The Avett Brothers September 16, 2011

The Avett Brothers. September 16, 2011.

Ntelos Wireless Pavilion. Charlottesville, VA.

The Avett Brothers delivered the knockout punch to a sold out crowd Friday night on the Charlottesville downtown mall.  With barely enough room to clap your hands, fans packed into the Ntelos Wireless Pavilion for a second night of highly anticipated music from the high energy band from North Carolina.  Digging even deeper into their repertoire, the Avett Brothers played everything you could have wanted to hear.  From the knee-slapping melodies of I Killed Sally’s Lover to the crowd engaging I & Love & You sing-along, from the new sounds of Once & Future Carpenter to the always emotional Murder in the City.  The Avetts had the crowd at full attention and never let go, and unlike some artists who just come out and perform their songs, The Avett Brothers are a genuine act, every time.  
The band never stands still, sliding and dancing around the stage.  Whether its coming from the banjo, bass or piano, Joe Kwon’s cello, or their heartfelt vocal harmonies, there was always an undeniable energy throughout the show.  From When I Drink to John Prine’s Way Down, from the encore performance of The Ballad Of Love And Hate (video below) to the ever so relevant Blue Ridge Mountain Blues, I think everyone in attendance certainly got their money’s worth Friday night.  Having said that, I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow night at HFStival!!

  • The Avett Brothers - The Ballad Of Love And Hate

  • Seth Avett, feeling it.  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • A brotherly duet, unplugged.  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Joe Kwon on cello.  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Scott Avett on piano.  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

For more Avett Brothers concert photos visit BlueSkyCampfires on Flickr.

HFStival - September 17, 2011

HFStival. September 17, 2011

Merriweather Post Pavilion. Columbia, Maryland.

With the revival of famed Rock & Roll radio station WHFS, came the return of the HFStival.  20 bands on 2 stages.  Main stage acts included Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, Clutch, Dr. Dog, Flogging Molly, and The Avett Brothers.  There was a ‘Locals Only’ stage behind the lawn area for, you guessed it, local acts.

The festival wasn’t as large, or largely attended as it used to be, lets just say that. The music was great but the atmosphere didn’t match. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to be able to retreat from my blanket to watch bands like Pasadena on the local stage and come back to the lawn without missing a second of the mainstage acts. Once I was able to adjust to the all-to-real feeling of being one of the only people there, I was really digging a lot of what I heard. The overcast skies and scattered raindrops never interrupted what turned into a good flow of music throughout the day and night.

Jimmie’s Chicken Shack cranked out classics like Lazy Boy Dash and Do Right. Jimmie sounded the same as the first time I saw him live over 10 years ago, which was great. This was my first time seeing Clutch, I’m a fan now, ahahaa. Dr. Dog delivered a thick sound that got the crowd going and set the stage for the rest of the night. When Flogging Molly got on stage the sun was down, the lights were on, and people were dancing all around me.

Headlining the night, The Avett Brothers, and for the third consecutive night in a row, one right after the other, I was blown away. The songs are great, the energy is great, I really can’t say enough good things about seeing these guys live. The dynamics they bring to the stage take every song to the next level. They connect with the crowd, you are part of the show, it feels like they are singing just to you, ahahaa. One night they played Shame with the whole band, one night was just the brothers with one guitar, both incredible. I really appreciate their ability to stretch the songs in so many directions. I liked when they played Paranoia in B flat Major and the whole crowd came in on cue for the la-la-la’s at the end. I had to sit down for Murder In The City, ahahaa. When they dropped in Colorshow at the end, which you should know was my first Avett Brothers favorite song, and then closed the night with I and Love and You, I smiled to myself thinking how good a decision it was on my part to see these guys three nights in a row, ahahaa.

HFStival 2011. Music saved the day.

  • The Avett Brothers. Scott and Seth.

  • Flogging Molly in full stride. Cheers.

  • Jimmie’s Chicken Shack doing it right.

For more HFStival concert photos visit BlueSkyCampfires on Flickr.

Radiohead - June 2012


June 3, 2012. Verizon Center. Washington, DC.

June 13, 2012. Susquehanna Bank Center. Camden, NJ.

Radiohead is good, like really good, like amazing good. The little band from England has been playing for over 20 years and they’re still getting better. It’s just silly. The music is constantly evolving and developing and growing. And when you see them live and they make all those crazy noises come together, like I said, it’s amazing.

Thom Yorke was electric. He appeared more youthful and spirited than ever, dancing and moving around the stage. The energy was high and the crowds were engaged. The setlists covered everything but Pablo Honey. Nothing was off the menu; AirbagMorning Mr. MagpieYou and Whose Army?, and even the b-side Meeting In The Aisle. To open the second encore in DC, Thom came back out with guitarist Johnny Greenwood for a beautiful version of Give Up The Ghost. Yorke used a loop pedal to sing 4-part harmonies with himself while plucking along on acoustic guitar. It was the highlight of the show for me, and when the moment repeated itself in the first encore in Jersey, I was ready.

