On a chilly spring day on the outskirts of Asheville, NC, Pisgah Brewing Company celebrated 17 years of service with a special show by Travers Brothership featuring guest Karl Denson. The Sunday concert served as night two of the anniversary celebration, following Andy Frasco & The U.N.‘s headlining performance on Saturday.
The Black Mountain brewery was also supposed to host Pimps of Joytime as co-headliners on Sunday, but the day prior the group announced that a member of the touring party tested positive for COVID. The band canceled its performance, giving Travers Brothership two full sets.
Sunday marked many celebrations, including the brewery’s anniversary, Mother’s Day, and the first Travers Brothership shows featuring the newly revamped lineup. At the helm are twin brothers Kyle (guitar, vocals) and Eric Travers (drums, vocals), longtime staples of the Western North Carolina live music scene. Now playing alongside them are new core members, keyboardist Marcus White and bassist Oliver Forest, alongside a horn section of trumpeter Alex Bradley, saxophonist Kyle Snuffer, and Jonathon Lloyd who pulls double duty on trombone and auxiliary percussion.
The Travers Brothership is a family operation, always has been. Though the band is helmed by Eric and Kyle, they would not be on the Pisgah stage without their father, guitarist “Hurricane” Bob Travers, to whom the brothers dedicated Robert Johnson‘s “Rambling On My Mind” early on in the first set. Father Travers could not make it to Pisgah on Sunday, as he continues to recover from chemotherapy.
A fitting “For My Brother” followed as Eric and Kyle Travers fully utilized their twin telepathy to dial into a rock-solid groove. Regardless of the changing lineup around them, the brothers remain at the center of the sound.
While Eric and Kyle may hold court, that didn’t stop White from making his presence fully felt on Bill Withers‘ “When I’m Kissing My Love”. The keyboardist would engage in friendly on-stage banter—sometimes even mid-song—with Kyle that felt like something out of a late-night talk show.
The expanded Brothership lineup, in particular the horn section and White’s keys, allowed the band to further explore its funk sensibilities, ratcheting up the bounce alongside the steady blues influence that permeates the group’s sound. Kyle took the reigns for “Further On Up The Road”, as made famous by Bobby “Blue” Bland, ahead of an “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” that culminated in a roaring, synth-laden 8-bit solo from White. Kyle then closed the first frame with one of his favorite songs to play on guitar, Jimi Hendrix‘s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”.
Returning to the stage with Denson in tow, Travers Brothership kicked things off with the original “Clothes On My Back”. The song contained the relevant line, “Momma’s got me / she’s got me and I wanna stay,” as mother Travers proudly looked on from the crowd. The second set would largely see the Travers and Denson exploring their respective influences, using the collaboration as a chance to disseminate some music history.
More Allman Brothers Band followed with “Stand Back”, as Kyle went all-in on his slide guitar to pay homage to Skydog. Denson commanded the mic on B.B. King‘s “When It All Comes Down”, before the band sent out a song for the people of Ukraine with “Fighting For Peace”, a Cory Henry tune that came out just three months ago.
The set carried on with tributes to Buddy Miles, a double dose of Dr. John, and a strong recommendation for The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions with Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood courtesy of Denson, who also moonlights as the touring saxophonist for The Rolling Stones. As the night began to creep in, the low-down funk of Maceo Parker‘s “Shake Everything You Got”—propelled by White’s clavinet—encouraged the still hanging-on Sunday night crowd to leave it all on the rocky terrain before the stage.
After closing out the second set with the original “Your Words”, Travers Brothership welcomed back original keyboardist and founding member Ian McIsaac for an encore run through the band’s instrumental rocker “Egg in a Basket”. The song witnessed the group pull out all the stops as it inched perilously toward the venue’s curfew, with the booming bass and dual keyboard approach reaching its zenith just as the clock struck 11.
Stay tuned to the Travers Brothership website for upcoming tour announcements. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe will perform on May 15th at BeachLife Music Festival before linking up with George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic‘s One Nation Under A Groove Tour in August. Click here for tickets and a full list of tour dates.
Check out a gallery of images from Travers Brothership with special guest Karl Denson at Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain on Sunday courtesy of photographer Steve Wittenberg/MeanPony Productions.
Setlist: Travers Brothership | Pisgah Brewing Company | Black Mountain, NC | 5/8/22
Set One: Hit by Hit, Individuals, Keep on Smiling, Rambling On My Mind, For My Brother, When I’m Kissing My Love, Further On Up The Road, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)
Set Two: Clothes On My Back, Tension Blues, Stand Back, When It All Comes Down, Fighting For Peace, Them Changes, Junko Partner, Revolution, I Ain’t Superstitious, Mercenary Territory, Long Overdue, Shake Everything You Got, Maud Only Knows, Your Words
Encore: Egg in a Basket
Note: Karl Denson sat in for entire second set and encore.