mixed showing for Aussie musicians

By Jim Stanford on August 19, 2013

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John Butler wails while performing with his trio last week at Center for the Arts.

At first glance, one of the bands playing in Jackson last week appeared to have been miscast for the venue. It turned out to be not the one people expected.

Australian guitarist John Butler and his trio performed at Center for the Arts on Aug. 13, a night before his fellow countryman, Xavier Rudd, played the Pink Garter. The roots-rock trio can be loud and rollicking, prompting fans to wonder whether Butler, too, would have been better served at the Garter.

Instead, the 450 or so who filled the theater were treated to a show that was intimate, mesmerizing and, at times, even rowdy.

Butler came out on banjo and alternated between six-string, 12-string and lap steel guitars. From the opening notes, he dropped jaws with his picking, using a variety of pedals, looping and other effects to create a much larger sound.

He explained that his mother spent her 20s in Jackson Hole, and he always wanted to visit. The band and crew arrived a few days early, with “one mob” riding motorcycles to Yellowstone and another mob “hiking around some lake.”

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sweet and dandy

By Jim Stanford on July 31, 2012

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Toots strums an acoustic guitar at Targhee Fest. (Photo by Mon Frere)

“Is the air getting thinner?” Chris Robinson warbled into the microphone. “Are we getting high?”

The shaggy singer was correct on both fronts, with a wink and a smile, during the eighth annual Targhee Fest. As always, the festival held at 8,000 feet lived up to its billing as one of the highest times of the summer.

His new band, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, was one of many pleasant surprises on the ski slope above Alta, Wyo. Joan Osborne and Jackie Greene’s collaboration, Trigger Hippy, was another, as was a sparkling set by reggae icon Toots and the Maytals.

But the most outrageous performance of the weekend came late night in the Trap Bar, by Andy Frasco and the UN.

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Michael Franti on passing of Gil Scott-Heron

By Jim Stanford on July 15, 2011

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Michael Franti at the 2011 New Orleans Jazz Fest.

After nearly two decades of touring, Michael Franti and Spearhead have become big stars. “The Sound of Sunshine” was a radio hit, and the band’s music can be heard on various TV commercials.

But for Franti, headlining Saturday at Targhee Fest, life wasn’t always so sunny. Check out Live at the Baobab, for instance, for more incisive and somewhat darker social commentary. Early in his career, a major influence was the rap forefather Gil Scott-Heron.

When Scott-Heron died in May, the music world mourned his passing with various remembrances. One of the most insightful and personal came from Franti, and it shed light on the soulfulness in which Spearhead’s music is rooted.

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Mountain Fest: the lowdown

By Jim Stanford on March 25, 2011

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Athletes and music fans are gearing up for a festive weekend, starting Saturday morning with the Pole Pedal Powder. There are a lot of events to keep track of, so here’s a summary:

  • PPP starts at 8 a.m. P-P-Participants must pick up bibs between 4 and 5:45 p.m. and attend pre-race meeting today, which begins at 6 in the events tent at JHMR. No word yet on how deep the alpine course will be.
  • Music Under the Tram: The Foundation plays New Orleans-style funk and rock from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
  • Rotating Superstructure plays an opening set on the main stage, in the front parking lot, starting at approximately 5:15 p.m. The indie pop-rockers, who grew up in Jackson, return from Portland.
  • Katchafire, the Maori reggae band from New Zealand, performs a free concert from 6:30 to 8:45. That leaves plenty of time for tailgating! Let’s hope the band got good directions this time. Fireworks to follow.
  • The Deadlocks take the festivities Furthur at the Mangy Moose, starting around 9:15. $10 at the door, or $8 in advance online. We’re giving away a pair of free tickets — in the comments below, say you’re in, and the winner will be chosen by random drawing at 3 p.m. Saturday.

As if that isn’t exhausting enough, the festival continues Sunday.

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Targhee Fest: Meters, Little Feat, Sharon Jones

By Jim Stanford on March 3, 2011

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Soul diva Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Click to enlarge.

Come July, Grand Targhee will be a Soul Island at 8,000 feet in the Tetons.

The Funky Meters, Little Feat and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are among the headliners for the seventh annual Targhee Fest on July 15-17. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Michael Franti and Spearhead are returning in what is shaping up to be the festival’s best lineup yet.

Also on the bill are crooners James McMurtry and Jason Spooner. Tickets will go on sale April 1, with a limited number of $99 weekend passes.

The Meters, New Orleans’ seminal funk band, and venerable Southern rockers Little Feat will close the festival on Sunday, July 17. Franti will headline Saturday night, while Friday’s lineup pairs divas Jones and Potter.

Targhee will add more artists in the coming weeks. The second annual Battle of the Bands will award opening slots to three local groups.

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