Every Radiohead fan has their favorite songs, personally, I love them all, ahahaa. Even if they played the same exact set in Jersey I wouldn’t have complained, but they didn’t. This time they threw in Like Spinning PlatesIdioteque, an especially beautiful version of Nude, and House Of Cards during the encore.  The night ended with a taste of True Love Waits into Everything In Its Right Place. I need to catch my breath just talking about it again.

They must have had a dozen cameras on stage strategically located in and around band members and their instruments. All the cameras were feeding monitors hanging above the stage. The square screens would rotate and hang from different heights and positions for different songs, and were of course always synchronized with the lights. It was an impressive production. And as cool as all the video screens and bright lights were, it was all about Radiohead. Put them on stage with no screens and no lights and BlueSkyCampfires will still be waiting in line for a ticket.

  • Radiohead - Give Up The Ghost

  • Radiohead in Washington, DC. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Thom Yorke on guitar. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • The complete Radiohead experience. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
Beirut - October 25, 2011

Beirut. October 25, 2011.

The National. Richmond, VA.

After years of failed efforts I was finally on my way to see Beirut, live at The National in Richmond. Previous shows were sold out, canceled, or my day job got in the way. I’ve been looking forward to this night since the first time I heard the The Gulag Orkestar five years ago. Expectations were high but Zach Condon and band far exceeded my wildest dreams and then some. I’ll be humming horn riffs in the shower for days, ahahaa.

Maybe Beirut is that good, maybe the sound engineer had a career night, or maybe BlueSkyCampfires can just pick a good show, I don’t know, but they sounded fantastic. Drums, ukulele, accordion, bass, lead vocals and back-up vocals, horns, horns, and horns; everything fit together perfectly. The whole band was on point. The setlist reflected the entire discography from The Gulag Orkestar to The Flying Club Cup to Beirut’s newest album, The Rip Tide. They played everything you could possibly want them to play, and better than you ever thought they could play it.

Condon stood in the center with horns to his left, drums to his back, and bass and accordion to his right, but the sound came from everywhere. I still can’t get over how tight they sounded, especially when all three horn players came in together. Condon’s vocals are convincing. He seemed comfortable and energized, engaging in playful between-song banter with the crowd. Whether he was singing, strumming the ukulele, or blowing the trumpet, he owned the stage.

The determining factor though, was the horns, they really did it for me. They sounded incredible. Every note conveyed so much emotion. The mixture of piano or accordion, the energetic slap of the bass, the timely drum beat, the fusion of vocals, trumpets, trombones and tubas, it all comes together to form the unique sound that fans have been falling in love with for years; Beirut.

  • Zach on vocals.  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Zach on ukulele.  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Paul Collins (bass) & Perrin Cloutier (accordion). Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Beirut under the lights. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

For more concert photos visit BlueSkyCampfires on Flickr.

The Mynabirds - September 2, 2012

The Mynabirds. September 2, 2012.

Rock and Roll Hotel. Washington, DC.

So the future is 5 days later. The Mynabirds are headlining the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC. Frontwoman Laura Burhenn, a western Maryland native, is coming home. Only a few years earlier Burhenn relocated to Omaha, Nebraska to start The Mynabirds, and now the band is touring in support of their sophomore album, Generals. 

The Mynabirds are easy to like, especially after you see them. Burhenn and backup vocalist, Rebecca Marie Miller, stand out in front on small wooden platforms stomping and clapping and singing like it’s nobody’s business. The protest songs turned love songs turned dance songs will have you humming along before you even know the words. “I try to ride the line between, this is politics, but at the same time, this is about me and you, this is a love song, or this is about our relationship as human beings”, says Burhenn, “I want to feel connected to everybody around me, and I want to feel like we can actually, there’s hope for us to do something better than what we have, and to achieve something, and to have something better than what we already have.”

The set opened with Karma Debt and Wolf Mother, then followed with Let The Record Go and Buffalo Flower. The tempo was high, the energy was high, The Mynabirds were soaring. Laura’s performance of Fallen Doves, for only the second time ever, was chilling. A climactic three song stretch closed out the set; Generals, Disarm, and Body Of Work. Disarm has been stuck in my head since the Okkervil River show. I keep singing, ‘my love…’, then bobbing my head when I don’t know the words. Then they go into this harmonious ‘oooh, oooh’ part, it’s pretty catchy. It’ll be in your head too, watch. In the encore they pulled out What We Gained In The Fire, the title track of sorts from their first album, featuring Miller on trumpet. Burhenn thanked the crowd, encouraged everyone to vote, and then it was over.

I’m still humming Disarm, ahahaa.

Once you fall in love with the melodies and the hooks, we’ll really knock your socks off by introducing you to the mastermind behind them, Laura Burhenn. The Mynabirds singer sat down with BlueSkyCampfires for a conversation about music, love, and the world we all live in. Don’t miss Laura’s interview and more Mynabirds concert footage coming soon on BlueSkyCampfires’ new series, The Campfire Sessions.

