(Clockwise from top: Jeremy, Molly, Dustin, Ken)Their new album, Ice Cream Spiritual, sees the band adding to its high-energy approach with new sounds and multiple-movement song structures. The four members passed the phone as I spoke to them while they travelled to New York for a concert. An excerpt of that discussion after the jump. -Dave, host of WYEP Afterhours: Monday WYEP: You all met at the Maryland Institute - was music at all part of your education or was it a hobby in addition to what you were studying? Dustin (guitar): Well the class we took together - we knew that it was going to be a band thing - we were going to get formed into a band. But we didn't know who was going to be in which band. Of course, we love music. We all listen to music and we're all big fans of music. WYEP: So Ponytail actually came out of a class you signed up for? Dustin: Yeah. WYEP: Wow. What was the syllabus like? Dustin: The syllabus? I can't really remember it from the top of my head, but it was you form a band and you work on one art project. That's pretty much what the whole class was. Every week the professor would show a film. He showed Gimme Shelter, The Piano Teacher. [Asking the others] What were some of the...what were some of the - Unidentified Ponytail Member: -Nashville Dustin: -Nashville was another one. Just like stuff that really kind of...you get a vibe of what music is about. WYEP: That sounds like a really interesting experience. Dustin: Yeah it was really great. WYEP: How many kids were in the class? Dustin: There were probably thirty-five kids. WYEP: Were you randomly assigned or did you play pieces and audition and then the professor put you together? Dustin: Oh no no, there was no audition. It was just the professor pointing at each...he'd be like 'You're a hot girl, and you're a hot girl...' WYEP: [Laughs] Dustin: 'You're a band!' WYEP: It was a first day, just pairing people up and sending them on their way? Dustin: Well the first week he didn't form the bands, he Just kind of explained what the class was about and he let us out early. And then the second week - it's really funny actually - we were all sitting in a circle. It was a large classroom and each student was kind of in the circle and the professor was direct in the middle, [turning] 360s and observing the students. And then he would pick people out. WYEP: So I guess it was in part based on your social interaction and what he saw happening. Dustin: Yeah. He would kind of feel out each person's vibe and then put them together. WYEP: That's a really cool idea. Dustin: I think it's just fun to be in his spot, you know? I'd love to do that. WYEP: Did you start playing shows right out of that class or was it a long time before you got to that point? Dustin: No no, we practiced once a week until the end of the semester which was where all the bands would come together. We had a big party - it was called Parapalooza - and all the bands would play the songs they'd written in the course of the semester. It's just a good time, and we were just practicing up to that point and it was really fun. We wanted to continue. WYEP: What was the initial reaction for Ponytail in Baltimore? Was it intimidating coming through [art crew/performance space] Wham City? Dustin: I was really nervous when we played our first shows, but there wasn't any sort of pressure, I don't think. Everybody was really supportive and we love being supported. WYEP: Were there certain bands that were really helpful as far as when you were starting out and playing your first shows? Dustin: Yeah, yeah. Double Dagger, whose a band from Baltimore invited us to play a show. Dan Deacon has been super helpful. It's great. --- WYEP: How was it starting out in Baltimore? Molly (vocals): Everybody is extremely supportive of each other and really wanted something to happen. And it did. WYEP: How has your family reacted to Ponytail so far? Molly: My family's really into it actually. My family is so so supportive. My sister actually is super into it. She made me a scrap book of all our early reviews. WYEP: That's awesome. Molly: It's really sweet. Even my grandparents came to our show in Phoenix. My grandpa's ninety now. WYEP: Wow... Molly: Yeah! [laughs] WYEP: That's effort. Molly: Yeah - it's pretty amazing. So I'm really lucky. WYEP: Your vocals are not usually word sounds, and you have song titles that are sometimes made up of punctuation. Do you think there's a benefit to be a little harder to understand? Molly: I think we're interested in that - in not being able to fully understand. I don't know if we fully understand, really. [laughs] WYEP: Do your songs change much show to show because of that? Molly: The feeling of doing it, from show to show, changes a lot. The songs themselves have been pretty