Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hot August Music Festival Recap including Dr. Dog, Nickel Creek and Old Crow Medicine Show

Hot August Music Festival, just celebrated it's 22nd year of music at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, MD. on August 16, 2014.  With three stages, the family-friendly event will included three stages of live music and performance artists including Old Crow Medicine Show, Dr. Dog and Nickle Creek.

Photo by Jeff Coon

Recap by contributors: Marye Isaacs & Jeff Coon

The Solicitors

The Solicitors - Photo by Marye Isaacs
The Solicitors started off the festival, playing the PayPal Stage welcoming fans to Hot August Music Festival with their gritty, rock and roll based songs combined with some fiddle for instant country cred. The lead singer, Jim Hickey, had a growly but melodic voice - I could see him fronting almost any style of band.  The crowd was calm, since it was early, but they got livelier and more appreciative getting to know The Solicitors.  Some were excited to hear "Incommunicado", which has been played on WTMD (89.7 Towson, MD) lately, while others seemed to feed off their surprising energy.  Their general vibe is kind of intense/angry and reminded me a teeny bit of certain Dave Matthews Band songs and a teeny bit of the Charlie Daniels Band - obviously the fiddle makes a big impression! (M.I.)
Jim Hickey - The Solictors - photo by Jeff Coon

The Jordan August Band

Jordan August - Photo by Jeff Coon
Local favorite, and co-founder of the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival, Jordan August took the stage early and was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of fans. His mix of folk and blues and some progressive licks gave them a truly enjoyable set. The band is full of deep talent and they broke into a groove that even moved the passing crowd at the entrance, which was located right behind the Professional Vision Stage. They put on a set that flowed together so well, that it almost felt like they could use a 4hr set just to jam - and the crowd would be right there with them every moment. The Jordan August Band can often be caught locally in Baltimore at The 8x10, and are so worth the time to swing in. (J.C.)


Bosley is a full old fashioned deliberately campy big band, with the guys in suits and fedoras and the backup girls in little black dresses, but a few sneakers and baseball caps thrown in. Their sound matches their look; I'd call the whole thing "rat pack slacker." They do the whole choreographed swaying and gyrating thing which is fun to watch. Their lead singer is super energetic even when sitting down to let loose on the keyboard. He & the backup girls definitely steal the show while the rest of the band plays it cool, but everyone grooves in their own way - no one is "checked out." I've seen them play at parties and fundraisers before and can see why they're such a "go-to" crowd pleasing choice.(M.I.)

Bosley - Photo by Marye Isaacs


ELM (The Electric Love Machine) is a local Baltimore band that more people need to know about. Listening to E.L.M. is like listening to Phish - if Phish was younger, groovier, edgier, and worked harder for their fans. Their official bio states that “ELM (Electric Love Machine) is a Baltimore based quartet that combines Electronica, Dance, Rock, Soul, and Funk into an incomparable, high energy live music experience.” This band was the perfect fit for the PayPal Stage. the stage is tucked away next to a pavilion with a decent sized grassy area in front of the stage. Halfway into their set, the area was packed and a serious groove descended on the crowd. There wasn’t a whole lot of shouting, but there was a whole lot of moving. The set was so thoroughly enjoyable, that there was a tangible sense of sadness as the band packed up. ELM’s Facebook page used to state that they would do anything to make the crowd happy. The did so, and did it well. (J.C.)

Ursula Ricks

Ursula Ricks - Photo by Jeff Coon
Ursula Ricks said she was inspired by her mother to sing the blues. That sounds awful when you first hear it, but as she told the story you realized her mother inspired her love of the the style at a young age and encouraged her constantly. Ursula is a wonderful storyteller and brought the styles of funk, soul, and blues together in a harmonious sound that, despite its roots, wasn't at all melancholy; and that is the mark of a true bluesman.. or blueswoman. Ursula’s voice is deep and sultry, and her performance has shades of James Brown laced through it. She grew up in Baltimore and has been performing since 1964. That kind of seasoning and experience is the only thing that can give you show this good. (J.C.)


Katie Toupin- Photo by Jeff Coon
Matt Myers - Photo by Jeff Coon
Houndmouth gave a great throwback Appalachian rock show. After seeing them live I'd call it gospel-rock-road-trip music. You can tell they're all friends on and off stage - they smile and laugh at each other a lot while they play (they even made a joke about trying to fill a 90-minute set with only one record)! They opened with a Mavis Staples cover "Can You Get To That" and they made it their own - a bit twangier, heavier and more rocking version with a great guitar solo. They sing their hard-luck country lyrics about poverty and oppression with smiles on their faces, but it still feels genuine - they have the musical chops to make it seem authentic. Their enthusiasm during their live show is somewhat surprising - the studio versions feel more serious and somber. Some of their songs have an almost churchy feel, but Stevie Ray Vaughn-style electric guitar solos. They take turns on lead (all 4 of them); and the one female voice, from Katie Toupin, blends great with any/all of the male voices and is a cross between Duffy and Patsy Cline. When they played one of their hits, "Penitentiary," they sounded like some good bands tend to sound after playing a song together live a few hundred times - familiar, but with the flexibility to make it fresh. The chord progressions are predictable but very satisfying, making me wish I knew the words better so I could sing along.(M.I.)

