An Evening Of Expression

 

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Odd Bridges returned to the Hilltop Tavern Saturday night, July 22nd, with special guest Mirk Beniah, Swift Sonorous, Kings Trio, Kryptic Moons and Just Say’N, as well as a special appearance from Dewey B. Weather of Rain Brings Weather. It’s been about a month and a half since Odd Bridges and the Hilltop played host to OddFest, a festival celebrating the growing talent and music scene in the High Desert. Odd Bridges and crew were all present at the festival, with Kings Trio being the exception, and returned this evening to continue tearing up stages left and right.

Kicking off the evening was Kryptic Moons, a group that reflects the attitude and style of hard rock from the 70’s and 80’s. With covers like “Strutter” from Kiss’s first album and originals like “Blue”, “To the Wire” and “Dirty Looks”, Kryptic Moons are still looking strong despite a recent lineup change. I spoke with singer and guitarist Melody Del Real about the direction of the band moving forward, “we’re trying to settle back, definitely more groove rather than speed and technicality, just more groove… …That’s my ultimate aim, is to create something that is approachable but is also interesting, but not technical, not trying to show off.”

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When talking about why she started the group and what it means to her, Melody emphasized her desire for self-expression, “I wanted my own thing. Seeing all these other people being recruited, like being drafted into those bands as a session musician and I didn’t [want that]. I was like, ‘I want to write my own stuff.’ ”

With a new bass player in tow, Kryptic Moons are looking to hit the studio later this year. “We’re recording this fall,” said Del Real, “Our drummer is gonna track in about two months and then the rest of the band will go in about October. We still need to arrange everything, see when everyone is free, but I already got the guy.” Hopefully, we’ll be able to hear some new and old tracks crisply recorded into an album soon, or EP; either way, I’m anxious to hear more.

Following them was Kings Trio, who recently played a set at the 12th Annual Battle for Warped Tour on July 16th. Whether they make it or not, it doesn’t seem to deter King’s Trio moving forward. However, when I sat down with them, I decided to take a look back at the history of Kings Trio. Guitarist James and bassist Jesse Gonzalez are brothers and actually share a lot of influences. “I would say, my biggest inspiration, what really got me playing a lot was Nirvana, “said James, “When that grunge scene came out, dude, I was all into that, dude. Before that, I was listening to a lot of N.W.A and stuff like that, so I was thinking ‘fuck the police’ and getting all crazy and then Nirvana came out and dude, that was it for me.”

Jesse continued with a little more of their background, “Us growing up together, we had the same inspiration. Even oldies, because our parents we’re in a band when they were kids and they passed it on to us. Like, our dad showed us how to play. Oldies, but goodies and the Beatles were their favorites. They showed us all that, so that’s what they had us playing first.”

Drummer Matt Christiensen adds some more diversity with his influences, “I wanted to be Joey Jordison, who is formerly of Slipknot. Started getting schooled in music and fell in love with Jazz… …Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Chad Smith and Nicko McBrain.”

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Indeed, like all the bands that were present, Kings Trio has a tremendous love for music and preforming, by in part because of the energy the crowd brings, “We love the crowd, man,” said Jesse, “so we actually try to get involved the crowd as much as possible.”

“That’s probably the best part,” added James, “Everyone is here and everyone is getting involved. It’s just we feed off of it and likewise, everyone that’s listening to our music and feeds off of it and everything is super fun.”

Following Kings Trio was the host of the evening, Odd Bridges, who brought their eclectic brand of alternative rock that the group has become known for. Tracks like “Medicate” and “Be My Friend” are loads of fun to listen too, especially when the latter features Dewey B. Weather, of Rain Brings Weather, jumping up on stage to sing along with singer Derek Beck and guitarist Michael Eberhardt. When they’re not preforming, Eberhardt and company are hard at work making sure everything is going well for the other bands during their sets. I didn’t hound them for an interview because I’ve already bugged them enough in the last month and there were other voices I needed to hear.