  • The Mynabirds - Fallen Doves

  • The Mynabirds. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
What we talk about peace and love, but it’s all mouth. But actually it’s very hard to do it. I find it’s so much easier through musical notes, musically to reach the heart, and I feel the communication. I wish it was possible to relate the same thing without music, but I find it very hard. I’m seeing people trying their best by giving lectures and so many talks and things, but its not really achieving much. So you and I have more advantage.
—  Ravi Shankar’s reply to George Harrison asking, “What do you think we should be doing to make our lives better?”
Jeff Mangum - January 30, 2012

Jeff Mangum. January 30, 2012.

Memorial Hall. Chapel Hill, NC.

BlueSkyCampfires was back on the road Monday night for our third and final installment of Jeff Mangum’s magical twenty-twelve tour. For years it was unthinkable, unfathomable, a hope, a prayer, a dream. Well let me tell you it’s happening. I was there, I heard it, I saw it. Jeff Mangum bears his soul performing all the greatest songs from the Neutral Milk Hotel catalog, solo, on acoustic. He gets better with every song and every show, in different venues in front of different faces, honing a performance for the ages.

He opened with Two-Headed Boy, Part 2, Holland, 1945, and Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone. He played Engine, Little Birds, and all 3 parts of The King of Carrot Flowers straight through. Then came Ghost (audio below), Naomi which went straight into April 8, Oh Comely, and then Two-Headed Boy straight into The Fool. In the encore he played Song Against Sex (audio below) and In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Unbelievable. Mangum was in full stride from beginning to end.

One of the highlights of each show have been the unique arrangements created by friends and former bandmates joining Mangum on stage for select songs. Tonight’s show brought back Neutral Milk Hotel’s Scott Spillane and fellow musicians Andrew Rieger and Laura Carter. Outside of another rousing rendition of The Fool, which featured two more mystery guests and a second trumpet for good measure, the group’s most chilling contribution came from their droning horns on April 8. The song climaxes with the horns blazing and Jeff strumming away on guitar and emptying his lungs on some of the most haunting notes he hit all night.

Before Jeff’s set they brought out his guitars, one by one, and circled them around his chair. The buzz in the crowd grew steadily between the the third and fourth guitars and erupted when Mangum followed close behind the fourth ready to play. This is the epitome of BlueSkyCampfires. The intimate, unplugged performance. The artist and the song, stripped down and exposed, direct and real.

At Jeff’s request there was no photography or video recording, so the only couple shots I have of the stage are after Jeff walked off or outside the venue. I’m satisfied with the image of the guitars around his chair, my memory and imagination can fill in the rest, not to mention the audio recording of the entire show. Mangum had commented on previous nights that he didn’t mind audio recording, so this time around we decided to give it a try. We’ve posted a few of our favorites for your listening pleasure. Thank you Jeff.

  • Jeff Mangum - Song Against Sex.

  • Jeff Mangum - Ghost.

For more audio from this show visit BlueSkyCampfires on YouTube.

Jeff Mangum - October 3, 2011

Jeff Mangum. October 3, 2011.

Paramount Theater. Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Without offering explanation of where he’s been, I’ll only say that Jeff Mangum is back! After an extended hiatus dating back to the late 90’s, the Neutral Milk Hotel frontman has played only a handful of shows in recent years. The Sunday night show at the famed Asbury Park’s Paramount Theater was surrounded by a lot of excitement and anticipation. Fans poured into the Jersey Shore venue from all over the country. The appreciative and mostly respectful crowd greeted Jeff warmly as he came on stage and planted himself inside a circle of 4 acoustic guitars. We all dreamed about it and now it was happening, a night with Jeff Mangum and four acoustic guitars, a rock & roll fairy tale.

I’m a huge Neutral Milk Hotel fan. They’ve never had a bad song, Mangum could play anything and I’d walk away happy. But that’s not what happened. Instead, as if reading my mind, Mangum performed every song I could think of. He played the classic In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone, and Oh Comely. He even played April 8th with the accompaniment of A Hawk And A Hacksaw, who opened for Mangum earlier that evening.

And it just kept getting better. Mangum seemed comfortable and at ease, ready to play his music, and he sounded great. He was conversational between songs, from offering his opinion of Wall Street to answering questions from the crowd, he was smiling throughout. In one stretch he played through all three parts of The King Of Carrot Flowers, Little Birds for only the 2nd time ever, Ghost, and Engine to close out the set. It was truly something special.

The crowd stood clapping and cheering until he came back out for a small encore. He sat back down and dove right into Two-Headed Boy, which was amazing, and on the final sustaining chord he kept his hand raised high in the air. A few breathes later a bass drum opened up from off stage, and as the accordian and horns came in you could see the members of A Hawk And A Hacksaw walking onto the stage for the final song of the night, the all-instrumental The Fool. It was perfect. That song puts me in a beautiful place, and to finish the night on such uplifting notes was just so much more than I could have hoped for. I stood staring at the stage for a few minutes as the crowd pushed through the exits. It was like waking up from a dream, I can’t believe that just happened. Like I said, Jeff Mangum is back.

The next night Mangum took to the streets of New York for a surprise performance at the Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan. The increasingly more frequent thought that I will get to see Jeff play again is making me smile even now as I write this. I recommend starting at the 1:05 mark and then sitting back for the show.

