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Published: 2011/12/21
by Chad Staehly

Mark Vann Foundation Holiday Benefit Show Raises Funds and Spirits

The annual Mark Vann Foundation Holiday Benefit Show seems to always showcase what Boulder is about – music, community and giving. All the volunteers and musicians show up to this labor of love ready to give and celebrate. This particular event chooses to celebrate an innovator on the banjo and in the jamgrass scene, pioneer and founding member of Leftover Salmon, Mark Vann (who succumbed to melanoma cancer in early 2002). Some of the usual suspects were there at the Boulder Theatre for the 9th installment of the benefit (Vann’s Leftover Salmon brothers Vince Herman and Bill McKay as well as Leftover Salmon off-shoot band and six-time host of the event, Great American Taxi). The big special guest this year was all-star band The Contribution which is a who’s who of the jam scene including Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, Keith Moseley of String Cheese Incident, Phil Ferlino and Jeff Miller of New Monsoon, newest member Matt Butler of Everyone Orchestra and the vocal stylings of Black Swan singer Sheryl Renee.

Things kicked off with a small set by Yarmony Grass founder Andrew McConathy and the Drunken Hearts. They got things swinging and invited out Carbone for a few numbers (who would prove to be the allstar of the night playing with just about everybody). Bill McKay Band then offered up some of their rocking blues and jam, highlighted of course by McKay’s acrobatics on piano and B-3 organ as well as the guitar stylings of local gunslinger Ash Ganley. After the McKay Band set, bodies started to fill up the floor in anticipation of The Contribution’s first Boulder performance, but in typical Vann Show and Vince Herman fashion, a quick monkey wrench was thrown into the night’s schedule and Herman stepped up to the stage with family band
in tow, The Herman Clan (THC). THC played a quick ‘tweener set augmented by new fiddle transplant Zebulon Bowles and K.C. Groves (Uncle Earl).

The energy grew and the bar was raised when The Contribution tore into their set. This band isn’t what you would expect, this isn’t jamgrass, this is barely a jamband, more like a rock-n-roll supergroup. Carbone barely touches the fiddle with this group, sometimes fronting it with just his vocals, other times playing electric Telecaster guitar riffing with Miller. Sheryl Renee’s vocals are what bring this band home, a cross between Mavis Staples and the Queen of Soul, she can flat out wail. This band makes you feel like you’re seeing rock and roll reinvented and laid out for us in the new millennium. They played songs mostly from their debut 2010 record Which Way World, but also offered a few new numbers, suggesting that another album is in the works.

After The Contribution just about knocked the roof off the Boulder Theater, benefit show hosts (after all this band started as a benefit and and has contiued to play and champion causes across the country) Great American Taxi stepped up to the plate with a slew of friends. Although the band never really was able to fully hit their own groove with all the guests on stage, it was still a fun set that offered up selections from all three albums but leaned heavily on material from their latest offering Paradise Lost which has found the band currently in the top ten on the Americana Radio Chart. Local Boulder songwriting master Benny ‘Burle’ Galloway joined the band for their new single ‘Poor House’ which Galloway penned and gave to the band when they crossed paths in Oklahoma in early 2011. Carbone again was on hand to add some fiddle as well as Bowles, where they dueled with each other and with guitar player extraordinaire Jim Lewin from GAT. Taxi was also joined by several horn players during their set.

The evening couldn’t have come to a better or more fitting close than having Butler emerge with the Eveyone Orchestra to finish the night off with a neatly tied bow and little cherry on top. The Everyone Orchestra set saw all of The Contribution on stage as well as Great American Taxi and others from the earlier acts. There was twenty six people on stage which culminated with some freestyle rapping from Scott Stoughton and then “the great sit-down”. Butler and Herman led the band and crowd to all sit down with just peeps coming from various musicians Butler gave the nod to. This was incredibly stunning to see after such a rowdy Boulder night, the entire audience and twenty six piece band all sitting down for a moment of reflection on their own lives as well as the late great Mark Vann who had brought eveyyone together for the momentous occassion. Slowly the band rose back to their feet and Herman led the orchestra and audience into a sing-along of the Dylan staple “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” Once again the magic of the Boulder community seemed to conquer all and leave everyone with a sense of pride knowing that all in attendance from band to audience had pitched in and helped to raise some money for three great causes, There With Care, CareConnect of Boulder County and of course the Mark Vann Foundation.

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