LIVE PEAK – New! Hot Clips Vol. 2 and Upcoming Shows!

Why does it seem so long since we have all been able to get together and dance to a great live band? Probably because it has been. At least for us. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have only been to one large show in New York City (Bad Religion) and one smaller show nearby in Stanhope, outdoors (Twiddle). Mostly though we still watch from afar. Live streams, vlogged shows, live albums. I am not upset about it. Aside from being a little medically fragile, I have grown to quite enjoy ready access to cheap drinks and a clean bathroom with no line. However, I deeply miss that live energy. The palpable energy of a room full of people digging hard on the same grooves you are. Even better, a field full of people digging those grooves, dancing under the lights, the stars, feeling the sounds permeate their soul.

Since mandates have been lifted and large populations have been vaccinated, there is hope that some semblance of normalcy can resume in the world of music venues and shows. With COVID rolling on with less gusto but no sign of going away for good, we are cautiously emerging, vaccinated and sanitizing, from our caverns of sourdough bread making and working from home to gather again in the church of live music. And I’m here for it.  I crave that energy like a life force, and I long to feed that craving again on the regular.

I can’t wait to do it with one of my very favorite bands in recent years in just a few days…

This Friday, Brooklyn’s psychedelic indie funk quartet PEAK will be bringing us all out of the dark when they hit the Stanhope House in Stanhope, NJ with Uncle Stump. One of the most fun live bands I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know, PEAK brings fantastic songwriting and steady beat dance jams that will keep you moving until you think you might explode from the energy. Purely stated, they are a lively, fun live show put on by some of the most talented players in the scene and if you have not caught them yet, you need to be there. Don’t take my word for it – you are being given a preview!

In addition to live show news, I am delighted to bring you new music news! PEAK is back with the second installment of their Hot Clips series featuring selections from their summer and fall shows in 2021. Comprised of songs off their two previous studio albums, a few unreleased songs, and even a Mac Demarco cover, this selection of jams gives you a taste of what PEAK brings to the room when they show up and throw down. Songwriter and guitarist Jeremy Hilliard (Turbine), drummer Kito Bovenshulte (Particle), Josh T. Carter (Haley Jane and The Primates) on bass, and keyboardist Johnny Young (Mick Taylor Band) create this incredible collective of soaring jams, dance beats, and rock out moments captured in the Hot Clips series. PEAK is something spectacular to witness live with the kind of honest energy and songwriting that has been lacking in the jam scene in recent years. It’s one thing to be talented, but the songs are exceptionally written and the shows are the kind of fun that you just get lost in. It’s an experience. I feel like I throw PEAK at my readers a lot, but I have yet to have one come back to me anything other than floored by their experience with them. If you are new to PEAK, let Hot Clips, Vol. 2 be your introduction.

One of my very favorite PEAK tracks, especially live, kicks off the collection – Path Paved With Roses. It’s a track off the band’s last studio album, Choppy Water, that brings super fun danceable beats with singable lyrics. This version dissolves into a steady, trippy jam. There is also a gorgeous version of the track Starlight Child in this collection that brings a sick jam with ripping guitar and crazy heady bass over an insane blend of drums and keys before delicately dropping back into the chorus and finishing precise. Their cover of Mac Demarco’s Freaking Out The Neighborhood is a really fun version that highlights each ridiculously good player in this band. The solo’s flow from Johnny’s impossibly good key work into Jeremy’s guitar shred. The whole time, Kito is absolutely destroying the drums and Josh is absurdly ripping on bass. Then the jam kicks in – slow and spacy first and then picks up the pace. It climbs steadily, holds you for a minute, and freaking explodes in a righteous climax and it’s over. (The original version of this song has an amusing backstory that I encourage you to Google). This is one of my favorites to see PEAK do live. It freaking RIPS. 

Here is the track list for Hot Clips, Vol. 2:

Path Paved With Roses

Vanishing Skies

Run Me Down

In My Mind I’m Already Gone

Freaking Out the Neighborhood

Missionary Ridge

It’s Easy To Give Up (Don’t Give Up Too Easy)

Starlight Child

The band will be celebrating this release this Saturday the 16th when they hit the Gramercy Theater in support of Lespecial. If you can’t make Friday’s Stanhope House show, I heartily encourage you to get yourself to NYC and catch them there for Saturday. The show will be a rager for sure! In fact, the band is doing FEE FREE tickets for $22. Just Venmo them your details to @PEAKtheband, $22, and your tickets will be at WILL CALL at the Gramercy Theater. How about that goodness?

In the meantime, you can check out Hot Clips, Vol. 2 (live) everywhere that excellent music streams. 

Peep the link:

https://peak2.hearnow.com/hot-clips-vol-2-live

The band is out on tour this spring and adding shows all the time. Get out there and check them! If you plan to hit the Stanhope House, I’ll see you there!

You can also check out Peak on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWkM9fouVYWPivSR2jiiiZw

And Bandcamp

https://peaktheband.bandcamp.com/

GROW with DOPAPOD on 2/20/22

It’s a cold day in New Jersey. Despite a little sunshine, it’s 11 degrees. The trees have no leaves. Everything carries a thin chalky gray coating of salt that smears on your coat if you get too close. It’s midwinter and I have the blues. Then I got an email.

There is new Dopapod coming.

I repeat, THERE IS NEW DOPAPOD COMING.