stagnant, staying the same. But of course they change slightly - I guess I improv some every time. WYEP: Do you consider your music rebellious compared to what else is out there and what you grew up listening to? Molly; There's an element of rebellion, I think. We're reacting to what we're surrounded by and what we grew up with. We're all a little rebellious. Also, at this point, we just really want to make something we're interested in more than just something different. It's not all rebellion, but it is an element. WYEP: How aware of you of Pop culture? Is what's happening in the rest of the world ever a direct source of inspiration for song writing? Molly: Definitely. I think we've been referencing elements of Pop culture since we began. With the Beatles drum line at the beginning of the song - [asking others] which song is it again? It's - Unidentified Ponytail Member: - "Dear God" [Ponytail song "Dear God Plz Make My 2Eyes N2 One"] Molly: "Dear God." Beginning of...no no no, beginning of which Beatles song? Unidentified Ponytail Member: Oh, oh. "The End." [The Abbey Road song] Molly: Yeah! "The End." The beginning of "The End." That was the beginning of the end! [laughs] I think we're definitely interested in referencing Pop culture. We've always been aware of what we might sound like or what we might be taking from and we're sort of excited about that. You can only go so far with it, but we're excited about that. --- WYEP: Ken, you were recently part of a Stereogum feature called Quit Your Day Job. You talked about how you're currently a security guard at the Maryland Institute. Have there been moments where you had to commit to the band, where you realized 'This is definitely what I want to do, I'm going to turn down this other job' or 'I'm going to turn down this grad school opportunity'? Ken (guitar): This week I worked my last shift, I think, as a security guard for that job because we're going to be away for so long. WYEP: Congratulations! Ken: Oh thanks. It's the easiest Job. Ever. It was great for - it was easy to pick up shifts and stuff but it just didn't pay very well. It was good to have that kind of Job, but I don't know if I want to do it during the school year. As far as turning down opportunities, I think you fantasize about stuff - going places and doing things. But the reality of the situation is that we've gotten so many opportunities by doing the band that it's been more like seizing opportunities than missing out on opportunities. Getting to travel and meet lots of people and play great shows - just being humbled by opportunities like recording. People listening to our records is an awesome opportunity in itself. WYEP: You guys definitely do play great shows. It's a really interactive show - I don't think I've seen too many shows where the audience moves as much, if not more, than the band. Are there things that you guys try to create live that make that kind of connection? Ken: The air around a show is always different, and it's unpredictable, but there's always an opportunity for it to get really fun. When it's fun, we feel like we're channeling something, to be honest. I don't know how that sounds, but when I'm playing I just close my eyes and stick my tongue out and play. [laughs] It seems like in some places, kids have definitely been bringing the mosh and kicking up some dust. It's cool. I feel like it comes with the territory of what we play and we're excited so it's a compliment when the audience is excited to. WYEP: It's really rare to have songs that are as high energy and as complex as your songs are, so I don't know if people even know how to react to that. Ken: [laughs] Thanks! We stayed at a house last night. Our friend, his dad [owner of the house], is an audiophile and has a really good sound system. We were like 'Let's listen to one of our songs on it' and we listened to it and afterwards I was like 'That was intense!' So I know how you feel. WYEP: When you recorded Ice Cream Spiritual, was there a lot of overdubbing or was it mostly live, all four in a room? Ken: Mostly live. There were overdubs; they were mainly to add flavors in with panning. There's a few things we probably could have done live, but we wanted to make some spaces and panning and stuff. I don't know if I want to say almost all of it, but every song was recorded live and there were overdubs added on. We met with J. [Robbins, producer] before we recorded and talked a lot, setting up the room in a way that we could really do it live. I think it sounds pretty live. WYEP: It definitely does. Speaking of J., how were you approached to do the Callum benefit? Ken: We got an email about it recently. It was unanimous that we wanted to do it. We love J. and working with him was incredible. It was the least we could do. WYEP: It's been really cool to see people react in such a direct way. Even people who aren't associated with the concerts, who aren't playing on the bills are still linking to the website and still saying 'This is really important, this kid deserves a chance and if you can do anything, try to help out.' Ken: After meeting J...he's Just one of the humblest and hardest working people I've ever met. I think just the person that he is - we all owe J. Robbins. If you ever met him, he's a great guy. --- WYEP: What do you think makes a live show good? When do you know it's been a good concert? Jeremy (drums): I love it when the crowd is having a really good time - it definitely reflects and bounces back to us. But usually, we can kind of create our own space on stage, or if we're on the floor, on the floor. If the connection is good between us, it's usually a good show for me. WYEP: Between the four of you? Jeremy: Yeah, between the four of us. I always feel really good, even if there's three people a show and they don't like us - which luckily hasn't happened - if we all feel good about the way we played. WYEP: When do you know when a song is done, as far as song writing goes? Jeremy: Usually what happens is it takes a while just in practice to flesh out all the ideas and get a basic structure together. And then, once it feels pretty good, we'll kind of play it, try it out live. That's usually a really good indicator if it's working. Actually last night, we tried out something during sound-check that Just felt wayyy off, but felt really good when we were writing it. WYEP: This is probably my last question, and definitely my most important. You guys have had really great spots as far as an opening band for Hella, and Battles, and Don Caballero and High Places. Would you rather open for GWAR or Fleetwood Mac? Jeremy: GWAR or Fleetwood Mac? Oh Fleetwood Mac, for sure! WYEP: What do the other three think? Jeremy: [Poses the question to the other three] Fleetwood Mac. Unanimous. WYEP: Completely unanimous? Jeremy: Yeah. We're huge Fleetwood Mac fans. www.myspace.com/jreamteam
As the sun was setting over Burgettstown, John Mayer and his seven-piece band (including sax and trumpet) entered the dark pavilion stage to perform a two-hour show.
The fans at the John Mayer concerts seem to be getting younger. Or, maybe, I’m just getting older. The young ladies in the crowd were screaming loudly how much they loved John - I’m sure I will regain my hearing soon. We have family in town from CT, and my 17-year-old nephew (who will be seeing John in his home state of CT) seemed impressed that I not only knew who John Mayer was, but that I was attending my 3rd John Mayer concert. Maybe old Aunt Barb is more hip than he originally thought.
The fans seemed to know every word of every song that John sang. I just hope they are getting the message too. John’s lyrics are quite sophisticated for someone who will be turning 31 in October. In the 2 years since I’ve last seen John live, he has matured as a performer, but there’s still some polishing left to do. The pregnant pauses in between songs could be a bit shorter. Yes I realize they’re changing guitars and setting up for the next song, but it breaks up the “Continuum” of the show. In 2007, John was named one of the “New Guitar Gods” and nicknamed “Slowhand, Jr.”, and he showed why he deserved that honor during his 16-song set. Nice additions to the band were sax and trumpet players. The lighting on stage was also very effective.
One of the songs I was hoping to hear was “Free Fallin”, which John sang and gave credit to Mr. Tom Petty (do the young fans even know who Tom Petty is?). I was also thrilled to hear the new release “Say”, which really comes to life live. Another highlight was “Stitched Up”. It was a very nice touch for John to sign someone's program before leaving the stage, prior to the encore.
During the show, John did not talk to the audience much, but he made up for it during the encore. The Grammy Award winner shared insights about the final three songs. On John’s website, the fans are invited to “pick the encore” song they would like John to sing. The top vote getter for Burgettstown was “Man On the Side” (for the record, I voted for “Stop This Train”). At first, it seemed that John didn’t remember how the song went (noting it was the 2nd song he wrote) and then proceeded to tell a story about meeting a girl in the Berklee College of Music cafeteria in Boston and how she stood him up.
Check out the set list here. http://www.johnmayer.com/tour/show/454
Perfect August weather, made it an even more perfect night for the music of John Mayer live.
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
Sometimes you discover a song in the most unlikeliest of places – a figure skating exhibition.
