2011: A year in my life at Honest Tune



2011. It was a year for the ages. From the Arab spring to the occupy movement, natural disasters & a still reeling economy,  it was a year that will live in infamy. But not all things were in need of a handful of Prozac, especially at Honest Tune.

In fact, looking back on Honest Tune in 2011 has me reflecting like a proud dad would over his offspring.

In 2011, Honest Tune saw its contributor base widened. Because of this, the bounds for live music coverage were widened, and with that widening, the readership grew to the point that the website had to undergo a major infrastructural overhaul that also incorporated some freshening of the design.

It was a year that saw the  introduction of new formats, most notably being “Live, Backstage & Unplugged” that brought exclusive backstage performances from bands like moe., Gary Clark, Jr., The Wood Brothers, Emmitt-Nershi, Railroad Earth and so many more. The format takes any viewer (who is willing to patronize us) to places that are not normally accessible by… simply clicking a link or following our YouTube channel.

Perhaps most notably, it was a year that brought about a 25th anniversary and a subsequent hiatus announcement from Widespread Panic: the band from whom  Honest Tune derived its namesake.  In turn, the announcement spawned three of the deepest interviews with the band members to date (conducted by Ian Rawn).


All of this got me thinking — first of all about how grateful I am that people are digging what we do, but also reminiscing over the unique opportunities for coverage that 2011 brought for me personally. There have been so many “pinch myself” moments where I have been in the bus of living legends or tucked behind a Leslie cabinet on a stage waiting for the right shot. These were times that in the moment itself, let alone the build up or the aftermath, that I found myself residing in my head with one word repeatedly cycling: “wow.”


There has been so much that I literally cannot recall it all. Sometimes I think that I was at en event because I edited a contributor’s article. Other times, I completely forget about covering a gig.


So I decided to actually go back and look. This led me to the next thought: “update the column that you haven’t updated since before your son was born.” Lyle turns two in March. Oops.


So here is a reverse look backward at a year in the life of Shehi coverage for Honest Tune (with some links to work done for Relix at the beginning of the summer).


My only hope is that anyone who actually has read this far will enjoy clicking the links and reading the thoughts as much as I did creating the content here and therein. After all, this is truly hard work — believe it or not — but it is work that is fulfilling and that is done with a passion for sharing.


But before I get started, I must first say that some of the pieces linked below were collaborations with others. I will try to make note of that, but if I miss one I apologize.


A Year of Firsts

In some ways, it was a year of firsts for the publication. For example, it was the first year that HT hit all of the “Big 4” summer music  festivals in one season: Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and Lollapalooza.  Look out Coachella, we are gunning for you this year to round out the quintet in 2012.

Speaking of festivals, it is hard to recall one that one of our amazing contributors was not at. From the aforementioned and other large events (Wakarusa, All Good, Summer Camp), to those that are new or intentionally keeping things intimate (The Festy Experience, Music on the Mountaintop, Bear Creek),  Honest Tune was there.


Contests & Giveaways

It was a year of contests and giveaways that blew my  mind. Hopefully that effect rippled through the readership. From tickets to festivals and shows — including Music on the Mountaintop and the Aquarium Rescue Unit reunion — to one of a kind pieces of music memorabilia — including a signed Jam Cruise 9 poster and a signed Phil Lesh 2001 tour poster– the items that went out in the mail were hard to let go of at times… especially over the holidays — when Cornmeal also performed a skit… epic.


It was also an aim of mine to find unique ways to announce winners through video, whether it was through recording computer generated name picking or having my niece, Denver, pick a winner. But my favorite moment of them all was when Col. Bruce Hampton drew names out of a pitcher to select the winners of signed Mike Gordon posters, albums and setlists. For a list of all 2011 giveaways, see the very end of this article.



It was also a year of charity. In 2011, Honest Tune sold items — including a Hangout Festival backstage pass that was signed by Dave Grohl — and gave away others including a signed Festy Experience poster and some My Morning Jacket signed merch where our donation was based upon the number of entries. It may not have been much, but we were proud of our work and the participation from our beloved readers.


Charity Donation Associated Event Link
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Nelson County, VA 100.00 The Festy Experience CLICK HERE
Vermont Red Cross (Flood) 186.00 My Morning Jacket, 8/30/11 CLICK HERE
MIssouri Red Cross (Tornado) 230.00 Wakarusa CLICK HERE
Alabama Red Cross (Tornado) 410.00 Hangout Festival CLICK HERE



Media Onslaught: Part I of Honest Tune’s Jam Cruise 10 coverage…

Photos, Videos


Jam Cruise is the perfect way to both open and close each year. It is a reunion with friends made  through the years and those that are largely only seen on the boat or seen for brief moments as we all traipse across the country seeing music.


The environment, the friends and, of course, the music has been what has caused me to keep a promise that I made to myself six years ago… “I will never miss this.”


This year, once again working, was the best yet for content to bring back and in this first piece, over 400 photos are posted as well as a performance from Papa Mali of the 7 Walkers “King Cotton Blues.”


Still to come: exclusive acoustic performances by: Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret., Keller Williams, Larry Keel, Ryan Montbleau, Anders Osborne, John Oates and Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) as well as interviews from Perpetual Groove and Jason Hann (EOTO, String Cheese Incident).


Perpetual Groove NYE: A Torch is Passed

Review, Photos



What can I say? I love to cover Perpetual Groove, as you will see throughout this piece.