The band put out the track “Think” recently and I have had that in fairly heavy rotation. It’s rocking (killer guitar, heavy hitting drums) while still being a bit plucky. It has really had me in a mode for full on devouring of every hang up and struggle from the last year to just dance. A truly welcome respite from reality but it was just one song…

This month on the palindrome date (obviously) of 2-20-22, the world shall be blessed with the official release of the band’s new single “Grow”. Someone somewhere must still value my opinion and that of you wonderful readers because I got a taste of this new goodness in my in-box and let me tell you something: the Jersey winter just got a whole lot warmer with this in my ears.

The track busts in with the funky groove we all love from Dopapod. Clean, funky tapping synth and sexy bass with steady drum beats and scratchy guitar. That wonderful blending of sounds and feels that are every reason we follow these gentlemen is front and center in this track from the moment it opens. It has you shaking what you got out back for a good minute and a quarter before the vocals come in with good swirling vibes and those amazing harmonies. The lyrics are powerful – legit and hopeful. The whole track has a strong feel of summer with bare feet on matted grass, hands on cold beverages, and a momentary release of worries that we enjoy in that moment as an audience member to powerful music. It rises and falls, ebbs and flows, but the energy never for even a moment lets up. That beat holds you nice and tight and you will be moving with it. I love this song and I am so freaking excited by it!

“Big things have small beginnings.”

They sure do, guys. And I think we all really needed to hear that from you right now.

After two plus years of hopelessness and isolation, this is exactly what I was hoping for from the jam community in terms of new music. I feel like I have been sitting here, tapping my foot and looking at my watch going, “ok fam…any time now” waiting on new music to bring our energy back the heck up and maybe even put us back in a dancing crowd together safely so we can remember how it feels to FEEL. Everything has been so bleak and add to that the fact that it’s just the dirty snow and bitter cold part of winter, and you really start to wonder where the hope went.

Where the light is.

We are desperately in need of fire and strength, set to something we can dance to, and leave it to Dopapod to truly understand the assignment. They are here to hand us that fire with “Grow”.

Grow is a fantastic track and truly everything that is great about this band. It’s four stellar and smart music writer and expert players creating a tapestry of sound that transforms and transports the listener. I cannot wait to catch this song live just to see all the weird and wonderful places the guys will take the jams encased within it. They are just sitting there, patiently waiting to be released. I want to be there when they are set free.

Speaking of releases, you should be checking out “Grow” as it is up and live today, 2/20/22! I encourage you to be ready to shake the dust off. This song is everything we have been waiting for.

Follow the band on https://www.dopapod.com/ for more and to see where the band will be when they hit the road – tour dates are already posted!

Warwalking with Don Ryan and the Black Canvas Movement – Pts 1 and 2

Well over a decade ago, I was doing a radio show at the Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company in Stroudsburg, PA. Driving across the Delaware once a week was not enough for me to devour this music I loved. More than that, I wanted to connect the music to people who might not have heard it yet, so I decided to start a blog as a sidecar to my show. When our studios closed and I moved to podcasting from home, the blog became even more of a focus. One of the first artists I ever reviewed and wrote about was New Jersey’s own Don Ryan. I loved his indie folk style and the way his music dragged you into his thoughts and through the brush with him. It’s still one of my most favorite pieces that I ever wrote across all the platforms I had the privilege of writing for.

Imagine my enthusiasm when he announced a new album! Unfortunately, COVID happened, my life flew into craziness, and here I am two years late on telling you all about this amazing collection of songs by one of my favorite home grown musicians. I’m sorry I was tardy, folks. Let me tell you about Don Ryan.

May be an image of one or more people and indoor

Don Ryan is gravelly, pulverant New Jersey set to music. He writes music that feels like the underbelly. The romanticly sabulous side of us all. I think when some people who don’t live here think of us, they think of the “us” that tv and movies portray. They think of the shore or some sort of Italian-American culture. They think of Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen. They see smoke stacks and boardwalks. The truth is though that New Jersey music is a deep pool written by mountains, lakes, abrasive reality and a lot of coffee. It’s traffic and wildlife. It’s the outskirts of the city and the backyard of suburbia. It’s rural America. It’s produce. It’s a drive on Clinton Road, trying desperately to experience something that may or may not be there. It’s stone homes that stood since Washington marched through. It’s marshes and ports. It’s late night diners and early morning convenience stores. We have a culture that people have tried for a long time to define and never made it beyond taylor ham/pork roll arguments and The Sopranos. That just doesn’t cut it.

Since I first heard his early release of Tangle Town so many, many years ago, I feel like listening to Don Ryan’s music is a visceral experience in what New Jersey is, strained through your soul and wrung out of your jeans at the end of the long night. It’s like night time drives down sparsely lit roads when the weather is warm enough for the windows down. When you know if you stop the car and get out, you might get scared but as long as you stay in the car you can enjoy how that sense of fear delicious. His songs are thoughtful and almost spiritual in their delivery. His vocals go between throaty and deep and lightly laid down. It’s music I never get bored of. It’s music you close your eyes and enjoy while your mind wanders.

And this new music is so much of that. 

These new songs comprise a gorgeous two part record called Warwalking, Pt. 1 and Warwalking Pt. 2. They feel like a hardback collection of memories and musings you found in an abandoned hotel. It’s dripping with experiences that permeate everything you are. Relatable and soothing in their trip between melancholy and exasperation. The music is an indie-folk trip into chaos. Take for example the track King of the Clowns on Pt 2. It twists and turns as it pulls you along behind, as if dragged by hand through a carnival funhouse with lights flashing and music blaring. You are so entranced, out of control and hyper-stimulated while having no idea what is around the next corner – but you are guided, never alone, your hand held. It’s exquisite and engrossing and everything I love about this songwriting.