Such was the case for me when I heard “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”. It was a #1 hit in the UK for Baz Luhrmann in 1999. Yes, you could cast a vote for it as one of WYEP’s Top 100 Songs of the 90s.
This lyric has quite a history. The Sunscreen Speech goes back to a 1997 column in a Chicago newspaper. A commencement address that never took place, but perhaps should have. The essay actually called "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young" was written by Mary Schmich and was popularized in music by Baz Luhrmann. Mr. Luhrmann added the opening words to the song: "Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '99".
The song just recently re-entered the UK Singles Chart.
Lines like this continue to hold true today:
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.
Do one thing everyday that scares you.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.
But trust me on the sunscreen.
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
The Edwin McCain Acoustic Trio is comprised of: Edwin McCain (vocals, guitar) and long time band members Larry Chaney (lead guitar) and Craig Shields (keys, sax).
Greenville, South Carolina’s Edwin McCain came to Greensburg to play his blend of folk, rock and soul for a small, but enthusiastic crowd. In the intimate theater setting, for 90-minutes Mr. McCain told stories and even played some requests. After years with long hair, the 38-year old has cut his hair, donating the locks to charity.
Edwin shined vocally when he held the long notes, which the audience graciously acknowledged each time with applause. With 10 albums to his credit, Edwin ironically could not remember all the lyrics to “Write Me A Song”. Edwin is a wonderful story teller, often adding humor to the history behind a lyric.
It was a relatively laid-back and mellow show, for this artist who made his independent recording debut back in 1991. Edwin of course sang a few of his more memorable hits like “I Could Not Ask For More” and “I’ll Be”. Highlights also included “Gramercy Park Hotel”, “Ghosts of Jackson Square”, “White Crosses”, “Let It Slide” and a very touching song he wrote about being adopted and never having the chance to meet his birth mother “Letter to My Mother”.
For the encore, Edwin did the tune “Let Them In” (Prayer to St. Peter) which was a WW II era poem that John Gorka set to music.
Pittsburgh singer-songwriter Christopher Laughrey opened the show with a 40 minute set of original and Irish tunes.
P.S. Apparently Edwin had a good time in Greensburg - his comments can be found under the On The Bus section of his website (http://www.edwin.com/onthebus.html)Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host
Good Night, States represents all the best qualities of Pittsburgh. They are innovative but humble, intelligent and hardworking, ambitious and independent. And also like the city of Pittsburgh, the rest of the world has yet to recognize all that they to offer. Recently though, with their debut album Short Films on Self-Control and a string of local shows, they’ve been making the turn from underground secret to source of local pride.
(left to right: Trevor, Megan, Steve, Dan and Joe)
Their music rings in your head for days after listening; it is aggressively melodic and includes influences of Glam, Americana, Rock and Pop. Even the melancholy songs somehow manage to shine.
The band certainly shown bright while opening this past WYEP Summer Music Festival in Schenley Park. I recently broke bread with the local contingent (Singer/Guitarist Steve Gretz and Guitarist Joe Tanner live in New Jersey) and discussed their Internet Singles Series, the reception of their work as a “Pittsburgh” band, and plans for the near future that may or may not include an accordion.
-Dave, host of WYEP Afterhours: Monday
WYEP: Megan said this is your “study hall.” What do you guys usually do during study hall? It seems like a fun idea.
Megan: [laughs] When it’s going well, we’re all working on our various spheres of influence. Trevor is our web guy, and Dan books and I do press and PR. The idea is that we forget to do things unless we keep each other accountable. Every Wednesday night, we do it together.
WYEP: Speaking of the website – the inspiration obviously came from a keyboard, but was there a light bulb moment where you figured it out?
Trevor: That was kind of the keyboard that was the centerpiece for Short Films on Self Control, so we were trying to brainstorm ideas on what the website would look like –
Megan: - I drew it out in the middle of our – I do a lot of doodling when I’m supposed to be paying attention – I doodled it out in a musical staff in one of our books. But then I think we didn’t remember for a long time, and then all of a sudden Tim [who helped set up the website] was like ‘We can do that! I can wing it!’
