Robert Randolph & The Family Band
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Headlining the 8th annual Blue Bear Benefit is Robert Randolph & The Family Band, a group well known for their powerhouse live performances, and led by a pedal steel virtuoso who has been called one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone. Hailing from Orange, NJ, Robert Randolph started playing the pedal steel guitar - or "Sacred Steel," as the instrument is referred to in many African-American Pentecostal churches - as a teenager in his local church. He was discovered while performing at a Sacred Steel Convention in Florida, and shortly thereafter opened for the North Mississippi Allstars and Medeski, Martin & Wood in prestigious New York venues. Keyboardist John Medeski asked Robert to join an instrumental gospel/blues album with members of North Mississippi Allstars; calling themselves The Word, the band released an eponymous album in 2001 to critical and popular acclaim. Robert himself set the live music world on fire with his high-energy performances, and his style of incorporating a mix of funk and soul into his pedal steel playing, giving a new secular, multicultural element to the "sacred steel."
The first Robert Randolph & The Family Band album, Live at the Wetlands, was released in 2002 just prior to the legendary club's closing. The band's 2003 studio debut, Unclassified, caught the attention of Eric Clapton, who invited the band to open for him on tour and later guested on their 2006 studio album Colorblind. They worked with producer T-Bone Burnett on their latest studio album We Walk This Road, released in 2010 and featuring guest appearances from Ben Harper and Leon Russell. In Robert's words, We Walk This Road "is a celebration of African-American music over the past one hundred years and its social messages from the last thirty. Although we cover a whole timeline of different eras... what ties these songs together remain their message of hope, their ability to uplift." The band's newest release is the live album Live In Concert, which captures performances recorded all across the U.S. with special guests such as Susan Tedeschi, Joey Williams of Blind Boys of Alabama and more.
Robert Randolph & The Family Band have performed on the Late Show with David Letterman and the PBS television program Austin City Limits, opened for such artists as the Dave Matthews Band, Derek Trucks Band, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe and Soulive, and recorded with Ringo Starr, Santana and Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Elton John and Leon Russell, Los Lobos, Buddy Guy, and Dirty Dozen Brass Band, amongst others. To listen to tracks and for more info: robertrandolph.net
An intense touring schedule and focused studio time have helped TAUK tap into their singular chemistry to elevate and expand their all-instrumental blend of funk, hip-hop, progressive rock, and jazz. Renowned for both their refined musicality and unbridled creativity, the Oyster Bay, New York-bred rock-fusion four-piece (guitarist Matt Jalbert, bassist Charlie Dolan, keyboardist Alric "A.C." Carter, and drummer Isaac Teel) push into new sonic terrain and build entire worlds within each richly textured soundscape.
The band has returned to the studio to craft a follow up to 2016's Sir Nebula which found TAUK introducing a cosmically inspired element to their music. "The album ended up taking on a more ambient kind of vibe than anything we've done before-there's a spaciness in the songs that lets you get lost in the sound," says Dolan. And while the album is endlessly hypnotic, TAUK also deliver the dynamic tension-and-release jams that have helped earn them a devoted following while drawing critical acclaim (the Washington Post, for one, praised TAUK for "creating a hard-charging, often melodic fusion that-thanks to a penchant for improv-offers limitless possibilities").
As with their past releases, TAUK is creating the follow up to Sir Nebula in collaboration with Grammy Award-winning producer/mixer/engineer Robert Carranza (The Mars Volta, Ozomatli, Jack Johnson, Taj Mahal). The band has been holed up in an abandoned house, turned studio on Long Island, NY a region which traces back to childhood, when longtime friends Dolan, Jalbert, and Carter formed their first band in seventh grade and held practice in their school basement. After playing together in various projects over the years, the trio brought Teel into the fold in 2012, cementing the final lineup. "We gelled pretty quickly as friends and as musicians, and now there's a connection onstage that's unspoken," notes Teel. "You just feel it from the energy within the band and from the response coming from the crowd-all these people in the same exact headspace."
Since their formation, TAUK have shared stages with an impressive list of bands (including Widespread Panic, Umphrey's McGee, Lettuce, and Tim Reynolds & TR3), in addition to appearing at festivals like Electric Forest, Bonnaroo, and The Allman Brothers' Peach Music Festival. That rigorous touring schedule has gone a long way in strengthening their chemistry, according to Carter. "We're doing over 100 shows a year and we pretty much live with each other, so there's a healthy respect and trust and love happening there," he says. "We all have a common goal and an understanding that this is something we're compelled to do, and that's definitely brought us close together." It's also helped TAUK develop a reputation as a masterful live act: "TAUK is unstoppable," raved Live for Live Music. "If you haven't see them, dear God, go."