Murder Industry, my favorite track on either record, carried a similar vibe but with a stomping and melodic groove that seems to carry you around the grounds.  On Pt 1., the song Color In, Color Out is equal parts haunting and entrancing but at the same time all consuming in its beauty. The vibe rises and moves toward climax, building anticipation with it’s tone before reaching that peak and dropping off. Quite like life. Lady Codone on Pt. 2 is another gritty and captivating melodic journey. It’s got an almost ballroom dance affection while it spins, rises and falls. The groove holds you in that way and makes you want to move with it in dance.

Don informed me there us an upcoming Warwalking Pt. 3 and I honestly can’t wait. I would love to see this project performed live and as soon as we can chase this COVID cloud away from us long enough, I hope to get that opportunity. In the meantime, I strongly suggest you get over to Don’s website at https://www.donryanmusic.com/ and keep updated. Check out his two beautiful records, Warwalking Pt 1 and Warwalking Pt 2 and experience this marvelous audible journey.

PEAK Conquers with New Music and Upcoming Album Release Show

I first met Jeremy Hilliard and Johnny Young from PEAK four years ago in New York City. I was working for a music publisher in midtown at the time and writing here and there for this blog as well as The Jamwich – who asked me to cover an album release show. My job was boring as all get out (how many times can I type the name of that song into the computer in 8 hours…) but this was the reason I wanted to work in the city in the first place – to experience live music as much as possible, even if it was not necessarily job related. Our corner of New Jersey is lovely, but live music venues are not exactly dotting the map there. Naturally, I was delighted. Of course I would cover this show for this Psychedelic Indie Funk band called PEAK and their record Electric Bouquet.

I got the opportunity to meet Jeremy, Johnny, and his wife Michelle that night and formulate a wonderful fanship/friendship that has followed PEAK over the last few years. Since that night, the band has added bassist Josh Carter, formerly of Haley Jane and the Primates, and Kito Bovenschulte, formerly and sometimes presently of Particle. The combination of these two gents and the already catchy and addictive songwriting that existed in PEAK has been nothing short of explosive. The live shows over the last several years have become a haven of joy for my husband and I and we have traveled all over just to have our own private dance parties with the crowd at a PEAK show. That profile picture of mine on the APM page on FB? That’s me dancing like a crazy thing at a PEAK show. We have come to know and love the songs they wrote as they played them live and were honestly chomping at the bit for this new album to drop. And drop it did, like a big, fat piñata of awesome.

The record, Choppy Water, is a deliciously danceable journey through thoughtful inner monologues, set to jamming and often rocking music. It was recorded deep within the pandemic at Horizon Sound Studios in Brooklyn and engineered by Johnny and Michelle Young. The finished product was mixed by Jason “Jocko” Randall (Turkuaz/Jimkata/Dopapod) at Moresound Studios in Syracuse, NY. It’s such a different album than the last record and brings forth so much flavor from the depths of what could have been a depletion of creativity, Instead, this masterpiece is here to bring us back the hope that comes from a packed dance floor, enormous smiles, and incredible players.

The band quite smartly kicks the doors open with their song When The Night Comes Calling You. It has a deep groove that is more than a foot tapping sensation. It’s a climbing, hip shaking, why-would-you-possibly-stand-still kind of groove. Kito’s stellar drumming is all over this track, dragging it around the floor with every shaking body in the crown. Layered through those beats is Josh’s bass lines which are deep and heavy and just add to that hip shake. Johnny has an expertly light touch to his keys sound in this song but it carried through the entire tune in a dance with Jeremy’s guitar work that creates a vocal all its own. Add that to the actual vocal which is catchy as hell and helps to build with everyone through to the top of the chorus. It’s a masterpiece, this song.

The immediate next track, Path Paved with Roses, has been a favorite of mine through many, many live shows. I was so excited to hear it as a studio track and PEAK didn’t disappoint me in the least. A fun, foot-tapping vibe through from start to finish colored with Johnny’s throwback key sound and singable vocals by he and Jeremy create another really fun experience for your ears. This song makes you want to dance. I have literally hurt myself dancing to this song! The guitar solo three quarters through, playing over the stomping drums and steady bass takes the song to the end, and then I get sad that it’s over.

The title track, Choppy Water, has become my favorite driving song. It has a vibe somewhere between the bass groove and fills that just kill, steady, precise drumming, and those lovely vocals that kind takes the mind off somewhere else. It’s a mellower feel after the first two tracks, but it’s welcome, dreamy, and comforting especially carried by the keys and in its layout and overall feel. Your foot is still tapping though. PEAK puts together a really great song every time they sit down to do it and if you think you like it in the studio, just wait until you hear them live. The fourth track, It Ain’t Over til the Credits Roll, is a fantastic uptick in temo, spirit, and overall feel. Johnny takes lead vocals here, absolutely destroys on keys, and there is a killer guitar solo by Jeremy as well. Another great mention is the last track, Day the World Was Born. It has a great Americana feel and different kind of vibe from much of the rest of the album, but that versatility as players and writers is what separates the guys in PEAK from other musicians in this scene.

Every member of this band is a powerhouse of ability in their own right. They are sincerely four of the most talented players I have ever had the opportunity to see play live and that is not me blowing smoke at anyone. I genuinely think they are some of the most purely talented people out there now, in addition to being some of the hardest working. They are also a collection of wonderful human beings, truly appreciative of a crowd having a great time. I have seen PEAK everywhere from a tiny bar in Sparta, NJ to the hugeness of Brooklyn Bowl to freezing and pouring down rain in a field at Yasgurs Farm. No matter where it is, they are giving spectators a fantastic show full of energy, sincerity, insane ability, and a metric shit ton of fun.

