MOUNT TAM JAM PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE
Danny Click & The Hell Yeahs! 12:10 - 12:50 PM
Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue 1:20 - 2:10 PM
Taj Mahal Trio 2:40 - 3:30 PM
CAKE 4:00 - 5:15 PM
Galactic 5:45 - 7:00 PM
All times are approximate and subject to change. Enjoy the show!
It's incredible that GALACTIC has never made a carnival album yet, but now it's here.
To make CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS, the members of GALACTIC (Ben Ellman, harps and horns; Robert Mercurio, bass; Stanton Moore, drums and percussion; Jeff Raines, guitar; Rich Vogel, keyboards) draw on the skills, stamina, and funk they deploy in the all-night party of their annual Lundi Gras show that goes till sunrise and leads sleeplessly into Mardi Gras day.
GALACTIC was formed eighteen years ago in New Orleans, and they cut their teeth playing the biggest party in America: Mardi Gras, when the town shuts down entirely to celebrate. CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS is beyond a party record. It's a carnival record that evokes the electric atmosphere of a whole city - make that, whole cities - vibrating together all on the same day, from New Orleans all down the hemisphere to the mighty megacarnivals of Brazil. Armed with a slew of carnival-ready guests-- including Cyril and Ivan Neville, Mystikal, Mannie Fresh, Moyseis Marques, Casa Samba, the KIPP Renaissance High School Marching Band, and Al "Carnival Time" Johnson (who remakes his all-time hit)--GALACTIC whisks the listener around the neighborhoods to feel the Mardi Gras moment in all its variety of flavors.
CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS begins on a spiritual note, the way Mardi Gras does in the black community of New Orleans. On that morning, the most exciting experience you can have is to be present when the small groups of black men called Mardi Gras Indians perform their sacred street theater. Nobody embodies the spiritual side of Mardi Gras better than the Indians, whose tambourines and chants provide the fundament of New Orleans carnival music. These "gangs," as they call them, organize around and protect the figure of their chief. The album's keynote singer, BIG CHIEF JUAN PARDO, is, says Robert Mercurio, "one of the younger Chiefs out there, and he's become one of the best voices of the new Chiefs. Pardo grew up listening to the singing of the older generation of Big Chiefs, points out Ben Ellman, and "he's got a little Monk [Boudreaux], a little Bo Dollis, he's neither uptown nor downtown."On "Karate," says Ellman, the band was aiming to "capture the power" of one of the fundamental musical experiences of Mardi Gras: "a marching band passing by you." The 40-piece KIPP Renaissance High School Marching Band's director arranged up GALACTIC's demo, then the band rehearsed it until they had it all memorized. The kids poured their hearts into a solid performance, and, says Mercurio, "I think they were surprised" to hear how good they sounded on the playback.
Musical energy is everywhere at carnival time. "You hear the marching bands go by," says Mercurio, moving us through a Mardi Gras day, "and then you hear a lot of hiphop." There hasn't been a Mardi Gras for twenty years that hasn't had a banging track by beatmaker / rapper MANNIE FRESH sounding wherever you go. "You can't talk about New Orleans hiphop without talking about MANNIE FRESH," says Ellman. His beats have powered literally tens of millions of records, and he and GALACTIC have been talking for years about doing something together. On "Move Fast," he's together with multiplatinum gravel-voiced rapper MYSTIKAL, who is, says Ellman, "somebody we've wanted to collaborate with forever. It was a coup for us."
Out in the streets of New Orleans, you might well hear a funky kind of samba, reaching southward toward the other end of the hemispheric carnival zone. There has for the last twenty-five years been a smoking Brazilian drum troupe in town: CASA SAMBA, formed at Mardi Gras in 1986. They're old friends of GALACTIC's from their early days at Frenchmen Street's Café Brasil, and the two groups joined forces for a new version of Carlinhos Brown's "Magalenha," previously a hit for Sérgio Mendes.
But the Brazilian influence on CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS goes beyond one song. "When we started this album, we all immersed ourselves in Brazilian music and let it get into our souls," says Mercurio. The group contributed three Brazilian-flavored instrumentals, including "JuLou," which riffs on an old Brazilian tune, though the name refers to the brass-funk Krewe of Julu, the "walking krewe" that Galactic members participate in on Mardi Gras morning. After creating the hard-driving track that became "O Côco da Galinha," they decided it would be right for MOYSÉIS MÁRQUEZ, from the São Paulo underground samba scene, who collaborated with them and composed the lyric.
