(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Concert review - Honey Gitters, Good Gravy

4 November 2009 (Aggie Theater, Ft. Collins CO)

This was a free show, but the crowd was slow to turn out. When the Honey Gitters started their set, there were only a half dozen people there. Fortunately, people filtered in slowly over the course of their set to build a respectable sized audience.

Honey Gitters
I feel bad for the people who missed the opening of the Honey Gitters' set. This was a tight band of solid players. They put on a great show, balancing an expanded bluegrass sound with entertaining stage presence. If you get the chance to catch them, I highly recommend them. The interplay on stage meshed well with their audience interaction. The improvised patter, especially from bass player "Slim" Acosta, was comfortable and funny.

The other players in the band (Chachi Simms on guitar, Josh Beard on banjo, and Leland Leyba) each brought their own personality and skills to the show, too. Most of the material was bluegrass or country rock based, but the Honey Gitters often pushed the boundaries, with forays into funk and rock. The banjo work was especially interesting, because Josh ran his banjo through a raft of effects. So, his leads often sounded a lot like an electric guitar, but you could still hear the banjo roll technique come through.

There were several highlights. Cocaine Lil featured a cut time/reggae beat and a lyrical flow that reminded me of the Beat Farmers' California Kid. The band drifted into a blues funk groove for It Ain't Funny, which featured solid bass work, a shredding guitar solo, and Les Claypool inspired vocals. Another funk groove (Wet Cigarette?) added Good Gravy's Kyle Van Buskirk on percussion. During his lead section, the band laid out a dreamy groove.

I also got a copy of their CD, Barrel-Sniffer's Holiday, which features many of the songs they played. This is a good quality recording that expands on their live sound, adding accordion and the occasional fiddle. Their MySpace page streams several of these songs, so give them a listen until you can catch them yourself.

Good Gravy
I spoke briefly with Kyle from Good Gravy before their set. He was excited about their shows in Moab this weekend and their upcoming recording plans. I'm really looking forward to hearing what they choose to record.

I last caught the band back in April, when they opened for Jerry Garcia Band. They've come a long way since then. Last night, they were engaging the crowd and showing off some much improved harmonies. This show was a better demonstration of their stylistic range. While their central ground was in the bluegrass and country space, they were quite comfortable jamming into rock or what I'd call speed-grass. More importantly, they could bring these dynamic variations into a single given song. Shifting fluidly from one groove to another, this was catchy music and the audience was wild for it. It did seem like the percussionist's synth pad was lower in the mix, but maybe everybody else was just louder this time.

My favorite song was 37, an epic bluegrass/country rock/funky/psychedelic extravaganza. Good Gravy effectively gave us a tour through their influences. There was a fair amount of Grateful Dead in the mix and lots of higher energy sections. The effects-laden mandolin was especially trippy.
Another peak moment was their speedy cover of House of the Rising Sun, with some shredding lead riffs and a spacy electronica background. These guys are all rock solid musicians, fully at ease with their material.

I'm looking forward to their eventual CD. I hope they can capture their live energy.

Pour me some bourbon and branch and let's make a night of it.

More photos at my Flickr.

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