Don’t take my word for it – come out Friday October 22 to the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn and see for yourself when the band has their official album release show for Choppy Water. They will be supported by friends in Waiting on Mongo from Asbury Park and Trailheads all the way from Pittsburgh. PEAK should hit the stage by 9pm. You can head over to bit.ly/peakkfbk to get your tickets ($15) and I cannot recommend highly enough that you do. It’s a fantastic live show that is not to be missed. I’ll be there, and surprise! It’s my birthday! Come out and hang out and shake what you were given with some great people and amazing music. In the meantime, PEAK’s album Choppy Water is streaming everywhere and you should be devouring it! You can also buy CD’s at the show and a limited amount of posters NYC-based Artist Conor Brewster, seen below.

Check out the FB invite for more info:

https://fb.me/e/2LTmglHmr

See you there!

For Immediate Release: SweetWater 420 Fest Returns in 2022 on April 28-May 1 Lineup Announced, Tier 1 Tickets On sale Oct 8th

SWEETWATER 420 FESTIVAL
RETURNS TO ATLANTA’S CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK APRIL 29-MAY 1, 2022
LINEUP ANNOUNCED WITH NEWLY ADDED 420 PRE-PARTY CONCERT
‘Tier 1’ 3-Day General Admission & VIP Tickets on sale October 8 at 10 AM at SweetWater420Fest.com

SweetWater Brewery Company and Happy Ending Productions Present the return of SweetWater 420 Fest from April 29 through May 1 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Festival announces the full 2022 lineup, including headliners OysterheadTrey Anastasio Band (2 sets), and The String Cheese Incident (2 sets).

Additional artists include Umphrey’s McGee (2 sets), Snoop DoggJoe Russos Almost Dead (2 sets), GooseDirty HeadsSnarky PuppyJJ Grey & MofroLotusTurkuaz with Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew: Remain in LightSpaffordBig SomethingToo Many ZoozThe MovementDoom Flamingo + Queen is Doomed (2 sets), BadfishBoombox Feat. Backbeat BrassTown MountainThe Nth Power Feat. Jennifer HartswickTropidelicBrandon “Taz” NiederauerKarina RykmanKitchen DwellersNeighborDENMLittle StrangerKanika Moore & The PsycodelicsHedonistasButcher BrownSexbruise?Certainly SoJoslyn & The Sweet CompressionKrisBs Midnight RailroadBird Dog JubileeThe 4 KornersThe StewsPressing StringsThe Broadcast, and the Taylor Scott Band.

NEW in 2022, SweetWater 420 Fest is thrilled to announce the first kick-off pre-party concert on Thursday, April 28 at 12 PM in Centennial Olympic Park featuring two sets from headliner The String Cheese Incident supported by moe., Oteil & Friends, and Empire Strikes Brass.

Founded 18 years ago, SweetWater 420 Fest continues to deliver an eclectic musical lineup, singular in its ability to bring some of the most prominent jam band names in the industry alongside cutting-edge acts and some of the most revered artists on our playlists.

Returning experiences include three stages, heady concoctions from SweetWater Brewery featuring handcrafted signature drinks, cocktails and craft beers served throughout the festival and at the festival favorite ‘SweetWater Experience Tent.’

Additional features include a local craft & artist market, an expanded food court with a variety of food trucks, the Planet 420 environmental and non-profit village, our 5k Road Race with everyone’s favorite beer at the finish line, and the newly added Thursday pre-party concert in the park with general admission (GA) and VIP upgraded experience purchase options.

Furthermore, the Peachtree Road Race qualifier 420 Fest 5K returns April 30. 5K/Fest combo packages available. Participants can register at sweetwater420fest.com/420-fest-5k.

“We are more than excited to celebrate not only the return of live music but the return of SweetWater 420 Fest and our festival community to Centennial Olympic Park in 2022! Furthermore, to add to the excitement, and for the first time in our festival history, we are announcing our full festival lineup in October with tickets on-sale on the 8th!” says President of Happy Ending Productions, Jennifer Bensch. “Plus! We added an extra day of music on Thursday with a kick-off pre-party in the park!”

SweetWater 420 Festival tickets are on sale October 8 at 10am. Tier one three-day GA tickets start at $118, three-day Big Fish VIP at $350, the newly added three-day GA Kush at $198, and premium Riff VIP passes including a range of exclusive amenities.

Plus! Purchase your 420 Fest pre-party ticket for Thursday, April 28, for an additional fee when you purchase your three-day tickets.

Purchase your 2022 Tickets here.

2022 LINEUP


Oysterhead

Trey Anastasio Band (2 sets)

The String Cheese Incident (2 sets)

Umphrey’s McGee (2 sets)

Snoop Dogg

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead (2 sets)

Goose, Dirty Heads

Snarky Puppy

JJ Grey & Mofro

Lotus

Turkuaz with Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew: Remain in Light

Spafford

Big Something

Too Many Zooz

The Movement

Doom Flamingo + Queen is Doomed (2 sets)

Badfish

Boombox Feat. Backbeat Brass

Town Mountain

The Nth Power Feat. Jennifer Hartswick

Tropidelic

Brandon “Taz” Niederauer

Karina Rykman

Kitchen Dwellers

Neighbor

DENM

Little Stranger

Kanika Moore & The Psycodelics

Hedonistas

Butcher Brown

Sexbruise?