Perpetual Groove has a special place in my musical soul. They are the first band that I fell for after Phish’ s “breakup” and also the first band that basically told me “do what you want, take shots from the stage, we trust you…. just don’t fuck anything up.”


If each year of the Perpetual Groove story were a chapter in a novel, the closing paragraphs of the one that recently closed would have been one of the most climactic to date. With the return of original keyboard player, Matt McDonald, this year was quite special for PGroove and their fans; and I was grateful to be able to document 2011 at  several points throughout the year.



Christmas Jam 23: The Formula Changed, but the Tradition Remains

Review, Photos


Christmas Jam is another event that is “do not miss” for many reasons. First of all, the spirit of the event is virtually unmatched. second of all, the sit-ins are unreal and the lineup, always amazing. Third of all, it is photographic gold.


On December 23, 2011, Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, in all its charitable glory, once again descended upon downtown Asheville, North Carolina.


11 FROM 2011 – Team Honest Tune’s Top Albums of the Year

Honest Tune’s top 11 albums of 2011 with all editorial staff contributing


Unlike many, I still highly value studio albums. To me, it is a band being heard in the way that it wants to be heard and also an exercise in trust (in producers) that is always an interesting listen.


As part of the Honest Tune staff, I provided brief reviews of my picks for the top 11 albums of 2011: My Morning Jacket: Circuital, Gary Clark, Jr.: The Bright Lights EP, Bright Eyes: The People’s Key, Warren Haynes Band: Man in Motion, Eddie Vedder:  Ukulele Songs,  Tedeschi Trucks Band: Revelator, Jim Lauderdale: Reason and Rhyme Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What, Greensky Bluegrass: Handguns, The Wood Brothers: Smoke Ring Halo , North Mississippi Allstars: Keys to the Kingdom


360° at Bear Creek, 2011: Video, Photos, Review & Interviews

Video, Photos, Review, Interviews with George Porter, Jr., Johnny Vidacovich, Marco Benevento, Mike Dillon, Reed Mathis, Rubblebucket and Jen Hartswick and Natalie Cressman of Trey Anastasio Band


Bear Creek has carved a reputation by primarily being  niche-festival that also adds various spices for those that need a genre other than funk for at least one meal a day. It has turned into another “do not miss” event for me, with the same reunion-like feel of Jam Cruise.


This year’s addition of Trey Anastasio Band was huge for our Spirit of the Suwannee friends at Big IV Productions and Honest Tune was stoked to be a media partner with them. If you weren’t there, you missed out on what was probably your only opportunity to ever get a pair of Honest Tune undies. They went like hotcakes at our booth.


Year in and year out, Bear Creek is a place where I will be found. From the atmosphere to the vibe created by Paul Levine and Lyle Williams (Big IV) to the environment at the Spirit of the Suwannee itself, not to mention the music which is always stacked, there is something special that takes place on those chilly November nights… something that I refuse to miss.


Live, Backstage & Unplugged with PGroove’s Brock Butler: A Trilogy of Tunes (Video)

Video, Acoustic Performance, Interview


It is always nice to hear a musician perform outside of the normal box that most people place him in. As the front man of Perpetual Groove, Brock is a shredder. As a soloist, his lyrical prowess shines through in ways that the music simply will not allow with PGroove.

When Brock told me that he had written three new songs that told a story, I knew that I had to get somewhere to record him playing all three in succession.


While in Huntsville, Butler sat down with Honest Tune to play a recent trilogy of songs that he had written and give a brief but personal glimpse into the situation and feelings from which the songs were spawned.


Perpetual Groove, 10/28/11 & 10/31/11

Double Review/Synopsis with Photos.


I told you that I loved PGroove.


Also, a bit about me… when I go to an event, it is my utmost goal to cover it from top to bottom. I want to come back with stuff that will literally bring readers to the event and even bring back stuff that those at the event never even saw.


I always try and make it to their Halloween shows. They are always special and the band definitely spend a significant amount of time planning them.


This year’s theme: PERPle Rain.


Various Artists : The Bridge School Concerts — 25th Anniversary Edition

Album Review


I do not do many album reviews. Jamie Lee, Honest Tune‘s CD Editor does a great job finding people who are far better than I am at writing reviews of this type anyway. But when somebody that I greatly respect asked me to review this one, I dug in and was very glad I did. You can’t beat an album that is completely done for charity and is full of living legends.


Here is an excerpt:

“With The Bridge School Concerts 25th Anniversary Edition, what has been accomplished is the mix-tape of the most brilliant caliber. It does what one may have deemed highly unlikely in that it captures the charitable spirit behind some of the most unique performances by some of the most renowned artists from the 1960s to the present day.”


Video: Looking Forward to the Weekend & Moogfest 2011



I was at the inaugural Moogfest and got with AC Entertainment prior to this year’s throw down to basically hear — in more detail — what I would be missing. Well, when I hung up the phone, I regretted my decision to hold out.


Photos & Video: Outtakes, Interviews and On The Scene at The Festy

Video, Interviews, Acoustic Performances


Quite frankly, The Festy Experience was one of my top festivals of the summer. While there, the content gathered was extensive as you will see in links to follow.


This piece is an “Outtakes” piece from interviews, performances and scene footage that were initially left on the cutting room floor.


In my  attempt to provide the blissful weekend its due representation, I presented Photos, Outtakes, Interviews and On The Scene at The Festy Experience with The Wood Brothers, Brett Dennen, The Infamous Stringdusters, Larry Keel, Sarah Siskind and Emmitt-Nershi Band.


