Soulive stormed through Ardmore, PA this past weekend, playing three incredible sets of fiery, buttery, organ soul funk music across Friday and Saturday, that also featured special guests, some cool openers, and a whole lot of insane energy the whole way through. The trio was celebrating their nineteenth birthday as a band, and the weekend reflected a band that has been honing their jamming craft for that long a time.
Middle-Eastern, fusion jam trio Consider The Source busted open the weekend as the first opener, running the full gamut of styles through their improvisational jams, like acid metal, jazz, and of course trippy psychedelic rock. It was certainly a slight contrast in sound to what Soulive would be bringing, but there was a musical essence that was the same that was for sure highly appreciated by Ardmore’s crowd—a power trio of three dizzyingly talented musicians showing their adeptness at following one another across a changing, blistering groove. But they’re also fantastic in an epic rock sense, with slower, dramatic, even at times emotional melodies and compositions. Some crowd members who commented on seeing CTS perform for the first time were also gaping at the amount of sounds Marin and Ferrara rang out from their mighty guitars—a muted horn, steel slide, video game noises, to just name a few.
The cheers and hollers carried from one set to the next as Soulive replaced them on the stage, announced their birthday, and set off for the weekend. The band introduced quickly enough some of the material from their newest record, Cinematics Vol. 1, for what was a live debut on songs like “King’s March,” “Sidekick” and “Waves.” The material fleshed out nicely from its tidy feel on the record with lots of improvisation here on stage.
Legendary guitarist John Scofield then took to the stage to stay for the remainder of the night, and things took off. Scofield, who has some history playing with Soulive, such as at their annual Bowlive music run in Brooklyn, fits right in with Soulive like a time-tested member of the band, and the history shows in the comfortability. Amazingly, Scofield took over the stage with an almost humorous sense of gusto and confidence. As the band started out the collaboration with Scofield’s own “Hottentrot,” the sixty-six year-old guitarist charged out front with some immediately explosive, commanding solos. People upfront were screaming with glee only minutes into this anticipated collaboration.
This was followed by some old school Soulive songs like “Nealization” and “Boozer,” and on these jams Krasno and Scofield showed their musical affinity, by linking up in a number of harmonizing solos one after the other. Plus, more beautifully unique guitar tones would pierce through the heat of Ardmore this first night. On “Hey Joe,” Scofield dropped a gorgeous yet furious sounding tone set to another amped up solo. They kept up the fun with some classic covers of theirs in “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and “Get Back” to finish.
A special project kicked off Soulive’s second night at The Ardmore Music Hall, DJ Williams with his supergroup project Shots Fired. Shots Fired is featuring in rotation on this tour members of Rubblebucket, Slightly Stoopid, Dave Matthews Band, Thievery Corporation, Jazz is Phish, and more, and they have a sound and feel where cool meets power. Slightly pop, slightly rock-band, and very funky throughout, the project is a strong one, with a very tight and powerful band supplying the grooves for Williams’ tunes. The horn section in particular blazed out beautifully with repeating bouts of impressive solos throughout the set. Williams himself is a technically skilled and stylish guitarist, and he demonstrated this throughout his set, especially on the terrific guitar solo closing the band’s jazzy take on “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Soulive, maybe jumping off of the nice buzz Shots Fired cooked up, let out on an absolute tear from the first song of night two. This was only hours after they had played a recently added, third set that morning, which again featured John Scofield, and yet the trio on Saturday night delivered one of the most amped up starts to a set to be seen. The first songs of this night set set, like “Steppin,” “Up Right” and “El Ron,” brought a incredible intensity mixed with the trio’s trademark sense of concentration and precision.
Interestingly enough, the band re-offered some of the new material from the previous night, like “King’s March” and Waves” again, but not surprisingly with the same amount of reception from the night before due to the fresh way the band could play the same track a different time around. Night two had some real, musically vibrant highlights following this, like the tender cover of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Lenny” and then a colorful, multi-tiered version of the “Curse Lifter,” from the song list of The Eric Krasno Band, this last one truly making for one of the groovier jams all weekend.
And continuing with that theme, the trio brought Erik Krasno Band’s second guitarist, Danny Mayer. In addition to his touring with Krasno, Mayer has also played in On The Spot Trio with Alan Evans, and so has with the finessed groove of these Brooklyn giants. Mayer came up and without fair warning, the four bulleted through a wild version of Henrdix’s “Manic Depression,” and the energy skyrocketed to maybe the highest point in the night. It was certainly a collaboration to challenge even the awesomeness of the night before.
Soulive whirled down this amazing weekend with another go at the new “Miller’s Last Stand,” “One in Seven” and then another dip into their Rubber Soulive album with “Revolution,” closing out what was a beautiful, masterful rare treat from the elusive Brooklyn kings of organ funk. The trio is currently over in England playing a single show tonight at London’s Jazz Club, but as of now there are no more scheduled dates for the band.
Article and Photos by Miles Hurley