Certainly So

Joslyn & The Sweet Compression

KrisB’s Midnight Railroad

Bird Dog Jubilee

The 4 Korners

The Stews

Pressing Strings

The Broadcast

Taylor Scott Band.

For more information, including lineups, event news, and the latest updates, please visit sweetwater420fest.com and facebook.com/420fest and follow on Instagram and Twitter at @420Fest.

The SweetWater 420 Festival is produced by Happy Ending Productions, offering promotion, production, event operations, and logistics management. Happy Ending Productions’ client list includes Festivals: Camp Bisco, Counterpoint, Bonnaroo, Hookahville, along with tour support services for Phish, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, and more.

About SweetWater 420 Festival

SweetWater 420 Fest returns to Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, April 29-May 1, 2022 with three stages. Founded 18 years ago, SweetWater 420 Fest has delivered an eclectic musical lineup, singular in its ability to bring some of the most prominent jam band names in the industry alongside cutting-edge acts, varied genres, and some of the most revered artists of our time. Festival experiences include three stages, handcrafted signature drinks, cocktails and craft beers by SweetWater Brewery Co.’s served throughout the festival and at festival favorite ‘SweetWater Experience Tent,’ local craft & artist market, expanded food court and a food truck village, Planet 420 environmental and non-profit village, and a peachtree qualifying 5K Road Race. For information, including lineups, event news, and the latest updates, please visit sweetwater420fest.com and facebook.com/420fest and follow on Instagram and Twitter at @420Fest.

About SweetWater Brewing Co.

SweetWater Brewing Company is an Atlanta-based craft brewery living by the motto “Don’t Float the Mainstream!” In 2020, SweetWater was acquired by Aphria Inc., now Tilray (TSX: TLRY and Nasdaq: TLRY), a leading global cannabis company inspiring and empowering the worldwide community to live their very best life. SweetWater Brewing Co. celebrated 24 years of heady brews in 2021 and is the 11th largest craft brewery in the nation, according to the Brewers Association. The award-winning lineup of year-round beers includes 420 Extra Pale Ale, H.A.Z.Y. IPA, G13 IPA, High Light, 420 Imperial IPA, Golden Isles Hard Tea and SweetWater Oasis Premium Hard Seltzer. Additionally, seasonal releases offer palate pleasing variety, along with an experimental, one-time-only Dank Tank series, 420 Strain Series, innovative Non-Dairy Almond Milk Stout and progressive barrel aged styles in The Woodlands Project series.

SweetWater is passionate about protecting natural resources and habitats and is recognized for its contributions to environmental initiatives throughout its distribution footprint. Supporting the conservation of some of the nation’s most threatened rivers, streams and coastlines is a cause near and dear to the brewery, as clean water is also vital to the creation of their tasty brews.

Visit SweetWater Brewery – located at 195 Ottley Drive in the heart of Atlanta – for tours of the main brewery, and pints and bites in the newly renovated taproom and restaurant. For more information about SweetWater Brewing Company and brewery hours, please visit sweetwaterbrew.com. Follow SweetWater Brewing Company on Twitter/Instagram @sweetwaterbrew, and become a fan at facebook.com/sweetwaterbrew and facebook.com/SweetWater-in-Colorado

Link to Media Assets

Bill Kight
PR & Media Relations, SweetWater 420 Fest
970-708-3753|
sweetwater420fest.com

A Perfect Mess Is Active!

No, seriously. I promise.

So first off, my apologies for a ridiculously slooooooow blog season. It’s not for my lack of wanting to resume some semblance of normal amid the pandemic. I have been vaccinated (thrice, in fact!), masked up, gone out, gone to shows, listened to some RIDICULOUSLY good new music. I have had plenty of material, but my health took a strange turn in the last 7 months. My body kind of told me to go fuck myself. I spent a lot of time with IV’s and meds and MRI machines and one large needle in my spine. I had a week in the hospital. It’s been more than a little distracting.

A few weeks back I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

This in no way will bring down my blog at all. In fact, the slap in the face that it gave me was good. I feel remarkably mortal and it’s reminded me why I started all of this in the first place about a decade ago. I just wanted to make my readers and followers aware of what was going on so you knew I was not slacking off or letting my blog go. I’m not at all. In fact, it’s about to get bigger because why the F not? More on that later.

The fact is that this blog and the music that fuels it has gotten me through a lot of shit and I am not about to let that stop being the case. So let’s do this.In the meantime, I am, as always, supporting everyone in the scene with reposts on all social sites as much as I can. I have some blog posts planned and a few press releases dropping shortly. If you have something going on, please reach out as always. Give me all the details, and lets make some stuff happen.

Music is life.

Get. Out. There.

(safely, vaccinated, and wearing a mask)

Peak, Bookends of the Pandemic, and Live from Yasgur’s Farm

We were drenched from head to toe, despite our thin plastic ponchos. We were cold, as the temperature had dropped into the mid 40’s with a wind that ebbed and flowed with its own prerogative. We carried nothing but my “zoo bag” purse strung across my body and a cold bag full of beer and alcoholic iced tea. We shivered as we walked through the mud, dodging puddles that swallowed whole feet and filled shoes. Under normal circumstances, we were in a situation that would have had us declaring “fuck this” and heading back to our sketchy but warm motel room in Monticello and ordering some takeout while planning an early voyage back home to our own lake in New Jersey. 