Swamp Talk: an Honest Tune Interview with JJ Grey (VIDEO)

Video, Interview


JJ Grey is always a great guy to talk to. His honesty is inspiring and in this interview, things were no different.


With the release of a dual live DVD/CD (Brighter Days), Grey took the opportunity to sit down with Honest Tune recently to discuss the album and his thoughts on improvisation, songwriting and how he feels that his swampy hometown shows up both lyrically and sonically in his music.


Fresh from the Video Archive, part I: Sam Bush – Live, Backstage & Unplugged

Acoustic Performance, Video


This was one of those “pinch me” moments. It took a lot of work, but the fact that finally, Sam Bush and band were standing in front of me and cohort, Rex Thomson, about to play was (and still is) mind blowing.


…the King of Newgrass, four-time Grammy winner, current CMA Musician of the Year nominee and the gentleman who was awarded with the Living Legend Award on that August weekend on the mountain– Sam Bush and crew performing “Ridin’ That Bluegrass Train” live, backstage and unplugged at Music on the Mountaintop exclusively for Honest Tune.


360° at Austin City Limits: Interviews, Photos, Video & Review

Video, Interviews, Review, Photos

This is another example of how I simply cannot settle for mediocrity in coverage — which is occasionally to my detriment.


Austin City Limits is big. In fact, it is huge. So I felt like the coverage should be the same and we did our absolute best to make it to every photo pit and snag any artist that was willing to talk. Fortunately, one of these was a our good pal, Gary Clark, Jr., who has had an amazing year.


Covering the festival is a challenge in and of itself. With so many acts, it is always a difficult decision having to opt in and out of particular acts. As most photographers are, I am a glutton for photos and on the night that Coldplay played opposite of the most disgusting rapper on the planet (but still a photo “get”), Kanye West, I made the sprin across the giant Zilker Park, blubber bouncing, cameras dangling and literally humming “Chariots of Fire” to myself.


Driving into Austin, TX is always an enlightening experience. From the megastructures and multi-tiered interstate junctions, one cannot help but be reminded of the old adage that “everything is bigger in Texas.” And so is the case with Austin City Limits Music Festival.


The Festy Experience: Exclusive Acoustic Sessions, part I (VIDEO)

Video, Acoustic Performances: Emmitt-Nershi, Sarah Siskind, Toubab Krewe


This is part of the amazing coverage that I wrote about above. The Festy was amazing and they had us set up in a literal mansion that was vacant. The acoustics, while odd, were oddly perfect.


In this first part of the series, we are graced with stellar performances from Emmitt-Nershi Band, Sarah Siskind and Toubab Krewe.


The Festy Experience: Exclusive Acoustic Sessions, part II (VIDEO)

Video, Acoustic Performances: The Wood Brothers, Jim Lauderdale, Brett Dennen


See above for the description but substitute The Wood Brothers, Jim Lauderdale & Brett Dennen.


It was a marvelous weekend at The Festy and one that I will certainly be participating in for the foreseeable future.


Charitable Double My Morning Jacket Coverage : A photo gallery and contest

Photo Gallery, Charity, Contest/Giveaway


2011 was an epic year for My Morning Jacket. They spanned the states on the heels of Circuital, headlining festivals and selling out sheds. On this night, MMJ stopped in Tuscaloosa, a town that had been devastated by a series of tornadoes a few months previous.


The performance’s proceeds were given — in their entirety — to the United Way of Tuscaloosa County to help victims rebuild. It was a splendid and inspiring night in the land of the Crimson Tide.


While standing outside the venue in the hours before the show began and pondering the destruction that had occurred only months earlier, I decided that there would have to be a charity element to the coverage that I provided for Honest Tune. Therefore, I picked up a few unique items to bring home and followed in the Kentucky boy’s footsteps by offering the stuff up in a contest benefitted Vermont’s flood victims — since we had already sponsored a charitable effort for the Tuscaloosa area a few weeks after the devastation took place.


Handgun Shootin’ with Greensky Bluegrass : an Honest Tune Interview (VIDEO)

Video, Interview


When you enter into the realm of interviewing musicians, you never truly know what to expect. Some interviews are sterile. Others are strictly promotional. Sometimes they get deeply personal. Then there is this interview… pure hilarity.


I can only take credit for standing behind the cameras though. The rest was Rex Thomson’s and the Greensky guys’ doing.


Jam Cruise Artist Testimonials, Part Two: JJ Grey, Zach Deputy & Greensky Bluegrass (VIDEO)

Interviews, Video, Promo


This was the second part of a two part series that Rex Thomson and I did to spotlight one of the greatest events of the year. It is so great that I have been seven years in a row. Pretty much everybody knows somebody who has been on Jam Cruise, and the vast majority sing its praises. How can they not? It is some of the greatest musicians on the planet performing in the middle of the ocean in perfect weather while everybody on land is at home freezing. With this series though, we chose to enlist the help of the artists themselves to get their thoughts on the greatest adventure at sea. The stories they told could not have been better.


In this part, we got with JJ Grey, Zach Deputy and Greensky Bluegrass’ Anders Beck and Mike Devol and asked them to share their thoughts and memories from their time sailing the high seas of Jam Cruise.


Backstage and Unplugged at MOTM: Railroad Earth, Acoustic Syndicate & The New Familiars (VIDEO)

Video, Performances


Music on the Mountaintop is summed up by its name. It is mountain music on top of a mountain, North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain to be precise. At its heart, is organic growth. It started as a college project to demonstrate how a festival could be self-sustaining and a source of revenue to benefit the environment as well as for the community as a whole. It is a blend of being a regional and national event, that is always headlined by the great Sam Bush.