Zak Appleby- photo by Jeff Coon

Houndmouth - Photo by Jeff Coon

Houndmouth - Photo by Jeff Coon

Dr. Dog

Scott McMicken & Bosley - Photo by Jeff Coon
Dr. Dog has a very unassuming stage presence, visually, for most of their set. They took their positions more like roadies than musicians. There were a few hiccups with Toby Leaman's bass guitar, requiring some troubleshooting by an actual roadie, during which the guys cracked some (apparently inside-) jokes about "western scale tuning." But by the time they started in earnest with "That Old Black Hole," the music took the reins and the whole tone became comfortably upbeat. Between the keyboard and the vocal harmonies, they had almost a Vampire Weekend bounce to their sound for the first few songs of their set. Bosley Brown, the wacky lead singer from Bosley joined them on stage for "Ain't It Strange," sharing a mic with Scott McMicken, and the band's reaction seemed only superficially welcoming - it's possible this was his favorite song of theirs and finagled his way into singing along for it. His hyperactive jumping and dancing was a stark contrast to the mostly stationary, reflective style of the Dr. Dog team.
Toby Leaman - photo by Jeff Coon

Eric Slick - Photo by Jeff Coon
The Dr. Dog repertoire is definitely diverse.  They positively wailed with bona fide rocker angst on "The Beach," got the whole crowd singing along with the chorus/anthem of "Broken Heart" as if it were the end of "Hey Jude," and even borrowed from the 50's/60's doo-wop style in "Truth." Their lyrics are often esoteric and hard to understand, but they sometimes include some vividly sad/stark imagery, as in "Shadow People" which is about Philadelphia (the band's hometown). One strange component of the show was the sound effects - was that what an omnichord sounds like? - which basically inject the spaces in between songs with spooky, spacey vibrato-humming noises. This seems like a deliberately modern direction the band has been taking in the past few years, away from their garage roots, though it doesn't always neatly "fit" with the music (at least not in a live show). In general though, Dr. Dog serves up a lot of feel good music - up tempo, major chords, lyrics that are mostly cheerful or at least not overtly depressing. They're not a copy of anyone in particular but reminiscent of many talented and prolific bands. Judging by the number of exuberant fans in the audience for this tempered mid-afternoon set, they won't run out of buyers for their albums or concert tickets anytime soon.(M.I.)

Frank McElroy & Zack Miller - Photo by Jeff Coon

Dimitri Manos - photo by Jeff Coon

Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds

Arleigh Kincheloe of Sister Sparrow - Photo by Jeff Coon
It’s the end of the afternoon, and many festival-goers are tired and badly in need of a boost before heading back to the main stage for the final headliner. Enter Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds.
This group brought some serious movement and excitement to the crowd as they squeezed their seven members (drums, bass, guitar, sax, trumpet, harmonica, and lead vocal) onto the PayPal stage and proceeded to bring the funk. They have a great big sound, and it’s a group effort led by Arleigh Kincheloe’s soulful belting. The lineup put these guys up against superstars Nickel Creek, but the crowd was definitely not composed entirely of die-hard Sister Sparrow fans – it was obvious several new listeners were getting drawn into the grooves as the lawn in front of the stage became a spirited dance floor. Arleigh’s brother Jackson Kincheloe plays the perfect bluesy harmonica dude with his long hair and aviators, and he backs up his look with some real talent. The expressive guitar player and classically-cool horn section got their turns at solos and did not disappoint, while the bass and drums provided the driving beat and steady background vocals to support the more melodic freestyling of the rest of the band. Their stage presence could be described as “euphoric,” and they seem to dance along with their own music because they just can’t help it – and neither can the fans. (M.I.)

Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds  - Photo by Marye Isaacs

Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek  - Photo by Jeff Coon
Its been 25 years since Nickel Creek formed. Their first gig was in a pizza place in Carlsbad California. Oh how times have changed. From his perch on the main stage, Chris Thile instantly remarked at how beautiful the venue was and how they couldn’t believe the size of the crowd. It was a sold out show and nearly 3 quarters of those in attendance were there, spread all the way up the ski slope that faced the stage. There was no rust in their performance, it was almost as if they never stopped playing together, and there was a playful chemistry between Chris Thile and Sara Watkins. That said, the performance was everything I wanted it to be. They spanned their entire career, reaching all the way back to 2003 with "The Smoothie song", and including their latest tracks like "Hayloft" from their latest album Destination. Even with their side projects, like Thile’s other band The Punch Brothers, there is a feeling of “home” when they perform that thrilled everyone there. Nickel Creek is more than some musicians, it’s a sound and a feeling, and it was a treat that the whole crowd enjoyed all the way through the encore. (J.C.)