  • Jeff Mangum playing and spinning, encouraging everyone to sing along.
Sigur Ros - March 24, 2013

Sigur Rós. March 24, 2013.

Patriot Center. Fairfax, VA.

Sigur Rós came to play. A horn section, strings section, guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and Jónsi, all added up to an 11-piece band. The show started behind a large white sheet hanging in front of the stage. The opener even played behind it.

The rapid-fire lights on and around the stage revealed band member and instrument silhouettes against the curtain. There were tiny shadows from the violin players in the back contrasted with the larger than life shadow of Jónsi standing at the mic. Much to the crowd’s delight, the curtain fell on cue during a climactic build-up near the end of the second song, Ný Batterí. The band followed up their dramatic ‘entrance’ with one of my personal favorites, Vaka.

The show hit stride around Sæglópur and E-bow. I enjoyed the softer lighting used for Hoppípolla/Með Blóðnasir. The strobe lights really wore me down. The set closed with Brennisteinn, the title track from their most recent EP released just days before the show. The encore was the 15-minute anthem, Popplagið. Photos of the setlist released after the show revealed that the band initially planned for 3 more tracks than they ended up playing. Disappointing news in hindsight but a great show nonetheless.

  • Sigur Rós - Hoppípolla / Með Blóðnasir 

  • Warning: Strobe lights may cause…  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • And behind curtain #2…  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
Okkervil River - August 28, 2012

Okkervil River. August 28, 2012.

Jefferson Theater. Charlottesville, VA.

The Mynabirds opening.

So it turns out that maybe I can’t read after all. My ticket clearly read, ‘Doors 8pm, Show 9pm’. I thought I was running late and would be walking in during the end of the opener’s set, but actually I was early, like standing in the front row against the stage early.

The show was upbeat and energetic from the first note. Okkervil River frontman, Will Sheff, came out with a bang, bobbing and weaving around the stage, attacking the microphone with every verse. And when his glasses flew off mid-song and nearly landed in the crowd, he didn’t blink an eye. Judging by the band’s performance you’d have thought it was sold out. That’s when I looked behind me for the first time since the show started and realized there was barely anyone there. The small crowd was enthusiastic and into it, I’ll give them that much, and the band didn’t skip a beat, they kept it turned up to 10, but where were you Charlottesville? I overheard someone mention that it was the first day of classes at UVa, but that’s a pretty lame excuse if you ask me. This is Rock & Roll people, you better get your priorities straight, ahahaa.

Sheff played a solo acoustic version of Maine Island Lovers late in the set, coincidentally the only song we recorded and my favorite song of the night. I moved to the back shortly after and that’s when they finally whipped out the much anticipated Lost Coastlines. These guys put on a great show, they deserved a bigger crowd.

The best part of showing up early was The Mynabirds. Laura Burhenn led the way through a dance-infused, pop rock set of protest songs and love songs, but that doesn’t come close to describing their on-stage sound. The tempo was upbeat, the band was tight, and the vocal harmonies took it to the next level. I was humming Disarm in my head the whole ride home. If you have any sense of good taste, you can expect to be hearing a lot more from The Mynabirds in the future.

  • Okkervil River - Maine Island Lovers

  • Okkervil River. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Okkervil River frontman, Will Sheff. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • The Mynabirds. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
How To Train Your Dragon - July 22, 2012

How To Train Your Dragon.  July 22, 2012.

Verizon Center.  Washington, DC.

Any one else might have felt out place. When the first dragon flew out the kid next to me started flapping his arms, slapping me with every flap of his official How To Train A Dragon dragon wings. I should have bought stock in this show, every kid was holding toy dragons, wearing dragon wings and dragon hats, or plastic viking armor with blinking swords. We’ll just say merchandise sales seemed to be going well. If you haven’t already seen the Dream Works animated film, How To Train Your Dragon, see it. If you have a chance to go see the How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular, see it.

I don’t want to give the whole story away, but it would be difficult not to mention something about the Vikings and the dragons, Hiccup and Toothless. Fun for the whole family, that’s what I say. No matter how much more mature we’re supposed to get with age, I’m still as easily amused and entertained as ever. When I was a kid there would have been a few actors running around in dragon costumes flailing their arms and pretending to breathe fire. Now the dragons are 100 feet long and are flying through the air. It was awesome.

The production was like nothing I’ve seen before. The entire floor of the Verizon Center was the stage, and with the use of a huge wall, lights, projectors, harnesses and suspension cables, the stage doubled in size. The music, lighting, special effects, the acrobatics and stunts, the actors and dragons, everything was right on. I watched with childlike wonder, ooohing and ahhhing, and even cheering out loud when the moment called for it. More than anything though, I remember walking away thinking how cool it would be to have a pet dragon, ahahaa. 

  • Moonlighting with Toothless. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Be the dragon. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
Sting - October 29, 2011

Sting. October 29, 2011.

DAR Constitution Hall. Washington, DC.