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One of those was a quick interview with Swift Sonorous, who performed that evening alongside Mirk Beniah after Odd Bridges’ set. The last time I spoke with Beniah, I got a little taste of the background of the Royal Dynasty and Swift was able to add to that with his and Beniah’s history together, “we’ve been artist for a while and I think in 2009 or 2010, we just linked up. He seen me at a show and ever since then we’ve been doing music together. That show, at Johnny Fingers, we were supposed to have our own separate performance, right? It just happens to be that when me and Mirk Beniah preform together, it’s just way better. So, instead of preforming separately, we’ve been just doing our own shows and performing together.”

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When talking what drives him as an artist and performer, Sonorous said, “I just want my fans to hear my growth in my music, to say, ‘oh, man I heard your first stuff and it was cool, but bro, your new stuff is dope. I can’t wait to hear what’s coming up next’. That what I’m all about, cuz I’ve been doing this for seven years now. I just want my fans to hear my growth, you know what I mean and I’m not going to let them down.”

Swift has a lot to look forward to next month, as he will be preforming at the Mega-Sesh festival at the NOS center in San Bernardino, “They say they want me to play on the main stage on August 19th, so I’m bringing my boy Mirk Beniah with me and you know, the royal dynasty is going down.”

Capping off our evening was Just Say’N, a group that has been working hard and playing as many shows that can come their way. Another trio of musicians, Just Say’N is a group of very likeminded and dedicated friends. Digging into their past, I found it was singer and guitarist Paul McDonald’s best friend from adolescence who showed him how to play guitar, “He was awesome, you know, we did everything together, he was my road dog. We got split up and [he] moved to Arizona and I started listening to lots of Blink 182 and Bullet for My Valentine. I know it’s an odd mix, but yeah, Tom DeLonge’s my man. My voice, my guitar playing, everything is based around him.”

“If he could, he would marry him,” said Bassist Jorge Arias.

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Photo by Katherine Allen

Drummer Art Fernandez talked about the excitement of going from just one drum to a whole set, “You know, in high school, I tried to join the drum line over at Serrano High School and I ended up doing it for, like, a couple months or so, but I had to get out of it. But, as an inspiration, I was just on a snare drum and going onto a six… it’s pretty fun cause like when your rumbling on those things, you pick up different sounds. It’s inspiring what you can mix in.”

When I asked Arias what drove him as musician, his response was my favorite of all I heard that day, “it’s a form of expression because I’ve never been a good drawer or storywriter or anything like that, but I picked up the guitar after Paul right here showed me a couple of instructions on how to play the guitar the right way, and from there, man, it’s making music. I like it, you can express yourself and you don’t even need words in some songs, you can just pick and play. That’s why I love playing here at these free shows, because it’s just for having fun and expressing ourselves and everybody enjoys it.”

That seems to be the ultimate goal of many of the bands I’ve come across in the desert. Very few have grand dreams of rock star level success, so many settle for the joy of expression. While some of the music I’ve come across may not seem the most original or very good at all, but the level sincerity these artist are putting into their music is very refreshing. I’ll be honest, if I had a dime for every shitty demo I got back in my early twenties, I would have been able to pay for my college education a lot sooner. Exaggerations aside, these are musicians who play for the love of music, not for fame or money (although a little money wouldn’t hurt…) and to me, that seems worth a lot more.

-b.d. ponce

Odd Bridges’ Facebook

Kryptic Moons’ Facebook

Soundcloud for Kryptic Moons

Kings Trio’s Facebook

Kings Trio’s Website

Mirk Beniah’s Facebook

Mirk Beniah’s Website

Swift Sonorous’ Facebook

Swift’s Website

Just Say’N’s facebook

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(Don’t Fear) the Lillies

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Blue Oyster Cult rocked the Rose in Pasadena on Saturday, July 15th, but my focus of the evening, though very excited for B.O.C, was set on the openers, The Lillies, who have been one of the most enduring acts to come from the High Desert in the last decade. This show is significant to them for a lot of reasons; mainly that it is the biggest act this local quartet has ever opened for. In the seven years they’ve been active, the Lillies have managed to be a mainstay of the high desert scene and a show like is a result of a lot of perseverance and determination. Through it was only a thirty minute set, the Lillies still managed to bring their best to Pasadena.

