. With it being Portland they also played Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown which I thought was very appropriate. Before we knew it the set was over and the stage cleared. The went just like they came, quickly and silently.
After the set we milled around for a while and re-positioned ourselves. We got a spot further back in the middle of the floor but it honestly wasn’t much better. We had a little space but long before the Stringduster set things really started to fill in again. My whole purpose for coming was to see Yonder Mountain. With the place filling up, no room to dance, Jenny not able to see, it was hot, and just because we wanted to, we headed out.
Getting in was crazy and I should have expected that. After not seeing them for 17 years things have certainly changed but it was still a good show. I have kept up loosely with the band through Jam_On but seeing them live was a totally different experience. A good and ruckus crowd that night which helped add to the show. But it also make for a packed venue with little room to dance or even breath at times. While we ended the night early it was still great seeing Yonder Mountain again after years and years.
Yonder Mountain String Band Friday, January 17th 2019 Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR
Set starts at 8:16pm
Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown
Left Me in a Hole
Chasing My Tail
All the Time
Brown Eyed Women
All Aboard Set over at 9:33pm
Co-headline with The Infamous Stringdusters. Yonder played first this night. No encore.
So Jam_On was my first exposure to Kamasi Washington. Great jazz saxophone player with a good sense of melody and rhythm. He plays tributes to the greats that have come before him by taking what they started and changing it just a bit. He understands where jazz came from and works to make it accessible to everyone.
Never seen him before but I was super excited for the show. Heard only a few of his songs and never a full album. They are expensive as shit on vinyl so I haven’t dropped the coin to make the investment yet. The reviews that I read have all been good. One of his albums, The Epic, has been called a masterpiece and I think won several jazz albums of the year awards. Anyway the jazz community is a buzz over Kamasi and I was ready to see what it was all about.
There was an opening act and their name escapes me. It was a four piece all woman band and they where really good musicians. They knew their instruments but I just couldn’t get into the music. Definitely this soft rock and folk kinda vibe going on. Very slow and melodic. The lead singer would explain each song before they performed it. Lots of powerfully meaning in the lyrics but the music was just so slow. Only at the very end during band introductions did each member really get a chance to strut their stuff. All very talented but not my type of music.
The crowd was definitely feeling the love that night after the opening act and we couldn’t wait for Kamasi to take the stage. After a delayed start things finally got rolling. The first song is there “hit.” Well it was what I recognized from being played on Jam_On regularly. I was glad to hear it and also glad to get that out of the way.
The whole show that night was amazing. After that initial song I didn’t recognize anything else. It was all new to me and being played for the first time. I really went into this show with an open mind and I was not disappointed. Kamasi and his band put on one hell of a performance that night.
The energy and vibe was just great. Kamasi would do some interludes and tell a story or explain the songs, all very informative. Lots of his stuff had a social meaning, a sense of community, that feeling that we can do better when we just love each other. In our currently political environment it was refreshing to hear it. The crowd was absolutely picking up what he was throwing down.
He also told this story about one of his songs, the name escapes me, which I think illustrates his overall story very well. He is a new jazz great but feeds off the work of those that have come before him. He pays tribute to them by incorporating the work they have already done with his playing. It could be a different interpretation of a previous artists’ work. Somehow take that which has already been done and rework it to make it new. The legacy of the old jazz greats live on within Kamasi. He is not trying to supplant them but merely pay tribute to all those that came before him.
The show was only 1.5 hours long and I am sure he touched only a small number of the songs they perform. The performance that night was amazing. Can’t stress this enough, this was a really good show and I can’t wait to see him again when he comes to town. He is a very talented musician who has a great view of the world. He wants to share that vision with as many people as he can and I respect that.