It’s 1985 and I’m sitting in the back of my mother’s brown Nissan station wagon serenading the rest of the car with Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. I can remember my mother sharing her favorite Police records with me, all of which I have to this day in my own record collection. So with the announcement of Sting’s “Back to Bass” tour, a celebration of his 25-year career, I was excited to see the DAR Constitution Hall show in Washington, DC on the BlueSkyCampfires concert schedule. Constitution Hall has showcased some of my favorite artists over the years, and the view is great from any angle, although this time around I managed Orchestra seats with a direct line of sight to Sting’s microphone.

The sold out crowd was ripe with anticipation as a lone spotlight illuminated the mic at center stage. It was nice to see fans of all ages and backgrounds. The band stepped out on stage first, followed by the man himself. It was a little surreal. He looked great, more like 35 than 60.  Donning his Labyrinth-themed tour shirt, Sting grabbed his bass and greeted the crowd.  They opened with All This Time  then rolled into Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.   It was hit after hit; Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing), Driven To Tears, Fields Of Gold, Ghost Story

One of my favorite songs of the night was I’m So Happy, I Can’t Stop Crying; “I took a walk alone last night. I looked up at the stars to try and find an answer to my life.  I chose a star for me, I chose a star for him, I chose two stars for my kids and one star for my wife. Something made me smile. Something seemed to ease the pain. Something about the universe and how it’s all connected.”

Revisiting the origins of some songs, Sting offered several anecdotes throughout the night ranging from his father, to sex and religion, to the fields of barley outside his home (or “big f’ing castle” as he so modestly put it). He talked about the surprising influence of country music in some of his music and how some of his songs have been covered by country artists including Toby Keith and Johnny Cash. 

My cheeks were already numb half way through the show because I couldn’t stop beaming with excitement. Euphoria was taking over my body, the corners of my eyes welled with tears of joy. I found myself gyrating in the same tantric motions as Sting as he machine gunned us with his bass. Being a fellow Yogi, I could sense the Tayasya  in him, that tantric, yogic energy that compels his mind, body and soul forward. I love this quote from the official website; I’m not singing about anything that’s particularly alien to any member of the audience. Relationships break up, people die, you mature. Things occur to you. I’m singing the song of my life. I’ve suffered and I’ve had joy, so I have to reflect that.”

The crowd rose to their feet as he finished the set with Never Coming Home. Scores of cheers and applause filled the air as Sting returned for not one, but three encores. Desert Rose, Every Breath You Take, Next To You. The crowd was dancing all through the aisles and the ushers made no attempt at restoring order.

The final song was the perfect ending to the night. Sting, alone, with a single spotlight and a classical guitar playing Message In A Bottle.  The call-and-response with the audience during the chorus was classic  Kirtan, I was proud to sing along.  For me, “every little thing he does is magic, magic, magic…, whooooaaah, whoooaaaahh, eyooooaahhhh…”

   - Contributing Writer: Christina B.
   Read more from Christina on her blog:

  • Sting - Message In A Bottle.

  • Sting: Back to Bass Tour. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Sting, center stage. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

For more concert photos visit BlueSkyCampfires on Flickr.


Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds. August 20, 2011.

Ntelos Wireless Pavilion. Charlottesville, VA.

Playing to a sold out crowd and more, Dave Matthews returned to Charlottesville more popular than Thomas Jefferson.  Teaming up with long time friend Tim Reynolds, the acoustic show offered a unique experience for concert-goers who were able to donate the full ticket proceeds to a charity of their choice at

The crowds spilled onto the bridge, outside the gates of the pavilion, and well into the stretches of the downtown mall.  Even without a view of the stage, fans could hear the show clearly for blocks.  With between-song banter ranging from the sexual habits of sea turtles, to his car once getting towed downtown, Dave engaged the crowd as he would a group of close friends.  Tim Reynolds’ effortless guitar picking left the crowd in awe as Dave delivered hit after hit.  Warren Haynes, who headlined the after show party, joined the duo onstage for a rousing rendition of Jimi Thing and #41.  Matthews and Reynolds left no one unsatisfied playing 27 songs in just under 3 hours, including a 3-song encore kicked off with a beautiful cover of Procol Harem’s A Whiter Shade Of Pale.

From a preshow slice of pizza at Christian’s to the resounding melodies of Dancing Nancies, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds delivered a night of music that will leave Charlottesville abuzz for weeks to come.

  • Playing below Belmont Bridge. Photo by Milo Farineau.

  • From the upper orchestra. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Up close and personal. Photo by Milo Farineau.
The Avett Brothers - September 23, 2012

The Avett Brothers. September 23, 2012.

Pier Six Pavilion. Baltimore, MD.

It’s a recurring theme I know, but The Avett Brothers are just relentless. I’m not sure I even see them come up for air. The show was high energy, as always. Band members were rotating on and off stage between songs trying to keep up with the rapidfire setlist. Sometimes everyone is on, sometimes it’s just Scott and Seth, and then everything in between.

