UB40 Legends Ali Astro & Mickey with Matisyahu and Raging Fyah

UB40 Legends Ali Astro & Mickey with Matisyahu and Raging Fyah

Levitt Pavilion Denver (map)

LEVITT ADMISSION BASED EVENT SERIES

Relix Presents: UB40 Legends Ali, Astro & Mickey with special guests Matisyahu and Raging Fyah

Reserved Seating: $40, $55 & $75
General Admission Lawn Seating: $25 regular price

All ticket prices increase $5 day of show

Tickets are also available by calling 1-800-745-3000.

All Ages | General Admission & Reserved Seating
Doors are at 4:30 PM | Show at 6:00 PM
For more information about the artist, please visit http://ub40.org/.

311 with New Politics, & The Plates

311 with New Politics, & The Plates

Levitt Pavilion Denver (map)

LEVITT ADMISSION BASED EVENT SERIES

Emporium and Live Nation present: 311 with New Politics, & The Plates brought to you Channel 93.3 KTCL

General Admission Lawn Seating: $39.50

All ticket prices increase $5.50 day of show

Tickets are also available by calling 1-800-745-3000.

All Ages | General Admission
Doors are at 5:00 PM | Show at 6:00 PM
For more information about the artist, please visit www.311.com

Josh Abbott Band

Josh Abbott Band

Levitt Pavilion Denver (map)

LEVITT ADMISSION BASED EVENT SERIES

Josh Abbott Band

PRESALE 05.03.17 @ 10am CODE = TEXAS

Early Bird - $10. Ends May 19 

Red Hot - $17.50. May 20 - July 13

Regular - $25 July 14 - Sept. 21

Day of Show Increase - $5.00

 

Tickets are also available by calling 1-800-745-3000.

All Ages | General Admission
Doors are at 5:30 PM | Show at 7:00 PM
 

JOSH ABBOTT BAND

When Josh Abbott Band recorded “Ghosts” for its fourth album, Front Row Seat, Abbott expected to redo the vocals. The final chorus had some technical imperfections, and he figured he could improve on the performance once his heart settled down. Producer Dwight Baker, one-half of the Austinbased duo The Wind and The Wave, wouldn’t let Abbott retouch it. “I was actually crying my eyes out when the Josh Abbott Band recorded “Ghosts” for its fourth album, Front Row Seat, Abbott expected to redo the vocals. The final chorus had some technical imperfections, and he figured he could improve on the performance once his heart settled down. Producer Dwight Baker, one-half of the Austin-based duo The Wind and The Wave, wouldn’t let Abbott retouch it.

“I was actually crying my eyes out during that last chorus, and that’s why there’s a couple of notes in the beginning of that section that don’t really explode like normal,” Abbott says. “Dwight was like, ‘We’re keeping that. That’s real.’”

Real is the operative word for Front Row Seat, a 16-track song cycle that represents the most ambitious and emotionally challenging project yet for JAB, a highly melodic six-piece ensemble that’s managed to keep a foot in both the Texas music scene and the national country world. The band won four times during the inaugural Texas Regional Radio Awards behind an upbeat brand of country that still leans on classic instrumentation – particularly banjo and fiddle – to effect a raucous, roof-raising attitude.

The band has lobbed three singles onto the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart – including “Oh, Tonight,” the first charted track to feature Grammy-winning Kacey Musgraves – and nabbed a Top 10 album with the 2012 release Small Town Family Dreams and reached No. 12 with the 2014 EP Tuesday Night.

But Front Row Seat steps beyond the band’s honky-tonk inclinations for a more personal journey as the album traverses the emotional course of Abbott’s first marriage and subsequent divorce. It was not his original intention to depict his private life in a public way, but as he wrote the songs for Front Row Seat, beginning before the split actually occurred, he naturally mined his emotional life for a set of songs that were profoundly honest and revealing. It was only as they began recording the material at Baker’s Matchbox Studios outside of Austin, that they realized they had the germ of a tangible plot.

“We started looking at the music we’d done and had a whole bunch of other songs that we really loved and we were like, ‘Man, we could put this together and make a really neat story out of it,” fiddler Preston Wait recalls. “Especially with the song ‘Front Row Seat,’ we basically just made it kind of like you’re watching a movie and it’s your front row seat to this life.”

Owing to that silver-screen character, JAB employed screenwriting technique by assembling the project with the five elements of plot structure: the exposition, or beginning; an inciting incident; the climax; a falling action (in this case, a breakup); and the resolution.

The story begins with “While I’m Young,” in which a college-aged Abbott lives a typically carefree existence, spending much of his discretionary income in bars and living for the moment, an ideal that’s captured authoritatively in the anthemic “Live It While You Got It.” As the album progresses, he meets a woman who commands his attention for more than one evening, finding himself by track 7, “Crazy Things,” mulling what it is that would make a woman who’s dang-near perfect fall for someone so flawed.

