September 22, 2005

The Greencards at Gruene Hall

Filed under: Music — Cory @ 11:09 pm

I wrote this post on Sunday, Sept 4, a day after I saw The Greencards. The next morning (Labor Day) I got a phone call that resulted in 100% of my attention being focused on a single effort for the next three weeks; literally around the clock. This is the first chance I have had to come up for air since that day. Soon I’ll write about the crazy things that have been going on around here.

HOLY CRAP, that was awesome!

Saturday I drove up to Gruene Hall to see The Greencards, finally. I have been waiting to see this band for almost a year now, and let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

The Greencards are probably best described as “newgrass,” although like most bands I tend to follow, they probably could fit into any number of genres. They get a reasonable amount of airplay on KNBT, which is where I originally heard them. The show was scheduled to start at 1pm, but I arrived a little late, thanks mostly to an accident on I-35, and then a train afterwards. There was a large crowd there, especially for a Saturday afternoon, but I was able to grab a spot along the left wall with a great view of the band.

The music was simply amazing, I had no idea that this band could put on such a great show. Their most popular song on the radio right now is “Time” from the new Weather and Water album. If you are not familiar with the song, it’s a soft bluegrass tune, somewhat like Nickel Creek‘s “Reason’s Why.” So when they rocked the hall with upbeat bluegrass, everyone there had to wake up and pay attention. At the end of the second set (they played three, plus an encore), Eamon announced that they would now be “descending into shameless commercialism,” at which point they launched into the classic bluegrass song, “Orange Blossum Special.” After 7 or 8 minutes of Eamon’s incredible fiddle playing, Kym began playing the lead on his mandolin, and continued doing so for another 6 or 7 minutes; playing OBS on the mandolin is pretty insane, if you can imagine it. Even after these guys finished their riffs, Carol refused to halt the bassline. So the attention shifted to the guitar player, Robbie Gjersoe, who decided that rather than compete, he would innovate, and began playing a Beatles song. From there the band took turns playing all types of little gimmicks: the Flintstones theme song, Norwegian Wood, The Entertainer, Here Comes the Sun, and about 10 other songs that have escaped me. After about 35 minutes they finally wrapped up the jam session by returning to Orange Blossum Special and closing it to an erupting audience. At that point I was having more fun at Gruene Hall than ever before, and that is saying a lot.

The Greencards also invited two guest musicians to share the stage with them during the show. First, Sarah Jarosz, came on stage with her mandolin. Sarah appears to be in her early teens, but her musical skills suggest much more. The first song she played with The Greencards was a Bill Monroe tune. Bill Monroe. And she totally nailed the entire thing, it was amazing and the crowd went wild. After the applause died down Kym said “just wait until you hear her sing!” As they began playing Sarah revealed the secret that Kym was alluding to. I am not sure how it is possible for a person that young to possess such a bluesy, soulful voice, but she certainly has it. I would not be surprised if she gets much more spotlight in the coming years.

The second of the guests was equally impressive. Dennis Ludiker is the mandolin player for the South Austin Jug Band, and was previously their fiddle player, which is what he was playing on stage with The Greencards. I’ve been waiting to see the South Austin Jug Band for quite some time, so it was a great surprise to find him on stage with another band that I had been waiting to see. In my opinion Dennis has quite a recognizable playing style (if you’ve heard anything off of Jason Boland and The Straggler‘s new CD Somewhere in the Middle, you know what I am talking about), and I was excited to finally hear it live. At one point he and Eamon were playing the same lead at the same time, and it sounded terrific. I can tell when I am hearing exceptionally great music because I get cold chills and the hair on my arms stands up. The last time I remember it happening was on a Sunday afternoon when Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez played at Gruene Hall earlier this year. It happened again when Dennis and Sarah took the stage with The Greencards, great music indeed.

Since I had such a good view of the band, I was able to take several videos of the show:

This is just a sample of the terrific show these folks put on over the course of 4 hours. If you have a chance to go see any of these musicians, I definitely recommend it.

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1 Comment »

  1. Sarah Jarosz is friggin’ fantastic. You’ve got to see
    her do her yearly set on Sunday @ the Old Settler’s
    Festival. It’s all-gospel & will bring tears to your
    eyes. She’s incredibly gifted.

    Comment by Charles — September 28, 2005 @ 1:30 pm

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