music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Flobots Concert Review

January 26, 2018 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski



In the popular music scene, hip hop and rap have been at the top of the pecking order for going on 2 decades. Not surprisingly, this has led to a very active underground scene for those genres. Some artists start small and make the jump to arenas, while some of the best still fly below the radar, playing clubs and halls around the country. The Flobots are one of those bands. They have as much talent (if not more) as any other act out there right now, but their out of the box style has for the most part kept them out of the spotlight. However, it’s because of their unique style that they’ve garnered a hardcore fanbase, and they continue to cultivate that base through solid albums and inspiring live shows.

The first thing that needs to be said about a live Flobots show is that the band has something to say, they have a message, and they have no problem articulating that. From the opening song and throughout the entire night, the band was preaching unity, acceptance, peace, and love. Not in a PLUR sort of way, but in a way that recognized where society is right now and how they wanted to see growth. They’ve had that message since their first album, and they’ve stayed true to it for their entire career.

The band opened up the night by looking ahead with a brand new song before digging way back to their first EP with “No W.” They did a lot of that throughout the night, moving forward with tracks from their newest album while jumping back in time to early material. Luckily the music all fit together well. The first real crowd pop came with “Stand Up,” and the band worked throughout the night to keep the energy level up. Getting the crowd to put their hands up, move, and sing along brought everyone in the audience together, and the band had more than enough charisma and showmanship to make it work.

While vocalists Jonny 5 (Jamie Laurie) and Brer Rabbit (Stephen Brackett) were the most up-front members of the band, the rest of the group certainly had opportunities to shine. The highlight of the backing band was violin player Sarah Hubbard. Flobots have used a wide range of musicians on their album tracks, and Hubbard was able to add the additional melody lines that the songs needed to work live. She also provided backup vocals and handled a solo mid-set. The rest of the band was also more than adequate, with everyone getting opportunities to shine. Flobots aren’t a band that would work well just rapping over a backing track. They need the energy and excitement of a live performance, and the band provided and excellent bed for Jonny 5 and Brer Rabbit to flow.

The band’s most recent release, Noenemies was a powerful inclusion to their catalog, and I was happy they included a good handful of songs from the album. The first track they played from the album, “Quarantine,” was solid but was one of the few songs of the night that didn’t have as much power behind it as it needed. The studio version has a real “wall of sound” feel, and they may have needed a little more coming off the stage to make it work. On the other hand, “Dancing in the Light of Burning Cities” was another solid sing-along tune with a very different feel than most of the rest of the set, and “Voices of the Dead” had a great build up from a sparse opening to a strong chorus. My favorite track from the new album of the night was “American Dreams,” another one that brings the crowd in with a catchy chorus and some fast-paced drum work.

In the end, the highlights of the night came from all over the place. “Stop the Apocalypse” was a straightforward heavy hitter. “Gonna Be Free” was a great hip-hop tune with heavy bass that the crowd had to move to. They closed out the main portion of the set with a trio of songs from Fight With Tools including the title track as well as their best-known hit “Handlebars.” While that one likely got the biggest response of the night, it’s a tribute to this band that it was far from the only tune to get a huge reaction. Their encore started out with Brer in the crowd singing “Panacea for the Poison” before moving into the fast-paced “Circle in the Square.”

In the end the band did exactly what they set out to do. They created a community in Cleveland for one night. From stage conversations between songs to highlighting the message of unity in their music to the little things like Jonny 5 wearing a “Citizen Pie” t-shirt representing the pizza place right across the street from the venue, the band put out their message and were authentic and honest when doing so. In my opinion they should be playing in front of tens of thousands of people every night. They have the songs, the talent, and the stage presence to do so. But I’m glad that Cleveland got to see this band and hear their message, and I’m looking forward to checking them out again in the future.



Frendly Gathering announce lineup
Vermont’s annual Friendly Gathering announced their 2018 lineup. Up and coming Vermonters Twiddle will headline along with Greensky Bluegrass and Kamasi Washington. Other artists on the lineup include Spafford, Trevor Hall, Kevin Morby, and The Suffers. The festival takes place from June 28-30.

Phish tour announced
Phish announced their summer 2018 tour, and they’ll be passing over most of the midwest with this one. They open up out west with shows in Nevada, The Gorge, and California before heading south and east. They wrap up the tour with their annual Dick’s run at the end of August. Rumors still abound of a Phestival at Watkins Glenn, but that hasn’t been announced yet.

7/17 – Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys, Stateline, NV
7/18 – Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys, Stateline, NV
7/20 – The Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA
7/21 – The Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA
7/22 – The Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA
7/24 – Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
7/25 – Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
7/27 – The Forum, Inglewood, CA
7/28 – The Forum, Inglewood, CA
7/31 – Austin360 Amphitheater, Austin, TX
8/03 – Verizon Amphitheatre Alpharetta, GA
8/04 – Verizon Amphitheatre Alpharetta, GA
8/05 – Verizon Amphitheatre Alpharetta, GA
8/07 – BB&T Pavilion, Camden, NJ
8/08 – BB&T Pavilion, Camden, NJ
8/10 – Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, Raleigh, NC
8/11 – Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
8/12 – Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
8/31 – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
9/01 – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
9/02 – Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO

TAUK announce dates
TAUK set a run of that take the band through most of May. The instrumental group will head through much of the midwest before moving on south just as festival season gets ready to start.

March 17 San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
March 18 Chandler, AZ – Pot of Gold Fest
April 6 Ft Collins, CO – Aggie Theatre
April 7 Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
April 10 Iowa City, IA – Blue Moose Tap House
April 11 Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck
April 12 Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe
April 13 Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall
April 14 Grand Rapids, MN – Elevation
April 15 Detroit, MI – The Shelter
April 18 Columbus, OH – Woodlands Tavern
April 19 Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge
April 21 Safety Harbor, FL – Brainquility Fest
April 22 Atlanta, GA – Sweetwater 420 Fest
April 25 Birmingham, AL – Zydeco
April 26 Gainesville, FL – High Dive
April 27 Jacksonville, FL – 1904 Music Hall
May 1 Greensboro, NC – Blind Tiger
May 2 Charlotte, NC – Visulite Theatre
May 3 Virginia Beach, VA – Shaka’s Live
May 4 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
May 5 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
May 18 Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl
May 19 Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Bowl
May 26 Boston, MA – Boston Calling

Kyle Hollingsworth announces solo album
Kyle Hollingsworth of the String Cheese Incident announced that he will be releasing his 4th solo album. 50 is due out on March 2nd in celebration of Hollingsworth’s 50th birthday. The album will be accompanied by a short tour, although there are talks of more dates to be added.

7-Feb – Brooklyn Bowl Brooklyn, NY

8-Feb – StageOne Fairfield, CT

9-Feb – Funk ‘N Waffles Rochester, NY

10-Feb – Funk ‘N Waffles Syracuse, NY

1-Mar – Aggie Theatre Fort Collins, CO

2-Mar – Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom Denver, CO

3-Mar – Boulder Theater Boulder, CO

24-27-May – Summer Camp Music Festival Chillicothe, IL


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

Suwannee Spring Reunion
March 22-25
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
The Infamous Stringdusters, Donna the Buffalo, Larry Keel Experience, Dar Williams, Billy Strings, Amy Helm, The Grass is Dead

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

Mountain Jam
June 15-17
Hunter Mountain, NY
Jack Johnson, Sturgill Simpson, alt-J, The War On Drugs, Portugal. The Man, The Decembrists, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic, Rag n’ Bone Man, Turkuaz, The Record Company

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!