In this series of videos. we (Rex Thomson & I) were joined by Railroad Earth, Acoustic Syndicate and The New Familiars for some sonically pleasing string-play.


Rebel Rappin’ with Michael Franti : an Honest Tune Interview (VIDEO)



I have always admired Michael Franti. Sure, he is a great artist but there is more to him than that. It is his interest in human rights (example: his work with the people in Iraq) that separates him from many of his counterparts.


When I spoke to Michael this time, he was fresh off of a philanthropic trip to Haiti. Franti makes habits out of trips like these, and with the power of Twitter and his influence over his fans, who respect his efforts, if nothing else awareness is raised through these self-expensed affairs.


While he has more than his fair share of critics and some of the criticisms are valid, many of these critics have, at least once, left a Franti & Spearhead gig with a gigantic smile across their face.


In this conversation at Wakarusa, we talked about topics including: songwriting, his recent Top 40/mainstream success, the situation and relief efforts in Haiti, the intimacy at a Spearhead gig and so much more.


Gary Clark, Jr. : “Bright Lights” live and unplugged at Caravan [HD]

Video, Performance


What a year for Gary Clark, Jr.


Though he is not new to the business, his deal with Warner Brothers has brought his powerful brand to an ever-growing audience and hundreds of thousands of new ears; and this was just with an EP.


I was standing in the media area at the Hangout Fest when I got the call from his manager asking that we catch up with Gary in Louisville as part of the Bonnaroo Buzz tour and then again at the Dave Matthews Caravan in Chicago. Thankfully, good old Rex Thomson was able to be at both and by capturing this performance, the Honest Tune brand was spread to a new audience as well, with the video being hit 10,000 times in the first week.


Simplicity, Style & Grace : All Good Fest celebrates 15 years

Photos, Review


Celebrating a fifteenth anniversary in any field is an achievement, but in the musical, and moreover festival industry, it is an even more impressive feat. But for All Good Music Festival, it has not just been about sustenance. It has been about sustained growth.


All Good continues to shine as one of the larger events by keeping the focus on the music. They do this with no overlapping sets and commitment to a diverse lineup. And though it is yet to be seen how the new location will accommodate the massive event, I feel like it can safely be said that its success will continue for the foreseeable future.


One thing is for sure… Honest Tune & I will be there to find out this summer.


Zach Deputy : Backstage & Unplugged at All Good Music Festival (VIDEO)

Video, Performance


Watching Zach Deputy rise from being a guy who was, more or less, a side stage act to a main stage one has been extremely gratifying.


Zach brings an element of soul and fun to his music that makes you just want to go up and hug him right in the middle of the set. What is best is that he is just as genuine with his fans off the stage as he is on.


While at All Good, Rex Thomson and I got Deputy out from behind his stage contraption and into his backstage tent with nothing but his acoustic guitar and voice for a soulful helping of “Dr. Doctor.”


moe. : Live, Backstage & Unplugged at All Good (VIDEO)

Video, Performance

Since the earliest of early days of an Honest Tune, moe. have been dear friends. I remember reading many articles about moe. when I was a subscriber to the magazine many years ago. Little did I know that I would be participating in recording an exclusive backstage performance with the scene veterans so many years later. This is just one of the countless examples of no matter how long I do this, there are times when I sit back and all of this feels so surreal. I hope that there always are times like these. I don’t ever want to take this — or anything else  that grace has given me in my life — for granted.


This, occasion in particular though, my friends, was special. Why? Because Rex Thomson, the eternal moe.down mayoral candidate and diehard moe. fan, was with me. Rex was stoked and his excitement was infectious.


When we sat down with Rob, Chuck and Al, they had no idea what they were going to play for us. Rex suggested “New York City,” and with that, another one of “those moments” began to unfold as I saw my dear friend friend have a dream fulfilled, a giant smile on his face,  while he filmed moe.’s string section perform an acoustic rendition of one of their many gems.


Phish cohesively take the South

Photos, ReviewPhish's Trey Anastasio in Alpharetta in 2011 (Photo: David Shehi)


The Phish from Vermont are back and being that we refer to ourselves as the Southern Journal of Jam, we always attempt to cover the guys when they are in the region.


Though Honest Tune was born from Widespread Panic, I have always been on the Phish side of things. This is not to say that I do not like Panic, because I do. However, I always did Phish tour and caught local Panic shows whereas some did the opposite.


Needless to say, when Phish came back I was stoked. It was like being in my mid-teens through early twenties all over again and though Phish may never go back to the extensive jamming days of 1997-2000, Phish 3.0 has had moments of pure beauty that prove that Vermont’s Phinest are capable of blowing the roof off of a shed, melting faces, shuddering spines and the like anytime they damned well please.


For the second year in a row, I partnered up with longtime friend, touring partner and daytime co-worker, David Fuller, for a review of Phish through the south (June 14-16, 2011)


Jam Cruise Artist Testimonials, Part One: Franti, Grace, Cornmeal and Everyone Orchestra (VIDEO)

Video, Interview, Promo


Just as with the previously listed Jam Cruise testimonial video, our effort was to get artists to tell their tales from the high seas and they certainly obliged.


In this video, we sat down with Michael Franti who spoke of fruity drinks, Grace Potter who reminded people to not pass out on curbs (like she did), Cornmeal’s John-Paul Nowak who told his engagement story from the boat, and the Everyone Orchestra’s Matt Butler who reminded us of the cruise industry’s impact on the environment.