If you were GALACTIC and you were making a carnival album, wouldn't you want to play "Carnival Time," the irrepressibly happy 1960 perennial from the legendary Cosimo Matassa studio? Nobody in New Orleans doesn't know this song. The remake features a new performance in the unmistakable voice of the original singer, AL "CARNIVAL TIME" JOHNSON, who's still active around town more than fifty years after he first gained Mardi Gras immortality.
The closing instrumental, "Ash Wednesday Sunrise," evokes the edginess of the post-party feeling. The group writes, "There is the tension you feel on that morning -- one of being worn out from all of the festivities and one of elation that you made it through another year."
But, as New Orleanians know, there's always another carnival to look forward to, and GALACTIC will be there, playing till dawn and then going to breakfast before parading.
GALACTIC is a collaborative band with a unique format. It's a stable quintet that plays together with high musicianship. They've been together so long they're telepathic.
But though the band hasn't had a lead singer for years, neither is it purely an instrumental group. GALACTIC is part of a diverse community of musicians, and in their own studio, with Mercurio and Ellman producing, they have the luxury of experimenting. So on their albums, they do something that's unusual in rock but not so controversial an idea in, say, hiphop: they create something that's a little like a revue, a virtual show featuring different vocalists (mostly from New Orleans) and instrumental soloists each taking their turn on stage in the GALACTIC sound universe.
Mostly the band creates new material in collaboration with its many guests, though they occasionally rework a classic. Despite the appearance of various platinum names on GALACTIC albums, they especially like to work with artists who are still underground. If you listen to CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS together with the two previous studio albums (YA-KA-MAY and FROM THE CORNER TO THE BLOCK), you'll hear the most complete cross-section of what's happening in contemporary New Orleans anywhere - all of it tight and radio-ready.
Despite the electronics and studio technology, GALACTIC's albums are very much band records. Mercurio explained the GALACTIC process, which starts out with the beat: "The way we write music," he says, "we come up with a demo, or a basic track, and then we collectively decide how we're gonna finish it." The result is a hard-grooving sequence of tight beats across a range of styles that glides from one surprise to the next.
What pulls all the diverse artists on CARNIVALE ELECTRICOS together into a coherent album is that one way or another, it's all funk. GALACTIC is, always was, and always will be a funk band. Whatever genre of music anyone in New Orleans is doing, from Mardi Gras Indians to rock bands to hardcore rappers, it's all funk at the bottom, because funk is the common musical language, the lingua franca of New Orleans music. Even zydeco can be funky -- and if you don't believe it, check out "Voyage Ton Flag," the album's evocation of Cajun Mardi Gras, in which Mamou Playboy STEVE RILEY meets up with a sampled Clifton Chenier inside the GALACTIC funk machine.
Seventeen years on from their inception, CAKE is still an outsider — defiantly and proudly cutting their own path. Both their music and their way of operating in the ever-evolving marketplace are fueled by the same core principles of self-reliance, democracy, and integrity that inspired their formation. "We're using the processes that we have always used," explains lead singer and guitarist John McCrea, "but we've got different tools now. The intellectual and emotional components are consistent, but the scenario and the scale are always changing." These values, which initially set CAKE apart from the crowded California club scene and thrusted them into the national spotlight, continue to flourish, expanding outward into new directions and roles. "It goes along with maturing as a band," says multi-instrumentalist Vince DiFiore. "We keep on adding more to the job description."
Setting out from Sacramento, California in 1991, CAKE quickly graduated from packing local venues to becoming a favorite in the thriving San Francisco scene. The combination of McCrea's captivatingly unwitting amalgam of Jonathan Richman, David Byrne, and Woody Guthrie — off-kilter yet strangely relatable — with CAKE's shambolic country funk took Northern California by storm. Key to the band's sound then and now is DiFiore's trumpet playing, which makes brilliant use of a timbre rarely heard in post-modern rock.— Read More —
Motorcade of Generosity, CAKE's debut album, was initially self-released before being picked up and re-released by Capricorn Records in 1994. It featured their first radio hit, "Rock 'N' Roll Lifestyle," a wry deconstruction of rock star clichés and excesses. Their second album, 1996's Fashion Nugget, included the taut, propulsive hit "The Distance," still a radio staple and heard regularly in TV and films, along with an unconventional reworking of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." "Never There," powered by a looped dialtone sample, announced the arrival of their third album, Prolonging the Magic, in 1998. That album also cemented the band's core lineup of McCrea, DiFiore, bassist Gabe Nelson, and guitarist Xan McCurdy. From there, the band moved to Columbia records for 2001's Comfort Eagle (featuring the hit "Short Skirt/Long Jacket") and 2004's Pressure Chief (which included the popular "No Phone"). Each album built on the one prior, with increasing breadth and musical evolution, encompassing a range of styles including funk, soul, pop, jazz, rap, and country. "There is a CAKE sound," says DiFiore, "but we are careful not to repeat ourselves. We acknowledge our strengths while finding new ways to express ourselves."