WYEP: I think it works, and it’s totally in keeping with the sound of the band too.
Dan: It’s where the sound’s coming from.
WYEP: And it’s also where the sound’s going with the Internet Singles Series. What was the idea behind that?
Dan: We were brainstorming about anything we could do that was slightly different than what we had done before. The regular 'creating of a crowd out of nothing' by booking shows in a town where you don’t know anybody, and you don’t know bands, and you don’t know venues, and making a record and trying to sell it at that place – just a grassroots thing – hasn’t seemed to be our way yet. And maybe it will some day, but it seemed like we were in need of newer music because Short Films was released only this January [ed. note - official release date: December 11, 2007), and we recorded it last March, meaning that we were recording it throughout . It’s new music to the public but it’s very old to us. You always have to have the ball rolling, so we wanted to figure out a way to make new music but at the same time not have to do the standard ‘Let’s save up some money, let’s go to a studio. It’s going to take probably nine or twelve months before this is released.’
Trevor: In addition to all that, in all our talking about the band, we wanted music to be the primary thing, not image or not –
Megan: - Or merch! [laughs]
Trevor: We aren’t very good at marketing ourselves, image-wise, so I really think that the music is the primary thing that people will latch onto. So we are trying to build a listenership through the website – to use that as a vehicle to get music to people.
WYEP: You guys do have a really high quantity and quality of electronic interaction with your audience through weblogs, photo albums, Internet Singles Series, Youtube videos. Do you think that’s what you kind of have to do now as a band, or did you grow up knowing you wanted to know more about bands and you saw these things as really good resources [for your fans]?
Trevor: I think the thing that people really grab onto is when they feel they can be a part of something, and that was one of the goals of having a blog-style website and lots of things for people to interact with.
Megan: I guess the more you can know about people you don’t actually know, the more interesting they are. In that sense, I think we are all nerds to the extent that we pore over the websites of bands that we really like.
WYEP: You’ve played out of town – do you get a reaction from other bands when they hear you’re from Pittsburgh?
Trevor: I would say it depends where you are. In Philadelphia, we definitely got the strongest negative reaction – not from bands but from people at the show.
Dan: I think it’s just sentiment. It’s ‘Philly vs. Pittsburgh’ and I think that’s all it is.
Trevor: Yeah, and everyone assumes we’re like huge Steelers fans. That’s the universal thing, I’d say.
Dan: I think at least on the blogs Megan has gotten us written up in recently, people have exclaimed, if [the blogger is] from Pittsburgh, ‘I can’t believe this band is from Pittsburgh!’ And if the [the blogger is] not from Pittsburgh, they’re saying ‘I can’t believe this band is from Pittsburgh!’ So, good no matter which way you slice it. I think people are usually more intrigued by the New Jersey-Pittsburgh difference – ‘Why is it like that? How do you pull it off? You guys are crazy!’ I think that usually illicits some sort of reaction.
Steve was the impetus for moving out [to New Jersey], but all along he’s always chosen to say that we’re from Pittsburgh, and I don’t really know why. To make it seem like we’re not this crazy two-headed beast I guess, telling people we’re from fourteen different locations? And it sounds weird but in the long run of being in a band, the more I realize that lots of other bands don’t live in the same city. Lots of them.
WYEP: The Walkmen, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah –
Dan: - Yeah, Matt Pond PA live all over the East Coast. And of course, insanely huge bands on insanely huge record labels certainly don’t need to all be in the same city. The Damnwells, at one point, were all in Brooklyn and the one guy moved out to L.A. and they continued to be a band. I guess if you find a way to do it you find a way to do it.
WYEP: Going back to what you were saying about the reaction people have – both from Pittsburgh and not Pittsburgh – of being amazed that you guys are from Pittsburgh, do you think it’s a nurturing town for young bands?
Dan: Whew, that’s a question we’ve always wrestled with. I certainly have a ton of people who say to me: ‘You need to be in Austin’ or Nashville or L.A. or New York City. We always ask ourselves that question and we all ask other people we think have an opinion about that, but really, nobody has a good answer.