Gettin’ In the Van with Luther Dickinson (VIDEO)

Video, Interview


This was an interview for the ages. Having been around Luther Dickinson enough for him to drop his guard somewhat, Luther opened up on so many levels as we cooled off in his van on a hot summer day at Wakarusa. I ended up getting one of the more broad and expansive “on the record” exchanges with Luther to date. It came complete with childhood stories, sibling relationships, psychedelic indulgence with The Crowes… and our dear and lovely Honest Tune friend, Grace Potter, interrupting it all. She can do that anytime she wants to.


Hot Summer Nights at Wakarusa 2011

Photos, Review


Wakarusa, held in the beautiful Mulberry Mountain from June 2 – 5, commenced its third year since moving from Kansas. This four-day festival has continued to evolve into an eclectic gathering of music and art, and fans flock from all corners of the country to experience this congregation of human expression.


Though the weather was sweltering on that early June weekend in Arkansas, the lineup took things over the boiling point as Waka kept its eye on the prize with both strong headliners as well as a well rounded under card that gave fans the chance to discover something new while embracing bands with which their palettes were already familiar.

The kickass part is that this year Honest tune will be returning to Wakarusa as media partners. Hence, the content will be even sweeter when we head off of Mulberry Mountain after the first weekend in June.


On the scene at Wakarusa Part 1: Grace Potter, Mumford, Mountain Sprout and Ha Ha Tonka (VIDEO)

Video, Interviews, Scene Footage


In this first video segment (of two), I sat down with Grace Potter. Grace is always a pleasure to talk with. She has not lost her head as she and her Nocturnals have found mainstream success. In fact, she is more grounded than ever and her candor remains impressive.  This was the third time of the summer, and fourth of the year, that I had formally interviewed her, so it had become increasingly difficult to keep things fresh. Still, the way in which both she and I approach interviews (nothing prepared, go with the flow) ended up working out just fine and when the cameras were turned off, we both had a great laugh about how many times we had done press together.


The second part of the “episode” is a great reminder the main reason that I keep doing this “barely break even / tread in the red” journalism thing.


I was closing down shop after a long day and had to go over to Ben Harper’s trailer to pick up some photos that his manager was having him sign for some charity efforts and heard a familiar voice. It was Marcus Mumford who was having one of his impromptu — and drunken — jam sessions. There were about 25 people gathered around, including musicians, and the whole thing went on for about an hour. I was hesitant to click my camera on, but at some point said to myself, “what the hell?” and went for it.


I am so glad I did.



On the scene at Wakarusa Part 2: Big Gigantic and Zoogma (VIDEO)


Video, Interviews, Scene Footage


In the second and final On the Scene at Wakarusa piece, I sat down with two of the most up and coming electronic bands on the scene today, Big Gigantic and Zoogma. I did this for two reasons. Firstly, they are both relative newcomers to the electronic music scene. Secondly, they  are taking it by storm and are doing it in a way that is unto themselves and are using actual instruments to do it.


Triple Coverage with Garage A Trois: Interview, Photos, and a Contest

Video, Interview, Photos, Contest


Garage A Trois put out Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil in 2011 and naturally, they toured behind it.


There is nothing quite like a Garage A Trois show. With a sound that is completely unique, there is not a band quite like Garage A Trois, so when I headed out to Atlanta, I knew that I wanted to provide something completely unique as far as coverage was concerned. I decided to run a gallery of photos, a street interview with Garage’s Marco Benevento and Mike Dillon and get them and other band members, Stanton Moore and Skerik, to sign a copy of the album to give away to a lucky Honest Tune reader. Good times!


Cliffs Notes: Hangout 2011

Photos (by Ian Rawn), Review


Hangout Fest 2011 could not have been more different from 2010. Aside from the obvious difference of there being approximately 25,000 additional patrons in attendance, there was a cheer in the air, no oil impending and weather that could not have been more perfect…even if it got a little hot at times.


I would love to be able to say that I caught all of the music that weekend, but that would be an utter lie. As you will see, all of the photos in this piece are those of dear friend and senior Honest Tune contributor, Ian Rawn. I spent the majority of the festival lugging video gear around the festival and from one bus or artist trailer to the next. Again, I am definitely not complaining. The experience was unique and the lessons learned, invaluable. Oh, and seeing Paul Simon’s festival closing set — when all of my work was finally done — from the onsite pool was epic.


If I could lend one piece of advice for future Hangout patrons, it would be to go VIP if there is any way it can be afforded. The amenities, from the drinks and food to the aforementioned pool, are well worth it.


Brett Dennen, 5/13/11



Speaking of Hangout, it was at the first edition of the home state fest that I first became acquainted with Brett Dennen, the boyish ginger from California and his enthusiastic stage presence. I had heard good things and they all proved true.


In 2011, Dennen released, Loverboy, and in support, made his way south and into the city of Atlanta for a show at the Variety Playhouse. In something that proved very important to me, Brett invited his neighbors from the California south, Dawes, to open the show.


Over a plate of Hot Tuna : From the bus with Jorma Kaukonen



Within the music world, there are rare beings that seem to be able to lay hold of sounds and concepts that are seemingly ignorant of time and space. Jorma Kaukonen is one of those.


Jorma exudes a humble confidence. The Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane co-founder, whose signature style of play earned him a slot on Rolling Stone’s top 100 most influential guitarists of all time.


