music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Toubab Krewe

January 13, 2018 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski

One of my favorite things about the “jam band” scene is that it finds room for things that aren’t easy to define or put into a standard genre. The various types of fusion artists that call the festival scene their home are as exciting as they are diverse, and there are no rules when it comes to the concepts or blends that great musicians can come up with. One of the bands that has always struck me as a band that, from the description, would have a hard time finding an audience but when you listen to them you’re drawn in is Toubab Krewe. West African Rock Fusion doesn’t sound necessarily sound like something that’s going to have a wide appeal. When the music starts, however, all bets are off.
If you were to just listen to the band you would hear what sounded like a rock band, sometimes with some Southern or New Orleans flair to them, but the unfamiliar sound of the instruments would also catch your ear. There’s stringed instruments in their, but often it’s not a guitar. Or trying to figure out what it is that’s holding down the low end, since the band often doesn’t use a traditional bass guitar either. The fact that much of the band is using a mix of traditional West African instruments may dawn on some folks, but it’s not immediately clear because the songs don’t always come across as African. If you have an ear for unique music, you can’t help but be drawn in by what these guy are doing because it sounds familiar but foreign both at the same time. Like a catchy song in a unique time signature, the band has songs that make you want to figure out what’s going on.
Not surprisingly, the band got their start in Asheville, North Carolina. This hotbed for music without limitations gave them a home where they could explore a shared interest in traditional African music (the members have all spent considerable time in West Africa studying the music and culture). They formed in 2005, and over the next 5 years released two albums and a live album. Unfortunately, it took 8 years for them to put together another release (Stylo is scheduled to arrive on 3/8). Despite the lack of recordings, the band has been able to hold fans’ attention with live performances. Their shows are always energetic and engaging, and the fact is that if Toubab Krewe draws you in as a fan you’re probably always going to be a fan.
The band also was able to get a leg up through early festival performances. Playing festivals like Bonnaroo, Rothbury, High Sierra, Wakarusa, and FloydFest and delivering excellent sets helped them quickly garner a fan base that was engaged in what they were doing. They also were able to gain international recognition through their work and performances in Africa, including performing at the Festival in the Desert in Mali. The band also didn’t just gain inspiration from African music and not give back. They have opened a music school in Africa and donate a portion of all ticket sales and album sales back to the school.
Overall Toubab Krewe is a band that shows that you can make just about anything work if the talent is there. If you put out good music, even if you’re using unfamiliar instruments or mixing divergent styles, there will be an audience ready to give it a shot. Toubab Krewe has taken advantage of that and used it to take West African music into a new direction and in front of a new audience.

Bonnaroo announces lineup
The 2018 Bonnaroo festival announced their lineup. The festival will feature the return of Eminem, as well as headliners The Killers and Muse. There’s some solid diversity on the bill, and it features some jam-favorites such as Bassnectar, Rebelution, The Revivalists, STS9, Moon Taxi, Trombone Shorty, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Spafford, and Southern Avenue.
Peach Festival announces lineup
The annual Peach festival announced their 2018 lineup this week. The festival returns to Montage Mountain in Scranton, PA on July 19-22. The lineup includes Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, two sets from Gov’t Mule including Dark Side of the Mule, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Dicky Betts, moe., Twiddle, Blackberry Smoke, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and many other great artists.
Camp Greensky Announced
Greensky Bluegrass put out a save the date for Camp Greensky for May 31-June 2. No details are available other than the date and the fact the event (what obviously everyone is assuming will be a Greensky-hosted festival) will be in Michigan. Hopefully more information is available soon.
Northwest String Summit announces lineup
The Northwest String Summit will return to Horning’s Hideout on July 19-22. Yonder Mountain String Band will host the event, and they’ll be joined by many great bands including Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Fruition, Steep Canyon Rangers, and plenty of others. Many of the acts will be performing multiple times throughout the weekend.
TAB announces shows
The Trey Anastasio Band announced a run of shows in April. The short jaunt starts in Cleveland before wrapping up with three shows in New Orleans.
April 17 Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
April 18 Grand Rapids, MI – 20 Monroe Live
April 24 Birmingham, AL – Iron City
April 26 New Orleans, LA – Civic Theatre
April 27 New Orleans, LA – Civic Theatre
April 28 New Orleans, LA – Civic Theatre

Holly Bowling and Tom Hamilton form a new band
Holly Bowling and Tom Hamilton have teamed up with Steve Lyons, Raina Mullen, and Scotty Zwang to form Ghost Light. The group has put together a set of songs and is taking them on the road starting in March. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what this initial run builds into.
March 20th – Winstons – San Diego, Calif.
March 21st – The Mint – Los Angeles
March 23rd & 24th – Terrapin Crossroad – San Rafael, Calif.
March 27th – Humboldt Brews – Arcata, Calif.
March 28th – HiFi Lounge – Eugene, Ore.
March 29th – Volcanic Theater Pub – Bend, Ore.
March 30th – Mission Theater – Portland, Ore.
April 11th – Brooklyn Bowl – Brooklyn, NY
April 12th – Ardmore Music Hall – Ardmore, Penn.
April 13th – The Acoustic – Bridgeport, Conn.
April 14th – Thunder Road – Boston
April 17th – Gypsy Sally’s – Washington, DC
April 18th – Lincoln Theater – Raleigh, NC
April 19th – 5 Points Sanctuary – Roanoke, Va.
April 20th – Asheville Music Hall – Asheville, NC