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Thirty minutes may not seem like much, especially for a band with enough material to go a full hour if they wanted to (and they have). The set-list was crucial in order to appeal to crowd of ravenous Blue Oyster Cult fans while also giving them a taste of the variety The Lillies are known for. Singer Robert Pereda echoed this sentiment when I spoke with him backstage, “Well, we have a very diverse catalogue… … we’re opening for Blue Oyster Cult, so we kind of have to brainstorm that, but at the same time, you know, the audience, you know, they might be into other shit, too. So, we kind of mix that in and just tried to pick the stuff we had solid and fit together as a whole set.”

Old favorites like “Joany” and “Maria” made the cut with newer tracks like “The Shake”, “Hired Hearts” and “The Great Unknown”, the latter of which turned out to be the band’s closer. “Hired Hearts” has been the band’s go-to closer for a while because of the grandiose nature of the song, but instead they chose to change it up and end with this newer, mellower song. Pereda spoke about the process of ending a set list and the importance of changing it up as players, ’You know, it’s always weird picking an ender, because you’re like, ‘should it be a heavy, epic thing or should it be a cool winding-it-down kind of thing’?  So we always try to calculate that… …Also it’s refreshing for us as players… …You always want to keep it fresh, because if it gets too monotonous and you get used to like, ‘oh, this is what works so I’m just gonna keep doing this every time’. Sincerity kind of goes out the window and it seems more orchestrated and staged.”

Going on seven years working together, Pereda and guitarist Matthew Humphrey know what it takes to keep things fresh and light hearted in the band. When I asked what it was they liked about working together, I apparently caught the two off guard.

“Uhhhhhhhh,” was all Pereda could muster.

“Uhhhhhhhh,” followed Humphrey

“Uhhhhhhhh.”

“Uhhhhhhhh.”

“You wanna take this one?”

“Black Sabbath?”

Humphrey finally spoke honestly, “we’re both really good players and I really feel that both of our guitar styles, they’re not the same, but they complement each other. You know, we’ve learned to give each other room. If Robert does this here, I don’t want do something over here, I want to do something that makes that sound good, and it should be vice versa, you know what I mean. Plus, where else am I gonna find a guy with a voice like that?”

“And the mustache,” bassist Eduardo “Eddy” Romero added.

“And the mustache. And plus, he’s like a brother to me, so I couldn’t really think of playing music with anyone else.”

Indeed, dynamic is strong between Pereda and Humphrey and is the driving force behind the Lillies, but that is not to understate the contributions of Romero and drummer Javi Banuelos, who round out the lineup solidly. When talking about coming into the band last February, Eddy says he’s changed a lot as a musician, “I think what I like about the band is they have a lot of experience together, they know the good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty… and that’s why I’m here, I’m the pretty… …it’s challenging playing with them, it is challenging. These are the guy that will tell you something straight and you get it, not in a bad way, but you get it and that makes you improve a lot. So, I kind of feel they’ve made me improve a lot as a musician”

Banuelos shared this attitude when talking about his time with the Lillies thus far, “It’s just like I expect from them and so far it’s been great. You know, they push me to do and work on things I’ve never worked on before. I kind of expect the same, to push them and expand their horizons, or you know, play stuff they’ve never thought of playing.”

It may seem like Pereda and Humphrey is a strict duo, but in the seven years they’ve been working together, the two have developed strong identities as musicians. That doesn’t mean they aren’t up for new things. “It’s refreshing,” said Humphrey, “just because, you know you get a new player who plays completely different and it’s just refreshing. Normally, someone else would do this, but a new person does this other thing so it makes you go, ‘oh, well maybe I won’t do this, I’ll try out a new thing’.”