Tab Benoit

Tab Benoit - Photo by Jeff Coon
Tab Benoit arrived with little fanfare with very few people. His bassman Corey Duplechin, his drummer Eric Bolivar and a couple hands, and taxidermied alligator head. The area in front of the Professional Vision Stage was absolutely packed. There was no room to move, and when the Cajun bluesman mounted the stage, the crowd erupted. He stopped, raised his sunglasses and said “So you heard of me? Make sure you tell your friends what I do” and launched into a set that thrilled the crowd and spanned his 27 year, 18 album career. With the first song out of the way, he asked the crowd for suggestions and played an 90minute all request set. “I hate lists, I hate’em. I just want to play music, so you shout stuff out and I’ll play it.” What followed was enthralling and deeply heartfelt performing. Tab Benoit is the real deal. Many in the crowd remarked that he was on the wrong stage, meaning he wasn’t playing the main stage. I would say that he was absolutely right for that stage and that venue. While he could absolutely play the main stage and sweep a huge crowd off their feet, he looked as if he was at home and doing exactly what he loved, where he loved. (J.C.)

Old Crow Medicine Show

Old Crow Medicine Show is a show band. You can tell that they prep for every town they play in. During the set you begin to feel like part of a big weird family with all of your wierdest cousins goofing around for the family at a reunion 7,000 people strong. There really isn’t a better way to describe it.  Old Crow Medicine Show is a group of musicians as at home busking on a corner in New York City as they are in a massive amphitheater. Along the way, they put their prep to good use, only missing one Baltimore cliche, “Hon”,  in their banter. They did however have “Mr. Boh”, the mascot from National Bohemian on stage dancing at one point. Best described as raucous fun, the show was nothing short of awesome. The band told stories and jokes, played bluegrass and newgrass and something that may have been Indie Rock. They even played a new track from Bob Dylan, called "Sweet Amarillo". the story goes that “Old Bob out there in California” was so thrilled that "Wagon Wheel" had done so well, that he sent the band another track to finish. Now Old Crow has co-written 2 songs with Dylan, without ever meeting him. Not bad gentleman. Not bad at all. Old Crow Medicine Show was definitely right for this festival. We can only hope they come back again - because that was just too much fun. It was the perfect end to a wonderful festival. (J.C.)

Old Crow Medicine Show - Photo by Jeff Coon

Recently, in an interview with the Decatur Review from Illinois, Martin McCormack of the band Switchback said “More than any other time, because we have the ability to get lost online, the need for people to come together in one space and share music is absolutely vital.” That’s the truth here really, that we need time away from devices and the solitude of our headsets. We are social creatures, and music festivals still bring us together. There is no doubt that we’re the better for it. So, many thanks are owed to the performers for their hard work and the moments they shared with us. An equal amount goes to the founders and organizers as well. The Hot August Music Festival was a sold out show and, frankly, we were lucky to be there. It was the kind of festival other festivals want to be.

about the authors: 
Marye Isaacs is a long time super-fan of all things music - especially live shows, which she has a hard time passing up even for bands she's never heard of before. Her early childhood was filled with classic rock thanks to WDVE in Pittsburgh and her two older brothers. She's lived in Baltimore for 10 years but will always be a Pittsburgher at heart. She appreciates a lot of modern music and has an ironic admiration for the hipster scene (with the exception of handlebar mustaches). 

Jeff Coon’s interest in music goes a lot deeper than the music. Growing up, he was left alone to develop his own tastes and was never discouraged from being varied is his listening. In Upstate NY he listened to every part of the dial(AM to FM) and occasionally dragged out a shortwave radio - growing his love for all forms of music. His day job as a designer/graphic artist/photographer gives him, what to some is, a slightly skewed view of the music scene. It’s not just about the music, it’s about the entire experience and connection between everyone, band member, roadie, or  fan.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tutlie: Glitter no more - Interview with the six-piece buzz-band ready to rock n roll

Tutlie is a Philly buzz-worthy band that has been catching attention all year.  From performances at Communion , a WXPN Key Session, Philly Caravan, and the City Rain album release show; many people are left wondering where this hot band came from.  Before seeing them tonight at Bourbon and Branch and a few exciting unannounced shows coming up, it's time to learn about this exciting group. 

Who is Tutlie? Based on a quick view of bio’s, Tutlie was “Formed by Jessie Radlow in 2010 while attending college in West Chester, Pennsylvania, the band has seen many lineup shifts on the path to refining the vision Radlow first set forth.”

Tutlie personnel:
Jessie Radlow - keys & vocals, Rebecca Way - vocals & guitar
Greg Diehl - bass guitar, Greg O'Neill - electric guitar
Mark Cruttenden - drums, Asher Brooks - multi-instrumentalist/producer

Root Down In The Shadow sat down with Tutlie to get the details on this refining vision and to see who Tutlie really is?

Root Down In The Shadow: Speaking to fans, in years past, there was a flower-child vibe.  Descriptions of the band included: “We are Tutlie and we want to fill your world with glittery music.” Does this description still apply/What do you see as the identity of the band?