By the time the album concludes, his once-ideal relationship has turned sour, and the two are no longer one. The fracture becomes apparent through the resignation of “Born To Break Your Heart,” and he discovers in “Ghosts” that all the memories that once lived with such passion and revelry continue to haunt his memory, taunting him with whispers of a past he can never reclaim. As Front Row Seat closes with “Anonymity,” Abbott sings a spare dirge with acoustic guitar and fiddle, fantasizing that he could return to the start of the relationship and live it out right.

“When you’re moving on from somebody, even once you’ve accepted it, you just feel alone,” Abbott observes. “That’s the reason the acoustic track ends the album.”

Even though Front Row Seat represents an ode to a failed relationship, it also marks what Abbott expects to be the beginning of a new phase for JAB. One of Texas’ best party bands, the group evolved heavily in the process of making the album. The players fully committed to a darker sound and gave even more prominence to Wait’s fiddle and Austin Davis’ banjo, highlighting the trad-country elements in the lineup while still infusing the influence of multiple genres in its sonic drama.

“When you get to the end of this album, you see a band that grew up before your eyes – like literally front to back, a band that sonically changed,” Abbott says. “You never want to make the same album multiple times, and you never want to sound the same your entire career. You know, you look at The Beatles and you look at all these other great bands, they tweaked their sound over time, and I think you’re gonna start to see us do that a little bit more.”

While JAB is truly a group, the name is centered on Abbott – the lead singer, primary songwriter and band namesake – with good reason. He is a determined force of nature, and his ability to lead – to, in essence, turn something small into something much bigger – has been a hallmark of the band since its inception. 

That start came in the mid-2000s when Abbott and frat brother Davis showed up for a few informal gigs at the Blue Light Live in Lubbock, Texas.

“We played two open-mic nights, and we had two songs, no band. Just him and me,” Davis recalls. “I walk in the back, and Josh is talking to the owner and the manager about doing a live record there. And I’m thinking, ‘We don’t even have a band.’ His thing was, ‘We’ll get to that later.’ He’s always thought that way. I’ve played in other bands but never saw anybody else with that kind of confidence.”

Wait and drummer Edward Villanueva showed up a year and a half later, and in short time, JAB’s first single – “Taste,” self-released on Pretty Damn Tough Records – found a home on Texas radio stations. Bass player James Hertless and lead guitarist Caleb Keeter came on board circa 2010, and the lineup has stabilized for the past five years.

“Any movie you see about a band, it’s like five or six kids that are best friends,” Wait says. “Growing up, that’s kind of what you think it’s gonna be like. I found that in this group.”

The friendship is built on constant touring. Texas alone keeps the band steadily employed, but Abbott and crew have built a wider concert base that includes such iconic venues as Nashville’s Exit/In, Chicago’s Joe’s Bar, Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club, Denver’s Grizzly Rose and Los Angeles’ Troubadour. The audience has grown in part because of the singability and relatability of the Abbott Band’s material, which has always held something of an everyman appeal.

As personal as Front Row Seat is, the album has a ring of familiarity. Nearly everyone has messed up a relationship or had their heart broken. It’s practically a rite of passage, and Abbott’s willingness to tear down the walls and bare his heart lifts the project to a new level of connection with the band’s growing audience.

“I know there’s going to be a natural reflection on me and how the album mirrors my life,” Abbott concedes. “But I’d like to think that this is really a story that is so common that everyone relates to it and that it’s not just about me. Hopefully people can listen to it and feel like it’s about them.”

It’s about the band, too. Villanueva used a bigger drum kit in recording Front Row Seat, laying a little more power underneath. And Wait and Davis take a more prominent role in the sound, heightening the country and bluegrass sides of the group without harming its modern texture.

“When we come up with parts, it’s difficult because it’s not standard bluegrass, like Flatt & Scruggs,” says Davis. “You’ve got to do something different. It pushes you to try and make something new.”

There’s certainly plenty new in Front Row Seat for Josh Abbott Band. The ethereal lyrics in “Autumn” and “Anonymity” are a starting place as Abbott’s songwriting challenges country’s tendency toward literal interpretations and storylines. The band also works for the first time with Carly Pearce, who provides a powerhouse female presence on “Wasn’t That Drunk.” Assembling the project as a concept album with a distinct storyline is another new approach for JAB. The tormented lead single, “Amnesia” – with its snarling guitar solo and artsy, unsettling intro – is yet another new technique.

Those wrinkles in JAB’s development demonstrate the band’s willingness to explore new turf, tapping musical character that might have gone unexpressed in its earlier projects. But people don’t build character during the easy times. It comes when they’re tested by the hurts and pitfalls that accompany any successfully lived life. Abbott, as the leader of the band, is emerging from one of his toughest tests to date. He and the band used an ultra-honest approach to the hard times to take the next step as it moves into its future.