The guys were just ‘on’ tonight; Laundry Room, Go To SleepKick Drum Heart.Any song with the brothers harmonizing sounded great, especially the stripped down versions of Murder In The City and Sanguine. The new album, The Carpenter, hit shelves just a few weeks ago but the band’s been playing different songs in live shows all year. Down With Shine, The Once and Future Carpenter, and Winter In My Heart proved to have already become crowd favorites.

It’s been over 4 months since I’ve seen them live, and maybe this has become a normal thing and I just haven’t seen it yet; The Avett Brothers went electric. I’m not talking like Dylan going electric, I mean completely out the other end. I think it was for Paul Newman Vs. The Demons, or maybe not, but everyone was plugged in on electrics and at one point Seth was even on the drums, attacking them like Animal from The Muppets. I thought he was going to kick them over and stage dive into the crowd, ahahaa. If this was any sign of what’s to come, sign me up.

Having said that, the Avett brothers singing together accompanied by only an acoustic guitar or banjo is beautiful music. For an encore Scott and Seth were joined by bassist Bob Crawford for a down home version of Just A Closer Walk With Thee. They closed the night with the sold out crowd on their feet for I And Love And You.

If you haven’t seen The Avett Brothers live yet I don’t know what is wrong with you. Something, obviously, but who am I to say. Maybe you’re more entertained by a night in watching Dancing With The Stars, in which case you’re probably not reading BlueSkyCampfires anyway, ahahaa. Speaking of DWTS, Seth has some moves, I’ve seen him show off some pretty fancy footwork on stage, if he can hold onto a dance partner like he does a guitar I think he’d have a chance.

  • The Avett Brothers - Just A Closer Walk With Thee

  • Bob Crawford (bass) & Scott Avett. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Joe Kwon (cello) & Seth Avett. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • The Avett Brothers. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
Wayne Hancock - August 24, 2012

Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock. August 24, 2012.

Hill Country. Washington, DC.

So there I was, driving down the highway heading to another Wayne Hancock show. I just heard about it two days before, and I know it wasn’t listed last month when we went to see him in Philly. Needless to say, for the sake of my own mental health, I had to go.

Wayne was joined on stage by yet another new guitarist, new even since the last time I saw him a month ago. Playing together for only the third time, the threesome seemed to be a natural fit with Wayne holding down vocals and rhythm, Zach Sapunor slapping the dog house bass, and in front of a home crowd of family and friends Zach Sweeney was picking away on lead guitar. A few more nights and it’ll sound like they’ve been playing together for years.

After 4-5 songs Hancock turned to the crowd for requests. If there was a setlist going into the show there wasn’t anymore. 20 songs later and Wayne was just getting warmed up; Highway 54, Juke Joint Jumpin’, the Ernest Tubb’s cover Walking The Floor Over You, Kansas City Blues, a lively rendition of Tulsa, and my favorite part of the night, a cover of Hank Williams’ Lost Highway. I can’t imagine I’m the first one to come up with the idea, but I think Wayne playing a whole record of Hank Williams songs would be incredible. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Moanin’ the Blues makes the cut.

It was only a few songs into the night before Wayne requested some lighting changes. As he pointed up to the two spotlights facing him he asked, “can we make these bright lights kind of go away?”. Then he cheered out loud when they turned them off. His playful banter and steady stream of expletives kept the crowd on their toes, but his juke joint swing kept them on their feet. Almost more impressive was how he finished off the end of the set with only 4 strings left on his guitar. ‘Welcome to the songs in ‘E’ set”, he said laughingly.

BlueSkyCampfires caught up with Wayne when he sat down for an interview after the show. Catch his interview and more concert footage as part of our new series, The Campfire Sessions, coming this fall.

  • Wayne Hancock - Walking The Floor Over You

  • Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
Jeff Mangum - January 28, 2012

Jeff Mangum. January 28, 2012.

Lincoln Theatre. Washington, DC.

Jeff Mangum played another sold out show Saturday night in Washington, DC. Expectations were high and expectations were once again surpassed. The setlist showcased much of the same Neutral Milk Hotel tracks from a couple nights ago, but this time he was even better.

Although he chooses his moments, Mangum seems to enjoy interacting with the crowd. He brought it upon himself when fans started yelling out comments and questions like, ‘take it off’, ‘where the hell have you been the last decade?’, and ‘when is the next album?’. But Jeff took all the hard-hitting questions in stride replying, ‘you don’t want to see that’, ‘I’ve just been enjoying my life’, and ‘I don’t know, we’ll see’, respectively, all with a smile on his face.

The back half of the set really stood out tonight. The energy was high coming off The King of Carrot Flowers and Mangum rolled right into Ghost, Naomi, Oh Comely and Two Headed Boy. Joining Mangum on stage for a few songs was former Neutral Milk Hotel bandmate and now The Music Tapes frontman, Julian Koster. Koster and his band all accompanied Jeff on The Fool to close out the set. As they left the stage the crowd stood cheering, hooping and hollering, flooding the aisles down toward the stage. Mangum came back out for a one song encore and rocked In The Aeroplane Over The Sea with Julian on the saw.