Trevor: We’ve fallen in with a fairly nurturing bunch of people, in the past year and a half or so.
Trevor: The circle of bands we run in right now is pretty supportive of each other. Even beyond bands, there’s a group of people that sort of surround those bands that is very supportive. It’s very good to be around each other.
WYEP: What are those bands for you? Lohio –
Trevor: Lohio, Briar Fox, Cindy [Howes], Blindsider -
Megan: - Triggers.
Trevor: Yeah. I think there’s a bunch of us that have sort of been around for five years or so, and we sort of know each other.
Megan: I think having a home base is kind of important, but even because [Steve and Joe] live in New Jersey, we have kind of a home base and a half. Steve grew up there – that’s why he’s there now – and he’ll pull from all his family and friends. We can have a sort of small, guaranteed crowd there, and a slightly larger crowd here. I think we’re just hoping that at some point, it will all just congeal.
Trevor: It’s been really interesting to try to transition over from a “friend” fan base to a “people who just like music” fan base. I would say that – and I don’t mean this as any kind of slight to our friends – our friends aren’t the music-lover types. They come out to see us because they’re friends with us.
WYEP: Because you’re you.
Trevor: Yeah, and trying to build the music-lover fan base is a long process.
WYEP: Do you think there’s anything that would make the city better for younger bands?
Trevor: I think the venues, I would say –
Megan: - A mid-sized venue.
Trevor: - Yeah, it’s weird. Club Café is a pretty good size for us.
Megan: It’s hard because if you’re a little larger than the Brillobox but you can’t pack Mr. Small’s, what do you do? I feel like there are enough incredible old buildings around town that surely someone wants sweep in and renovate something and make a mid-sized room.
WYEP: You recently played two shows at Club Café – you played an acoustic set and an electric set and you played an acoustic set opening for Men Women and Children. Obviously that’s a different experience for the listener. Does knowing you have those acoustic sets to play change how you write or prepare songs at all?
Megan: It’s a lot of preparation.
Trevor: I don’t know if we always end up changing parts - sometimes we do – but it definitely takes a lot of effort for us. I don’t just play acoustic bass and Dan plays with brushes and everyone else plays acoustic guitar. We definitely add some – I would say - interesting instruments into it. Like Megan playing accordion this time around; Megan had some synths onstage at the Club Café stage. I’ve played two-octave synth bass for acoustic shows before - quiet, not acoustic. The “Quiet” Show. That’s what it is.
Dan: The alternative set.
Trevor: Right, and I think that since we’re only together on the weekends, there’s a lot of effort that goes into the arrangement and rehearsal. We know the electric songs cold, so we don’t have to rehearse those as much. The effort that goes into acoustic shows is significantly larger.
Dan: We need to stop!
Megan: Yeah, they’re hard.
WYEP: Did you play accordion growing up?
Megan: No… [laughs]
WYEP: I was hoping there were pictures of you –
Megan: Oh that’d be awesome! There’s a photo of me, probably three or four years old with pigtails playing my dad’s trumpet. I’ll have to see if my parents have it.
The accordion was fun for that show, but one song in particular was not well suited to it. But it’s really fun to experiment with different instruments. From things that Steve has said, I think we may be pulling more instruments and more sounds into future songs, into either the next album or an EP or something.
WYEP: Are you working on a second album?
Dan: The plan, at this moment, is we’re taking two months off from the Internet Singles Series releases.
WYEP: Did you record those songs yourselves?
Dan: Yes, Steve engineered them all.
WYEP: Did you play those songs out before you recorded them? Or is the recording process also the songwriting and arranging process?
Dan: They’re being written as they’re being released. We didn’t start any of those songs until the one before it was finished.
Trevor: I find, in general, for my own personal “band” life, it’s so much more helpful to have a recorded version of the song because it just solidifies everything. You’re not goofing around playing different stuff during a live set. You know what you’re playing and it’s much easier to settle into that than try to figure out whether you like this part or don’t like this part.
