I landed back in Los Angeles less than 12 hours ago, yet next October already can't come fast enough. As I unpack my new K. Phillips vinyl record, which I will undoubtedly play this afternoon, my Vinyl Pizza t-shirt that reminds me of the kind of talented friends I spent the weekend with and an orange Old Jack coozie, I know I’m taking memories out of a suitcase that will stay packed in my heart forever.
For the third year in a row, the Outlaw Roadshow has been the highlight of my year. But for the first time ever, I started to really understand why. This is more than just a weekend music showcase lost in the noise of New York City- it’s a community of artists that create, support, embrace and continuously grow. And this year, it seemed even more evident than ever before.
The differentiating factor is in the hearts of the producers, who strive to curate the best lineup of artists that may be unknown to you. They’re the best kept secrets of an indie world that has so much to offer in terms of authenticity, songwriting and soul. Radio host and Boston music blogger Ryan Spaulding and Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz are both co-creators of the Outlaw, and they have mastered the art of a live mixtape of sorts, giving the audience a grab bag of blues, acoustic singer/songwriter, rock and hints of pop and country.
The free live showcase happens at the Bowery Electric for three nights in a row. On Thursday night, things kicked off with Indiana's Brick Briscoe upstairs and Nashville's Kim Logan downstairs, both excellent choices to get the audience prepped for what was to come over the next few days. Brick and Kim are raw and genuine, ready for the listener’s live consumption.
Friday night was the big night, bringing both bright new talent and established artists to the stage. Kathleen Sieck brought her West Coast charm to the East Coast and won over the crowd instantly with gorgeous vocals, and soulful artists Corey James Bost and Nate Leavitt both blew the roof off of the Bowery with their performances. Charismatic cowboy K. Phillips was slated to be the closer of the evening at 9:45 pm, but there was one more act that would play. You know, just Rob Thomas (Matchbox Twenty was only the soundtrack of my entire teenage life) and Adam Duritz (lead singer of, in my humble opinion, one of greatest bands to ever exist and a man I love dearly as a friend). So...that happened.
Their set was a combination of one another’s songs, a drunken singalong of sorts that was one part comedy show, one part the greatest musical experience in all of New York City. The two good friends couldn’t have put together a better set list, with hits like “3 a.m.,” “Rain King,” “Like a Virgin,” (yes, you heard me right), “Long December,” and more.
Although one might reason that would be the peak of the weekend, the good times kept rolling on Saturday. With a stacked lineup that included Kirby Brown, Julie Rhodes, Town Meeting and closing out with one of my all-time favorite live acts, OldJack, it was non-stop action. OldJack’s lead singer, Dan Nicklin, is everything rock and roll. When he walks into a room, it’s as if he’s arrived, possessing that “It” factor that’s a requirement for all supernovas. If I had a dime for how many times over the weekend I heard some variation of, “Dan is just so….cool,” I would’ve been able to afford a dozen more tacos from Taco Box. And never mind that when he opens his mouth to sing, it’s like being schooled on what soul should sound like.
Just as every day starts at Adam’s loft with the filming of Garden Sessions, every night ends back at the same place place, with artists joining together for an all-nighter that involves music, friendship and glasses of wine or whiskey. You look around the room and can spot music legends like Rob or Adam (of course), fine artist Felipe Molina, poster artist and designer Frank Germano, California winemaker John Wright, music writer and book author James Campion, and dozens of other rising musicians, and you feel instantly at home if you’re a creative….or even if you just have an appreciation for the creative arts. You know you and your ideas are welcome here, and this community will do all they can to lift and support you, just like you do for them.
Huge thank you and shout out to the team that puts their blood, sweat and tears into the Outlaw Roadshow, just to put good music to the ears of people that need to hear it most: Ryan Spaulding, Adam Duritz, Lindsay Dolph Nie, Barbara Rappaport, Frank Germano, Felipe Molina, and John Wright.