April 2009 Greensky Bluegrass (River City Saloon)

April 16, 2009

The Late-Late Show

This month, I kept it local for a show and went out last Thursday to the River City. The band, Greensky Bluegrass, hailed from Michigan, and they were billed as the winners of the 2006 Telluride Band Competition.

If you read my blog, you know that I went to the Telluride Bluegrass festival last year. Also, if you scan the list of artists that have played there, you get a sense that bluegrass is certainly not the only kind of music played there.

So I rolled the dice on this one, I mean, the band has “bluegrass” in their name, and they played Telluride. What can go wrong?

I knew going into this show that Four-on-the-Floor String Band was going to be the opening band. But what was fun, was the way I found out.

Last First Friday, my band, the Kate Meloy Trio, actually came out of hibernation and played at Red Feather. If you missed us, don’t worry, we’ll be back there May 1. Fun gig, by the way. Anyway, after that I headed down to Double Mtn and caught the last part of the “My Life in Black and White” solo acoustic set, which was really good.

So I’m coming out of that show, and I’ve got my mandolin in hand, (because I didn’t feel like walking back to my car after the Red Feather show), and I hear “Hey, Mr. Mandolin…” and since I’m likely the only one at that moment that fits that description, I look up, and it’s Derek Brandon. It turns out Derek used to play in the Topsoil band a while back, and now is in Four on the Floor.

So we get to talking about music and jamming and such, and I mention that the Greensky show would be a good one to go check out. And he’s like “yeah, we’re opening that show…here….let me get you some stickers.”


Now, I’ve been in a few bands over the years, but we’ve never had stickers. We’ve had plenty of “posters,” tons of “e-mail,” but no stickers. We even almost had a web site. I thing having band stickers might be “the next level” of the whole “being in the band thing.” So anyway, now I’ve got a roll of 50 Four on the Floor stickers, which suspiciously look like the 7-11 Convenience Store logo, by the way, and a promise from Derek that we should hang out and jam. OK, now I’m really in a good mood to go see this show.

So let’s talk about the venue for a minute. Part of my reason for going to this show was to check out the “new” digs of the River City Saloon. I had heard rumors of a “total remodel.” Again, if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’ve talked about how River City should get more local opening acts, and maybe have bands do an “early” show and a “late show.” You know, for us “old” people who have to get up the next day.

So I walk in, and there does seem to be a different ambience. I believe they installed these things called “lights” which seem to provide a less “cave-like” atmosphere. Some furniture was re-arranged (some booths were put where the “wall-bar-rail-thingy” used to be. They also moved the pool table to where the foosball table used to be. The foosball table is now where the internet computer used to be. But to be honest, I didn’t see the internet computer. It may still be there, I don’t know. (Who goes to a bar to get on the internet?)

Also, in several places throughout the bar, there were these coat racks. Have they always been there? Maybe the new lighting lets me see them for the first time. You can now actually take your coat off and put it somewhere, without worrying too much about getting beer spilled on it. Pretty cool.

OK, time for some music. By 9:30, Four on the Floor was jamming away. Note to soundperson: You probably don’t need subwoofers turned on for bluegrass music. This is supposed to be acoustic music, not a hip-hop show. There was a guy up on stage playing a washtub bass, and the floor was rattling under my feet from 25 feet way.

I liked Four’s set list. For a really young band, they really do have a handle on choosing good songs. They tip their hats to Old and in the Way, JJ Cale, their version of Lonesome Fiddle, and nice job on Old Home Place. Their picking is a hybrid of bluegrass and jamming. Most of it is fast paced, and I’d even recommend slowing down a few notches on some songs, to let them breathe a little.

Next up was Greensky. I just plum forgot to bring my notebook with me, so I don’t have a record of the set list, but I did look on the stage, and it seems that they didn’t have one either. If they did, I sure didn’t see it.

Greensky had a good, full overall sound – A guitarist (who could flatpick), dobro, mando, bass, banjo. Everyone contributed to the vocals, which was nice. Traditional bluegrass? Nope. More like Traditional Jamgrass. Good original songs, most were danceable.

The odd-ball cover of the night was Prince’s “When Dove’s Cry.” The closest they came to traditional was “Sitting on Top of the World.” The banjo had a great sound – I asked him about his mic – and he was using a drum mic (Sure SM-98). It was a tiny little thing, but it had a great sound. The band had a good rapport with the crowd, and most stayed for the second set.

In the traditional old-person fashion, I had to call it a night at 1:00 a.m., but Greensky was jam-grassing away as I hit the road.

OK, good show! I think I’ve got the May show figured out – think musical-comedy-sitcom. Will it be as good as Season One?

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