But that wasn’t tonight. Tonight was special. Our dear friends in Peak had invited us to Yasgur’s Farm to see them play Yasgur Road Productions’ “May Meltdown” festival. It was not a normal festival. We have shown up for lots of festivals, but this was different. This was a legendary place. The entire area has an infectious energy that seems to come up from out of the dirt. Every single day people arrive just to feel it. But there was so much more to this evening.

Before COVID came and closed all the clubs and all the venues, before it took over our schools, our hospitals, our families and our entire lives, the last show we saw out and about in the world was Peak. We saw them play at The Bowery Electric on February 29th, 2020 and it was a wonderful, pure, and energetic evening. I look at the photos from that night and I can feel the sweat I was shedding as I danced, and I can feel the joy that I felt in that moment as I let myself be enveloped by the kind of magic that only music can conjure. For the entirety of the COVID shutdown, I thought often of that feeling and that show. The insecurity that was brought on by over a year in relative isolation, despite occasional cheat days with friends we knew were clear of COVID due to recent testing, created a haze on the joy that live music had always given me. It’s such a strange thing to think about. But anyway, our last show before the world went crazy and then shut down was Peak. 

It surprises me none that our first show back would also be Peak.

I just had no idea it would be in a place I had been trying to get to my whole life. 

To know me is to know that I have kind of a pervasive fascination with the Woodstock festival. My husband has on more than one occasion called it a weird obsession. He’s not totally wrong. For me, it’s like an itch. It’s an itch that no amount of watching the videos or listening to the record has ever been able to scratch for me. My parents were 19 years old in August of 1969 and in my opinion, the perfect age to understand and appreciate everything that it was, whether or not they actually did. They met in college at what was at that time Glassboro College. They both remember that weekend vividly, even though neither one of them attended the festival. They saw the feature film from Woodstock in the movies on a date. It was a highlighting of so many artists that they knew and loved and it was important to them. As a result, every single time that PBS played the film during a telethon throughout my childhood in the entirety of the 80’s, we watched it. We watched it as a family. I knew all the dialogue from beginning to end.

Much of my teenage years were spent listening to modern music that I loved but split evenly with the music my folkie parents raised me to love. Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, Jefferson Airplane, Etc etc etc. I used to pick at their brains about these artists and why they loved them. What their lives were like when they first heard them. What they thought about the songs. I feel like I could just go on forever. No matter what I heard in my life, no matter what band or artists I fell in love with (and there were many), no music ever resonated with me or felt like it understood me like that. It makes perfect sense to me why I would enjoy watching Woodstock. But why is it so deep? It didn’t matter tonight. Tonight, I was here, and I was here with some of my favorite people. We had made it through all of this, and here we were.

I showed up with my husband on this rainy, cold night. We got our wrist bands from the amazing women set up in ponchos under a canopy in front of the barn proclaiming the Yasgur name. Despite how wet and cold the world was in that moment, these gals were truly an embodiment of polite joy in their duties as gatekeepers to this amazing place. It felt a genuine privilege to meet them. We moved on from that station and parked our car in the muddy field, and prepared ourselves with ponchos and umbrellas for our hike down into the woods. We made our way down through the puddles into the forest and found tents of habitation, tents of retail purpose, and it felt like festival season was just alive despite the conditions. I don’t know what food vendor it was that had the booth closest to the entrance to the woods, but their tents smelled divine. We moved on down towards the performance tent, tucked under the trees among the bravest campers I think I ever saw. The conditions were terrible for camping with temperatures well below what they should be for Memorial Day weekend in the Catskills and rain that continued to fall in buckets. But there were campsites! Tents set up with popup canopies and spots for hangouts within those woods. I couldn’t say enough that night how much I admired those folks. The energy within those trees was incredible.

I first discovered Peak in 2016 when i asked the Facebook masses for some new material to dig into. A friend and colleague, Cat Sisco, referred me to this new release from a band called Peak – a song called Barometric Pressure. I had been driving for Lyft at the time and was constantly adding to a playlist that I played while out spending hours driving. I added this song to my list and after many hours on the road became addicted to it. A couple years later, I was writing occasionally for the Jamwich magazine and I received an email from my editor. She knew I was working in midtown for a publisher and could easily check out a band having an album release show. She asked if I could go and review Peak. Of course I took the assignment and off I went. That was how I met Jeremy Hilliard and Johnny Young.

Jeremy Hilliard, the guitar and voice behind Peak, used to be in a band called Turbine. When I told my husband that evening that I was headed over to cover his show, he was excited his old colleague was off on another adventure. That night I showed up to their venue in the village and met up with Jeremy in the bar. We walked to the pizza spot across the street where Johnny and his wife, audio tech, and superhero Michelle Young were. The four of us sat down and rapped about influences, music venues, and the vibe of it all and in that moment, I knew I had met lifelong friends and amazing musicians. Their energy was infectious and sincere. These were folks who genuinely loved what they were doing. I was bummed that night that I didn’t hear ‘Barometric Pressure’, but I heard so many other songs that were exciting. I left a genuine Peak fan.

Later, Kito Bovenschulte of Particle and Josh Carter of Haley Jane and the Primates were added to the mix and the entire sound started to morph into an entirely new, amazing trip. They were the dance-funk vibe that the songs that Jeremy and Johnny had drafted were missing. Now the band was complete. And along the way, we were following. Fast forward to this past weekend…

Peak was in rare form on this particularly wet night. Not only were they back in front of an audience for the first time in well over a year, they were in truly ceremoniously Woodstock 1969 wet conditions in front of people who were feeding off their contagious energy like a festival game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Every single member of the band played with the fire of one thousand suns behind their instruments. They played a few tunes, including “Choppy Water” from their upcoming new album by the same name. Then, all of a sudden, there was “Barometric Pressure”! Yay! I might have hurt myself dancing in that moment.