Then the house lights came on. The house music came on. Some people turned toward the exits and some people probably even left the building, but most of us stood in our spots still cheering for more. Maybe it was 30 seconds, maybe it was 5 minutes, but he came back out for one more song and we all went nuts. Mangum was sounding better and better as the night went on. He closed with Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone and walked back off the stage. It was another amazing show.

The opening act, The Music Tapes, once again dazzled the crowd with their enchanting sounds and stories. Julian Koster leads the parade of the 7’ metronome, the rotating monkey-armed organ player, tales of his traveling Romanian circus family and their never-duplicated trick of pulling entire European cities out of their mouths, and of course the singing television. You have to see it to believe it.

I will go see Jeff Mangum play unplugged Neutral Milk Hotel songs for as long as he’ll play them, its fantastic, but I can’t help to think how fantastic it will be when he starts writing more music again. Having said that, Mangum’s reemergence on the music scene is already legendary and BlueSkyCampfires is just thankful to be here as it happens.

Ben Harper - September 29, 2011

Ben Harper & Relentless7. September 29, 2011.

Electric Factory. Philadelphia, PA.

Grace Woodroofe opening.

Ben Harper shows are special moments that last for hours and linger for days. The raw emotion and energy that is communicated and exchanged between Harper and his fans can be felt before he even takes the stage. I felt it a week before the show. So for the first of three upcoming Harper shows, BlueSkyCampfires traveled north to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.

As a general rule there are a couple things I always do, or try not to do. First, I don’t wear the shirt of the band I’m going to see. Women can get away with that but I can’t. I also don’t listen to the artist for at least a week before the show.  I like to keep the feeling fresh. I want to open myself to the experience that night has to offer me, and when it comes to Ben Harper you know you’ll be satisfied one way or another. Whether he’s playing with The Innocent Criminals, Blind Boys of Alabama, Fistful Of Mercy, Relentless7, or solo, you’re going to get that man’s soul that night and nothing less.

After bearing the traffic through DC and Baltimore, the road opened up to Philly and we found ourselves, happily surprised, early enough to be in line for the doors to open, which loosely translated means front row!!!

The biggest perk to arriving early though was Grace Woodroofe. New to the scene from Australia, Woodroofe’s debut album is being produced by Harper himself, and what better way to promote her than bringing her on tour. Once on stage though, Grace took care of the rest. I can only describe her live sound as fierce. When she sings it, you feel it, no questions asked. Hearing everything for the first time, I was immediately drawn to Grace’s explosive, heart-stopping roars on Nocturnal and Oh My God. Then, like everyone else in the crowd, I was entranced by I’ve Handled Myself Wrong and H. I looked at my wife and she couldn’t stop smiling. I turned to my friends around me and all I could say was ‘wow’.

Next up, Ben Harper. When he takes the stage you know you’re not just there to watch him play music, you’re there to experience it with him. The band played for nearly 3 hours and the song selections spanned across Harper’s entire career. Nothing seemed to be off limits. They played everything, from the opening Glory & Consequence, which turned into a brief cover of Pearl Jam’s Jeremy and then back again, to Suzie Blue, to an extended jam version of Lay There And Hate Me. Harper also introduced a new song, Masterpiece, which to steal his words, was a masterpiece. Sometimes the whole band was playing, sometimes it was just Ben, sitting or standing in the center of the stage. He closed out the first set singing the Blind Boy’s Where Could I Go. After the first verse he pushed the mic aside and stood at the front of the stage singing a cappella. If you didn’t get goosebumps from that, you’re not human.

The energized crowd never waned as we cheered wildly for an encore. The 6-song set showcased more of Ben’s acoustic talents as he slid his way through Lifeline, and with the help of the crowd, belted out classics like Walk Away and Forever. The night slowly faded with the sounds of another new song, Better Than I Deserve.

I got home from Philly around 5am and was back at my day job by 9am, but I’m not complaining, that’s Rock & Roll.

  • Jason Mozersky, Jordan Richardson, Ben Harper, Jesse Ingalls, and Justin Pate.

  • A wide ranging setlist featured songs from throughout Harper’s career.

  • Harper played everything he could reach. Lap guitar, acoustic, electric…

  • Grace Woodroofe delivers greetings from Australia.

For more concert photos visit BlueSkyCampfires on Flickr.

The Avett Brothers September 15, 2011

The Avett Brothers. September 15, 2011

Ntelos Wireless Pavilion. Charlottesville, VA.

On the first of two nights in Charlottesville, and 3 nights for the BlueSkyCampfires fall concert series, The Avett Brothers took the stage Thursday night in front of thousands of fans, young and old.  Few artists are really able to ‘take it up a notch’ as well as The Avett Brothers, and as good as they sound on their albums, they are that much better live.  Live you get to see them jumping off the kick drum and screaming at the top of their lungs.  Live you get to see them breaking guitar and banjo strings on nearly every song.  Live you get those goosebumps when the entire crowd is singing the lyrics to Shame.

