The Major Rager (MR) has quickly become a “newly, cemented tradition” during Master’s Week (Augusta, Ga.) in a short period of time thanks to the hard work and dedication from all the folks at Friends With Benefits Productions (FWB). And like every one of their events in the past, this year’s MR will benefit a charitable organization named the Press on Fund. This year’s event featured such names as The Flaming Lips (TFL), People of the Sun (Moon Taxi doing an all Rage Against the Machine- RATM cover set), the Eric Krasno Band (EKB), and Stop Light Observations (SLO). And this does not even cover the official after party featuring Augusta’s very own Funk You and Schema at Sky City (just down the street from the Augusta Common). If you missed this night then I need to apologize to you. This night was just way too good not to share with the entire world!
To start off the night, SLO brought their homegrown psychedelic, retro-southern rock ’n’ roll sound to the Augusta Common with a fury. Oh, they also brought someone special to join them on stage… their French bulldog mascot named Lou Dog a.k.a. Louie! This was my first time seeing SLO play live and I was really impressed with this band. It was refreshing to see a really, great rock ‘n’ roll band play with the intensity that SLO gives during their performance at this year’s MR. I would not be surprised if this band starts popping up on festival flyers in the coming months. They are definitely a band that I would like to see appear on maybe next year’s Bonnaroo or even possibly Okeechobee in 2018. Either way, SLO played their hearts out all the while little Lou Dog sat chilling on the stage like a straight up boss. It was really unfortunate many of the attendees did not make it down to the MR in time for this set, because they really deserved a larger crowd. Please check out their upcoming tour schedule and see if you can say hey to Lou Dog and the band in your hometown.
What happens when you put together six incredibly, talented musicians who like to have fun when they perform live? You get the next band up; the EKB featuring Eric Krasno (vocals/guitar), Mary Corso (vocals), Danny Mayer (guitar), DeShawn (keys/vocals), Stu Mahan (bass), and Eric Kalb (drums). Some of you may know 2x Grammy winner Mr. Eric Krasno from his other bands; Soulive and Lettuce or possibly his work with the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Pretty Lights. No big deal. Just four pretty outstanding acts to see live and, if you have yet to do so… I suggest you catch them after you get a chance to witness the EKB beforehand. Why? Because the EKB jammed out with some really smooth, soulful tracks that showcased Eric’s remarkable, guitar playing abilities. I’ve seen Krasno play in Lettuce a few times and was always impressed with the way he handled himself on-stage. The EKB is no exception to that rule. It was such a wonderful, treat to catch them in such an intimate setting in my hometown. I only wished that they could have performed maybe an hour longer because I feel that with a longer set these guys would have just slayed it with countless jams.
One set that I personally was really looking forward to was without a doubt People of the Sun (POTS). I’ve seen Moon Taxi perform a Rage song or two over the years and they have always done these particular cover songs with some major intensity. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Spencer Thomson (guitar/backing vocals) is no Zack de la Rocha (vocals for Rage) but he’s does a really good job doing his lyrics. Thomson’s vocal range actually matches well with that of de la Rocha’s, which helps him give the lyrics of RATM the power needed while they perform each track with hints of angst and defiance. POTS rattled through tracks off of the three main RATM’s LPs: Rage Against the Machine (1992), Evil Empire (1996), and The Battle of Los Angeles (2000). Take it from someone who has seen RATM live (3x) and others attempt to cover some of their discography in the past. POTS did an incredible job laying out a seamless recreation of what was RATM live. To pull off tracks like Down Rodeo, Know Your Enemy, Wake Up, and Killing in the Name live with the same intensity and vocal opposition to the status quo takes quite a feat. This is a cross to bear that POTS will always adhere to when they perform these politically charged tracks. MT has come a long way in my book. From being part of my very first assignment for Concerthopper.com opening up for J. Roddy Walston & the Business (2015) until this assignment performing under the name POTS for the Major Rager. I’ve truly enjoyed the sonic journey with these guys over the years.
Now the moment every single person in the crowd had been waiting for… time for TFL to take the stage and get very weird! Fresh off the release of their fourteenth studio LP, and twentieth overall release, Oczy Mlody, TFL came fully prepared to perform for all the ‘Ragers’ in attendance. This was a theatrical show that Augusta has needed for quite some time. Weeks before the show, a major power grid upgrade was done to provide the necessary 400 amps required for this astounding, theatrical show that boasts 40 feet of LED walls that give a back drop to their set. Plus a larger, inflatable human bubble for Wayne to go inside during the show and two large, inflatable mushrooms that anchored each end of the stage. This just shows that TFL pulled out no stops when performing in front of the crowd for the MR in Augusta. They came with the intent to give Augusta a show for the ages and that is exactly what they achieved. Wayne and the rest of the Lips came out and performed to a roaring crowd that loved every minute of their remarkable performance. They performed such hits like, “Race for the Prize”, “There Should Be Unicorns”, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)”, “The W.A.N.D.”, “Are You a Hypnotist??”, and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1”.
TFL would close out this magical night with a crowd pleasing encore that would feature “Do You Realize??” and “She Don’t Use Jelly.” Granted I never attended the first MR, but I feel strongly that this set by TFL was the best set over the years. Not to take away from any of the other notable names who have performed here at the MR, but TFL gave us something that has never been done before. They gave us a marvelous, spectacle that will last as long as the memories remain intact. TFL gave us so many spectacular moments, from when Wayne brought out the ceremonial blow up ‘Fuck Yeah Augusta’ balloon sign (which was a very formidable task for Wayne to try and hold up that many balloons by himself), to their rendition of “Space Oddity” by the late, great David Bowie while Wayne travels on top of the crowd in his giant human bubble, or the moment Wayne appeared atop his faithful, LED unicorn ready to stroll around the crowd and say hello. This was just a taste of the memories that TFL gave the crowd at this year’s MR, I only hope I could convey how great it was to have each and every one of these bands perform for us this year. Thank you to one and all!
I also want to personally thank FWB productions for allowing Concerthopper.com the opportunity to come out and witness history in the making at the fourth annual The Major Rager. I cannot wait to see what 2018 holds in store for us because if any of the previous lineups is indicative of what is to come, I feel very confident that next year will be just as awe-inspiring of a moment in time. As stated in the beginning of this article, the MR has quickly become an Augusta Master’s Week tradition that has many people from all over the Southeast region eagerly awaiting the announcement of each year’s lineup. Bravo gentlemen on curating a successful campaign in bringing quality, talented musicians to the Augusta area, all the while giving right back to the community with charitable contributions. A testament of how it should be done in the music promotion world. Now I cannot comment on the after party at Sky City featuring Funk You and Schema with special guests. But I can say that I saw Umphrey’s McGee percussionist Andy Farag in the V.I.P. area during the night, so I can safely assume he showed up to jam with some other notable, surprise musicians.
You can view more pictures from this night online over on Concerthopper’s Facebook page. ‘Like’ our page and stay up to date in 2017 on all music related events/festivals such as; STS9: Live at The Fillmore, A Perfect Circle, Shaky Beats, Shaky Knees, Papa Joe’s BanjoBQue, Umphrey’s McGee: Returns to Augusta, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest (First weekend), Sloss Music & Arts Festival, Sturgill Simpson: Live in Charlotte, and My Morning Jacket with Gary Clark, Jr: Live in Charlotte by following us on all social media formats: Concerthopper on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, you can follow my personal concert hopping on Facebook and Instagram. Remember don’t think about it, just buy the damn ticket! As always, hope to see you at a show or festival soon!