Banuelos isn’t exactly a new player when it comes to the Lillies, however. His tenure with the group stretches way back to the early days. “He was drummer our very first live gig ever,” Humphrey shared with me, “without a drum machine. He was our first drummer at our first show ever. He was in another band and”-

“Well, that’s kind of disrespectful to our drum machine” said Pereda

“Blackie?”

“Yeah, it busted it’s ass for a lot of gigs.”

“He left. Blackie left.”

“Yeah, but hey, Blackie had perfect rhythm.”

“Pocket player,” Humphrey agreed while flicking his cigarette, “Blackie was a pocket player. In the pocket, all the time.”

“Oh yeah. Blackie just always showed up on time.”

“Wasn’t very diverse, but he was always on tempo.”

“He kinda did what we told him,” Pereda shrugged, “which was kinda nice.”

“It was really nice”

“It made me feel like a dictator.”

“Honestly, I wished he would have never left the band, but there was had some legal issues. Blackie, if you’re listening to this, we need you.”

As for the rest of the concert, it was as you would expect from a band of the caliber of Blue Oyster Cult. Despite both pushing 70, Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom still show no signs of slowing down. It’s honestly pointless to put into words how good the show was. It was clean, it was sexy, it was cosmic, and it was everything I wanted it to be. Okay, maybe that is overstating it a little bit, but it was still a great performance that featured big hits like “Godzilla”, “Burnin’ for You” and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”. It was a tremendous pleasure to spend the evening bullshitting with the Lillies and watching Blue Oyster Cult. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget.

As for the future of the Lillies, there is a lot on the horizon. Pereda assured me that their long overdue second album is the main focus of the band right now, but they remain open to whatever life will throw at them, “Well, we’ve got an album to finish up, so we’re really excited about that. We’re working hard on that and that’s kind of the end goal right now, get this album done, get it recorded and get it out there and market it, but at the same time, opportunities come and go, so we wanna take as many of them as we can.”

 

-b.d. ponce

The Lillies’ website

The Lillies’ Facebook

France, BLOW, and Bourbon

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By Mark Simpson

It’s not every day that you get to interview a group who primary speaks French and has a sound that will “BLOW” your mind. The Electro-Pop band “BLOW” is a relatively new band based in Paris who is yet to set foot in the United States. The French group has plans to come over soon with the help of their label DDM and, I’m predicting that many Americans will enjoy what I would call a dark, almost Depeche Mode like sound. The group is very appreciative about the attention they are getting from the United States and even went on to say:

“It’s a pleasure to see that American’s like our music.”

It has always amazed me that their are bands like “BLOW”, who with all their talent, are often found by an individual spending a night on YouTube. After seeing the french group perform on KEXP I was amazed by their sound, my favorite song being “The Devil Reminds Me”. The song is about a man fighting his compulsions to kill a young women, all the while dealing with with his own mental instability. Here is a video of the group performing the song on one of my favorite radio stations, KEXP.

It’s a bit of surprise to find out that Singer Quentin Guglielmi is influenced by many American greats like Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan, as well as paying tribute to fellow country men like Serge Gainsburg. As I listen to other songs like “You Killed Me on the Moon” I can see the similarities in the creative writing style of someone like Morrison. When asked about how Quentin goes about writing songs he replied:

“I write about scenes I see when I focus on the music I’m working on. It’s a kind of automatic writing. I don’t tell myself “I’m gonna write about politics, or about ecology”. Words come naturally, the music dictates it to me, sends me images.”
– Quentin Guglielmi

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When asked about the recording process and their luck with What I like to call, “Studio Magic”, the group pointed to tracks like “Zephyr” which was completely changed in the studio last minute to give the song a more favorable tempo and a memorable looping guitar.

When watching the group, I found it impossible not to enjoy the talent of their man who controls everything “Bass”, Thomas Clairice. Thomas is literally a man obsessed with low-frequency instruments and over the years has developed the talent to play the upright bass, cello, baritone sax, and the Moog Synth.

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As a band who enjoys every song they write, the group is focusing on writing some new material for their newest album which is set to be released within the upcoming months. The “I” EP is a personal favorite of mine, and I really enjoy the track “Call the Youth” as it has a guitar riffs that is eerie similar to something you would hear David Gilmour play in a Pink Fl0yd song.