Megan: I kind of forgot that other bands do it the other way – that they fit into their songs as they’re playing live and then record them.
Trevor: I think that lends itself to a different type of album though. Songs that are written that way are less coherent as a whole. Songs that gelled in a live situation could tend to be more disparate across an album.
But, going back, we’re taking two months off and then in October, November, December we’re releasing internet singles again and then in 2009 we’ll be writing a new album.
WYEP: I look forward to hearing that, and I look forward to seeing you guys at Third Thursday in October. Do you guys have anything up your sleeves? Any pyro? Go-go dancers?
Megan: I hope so… [laughs]
Trevor: I think that was supposed to be a secret. [Dan and Megan laugh]
WYEP: Oh did I blow your cover?
Trevor: We’ll have to come up with a bigger and better idea.
Dan: Dancers holding the pyrotechnics?!?!!
Acts from Jamaica, the UK and the USA made a tour stop in a steamy shed in Philly. A reggae legend, up-and-coming British singer-songwriter and long time American favorite singer-songwriter combined for a night of great music in the City of Brotherly Love.
Toots & the Maytals hold the current record of number one hit songs in Jamaica, with a total of 31. They took the stage promptly at 7 pm. A 4-piece band with 2-female back-up singers, including Toots’ daughter. Frederick “Toots” Hibbert was dressed in a black and white leather outfit. They played about 35 minutes. Lights behind the stage illuminated the group at first in red, yellow and green and throughout the performance they changed colors. Toots encouraged those in the crowd, still filing into the venue, to participate on almost every song. At 63, you can tell Toots still loves performing reggae music from his home island and was pleased that Sheryl Crow invited them on tour. The energetic set included: “Take Me Home Country Roads” (yes the John Denver song) and “54-46 That’s My Number”.
James Blunt’s 4-piece band looked very Beatles-esque in black suits, white shirts and skinny ties. Even their hair needed to be trimmed. I’ve only seen James Blunt a few times on TV, in videos and on DVD. I expected a mild mannered singer-songwriter who would share his songs in a simple intimate manner. Instead, James came running out, wearing a grey suit with a short-sleeved white shirt underneath, guitar in hand, doing an up-tempo number. The 11 song set was high energy for almost 60-minutes. Touring seems to have helped build-up his confidence. James, at 34, has passion for his music. His face revealing a lot of emotion. Going on before the headliner you sometimes have to win the crowd over. James did that and more. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, during one song he actually ran into the audience to almost the top of the venue and came bounding back to the stage. Of course James did his biggest hit “You’re Beautiful”, with only 2 studio albums to date, he made the most of his catalog of music. At the end of his set, James, along with his band, were on stage facing the crowd which was on their feet applauding. With a camera in hand, James asked us to wave our arms in the air, and took photos of us, perhaps a way for him to remember the evening. That endeared me even more to this English singer-songwriter. While not as well known here across the pond, a few people probably discovered him this evening. I hope we will be hearing and seeing more of James Blunt in the future.
It was actually hard for me to imagine that Sheryl Crow could continue the energy James Blunt created from the stage. Sheryl has a tight, well rehearsed 6-piece band and 2-female back-up singers. She also has a lot of hits to draw from and many years of experience to draw upon. The 46 year-old was dressed in blue jeans with an orange and green trimmed sleeveless cowboy shirt, and cowboy boots. The humidity in the air didn’t seem to bother her, she still looked fresh throughout the 1-1/2 hours on stage. Sheryl weaved her numerous hits with politics, personal reflections / beliefs and even the Summer Olympics while videos and lights were helping to create the different moods. You can visit Sheryl’s tour diary on her website for a set list (http://www.sherylcrow.com/tour/tourdiary.aspx). In general, the song selections favored her latest release “Detours”. From which I think the stand out was “Gasoline”. For the encore, Toots came out to join Sheryl on the Stevie Wonder song “Higher Ground”.
All in all a hot evening of music with three great performances!
Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host