We’ve officially been “Bowlived” for the fourth year as Soulive reached the finish line of their 4th Annual residency, Bowlive, on Saturday night. It’s a bittersweet feeling; similar to the feelings you get when you have to leave an amazing few weeks at summer camp. For the members of Soulive, seeing the regular faces and New York City fan dedication is a wonderful energy for them to play off of throughout the run. In turn, fans get to see their favorite artists night after night, performing exquisitely executed originals and crushing covers with spectacular guests. All the while, both fans and band dance around with each other, their friends, and other musicians in the audience who are there just to bare witness. Everyone smiles and engages each other, soaking up every glorious note. It’s a symbiotic relationship that is hard to fall away from after being dipped so deeply for eight nights. So, when the end comes, we must remind ourselves that these residencies are special because they only happen once a year! Soulive reminds themselves that they have something special to look forward to as much as the audience does. And each year, the audience witnesses the unfolding of a beautiful musical dynasty that Eric Krasno and brothers Neal and Alan Evans have created.
Unlike the three previous year’s run, Soulive chose to focus their energy into eight shows instead of ten. This choice applies great pressure to any band who chooses to change the formula of a well-established and respected event. Bowlive fans expect a certain caliber of guests, a high level of surprise sit-ins, and some spectacular musical experiences that sometimes end up being a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Soulive knows this to be true and always takes the time to consider such factors. How about having Mod dancers bust out into the bowling lanes during the second set of Night I?! It was just go time at that point!
Over the course of eight nights, guitarist Eric Krasno, bass keyboardist Neal Evans and drummer Alan Evans provided a stage and support for fantastic and exciting artists. They played endless jams in multiple styles across the musical spectrum, which is an important goal of the residency every year. Special guests included rocking Southern Blues brothers, guitarist Luther Dickinson and his brother, drummer Cody Dickinson, the 1970’s soul vocalist, Lee Fields and his modern day counterpart, Nigel Hall. There was the unmatched pedal steel slide guitarist Robert Randolph, legendary jam scene DJ, DJ Logic, and The Shady Horns lent their wall of sound during the second week with the help of crushing saxophonist Bill Evans one night. Some of America’s most outstanding keyboardists, 1970’s Memphis blues keyboardist, Booker T. Jones, mad scientist and keyboard wizard, John Medeski, and the ever experimental Marco Benevento, dominated their time on stage. Stepping in to melt faces on guitar was the astonishing Los Lobos’s David Hildago and The Meter’s Leo Nocentell. Soulive closed out their epic week playing with America’s most famous funk bassist, George Porter. Jr.
Another exciting element of Bowlive each year is the choice opening bands Soulive picks to set the audience’s mood each night. Due to a benefit at the Brooklyn Bowl on Night Six, there were only seven opening groups, all delivering a variety of musical power. The ridiculous ragers who make up Kung-Fu opened the run with so much fury. It was a perfect choice. The rocking Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, The London Souls and Leroy Justice got the dance floor grooving. It was also a great pleasure to see two powerful females amongst the male-dominated residency by way of Alecia Chakour (The Alecia Chakour Band) and Arleigh Kincheloe (Sister Sparrow). The soul and flavor of love got shot to our hearts with The Nigel Hall Band, the Alecia Chakour Band and Cocheme Gastulum’s The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow. You’re encouraged to read about them all in the previous night’s posts.
Then, you have the unannounced guests who are a separate list of continual, crushing talent. The Allman Brother’s southern rock guitarist Warren Haynes and slide guitarist Derek Trucks surprised the audience with a secret full third set on Night Two. Trombonists Sanders Sermon (Tedeschi/Trucks Band) and Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastatio Band) and trumpeters Maurice Brown and Igmar Thomas, and saxophonist Cocheme Gastulum (Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings), enhanced the wall of horns over the run on various nights. Behind everything, the chemistry and talents of Eric Krasno, Neal Evans and Alan Evans, are what make Bowlive possible.
Perhaps the most special show for many Soulive fans is the Kids show. Soulive held another KidsBowl performance early Saturday afternoon from 2pm to 3pm. These specific types of shows bring Soulive’s music to both the fans children and the unknowing adults who bring their kids to bowl on a Saturday, not knowing what a treat they are in for. For dedicated Bowlive fans, the kids show is a wonderful way for the individual dancing alone at night to bring his or her family to meet one another. The reality of life becomes evident as the adults were in “parent” mode, not “party” mode. Babies were crawling on the dance floor and children of all ages were running around in bowling shoes. The lights were on and bumpers were out. In their hour, they performed a few Soulive originals and brought Meter’s bassist, George Porter, Jr. It was when the set was over that the real raging began, however, when the children were allowed on stage to play with instruments and dance.
Turn It Out
Hey Pockey Way (w/ George Porter, Jr.)
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
It was back to party time with the evening show and The Alecia Chakour Band opening. Her blues siren vocals backed by Neal Evans on keys, bassist Alex Chakour, drummer Caito Sanchez, saxophonist Cocheme Gastulum, and trombonist Dave “Smoota” Smith, were perfection. After a lovely instrumental intro, Chakour sang seven band originals, including “Runaway,” “Over Again,” “You Didn’t Tell Me,” and “The Sun.” Each member of her band taking solos and leads amongst her sweet sounding vocals. This was a fantastic group of soulful musicians and a perfect choice to transition into the funk-filled evening.