Jessie Radlow: “No, no Glitter. We’ve had lots of band member changes since then. I was not happy with that direction. Before it was all show, lacking density, and really got carried away. Really, I didn’t want to be that fairy band, fuck that I’m a rock n roller. I’m so glad that it moved in a drastic direction, for the better.”

Root Down: You’re self-classified as “Indie, Baroque Pop” What does that mean to you?
Radlow: Those terms have been used before for bands like Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, and others. It really describes the level of artistry to the arrangement. You can’t have a full orchestra on stage, but can fill it with guitar arrangements, pedals, and samples, hoping to speak the album in a different way when we’re live.

Root Down: In 2012 you had an ambitious crowd-sourcing plan for Young Cries ( Did it fund?
Radlow: It did, but just a portion. It was not an all or nothing form of crowd-sourcing, but at the same time it was fortunate that it didn’t go as planned. When it didn’t fund completely, it forced us to re-think our process. Originally it was a three song EP, but when we re-organized we re-focused on the whole album since we had to start over either way.

Young Cries is available free through the end of August on Bandcamp. For the first time, the album is available on vinyl and available at their live shows!!!

Root Down: Hush Up EP (released in June ‘13) includes two songs not on the album; Where does this fit in with the re-shuffle of the band line-up and putting out Young Cries.
Asher Brooks: Hush UP EP was put out as a bridge to the album. We needed something for the fans since the album wasn’t ready to come out right away.

Root Down: The lineup has been influx for a while, but is stable now.
“The band now features the extraordinary vocal talent of Rebecca Way who, along with Radlow, provide an original and intoxicating backbone to the band. Joined by the additional talents of Greg Diehl on bass guitar, Greg O'Neill on electric guitar, Mark Cruttenden on drums, and multi-instrumentalist/producer Asher Brooks.”
Brooks: for about 2 years there was a revolving door, but since Rebecca & Greg O. joined, the lineup has been locked in with the core.

Root Down: Songs prior were from Jessie’s head. How are they created now?
Radlow: Typically they go to Asher from my head/bedroom. But now there is more room for collaboration
Brooks: In the beginning there was a lot of tension and tough decisions in the studio.
Rebecca Way: Now we have the foundation, we know the rules, and we’re comfortable.
Radlow: “Grass Isn’t Growing” is one of in the works with full band collaboration, and “Kaito” was a song to let go, to trust on.  There was a lot I had to trust, and I was reluctant, but I love how the songs were becoming grandiose one of those songs. It starts off with a new percussive element. We have been re-arranging the record since Jan, while working on the album as new material.
Way: It’s cool that J trusts us with her little babies, her brain-child. Everyone is getting better at communication for creating the re-work. We’re excited the next album is already

Root Down: Where do you see this leading to?
Way: Superstardom
Radlow/Brooks: Tour

Root Down: Tutlie is 6 people vs. Jessie Radlow + 5. How do side projects & solo beginnings influence or limit Tutlie.
Mark Cruttenden: We’re just doing it, close to like a flow-state. We’re not thinking about the influences, but no way that you can shed it. I used to play drums in a punk band, there’s no way to un-do that.
Radlow: When practicing and recording, we have to ponder: Is that crazy, is that beautiful, is that Tutlie

Root Down: The sound is intense and full-spectrum.  How is it to perform live?
Cruttenden: So much fun,
Way: So invigorating?
Cruttenden: It has been a challenge to meet the album. As a band, we can't play it if we haven’t translated it. We have to bring the same scope to the live show.
Way: it’s intricate”
Tutlie: We’re excited for the new song “clouds”, it’s got this off kilter beat everyone is locked in.  So tight!
Radlow: We had to stop playing for people. It's weird as I’ve always been in theater, playing to people.
Brooks: We’re better at playing for ourselves, now we’re lost in our own trip. The experience has been much more fun to play shows, but it has even been more fun to practice. Although sometimes it’s a horrible time to get the sound guy on board.

Root Down: What do you want a Tutlie fan to know/to read?
Radlow: We want to create another world, is that too much to ask?
Way: We want to bring you into our world, want the music to bring you to other places. It would be cool, if people thought we were any good

** Mike Southerton & Anthony Coppa contirbuted to this post **

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The 2014 XPoNential Music Festival Presented by Subaru AWARDS: - a festival recap

The 21st Edition of WXPN's Summer Music Festival was quite the success!  Just a little lightning Sunday night was the only scare as the entire weekend went off without a hitch. No storm, no sick artists, great crowds, happy crowds, and incredible performances.   There was so much to see, it's near impossible to recap it all.  

So, for our best attempt to hit all the high points, here are The 2014 XPoNential Music Festival Presented by Subaru  AWARDS:

Photo by Dan McGurk
Best Performance:  Hands down this was Man Man.  The Marina Stage was overrun by fans to eager to see Man Man, many of whom skipped the entire Lake Street Dive set, even cheering on the band's sound check.  Honus, Pow, Shono, and Brown Sugar put on an inspired show geared toward blowing minds.  Taking all the hits from On Oni Pond and mixing in more of their ongoing collection, the hometown Philly band had the intensity and moves of a luchador wrestler with outfits to match.  Don't confuse the intensity with gimmicks; Man Man was engaging and made connections with all the fans.  If you were not a fan before the show, there was no way they could have escaped your attention.  The fans were so frenzied they completely drowned out emcee Helen Leicht begging for an encore! 