I have interviewed many and rarely do I get nervous anymore, but the morning that I got the call telling me that I would be interviewing Jorma Kaukonen that afternoon, my throat dropped into my stomach. Let’s face it, Jorma is a legend and I grew up on Jefferson Airplane.


Once inside his bus, I was completely at ease as he greeted me like a gentlemanly statesman and thanked me for taking the time to sit down with him. “Thank me?” I thought. It happened.


Shooting the breeze with Matisyahu: An Honest Tune interview



Matisyahu gets more than his share of criticism in the jam world. It is no secret that he desires mainstream success and his recent antics have had many of his critics licking their chops with giant “I told ya so” grins on their faces.


I will be the first to say that Matis has changed over the years, but I will follow that up with stating that how he has done so is really none of my business.


Matisyahu gave me a chance and an unearned measure of trust when I was still getting my feet wet in doing anything media wise — beyond photography from a photo pit — when he took me on tour in his bus for two weeks to document his life on the road (mostly  from a “fly on the wall” perspective) after the release of Light..  To see those videos click here for my favorite,  here, here and here.


During this chat, we talked about his latest recorded effort, the upcoming festival season and a potential long term future on the silver screen amongst much more.


Wanee 2011: As sweet as tea should be

Photos, Review


From the moment one’s foot steps onto the grounds of Wanee Music Festival, he knows that he is in the South; greeted by hospitality that is inherently Southern, where “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” are lingo du jour and sweet tea washes it all down.


In 2011, Wanee had a splendid lineup and 2012 is following in its footsteps quite nicely.


Going in motion with Warren Haynes : An Honest Tune Interview



In 2011, Warren spent the vast majority of his time with his new ensemble, Warren Haynes Band, that hit the road behind the studio release, Man in Motion.


The first time I heard this band was at their first soundcheck for their first public performance, at 2010’s Christmas Jam. Ivan Neville — who plays keys on the album — was on keys that night and the harmonies between Ivan and Warren during the soundchecked “Everyday is like a Holiday,” a song that I had never heard, gave me chills all over my body and down my spine. I was immediately taken in by this band.


Upon the release of the record, the always press friendly Haynes made the rounds and I asked to get on the list. In what was only my second ever interview with Haynes, I took the opportunity to ask him what were probably similar questions to what he had probably been asked all day. Thanks for hanging in there with me Mr. Haynes. I should have just used the time to beg him to come back on Jam Cruise. He probably would have enjoyed telling me “hell no” much more (Haynes suffered from horrible seasickness when on the boat a few years back) than talking about soul music for the 20th time in a day.


Tedeschi & Trucks across the Southeast

Photos, Review


This was Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi’s (Tedeschi Trucks Band) first trip through the south following the release of the now Grammy nominated Revelator. Andi Rice captured what was going on in Birmingham and I was on the scene on the next night in Atlanta.


Chris Cornell bares soul in ATL

Photos, Review


My formative years were centered in the “grunge”/ Seattle rock era of the early and mid nineties. Those guys (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana) spoke for our generation much like bands of the 1960s spoke for our parents.


On this night, Chris Cornell brought his retrospective “Songbook Tour” to Atlanta’s Center Stage for a night that shone like a stainless coin under the rays of a black hole sun.


Conspirator & Zoogma, 3/31/11



2011 was a year of uncertainty for jam veterans, The Disco Biscuits. Therefore, the year so each member go in his own direction with only Marc Brownstein (bass) and Aron Magner (keys) head the same way. They did so by taking their one time side-project, Conspirator, on the road — recording new music in a makeshift studio in what would be their bus’s master bedroom and uploading to their soundcloud.


This night saw Oxford, MS relative newcomers Zoogma open up the evening and once again prove that they are a band that looks like they are here to stay.


Conspirator : From the Bus (Video)

Video, Interview, Scene/Performance footage


What started as a side-project for Disco Biscuits Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner has now become a full fledged bona fide stand-alone ensemble.


With the addition of RAQ’s Chris Michetti a little over a year ago and the implementation of a revolving cast of all-star drummers (when this was recorded, it was Mike Greenfield of Lotus),  Conspirator meets the very definition of organic electronica.


Though highly structured and disciplined, the improvisation from this supergroup comprised of veteran professionals is on the spot and collective…  making Conspirator a front-running force to be reckoned within the electronic world’s scene that continues to flourish.


I caught up with Conspirator while on tour for an interview with Magner, Michetti, and Greenfield prior to their Atlanta gig on 3/31/11.


Mike Gordon segues into the Music City

Photos, Review


In the midst of a coast-to-coast effort, there was no rest for the weary when the Mike Gordon ensemble arrived at the sold-out Mercy Lounge in the Music City of Nashville. Though spring had not quite sprung, fans approaching the venue had a bounce in their step indicative of not only the beautiful weather and full moon above (a supermoon was on the horizon for the following evening), but also of the recent buzz regarding the short tour. Message boards had lit up in the preceding week, proclaiming that the tour was not only featuring Mike in his finest form, but that it was also boasting a band of players that had truly come into its own.


For once, the message boards told the truth.


Bright Eyes deliver lucky charms at The Ryman

Photos, Review


2011 was the year that Conor Oberst officially said the he would hang up the Bright Eyes moniker. It is a shame too because The People’s Key is quite an album.


To say the scene at Bright Eyes’ Nashville show at the Ryman Auditorium was surreal would be an understatement. The historic mid-sized room that was original host to The Grand Ole Opry has had virtually every notable musician grace its stage through the years. In anticipation of the night’s proceedings, filling its halls and seats were Generation Xers and cuspers, people who have come of age and whose souls have found acceptance and identification within the brilliantly written personal words of band founder Conor Oberst.