“The whole band embraced this project and really committed to not only make it sound incredible but sound different and better,” Abbott says. “It’s more mature than anything we’ve done in the past.”

More mature because it’s so honest. And so real.

Cody Johnson

Cody Johnson

Levitt Pavilion Denver (map)

Levitt Admission Based Event Series

Cody Johnson

Cody Johnson and Co-Headliner To Be Announced

LEVITT ADMISSION BASED EVENT SERIES

All tickets are general admission

$15.00 Early Bird tickets are available through June 1 and increase to $20.00 from June 2 to July 27. $25.00 standard admission tickets are available July 28 to October 6 and increase $5.00 day of show. 

Password pre-sale begins Wednesday, May 17 at 10:00 AM MDT and concludes Thursday, May 18 at 10:00 PM MDT. 

Pre-sale password: TEXAS

On Sale: Friday, May 19 at 10:00 AM MDT

Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster: http://www.ticketmaster.com/
Tickets are also available by calling 800-745-3000. 

All Ages | General Admission
Doors are at 4:00 PM | Show at 5:30 PM

For more information about the artist, please visit https://www.codyjohnsonmusic.com/.

 

 

CODY JOHNSON

When Cody Johnson’s Cowboy Like Me debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard Country Albums chart in January 2014, jaws dropped in offices all over Nashville.

“I got a lot of ‘Who is this kid?’” Johnson says with a laugh two years later. “I love that. That was a new horizon. And I’m gonna work to make sure people know exactly who I am.”

Johnson does that from the start in Gotta Be Me, a follow-up project that’s loaded with solid country instrumentation and winsome melodies. In the first minute alone, he paints himself as a cowboy, raised on outlaw country, who drinks too much, fights too much and won’t apologize for having an opinion. By the time the 14-track journey is over, he’s shared his rodeo history in “The Only One I Know (Cowboy Life),” demonstrated his woman’s influence in “With You I Am” and paid homage to his gospel heritage in “I Can’t Even Walk.”

Johnson delivers it all with an uncanny confidence. His smoky baritone and ultra-Southern enunciations give him a voice as uniquely identifiable as country kingpins Jason Aldean or Tim McGraw. And he uses it to convey a Texas-proud swagger, a real-man charm and an unwavering honesty about who he is, where he comes from and where he hopes to go.

“I’m a God-fearin’, hard-workin’, beer-drinkin’, fightin’, lovin’ cowboy from Texas,” he grins. “That’s about it.”

The hard-workin’ part is key. The other parts are easily found in his music. It’s intense, focused, sincere. And when he takes the stage, there’s a Garth-like conviction to his performances. Johnson inhabits the songs, recreates their emotions because they’re so familiar. And he’s willing to lay bare those emotions because he’s always been willing to risk. He lives in the moment behind that microphone, the same way he rode bulls in an earlier day.

“That’s a very, very rough sport to be in,” Johnson notes. “It’s very, very rough on your body. It’s very rough on your mind, and it’s scary. I mean there’s not a professional bull rider that won’t tell you it’s not scary. If it wasn’t scary, we wouldn’t do it.”

Johnson pauses for just a beat.

“I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie.”

Needing a fix is part of the attraction in both the rodeo and music. In the former, there’s always another buckle to chase, another bull to conquer for eight seconds. In the latter, there’s always another fan to win over, another song to write. And in some ways, Johnson has been chasing something illusory, indefinable, since he first arrived on planet Earth in Southeast Texas.

Johnson grew up in tiny Sebastapol, an unincorporated community on the eastern shore of the Trinity River that’s never exceeded 500 residents. Even today, it’s more than 30 miles to the nearest Walmart, in Huntsville, Texas, a town best known as the headquarters for the state’s criminal justice department. It’s a rough and tumble area, and it comes through in the music. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Billy Joe Shaver – their songs were all essential to the local clubs, and Johnson was exposed to their mysterious allure even before he was old enough to get in.

“You could hear the music from those bars across that lake,” he recalls. “I’d always hear somebody singing ‘Whiskey Bent And Hell Bound’ or something like that, and I always wondered what was going on across that water in those barrooms. It definitely intrigued me. I always wanted to go see what was on the other side of the tracks.”

At a young age, Johnson was given the tools to eventually work in those clubs, though his official education was grounded in the church. His father played drums for their congregation, and that was likewise the first instrument that young Cody picked up.

“Learning drums first taught me about feeling the song – feeling that dynamic of when it’s supposed to be big and when it’s supposed to be soft,” he says. “I think that still sticks with me as a songwriter and as a performer, and in turn it’s helped me shape my band, because I know what I’m looking for on every front.”

