Today the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department announced the line-up for its tenth annual Botanical Roots outdoor concert series, to take place at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory in downtown Fort Wayne.
July 31st Wayne Baker Brooks (Chicago Blues) w/ Local Opener: Soul 35
Born and raised in Chicago, IL amongst the most prolific blues legends and blues masters in the world, Wayne Baker Brooks’ blues roots may run deeper and wider than the Great Lake Michigan itself, but this truly innovative artist knows no creative boundaries.
Chicago Blues laid the foundation to Wayne’s innovative style. He joined his father’s band (Lonnie Brooks) as a roadie in 1988, and started playing guitar in the band in 1990. In 1997, he formed the Wayne Baker Brooks Band while continuing to work with his father’s band. In 1998, in addition to appearing in the film Blues Brothers 2000, he also co-wrote Blues for Dummies with his father and Cub Koda, earning his first Real Blues magazine award (Keeping the Blues Alive) for the effort. His 2004 debut CD Mystery, an album of contemporary blues at its best, draws on blues, blues rock, soul, funk, & even a bit of hip hop. Mystery received multiple awards and accolades including a 4 star review in the All Music Guide.
In addition to releasing his debut CD, he was featured on several TV news programs (including CNN’s Showbiz), multiple radio programs (including Mancow Morning Show), performed the 2003 MLB All Star Game at Chicago White Sox Cellular Field, & even performed for the First Lady of the United States Hilary Rodham Clinton at Chess Studios (Willie Dixon Blues Heaven Foundation).
August 7th MODOC (Rock) w/Local Opener: Trichotomous Hippopotamus
Modoc performances are loud, intense and the purest example of seeing four guys do what they love doing more than anything in the world. They thrive at live shows and get a feeling of invincibility.
And the sound …. “We like rock n’ roll, so that’s what we’re passionate about. Having fun and playing loud music. Our sound is a mash up of so many influences. It’s really hard to say what our sound is. It’s going to forever move forward. I think we’re always getting better, and it’s going to forever change. The heart of it is just rock n’ roll. It’s a highly melody base rock n rock that’s played probably ten times louder than it needs to be,” according to the group.
Formed at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, the band moved to Nashville post-college where they’ve cultivated a fresh sound with melodic rock rhythms. Indeed, the band’s self-titled debut, released in 2013, revs and hisses like a classic jet black Mustang speeding top-down on a desert highway — each explosive riff and anguished tale taking us miles away from the garage in which it was produced. Since its release, things have really taken off for MODOC, with everyone from network music supervisors to tastemakers at Fox Sports’ Band of the Day and iTunes to festival promoters at Austin City Limits and Summerfest taking notice.
Since their debut, album MODOC has been hard at work in the studio on their second album with Brendan Benson of the Raconteurs. Vance Powell who has previously worked with other Nashville-based rock groups such as Kings of Leon and The White Stripes is mixing their upcoming single set to come out soon
August 14th JP Harris & the Tough Choices (Country) w/ Local Opener: Roustabout
In short, J.P. Harris plays Country Music. Not “Americana,” not “Roots,” “Folk,” or any other number of monikers used to describe a slew of spin-off genres. Born six minutes before Valentine’s Day in Montgomery AL in 1983, JP’s life was to be full of color, travel, hardship, and grace from the day he first saw the world. He left home on foot at the age of 14, traveling via thumb and freight train, living the next 4 years mostly from a backpack, tarp, and a bedroll. Eventually landing in the northeast, he worked as a farm laborer, equipment operator, lumberjack, luthier, and carpenter.
In the summer of 2011, after two years of touring without much in the way of recorded music, Harris made a trip to the sweltering heat of south Louisiana. In an old Cajun cook shack he and a few pals pounded out an album in three days, and shortly after its completion, he made the move to Nashville. JP released his all-original debut I’ll Keep Calling in May of 2012 on Cow Island Music. Shortly after its release, it won “Best Country Album of 2012” from The Nashville Scene. Vocally lending a hand on his latest album, Home Is Where the Hurt Is, is friend and local Indie-Country star Nikki Lane, as well as long-time friend Chance McCoy, singer and guitarist of Old Crow Medicine Show (McCoy also took rhythm guitar and fiddle duties throughout the album.)
Rolling Stone named JP Harris one of fall 2014’s “Country Tours Not to Miss,” as well as one of “21 Must-See Country Acts at SXSW 2015.”
When he isn’t touring, JP can usually be found repairing an old house, splitting wood in his backyard, or digging through the trash for useable refuse.
August 21st Buckwheat Zydeco (Zydeco) w/ Eclipse
If you’ve gotten into Zydeco music over the past 30 years it’s likely been because of Buckwheat Zydeco. The band can claim the three largest selling Zydeco albums of all time. Buck and the band released the first-ever major label Zydeco album in 1987: Island Records’ On a Night Like This. Last month Jimmy Fallon asked Buckwheat Zydeco to play that title tune with him and the Roots to kick off his final Late Night show before taking over the Tonight Show.