Keller takes the kids to the Playhouse

Photos, Review


Most of us truly want to involve our children in our love of music, but the majority of the environs that house the types of events that we care to indulge are smoke filled, beer-sweaty, too loud, and the bands start way too late for the idea of taking a child to even be considered.  And then there was the Keller Williams KIDS show.


My wife and I took our son to this show and had a blast. He enjoyed it so much that he learned how to talk and after the show, he asked Keller to sign a CD so that we could give one away to an Honest Tune reader (see photo). Alright, that was my idea.

From the drum circle at the beginning to the confetti to the mothers in the crowd acting like they were passing gas during “Mama Tooted,” it was fun from beginning to end and it can only be hoped that Keller keeps taking this show on the road for years to come.


Lotus, 2/17/11



Lotus has been refining their game for nearly a decade and over the past few years has seen an exponential spike in nationwide acceptance and popularity. On this night in Atlanta, the house was packed and the energy was on high.


Slash brings metal to the Music City

Photos, Review


Like many, I grew up hiding Guns N’ Roses tapes and wanted to be Axl or Slash, so having Slash pose for my camera from the stage was an experience that I had dreamed of for a long time. I do not think that I could have taken a bad shot if I had tried, something that is definitely far from the norm for me.


Though not typical fare for Honest Tune, there is no doubt that Slash – the enigmatic figure and source of many an up-and-coming guitarist’s idol worship – knows, writes, and participates in good music…. and after all, isn’t that what Honest Tune is all about?


Adapting with ALO: An Honest Tune Interview



This was an interview where I had no idea as to what I was going to say. I don’t think it showed in the final piece though.


Liz Phair spans at the Variety

Photos, Review


Liz Phair: the source of my adolescent… well, you know.


She came out in Atlanta and it was like being 14 all over again, and for some reason I felt just fine singing along with her line “I want a boyfriend.” I would do anything for that woman.


Perpetual Groove sets sights on new decade in Atlanta

Photos, Review


You can obviously tell where I am at every time the ball drops.


Liz Phair talks Guyville, sexuality, and creativity with Honest Tune



Let me get this straight… she talked to me? Whoa. It happened and I have the audio recording to prove it.


Jam Cruise 9: Musical Madness on the High Seas

Photos, Review


One can try and elucidate this larger-than-life musical service to the uninitiated, but until the dilettante himself walks on the allegorical hot coals that come courtesy of Cloud 9 Adventures each January, he will never be able to fully comprehend the proverbial healing that this ceremony bestows… but year in and year out, I continue to try.


Jam Cruise 9: Interviews from the Boat

Videos, Interviews


Can you tell that I adore Jam Cruise?


Rather than simply explain Jam Cruise as being what it always is, a colossally amazing extravaganza that never fails to set the tone for the year,  I instead instead chose to enlist a few cohorts on the boat Jam crime to lend an assist in interviewing some of our favorite artists: George Porter Jr., Zach Deputy, Lotus’ Luke Miller, Van Ghost’s Michael Harrison Berg and Jennifer Hartswick, Galactic’s Robert Mercurio, & The New Mastersounds’ Eddie Roberts and Joe Tatton.


Interviewers: Jeffrey Dupuis, Ananda Atmore, Hill Clinton, David Shehi


Talking improvisation, brass, and leading Funky Nation with Big Sam Williams



Big Sam Williams is not new to the jam circuit. In fact, he has been on it since he was fresh out of high school. His career began with Dirty Dozen Brass Band through whom he was formally introduced to the heavyweights of the scene. Several years later, he branched off to pursue his ultimate goal, to be the leader of Funky Nation.


Big Sam is one of the most energetic players out there  and has a passion for playing live music that cannot be outdone. So when I sat down to chat with him, that is exactly what I focused on.


Perpetual Groove: A look backward and forward on New Year’s Eve (Video)

Video, Documentary, Interviews, Performance


Over the course of ten years, the band affectionately known as PGroove has observed both triumph and struggle on both personal and professional levels. They have played to crowds of 20,000 and to crowds of 100 or less.


This documentary styled video (focus on the word “styled”) was my attempt at summing up PGroove’s ten years in ten minutes: the good and the bad. At the end of it all, the fact remains that PGroove continues to make great music. Little did I know then that they would receive new lifeblood a year later.


Trevor Hall takes a moment with Honest Tune (Video)

Video, Interview


I got to know Trevor when on tour with Matisyahu and never missed one of his opening sets unless doing something with Matis since I was there for him.


Trevor is a magical guy. He is deeply spiritual and has an infectious spirit that resonates with his audience and when talking with him, I simply feel better.


This was the second time that Trevor has sat down with me for  Honest Tune. The first was in November of 2009. Now he was back to chat again prior to performances in Birmingham, AL and Atlanta, GA. Always candid, he didn’t balk at any question whether in regards to spirituality or meeting fans.