Johnson learned guitar next, and when a teacher heard him playing an original song, he convinced Johnson to form a band with a few other students enrolled in the Future Farmers of America. Just a few months later, that first band finished runner-up in a Texas State FFA talent contest, creating an internal buzz that Johnson would continue to chase.

He didn’t necessarily think it would be a career. He briefly went to Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas, but traded that in to become a rodeo pro. Johnson did OK in that sport – the oversized belt buckle he wears today was won fair and square on the back of a bucking bull – but he broke a litany of bones: his right leg, his left arm, two ribs and his right collarbone.

Cody started recording his own music during that phase of his life, beginning with Black And White Label, which featured his dad, Carl, on drums. Johnson sold the CDs, pressed on his own CoJo imprint, from his pickup.

Eventually, Cody took a job at the prison to pay the bills. His band kept hitting the clubs on the weekend, with Johnson kept banging away on the guitar on Fridays and Saturdays while overseeing some very hardened convicts whose crimes had cut them off from humanity.

“There’s a lonely style of music that a lot of those guys listen to,” Johnson says. “I worked in the field for a while, and they sang old prison work songs. Some had kind of lost hope, and I can see now that you have to sing about people that don’t have hope the same way you want to sing to give them hope.”

Meanwhile, his weekend crowds began to grow, and Johnson started landing hits on the Texas music charts. After the release of his third album, he won New Male Vocalist of the Year in the Texas Regional Radio Music Awards.

The music thing started to look like maybe it could be a business, not just a sideline pursuit. He was stunned when his wife, Brandi, agreed.

“It was a moment when I felt like I wasn’t on my own anymore,” Johnson says. “To have my fiancée at the time say ‘I’m behind you, no matter what we have to do,’ it gave me a whole new level of confidence that some people might have thought I already had. But I didn’t.”

Even with her belief, the road wasn’t easy.

“I sacrificed, and I worked my tail,” he says. “I barely slept for years trying to make this thing happen, and me and my wife didn’t have a lot of groceries. We didn’t have a lot of things for a long time.”

Johnson reached a new creative plateau when he enlisted singer/songwriter Trent Willmon, who wrote Montgomery Gentry’s “Lucky Man,” to produce an album in Nashville. That project, A Different Day, raised the bar on Johnson’s barroom ambitions. The studio musicians he worked with challenged his own band. Johnson grew – and his bandmates grew – because they had to stretch themselves to live up to the album on the road. That pattern has continued through three projects as he continues to chase something illusory.

“It’s that always-never-good-enough kind of attitude that gives us that drive,” Johnson says.

When Cowboy Like Me broke onto the Billboard chart, it demonstrated that they had built an audience, but also gave them a little cache to push it even further. The band has broken beyond the red-dirt confines, drawing sizeable audiences in such far-flung destinations as California, Montana, Wisconsin and the Southeast, as Johnson wins over fans with his honest songs and on-stage ferocity.

And Johnson’s built up a Twitter following of 73,000 fans – impressive numbers for a guy who’s marketed and developed his career without the aid of a major label.

He approached Gotta Be Me with two major objectives: to make yet another advance musically, and to provide an authentic self-portrait to that growing fan base still trying to figure out who this Cody Johnson guy really is. He worked with some of Nashville’s best songwriters – including David Lee (“Hello World,” “19 Somethin'”), Terry McBride (“Play Something Country,” “I Keep On Loving You”) and Dan Couch (“Somethin' ‘Bout A Truck,” “Hey Pretty Girl”) – while drawing on his own history, rich with its own compelling subject matter.

“Every Scar” draws a life lesson from all those rodeo bruises and broken bones. “Half A Song” blends his barroom experiences with the melodic and rhythmic sensibilities he picked up at his daddy’s feet. The fiddle-rich “Wild As You” embraces a freedom-loving woman whose sense of adventure is as deep as Johnson’s own. And that spacious gospel closer, featuring his parents on harmony, surrenders some of the rabble-rousing, adrenaline-raising pieces of his past into bigger spiritual hands.

In essence, Gotta Be Me documents the life of a guy who’s lived in the fast lane as a beer-drinkin’, rodeo-ridin’ cowboy, but who’s also seen just enough darkness to temper that wild streak.

“You’re only a couple bad decisions every day from screwing your whole life up,” he reasons.

With a good woman behind him and a whole lot of promise in front of him, that’s enough to keep Cody Johnson in check. The energy he put into his rebel years now goes into his work. He’s not sure what he’s chasing, but he knows it’s paying off The “me” that Cody Johnson is becoming will continue to evolve, and it’s his intent to share that journey in an honest, meaningful way. The same way that Haggard, Strait and Nelson did when they made their marks. When it’s all said and done, the plan is mostly to reach the point where people are no longer asking “Who is this kid?”

“I don’t want to be a blemish on country music,” Cody Johnson says. “I don’t want to be a dot. I’d like to be a mark.”