Banjos, mandolins, and a boisterous crowd were the visible symptoms of hootenanny last night at The Vogue. Boot stomping, and playful bluegrass riffs kept the crowd in a state of jubilation for the whole evening. Chicago Farmer opened for the nitty-gritty kings of the evening, Greensky Bluegrass.
Chicago Farmer is a one-man act with the guitar finesse and voice to awaken the ancient spirits of folksy-bluegrass players long since passed. His reception was warm, and he certainly did an honorable job of preparing the audience for Greensky Bluegrass.
A friend me told that the music of Greensky Bluegrass has been known to incite "hippie mosh pits." I had a hard time imagining this, since I've attended a plethora of hippie-ish shows, and had rarely ever seen any forms of aggression. However, although I would still be reluctant to call this style of "moshing" aggressive, there was definitely some latent anger being expelled upon the floorboards of The Vogue last night. The sort of dancing going on was fascinating. There was the standard rhythmic head bobbing that can be seen at almost any type of concert, but then there was the glorious hippie twirling of women in long patchwork skirts, and even then there was still the boot-shattering combination of the stomp/jig aforementioned. There must be spells in the music of Greensky Bluegrass, because their stringed instruments awakened an atavistic dancing style by which I was mesmerized.
The twanging of the banjo seemed to be in a playful battle with the melody of the plucky mandolin. One player would step forward and strike the strings with the speed and dexterity of a folk god, while the other would patiently wait for his moment. The bass subtly hummed along as the slide guitar snaked over the crowd's ears in its haunting manner. The acoustic guitar chugged along it its rhythmic pattern like a parent reliably holding down the fort. The vocals swapped between Paul Hoffman, mandolin, and Dave Bruzza, guitar, while on occasion the whole group would harmonize. Performing tunes like " Ground Hog" and other originals, the guys from GSBG stay relatively true to a wholesome bluegrass style. Although, after taking a lengthy set break, the guys began to harmonize in a very un-traditional manner. After the first two seconds there could be no mistake, I knew what they were covering, and I was ecstatic. "Road To Nowhere" by the Talking Heads was being covered before my eyes, in the most creative manner in which I'd ever seen in played live. Being an enormous Talking Heads fan, I sat awestruck as they performed this David Byrne and company classic in their unique, pitchy way. Even though I'd come for the bluegrass, I got a Talking Heads classic for free, and I was very pleased.
For fans of bluegrass, those who adore its layered harmonies and tones or simply a beginner, Greensky Bluegrass will succeed in quality entertainment for an evening. They bring precision and expertise to a realm of music that truly gets the viewer engaged and grooving.