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December 2009 Railroad Earth (Crystal Ball Room)

December 31, 2009

I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

Well, here we are. It’s New Year’s Eve. And I’m happy to report, that last night I headed into the Big City for the last show for my 12 Shows in 12 Months for 2009.

I originally wanted to see this band on New Year’s Eve, and last week I went online to try and get tickets.

But the kind folks online at Ticketmaster kept kicking me out and telling me to “Try Back Later.”

Which could only mean one thing.

I waited too long, and now it’s sold out.

Oh no, you’ve got to be kidding me.

Panic was beginning to set in, but eventually I discovered that these guys had a show scheduled at another venue on Dec. 30.

So I bought a ticket.

This show really worked out well, I mean, I’m really kind of elated. First, the show cost half of what the NYE show would have cost. And, as I’m writing this, a huge winter storm is dumping snow on the Gorge, and it looks like travel is going to be limited tonight. (I hope all the bands scheduled to play in The Gorge tonight get here OK.)

So I left Hood River at 5:30 and was parked by about 6:45. Not bad, really.

This show set my record for staying up late. Remember when I blogged about shows not starting until 10 at the ol’ River City? Well, this show started at 9:30 p.m., but it lasted until 1:15.

A.M.

In the morning.

And then, in order to get home, I had to navigate our Special Section of road known as “I-84 No Lights With Ice Packed Ruts With Tractor Trailers Needing to Get Ahead of You and Train Headlights Blaring in Your Face And You Wonder If You’re Going the Wrong Way Because Headlights Are Coming At You On the Wrong Side of The Road And Now Rocks Are Pelting Your Windshield And You Can’t See Anything-Section.”

Yes, that Section.

But, I made it home in one piece.

I drove so slow, in fact, that I noticed my Gas Gauge indicated that for a Full Round Trip to Portland I only used ¼ tank of gas. Just imagine how much we could conserve if everybody did that.

OK, back to the show. This was a perfect example of what I wanted to accomplish with this year-long music project. This was a band that I vaguely knew about, but really didn’t know anything about. I think I saw a few photos of them on the Web, but I didn’t own any CDs or hadn’t downloaded any songs. I wasn’t familiar with the band history, discography, fan base, or actual instrumentation/exact music style, for that matter.

The show was the perfect definition of seeing and hearing something new for the first time.

And it totally rocked.

I mean, this had to be one of the best $26 shows I’ve ever seen. This band took Celtic tinged fiddle tunes and morphed them into monster-fun jams that took the acoustic boundary into the stratosphere. And that’s only one of the things they did.

These guys had the acoustic instrumentation DIALED IN. I’ve seen a lot of shows, and this has to rank in the Top 5 in terms of mixing a full drum kit with acoustic instruments. It was all there. Standup bass. Fiddle. Mando. Guitar. Bouzuki (I think that’s what it was). Banjo. And you could hear everything.

Why? Because they didn’t have the drums too loud. That’s my theory here.

It was a treat to see this band’s main multi-instrumentalist switch effortlessly from guitar, banjo, mandolin, Dobro, saxaphones (playing two at once, and alto) and flute.

The fiddle player had two fiddles, so I’m guessing one was cross-tuned. He also broke out the ol’ Telecaster for a few numbers. There was one main singer, everybody else sang back up.

And the best thing I found out about this group? I got to talking to Drew, a fellow show-goer and pretty serious fan, about the band and music in general. He told me that one of the members used to be in a band called “From Good Homes.”

And you know, that kind of rang a bell for me. I mean, I never saw that band, but jeez, it was like a name that I might have heard on the radio, a long, long time ago.

So I asked him, where are these guys from?

New Jersey, he said.

This, friends, was a really, really nice way to close out the year.

(Jim grew up in Stirling, N.J.)

Railroad Earth

12-30-09

Crystal Ballroom, Portland

Set 1 ( ) = instrumental

(Carrying Coal to Newcastle) into Mighty River

Old Man and the Land

Daddy-O/Sail Away Ladies

For Love

Mourning Flies

(Magic Foot) into Cold Water

1759

Set 2

Walk Beside Me

Donkey for Sale

Ragtime Annie Lee

Bread and Water

The Forecast (Thanks to Drew for this one!)

Goat

Lovin' You

(The Green Roofs of Eireann) into Like a Buddha

Encore: Roadhouse Blues (A ten-minute version of the classic Doors song)

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