I’ve never been to an Avett Brothers show I didn’t walk away from smiling, for days.  Thursday night was no different.  Maneuvering our way down front during the intermission, we ended up in about the 14th row, which gave us a nice level line of sight, a plus for our necks and our cameras.  The first half of the show went by in a blur, the excitement of seeing The Avett Brothers with my own brother was too much, ahahaa.  I don’t remember even breathing until Tear Down The House.

The most memorable part of the night though, for me, came in the last 5 songs.  They wrapped up the set with I & Love & You, Kick Drum Heart, and one of my 50 personal favorites, Colorshow.  I cheered wildly with everyone else as the band took their bows, then cheered wildly again in anticipation of the encore. 

Coming back out for one more song, The Avetts surprised everyone when they settled into a mesmerizing rendition of Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman.  After an enthusiastic ovation, and to no one’s dismay, the band bowed once again and left the stage, or so we thought.  Everything was normal for an end to a concert.  The house lights came on, the house music came on, and people started to slowly shuffle toward the exits.  Then, in unprecedented fashion, The Avett Brothers came back out.  The house lights went down and the amps went back on.  I’ve never seen a band come back out after the house lights went on, that alone was enough to cheer about.  At this point I was past any expectations and was just along for the ride, and what a ride it was.  The show concluded with the up-tempo crowd pleaser Talk On Indolence.  Where they pulled out the energy for that song is beyond me.  Readjust your pacemakers folks, The Avett Brothers are for real.

  • No instrument was left unplayed.  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Scott Avett during I & Love & You.  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Always happy to play one more song.  Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

For more Avett Brothers concert photos visit BlueSkyCampfires on Flickr.

Wayne Hancock - April 1, 2013

Wayne Hancock. April 1, 2013.

Fed Live. Harrisburg, PA.

A Monday night road trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania sounds like an obvious recipe for a good time, right? And I haven’t even mentioned the best part, the King of Juke Joint Swing himself, Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock. We couldn’t have bumped into Wayne at a better time. Coming off the February release of his new album, Ride, Hancock has been spending most of this year like he did the previous nineteen, on the road.

I could go on and on about how awesome the show was. Wayne is playing with a reinvigorated spirit and his vocals sound better than ever. You can tell he’s having fun up there when he comes out of a verse with a huge smile on his face turning to call out the next solo. These days most of those solos are going to guitarist, Zach Sweeney, who kindly obliges. The songs come to life on stage; 87 Southbound, Deal Gone Down, Any Old Time, Cold Lonesome Wind, Hank Williams’ I Heard That Lonesome Whistle Blow, Johnson City. As if naming a few comes anywhere close to hearing them all.

It’s the epitome of live music. The energy between the artist and the audience, everyone giving and giving. The more Wayne rocks, the more excited they get. The more excited they get, the more Wayne rocks, and on a good night that just keeps building and building. Then you have to come down, go to the next city, and do it all again. Life on the road definitely takes it’s toll; Wayne and his wife are separated, he has been battling clinical depression for years, and he has been battling alcoholism for even longer. So while his hardships might make for great songs, there has to be a better way.

Enter Ride. Not without it’s own set of blues, the album, and riding itself, serve as a release for Hancock, a safe place. We asked Wayne what role riding has played in his sobriety, “You can’t be drunk when you’re riding a motorcycle, and you can’t be too high. And I’ve met quite a few good people because I do ride, that have got my back so to speak, and have been very instrumental in helping me not to drink.” 

He must be doing something right, Ride broke into the AMA top ten a few weeks ago. Hancock’s renewed energy oozes out of the album and slaps you in the face at live shows. In a recent interview with BlueSkyCampfires Wayne talks about Ride’s current success in the charts, his passion for riding motorcycles, sobriety, life, music, and more.

  • Wayne Hancock Interview - Campfire Sessions

  • #SpringTimeIsSwingTime. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Zach Sweeney on lead guitar. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Wayne ‘The Train’. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
Rustem Hayroudinoff - March 19, 2013


Rustem Hayroudinoff. March 19, 2013.

Blackfriars Playhouse. Staunton, VA.

He’s performed to critical acclaim all over the world, but for one night the Russian born and internationally loved, Rustem Hayroudinoff, just happened to be in Staunton, Virginia. It’s not everyday you get to cross paths with a world renowned pianist like Hayroudinoff. In fact, I’ve never had a day like that, until now, and I can’t even begin to describe it. I’ll just say ‘awesome’.

The full performance was being audio and video recorded for future release by Hayroudinoff. There were last second adjustments to camera positions, mic placements, piano tuning, you name it, but Rustem never lost focus. BlueSkyCampfires had exclusive backstage access before the show and during sound check. The piano was alive all afternoon. They only pulled him away long enough to change clothes and let the audience be seated. And when the lights went on, Rustem was ready.

I’d been looking forward to this for weeks, and the anticipation grew to outright excitement after sound check. The playbill listed five compositions, including the second set’s 37-minute long Rachmaninoff Sonata No. 1, op. 28. Basking in the applause, Hayroudinoff returned to the stage for two additional encores. It was a beautiful night of music.

  • Hands on. (sound check) Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • At the helm. (sound check) Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.

  • Applause. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.