3. Over Again
4. You Didn’t Tell Me
5. The Sun
8. Everything Time I See You (Stevie Wonder Cover)
The important point of all of this, simply, was the music. Music that creates a passion within Soulive and luckily, that passion is extended to the fans. For the final evening of their amazing residency Soulive would play host to their mentor in funk, Meter’s bassist, George Porter Jr. But not before bringing it home for the Soulive purists, proving once again what a sick power trio they truly are. The first set was pure fire, and with help from the Shady Horns, there was nothing to divert our thoughts from what was most important. The set was full of sick Soulive originals, “Uncle Jr.,” “Aladdin,” and “One in Seven.” “Lenny,” a Stevie Ray Vaughn cover and highlight of any set, allows Krasno to open up a can of whoop ass upon your ears. He broke his string during his ripping solo. Enough said. The London Souls’ Tash O’Neal (guitar and vocals) and Chris St. Hilaire (drums) joined for the a “cover” of their own “Steady Are You Ready” then stayed on to help deliver a crushing version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killin’ Floor” in the vein of Electric Flag’s version. Remember, as we learned on Night Four, Krasno is a huge Tash O’Neal fan, so you can imagine the chemistry.
Uncle Jr. (w/ Shady Horns)
Aladdin (w/ Shady Horns)
Come Together (Beatles cover)
Lenny (Stevie Ray Vaughn cover)
One In Seven
Steady Are you Ready (London Souls cover w/ Tash O’Neal & Chris St. Hilaire)
Killin Floor (Howlin’ Wolf Cover...Electric Flag Version w/ w/ Tash O’Neal & Chris St. Hilaire)
Soulive performed a beautiful rendition of “El Ron,” before George Porter, Jr. was introduced for Set II, continuing on as one of Bowlive’s greatest musical mainstays. During this tune, the Shady Horns, with the help of guest saxophonist Cocheme Gastulum, broke off into an extended improvisational blowing session with Alan supporting on drums. For lack of better words, it could best be described as a drum line for horns. A Hornline, if you will?! The entire second set evolved into of slew of classics from The Meter’s catalog.
“People Say,” kicked off a funk-fueled set with James Casey delivering a rousing solo. Casey has carried a saxophone around his next all week and when he plays, it’s clear that he was meant to blow a horn. However, it must be mentioned that over the run, Casey provided grooving percussion on the congas for many songs. It was a dance party for “Hey Pockey Way,” as Porter announced that, “Everyday should be Mardi Gras!!!” Then, audience participation time for the fun tune, “Hand Clapping Song.” The next Meter’s original, “Out in the Country,” was performed in the style of Porter’s slow emotional arrangement from his It’s Life album. This was a gorgeously played ballad that tugged at the heartstrings of the crowd in a deep way. From a personal perspective, it brought tears to my eyes, almost opening the floodgates until I reeled it back in. I wasn’t alone in this outpour of emotions. Again, acknowledging that this super-stimulating, night time version of summer camp, full of friendly faces, is like ending an addiction cold-turkey. Bowlive is an institution in the Jam Band universe at this point, it lasts longer than many music festivals, and it’s not easy for the die-hards when it ends.
The set ended and no one moved. There was just endless screaming and shouting of Krasno and the Evans brother’s names. Then, Brooklyn Bowl owner, Peter Shapiro, stepped onto the stage. On the last night of every Bowlive, right before the final encore of the run, Peter Sharpio does something special for Bowlive’s loyal audience in an effort to show his gratitude for their support of live music. At the end of the first Bowlive, 700 shots of tequila were handed out from the stage. He kept it entirely mellow last year by passing around Aromatherapy plants: Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, asking that the audience to grab sprigs of each plant and inhale. This was to encourage a revitalization within our body, mind and soul for the energy to dance on for one more song. Not missing a creative beat, Peter Shapiro took the mic on this final night and thanked us for our loyalty in proper rockstar fashion. He alerted the audience that this was a milestone 40th show for Bowlive and that the he had had made t-shirts with “40” on the back and “BOWLIVE” on the front. XL shirts went flying around the venue and Shapiro asked that the audience put them on right away before Soulive would deliver us our double encore of “He Bite Me (The Dragon)” and “Ain’t No Use.” The gifting of the shirts was a smart and fun way to end this year’s Bowlive.
El Ron (w/ Shady Horns and Cocheme Gastulum)
Take A Chance
Hey Pockey Way
Hand Clapping Song
Out In the Country
He Bite Me (The Dragon)
Ain’t No Use
Soulive has truly cemented their reign as a musical dynasty. A talented trio on top of their game in this unforgiving musical bastion of NYC. The magnitude of music overheard during the last two weeks was dynamic and inspiring. The guests and the musicians solos were magnificent, diverse and captivating. Soulive always gives us something to look forward to every single night of Bowlive and this year was nothing less.
On personal note, I hope these reviews have helped supplement the wealth of musical knowledge that Soulive bequeathed upon us during Bowlive IV. It is a delight and a privilege to witness Bowlive every year and count Soulive and the Brooklyn Bowl as part of my local music scene. It also goes without saying that it is an honor and a true highlight of my career to be blessed to write for this amazing phenomenon called Bowlive. Thank you to Peter Shapiro, the Brooklyn Bowl, all the staff and production crew. Thank you to Royal Family Records for the opportunity to cover such a delightful event. A giant thank you to all the guests who lent their sound to the stage. Finally, the biggest congratulations and thank you to Alan Evans, Neal Evans and Eric Krasno for making it all possible. Your fans eagerly await to see what you have in store for Bowlive V!