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds in Mexico
January 12-14
Riviera Maya, MX
3 nights of Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds as well as Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Brandi Carlisle, and Joseph
Gov’t Mule’s Island Exodus
January 13-17
Jewel Paradise Cove
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes, JJ Grey & Mofro
Jam in the Sand
January 18-22
Jewel Paradise Cove
Ruanaway Bay, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra, Hot Tuna, Rumpke Mountain Boys
Jam Cruise
January 17-22
Medeski, Martin, Scofield & Wood, Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Maceo Parker, Lotus, Lettuce, Gramatik, Keller Williams, The New Mastersounds, Dumpstaphunk, Turkuaz, The Main Squeeze
Gem & Jam
January 25-28
Tuscon, AZ
STS9, Greensky Bluegrass, Lettuce, Breaking Biscuits, Emancipator, Railroad Earth
Panic En La Playa
January 26-30
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Widespread Panic (4 shows), Playa Allstars, The Cleaners, Big Something, Dave Shaw, Marcus King, Cris Jacobs
Winter WonderGrass
February 21-23
Steamboat Springs, CO
Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Elephant Revival, Horseshoes & Handgrenades, Travelin’ McCoury’s, Fruition, Billy Strings
Winter Wondergrass Tahoe
April 6-8
Squaw Valley, CA
The Devil Makes Three, Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Elephant Revival, The California Honeydrops, Steep Canyon Rangers, Fruition, The Lil’ Smokies
Wannee Festival
April 19-21
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Widespread Panic, Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Dark Star Orchestra, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, North Mississippi Allstars, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe
Sweetwater 420 Festival
April 20-22
Centennial Park
Atlanta, GA
String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sturgill Simpson, Vulfpeck, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Papadosio, The Record Company, Spafford, Southern Avenue
April 26-29
Wilkes Community College
Wilkesboro, NC
Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, Sam Bush, The Devil Makes Three, Donna the Buffalo, The Way Down Wanderers, Wesley Bright & The Honeytones
Charm City Bluegrass Festival
April 27-28
Druid Hill Park
Baltimore, MD
The Devil Makes Three, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, The Steeldrivers, Jeff Austin Band, Billy Strings, Larry Keel Experience
May 17-19
Fort Royale Farm
Bedford, PA
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
May 24-27
Cumberland, MD
The Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, The Bluegrass Congress, Old Crow Medicine Show, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, The Jerry Douglas Band, The Wood Brothers, Elephant Revival, Fruition, Billy Strings
Summer Camp
May 25-27
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
moe., Umphrey’s McGee
Dark Star Jubilee
May 25-27
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Dark Star Orchestra, Los Lobos, Infamous Stringdusters, Hot Tuna, The Nth Power, Rumpke Mountain Boys
Camp Greensky
May 31-June 2
Music on the Mothership
June 1-3
Taos, NM
Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Rising Appalachia, Antibalas, Assembly of Dust, Fruition, Nicki Bluhm, Melvin Seals
June 7-10
Manchester, TN
Eminem, Muse, The Killers, Bassnectar, The Revivalists, Rebelution, STS9, Mavis Staples, Trombone Shorty, Spafford, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Blue Ox Music Festival
June 14-16
Eau Claire, WI
Greensky Bluegrass, The Devil Makes Three, Sam Bush, Del McCoury Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Margo Price, Billy Strings
Electric Forest Weekend 1
June 21-24
Double JJ Ranch & Resort
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Chromeo, Xavier Rudd, Andy Frasco & The UN, Aqueous, Big Something, Corey Henry & The Funk Apostles, Everyone Orchestra, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Manic Focus, Shook Twins, The Main Squeeze, The Werks, The Nth Power, Toubab Krewe, Turkuaz
Electric Forest Weekend 2
June 28-July 1
Double JJ Ranch & Resort
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Chromeo, Xavier Rudd, Aqueous, Big Something, Corey Henry & The Funk Apostles, Everyone Orchestra, Fruition, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Manic Focus, Shook Twins, The Main Squeeze, The Werks, The Nth Power, Toubab Krewe, Turkuaz
Peach Festival
July 19-22
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Gov’t Mule, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Dicky Betts, moe., Twiddle, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Blackberry Smoke, Turkuaz, Leftover Salmon, The Main Squeeze,
Northwest String Summit
July 19-22
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Fruition, Mandolin Orange, Steep Canyon Rangers
July 25-29
Floyd, VA
Foster the People, The Infamous Stringdusters, Hiss Golden Messenger
Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!