Summertime-like weather provided a great backdrop for a Saturday of Cinco De Mayo revelry, capped off for jam-band fans at Crystal Bay’s Crown Room by co-headlining energy bands that took things all the way into May 6.
Kyle Hollingsworth, keyboard wizard of The String Cheese Incident, brought a trio of artists with him in support of his latest solo effort, “50.” The new record was released March 2 on his 50th birthday.
Featuring tunes such as“Wyatt Earp’s Tale” the instrumental jam contained pieces of everything you’d hear at a KHB show, sans vocals. The composition lets Hollingsworth stray a bit from his String Cheese identity into the more jazz-funk realm evident of his early solo work supported by his pals from The Motet. But it also includes spacey keyboard romps as well as edgy rock guitar. Thankfully, the entire hour and 45-minute set contained more.
The one departure, but also from “50,” was “Prime.” It had much more of a progressive rock vibe and, according to Hollingsworth, is one of the only “epic” styled songs he’s written. The thoughtful lyrics reference mathematician Bernhard Riemann’s mathematical (and unsolved) hypothesis.
Hollingsworth showed off his varied keyboard chops all evening, often mouthing the notes as he played them into various snapshot stink-faces. The funk-rap style “The Way That It Goes” from 2009’s “Then There’s Now” included an electric piano section that reminded me of jazz pianist Bob James. In fact, on that tune, none of the four keyboards in front of Hollingsworth were left wanting from his digits.
SCI jam “Rosie,” with a cover of Cake’s “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” sandwiched inside, highlighted the latter portions of the jammed set befitting of a co-headliner.
A quick stage turn and the bluegrass riffs of Tahoe regulars Hot Buttered Rum filled the Crown Room. Guitarist Nat Keefe, sporting the jersey of his beloved San Francisco Giants, and multi-instrumentalist Erik Yates shared frontman duties while also meshing together beautiful harmonies. The set was fast-paced and augmented by some excellent lighting arrays controlled by the back of the house.
Things really got moving on the third tune with a cover of Kenny Baker’s instrumental fiddle jam, “Jerusalem Ridge,” which Zebulon Bowles’ bow took to some cosmic reaches. A few songs later the pairing of “Music’s Been Good To Me” into the ripping “Desert Rat” showed off all the best HBR has to offer. I always have this sense that “Desert Rat” has spots in it that beg for a stop-time “hey” from the crowd. These two songs also appear in the same order on “The Kite and the Key, Pt. 3,” which, oh by the way, was produced by Kyle Hollingsworth.
The boys from the Bay Area have a new record on the way July 20. The album was recorded recently in Stinson Beach and is titled “Lonesome Panoramic.” HBR summoned Red Room after party hosts, The Coffis Brothers, to the stage and performed “Country Tunes,” which they co-wrote and lended their vocal talents to on the record — and for the lucky folks at Crystal Bay.
Later in the set, drummer and newest band member James Stafford emerged from behind the kit to drop some mandolin for a few tunes, including “Uncloudy Day.” Stafford fits nicely with the upbeat nature of HBR, smiling through pretty much every note regardless of the instrument. It was just one of a handful of tunes that the work of Bryan Horne on stand-up bass was exemplary. I noticed also that he shares some of the same facial expressions when plucking his notes as Kyle Hollingsworth.
Hollingsworth joined for a cover of The Cars’ “Just What I Needed.” which rekindled memories of any “Camp Deep Ender’s” in attendance from last years co-hosted festival with ALO in which The Cars were the “Artist in Tribute” for the weekend by multiple bands. Covers of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and Railroad Earth’s “Sail Away” closed the set shortly before 1 a.m.
Santa Cruz’s The Coffis Brothers &The Mountain Men immediately cranked things up in the Red Room to keep the party (and the birthday celebration of keyboards/vocalist Jamie Coffis) going. I first caught these guys opening for Jackie Greene last year, and only a late night the previous evening kept me from staying beyond the first couple songs.
They’re a band to take notice of and well worth your time if you get a chance to check out their blues and R&B tinged rock. Catchy rhythms, songwriting and a great clean tone from lead guitarist Kyle Poppen all please the senses. They will grace Tahoe again on June 9 on the beach at Incline Village.
– Michael Smyth