Speaking of dancing, we were all in a tent in the woods with the stage. When we arrived, there were a handful of people under the tent leftover from the previous band’s set. As Peak began to move, these people started to come in from the rain. It was like beings moving towards a light in that moment and all of a sudden, our dancing numbers had doubled. Then they tripled. I am not sure what the numbers were when the set ended, but I know that with the conclusion of every song, there was more applause, whistles, and deliciously positive energy. At one point, the guys busted into the unmistakable intro to Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains The Same”. Lots of bands tease an intro like that, and that’s pretty much what I expected it to be, but it didn’t stop. They played the whole song and they KILLED it. I remember turning to Josh’s wife in the crowd just to remark that he was absolutely knocking the bass parts right out the water. I have been listening to this song my whole life and I never heard someone cover it so flawlessly, but here were these guys destroying the song in the best possible way.

Our favorite song, “Path Paved With Roses”, was the second to last tune the guys did and it was so wonderfully amped up and dancy, I am sure egged on by the energy of the crowd that just darted around that makeshift, muddy dance floor. It was amazing and dream-like the way people circled around amongst one another. The encore was their song “When The Night Comes Calling You”, which after this weekend might very well take the top spot for me. I was dancing like I can’t remember ever doing. It was energy that flowed through bodies on the floor like electricity that had left its channels and was running wild. It didn’t feel possible to be in this magical place, feeling this incredible, despite everything that had happened to us all – everything that had happened to us as a species and a nation. We felt incredibly lucky. Peak brought us back to the wonderful world of live music. They were the bookends for us, to the pandemic, and normality.

And it was here, in Bethel, where positive energy emerges from the dirt.

I don’t know what will come of the world in the wake of COVID. I can say though that bands like Peak are there to help us navigate whatever it is. They are here to bring us slowly out of despair and isolation and back into the magic that is the energy of live music.  To have been in such a magical place with a band that understands how to not only capture that vibe but encapsulate and hand it to their audience felt like a delicious privilege that I don’t really yet know how to file in my heart the right way. All I know is that I feel so lucky to have been there, dancing my ass off, and feeling it all in that moment in that wonderful place. That night my body more or less gave out from it all, and I didn’t even care. I was somewhere magical with some of the most wonderful people.

The guys have a bunch of shows coming up this year, concluding with their album release show on October 22 in Brooklyn. If you are headed to that one, it’s my birthday so come find me and buy me a drink. Maybe some pizza. Either way, I look forward to dancing with you all as soon as possible. See you out there, friends…

Welcome Back, Michael Arnone’s 31st Annual Crawfish Festival!

Growing up in Sussex County, NJ meant a lot of things for me in the summers. The best corn on the cob, the best tomatoes, summers spent in cool spring-fed lakes, and something always going on at the Sussex Fairgrounds. One of those things was the annual visit from Michael Arnone and his Crawfish Festival. The fest itself has a great back story. A few decades ago in 1989, some homesick Louisiana folks stuck up here in the Northeast decided to enjoy some music and a crawfish boil to bring their hearts home if their bodies couldn’t be there. They had such a good time that the idea kept going, growing every year, getting bigger and more incredible… and delicious! What started out as a good time for friends has grown into one of New Jersey’s most beloved annual events.

This year will be the 31st annual Crawfish Fest.

Thanks to Covid, it won’t be without some changes. The fest is normally a kickoff to the summer festival season for many of us, but for the sake of safety, this year’s Crawfish Fest will be taking place in August on the 27th through the 29th. No matter though, as the music will still be just as hot as the weather! The talents of Tab Benoit, Samantha Fish, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Bonerama, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Amanda Shaw, Honey Island Swamp Band, and many many more! It’s three stages of the best in Cajun, Zydeco, Delta Blues, New Orleans R&B, Brass, Gospel, and Jazz. There are even free Cajun/Zydeco Dance lessons. I’ll be there for that. Lord knows I need all the help I can get!

This is the kind of festival where you need not only your best dancing shoes, but you also need your best eating pants. Unfortunately the late date does impact the crawfish boil. I admire the heck out of Mr. Arnone in that he won’t pretend to serve up a pile of frozen crawfish in a boil if he can’t get fresh. Those delicious little buggers are out of season in August. However, he is making sure those southern flavors are still WELL represented here to compliment the music. Crawfish Etouffee, Alligator Sausage, Po-Boys, Southern Fried Chicken, and more – all $12.00 or less. My mouth is watering just typing this. I want to eat all the things…

The fun doesn’t stop with the music and the food though. Do you like to camp at festivals? You can do that too! There are camping passes and various campgrounds that range in party atmosphere to quieter for families and those who actually like to sleep. You can bring your tents, pop-ups, or RV’s! (though I hear RV passes might be nearly sold out now) There is even a spot to set up your tent for the day if you don’t plan to stay overnight. Campsite hangs are the best part of any festival, after all. Check the ticket and FAQ links on the website for more information on that.

Tickets are presently on sale and tickets from 2020 are still being honored. After 31 years of doing this festival, you can be assured you are in for a heck of a good time. Somehow in all my years with this amazing festival in my backyard, I have yet to make it there! This year is going to be our first, and we can’t wait to see you all there and shake it with you! You can get tickets and all the information you could possibly need at the festival website, http://www.crawfishfest.com

We will have more information on the artists, food, and lineups leading up to the festival, so get your tickets and keep an eye here for more!