Photo By Dan McGurk
Photo by Jeff Coon

Photo by Jeff Coon

Photo by Jeff Coon

Photo by Jeff Coon

Best Set:  J Roddy Walston & The Business.  
The set by Baltimore rockers J Roddy Walston & The Business gave seven reasons to be totally into this band.  Seven songs, all hits!  One rocker after another, these guys riled up the crowd with songs from their self-titled debut and last fall's Essential Tremors including "Don't Break The Needle", "Heavy Bells", and "Same Days".   No filler, no covers, J Roddy Walston came, rocked, and conquered.   It will be no small stretch to imagine the TLA filled with XPoNential Fest T-shirt wearing fans on November 8th, when J Roddy Walson & the Business come back to town

J Roddy Walson & The Business - photo by Dan McGurk

Best Hello Again:  Signaling how much artists like love working with WXPN, Nicole Atkins, Dave Hause, The Hold Steady, Ingrid Michaelson, The Districts, Joan Osborne, Diego Garcia, and Marah all made return trips to XPoNential Music Festival, but Dawes made a memorable 4th appearance.  Previously they played the 2010 River Stage, 2012 River Stage, and in 2013 were set for the River Stage, but set was cancelled due to storms.  Later that night, they joined My Morning Jacket at Susquehanna Bank Center Amphitheater to make the best of their trip to Camden, NJ.

For their fourth appearance Dawes had a short but sweet set which opened the 2014 SBC portion of the XPoNential Music Festival.  They played favorites "From A Window Seat", 'Time Spent In Los Angeles", "When My Time Comes", and "Most People" plus brand new song "Things Happen".

Best Goodbye:  The Districts said hello again to their WXPN family, playing their second XPoNential Festival opening for Band of Horses and Beck on Sunday .  However, at the end of the set at SBC they said goodbye to their brother of many years.  Guitarist Mark Larson played his last show with the Districts stepping away from the young band on a crazy journey.

Best opener:
Commonwealth Choir - Photo by Jeff Coon
Our Griffins - photo by Jeff Coon
Holy hell, this is a crazy one and no clear winner.  At first glance, it seemed WXPN followed a somewhat obvious model here: put the local band first, so we can check them off the list.  Yeah, but they didn't. In a lot of cases, the band that starts of the festival each day isn’t one that’s going to be remembered down the line, but what XPoNential Music Festival had was some amazing bands to start off each day.  There was no room for stragglers at this festival, as the lineups rocked from the start every stage/every day.   

On Friday, Lucius opened the River stage before an incredible evening lineup with The Hold Steady and Rodrigo y Gabriela.   Dawes and The Districts had the distinction of opening up at Susquehanna Bank Center Saturday and Sunday respectively.  Back at Wiggins Park on Saturday Our Griffins start off the marina stage and Commonwealth Choir the River stage, before a full day of great bands.  Likewise on Sunday Ginger Coyle and The Lawsuits made many people regret staying up so late the night before with their start-off spots!  All in all, there was no reason to show up late to this feast.  The lineup was solid beginning to end, leaving no spots to skip bands or find time to rest with these rousing bands kicking off each day.

Ginger Coyle - Photo by Dan McGurk

The Lawsuits - photo by Dan McGurk

Ingrid Michaelson - photo by Dan McGurk
Best Line-up:
Damn WXPN nailed it. I remember before the fest thinking: “yeah, they've got some bands I absolutely love on a local (The Districts, The Lawsuits, Our Griffins, Commonwealth Choir) and national level (J Roddy Walston & The Business, Lucius, Beck, Dawes) and bands I'm really curious about seeing (Man Man, Strand of Oaks, Ginger Coyle), but how can they compare to the incredible XPoNential '13?

Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff  - photo by Jeff Coon
WXPN did a great job of expanding my musical horizon in so many directions. Lots of bands, that I wasn't giving enough credit to, did fantastic jobs. Who knew that Rodrigo Y Gabriela were festival headlining strength, but damn, they were! (See BEST COVER below) Who knew that Ingrid Michaelson had some sass and brought a fun band with her to rock the River stage? Who knew that Lake Street Dive was cool enough to get the only encore of the Wiggins park side of the fest? Who knew Caitlin Rose was equally cute and talented? Who knew that Nicole Atkins has been channeling Stevie Nicks? Who knew Ginger Coyle would smile her way into the audience's attention and woo them with her songs? Who knew The Lawsuits would rock so hard (ok I knew that, but you get the point)

Everywhere you looked on the line-up it was a band you needed to know (Our Griffins, Lucius, Commonwealth Choir; a band you might not have caught onto before (Jeremy Messersmith, The Hold Steady, Old 97’s, The Lawsuits), legends (James Cotton, Trigger Hippy) and new hip popular artists that were doing the festival circuit (Hurray For the Riff Raff, Lake Street Dive, Band of Horses, Houndmouth, and more).  Kudos XPN!