Pressure Chief marked a bold step for CAKE, as it was the first album recorded by the band themselves, in their own studio. "That was when we started taking into our hands the tools of production in a very serious way," reflects McCrea. "We learned how to turn the knobs and make it sound like we want it to sound — it may not be the right way, but it's the way we wanted it. We've always self-produced, from the beginning, but this is moving even further along in that direction." Following the release of Pressure Chief, CAKE ended its relationship with Columbia Records and founded their own label, Upbeat Records. "There is something about the geometry of the relationship between artist and label that leaves the musicians at a disadvantage," McCrea explains. "It's a bit of a schlep to have your own label, but, on the other hand, it is nice to not be told what to do or when to do it."
"We never took for granted what a record company did," DiFiore adds, "but you're always sitting on pins and needles waiting for the record company to do something with your record. When you're in control of it, your destiny is in your own hands."
The first release on Upbeat was B-Sides and Rarities, which came out in 2007 and compiled over a decade's worth of rare and unreleased tracks. "It had been a long time between albums," DiFiore says, "and we wanted to offer our listeners something new. We thought about a live album, but that seemed too much like a greatest hits set — like we'd be putting a cap on our own career. So we sifted through our old tapes, looked under beds and in shoe boxes, and found a lot of songs — some people knew about, others were completely unheard."
"We took a lot of songs that didn't fit the mood of another album, and somehow created a coherent album out of them," McCrea explains. "There were some songs we did not have time to complete for other albums, so we took some time in the studio and finished some things that we'd always wanted to get done."
Before their new studio album hit stores in the summer of 2009, CAKE will present an expanded and remastered reissue of Motorcade of Generosity, available in early 2009 via Upbeat. "We've added some video from our first national tour, recorded back in May of 1995," says DiFiore. The reissue will also be available in a deluxe vinyl edition. "Looking back on it, through all that we've experienced, the dynamics of the band are very similar to when we first started. There have been some bumps along the way, but we've somehow managed to maintain our momentum and stay on track."
As-yet-untitled, CAKE's new studio album will be the first project they have undertaken since they overhauled their studio to run entirely on solar power. It was a decision that was made with both environmental and artistic consequences in mind. "It just seemed like the right thing to do," McCrea says. "I believe in science, and science is telling us that we need to make adjustments. Being in California, it seemed like a waste not to take advantage of all the free electricity."
"It felt great to get off the city's power grid and free up some electricity for the rest of the neighborhood," DiFiore adds. "We actually produce more electricity than we need right now. Also, it just feels better working there. We work in the spirit of cooperation, and when there is something like solar energy above your head, there is a little bit more levity added. It makes for a more positive environment."
Having toured extensively throughout the world, including North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Japan, CAKE has developed a vital and thriving community of listeners, with which the band interact with regularly on cakemusic.com. "We're always putting up new material, keeping a road journal, posting news items and links, along with a weekly poll and an advice column," DiFiore explains. "We try to encourage environmental responsibility: we have a carpool page for listeners who drive to shows, we give away a tree at every show, and we do a lot of linking to items about the environment and public policies that relate to it."
In the meantime, CAKE is putting the finishing touches on the as-yet-untitled new album. "I write songs all the time, so I have this stockpile of music," says McCrea. "I'll bring it in and play it on acoustic guitar and from that point the real work begins, the arrangement process. That's an arduous part of the whole experience — hundreds of small decisions that build upon each other."
"Fortunately," DiFiore concludes, "since we've started doing this, people have become stronger musicians — more versatile, with a bigger musical vocabulary. People are bringing their musical growth to the table. For all we do, our strength is still working well together as a band."
Taj Mahal Trio
Composer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Taj Mahal is one of the most prominent and influential figures in late 20th century blues and roots music. Though his career began more than four decades ago with American blues, he has broadened his artistic scope over the years to include music representing virtually every corner of the world -- west Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the Hawaiian islands and so much more. What ties it all together is his insatiable interest in musical discovery. Over the years, his passion and curiosity have led him around the world, and the resulting global perspective is reflected in his music.