Check out the daily line-up posted below for more details:

See you out there, friends!

PEAK Show Dates!

I am cautiously optimistic, but I am seeing show posts popping up. Earlier today, I caught myself scream a little when I saw Galactic will be at the Blue Note Jazz Fest in New York City this summer. Could it be true? Can we dance together again soon? So much of our life blood is the energy of live music. Can this be real?

Then here comes my regular “Peakin’ Beacon” email and low and behold, PEAK dates!

PEAK. TOUR. DATES.

The last show we saw before the world shut down was PEAK. Their livestreams were some of our favorite glimmers of normal. I am incredibly excited to be able to share these upcoming show dates with you!

5.30 Yasgur’s May Meltdown, Bethel NY (PEAK headlining Friday night!)

6.17 Stella Blues, New Haven, CT

7.10 Electric Haze, Worcester, MA

7.16 Snug’s Bar, New Paltz, NY

7.23 B.R.Y.A.C. Bridgeport, CT

8.26 Tellus 360, Lancaster, PA

8.27 Altered State Distellery Erie, PA

9.10 ALBUM RELEASE SHOW Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, NY

ALBUM RELEASE SHOW? Yes you read that right. There is a new record in the hopper, and it’s going to knock socks right off. More on that later…

I’m sure I will see your lovely faces at a few of these! See you out there, friends!

A Different Side of Peak’s Jeremy Hilliard with “Long Lives”

The pandemic was hard.

Things got really scary really fast for many of us. Most people were forced to stay home. I was not one of those people as my job is pretty paper-heavy, so I was still going to work a lot. My husband was still going to work every day, as he was a retail worker in construction. But while our work worlds spun madly on, the good stuff in our world was slowing. We all had to slow our roll and pull all our limbs back in the car. As we all know, clubs shuttered. Festivals and shows were cancelled. The music got real quiet.

Then one day, people started having shows in their homes and letting us all in. It started slow and then everyone was doing it. I don’t know what other people thought about this phenomenon, but I loved it. I loved the rawness of the material and the nosey person in me loved getting to look in people’s homes and at their artwork and furniture. I’m that person who absolutely WILL look in your window at night if your blinds are open as I drive by. Not because I’m pervy or anything, I really just want to see what colors you paint your walls and stuff. So this, for people like me, was magical. Music and interior design!

Anyway, one of my favorite living room peeks was New York’s Peak’s (see what I did there?) guitarist, front man, and mastermind Jeremy Hilliard. He would take requests, create lists, show us tiny cups, and sometimes his lovely wife or cat. It was an acoustic hour of all sorts of material and it always felt like just hanging with a friend for some tunes. Even though he never took my Simon and Garfunkel suggestions, I loved and looked forward to those living room shows. They were super fun and appealed to my not-so inner folkie. Fast forward to now, and Jeremy has taken some of the songs he’s had stored in the freezer for a few years, mixed them with some songs he’s been working on recently, and compiled a bunch of home demos he calls Long Lives. It’s a wonderfully rough and real batch of songs that play with folk, Americana, true blue country (you know, the good kind) and just pure emotional rock and roll, stripped down and laid bare.

Long Lives, according to Jeremy, is “10 demos of mine that seem to fit together.” He’s absolutely right. The songs all have a wonderfully rootsy Americana feel. It’s a great collection that gives you a sense of journey. You feel like you are along for the ride through states and cities across our country, seeing the landscapes and meeting the people. Jeremy’s guitar playing is absolutely wonderful in general, but this collection really highlights how broad his talents are.  While there are some tasty solos throughout, his playing simply lays a really comfortable and smooth set of tracks for every story he is telling. My favorite track is the collection opener, Shot in the Dark. It reminds me a bit of Arlo Guthrie in how the song is strung together and has a wonderful singalong quality with the really great backups. I could see this song as the credits roll after a good romance film. I also love Morning in Brooklyn. “Late night crackheads, early morning hipster joggers”…it paints a picture. The best line though is “BQE sunrise…every exit tells a story”. Blue Parkway is also a really gorgeous song with a bit of a soaring folkie feel. You can get the sensation of being within this tune, along for the ride.  The title track has a wonderful “froggie went a courtin” kind of feel, but with Jeremy’s amazing guitar work and much better lyrics, plus a really hopeful vibe. It’s a song I actually plan to teach my daughter to sing because it has such a wonderful message.

Jeremy recorded these tunes pretty bare bones, using Logic Pro x, one 58 mic, and two guitars. Also in the credits on vocal harmonies is his lovely wife, Beth. It’s a refreshingly raw recording. Everyone these days is very into perfectly polished records. Overproduction is a thing and in my opinion, it’s REALLY prevalent. It takes away so much of the personality of a song sometimes to make something sound so studio perfect, and I love the fact that this collection is nothing like that. So much of the folk music I love is pretty much under produced and that lends itself wonderfully to the overall feel of the songs. I would put this collection right there with some of the best of those records, in that you feel connected to the artist in the recording. Like you could be sitting right there with them, the way we used to before the pandemic closed down our intimate venues. I really, really enjoyed Long Lives and I would be happy to see it become a one man show for a few dates or even a full on release – as long as it stays rough and true. It was a genuine privilege to get to dig into this material.

But as always, don’t take my word for it. Head on over to Soundcloud and give the collection a listen for yourself, and let’s discuss!