Best Visit To My Youth:  BeckAlthough he didn't bite on my offer to hang before the set, the set was amazing.  To quote John Vettese over at the Key "He played “Derbra.” He played freaking “Debra.” Unbelievable."  Seriously, he only skipped over Mutations in his career spanning set.  He could have gone all Beck on us, and played songs from Song Reader or just songs from Morning Phase but seeing as how he hasn't been to Philly/Camden in years.  He did made up for it with a best of.  While "Debra" blew many a mind, "Beercan" was the hat tip to the serious fans taking the non-hit and making it a party anthem!

Best Beard:  We'll let you decide:
Will Chamuris of Commonwealth Choir - Photo by Dan McGurk

Brendan Cunningham of The Lawsuits - Photo by Jeff Coon

Tim Showalter - Strand of Oaks - Photo By Jeff Coon

Longest Commute:  XPoNential attendees may have been surprised to find the little treat from across the pond. London's Bear's Den took the Marina Stage in the afternoon, amongst the many local acts throughout the fest. Impressing the crowds despite the heat of the sun bearing down on us. They even played the growing crowd favorite, "Elysium," who's breathtaking video has been making it's rounds on the interwebs as of late. Bear's Den have been busy touring this year, having just been in Philly back in March for Communion Philly's Clubnight. Rumour has it that their debut album announcement may be coming up soon...  (by Carolyn Lederach)

Bear's Den

Rodrigo y Gabriela - photo by Jeff Coon
Best Cover: This is a serious toss up.  It could be either Lake Street Dive with their Hall & Oates "Rich Girl" encore or Beck taking on "Billie Jean" each getting major attention, but Friday night's headliners Rodrigo y Gabriela take the prize with some crazy covers ranging from Pink Floyd to Metallica to Radiohead.  The covers were remarkable for many reasons, the most significant was the out of character vocals by Rodrigo for Stone Temple Pilots, "Creep" and Red Hot Chili Peppers "Breaking The Girl", that really brought it home.  Not only did they go a little off-radar, but with this instrumental group actually singing a few lyrics was the cherry-on-top!

Rodrigo y Gabriela - photo by Jeff Coon

Best Family Experience \ Fan :  Lucius
XPoNential Festival, is hands down the best experience for all music fans.  From the wonderful care WXPN takes for it's members with the free drinks, meet & greets, and $5 youth tickets; it's a great way to bring a child to the show for just a bit without crushing the budget.  This year I took my daughter to see one of her favorites, the gorgeous Lucius.  

She loved every minute of the set.  She loved getting in line to meet them.  She loves listening to the LP and and treasures the experience! - Photo by Rachel Barrish

Photo by Patti Wyatt
1. Genevieve (Lucius EP)
2. Tempest
3. Nothing Ordinary
4. Go Home
5. Don't Just Sit There
6. How Loud Your Heart Gets
7. Wildewoman
8. Turn It Around


Best Family Experience \ Band : Marah.
Photo by Jeff Coon
The Marina Stage set by Marah was unexpected on so many levels.  First the band broke every rule of bluegrass.  The went electric, they looked like rock n rollers who picked up the wrong instruments, and they rocked so very hard.

Every where you looked or listened, there was a great divergence from what "they were supposed to"
sound like.   But then things got weird.  The excitement over Marah was eclipsed by two young brothers named Gus & Huck.  They were cute, yes, that's true.  But they both had some serious skills they brought to the stage.  These junior masters did an incredible job on stage, undaunted by the crowd.  Check out a quick video by site contributor Jeff Coon of Marah.

Marah - Photo by Jeff Coon

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hot August Music Festival - Founder Interview & Artist Preview

"The stages are set for this year’s Hot August Music Festival (formerly Hot August Blues & Roots Festival) scheduled for Saturday, August 16, 2014 at the picturesque Oregon Ridge Park. The family-friendly event will include three stages of live music and performance artists; an array of local artisans and crafters; food and beverage vendors; plus activities for the kids.

Now in its 22nd year, the Hot August Music Festival continues to benefit Common Ground On the Hill, a non- profit organization committed to the unifying power of music, as well as the Baltimore Blues Society, a 501(c)3  corporation dedicated to preserving blues music in our region."

To get ready for the fest, Root Down In The Shadow sat down with Event Founder and Producer Brad Selko to find out how it all started.

Root Down In The Shadow: How did Hot August Music Festival get its start? 
Brad Selko: While I was doing a benefit in downtown Baltimore it was suggested that I do a picnic at my farm, perhaps with Charlie Musselwhite.  And soon enough we had an event with Charlie and Brett Wilson, with a little stage and a little awning.  It was a great time; we even sold 300-400 tickets.   

