music / Columns

Jam Central Station: The Ragbirds Concert Review – Cleveland, OH – 1.27.18

February 3, 2018 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski



While I certainly enjoy a wide variety of live performances, there’s nothing better in my opinion than a band that can make me sing along, dance, and smile all night. Michigan natives The Ragbirds can do that every time I see them step on stage. Their ecclectic mix of folk, pop, and world music is always catchy in the best possible way, and they bring a wonderful energy to the stage at every live performance. Being so close to Cleveland, they’ve been regular visitors to the area for years, and they continue to bring in a fun and diverse crowd. Last Saturday at the Beachland Tavern was no different.

It’s been 2 years since the release of their excellent concept album The Threshold and The Hearth, and there had been the promise of some new music from the band. They’ve been promoting their Patreon page (a way to support and connect with the band) and discussing songwriting and new songs on that page. They didn’t make the crowd wait long, and opened the set with a new tune (listed on the setlist as “Liquor”), a song that felt like a return to the West African style songs from previous albums. Threshold didn’t have anything of this style, so it was nice to see the band writing in a style that was missing on their most recent release. From there they jumped into a set that included plenty of tunes from Threshold as well as some of their best older work. The mid-paced “Cosmos” got the crowd moving before the band picked up the pace with the fast-paced “Sometimes Honestly” and the gypsy-inspired “Tarantella,” which lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Erin Zindle absolutely tore up on the violin. By the time the band got to their fifth song, the ever-popular “Lemon Grove,” Erin was out of breath but all smiles.

The band was just getting started, however, and they continued to nail every song they put out. “Panoramic Camera” was a tune I hadn’t hear live in quite a while, a mix of folk and world music in an unconventional time signature that still is somehow extremely easy to dance to. “Book of Matches” is another older favorite of mine, a little darker but with a lot of energy behind it. The band lightened things up with a cover of “Nothing But Flowers” before letting guitarist TJ Zindle take the spotlight with a tune from his solo album. TJ also got credit from his sister for co-writing “Alleyway Saints,” a song that the band extended with some additional room for a guitar solo near the end.

After having the crowd dance the Moribayassa, another traditional West African song, the band moved back into newer material with “Little Ties” and “Bottomless Heart.” Erin puts a lot of her personal life into her songs, and that comes across on stage as well as everything she’s singing always comes from the heart. The band turned the mic over to TJ one more time for a rip-roaring version of Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love & Understanding) before closing the main set with the tango-inspired “Brave New Beat” as well as another traditional song from Ghana “Onyama Kokroko.” They encored with a cover of The Beatles “Carry That Weight” and “The End.”

The Ragbirds are always a band that I want to catch live because I know it’ll be a fun show and that the band will always be spot-on. You can’t fake that level of commitment and passion, and they put everything they have into their music. The only complaint I would have is that the show felt a little “been there, done that.” Other than the opening new tune and the closing Beatles tune, there was nothing there I hadn’t heard before, including the other two covers. I’ve seen the band do a great job with new arrangements to older tunes, but the songs all sounded pretty much the way that they’ve sounded for some time. But even if it was a little overly familiar they do still sound great. If you’re not familiar with this band, I highly recommend giving them quite a few listens..



Dead & Company to headline Lockn’
After months of rumors, it was confirmed this week that Dead & Company will headline Lockn’ 2018. The band will play 4 sets (2 nights 2 sets each) at the festival. Lockn’ is slowly releasing artists for the event. At this point, the only other confirmed band for Lockn’ 2018 is Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.

High Sierra announces lineup
The High Sierra Festival announced their 2018 lineup. The west-coast festival will be held from July 5-8 in Quincy, CA. The festival will include The String Cheese Incident, Sturgill Simpson, Lettuce, Turkuaz, The Wood Brothers, Lotus, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Aqueous, Twiddle, and many other great acts.

The Ride Festival announces lineup
The String Cheese Incident will also appear at The Ride Festival in Telluride, CO on July 14-15. The festival will also include Sheryl Crow, Grace Potter, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Big Something, and many others.

Primus announce tour
Primus will be hitting the road with recent Grammy winners Mastadon for a co-headlining tour. The two bands will start at Red Rocks before crossing much of the country on their 2 month outing.

May 6 Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheater
May 8 Oklahoma City, OK – The Criterion
May 10 Dallas, TX – Southside Ballroom
May 11 Austin, TX – Austin 360 Amphitheater
May 12 Rogers, AR – Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion
May 14 Birmingham, AL – BJCC Concert Hall
May 15 Nashville, TN – Nashville Municipal Auditorium
May 16 Atlanta, GA – Fox Theater
May 18 Portsmouth, VA – Portsmouth Pavilion
May 19 Charlotte, NC – Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre
May 20 Raleigh, NC – Red Hat Amphitheater
May 22 Reading, PA – Diamond Credit Union Theater at Santander
May 23 Lewiston, NY – Artpark Amphitheater
May 25 Glen Falls, NY – Cool Insuring Arena
May 26 Providence, RI – Bold Point Park
May 27 Portland, ME – TBA
May 29 Boston, MA – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion
May 30 Philadelphia, PA – Penn’s Landing – Festival Pier
Jun 1 Asbury Park, NJ – Stone Pony Summerstage
Jun 2 Baltimore, MD – Pier 6 Pavilion
Jun 3 Brooklyn, NY – Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk
Jun 5 Columbus, OH – Express Live! Outdoor Amphitheatre
Jun 6 Chicago, IL – Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island
Jun 8 Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE
Jun 9 Sterling Heights, MI – Michigan Lottery Amphitheater at Freedom Hill
Jun 10 Indianapolis, IN – Farmer’s Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park
Jun 12 Cincinnati, OH – PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center
Jun 14 Minneapolis, MN – MYTH LIVE
Jun 15 Bonner Springs, KS – Providence Medical Center Amphitheater
Jun 16 Camdenton, MO – Ozarks Amphitheater
Jun 18 Lincoln, NE – Pinewood Bowl Theater
Jun 21 Bonner, MT – Kettlehouse Amphitheater
Jun 22 Seattle, WA – Marymoor Park
Jun 23 Bend, OR – Les Schwab Amphitheater
Jun 25 Troutdale, OR – Edgefield
Jun 28 Avila Beach, CA – Avila Beach Resort Amphitheater
Jun 29 Berkeley, CA – The Greek Theatre
Jun 30 Lincoln, CA – Thunder Valley Resort Casino
Jul 2 Salt Lake City, UT – The Great Salt Air – Outdoors
Jul 3 Las Vegas, NV – Downtown Event Center
Jul 5 Los Angeles, CA The Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley
Jul 6 San Diego, CA – Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theater
Jul 7 Phoenix, AZ – Comerica Theatre


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

High Sierra
July 5-8
Quincy, CA
String Cheese Incident, Sturgill Simpson, Lettuce, The Wood Brothers, Turkuaz, Lotus, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Twiddle, Fruition, Spafford

The Ride Festival
July 14-15
Telluride, CO
The String Cheese Incident, Sheryl Crow, Grace Potter, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Big Something

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

August 23-26
Arrington, VA
Dead & Company


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!