Over the course of Buckwheat Zydeco’s career, Buck has gigged with everyone from Eric Clapton (with whom Buckwheat also recorded) and U2 to the Boston Pops. The band performed at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics to a worldwide audience of three billion people. Buckwheat Zydeco even performed at both of President Clinton’s inaugurals. More national television appearances include PBS’s tribute to Paul Simon, where Buck performed with Lyle Lovett; sitting in with Paul Shaffer on The Late Show With David Letterman (and playing “Hot Tamale Baby” for Martha Stewart); and feting Ozzie Ozbourne among other’s on VH-1’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Buck was recently profiled in a ten minute feature by Scott Simon, on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday. The band has appeared six times on Letterman and on CNN, The Today Show, MTV, NBC News, CBS Morning News and many others.
August 28th Sierre Leone’s Refugee All Stars (World) w/ Local Opener: Dan Dickerson
SierraLeone’s Refugee All Stars is a band from Sierra Leone which was formed by a group of refugees displaced to Guinea during the Sierra Leone Civil War. Since their return to Freetown in 2004, the band has toured extensively to raise awareness for humanitarian causes.
Their debut album, Living Like a Refugee, was released September 2006. A second studio album, Rise & Shine, was released in March 2010. The band’s third studio album, Radio Salone, was released in April 2012.
The songs of the band fall into a number of different music styles, with some songs a fusion of more than one style. Their music has been described as having a reggae style but the band explains that “what sounds like reggae is in fact an age-old West-African rhythm called baskeda. (Baskeda music has a feel close to reggae.) Other musical styles include palm-wine and gumbe. The influence of traditional West African music is present, for example gbute vange, a style of music of Mende people, is in the track Pat Malonthone. These styles are overlaid on a baskeda rhythm and given a modern feel with the use of electric guitars and drums.
September 4th John Nemeth (Memphis Blues) w/Local Opener: Todd Harrold Band
Boise, Idaho is hardly the place anyone would conjure up as a hotbed of soul music. But for John Németh, it’s where his love for the genre began—and the starting point for a journey that’s taken him from his first gigs fronting a teenaged band to five Blues Music Award nominations in 2013 alone.
Németh’s first paid performance came in 1991, when he was hired to perform drinking songs for a pinochle luncheon held by the Catholic Daughters of America. After opening a show for Junior Watson, Németh was tapped as tour opener for the guitar great, a gig that took him across the United States, to Scandinavia, and into the recording studio for his 2004 solo debut, Come and Get It, featuring Watson.
A move to Oakland, California landed Nemeth a three album deal with Blind Pig Records where he recorded Magic Touch, Love Me Tonight, and Name the Day, then it was off to Memphis. “I moved to Memphis because it is the epicenter for soul and blues,” Németh confirms. “The wealth of knowledge runs deep in the instincts of its musicians and its studios.”
He landed in the perfect place: Electraphonic Studio, home to the Bo-Keys, veteran performers who have backed the likes of Al Green and the Bar-Kays, and now Nemeth on his most recent album, Memphis Grease. This album embodies everything that sets Nemeth apart from the revivalist pack: it’s innovative and unique while epitomizing the absolute best of the genre. It’s a deeply forged amalgamation of scorching harmonica-driven blues and sweet blue-eyed soul delivered via two fistfuls of originals and a trio of carefully chosen covers.
The album title itself is evocative of Németh’s journey to Memphis. The soul-blues scene he fell into in the Bay Area is historically referred to as “Oakland Grease,” and a pair of Oakland’s “greasiest” artists, guitarist Lowell Fulson and pianist Jimmy McCracklin, journeyed south to record two of their best, if often overlooked albums: Fulson’s funky psych-blues In a Heavy Bag and McCracklin’s soulful High on the Blues. For Németh, Memphis Grease is a natural concept that marries the techniques he honed in the Bay with the intuitiveness that flows between him and the Bo-Keys.
The Botanical Conservatory invites the community to grab a lawn chair, settle in, and enjoy music that’s fun and funky, creative, and upbeat. Bands are selected from regional and national touring acts with an emphasis on uniqueness, quality, and representation of a specific musical style.
Shows are Friday nights through September 4. Local bands will warm up the scene. Food and beverage will be available for purchase from Mad Anthony Brewing; no outside food or beverage allowed. Admission is $6 at the gate. Youth ages 12 and under are admitted free with a parent or guardian. Gates open at 7:30 p.m.; shows start at 8:30 and the events take place outdoors, rain or shine. The Conservatory is located in downtown Fort Wayne at 1100 S. Calhoun Street.
Botanical Roots is sponsored by The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department, 96.3 XKE Fort Wayne’s Classic Rock, Whatzup, PBS39, Fort Wayne Metals Research, the Downtown Improvement District, Mad Anthony Brewing Company the Holiday Inn at IPFW, and the Botanical Conservatory.