Relix (freelance) work:


Amos Lee- “Skipping Stone” performance

The Avett Brothers “Slip Sliding Away” performance

Honey Island Swamp Band- “Country Girl” performance

Portugal. The Man-  “We Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)” performance

Dead Confederate- “On The Beach”


2011 Video Editing:


Past, Present & Future: A Conversation with Jimmy Herring (Interview) by Ian Rawn

On the Scene at Electric Forest (Interviews) by Rex Thomson

Taking a moe.ment with moe.’s Al Schnier & Chuck Garvey (Interview) by Rex Thomson

An Interview with Widespread Panic’s John Bell by Ian Rawn

Red Rocks: A Look Backward and Forward with Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools by Ian Rawn

Yonder Mountain String Band Interview and “Rag Doll” Performance Snip by Rex Thomson

Yonder Mountain String Band “They Love Each Other” backstage at Harvest Fest by Rex Thomson

On the Scene at YMSB’s Harvest Fest w/ Dead Winter, Mountain Sprout & Jay Nash by Rex Thomson


In closing, I dedicate this piece to my beautiful wife, Casey who puts up with all of this traveling and all of the time I spend in my home office writing and editing my work and the work of others. Her support and patience as I try to make this a full time career is unbelievable. There are many people that deserve my deepest thanks, and I will attempt to name them all below, but I am positive that I will leave someone out. If I leave someone off, email me, call me, scold me and please know that my gratitude is deep.

As I look back over the massive list above and also think of all of the edited articles, set up shows, etc., I am humbled. Never did I think that I would gain the respect that I have.

To all of the Honest Tune contributors — you keep this thing running.

To all of the readers — without you this is pointless.


We are all integral parts in this little labor of love that we like to call an Honest Tune.



Mom, Dad, Lyle, Mike Shehi, Jay Shehi, Rex Thomson, Tom Speed, Josh Mintz, Jamie Lee, David Fuller, Crissa Requate, Ian Rawn, Brock Butler & Perpetual Groove, Jeffrey Dupuis, Jennifer Hartswick, Vernon Webb, George Porter, Jr., moe.,  Bear Creek, Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret., Mountain View, Pipelime, Burk Fuqua, Big IV, Sharrin Summers, Widespread Panic, Girlie Action, Ryan Kingsbury, Grace Potter, Michael Berg, Ananda Atmore, Wakarusa, Andi Rice, Ryan Kingsbury, Drew Granchelli, Relix, Susan Weiand, Hidden Track, Megan McFann, Cloud 9, Brad Hodge, Yonder Mountain String Band, Andi Walton, Brad Kuntz, Tsunami, Jesse Cutler, Railroad Earth, Erin Scholze, Emily Ginsberg, Zach Deputy, Jona Duncan, Cornmeal, Paul Levine, All Good, Madison House, Lyle Williams, Annabel Lukins, Roger Patteson,  Jimmy Herring, Papa Phil, Josh Baron, Mike Greenhaus, Scott Bernstein, Big Hassle, Bob Adamek, Amber Jennings, Chad Smith, Jam Cruise,  Dave Weissman, Rick Gershon, Matisyahu, Luther Dickinson, Ship of Fools,  Julie Collins, Fresh & Clean,  Jim Walsh, The DeGaetanos, Cliff Levenson, Shawn Ridley & Harvest Festival


2011 Contests

Item Type LINK
Bluegrass Ball 1/22 Tickets LINK
Bluegrass Ball 1/20 Tickets LINK
Disco Biscuits 12/30 Tickets LINK
Disco Biscuits 12/31 Tickets LINK
Greensky BluegrassHandguns & All Access Vol. 2 CDs LINK
Phil LeshSigned Spring Tour 2001 Poster Memorabilia LINK
PGroove 12/31 Tickets LINK
PGroove 12/30 Tickets LINK
Umphrey’s McGeeSigned Red Rocks Poster Poster/Memorabilia LINK
The Festy- Signed poster from 2011′s Festy Experience Poster/Memorabilia LINK
Jennifer HartswickSigned copy of True CD/Memorabilia LINK
Jim James- Signed  and drawn on copy of Tribute to… Vinyl/Memorabilia LINK
Mike Gordon- Signed Green Sparrow CD INSERT Memorabilia LINK
Les Claypool- Signed copy of Electric Apricot DVD DVD/Memorabilia LINK
Grace Potter- Signed Grace Potter Photo Memorabilia LINK
Matisyahu Signed Matisyahu Photo Memorabilia LINK
Ben Harper- Signed Ben Harper Photo Memorabilia LINK
Luther Dickinson- Signed Luther Dickinson Photo Memorabilia LINK
Michael Franti- Signed Michael Franti Photo Memorabilia LINK
Trey Anastasio – TAB at the TAB CD LINK
Free Festival Friday- The Festy Tickets LINK
Aquarium Rescue Unit / Georgia Theatre, 8/8/11 Tickets LINK
My Morning Jacket- Signed Circuital (vinyl) signed drumstick Vinyl, Memorabilia LINK
My Morning Jacket- signed Circuital (CD) CD, Memorabilia LINK
Free Ticket Tuesday- Music on the Mountaintop, Cornmeal, Greensky Bluegrass, Autmnal Equinox Tickets LINK
Free Festival Friday- Music on the Mountaintop & Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival Tickets LINK
Music on the Mountaintop Tickets LINK
Garage A Trois- Signed copy of Always be Happy but Stay Evil CD, Memorabilia LINK
Wanee- Signed Derek Trucks photo Memorabilia LINK
Wanee- Signed Luther Dickinson CD CD, Memorabilia LINK
Mike Gordon- Signed poster #33/75 & setlist Poster, Memorabilia LINK
Mike Gordon- Signed copy of Moss CD, Memorabilia LINK
Keller Williams- Signed copy of Kids CD, Memorabilia LINK
Jam Cruise 9- Signed poster by all artists Poster, Memorabilia LINK