Born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem on May 17, 1942, Taj grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father was a jazz pianist, composer and arranger of Caribbean descent, and his mother was a gospel singing schoolteacher from South Carolina. Both parents encouraged their children to take pride in their diverse ethnic and cultural roots. His father had an extensive record collection and a shortwave radio that brought sounds from near and far into the home. His parents also started him on classical piano lessons, but after only two weeks, young Henry already had other plans about what and how he wanted to play.— Read More —
In addition to piano, the young musician learned to play the clarinet, trombone and harmonica, and he loved to sing. He discovered his stepfather's guitar and became serious about it in his early teens when a guitarist from North Carolina moved in next door and taught him the various styles of Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed and other titans of Delta and Chicago blues.
Springfield in the 1950s was full of recent arrivals, not just from around the U.S. but from all over the globe. "We spoke several dialects in my house -- Southern, Caribbean, African -- and we heard dialects from eastern and western Europe," Taj recalls. In addition, musicians from the Caribbean, Africa and all over the U.S. frequently visited the Fredericks home, and Taj became even more fascinated with roots -- the origins of all the different forms of music he was hearing, what path they took to reach their current form, and how they influenced each other along the way. He threw himself into the study of older forms of African-American music -- a music that the record companies of the day largely ignored.
Henry studied agriculture at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in the early 1960s. Inspired by a dream, he adopted the musical alias of Taj Mahal and formed the popular U. Mass party band, the Elektras. After graduating, he headed west in 1964 to Los Angeles, where he formed the Rising Sons, a six-piece outfit that included guitarist Ry Cooder. The band opened for numerous high-profile touring artists of the '60s, including Otis Redding, the Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas. Around this same time, Taj also mingled with various blues legends, including Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Lightnin' Hopkins and Sleepy John Estes.
This diversity of musical experience served as the bedrock for Taj's first three recordings: Taj Mahal (1967), The Natch'l Blues (1968) and Giant Step (1969). Drawing on all the sounds and styles he'd absorbed as a child and a young adult, these early albums showed signs of the musical exploration that would be Taj's hallmark over the years to come.
In the 1970s, Taj carved out a unique musical niche with a string of adventurous recordings, including Happy To be Just Like I Am (1971), Recycling the Blues and Other Related Stuff (1972), the GRAMMY(r)-nominated soundtrack to the movie Sounder (1973), Mo' Roots (1974), Music Fuh Ya (Music Para Tu) (1977) and Evolution (The Most Recent) (1978).
Taj's recorded output slowed somewhat during the 1980s as he toured relentlessly and immersed himself in the music and culture of his new home in Hawaii. Still, that decade saw the well-received release of Taj in 1987, as well as the first three of his celebrated children's albums on the Music For Little People label.
He returned to a full recording and touring schedule in the 1990s, including such projects as the musical scores for the Langston Hughes/Zora Neale Hurston play Mule Bone (1991) and the movie Zebrahead (1992). Later in the decade, Taj released a series of recordings with the Phantom Blues Band, including Dancing the Blues (1993), Phantom Blues (1996), and the two GRAMMY(r) winners, Señor Blues (1997) and the live Shoutin' in Key (2000). Overall, he has been nominated for nine GRAMMY(r) Awards.
During this same period, Taj continued to expand his multicultural horizons by joining Indian classical musicians on Mumtaz Mahal in 1995, and recording Sacred Island, a blend of Hawaiian music and blues, with the Hula Blues Band in 1998. Kulanjan, released in 1999, was a collaborative project with Malian kora player Toumani Diabate (the kora is a 21-string west African harp). He recorded a second album with the Hula Blues Band, Hanapepe Dream, in 2003. Zanzibar, a European release, followed in 2005.
Taj joined the Heads Up International label in the fall of 2008 with the worldwide release of Maestro. This twelve-track set -- his first U.S. release in five years -- marked the 40th anniversary of Taj's rich and varied recording career by mixing original material, chestnuts borrowed from vintage sources and newcomers alike. This anniversary gala includes performances by Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Angelique Kidjo, Los Lobos, Ziggy Marley and others, many of whom have been directly influenced by Taj's music and guidance.
"The one thing I've always demanded of the records I've made is that they be danceable," he says. "This record is danceable, it's listenable, it has lots of different rhythms, it's accessible, it's all right in front of you. It's a lot of fun, and it represents where I am at this particular moment in my life. This record is just the beginning of another chapter, one that's going to be open to more music and more ideas. Even at the end of 40 years, in many ways my music is just getting started."