Root Down: The festival used to be Hot August Blues & Roots.  When did Hot August loose the "Blues"?  
Brad: It started out, "Blues" at my farm 20 some years ago and it's slowly evolved, losing  "Blues" from the title 3 years ago.   Having the best blues is still a priority.  Tab Benoit will headline the 2nd stage.  That will never go away.   
But, in recent years we had Dickey Betts, North Mississippi Allstars, J. Roddy Walston & The Business.  We turned the wheel hard & ended up with this year's lineup.  We are now Americana, Funk, Bluegrass, & Alt-Country.  There's something for everyone! 

This year, we've had more positive feedback than ever about the lineup vs the other 21 years.  It can be so hard to get it booked, but I'm very happy with how it turned out.  

Root Down: Wow, 22nd year of Hot August Music Festival. What makes it so exciting to want to do this year after year?   
Brad: It's just a little addicting.  It's producing something and seeing the accomplishments, being able to share the experience with a friend.   Little things, like looking forward to dropping a friend and his wife in front of the stage for Chris Thile and Nickel Creek.  That makes me feel good!

Root Down: Festival popularity in general is through the roof in the last few years. What factors have allowed you to add a second stage in '10, and now a third stage?
Brad: First, It's my great Hot August family, some people have been working the festival for 20 years.  Nearly 200 volunteers - It's amazing.  During the festival, for me, there's no walkie-talkie, just his phone, trust everyone to do their job

Second, it's the location.  There's a one-minute walk from stage to stage.  The multiple stages allow longer sets for everyone.  All the sets on the main stage are 90 minutes to 2 hours.  Fans should be able to see most of everyone, with the 3 stages.  Expect a grand finale with Old Crow Medicine Show and a mix of other band members.

Root Down: Hot August Music Festival happens to fall on the same weekend year after year with the longest continuously running folk fest in the country (Philadelphia Folk Fest on year 53 for '14), yet you draw killer Philly bands such as Dr. Dog (this year) and Chris Kasper (2012). Is it hard to get Philly bands, or is it a bonus like Newport Folk Festival/XPoNential Festival/Floyd Fest all being on the same weekend.
Brad:  Actually, I never even thought of it.   We're just outside the radius to be a factor for each other.  We're like-minded, but each is unique enough to get enough of our own bands.  My sort-of focus group does a great job of suggesting bands, like Turkuaz and Sister Sparrow.  

Root Down:  Other festivals are expanding to 2 weekends (Coachella), more days, and official pre-shows (Newport Folk Festival), yet Hot August Music Festival is consistently and happily one day? Do you find it less chaotic without the camping and/or exhausted fans?  
Brad: Yes!  Really, I love the site.  It's less than two hours from Philly and DC, but 10 minutes from my house, here at Oregon Ridge Park.  The park is not conducive to camping, but that's really ok.  One day, in and out, and done.  

Interested in Hot August Music Festival?  Let's seal the deal by going through some ARTISTS TO WATCH!


Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog is renowned for their energetic and exciting live shows. But don’t confuse the word “energy” with physicality – these guys aren’t going to dance around the stage or break their instruments, but their vigor is unmistakable as it pours from their music through your ears and into your brain. Now a 6-piece outfit, they’ve been touring all over the U.S. in 2014, gracing grateful fans with lively and expressive renditions of tracks from their latest album, B-Room, along with fan favorites from the several albums they’ve released in their 15+ years. Dr. Dog’s members delight live crowds by mixing it up and playing different instruments for different songs, like when lead singer Scott McMicken (who shares the “lead” title with bassist Toby Leaman) hops from guitar to bass to organ, or when the keyboardist (Zach Miller) takes a turn on the slide guitar while guitarist (Frank McElroy) fills in on keyboard. Rumor has it the drummer (Eric Slick) has been known to do guitar solos. Three of the guys, including “multi-instrumentalist” Dmitri Manos, even play something called an “Omnichord.” These are musicians with too much talent to confine themselves to categories, and their audiences reap the rewards – the fun they’re having on stage is contagious, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a live show review that says otherwise. - Marye Isaacs

Dr. Dog will also be playing the Lawn of Mann in Philadelphia on September 13. 

Dr. Dog - "That Old Black Hole"

Nickel Creek is something special. Not many bands can take a 7 year hiatus and come out swinging like they did. 25 years ago, they formed as a bluegrass trio - Siblings Sara and Sean Watkins, and close family friend, Chris Thile. For 18 years they played together with little outlet or even side projects. They had played with acts like Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, and The Chieftains, and on A Prairie Home Companion (Which fiddle player Sara Watkins hosted - the only other person aside from Garrison Keillor to do so). They even won a Grammy for their 4th album, Sides. Yet they had no diversity, even though they were billed as a progressive bluegrass band. In April 2014 they released Dotted Line. This sixth album clearly shows that no matter how good an act is, they can grow and comeback with something great. Dotted Line is a great album. It includes a lot of original work, like “Destination” and “21st of May”, and brings the long missing diversity to the forefront with a cover of Mother Mother’s “Hayloft”. Look forward to hearing a very cohesive set at the festival, with rich three part harmonies, tons of energy, and varied sounds that will give absolutely everyone in the crowd something to smile about and deeply enjoy. - Jeff Coon

Nickel Creek - Destination

Nickel Creek - Hay Loft  (Mother Mother)