As I wonder what it might be like to share a shot of “Bourbon”, the Bands favorite, I am reminded of the large pond that separates us from such amazing music. This as one of the more interesting articles I have gotten to do, and I hope that you all will take the time to like the groups pages. I appreciate the group’s time, and would love to see them perform in the States really soon. Sante!

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https://www.facebook.com/blowofficialbandpage

https://www.instagram.com/blow_band_/

Ghosts in Pocket, Banana Daiquiris, and the “Barberton” Mountains

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By Mark Simpson

Barberton is the name of a unique and small town located in South Africa. The town was a gold mining town in the 1800’s and is surrounded by some of the oldest exposed mountains in the world. This improbable town also provides the name for the newest album by local Inland Empire indie rock band Ghost in Pocket. “Barberton” is the five-track stroke of genius that, with the help of kick starter and their fans, Ghosts in Pocket gave birth to on October 9th, 2015.

” It was important to us that we try to make “Barberton” feel like progress, because that’s also what the songs strive to do musically and lyrically.” – Keith

The album was produced, mixed, and mastered with the help of up-and-comer John Kunkel, who is a Los Angeles Native who owns Division 87 Records and performs with the group New Division. With influences such as Burt Reynolds and Carrot Top laying heavy on the band’s mind, they could go into the studio and lay down what may be, in my opinion, the best sounding local album I have heard in the last 5 years. The first track on the album is the title track “Barberton” which has an amazing video that gives you a look at the band and the lengthy recording process that goes with releasing an album.

From bandannas, to Nick cutting a good rug, to empty Rolling Rock on the floor, you can get a sense of how much this album met to the group. As someone who has found myself in padded room for hours on end listening to the same song over and over, I can tell you that the studio process, though amazing, can be quite lengthy.

“I think I speak for the group in saying it took us a lot longer to finish this project than we would have hoped. I suppose it’s all a part of the learning process.” – Zach

The group’s song that is a personal favorite of mine is “Make it Break” which shows off Chris’ unique drumming style. As a fellow drummer, I love that the song consistently keeps it’s energy and drive while Keith sings moving lyrics that, by the end of the track, have us all saying “Lovers, Lovers, Lovers”. When asked about the track Keith gave us some interesting perspective on what makes it such a hit with fans:

“My music interest has always been guided by meaningful and intentional lyrics, regardless of genre or style, and so, especially with the EP, I wanted the songs to resonate with a theme. I think the song that does it best is “Make It Break,” which I also think is one of the more basic songs structurally.” – Keith

I pictured myself sitting with the group listening to “Make it Break” and sipping on a Banana Daiquiri a favorite of my main man Nick… you read that right, a Banana Daiquiri. As I listened, I couldn’t help but wonder about the group that got its start from playing a pancake dinner for elementary children. As Keith put it, the song has a mood to it that is quite hypnotic and, as you can see from the video, the song may have a darker meaning than one might expect.

As I listened to moving songs like “Separated by Ice” I got a feeling that this album is much darker than their first album Shadowbox. I could see where a bit of studio magic had happened on the track; originally the track was slated to be electric but at the last-minute John Kunkel asked Keith if he might try it with the acoustic. As Nick put it, he is forever grateful for John’s quick decision and went on to say that, to this day, the track still gives him chills.

“Keep the Heat Coming” may be something of a dark horse on the album as it fits in perfect with the album but, on it’s own, shows a much different side of the group. It is a song that shows the most pressing of steady, high energy and ends with Zach playing a very powerful solo while the group seems to explode in different directions that work together simultaneously.

The album comes to close with what may be their most powerful song to date, “Statues Pulse,” which features a cool assortment of horns courtesy of Zach’s good friend Sean Portanova. The band, who gets their name from the haunting work of Dave Eggers, really shows their strengths in this song as singer Keith lays down one of my favorite lyrical lines:

” There’s nothing to prescribe I’ll trade my nerves to help you feel alive.”