Taj continues to tour internationally, doing as many as 150 shows per year throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia, New Zealand and beyond.
Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue
"The collective jaw of those in attendance was on the floor. Folks stared across the aisle at each other and shook their heads in disbelief, acknowledging the shared moment and knowing there would be no way to adequately relate this experience to others." — Metronome Charleston, Live Show Review
For true lovers of music, this is a foot-stomping, soul-shaking, good old-fashioned tent revival kind of thing. Mike Farris is a one of a kind talent who knocks it out of the park each and every time he plays. He may be best known in the national spotlight as lead vocalist and writer for acclaimed 90's rock band The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies but it was only after he pursued his own musical direction in the early 2000's that Mike Farris found his calling. Taking a path that intertwines rock, blues, soul and gospel has allowed him to rediscover and reinterpret traditional Black Gospel music and add his own mix of Stax influenced blue-eyed soul.
Mike Farris has won the prestigious Americana Music Award for Best Emerging Artist as well as a Dove Award for Best Traditional album. Festival appearances at Hardly Strictly, Telluride Bluegrass, Strawberry Festival, ACL Festival, Bonnaroo and many, many more have solidified the impact of the live music experience that is Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue. Mike performs solo, as a 5 piece electric or acoustic band or with the full Revue but no matter what the configuration, the energy and sheer talent always leaves the audience wanting more. His latest studio release is due to release in 2013 with festival and club dates to follow!
"The performer who appears to have the least in common with Aretha Franklin was Mike Farris, who looks like the bassist in an indie rock band until he opens his mouth. Then he's a scorched-earth, Southern gospel singer who came out swinging with a version of the old spiritual "Mary Don't You Weep" that had the capacity theater rocking." — Detroit News
"There are few artists whose persona belies their music more than Mike. Out of this southern, white, gentleman comes an extraordinarily soulful voice with a range, talent, and emotion that makes him seem possessed." — Terry Stewart, President, The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame
"Farris surrounds himself with a heavenly soundtrack that slides effortlessly between Stax soul, New Orleans gospel and shuffling Southern blues, all of it punctuated with Farris' smoldering vocals and clear message of redemption." — Harp Magazine
"There's something so soulful and primal about Mike Farris' delivery that it's hard not to be shaken to the core." — Billboard Magazine
Danny Click & The Hell Yeahs!
Danny Click's sound is a refreshing return to smart, sassy blues-inflected rock and roll. Think Tom Petty crossed with John Mellencamp, spiced with the southern tradition of Lucinda Williams and John Hiatt. Add to that Click's searing guitar (he's been called an "unsung guitar hero" -- Austin American Statesman), reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughan and David Lindley, and you've got a winning mix. Yet Click doesn't just pay tribute to his musical heroes, he offers up his own emotionally compelling vision, one that puts him comfortably in their company.
Click grew up in a small town outside Indianapolis, the youngest of nine children in a working class family. One of his earliest memories is of listening to his mother play slide guitar using a butter knife while she held the guitar flat on her lap. Click first picked up his older brother's guitar when he was six and by the time he was in high school he was gigging around the area in his older sister's country band, covering tunes by Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson at VFW halls and other local venues.— Read More —
During the '90s, Click honed his skills in bands throughout the Midwest before discovering a love of the blues. After immersing himself in the musical traditions of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and other giants of southern blues, Click felt the pull of the Austin scene, which was bursting with the energy of Eric Johnson, Lucinda Williams, and the legend of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Not long after arriving in Austin, Click put together a three-piece blues-rock outfit known as Danny and the Hurricanes, which quickly built a devoted local following. After many years in Austin, Danny Click re-located to the West Coast and has been based in San Rafael, California for the past few years. As Click's local reputation has spread, his band performances — featuring partners-in-crime Bonnie Hayes (keyboards), Adrienne Biggs (violin), Don Bassey (bass), and Kevin Hayes (drums) — have become must-hear shows in the San Francisco Bay Area.
At one recent club date, the legendary Carlos Santana (who's become a fan of the band), after watching the first set, proceeded to pick up a guitar and jam with Danny's group for 15 minutes of blazing blues, joined by his wife Cindy Blackman on drums.
With three previous internationally-released albums to his credit, his latest CD, Life Is A Good Place, resonates with all who value amazing songwriting alongside the resulting maturity of years on the road. Life Is A Good Place evokes both a profound sense of loss and the wonder of transformation. This new album puts Click squarely in the upper echelon musically and lyrically.