The eight-piece soul-funk super-troop Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds have been wowing crowds with their fiery, groovy live shows. Based in NYC, with Arleigh Kincheloe (Glamour magazine described her as what you get when you “cross Amy Winehouse and Tina Turner with Mick Jagger”) leads a pack of seven musicians that includes the expected guitar, bass, drums, and harmonica – not to mention a 5-man horn section – none of which can drown out Arleigh’s impressive and powerful vocals. The bad released the EP Fight last October and have been touring in support of it ever since, building a passionate grass-roots fan base. Their sound pulls the best elements from blues, rock, gospel, funk and soul, mixes it all together and comes up with a pleasantly dirty but polished product that invariably turns their live shows into crazy dance parties. - Marye Isaacs

Don't Be Jealous (Live) - Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds

Tab Benoit is a Cajun with the blues - and he’s taking you with him into his world. One does not simply listen to Tab Benoit. When he fires up his gravelly world-worn voice and beat up Fender Telecaster, you experience every lyric with him. Rarely does a modern bluesman carry forward the true sensibilities that formed the genre. Like most true bluesmen, it never seems to be about the crowds or lime light; it is about the form and feeling of the music. His voice and simple style carry you off to another place. Your problems don’t seem so bad, things slow down, and suddenly you realize things are what they are, and we all just carry on. It’s that shared catharsis that brings his cult like fan base together. While he’s not as well-known as some of his contemporaries, he is the sound and of the bayou. Probably most well known of his work is “Shelter Me”, which is the theme for Discovery Channel’s “Sons of Guns”; however he has a discography worthy of any large label artist. Tab has 18 albums - all of which he penned himself. Better still, he connects with every crowd. At some shows he’s been known to stop and talk with the crowd like they’re his friends, tell stories and make them laugh. “A sense of humor is about the best thing you can have” he says. Tab Benoit is about to bring the true essence of Louisiana style blues to Oregon Ridge. - Jeff Coon

Tab Benoit - Shelter Me

Tab Benoit - Louisiana Style

Houndmouth is a folk-rock-gospel-country quartet from outside Louisville, Kentucky. Heavily inspired and shaped by the late-60s (their self-proclaimed major influence is The Band) and drawing on old-fashioned folk music and classic country sounds, they might remind you of Alabama Shakes, Cowboy Junkies, or the Lumineers. They recently played a show with another Hot August lineup star, Dr. Dog, and impressed the crowd with their “ragged charm.” All four members contribute to vocals, allowing them to produce lush harmonies on top of their memorable guitar riffs and a generally gritty, backwoods blues sound.  - Marye Isaacs

Houndmouth - Penitentiary

Roots. Americana. Bluegrass. New-grass. Folk. Alt Country. All of these terms have been used to describe Old Crow Medicine Show. They are in fact all of these. OCMS is a band that grew up busking on street corners and developed a truly individual style that crosses genres, yet manages to embrace them all. Their big break came in Boone, NC. when they were playing on the very corner that Doc Watson used to play in the 50’s. Watson’s daughter heard them playing and brought Doc to hear them. Once they were finished, he was quoted as saying “Boys, that was some of the most authentic old-time music I've heard in a long while. You almost got me crying." He asked them to play at the 2000 MerleFest music festival and they have been ascending since then. Among their many influences was Bob Dylan, and in 9th grade, Critter Fuqua came back from a trip to London with a bootlegged rough outtake from Dylan, called “Rock me Mama”, which he passed on to Ketch Secor. They worked it through and have been playing "Wagon Wheel" since they were 17. Critter noted in an interview that, technically, Dylan is listed as co-writer, but they've never met him. Amazingly the band was able to get the track to go gold without any radio airplay and it has now gone platinum since being covered by Darius Rucker. Their songs are infectious, their style is authentic to them, and they cut their teeth on live performances. This deeply multi-dimensional group is the Hot August Music Festival’s headliners - with good reason. - Jeff Coon

Old Crow Medicine Show will also be playing Philadelphia Folk Festival in Schwenksville, PA on August 15th! 

Old Crow Medicine Show -Wagon Wheel

Old Crow Medicine Show - Down Home Girl


Carpooling strongly encouraged and parking passes will be required for all vehicles parking at Oregon Ridge. A limited number of spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis and may be purchased at the website. Otherwise, a complimentary shuttle service to and from the Timonium Light Rail stop will be provided. 

No food, cans, bottles or coolers are permitted. For a complete list of guidelines and restrictions, including nearby accommodations, visit

General admission and VIP** tickets are on sale now at Kids under 12 get in free. Re-admittance not permitted.

**VIP tickets are only available in advance (none sold day of show) and include: One parking pass, VIP wrist band, special entrance to the tented VIP area, complimentary soda/water/beer/wine, two meal tickets, a designated Main Stage viewing area, VIP only rest rooms, and a festival poster. Group pricing available by contacting 1-877-321-3378.

Our Griffins #CoverClub version of Strand of Oaks "Last To Swim" included in Wake The Deaf Vol12