It's finally official: The complete Meadowgrass Music Festival lineup is being unveiled today, and an impressive one it is.
While a few of the acts have already been announced in previous Reverb columns, new additions to the three-day Memorial Day weekend event include Saturday night headliner Dawes, the L.A. band whose 2009 debut album North Hills was hailed for its "authentically vintage" sound by Rolling Stone, who would obviously know. Frontman Taylor Goldsmith can, in fact, sound remarkably like Jackson Browne, the '70s singer-songwriter his band subsequently backed at NYC's Occupy encampment.
Dawes has also toured with Friday night's headliner Blitzen Trapper, arguably the most-recognizable name on this year's roster. The Sub Pop band is much loved by the New Depression crowd, even though its sound is sufficiently all over the place to transcend the Americana label.
Sunday's headliner also has "event status" written all over it, as Great American Taxi joins forces with Todd Snider, who produced the band's 2011 Paradise Lost album. Led by Leftover Salmon guitarist and singer Vince Herman, Great American Taxi is hugely popular on the jam-band circuit, while Snider's 2012 Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables album cracked Rolling Stone's year-end Top 50. With songs like "Ponce of the Flaming Peace Queer" and "Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues," Snider is a genuinely hilarious performer whose songs and stories should connect with fans of Hayes Carll, Bill Hicks, Arlo Guthrie and Snider's own mentor, John Prine (who, by the way, will be coming to the Pikes Peak Center on May 4).
And then there's Cahalen Morrison's Saturday afternoon homecoming show. Well-regarded in the local music scene during his years studying jazz at UCCS, Morrison recorded a live album at Western Jubilee before taking off for Seattle. Once there, he hooked up with Eli West to create a sepia-tinged country and bluegrass sound that country hitmaker Tim O'Brien has called "music the world needs."
Also not to be missed is two-time Juno-winning banjoist Jayme Stone's cross-culturally inclined Room of Wonders. The group's lineup includes Ron Miles, who's been critically acclaimed as one of today's finest jazz trumpeters.
Meadowgrass acts mentioned in previous columns include former Throwing Muses frontwoman Kristin Hersh as well as the stunningly original Anais Mitchell.
In addition to some two dozen main-stage performers, the weekend music-and-camping event, which is now in its fifth year at La Foret Conference & Retreat Center, will include late-night performances in the Ponderosa Lodge by the 23 Band on Friday, Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds on Saturday, and the Joe Johnson Band on Sunday.
While set times are still a bit fluid, here's the full lineup in current chronological order for your Memorial Day weekend planning.
• Friday: Burn the Maps, Moonhoney, Honey Don't, Sera Cahoone, the David Mayfield Parade, Blitzen Trapper.
• Saturday: The Changing Colors, Chauncy Crandall & the Rocket Flies, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, Mollie O'Brien & Rich Moore, Kristin Hersh, Hot Club of Cowtown, Dawes.
• Sunday: The Hearafter, Adams & Stillwagen Gospel Hour, Charlie Milo Trio, Patrick Dethlefs, Jayme Stone's Room of Wonders, Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer, Joe Pug, Todd Snider & Great American Taxi.
And finally, a quick follow-up on two previously mentioned shows: On Saturday, I watched the English Beat (interviewed in last week's issue) work some 350-plus fans into a ska-pop frenzy at Rawkus. Hits like "Mirror in the Bathroom," "I Confess" and "Save It for Later" were reminders of how much more song-driven the original 2-Tone bands were, compared to the most recent wave of revivalists.
Also great to see Tulsa punk-rockabilly refugees Brian Parton and Dave Cantrell teaming up for an acoustic set last Wednesday at Meadow Muffins. Of course it took all of 1.5 songs before the mic stand hit the floor, and not much longer for Dave to break out the megaphone for "Nightstick Justice," a mid-'80s hardcore anthem originally recorded by Tulsa band N.O.T.A.
The set, which included stripped-down versions of "Whiskey Makes Me Evil" and other songs from Cantrell's old band Cobra Kai, was the second time the former Rocket Room owner has ever performed "unplugged."
"It was weird to do an acoustic show," he told me after the gig, where he and Parton were also joined by former Fremont Street Preachers drummer (and current Drum Shack proprietor) Jerry Minson. "I was glad Jerry sat in on drums, because I am definitely not used to singing softly."
Last I heard, the trio was talking about making this more than a one-time thing, which would be pretty great. Meanwhile, Brian's Westside Wednesday series at Meadow Muffins continues on. Everyone's favorite accordion terrorist, Chris Mandile, will be this week's special guest, with West Side Rhythm Kings' Paul Figueroa sitting in on March 27.