As I finished the album, I could see why the group has been so successful and able to open for groups like We are Scientists. It is, to me, the way that the group can write such moving music while staying objective about their art. The group is a tight-knit group who can be a lot of fun to hang out with. They are bit witty and comical, but when they take the stage, much like Shaq when he hits the court, they rise to the occasion. If you would like to see these guys rock the desert make sure to come out to their show at Frogee’s on April 14th. As a closing, for this album review Id like to leave you with some information on the group as well as Nick’s 3 things that will help you conquer the world. Cheers!

“First, chip clips are poor substitutes for nipple clamps. Second, a tri-tip should rest for at least 10 minutes after you pull it off the grill. And finally, if California marijuana farmers aren’t called “ganjapreneuers,” they should be.” – Nick

Buy an Album $5 right Here –> https://ghostsinpocket.bandcamp.com/album/barberton-ep

Website: https://www.ghostsinpocket.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ticket2ridepromotions

GhostinPocket

Catch their next show at Frogee’s Apple Valley with Rustic Wild and Heavy Door on Friday, April 14th 2017 at 8pm.

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Delta Shade, Mojito’s, and A Hell of A Journey

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“Our biggest goal is really just to sound like ourselves. We don’t strive to imitate another band or artist because we don’t see the point in that – it’s already been done.”

By Mark Simpson

Delta Shade is a group that you might have seen rocking in the desert and thought man these guys are great but I wanted to know what makes these guys tick. Turns out that Delta shade is a group, that much like their name may suggest, enjoys listening to the blues.

“We have a deep appreciation for the blues and that was something we bonded over from the beginning.” – Travis

With the band sighting influences like Gary Clark Jr. and Gillian Welch you can tell that these are not guys who will be listening to alternative radio anytime soon. This is a group that is looking to go against the grain and after releasing their new album they have people as far as England wearing Delta Shade T-Shirts and bumping their new self title album. After packing out the religious rock and roll hangout and local watering hole conveniently named Frogee’s I wanted to know what the group thought about their big release show.

“We were so happy to see so many friends and family out there supporting us. It was such a good vibe all-around. Definitely a night we won’t forget.”

I think the one thing that I immediately liked and noticed about this group in my time hanging out with them at various shows is the fact that considering the groups talent they haven’t turned into that group that we all hate in the desert. We all know the type, its the group that shows up late and leaves early while all the while plays the longest set of the night. The group is slowly branching out of the desert with plans to do a short tour soon and currently has a gig scheduled in West Hollywood at the State Social House on Thursday March 30th . As an old Los Angeles Native I can tell you that this gig is one to attend as its just steps outside the famous clubs of the Sunset Strip and offers the coolest small room to groove to your favorite band.

With the group being only a few short miles from where the old Tower Records use to sit I wanted to know if these guys had their own turntable and if so what records they might be playing late after a gig while sipping a beer.

“ Rage Against The Machine’s self-titled. I love the riffs and attitude on that album – Andy

I found this to be interesting choice as it explains why Andy plays with the drums with a sense of urgency and as a drummer myself I love the choice of album. Chad on the other hand is someone who loves to sit down and trance out with one of the greatest song writers of our generation in Conor Oberst who is best known for fronting the talented group Bright Eyes.

As I learned more about each member in this interview I could see how each member had their own unique flavor. This was not three guys working in perfect motion as it may seem but instead three musicians pushing each other to bring out the best in each member. As I closed my interview with this uniquely interesting group and said my usual Cheers sipping on a Mojito (The Groups Favorite Drink) I wondered what the future may hold for this group. I can tell you I have no clue and I don’t think they do right now either but the great thing about uncertainty is that it makes for a hell of a journey. As a closing for this article Id like to leave you with some information on the group as well as their message for all that have support their amazing talents. Cheers!

“We’d like to thank all our family and friends for their support. It’s been a really fun ride so far and it’s been amazing to see the response to our music. It really fills us with gratitude to know and play shows with so many great people.”