The hard-touring Kalamazoo Greensky Bluegrass quintet made its long-overdue initial appearance in New Orleans Tuesday night at Chickie Wah Wah, kicking off a busy two-week run through the South. Early in the show, GSBG described The Big Easy as “the world’s coolest city nickname,” and commented that, “there’s so much good music to be seen here in New Orleans, it’s scary” — endearingly making our ears burn right out of the gate.
The band seemed legitimately surprised by not only such a great midweek turnout in a new market, but also such an energetic and enthusiastic crowd. Moreover, there was an odd, strangely familiar quasi-exclusive party vibe in the room and, whether people knew one another or not, it seemed that three-quarters of those in the room were old friends, and the band had been pickin’ at this weekly gig for years.
It takes a great deal of headfirst, go-for-broke energy to tour the country the way Greensky Bluegrass has for the last half-decade, and the members of this blue-collared roots band look to still be having a great deal of fun doing what they do. They immediately chatted up fans during set break and took the room along for the ride on a number of sprawling, yet constantly entertaining jams that never devolved into repetitive and boastful wankery.
Though I’m none too familiar with the originals (but will be soon), the tunes reflected a modern lyrical awareness. They seem to have a sense and desire to break from falling into the traditional subject-matter ruts of their legendary bluegrass forefathers, hopping instead to carve out a space in the bluegrass universe thats ‘ll their own.
The vocal and instrumental harmonies showed careful attention to subtlety, avoiding the freight train-style breakdowns which, although fun to watch, can often become as frequent and cyclical as a “drop” at a DJ-heavy festival at your run-of-the-mill bluegrass show. Run-of-the-mill GSBG is not; in fact, one day these guys may ride to the helm and reach the Telluride pantheon.
Regardless of where the road takes Greensky Bluegrass, it’s just good to see a hard-working band enjoying its craft this much.
Take a look at last night’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s classic “Atlantic City.”
Greensky Bluegrass – Atlantic City
Finally, check out five Greensky Bluegrass tunes here.
Wesley Hodges writes about music for Live Music Blog: NOLA and for NolaVie.